2:00PM Water Cooler 4/14/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Another shore-bird. They seem talkative!

* * *


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:

South reverts to the mean.

Case count by United States regions:

Gaaaaah! Yes, the rise is from the Midwest, but wouldn’t it be nice if the rise in the Midwest was cancelled out by decreases everywhere else.

The Midwest in detail:

The Michigan dip was noise, dammit. Minnesota follows Michigan’s upward trend. Illinois emerging from the pack? Oddly, that almost-entirely-covered-over chartreuse (?) line is Nebraska, and it looks like they had an upward trend, and got it sorta under control.

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

Florida continues its slow climb. California starting to follow?

Test positivity:

Midwest increases.


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.

Exclusive: Texas nonprofit got massive border contract after hiring Biden official

* * *


“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

Capitol Seizure

“Pelosi says she would have put up a fight against Capitol mob: ‘I’m a street fighter'” [The Hill]. “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says in a new interview that she would have put up a fight had she encountered rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6.” • Except security hustled her out. Which she allowed. Come on, man.

Biden Administration

“Biden to address Congress on April 28” [The Hill]. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) invited Biden to make the address in a letter released publicly earlier that day. The president has accepted the invitation, a White House official confirmed late Tuesday night. ‘Nearly 100 days ago, when you took the oath of office, you pledged in a spirit of great hope that ‘Help Is On The Way.’ Now, because of your historic and transformative leadership, Help Is Here!’ Pelosi wrote in the letter. ‘In that spirit, I am writing to invite you to address a Joint Session of Congress on Wednesday, April 28, to share your vision for addressing the challenges and opportunities of this historic moment,’ Pelosi added.”

“On Unions, A Gap Between Biden’s Words And Actions” [Daily Poster]. “During the 2020 campaign, Biden’s platform included support for a pair of measures designed to deter the kind of union busting at play in Alabama. One is a Department of Labor measure known as the ‘persuader rule,’ which would require employers to more thoroughly disclose their spending on anti-union consultants. The second is known as the ‘neutrality rule,’ which would require federal contractors like Amazon to remain neutral during unionization campaigns. Both would signify major steps toward fulfilling Biden’s campaign pledge to be ‘the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.’… Biden could instead try to fulfill his campaign promises by using his executive authority to put the rules in place. Such a unilateral move would come with risks; executive actions are more likely to be held up in a federal court system packed with conservative, anti-union judges. But short of passing the PRO Act, such executive actions, despite their legal vulnerabilities, might offer the best opportunity to deter Amazon and other employers’ efforts to block workers from unionizing.” • Joe Biden owes me six hundred bucks.

“Welcome to the New Progressive Era” [Anand Giridharadas, The Atlantic]. “The conversations I’ve had in recent weeks have painted a portrait of an improbable coming-together of people and forces: a moderate president, with an ascendant progressive movement at his back and at his throat, facing a once-in-a-generation window of opportunity. It’s still early. It remains to be seen if this momentum will continue, if the infrastructure plan musters the votes, if the ungainly Sanders-to-Manchin coalition holds. But for now, a capital that has been defined in recent years by the absence of useful action bubbles with generative possibility. And many of us who thought we knew what a Biden presidency would look like, and didn’t expect much from it, are suddenly asking ourselves: How did we get him so wrong? Representative ilhan omar, a Minnesota Democrat and member of the so-called Squad, endorsed Sanders in the primary and didn’t anticipate a whole lot from Biden. Nevertheless, during the winter transition, she and her colleagues in the Congressional Progressive Caucus shared their ideas and priorities with the incoming administration—and were taken aback when many of them were adopted. ‘The $1.9 trillion package that they put forth was a surprise,” she told me. “A lot of us made recommendations when the administration was in their transition space, and I don’t think a lot of us expected many of those things would make it in.'” • For sure, Biden’s better than Obama. More than that, I am not willing to say. For example, the headlines on the American Jobs Plan are a lot more expansive than the line items, and I want to know where those line items will go. (Recall that the Democrats reinstituted earmarks.)

UPDATE “‘A gaslighting chamber of insanity’: Moderate Republicans seethe at Biden” [Politico]. That’s a damn shame. “In the span of a few months, the G-10 has gone from the center of politics in DONALD TRUMP’S Washington to the policy sidelines in President JOE BIDEN’S. While these senators mostly despised Trump, they were the engine of policymaking for his final Covid relief bill. While they mostly respect Biden, they have so far been irrelevant to his legislative push despite his inaugural promise of ‘unity.’… ‘Everything they support is defined as either Covid relief or infrastructure, and everything they oppose is like … Jim Crow voter suppression and evil,’ this G-10 aide said. ‘And you constantly just feel like you’re in this gaslighting chamber of insanity. But it’s working.’

Can you imagine if Trump had done this:

“ZOMG!!!! The butterflies!!!!!!”

Democrats en Deshabille

UPDATE “How Hunter Biden’s Memoir Played in the White House” [New York Magazine]. “Yet Hunter Biden’s ballad of the black sheep landed quietly in Washington, ‘I’m shocked,’ a senior White House official said. ‘I get stuff on the dogs all the time. I’ve been so surprised I didn’t get anything on Hunter.’ Whether they had braced for a media frenzy or not, members of the Joe Biden administration report that, internally, the arrival of Hunter’s book (which was ghostwritten by the journalist Drew Jubera) on April 6 was a big nonevent. ” • Gosh, it’s almost as if the word has gone out that Hunter’s untouchable. “Shocked,” is good, though. Irony, We West Wing types like that in our high officials.

UPDATE Shocked, shocked:

Republican Funhouse

“Trump’s early endorsements reveal GOP rift” [The Hill]. “Former President Trump’s recent endorsements of Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are exposing a rift between Republicans who want to leave the Trump era behind and those who see his populist brand of conservatism as a winning formula. By dropping a string of Senate endorsements almost 20 months before Election Day, Trump is inserting himself squarely in the internal debate among GOP lawmakers about where they want to go as a party and how closely they want to work with President Biden. He is also sending signals to allies that he can protect them from primary challenges next year, a potentially strong incentive for fellow Republicans not to discard his legacy. ‘It’s a great preemptive thing to put off any potential challengers,’ said Jim McLaughlin, a Republican strategist, who noted that Trump has a ‘very good relationship’ with Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.), head of the Senate GOP’s campaign arm.” • But these are all establishment figures! Whatever the Republican Party is going to become, it won’t become the party of Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins.

“What Will Trump Loyalists’ Sensed Powerlessness Mean For Politics?” [Democracy Corps]. From March 26, still germane. “We conducted focus groups in March with Trump Loyalists in Georgia and Wisconsin and Trump-aligned, non-Trump conservatives and moderates in suburban and rural Georgia, Ohio, and Wisconsin. It took a long time to recruit these groups because Trump voters seemed particularly distrustful of outsiders right now, wary of being victimized, and avoided revealing their true position until in a Zoom room with all Trump voters — then, they let it all out.” • I can’t understand this dynamic at all! More: “They worry now that it is the government that has taken the initiative on the use of force, increasing their sense of powerlessness.” • Founded by James Carville and Stanley Greenberg, so I’m wondering how much this is preaching to the choir (for example, “insurrection” is taken as a given). It’s hard for me to reconcile “Democrats have only a 2-point lead in party identification” with a sense of disempowerment by Republicans.

UPDATE “New details shed light on Gaetz’s Bahamas trip” [Politico]. “Gaetz, who has not been charged, has consistently denied the two anonymous claims against him: that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for sex.” • After JFK, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Mario Cuomo (giving Biden a free pass here; this is the story I find ugliest) and, if you’re worried about age differentials and transactions that have every appearance of being a payoff, Willie Brown and Kamala Harris, we’re worried about a sex scandal? Driven by anonymous sources? Really? But that’s where we are:

Anybody know if there’s some poor shlub of a cameraman outside Cuomo’s office? Come on, man.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Intelligence Sources Say Biggest Threat To U.S. Is Actually U.S. Policy” [Caitlin Johnstone]. “According to my source, the real threat to America today is the standing policy of overextending US military commitments in a futile effort to maintain unrivaled unipolar planetary hegemony on a world that is forever out of control while impoverishing and oppressing Americans at home, all to preserve a failed competition-based model of mass-scale human behavior that our species needs to evolve beyond anyway.”

UPDATE The picture is more important than the headline:

The picture screams “impenetrably complex digital device.” And next to the open door? A dark figure in a hoodie…

Thanks to assiduous work by the PMC and the political class over many years, this about FDR is now conventional wisdom. Indeed, it may be the only thing about FDR many people “know”:

All of which leaves unexplained by Black people were firmly part of the Democrat Party base after FDR. Maybe they got conned by the ol’ okey-dokey,

UPDATE “Nevada’s New Democratic Party Raises Back Funds Shuttled By Ex-Staff” [The Intercept]. “JUST OVER A month after the staff of Nevada’s Democratic Party quit rather than work alongside an incoming slate of candidates backed by the local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, taking $450,000 and severance with them, the party’s new leadership has raised that money back with some to spare. The Nevada Democrats have raised $530,000 from more than 16,500 contributions since the March 6 elections, when a progressive slate of five candidates — one incumbent and four newcomers — took over the party, beating the preferred picks of the local machine. The figure includes $100,000 raised on their own within a few weeks of the election and a boost in contributions with help from national progressive allies like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who sent fundraising emails over the last several weeks on the party’s behalf.” • Harry Reid’s state, too.

A literacy test:

Try as I might, I couldn’t make sense of #1 or #5, and I think the answer to #10 is “t”, written in the first circle.

Stats Watch

Inflation: “March 2021 Import Year-over-Year Inflation Grows To +6.9%” [Econintersect]. “Year-over-year import price indices inflation grew from +1.4 % to +3.0 %…. There is only a marginal correlation between economic activity, recessions, and export/import prices. Prices can be rising or falling going into a recession or entering a period of expansion. Econintersect follows this data series to adjust economic activity for the effects of inflation where there are clear relationships.”

* * *

Shipping: “North America’s February container imports jump 100% from Far East” [Hellenic Shipping News]. “North American import of containerised goods from the Far East soared to a noteworthy high of 1.62m TEU during February 2021, a 100% increase from the low point of the same month last year. Fuelled by US stimulus, volumes moving on the trans-pacific trade lane to consumers and businesses in North America thereby defied all obstacles during a month usually characterised by slow activity. In particular, the US economic stimulus packages have worked magic for the container shipping industry, gaining strength eight months in a row. In a normal year, February volumes are seasonally low due to the impact from the Chinese Lunar New Year when exports out of the Far East drop as factories close for the holiday. ‘If you ask the ports of San Pedro bay on the US west coast, they will tell you that this massive surge in volumes is a double-edged sword. Record-breaking business activity overloads logistic chains in and around the ports, both ashore and at sea,’ says Peter Sand, BIMCO’s Chief Shipping Analyst.

Shipping: “Suez megaship owner haggles over US$900 million release demand” [Channel News Asia]. “The Japanese owner of a megaship seized after blocking the Suez Canal has said it is negotiating with Egyptian authorities after they demanded US$900 million in compensation for its release.” • Negotiating. “We’ve got your boat. Give us a call!”

The Bezzle: “Coinbase listing set to capitalise on crypto bull run” [Financial Times]. “Coinbase became a dominant company by winning the trust of cryptocurrency novices. Next comes the stock market. When the nine-year-old start-up lists on the Nasdaq exchange on Wednesday, it will become the first major cryptocurrency company to go public in the US, a milestone that has generated excitement in an already buoyant market for digital assets. The challenge is that few people know how to value the company, which counts on volatile transactional revenues in lightly regulated markets for the vast majority of its business.” • No red flags there!

Tech: The new oil?

Tech: “DARPA awards 3 companies contracts for nuclear spacecraft by 2025” [The Hill]. “The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced on Monday that it selected Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, General Atomics and Lockheed Martin for the first phase of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program. General Atomics’s contract is worth $22 million, Blue Origin’s is worth $2.5 million and Lockheed Martin’s will be worth $2.9 million, a DARPA spokesperson confirmed to The Hill.” • Oh great. We’re going to give Bezos nukes. What could go wrong?

Tech: “Unfair Use: Anti-Interoperability and Our Dwindling Digital Freedom” [Cory Doctorow, The Reboot]. “Some 40 years later, the world is a very different place. Between software copyrights, anti-circum­vention rules, software patents, enforceable terms of service, trade secrecy, noncompete agreements, and the Oracle/Google dispute over API copyrights, any attempt to interoperate with an existing product service with­out permission from its corporate master is a legal suicide mission, an invitation to almost unlimited civil — and even criminal — litigation. That is to say: if you dare to modify, improve, or replace an existing, dominant software-based product or service, you risk bankruptcy and a long prison sentence. Forty years ago, we had cake and asked for icing on top of it. Today, all we have left is the icing, and we’ve forgotten that the cake was ever there. If code isn’t licensed as ‘free,’ you’d best leave it alone.”

Manufacturing: “A ‘game-changer’ for PPE recycling: Scientists develop technology that can turn masks and gowns into SCHOOL CHAIRS” [Daily Mail]. “The NHS is using new tech that turns waste personal protective equipment (PPE) like COVID masks, gowns and curtains into plastic for school chairs and other products. Machines developed by the Cardiff-based Thermal Compaction Group can compact bags of PPE into large, reusable plastic blocks in the space of an hour. These three-feet-long blocks can then be collected and processed, providing raw materials to make an assortment of other products including toolboxes.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 53 Neutral (previous close: 51 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (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 14 at 12:20pm.

The Biosphere

“What the narwhal can tell us about the climate crisis” [High Country News]. “[S]cientists described what they found in 10 tusks collected from animals in northwest Greenland. Because a tusk grows continuously over the many decades of a narwhal’s life, the researchers could read the outsized teeth like the rings of a tree. They found that between 1962 and 2000, the mercury in the tusks increased by an average of 0.3% a year, but between 2000 and 2010 it increased by 1.9% per year. This is consistent with increased mercury discovered in the bodies of other top predators in several regions across the Arctic, possibly due to air pollution blowing in from the south.”

Health Care

UPDATE The White House Covid Response team. Fauci, Walensky, and Zeints:

Not a bad idea, but a couple of news cycles too late. Why wasn’t this done before the toothpaste left the tube? Did they think standing on their authority would be enough?

“Blood clot risks: comparing the AstraZeneca vaccine and the contraceptive pill” [The Conversation]. “Although evidence is still emerging, the mechanisms behind the type of clotting linked to the vaccine and that linked to the pill appear to be quite different. It’s a reminder of how complex the blood and clotting is, with multiple parts of the process that can be disrupted…. for some who’ve taken the vaccine, platelets appear to stick together in the venous sinuses of the brain, which causes a blockage that prevents blood draining out of the brain tissues. This creates back pressure in the small vessels of the brain and blood leaks into the brain itself, causing damage in the same way a haemorrhagic stroke would…. In some people who have had the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, unwanted clotting is being reported in the brain, known as cerebral venous sinus thromboembolism (CVST)…. Despite the combined oral contraceptive pill also increasing the risk of blood clots in those who take it, these clots are likely formed by a different mechanism to those seen in CVSTs. Clotting is a complex system.” • This article is interesting, but I’d file it under inforrmed speculation. It’s interesting to see a clinical anatomist try to work through the problem, though,.

The Conservatory

“A Man Named Earl” [Vulture]. “In public housing, you see the best and the worst of people. There’s love, camaraderie, and music in rec-room birthday parties, in concrete cookouts, in block parties on the weekend. Lounge on stoops and listen through walls, and you might hear and see too much. You might know the unmistakable glint of sunlight bouncing off of a steel handgun produced in broad daylight in a place where you’d least expect it. You might come to meet the mild-mannered child whose parents only seemed to speak in open hands and electrical cords, the “bad” child who left “to see family” for months at a time and came back rougher every summer, the smart one underserved and under-engaged by public school, the beloved neighborhood figure growing wiry and thin and drawing rumors of clandestine habits. DMX was one of us, all of us, really. He commanded respect as much for the brilliance of his craft as for navigating street life adeptly enough to get out unscathed, a folk hero as much as a rapper. He hustled his way out of the projects, out of child abuse, out of a lack of opportunities. He wasn’t just a celebrity; he was proof that it was possible for everyone else downwind to survive without compromising their beliefs. He pondered the question of whether we ever truly escape from the circumstances of our births, whether or not our past trauma lies perpetually in wait to create havoc in our present. The genius of DMX as a writer and a performer lay in his ability to repackage the burdens of Black inner-city life in art that was vibrant and lively even in darkness.”

“A philosophy of sound” [Aeon]. “Along with touch, sound is one of the first senses to develop – long before sight or smell. Developing human foetuses can hear their mother’s heartbeats (and voices) in utero. We hear gentle, albeit muffled sounds while developing, less muffled and more acute sounds when we’re born, definitely all kinds of muffled and acute sounds while alive – and according to many spiritual traditions, we might hear the most perfect music when we die. Perhaps this is another reason why sound and rhythm are such universal forces: they’re some of the founding experiences of all human beings. Gioia opens his work on music by noting that, in Hindu iconography, Shiva is holding a drum at the moment of creation; an apt image, given that contemporary science dubs the beginning of the Universe ‘the Big Bang’.” • Well worth a read. It was hard to extract because it’s so interesting!


“The Video Game Industry Is Consolidating” [Bloomberg]. “the $180 billion industry is consolidating. In fact, it’s become nearly impossible for independent gaming companies to survive. Just a few years ago the big-budget video game industry was complemented by a healthy number of independent companies that could make hits with fewer resources and more creative risks. Double Fine Inc., which employed fewer than 100 people, was known for an eclectic mix of artistic titles. Obsidian Entertainment Inc. had a reputation for building deep, complicated roleplaying games. But both companies faced financial struggles. They were often contracted by publishers on work-for-hire projects, leaving their fates tied to the whims of whatever executives wanted in a given quarter. Losing a contract could be devastating, leading to layoffs and budget crunches. So it was no surprise to see them both get swallowed up by Microsoft Corp.: Obsidian in 2018 and Double Fine a year later. Even big publishers aren’t immune. Last fall, Microsoft purchased ZeniMax Media Inc., the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, in a $7.5 billion deal. ZeniMax, which released several commercial flops such as Prey and Fallout 76, had reportedly been looking to sell itself for years. It was the only major U.S. game publisher that wasn’t publicly traded. Which brings us to Tonic Games, whose subsidiary Mediatonic saw a jolt of success last year thanks to Fall Guys, one of the pandemic’s most popular online games. It was addictive, satisfying, and the perfect way to interact with strangers during extended lockdowns. But Mediatonic struggled to maintain momentum for the game, even with a surge of hiring and planned new features. Rather than risk further player dropoff and potential financial uncertainty, the studio’s top executives sold out to Epic, one of the richest game companies in the world.” • I suppose if one owned games, instead of renting them on platforms, this wouldnl’t matter so much?

“People over 55 are fastest-growing market for games” [Boing Boing]. “The marketing research company Global Web Index reports that the number of ‘gamers’ over 55 years of age has grown 32% in the last three years. The Covid pandemic accelerated but did not create the growth, with grandparents seeing game time as family time.”

Our Famously Free Press

Top Bidder for Tribune Newspapers Is an Influential Liberal Donor NYT. The deck: “The Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss helped build a sophisticated behind-the-scenes operation that attacked Republicans and promoted Democratic causes.”

“Luke O’Neil’s ‘Lockdown in Hell World’ Details the Horrors of 2020” (interview) [Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue]. O’Neil: “I started to see the writing on the wall that freelancing just doesn’t seem like a viable career path anymore. It’s like how you see like a squirrel in the park, and it’s shivering all the time, and looking around and afraid it’s gonna get eaten at any second, scraping around for acorns. That’s what [freelancing] feels like. And so when the Substack folks came to me, I thought, Well, this seems like a gamble, but the industry isn’t gonna protect me. Nobody’s gonna look out for me, so I’ll just say screw it and try to go out on my own.”

This Day in History

From Ford’s Theatre:

Class Warfare

“The Fight to Organize Amazon Is Just Getting Started” [Jacobin]. “atrocious working conditions and totalitarian control within the workplace are hardly unprecedented. Steel mills and auto plants were often intolerable, dangerous jobs until they were organized. Workers failed to organize shop after shop, until they didn’t. There are important differences among these industries: as Rich Yeselson points out, while 1930s General Motors had a comparable number of workers spread across a similar number of facilities as Amazon does today, 25 percent of those workers were in the Flint plant, which meant workers could gain incredible leverage by organizing one facility. Amazon, excluding the fifty thousand, largely white-collar, workers at its headquarters, lacks a similarly strategic site. But while this is a challenge, there is nothing inherent in the work itself, nor any trick in the company’s playbook, that workers haven’t seen before. Amazon is swallowing the world at a pace that is almost impossible to comprehend, and the organization of its workers grows more pressing by the day. Unionizing it will be an uphill battle, but the labor movement in the United States has never had favorable odds. You learn from the setbacks, and then, you keep moving.” • Noteworthy is that the law and the media are thoroughly discussed, but the actual tactics deployed at Bessemer are not. Like organizing at the front gate…..

News of the Wired

“Canada Ranks No. 1 in 2021 U.S. News Best Countries Ranking” [US News and World Report (Re Silc)]. • We’re #6. Re Silc: “USA USA in the Top Ten immediately brings the whole thing in question. I was at Ocean State Discount store in North Adams, MA today buying plant stakes. Three check out clerks talking about NO 40 hour jobs anywhere near them.” Well, they should just move.

Sign, object, interpretant:

* * *

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 (CK):

CK writes: “This surprising accommodation was found some years back, on a walk near our home in SW France.”

* * *

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

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

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

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

About Lambert Strether

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


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I keep linking to Brasilwire on this stuff, to no visible effect. But you are correct on the big picture. We installed Bolsonaro, and that was a very bad idea.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          True, but Biden is President now with a message of “normalcy” being restored. Its the sin of the US officially. Dealing with any reasonable elected government, politics aside, will be an issue if they have a history of recent US shenanigans.

          Its the opposite of Obama’s 2008 promise when he wasn’t tied at the hip to Iraq policy and was potentially President of the United States.

          This might be why Biden has proposed a summit. The US has been a bumbling mess for so long he needs a real restart as there is little reason to cooperate with the US for so many countries without extracting a better deal. If the carriers are worthless, what good is a foreign US base besides rent extraction? Not that I think he’s that smart, but its possible.

          America has been “back” for 84 days now, but there isn’t low hanging fruit anymore.

          1. Josef K

            Wasn’t the kicker to the favor of “normalcy” over “normality” Harding’s 1920 slogan? Perhaps a “return to normality” campaign is in order. 100 years is long enough. And who knows that it can’t trigger a paradigm shift? It’s worth a try.

      1. JohnMinMN

        I’m guessing this had something to do with it:


        He emphasized: “BRICS was not created to be an instrument of defense, but to be an instrument of attack. So we could create our own currency to become independent from the US dollar in our trade relations; to create a development bank, which we did – but it is still too timid – to create something strong capable of helping the development of the poorest parts of the world.”

        Lula made an explicit reference to the United States’ fears about a new currency: “This was the logic behind BRICS, to do something different and not copy anybody. The US was very much afraid when I discussed a new currency and Obama called me, telling me, ‘Are you trying to create a new currency, a new euro?’ I said, ‘No, I’m just trying to get rid of the US dollar. I’m just trying not to be dependent.’”

      2. Expat2uruguay

        In reply to Lambert: That’s too bad, I think that readers would be well served by developing a greater understanding of lawfare as it is used against other sovereigns.

  1. Mikel

    RE:“DARPA awards 3 companies contracts for nuclear spacecraft by 2025” [The Hill]…

    Bezos and nukes.
    I’ll admit. I don’t believe the commonly held beliefs about the humble origins of Amazon or alot of the tech monopolies.

    1. Earl

      Even the rabidly pronuclear space engineers warn against this:
      “Which are the risks involved in using nuclear power in a space mission?
      Clearly, the consequences are human effects due to radiation exposures and land contamination. The following are the predominant risk contributors:

      Probability of launch vehicle failure with land impact;
      Accidents resulting in significant insult to the RTG’s Fueled Clad (FC);
      Extended high temperature associated with solid propellant fires;
      Population exposure due to aerosolized particle dispersal.

      Prelaunch and Early Launch are the flight phases where all these four factors may occur. Traditionally, the Early Launch accidents hold the highest risk (approximately 99% of the total risk), and the probability of release of radioactive material in this phase is around 1in 360.
      SSM: How nuclear safety is handled during the launch to orbit cycle?
      FA and SB: Even with the protective containment systems, the integrity of the RPS may be compromised in the case of accident causing radioactive material release into the biosphere.”


      How many atoms of highly radioactive plutonium in a fuel element vaporizing over the earth? Enough to give lung cancer to every oxygen breathing being? Cue the nuke apologists in 3,2,1…
      Such an alarmist! It wouldn’t be evenly distributed you know.

      1. Mikel

        Sounds like another step in privatize the profits, socialize the lost lives economy that’s been created.

      2. WobblyTelomeres

        Is there any information available that links atmospheric plutonium to tobacco to lung cancer? Looking at a mature tobacco leaf, greased up with nicotine, they look perfect to catch plutonium dust particles. From all those above ground nuclear tests (Bikini Atoll, for one).

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > the consequences are human effects due to radiation exposures and land contamination

        I had a further consequence in mind. From Snow Crash:

        Of course, Bezos = Raven would be totally Bond villain stuff…

    2. The Rev Kev

      Bezos with nukes is bad enough but if Musk had them it would be much worse. Musk’s spacecraft tend to blow up at a frequent rate as it is but if they were nuclear powered spacecraft blowing up, well……

    3. WhoaMolly

      Humble beginnings of every tech giant includes a quiet helping of $$$ from one or more arms of the intelligence community.

      This might be prudent, visionary, patriotic or Orwellian. Or all four.

  2. Ranger Rick

    The video game industry runs in roughly ten-year cycles of consolidation and expansion. This time in 2011 the industry was also reaching the apex of consolidation and shortly thereafter experienced an explosion in independent development studios (almost, like clockwork, around the time you’d expect the bonuses for staying wore off at the acquired studios). It’s actually easier than ever before to be an indie developer.

    1. Deschain

      Generally correct. I think it’s the middle-tier studios that are getting squeezed. The demands of maintaining a live service game are tremendous, and require both a lot of capital and labor.

    2. aleph_0

      There’s a bit of the effect of averages obscuring here. Much like with film, the AA developers and publishers all basically went bust in the last cycle in the mid 2000s (in the games industry, it was mostly from game budgets growing out of control mostly art related), and not only did they never recover, but that part of the market has basically stood empty for more than a decade.

      While it’s easier to be an indie now because of digital monopoly distribution channels, I think it’s still a pretty open question whether there were jobs lost or gained in the industry because for every indie company who can sell enough to keep jobs, there are 100 who make a game that sells 3 copies.

  3. fumo

    Anecdote from associate in Egypt-

    Update on Egypt. Everyone seems united in the belief that we are in a third wave, probably driven by one or more variants: but still no reliable stats. And contrary to what I quoted earlier, based on local press report, the vaccinations are free of charge, the govt is NOT charging people.

    Mrs E and I are getting jabbed this morning, and not with Sinopharm, but with AZ.

    And I was thinking about risk calculation this morning, when my driver said he would not take the vaccine, because of the risk.
    I was thinking about when I was on a petrochemicals tanker in the port of Bushehr in 1985, and the Iraqi air force was strafing us. and the Swedish captain was howling with laughter: Junge, never mind, if this cargo goes up you won’t feel a thing, you will be instantly vaporised and reunited with your maker – and poured us both another aquavit from the bonded locker. It was breakfast time, you understand….
    I remember that day perfectly – a brace of missiles came in diagonally between the bridge windows and the mast on the forecastle. Missed us by a whisker.
    Almost needed clean trousers.
    ….and I think to myself, what arses are they that refuse to be vaccinated because of the risk?

    1. divadab

      WHat is the risk for a twenty-five year-old of contracting severe covid-19 and dying? It’s almost zero – why get vaccinated in this case? Especially when the risks from vaccination are as yet unknown – the vaccines are only authorised under emergency use and the manufacturers are indemnified against any product liability? It seems rather sensible to me to take the risk of getting covid-19 in this circumstance rather than take on the risk of the vaccine.

      1. Yves Smith

        Agnotology is against our site Policies. Please note you are already in moderation and cannot afford to accumulate more troll points.

        First, you are trying to depict Covid as posing no risk to the young. That is false. Enough children have died of Covid-related blood complications that it’s been made an urgent topic of study.

        Second, I know of one person who is 30 (nephew of an aide) who died of Covid, and the daughter of another aide (29) has been in the hospital for weeks on a ventilator. Most ventilator patients die.

        Third, the variants are hospitalizing younger people. From CNN:

        Cases among younger people are rising. In Michigan, hospitalizations among people in their 30s have climbed by over 600%, and those in their 40s by 800%. Average daily cases for children have also risen by over 200%. In Massachusetts, the largest increase in Covid-19 infections has been in children and teens…

        Another likely reason for why more young people are getting infected is the B.1.1.7 variant. This is the variant that first originated from the United Kingdom and is quickly becoming dominant here in the US. Studies are showing that this strain is more transmissible — meaning that there’s now a higher risk of acquiring coronavirus from activities that were previously thought to be pretty safe. In addition to causing more cases, the B.1.1.7 is now showing to be more virulent, too, meaning that it causes more severe disease and therefore is more likely to result in hospitalization and death.


        Fourth, you are ignoring the fact that Covid does many types of lasting damage. 20% of the cases, including asymptomatic cases, get Long Covid. A study in Texas of thousands of cases found that 100% of symptomatic cases and 70-80% of asymptomatic cases showed lung damage worse than having been a regular smoker. Not at all clear if any of this will reverse. Another study found that 20% of Covid cases showed brain inflammation. Others found troublingly high levels of damage to the heart and kidneys.

        I don’t like the way the vaccines have been tested and rolled out at all but grossly understating the risk of Covid is not the way to make an informed decision, and I will not have you mislead readers. As I said, agnotology is a violation of house rules and I will not approve any more comments from you along these lines.

  4. Dr. John Carpenter

    Earlier today, for some weird reason, I was thinking about when the congresscritters took a knee for George Floyd and how many of them, Pelosi included, needed assistance standing back up afterwards. So, she’ll have to forgive my skepticism of any tough talk three months after the fact about what she would have done on Jan. 6th.

    1. cnchal

      > . . . when the congresscritters took a knee for George Floyd . . .

      The symbolism was revolting in taking the position the officer was using.

      More realistic would have been had they all been lying on the floor with a knee on their necks for ten minutes.

      Pelosi, street fighter = throw the stapler and a wad of money then hop on the back of a Capitol cop and tell him to run.

      1. Dr. John Carpenter

        Speaking of throwing staplers, if Amy Kolbuchar had made that statement, I wouldn’t have doubted her.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      NotTimothyGeithner: And someone on that Twitter threat knew this about Abraham Lincoln:

      Lincoln was no angel. In high school he was suspended for 3 days because he had weed on him. Don’t let the media fool you.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        My sense is changes at the start of the 20th century (late 19th too) were so severe combined with Lincoln’s image that the years in between simply became magnified. The Chrysler Building was around 91 years ago. The moving picture of the horse was from 1888, and the phonograph is from 1877. I did an image search of Woodrow Wilson, and his whole aesthetic wouldn’t be terribly out of place today.

  5. Pavel

    Re: Pelosi’s MSFT dealings. Given that she is already worth over $100 million (and has 2 uber-expensive fridges and ice cream to prove it) and is Speaker and the optics of this are so horrific I can only assume she and her husband truly are sociopaths and just wants to rub their greed and sense of impunity in the serfs’ faces.

    1. Pelham

      The article started me thinking about what constitutes public information that congressmen are allowed to trade on.

      Say you’re a congressman on a subcommittee that, in secret session, recommends the award of a $10 billion defense contract to Acme Rockets. But after the session winds up, there’s no reason to keep the decision secret, so you tell a passing AP reporter as you exit the meeting room.

      The reporter will probably file the story in about an hour, once he gathers more details. Meanwhile, you stroll down to your office, call your broker and tell him to buy 1,000 shares of Acme Rockets. The information you’re using was technically public the minute the subcommittee session ends, but it wasn’t really public till much later, giving you plenty of time to ensure you’ll make a bundle when the Rocket stock takes off like a rocket next day.

      BTW, isn’t this similar to the business model behind those super costly Bloomberg terminals? Legal insider trading info for a monthly fee.

      1. Stephen

        This was adjudicated in SEC vs Texas Gulf Sulfur Co, 1968. To excerpt a relevant passage from the Wikipedia entry:

        “The court stated that, before insiders can trade on material information, the information had to have been effectively disclosed in a way that insured it was available to investors.[16] Even though word of an article reporting a significant find by TGS had reached New York before the company read its statement to the press, these early reports were deemed insufficient.[16] In addition, the court held that reading a news release is only the first step in disseminating information.[17] Therefore, a TGS employee who traded after the statement was read but before Dow Jones reported the news should have waited until it appeared on “the media of widest circulation,” the Dow Jones ticker.”

    2. JBird4049

      IIRC, from previous reading over the years, it has been SOP for decades. I assume it started to get bad around 1995, but I really need to do some research to confirm it. However, what little I remember shows that such trades are a newish phenomenon. There has always been corruption in Congress. Always. Reading of the corruption right before and during the Progressive Era is really, really interesting.

      However, it did get better for some five decades, but like with the wealth disparity in 1929, which was arguable less than today’s, we have the corruption. That may, or may not, be as great as back then.

      Anyways, at least two decades in both houses, the Congresscritters almost always have unexplainable or strangely quick growth in their net worth; like with Hillary Clinton’s extremely profitable cattle future, which were very improbable, but not impossible.

      However, seeing that the majority of the members of Congress have had such very improbable, but not impossible, growth in personal wealth is… suggestive?

      1. Acacia

        Or Obama, ascending from unremarkable adjunct at U. of Chicago, to buying a $15 million dollar estate in Martha’s Vineyard.

        1. christofay

          Or the townhouse in D.C., the Chicago maison-de-ville, the Hawaii estate for winter vacationing which will require flying private, who has a plane to lend? The first president who retired to four houses, think of the maintenance as a couple million per year. I think that a Sanders’ presidency who start people to reevaluate values so the going price for an Obama platitude performance would drop. That’s an existential risk.

    3. curlydan

      In other Pelosi news (Jan 6th), definitely not a street fighter… maybe “drunk with power silk scarf fighter”. Could be a Hong Kong movie–the title probably would be better in Chinese.

    4. Mr. Magoo

      If your portfolio is $100M – a $10M bet on one stock is significant. Like, in a “I can’t loose” significant sense.

      Nobody makes that kind of bet unless they have a presumption of it being very low risk.

      1. tegnost

        To be fair she has lots of grandkids and she knows what a crappy unequal world she’s creating so she really needs to have enough money to keep them in the aristocracy, and everyone knows that’s a lot of money…, I mean, have a heart!
        Student loans? You might as well be in prison…
        You can’t do that to people you care about…
        Your grandkids should be able to eat the same level of ice cream as you eat, I always say…

    5. petal

      Reading that made me want to cry. Like was on the verge of tears cry. So yes, I agree with your rubbing it in theory, especially now. These …familybloggers…have no shame. None. It’s all a joke to them. “How far can we push the proles?” They must have a bet going on how many they can kill through deaths of despair.

      1. JBird4049

        >>>>They must have a bet going on how many they can kill through deaths of despair.

        That presuming that they even notice those deaths, which I doubt.

    6. Jeremy Grimm

      I wondered why Pelosi didn’t bother to be a little more clever about her stock purchase. I need to review the details — there is a way to do insider trading by buying options nearing their expiration date and near the money. There were a couple of research papers that described the technique following the stock action after 9/11. Also couldn’t someone with $100 million in assets afford to keep a few layers of holding companies between them and the action.

  6. cocomaan

    Nice article on DMX. Been listening to him since the late 90’s and always loved that the guy did not shy away from violence or death of damnation. A lot of anger in there. Something about the music you listen to in high school sticks with you long afterward. DMX was a touchstone for angsty teenage cocomaan.

    1. wadge22

      Yes thank you for the recent coverage, Lambert. DMX was never exactly my bag, but him and some others I consider similar (Method Man&Redman, Ludacris, Eminem, lumped together for me by kids I worked with in kitchens all consistently playing them) had likeable songs that got me to stop rejecting the genre, and I have found much else there to be enriched by. That style of clever loud angry cockiness certainly resounded with the suburban-white-kid-who’s-not-going-to-be-going-to-college set that I found myself running with (and becoming).
      I will be giving him some deeper relistens, thanks to Watercooler.

      1. Dr. John Carpenter

        Related to that, there was a rather touching comment I saw from a kid who was kind of like you’d described. Said he spent all day at school getting bullied but listening to DMX when he got home helped him make it though. I grew up in the time of the PMRC and metal and punk had the same effect for me.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      There are a lot of touching stories on the Twitter. This is the one I had wanted to include:

    3. Henry Moon Pie

      “music you listen to in high school sticks with you long afterward”

      Ever see “The Music Never Stopped”? A young man suffers brain damage and appears catatonic until he starts to hear some Grateful Dead. He “comes alive” and can converse and interact as long as the music is playing. A music therapist uses this connection to “bring him back.”

      It’s interesting to me that two of the most powerful post-60s musical forms, rap and punk, are without melody. It says something about the levels of anger and hope in our times that artists and listeners alike have little interest in what some would have considered the most fundamental element of music.

  7. allan

    Cuomo, top aides worked on COVID book alongside publisher’s reps at Executive Mansion [D&C]

    On a Friday afternoon last summer, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo convened his closest aides and advisers at the Executive Mansion for a project that would take up much of their weekend. …

    When they arrived, Cuomo’s senior aides were greeted with printed-out copies of a manuscript that would become the governor’s best-selling book that fall, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, which were laid out next to table settings in the dining room.

    It would be the first of two times Cuomo gathered his inner circle at the Executive Mansion to critique and fact-check the manuscript that netted him a reported seven-figure sum, at one point having his top aides and advisers work alongside two representatives of The Crown Publishing Group, his publisher, according to three sources with knowledge of the effort. …

    Forget about it, Jake, it’s Cuomotown.

    1. JBird4049

      It seems so petty. I mean as corrupt as state of California’s politics has been and remain to be, it is often over something real, like water; that determined not only who got the money and the power, but also determined what city or town lived or died. This is especially in the southern half and in the valley. Beside self pleasuring his ego just what is Governor Cuomo’s excuse?

  8. ambrit

    Re. “..no 40 hour jobs near them.”
    Don’t move; learn to code and work from home for a Kolkatta international phone bank software developer.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think you’ve got this in reverse: Work from home, get yourself hired as a coder, then hire a freelance Kolkatta coded to do the actual work. Pay their fee, pocket the difference. It’s win-win!

      How remarkable that the “Learn to code” NGOs didn’t teach their victims students this simple technique!

  9. Pat

    “You’re not paranoid if they are out to get you.”
    Every one of our scientific government spokespeople have misled, misspoke, hell out right lied during this. Our government, as in the people running it, are greedy, corrupt, sadistic, and largely divorced from the consequences of their actions. They are also under considerable pressure to 1.) reopen the country and 2.) do it in a manner that enriches the chosen few. They also have a long record of cooking statistics and using propaganda in order to guarantee their preferred outcomes. If that means ignoring things like school ventilation so be it.

    I fully admit I cannot begin to wade through the muck trying to find the grain regarding both the true state of the disease and the safety of the vaccines much less their efficacy.

    We cannot begin to understand the long term effects of the mRNA vaccines, previous attempts to use this delivery system were more thoroughly tested and rejected. There were distinct problems that got hand waved away in the early days of the Moderna and Pfizer rollouts. If I got correct information, there are equal or greater numbers of people dead from deadly reactions to them and to the J&J vaccine.

    Meanwhile we are getting occasional reports of people contracting Covid after vaccination. Not a surprise if you read beyond the headlines and first paragraphs. And ever changing terms of protection. And there are further questions and speculations. We can see that booster shots are on the horizon. The pattern makes it appears Pfizer is the chosen winner, with Moderna the close runner up.

    I wish I didn’t think the health and safety of the public is way down the list of importance in America, but even a pandemic wasn’t enough to break the hold profiteers have on our system. Yes, the telling it like is social media streaming event might have stopped more people from thinking we aren’t being given the whole picture, but for some of us even getting it out at the beginning wouldn’t have helped.

    1. jsn

      It isn’t that our leaders actually think of the citizens as “natural resources to be used as necessary for profit”.

      But the corporatization of government by the whole evolution of graft to market from Buckely vs Valeo to Citizens United has put citizens at a signular and important remove from politics.

      To the extent that politics has been restructured to serve corporate interests, the practical effect is to treat citizens as natural resources to be used as necessary for profit.

  10. ambrit

    That photograph of the voting machine up against a painted blue sky on a wall made me laugh. What a contrast of values, in several senses.
    My first thought was that this could be a poster for a Pixar film: “VOTE-E.”

  11. lobelia

    Re: Pelosi as a Street Fighter

    Pretty sure she was referring to her obsessive, white gloved knee-capping (therefore an aspect of street fighting – albeit remote™ street fighting – and frankly, even dirtier) of the helpless.

    A despicable excuse for a human being.

    gotta run

  12. Zagonostra

    -Philosophy of sound – Aeon

    As the inventor Nikola Tesla said in the 1940s: ‘If you wish to understand the Universe, think of energy, frequency and vibration.’

    I always thought of Tesla as so much more than an ‘inventor’.

    I appreciated the quote from Pythagoras that a stone is ‘frozen sound’. I always thought of ‘substance’ as frozen light, or a vibration. Energy is convertible vibrations. All substances are energy of one type or another and in different modes or phases Vibrations, frequencies, energy, fields, these are all those irreducible concepts that make up science’s understanding of nature.

    But then there exists aesthetics and ethics which take you into a different domain, one populated with ‘spiritual’ stuff…

    Good article worth a second reading.

  13. GF

    Shipping: “Suez megaship owner haggles over US$900 million release demand” [Channel News Asia].

    What about the 20,000 undelivered containers on that ship? Seems a lot of big corporations must be screaming at someone too?

  14. enoughisenough

    Touré Reed has debunked in several places the canard about the New Deal being bad for Black People. He explains that that take only showed up when Bernie Sanders was gaining steam, and that the application of the ND was only unfair because of capitalistic incentives, not the New Deal itself.


    1. jsn

      Conrad Black’s bio of FDR is pretty good on this. While some may argue that more was possible at the time, when you compare what FDR actually achieved for the poor in general, which included a disproportionate proportion of the black population, to what any other US leader has actually delivered, its easy to understand why blacks have been loyal Democarts ever since, up to the present. LBJ, as bad as he was in so many ways, is the only one since to even try.

      The neoliberal destruction of US public education combined with weponization of political speech where words have lost all meaning except to excite and anger really has been a poisoning of the well and may well bring the whole destructive house of cards down over the next ten years.

      The New Deal was approved because Roosevelt accepted Jim Crow. This is a legitimate problem with New Deal legislation. But that problem does not eclipse that the universal materil benefits of the New Deal disproportionately benefited blacks becasue they were disproportionatley poor. Elipsis, elision and omission are just as decietful as lying when the intent is to decieve.

  15. Socal Rhino

    Re FDR

    I recall Adolf Reed arguing that the new deal was good for everyone, despite the fact that not all groups got all the benefits, and he continues to argue for mass benefits.

    Not that I think Biden is in any danger of becoming FDR.

  16. The Rev Kev

    “Nevada’s New Democratic Party Raises Back Funds Shuttled by Ex-Staff’

    So will a whole bunch of Democrat “consultants” start knocking at their doors to offer them their advice and services – for a fee? Don’t the Nevada’s New Democratic Party know that they are vital, vital to know how to win elections?

  17. Michael Ismoe

    I love the fact that you have to take an AP Physics test to pass a literacy test to get a ballot where your choice is between Biden and Trump – neither of whom could pass it. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

  18. John Zelnicker

    Lambert – I’ve also seen that literacy test a number of times.

    The answer to #1 is to circle the “1”. It’s the number of the sentence. I know it’s confusing, but I think the point is to determine if the person knows the difference between numbers and letters.

    The answer to #5 is to circle the first “a” in “alphabet”. It’s the first instance of the first letter of the alphabet.

    You are correct about #10. The first word beginning with “l” is “last” and the last letter of that word is “t”.

    The whole purpose of such tests is to fail the test-taker so they can’t vote (note that even one mistake is a fail). I’m not entirely sure a fifth grader could get all of them correct, as the sentence construction is intentionally complex.

    1. marym

      “The whole purpose of such tests is to fail the test-taker so they can’t vote (note that even one mistake is a fail).”

      According to the links below it’s from a Louisiana test used as late as 1964.

      “The test was to be taken in 10 minutes flat, and a single wrong answer meant a failing grade.”

      Some comments from a historian:
      “And of course, it was designed so there was no “right” answer. Did you draw lines through Z and Y? It said “a line” not 2. Did you draw a line through Z and Y? It said the last two letters in “the alphabet,” and that’s E and T. etc.’

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s really a post-modern test, raising all sorts of ordinary language philosophy questions

      > The answer to #1 is to circle the “1”

      Yes, but is the enumerator of the sentence part of the sentence? I think no.

      > The answer to #5 is to circle the first “a” in “alphabet”

      1) What is this “first, first” verbiage? It’s not even English.

      2) the alphabet should be quoted, as in “circle the first letter of ‘alphabet'”

      It’s like Kafka. You think there might be rules, and all the authorities insist that there are, but there are not.

      1. John Zelnicker

        You got it, Lambert. It is truly Kafkaesque. I think the creator of the test deserves some kind of kudo for creativity and ambiguity, as noted particularly in the tweets above.

        I agree with your notes to my comments. Those are the very reasons, among others, that I say the whole purpose is to lead people to fail. The test grader can choose among different possible answers to make sure the person fails. Then they can’t vote.

  19. skippy

    This ought to pep you up Lambert, thought of you as soon as I saw it … mirth

    “Since installing the Automower®, or Rex, as the grandkids call it, Randal has saved up to 20 hours a month, which he has spent establishing an organic veggie garden and enjoying more time with his family. Meanwhile, the Automower® has vastly improved the quality of his lawn and helped him achieve his ‘bowling green status’ goal. “My advice to anyone who wants to have a good lawn is to buy an Automower®” – Randal Jitts”


    Cue the Future is here Today intro ….

    1. Late Introvert

      The lawn and mower are both negating all attempts at organic gardening. Privileged a## white people.

      1. skippy

        Did you see the pro range, just think at that cost how many man hours et al you can pocket, not to mention one person can handle how many by app alone ….

        Just rock up to the gated community[tm] and drop the plank off the van and release the Automower®s, no icky dirty people to diminish the view or feign politeness, van driver need not get out either ….

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > ‘bowling green status’ goal.

      Of course, there’s an app.

      Status indeed: Our Randal bought the 430X model, “the smart choice for complex medium-sized lawns, for $4,999.00.” I helpfully underlined the zingers that would trigger the PMC purchase-reflex.

      I don’t know whether the badness of having a lawn and a robot mower is additive or multiplicative

  20. Darthbobber

    GOP gang of ten whining about the lack of true bipartisanship.

    They’re funny. They don’t seem familiar with that part of negotiation where you bring something to the table yourself. Their contribution to the Covid relief bill consisted entirely of proposals to pare down the Democratic package, without offering anything of substance as a tradeoff. Shockingly, the Biden team had enough sense to make the fairly obvious observation that if they could get a package the size they wanted sans gang of ten there was no reason to engage in this one-sided bit of horsetrading. Apparently somebody paid attention to the results the negotiating with yourself technique produced for Obama.

    And it looks like something similar was in play on infrastructure. If they expect Team Donkey to jettison things that are becoming boilerplate Democratic positions, then it would behoove them to find some aspects of boilerplate Republicanism that they are willing to dispense with and put that on the table. Will they? No.

    I see they’ve continued to expand the term gaslighting even further beyond its original descriptive meaning than it was already being stretched. Apparently it now encompasses any case in which your opponent’s propaganda is working better than yours. On Covid relief they all wound up hewing the GOP line against the package, in spite of its popularity with a large chunk of their own constituencies.

    Until they are willing to actually make some tangible offers (minimum wage? Voting rights? Something?) they can expect to be on the back foot for awhile.

  21. Darthbobber

    My constitutional history prof used to amuse himself every year by having his Survey of American History students (frosh and sophomores) and his Constitutional History students (a mix of undergrad and grad students) take the Alabama literacy test. Most did not find it all that easy.

Comments are closed.