2:00PM Water Cooler 4/2/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Another migratory bird from the Birds of the Atlantic Flyway.

“The secret life of the Grey Plove‪r‬” (podcast) [Conversations]. “Andrew Darby is a writer who recently became fascinated by the life of a dovish migratory bird called the grey plover. Each year thousands of these birds fly heroic distances, non-stop from the Gulf of St Vincent in South Australia to the mudflats off the Chinese coast near Shanghai. From there they fly up to the Arctic Circle. Until recently, the exact location of their breeding ground at the top of the planet was a mystery.” • This is wonderful episode, from an Australian Broadcasting Podcast that’s also good.

* * *


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:

An ugly upward trend, now with a downward blip, I’m guessing caused by a drop in New York (see the chart of Big Sttates below). 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, evem so-called outdoor dining. Don’t share air!

ME: “Maine sees highest single-day increase in new coronavirus cases in weeks” [Bangor Daily News]. “For the second day in a row, Maine saw the highest single-day increase in new coronavirus cases since the winter surge in virus transmission rolled back, with 401 new cases and one death….. The most cases have been detected in Mainers in their 20s, while Mainers over 80 years old make up the majority of deaths. More cases and deaths have been recorded in women than men.” • Commentary:

MI and ND:

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

Big drop in New York. Hopefully, it’s not a reporting issue.

Test positivity:


Hospitalization data is the best data we have, because hospital billing is a highly functional data acquisition system (ka-ching). That said, hospitalization is discretionary; they may also be reducing their admissions rate — relative to cases we cannot see in this data! — to preserve future capacity; or because hospitals have figured out how to send people home.

Case fatality rate (plus deaths):

Good to see those deaths dropping. The fatality rate in the West is dropping now, for some unknown reason.

* * *


“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

“1 big thing: Why cable hates Biden’s $100B internet plan” [Axios]. • Since the cable industry is extremely popular, the Biden administration had better tread carefully.

“Biden Passes Alzheimer’s Test With Flying Colors, Silencing Doubters” [Caitlin Johnstone]. From April 1 (obviously): “In a surprise move, President Biden live-streamed himself taking a cognitive test with a White House physician today in order to silence speculation that he is suffering from any type of degenerative neurological disease…. The president then went on to sign multiple executive orders halting deportations of undocumented immigrants, freeing the children from detention camps at the border, mandating a $15 an hour minimum wage, re-entering the Iran deal, pressuring Saudi Arabia to end the genocide in Yemen, and honoring many promises he’d made along the campaign trail, placing a wide distance between the Trump administration’s policies and his own.”

From the day before April 1:

“Congress could be even worse — Norms of cooperation are alive and (relatively) well” [Roll Call]. “Congress of today is far more cooperative than appearances suggest. And this is in no small part because of norms, the informal rules and ideas members hold about what is appropriate…. Contrary to headline-grabbing displays of discord, in the Congress of today, older norms of cooperation are alive and relatively well. In my book, “A Social Theory of Congress: Legislative Norms in the Twenty-First Century,” evidence gathered on the Hill and from current and former members and staff tells a story of a Congress where norms of cooperation continue to flourish…. But norms are changing. Unlike the Congress of the past, today norms of cooperation exist alongside norms of conflict. Members believe it is appropriate to engage in obstructionist behavior, and nonconformity and even partisanship itself are norms of the modern Congress. Members now see it as a norm to use the rules to obstruct routine legislative business. They may even engage in acts of extreme disruption, such as the 2016 Democratic sit-in on the House floor over gun control or the Republican storming of a Democratic-led House impeachment hearing in 2019.”

Democrats en Deshabille

What a waste:

Republican Funhouse

“Why the effects of Republican efforts to limit voting aren’t clear” [CNN]. “Let’s take a look at two ways of voting Republicans are trying to limit: vote by mail and early Sunday voting…. [T]he idea that expanded absentee voting was responsible for Trump’s defeat and President Joe Biden’s victory nationally is far from clear. Democrats won a load of elections (including the 2018 midterms) in the Trump era when mail voting was far more limited than it was in 2020. There’s nothing inherently Democratic about voting by mail. … Sunday early voters made up only about 72,000 of 5 million votes cast in the [Georgia] election. We don’t know exactly how these groups cast a ballot, but we can estimate. We’ll assume those White voters and voters of color who voted early on Sunday voted the same way as those who voted early overall in those demographic groups. With that estimate, Biden’s margin would have shrunk by between about 6,000 and 7,000 votes. This would not have been enough to erase Biden’s statewide win of a little less than 12,000. It is also fairly safe to assume at least some portion of those Sunday early voters would vote on other days of the week, if early in-person voting was disallowed on Sundays. We know at least some did in Florida’s 2012 election, when some Sunday early voting was eliminated there after the 2008 election.”

“Americans Oppose Many Voting Restrictions — But Not Voter ID Laws” [FiveThirtyEight]. “the public strongly supports one of the other major stipulations of Georgia’s new law: the ID requirement for absentee voting. That latest YouGov/The Economist poll found that Americans support requiring a photo ID in order to vote absentee, 53 percent to 28 percent. And Georgians are even more supportive: 74 percent of registered voters in the UGA/AJC poll backed requiring voters to include a copy of their photo ID or other documentation in order to vote by mail. Only 22 percent were opposed. Indeed, voter ID laws — which Republicans have pushed for years — are quite popular in general.” • So just have some liberal-leaning squillionaire fund IDs for those without them. If you really want to expand the electoral base, that is.

Boehner’s revenge:

Trunp Legacy

“Canción de Trump” [Idiot Joy Showland (ObjectiveFunction)]. Let it never be said that good old-fashioned blogging is no longer going on. (We just can’t find each other because The Platforms crapified everything.) This is the best description of Trump The Man that I’ve ever read, and best of all it’s not hysterical or preening. A small sample: “There is nobody on earth that speaks like Donald Trump. He is a language community of one. What he speaks isn’t even a jargon, it’s just bizarre. On the one hand, his speech is utterly impoverished. It’s incapable of conveying almost any of the major human experience. Everything he says is somehow integrally inappropriate. Here is a man who once described Frederick Douglass as ‘an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognised more and more.’ Like something out of Gertrude Stein: the black sludge of words, the sticky deposits left once language and communication have gone. But at the same time, his speech is incredibly fecund. The rolling rhythmic intensifiers that turn it into something like music, the way things are always very nice, very special, very good, or very, very, very… bad. Trump’s language never exhausts itself; he can fit a potentially infinite number of words between one concept and the next. This language really is a virus; a blob from outer space, breeding. Everyone I know has tried, at some point, to imitate it, and we all think we’re very clever. (Watching the chickens peck around the garden, I sometimes imagine them in his voice. We love mealworms, folks, don’t we love mealworms? Very wonderful mealworms, very nice and very delicious to eat. We love laying an egg.) But Trump invented this virus; he cooked it up in the strange secret lab inside his head. We just copy and pass it on. Infected. Transfixed.” • Well worth a read (including the long section in italics in the end, which is about the left and Biden, not Trump.

“The Memo: The mystery of post-presidency Trump” [The Hill]. “The $64,000 question is whether the former president would consider another run for the White House in 2024. Such an effort would be aimed in part at seeking vindication after his defeat at Biden’s hands last November. The word from inside the Trump circle is that no decision will be made on that score until at least the 2022 midterms. But Trump wants to remain viable — and part of the political conversation — while he weighs his options. ‘Do I think Trump would walk into the nomination? Yes. Anyone claiming otherwise is not being honest,’ said one former Trump campaign adviser. ‘But he could very easily look at what he is doing with his life and say, ‘I would much rather be a kingmaker than put myself through this bullshit again.’ In 2024, he can be either the king or kingmaker.’ Either way, he will have plenty of money to advance his goals.”


“GOP hardball pays off as Rita Hart drops IA-02 election contest” [Bleeding Heartland]. “Democrat Rita Hart announced on March 31 that she was withdrawing her contest of the election in Iowa’s second Congressional district, where Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks was certified the winner by six votes out of more than 394,000 cast. Hart’s decision gets House Democrats out of a jam. For all the bad-faith Republican accusations about supposed plans to ‘steal’ the seat, it’s long been clear the votes weren’t there to reverse the IA-02 outcome, no matter what an investigation determined. Last week, Democratic members of Congress began going on the record saying Iowa’s certified results should stand.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

Diangelo is worth every penny:

And but this entire thread by the always acute Ed Harrison is well worth a read:


Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “March 2021 BLS Jobs Situation – Job Gains Excellent For A Second Month In A Row” [Econintersect]. “The headline seasonally adjusted BLS job growth was significant and well above expectations, with the unemployment rate improving from 6.2 % to 6.0 %…. Very good growth. The economically intuitive sectors were mixed for economic growth. The rate of further recovery will be dependant on the coronavirus effects.”

Employment Situation: “U.S. Stock Futures Gain on Strong Jobs Data: Markets Wrap” [Bloomberg]. “U.S. equity futures rallied after data showed the biggest jobs increase in seven months, adding to evidence that the economy is picking up steam. Most other markets were closed for Good Friday. S&P 500 futures extended gains after the March jobs report, which said employers added 916,000 workers, and February employment was revised up. The yield on the 10-year Treasury added three basis points to 1.70%.”

Employment Situation: “Everything Roses? Under The Hood Of The March Jobs Report” [Heisenberg Report]. “Checking the usual “structural damage” indicators, the March report showed the percentage of total unemployed jobless for 27 weeks or longer rose again. It hit 43.4% in March’s report, up from 41.5% the previous month. The number of job loses counted as “permanent” fell marginally, but the total is still more than two million higher than it was 13 months ago. Specifically, there are more than 3.4 million Americans in the “permanent” category. That series remains extraordinarily elevated (figure below)…. Ultimately, though, the “all roses” characterization is probably a semblance of accurate, although the Biden administration will invariably say there’s much more work to be done.”

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 27 March 2021 – Improvement Continues As Comparisons Now To Pandemic Lockdown On Year Ago” [Econintersect]. “Week 12 of 2021 shows the same week total rail traffic (from the same week one year ago) improved according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) traffic data. Total rail traffic has been mostly in contraction for over one year – and now is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic… We are now seeing great rail growth as the data is being compared to the coronavirus lockdown period last year.”

* * *

Tech: “Testing Google’s Claim of Quality” [Knowledge (INSEAD]. “Taken together, our experiments suggest that Google provided fewer and lower-quality reviews compared to its competitors. Yet in 2011, only a year after the tech giant entered the online reviews market, it had amassed 3 million reviews – 20 percent that of then-market leader Yelp, which had a six-year head start. Google also directed fewer users to Yelp: In 2012, 85 percent of Yelp user traffic came from Google; by mid-2016, that figure had fallen to 68 percent, even though Google’s overall share of the internet search market held stable at around 65 percent. While the outcome of the Google antitrust lawsuit is far from certain, our paper provides experimental evidence suggesting that some practices of platform businesses may undercut competition and stifle overall market growth. Consumers, in turn, may end up with fewer choices and lower-quality products.” • Now do search.

Tech: “The Free Software Foundation’s leadership crisis worsens” [ZDNet]. “In short, while RMS supporters seek to paint their opponents as being outsiders, many of those opposing his return have spent years of their lives supporting free software at the highest levels both as programmers and leaders. The FSF can either wither and die as an RMS fanclub or it can reinvent itself as an organization that really does put software freedom first rather than as a prop for its founder’s ego. ”

Tech: “A Rite Against Cryptoart” [The Comics Journal]. “[J]ust like almost any other cryptocurrency, Cryptoart is a motherfucker when it comes to chugging down our oxygen with unimaginable greed and desperation… selling art through NFTs is not really the said revolutionary and healthy alternative to the Fine Arts world it’s been promoted as; it is literally the exact same circle of gatekeepers, speculators, fake experts, ruthless opportunists and straight up thieves – but now when you sell your “painting” to a “gallery”, you need to imagine that you’ve hired a special transport company that then escorts your painting via a convoy of 20 off-road vehicles, each farting away colossal amounts of exhaust while skirting the planet in the opposite direction from the shortest route, for SOME reason. (But don’t you worry! The technology is about to go “green” pretty soon – maybe by 2040?)” And this intriguing concept: “In his neat little book on hyperobjects Timothy Morton argues that global warming (or “climate change”) as one of the titular “hyperobjects”, so colossal in size that we are simply unable to see it in its entirety and realize the full scope of it. We were never ready to meet it, and the speed of its development exceeded any possibilities of human imagination, so, when faced with global warming on rational level, we can only resort to postmodernist irony, denial or hypocrisy.” • Hyperobjects. Hmm.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 Greed (previous close: 51 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 40 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 1 at 5:15pm. One year ago, just after the end of the Before Times: 22 (Extreme Fear). Last update 5:15pm April 1. The intern checked out on the next-to-the-last day?

The Biosphere

“Book Review: How Everyday Chemicals May Affect Fertility Rates” (review) [Undark]. “[Shanna] Swan contends that fertility has dropped significantly over the past 40 years, not just among humans but across the animal world. Swan, a respected epidemiologist and professor of environmental medicine and public health at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, has been conducting research in this field since the 1980s… The book grew from a 2017 paper in which Swan and her co-authors observed that human sperm counts had dropped by around 50 percent to roughly 60 percent between 1973 and 2011…. Among the many potential culprits — which also include obesity, unhealthy lifestyles, and delayed parenthood — one comes to the fore for Swan: our exposure to chemical compounds, particularly phthalates, which make plastics flexible and give shampoos their creamy consistency. Phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that alter the hormonal systems regulating human health. Depressingly, they are called “everywhere chemicals” — and are present across the spectrum of our daily lives…. The repercussions for other species are significant, according to Swan. The hardest chapter to read is on declining fertility in animals. Swan outlines how scientists are finding polar bears with low testosterone levels, seals in the Baltic Sea with uterine fibroids, and female sea-snails that developed male sex organs after exposure to under-water chemicals…. How have we gotten to this point? The United States is largely doing nothing; and news that the European Commission is “phasing out” some of the more poisonous substances from commercial use is hardly more reassuring. With more than 85,000 commercial chemicals in circulation, regulation remains light, and many products people assume are safe have simply never been tested. In addition, Swan argues that the concepts used to determine harm are outdated. The idea that higher doses are the most toxic to humans underlies most regulation in Europe and the U.S.; but in some cases, exposure to lower doses over prolonged periods is just as harmful but more insidious, she writes.” • Seems monocausal. Nevertheless, it looks like Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race is one more book to read.


“Megadrought: New Mexico farms face uncertain future” [High Country News]. “ON THE RIO GRANDE, one of the Southwest’s major lifelines, this year is expected to be among the driest in recent history. New Mexico officials project drought conditions to be worse than they’ve been since the 1970s. The upcoming season highlights a difficult reality in this state: Farming and ranching to pay the bills could become an unsustainable way of life in New Mexico, as the water supply dwindles and farms resort to pumping more groundwater to irrigate. And while state lawmakers and regulators have a wealth of information on the current and future water crises, there has been little interest in radical changes to water policy. In an attempt to address the immediate water challenges, hydrologists with the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission are taking the rare step of asking farmers along the river, as well as a major tributary, the Rio Chama, to either cut back their farming this year or brace for a short irrigation season.” • Invade Canada. Pipe the water down.

Health Care

Walensky’s disinformation propagating successfully:

As I show in this morning’s Links, the headline quoted in the tweet is deceptive. But that’s what propagates, good job.

“Pandemic Vaccines: How Are We Going to Be Better Prepared Next Time?” (PDF) [Med]. “in case of an emerging pandemic, billions of doses will be needed within months, which requires a huge production capacity. This is a problem that is not easy to solve. We need vaccine production plants around the globe that can shift to pandemic vaccine production within days. Some of this infrastructure exists already, depending on the vaccine platform chosen. However, it is likely that this capacity needs to be increased significantly. Many of these production plants will not produce product most of the time but will still need to be kept fully prepared. Building and maintaining this infrastructure will likely be very costly, but currently it is the only way to guarantee that production capacity is ready when needed. It will also be important to secure global supply chains and store appropriate glass vials, syringes, etc., in quantities required to package at least 2 billion doses. Finally, distribution pathways need to be established and plans for global vaccine distribution need to be drawn up and agreed on.” • Well worth a read.

We need more central planning:

Our Famously Free Press

“Substack raises more money, but is that a good thing?” [Columbia Journalism Review]. “Axios reported on Tuesday that Substack is raising another $65 million in venture financing, which will give the newsletter-publishing platform a theoretical market value of $650 million….. One fear is that in order to generate the revenue its investors require, Substack will have to increase its fees or increase the amount of control it has over its authors, or both….. Substack is also fighting another battle, one focused on the question of whether it is making explicitly editorial decisions when it pays certain writers — including Matt Yglesias, Scott Alexander, and Frederik de Boer — through its Pro program.”

“BBC Four to become archive channel as cost-cutting drive continues” [Guardian]. “BBC Four is to cease commissioning new programmes and become an archive-focused channel as part of the ongoing significant cost-cutting drive across the corporation. The originator of acclaimed shows such as Charlie Brooker’s Wipe franchise, the Emmy-nominated drama Burton & Taylor and the Bafta-winning comedy Detectorists, BBC Four will now be repositioned as the “home” of archived content, the broadcaster confirmed. While it is not being shut down altogether, the overhaul means the channel will no longer commission original content, but will continue to broadcast performances such as the BBC Proms, BBC Young Dancer and BBC Young Musician.” • What?!?!? They’re shutting down “In Our Time”? No more “Melvyn and his Friends”? What a debacle. Hopefully, the show can move to… Substack?

Police State Watch

“Santa Clara police union in hot water over its donation ask” [San Jose Spotlight]. “In a move that seems straight out of a mafia playbook, the union representing Santa Clara’s police officers solicited donations from businesses in exchange for police department support. In its ‘2021 Business Supporter’ flyer, sent to local retailers, the Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association said, ‘Place our decal in your window, and we will direct our ‘FRIENDLY’S’ to support you!”’ • Welcome to the Third World!

Class Warfare

“Alabama Amazon union vote: When will we know who won?” [AL.com]. “Observers of the count say it will likely be next week before the public portion of the vote count is open to the media…. About 5,800 ballots were sent out in early February for the mail-in vote, encompassing both full-time and part-timers. Election terms stipulate that workers who quit or are discharged for cause after a payroll period ending Jan. 9 are ineligible to vote. It’s unclear how many of those workers received ballots. During the early portion of the count, representatives for the company and the union check the names of everyone who voted against the official employee roll. Either side can contest a person’s eligibility to vote. Those ballots are then set aside. The remaining ballots are then counted. The media will be able to observe this portion of the election, which will be decided by a simple majority.”

“Fired, interrogated, disciplined: Amazon warehouse organizers allege year of retaliation” [NBC]. “The day after Jonathan Bailey organized a walkout over Covid-19 concerns at an Amazon warehouse in Queens, New York, he was, he said, ‘detained’ during his lunch break by a manager in a black camouflage vest who introduced himself as ex-FBI. Bailey, who co-founded Amazonians United, a network of Amazon workers fighting for better pay and working conditions, was ushered to a side office and interrogated for 90 minutes, according to testimony filed to the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB. The manager asked exactly what Bailey had said or done to get his fellow workers to join the walkout. When Bailey declined to explain, the manager shifted his tone. He told Bailey that some people ‘felt hurt’ by what he did and that it ‘might be seen as harassment,’ Bailey said. ‘It was already a pretty intense conversation. But it became very clear they were trying to intimidate me,’ Bailey said. ‘Being accused of harassment is a very dangerous thing.’ A week later, Bailey received a formal write-up for harassment, although his managers would not tell him whom he had allegedly harassed, nor what he had allegedly said or done, according to his NLRB testimony.” •

“Colectivo Union Election Finishes” [Urban Milwaukee]. “For the past two weeks, the workers have been filling out and mailing their ballots for the election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Tuesday, March 30th was the final day that workers had to get their ballot to the NLRB regional office… For months [IBEW Local 494] attempted to organize the non-management employees of 18 cafes in three cities along with delivery drivers, coffee roasters and workers at the Colectivo-owned Troubadour Bakery. If successful, the effort would turn Colectivo into the largest unionized coffee chain in the nation, according to a story by In These Times. The story also reported that Colectivo has let workers go in retaliation for their support of the union… In February, the organizers and IBEW 494 filed a petition for a union election with the NLRB. Organizers had repeatedly told Urban Milwaukee they would not seek an election until they had a solid majority of workers’ authorization cards returned. These cards grant a labor organization the authority to represent you, but federal labor law does not require your employer to recognize this authority — necessitating the union election.” • Remember when Obama promised to pass card check? Good times.

* * *

“Catherine Liu Hates Her Friends” (review) [Dan Wright]. Review of Virtue Hoarders: The Case Against the Professional Managerial Class. This is spot on: “I wish I could overstate how influential Sorkin has been on the PMC brain. Sorkin himself acknowledges his work is geared towards upper class liberals, and revealed in an Aspen Institute interview with David Brooks (because of course) that The West Wing pilot bombed in its first test screening in 1999, and was only saved by Warner Brothers convening another test screening made up of viewers who: came from households making over $75,000 a year, had at least one person in the household that was college educated, had a home subscription to The New York Times, and had home internet access (relatively rare in ‘99). And scene.” • Good clean fun.

“‘Whole Generations Of Fathers’ Lost As COVID-19 Kills Young Latino Men In NJ” [Gothamist].

361 young Latino men [were] killed by COVID-19 since the state’s first pandemic death a year ago. These men account for nearly half—43%—of the confirmed coronavirus fatalities among adults under 50 years old, even though Latino men comprise only 12% of this young adult population…. COVID-19 killed young Hispanic men in New Jersey at four and a half times the rate of Hispanic women, twice the rate of young Black men, and seven times that of young white men…. ‘We knew from early on in the pandemic that it was young Latinos at working age who were unable to shelter in place or work remotely,’ said Estevez. He said the pandemic compounded existing health and labor disparities prevalent in the Latino community.” ¨• Lots of interesting details on the dangers of car washes as a workplace.

Sadly, no:

News of the Wired

“Consider the Pigeon, a Surprisingly Capable Technology” [IEEE Spectrum]. “Luckily for those wanting to set up a pigeon-net, understanding how the birds know where to go isn’t important. You just have to train them to fly between two points. This is best done through the time-tested incentive of food. By feeding the birds in one location and housing them in another, you can teach the pigeons to fly the route. It’s also possible to train pigeons to return home from unfamiliar locations. In competitive races, the birds can travel up to 1,800 kilometers [PDF], although 1,000 km seems to be a more normal upper limit. Throughout the 19th century, pigeons carried messages tucked inside small tubes strapped to their legs. Typical routes included islands to mainland cities, rural villages to city centers, and other places where telegraph wires had not yet connected communities.” • So if you really don’t like digital communication….

Best Twitter cat thread ever:

Happy birthday to Sid, one of the bright spots in an otherwise grim year.

* * *

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 (Carla):

Carla writes: “Moss & thyme, creeping over a rock wall in February 2021.” Had we but moss enough and thyme [ducks]….

Readers, thank you very much for the big initial response of spring plant images. But I’m still feeling a little short…

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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. ambrit

          This might be a gwenetically gwengineered cat plant hybrid. What better way to solve world hunger than to gwengineer animals that can use photosynthesis to survive. Next, “The Human Plant Gween New Deal.”

          1. The Rev Kev

            You may have a point. The way that cats do nothing but lay in the sun all day long may be a sign that they are using photosynthesis to survive.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      In the ozone! I got rolling on the writing, and forgot to circle back and add it.

      Then I took Saturday off, and so I have only added it today.

      Fifty lashes with a wet noodle for Lambert

  1. JWP

    Campus Covid update:

    After having 1/5 of the school testing positive a month or so ago, there have been nearly zero cases for a month now. This is despite full-blown parties happening as if COVID did not exist and indoor dining off campus and bar visits happening as normal. In a school/staff of 6500 people, it is a fascinating case study on herd immunity and we are waiting for immunity to wear off and see what happens with case rises. NC is allowing students to be vaccinated too. We aren’t sure what is going on but the accepted truth is herd immunity given how isolated campus is. Interested to hear any of the commentariat’s thoughts.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Here in Tucson, things are reopening all over the place. I’m already seeing more foot traffic on Fourth Avenue, which is like party central here.

      Meanwhile, the University of Arizona students just keep right on partying. Just as they always have. The university does seem to be a bit more concerned than in years past, which means that a neighborhood complaint about a party might actually get some attention from the administration.

      1. Phillip Cross

        I was walking the dog at a local park in AZ this morning, and there were hundreds of maskless christians under the covered areas. It was already 80f! I hadn’t seen that many people in one place for ages!

        I know it’s supposedly safe to meet outside, but does that really include standing in a crowd of 200, and talking loudly face to face from 12 inches away?

        Seems like you’d be forced to inhale it, if anyone was shedding.

        1. Arizona Slim

          Me? I had to take the bus to the bike shop so I could pick up mah baby! Which really needed a tuneup!

          Now, word to the wise: Do not even THINK of trying to get on a SunTran bus without a mask. The light-up signs on the fronts of our city buses say “No Mask No Ride.”

          They’re not kidding. A neighbor tells me that the drivers will tell you to get the hell off their bus if you try to board without that mask.

          Any-hoo, I had a mask covering The Troublemaker (aka my mouth) and my snoot. I noticed that all of my fellow passengers were masked.

          The fare was free but the bus etiquette was still the same. You say good morning to the driver — from the rear entrance — as you board and you holler a hearty “THANK YOU!” when you get off the bus.

        2. clarky90

          Re; “maskless christians”, oh my, oh my……….!

          Sunlight renders coronavirus inactive 8 TIMES faster than predicted, says new study
          2 Apr, 2021 10:08


          “UC Santa Barbara assistant professor of mechanical engineering Paolo Luzzatto-Fegiz conducted an analysis of 2020 studies exploring the effects of different forms of UV radiation on the SARS-CoV-2 and found a significant discrepancy.

          As with all electromagnetic radiation, UV falls on a spectrum, with longer-wave UVA reacting differently with parts of DNA and RNA than other mid-range UVB waves contained in sunlight, which kill microbes and cause sunburn in humans.

          Short-wave UVC radiation has previously been shown to deactivate viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, which is responsible for Covid-19, but this section of the UV spectrum is deflected away by the Earth’s ozone layer………”

          “the team found that “inactivation” of virus particles rendered in simulated saliva was more than 8x faster than scientists had believed, in conditions similar to summer sunlight.”

          1. Phillip Cross

            Thanks, like I said, “I know it’s supposedly safe to meet outside, but does that really include standing in a crowd of 200(in the shade), and talking loudly face to face from 12 inches away?”

  2. Mark Gisleson

    I have to think that Matt Stoller’s Twitter poll was meant as Swiftian satire for April Fool’s Day. Not that I wouldn’t have taken it at face value if tweeted by our Vice President.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      Mark Gisleson: Yes, I note Stoller’s date stamp.

      For many, the tipoff was Lena Dunham.

    2. Temporarily Sane

      I’ll just take this opportunity to say that Stoller is an idiot whose expertise is highly overrated. When one takes into consideration that he’s a vote-blue-no-matter-who guy who feigns outrage at the Biden administration after he helped vote them in and an “omg the CCP is trying to usurp US democracy!!” hysteric, his less objectionable takes are irrevocably tainted.

      1. Geo

        He’s not an idiot. You simply disagree with him on certain issues. There’s a big difference between having different opinions and labelling a guy, who has many valuable insights and does important reporting on many issues, an idiot.

        This, “I disagree with this person on a topic therefore they are the worst person ever!” rhetoric is getting really tiring.

        It’s not just this comment but so much of this sentiment that goes on in our discourse. So, this isn’t directed specifically at you but just my overall frustration with such commentary. Personally, most of my favorite journalists and intellectuals I disagree with on a lot. People like Chris Hedges, Christopher Hitchens, Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky. Each of them lightyears smarter than me but flawed too.

        Whenever I read or hear something I disagree with tI try to remember this poem by D.H. Lawrence:

        Search for nothing any more, nothing
        except truth.
        Be very still, and try and get at the truth.

        And the first question to ask yourself is:
        How great a liar am I?

        There is a lot of ill-will, intentional misinformation, and ugliness in the world. I totally get the perpetual outrage instinct. And calling out someone’s errors is important. Does Stoller have an agenda he’s pushing or are these simply areas he has fallen for falsehoods? If he’s speaking in bad faith on those subjects please enlighten me. Knowing bad-faith propagandists from people we merely disagree with is important and I’m open to being corrected but Stoller doesn’t come across (to me) as one of those.

        We all are flawed and tell ourselves lies. It doesn’t make us idiots. It makes us human. It would be wonderful if we could begin to appreciate that once more.

        – – –
        P.S. I might just be overly sensitive to this because my own new film just got blasted with ten one-star reviews on IMDb recently tanking it’s score (as a small indie ten reviews have a bit impact) and only one even bothered to write a review simply saying “worst film ever”. Maybe I upset someone online or who knows what sparked that sudden influx of hate for the film but considering it had a really good score before that (and still does on Rotten Tomatoes and Amazon) it seemed like a strange attack on it. I’m fully onboard with criticism (I see nothing but flaws and failure in my own work) but it’s frustrating when MSM and Hollywood make millions for shoveling propaganda and glitter at us while those who try to challenge the mainstream don’t receive much support. Stoller has a much larger audience and reach than I do so obviously your one comment won’t bring him down. I just see firsthand, and through the experiences of others I know in various fields of art and journalism, that it’s a steep uphill climb when you don’t play by the game and challenge establishment norms. Few people will support you and just as many will happily tear you down.

        Personally, I’ve sort of given up. My past films had social conscience in how I portrayed themes and ideas. No guns, no celebrity worship, no objectification. A handful of people have really appreciated it. I’ll always cherish that. But, the industry and mainstream audiences don’t care. So, I’m gonna play the game now. I’ll still try to tell thoughtful stories but the next one will have star-power, guns, and sensationalism because that’s what people crave. They want extremes, not nuance. They don’t want to be challenged, they want to be indulged.

        That’s my self-pity rant. Thanks for listening. :)

        1. ambrit

          I think that you’ve just made your first “elevator pitch” for that next movie.
          The plot you outlined is good. Movie maker gets creamed for making good films. Decides to “Go Hollywood” to pay the bills. Sort of “Day For Night” meets “The Bad and the Beautiful.”
          Or, Jacques Tati versus Gojira.
          Getting silly here, but, how about a reboot of “The Man Who Fell To Earth?”

          1. InquiringMind

            There’s a reboot of The Man Who Fell to Earth in production as a series (was at Paramount, now at Showtime)

        2. The Rev Kev

          Geo, you have my sympathy here as I can see that you are going through a rough patch with your films. But nobody can say which films will stand the test of time or not, including yours. Look at the following films here that failed at first but later achieved their deserved popularity. Films like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, “Blade Runner”, “Fight Club”, “Office Space”, “Citizen Kane”, etc.


          Of course that does not help you pay your bills here and now unfortunately but it is something to remember. I do not know how good reviews are on IMDb but they do not sound trustworthy. All such things can be gamed which is how an Al-Qaeda propaganda unit managed to win themselves an Oscar not long ago. And not all people want all the ‘star-power, guns, and sensationalism’ as we have seen some real massive-budget films crash and burn in the box office.

          Just to cheer yourself up, head on over to the Critical Drinker channel on YouTube and as a film-maker yourself, enjoy a large mug of schadenfreude at some of the efforts of the big boys and girls. He has several books published in his name and he does know what he is talking about-


  3. spiegelspike35

    Re: Declining fertility, I read a convincing twitter thread by a doctor refuting a lot of this: increases in miscarriages are likely just better reporting b.c. of widely available pregnancy tests; testosterone is mostly a red herring, a highly effective way to decrease your testosterone is to actually get married and have children; sperm count data is hard to interpret because it varies so much seasonally, and the biggest correlate was actually sleep deprivation, so hard to say its due to chemicals.

    The conclusion was that the biggest reason for declining birthrates is overwhelmingly that fewer people are choosing to have kids, declining fertility makes little difference.

    Not that I should get all my facts from twitter. And I’d believe this is a stronger effect on animals. Anyone know more than me?

    edit: Found the thread: https://twitter.com/lymanstoneky/status/1372178337016201224. And apparently not a doctor, my memory edited his credentials

    1. The Rev Kev

      About thirty years ago I read that there were over 20,000 chemical compounds that had been pumped into the environment as either products or byproducts from manufacture. And that they EPA had no idea what these chemical compounds did or what they were capable of or how they might combine with each other. They were never tested as in never. And that was over thirty years ago. The good news? Cannibalism is now impossible. Why do you ask? Because if it became legal to sell human flesh, it would be now too contaminated which chemical compounds under the food laws to be allowed to be sold. Progress!

      1. Duck1

        Instead of Darwin awards, perhaps we should give Midgley awards ( an anvil attached to your neck before being thrown overboard):
        Thomas Midgley Jr. was an American mechanical and chemical engineer. He played a major role in developing leaded gasoline and some of the first chlorofluorocarbons, better known in the USA by the brand name Freon; both products were later banned due to concerns about their impact on human health and the environment. Wikipedia

        1. The Rev Kev

          And in something out of “Final Destination”, he was strangled to death in his sick bed by a bunch of ropes and pulleys – an elaborate invention of his own design.

  4. Synoia

    Consider the Pigeon, a Surprisingly Capable Technology…

    So if you really don’t like digital communication….

    Sorry to pop your balloon, but Pigeons carry a “packet of information,” and are thus Digital Carriers.

    If it were Pigeon Song or Call, sent from Pigeon to Pigeon then it could b Analog..

    1. jsn

      So when I write my notes with my quill on parchment before tying it to my birds leg with silk, I’m digital?

      Even in the ancient Egyptian sense, as no abacus is involved, I’m no computer.

      Or maybe you mean since I used my digits, digital IS analogue.

    2. hunkerdown

      IP over avian carriers has been known for almost exactly 31 years. It’s a well-characterized, time-tested, practically-proven technology, with strong protection against undetected interception (but poor protection against eaves droppings).

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      What if the pigeon packet is microfiche or microfilm? Which is actual words made up of actual letters, only very very tiny. Is “writing” and “printing” itself digital or analog or what?

  5. Phillip Cross

    BBC 4 is a niche “highbrow” tv channel and different to BBC Radio 4 which makes “in our time”.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > BBC 4 is a niche “highbrow” tv channel and different to BBC Radio 4 which makes “in our time”.

      Oh, thank heavens (with a raised eyebrow to the idea the Brits don’t think “In Our Time” is highbrow?)

  6. clarky90

    The Corporate B.S. Generator (important!)


    For the ambitious business professional looking to get ahead in the industry.
    Dazzle all the execs at your next business meeting…

    Create your own corporate B.S. catch phrase!
    1. Click the button below;
    2. Random corporate bullshit statement appears in text field;

    …or proactively engineer some bullshit of your own by practicing with words from the table below:

    adverbs verbs adjectives nouns

    1. ddt

      This is really good. Noticed that the word “smart” was missing from the list, probably to Lamber’s chagrin.

      This is what it generated for me: “competently implement backward-compatible sources”

      1. Irrational

        A worthy replacement for the Dilbert random mission statement generator perhaps? Thanks for the link!

  7. stefan

    Hopefully, they are going to string high capacity fiberoptic hardwire broadband wherever there is electrical service.

    I am on a satellite feed from Excede that costs $100/month. A speed test just now registers 0.62Mbps download and 2.71 upload. It never tests much higher than this. Worse than dial-up.

    Communication company claims always exaggerate their performance. Yet Americans are in the dark about how badly it compares to the rest of the world.

  8. skippy

    Cat-antidote … sniff … shock horror at the state of the balustrade and the stringers on the right, let alone the gaps between the kick boards and the stringers. This is the sight that greets me before heading off today with 3 story’s of internal balustrade going from varnished to off white enamel too contend with *oh the humanity*.

    Wellie its a good thing I’ll be using a conventional pressure pot system with devilbiss pro gun to lovingly apply all coatings to micron perfection after some festool lov – cats would approve.

    Curse you Lambert – !!!!

    1. ambrit

      Oh come on now skippy.
      We’re not talking about festooning the sides of a ’69 El Camino Low Rider with Day Glo flames, or lovingly easter egging the nearly subliminal “I Luv U” into the belly fur of the teddy bear Hallmark anniversary card.

      1. skippy

        Put it this way, home owners having a go is one thing, but, if someone is being payed to put a level 3 to 5 finish on an interior, as a professional, its not only a crime against those paying the money – but also the entire industry.

        In the past on NC these machinations have been well trod, how industry [sets the standards] is constantly trying to lower the bar via processes, product, and skills, so a few at the top make more. I have personally watched this from both the U.S. and Australian perspective in both RE and Industrial applications since the 80s [Industrial is a bit more sensitive, hard lessons [litigation and $$$$ concerns keep it to a low roar].

        Here is the rub tho … I can do a better job and faster than many because I have skills, processes, and gear that enables those results. Per se today I sprayed out all the ceilings with an airless Graco without over spray all over the place, especially on the drop sheets on the hardwood floors. Reason being is I know how to professionally operate the gear with the right tip and pressure for the product and application. Not only do I get a superior finish I also save on product, which is then passed on to the costumer – as a stop loss. 90%+ of other applicators around here have liters of paint on the ground due to poor controls E.g. a blown out tip will lose a liter of paint out of 15 liters just due to poor tip performance, which equates to about one man hour of labour cost down the the drain that could have been better allocated job quality and profitability.

        This is the reason I will use a top shelf conventional devilbiss pro gun on the radial aspects of the balustrade. It atomizes the paint to a higher degree than an airless and removes the potential for errant brush strokes, more control [precision] due to control over fan size, air flow [push], and shape, less paint loss, and a higher standard of finish E.g. automotive. This balustrade runs down the center of the house for 3 floors and is a critical eye feature that can make or break all the other work all around it. Not to mention from a consumable or man hour aspect its 10x faster, but you have to be skilled to do it.

        Best bit – is – this is why the young bloke I work for is getting most his work from word of mouth referrals, limited advertising, one on one relationships with clients that have done due diligence so the vagaries are diminished, quality for money is apparent, et al, which at the end of the day means a better experience for all involved and were booked out at least 4 months in advance with others in the wings. It is my pleasure to assist him in building his business which provides for his 3 kids and wife to support themselves.

        On the cheeky side with the clientele, we have, I do broach things offered here on NC like MMT, economics, and NC its self to all those that are of various means and status in the 20ith percentile. Per se the job today with the virologist that studied at CU and here in Qld, directed him to Lambert’s offerings and highlighted IM Doc for consideration.

        Yet after all is said and done above … the one thing that brings me mirth is bumping into clientele in the real world outside painter whites and the looks on their faces … French shirt, County Road jeans, Tiger shoes [Mexico], Rod and Gun jacket, Blow hair cut, absurdly delirious ….

        1. ambrit

          Ah, pride in one’s work. Refreshing to see “in the wild” as it were.
          Too, not allowing one to be confused with one’s “function” in the ‘marketplace.’
          Over here, alas, the majority of the jobs I see are ‘front men’ farming the jobs out to crews of Sothrons and skimming the cream. No pride, just greed and desperation. This applies to the upper end jobs just as much as the ‘volume’ projects. Is it any wonder that America is becoming a failed state?
          Don’t allow Australia to go the same way.

          1. skippy

            Its not pride, its just doing something well and how it plays out for everyone, I could argue that its just for me so I know my load is light if one were to go there.

            Lets just say I’m anti Greshams law on all fronts with a side of Veblen.

            1. ambrit

              ‘Pride’ may have ben a poor choice of word on my part. Apologies. Perhaps self respect would do better to describe the attitude necessary for that level of quality to be evidenced in the finished product.
              It reminds me of the old joke about the foreman telling the customer: “You can have fast, cheap, or good. Chose two.”
              We hope you all stay safe.

              1. skippy

                Its like some peoples notion of currency I guess E.g. religious symbolism passed on from authoritarian divinity or a more accurate depiction of a token of trade which facilitates exchange, as a marker of accountancy, of which, distribution vectors has nothing to do with the thing, but the notions of those that have sway over the distribution of its productivity is another matter all together … but yeah … lets focus on the the thing with no agency …

                Btw the above is a light touch WRT the topic of coatings, could go thorough the entire spectrum of Royal Science on the subject and all the substrates one has to contend with and on top of all that the environmental conditions one has to deal with. Lmmao had a director for an Oz engineering mob, on a Bechtel job for 3 phase port waratah decide to go ahead when all environmental signs were a whisker away from total failure. That was over 10K of product alone never the less man hours to reblast and recoat the mess.

                Now lets talk about VaR ….

            2. Lambert Strether Post author

              > Its not pride, its just doing something well and how it plays out for everyone

              I know I am old school, but for me “the dignity of labor” is a real thing.

      1. skippy

        Love too, displaying my skills is always a privilege and something that after I depart is a memory of me, no matter if my name is there.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Cat-antidote … sniff … shock horror at the state of the balustrade and the stringers on the right, let alone the gaps between the kick boards and the stringers.

      Now that you mention it I see the gap, but what’s wrong with the balustrade? (The same account also remodeled the house which, take it from me, was not all it could be, so I’m not happy that their contractors were sloppy. Here is the renovation thread, which you may enjoy.)

  9. DJG, Reality Czar

    Canción de Trump. Many howlers.

    “What it comes down to is this: Donald Trump is simply not like other people. He is something different, an alien walking among us. A creature from a haunted land. In his own way, a genius. Something bright and rare and strange.”

    Sorry. No. The problem with Trump is that he is all too representative of the U.S. business class, as we keep seeing with the eruptions of entry-exam cheating, weird stock trades, addiction to indoor dining, trophy wives, nepotism, casual assumptions that everyone is their inferior, plus hidey-holes far from the diseased crowd.

    Plus this:
    Also, too, I eat pizza with a fork and knife. When you get a pizza on a real plate, instead of eating out of a shipping container, you use a fork and a knife. Stuffing the blowhole with pineapple pizza is for the goyim. Vaffunculo.

    1. Chief Tioga

      In a former life, I was responsible for approving large real estate loans, and construction loans were considered hary-scary for all of the things that can go wrong. For example, suppose actual costs exceed estimated costs? What happens if, before construction finishes, the job is shut down, and sits unfinished while some bankruptcy wanders on month after month? Worse, suppose every goes as expected, but for the fact that the estimated rents are much higher than actual rents turn out to be, owing to, for example, a Pandemic? In my experience, the real estate developer was, as a rule, a person who was willing to take risks that would keep ordinary, ‘normal’, people awake at night staring at the ceiling. Just like the gambler who is up one day and down the next, only to bounce right up again. After time, I came to realize society needs and depends on people like this. I would never have tried to put a Man on the Moon, let alone, go myself. I would not risk every penny I had ever earned and saved on a project that might go bust and force me to start all over again. Would I have booked passage on the Mayflower? Would I have walked across the North American Continent and back with Lewis and Clark? Would we have a lightbulb if Edison hadn’t persisted when I probably wouldn’t. It takes strong-willed, risk-taking people to get out in front, and, when they succeed, to show us the way forward. When they fail, it is their loss, but when they win, we win too. I say this not to defend Trump nor to praise him. I just say we need people who have the guts to try to go where I and others might not. By sticking to his guns, and not licking establishment boots like his predecessors, he has brought some light on the question about who runs our country, the one we are supposed to be ready to die for.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        “I came to realize society needs and depends on people like this”


        Those who think to win the world by doing something to it,
        I see them come to grief.
        For the world is a sacred object.
        Nothing is to be done to it.
        To do anything to it is to damage it.
        To seize it is to lose it.

        Tao te Ching, (U. K. Le Guin, trans.)

        “I came to realize society needs and depends on people like this”

        I’ve long agreed with Grace Slick on this:

        I’d rather have my country die for me.

        ReJoyce” (audio)

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      I use a knife and fork sometimes.

      And I like pineapple-ham pizza sometimes.

    3. km

      In my experience, real estate developers are very different from the typical US business class, very different from the Very PMC Lanyard People.

      Both can be reprehensible, but in very different ways

    4. Kurt Sperry

      Agree 100%, there’s damn little exceptional in any sense about Trump, except his amazing good fortune. Trump is a seedy conman, a grifter, that any small town in deepest flyover country could put forth the equal of selling used cars, extended product warranties, or religious salvation.

      As for pizza, I eat mine with a knife and fork in Italy always, and usually by hand/slices in the US because it is brought to you already sliced. Either way is fine. Just to add: US pizza is generally shockingly overpriced vs. Italian.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > there’s damn little exceptional in any sense about Trump

        I think if that were true, then everybody in Business Class would speak like Trump. They most certainly don’t.

    5. Roberoo

      Trump maybe not only a paragon of the US business class but possibly the electorate itself. To quote Mencken:

      “In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by the force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre—the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

      The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron”.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Maybe. Then again, there was a DemParty primary electorate all set to vote heavily for Sanders till Obama and the Mainstream Inner Party Dems and certain key Black Caucus figures engineered the removal of Sanders from the primaries.

        So we don’t know what the American electorate would have done with a choice of Trump v. Sanders.

        And how does your theory explain the retreat from Trump in 2020?

    6. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The problem with Trump is that he is all too representative of the U.S. business class, as we keep seeing with the eruptions of entry-exam cheating, weird stock trades, addiction to indoor dining, trophy wives, nepotism, casual assumptions that everyone is their inferior, plus hidey-holes far from the diseased crowd.

      As I said below, if Trump were the ideal type of an American business, they would all talk like he does. That’s why I extracted the quotation on Trump’s language, which really is unique and bizarre.

  10. ChrisAtRU


    Wow … thanks you for the Idiot Joy Showland link. An excellent read, the final paragraph of which sent shivers of solidarity down my spine. I heartily concur.

    1. wadge22

      I was all about that link, too. Maybe one of the better in a while. The bleak outro resonated here all too strongly, just like with you.

      also this

      “He never really wanted power, and he didn’t know what to do with the thing once he had it. He had no programme and no politics. His whole period in office was an aimless meander… He simply wanted to win rather than lose – so people would pay attention to him, so he could continue to exist. That’s all.”

      I had that impression from early on with Trump, and although it wasn’t completely unrepresented in what I read written on him (particularly pre ’16 election), I think it was frequently ignored as a significant trait of his because it sort of invalidated any other prevalent reading.
      He struck me as very game to reactively conquer any crisis, perhaps even reveling in how dangerous a crisis he could trigger and then overcome. But he was very much ambivalent about any actual content or meaning, perfectly happy to abandon previous sticking points so long as his twisting led to a “win”.

      1. cnchal

        >. . . He simply wanted to win rather than lose – so people would pay attention to him, so he could continue to exist. That’s all.”

        True, but then there is this confusion by the author, regarding narcissism, so the clever words are a fun read based on a misunderstanding.

        How did a country as conservative as the United States ever manage to elect a man as utterly weird as Donald Trump? . . .
        – – – –
        But Donald Trump eats pizza with a knife and fork. You could not get a beer with him. He would not shake your hand. You are nothing alike. And still it doesn’t matter. Who ever said that people want to be governed by someone just like them? That’s what the ruling classes think, because they’re all covetous narcissists who want political power to wear a human face: their human face.

        That he doesn’t get that Trump is the narcissist and the ruling classes are the psychopaths that surround the narcissist / politician is the punchline.

        The elites couldn’t control Trump. That was weird.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > The elites couldn’t control Trump. That was weird.

          Meaning, again, that something about Trump is sui generis.

          The elites did manage to control him — I thought he never, ever should have thrown Flynn under the bus — but it wasn’t easy and it never felt permanent. (I think the biggest factor was a professional services strike from the PMC. Trump, unlike Bush the Younger and especially Bush the Elder, just couldn’t find good help.)

          1. ambrit

            “…just couldn’t find good help.”
            What’s a sign of systemic senescence here is that we are talking about “running the country.” Simple spite allows the PMC to let the entire edifice crumble?

  11. Lee

    (((David Shor)))
    Mar 29
    Relative to 8 years ago, white liberals now report substantially warmer feelings toward non-whites than whites, with the change being driven by a large increase in negative ratings of white people as a group. Ideology only correlated with out-group ratings among white voters.


    Based on the long and lethal history of European national, religious, and tribal wars, it’s pretty clear to me that white people never liked each other much.

  12. a different chris

    The Catherine Liu Hates Her Friends review was fun but ..mmmm

    The villains are dumb working class bigots who get their comeuppance by a superior, more cosmopolitan intellect.

    Huh? Atticus Finch lost the case. What kind of comeuppance is that? (Didn’t know anybody said “comeuppance” anymore but never mind)

    I don’t know what happened in Harper Lee’s other novel, but for a guy in a small town like that, it does not seem like it would go well in the real world. Restaurants suddenly don’t have reservations, phone calls aren’t returned and suchlike. And obvious to anybody who lived in the time of the novel I would believe, is that those prejudiced people included the elite just like Ford Motor Company included the manufacture of automobiles.

    The elite’s viewpoint has always been expressed indirectly thru those they control. No it was “never an exclusively white working class pursuit”… more to the point the white working class followed those that they felt were putting food on their table, understandably enough, and the elites didn’t even have a concept of getting their own hands dirty.

    Harper Lee didn’t have to make it blatant. In fact I don’t even think it would occur to somebody of her background to have to explicitly write it. Like writing “the water is wet and the sun came up in the east”…

  13. Kurtismayfield

    RE: Biden broadband

    It sounds like there isn’t enough grift in the plan to get this thing through Congress. Most of the tech people I have read are overjoyed about it. Is the problem that there isn’t enough to skim off the plan?

    1. Michael Ismoe

      LOL. Joe Biden’s first fundraiser, the day after he announced his candidacy in 2019 – was at the home of Brian Roberts, the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Comcast. Assume that somehow, somewhere that Comcast wrote ever syllable of that proposed statute.

  14. Big River Bandido

    Personal anecdote, file under “Crapification”? “Kill It With Fire”? “Big Brother Is Watching You Watch”? “New McCarthyism”?

    I am making a recording of George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture, an orchestral piece from 1932, and I hired a musician friend of mine to play some of the tracks. I’ve hired this same musician several times before and paid through Venmo, without any problems. To help myself keep track of who I have paid for each project (because I’m hiring a lot of the musicians for multiple projects), I always list the title of the work in the payment “memo”. So, Monday morning, off went my payment…and it got immediately flagged for review, where it has languished ever since. I’m just sounding off here because I can, and because the imbecile nature of this has become so endemic throughout all areas of American “society”.

    I received an email from Venmo which included the following:

    our compliance department implements controls to ensure our payment platform is being used properly. We need your help to understand a recent transaction.

    On _____ [date], you sent a payment for … “Rhumba (Cuban Overture).” We’re trying to understand:

    * your reference to “Cuban.” [emphasis mine]

    * purpose of this payment, including a complete and detailed explanation of what you intended to pay for and the establishment/location if applicable.

    * please provide a sales receipt or other documentation pertaining to this transaction.

    I replied with as much acidity as I could muster, attached the title and first pages of the instrumental part, and told them that their algorithms obviously suck.

    This is what we’re up against.

    1. ambrit

      These algorithms are originally written by actual people. [We’re not to true AI yet, are we?] Thus, the ‘priors’ of the writers of the code, and those who alter the code later, are paramount. It looks like this Venmo organization has been ‘captured’ by the Neo-con establishment. Nothing else explains the ‘Cuban’ issue adequately.
      This is another reason to defend physical money to “the death.”

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Part of that defense will involve a ” long time-tail defense” of using physical money in the “patriot cash” markets. (Which the digital money regime will call the ” black markets”.)

  15. enoughisenough

    “Pandemic Vaccines: How Are We Going to Be Better Prepared Next Time?”

    For some reason??? I see nothing in there on REQUIRING VACCINES TO REMAIN WITHOUT PATENT OR COPYRIGHT, so that everyone has a chance to manufacture them.

    Am I wrong in thinking one of the biggest obstacles in production right now is the literal prohibiting people from producing them??

  16. lobelia

    “Santa Clara police union in hot water over its donation ask” [San Jose Spotlight]. Welcome to the Third World!

    Forget it Jake, It’s Chinatown Silicon Valley

    gotta run (fast)

    1. The Rev Kev

      The article said ‘Place our decal in your window, and we will direct our ‘FRIENDLY’S’ to support you!”’

      Maybe that decal should be in the form of a black hand.

      1. Tom Stone

        Rev, odd you should say that ecause San Jose/Santa Clara was the only part of the SF Bay Area where the Italian Mafia made serious inroads.
        The Bonanno Family IIRC.
        SF and the East Bay had longstanding criminal organizations by the time the Italian immigration really picked up.

  17. Temporarily Sane

    Re AOC making excuses for the Biden admin (again)

    Does anyone still take her or the squad seriously? She/they have blown so many chances to fight for the things they were elected to fight for and they never miss an opportunity to run interference for the Biden admin. It’s like they think posting stuff on Twitter mystifying their chronic lack of action is a legit way of doing politics.

    The only squad member that retains some potential is Ilhan Omar. The rest are a write off.

  18. occasional anonymous

    Re: Ocasio-Cortez’s border control heel turn. I cynically expected her to do things like this eventually, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon and abrupt. I can’t keep up anymore with the degree to which Democrats just do not give a crap. And this includes most of the so-called progressive wing. They literally have no principles and just jump between whatever is most convenient to political gain in the shortest of short-terms.

    It’s one thing to know that liberals don’t believe in anything, but it’s still shocking to see them so easily and so completely ditch even a central pillar of #resistance like ‘kids in cages!!!’.

    For Ocasio-Cortez specifically, yep. This is the future. She’s young, charismatic, technically savvy, and seems to have no trouble getting reelected. We’re likely in for decades of this. She’ll toe the party line consistently, but always be up for gaslighting progressives by dunking on them in embarrassing Instagram videos for daring to ask basic questions.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      I saw some commentary today that basically said AOC/the Squad/etc. were doing fine when they had the Trump administration to take the bulk of their ire. Now that the administration is Democrat, they’ve completely lost their footing. I have to agree.

      But, yeah, like you, I saw this coming but I expected a lot more subtlety and grace than what we’re seeing. I really expected they’d continue their criticism of the Republicans with any mention of the Dems being conspicuously absent as it has been, but this kind of shilling is really insulting.

    2. Michael Ismoe

      AOC and the entire Squad would benefit from self-banning from Twitter for a few years. I know I would.

    3. The Rev Kev

      One person in that twitter thread had it down when he said the following-

      Replying to
      Well, instead of calling them kids stuffed into cages, they’re kids stuffed into pods. So different.’

      This is just gaslighting on AOC’s part in defence of the indefensible. Next she will be doing recruiting ads for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

    4. km

      Doesn’t surprise me a bit. Witness how many Team D goodthink liberals insisted that any sexual relationship between a male supervisor and female subordinate was by definition sexual harassment, if not outright rape (because power disparities) did a 180 as soon as the supervisor turned out to be Bill Clinton.

    5. richard

      aoc is getting scorched on left twitter by almost every poster these days. Not an exaggeration (in my feed anyway) and it is new. She’s burned a lot of bridges. In fact all that’s left is that big blue liberal one. i’m sure she’ll be fine.

  19. enoughisenough

    I never watched The West Wing, but in learning more about it, it’s hilarious and embarrassing to realize all my PMC wonky friends had been getting their talking points and arguments straight from a fantasy tv show, and then calling their views “pragmatism”.

    So embarrassing.

    Also so glad I stayed away from that show, my instinct were correct all along: seemed like bureaucratic palace drama, everything that most people hate about politics. It’s scary to think how much damage it’s done to our discourse, and our movement on issues.

    1. occasional anonymous

      It’s a liberal fantasy show where the fantasy is that they never accomplish anything, other than keeping anyone even slightly to the left down.

      1. ambrit

        Something like how “Breaking Bad” is a show about “Rags to Riches” for the ‘ordinary’ folk.

        1. Michael Ismoe

          You got three ways of being a millionaire: Win the lottery. Get rear-ended by Jeff Bezos’ chauffer on drugs. Own a meth lab. Welcome to Flyover.

          1. The Rev Kev

            I though that “Breaking Bad” was a story of the perils of not having universal healthcare.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        The main character (Josh) is based on Rahm Emmanuel. In keeping with the viewers’ level of intellect, Josh would explain something like the 3 branches of government to a woman, always a woman, in every episode, making the viewers feel really good about themselves for reminding them of a social studies lesson from 2nd or 3rd grade. Just a trash show. The music was good. I’ll give them that.

        Don’t worry, the one non-white main character’s job in the show was to carry the Democratic President’s bags. I kid you not.

  20. marym

    Re: “Why the effects of Republican efforts to limit voting aren’t clear” [CNN]

    6000-7000 votes here 6000-7000 votes there pretty soon you’re talking real elections…

    In case the intent isn’t clear: Here’s a thread with a summary of the GA bill (including another summary of a NYT summary). It includes making voting more difficult and making it easier for Republican legislators to control the outcome.

    Re: Will Bunch post on Kemp’s signing ceremony photo

    While Kemp and GA Republicans were signing the bill in front of a painting of a plantation “Georgia lawmaker Park Cannon, who was arrested after knocking on the door where Gov. Brian Kemp was signing the law restricting voting rights, says she is now facing 8 years in prison after being charged with 2 felonies.” https://twitter.com/Taniel/status/1378086361710858240

  21. The Rev Kev

    “Fired, interrogated, disciplined: Amazon warehouse organizers allege year of retaliation”

    ‘A week later, Bailey received a formal write-up for harassment, although his managers would not tell him whom he had allegedly harassed, nor what he had allegedly said or done, according to his NLRB testimony.’

    I think that the person that felt harassed was Jeff Bezos. Such a sensitive soul.

  22. drumlin woodchuckles

    If the Union wins the Unionise-that-warehouse vote against Amazon, Bezos will bide his time while quietly planning how to close that warehouse. Once he is able to re-route all the traffic and business through the other non-union warehouses, he will close the Bessemer warehouse.

    But that need not be a cause for despair. What it would mean is that, if people are patient and persistent enough, that it will be possible to exterminate Amazon one warehouse at a time. When Amazon closes the Bessemer warehouse, unionise the next-most-unionizable warehouse. When Amazon closes that warehouse, unionize the next one. And the next one and the next one and the next one. Eventually Amazon will realize after-the-fact that it has left itself too few viable warehouses to be able to function as a business-killling-and-eating business any more. And the rump-Amazon should be easier to exterminate with a deeply motivated extermicott of Amazon at that point.

    Once Amazon has been exterminated, legitimate people might be able to recreate and regrow legitimate businesses to cover and re-green the scorched earth where Amazon blessedly no longer exists.

    1. Michael Ismoe

      It’s 3 am on Christmas morning. The warehouse is shut for the holidays. Even the guard has the night off.

      What’s that? Behind the tree-line. It looks like Jeff Bezos. Is that a canister of gasoline from the local Piggly-Wiggly that he’s carrying? OMG no. It’s jay-Zeus’s retribution for joining that devil-worshipping union. I just knew this would happen!

  23. Michael Ismoe

    “March 2021 BLS Jobs Situation – Job Gains Excellent For A Second Month In A Row”

    Can someone explain to me how every Thursday for 4 weeks in a row we have between 700,000 and 750,000 initial unemployment claims and yet somehow we had more than 900,000 new jobs created last month.

    I am thinking that someone might be lying to me,

  24. The Rev Kev

    Holy moly. Here is some dedication by medical staff. So a fire broke out in a Russian city in the far east and there are some large flames coming out the roof as well as a column of smoke. The people inside are being evacuated while the firefighters go to work on the roof. Except, get this, a medical team stayed put in that burning building performing open heart surgery in a theater and did not leave until the operation was finished-


  25. Procopius

    That Caitlin Johnstone essay has to be an April Fool joke. How can I tell? Several tells. Biden would not sign an executive order raising the minimum wage to $15; Biden would never pressure MbS to stop the atrocities in Yemen (the U.S. Navy is still boarding and searching ships going to Yemen); and he is not going to return to the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear deal). He’s made that clear.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I feel like it was an unnecessary shot at Lena Dunham. She has her own set of problems unrelated to this point. Her efforts have certainly been over praised, but despite her WB level of quality with a high level of nepotism, she didn’t break minds. Heck, she claimed she tried to warn staff of Mother about Weinstein. Breaking with Mother is an unforgivable sin. Hamilton and Sorkin garbage give a pseudo academic veneer to important issues whIle pushing a mindless faux optimism.

      Also, as a fan of cartoons, I would note “Pinky and the Brain”‘ ‘s opening lyrics are arranged, “one is a genius, the other is insane.”

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