By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Patient readers, more soon. –lambert UPDATE All done!
Bird Song of the Day
A shore-bird. I can’t hear the sea, though I wish I could.
I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching.
Look at the South go! • 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, albeit in an upward direction.
Case count by United States regions:=
The Midwest in detail:
Michigan is… not looking good. And Minnesota is following.
MI: “Michigan Shows Why Managing The COVID-19 Endgame Is So Hard” [HuffPo]. “Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer responded to her state’s soaring COVID-19 caseloads on Friday by calling for a two-week, voluntary return to more social distancing…. But while Whitmer urged residents to avoid indoor dining and asked school districts to suspend both in-person high school learning and after-school sports for the two-week period, she declined to issue new orders in either case. It’s a less aggressive move than many public health experts had been urging, even as she faces ongoing, relentless calls from Republicans and their allies to dial back restrictions even more…. Friday’s announcement suggests that she is trying to walk a fine line between following public health guidance and recognizing that her constituents, even the politically sympathetic ones, have lost their patience for pandemic restrictions. Of course, that is precisely the problem now all over the country: Many Americans are ready to move on from the virus, but the pandemic isn’t over just yet. It’s a difficult situation to manage, especially in such a politically polarized environment. But lives are literally at stake.” •
Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California):
The big drop in New York, but flattening. Florida on the continues its slow climb. I’ve helpfully added a black line to compare our new normal with New York’s peak last year.
Still heading down.
Case fatality rate (plus deaths):
Good to see those deaths dropping. The fatality rate in the West is dropping now, for some reason as unknown as why it rose.
“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
UPDATE It remains to be seen what comes out of the rioters’ trials:
I've defended well over 1K+ ppl accused of assorted crimes over the past 9 years, and across alllllll those cases I can only think of one who produced nearly as much evidence incriminating himself as the 1/6 insurrectionists 🤦♂️ https://t.co/pEC2GZfca0
— T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) April 7, 2021
A smart demagogue combined with jury nullification could do a lot of damage. (That said, I don’t think most of them thought they were “incriminating themselves” at all. Carefree insouciance was the norm!
UPDATE “‘This is War’ Examining Military Experience Among the Capitol Hill Siege Participants” (PDF) [Program on Extremism, George Washington University / Combating Terrorism Center at West Point]. “43 of 357 individuals (12%) charged in federal court for their role in the Capitol Hill siege had some form of military experience. Of these 43 individuals, the vast majority (93%) were veterans and not currently serving in an Active Duty, reservist, or Guard status. Individuals with military experience had, on average, 9 years of service experience. The range of experience was substantial, from 3 years on the low-end to 25 years on the high-end. Over one-quarter were commissioned officers, and 44% deployed at least once. Around one-third joined before 2000, and around 50% left the service over a decade ago. 37% of individuals with military experience had affiliations to domestic violent extremist (DVE) organizations like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, around four times more likely to be a part of such groups than those without military experience. Some individuals with military experience held leadership positions in these organizations. Many others, however, arrived at the Capitol either in organized clusters or alone.”
“Why Would Anyone Want to be President?” [Elizabeth Drew, Project Syndicate]. “Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality.” • Whew!
It still shocks me to this day that Kamala Harris was chosen as Joe Biden's VP after calling him Jim Crow Joe live in front of millions of people 😂
— Nick is a Fred Hampton Leftist 🥋 (@SocialistMMA) April 9, 2021
“Amtrak’s Future Lies Between Boston and Washington” [Matt Yglesias, Bloomberg]. “The best thing Amtrak could do for its long-term future is to identify routes with high returns on investment — that is, ones that are likely to generate large increases in ridership and reduce its dependence on federal subsidy. That means focusing on high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor, where for many trips it’s already faster to take the train than fly (once you factor in travel to and security at the airport).” • Says the Acela Corridor rider…. Why are we accepting the premise that Amtrak needs to be profitable?
“I don’t get the high-speed rail thing (yet)” [Noah Smith, Noahpinion]. “The potential decline of business travel calls into question the entire economic benefit of HSR. Yes, making it easier for businesspeople to travel between production locations is a boost to productivity. But Zoom might simply supersede those gains by providing a much bigger boost. Making it slightly more convenient to talk face to face with a coworker, supplier, or customer in another city is good. Making it infinitely cheaper and much more convenient is better, and eliminates much of the scope for gains from trains.”
Democrats en Deshabille
The reason the rules don’t seem to make sense is that they do not, in fact, make sense:
There are a lot of valid critiques of Andrew Yang's politics without having to imply that he's some sort of white supremacist icon — a particularly inflammatory accusation given anti-Asian animus in NYC. But that's the key currency in left-liberal politics: it's just formulaic.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 11, 2021
Isn’t Biaggi guilty of micro-aggression, here?
UPDATE “Trump relaunches his fundraising machine after months of quiet” [Politico]. “Former President Donald Trump is reigniting his small-dollar fundraising operation for the first time since leaving the White House, part of his political ramp-up to stake out an outsize role in the 2022 midterm elections and expand his financial network ahead of a potential 2024 comeback bid. The effort illustrates how Trump is trying to capitalize on his considerable small-dollar base to establish a massive war chest, bolster like-minded candidates and grow his database of supporters. ‘I expect former President Trump to remain a force in small-dollar fundraising. He maintains a pretty potent online fundraising base, which he can use for his political committees,’ said Tim Cameron, a Republican digital strategist. The proceeds are filling the coffers of Trump’s political action committee, Save America, which he can use for an array of political activities, such as holding campaign events and dishing out cash to favored candidates. Save America PAC currently has around $85 million in the bank, according to a Trump adviser, a substantial sum that is likely to dwarf what other conservative committees have on hand at such an early point in the 2022 election cycle.'” • I wouldn’t begin to speculate on Trump’s motives. By Occam’s Razor, the money is enough.
Realignment and Legitimacy
UPDATE “Biden Republicans? Some in GOP open to president’s agenda” [Associated Press]. “Jay Copan doesn’t hide his disregard for the modern Republican Party. A solid Republican voter for the past four decades, the 69-year-old quickly regretted casting his 2016 ballot for Donald Trump. When Trump was up for reelection last year, Copan appeared on roadside billboards across North Carolina, urging other Republicans to back Democratic rival Joe Biden. Nearly three months into the new administration, Copan considers himself a “Biden Republican,” relieved by the new president’s calmer leadership style and coronavirus vaccine distribution efforts. Copan is as he pushes an agenda that’s almost universally opposed by Republicans in Washington. As Biden meets Monday with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to discuss his massive infrastructure plan, he’s betting that the GOP’s elected leaders are making a political miscalculation. The party’s base remains overwhelmingly loyal to Trump, but Biden believes that Republican leaders are overlooking everyday Americans eager for compromise and action… “I really want there to be a good two-party system,” said Copan, .” • Putting the “M” in PMC…..
“Q: Into the Storm Exposes the QAnon Conspiracy and Its Toxic Roots” [Jacobin]. “Interacting with both Jim and Ron Watkins over the course of several years — the project being some three in the making — the director’s seemingly passive eye clearly understands its subjects well, and a mixture of editing and commentary makes it obvious that he finds them neither sympathetic nor trustworthy. The series’ key moment [spoilers incoming] comes in its final episode, when Hoback, having embedded himself with Jim Watkins during January 6 Capitol storming, concludes by arguing that the identity of the mysterious Q is, in fact, Ron Watkins himself. ‘If you look at my Twitter feed, that’s what I’m doing publicly now,’ Watkins tells the filmmaker during their final conversation in the film, adding: I’ve spent the past . . . almost ten years, every day, doing this kind of research anonymously. Now I’m doing it publicly, that’s the only difference. . . . It was basically . . . three years of intelligence training teaching normies how to do intelligence work. It was basically what I was doing anonymously but, before, never as Q. Watkins, whose ensuing cheeky expression carries the air of someone catching themself midway through a mistake, hastens to add: ‘Never as Q. I promise. Because I am not Q, and I never was.’: • RussiaGate normies, of course, were taught how to do intelligence work by high intelligence officials, on national media, and their service providers in the press.
Inflation: “United States Consumer Inflation Expectations” [Trading Economics]. “Inflation Expectations in the United States increased to 3.20 percent in March from 3.09 percent in February of 2021.
Retail: What Happened to Pickup Trucks?” [Bloomberg]. “Since 1990, U.S. pickup trucks have added almost 1,300 pounds on average. Some of the biggest vehicles on the market now weigh almost 7,000 pounds — or about three Honda Civics. These vehicles have a voracious appetite for space, one that’s increasingly irreconcilable with the way cities (and garages, and parking lots) are built. Styling trends are almost as alarming. Pickup truck front ends have warped into scowling brick walls, billboards for outwardly directed hostility. ‘The goal of modern truck grilles,’ wrote Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky in 2018, ‘seems to be… about creating a massive, brutal face of rage and intimidation.’…. Giant, furious trucks are more than just a polarizing consumer choice: Large pickups and SUVs are notably more lethal to other road users, and their conquest of U.S. roads has been accompanied by a spike in fatalities among pedestrians and bicyclists.” • [sings] “We’re bringing the war / back home….”
Retail: “Nightclub nightmare: industry fears for its post-Covid future” [Financial Times]. • No more velvet ropes manned by thick-necked, steroidal enforcers? That’s a damn shame.
The Bezzle: “Coinbase Sails Toward $100 Billion Valuation on Crypto Frenzy” [Bloomberg]. “Coinbase Global Inc., the fast-growing exchange at the center of the speculative frenzy in cryptocurrencies, is expected to go public this week at a staggering valuation of about $100 billion. That’s more than the venerable New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stock Market combined — for a company that didn’t even exist a decade ago. If all goes according to plan, Wednesday’s scheduled direct listing on Nasdaq will cement Coinbase’s position as the Big Board of the U.S. crypto scene and a potent symbol of the risks and rewards of the new era of digital money.” • I wouldn’t be so negative about “digital money” if I could see anything other than downsides for me, personally. It seems like a rentier’s wet dream. Which I suppose explains the valuation.
Every gig economy company is a mirage in search of a monopoly. Any concessions the workforce wins are an existential crisis for these money losers, which is why Uber is once again planning to hide job payouts from drivers until they accept the work:https://t.co/X5LwElQzrK
— Cory Doctorow (@doctorow) April 7, 2021
Tech: “What chipageddon? Samsung says sales and profits soared in Q1” [The Register]. “However, Samsung is less affected by the shortage than others as the giant chaebol makes many of its own components.” • Vertical integration as a form of insurance?
Tech: “Why it’s easier to move country than switch social media” [Wired]. “When we talk about social media monopolies, we focus too much on network effects, and not enough on switching costs. Yes, it’s true that all your friends are already stuck in a Big Tech silo that doesn’t talk to any of the other Big Tech silos. It needn’t be that way: interoperable platforms have existed since the first two Arpanet nodes came online. You can phone anyone with a phone number and email anyone with an email address. The reason you can’t talk to Facebook users without having a Facebook account isn’t that it’s technically impossible – it’s that Facebook forbids it. What’s more, Facebook (and its Big Tech rivals) have the law on their side: the once-common practice of making new products that just work with existing ones (like third-party printer ink, or a Mac program that can read Microsoft Office files, or an emulator that can play old games) has been driven to the brink of extinction by Big Tech. They were fine with this kind of “competitive compatibility” when it benefited them, but now that they dominate the digital world, it’s time for it to die. To restore competitive compatibility, we would need reform to many laws: software copyright and patents, the anti-circumvention laws that protect digital rights management, and the cybersecurity laws that let companies criminalize violations of their terms of service.”
Tech: “Revealed: the Facebook loophole that lets world leaders deceive and harass their citizens” [Guardian]. “The most blatant example was Juan Orlando Hernández, the president of Honduras, who in August 2018 was receiving 90% of all the known civic fake engagement in the small Central American country. In August 2018, Zhang uncovered evidence that Hernández’s staff was directly involved in the campaign to boost content on his page with hundreds of thousands of fake likes. xOne of the administrators of Hernández’s official Facebook Page was also administering hundreds of other Pages that had been set up to resemble user profiles. The staffer used the dummy Pages to deliver fake likes to Hernández’s posts, the digital equivalent of bussing in a fake crowd for a speech. This method of acquiring fake engagement, which Zhang calls “Page abuse”, was made possible by a loophole in Facebook’s policies. The company requires user accounts to be authentic and bars users from having more than one, but it has no comparable rules for Pages, which can perform many of the same engagements that accounts can, including liking, sharing and commenting.” • Even under Hanlon’s Razor, Facebook can’t possibly be that stupid.
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 54 Neutral (previous close: 60 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 64 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). One year ago, just after the end of the Before Times: 42 (Fear). Last updated Apr 12 at 12:39pm.
Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187 (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so high is better.)
“A Soil Scientist’s Perspective – Carbon Farming, CO2 Certification & Carbon Sequestration in Soil” [Resilience]. “When it comes to humus and soils, the focus must be on soil fertility, ecosystem services and greater resilience to climate change, and not on CO2 sequestration, certificate trading and carbon storage. Considering an isolated factor within an agricultural ecosystem in purely economic terms does not put enough value on ecosystem services and risks incentivising the adoption of one-sided measures.”
“Evolutionary stasis of a deep subsurface microbial lineage” [Nature]. From the press release: “[A] group of microbes, which feed off chemical reactions triggered by radioactivity, have been at an evolutionary standstill for millions of years…. ‘This discovery shows that we must be careful when making assumptions about the speed of evolution and how we interpret the tree of life,’ said Eric Becraft, the lead author on the paper. ‘It is possible that some organisms go into an evolutionary full-sprint, while others slow to a crawl, .’:
A thread refuting WHO”s John Conley on aerosols (from the recent conference on aerosol transmission at the University of Calgary):
This is actually NOT "complex" for Aerosol scientists, mechanical engineers, building scientists, and other experts in fluid mechanics. Due to the Pandemic, these experts have diverted their brainpower to this problem. See summary of studies below.
— C Pita (@CPita3) April 11, 2021
Shorter: If you want to manage the complexity, learn the science instead of denying it. Some other reactions to the conference:
This is a subtweet against everyone who denies airborne. History knows who you are. History will forever judge how you now act and change during this global pandemic.
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) April 12, 2021
The Agony Column
“A Truce Proposal In The Trans Wars” [Andrew Sullivan, The Weekly Dish]. • Hmm.
“Rest in Peace: Earl Simmons and DMX” [Six Perfections]. “Years and years passed. Now I can listen to his songs through a different prism. Earl Simmons had terrible asthma, too many kids, was in and out of jail, struggled with money, drugs, and the warrior myth of DARK MAN X. He couldn’t escape the monster of his creation. I relate to that…but I still bob my head when I hear his song, recall the videos, think about all the drama, and the songs he left like the armor-plated suit of an imposing superhero. Dark Man X.”
Our Famously Free Press
An aerosol scientist grapples with gaslighting. A thread:
5/ Before the pandemic I didn't know what "gaslighting" meant. I had to look it up: https://t.co/crswflZOEK
[Seguidores en español: como se dice "gaslighting"?]
— Jose-Luis Jimenez (@jljcolorado) April 9, 2021
Police State Watch
“LexisNexis to Provide Giant Database of Personal Information to ICE” [The Intercept]. “Though LexisNexis is perhaps best known for its role as a powerful scholarly and legal research tool, the company also caters to the immensely lucrative “risk” industry, providing, it says, 10,000 different data points on hundreds of millions of people to companies like financial institutions and insurance companies who want to, say, flag individuals with a history of fraud. LexisNexis Risk Solutions is also marketed to law enforcement agencies, offering “advanced analytics to generate quality investigative leads, produce actionable intelligence and drive informed decisions” — in other words, to find and arrest people. The LexisNexis ICE deal appears to be providing a replacement for CLEAR, a risk industry service operated by Thomson Reuters that has been crucial to ICE’s deportation efforts. In February, the Washington Post noted that the CLEAR contract was expiring and that it was “unclear whether the Biden administration will renew the deal or award a new contract.”
Twitter, interestingly, flags the second tweet (“if there is some profit…”) as “The following media includes potentially sensitive content”:
“If there is some profit remaining from the work, the representative gathers all of the families of the support base, and they make a decision on how to use that profit, where to invest it.” pic.twitter.com/H71IIjF0kw
— Black Socialists in America (@BlackSocialists) January 10, 2021
News of the Wired
— Max Ernst (@artisternst) April 9, 2021
Picasso’s Guernica pic.twitter.com/Ya5LF3qz6O
— what’s it all about? (@ScootJabootie) April 10, 2021
“How’s working from home going? Been up to much?” pic.twitter.com/9RhbFeTBIk
— Barnaby Edwards (@BarnabyEdwards) April 8, 2021
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AM writes: “No idea what this is, but it’s definitely alive and not your ordinary palm. North Naples, FL 3/24/21.” Well, it’s not a maple or an oak, that’s for sure.
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