2:00PM Water Cooler 3/25/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Most popular bird song audio at eBird today. Begging calls from nestlings!

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

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

Vaccination by region:

Early in February, I said a simple way to compare Biden’s performance to Trump’s on vaccination would be to compare the curves. If Biden accelerated vaccine administration, the rate of vaccination post-Inaugural would kink upward, as the policies of a more effective administration took hold. 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:

I don’t like that little upward blip at all. • I helpfully added a black line to show how horrific the new normal we are all so triumphal about just now really is. The curve has definitely been flattening for the last three weeks, and in the last two days seems to have flattered entirely (remember I use one-week averages to smooth 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. So there’s really no reason to break out the champers.

I promised to look at Michigan. Here are cases, tests, deaths, and vaccinations (separately scaled):

I couldn’t get hospitalization to work; perhaps I’ll have better luck later.

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

New York in the “lead,” but with a jump after a recent drop. 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.

Test positivity:

Big jump in the South and the Midwest.


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.

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“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

More to come, after I make sure Biden didn’t slip a cog at his presser. –lambert

Biden Administration

UPDATE “Watch Live: Biden Issues New Vaccine Goal During His 1st Press Conference” [NPR]. • I’ll have more to say when I can see a transcript. My high-level reactions are two-fold: First, Biden is already better than Obama (granted, not a high bar). Second, so far at least, hearing Biden’s voice doesn’t make me want to throw things (unlike both Clintons, both Bushes, and Obama). I know Biden’s record, so that probably means he’s a better con man than any of ’em, but I think my reaction is worth noting.

“Biden makes Harris the point person on immigration issues amid border surge” [Politico]. “Vice President Kamala Harris will be the White House’s point person on immigration issues at the nation’s southern border, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday, tasking her with stemming the rising tide of migrants, many of them unaccompanied children, arriving in the U.S. ‘I can think of nobody who is better qualified to do this,’ the president told reporters at the White House.” • I tend to think Biden is handing Harris a poisoned chalice; the problem isn’t reallly soluble, and so Harris can never get credit for solving it. (Incidentally, “nobody who is better qualified” doesn’t actually mean Harris is qualified. In fact, nothing does qualify here.)

“There is no immigration crisis” [Ryan Cooper, The Week]. “It’s true that it would be much cheaper and simpler to deflate the frenzy of media hysteria by doing what Trump did — basically closing the border, throwing penniless refugees back over it, and forcing Mexico to deal with the problem. Dealing with migrants in a fair and humane fashion will require money, patience, and good administration. But how better to solve a fake crisis created by Republicans and bored occupants of green rooms in Washington, D.C. than with a fake solution?” • I agree that the immigration “crisis” is not organic. What I can’t figure out is the press’s motive for pushing it.

Psaki on purging the stoners (which I imagine translates to optimizing for drunks):

To be fair, the Biden Administration also optimized for those clever enough to lie on their intake forms. Off to the NGOs with the rest, for seasoning!

UPDATE “Secret Service reportedly got involved in bizarre gun case involving Hunter Biden” [New York Post]. “The Secret Service intervened in an investigation into a 2018 incident involving Hunter Biden and his girlfriend at the time — his former sister-in-law, Hallie — in which she took his gun and tossed it into the trash, thinking he was going to kill himself with it, according to a report. When she returned to retrieve the gun, it was gone, Politico reported on Thursday. Police in Delaware launched an investigation in case the gun, left in a trash can across from a high school, had been used in a crime, the report said. But Secret Service agents contacted the owner of the store where Hunter bought the gun and asked to take the paperwork recording the sale, Politico reported. The owner, Ron Palmieri, at first balked at the request, suspecting they were attempting to hide Hunter’s ownership of the gun, but ultimately complied and turned over the documents to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the government agency that oversees federal gun laws.”

Democrats en Deshabille

“Top health officials told to prioritize COVID testing for Cuomo’s relatives” [Albany Times-Union]. ” High-level members of the state Department of Health were directed last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to conduct prioritized coronavirus testing on the governor’s relatives as well as influential people with ties to the administration, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter. Members of Cuomo’s family including his brother, his mother and at least one of his sisters were also tested by top health department officials — some several times, the sources said. The medical officials enlisted to do the testing, which often took place at private residences, included Dr. Eleanor Adams, an epidemiologist who graduated from Harvard Medical School and in August became a special adviser to Zucker. Adams conducted testing on Cuomo’s brother Chris at his residence on Long Island, according to the two people. ‘If their job was to go test an old lady down in New Rochelle, that’s one thing — that’s actually good,’ one of the people with knowledge of the matter said. ‘This was not that.'” • Oh, great. Bent medicos from Harvard.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Alert reader occasional anonymous commented yesterday:

Lambert, have you listened to the latest West Wing Thing? Dave Anthony touches on school re-opening near the beginning, and as he tells it things are going down very poorly at the PTA meeting level. Many parents are in fact not cool with being told they should knowingly send their kids into potential danger. He’s convinced the Democrats are shredding their support and reputation at this level. He also says teachers and even principles are basically giving up on continuing with their careers because of this (America already treats teachers like crap, and in fact seems to actively resent them. The degree to which they’ve been told to pound sand in the last year seems to be pushing many of them over the edge). In fact Anthony goes so far as to say he thinks there’s going to be permanent damage to the very idea of public education by the time this is all over.

Lambert here: Indeed I did, and that episode is especially spectacular (“The West Wing Thing“). The concept that the Democrats, under Biden, have managed to destroy public education, and are so detached from all reality that they don’t even know it, is extremely plausible to me. (They will also have betrayed the teachers unions, as well as the parents, disproportionately Democrat, who stuck with public education because they believed in it.) The public health establishment has even more to answer for than suppression mention of aerosol tranmission, because they have led parents to believe that children don’t get Covid, when we keep getting weekly and daily examples that they do, in schools. and it spreads. If I were a parent, as I said, I’d be pounding my head on my desk. However, and this is a big however, Anthony is in the realm of anecdote. Can readers conifrm? And where would I look to move the story beyond anecdote? I do think The West Wing is right that when the pandemic ends, as pandemics do, there’s going to be blowback of unheard-of proportions.

“QAnon now pushes alarming conspiracy myths targeting China and Jewish people” [Los Angeles Times]. “Following the November election, Finkelstein, Miller-Idriss and other extremism trackers noticed a shift in memes and codes words used by conspiracy peddlers. They appeared to be seizing upon a decades-old fear that tumultuous events in people’s lives — such as the pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns — are part of a master plan to subjugate the masses and replace legal norms with the totalitarian rule of a select few.” • Directionallly…

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “20 March 2021 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Improves Again” [Econintersect]. “Market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Econoday) were 695 K to 735 K (consensus 725 K), and the Department of Labor reported 684,000 new claims.”

Manufacturing: “United States Kansas Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Kansas City Fed’s Manufacturing Production Index fell by 3 points from the previous month to 23 in March 2021 and slightly below market expectations of 24, but still pointed that Tenth District manufacturing activity grew solidly compared to a month ago and a year ago with positive expectations for future activity. Among industries, the factory activity expansion was driven by durable goods plants for primary metals, machinery, transportation equipment, furniture, and miscellaneous manufacturing. The indexes for shipments, new orders, and order backlog expanded at a faster pace in March and supplier delivery time was very high as well. Meanwhile, the pace of job creation remained positive but slightly slower than in recent months.”

Trucking: “February 2021 Trucking Slows” [Econintersect]. “Headline data for the CASS Freight Index show that truck volumes show volumes slowed month-over-month – and the year-over-year growth declined but remained in positive territory. The American Trucking Association (ATA) index declined and is in contraction year-over-year…. The CASS index is inclusive of rail, truck, and air shipments. The ATA truck index is inclusive of only trucking industry member movements (ATA’s tonnage data is dominated by contract freight). I put a heavier weight on the CASS index year-over-year which is more consistent with rail and ocean freight. Econintersect tries to validate truck data across data sources. It appears this month that the truck employment rate of growth continues to improve. Please note using BLS employment data in real-time is risky, as their data is normally backward adjusted (sometimes significantly). Additionally, Econintersect believes that the BLS is not capturing all truck employment.”

GDP: “Third Estimate 4Q2020 GDP Improves Marginally to 4.3%. Corporate Profits Improve.” [Econintersect]. “The third estimate of fourth-quarter 2020 Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) improved from the second estimate’s positive 4.1 % to 4.3 %. The coronavirus recovery is the reason for the improvement from the previous quarter – and pushed GDP quarter-over-quarter growth to record levels. I am not a fan of quarter-over-quarter exaggerated method of measuring GDP – but the recovery from the pandemic is not over as the year-over-year GDP growth remains in contraction.”

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Retail: “Store openings are outpacing closures in 2021: Coresight” [Retail Dive]. “Even with the COVID-19 pandemic still weighing on physical retail, retailers in the U.S. collectively plan to open 3,344 stores so far this year, according to a recent Coresight Research report. That is 39.5% more openings than announced at this point last year and also well ahead of the 2,649 closures announced so far in 2021… he lion’s share of openings are by discounters. Dollar General, which made huge gains in 2020, accounts for nearly a third of the total store openings across retail… Dollar stores and off-price retail have expanded rapidly since the Great Recession, as consumers broadly seek value and the middle class shrinks amid growing income equality.” • Rather remarkable to see “the middle class shrinks amid growing income equality” in a garden-variety trade publication.

Retail: Metaphor:

Shipping: “Egypt shuts Suez Canal amid struggle to refloat grounded megaship” [Agence France Presse]. With ships waiting in both the Mediterranean and Red Sea and in the canal, the [Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority (SCA)] announced it was ‘temporarily suspending navigation’ along the waterway.” • Ships are being towed out:

Shipping: “The bank effect and the big boat blocking the Suez” [FT Alphaville]. The original explanation was wind. “It certainly was windy along the Suez Canal. According to Meteoblue, which provides weather data to apps and corporate clients, winds peaked above 30mph at the Suez Protectorate on Wednesday, not far from the Ever Given. Most harbours would fly a small craft advisory at that speed. But wasn’t unprecedented. Wind peaked above 30mph twice in 2020 at the same location, in March and again in May.” But: “The Suez Canal is basically just a 24m-deep ditch dug in the ground to let the ocean in. When a ship comes by and displaces the water, the water has nowhere to go; it gets squeezed in between the ship’s hull and the floor and the sides of the ditch…. [Evert Lataire, head of the Maritime Technology Division at Ghent University in Belgium] wrote his dissertation on a similar phenomenon as a ship passes close to a bank: the bank effect. The water speeds up, the pressure drops, the stern pulls into the bank and, particularly in shallow water, the bow gets pushed away. Stern one way, bow the other. A boat that had been steaming is suddenly spinning. It’s a well-identified phenomenon; in 2009 Ghent University’s Shallow Water Knowledge Centre put together a whole conference about it. Clever pilots on the Elbe, according to Lataire, will use it to shoot around a bend. However: the more water a ship displaces, the stronger the effect. And the closer the side of the hull is to the shore, the stronger the effect. The bigger the ship, the faster the bow shoots away from the bank.… [On the video,] everything happens quickly, in a way that looks a lot like the bank effect. Bow shoots away from the bank. Stern continues to hug the bank and move north. Ship spins. Bow bulb punches through the riprap.” • A must-read, and worth clearing your cookies. Kudos. This is why we have the pink paper.

Shipping: “‘Beached whale’ ship could block Suez Canal for weeks” [Reuters]. ““We can’t exclude it might take weeks, depending on the situation,” Peter Berdowski, CEO of Dutch company Boskalis which is trying to free the ship, told the Dutch television programme ‘Nieuwsuur’… Berdowski said the ship’s bow and stern had been lifted up against either side of the canal. ‘It is like an enormous beached whale. It’s an enormous weight on the sand. We might have to work with a combination of reducing the weight by removing containers, oil and water from the ship, tug boats and dredging of sand.'”

Shipping: Why was there only one digger?

For the photo op?

Shipping: “Suez blockage extends as salvors fail to free Ever Given” [Lloyd’s List]. “Rough calculations suggest westbound traffic is worth around $5.1bn daily while eastbound traffic is worth $4.5bn.”

Shipping: “Where are all the containers? The global shortage explained” [Hilllebrand]. “[A]lmost all of the remaining containers in Asia headed out to Europe and North America, but those containers did not come back quickly enough. Massive workforce disruptions due to coronavirus restrictions in North America affected not only ports, but cargo depots all across the country as well as inland transport lines. Without adequate staffing, containers started to pile up. As borders tightened, customs became more complicated to clear as well, worsening congestion. In addition, there were rapid shifts in tradelane demands that were challenging for carriers to adapt to. There was no time to clear the very large backlog of containers with limited workers before more started arriving. North America currently faces a 40% imbalance; which means that for every 100 containers that arrive only 40 are exported. 60 out of every 100 containers continue to accumulate.” • Worth reading in full. It’s all about a closely-coupled, fragile system! (And I don’t see how the Suez Canal being blocked can be helping.)

Shipping: “Massive Cargo Ships Are Outrun by Nimble Fleet in New Speed Race” [Bloomberg]. “[R]unning full steam has revealed how temperamental the backbone of the global trading system is when stretched: Crews are overworked, thousands of containers have tumbled overboard in high seas and the vessel blocking Suez threatens wider economic problems if it snarls traffic for more then a few days.” • the article doesn’t really match the headline, which has a lot more detail about the suddenly very profitable container industry.

The Bezzle: “Here’s an inside look at the unregulated life coach industry” (video) [CNBC]. “Life coaches are part of an estimated $2.85 billion global industry of professional coaches. Life coaches have been met with skepticism, given the profession does not require licensing or formal training yet can resemble therapy. With a greater interest in wellness and attempts to overcome the stigma of therapy, the appeal of becoming a life coach or seeking the assistance of a coach grows year over year.” •

The Fed: “Fed to set monetary policy on actual economic outcomes, Evans says” [Reuters]. “Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans on Wednesday said the central bank will set its monetary policy on economic outcomes and will not reduce monetary policy accommodation until it sees actual improvements. ‘We’re looking for actual improvement in the economy and inflation to get back up to our dual mandate objectives of maximum inclusive employment and 2% inflation on average,’ Evans said at an event hosted by the Japan America Society of Chicago.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 39 Fear (previous close: 40 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 55 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 25 at 1:00pm. One year ago, just after the end of the Before Times: 17 (Extreme Fear).

Health Care

“Rural-Urban Differences In Severe Maternal Morbidity And Mortality In The US, 2007–15” [Health Affairs]. “severe maternal morbidity and mortality increased among both rural and urban residents in the study period, from 109 per 10,000 childbirth hospitalizations in 2007 to 152 per 10,000 in 2015. When we controlled for sociodemographic factors and clinical conditions, we found that rural residents had a 9 percent greater probability of severe maternal morbidity and mortality, compared with urban residents.” • The solution, obviously, is to eliminate rural hospitals entirely.

“How CMS’s interoperability mandate reduces healthcare costs and improves member experience” [ZS]. “For health plans, data interoperability is accelerating digital transformation and will help pave the way for a seamless virtual and in-person care experience. As business processes are digitized and integrated into an interoperable data lake, new, member-facing digital apps will be far easier to bring to market. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Interoperability and Patient Access Rule has a role in accelerating this digital transformation. Under the new mandate, health plans will give patients access to their data via a Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources-based API, free of charge, starting July 1, extended from the original date of January 1 due to COVID-19. The CMS rules around data sharing will apply to Medicare Advantage plans, state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) agencies, and insurers that offer qualified health plans, or Medicaid and CHIP managed care plans. Payer-to-payer data exchange based on the data classes defined within the United States Core Data for Interoperability will be required starting January 1, 2022.” • Interesting, although “seamless” is one of those words I watch for, because it never is. I suppose I should take a look at the API…



Was that really what resolution was 10 years ago?

The Agony Column

“I’m Always Horny for Sauron” [Jezebel]. “Even getting up Mordor in the first place is an accomplishment, but getting railed by Sauron, a man/swirling bit of ether and anger, is the great prize. Mordor seems nice. A big mountain, great views, with plenty of space for the large home that I have always dreamed of. Sauron’s large arms will build me the mansion of my dreams: vaulted ceilings, lots of marble in the foyer, a dash of Godfather chic in the courtyard. Perhaps my Romanesque fountains will spout the blood of my enemies instead of water, but that’s okay. It’s what Sauron—and I—want. It’s all we need.”

Groves of Academe

“Criticism of Ideas Is Not Harassment” [The Chronicle of Higher Education]. “The internal rationale for calling criticism ‘harassment’ is as simple as it is absurd: because these Critical Theories are believed to proceed from one’s ‘social position’ as an occupant of some ‘identity category,’ the person and her ideas are treated as though they overlap. They do not. Thinking they do is a dangerous mistake for anyone to make, not least institutions that are nominally devoted to Truth. The backbone of rational thought is separating people from ideas to protect the dignity of the former while being free to criticize the latter.” • I’d like to see the documents in the case, though.

Our Famously Free Press


Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Evanston is Paying Reparations of $25,000 to Black Residents—They Say That’s Not Enough” [Newsweek]. “The Chicago suburb’s reparations program was established in 2019, with a $10 million fund established from a 3 per cent tax on recreational marijuana sales. The program’s focus is on addressing housing inequity, with a first phase that allocates $400,000 of the budget to provide $25,000 grants to eligible recipients to help with home ownership, mortgage assistance and home improvements…. Robin Rue Simmons, the 5th Ward Alderman who spearheaded Evanston’s reparations program, told Newsweek she is proud of the city for advancing the initiative. She said the enduring racial divide that remains in Evanston despite years of various equity initiatives prompted her to pursue reparations. “I thought that we as a city might localize a reparative policy to empower the Black community and help rebuild wealth that had been stripped away due to predatory practices and other anti-Black practices,” she said. To qualify for Evanston’s reparations program, Black residents must have either lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 and suffered from housing discrimination, or be a direct descendant of someone who did. It was during that period that Evanston’s Black families suffered from redlining and other discriminatory housing policies that prevented them from purchasing property in desirable neighborhoods, Dino Robinson, a historian and the founder of the Shorefront Legacy Center, told Newsweek.”

Class Warfare

“Choke points: mapping an anticapitalist counter-logistics in California” [libcom.org]. “While it is indisputably within the sphere of production that the value-form is created and the obfuscation of social relations under capital begins, perhaps the notion that it is within sphere of circulation that the value-form can begin to be destroyed necessitates more tactical experiments explicitly targeting this realm in the US context of struggles.” • I would, crudely, identify circulation with the supply chain, and remark that we’re seeing two big stories in this “realm” this week: The grounding of the Ever Given, and the organization of Amazon’s Birmingham warehouse.

UPDATE “Amazon Exec’s Snarky Tweets At Bernie Sanders Backfire” [HuffPo]. “Amazon executive Dave Clark attempted to mock Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Twitter on Wednesday, prompting a barrage of replies featuring negative news stories about the company. Clark, who is CEO of Amazon’s worldwide consumer unit, tweeted Wednesday about Sanders’ upcoming trip to Alabama, where the senator will meet with Amazon workers who are pushing to unionize their warehouse. ‘I welcome @SenSanders to Birmingham and appreciate his push for a progressive workplace,’ Clark wrote. He then added: ‘I often say we are the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that’s not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace.'” • I wonder if Clark actually believes this?

UPDATE Amazon PR seems not to understand the Streisand Effect:

“Amazon Denies Workers Pee in Bottles. Here Are the Pee Bottles” [Vice]. “[T]he fact that Amazon delivery drivers pee in bottles and coffee cups in their vans is not invented. It has been well-documented, and is a huge talking point among many delivery drivers. It is one of the most universal concerns voiced by the many Amazon delivery drivers around the country that Motherboard has interviewed. Delivery workers, who drive Amazon emblazoned vans, often deliver up to 300 packages a day on a 10 hour shift. If they take too long, they can be written up and fired. So spending time locating and using a bathroom is not always an option. In fact, here’s a photo of an Amazon delivery driver’s pee bottles. Motherboard confirmed the driver’s position and employment.” • In fact, “urine bottles” are the subject of management directives:

Hard to unsee:

Still, if I understand the voting, the key constituency not yet won over is younger workers who are not familiar with unions or history. I don’t know how the pee bottle controversy will play with them.

News of the Wired

“The Case of the Missing Matzoh” [San Diego Jewish World]. • Great anecdote. Contains not one but two classification systems. The Navy’s National Stock Numbers (“Rabbi/Leader Version: NSN 9925-01-526-3373”; “Participant Version: NSN 9925-01-526-3364”), but also this from an official Naval teletype: “CONGRINT / SECNAVINT”, which is Navy-ese for Congressional Interest, Secretary of the Navy Interest. In other words, “It’s all gone political, sir.”

“Scratching the surface: the use of sheepskin parchment to deter textual erasure in early modern legal deeds” [Heritage Science]. “[S]heepskin parchment was preferentially selected over that of calf or goat for legal deeds, a selection which extends back to at least the thirteenth–fourteenth century in England, Wales and Ireland. The roots of this preference may lie in early efforts to impede the fraudulent modification of legal agreements after signing due to the increased visibility of erasure and text alterations afforded by sheepskin.” • I’m trying to imagine whether Terry Pratchett, may his name be a blessing, could have introduced sheepskin NFTs into Ankh-Morpork.

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

ChiGal writes: “Spring has sprung! Hellebores spotted on a creekside walk.” At reader request, I will try to make plants coincident, and not lagging, seasonal indicators.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. km

    @latest QAnon conspiracy allegations – I never thought I would be defending QAnon, but I didn’t think that there has been an actual “QDrop” in months now.

    In fact, the QAnon conspiracy theory seems to have developed a life of its own, with the cutlists making their own predictions in lieu of anything supposedly from “Q”.

  2. Toshiro_Mifune

    Was that really what resolution was 10 years ago?

    Thats a purposely blocky visual design, like Minecraft. 2011 would have also been Skyrim, Portal 2, Uncharted 3, etc.

    1. Shtucb

      “Retro” game design, using pixelated graphics with deliberately low resolution, is its own language and vocabulary in game design. This extends to game music and sounds as well, aping the “chiptune” aesthetic that reproduces, for example, only those sounds that could be made by the Super Nintendo’s audio chipset, or similar audio chipsets from the era. Gameplay and rules often hew to the conventions and limits of the original games from the 80s and 90s it is imitating.

      Indie games tend to make more use of this design palette since it is cheaper, and requires less manpower in design and development than a so-called “AAA” many-million dollar first person shooter with extensive detailed 3D art and level design. (This doesn’t make the small-budget games any less fun!)

      It’s the equivalent of a contemporary rockabilly band lifting dress, hairstyle, makeup, antique Fender guitars, warm tube amps and lo-fi production directly out of an idealized 50s, as a total package. Players understand what to expect, and for many millennials, there is a strong nostalgia associated with this type of game.

    2. occasional anonymous

      Yeah, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is an example of a modern game presenting itself with a retro aesthetic. It’s a kind of reaction to the industry dominant trend of always pushing for more photorealism.

      For people who are into art, and art history, in general, it’s probably a topic worth investigating even if you’re not into video games. Developers, especially indie developers, have, in the last decade or so, increasingly taken to reaching backwards for their visuals, with a growing recognition that technologically outdated visual techniques can still be beautiful in their own way, even if they’re archaic from a technical standpoint. 16-bit sprite visuals are probably the biggest style in this throwback approach, but there are also things like this game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsu9uDMlIMM which is a throwback to the Quake/Quake II era of mid-late 90s shooters, with primitive (by today’s standards) 3D visuals.

      Also economics probably comes into it: it’s a lot cheaper to make a 2D sprite game than it is to try and push the envelope of cutting edge visuals.

      It’s not all good though; there are definitely plenty of bad examples of attempts to recreate a retro style. There are developers who mistake ‘technically primitive’ with ‘easy to do’, and basically think they can use “it’s retro!” as an excuse for lack of talent. You can’t just slap together a badly made low-poly 3D model with a crappy texture plastered on it and excuse it being hideous by saying it’s ‘retro’. Because the best examples of old games with low-poly models with low-res textures still had effort put into them; there was a lot of artistry involved in trying to convey the impression of an object while working within extremely limited technical constraints.

      Retro aesthetics are mostly an indie developer thing, but sometimes more big budget games get in on it as well. Dragon Quest XI is primarily a 3D game, but it has an optional bonus mode where you can play through the entire game as a top-down 2D sprite game, in the style of classic Dragon Quest games.

      Speaking of screen resolution more generally though, that’s been pretty static for more than a decade. Back in 2011 1920×1080 was only just becoming the most common standard (and even then a lot of things, especially video game consoles, still couldn’t consistently reach that resolution with decent performance) and it’s still the standard now. We’re only just now seeing truly widespread adoption of 4k (3840×2160), though 2560×1440 is a very common resolution on the PC side (it’s a very nice middle-ground where you can get very crisp visuals with very high framerates), with Microsoft attempting to target it as well with the budget version of the new Xbox.

      We’re actually probably at the end of the push for ever higher resolutions; AI deep-learning is now ushering in an era where dynamic upscaling from lower resolutions is giving results that both look and run better than natively rendering at a higher resolution. It’s one of the rare examples where AI (or at least automated algorithms, which is what most ‘AI’ stuff really is. It’s not actually a program that is doing anything that resembles thinking) is actually real and not just a bunch of hype.

  3. Baldanders


    Nice to see them in bloom. I got tasked with keeping dormant hellebores alive in a nursery once. The slightest bit of under- or over-watering kills them quick. I hear they are invincible once they are established.

    I now substitute “New Fangled Tulips” everytime I see “NFT.” Thanks, @Lambert!

      1. jefemt

        + 1,000. Have yet to not elicit enthusiastic positive reaction and a smile with New-Fangled ….

    1. marcyincny

      Yes! Invincible, deer proof and prolific self-seeders. I began with one plant from Wayside Gardens in 1980 for a yard in Ashland, Kentucky. When we left we shifted it to my parents in Euclid, Ohio. Eventually my dad brought seedlings to our place in central New York and now 33 years later, after losing a lot of landscaping to the deer I’ve just let the hellebores fill in everywhere.

      This year has been a bit disconcerting though. The foliage has always browned and deteriorated during the winter; this year our winter was so mild, the foliage is amazingly green. It all looks lovely but somehow very wrong…

    2. CanCyn

      Hey Lambert re: “At reader request, I will try to make plants coincident, and not lagging, seasonal indicators.” This reader appreciates all plant antidotes, seasonally coincident or not. Thanks for all you do.

  4. Wukchumni

    Aside from mentioning it in passing @ his presser, there was nothing said whatsoever in regards to the 3rd rail of American politics-gun control.

  5. Penny

    If there is no crisis at the border, why does Harris need to fix it?

    Mizz Window Dressing is the ideal candidate to disprove a negative.


    Re Qanon – “replace legal norms with the totalitarian rule of a select few.” You mean, like someone who graduated from Harvard or Yale, was paid so extravagantly by Wall Street or private equity they can afford to pay $10,000 a plate political contributions, and they fly biz jets into Davos for the World Economic Forum? Or do you mean some octagenerian Senator or billionaire who sacrifices children to satan to prolong their mortal life? Or both?

    1. Lee

      I’ve watched the first two episodes of HBO’s series on Qanon, and so far I have the impression that it’s a big spoof, or at least it started out as one—something akin to the Orson Welles 1938 Martian invasion radio program that caused a fair amount of public panic among the credulous, except now on a larger scale. Who needs conspiracy theories when so much that is wrong is right there in plain sight for all to see?

      1. JBird4049

        People want to see actual conspiracies being run by actual people so that the fact that much of our current hellscape is the result of almost random stupidity, incompetent, and greed is not seen. Evil manipulators or random chaos? Which is less frightening?

  7. chris

    Lambert, having been involved with drama of school closing, school maintenance, and school re-opening locally, I can tell you that there are vocal minorities on either side. The vast majority where we live in Maryland just wants something they can count on. And few parents want to consider all the risks involved with these decisions. For example, they may feel that schools should stay closed but insist on still having multi hour hair appointments to keep up their looks. Or, they’ll insist schools open but they won’t stop participating in travel club sports leagues to facilitate kids staying in schools safely.

    Many parents have also made arrangements that work for them now and while they’re not happy with remote learning as has been implemented, they’d be even less happy with having to work around the different schedules and child care arrangements necessary to make a return to hybrid school work. So what we’re seeing is a distribution of schools where as many as 2/3 of students are returning for hybrid education when allowed, to less than 30% of students returning. There is so much that goes into this. Our county has some stark divisions due to income and housing and jobs. Roughly 80% of residents are doing great by most standards. But that remaining 20% is being left out in the cold. Many of the wealthier parents have exited the public school system for private schools. Thousands of students have dropped out of the public school system in our county and we actually don’t know where all of them went. I was at a Boy Scout meeting the other day and I was surprised to hear how many of my peer parents have opted to home school their kids.

    There is a bill making its way to through the statehouse to fund kinds and not schools so that if you choose to take you child out of the school system you’ll receive a voucher that you can use to pay for education at any one of the growing number of charter schools or private schools that have seized on the opportunity from the lockdown to give desperate families an option. I have little confidence these schools will be as good as the public institutions the kids used to be enrolled in, but many parents are tired of being told “no” over and over again by various school officials on various topics.

    I think this period has fostered a tremendous breakdown in trust between students, parents, teachers, administrators, and county officials where I live. All of the problems that existed before the pandemic simply can’t be ignored anymore. The class issues mixed with racial problems mixed with urban residents versus rural residents versus all the pressures that already existed to help kids compete for an ever shrinking chance for the good life are exploding all around us. And all of this is compounded by developers who want to build more homes or multi family units in areas with good schools so that they can command higher asking prices for the real estate. Which adds pressure because we have to plan for more students attending schools in the future with decreasing tax receipts and funding for public schools. I am at the point where I’m just trying to do what’s best for my kids and family and those neighbors I consider family. I am glad my kids have made it through as well as they did and will soon be out of the public school system. But the mess they’re exiting will be a terrible problem for their kids and our society.

    I am afraid that the difference in support infrastructure between one side of my county and the other is going to make things grossly unfair soon. You can’t scale septic tanks and wells like you can municipal utilities. The more rural areas have hard limits that tend to prevent over crowding compared to other schools in the district. You’d think bussing would be an option then, but if you send the kids from one side of the county to the other, they lose out on the Title I support and public transportation options. They’d be attending schools with less over crowding but they wouldn’t be able to join clubs, or sports, because they wouldn’t be able to get home after school without parental help. They’d also lose out on the tutoring and support they need because many of those services don’t exist at schools where the majority of students come from families who aren’t similarly challenged. So we will continue to jam people into a smaller and more overcrowded area with schools that continue to disappoint even though we spend a lot of money on them. Developers aren’t required to leave land for future schools when they propose a new subdivision or apartment complex… so they don’t.

    I don’t have any answers. What I can say is that my local government can’t do much to improve things for the people who don’t have much, and it can’t do much to calm the nerves of people who already have a lot and pay big taxes on it, but it can mess with school policy to make it seem like it is doing “something.” Re-opening schools is “something.” Redistricting who goes to which school is “something.” So they’ll do that even though it doesn’t really help.

    1. Tom Doak

      Here in Michigan the high school sports parents have been extremely vocal in the local news, asserting themselves as a whole new class of parents.

      I am not sure how it maps vs. Red or Blue, but JIMMY HAS GOT TO PLAY HIS SENIOR SEASON, whether it risks others’ health or not, or indeed whether anyone is actually going to class or not.

      1. Alex

        The parents of even moderately elite youth athletes are the absolute scum of the earth. And yes, takes one to know one…

      2. lambert strether

        Madness. We had the same thing up here. An enormous property tax increase so we could build a new track because the parents think if little Madison becomes a track star at a small school in Maine, they’ll get into Yale. Idea: Spend the money on education. And our whole self-image is that we’re smarter than anyone.

        1. Wukchumni

          Its kind of fun to watch the fantasy of kids thinking they’re gonna be sports stars, when my nephew was 12 he was certain he’d be a pro soccer player, now he’s 15 and didn’t even make the team, whoops.

          I was fortunate to have scant talent in team sports, illusions weren’t my gig.

          1. polar donkey

            All that was heard here in the South is kids have to play sports. Shear madness. Student athletes were main drivers of covid in the schools, public and private in the fall. Private schools went so far as to have all athletes co.e to school on certain days and non-athletes on others.
            Over all local school\state administrators know next to nothing about covid. You would think they would want to keep up with latest information or even basic knowledge. Nope. The worst thing though is in Mississippi, the schools have been open since August. The State Education Department in Jackson still works from home and State Education board has only zoom meetings.
            A speech therapist at an elementary school got covid about 6 weeks ago. Therapist had an underlying heart condition. Thought she recovered from covid, but yesterday dropped dead at school. Horrific. Second person to die who works in the town’s schools this year. No air filtration or even open windows in these schools.

    2. 430MLK

      In KY, the state (heavy Republican) passed what I’ll guess is similar school vouchers for private schools. Beshear, the Dem governor who ran w/ a school-teacher Lt. Gov., vetoed it but I’m not sure where it stands currently.

      My own personal anecdote: Where I live in Lexington (home to U of KY), figuring out how to get back to school was a focus area for our local ‘progressive’ columnist, Linda Blackford. (She has I think 2 high-school age kids and lives in the most dense research-faculty/medical staff-neighborhood in the city, Bell Court, so heavy smugly progressive.) Our schools went back a couple weeks ago–from fully-online to full time in school. My wife and I have kept our elementary school daughter out, in part b/c we can, since I’m teaching online at home. The quality of the online teaching at her school has plummetted once most everyone went back. She’s now an after-thought. (And most everyone went back at her school–of 8 total classes of 4th/5th graders, she is lumped in with about 10 other 4th/5th grade onliners.)

      Trying to make the best of a difficult year, I got in touch w/ some water-quality folks to begin testing the watershed where her school is located (citizen science!, inspired by Lambert), to visit parks to draw spring wildflowers and write mini (2 sentence) reports on them, and to fix up the perennial garden I started at her school last year (asparagus should come up in late April; the oca I planted last year should re-sprout). I asked the school if she could skip Fridays and some Thursdays of “online learning” to do these science, art, writing, and some math things like division. They said no. Weren’t flexible. Don’t guess I’ll be going back to the garden to see the asparagus shoot up or plant the oregano I repotted from our herb garden.

      I’d like to go home-school next year, but the wife doesn’t, and the main thing holding me back is that my daughter is a social animal–she misses her friends, and I’d have a hard time taking that from her next year and beyond.

    3. IMOR

      Ah, vouchers! The preferred fake community based public school poison since the crap ’83 report! The short answer to Lambert and Yves’ request for local input: Every teacher in Northern California and Idaho’s Treasure Valley over 35 (who was not already out) who could get out has left or moved their departure date waaay up.

    4. David I Backer

      I’ve been having trouble parsing the ecological fallacies when it comes to the ‘crisis of public education’ in this moment.

      On the one hand we have anecdotal evidence of ‘everyone taking their kids out’. But any given anecdote will be *highly* classed/raced. Who’s got the time or inclination to post something somewhere about taking their kids out of schools? Not most ppl I’d say, at least not most ppl who’d get a hearing.

      There’s some evidence that voucher bills are cruising through red state legislatures, as Jack Schneider and Jen Berkshire document and have written about in their new book Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door. But the KY example is illustrative: what’s the status of these bills? When/how do they take effect? Also, ppl have books and panics to sell—how do we know? Education is very prone to panic.

      The most concrete numbers I’ve seen about this are decreases in kindergarten enrollments. The latest I can find come from the end of last year: “An analysis of data from 33 states obtained by Chalkbeat and The Associated Press shows that public K-12 enrollment this fall has dropped across those states by more than 500,000 students, or 2%, since the same time last year.” (https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/12/22/22193775/states-public-school-enrollment-decline-covid)

      Is 2% a big deal? I’d say these are very extenuating circumstances. 90% of school going kids go to public noncharter traditional schools and that number hasn’t budged much at all during all the panics that’ve been reported. That, plus the flash flood of fiscal funding about to cascade from the federal government makes me think there’ll be a ‘return to normal’, which is to say some new fresh semi-panic.

      What we should be worried about is charter school finance reform if anything.

  8. RockHard

    There Is No Immigration Crisis: ” What I can’t figure out is the press’s motive for pushing it.”

    There’s one theory advanced at the end of the article:

    All too many mainstream media sources are happy to play along, as they have done for decades (perhaps because they feel guilty for basically having no choice but to be pro-Biden during the presidential campaign).

    I’d go with another explanation: stories about kids in cages get clicks. All kinds of people get outraged about kids in cages because it is horrible. Conservatives feel vindicated because Trump really wasn’t an evil racist, look, Biden is just as bad. Liberals get enraged because they’re hooked on that little high. Editors are looking at the clickthrough stats on their articles and assigning stories based on that feedback. It’s life or death in publishing now. Absent some new story, it’s going to keep on being a big story. Mass shootings at a supermarket don’t have that kind of staying power, the guy is in custody and the only story left is how many years he’s going to get.

    1. Wukchumni

      Any chance Jeff can kill 2 birds with one stone and combine drug tests in the pee bottles that in theory aren’t being filled with ersatz beer?

  9. Darthbobber

    Kameleon to the border. Well, her hangers-on were shopping those whiny pieces in Politico and other places about how she hadn’t been granted enough of a defined role, hence wasn’t getting a chance to :develop a portfolio” and “define her brand.”

    Somehow I doubt that this is precisely what they were hoping for. “Here, Kamala, have this nice hand grenade.”

    The main point of this exercise is to interpose a person not named Joe Biden between him and the problem, and the fact that she was selected for the role says something about the relationship between Team Biden and Team Harris.

    1. Tom Doak

      They told her that if she solves the problem she will be the First Woman President.

      They left out the fine print about Venezuela.

      1. hemeantwell

        Her assignment reminds me of Streeck’s recent Sidecar article on Merkel’s sticking Ursula von der Leyen with the EU’s vaccine rollout: “Whatever else you may think about Angela Merkel, one thing you must allow her: she knows a hot potato when she sees one, and she can pass it on to someone else in no time.”

        1. Michael Ismoe

          Meh. Remember when Trump put Pence in charge of the Covid 19 response? That worked out well for him. We hardly ever heard the words “Trump” and “Covid” together in the same sentence at all in 2020.

    2. shhinola

      Totally agree Darth’. I told my spouse when I caught that on the nooze that Biden just put Harris in a no-win situation; she’s going to catch hell for being cruel to those poor children or for going too easy those “illegals” or maybe even both at the same time from the opposite ends of the political spectrum.

    3. The Rev Kev

      I understand that in the UK during the Irish “troubles”, that if a ruling party had a politician that they would want out of the way, that they would put them in charge of Northern Ireland. Nobody would want that assignment. If not that, then Industrial Relations which meant that if there was a strike, it was that Ministers fault. And if the Minister tried to change the system causing trouble, that was the Minister’s fault too.

    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      Let her play with it. Hopefully she will blow herself up and out of politics. Then Biden can run with Buttapug and lose to Trump in 2024.

  10. antidlc

    Can someone please explain to me the reason for suppression of aerosol transmission?

    Is it because they don’t want to spend the $$$ required to upgrade the schools?

    Even Trump told Woodward in an interview that COVID was airborne.

    1. Geo

      I’d appreciate some help understanding this too. Maybe I’ve missed prior links/explanations but seems there are lots of articles and talk about aerosol denialism by so many “experts” and “authorities” and I honestly can’t fathom how acceptance of aerosol transmission isn’t accepted at this point. It’s a subject well beyond my pay grade to understand the scientific debate but the public debate seems pretty settled.

    2. Pelham

      Lambert has suggested that it’s the cost, and I suspect that’s an element. But it still doesn’t quite make sense.

      If a schoolroom has a window that opens to the outside and a door on another side, couldn’t they just open them up and run a basic fan as an exhaust? That plus mask wearing should do the trick.

      OTOH, it might not. And even one asymptomatic infected kid could spell doom or a lifetime of struggle with vital-organ impairments for his parents and others. As for teachers, monitoring 25 or 30 kids for mask wearing and hygiene on top of trying to teach while fearing for one’s life would be pretty taxing.

      Just as long-covid has received insufficient media attention, so has child transmission. Not to mention the ominous rise of variants.

      1. neo-realist

        At the same time Trump was telling the public at large that covid-19 was like the flu and not preparing it to take protective measures, he was telling Woodward that it was a dangerous virus.

        Half right.

    3. Shtucb

      I have no more information than anyone else, but I believe it is cost.

      Once the WHO or CDC admits fully that ventilation is an issue, that would lead naturally to updated air quality standards. Let’s say OSHA or whatever were to upgrade the standard for ventilation such that air needed to be recirculated X times per hour, filtered through Y type of expensive filters, changed every Z days, etc. I believe industrial ventilation is likely so bad that any meaningful change to ventilation standards would just reveal how hopeless the entire situation is, and basically every office, school, and municipal building would instantly get a failing grade. (I expect many hospitals would fare OK, as would industrial clean-rooms.)

      In short, I think things are so bad that ANY admission that ventilation needs to be improved will just reveal how far behind the industrialized world is in controlling this. Even a token remedial effort would be punishingly expensive, and probably still insufficient. So the powers that be throw up their hands and try to ignore it while installing Purell dispensers everywhere instead.

      I repeat: I’m not an air quality person, and I’m speculating wildly.

      1. albrt

        My understanding is that hospitals would not fare OK and would be required to re-engineer everything to meet specific standards for airborne contagion for the entire building instead of just a room or two for measles cases. I think hospitals were the main early source of resistance to calling the small particles airborne.

      2. Mo's Bike Shop

        I assume all the triumphalism, and get back to ‘normal’ fast talk, is to avoid the broad ways in which we need to prepare for the next pandemic. Imagine if the death rate from covid was a solid five percent?

        Hearing that ‘we’re turning the corner’ for the next four years is what will give me fatigue. I mean, dogs and cats get covid; it’ll be endemic.

    4. dk

      It’s the evidentiary science cohort, clearly convergent trends aren’t enough, one has to construct multiple detailed studies and they all have to come to identical conclusions for a thing to be considered true fact. It’s anti-science that appeals to obstructionists, and oligarchs casting about for any excuse to refuse to spend money. It’s the conservative principle on steroids, grossly distorted of limb and impotent.

  11. LaRuse

    Hope Yves and family are okay. Looks like tornado weather just south of Birmingham this afternoon.

    1. pjay

      I just saw this on NBC news and thought the same thing. I used to live in a Midwestern tornado alley state. We had my aged mother living with us for seven years. She had both physical and mental issues. During that time we had many scares, and twice we had tornadoes strike nearby. We were always weighing the pros and cons of getting her down our steep stairs into the basement. It was very nerve-racking.

      Good thoughts to you and your family Yves. I hope everything is ok.

  12. Wukchumni

    It is illegal to indulge in marijuana in our National Parks as they are federal in jurisdiction, that said you couldn’t find a finer named place to partake than Potwisha campground in Sequoia NP, which sounds like a stoner’s whet dream.

    Be careful around the campground itself, but if say you were about 100 yards in from the trailhead to Marble Falls near car campsite 14, there’s little chance anything would happen to you, or really anywhere in the backcountry.


    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well then, just do your partaking outside the borders of the National Park and then go into the National Park.

  13. a fax machine

    re: immigration crisis

    “What I can’t figure out is the press’s motive for pushing it.”

    Let’s list the classic reasons:

    1. Divide and conquer using the fear of foreign invasion
    2. Advertising for prison companies & their services
    3. Engagement metrics (probably) indicate that Democrats respond to the issue and engage with it, as Republicans do with firearms

    Better question is what does it ultimately add up to. Biden clearly has no desire to stop Trump’s immigration control policies, and is apparently expanding them if the ICE takeover of the San Diego Convention Center is any guess. Likewise, Trump had no desire to stop gun control and expanded it with the bumpstock ban. All of this leads is to a larger prison state, even if some amount of the prisoners are out of jail on parole (second class citizen status) due to Covid. Makes one wonder what will occur after Covid, when they are asked to come back to prison (or not, as the case may be).

    Some things never change, only the amount of people with criminal convictions do because the corrections industry profits from it.

  14. Wukchumni

    The TEUfel is of course in the details, but I find it hard to wrap around my brain, that there are 20,000x 20 foot metal containers on the stuck pig, er ship in the Suez Canal.

    1. christofay

      Throwing a value of $20,000 worth of goods per container or $400,000,000 riding on that boat.

      1. Alex Cox

        And let us not forget that Evergreen, owner of the wreck, was originally a CIA front company, specializing in aviation, which branched into shipping. I am sure today there is no connection at all between the two enterprises. But every time I see one of those green containers sitting somewhere, I still think, Christians In Action! Or Cocaine Importers of America. Or something…

  15. Anonapet

    “Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans on Wednesday said the central bank will set its monetary policy on economic outcomes and will not reduce monetary policy accommodation until it sees actual improvements. ‘We’re looking for actual improvement in the economy and inflation to get back up to our dual mandate objectives of maximum inclusive employment and 2% inflation on average,’ Evans said at an event hosted by the Japan America Society of Chicago.” [Reuters]

    I suppose it never occurs that HOW interest rates are managed is important, ie. welfare for the rich isn’t the way to go even though that seemed to work well enough in the past.

    But sail on Titanic – object lessons are that important, I suppose.

    1. Samuel Conner

      The thought occurs that this communication could be interpreted as a signal to the power-holders in the nation that if they continue to inflict pain on the majority of the population, the Fed will reward them with continuing support for asset prices.

  16. Wukchumni


    This just in: Evergreen has renamed the stuck ship in question, the Tight Antic.

  17. lobelia

    Re: “Gavin Newsom feared a vaccine nightmare. So he outsourced California’s rollout.” [Politico]. and your request for California readers to comment (from yesterday’s Water Cooler)

    Was going to comment yesterday on this, when an unexpected blow happened (which would have been considered insane not that long ago, thank goodness I keep receipts).

    That 03/22/21 Politico piece notes:

    …. So far, just one of the state’s 58 counties has signed a direct contract with Blue Shield, while 11 others — including Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside — have entered into agreements with the state, as of Monday.


    but they neglect to note which county signed the contract with Blue Shield (I guess hoping someone might pay for their Pro Version which they link to in that paragraph).

    A search easily brought up that one county, it was Kern County. Kern County is infamous for having one of the highest incarceration rates in California (there are five State Prisons there alone). In 2015, the UK Guardian highlighted Kern County as having the deadliest cops in the country: 12/01/15 The County: the story of America’s deadliest police – Police in Kern County, California, have killed more people per capita than in any other American county in 2015. The Guardian examines how, with little oversight, officers here became the country’s most lethal https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/01/the-county-kern-county-deadliest-police-killings . I can’t help but wonder if that prison population is one of the reasons why Kern County accepted the Blue Shield contract (frankly, I’m glad I don’t have the time to look up the condition, and number of For Profit Care Facilities are located there for the elderly, and physically, or mentally™ disabled).

    Other than that, I made this Blue Shield comment the day prior your post, when upstater noted that Politico Piece: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2021/03/200pm-water-cooler-3-23-2021.html#comment-3525345. I should have also noted in that comment that Blue Shield is headquartered in Oakland, CA (previously in San Francisco) and was stripped of its Tax Exempt status by the Franchise Tax Board [FTB], which rarely ever goes after large Corporations, preferring to unjustly go after little people, so it must have been really bad.

    Lastly, the link is missing from your excerpt yesterday, it’s https://www.politico.com/states/california/story/2021/03/22/why-newsom-isnt-counting-on-his-own-government-to-manage-vaccine-rollout-1368548 .

    gotta run

    1. IMOR

      Of all the burnt out public defenders I knew, the one who burnt hardest and fastest worked Kern County.

  18. zagonostra

    >Dimming the sun’: $100m geoengineering research programme proposed – The Guardian

    The US should establish a multimillion-dollar research programme on solar geoengineering, according to the country’s national science academy.

    In a report it recommends funding of $100m (£73m) to $200m over five years to better understand the feasibility of interventions to dim the sun, the risk of harmful unintended consequences and how such technology could be governed in an ethical way.

    Look at the picture in this Guardian article and ask yourself if you’ve seen a similar sky in your neck of the woods. This is being done right now under your nose. Yet there will be someone who will comment “it been debunked a thousand times already, there is no geoengineering going on, it’s con-trails you are seeing.”

    Really glad to see this in the Guardian, even if it is disingenuous. At least for the naysayers you can point to below, also from the article, to prove that the technology exists and has been done, of course just “experimentally.”

    The report considers three types of solar geoengineering to allow more heat to escape the Earth’s atmosphere: injecting tiny reflective particles into the stratosphere to block sunlight; using the particles to make low-lying clouds over the oceans more reflective; and thinning high-altitude cirrus clouds. Major volcanic eruptions are already known to cool the climate by pumping particles high into the atmosphere.


    1. Amfortas the hippie

      been seeing that sky for decades, now.
      curious enough that i attempted to study how airport approaches are managed(and prolly got on a list for my trouble)…because the airspace over Austin, 110 miles southeast, just looked crazy at times.
      with planes coming all the way out here and doing a uturn, trailing whatever that is.
      I’ve also witnessed filaments(that weren’t spiderwebs…i checked, and have seen those as well) drifting down all around us, under a sky just like that.

      usually it’s heaviest when we’re expecting clear blue skies and heat…something i look forward to….by 10-11, the sky is brownish with haze…a haze that derives from those contrails. I spend a lot of time outside…i have watched this process a million times.

      but i’m just a crazy hill person.

  19. occasional anonymous

    Regarding Amazon drivers peeing in bottles, I don’t remotely want to be seen defending Amazon, but I do feel I should point out that where, exactly, else should they be expected to pee? America mostly doesn’t do public restrooms, certainly not to the ubiquitous degree of civilized countries like Japan. The drivers have limited options; there won’t always be an open bathroom at the nearest gas station or convenience store, and many places obnoxiously require you to be a paying customer before they’ll let you use their bathroom.

    1. Robert Hahl

      It is also illegal to pee outside in many states, and it’s possible to be treated as a sex offender for the rest of your life.

    2. Pelham

      I hate to admit it, but you’ve got a point. Which, in a way, makes Amazon’s denial of the practice even more damning.

      1. Michael Ismoe

        Every fast food restaurant in America has a bathroom in it – maybe 3. I find it hard to believe that Amazon delivers in any area without fast food.

        1. Ed Miller

          Pee bottles: In many states fast food restaurants are still closed except for drive through.

          I have seen USPS personnel stop in school parking lots to go behind bushes, so they (and other drivers) probably take advantage of opportunities where they can hide the leak. Tennis players are known to hide in the bushes or behind walls when all the facilities are locked, as now.

          True in Oregon.

        2. wilroncanada

          Most of the fast food restaurants where I live (southern Vancouver Island, BC) are drive-through only. No luck if yurapeen. But they do have garbage bins into which you can deposit your evidence in the company’s container, no matter what it is, so that the poor schmuck working at the fast-food joint has to empty it at the end of the shift.

        3. drumlin woodchuckles

          Fast food restrooms are for fast food customers only, not passers-by or Amazon delivery drivers.

          Oh! But they can buy some take-out food to qualify as customers! Do they make enough money to do that? And can they spare the time from their time-budgeted driving rounds?

    3. Jason

      It’s fairly common among UPS drivers to “pee in a bottle” in the truck. I worked as a seasonal driver’s helper at Christmastime a few years ago and gained some firsthand knowledge of UPS culture, albeit short-term and limited in scope. The guy I worked with would buy an extra-large Dunkin Donuts coffee each morning and keep the empty cup to pee in. When the time to came relieve, he’d go in the cup in the back of the truck and then he’d dump it out in the shoulder of the road. I soon learned to do the same.

      Interestingly, I worked in the courier/messenger business and drove for a number of years myself but I never had to pee in a bottle, in fact I never even kept a bottle in whatever car or van that I happened to be driving. But I was doing commercial delivery* that wasn’t overly time-sensitive in an area with, for the most part, lots of bathroom options.

      *Commercial vs residential and how that plays into overall time sensitivity are important factors in the urine conversation. Remember also that while it’s hard to find a public restroom in NYC, commercial delivery drivers are accommodated in many buildings’ messenger centers or other areas, and they develop relationships with elevator operators and other building personnel who help them relieve themselves in the less visibly accessible buildings.

      1. Jason

        Adding, Amazon and other residential delivery drivers can’t do this, as they’re stuck in residential neighborhoods and even in situations where town is just a few minutes away, the actual practice of going into town, relieving oneself, and then getting back into your residential route wherever you left off is impossible, given time constraints.

    4. Amfortas the hippie

      that’s a great insight.
      i deal with this very problem in my career as wife’s jitney to the cancer palace during a pandemic.
      2 stores nearby with public restrooms…and i feel compelled to buy something for the privilege of having a place to pee.
      but I’m a country hippie, and look at the creek/greenbelt-like-area adjacent to the cancer parking lot, with all those trees…do i feel revolutionary?
      but, like Mr. Hahl said, peeing on a tree like a normal human is seen as sexual deviancy in this foolish country…so i generally do not feel such revolutionary urges and go buy a pack of gum i don’t really want.

      1. wilroncanada

        Likewise, Amfortas. And I’m of an age when a cup of coffee seems to have a direct route to the bladder–no stopping at stomach. Pe-er pressure is instantaneous.

    5. cnchal

      Amazon Best Sellers: Best Male Urinals

      Portable Urinal Bottle for Men and Elderly 1000ml Urine Jar Spill Proof, Plastic, Glow in The Dark Screw Cap – for Urine Collection and Travel Pee Bottle 4.5 out of 5 stars 151 $11.47

      Bezos should just provide this gratis instead of trying to make a buck for some positive PR. Incentivise the drivers by having his face plastered all over it. He could even throw in a few bungee cords so it can be hung on the grate behind the driver instead of sliding around on the floor.

  20. Howard Beale IV

    Per the Detroit Free Press:
    “Michigan now has the second highest COVID-19 case rate per capita in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday — the same day state health officials announced 4,454 new coronavirus cases, the biggest daily total this year.

    It comes as the Michigan Health and Hospital Association sounded alarms Wednesday that the state’s hospitals are filling up with COVID-19 patients — marking a 633% rise in hospitalizations since March 1 among people ages 30-39 and an 800% increase among those 40-49 years old.

    Health officials suspect the growing case rates are driven by more transmissible strains of the virus, including B.1.1.7, or the United Kingdom variant, as well as outbreaks tied to schools and among student athletes.”

    Michigan will open up vaccination to all in April.

      1. hunkerdown

        My neighborhood Mexican restaurant had four people seated today. I guess Biden made the virus go away (from news reporting, lol). Heck of a job, Fauci!

  21. Wmkohler

    Lambert, regarding the Libcom essay – for Marx, a change of location can add value, meaning that logistics is itself a form of production for him. He differentiates it by saying it’s a form of production that takes place within and for the circulation sphere. When he goes on to analyze merchants’ capital in Volume 3, he abstracts entirely from these productive functions that most merchants undertake in some form to analyze the merchant function “in its purity.” So, the whole framework in the Libcom essay regarding production vs. circulation does not really work the way they think it does. They are still talking about “destroy[ing] the value-form” in production, which you can do in any case, no need to wait for the truck to pull up to the factory loading dock.

      1. RMO

        I’m impressed they put a price tag on routine Earth-Mars and Mars-Earth trips already… without having an interplanetary spacecraft design set down. Not even a basic concept.

        Realistically having any human presence on Mars at even the scale of a scientific expedition or base (say well under 100 people) and the transit back and forth required for that demands a NERVA type propulsion system at minimum and probably something like a modernized Project Orion. I have serious doubts about any private group being allowed to get their hands on something like that.

        Back to seasteading, I notice the “Crypto Cruise Ship” project in Panama that got a fair amount of press last year and which had wonderfully ambitious, elaborate, libertarian, crypto-utopia goals is dead. The web site on it 404’s (sadly not error 482) and the ship itself has been sold for scrap. The mischievous part of me kind of hoped they would at least get as far as a few dozen people buying into it and trying to live on it. The chaos on board a ship occupied by libertarian-crytpo-nuts would be amazing.

        1. The Rev Kev

          And it would make a great comedy film that. Perhaps even a TV series. You would have a divide aboard that ship with one group saying that ranking should be determined by the wealth of the individuals while another group representing the crypto-nuts would be saying that they be at the top of the food chain by virtue of being smarty-pants. The Cruise ship grinds to a halt unfortunately when it wedges itself sideways in the Suez Canal after they fire the crew for being superfluous to the functioning of the ship. Then Coronavirus breaks out aboard after being introduced by those supplying Columbian marching Powder to the ship’s passengers.

  22. petal

    Did anyone watch the press conference today? I am seeing an article here and there touching on Biden’s mental and physical frailness.

    1. Screwball

      I watched the last 20-30 minutes. I don’t think he looked, sounded, nor acted well.

      But to be honest, I have thought that for quite some time. I remember your reports on him, which was quite some time ago. Thanks for that by the way.

        1. Wukchumni

          He seemed forgetful and vague, but not purposely.

          I got so used to the swagger & pseudo triumphalism of Trump the last 4 years, that Biden came off as a milquetoast, Caspar if i’m not mistaken.

          1. Alex Cox

            Given that whoever resides behind the curtain is also setting Harris up to fail disastrously (not a hard thing to do) I wonder what their plans are for us?

            Another war, with Transportation Secretary Mayo Pete leading the charge?

      1. neo-realist

        I’ll take a 3 Trillion dollar stimulus from a President (that isn’t Bernie) that can get it passed who is not all that well than an energetic right wing President who cuts the safety net and locks up progressive activists.

  23. lyman alpha blob

    …hearing Biden’s voice doesn’t make me want to throw things…

    Can’t say I agree on this one. Maybe it’s because they used him to stick the knife in Bernie’s back, which I will never get over, maybe it’s the congenital lying, or maybe it’s because he’s a doddering combed over mullet-headed embarrassment, but hearing his voice makes me want to jam a pair of rusty needle nosed pliers down my auditory canal and rip out my ear drums.

    Clinton is worse though.

  24. 430MLK

    The Ever Given and schools:

    All this shipwrecking and back-to-school talk has got me thinking of the late John Hartford, Mississippi/Cumberland/Ohio River boat captain and song-and-dance man. He had a great song I recall him playing at a show late in his career, “Miss Ferris,” about the wreck of the Mississippi River steamer the Golden Eagle, his 4th grade teacher’s political work to rescue its pilot house from the river for the school grounds, and the effect that work had on his young imagination. This is a version from 1980–not late-career, when the song would veer into things like how the Mississippi R. currents contributed to the wreck–but nice nonetheless.


    And I’ve always loved the sing-along chorus:
    “Oh me oh my how the time does fly
    Time and the river keep rolling on by

    Now I’m not a student and she’s not a teacher
    but we both still love the Mississippi River.”

  25. Tom Stone

    Remember those $2,000 checks?
    I received a letter from the Treasury department today telling me to expect a direct deposit within 7 days.
    Of $600.
    Not $2,000, not $1,400.
    And it’s not because I had too much income in 2019…

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      we got the whole shebang…$1400 for each of us 4…but in 2 deposits, and with no notice from fedgov…just banker aunt calling wife to alert us to the sudden influx.
      but we’ve dealt with SSI and medicaid, so are used to random incompetence in government.
      some algorithm in a 1980’s era mainframe somewhere prolly flagged you for some esoteric reason.
      with ssi, wife’s xmas bonus was regarded as evidence of fraud, and the underreporting of income…as if we got that bonus every month.
      took 6 months for the puters to catch up, after sending us stinkeye letters, and all, and remedy it…by which time, she’d get an end of school bonus, and it would start all over.
      expect things like this to become more and more common.
      the only smoothly running cash to the people program i can think of are things like the Discount Window.
      so, HT to someone here a year ago, we all need a Fed Account.

  26. rowlf

    Not quite national newsworthy?

    ATLANTA – A judge denied bond Thursday for the man who police said walked into a grocery store in Atlantic Station with six loaded guns, body armor, and a ski mask on Wednesday afternoon.

    “Due to the nature of the charges, he poses a danger to our community,” the judge said.

    Just hours before, Atlanta police said the 22-year old calmly walked into the Publix grocery store located inside the interior shopping district of Atlantic Station with six loaded guns, front and back body armor, and a ski mask.

    The arrest warrant indicated Marley had a long rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun in a gym bag, plus a revolver and three handguns. The arrest affidavit states Marley “placed all four guns that were fully loaded to include rounds in the chambers inside his left and right front jacket pockets…”

    It was a customer who likely prevented a mass shooting and is now being called a hero. Charles Russell saw Marley loading up his gear in the men’s bathroom and notified Publix’s management.

    Bond denied for man charged with carrying guns into Atlantic Station grocery store

    1. rowlf

      Semi-retraction, ABC national news just gave it a ten second run showing the hardware only.

  27. Mikel

    Looking at the Suez Canal news. And with its importance, people think colonizing Mars should be a priority? Space tourism?
    It seems some engineering feats are needed right here on earth. Not that it is USA territory, but still….

    Apparently, there is no app for moving a big ship that is stuck.

    1. Gc54

      Musk needs to send a cobbled together submarine to “sink” Ever Green with an 8 kiloton nuclear torpedo. Crater would ensure no future maritime bolus at that point. And he could call the hapless ship captain a pedo.

  28. marym

    A 53% majority of Missouri voters approved the Medicaid expansion, but Republican legislators are blocking it.

    Rural Republicans pushed back on Democrats’ arguments that voters had approved an expansion, saying voters could not require the state to spend money…

    Moberly Rep. Ed Lewis said despite that 53% of those who cast ballots in favor of expansion, the number did not amount to a majority of Missouri’s eligible voters or population.

    “Rural Missouri said no,” said Rep. Sara Walsh, of Ashland. “I don’t believe it is the will of the people to bankrupt our state.”

    For some definition of “the people.”


  29. Greg

    I’m trying to imagine whether Terry Pratchett, may his name be a blessing, could have introduced sheepskin NFTs into Ankh-Morpork

    CMOT Dibbler Esq invites early investors to acquire their share in the perpetual-clacks sheepskin before it runs out. The sheepskin has been engraved by a blind monk with an image impossible to describe but of great advantage to the viewer (no-one to know what it is).

    This one of a kind opportunity will allow any interested party to receive a clacks comprising the astounding image inscribed on this limited edition skin at any time, for only the cost of a simple clacks (handling fee applies).

    You can be the owner of the clacks of this high demand skinned image for perpetuity! Non-refundable bids to be forwarded to CMOT Dibbler Esq.

    1. RMO

      I imagine that Pratchett would have the clacks system becoming overwhelmed and totally consumed by NFT data leading to a breakdown in communications that would allow a world threatening problem to emerge and start wreaking havoc because no action could be organized to fight it. Perhaps along with the economy becoming so dedicated to the Discworld NFT analog that the rest of the economy was starved resulting in shortages of food, clothing and shelter.

  30. VietnamVet

    Appointing VP Kamala Harris to solve an unsolvable problem goes to the heart of the contradictions inherent in the Western Empire. Its reigning ideology is the “Free movement of people, goods, services and capital”. This is the exact opposite of strong borders and working governments. As a result, western nations devolved into incompetence. Life expectancy is declining in the USA and UK. American and European nations are unable to close their borders to protect their populations from the coronavirus variants or institute basic public health procedures.

    Decades ago John F Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress to keep people safe and productive at home in Latin America collapsed. Only functional borders can keep the war/economy/climate/plague refugees from overrunning the EU and USA/Canada.

    Strong borders and Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) are all that keep the Apocalypse at bay. Yet, the Obama/Biden crew do not acknowledge this. They are paid millions in speaking fees by global businesses/profiteers not to get it. The occupation of Syria is reinforced. We are one mistake away from “The Day After”. This is the real horror.

  31. flora

    Domestic terrierism bill has been entered in the US Senate, S.963. Sponsored by Durbin (D).

    “S.963 – A bill to authorize dedicated domestic terrorism offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to analyze and monitor domestic terrorist activity and require the Federal Government to take steps to prevent domestic terrorism, and for other purposes.117th Congress (2021-2022)


    Pre-crime, eh? The Dems have me rooting for any GOP Senator who opposes this bill. (I remember it was the GOP Tea Party reps in the House who accidentally saved SS from big cuts. )

    1. flora

      At least the pols aren’t apparently buying Zuckerberg’s request for more power.

      Lawmakers rebuff Facebook’s proposed internet rules

      Democrats and Republicans blasted Zuckerberg’s plan to revamp Section 230 as self-serving.

      In written testimony for a House hearing on Thursday, Zuckerberg proposed that Congress require online platforms to have a system to identify and take down certain illegal content, and revoke key liability protections if they don’t.


      1. The Rev Kev

        Zuckerberg is a very unifying person from what I read. Both the Democrats and Republicans unify together in their dislike and contempt of him. Glenn Greewald has said the same.

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