2:00PM Water Cooler 3/18/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

My heavens!


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

I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching. If we are in “in the eye of the storm” , we are still in the eye of the storm.

Vaccination by region:

Having engorged a ginormous data artifact, vaccination is now back on trend. • Early in February, I said a simple way to compare Biden’s performance to Trump’s on vaccination would be to compare the slopes of the curves. If Biden accelerated vaccine administration, post-Inaugural slopes would get steeper. They have not. The fragmented, Federalized, and profit-driven lumbering monstrosity that we laughingly call our “health care” “system” has not responded to “energy in the executive,” but has continued on its inertial path.

Case count by United States regions:

The curve has definitely been flattering for the last three weeks, and in the last two days seems to have flattered entirely (remember I use one-week averages to flatten out data artifacts). That’s not good, and when we look at the Northeast, it’s flattered entirely. Before we break out the champers, we would do well to remember that cases are still well above the peak New York achieved early in the crisis, then regarded, rightly, as horrific.

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

New York leads, and is now hardly decreasing at all. Not good news, especially since an average of 16,584 cases per day, now felt to be normal, isn’t all that less than 20,526 at New York’s peak a year ago, then regarded as horrific.

CA: “Coronavirus strains first detected in California are officially ‘variants of concern,’ CDC says” [CNN]. “[The variants] are officially called B.1.427 and B.1.429. Scientists have been monitoring the strains closely in California over the past few months…. The variants may be about 20% more transmissible, the CDC said, citing early research. Some Covid-19 treatments may also be less effective against the strains. Still, the CDC didn’t say that vaccines would stop working against them…. No coronavirus variants currently rise to the US government’s highest threat level, ‘variant of high consequence.’ Coronavirus strains shown to significantly reduce vaccine effectiveness would fall under that category.” • ”variant of high consequence.” First time I’ve heard that jargon.

Test positivity:

Having declared victory, are we just not testing anymore?


Hospitalization data is the best data we have, because hospital billing is a highly functional data acquisition system (ka-ching). That said, 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):

Good to see those deaths dropping. The fatality rate in the West is where it was last May.

* * *


“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

More to come. –lambert

Biden Administration

“You Furnish the Poverty Statistics, I’ll Furnish the War” [Seth Ackerman, Informer]. “In the mouths of the bill’s promoters, [cutting poverty in half] has a majestic ring to it, conjuring breathtaking vistas of reform on the scale of a Great Society or New Deal. And from a PR perspective, that’s the intended effect. But the rhetoric is misleading, of course. As anyone who follows the news will know, the bill’s cash-dispensing provisions — including the child tax credit expansion and expanded unemployment insurance — are scheduled to end after just one year. In that respect, the closest historical parallel to Biden’s ARPA isn’t Roosevelt’s Fair Labor Standards Act or his Old Age Insurance plan, or Lyndon Johnson’s Job Corps or Medicaid. Those were permanent programs. The closest historical parallel to the Biden-Schumer-Pelosi plan is the Trump-McConnell-Pelosi COVID package of 2020, also known as the CARES Act.” And:

Here’s how the two measures compare in terms of poverty reduction:

Overall, the 2021 Biden-Schumer-Pelosi plan lifts 12.3 million people out of poverty, reducing the poverty rate by 3.8 percentage points

The 2020 Trump-McConnell-Pelosi CARES Act lifted 11.5 million people out of poverty, reducing the poverty rate by 3.6 percentage points.

Brutal. Worth reading in full.

UPDATE “Biden defends his dog: ‘Major did not bite someone and penetrate the skin'” [The Hill]. “”But he is a sweet dog,” Biden said. “Eighty-five percent of the people there love him. All he does is lick them and wag his tail.'” • I blame the owner. And there are few things I like less than being licked by a dog while the owner looks on approvingly, expecting me to take it and like it.

UPDATE “Putin, in state TV quip, wishes Biden good health after U.S. president calls him killer” [Reuters]. • Obama: “Turns out I’m really good at killing people. Didn’t know that was going to be a strong suit of mine.”

Democrats en Deshabille

“Ohio lobbyist named in bribery probe found dead in Florida” [The Hill]. “An Ohio lobbyist who faced charges in connection with a federal bribery investigation was found dead in Florida, authorities announced Tuesday.” • Looks like suicide. And for what?

“This Fertilizer King Funneled Cuomo $1 Million—and Got a New York Health-Care Empire” [The Daily Beast]. “Cuomo’s camp insists the Ukrainian-born Rovt’s donations had nothing to do with his rise in New York’s tightly regulated health-care market. ‘Political donations have zero bearing on policy,’ asserted spokesman Jack Sterne.” •

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Why the Third Way Failed” [Ruy Teixeira and Brian Katulis, The Liberal Patriot\]. Pretty sloppy writing, with no clear distinctions between “liberal,” “progressive,” “center-left,” and “left.” For example: “The fascination of the left with slicing and dicing national populations into ever-smaller identity groups, which all then have their place in a hierarchy of oppression (or privilege) must be jettisoned. It is toxic to a majoritarian and sustainable progressivism.” If you define the left, as I do, as the political tendency that puts the working class first, then identity politics is not left at all; it’s liberal. In ten years, the DNC is going to be tattooed and “look like America.” So will the donors. And those will be the only differences. It’s also pretty rich that Teixeira, the inventor of the (mythical, except with respect to billable hours) coalition of the ascendant” now decries identity politics. His (ever-shifting) identity groups were just bigger, that’s all! The article concludes: “These three fundamentals, advancing a new, inclusive national identity, putting forward a :smarter economic plan to lift everyone up in society, and maintaining a balanced focus on protecting the country from threats old and new, are key ingredients for building a more stable political foundation for the center-left.” • What a bowl of steaming mush.

“Bipartisanship Has Sailed” [The Baffler]. “Not a single Republican in Congress voted for the current relief bill. But it’s much worse than that: the GOP has an ironclad policy against voting for anything that comes from Democratic leadership. That’s the story of the Obama administration…. This kind of rigid partisanship is deplored by Democratic centrists. Yet they never seem to do anything about it, other than to bow to Republican rigidity. You didn’t see Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema, for example, making any headway in convincing Senators Mitt Romney or Susan Collins to show some bipartisan unity on the pandemic relief legislation. Why couldn’t Manchin convince his friend Rob Portman to vote for it? Portman has already announced he’s not even running for reelection. But still, he wouldn’t break ranks….. If there is such a thing as ethical partisanship, isn’t there also a tendency among some Washington Democrats to promote an unethical, unworkable, and one-sided—which is to say fraudulent—bipartisanship?”

“I Accidentally Joined A Playgroup Full Of QAnon Moms. Here’s What Happened.” [HuffPo]. “One afternoon, I met a friend at a local park where she went on to tell me children in America were no longer safe due to the prevalence of sex trafficking. She mentioned a few moms I should follow to learn more about sex trafficking in the United States, and for a while I thought #savethechildren was a hashtag campaign for the nonprofit organization Save the Children. It wasn’t until a few months later that I learned about QAnon, and that the far-right conspiracy theory movement propelled theories that Trump was secretly fighting an underground child sex-trafficking scheme run by Democratic leaders like Hillary Clinton and other elites. I also learned that these infamous QAnon conspiracy theories were often propagated through the mommy blogging community on social media.”

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “13 March 2021 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Improves Again” [Econintersect]. “The four-week rolling average of initial claims is 220 % higher than one year ago (versus the 251 % higher last week).”

Manufacturing: “United States Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index in the US jumped to 51.8 in March of 2021 from 23.1 in February, beating market forecasts of 23. The reading pointed to the strongest growth in factory activity in Philadelphia in nearly 50 years.” • (!!)

* * *

Finance: “New York stays top in finance as London loses ground, index shows” [Reuters]. “New York kept the top spot in the latest Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI), with London clinging on to second place in the face of competition from Shanghai and other Asian centres.”

The Bezzle: “Revealed: seafood fraud happening on a vast global scale” [Guardian]. “A Guardian Seascape analysis of 44 recent studies of more than 9,000 seafood samples from restaurants, fishmongers and supermarkets in more than 30 countries found that 36% were mislabelled, exposing seafood fraud on a vast global scale. Many of the studies used relatively new DNA analysis techniques. In one comparison of sales of fish labelled “snapper” by fishmongers, supermarkets and restaurants in Canada, the US, the UK, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, researchers found mislabelling in about 40% of fish tested. The UK and Canada had the highest rates of mislabelling in that study, at 55%, followed by the US at 38%.”

The Bezzle: “Buying a Tesla in Bitcoins cancels 4 times the CO2 savings for its whole lifetime” [Medium]. “This is how insanely bad Bitcoin is for the environment : If you buy a Tesla car (around 40 000 $) in Bitcoins, the impact of the mining of those bitcoins is around 80 tons of CO2. This is 4 times more than the saving of CO2 you can expect from this car (compared to a gasoline one) on its entire lifetime (around -20 tons)…. In 2020, the carbon impact for mining bitcoins is 36 millions of tons of CO2, for 18 billions $ of revenues for miners. Hence, 40 000 $ value of bitcoins represents 80 tons of CO2.” ¨• As readers know, arithmetic is not my strongest suit….

Tech: “Why Amazon, Google, and Microsoft Are Designing Their Own Chips” [Bloomberg]. “By 2025 data centers are expected to consume 15% of the world’s electricity, up from about 2% last year, according to Applied Materials, the biggest maker of chip manufacturing equipment. Keeping power consumption down is becoming more important than the cost of the chips themselves for the data center owners.” • Holy moley!

Tech: “Gene name errors are widespread in the scientific literature” [Genome Biology]. From 2016, still germane. The Abstract: “The spreadsheet software Microsoft Excel, when used with default settings, is known to convert gene names to dates and floating-point numbers. A programmatic scan of leading genomics journals reveals that approximately one-fifth of papers with supplementary Excel gene lists contain erroneous gene name conversions.” • This is so, so bad.

Tech: “Facebook shows off mind-reading technology it hopes to use one day with smart glasses” [CNBC]. “The wrist device is capable of reading neurological signals sent from a users’ brain down to their hands. It could theoretically read these signals to get a sense of what a user wants to do and replicate the action in a virtual or augmented reality environment. ‘You actually have more of your brain dedicated to controlling your wrist than any other part of your body, probably twice as many neurons controlling your wrist and the movement of your hands than is actually dedicated to your mouth for feeding and for speech,’ said TR Reardon, director of research science at Facebook Reality Labs.” • Kill them with fire.

Transportation: “Can Shared Mobility Survive the Pandemic?” [Bloomberg]. • Betteridge’s Law. “]T]he pandemic made the idea of piling into a car full of strangers a lot less appealing. In March 2020 Uber and Lyft both put their pooled products on pause, where they largely remain.” • Worth reading for the lizard-like public relations efforts of the ride-hailing companies.

The Fed: “Fed sees U.S. economic growth surging to 6.5 percent this year” [Politico]. “The Federal Reserve on Wednesday projected the U.S. economy will grow 6.5 percent this year, the fastest pace in four decades, fueled by growing vaccination rates and nearly $2 trillion in new federal spending. Central bank officials upgraded their growth forecast from a 4.2 percent estimate in December, adding that they now expect the unemployment rate to drop to 4.5 percent by the end of 2021.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 Greed (previous close: 58 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 56 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 18 at 11:57am. One year ago: 5 (Extreme Fear).

Health Care

“Your Unvaccinated Kid Is Like a Vaccinated Grandma” [Emily Oster, The Atlantic]. Deck: “Parents should bet on vacations with their kids this summer.” More; “Children are not at high risk for COVID-19. We’ve known since early in the pandemic that they are much less likely to fall ill, especially seriously ill. Although scientists don’t quite understand why, kids seem to be naturally protected.” • Oster, an economist, seems not to have given consideration that infected children might be asymptomatic and transmit the virus to others.

“CDC reviewing rule that students, staff stay 6-feet apart in COVID hotspots” [ABC News]/ • I saved this link because to my recollection — no time to look at the Wayback Machine — the accompanying photo showed one child with their mask below their nose. Not good practice when masks are the CDC’s first line of defense. Now this picture appears, with different problems:

One more for your School Board:

“How To Get A COVID-19 Shot In Wisconsin: Vaccine Hunters Share Tips” [Wisconsin Public Radio]. The deck: “Tired Of Waiting, Some Eligible Wisconsinites Take Action Or Find Help To Nab Vaccine Appointments.” More: “But Davis wasn’t sure how to book an appointment. The signup websites she found failed to demystify the process. That’s when she saw a about a Facebook group called Milwaukee & WI Area Vaccine Hunters and Angels, where Wisconsinites share tips for snagging appointments. The fast-growing Facebook group has helped many Wisconsinites navigate the state’s COVID-19 vaccine bureaucracy. Wisconsin is among the nation’s leaders in distributing inoculations to those who want them, but demand still outpaces supply, and some eligible residents still struggle to find appointments. The Facebook group is among dozens popping up nationwide in which members share insights for booking vaccinations. Some, like Orech, even schedule appointments for others. They are known as ‘angels.'” • On the one hand, good ol’ American ingenuity. On the other, we built a system that’s so bad it’s begging to be gamed. What does that say about the operational capacity of our State?

Could have been much worse:

“Covid: Slow walkers ‘more likely to die’, study finds” [BBC]. “Health researchers based in Leicester concluded slow walkers with a “normal” weight were 3.75 times more likely to die from the virus than brisk walkers. The project used data collected from more than 400,000 middle-aged people. Lead researcher Prof Tom Yates said self-reported walking pace could be used to predict whether someone was at higher risk from the virus. The study, run by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, was designed to explore links between body mass index (BMI) and self-reported walking pace with the risk of contracting severe Covid-19 and mortality. It used self-reported data from 412,596 people who participate in UK Biobank, a biomedical database and research study.” • Too bad about the self-reporting. Video interlude:


Oh, I thought you said slow talkers!

The Biosphere

“Plummeting sperm counts, shrinking penises: toxic chemicals threaten humanity” [Erin Brockovich, Guardian]. “A new book called Countdown, by Shanna Swan, an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, finds that sperm counts have dropped almost 60% since 1973. Following the trajectory we are on, Swan’s research suggests sperm counts could reach zero by 2045. Zero. Let that sink in. That would mean no babies. No reproduction. No more humans. Forgive me for asking: why isn’t the UN calling an emergency meeting on this right now? The chemicals to blame for this crisis are found in everything from plastic containers and food wrapping, to waterproof clothes and fragrances in cleaning products, to soaps and shampoos, to electronics and carpeting.” • Hard to believe ova aren’t being affected as well.

Our Famously Free Press

“Here’s why Substack’s scam worked so well” [The Hypothesis]. “Substack is not merely an app. It’s actually a publication. Why do I say that? Because Substack’s leadership pays a secret, select group of people to write for the platform. They call this group of writers the ‘Substack Pro’ group, and they are rewarded with ‘advances’ that Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie calls ‘an upfront sum to cover their first year on the platform [that’s] more attractive to a writer than a salary, so they don’t have to stay in a job (or take one) that’s less interesting to them than being independent.’ In other words, it’s enough money to quit their day jobs. They also get exposure through Substack’s now-considerable online reach. By doing this, Substack is creating a de facto editorial policy. Their leadership — let’s call them editors — are deciding what kinds of writing and writers are worthy of financial compensation. And you don’t know who those people are. That’s right — Substack is taking an editorial stance, paying writers who fit that stance, and refusing to be transparent about who those people are.” • Viscerally, I agree with this. On the other hand, is Substack more like a newspaper, or more like a newsstand?

“Wikimedia Foundation to offer community’s free content via paid-for Enterprise API” [The Register]. “In a blog post on Wednesday, Liam Wyatt, program manager for WikiCite at Wikimedia Foundation, explained that the forthcoming Wikimedia Enterprise API will provide a way for commercial companies to reuse content from projects like Wikipedia in their own services…. [C]ompanies that prefer to ingest project data via an open source API for faster, more reliable repurposing will soon have a way to pay for premium service, complete with a service-level agreement.” • Hmm. I wonder what content sources this will kill off.

The Agony Column

“Australia: Sex consent app proposal sparks backlash” [BBC]. “Australians have derided a suggestion by the New South Wales (NSW) police commissioner that an app could be used to register sexual consent. On Thursday, Mick Fuller championed the idea of an app where people could digitally record their mutual agreement to have sex. He said the technology could be used to establish ‘positive consent’. But many people have criticised the proposal as short-sighted and potentially open to abuse. Concerns have also been raised about whether it could be used for state surveillance.” • I don’t see the need for an app when a written, witnessed contract would be enough.

“Not tonight, darling: how the world lost its libido – and how it can get it back” [Guardian]. “In research conducted by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University last year, nearly half of the respondents reported a decline in the frequency of sexual behaviour, including masturbation (although one in five people said they had tried something new in their sex life, such as different positions or sexting). ‘It’s definitely affecting people,’ says Kate Moyle, a psychosexual therapist and the host of the podcast The Sexual Wellness Sessions. ‘Generalised anxiety is at a higher level: there are threats to health, wellbeing, jobs, education or medical treatments. We’re not seeing friends or family. That increased anxiety can affect us inside the bedroom: people are reporting being more distracted, or that they find it harder to be in the moment, that they have more intrusive thoughts or more negative automatic thoughts.’ For some people, though, sex may have increased during this period, she says, as a form of stress relief.” • Lots of interesting detail, but what a bleak landscape. Perhaps the pagans did it better.

Zeitgeist Watch

Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” Comment:

Class Warfare

News of the Wired

I’m trying to imagine the Soviet version of this:

Why did it take so long:


* * *

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 (Carla):

Carla writes: “Still-life with home-grown pumpkin — Sept. 2020.” What did the Dutch masters know of pumpkins?

* * *

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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. fresno dan

    Was I the only one who forgot it was Saint Patrick’s Day yesterday? I was flipping through the news channels, ranting at the “news” readers as usual, and Anderson Cooper was between two women “reporters” dressed in green, and Anderson was in his usual black and white and noted that he had forgot to wear green. So did I! Of course, I was just at home in covid quarantine, but still.
    Saturday is my second covid vaccine dose, so I’m thinking there could be a make up Saint Patrick’s day in a couple of weeks. Of course, I’ve gotten so used to getting tippling at home alone, it doesn’t seem like it’s even worth the effort to go out…

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Since I’m over a week out, I thought I would get a beer at a brewery where I resupply, being able to drink outside. I drove by a sports bar (we don’t have bars in Virginia. Food revenue has to be 50%), and there were just too many people for comfort.

      I didn’t get to the brewery as a result.

      1. Lunker Walleye

        Last weekend we had our first carry out — from our fave Indian food place– it was terrific! That is the only meal we have not prepared since early March, 2020. This was a week after our 2nd vaccine. Still, every day, we decide what we can/cannot do in comfort.

  2. km

    If donations have no effect on policy*, why are they treated as a form of free speech?

    *Go on, pull the other one. It has bells on it.

    1. shinola

      “Political donations have zero bearing on policy,’ asserted [Cuomo] spokesman Jack Sterne. Oh, and by the way,” he added “I can get you a really good deal if you’re looking to buy the Brooklyn bridge.”

      1. Geo

        Seriously! That quote immediately brought two questions to mind:
        1. Do they think we’re that stupid?
        2. Are we that stupid?

        The link about Hanlon’s Razor fits well here. I do think Cuomo acts with malice but his true believers might just be dumb. Especially since their paycheck relies on them being dumb. Megalomaniacs don’t like being surrounded by smart people. They prefer dumb ones that are easier to control.

        But are we, as a society, stupid to keep electing guys like Cuomo, Trump, Bloomberg, Giuliani (just to name a few of NYC’s finest conmen) to top roles in government? Or is it malice? Do we actively seek bullies who will abuse those we don’t like even if it means we too may suffer a bit?

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          The spokesman probably said this to rub the audience’s face in it.

          The only way anything will happen to the Cuomozoids is if a huge majority of the NY public reaches a state of deep cold hatred and a desire to make the Cuomozoids pay personally. Otherwise, nothing will happen.

  3. fresno dan

    “Not tonight, darling: how the world lost its libido – and how it can get it back” [Guardian].
    It would be wrong to note this other post:
    “Plummeting sperm counts, shrinking penises: toxic chemicals threaten humanity” [Erin Brockovich, Guardian]
    so I won’t….

  4. hunkerdown

    Greenwald calls out HuffPo’s White House correspondent. I think I remember an S.V. Daté trying to narrative-manage this very comments section into anti-Russian bourgeois progressivism several months ago.

    1. Jen

      I’d send it to my office mates, but we already have crying babies, barking dogs, bad audio and echoes, and I’m not going to give anyone ideas about the other options!

  5. Toshiro_Mifune

    Buying a Tesla in Bitcoins cancels 4 times the CO2 savings for its whole lifetime

    This is assuming that the person paying in BTC was mining it today. Of course, they could have mined these in 2008 when it was much much (much) easier and held on to it until now. At which point, no it wouldn’t cancel out the CO2 savings.

    1. Geo

      And maybe they paid in gold bars they mined in 1842. But, most likely they didn’t and the ongoing “mining” of Bitcoin is a very real environmental concern.

  6. Duck1

    Re Facebook mind reading technology: Have they got an app for those blow up dolls yet? Asking for a friend.

  7. 430MLK

    “Why the Third Way Failed” [Ruy Teixeira and Brian Katulis, The Liberal Patriot\]. Lambert wrote, “Pretty sloppy writing, with no clear distinctions between “liberal,” “progressive,” “center-left,” and “left[…..] If you define the left, as I do, as the political tendency that puts the working class first, then identity politics is not left at all; it’s liberal.”

    I understand and agree with the distinction made between “left” and “liberal,” and by inference between “center-left” (liberal) and “left.” Different identities. But I’m a bit more hazy on the distinction between liberal and progressive, and also the alignment of left and progressive (as not liberal and center-left). My sense of progressivism, as it’s arisen in current form, is that it was liberalism re-branded in the wake of Democrat failures during the George Bush years. Barack Obama was progressive. Further, this re-branding seemed to occur alongside a continued de-emphasis on labor/unions (New Deal liberalism) and a renewed focus on culture/identity.

    Taking the definition of “left” as working-class first, would progressivism align historically? I always thought that progressivism’s late 19th/early 20th rise was in part a reaction/co-opting of anarchist and socialist and populist organizing (Albert Parsons, Eugene Debs, William Jennings Bryan, plus hundreds of regional/local examples)–working-class-based demands that were harnessed, for good and ill but usually watered-down demands–by teetotaling churches, small-urban-centered business owners, and Teddy Roosevelt. In that light, “left” and “progressive” are related but not necessarily aligned.

    Or put differently, is progressive like “latinx,” a signifier that, say, striking Amazon workers or WVU teachers would not specifically identify with as such? I think I’m too harsh on progressives, which colors my 1900s and 2000s progressive histories, but I live among so many of them, sort of an inverse Amfortas situation–and I’m not as sensible as that hippie is!


    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I imagine the whole article is garbage as Lambert noted, but it starts with the argument for greater “patriotism” or some such nonsense.

      Liberal patriotism can remedy that failure and lead to a rebirth of the center-left

      This schtick has been tried. Secondly, phony displays of “July 4th” nostalgia just signal weakness to the GOP/conservatives. Again, John Kerry’s reporting for service brought in…um…well…he’s not president. By conceding the argument, anyone playing dress up is somewhat admitting they aren’t patriotic or that the policies aren’t. Universal healthcare is patriotic by its very nature.

    2. Big River Bandido

      I would agree with your characterizations. The word “progressive” has been an empty vessel that the different political cultures you mentioned have interpreted freely; a century ago, Progressivism actually reflected values. Today, it’s nothing more than lifestyle branding, sort of like Kristen Synema or Jon Ossoff.

      OTOH, both the 1900 and 2000 “progressives” are decidedly anti-worker.

      1. urblintz

        I can’t use either “liberal” or “progressive” anymore. The only label I could accept for myself is “radical” which leads to a whole other set of problems and assumptions…

        and so it goes.

        1. Geo

          I don’t know. Seems early 90’s culture of MTV and ninja turtles already co-opted “radical” into a corporate friendly branding slogan. :)

        2. jrh

          I’ve been thinking maybe “Ultraviolet”? Might as well harness the visible light spectrum polarity branding of red and blue.

          Right wingers can have “Infrared” if they want a cool-as-heck brand too.

      2. Mark Gisleson

        When Hillary Clinton branded herself as a Progressive in 2007, it pretty much killed that label for me. It seems that the first rule of neoliberalism is to use whatever labels poll well, whether they describe you or not.

        1. barefoot charley

          Yup, since it’s all about the messaging. There is no message.

          I too realize the only meaningful word for my politics is radical. Which won’t sell any better than Commie.

        2. JBird4049

          Which then kills the word or phrase, and its actual definition, original definition. It is not Newspeak but Orwell would understand.

          Liberalism, conservatism, patriotism, socialism, even free market capitalism are among the words whose meaning has lost meaning; it is the usually negative emotional reaction, not the actual original meaning or description ostensibly being communicated, that is important.

          Being progressive is possible. They do exist. It has a definition and everything, but there has been a century of propaganda that has demonized the original Progressive Party as well as distorted the original definitions into lies. That makes being progressive harder. Or liberal or conservative or…

          It’s easier to just follow a party’s diktats.

          1. hunkerdown

            Murray Rothbard bragged about stealing the word “libertarian” from the left-anarchists. Now, they’ve made a formula of it.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > The word “progressive” has been an empty vessel

        IIRC, I was around in the early 2000s when it started taking root. The conservatives under Gingrich had so polluted the word “liberal” that they decided some rebranding was in order, and so “progressive” became the new word. It never had any content. If there’s a difference between a progressive and a liberal, it’s that the progressive actually believes in their virtue signaling. But perhaps I’m too cynical.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      Ideologies are also platforms-of-belonging and markers-of-identity. Ideological tendency-loads of people are also Identity Groups. So IdeoIdPol is still IdPol. Another form of IdPol, but still IdPol.

      So perhaps the reality of Identy and Identy groups will have to be accepted, and the IdPol somehow tamed and domesticated so that intergroup coalitions of convenience to achieve certain shared goals can still be formed.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        ” Ideold”IdPol should be “Ideo”IdPol. IdeoIdPol.

        “What are you?”

        ” I! am a Marxist!”

        Well, “Marxist” is an Identity identification.

  8. tegnost

    Bloomberg uber article…
    “Government officials could provide one, either by making shared travel a lot faster (by offering dedicated street space) or a lot cheaper (by imposing fees on private trips that make them relatively more expensive).”
    Dedicated infra for silicon valley, and then have the gov tax the passengers to improve their selfish behavior.

  9. pjay

    Re: “Here’s why Substack’s scam worked so well” [The Hypothesis].

    I saw this article earlier today. Given the recent attacks on Substack that are obviously aimed at Greenwald, Taibbi, and others of the “dirtbag left,” I was immediately suspicious. If what the author says is true about pay structure, then we should take note in evaluating content. But I was especially interested in *which* content she would single out for criticism, since “Substack’s secret paid elite all seemed to be cut from the same cloth.” Sure enough, quoting “queer, non-binary, and transgender” (Wikipedia) activist and writer Jude Doyle:

    “Substack has become famous for giving massive advances — the kind that were never once offered to me or my colleagues, not up front and not after the platform took off — to people who actively hate trans people and women, argue ceaselessly against our civil rights, and in many cases, have a public history of directly, viciously abusing trans people and/or cis women in their industry.”

    “Glenn Greenwald started his Substack by inveighing against trans rights and/or ACLU lawyer Chase Strangio, is currently using it to direct harassment at a female New York Times reporter, and has repeatedly used his platform to whitewash alleged rapists and domestic abusers…”

    She goes on to mention others. But if you know anything about these Greenwald examples, then you know this is a biased smear.

    I’m suspicious of everything, so I’ll watch the Substack story. But there are clearly ulterior motives behind this “expose” here. Waiting for Greenwald to reply; he usually does.

    1. pjay

      Oh, I forgot to mention that one of the “alleged rapists” that Doyle is accusing Greenwald of “whitewashing” is Julian Assange.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Just wait until they accuse Greenwald of being homophobic. And his partner as well. You know it’s coming.

        Oh dear god. PlutoniumKun in a comment below has said that it has already happened. Satire is now our reality.

    2. km

      Let us assume that everything Doyle writes is true: is Substack not permitted to pay its writers as it sees fit, or that obligates it to pay all its writers the same?

      Or is there some new law that requires a publisher to consult with the local Wokemon points champion before giving anyone a contract?

      1. pjay

        Thanks. PK mentioned this podcast below as well, in which he does address these issues. It’s a good one.

  10. tegnost

    Seth Ackerman and poverty…
    good article and has a confusing third way ending…
    “If he succeeds, on the other hand, not only will he be able to take credit for boosting the economy and engineering a major reduction in America’s shameful child poverty rate. He will have struck a powerful blow on behalf of this country’s all-too-fragile democracy by shepherding the Democratic Party through its slow and painful transformation into something this country has long been so badly in need of: a responsible, democratic-minded party of the center-right.
    Yeah, we’re just desperate for that…

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      I like that Biden thinks the reason for the 2010 wipeout was that Obama didn’t take a “victory lap” on his stimulus bill, not that the bill itself did nothing for most voters. It’s the same old Democrat thinking that they just need “better branding” rather than better bills. I’ll be curious to see if the dogs eat the dog food this time.

      1. barefoot charleyc

        His relief is two and a half times greater than Obama’s. To my surprise, I’ll judge by what he does, not what he says, which teeters into gibberish anyway. His loot will reach people who need it, utterly unlike Saint Obama’s, so of course no Democrat can say so.

        1. JTMcPhee

          “Two and a half times” just exactly what? Especially measured against the actual NEED. The Biden machine has popped out a half-baked bit of kick-the-can-down-the-road, yes it is better in some ways than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but hardly fit for purpose. Biden and the “liberals” are all happy to take that victory lap, but they don’t hardly deserve the laurels they are claiming.

    2. Jeff W

      My interpretation of what Seth Ackerman is saying is we would have “a responsible, democratic-minded party of the center-right” instead of (1) whatever the GOP is and (2) whatever the Democratic Party bills itself as (i.e., a party that portrays itself as “center-left” or “the party of the working class”). I doubt that Ackerman, an executive editor for Jacobin, is advocating for some “third way.” (He definitely isn’t clear about what he means.)

      I’ve said for a long time that, in a sane political environment, the Democratic Party, if it exists at all, would be the rightmost mainstream party. I think Ackerman is saying something similar.

  11. drumlin woodchuckles

    About those Facebook smart mindreader glasses and wristbands and stuff . . .

    I can see fertile ground for a satirical counter-ad counter-campaign. ” Put the damn glasses on!”

    Mark Zuckerberg wants you to put the damn glasses on!

    Not everyone will get the referrence. But some will.

  12. Bill Smith

    “Buying a Tesla in Bitcoins cancels 4 times the CO2 savings for its whole lifetime”

    This is only true if the Bitcoins are then deleted? If the Bitcoins get ‘cycled’ back out into the economy and the same bitcoins are used by someone else to buy another Tesla then?

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      My understanding is that the longer the bitcoins remain ” in existence”, the longer computers are eating energy to keep validating or even just preserving the blockchains behind those bitcoins.

      1. Bill Smith

        I think the computers are mining new bitcoin. As the limit on the number of bitcoin approaches, it get harder to mine, taking more energy.

  13. PlutoniumKun

    “Here’s why Substack’s scam worked so well” [The Hypothesis].

    I can’t claim any detailed knowledge of the workings of substack, but given the background of the author of that piece I’d take it with a very large grain of salt – there is clearly a determined campaign by mainstream writers, especially those associated with the NYT, to ‘take down’ substack.

    If you look at Glen Greenwalds latest on his substack, his interview with Katie Hertzog, they go into a lot of detail on the type of online assault he and others are getting, including, bizarrely, claims that he is homophobic.

    1. rl

      including, bizarrely, claims that he is homophobic.

      It only surprises me that this sort of thing is surprising to anyone. If “trans lesbians are lesbians,” because “trans women are women” (and, likewise, if “trans gay men are gay men,” because “trans men are men”), then not only is the concept of sex “at best” furtively transphobic*, but also homosexual orientation as such—since sexual orientation is a function of physiological sex—is both trans- and homophobic.

      *Which, in this usage but (FWIW…YMMV) not necessarily every usage, means anything and everything that does not or cannot positively affirm, “validate,” the authenticity of trans-gender self-ID.

    2. FluffytheObeseCat

      The malign nature of this critique is made obvious by the quote. The writer is insinuating that one of Substack’s operating practices = scammy because it isn’t significantly more transparent than mainstream practices.

      Ideally Substack should indicate who is a paid writer, and maybe even rank them in terms of their cut. Because the choice to pay some of the bigger draws does in fact add up to an editorial stance, however modest and hands off it may be as “editing” goes. But, seriously. Does anyone think every writer for the NYT or the Guardian gets the same amount for the same effort? Readers are never told what the compensation differentials are at these publications. Somehow that isn’t supposed to matter, but paid v. unpaid at Substack does? The longstanding pay differentials at mainstream publications are likewise a hidden form of editorial action.

      Maybe all “news” publications should cough up this info as a matter of journalistic principle. I suspect the reaction to this argument across the newsmedia spectrum could be incredibly entertaining. Watching everyone from Ezra Klein and David Ignatius to Rich Lowry and Tucker Carlson sing in tune together to ‘explain’ why it would be such a bad idea……… should provide us with hours of gigglicious fun time.

  14. Bill Smith

    “Australia: Sex consent app proposal sparks backlash”

    “I don’t see the need for an app when a written, witnessed contract would be enough.”

    With 3rd parties around to watch and make sure consent wasn’t withdrawn? :)

    1. The Rev Kev

      Why are very senior cops so stupid sometimes? Just yesterday you had a senior US cop at a press conference saying that the multiple mass murderer in Georgia was having “a bad day.” Yeah, he actually said that.

      But has that NSW Police Commissioner thought really about it? So a girl nominates agree on an app and when they get home, notices the guy pull out a rubber duck and a leather face mask with zippers. Saying that she has now changed her mind, the guy says you can’t because you already committed yourself on the app.

      But if you want contracts, here is how it could play out and complete with contract brokers-

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urS8GmwmeWQ (1:54 mins)

  15. Jason Boxman

    It’s funny you post a link on sex. My downstairs neighbors, a couple, fight all the time and I’m blessed with walls so useless they’re basically my un-agreed to roommates. Fortunately for me, the male suggested sex and the female refused, so I dodged that, but instead they argued for an hour instead. I really don’t care to know this much about the lives of strangers, honestly. (I can hear library-voice speaking effortlessly, so the presence of walls in this building is similar to plexiglass theater, in truth, but fortunately sans transparency.)

    1. Arizona Slim

      On the other hand, they are providing material for that novel you’ve been writing. Or the one you’ve been meaning to write.

  16. RockHard

    Having declared victory, are we just not testing anymore?

    I don’t understand the context for this, it’s been on WC for about a week. The overall positivity rate is going down, why would that imply less testing? That’s the Trump logic “if we weren’t testing so much, there wouldn’t be so many cases”. It’s not mathematical reality. Now, the Midwest went sharply down, the South went sharply up. Looks more like a data oddity to me, maybe weather related.

    As far as the QAnon mommy blogger thing, my theory is that any of these groups that trade in attention are inevitably toxic and prone to latching on to this kind of thing. What kind of monster would be in favor of child sex trafficking? Same reasoning caused Backpage to get shut down and Craigslist to remove their personals section, all because sometimes prostitutes used the personals to advertise, and some of those prostitutes were trafficked children. Coincidentally, those platforms were busy slaughtering the news media’s cash cow, the classified ads. Now, there’s things going around facebook, something like “Operation Keep Watch” or something, which is supposed to encourage men to escort women to their cars at the mall or the grocery store. Seems like a fine idea, I know a few upstanding men who repost that stuff… all it’s doing is fostering a culture of fear.

    1. RockHard

      Also with respect to the sex trafficking thing, the whole Atlanta shooting thing is getting spun as racism, and not a whiff of sex trafficking in the reporting. Part of the MO of these Asian massage places is to import women into the US and make them work off the debt at a massage parlor, and that the guy who did it is a self-admitted sex addict trying to remove temptation from his life… nope, it’s racism!

      Real sex trafficking charges don’t stand a chance, but when it’s imaginary white children getting abducted…

    2. JBird4049

      >>>Same reasoning caused Backpage to get shut down and Craigslist to remove their personals section, all because sometimes prostitutes used the personals to advertise, and some of those prostitutes were trafficked children.

      >>>all it’s doing is fostering a culture of fear.

      It is far more about power including the control of information. By labeling, smearing, or even just hinting, of the impropriety of any media site one can damage and eventually destroy it. Crackdowns or increasing censorship have historically started with anything to do with sex or could possibly be construed as having to do with sex; typically, the authorities also put the onus or responsibility of properly censoring their printed media, radio and television shows, even letters, and now emails and messages on the owners, operators, producers, writers, even actors.

      This unacceptable material is often deliberately not clearly described or delimited, which forces the potentially censored to be even more circumscribed and gives the censored more freedom (It says write there that you can’t do x, even though it is not clear what I consider x is, you still can’s do x, so banning or closure).

      In Victorian times right into the early 20th century it was about the fragility and corruptibility of delicate (white) womanhood. Just talking about the bad things might somehow hurt, so we must not about the evils of the day.

      Today, it is about “saving the children” or saving the “trafficked women” from the modern version of white slavers. Granted, sexual slavery is a very real thing as is evils like child porn, but so was the daycare child abuse insanity of the late 20th century. Who knows how many innocent people, men, women, and children were destroyed by it? Even when it was obvious that the accused could not have committed the child abuse they were accused of, they were still convicted and sentenced to decades in prison. McCarthyism was used by the very homosexual Roy Cohn’s investigators to target homosexual and lesbian federal employees, ostensibly because they were likely Soviet spies.

      Porn of obviously adults eventually morphs into anyone who might, possibly, maybe could be underage. From evil acts, to depiction of the acts, to something tangential to it. From obvious pedophiles and child porn to teenagers being charged of such and put on the sex offender’s registry by sexting themselves to a girlfriend or boyfriend.

      Eventually, the demand for “safe space” arises, which requires the police, the censoring of the very words being written or spoken. Rape or abuse victims? Okay. That is one of the justifications for increasing censorship of porn. Of the removal of adult film actors from twitter, tumblr, and Instagram for simply being adult actors. Furthermore, of closing their bank accounts.

      Victims of racism or other hate crimes? Seems fair. Maybe we could slip back into the days I remember when people would be beaten, sometimes to death, for the suspicion of being gay. How about anything that could be construed as even hinting at homophobia, transphobia, or racism? One must think of not hurting others and some experiences create really, truly bad memories.

      What’s wrong about strong words on the power structure or about privilege? The European, aka White, power structure with its four centuries of assiduous cultivation of racism, the Indian “savages,” the primitive Blacks, or the classism of the “White trash” being consider really as only good as a kind of “human manure.” We do have plenty of poor people, including the most dispossessed of all, the Native Americans trapped on their reservations with the worst levels of poverty, alcoholism, illness, short life expectancy, unemployment and so on. The grown numbers of homeless Americans is just… or are we talking about “White privilege” with its unassailability and presumably the most important thing now?

      Bad realities become bad actions which someone must guilty of, which means bad thoughts, which becomes bad words even bad art. Words and art that must censored to save us all. Challenging it means being guilty of unsafe words and ultimately of being a bad person that needs to be unseen. Therefore, the bad realities can be ignored. Conveniently.

      Interestingly, the businesses, apps, and networks constructed and used by sex workers tend to be destroyed to be kept safe from sex traffickers. In a time when the economy has forced many, many people into the business. When many people were already sex workers because of things like food, clothing, and shelter and at the same time the means to work safely and earn enough money to live and often support their families has been taken from them. But nonprofits, politicians, and the police all say that they are so, so concerned about their well being while denying them even the ability to be seen and talk about themselves and their needs.

      Then there is the collapse of the news media with people desperately trying to a living somehow doing investigating and reporting of the news. Unorthodox means, often living precariously, and often reporting on now unorthodox subjects like poor people or sex workers’ views, or anyone not of the top 10% with their refusal to cover Russiagate or to accept Biden and Clinton’s saintliness or the dastardly communist beliefs Sanders is suppose to have.

      So, of course, they are unacceptable people who should be unseen and unheard. Censored.

      So child pimp Jeffrey Epstein was made wealthy and protected for decades, and the New York Times and the Washington Post until recently remained as the national newspapers of record. But they were or are wealthy and powerful while the poor and vulnerable, who often have uncomfortable, inconvenient, even heretical beliefs can be ignored or otherwise dealt with. Unseen.

  17. Phenix

    Epstein’s clients included pedophiles. He was connected to the rich and powerful. Why are people surprised that average Americans think that the rich and powerful are pedophiles?

    1. Geo

      Along with Casablancas (founder of Next models whom Trump was close friends with and used as inspiration for his own model agency) and coincidentally(or not) Epstein was quoted as saying he modeled his agency after Trump’s agency.


      The only real issue is when people assign partisan dogma to their accusations. There’s plenty of monsters on all sides and, as with most issues now days, this concern for children’s safety has become a partisan conspiracy instead of a genuine concern for the kids.

      If Qanon people actually cared for the kids they’d have plenty of prime targets within their party including their beloved former President. Sorta like how liberals “believe women” until those women accuse liberal icons.

  18. zagonostra

    > “In research conducted by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University last year” link

    This article funded by “The Kinsey Institute” opens up with this doser: “Recreational sex is a popular form of leisure…”

    I recently stumbled on below YTube video by the prolific writer and editor of Culture Wars magazine, Dr. E Michael Jones, called Libido Dominandi: Lust, Power, & Control .Dr. Jones does not take kindly to Kinsey and sexual promiscuity. He is a staunch Catholic and views sex far from “recreational”; rather he views it is a sacred act. He touched on how Kinsey was a troubled homosexual and how the whole “sexual revolution” ties in with political and economic dominance.

    Dr. Jones is certainly controversial. He is aCatholic who upsets Catholics by taking an unapologetic stance on abortion, which got him fired from a Catholic teaching position strangely enough. He is also accused of anti-Semitism. I think people have to make up there own mind on what he says. I for one, am learning a lot from listening to his lectures, especially on “Logos Rising”, his most recent book.



  19. flora

    Lambert: a shout out for the “Bob and Ray” bit.

    “And, incidentally, this chair sat in Mary McGroom’s living room for many years”.

    They were hilarious in their understated nod to Americana’s ways. Thanks.

    1. flora

      adding: Bob and Ray’s dead-pan humorous delivery of mid-20th century Americana civic norms and good-think made everyone laugh. We could all laugh at ourselves and at our foibles and our pretensions back then. We loved laughing at the pretensions given us from ‘on (madison avenue) high.’ This current ‘modern age’ is such a grim age of ultra seriousness. imo.

      1. Angie Neer

        I once went on a long car trip with a business colleague and brought along cassette tapes of B & R for amusement. To me, they were side-splittingly hilarious, but my colleague just sat there silently. Not a snicker. Apparently, he could not hear the humor through their deadpan.

        1. Phil in KC

          A minority taste, and subtle at that, which is why B and R never had a huge following like Abbott and Costello, for example.

          I played a video of their cranberry farmer bit (wherein the farmer reveals to the interviewer that he had no idea that cranberries had actual uses—he had thought cranberries as ornamental only) for a friend who thought they were making fun of farmers. Whump!!

          1. John Anthony La Pietra

            Ah, yes, the cranberry story fast-breaking in Times Square. . . .

            I can hardly wait until there’s a link about Komodo dragons!

  20. Tom Doak

    It wouldn’t be America if the system [for vaccine distribution, in this case] couldn’t be gamed.

  21. ChetG

    Having declared victory, are we just not testing anymore?

    I wonder about this too. Typically, I’ve seen the PA positivity rate at 7 percent or less; however, if on a day like yesterday,

    State College site

    Pennsylvania had 3126 new cases and 8589 negatives, or a total of 11715 cases. And 3126/11715 = .266 or a positivity of 26.6 percent. That daily reading is somewhat higher than what I’ve seen the past couple of weeks, but I doubt whether the positivity rate has been much under 20 percent.

    It would seem to me that state positivity rates are from a long-term basis and don’t reflect the present.

  22. Otis B Driftwood

    The Ackerman article had me following closely and then dropped this bomb in the final paragraph:

    If he succeeds, on the other hand, not only will he be able to take credit for boosting the economy and engineering a major reduction in America’s shameful child poverty rate. He will have struck a powerful blow on behalf of this country’s all-too-fragile democracy by shepherding the Democratic Party through its slow and painful transformation into something this country has long been so badly in need of: a responsible, democratic-minded party of the center-right

    Huh? “Badly in need of a center-right party”? WTF? That’s the last thing we need.

    1. Geo

      From the Lincoln Project to Republicans For Biden to all the never-Trump celebs paraded around on MSNBC this is clearly the goal of the Dems. They’ve turned the GOP into a junker and are now intent on trashing the last shred of humanity left within the Dem Party.

      It’s why I totally understand the views of those who feel the Dems cannot be reformed but why inside with those trying desperately to reform it anyway. To me it seems saving the party from a hostile takeover (decades in the making) is the only realistic hope of reforming our government. Having two parties that are merely burned out husks puppeted like marionettes by conservative powers with the sole intent to divide and distract us with wedge issues while third parties try fruitlessly to wrangle up support while squabbling with each other over trivial disputes under a larger system designed to squash them seems like where we’re going.

  23. drumlin woodchuckles

    About ” designing own chips” . . .

    Years ago I remember reading in Wired Magazine an article about how some chip materials design engineers were trying and hoping to see if using ” gallium arsenide” in just the right way on those chips would allow impulses to travel around faster on the chips. And elsewhere in the same issue I read a little thing about how some chip shape design engineers were trying to see if turning the flat chip into a little sphere would allow impulses to travel around faster between places on the sphere than if that same area were still flattened out as a chip.

    I wonder if either of those ideas ever went anywhere.

    And I remember thinking that if both ideas worked separately, why not combine them into ” gallium arsenide” spheres for even more faster travelling around of the impulses? I was going to write a letter to the Wired editor, but I never got around to it.

    So there’s an idea for any reading chip designer to either pick up and use or just laugh at, depending.
    Gallium arsenide computer “spheres”.

    1. hunkerdown

      GaAs is used successfully in microwave and higher-frequency radio applications and in high-efficiency LEDs. Another non-silicon material, gallium nitride, makes superior power transistors, and that application has been taking off over the past few years. The sphere thing, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be designed for manufacturing, to put it nicely.

  24. Geo

    “ Overall, the 2021 Biden-Schumer-Pelosi plan lifts 12.3 million people out of poverty, reducing the poverty rate by 3.8 percentage points

    The 2020 Trump-McConnell-Pelosi CARES Act lifted 11.5 million people out of poverty, reducing the poverty rate by 3.6 percentage points.”

    It looks like I might be one of those lucky souls who received stimulus payments twice under Trump but will get nothing under Biden. Not a big loss for Dems since I’d never vote for Biden (refuse to vote for any Iraq War advocates) anyway but will be interesting to see if this turns into a bigger issue as more people find that the GOP under Trump cared about them more than Dems under Biden.

    At the very least, it will add more potential voters to the “neither party cares” category that has become our National majority. Which, honestly, the parties are fine with. They’d rather have their small dedicated ideological die-hards battle it out than have to worry about appealing to people who care about tangible policies.

    1. Anonapet

      The thing is that big handouts to citizens DO NOT equal big government, the thing which the Repuglicans detest.

      So it’s a win-win for the GOP to just give citizens cash: Increased popularity WITHOUT an increase in government. And very difficult for the Democrats to oppose without exposing themselves…

    2. The Rev Kev

      I can see what will happen in the next two years. A lot of Republicans will say I got my first cheque under Trump back in 2020 (can’t remember how much it was) and this was followed up by a second $600 Trump cheque with Trump himself saying at the time that he wanted it to be a $2,000 cheque. Doesn’t matter whether it was true or not as that is what he said. They are then going to compare it with the Biden $1,400 cheque which only some people will get whenever they get around to it and realize that Trump gave them much more cash than the Democrats and stopped people being thrown out of their homes to boot. How do you think that will play in Peoria come the 2022 midterms?

      1. Geo

        Agree with you but also feel that will only work on the true believers. Everyone else knows that no GOP voted for the recent relief package so it won’t be easy for them to play the compassion card. More than likely will just lead to more voter apathy since it’s been made very clear that neither party is willing to do any ire than the absolute minimum.

  25. cnchal

    > Tech: “Why Amazon, Google, and Microsoft Are Designing Their Own Chips” [Bloomberg].

    Consumption from 2% of all electricity produced to 15% of all electricity produced in 6 to 7 years, gloats the maker of chip fab equipment, for the gluttonous data centers, which there are never enough of to house all the digital crapola collected off of an unwitting humanity. By 2040 can we expect 75% of all electricty consumed go to data centers?

    The fatuous talk about efficiency also misses the elephant in the room. Making chips is electricity and consumables heavy, so much so that a cell phone is expected to use about 3% of total energy consumed during it’s life for operation and 97% for making it. Then there is the roughly 2.5 to 3 energy to electricity conversion losses.


    Also, interesting info on embodied energy in different objects.

    Obviously, a car weighing 1.4 metric tons (about as much as a Honda Accord LX) embodies more energy than the 140 grams of a smartphone (say, a Samsung Galaxy). But the energy gap is nowhere near so great as that 10,000-fold difference in mass.

    In 2015, worldwide sales of mobile phones reached about 1.9 billion, those of laptops amounted to about 60 million, and tablet sales surpassed 230 million. The aggregate weight of these devices came to about 550,000 metric tons. Assuming, conservatively, an average embodied rate of 0.25 gigajoules per phone, 4.5 GJ per laptop, and 1 GJ for a tablet, the annual production of these devices required about 1 exajoule (EJ, 1018 J) of primary energy. With about 100 GJ per vehicle, the 72 million vehicles sold in 2015 embodied about 7 EJ of energy and weighed about 100 million metric tons. New cars thus weighed more than 180 times as much as all portable electronics, but required only seven times as much energy to make.

    And as surprising as that may be, we can make an even more startling comparison. Portable electronics don’t last long—on the average just two years—and so the world’s annual production of these products embodies about 0.5 EJ per year of use. Because passenger cars typically last for at least a decade, the world’s annual production embodies about 0.7 EJ per year of use—which is only 40 percent more! This means that even if the roughly calculated aggregates err in opposite directions (so that cars embody more energy and electronics less) the global totals would still be not only of the same order of magnitude but most likely within a factor of two.
    But a smartphone is nothing without a network, and the cost of electrifying the net is high and rising. In 2013, U.S. data centers consumed about 91 terawatt-hours of electricity (2.2 percent of all generation) and are projected to use about 3.5 percent by 2020. Around the world, overall demand of information and communications networks claimed nearly 5 percent of electricity generation in 2012, and it will approach 10 percent by 2020. In aggregate, those tiny phones leave quite a footprint in the energy budget—and the environment.

    1.9 billion phones = 4.75 million cars when looking at embodied energy. This was 2015.

    To add insult to injury the data centers get a big fat break on electricity prices because they use so much of it, instead of being charged triple retail to discourage their use. What will likely happen is that there will be a drastic electricity shortage and huge price increases for the peasants to subsidize the digital beasts.

    Now we have a chip shortage, a mad dash to make moar, the auto industry punched in the face and FFS they are in god damn pizza boxes and air fresheners. Soon every sheet of toilet paper will have a chip so you can be charged by the swipe, a data center to collect the swipe fees and another to back it up.


    We are going in the wrong direction at an accelerating rate.

    1. Jason

      Thanks for posting this. I posted a link to this article a little while back. It got just a few responses, a couple of which seemed to whitewash the facts presented. But on the whole not too many people seem interested in this. If the numbers are accurate, I can understand why. Better to maintain a safe psychological distance.

      1. cnchal

        Good question. Unless stopped, data centers are going to use all the electricity available and nothing for anyone else that they can afford. Mining ass wipe data for digital gold is of utmost importance to the digital elite.

        At the current trajectory, electricity will become too scarce to juice up a car, unless one is filthy rich. Good chance that electric cars become garage queens.

    2. JBird4049

      It is not because of any fragility that many electronic device only are used for two years; I am keeping my iPhone 6s until it burst into flames despite parts of it getting slower and slower because Apple is deliberately doing so. By installing overly complex, resource hungry apps if nothing else.

      It is at most five years old and has everything I want or need. I could always use a larger battery, more memory, or a nicer camera, but that is just convenience, not need, nor even want; I don’t want to pay a thousand dollars for some convenience.

      1. eg

        I finally had to replace my wife’s iPhone5 in January when it became unusable for all practical purposes.

      2. cnchal

        > . . . despite parts of it getting slower and slower because Apple is deliberately doing so.. .

        Embodied energy puts the lie to the upgrade cycle. What Apple is doing is criminal.

        A $50 million fine is nothing to them. A $50 billion fine with Cook in prison for twenty years might get their attention.

      3. Jen

        I keep a ton of photos and videos on my iphone 6. Sadly, I don’t have enough memory on it to download upgrades to the IOS, or install any new apps. I was thinking of clearing out the collection, but I think I’m just going to leave it there.

  26. Molon labe

    “Plummeting sperm counts, shrinking penises: toxic chemicals threaten humanity” [Erin Brockovich, Guardian]. I don’t understand the hand-wringing. Seems to be a self-correcting issue.

    1. JBird4049

      If you are a Californian, it should be because of the state’s own stimulus bill. The $600 checks are suppose to replace the missing part of Biden’s $2000 but-we-really-mean-$1400 checks. This is something good that Sacramento has actually done.

      Hopefully, I will get one as well, but IIRC just because I am disabled, on SSDI and Medi-Cal does not necessarily mean I qualify per some of the bleeping wrinkles in the bill. One does have to meet all the Qualifications of the Holy Benefits. As California is a blessed Blue State, one must be screwed in precisely the approved way. Of course. However, I read the legislation before any last minute pre-signing revisions. I might be in luck.

      Which reminds me. I have to reapply for SNAP as it has lapsed due to me doing something wrong during the twice a year recertification.

  27. Amfortas the hippie

    “In a running dialogue, you will have Michel Foucault talking to Lao Tzu, Marcus Aurelius talking to Vladimir Putin, philosophy talking to geoeconomics – all the while attempting to defuse the toxic interaction of the New Great Depression and variations of Cold War 2.0.”

    Center of gravity moving “East”
    yet we’re fixated on Russia…because “we’ve ” been in bed with china for 50 years.
    which pertains…intimately…with why there hasn’t been enough jobs…and good paying ones…for decades.
    trump went on and on about bad china…”takin’ar jawbs”…but never mentioned who, exactly, made that happen.
    Like it was nefarious china…up ta noguud….but it was really our own overlords(some of whom vocally or tacitly, supported trump, or at least live in adjacent realms—or could at least adapt enough to deal with him being there)
    “Trumpism”—which, near as i can tell, doesn’t exist—will be used as a hammer…and obviously nutter right wingers will be sent up the river and forgotten.
    (to recruit in prison(stay behind army))
    But the real target is, as always, the Left…represented in this case by New Dealer Bernie.
    to his credit, he pushed the Dark Line beyond which we’re not allowed to think pretty far to the Left…but now Center is fixin to take over the game.

    Pepe makes me think bad thoughts.

    1. eg

      It’s flabbergasting how our local oligarchy escapes the blame for the offshoring they directed and from which they continue to profit.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        The more people who will blame the oligarchy in public, over and over and over again, the more other people will hear the oligarchy being blamed, over and over and over again.

        Some of those other people might start to retain what they hear.

    1. ambrit

      Good for Vlad Vladimirovitch! Now, run the ‘debate’ online and the Five Eyed monsters can call it a cyberattack.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      If Putin wants to make the troll even trollier, he can upgrade his challenge to say he would be willing to have it held in Real Time on America’s own C-SPAN network.

  28. Amfortas the hippie

    “The more important question here is raised everywhere censorship is now imposed. According to whom are this, that, or the other claims, theses, or narratives false? According to whom are some other claims or narratives the true and only claims and narratives? Who is the arbiter in all such cases? Nobody ever asks, for to ask this would lead us precisely to the question we truly must not pose: On what grounds do mainstream media, the Silicon Valley social media, and the liberal elites of the Democratic Party propose to possess unassailable truths and to have the right to impose them on others?”

    i must niggle, that thinking for oneself…out loud, especially…has been a revolutionary act for most of my life.
    it’s just more so, today.

  29. Mikel

    RE: “Oster, an economist, seems not to have given consideration that infected children might be asymptomatic and transmit the virus to others.”

    The teachers know and they are being gaslighted about it.

    1. eg

      Economists (and by extension Economics reporters/columnists) seem to be the blindest of all “specialists” when it comes to recognizing the boundaries of their own scope of practice.

      Oster is exhibit A here with the clueless failure to distinguish between morbidity and transmission.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Perhaps teachers should adopt a chant with the same memorable cadence that the ” You will not replace us” chant has.

      You! Will not! In fect us!”

  30. michael99

    “You Furnish the Poverty Statistics, I’ll Furnish the War” [Seth Ackerman, Informer]

    Another consideration is how poverty is defined.

    Ackerman links to a report from the Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy that says the legislation cuts child poverty by more than half. The report says the analysis uses the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) which is an alternative to the official poverty measure, and for a two-parent, two-child family the SPM threshold is about $28,000/year. For comparison, the official poverty threshold for the same family is about $26,000.

    So I take it “cuts child poverty by more than half” means more than half of the children who are living in families below the poverty line will move above the line (along with their families) thanks to provisions in the relief bill. That’s good, but merely moving above the poverty line does not ensure a decent standard of living. (Also, apparently the families containing the rest of the children living in poverty will remain in poverty.)

    These poverty thresholds are very low relative to the real cost of living. The Economic Policy Institute has a family budget calculator where you can choose a state/county/metro area, family configuration, and it will tell you what it takes for a “modest but adequate standard of living”. The lowest cost areas of the country are in the $56,000 – $72,000/year range (as of 2017) for a two-parent, two-child family, and many places cost a lot more.

    So while it may be technically true that the relief bill “cuts child poverty by more than half”, that is overstating the impacts in my view, even before you consider that many of the key provisions expire in a year or less. The Dems may have “gone big” in terms of coronavirus relief but it is just a start in terms of strengthening the welfare state. We shall see if they build on it.

  31. generic

    Ah Oster. I guess most people aren’t familiar with her, but before she motivationally reasoned herself into believing it’s safe to send the kids to school she did the same with drinking during pregnancy. And I could swear there was another grift in between.

  32. Adrian D.

    Re Healthcare and kids as transmitters – this from the BMJ with a large study of UK households. I thikn the main difference between Wave 1 & 2 was kids were in school for Wave 2 – although there were differences in testing availability & weather too (it was lovely for Wave 1). FWIW I don’t think the demonstrable effects on development & education of shutting them up was worth it. I’m a father of 2 young boys.

    “Conclusions In contrast to wave 1, evidence existed of increased risk of reported SARS-CoV-2 infection and covid-19 outcomes among adults living with children during wave 2. However, this did not translate into a materially increased risk of covid-19 mortality, and absolute increases in risk were small.”


    1. eg

      I’m sure all of the staff and students with COVID at the school in Toronto that just closed due to the large number of cases there will be gratified that “absolute increases in risk were small.”

      1. Adrian D.

        @eg Who know what may or may not comfort those at the school you mention, but it you’re making a case for policy decisions on the basis of anecdotes then I think you might wnat to provide more evidence than that. How many of these cases fell ill? How ill? Was there any further spread in the community?

        Then if you could address what the costs were to those kids sent home in terms of social & educational development, mental health, domestic abuse, exposure to exercise etc etc for keeping them home until all risk of such ‘cases’ is gone that’d be great.

        1. Adrian D.

          And FYI the current LFT mass testing of returning secondary (high) school children in the UK is showing positivity rates of around 0.06%, so at least over here, the absolute risk is indeed very small.

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