2:00PM Water Cooler 3/19/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Our last parrot of the week! (There are human-sounding voices also, but I think they are from actual humans.)

Alert reader Glenn France sends in this handy link, “Minnesota Bird Songs” from Minnesota Conservation Volunteer (a really neat publication. There should be one for every state. Maybe when Biden gets around to actually passing a New Deal, he could fund them, WPA-style).


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.

MI: Michigan not looking good:


MI: “The Clearest Sign the Pandemic Could Get Worse” [The Atlantic]. The number of people hospitalized with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States has been plummeting since early January. Until about three weeks ago, hospitalizations in Michigan were following the same pattern: More people with COVID-19 were leaving the hospital than were being admitted. But in the past few weeks, data from the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services have shown that hospitalizations have risen by 45 percent from the state’s recent low on February 25. According to federal data, among U.S. metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people, the Detroit area now ranks fourth in hospital admissions—and first in a metric that combines increases in test positivity and cases…. [A]s a spring surge takes hold in Michigan, two new factors—variants of concern and rising vaccination levels—mean that we don’t yet know how this new rise in cases and hospitalizations will play out.” • And school re-openings? Can Michigan readers comment?

* * *
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 flattened entirely. Since these are averaged weekly, there’s some momentum in the train, too. 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. I’m also loathe to give Florida’s DeSantis permission for a happy dance, but there’s no question that in the enormous natural experiment that is our Federalized response to Covid, Florida didn’t do badly, and its case curve looks pretty much like that corrupt crook Cuomo’s, just with a later peak.

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? (Positivity is the percentage of all coronavirus tests performed that show someone has Covid-19 — regardless of the number of tests, which this statistic does not track, and which IIRC was sketchy to begin with.)


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

Biden Administration

“Biden White House Sandbags Staffers, Sidelines Dozens for Pot Use” [The Daily Beast]. “Dozens of young White House staffers have been suspended, asked to resign, or placed in a remote work program due to past marijuana use, frustrating staffers who were pleased by initial indications from the Biden administration that recreational use of cannabis would not be immediately disqualifying for would-be personnel, according to three people familiar with the situation. The policy has even affected staffers whose marijuana use was exclusive to one of the 14 states—and the District of Columbia—where cannabis is legal. Sources familiar with the matter also said a number of young staffers were either put on probation or canned because they revealed past marijuana use in an official document they filled out as part of the lengthy background check for a position in the Biden White House. In some cases, staffers were informally told by transition higher-ups ahead of formally joining the administration that they would likely overlook some past marijuana use, only to be asked later to resign.” • Let that be a lesson to you all!

“Bernie Sanders Has A Secret Weapon In Pushing Democratic Policy Through Senate” [HuffPo]. “Dauster is Democrats’ top lawyer on the Senate Budget Committee, which Sanders chairs. For the past two months, Dauster constructed Democrats’ legal argument in defense of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour without a single Republican vote. As Democrats try to navigate a 50-50 majority in the Senate, their only hope of passing some of their biggest policies — short of blowing up the Senate’s 60-vote threshold needed to move legislation past a filibuster — is through a process called budget reconciliation. It’s a limited legislative maneuver that allows bills to pass with a simple majority, as long as they have a direct impact on the federal budget and don’t raise the deficit outside a certain time period. It’s Dauster’s job to argue that Democrats’ proposals fit that framework. His first test was a big one: including a $15 minimum wage in the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill President Joe Biden signed into law this month. It didn’t happen.” So why the beat sweetener now? “But Dauster still believes it should have, and he believes it could work next time. He demonstrated out-of-the-box thinking that opened a new path for Democrats as they strategize around their next big pieces of legislation.” • Fire the Senate parliamentarian. Why is this hard? Wait, don’t answer that.

Capitol Seizure

“What the storming of the US Capitol tells us about science” [Physics World]. “I thought of Brumidi’s fresco on 6 January this year as I watched live TV footage of domestic terrorists in the Great Rotunda assaulting police, smashing artefacts and splashing blood on a sculpture (Brumidi’s painting, high up in the oculus of the dome, was unharmed). The carnage was incited by leaders who (amplified by social media) were warring against both democratic institutions and science. I wondered about the connection between the two wars. Each war is associated with a “grand story”. The grand story of the war on democracy is that the 2020 US presidential election was fraudulent; the grand story for science is that evidence for things like climate change, the pandemic and vaccines is false. Each story provides justifications for rejecting contrary evidence, with the key elements being that the evidence has been faked, that a group of people plotted that fakery, and that attacking it is moral and just. I think of these elements as the ‘three Cs’: conviction, conspiracy and community.” • The tragic thing about this deeply felt and well-written article is that the three C’s apply to RussiaGate as well. The difference is that believers in RussiaGate tend to be highly educated, have real political power, and are fomenting hate against a nuclear power. See, e.g. Matt 7:5.

Democrats en Deshabille

Harris: “Kamala Harris, Police Accountability, And A Trigger-Happy Cop” [The Daily Poster]. “During her 2020 presidential run, Harris attempted to paint herself as a progressive prosecutor, but critics pointed out that she had embraced the mantle of California’s ‘top cop’ and done little as DA or attorney general to challenge law enforcement power structures, instead pursuing low-level offenses like truancy and drug possession. Her reluctance to push for more police accountability appears to have extended to failing to investigate an officer with a troubling record at a time when doing so could have prevented killings down the line. ‘She neglected a lot of cases in California,’ says Genevieve Huizar, the mother of Manuel Angel Diaz, one of the men subsequently killed by Bennallack. ‘Why she didn’t get involved in these shootings, I don’t know.'”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“‘A direct response’: How Trump’s 2020 loss is dictating the future of elections in battleground states” [ABC]. “In Ohio and North Carolina, where former President Donald Trump triumphed in November, the GOP-controlled legislatures seem content to maintain the status quo. To date, no bills regarding access to ballots have been proposed in either state. The same cannot be said of places where electoral defeats doomed Trump’s reelection bid. In Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, an attempted overhaul of the voting system is well underway, with hundreds of bills being introduced to slash expanded voting regulations that found favor in recent years and at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, like expanded access to absentee and early voting. The divergent fate of voting rights in similar swing states reflects a worrisome trend for voting-rights supporters: Where Trump lost, Republicans are seeking to rewrite the rule book in their favor, regardless of how down-ballot candidates performed. In states that Trump won — nothing.” • I don’t see any particular reason why voting for Federal offices shouldn’t be Federalized, with practices held to a single standard (including districting). I’m not sure H.R.1 (flawed for other reasons) does this, however.

“If you think you’re sure the GOP has never hacked an election, then you don’t know the saga of Don Siegelman, Alabama’s last Democratic governor” [Jennifer Cohn, Medium]. Classic Rovian thuggery. And then we get this: “Later that year, 44 attorneys general, including both Democrats and Republicans, prevailed upon the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Bush’s DOJ had charged and prosecuted Siegelman as an act of political retribution. Following that effort, a bipartisan coalition of 75 attorneys general asked then Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the prosecution of Siegelman’s case. Former vice president Al Gore helped raise funds for Siegelman’s appeal. None of it worked. Holder, whose former law firm had helped protect Rove’s emails kept on an private RNC server, instead fired a DOJ whistleblower who said that she had observed the prosecution coaching Nick Bailey, its key witness. (Another whistleblower reportedly decided to remain silent out of fear that he’d suffer the same fate or worse.)” • Obama was a terrible President.


Stats Watch

Leading Economic Indicators: “February 2021 Leading Economic Index Improved” [Econintersect]. “Because of the significant backward revisions, the current values of this index cannot be trusted. My opinion is that the economy entered a recession in March but likely left the depression in June when the economy began to improve.”

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 13 March 2021 – Improvement Continues” [Econintersect]. “Total rail traffic has been mostly in contraction for over one year – and now is slowly recovering from the coronavirus pandemic… Shortly, we will see great rail growth as the data is being compared to the coronavirus lockdown period last year.”

* * *
Shipping: “Nike Gets Tripped Up by Shipping Woes” [Wall Street Journal]. “Nike Inc. joined a growing list of U.S. companies getting squeezed by global supply-chain disruptions stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic. The sneaker giant on Thursday reported quarterly revenue that was below analysts’ expectations, saying sales were hindered by a global container shortage and congestion at West Coast ports that delayed the flow of inventory by more than three weeks.” • Not exactly just-in-time!

Shipping: “Containership charter market has gone ‘bananas’, with 2M on a ‘fixing spree'” [The Loadstar]. “Ocean carriers are becoming increasingly confident that freight rates will remain high for years and are still chartering ships for lengthy periods at elevated daily hire rates last seen 16 years ago…. Alphaliner said that ‘the sky’s the limit for containership charter rates.’ ‘NOOs retain the upper hand in a charter market facing a squeeze of supply and a continuously strong demand that shows no sign of weakening in the short term,’ said the consultant.” • I can’t find the definition of NOO, sadly. Readers?

Media: “Shifts in Americans’ March Madness Viewership Plans Exemplify Linear TV’s Decline” [Morning Consult]. “Ahead of Thursday’s tournament tipoff, 62 percent of U.S. adults who said they plan to watch at least some of this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament said they will do so via a cable or satellite TV package, according to a March 10-14 Morning Consult poll. That figure marks a roughly 30 percent decline since 2017, when 89 percent of expected tournament viewers said they would watch via a pay-TV package, and is virtually flat from the same survey last year prior to the event’s cancellation amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The decline in reliance on pay-TV for tournament viewers over the past five years corresponds with a well-documented wave of cord-cutting.” • The first time I’ve heard the phrase “linear TV.”

The Bezzle: NFT’s (New-Fangled Tulips) are a pyramid scheme. Thread:


Tech: “Tesla faces second NHTSA probe in Michigan this month” [CNBC]. “Federal vehicle safety regulators opened a new investigation into a second Tesla crash this month after a Model Y that was reportedly operating in Autopilot struck a stationary police car early Wednesday morning in Michigan, according to officials.” • A cop car? That’s not a good look. Better release an upgrade with some custom code for that special case…

* * *
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 61 Greed (previous close: 55 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 59 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 19 at 12:28pm. One year ago, just after the Before Times: 7 (Extreme Fear).

The Biosphere

“Growing support for valuing ecosystems will help conserve the planet” [Nature]. “Last week, however, countries took a giant step towards enabling public authorities to put a value on their environment. At its annual meeting, the United Nations Statistical Commission — whose members are responsible for setting and verifying standards for official statistics in their countries — laid out a set of principles for measuring ecosystem health and calculating a monetary value. These principles, known as the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA), are set to be adopted by many countries on 11 March. The principles were agreed after a 3-year writing and review process that involved 100 experts and 500 reviewers from various disciplines and countries. Once adopted, they will give national statisticians an internationally agreed rule book. It will provide a template for payments for ecosystem services…. and an official benchmark against which the condition of ecosystems can be judged by policymakers and researchers over time.” • I have always HATED the phrase “ecosystem services.” The market exists inside nature, not nature inside the market. Nearly every day in Nature or Science we read about an enormous ecosystem about which we knew nothing previously. How do you set a price when your cost sheet has a line item called “Unknown, but potentially enormous”? It’s a bizarre example of hubris, and it will end badly, all the worse for being institutionalized. Pretty soon, people will be putting NFTs on coral reefs. Why not?

“Saving Tens of Thousands of Lives by Cutting Air Pollution” [JAMA]. “Reducing particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide pollution in nearly 1000 European cities to the World Health Organization (WHO) target levels could save about 50 000 lives a year, a multinational team of investigators reported…. Pollution-related health effects varied significantly by city. Three northern European cities—Tromsø, Norway; Umeå, Sweden; and Oulu, Finland—had the lowest premature mortality burden linked with PM2.5 and NO2 exposure. Cities in northern Italy, southern Poland, and the eastern Czech Republic had the highest burden linked with PM2.5, while large cities and capitals in western and southern Europe had the highest premature deaths attributed to NO2.”

Health Care

“Why the Pandemic Experts Failed” [The Atlantic]. Lessons from The COVID Tracking Project. “We have learned that America’s public-health establishment is obsessed with data but curiously distant from them. We have learned how this establishment can fail to understand, or act on, what data it does have. We have learned how the process of producing pandemic data shapes how the pandemic itself is understood. And we have learned that these problems are not likely to be fixed by a change of administration or by a reinvigorated bureaucracy. That is because, as with so much else, President Donald Trump’s incompetence slowed the pandemic response, but did not define it. We have learned that the country’s systems largely worked as designed. Only by adopting different ways of thinking about data can we prevent another disaster:” • 500K deaths not a bug, but a feature. So, ok. More: “The government missed the initial explosion of COVID-19 cases because, despite its many plans to analyze data, it assumed that data would simply materialize.” Like PPE. ” Public-health officials continue to believe that the data in front of them can be interpreted without sufficient consideration of the data-production process. And so deep problems with the data persist….. Perhaps no official or expert wants to believe that the United States could struggle at something as seemingly basic as collecting statistics about a national emergency. Yet at the COVID Tracking Project, we never had the luxury of that illusion…. To avoid another data calamity, our public-health system must expend as much energy on understanding the present as it does on modeling the future.” • I’m a former data person, so this article speaks to me. It is a must-read.

“Everyone Was Wrong on the Pandemic’s Societal Impact” [Foreign Policy]. “In a large-scale undertaking beginning last April, we sought to track the extent to which social and behavioral scientists (including social and clinical psychologists, experts in judgments and decision-making, neuroscientists, economists, and political scientists) accurately predicted the impacts of COVID-19 on a set of psychological and behavioral domains—ranging from life satisfaction and loneliness to prejudice and violent crimes—in the United States. We also asked average Americans to make these predictions as well. Half a year later, we assessed the accuracy of these predictions…. The majority of forecasts were off by at least 20 percent, and fewer than half of our participants correctly predicted the direction of changes. In what ways were these predictions off? Typically they were too extreme. In other words, human psychology and behavior showed more inertia than most of our participants anticipated.”

Feral Hog Watch

“Florida’s feral hogs: a pervasive pest – but a profitable one for some” [Guardian]. “Upwards of 9 million wild boar roam 39 states across the US, which is up from an estimated 2 million in 17 states three decades ago. Florida hosts more than half a million – the second largest population of hogs in the country behind Texas, but also the oldest bloodline. The first pigs to arrive in America were brought by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, who landed near present-day Tampa in 1539. They promptly escaped, establishing a critical mass of the now-ubiquitous vermin. Today, wild hogs are considered the most destructive invasive species in the country, and the greatest wildlife challenge that the US faces in the 21st century. According to US Department of Agriculture estimates, they cause north of $2.5bn in damage each year. With gnarled tusks and bodies that can swell to the size of oak bourbon barrels, they trash watersheds, destroy crops, attack livestock, spread disease, terrorize residents and desecrate archeological sites; they are aggressive, whip-smart, lightning-fast and dine opportunistically on oak berries, trash, corn, carrion and each other. A passel of hogs can take out a commercial watermelon or tomato farm overnight, leaving the fields resembling a blast site from a hail of mortar shells.” • Wait until they evolve into influencers.



Class Warfare

“America’s Covid Swab Supply Depends on Two Cousins Who Hate Each Other” [Bloomberg]. One nuggest: “Puritan almost has a monopoly on the market for Covid swabs in the U.S. now and is positioned to dominate a global medical swab industry that could be worth as much as $4 billion by 2027.” • This is wonderful reporting, a story of American gentry (“Local Power and the Social Order“).

“The Great Wall Street Housing Grab” [New York Times]. I missed this, earlier in March: “Strategic Acquisitions was but one of several companies in Los Angeles County, and one of dozens in the United States, that hit on the same idea after the financial crisis: load up on foreclosed properties at a discount of 30 to 50 percent and rent them out. Rather than protecting communities and making it easy for homeowners to restructure bad mortgages or repair their credit after succumbing to predatory loans, the government facilitated the transfer of wealth from people to private-equity firms. By 2016, 95 percent of the distressed mortgages on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s books were auctioned off to Wall Street investors without any meaningful stipulations, and private-equity firms had acquired more than 200,000 homes in desirable cities and middle-class suburban neighborhoods, creating a tantalizing new asset class: the single-family-rental home. The companies would make money on rising home values while tenants covered the mortgages.” • This is so, so ugly.

“The March Action and the Tragedy of German Communism” [Jacobin]. This is a must-read. The final sentence: “It was only much later that I understood that it was wrong to conduct a vanguard struggle in a bad position and with an unfavourable balance of forces for a decisive battle. Further, that it is impossible to apply suitable tactical formulas for all cases; one must rather depend in each situation on a correct view, instinct and intuition.” • Words to ponder for the left today.

“Thread: Since so many claim that cancel culture doesn’t exist, I propose a challenge” [EverythingOppresses]. “Here are the first 10 cases gratis. And in order to counter the false narrative that cancel culture only affects the rich, famous and powerful, and that it’s just about ‘critique’ these examples will all be about ”regular’ people whose actual *livelihoods* were targeted.” • I don’t want to be cranky about this, but clownish conservatives are seizing the Capitol, idpol liberals in the workplace are getting people fired, and the left is…. doing what?

News of the Wired

“Wipe wallpaper with white bread? It works, says English Heritage” [Guardian]. News you can use: “Do consider using skimmed milk on a flagstone floor, or fresh white bread on wallpaper, heritage experts confidently advise. But please do not follow the advice of housekeepers who used potatoes to clean oil paintings, or Worcestershire sauce to polish the silver… The tips come as English Heritage conservation teams continue work on their annual top-to-bottom spring cleans at properties, set to finally reopen on 17 May. This involves everything from cleaning silver and copper, washing chandeliers to lifting and rolling carpets. ‘There may be no visitors but the dust never stops,; said [Amber Xavier-Rowe, head of collections conservation].”

“The Ecological Imagination of Hayao Miyazaki” [Orion (Judith)]. “The Shiratani Unsuikyo ravine is a mossy-covered primary-growth nature reserve populated with thousand-year-old yakusugi, or endemic Japanese cedars. Bright blooms and quick movements have no place in this primeval space—green and evergreen is all the eye can discern. Even the ear may strain for signals, for sound does not come often or travel far under the dense canopy. As absence becomes presence, the woods cultivate their own ambience, seeming to convey a core tenet of the Japanese concept of Shinto, which holds that the world is suffused with kami, sacred essences that embody things both living and inorganic. Rock and root. Moss and leaf. Earth and wind-whispered river water. As one of Japan’s oldest forests, the Shiratani Unsuikyo ravine serves as a grand cathedral and sanctuary for the more-than-human world. It is the space that inspired filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki in the crafting of Princess Mononoke, his 1997 environmental epic in which humanity wages war against the Great Forest and the divine gods of nature.” • I have never seen Princess Mononoke. Perhaps I should! (I have seen Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro. If all buses looked like cat-buses, the world would have a better place.)

* * *
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 (NM):

NM writes: “Submitting a picture for NC water cooler. These are six month old astrophytum myriostigma seedlings (a cactus species indigenous to Mexico). My partner and I cross pollinated the parent plants last summer in NYC and made a video about the process.” Here it is:

The cacti are cute, but the video is extremely awesome. I encourage other readers to follow NM’s example. And at least for those still suffering through Mud Season, video ideas of spring and summer gardening are something to think about and plan for!

* * *
Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.

If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Water Cooler on by .

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. Watt4Bob

    OK, but what species of cactus are the ones in the background, the sort of out of focus, round ones?

  2. curlydan

    Princess Mononoke has always been my favorite Miyazaki film and definitely is the most ecologically focused. You should watch it.

    1. Phacops

      I thought some early scenes from Spirited Away when kami came to life were wonderfully fanciful.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I love the train scene, but I can’t find a video that’s just the train scene, instead of the scene plus commentary! (The Year 2020 needed a train scene, but I don’t think we ever got one. Maybe this year….)

        1. ambrit

          For “train scenes,” I would recommend “North By Northwest,” or “Charade.” Both have pivotal plot development centered on traveling in trains. Heck, “Rope!”

          1. Different Jen

            Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” definitely comes to mind here, in addition to your great examples. I don’t recall a train in “Rope!” though.
            In addition, the 1952 film noir “The Narrow Margin” takes place almost entirely on a train. Of course, it helps being an aficionado of old films to appreciate these.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          The best train scene of 2020 (2021 outside Japan) is in the Infinity Train, otherwise known as Demon Slayer, Train to Muzan. It was the biggest animation hit ever in Japan just prior to lockdown, even beating any Studio Ghibli film, Its by the wonderful Ufology, maybe the best animation studio in Japan now that Ghibli is in hibernation. I think its release date in the US is April, I don’t know if it will be in cinemas or straight to streaming.

          Its a follow up to the phenomenally successful Demon Slayer series (on Netflix), which also features a lovely final episode on that train.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I was just thinking that, one of the truly great train movies.

            In 2019 I cycled Seoul to Busan. My only successful joke in my basic tourist Korean was that when anyone asked me why I was doing it I would say ‘I’ve seen that movie, I’m not taking the train!’. It always got a good laugh.

      2. Chauncey Gardiner

        Images of Shiratani Unsuikyo ravine remind of images of Japan’s abandoned mountain villages. I wonder if every nation has them?

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I would guess there are equivalents everywhere – although I think what makes the Japanese ones so special is that they are rarely touched once abandoned, whether ancient or modern. The wonderful Spike Japan website has some lovely photo essays on the more modern version of the Japanese abandoned village.

          The US of course has its ghost towns – I particularly loved the old Uranium mining town of Atlantic city in Wyoming. In the Irish uplands, you’ll often find the remains of old settlements deep in commercial forestry where nobody goes, sometimes they look like nobody has touched them since the day people walked away decades ago. I’m told it was not uncommon for emigrants from Ireland to literally just walk away from their home, last dinner still on the table, as they could not bear the idea of tidying up – most knew they would never see their home again once they took the boat to the US or Australia.

    2. ilpalazzo

      Princess Mononoke is great, also my favorite and I’ve seen all Miyazaki films. I’ve seen it in theatre on release and I was so amazed that I came right back and watched it a second time. Only time it happened.

    3. occasional anonymous

      I don’t think it’s his most ecological work. The Nausicaa comic in particular is about post-apocalyptic humans trying to survive while a ‘poison sea’ forest gradually spread across a nuked and generally ruined Earth. In the end it’s revealed the forest is actually the planet’s means of restoring the soil, and the story ends with the heavy implication that all the surviving humans will go extinct and that this is a good thing.

      Princess Mononoke is probably his least subtle though. Maybe he felt people just weren’t getting his previous environmental stories and so he made one where the moral is: don’t screw with nature (in the form of a specific forest), or nature will screw you back (the forest as personified by a giant army-crushing monster).

    4. PlutoniumKun

      Its sublime. The scene where one of the beasts walks through the forest and everything goes silent is one of my all time favourite scenes in any film.

      1. ObjectiveFunction

        Atlas is David Sokol’s vehicle (he was Warren Buffett’s heir apparent for a while before he fell from grace for… getting ahead of himself). Powerful Jedi is he; consult your yarn diagram.

  3. ambrit

    Apropos of nothing:
    This has a connection, obliquely, to the Pandemic ‘shelter in place’ experience.
    I have been checking out DVDs of old television shows for binge watching in the evenings. (Shades of television in the sixties!) Being a curious sort, I asked for the availability of John Carpenter’s film “They Live.” The librarian looked it up foe me. “I’m sorry. We aren’t allowed to have copies of any ‘R’ rated videos.”
    One, the library does not have a “restricted” section any more. (It does have a children’s section.)
    Two, the above implies the library holding to a ‘lowest common denominator’ model of content possession.
    Three, “They Live” is rated ‘R’? Why? Because of it’s subversive social message? (Oh, breasts, for five seconds. Plus wrestling style fighting.)
    So, as with my having to convince the librarian to whitelist the Naked Capitalism site several years ago, it is all about gatekeeping.

    1. Katiebird

      Neither of the public library systems I worked in through a 30 year career would have had that policy. And after checking online, one system has 6 copies but the other has none. I really can’t imagine a librarian selecting a video based solely on it’s rating. But that’s Kansas.

      1. ambrit

        Thanks for the ‘inside dope.’ I found the methodology capricious at best. In this system, the ‘rating’ of something is determined by an outside “authority.” I’d like to see the composition of the Central Committee of the Library for our half-horse town.
        Well, ‘Welcome to the South!’ y’all.

        1. WobblyTelomeres

          Years ago, I found myself in the Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI) library and on a whim looked in the card catalog for the LEAST Christian Reformed Church compliant book I could think of: Naked Lunch. To my surprise, they had one copy. In German.

          1. ambrit

            Hah! I love that copy being in German.
            I found “Junky” to be fascinating in a “Last Exit to Brooklyn” way.

          2. rowlf

            When I was at Rutgers University in the early 1980s the library system had most of William S. Burroughs’s books and I had a great English Literature teacher. Good times. Lots of great books to read.

            Maybe my favorite book in the university’s library system was some graduate student’s thesis on Gravity’s Rainbow. I was way overdue on returning it. I think they were going to hit me with a $75 charge and my Gustav Hasford brain was maybe thinking it was ok.

    2. fresno dan

      March 19, 2021 at 2:20 pm

      From the Netflix summary: In this consumer culture parody, professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper plays an unemployed working stiff who inadvertently finds a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see the world as it truly is. Billboards carry subliminal messages such as “Submit to Authority,” and yuppies are actually aliens who are bent on subduing the human race.
      The Netflix summary got it wrong – its REALLY a documentary

      1. ambrit

        Thank Marx that the Pink Bunny Slippers opened my eyes to the ‘nature’ of our ‘reality’ years ago.
        Carpenter has, on several occasions, played the role of Court Jester to the Elite Consensus. His remake of Howard Hawks’ “The Thing From Another Planet” has a similar sensibility. “In The Mouth of Madness” does a similar task.
        John Carpenter is an underrated director.

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          John Carpenter is the horror director I like. I just love ‘Prince of Darkness’, it has TV production values, but its hook of ‘the message from the future’ still gives me the willies.

    3. Librarian Guy

      As a professional Librarian for the final third of my teaching career, I just want to say that such pathetic gatekeeping is completely contrary to basic ethical standards in the field for both access and free speech.

      I bought things that were far more subversive than “They Live” for the High School Library I ran and never got into trouble or called out. It’s pathetic that as a public library if it was about “breasts for five seconds”, they could’ve blocked it to minors but at least allowed adult circulation. I think your intuition about the politics behind the situation is likely correct.

      I remember a very bright 12th grade student who once shared with me that the Public Library restricted him from checking out either Machiavelli or some similar classic author. (Violence? Power-mongering interpreted?) . . . sometimes people let their personal narrowness overcome providing readers with what they want. I bought many books that encourage things that I may not approve of (hyper-materialism and status-seeking, e.g.), but knowing that there’s an audience for such books it is NOT the Librarian’s prerogative to refuse to provide readers/viewers with what they want. If there is an audience for something, it should be provided to the extent that the budget permits.

      1. ambrit

        I remember ‘convincing’ the Librarian at our local public library that I was “adult” enough to browse through the ‘adult’ section of the stacks. This institution had regular, children’s and adult stacks. They were open on Sunday, and closed at four, instead of staying open till eight like in the rest of the week. I did a lot of homework there on Sundays.
        Now look at us.
        Grover’s Bathtub strikes again.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Remember the times after 9/11 when George Bush was demanding that librarians turn over the reading lists of their readers that they refused and went head to head with him? Good times.

        2. Mikel

          Brings back a memory. I received permission to browse the adult section at the public library as a kid.
          So I’m wandering around the novel section and see “The Invisible Man”…I immediately thought about all the horror movies and checked it out without thinking about looking at the subject card or asking questions. I think my mom was already outside waiting so I was in a hurry.
          Mind was blown…

          1. ambrit

            Oh yes. It was called the “adult” section for a reason. (Not for the obvious reproductive related reasons either.)
            Back in the 1960’s, my Dad worked on several AID projects in South America. One “day trip” he related to Mum and I later was when he, as one of a group, managed to gain admission to the “Forbidden” section of the Antiquities Museum in a South American capitol city. He related that the Inca were quite a pornographic statuary and iconography making bunch. The Velvet Underground meets Inti.

      2. Yves Smith

        I read all stuff like Kate Millet’s Sexual Politics when I was in 8th grade, checked out from the library. Ditto Utopian Motherhood, on surrogate mothers (pub 1970). Not to worry, I read tons of stuff but IIRC found these because they were prominently displayed as recent additions to the collection. Pretty sure I would not have sought them out otherwise.

  4. diptherio

    It’s not a cancel culture problem, it’s a problem of our lack of worker protections. If people want to drag you on twitter and tell your employer to fire you, that’s their right. However, it should be everyone’s right to not get fired because people on twitter don’t like them. Everyone talks about culture, no one talks about worker rights…wonder why that is?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > It’s not a cancel culture problem, it’s a problem of our lack of worker protections

      Excellent point. It would certainly be wonderfully clarifying to watch the idpol types fighting tooth and nail to support employment at will, were a bill terminating it to be introduced.

      1. ambrit

        It avoids dealing with an idpol ‘class’ that no one mentions “in polite company”: The Heartless Exploiter.

      2. albrt

        The idpol types will never have to do that because their alter egos the bankers will do it for them.

  5. fresno dan

    “What the storming of the US Capitol tells us about science” [Physics World].
    • The tragic thing about this deeply felt and well-written article is that the three C’s apply to RussiaGate as well. The difference is that believers in RussiaGate tend to be highly educated, have real political power, and are fomenting hate against a nuclear power. See, e.g. Matt 7:5.
    Because sources of information are so agendizied, but I would hope at least a majority can agree
    A Trump lost
    B There was nothing to Russiagate
    It seems so obvious, and maybe it is to the majority – after all, the reporting about the majority may be as inaccurate as the reporting TO the majority. OR the simple fact that the above is true just doesn’t generate profits.
    I look back on the red scare of the fifties, and I always use to wonder how people could believe such tripe. Now I know – how could I have ever believed most people are rational???

    1. km

      I am yet to see a russiagate believer, at least not in the wild, change his/her/sher/its mind.

      1. fresno dan

        March 19, 2021 at 2:38 pm
        Bubbles. I am willing to say that I don’t believe a word of Russia gate to some of my liberal friends, when it is one on one. IMHO, neither red or blue member generally is any better at self reflection than the other.
        And I remember when I renounced my past libertarian economic beliefs. Your a traitor to remaining believers and but get no credit for clarity of thought among non libertarians.
        It would be nice if people abided by what supposedly Keynes said, “When the facts change, I change my mind…”
        Unfortunately, it seems to me that first people join a group, and than decide what to believe…

        1. ambrit

          I’m a little more compassionate. Most people are joined to a group by their parents before their reasoning faculties are fully formed. My go to example is religious affiliation. I have met very few people who can truthfully say that they have had a “Road to Damascus” conversion experience.
          Now, cretinously cynical curmudgeon that I am, I tend towards the belief that the “Damascus” mentioned by Saint Paul was a reference to the Essene Community at Qumran. Thus, he was travelling a short distance away from Jerusalem into the Dead Sea desert region. This would also connect the historical Yeshua ben Yusuf to the Essenes, many of whose teachings arose before Yeshua’s lifetime, but were appropriated by him.

          1. fresno dan

            March 19, 2021 at 5:30 pm
            I have always as a matter of course when barroom pontificating noted that if I had been born in India I would have subscribed to Hindu beliefs, and been Buddhist and/or communist (Chinese communist ;) if born at the right era at the appropriate geographical location.
            And after pondering the imponderables for so many years, the one true thing I have come to believe…is believing in having another drink.

          2. albrt

            I am plenty compassionate. I feel very sorry for the entire human race, which has already decided to go extinct and doesn’t know it yet.

            1. Geo

              Very poignant observation. Thank you for adding that to my collection of lenses to see our societal disintegration through.

      2. Geo

        Just last night I was watching some late night comedy and Colbert repeated numerous debunked Russiagate myths. It’s depressing to see.

    2. Tom Doak

      But Russiagate was so effective in getting people to line up for one team! Why would they take a chance of alienating any of those people, instead of just letting it slide [and keeping it in reserve for next time they need it]?

      “Trump won” does not seem to have been as effective over as wide a group of people, but perhaps I am wrong about that.

    3. paintedjaguar

      “Trump lost”. While that could be a true statement, I defy you to prove it. To be more direct, I don’t believe that US electoral systems are either secure or verifiable by the public at this point, so mistrusting a particular result is not necessarily an irrational position. A sad state of affairs, to be sure.

  6. vw

    When the pandemic was first raging last April, the movie I most yearned to watch (but couldn’t, in a crowded living situation) was Princess Mononoke.

    It has far, far more to say about our current moment than any hot modern take you’ll read on the Internet. And it says it with a sheer beauty–at every conceivable level of the creative process–that will take your breath away and bring tears to your eyes unbidden. The English dub is top quality, but there is a “rawness” to the Japanese original audio that I also recommend experiencing.

    It is, I believe, the pinnacle of Miyazaki’s body of work (and there’s quite a crowded field of contenders!) and a modern masterpiece. Treat yourself to it, in these highly correlated times.

    1. Samuel Conner

      This is the Studio Ghibli film? I recently got virtually the entire Ghibli collection for small $ at Ebay. Admittedly, they’re DVD resolution and subtitled, but a good value.

      1. Jeotsu

        In that body of work should also be “Grave of the Fireflys”. A depressing film, but one I think should be shown to every American 16YO. What is America? It is little silvery shapes high above… and then the bombs start falling.

        1. occasional anonymous

          I found In This Corner of the World an even better film on similar subject matter, that provides, however briefly (in the form of a waving Korean flag, flown after Japan surrenders), a wider context, rather than just being an exercise in Japanese self-pity.

          1. vw

            Yes, yes – this film is amazing!! Cheerful and warm for most of its runtime, a slice of daily life in a world now gone forever. But it doesn’t shy at all from the realities of losing a war. I can’t help but feel that we all could really, really use a good reminder nowadays of what it’s like to lose a war…

    2. Judith

      Princess Mononoke has long been my favorite, every time I see it. But I recommend The Wind Rises. At the time it was released, it was thought to be his last film. It is his most overtly political pacifist film, set in Japan during WW II. Like Totoro, it is grounded in the real world, with transcendent mystical moments. And very sad and moving. A culmination of all his work.

      1. occasional anonymous

        The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu) is only pacifist in the sense that it aggressively refuses to engage with the war related subject matter of what its main character is actually doing. The protagonist is basically a Japanese Ferdinand Porsche; a vehicle engineer who designed weapons for an Axis nation and helped enabled his country’s wars of aggression. Miyazaki wants to dance around this issue, and portray the main character as in a way innocent and a victim of circumstance. He just wants to design planes, and at the time the military is basically his only option to do this work.

        Well…tough luck. Do something else then. If you’re actually opposed to the actions of your government, don’t aid them. The movie essentially refuses to engage in any serious way with the consequences of the protagonist’s actions.

        I found the most compelling parts of the movie to be the stuff with his wife dying of tuberculosis, which doesn’t come from the life of weapons engineer Jiro Horikoshi, but were adapted from a novel also called Kaze Tachinu

        1. vw

          You know, this is a really interesting controversy, so I’ll weigh in (I’m so happy to get a chance to discuss Miyazaki with others today! :)

          I actually thought the movie did criticize Jiro – in a way that was subtle enough not to catch the ire of the Japanese public, and also completely flew (lol) over the heads of the foreign reviewers. Jiro pursued his art, his creations, his dream, at all costs, and in the end… it left a body count. His wife died too – and they would never have even been married had it been left to him, wrapped up constantly in his work as he was. She had to leave her deathbed of her own accord to ask him to elope with her. And then there were the countless victims of the kamikaze attacks, who were briefly and painfully alluded to at the very end.

          Miyazaki did not succeed in creating a nuanced view of Japan’s role in WWII – but that was not what he was trying to do, IMO. He was doing something almost as daring in Japanese culture (I say, having studied the language for 15 years and lived there for almost 3). He was critiquing the Japanese cultural mainstay of “one’s dream” (yume) One’s dream when young is viewed as a life path, and each schoolchild is encouraged to think about it carefully, and then pursue it relentlessly. Well – Jiro did, and so too did Miyazaki. And at the end of it all, having done everything no matter what to achieve it, and having succeeded beyond his wildest imaginings… what is left?

          Only the ghost of his dead wife, the only person in the entire movie who could interrupt his obsession, telling him to “live”. And the beauty of the creation itself. But is it enough? Miyazaki seems to say at the end, “sure”. But the movie looks hard at the question. And that, in a Japanese context, is rather extraordinary.

        2. ObjectiveFunction

          Exactly, the hat tip is that final dream sequence, with the A6M Zero pilots of the kido butai cheerfully waving to their godfather as they fly by in slo-mo, presumably en route to whatever, ahem, “divine wind” related thing they were up to around that time. But that is hardly a sly antiwar allusion, and I must have missed the bit about the victims….

    3. Phacops

      Recently I’ve been watching some of Makato Shinkai’s work, like Your Name. His photorealistic style is breathtaking, and in Your Name the score by Radwimps is fun. Some of the best animation I’ve seen for quite a while.

      1. occasional anonymous

        Your Name is a masterpiece, in everything except character development (the characters have little depth).

        The followup, Weathering with You, I actively despised though. The movie is literally reactionary, and I found it to be repulsive on both a literal, superficial level (idiot teenagers put their love over the well-being of others), and on the more subtle (though not that subtle) subtextual level of what the movie is ‘actually’ about, which is restoring a vaguely defined mystical nature balance, the end result of which is drowning Tokyo, the largest metropolitan area in the world, because some cloud spirits want to piss rain everywhere. Balance must be restored because that’s how things used to be and old = inherently good. As I said, literally reactionary. A previous status quo is restored with no contemplation of the consequences for people in the here and now.

        For me it marks the natural end point for Shinkai’s sappy, navel gazing obsession with young love (as well as his more recent obsession with mystical ‘fate’ stuff), and the point where I finally get off his train. In fact killing thousands of people for the sake of teenage love is exactly the kind of thing idiot kids could potentially do, but the movie has zero self-awareness that this is what it is doing, and the characters never deal with the consequences of their actions.

    4. Herbæ Malæ

      While I do agree that Monoke Hime is a masterpiece, I still believe the pinnacle of Miyazaki’s body of work is the manga (and not the anime, which is fine but nowhere near as deep and thoughtful) of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

      Written over a period of 12 years, it grapples with the weaponisation of nature, the relation between power and technocrats, and life after the apocalypse. Highly recommended.

  7. buermann

    “Having declared victory, are we just not testing anymore?”

    It looks like 91-divoc hasn’t had any test numbers for over a week.

    1. Geo

      To be fair to crypto-whatevers, what in our current economy isn’t structured like a pyramid scheme? Real Estate, higher education, health care, wars… they all seem to have adopted the model. They’ve just innovated the efficiency of ecological destruction and convenience of massive wealth transfers in new and exciting disruptive ways!

  8. Lambert Strether Post author

    I added this and that. The story “America’s Covid Swab Supply Depends on Two Cousins Who Hate Each Other” under Class Warfare is really worth a cup of coffee.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      RE: Miyazake

      You should definitely check out Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind if you haven’t seen that one, Lambert. I’d never seen any of his films or any anime at all until I was looking through the library a few years ago looking for a DVD to watch with the kid and picked up Nausicaa based on the title and thinking it had something to do with ancient Greek mythology. It didn’t, but the movie was great and I got hooked on his films. Also, Capt Picard does one of the voices in the English version.

      Totoro was also great and really an eye opener regarding the culture difference. Would anyone in the US make a children’s movie based on bringing a corn cob to a kid’s sick mother, and with an ambiguous rather than happy ending to boot? I mean, who were the good guys and bad guys? Why didn’t anybody “win”?

      1. vw

        I can’t resist giving an answer to the question at the end, which was probably not meant to have an answer… (Spoiler alert! Lambert, you really do want to watch all the Ghibli you can get your hands on!)

        I saw a video that had a brilliant analysis of the Totoro film as opposed to the film it was initially shown alongside in the same opening theater, Grave of the Fireflies (NOT for the faint of heart, one of the greatest tragedies ever put on film). The studio put out both films at the exact same time. They were meant to play against one another – Grave of the Fireflies being an unflinching look at how WWII really was for the unluckiest children of Japan, using an actual memoir as a reference (the author differing from the protagonist only in that he did not die at the end – though he clearly wished he had), and Totoro being a relieving chaser on how it “should” have been. It is set, clothing and language-wise, in the period of history when Japan was actively at war… just minus the war. Spoilers – the mother heals, the little girl doesn’t drown, the children become friends with the holy spirits of their land. Every last part of it is joyful – that is the point.

        There’s a scene in the middle of the movie (spoilers! spoilers!!) where the children and the tree spirit Totoro do a musical ritual together (likely in a dream) that makes their planted seeds in the garden grow, in about three minutes, into a beautiful and absolutely gigantic tree. Take a gander at its spreading branches as it grows on the screen, and compare it visually to the atom bomb…

        Also, the graphic novel version of Nausicaa easily counts as one of the great modern novels. It takes time to read all seven volumes, but the journey is amazing, and the conclusion will leave you thinking about it for at least the next decade of your life. If anyone out there has seen the movie but not read the books – the end of the movie is about at volume 2, roughly, and you’ve got 5 more tomes of the story you can read! Enjoy! :)

        1. Cuibono

          “Take a gander at its spreading branches as it grows on the screen, and compare it visually to the atom bomb…”
          Yes, his genius in transforming the mushroom cloud into beauty was something to behold.

      2. Glen

        I remember being a father wandering through the video store, small daughter in hand, and picking up a VHS copy of My Neighbor Totoro over twenty years ago.

        And then watching it with the whole family at home – wow! Sometimes a Dad is allowed to get lucky, and do something good for their kids.

  9. Samuel Conner

    My intuition is that in the goods transportation business, “NOO” refers to operators who do not own the transport vehicles they are operating — “non-owner operator”.

    I confess that the business model of not owning essential equipment, but leasing it, strikes me as risky, but I guess that is the new norm. Companies don’t retain earnings as much as they used to, or use retained earnings to invest in physical capital as much as they used to do. I suppose it’s a way to make ROI look higher.

    1. Skip Intro

      I think that is only half the business model. The other half is the side where the assets safely gather rents while the liabilities accrue to an expendable marionette.

      1. Arizona Slim

        I noticed that he was holding onto the stairway railing, but he still fell. Repeatedly. That’s worrisome.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Didn’t you see how he saluted at the end? He’s a tough war talking guy. Not that I’m a fan of JFK, but I would love it if a President simply put rocking chairs everywhere because they like them.

          1. rowlf

            Luckily the Babylon Bee always has your back:

            WASHINGTON D.C.—In an extraordinary act of bravery and heroism, a Secret Service agent dove in front of Biden to block a question from a pesky reporter.

            As Biden slowly stepped out of his vehicle, a nosy reporter rudely attempted to ask him intrusive questions about things that were none of her business.

            “Nooooooooooo!” said agent James Carter as the CBS reporter raised her hand to ask a completely inappropriate question– possibly about the Middle East, or executive orders. Carter ran up to the president, arms outstretched, and dove through the air to shield the president from the incoming query.

            “It’s like everything went into slow motion,” said Agent Carter. “My training kicked in and I leapt into action. I’m just happy I was able to make a difference.”

            Carter took the entire force of the blow from the incoming question before collapsing to the ground.

            “Hey– lookie there, they fly now!” said President Biden. “Hey there young man, would you mind not flying in front of me while I exit my vehicle? I have to get to the Oval Office in time for Matlock.”

            The Secret Service agent sustained minor injuries but is grateful to have saved the president from a reporter’s unwelcome question.

            “Just doing my job,” he said.

            Heroic Secret Service Agent Dives In Front Of Biden As Reporter Tries To Ask A Question

        2. Tom Doak

          To be fair, when I’m 80, I hope I will be able to get up a long set of stairs like that without falling. And you would have accommodations for any other 80-year-old, by law . . . but it doesn’t look Presidential.

          1. The Rev Kev

            A difference here is that President Ford typically tripped going down stairs while President Biden is tripping going up stairs.

            1. Skip Intro

              Hopefully when Tom’s eighty, no one will force him run up the stairs for a photo-op.
              On the other hand, falling up seems to be the natural ability selected for in the rise of a Dem. apparatchik.

              1. Michael Ismoe

                A difference here is that President Ford typically tripped going down stairs while President Biden is tripping going up stairs.

                They should teach this in Civics class. What is the difference between the two political parties?

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        This is probably why we keep getting shots of Biden and Harris walking at the end of each week. It’s a real accomplishment.

        1. rowlf

          Old Soviet joke: What are the new requirements for joining the Politburo? You must now be able to walk six steps without the assistance of a cane, and say three words without the assistance of paper.

      3. Fern

        He didn’t seem to trip. I think maybe he couldn’t lift up his leg to clear the steps. His leg seemed to just collapse. It’s particularly apparent during the third fall when he has trouble lifting his foot. He broke his right foot falling a few months ago, but this was his left foot. Also, take a look at the clothing/apparatus over his left ankle that was revealed the third time he fell. I don’t know if that’s meaningful or just some straps to hold his pants down (is that a thing?). You can play the Youtube video in slow motion. I don’t know what’s going on. Strangely, the press hasn’t had any doctors on to discuss it, at least of now.

          1. Fern

            I was thinking the same thing. Short of a hurricane, the wind doesn’t usually knock people over.

            I think I might have been looking at a doctored video from a right-wing site. I just looked at the NBC news Youtube video, and I don’t see anything unusual under his lifted trouser leg. If you go to this NBC video link, you can slow the video to .25 speed with the settings wheel. It seems as if Joe couldn’t lift his left leg well. It makes you kind of admire the way Trump used caution that time he walked down the ramp. And using two hands to lift his glass of water was a lot better than spilling it all over himself.


        1. Yves Smith

          He tried to jog up the stairs and tried again. WTF, if he had just walked up like a normal person he probably would have been OK. And having sprained my ankle way too many times, it looks like wrenched his foot/lower leg badly enough to have sprained something….foot, ankle, or the tendons just below his knee.

  10. Anthony K Wikrent

    On the 15th this week, one of the links in NC WC was to the The Conservatives and The Court, which is a very useful account of how movement conservatism responded to the defense and enlargement of Constitutional rights by the Warren and Burger courts by developing and applying Bork’s and Scalia’s ideas of originalism and textualism. Since the article is unabashedly favorable toward this conservative legal approach, I thought I should offer a link to Frank Michelman’s contribution to the “republican revival” issue of The Yale Law Journal (1998), “Law’s Republic.” I found Michelman to be a very difficult read, but richly rewarding, as he eviscerates conservative jurisprudence by articulating the process of how politics, then Constitutional law, comes to obey the dictate of social change, which he calls “jurisgenerative politics.”

  11. urblintz

    Will admitted marijuana smoker Kamala Harris be asked to resign?

    Oh wait… I suppose she made amends through heartless prosecution/imprisonment of young black men for sharing a blunt…

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > admitted marijuana smoker Kamala Harris

      Remember this one?

      Kamala Harris made headlines last week when she joked in a radio interview that of course she smoked marijuana in her younger years: “Half my family’s from Jamaica. Are you kidding me?”

      But the crack didn’t go over well with at least one Jamaican: Donald J. Harris, her father.

      The elder Harris sent an unsolicited statement to Kingston-based Jamaica Global Online, for which the emeritus professor of economics at Stanford University wrote a recent essay on his family’s history.

      “My dear departed grandmothers (whose extraordinary legacy I described in a recent essay on this website), as well as my deceased parents, must be turning in their grave right now to see their family’s name, reputation and proud Jamaican identity being connected, in any way, jokingly or not with the fraudulent stereotype of a pot-smoking joy seeker and in the pursuit of identity politics,” he wrote.

      “Speaking for myself and my immediate Jamaican family, we wish to categorically dissociate ourselves from this travesty,” he added.

      It’s really staggering how the Democrat hive mind got Harris positioned as President-in-Waiting. The entire 2020 campaign might as well never have existed.

      1. urblintz

        When I first read her father’s response I was sure it marked the end of her…

        and so it did…

        except it didn’t…

        “staggering” is the right word!

      2. John

        Low level kids lose their jobs for smoking a joint. Kamala Harris gets to be Vice President
        to steal a phrase: Shoot me, now.

      3. occasional anonymous

        Not as staggering as freakin’ grope-y, forgetful Joe Biden being our president.

        This is it. This is the timeline we live in. Instead of a desperately needed echo of FDR, reactionaries chose…this.

      4. Kyra

        And, to top it off, her ancestors owned hundreds of slaves, documented by the Slave Registry Archives in London:

        Donald Harris also wrote an essay entitled “Reflections of a Jamaican Father” for Jamaica Global Online, in which he made a startling admission:
        “My roots go back, within my lifetime, to my paternal grandmother Miss Chrishy (née Christiana Brown, descendant of Hamilton Brown who is on record as plantation and slave owner and founder of Brown’s Town.”

        Jamaican Family Search recorded: “Hamilton Brown owned several plantations over the years 1817 to about 1845. According to the 1818 Almanac which can be found on this site, (Jamaican Family Search) , he was the owner of Minard (128 slaves) which he must have acquired from its previous owner (John Bailie) in 1815 or later. The number of slaves on this estate approximates the number of slaves in one of the registers attributed to his ownership (124 slaves). The other register (86 slaves) cannot be assigned to any estate, although he is listed in Almanacs for subsequent years as owning several, (Antrim, Grier Park, Colliston, Little River, Retirement and Unity Valley).”


        Someone worked very hard to dress up Kamala Harris’ Wikipedia page,
        “The Intercept notes that Harris’ page has been edited 408 times in the last three weeks, with most edits coming from one person.”


      5. albrt

        What is staggering about it? Nobody with any sense could have possibly believed that Biden was going to survive for four years. The only legitimate question was whether Harris could be patient enough to let nature take its course.

        Trump was being uncharacteristically kind when he dubbed Biden “Sleepy Joe.”

    2. km

      That policy applies only to the little people, silly.

      Notice how Boy Hunter is not doing a bid, even though he has doubtless been in possession of piles of honk the size of a small mountain. If he were some poor black kid, he’d be lucky ever to see the sun again.

      No, Team R are no better.

  12. none

    “The Great Wall Street Housing Grab” [New York Times]. I missed this, earlier in March:

    No link?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s funny you say that; I was going to add something to the effect that this had been a long week, and I’m glad to have reached the end of it. I can’t really top that video, though.

  13. chrimbus

    re: Michigan
    I’ve heard from teacher friends that various funding incentives exist that are tied to the resumption of in-person instruction, but I haven’t been able to find a good write-up about it. This gets at the gist of the situation in Lansing though: detroit free press

    Detroit public schools seem to have negotiated much more strongly re: reopening in that teachers have the option to continue their classes remotely. Things are significantly more dire elsewhere to the tune of “well, the CDC says it’s okay …”, “I guess we have to”. I have heard anecdotes about low attendance early in the month at schools that have opened in SE Michigan.

    1. Tom Doak

      After a year of being one of the most careful states in response to the virus, our governor [with intense pressure from the Republican state legislature] has taken her foot off the brakes in favor of greater reopening of schools, restaurants, etc. I would not be at all surprised if there is also some “influence” from Pfizer who have lots of personnel and facilities here to “be optimistic”. Perhaps they would be one of the (D) governor’s larger donors?

    2. Librarian Guy

      My crappy, Neoliberal-run School District used the pandemic to do what they’d previously done when we have an expired Contract, simply refuse to meet with the teacher bargaining team, run out the clock without giving us even the paltry 1% raise starting in the last third of the year offered to us. (When we’re paid below probably 15 of 18 districts in our County.)

      Then California offered districts money to return to in-person learning in April. Suddenly, they were eager to meet with us and offer something since they’d get a $3 million subsidy from the state to start limited in-person learning in April . . . I just got an appointment for a first vaccine shot at the end of this month. They can’t make those of us directly vulnerable return, but they can respond to the incentive and open “something”, which may have as paltry student participation as it does staff buy-in.

  14. SteveD

    Lambert – may I humbly suggest a new category: ‘Obama in Retrospective’. You have TWO stories today that would fit in – The Great Wall Street Housing Grab and the Siegelman story. I think there are stories almost every day that cast his presidency in a new light, shall we say.

    1. Romancing The Loan

      I still feel like “The Jackpot” should be a permanent category now that we are clearly into the swing of it.

    2. barefoot charley

      My favorite sub-genre thereof is Democrats showing they learned from his maladministration, but not acknowledging how. Eg 1.9 trillion dollars instead of $700 billion, giving bucks to people who actually need it, postponing the vulture-capital feeding frenzy on ruined homeowners–so much to choose from!

      1. Glen

        But no real permanent change like raising the minimum wage or a child tax credit.

        Getting “back to normal” still means normal Americans get $crewed by the rich and powerful – that’s the Democratic centrist neoliberal normal.

    3. Mo's Bike Shop

      ‘Obama: His Legacy’ might be a bit more arch, but I approve.

      Maybe tag a few old ‘this is why we have Il Douche’ articles to kick it off.

  15. marym

    Realignment and Legitimacy

    The ABC link focuses on swing states, but there are voter suppression laws moving forward in 43 states, including those where Trump won.

    “As of February 19, 2021, state lawmakers have carried over, prefiled, or introduced 253 bills with provisions that restrict voting access in 43 states, and 704 bills with provisions that expand voting access in a different set of 43 states.” See first link below.

    List of restrictive and expansive bills introduced

    List of possible restriction remedies in HR 1.

  16. Synoia

    N.O.O = nautical ocean organization. I think.

    It pops up in searching ‘Shipping’ in duck duck go.

    1. Robert

      It might be a typo. They might have meant NVOOC, which stands for “Non Vessel Owning Ocean Carrier”. But why would steeply rising charter-hire rates be a boon for them? They would be the ones paying these higher rates. The advantage would be to a ship owner, who is chartering his ship out for a long term at a high day rate.

  17. drumlin woodchuckles

    Crypto-Art is a Darwin Filter. Anyone dumm enough to buy NFTs deserves to lose everything they have.

    1. skippy

      Cool Kids and what is the price of a Brillo box these days ….

      Then again after wages and productivity diverged [forced] so mopes can’t gain ***access*** to the joys of “the market” whats a body to do but – speculate – on the newest non productive digital boondoggle – ????

      Then again sometimes I ponder the VoM is just the VoS* in Gates digital reality and all the mopes are just pidgins in a Scott’s box being manipulated by a free for all administration bent on looting …


      Early coffee musings … time to take the beasties for a walk …

        1. The Rev Kev

          His book – “The Painted Word” – is pretty devastating to read and you should read what he has to say about modern architecture in his book “From Bauhaus to Our House” which makes you actually look at modern buildings from a new stance.

          1. skippy

            “The art world was controlled by a small elitist network of wealthy collectors, dealers and critics.” – Wolfe

            See below.

            Then again the modern home is just a dog box with income flow dynamics for REMBS investors and RE flippers … not to mention decades of stripping out skill labour to the point of being relegated to IKEA level subcontracted assembly labour hire. Then again most of Oz new build over the last two decades is just Singapore financial flows with Oz figureheads …

        1. skippy

          I think Warhol was all satire … best bit is that whole mob back in the day is what laid the foundations for what was once a rather unassuming coastal area into what we now know as the Hampton’s … this observation is repeated time and time again across time and space … yet everyone is surprised when it happens and the consequences of it …

          Sigh … beasties on walks enviably results in 9 out of 10 people taking an alternative route … chortle … when in reality they are just cuddle puppy’s … oh and command controlled vs just about all the other doggies out there … sigh …

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If I understand you correctly, I should view these NFTs as being a Buffalo Jump to which many desperate people are being driven. If I have misunderstood, I hope someone will let me know.

  18. Mikel

    RE: “Biden White House Sandbags Staffers, Sidelines Dozens for Pot Use” [The Daily Beast]

    And to think…there are all these people hyped up on buying pot stocks because the Biden Admin is allegedly so progressive..
    And let that be a lesson!

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Millions of young people will see this and hear it . . . . and remember it with hatred in their hearts.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      In today’s ” no money = you die” society, I can understand all these young staff people quietly submitting to this round of job-assassinations. They wouldn’t want trouble getting into somewhere else. Even more so those among them who have service-political ambitions.

      Still, it would have been nice to see them all get together and rebel to the extent of refusing to resign and demanding to be formally fired instead, with reasons spelled out in the Documents Of Termination.

  19. fresno dan

    12:46 CA time – I’m surprised I have not received an email reminding me of the second covid shot on Saturday yet. I remember I showed up right on time, HUGE line, but deserted by the time I left. I think I will show up late this time….probably like everybody else will too…

  20. DJG, Reality Czar

    The Data Tracking Project, The Atlantic, and the cautions about data.

    What did I miss? Why is this project being shut down if, as they maintain, the project was one of the few reliable sources of information during the last year? Is this more premature triumphicating? Or is it the usual U.S. stinginess with anything that might help the commons?

    The article points to what I think of as the most serious problem with “data” these days. Whenever I see “data is,” I realize that the person doesn’t know what data are. “Data is” means that the writer thinks of data as information, in a rather general sense.

    As authors write, “Data are just a bunch of qualitative conclusions arranged in a countable way. Data-driven thinking isn’t necessarily more accurate than other forms of reasoning, and if you do not understand how data are made, their seams and scars, they might even be more likely to mislead you.”

    Hmmm. A little glitch there: except for quantitative data, which are countable and don’t always rely on slippery qualitative categories like “hospital admissions.”

    So data are observations, samples, lists of names, lists of treatments, subjects taking placebo, subjects taking placebo who get a measurable “placebo” affect. Data as information, “data is,” is about as reliable as thoses so-called executive summaries of reports.

  21. flora

    re: Why the Pandemic Experts Failed.

    Good read. An examination of one aspect of the Covid response. As for the data around Covid in general, it would be interesting to know how much the Operation Warp Speed contracting nexus politicized or bungled the data we do have. Remember the SurgiSphere outfit that made data claims about medicine trials that were widely accepted by media but were based on nothing more than coming up with politically correct (at the time) ‘studies’? (I’ve seen lots of this sort of thing at my uni where admin top-down control asserts itself into areas it doesn’t really understand instead of letting the areas’ experts make the decisions.)

    So much of the data from the govt was politicized in the recent past, imo, that it will make sorting the data wheat from the chaff difficult. Open, transparent, verifiable, unbiased data is what everyone wants.

    Reading last October’s CDC announcement gives me pause to wonder which govt agency was ‘in charge’ at the highest level of data collections and direction.

    CDC is a proud part of Operation Warp Speed, the partnership between parts of HHS and the Department of Defense, to develop, make, and distribute millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses as quickly as possible while ensuring that they are safe and effective.

    Was HHS in charge of assigning Operation Warp Speed tasks? Was Operation Warp Speed in charge of HHS’s actions? Was it top down or collaborative? Was it a case of “every agency is in charge of their area expertise”, but except every agency was waiting on guidance from higher govt levels at every step? So many questions.

    Thanks for the article.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Its unfortunate that that the gaslighting is already starting, even within the scientific community (one much retweeted one I’ve seen just said ‘the vaccine is the greatest scientific breakthrough in history!’. This was retweeted by many senior scientists, which I find very depressing. Not wanting to start a twitter fight, I refrained from asking if it turned out the virus came from a lab doing proof of function work if it would still prove to be a triumph for science.

      What I’m finding increasingly perplexing is how the process of filtering out good from bad science seems to have completely collapsed. Top science journals are full of dubious papers (the latest Brazilian one on Vitamin D being an example), while plenty of good work (especially on aerosols) has been sidelined. There has been a complete failure to develop systematic protocols to compare all treatments and vaccines on a level playing field. Its such a mess.

  22. cnchal

    > “Growing support for valuing ecosystems will help conserve the planet” . . . and an official benchmark against which the condition of ecosystems can be judged by policymakers and researchers over time.”

    > To avoid another data calamity, our public-health system must expend as much energy on understanding the present as it does on modeling the future.”

    You know what humanity needs a lot moar of? Power sucking data centers. We have no where near enough of those things. Moar chips. Moar power. Moar, moar moar.

    The irony of using gigantic amounts of energy to come up with solutions to the using too much energy problem is lost on everyone. Think AI will save us? The miracle will be that AI doesn’t escape the control of it’s maker.

  23. DJG, Reality Czar

    The EverythingOppresses thread on cancel culture.

    Lambert Strether sez: “I don’t want to be cranky about this, but clownish conservatives are seizing the Capitol, idpol liberals in the workplace are getting people fired, and the left is…. doing what?”

    It is easy to get lost in the thread. The ugliest incident is Oberlin College attempting to destroy Gibson’s Bakery after a student attempted to shoplift wine and then beat up the owner.

    What the left might do is insist that the left has an ethic (liberty, equality, solidarity) and the the left’s ethic isn’t careerism (the failing of so much of U.S. feminism) and essentialism (the failing of the in-your-face pronoun testimonials, arguments over cultural appropriation, and a perverse continuing endorsement of the one-drop rule). So much is complicated by U.S.-style dialogue, which is all Baptist testifying (to one’s own personal truth) and Methodist sermonizing (which seems to have helped do in the administrators at Oberlin).

    Yet for many, the left seems severe. Gramsci is kind-a lovable, as he shoots his blinding lightningbolts from on high.

    And what’s the alternative? More testifying? The article describing the Oberlin events includes one text after another, one Tweet after another, the hyper-self-righteous U.S. national id on full display.

    Some basic advice: Test less. Tweet less.

    For the left: Stand only for justice, no qualifiers, not “social justice,” not “environmental justice.” Only justice.

  24. Doc Octagon

    Not “fomenting hate against a nuclear power” so much as fomenting hate against Donald Trump for being a crook, Trump believing foreign powers have dirt against him, regardless of whether the power actually does or not, which is the magic of Trump as a mark, acquiescing to that extortion like Trump always has in the past by paying out, by hiring a campaign manager who pays off debts by passing polling data to foreign nationals, and Trump repeating the last nonsense placed before him to a crowd.

    What is weird is being defensive over the “Russia” part, being certain over that “Russia” isn’t doing what it has done in Moldova, Ukraine, and Macedonia. I will be the first to acknowledge another foreign power could have penetrated Trump’s circle while conspicuously maneuvering Russians into the investigation. The scandal is the same regardless of motive, Trump constantly denigrates US interests even at significant electoral cost.

    As for risking a nuclear exchange, the “delicate balance of terror” relies on mutually assured destruction by parties willing to destroy one another. The US and Russia reflexively posturing against one another should be reassuring. It is only when friendship committees, cultural exchanges, or no nukes demonstrations start to bloom on either side of the curtain that one side believes the balance of power will unexpectedly shift, and that side wants to know how (see the introduction of intermediate range missiles into the European theatre, the US updating the Pershing’s to Pershing II’s for the German Republic and the Soviet’s introducing the Pioneer missile). – For both countries, to maintain a war-footing is to maintain legitimate rule and territorial integrity. Or like two C students competing to avoid being swallowed by the grading curve.

    1. km

      I’ll speak only for Ukraine, since I know if best, but Ukraine was doing fine until the United States formented what Stratfor (no friend of Russia, there) referred to as “the most blatant coup in history”.

      And you obviously don’t know too many people from Donbass or Crimea. They dropped Ukraine like it was a hot turd.

    2. tegnost

      Trump constantly denigrates US interests even at significant electoral cost.

      Trump is no longer president.
      I think you need to let it go…

    3. The Rev Kev

      ‘For both countries, to maintain a war-footing is to maintain legitimate rule and territorial integrity.’

      Uhhh, no. You can have two gun-fighters in the same room but they can still keep their safety on to stop themselves shooting off their own foot. Have you any idea how many times we have been close to being turned to ash because of some stupid mistake or a flight of swans or a bear or a faulty chip? I can think of twice when we did not go to nuclear war because of the actions of two separate Russian officers who decided to call off an attack because it was the smart thing to do. And unlike a video game, there are no second chances. Here is an article listing those times that you nearly died in a nuclear fire-


  25. Another Scott

    This is a local Massachusetts story, but it needs more attention. Two of the hardest hit communities in the state, Everett and Chelsea, got underfunded to put it mildly. Chelsea in particular is home to a lot of the essential workers who had to go to work day after day for the past year, and this is how they get treated. It’s an outrage.

    “For Everett, the Rescue Act directed $4.58 million to the City, with a supplement from county funding sources bumping it to $13.59 million. For Chelsea, the Rescue Act directed $3.91 million in aid to the City, and a total of $11.61 million with the bump up from county funding.

    That was compared to affluent communities like Newton, which got $48.14 million and a total of $65.29 million with the county resources. Brookline got $34.21 million, but no county money figures were available. Meanwhile, nearby Medford got $39.25 million and a total of $50.37 million with the county resources. Malden also got much more as well, with $35.04 million from the Act and $46.76 million in total with the county bump up.”

    The congressional delegation seemed asleep at the switch and none would even respond to the request for a comment. Grandstanding to the national press and suburban voters seems to be their number one priority.

    Full story:

  26. urblintz

    A sobering addendum to Lambert’s wonderful songbird intros:

    “Cultures in humans and other species are maintained through interactions among conspecifics. Declines in population density could be exacerbated by culture loss, thereby linking culture to conservation. We combined historical recordings, citizen science and breeding data to assess the impact of severe population decline on song culture, song complexity and individual fitness in critically endangered regent honeyeaters (Anthochaera phrygia). Song production in the remaining wild males varied dramatically, with 27% singing songs that differed from the regional cultural norm. Twelve per cent of males, occurring in areas of particularly low population density, completely failed to sing any species-specific songs and instead sang other species’ songs. Atypical song production was associated with reduced individual fitness, as males singing atypical songs were less likely to pair or nest than males that sang the regional cultural norm. Songs of captive-bred birds differed from those of all wild birds. The complexity of regent honeyeater songs has also declined over recent decades. We therefore provide rare evidence that a severe decline in population density is associated with the loss of vocal culture in a wild animal, with concomitant fitness costs for remaining individuals. The loss of culture may be a precursor to extinction in declining populations that learn selected behaviours from conspecifics, and therefore provides a useful conservation indicator.”


  27. JBird4049

    saying sales were hindered by a global container shortage and congestion at West Coast ports that delayed the flow of inventory by more than three weeks.”

    This is not good. Shipping containers are supposed to last at least five years some can be used for seven plus years. Any problems in production would have been seen years in advance. Yes, some get lost or destroyed, but really.

    There has always been a problem with getting containers to where they are needing as China is the major exporter, and the United States is not nearly as one as it once. Still, everything from reduced charges to just paying shippers to take empty containers to where they are needed has worked well for decades.

    I am just guessing that somewhere there a mountain of empties just waiting to be picked up. Contrary to what some believe there are plenty of places that make things beside China. However, the imbalance in exports and shipping makes moving the containers themselves interesting. This does include the US and the EU. Perhaps the United States, Europe, or some other area has had a sudden drop in exports for which nobody was prepared for. Heck, maybe one of the large container depots went into bankruptcy and had all its property, including anything that wasn’t theirs, but was in their control, seized.

    I am also guessing that the increasing “efficiencies” which also adds profitable complexity, offshoring, and leasing of everything in the industry finally bit it in the collective a– especially if something truly unexpected happened. Like a pandemic.

      1. JBird4049

        There is always loss which is usually accurately planned for. And selling the old containers to be used for housing was/is one of perennial ideas.

        During the worst of the fighting these giant forty foot containers were amazingly easy to be stolen or destroyed. The military required the equivalent of one container of supplies for each person per a year that they sent over. Containers that not only were good as buildings and scrap metal, but like the fuel trucks, were required to ship the needed supplies. In a war zone, full of well armed, desperate people. They did not last long.

        However, the company I worked for was able to to ramp up production of those containers enough. The replacement cost charged for those containers was apparently full replacement value. As new equipment, I think. No depreciation. Sweet profit.

        If the shipping industry was able to ramp up production and move enough containers for several wars and the odd hurricane without much problem, doing so in peacetime without any major disruption like some hurricane or volcano hitting a major port especially the storage depots should be no problem. Aside from stupidity, something really unplanned for, or fraud that is. Actually, the shipping problems started last year. The industry should have been very capable of finding ways to fix any snarls. The people in the company I worked for and with could have.

        It would be interesting to find out.

  28. GlassHammer

    The problem isn’t cancel culture, the problem is that political ideologies (especially the current crop) have no clear definition of (or clear process for) repentance/redemption for those that transgress them.

    We seem to think all words/acts after a transgression against a polotical ideology are tainted to the point no demonstration of proper words/acts is sufficient.

    This why you constantly see the phrase “the left/right is eating itself” because they are, because they can’t avoid it without addressing repentance/redemption.

    1. Mikel

      “…the problem is that political ideologies (especially the current crop) have no clear definition of (or clear process for) repentance/redemption for those that transgress them…”

      Or those who adopt them…

    2. Tom Doak

      Is that a bug or is that a feature?

      If the “left” gets to punish the actual left harder for their transgressions, then of course it’s a feature.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      “Repentance/redemption” in this context sounds like an invitation to extortion of obedience. It sounds like an invitation to Maoist self-criticism struggle-sessions.

    4. Amfortas the hippie

      i just got around to reading through all that this morning.
      My first encounter with this phenomenon(aside from Judith Butler in the 80’s) was a bright young woman at a hippie commune lambasting me for referring to my wife as “my wife”, when introducing her.(i was a hemanwomanhater for being so possessive, apparently)

      That was in 1997 or so.

      i understand the resulting prohibition on things like blackface, or whatever.(Rule # 2 for the boys is “don’t be a dick”…which, when applied conscientiously, nips a lot of the problems in the bud, i would hope)
      but it gets pretty ridiculous.
      puttering around, messing with the woodstoves, I find myself thinking:
      is the use of fire cultural appropriation, since i am not of Moroccan descent?(“Flint blades burned in fires roughly 300,000 years ago were found near fossils of early but not entirely modern Homo sapiens in Morocco”-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_of_fire_by_early_humans)
      or that rice i ate—from Panda Express….have i the right?(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2759204/)
      or iron…my dog we use a lot of iron derived things!(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Age)
      reductio ad absurdam is easy-peasy with this stuff….and i glean that little of it, in the end, is sincere.
      it’s about Power, and appears to be deliberately inserted, in the late 70’s, in order to foment division among the various and sundry antiimperialist, anticolonialist antiracist and anticapitalist(and so on) movements that were threatening to come together to challenge the Machine.
      so that Save the Whales can’t abide Free Speech advocates, who cannot stand Fair Housing people, who, in turn, hate all over Prisoner Rights folks…
      whittling down Movements until we’re all just constituencies of One, Alone…which, of course fits right in with the neoliberal order’s mandate of hyperindividualism.
      This last bit is the main reason I think that this was no accident…although whatever rogue cia guy first came up with it is likely more than surprised at how well it’s worked….and has probably been canceled himself.
      when i first encountered “Intersectionality”…maybe 1990, after being turned on to Kimberle Crenshaw by a gang of lesbians i was hanging around with in college, I thought it was insightful…like Russel Means said, “we’re all indians, now”…oppression is multifarious and shot through our civilisation, and is not confined to discreet categories…but it has been turned into a weapon; a weapon that takes that connection making sympathy with others and turns it into a sympathy eradicating, connection destroying method of divide and confuse.
      I reckon that once you begin to advocate reeducation camps and prison for thought crimes, you can no longer be considered “of the left”…
      That this mess is still considered that way by mainstream discourse(sic) is just further evidence that “Woke” is a nefarious political tool to confuse and divide those who oppose TINA.
      I used to consider it a point of pride that i got accepted to Oberlin with a ged(didn’t go…no money or parental support)…but now, not so much, since that place is apparently ground zero for this antihumanist travesty.
      now, i’ll have one more cup of coffee, appropriated from Yemeni culture.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee)

      I’ve already cancelled myself(personal secession),long ago… so, no worries.

  29. chris

    Lambert, if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend The Cat Returns and Porko Rosso. Two of my family’s favorites from Hayo Miyazaki. Princess Mononoke is great, and Nausica is wonderful, and Howl’s Moving Castle is a treat. Totoro is a classic for a good reason! But those two little character driven movies are our favorites.

  30. chuck roast

    “Saving Tens of Thousands of Lives by Cutting Air Pollution”

    And so their graphic at the top of this article is a couple of smokestacks belching emissions. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! The graphic should be the tailpipe of the standard diesel powered vehicle adopted long ago by the Europeans as the answer to whatever problem they happened to be addressing at the time. It certainly wasn’t excess deaths due to NOX and PM…the major constituents of diesel emissions. Not impossible to mitigate. But air pollution reduction technology makes diesel engines very inefficient…just ask the Volkswagen engineers and board of directors. If they have spent a day in jail for poisoning the general populace it has escaped my attention. Almost as bad as allowing the distribution of Thalidomide to pregnant women back in the day. JAMA…just another acronym for DUMB.

    1. foghorn longhorn

      Diesel engines are the only internal combustion engines allowed in an underground mine.
      Gas powered vehicles are not allowed within 500 feet of the fresh air intake to said mines.
      Why is that, one might ask?
      Because carbon monoxide is one of the deadliest gases on the planet.
      Those ‘smoke’ detectors scattered throughout your abode are also carbon monoxide detectors, not NOX or carbon dioxide detectors.

      1. chuck roast

        NOX, CO, PM etc. are criteria pollutants under the Clean Air Act. In certain quantities they are a threat to both individual and public health. Also under the CAA, diesel emissions are a toxic air pollutant. Take a look at the list of toxics in the CAA and tell me if you want to breath even an insignificant amount of these pollutants.

        The CAA forced technological change in US auto emissions and saved a lot of lives. Bubba Clinton showered $1.5B (real money in those days) on Detroit in search of a ‘clean diesel.’ Never happened and saved us from Europe’s fate.

        1. RMO

          CO kills quick. NOx and particulates kill slow. They still kill. The people in mines will live long enough to make the company money if they suck in NOx and particulates but if the get CO they drop dead and make the company no money.

  31. fresno dan

    HICAP goings on.
    So, I finally, finally get a valid (well, I hope its valid – time will tell) super special Medicare decoder number….but the person who can give it to me is out sick today! Apparently, its like the nuclear codes, and can’t be transmitted over the phone or emailed…. (I am going to write it on a sticky note and keep it in my wallet – I’ve moved to a new basement lair, so hopefully Putin won’t track me down so get this secret code…)
    I just realized that in the 4 years I have been doing this, I have had 4 managers – they don’t pay those people much more than me (and I don’t get paid anything ;)

    So I did learn one thing today that I didn’t know – if you go back to work after retiring, and your employer offers you health insurance (how plausible is that), can the employee drop medicare Part B? I had never had that question, cause how many employers offer health insurance to employees that have retired but come back to full employment? But I found the answer on the internet quickly. You can drop your medicare Part B if you have employer provided health insurance that meets the ACA. (and other stuff too, like health saving accounts bolixes it up as well apparently)
    You have to call or visit a social security office and fill out form CMS 1763 (yeah, Medicare – its a lot of rigamarole Arizona Slim)

  32. Michael Ismoe

    “Biden White House Sandbags Staffers, Sidelines Dozens for Pot Use”

    Didn’t Joe just bring his narc German Shepherd back to the White House? Coincidence? I think not.

  33. Darthbobber

    Well, the big diplomatic offensive is coming along swimmingly. Apparently the big difference between Pompeo and Blinken is Blinken’s greater ineptitude. Did they expect some other response from the Chinese after that opening?

    I must say the one Chinese delegate did a good, pithy job of summarizing the difference between International Law and the “rules-based international yada yada” our leaders now prefer.
    “What China and the international community follow or uphold is the United Nations-centered international system and the international order underpinned by international law, not what is advocated by a small number of countries of the so-called “rules-based” international order.” SO apparently they’re no more into Calvinball than are the evil Rooskies and their killer President (who has a long way to go to match the Bush-Obama-Trump-Biden body count).

    Prospects for the Policy of Omnidirectional Bellicosity don’t strike me as all that bright, but we shall see.

  34. lobelia

    Some extremely nefarious shit going on (I find no humor in it whatsoever). I guess it gets to be a rhetorical question as to whether anyone can be charged with treason who were behind placing Biden in office while knowing fully well he was not mentally, or physically up to par (in addition to knowing fully well that he was despised when he was in good health, for exceedingly humane and verifiable reasons by millions who refused to vote Republican, or Democratic ‘Party’) – and he then would be replaced by someone who was resoundingly decided, by the public – by her own state even – not to be qualified for the Presidency.

    Yeah the US™ Government™ has become so corrupt that the sordid, suicide inducing Daily Mail ends up reporting on the US™ Occam’s Razor better than any of the so called serious and enlightened US™ Major News Sources. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9381191/President-Joe-Biden-78-falls-stairs-Air-Force-One.html

    gotta run

    1. JBird4049

      This maybe the first time I have seen anyone giving the Daily Mail a compliment for their reporting. ;-)

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I seem to remember days of mockery when Trump walked down a set of stairs slowly (and without falling down, either). Our press is so, so bad. The difference in coverage for Trump and Biden is wonderfully clarifying.

      1. Pat

        It is late March. Can you imagine the outrage, the snide mockery, the accusations from the Times, the Post, CNN, MSNBC, talk shows and late night hosts if there hadn’t been a State of the Union address from Donald Trump by now? Yet with Biden it doesn’t even bare noticing.

  35. The Rev Kev

    Don’t ask me why but there seems to be more than a few people from places like California and New York along with a few Big Tech firms moving to Austin, Texas. It is almost a land rush-


    I have heard that it is a great place to visit but wasn’t it in the news lately? Something about something-something-big freeze? Maybe Austin should make an ordinance that everybody moving to that city bring with them a coupla hundred yards of water piping first.

    1. skippy

      Naw it was crapped out years ago and seems to be just another wave in the tech industry buckyball treatment of other than Calif green shoots. Watched the whole late 80s early 90s stampede to just out side Boulder and Colorado Springs – see Storage Tech. Huge ground breaking and included its own 18 hole golf course, my fav was all the Cali plates in ditch at first snow every year. One of the reasons I moved to Oz, writing on the wall.

      Anywho seems east coast is getting hammered with a 1 in a 100 year biblical down poor, then again, as they are want in some parts of NSW “As a matter of fact, I’ve got it now” – see


      1. The Rev Kev

        Read that the water is starting to go over the Warragamba dam in Sydney so this rain is not really needed. A month ago, as you know, it was hot as buggery here and everything was drying out but one thing I never said was “I wish that it would bucket down for a coupla days!” The last time that I ever said that was at the end of 2010….

        1. skippy

          Oh forgot … TX does the whole C-Corps incentives [no tax et al] and uses marginal taxation on the consumer to cover it, cheep dog boxes are just the sticky candy peddled on the corner.

  36. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here are some photos purporting to be from Burma/Myanmar purporting to show demonstrators and protesters becoming the best amateur untrained soldiers/warriors they can in self-defense against the Regime Forces.

    All-Seeing Upvote4
    No videos because the military will track us but here are some pictures from the protests today in Myanmar. We are fighting back! With the backing of the Ethnic Armed Forces who are in takes in forming the new Federal Army, We have hope.

    Here is the link.

Comments are closed.