2:00PM Water Cooler 3/29/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

I thought I would do Birds of the Atlantic Flyway, and even though it’s very early for them to have returned, I love hummingbirds, so here one is. I love the train whistle in the background!

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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.

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:

No longer an upward blip, but a very ugly trend. Disappointing in the extreme. All I can say is that if you have a system that has worked for you, keep at it. And avoid closed, crowded, close-contact settings, even so-called outdoor dining. Don’t share air!

“Why a 4th COVID-19 wave may look different than previous surges” [ABC]. “With 71.8% of Americans 65 and older inoculated with at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, a fourth wave could look different than those the country has previously experienced, characterized by fewer hospitalizations and deaths, according to experts… Although it is still unclear what may be behind these rising metrics, experts suggest it may be related to the emergence of more contagious coronavirus strains. ‘Increasingly, states are seeing a growing proportion of their COVID-19 cases attributed to variants,’ Walensky said on Monday. Although the U.S. is still sequencing very few COVID-19 cases, over 8,300 cases of the variant first found in the U.K., B.1.1.7, has now been discovered in all 50 states. Health experts in Michigan have also correlated the state’s rising metrics to the variants. According to the CDC, Michigan currently ranks second in the nation for the most reported cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, with under 1,000 confirmed cases. Even with cases increasing, dozens of states have moved to reopen, with governors relaxing restrictions on many businesses like restaurants and gyms.”

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.

Since New York is doing so much worse, here’s a breakdown of the entire Northeast:

Andy, good job, but it looks like the entire Acela + BOS/JFK/EWR/PHL Corridor has problems (and not Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont).


Variants, school reopenings, The two Spring Break peaks are the week of March 7th and March 14th.

Test positivity:

“Why a 4th COVID-19 wave may look different than previous surges” [ABC]. I speculated that testing had gone down. It has: “Although nationwide test positivity continues to tick up, testing is declining. The average number of tests has decreased by 12.2% nationally, while the average test positivity increased from 4.2% to 4.8%.”


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. I helpfully added a black line to show the new normal 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

Biden Administration

“GOP senators buck MAGA on Biden’s health” [Politico]. Not all agree, but: “‘In the two meetings I was in with the president, he was as sharp as a tack,’ Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) [said]. ‘I visited with him in the Oval Office, and he seemed well-prepared and well-briefed for the meeting,’ Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), who joined Capito at a February meeting with Biden on Covid relief, told me — a sentiment that was echoed by GOP Sens. Thom Tillis, Rob Portman and others.”

“Biden to Reveal Major Spending Plan With Political Battle Ahead” [Bloomberg]. “President Joe Biden this week will reveal the scope and ambition of his plans to expand and reorient the U.S. government, setting the stage for a bitter fight on Capitol Hill that could define his presidency. Biden will unveil the framework for a major infrastructure-and-jobs program on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, and later in the week offer the first glimpse of his 2022 budget — which promises to redirect federal funds to areas such as climate change and health care. The announcements will offer the first concrete details of Biden’s plan to overhaul federal spending, in a sales pitch without the immediacy of the pandemic emergency that he had for his first package. To succeed, Biden will have to convince the public and lawmakers on a multi-trillion dollar investment in infrastructure and social safety nets, along with a revamp of the tax code to help address funding needs and widening inequality.” • Worth noting this is, again, far more ambitious than anything Obama ever attempted (including passing a Republican health care plan).

“POLITICO Playbook: Chuck Schumer’s 51-vote gambit” [Politico]. “But what if, buried in the rules of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, there were a magical parliamentary trick that Democrats could use to unlock a third reconciliation bill this year? Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER believes he has found it. It’s called Section 304, and you’re about to start hearing about it a lot. This section of the law that governs the congressional budgeting process essentially says that Congress may revisit and amend an already-passed budget resolution, like the one used to pass the Covid relief package. Or at least that’s what Schumer aides are arguing. “Recently, top policy aides to Majority Leader Schumer made the argument to the Senate Parliamentarian that Section 304 allows for at least one additional set of reconciliation bills related to revenue, spending and the public debt to be considered for Fiscal Year 2021,” a Schumer aide previewing the strategy told us Sunday night. … If he goes forward with the plan, the Senate parliamentarian will once again be the most powerful person in Washington, just as she was over the debate about whether the minimum wage was eligible for inclusion in the last reconciliation bill.” • This time, can we just fire the Parliamentarian if she doesn’t do the right thing? Who’s working for whom, here?

“Biden’s plan for reelection freezes Democratic field” [The Hill]. “President Biden’s announcement that he plans to run for reelection has frozen the field of potential Democratic contenders for 2024 and could mean a late start to the primary process if he changes his mind. Biden, in announcing his plans this week, hedged by referring to ‘fate’ potentially intervening in his expectation to run. But even if his plans change, Biden has put the future on hold for the next generation of Democrats, many of whom are decades younger and lost to him in the 2020 primaries. That includes Vice President Harris, who would be in a prime spot to carry Biden’s mantle if he decided to step aside.” • I don’t think that’s true of Harris–

President-in-Waiting Harris:

Democrats en Deshabille

AOC interview with the DSA. Holy moley:

Sounds like a job for Reddit, in fact…

Lee Carter:

Republican Funhouse

“Boehner throws support behind Republican who backed Trump impeachment” [The Hill]. “Former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is throwing his support behind an Ohio Republican who voted to impeach former President Trump, according to an invitation obtained by Politico. ‘Former House Speaker John Boehner is slated to be the special guest at a Monday afternoon Zoom fundraiser for Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio),’ the invitation for the fundraiser reportedly reads. Boehner’s backing of Gonzalez puts him in direct confrontation with Trump, who is supporting Gonzalez’s primary opponent, Max Miller. Trump recently hosted a fundraiser for Miller at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Trump has vowed to back primary opponents of any Republican who voted to impeach him. Gonzalez was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in the House. A number of Trump’s critics in the GOP are already facing primary challenges.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Three Factions of the American Left” [Ross Barkan]. I reserve “the left” for entities that put the working class first, so I disagree with Barkan’s terminology. But I like his “division of labor,” as it were. “When we speak of the ‘left’ in America, ultimately, we speak of the wings of the Democratic Party…. [(1)] Today there is no writing about the socialist left in America without writing about DSA. If I were writing this essay before 2016, there would be no need to address the socialists at all. They were too small and inconsequential to be considered a faction of the party, with less than 10,000 members nationwide. That changed with Bernie Sanders’ first presidential campaign in 2016… [(2)] If the liberal left can be understood as more committed to amelioration than a socialistic reimagining of the economy—for many Americans, this is fine and dandy!—it can also be explained as a class cohort, a set of attitudes, and a certain commitment to identity above class…. Permit me to coin a term here at Political Currents: [(3) The alphabet left]. There has never been a tidy way to describe the large, well-funded nonprofits and non-governmental organizations that do politics in America. Many of them are based out of large Democratic states like New York. Many are known by their acronyms—hence my use of the word alphabet. Yet the alphabet left is fundamentally different than the socialist left because it still relies on funding from politicians and Democratic donors to survive.” • Well worth a read. I like very much that Barkan includes the NGOs in his description of the Party; I’ve been wrestling with that for some time. (I have not written my master work on the Democrat Party as an institution, but I think about it all the time.)

“Helicoptering” [Water Quality Monitoring & Research]. “There was a recent New Yorker article that really irritated me. Full disclosure, reporters flying in and out of Iowa twice and writing long pieces about the state tend to make me cranky in general. But this one was focused on “rural white grievance”, misinformation and the changes we have been seeing in state politics, and of course it had a strong agricultural focus… It is not a coincidence these helicopter reporters often speak to older farmers. The young ones are hard to find, what with them having off-farm jobs and there being so few of them. What is the real story here? Less than 4% of Iowans are farmers, even using USDA’s overly generous definitions. What this means is that a minority of farms and farmers drives Iowa’s agricultural policy and economy. Young farmers are struggling to make it in a sector where land has become very expensive and hard to come by because of ongoing subsidies that most benefit the silent generation, boomers and Gen Xers. Iowa’s agriculture is eating itself, on our dime.” • Identity is not enough. Who knew? Here is that New Yorker article–

“The Power of Political Disinformation in Iowa” [The New Yorker]. “A central lesson is that facts matter little when the opposition chooses demonization over debate and pivotal groups of voters stick to what they think they know.” • Yeah, sheesh, look at RussiaGate and what a debacle that was. Remember when people were naming their dogs after Mueller?

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Dallas Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ general business activity index for manufacturing in Texas increased 11.7 points from the previous month to +28.9 in March of 2021, the highest since August of 2018. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, surged 28.1 points to 48, the highest on record…. Meanwhile, labour market measures indicated robust growth in employment.”

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Real Estate: “Old golf courses and office buildings are turning into retail warehouses as demand for industrial space keeps climbing” [CNBC]. “The next big industrial warehouse might find itself on top of a former golf course. Or in an empty office building. Maybe in a vacated shopping mall. The Covid pandemic has accelerated e-commerce sales globally, with digital sales driving a larger portion of retailers’ and grocers’ businesses. That has sparked a race for warehouse space and caused companies to seek creative commercial real estate alternatives as they strive to fulfill online orders and avoid delivery delays. Demand for industrial, big-box facilities — warehouses or distribution centers of 200,000 square feet or more — hit a record in North America last year, according to commercial real estate services firm CBRE. It was the strongest performer among all industrial real estate.”

Commodities: “China rare earths extend surge on worries over Myanmar supply, inspection threat” [Reuters]. “About half of China’s feedstock of heavy rare earths comes from Myanmar, and the coup unleashed fears of a supply cutoff even though the mines are in northern areas controlled by autonomous militias that face no clear threat.” • Well, well.

Shipping: “Giant container ship that blocked Suez Canal is finally free” [Associated Press]. “Salvage teams on Monday freed a colossal container ship stuck for nearly a week in the Suez Canal, ending a crisis that had clogged one of the world’s most vital waterways and halted billions of dollars a day in maritime commerce. Helped by the tides, a flotilla of tugboats wrenched the bulbous bow of the skyscraper-sized Ever Given from the canal’s sandy bank, where it had been firmly lodged since March 23…. The giant vessel headed toward the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south ends of the canal, where it will be inspected, said Evergreen Marine Corp., a Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship. The Suez Canal Authority also will inspect the area where the vessel ran aground, to see if it is safe for shipping to resume through the waterway and clear a traffic jam of ships waiting to enter.” • Bulbous-prow McBulbous-prowFace on the move! Here’s a video:

Shipping: “Global shipping was in chaos even before the Suez blockage. Shortages and higher prices loom” [CNN]. “‘One year ago, global trade slowed to a crawl as the Covid-19 pandemic first hit China and then spread worldwide,’ Gene Seroka, executive director at the Port of Los Angeles, said in a presentation this month. ‘Today, we are in the seventh month of a historic import surge, driven by unprecedented demand by American consumers,’ he added.

US seaborne imports were nearly 30% higher in February than the same month last year and 20% up on February 2019, according to S&P Global Panjiva.

The import surge in the United States and elsewhere has led to a worldwide container shortage. Everything from cars and machinery to apparel and other consumer staples are shipped in these metal boxes. The factories that make them are mostly in China and many of them closed early in the pandemic, slowing down the rate at which new capacity was coming on stream.”

Supply Chain: “Fridges, microwaves fall prey to global chip shortage” [Reuters]. • What a shame, the Internet of Things is feeling pressure.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 41 Fear (previous close: 52 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 54 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 29 at 12:28pm. One year ago, just after the end of the Before Times: 23 (Extreme Fear).

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 188. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so high is better.)

Health Care

I do not think we need to see the pilot run screaming from the cockpit at this time:

“Hold on” by sending kids to schools for which your agency issued bad guidance? Yves was right about Walensky. Get a grip. (What really frosts me is that I can’t recall a single word of thanks from any political person to the American people for “holding on” as well as we have, in the face of a complete collapse of government at all levels — with the single exception of Operation Warp Speed, amazingly enough, and vaccination generally — and repeating bungling, both technically and in messaging, by public health “experts.” The people who saved the country were on the front lines in the workplace, both in health care and more broadly, and who cares about them? Remember when “essential workers’ were important?)

Our Famously Free Press


Class Warfare

“As the Hard-Fought Amazon Union Vote Ends, a Movement Begins” [WIred]. The article begins with a count of supportive celebrities, and then a count of the generated news stories. Bad sign. “Today marks the end of the voting phase: The warehouse’s 5,800 eligible workers have until the end of the day to get their ballots into the hands of National Labor Relations Board officials. Then all eyes turn to the board’s Birmingham office, where, starting tomorrow, NLRB staffers will begin tallying up the votes. For the union to win, a majority of those votes need to be ‘yes.’ Fair warning: You’re not going to get the result overnight. If even half of the eligible workers return ballots, it could take days for the board to finish its tally. NLRB representatives will conduct a hand count in front of observers from both sides, first extracting each ballot from its signed yellow envelope. As officials read off the names, both sides can (and probably will) issue challenges, either on procedural grounds—things like unreadable signatures—or by disputing a worker’s eligibility to vote. Challenged ballots will be set aside, and the remaining anonymized ballots will be placed inside a ballot box for a public count. If, after the count, the number of challenged ballots is enough to affect the outcome, it means more waiting. The regional board will hold a hearing to rule on the disputed votes, potentially adding weeks to the process. Things could get gnarlier from there.”

“Historic Amazon Union Vote Count Begins This Week For Alabama Warehouse” [NPR]. “Not only has the vote prompted hundreds of inquiries to labor unions from workers at other Amazon warehouses, but workers at southern auto plants and other facilities are watching, too. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is looking to represent Amazon workers in Bessemer, has called this union push ‘the most important labor struggle in more than half a century.’… Workers at Bessemer reached out to the union last summer, a few months after the warehouse first opened. They described grueling productivity quotas, wanting more say in how people at Amazon work, get disciplined or get fired. ‘It could be an awesome place to work … but there are some things that need to be repaired. And so I chose and others chose to stand up and do something about it,’ said Jennifer Bates, one of the pro-union workers at the warehouse.”

“Milestone Amazon union vote nears end, but the battle may just be beginning” [CNN]. “The workers at Bessemer are just a fraction of the company’s hundreds of thousands of US-based warehouse employees. While the pandemic has been a boon for Amazon’s business, safety precautions related to the virus, as well as general workplace conditions, have also been a factor behind a more general employee uprising at its facilities. In recent months many of the same frustrations that Bessemer workers are hoping to improve with the help of union representation have similarly been expressed by Amazon workers at other facilities. The issues involved include adequate break time, better procedures for filing and receiving responses to grievances, higher wages as well as protection against Amazon wrongfully applying policies like social distancing to discipline workers. More than 1,000 warehouse workers around the country have contacted the RWDSU union, according to [Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union], as well as others outside the United States…. Tyler Hamilton, a warehouse worker who has worked at Amazon’s Shakopee, Minnesota, facility since 2017, called the Bessemer workers ‘ahead of the pack. ‘Normally it takes time for people to figure out the system — how Amazon works, and to get pissed with it,’ he said, adding that the Bessemer workers pushing to unionize have changed the conversations amongst workers at his facility. ‘Ultimately I think it is inevitable that Amazon warehouses — maybe not all of them, but I’m sure a good number of them — will become unionized.” • Let’s hope so.

“Deliveroo riders can earn as little as £2 an hour during shifts, as boss stands to make £500m” [Bureau of Investigative Reporting]. “As Deliveroo prepares for a multibillion-pound stock market flotation that could net its chief executive as much as £500m, an investigation by the Bureau has found that some of the riders upon whose backs the business was built have been receiving less than the minimum wage per shift. Our analysis of thousands of invoices from more than 300 riders over the past year shows that one in three made on average less than £8.72, the national minimum wage for those over 25, for their overall time per session in the app. Some earned even less: a cyclist in Yorkshire was logged in for 180 hours and was paid the equivalent of £2 per hour. This is perfectly legal because riders are treated by Deliveroo as being self-employed.”

News of the Wired

“Ban Garamond? C’mon, People, It’s Not Exactly Comic Sans” [Bloomberg]. “The D.C. Circuit is reportedly worried that use of a narrow font like Garamond allows lawyers to squeeze extra text into mandated page limits But the font has other virtues. Experts praise Garamond as an ‘elegant typeface’ with ‘high legibility” — ideal for ‘reading material that includes continuous text.'” • Correct. I expected to discover that Garamond was being cancelled because it’s not woke. Phew!

“Sequoyah and the Almost-Forgotten History of Cherokee Numerals” [MIT Press Reader (nvl)]. “Unlike the Hindu-Arabic, or Western numerals 0123456789, Sequoyah’s numerals had principally a ciphered-additive structure. That is, instead of place value and a zero, there are separate signs for each decade and unit, which combine together, so that 67 would be the sign for 60 followed by 7, rather than 6 followed by 7 as in Western numerals. Beyond 100, the system became multiplicative-additive — instead of developing nine new signs for 100 through 900, Sequoyah invented only one, which combined with the signs for 1 through 19.” • I selected this passage simply to describe the system, but this is really a history of numerical notations, and fascinating: “Over 5,500 years of written history, there are around 100 numerical notations well-attested enough that I could describe them in my previous work, including the Cherokee case. Each of the basic structures was invented multiple times independently of one another. While, in broad strokes, the history of numerical notation converged on one overwhelmingly popular system, the Western numerals, by around 1700 or so, numerical innovation never ceased. What changed was the likelihood that a community would adopt a numerical system widely, because of the overwhelming frequency-dependent and prestige biases in favor of Western numerals.”

“Sex, Drugs, and Antiquity” [Quillette]. The conclusion: “Advocates for a liberal, open society are becoming restless and active in favor of a growing movement for the freedom of consciousness, which is key to all the other freedoms. We’ve come of legal age to enter and take control of our own minds. It’s time for the governments of the world to listen to us, and pay attention to people like Muraresku and Siegel as they make sober arguments for the right to intoxication.” • Lots of interesting historical nuggets before this (though I’m also reminded of The Bacchae, by Euripedes, discussed by Melvyn Bragg and his friends in a recent and extremely creepy podcast.

“Military and spy agencies accused of stiff-arming investigators on UFO sightings” [Politico]. “Some military and spy agencies are blocking or simply ignoring the effort to catalog what they have on ‘unidentified aerial phenomenon,’ according to multiple current and former government officials. And as a result, the Biden administration will likely delay a much-anticipated public report to Congress. The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the director of national intelligence to work with the Defense Department to provide a public accounting by June 25 on unexplained sightings of advanced aircraft and drones that have been reported by military personnel or captured by radar, satellites and other surveillance systems…. The good news,” [said Christopher Mellon, a former Pentagon intelligence official] added, ‘is the leadership on both sides appear to be taking this issue seriously and are acting in good faith.'”

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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 (TH):

TH writes: “A Leucadendron bloom in our front yard. The topic of bloom colors for this plant came up on a FaceBook interaction with a friend. I had to run out front to confirm for myself that the blooms on ours are indeed yellow, even though I see them every year.”

Readers, I’m a little short of Spring plants, having put the remainder of my winter plants into inventory.

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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. Synoia

    Of the last 15 White House pictures published, all 15 include Kamala Harris or her movements.

    Too much information about Kamela’s “Movements.” I’m fully aware that S… flows downhill.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      Whew, I’d rather not think about that…

      I was going to point out I’ve noticed a trend of a lot of pictures of Biden also have Kamala in the frame, even if she’s not the intended subject. Sometimes she’s out of focus, so she’s almost subliminal. It’s a very weird thing and it could be just my imagination, but I don’t remember past VPs popping up so frequently in pictures of the President.

      1. Michael Ismoe

        They are probably trying to get photographic evidence of her putting something in Joe’s Coke.

    2. Geo

      So true. A daily briefing on her movements would be just as informative as their press conferences. :)

    3. Glenn

      Harris is a series of adjectives in shape shifting human form, nothing more, nothing less.
      If she becomes president, this country will become the laughing stock of the world.

    4. hemeantwell

      Have you noticed how frequently the Biden administration is referred to as the Biden-Harris administration? The contrast with Trump-Pence and Obama-Biden frequencies in Google trends is strong. Not sure how to easily access, but Clinton-Gore and Bush-Quayle would be negligible as defining administrations, rather than a campaign ticket. Eisenhower-Nixon?

      Legitimacy through hyphenization.

  2. allan

    He’s toast biscotti:

    Joseph Spector @GannettAlbany

    .@GloriaAllred to hold press conference with New York woman this afternoon “who was shocked when the Governor suddenly grabbed her face and kissed her in front of her home.”

    There’s a photo to share too, Allred said.

  3. IM Doc

    With regard to the CDC chief almost breaking down in tears.

    I am very likely what would be called old school. I embrace that.

    I have been rather perturbed all year by the physicians and nurses and health care workers going on the national news and breaking down in tears. That is of course in between production of TikTok videos, many of them done in crowded hospital areas – WITH PATIENTS WAITING FOR CARE WATCHING THE FESTIVITIES.

    The very first rule of public health is that fear and panic are the primary enemies. I learned that as a very young physician in the middle of the AIDS crisis – we were allowed to grieve and weep all we wanted in private but to do that in front of patients was unthinkable. It is an age old trait in excellent physicians that is called equanimity. You must be seen as the captain of the ship – no matter how bad things look, patients and their families are looking at you to keep your cool and be strong. The founder of my own specialty, Sir William Osler, penned a very famous graduation speech about this very subject – Aequanmitas – if anyone is interested. I may be forced to send a copy to the CDC after today’s performance.

    My now long-deceased Chairman of Medicine must absolutely be doing RPMs in his grave – despite the heroic actions by many, it has been a very poor showing by medicine all year for those to vent for all to see. Thankfully, none of my residency colleagues and certainly none of my years of students have been involved in this display.

    Again – I quote the Jedi Master Yoda –

    Fear leads to suffering, suffering leads to anger, and anger leads to death.
    Fear is the first step on the way to the dark side of the Force.

    1. Geo

      Sadly, stoic professionalism is worthless when trying to communicate to the masses. Our society doesn’t respond to information and doesn’t trust professionals (even Saint Cuomo dismissed them). We respond to “authenticity” (as manufactured as that usually is) and emotive displays are what get people to listen. The more hysterical, the more clicks.

      Rightwing media has known this for decades with their shock jocks shilling outrage to Fox News picking up their lead and crafting a network dedicated to victimhood and anger. On the Left now guys like Cenk and Dore (and many more) yell into the camera with hysterical outage about everything from major electoral issues to some vapid Twitter spat. On MSNBC Maddow and others feigned manic waves of giddy joy with each Russiagate “leak” and wept tears of sorrow or pious offense with every Trump tweet. This is what keeps audiences glued to them unlike sober news journalists who just report the news.

      On sites like GoFundMe people play the sympathy lottery and have to sell their despair to the masses. It doesn’t pay to be stoic.

      In a social media and tv saturated society “authenticity” is a substitute for “authority”. Authenticity is perceived to be “not polished.” People said Trump “said it like it is”, that Sanders “is real”. And, in a society where actual authority as a category has proven itself to be untrustworthy and even malicious, individuals in positions of authority can no longer use that position to command respect, they must be authentic to be trusted. It’s why marketers have turned to youtubers and influencers instead of celebrities to sell products. Influencers are “real” to their “followers” whereas celebs just have fans and are seen as fake. How anyone can look at a Kardashian and see authenticity baffles me but they are the billionaire influencers, not me. :)

      I would love to live in a world where this wasn’t the case. It feels like it wasn’t ling ago that it was different and people could be professional and be trusted. Browsing social media feeds is a steady stream of photos and videos that look like sociopaths practicing how to convincingly emote in exaggerated and false ways. TV and Youtube news is like watching support groups talk about their trauma.

      All this said, whether actually authentic or manufactured authentic, I understand why these medical professionals are being overly emotional. It’s how communication works now. It’s primal, childish even. Need something? Cry & yell. Just asking with a nice pretty-please won’t cut through the noise.

      1. The Rev Kev

        ‘It feels like it wasn’t long ago that it was different and people could be professional and be trusted.’

        Yeah, people like Walter Cronkite who built a following based on trust rather than performance from what I have seen.

      2. LawnDart


        “And, in a society where actual authority as a category has proven itself to be untrustworthy and even malicious, individuals in positions of authority can no longer use that position to command respect…”

        Most excellent observations, but while our misleaders cannot command respect, let’s not forget the force they can muster…

        “Those who make peaceful protest impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” JFK

        Just asking with a nice pretty please won’t cut through the noise.

      3. Basil Pesto

        It feels like it wasn’t long ago that it was different

        Wasn’t there a Major Motion Picture in *checks notes* 1976 about just such a histrionic television personality?

        (I know that wasn’t the ~point~ of the movie, but I doubt it was a wholly a prediction instead of a reflection of certain tendencies of the time coming to the fore. Maybe I’m wrong though, before my time.)

    2. shinola

      Thanks Doc for bringing this up. I hadn’t really paid much attention to who/what was in the back round in those vid’s, but now that I think about it…

      I’m not a Dr. but I agree with you & I’m glad there are still some “old schoolers” around.

    3. TMR

      Much appreciated Doc – I think one thing that all of us can do in the face of all this uncertainty is to take a deep breath, keep our cool, and be patient with the process.

    4. Riverboat Grambler

      Ready good comment, but if I may quibble on behalf on the green puppet: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering .”

      1. IM Doc

        You are correct about the comment –
        I should really learn not to do things on the fly – I am getting too old.

    5. flora

      One of the big charges against allowing women into non-traditional fields (for women) like medicine or law used to be, and still is in many people’s minds, that women are too emotional to handle the stresses of the job. Her performance didn’t help young women still facing the “too emotional to handle the stress of high pressure jobs” barrier. ugh. Pull yourself together, lady, and get on with it. Getting emotional plays into the worst stereotype of the “over emotional female.” It certainly doesn’t raise my confidence in her ability to handle a difficult situation, and I’d say this about a male doctor who displayed tears instead of calm determination say. Well, I guess this is old school

    6. The Rev Kev

      One day, when this is all over, you should really write a book about your experiences with the present pandemic. Something that would prove useful for people and medical staff for when the next pandemic rolls around. Not just the medical stuff but how people reacted, how the different governmental authorities tried to cope, how things got really fouled up and all the lessons learned. Maybe provide future generations an insight into why people of this generation did the things that they did. It could be a tell-all with all your thoughts and comparisons to previous times and doctors though you might have to wait until you are retired before releasing it to avoid professional blowback form admin types. You write well and I am sure that it would be a very good account worth the read. Call it “Memories of an IM Doc.”

    7. Cuibono

      “I must not fear.
      Fear is the mind-killer.
      Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
      I will face my fear.
      I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
      And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
      Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”


    1. Geo

      Thanks for the warning. That could have been fatal if my cynical soul hadn’t been braced for impact.

      Truly adorable.

  4. Lee

    Heard in passing on NPR that rates of serious cases of Covid-19 among 40-year-olds and younger are rising. This was coupled with the advice that we better start vaccinating children ASAP. As any parent or other adult who has much to do with munchkins knows, the little dears are walking petri dishes.

  5. aleph_0

    I was reading the Ross Barkan piece, and I love the alphabet left framing. I’m glad to see this starting to be talked about in more places. The name is also really perceptive on several levels.

    But then, I saw:

    “The DNC didn’t rig it against Sanders—Biden cleaned his clock on Super Tuesday, and that was that.”

    This sucks so bad. Obama picking up the phone got completely memory holed, and it’s leading to a bunch of bad analysis and conclusions. I remember seeing that not only did most of the D primary voters supported Medicare for All, and most of them thought Joe Biden was for it. Again, DNC talking points designed to cloud the waters. I agree that the moderates aren’t woke, but pretending they’re fiscally conservative or centrist (as compared to DC) is malpractice.

    1. Watt4Bob

      The BIG story of the 2020 election is not Trump’s ‘victory‘, it’s the democrat’s frustrating the will of the American people, by conspiring to sideline Bernie Sanders.

      The ‘deplorables‘ responsible for Trump’s election all have a large ‘D’ after their names.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        No . . . its the ‘despicables’ who have the large ‘D’ after their names.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      I listened to some pundit today saying Biden led pretty much the whole way in the primary. In a normal year it would have been Biden dropping out due to complete lack of support prior to March 3.

      You would think that 3 of the 4 candidates ahead of Biden dropping out – 2 right before Super Tuesday, and the one who could siphon votes from Sanders immediately after – would be considered unprecedented. Instead the media pretends it never happened.

    3. Michael Fiorillo

      I have a strong dislike for Barack Obama and his entire cohort, and am happy to attack him for his many (actual) crimes, but the Left looks really naive in describing elementary political behavior – striking alliances and deals in order to obtain/retain power – as nefarious. Obama successfully using his political juice, and Uncle Joe promising consideration to Buttigieg and Klobuchar (but not Warren) if they dropped out, is the sort of thing I wish Bernie could have pulled off. It was a bummer, and it surprised me at the time (though it probably shouldn’t have) but it was Politik 101. Remember how the Republicans failing to do likewise in 2016 helped give us Trump?

      Politics and the world of power is serious s*^#, and often plays out in profane and fallen ways; navigating “the long march through the institutions” while maintaining your humanity and integrity (and humor) is also a sign of being serious. Moralizing over the transactional nature of politics and power is not.

  6. Wukchumni

    Quality is jab 1

    Got my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine @ a Walgreens in Visalia on a walk-in, and the pharmacist told me that would never fly @ a Walgreens in SD/LA/SF without an appointment. The person behind me in line was from SF, having driven 4 hours this morning for their chance…

  7. boydownthelane

    Meet Stretch, a prototype of [Boston Dynami s’] new robot designed to automate box moving tasks in warehouses and distribution centers. Stretch’s mobile base allows it to go to where repetitive box lifting is required – unloading trucks, building pallets of boxes and order building. Stretch makes warehouse operations more efficient and safer for workers.

    Stretch’s technology builds upon our decades of advancements in robotics to create a flexible, easily integrated solution that can be deployed in any warehouse. Learn more at https://www.bostondynamics.com/stretch​.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYUuWWnfRsk&t=111s [2:00]
    [Ed.: And it doesn’t have to stop to pee in a bottle…]

    1. Josef K

      Yes, adding ever more moving machines to a warehouse/workplace that are heavy and powerful enough to maim and kill workers–machines outside their control–will certainly improve workplace safety.
      Once AI is introduced, with each mishap they’ll learn to maim and kill ever more efficiently.

  8. Mark Gisleson

    re: Banning Garamond

    Not a lawyer but I think they’re allowed to use 6-point type in legal documents (or maybe 8-point type but neither is readable unless your reading vision corrects to 20/20). It’s not called “fine print” for nothing.

    Condensed/narrow typefaces are all but illegible at smaller sizes (and it takes a very good printer to reproduce — old school fax machine footnotes usually looked like smudges even with a good magnifying glass). For small print sizes, you really should use sans serif fonts. Helvetica is quite legible at 8 point and reproduces well. In fact it’s easier to read Comic Sans in fine print sizes than it is almost any serif font thanks to more space between the characters (and condensed/narrow fonts tighten that spacing even more).

    This is something government gets wrong almost all the time. During my years in Wisconsin (one govt-imposed tragedy after another) I lived in a town where the cheapskates running the city had to replace all the old street name signs and decided to go with a smaller condensed font to save space and cost. The new signs were unreadable at road speeds even in daylight.

    1. John Anthony La Pietra

      “First they came for Arial Narrow. . . .”

      NOTE: Courts often specify type sizes for court filings, with 12-point being one choice IIRC. Here in Michigan, there was a big battle over whether a statutory requirement for 14-point type at the top of a ballot petition meant any 14-point font would do, or whether the actual letters had to be 14/72″ high.

      See: Stand Up for Democracy v Sec’y of State

  9. allan

    O.J.: If I Did It™

    Jan. 6 participant: I Was There, Washington D.C., January 6, 2021

    Do the Darwin Awards have a criminal legal defense category?

    Capitol riot suspect wore ‘I Was There’ shirt when arrested [AP]

    … Like many of the more than 300 people facing federal charges in connection with the siege, Miller thoroughly documented and commented on his actions that day in a flurry of social media posts.

    After Miller posted a selfie showing himself inside the Capitol building, another Facebook user wrote, “bro you got in?! Nice!” Miller replied, “just wanted to incriminate myself a little lol,” prosecutors said. …

    1. Michael Ismoe

      “the siege”? I remember a crowd of Democratic lawmakers cowering in a basement room but I thought that was their natural habitat.

      1. marym

        The hiding response of the congresspersons while the event inside the Capitol was in progress was bipartisan.

        There were probably assorted degrees of hostility and intention among the 300 already charged and others in the crowd that day, but as far as this particular guy:

        “By bringing tactical gear, ropes, and potentially, by his own admission, a gun to the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Miller showed that he was not just caught up in the frenzy of the crowd but instead came to D.C. with the intention of disrupting the democratic process of counting and certifying Electoral College votes,” prosecutors wrote.

        Kinda siege-y on his part.

  10. Left in Wisconsin

    Question for the bird vocalization community:
    Last week when I was walking near dusk on the shore path of the resort lake near where I now live (I’m no longer in woke-ville) I saw and heard two loons giving each other the business – not the mournful wail but what I believe is the “yodel.”

    I thought they were simply calling to each other from a ways away – maybe spring fever excitement – but Cornell says this was probably one male challenging another over a dame (one caller was solo, one seemed to be part of a group of… three?). But the Cornell experts suggest this is related not just to pairing but to nesting territory.

    My question is: the loons are just passing through on their way north and I didn’t think they did the territorial thing except on the home/nesting lake. Am I wrong about that?

    1. Josef K

      The loon’s range is ca. 40º-80ºN around the globe, though they’re supposed to winter a bit south of that on the Pacific coast of the USA.

      As a denizen of the state that has them as its state bird, I’ve old memories of hearing their calls, especially in the BWCA, always produced a frisson exceeded only by that of hearing a wolf call. Unique and very ancient birds–solid bones, built to dive, which they can do to hundreds of feet under water, feet so far back to facilitate this that they can barely walk.

      Watch pretty much any Hollywood film, if there’s a scene “in nature,” despite the location obviously not being in the northlands, you’ll hear a canned loon call or two. It’s virtually Pavlovian.

      I wonder if anyone in Cali has heard loons recently. I’ve been in WA state off and on for years, within their range, but not a single encounter I can recall; I suspect their numbers are dwindling.

  11. Tom Collins' Moscow Mule

    The hypothesis that the multiple experienced phenomena are a part of a larger psychological field experiment conducted by some preterhuman intelligence is as probable as any other.

    “When we talk about sightings, we are talking about objects that have [been] seen by Navy or Air Force pilots, or have been picked up by satellite imagery that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain.”

    1. “I am not saying that the experience is completely in the mind of the observers. I believe absolutely that there is a physical stimulus, although I don’t know what it is. It seems to be a lot of electromagnetic energy, in the form of microwaves, in a small space, and an intense, colored “light.” But it must be something else, too, because of the very strange properties of the beams that are described. For example, these beams end abruptly or extend and retract. Have you ever seen a beam of light that was 20′ long?”


    2. “The absurd is a signal that has a property of taking you out of your normal thinking process and making you aware of other forms of thinking that you didn’t know existed. It’s forcing you to perceive reality at a different level. Zen koans, for example, are absurd, but they are intended to be absurd in a way that stops your normal thinking process.”

    3. “The phenomenon is very robust in its manifestations, both physical and physiological. The former can be seen when plotting the time of day when observations are made (the “Law of the Times”) and the development of specific waves or flaps. Physical traces, interference with car ignition, patterns of light phenomena and energy have all been documented by serious authors. The physiological factors include evidence of exposure to UV radiation, frequent effects on the eyes (from conjunctivitis to temporary blindness), skin blisters or injuries in reaction to focused beams of light, temporary inhibition of muscle control, disturbances in the sleep cycle, and general fatigue and anemia lasting over 7 days and life-threatening in some extreme cases.”


  12. Lee

    “Sex, Drugs, and Antiquity” [Quillette]…Muraresku and Siegel as they make sober arguments for the right to intoxication.” ….Lots of interesting historical nuggets before this (though I’m also reminded of The Bacchae, by Euripedes, discussed by Melvyn Bragg and his friends in a recent and extremely creepy podcast.

    Also see Donna Tartt’s novel The Secret History.

    My impression is that intoxication is optimal when contained within a social context, whether ritualistically, with a guide, or in a convivial setting. Intoxication, whether solitary or in an asocial group setting, often ends badly.

  13. The Rev Kev

    ‘Daily coronavirus cases are increasing again in MA and this rise scares me more than the previous ones..This rise is occurring in the face of vaccinations & mask-wearing.’

    Surely an effect of B117 spreading more quickly and thus overwhelming standard defenses. I would assume that they are testing what strains are taking hold in Massachusetts to see if this is what is going on.

  14. ambrit

    Apropos of nothing.
    Our neighbour to the south had his roof re-shingled today.
    It was done by an all Mexican team. Seven men and two women. One of the women fixed lunch for the rest using a camp stove and a cooler full of ingredients. They were quick and looked to have done a professional job. This is now the norm for small construction jobs in our half-horse town. The employers of the Mexicans are almost always local white men. An example of basic rent extraction. I’m sure that our neighbour chose the lowest bid by a ‘reputable’ contractor. I cannot blame him for that. What I can blame someone for is the lack of enforcement of laws already on the books dealing with labour issues. The only times that I have seen first hand or read about Immigration raiding a job is when someone high up in the pyramid wanted to cheat “illegal” workers out of their wages or break a nascent labour collective.
    It’s a race to the bottom, and below.
    The elites of America have a lot to answer for. I want to be there when they are called to account.

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