By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
Really does sound like a bell!
I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching.
The Northeast jump looks like enormous data error; the CDC data doesn’t show it, so it’s down to Johns Hopkins of DIVOC-19; I’ve written the maintainer. UPDATE No response from the maintainer. I think I’ll try the telephone. (Here are the data status updates.)
“The number of Americans getting vaccinated is on the decline” [ABC]. “While an average of nearly 1.9 million people a day came in to get their first dose of the vaccine during the week of April 11, the average for the week of April 16 was around 1.47 million. The total doses the U.S. has administered nationwide since vaccines were first authorized has also flattened out over the past few days, CDC data show, interrupting the exponential growth of the last few months…. The decline started one day before the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was suspended, suggesting the nationwide ‘pause’ might not be the primary factor, even if it may have contributed.” • It’s not exponential. Unfortunately!
Case count by United States regions:
four five days in a row.
Here is the site. More like this, please.
The Midwest in detail:
Continued good news. Michigan and Minnesota heading down, along with their neighbors (Could be that people actually do listen when Governors ask them do so stuff, but enough, and enough of them?)
Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California):
Florida, by a nose, now dropping. California not following.
“What 5 states are driving 75% of new US COVID-19 cases?” [Becker’s Hospital Review]. “About 75 percent of all new COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S. last week were in Michigan, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, reports The Wall Street Journal. A breakdown of seven-day positivity rates and new cases most recently reported in the five surge states as of April 21.
Still heading down.
Case fatality rate (plus deaths):
Good to see those deaths dropping. The fatality rate in the West is increasing again, for some reason as unknown as why it dropped. I’ve added an anti-triumphalism heavy black line.
“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
“White House dances around a big contributor to climate change: Agriculture” [Politico]. “Biden on Thursday pledged a drastic reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. But the White House hasn’t set any specific targets yet for agriculture, which accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. emissions, according to the EPA. Those discharges mostly stem from fertilizers, livestock and manure… The administration has steered clear of discussing stricter environmental regulations that could scare off the largely conservative farm sector, as well as the rural lawmakers that Biden will need to advance many of his environmental goals. Farmers have been slow to wake up to the reality of climate change, though increasingly extreme weather of late has hammered farm country and forced a reckoning.”
“Biden says US will work with other countries on climate innovation” [The Hill]. “President Biden on Friday said that the United States will partner with other countries on climate-related innovations while speaking at the White House climate summit. In particular, he said the U.S. would team up with Sweden and India to decarbonize the industrial sector, the United Kingdom to reach a carbon-free power sector and work on agriculture with the United Arab Emirates and others. Biden also said he was ‘heartened’ by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call to collaborate with other countries on advancing carbon dioxide removal. ‘The United States looks forward to working with Russia and other countries on that endeavor,” he said. ‘It has great promise.'” • Now do vaccines.
Democrats en Deshabille
“Manchin endorses Murkowski, and the border crisis Trump saw coming” [Politico]. “Democratic Sen. JOE MANCHIN made waves when he endorsed Republican colleague and friend Sen. SUSAN COLLINS (Maine) for reelection in 2020. Now he’s making more in PLAYBOOK DEEP DIVE, a new weekly podcast launching this morning. The West Virginia senator sat down with another GOP friend, Alaska Sen. LISA MURKOWSKI, for a rare joint interview with our co-congressional bureau chief BURGESS EVERETT. The conversation got personal, with the longtime friends finishing each other’s sentences — and covering everything from reconciliation to Murkowski’s fishing skills and parties on Manchin’s houseboat. In between, they made some news: Manchin said he’s endorsing Murkowski’s reelection…. It’s a fascinating listen: two old-school lawmakers pining for the days of bipartisanship, which they insist are about to make a comeback (highly unlikely, explains Burgess). The pair talks about how legislators in Washington should get to know each other’s families, how CHUCK SCHUMER and MITCH MCCONNELL should grab coffee or dinner together more often, and how Congress should return to ‘regular order,’ giving members the room to cut deals and make laws as opposed to leadership dictating most everything.”
“Nancy Pelosi Can Go F*ck Herself For Real” [Washington Babylon]. “We need to be perfectly clear, George Floyed did not sacrifice his life to feed this American delusion. No one who has ever died of anti-blackness on this stolen land did either. Not our family and friends lost to COVID-19, the lack of PPE and financial support. Not the elders we’ve lost in the prisons. Not the cousins we’ve lost to gun violence. None of them…. hat gives us life is strong organization. Strong community defense programs. We must free our political prisoners. We need collaborative community gardens. We need community housing projects. Relevant political education programs that study strong blueprints. Efficient security logistics. Intentional international coalitions. Safe healing spaces. A commitment to accountability. The will to reduce our community’s dependence on the state, and an unwavering belief that we can do what must be done after that. Babylon will fall and we have to survive it!” • Reaction on Pelosi’s remark: ““Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice.” Commentary:
This comment below violated Facebook's Community Standards. Reposted at Facebook strictly to help people know what violates Community Standards, not to violate them. Also, read story that comment came from. https://t.co/v4PuqJ7S6k pic.twitter.com/u4PPlGNhTB
— Ken Silverstein (@KenSilverstein1) April 23, 2021
Realignment and Legitimacy
“These Robotically Similar Reactions To The Derek Chauvin Verdict Will Inspire You” [Michael Tracey]. “You probably have noticed that corporations, academic institutions, elected officials, and virtually everyone else with a public-facing profile is extraordinarily passionate about “the work” of rectifying racial injustice in the United States. Often their passion compels them to recite almost the exact same words and phrases in response to current events, such as the Guilty verdict rendered Tuesday in the trial of Derek Chauvin. These displays of independent thought and moral reasoning are worthy of our deep and everlasting gratitude.” • Commentary:
You don't even have to read the full post if you don't want, just scroll through the extremely long list of public figures reciting the exact same words and phrases. It's honestly hypnotic pic.twitter.com/nchZl2gBM6
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) April 23, 2021
Hive minds gotta hive.
Rail: “Rail Week Ending 17 April 2021 – Carload Growth Now In Positive Territory Year-to-Date Compared to 2020” [Econintersect]. “Total rail traffic – which has been in contraction for over one year – is now surging as it is being compared to the pandemic lockdown period one year ago.”
Coincident Indicators: “March 2021 Coincident Indices Generally Improved Month-over-Month” [Econintersect]. “The year-over-year rate of growth of the majority of coincident indices improved or was little changed relative to last month – but only half of the indices are in expansion. It should be obvious the economy entered a recession in March 2020 but likely exited in May or June 2020. Normally a recession ends when the economy starts improving. The reality is that most of the economic indicators have moderate to significant backward revision – and this month they are generally showing improved growth. Out of this group of coincident indicators discussed in this post, only ECRI, The New York Fed’s Weekly Economic Indicator, and the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti business conditions index have no backward revision – and are designed to track the economy in real-time. Economic indicators that coincide with economic movements are coincident indicators. Coincident indicators by definition do not provide a forward economic view. However, trends are valid until they are no longer valid, making the trend lines on the coincident indicators a forward forecasting tool.
War on Cash: “The coronavirus pandemic has caused a surge in demand for contactless payments, accelerating the shift from cash to digital options” [CNBC]. • Fomite transmission turned out to be an insignificant mode of transmission, but served a useful purpose anyhow!
Retail: “Walmart Is Pulling Plug on More Robots” [Wall Street Journal]. “The retailer is phasing out the hulking automated pickup towers that were erected in more than 1,500 stores to dispense online orders. The decision reflects a growing focus on curbside pickup services that have become more popular during the Covid-19 pandemic and continues a broader retreat from some initiatives to use highly visible automation in stores…. ‘The customer told us they want one pickup spot, and they want that pickup spot to be outside,’ said a Walmart spokeswoman…. John Furner, who took over the role of chief executive of Walmart U.S. in late 2019, has moved the retailer away from some of the consumer-facing automation technology added rapidly to stores under his predecessor.”
Retail: “Lockdown gives wig sales a lift as hairdressers close and more people suffer hair loss as a coronavirus side effect” [Daily Mail]. • Go long wigs…
Shipping: “Cannabis logistics is smokin’ hot” [Freight Waves]. “Even as cannabis sales soared, though, other issues have cropped up. The biggest issues facing the industry involve the inability of cannabis companies to access traditional banks and the varying laws and regulations in each state that prevent economies of scale and require local control of sales and delivery. Dutchie’s platform helps address some of these issues, allowing local dispensaries to utilize its technology to create an online marketplace and then leverage dutchie partner Onfleet to handle the logistics of last-mile delivery of orders. [Jon Bond, director of strategic partnerships at dutchie], said dutchie’s platform accommodates state-level restrictions, such as limits on the number of ounces a person can buy in a single day. It also asks the customer upfront if the order will be a pickup at the local dispensary or a delivery item. ‘We have tons of data that supports why [asking that upfront] is going to add up to a higher [customer] conversion rate,’ Bond said. An online sale isn’t complete, however, until the product successfully reaches the end customer. Dutchie integrates with Onfleet’s system, which ensures the routing and delivery of the products. That includes proof of delivery, tracking and collection of regulatory data such as age verification.”
Rail: “K.C. Southern Morphs From Rail Also-Ran to $30 Billion Prize” [Bloomberg]. “[Kansas City Southern] has been a source of takeover speculation for decades. Regulators even smoothed the path to some degree. But nothing clicked until Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. last month agreed to purchase Kansas City Southern for $25 billion, only to be topped Tuesday with a $30 billion offer from Canadian National Railway Co. Several factors fueled the change. For one, the U.S., Canada and Mexico strengthened economic ties last year by reworking a quarter-century-old trade pact. Meanwhile, recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic has gained pace, and U.S. manufacturers bruised by sluggish supply-chains with Asia began looking to Mexico for sourcing. Perhaps more important, Joe Biden won the U.S. presidency, spurring hopes for steadier cross-border relations that had been roiled by Donald Trump’s America First agenda.”
Tech: “CR Engineers Show a Tesla Will Drive With No One in the Driver’s Seat” [Consumer Reports]. “Fisher engaged Autopilot while the car was in motion on the track, then set the speed dial (on the right spoke of the steering wheel) to 0, which brought the car to a complete stop. Fisher next placed a small, weighted chain on the steering wheel, to simulate the weight of a driver’s hand, and slid over into the front passenger seat without opening any of the vehicle’s doors, because that would disengage Autopilot. Using the same steering wheel dial, which controls multiple functions in addition to Autopilot’s speed, Fisher reached over and was able to accelerate the vehicle from a full stop. He stopped the vehicle by dialing the speed back down to zero. ‘The car drove up and down the half-mile lane of our track, repeatedly, never noting that no one was in the driver’s seat, never noting that there was no one touching the steering wheel, never noting there was no weight on the seat,’ Fisher says. ‘, which we proved were clearly insufficient.’ Under no circumstance should anyone try this.” And: “Activating Autopilot and the more advanced suite of driver assistance features that Tesla calls ‘Full Self-Driving’ does not make the car self-driving. Truly self-driving cars don’t yet exist for consumers to buy.” • So, er. does Tesla have an Extra-Wide Back Seat™ option?
Tech: “Fighting FLoC and Fighting Monopoly Are Fully Compatible” [Cory Doctorow, Electronic Frontier Foundation]. “FLoC is quite a power-move for Google. Faced with growing concerns about privacy, the company proposes to solve them by making itself the protector of our privacy, walling us off from third-party tracking except when Google does it. All the advertisers that rely on non-Google ad-targeting will have to move to Google, and pay for their services, using a marketplace that they’ve rigged in their favor. To give credit where it is due, the move does mean that some bad actors in the digital ad space may be thwarted. But it’s a very cramped view of how online privacy should work. Google’s version of protecting our privacy is appointing itself the gatekeeper who decides when we’re spied on while skimming from advertisers with nowhere else to go. Compare that with Apple, which just shifted the default to ‘no’ for all online surveillance by apps, period (go, Apple!). And while here we think Apple is better than Google, that’s not how any of this should work. The truth is, despite occasional counter-examples, the tech giants can’t be relied on to step up to provide real privacy for users when it conflicts with their business models. The baseline for privacy should be a matter of law and basic human rights, not just a matter of a corporate whim. America is long, long overdue for a federal privacy law with a private right of action. Users must be empowered to enforce privacy accountability, instead of relying on the largesse of the giants or on overstretched civil servants.”
Manufacturing: “Hyperdrive Daily: A Chipmaker’s Advice to the Auto Industry” (interview) [Bloomberg]. Mike Hogan, the head of automotive at Global Foundries: “If you can’t build a $50,000 car and ship it and put all those people to work because you don’t have $15 worth of semiconductors…I think it’s time to shift that and say, ‘No, we’re the auto market, we have very unique needs, we need an architectural approach to building our cars, we don’t need to buy retail off-the-shelf stuff.’ Then you have the real conversation ahead of time, versus, ‘Hey you don’t know me but I’m out of chips and it’s your fault buddy.’” • Foundries to auto makers: “Who’s your Daddy?”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 60 Greed (previous close: 56 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 59 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 23 at 12:30pm.
“Microbes are siphoning massive amounts of carbon from Earth’s tectonic plates” [Science]. “A few kilometers below our feet lies a hidden world of microbes whose chemical reactions are shaping the long-term habitability of the planet. A new study suggests some of these microbes are siphoning off massive amounts of carbon as it enters Earth, using it to fuel their own sunless ecosystems. The carbon, prevented from being buried even deeper in Earth, will eventually escape back into the atmosphere—where it could help warm the planet. Researchers say the microbes represent an overlooked factor in efforts to balance Earth’s deep carbon cycle. ‘It’s a really big leap forward,’ says Georgia Institute of Technology biogeochemist Jennifer Glass, who was not involved in the study. She adds that this is one of the first papers to show how subterranean microbes can trap globally significant amounts of carbon.” • Amazing. Is it possible for carbon pricing to be sensible when we keep encountering massive gaps in our knowledge? (I suppose “sensible” begs the question….)
UPDATE “Regulators Condemn Colonial Pipeline As “Risk To Public Safety” In New Report” [Robbie Jaeger, Medium]. “A scathing new report filed by the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regarding Colonial Pipeline 1,200,000 gallon gasoline spill in Huntersville, NC last August condemns the safety of the aging 5,500 mile project, stating: ‘PHMSA’s ongoing investigation indicates that conditions may exist on the Colonial Pipeline System that pose a pipeline integrity risk to public safety, property or the environment.‘…. [I]n August 2020, emanating from what was discovered to be the spot of a previously repaired crack from 2004. The underground leak could have potentially gone on for weeks undetected. Regarding this, and in maybe the most troublesome statement contained in the letter, PHMSA draws a haunting conclusion: “The conditions […] and threats at locations of prior similar repairs potentially exist throughout the Colonial Pipeline System.” Meaning, in PHMSA’s view, a spill like the 1.2 million gallons leaked in NC could potentially happen over and over again.” • Two kids on bikes…. More from Jaegar, who seems to own this story:
Hey Nick! I'm glad this story has come to your attention!
I've chronicling the #ColonialPipeline spill since January. If you want more info on how we got here, I encourage you to check out my reports:https://t.co/ppGh5JpQGOhttps://t.co/ZbNpFBokL7https://t.co/iLDR4xRu0I
— Robbie Jaeger 🔎 (@RobletoFire) April 22, 2021
Remember that picture? I seem to have been directionally correct on it, heh heh heh.
UPDATE “Size of pipeline gasoline spill again underestimated in Huntersville” [Associated Press]. “:A Huntersville nature preserve, meant to be a protected and peaceful area, is now home of the largest pipeline spill in the country in the last two years. The state said new data shows more than 1.2 million gallons of fuel leaked, and Colonial Pipeline said it seeped deeper in the soil than they originally thought. In a statement last Friday, Colonial Pipeline said it likely underestimated the size of the spill at 1.2 million gallons, but it did not provide a new estimate…. The pipeline is the largest refined products pipeline in the U.S., carrying than 100 million gallons of fuel a day from Houston Texas to New York Harbor.”
UPDATE “Eight months later, Colonial Pipeline spill continuing to impact Huntersville residents” [WCNC]. “‘We stopped drinking the water as soon as we heard about it and we’ve been drinking bottled water for eight months,’ she says.” • Not sure Biden’s infrastructure bill will cover fixing the Colonial pipeline. Handy map:
UPDATE “Company Behind NC Pipeline Spill Taps Top Manchin Aide To Lobby Congress” [Robbie Jaeger, Medium]. “New disclosures show Colonial Pipeline, the embattled pipeline company responsible for the 1.2M gallon (and growing) pipeline spill in Huntersville, NC last year, quietly added former Manchin aide Elliot Howard to their lobbying team in March.
Howard, who began working for Manchin in 2016, worked his way up from being a legislative correspondent to become Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) lead staffer on the US Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources (ENR). …. Last month, Colonial Pipeline’s longtime lobbying firm, Jim Massie Partners, quietly hired Howard away from Manchin and made him a “Senior Director”. He was then, apparently, put directly to work on Colonial’s case, as well as several other energy companies represented by the firm.” • Of course, pipelines should be opposed where encountered, as should anything that encourages coal, oil, and gas to do anything but stay in the ground.
“High-dimensional characterization of post-acute sequalae of COVID-19” [Nature]. “Here, we use the national healthcare databases of the US Department of Veterans Affairs to systematically and comprehensively identify 6-month incident sequalae including diagnoses, medication use, and laboratory abnormalities in 30-day survivors of COVID-19…. The findings show that beyond the acute illness, substantial burden of health loss — spanning pulmonary and several extrapulmonary organ systems — is experienced by COVID-19 survivors. The results provide a roadmap to inform health system planning and development of multidisciplinary care strategies to reduce chronic health loss among COVID-19 survivors.” • Single payer (VA) for the win on data, just as in the UK.
“A Scientist Stopped By and Made Covid Vaccine in My Kitchen” [Bloomberg]. “For the millions of people around the world who don’t have access to hard-to-get Covid-19 vaccines, a group of Boston-area scientists has a potential solution. And it’s literally a solution, one that you snort in hopes of warding off the deadly virus. The group is called the Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative, or RaDVaC, and their vaccine is so easy to make that its chief scientist, Preston Estep, said we could whip it up in my kitchen. So we did…. The main testing ground for the vaccine is RaDVaC’s scientists themselves and other colleagues like Harvard Medical School’s George Church, who believe the project has merit…. All the materials — saline solution, small pieces of proteins that are similar to those of the coronavirus, and cross-linking chemicals including one called chitosan that’s made from shellfish and insect carapaces — can be bought online with no special licenses or permission. And the recipe is open-source, meaning anyone can use it…. RaDVaC is continuing to bring its simple vaccine into the mainstream. Talks are underway with governments to get it into challenge trials, which would involve deliberately trying to infect vaccinated and unvaccinated volunteers with SARS-CoV-2. The studies carry some risk but are an efficient way to determine whether the solution works at minimal cost.” • Big if true. Outliers, but not cranks.
UPDATE “Johnson & Johnson’s COVID Vaccine Was Immunizing Homeless People. Then It Was Put On Pause” [Buzzfeed]. “Unlike Pfizer’s and Moderna’s two-dose regimens, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is a one-and-done deal. It’s also much easier to store and transport. Those qualities have made it ideal for immunizing people who are hesitant or are hard to track down a month after the first dose. Then, last week, use of J&J ground to a halt… [F]or healthcare providers struggling to find people at the margins — including those living on the streets, moving through shelters, or otherwise lacking a permanent address — J&J’s vaccine was a short-lived blessing. In its absence, they say, some of the most at-risk people in the US aren’t getting another type of shot. And even if the pause lifts, they may not get vaccinated then, either, some clinicians fear, because they’ll have concerns that it’s unsafe.”
Taking a CO2 meter on the plane:
6/ In the next four minutes, the CO2 level rose from 1654 ppm to 1899 to 2027 to 2255. Most IAQ experts, including @linseymarr, recommend keeping CO2 below 700 for a multitude of reasons. https://t.co/sxcBTczXqP pic.twitter.com/iNNSBwoluD
— Ryan Hisner (@LongDesertTrain) April 22, 2021
UPDATE “Internationally Recognized Air Quality Expert Throws Cold Water on Manufacturer Claims About Ionizers, Highlights Studies Showing Ineffectiveness and Potential Dangers of Encouraging Air Chemistry and Shows Why Increasing Ventilation and Adding In-Room HEPA Filtration is More Effective and Safer” [Safe Spotsy Schools]. “One talk caught our attention, since we recently highlighted how Spotsylvania County Public Schools (SCPS) got sold snake oil and wasted $1.4 million on bipolar ionizers which are unproven and studies have shown can produce dangerous byproducts such as the carcinogen formaldehyde. We cannot reiterate this enough, SCPS should demand their money back and immediately disable the ionizers. We have provided a roadmap for them to provide proper ventilation in all classrooms. This needs to be done yesterday – especially since our schools recently increased classroom density amid a highly transmissible and lethal variant which seems to be finding an easier time in infecting school-age children! The gamble that the school board took in expanding in-person instruction to 4-days without adequate ventilation, routine screening testing and by watering down proven control measures does not seem to be paying off. In only the first week of expanded in-person instruction, we saw cases amongst students on campus increase by 72% and quarantines explode by 277%! Unfortunately, it seems from this week’s data that they are creating the next health crisis. We are seeing more children, including those asymptomatic, becoming infected with COVID-19 and developing Long Covid weeks after they were infected and now have lingering symptoms that still have not gone away. TAhe bipolar ionizers are unproven, as you will see below, and do little in cleaning the air unless there is a high amount of ozone generated which could create significant health consequences. The ionizers also encourage air chemistry and can generate harmful byproducts. There is no reason to use expensive, unproven, and potentially dangerous bipolar ionizers when portable HEPA fans are more effective, safer and cheaper.” • Horridly, this really interesting effort can only be followed on Facebook.” • Something for you to share with your School Board.
UPDATE “The Flu Vanished During Covid. What Will Its Return Look Like?” [New York Times]. “As measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus were implemented around the country in March 2020, influenza quickly disappeared, and it still has not returned. The latest flu season, which normally would have run until next month, essentially never happened. Scientists do not yet know which public health measures were most effective in eradicating the flu this season, but if behaviors like mask-wearing and frequent hand-washing continue after the coronavirus pandemic is over, they could help to keep influenza at bay in the United States.” • Nothing on ventilation, of course (though granted I know nothing about the flu’s modes of transmission.
Our Famously Free Press
“Vietnam defied the experts and sealed its border to keep Covid-19 out. It worked.” [Julia Belluz, Vox]. “Vietnam is now among a few countries upending the global health community’s ‘almost religious belief that travel restrictions are bad,” said Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University global health law professor who helped write the international law governing how countries should deal with outbreaks. ‘I have now realized,’ Gostin added,’that our belief about travel restrictions was just that — a belief. It was evidence-free.’… During the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola epidemic and early in the Covid-19 pandemic, I co-wrote popular stories detailing this evidence and arguing against the use of [travel] restrictions. And I wasn’t alone…. At the same time, speaking out against travel bans had become synonymous with opposing nationalism and wall-building, said [aid Kelley Lee, a Simon Fraser University global health professor]. “There were these progressive, human rights values that were upheld by not using travel measures.” • Admissions of error, what a concept.
Under the Influence
“Caitlyn Jenner announces bid for California governor” [BBC]. “The former Olympic athlete and reality TV star confirmed the news on her Twitter account earlier on Friday…. According to the Axios news site, Ms Jenner has put together a team that includes some of former President Donald Trump’s advisers… Before transitioning, she was married to Kris Jenner and the pair had two daughters, Kendall and Kylie. The family were stars of the hit reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” • I have never understood the appeal of the Kardashians, which I suppose makes me an outlier.
“Shadow Bans, Dopamine Hits, and Viral Videos, All in the Life of TikTok Creators” [The Markup]. “Unlike YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat, which depend on creators building a network of followers, can put videos at the top of the For You scroll and turn people into overnight sensations. But similarly, if videos suddenly disappear from that feed, creators’ prospects can evaporate. Those people who’ve centered their lives around performing on the app can be left trying to figure out how to stay relevant on an impenetrable, constantly changing platform. … ‘What is so incredibly precarious is often the [algorithmic] tweaks that are unannounced. They can wreak havoc on a creator’s livelihood,’ said Brooke Erin Duffy, associate professor of communication at Cornell University, who studies social media and digital labor. ‘There’s always been this unpredictability, and creators have little to no recourse.’ TikTok spokesperson Hilary McQuaide declined to comment on questions about the company’s algorithm, specifically how often it’s changed and if creators are told about such changes.”
“How TikTok Chooses Which Songs Go Viral” [Bloomberg]. “Like many TikTok sensations, Megan Thee Stallion’s Savage appeared to bubble up spontaneously from the enthusiasm of its users, who choreographed their own dances for the song, introducing it to other fans who watched those videos tens of millions of times. That mysterious formula for success on TikTok has turned the app into the most important new social media platform in years, which in turn thrust it into the center of a major geopolitical dispute…. Social media has always been less spontaneous than it appears, but from its inception, TikTok has been even more controlled than competing apps. Company executives help determine which videos go viral, which clips appear on the pages of personalized recommendations, and which trends spill out from the app to flood the rest of the world.” And the deck: ” The app’s hits seem to emerge organically, but the success of artists like Megan Thee Stallion reveals a highly managed curation process.” • So, which is it? The algo, or executive curation?
“TikTok Users Are Finally Giving Us A Way To Talk About Grief” [Refinery29]. “The #grief hashtag on TikTok has over 436 million views, with thousands of stories of bereavement offering a much-needed dose of reality to those suffering in silence. On GriefTok, there’s no sugar-coating the loss of loved ones, no aesthetic filters to soften the blow. No one here is biting their bottom lip so as not to cry. Instead, users openly and honestly share the truth of unpredictable, lifelong grief. It is a nonjudgmental space where no one has to explain how grief feels as everyone else who is grieving already understands.” • Forgive my raised eyebrow at “openly and honestly.” Always? Really?
“Union, automakers headed for fight over battery plant wages” [ABC]. “The union, in a statement reacting to GM’s announcement Friday that it would build a second U.S. battery plant, said the company and its joint venture partner have a ‘moral obligation’ to pay the higher wages at battery factories. The statement sets the tone for the next round of contract talks in 2023 between GM, Ford and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler), all of which have plans to make significant numbers of battery-powered vehicles by then as they invest billions to transition from internal combustion engines. However the conflict is resolved, it’s likely to chart the course of American manufacturing wages into the next decade as the nation moves from petroleum powered vehicles to those that run on electricity. GM said wages at the battery plants would be determined by Ultium Cells LLC, the joint venture with LG Energy that’s running the factories.” • Moral obligation…
“The goal is to keep you trapped here forever until they can bleed you dry” [Welcome to Hell World]. Three interviews with people who’ve been arrested: “I was always vaguely aware that the justice system was a device to control society, but I was never fully aware of just what a money-making scheme it is and how once you enter it its sole design is to ensnare you and keep you trapped there for as long as possible. Throughout this entire process my one thought has been, Jesus fucking Christ imagine if I didn’t have the support of my friends and family, a flexible steady job, money in the bank, the ability to live in the city. I mean, this process is hard enough for a person with all that. Without those things it would be so easy to get overwhelmed and swept away to spend the rest of your life in a cage. All of which made me realize for the very fist time that almost every aspect of the state is designed to control its citizens. It is never about justice or reform. It is always about money and control, but because those in power are mostly exempt from its tyranny, it is depicted as a benevolent creature. Politicians and police and judges and parole officers and social workers are all out there keeping society safe is the bullshit they tell us. Once you experience it for yourself it’s too late because now you’re on the wrong side of it all and any complaint you might muster is viewed as suspect because shouldn’t you have known better than to do whatever you did to put you on the wrong side of things? Isn’t it really on you that you’re getting ground to dust? Don’t get me wrong, I know I fucked up and broke the law, and I owe a debt to society. but this is not about paying a debt to society and it never was.” • Worth reading in full (or at least skipping to the interviews and reading them; the stupidity…).
Helpless in the face of it:
Sonic in Albuquerque says “No one wants to work anymore.” pic.twitter.com/CR128n60mM
— Patrick Hayes (@KOBPatrickHayes) April 14, 2021
News of the Wired
“Gender reveal party using 80 pounds of explosives sets off earthquake reports” [Guardian]. “Police in Kingston, a town not far from the Massachusetts border, received reports of a loud explosion Tuesday evening. They responded to Torromeo quarry where they found people who acknowledged holding a gender reveal party with explosives. The source of the blast was 80 pounds (36 kilograms) of Tannerite, police said. The family thought the quarry would be the safest spot to light the explosive, which is typically sold over the counter as a target for firearms practice, police said. Nearby residents said the blast rocked their homes and some reported property damage, NBC 10 Boston reported. ‘We heard this God-awful blast,’ Sara Taglieri, who lives in a home that abuts the quarry, told the television station. ‘It knocked pictures off our walls … I’m all up for silliness and whatnot, but that was extreme.'”
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 (IM):
IM writes: “Some spring bloom (rhodos and campanula).” A Grandmother’s Garden: masses of color.
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