2:00PM Water Cooler 4/28/2021

Readers, today you blew through our goal of 325 donations with 397. I am very grateful. (Of course, if you came in late, you can still join in!) A reader wrote:

I cannot thank you and Yves enough for the daily education I get from the Naked Capitalism site, and from the comments too.. I appreciate nothing more than folks that are pretty much straight down the middle, intellectually honest in a way that sees through the clutter (BS, or horsefeathers as my grandfather would say, the gentleman he was), and challenges me to rethink so much of what I thought I knew as a younger man.

All the best and please keep up the good work.

Note that comment applies to Yves as well; the NC tip jar is to your right, if you are absolutely feeling flush. And now, to seek some singing birds–

* * *

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

I wanted Chimney Swifts from Mexico, but this turns out to be from Ohio. I cannot forbear from quoting:

Media notes

18′ capture of the swarm thickening and then entering the chimney. Set up NE of chimney. I did edit the facility sounds to make them a bit less prominent but did not apply NR, and overall it is a nice listen. Some amazing variety in the calls!

Observation details

Set up to record tonight and managed a nice capture after the local kids wandered off. Single birds started dropping around 7:33, with only about 30 well distributed in the sky at that time. Loose swirl started at 7:41. 40 in the roost by 7:57, and that doubled over the next one minute. Estimate 1440 by 8:03 (>1300 birds / 5 minutes). Few silent stragglers. Tonight they entered in a much more concentrated fashion than my previous count (9/10), which Jenny B says is more typical. She counted 1720, supporting our notion that we count conservatively by at least 10%.

Enjoy, good kitties!

* * *


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:

I know that these are daily vaccinations. But the pandemic is a multiplicative process. To me, the best curves of all would be rising continuously until there’s a sudden drop, because there’s nobody left to vaccinate. It’s too soon to see these numbers dropping. This should worry people. (The Northeast jump was an enormous reporting error, now rectified, though I still have not been able to find it mentioned anywhere. Readers?)

Case count by United States regions:

Continued good news. I’m not used to this at all.

“Why COVID-19 cases haven’t seen sharp drop despite spike in vaccinations” [ABC]. “As of Monday, more than 140 million people, roughly 42.5% of the U.S. population, have received one vaccine dose, and more than 95 million people, roughly 29% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. ‘In Israel, when they had 45% fully vaccinated, the cases started to plummet,’ Brownstein said. Brownstein said that patients who haven’t scheduled their shots should do so as soon as possible so that the case numbers can go down and Americans are more protected against the variants.”

The Midwest in detail:

Continued good news. The Michigan curve is nice, but still at level only exceeded to last Fall’s peak, 154 days ago. 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 nicely. California also dropping. Texas flat.

Test positivity:

Down, except for the West, now flat.


Still heading down, except for a slight rise in the Northeast.

Case fatality rate (plus deaths):

Good to see those deaths dropping. The fatality rate in the West has fallen again, for reasons as mysterious as those that caused its rise.

* * *


“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

“Congress prepares for ‘strange’ and ‘extraordinary’ presidential address” [ABC]. “Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress, usually a celebratory gathering of official Washington, has been reshaped by COVID-19 and lingering concerns about security after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot…. The House chamber, usually filled with more than 1,600 people, will hold just 200 spaced-out attendees this year in order to allow for social distancing. Everyone in attendance will wear a mask, though Biden will take his off to address lawmakers.” • Spaced-out, eh?

“Empire Politician” [Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept]. The deck: “A Half-Century of Joe Biden’s Stances on War, Militarism, and the CIA.” • This is quite a project.

UPDATE “How Barack Obama’s eight years shaped Joe Biden’s first 100 days” [NBC]. “The early days of Joe Biden’s presidency reveal a man who remembers the Obama presidency, and who doesn’t necessarily want to repeat it. Both presidents inherited a crisis-ravaged economy, but their signature 100-day achievements look markedly different: Biden’s stimulus plan was about 2½ times the size of President Barack Obama’s. It was easy for voters to understand, centered on popular $1,400 cash payments for most people, while Obama’s stimulus program was criticized as being too small and complicated, delivering small-dollar benefits in paychecks that polls showed many people didn’t even notice. While Obama pared back his stimulus to win Republican votes, Biden met with Republicans once before he opted for a special process to go it alone. While conservative deficit hawks reined in Obama, Biden has brushed them off, arguing that now is the time to spend big. While Obama was hesitant to brag about his achievements, Biden’s team regularly takes credit for the receding pandemic — and voters give him high marks. ‘It’s called learning from the past,’ said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, who has served in Congress under the last four presidents.” • Learning from the past is something the liberal Democrats most definitely did not do, or they wouldn’t have assumed that the Republicans who impeached Bill Clinton would do anything like good faith dealing. Apparently, it takes a lot to penetrate a West Wing brain.

UPDATE “Biden disrupts detractors with war on warming, not on coal” [E&E News]. “The White House’s on-again, off-again emphasis on climate policy is one reason Biden’s early tenure has defied easy narratives. The president has set new, ambitious goals like cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. He’s also backed off some of his more aggressive promises, and some progressives worry that climate could get left behind in his quest for a bipartisan infrastructure bill. ‘The president’s only red line [on infrastructure] is inaction,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week at the close of a virtual climate summit attended by three dozen world leaders. Biden wants his plan to pass, she said, but his new climate pledge doesn’t depend on it: ‘We have several paths toward achieving that objective and that goal.’ Now, with his climate summit behind him and a ferocious legislative battle ahead, Biden confronts a historic juncture that could determine whether the world’s largest all-time emitter can lead the energy transition. If he fails, the United States might not have another chance to change trajectory before humans lock in catastrophic changes in temperature and sea-level rise. Democrats have failed before, first with the 2009 Waxman-Markey carbon cap-and-trade bill that died in the Senate and later through EPA’s Clean Power Plan regulations that never went into effect. So now Democrats are trying something different. Although he has tried to avoid the Green New Deal label, Biden based his climate plan on a similar theory of politics. The old model of climate policy, which looked for ways to restrict fossil fuels through regulating and the market, imposed too many costs on too many groups. Instead, the government could essentially throw money at the problem. Massive federal investments could both accelerate decarbonization and cushion the transition. Julian Brave NoiseCat, vice president of policy and strategy at Data for Progress, a progressive public policy group, said the administration is emphasizing the investments and incentives that can boost clean energy. ‘Biden and his team seem to have the view that carrots buy sticks,’ he said.”

UPDATE “How the Biden presidency looks from one pivotal Pennsylvania county, 100 days in” [CNN]. “Bethlehem is the largest city in [Northampton County], which sits on the eastern edge of Pennsylvania and is one of only 25 counties in America that, in the last four presidential races, voted twice for Barack Obama, followed by once for Trump and then for Biden.” A compendium of not-very-insightful quotes. This one is the best: “‘Certainly the temperature has been turned down and things are a little bit calmer,’ said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation. ‘It’s nice to not have all the noise coming out of Washington.'” • It doesn’t feel like calm to me. It feels like anesthesia.

UPDATE “Scoop: Biden’s secret talks with GOP” [Axios]. “Top White House officials have quietly been meeting — on the Hill and over the phone — with Republican senators who drafted a counterproposal to President Biden’s infrastructure plan, multiple sources tell Axios. What we’re hearing: The GOP senators say they’re optimistic the Biden administration is open to concessions and can reach a compromise. They’ve been heartened by their talks with White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, counselor to the president Steve Ricchetti and legislative affairs director Louisa Terrell. One idea is reaching a bipartisan deal on “Part I” of Biden’s infrastructure package — the parts that Republicans consider “traditional” infrastructure, such as funding for roads, bridges and airports. That could force Democrats to tackle the second part, focused on child care, health care and climate change, via budget reconciliation.” • Once, just once, I’d like to see the Democrats do “Lucy and the Football with Republicans.” Does that make me a bad person?

UPDATE “Congress Eager to Increase Staff Pay But Fear Voter Backlash (1)” [Bloomberg]. • Do it. After the State of Maine stupidly gutted the Legislature’s institutional memory with term limits, the only people who knew what the laws meant were the lobbyists.

Republican Funhouse

“After 100 days out of office, Trump’s support softens in NBC News poll” [NBC]. “Even Trump’s pull within his own party appears to have lessened, with 44 percent of Republicans saying they’re more supporters of Trump than the GOP, versus 50 percent who say they’re more supporters of the GOP than the former president…. It’s the first time since July 2019 when party supporters have outnumbered Trump supporters in our poll, and it’s also the first time that party supporters have reached 50 percent on this question. Strikingly, these numbers are coming as the perception of Trump’s pull within his party couldn’t be stronger. GOP politicians are still trekking to Mar-A-Lago. They’re clamoring for his endorsement. And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy continues to hug Trump, even after what happened on Jan. 6. But close to 100 days after leaving office, Trump’s standing — nationally as well within his own party — is weaker today than it was three months ago.”

Democrats en Deshabille

“Former White House Adviser Is Charged With Stealing From Charter School Network” [New York Times]. “A former senior adviser in the Obama administration was arrested Tuesday on charges that he stole more than $200,000 from a network of charter schools that he founded and used the money to get a lower interest rate on a mortgage for a Manhattan apartment, federal prosecutors said. The founder, Seth Andrew, 42, is accused of taking money from bank accounts controlled by Democracy Prep Public Schools, which teaches mostly low-income students of color in New York and other states, and used it for the purchase of a $2 million apartment, prosecutors said.” • The rent was too damn high….

Obama Legacy

Regarding “Why Barack Obama Was a Horrible President“, this over the transom from alert reader SG:

When you write of Obama “whacking a US citizen with a drone strike” I’m afraid you’re just not giving the man enough credit: a mere 2 weeks after the extrajudicial assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, another drone strike killed al-Awlaki’s 16 year-old son Abdulrahman (along with several others who had the extreme bad fortune to be dining at the same roadside restaurant where the younger al-Alawki had decided to have dinner). Abdulrahman had never even been accused of a crime. He had run away from his Denver home hoping to see his father, who had been on the run for over two years, one last time. After hearing of his father’s demise, he was in the process of returning home when his own government decided to burn him alive (that is, after all what Hellfire missiles do). So not “a” U.S. citizen, but rather two. From the same family. And one of them a minor.

Obama should be in prison.

SG is correct. And yes, Obama should be in prison. As should Bush. And Trump.

Our Famously Free Press

“New York Post temporarily deletes, then edits false story that claimed Harris’ book was given out in migrant ‘welcome kits'” [CNN]. “The New York Post temporarily deleted, and then edited and republished, a debunked article that falsely claimed that copies of Vice President Kamala Harris’ book were being included in ‘welcome kits’ given to migrant children at a shelter in Long Beach, California. The reporter who wrote the article, Laura Italiano, tweeted late Tuesday afternoon that she had resigned from the newspaper. Italiano tweeted: ‘The Kamala Harris story — an incorrect story I was ordered to write and which I failed to push back hard enough against — was my breaking point.'” • Then again:

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “Teen Job Gains Expected To Hit 2M Again This Summer” [Econintersect]. “Summer jobs created for teens aged 16 to 19 years old soared to 2.2 million during the pandemic-induced recession last year, as the types of jobs created en masse last summer were those that traditionally go to teen workers. With vaccines rolling into arms by the millions each day, better-than-expected retail sales, and a strong March jobs report, the summer of 2021 is shaping up to be a boon for teen job seekers, according to one workplace authority…. .’Retailers, quick-service restaurants, and amusement parks are looking for workers right now and many are having a hard time finding them, despite the 8.4 million Americans who are out of work,’ said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.”

* * *

Shipping: “COVID Outbreaks Taking a Toll on the Ship Recycling Market as Well” [Hellenic Shipping News]. “According to the latest weekly report from shipbroker Clarkson Platou Hellas, “the recycling industry this week seems to have ground to a steady crawl with so much uncertainty enveloping the domestic markets. With Covid-19 cases rapidly increasing in India and outpacing the vaccination rollout in the country, the local market looks precarious once again as the authorities tackle this latest surge. This has meant that cutting activities have had to slow once again at recycling yards, due to oxygen bottle shortages (no supply from 22nd April) as well as further lockdown measures that are being imposed. Most recycling yards are still particularly sparse due to the lack of tonnage that has been available to them this year, and more surprisingly, is the lack of tonnage circulated that have required HKC green recycling resulting in the Indian recyclers being left on the side-lines as the Bangladeshi, and recently resurgent Pakistani, breakers benefitting from. However, with global steel prices remaining firm and Iron Ore soaring to a ten year high on the back of Chinese steel demand, the fundamentals for steel plate prices domestically to increase, and lack of available units, have meant that an aggressive buying appetite seems to be there from certain recyclers.” • We wrote back in 2016 of a horrible ship-breaking fire in Gadani, Pakistan. If conditions in Gadani are the same now as they were then, and Pakistan is consider Green, heaven help India. (Also, fascinating cross-cutting confluence of crises: (a) steel shortage due to Covid recovery in China, and (b) oxygen shortage (for torches) due to Covid resurgence in India.)

Shipping: “Flexport: Trans-Pacific deteriorating, brace for shipping ‘tsunami'” [Freight Waves]. “The number of container ships stuck at anchor off Los Angeles and Long Beach is down to around 20 per day, from 30 a few months ago. Does this mean the capacity crunch in the trans-Pacific market is finally easing? Absolutely not, warned Nerijus Poskus, vice president of global ocean at freight forwarder Flexport. ‘It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse,’ he told American Shipper in an interview on Monday. ‘What I’m seeing is unprecedented. We are seeing a tsunami of freight,’ he reported. ‘For the month of May, everything on the trans-Pacific is basically sold out. We had one client who needed something loaded in May that was extremely urgent and who was ready to pay $15,000 per container. I couldn’t get it loaded — and we are a growing company that ships a lot of TEUs [twenty-foot equivalent units]. Price doesn’t always even matter anymore.” • Boy, what a great market. Price signals actually work!

Shipping: “Ever Given insurance company says $900m compensation claim is unjustified” [Arab News]. “The insurance company for the Ever Given, which blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week in March, said it was disappointed by the court order to detain the vessel until $900 million compensation is paid after it had already made a generous offer to settle the claim.” • No doubt! And from (paywalled) Lloyd’s List: “Ever Given owners seek to cap Suez limitable claims at $115m.”

Tech: “Facebook allows advertisers to target children interested in smoking, alcohol and weight loss” [Guardian]. “Facebook is allowing businesses to advertise to children as young as 13 who express an interest in smoking, extreme weight loss and gambling for as little as $3, research by the lobby group Reset Australia has found. The organisation, which is critical of digital platforms, set up a Facebook page and advertising account under the name “Ozzie news network” to see what ad options Facebook would provide through its Ads Manager platform. While Facebook will not allow the advertising of alcohol and other age-inappropriate content to people under 18, it does not prevent advertisers from targeting children determined by Facebook’s profile to have an interest in alcohol, for advertising that might not appear explicitly to be about those topics. Facebook offered the page the ability to advertise to approximately 740,000 Australian children aged between 13 and 17, but then when the group refined the advertising by interest, found that, just as for those aged over 18, they were able to advertise to teens under 18 with interests in alcohol, smoking and vaping, gambling, extreme weight loss, fast foods and online dating services.”

Tech: “Google bans DroidScript app over ad fraud allegation without reasoning” [Android Community]. Here is the original thread; it’s Kafka-esque. I can’t comment on the truth of Google’s allegations, though of course Google is Evil. That said, it’s clear that all the responses from AdSense to Appeals from the developer are from bots (“If you have a different question, please let me [sic] know” is a real gem). Perhaps Google every so often just picks a random business and nukes it, pour encourager les autres. I’m not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Google, but on the bright side, that would let Google’s cost center for deterring malefactors run on the cheap, algorithmically, with no humans involved at any level. In any case, if your business depends on a platform, you don’t have a business.x

Tech: “Dominance of Apple and Google’s app stores impacting competition and consumers” [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission]. “The ACCC has put forward a series of potential measures in response to its findings, including that consumers be able to rate and review all apps, that consumers have the ability to change any pre-installed default app on their device, that app developers be allowed to provide consumers with information about alternative payment options and that information collected by Apple and Google in their capacity as app marketplace operators be ring-fenced from their other operations.” • Seems rather mild.

Tech: “GitHub Pages: Permissions-Policy: interest-cohort=() Header added to all pages sites” [Github]. “Websites can exclude a page from [Google’s new] FLoC calculation by setting a Permissions-Policy header interest-cohort=() for that page.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 63 Greed (previous close: 59 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 58 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 28 at 2:38pm.

The Biosphere

“American Honey Still Contains Nuclear Fallout From the 1950s” [Popular Mechanics]. “It’s important to note the levels are not high enough to be harmful, say the scientists, from the College of William & Mary. But how is radioactivity still lingering in honey production after 60+ years? The key ingredient is called radiocesium. Radioactive cesium is a fission product thrown off by hundreds of nuclear weapon test blasts from global superpowers, including the U.S., during the ‘50s and ‘60s. The isotope’s radioactive half life is 30 years, meaning the worst of the radiation from these specific test blasts is well behind us. But the decades-old radiocesium is still in circulation for bees because it’s close enough to the element potassium, one of the essential nutrients for plants, humans, and other animals. Plants mistakenly absorb radiocesium, believing it to be potassium. Honey not only picks up local plants’ chemical composition, but magnifies it because of the mechanism of how honey is made, say the scientists. Bees consume nectar and, like the people who turn maple sap into syrup, concentrate the nectar so it’s up to five times thicker. What’s left has even more of the local chemical composition. …[L]evels spike in the southeast. Blame the geological nature of the region, where there’s less readily available potassium because of the way rocks and soil are arranged. That means plants in the southeast grab more of whatever is around that seems like potassium, including radiocesium.” •The Fable of the Bees in a different key.


Health Care

“A Backdoor Lets the Immune System Monitor the Brain” [Quanta]. “The researchers reported recently in the journal Cell that the immune system operates from a distance to constantly inspect the brain for signs of trouble. Immune cells, rather than making themselves at home throughout the brain itself, patrol the sidelines until they detect a threat. ‘Immune surveillance of the brain takes place. It’s absolutely normal, like in any other tissue,’ said a coauthor, Jonathan Kipnis, in whose lab at Washington University the research took place. ‘The only exception is that instead of this happening within the tissue, the brain pushed all its immune activity to its borders.’ Using several kinds of imaging and tracing, the researchers tracked the cellular choreography that makes up this surveillance system. They saw that antigens — foreign substances, such as bits of pathogens — were washed from the brain in a flow of cerebral spinal fluid. This fluid streamed through a network of vessels that Kipnis’ lab identified a few years ago and swept the antigens along so that they accumulated in the back of the brain. Here, in the area around the dural sinuses — channels on the brain’s border that drain fluid out toward the body — the antigens came into close proximity to immune cells. ‘Everything’s actually highly concentrated in that one particular site,’ Rustenhoven said. These vessels curving around the back of the brain proved to be a hub of immune system activity. The researchers tracked antigens and other substances crossing the arachnoid barrier, an obstacle that’s known for its impermeability but which, they found, leaks in this particular area. Immune cells are waiting there. When these cells find a worrisome antigen, like one that suggests disease, they initiate a chain reaction that creates an immune response.” • This is [family blogging] amazing stuff. We really had not idea how the immune system works. (And are we really sure the communication is one way?)

“The Cuboid: A DIY air purifier that’s better than a box-fan” [Dynomight]. “The only significant cost is the fan ($30) and the filters ($70 for 4). This is more expensive than a box fan design, where the fan costs $19 and you only need 2 or 3 filters. However, as mentioned above, the cost of extra filters evens out in the long run since they need to be replaced half as often.” • This looks really good (DIY mavens please chime in). So if your school board is whinging that they can’t do anything about aerosols because HVAC, or some consultant is trying to sell them fancy tech that doesn’t work, show them this.

“US Public Health Neglected: Flat Or Declining Spending Left States Ill Equipped To Respond To COVID-19” [Health Affairs]. The Abstract: “The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted concern about the integrity of the US public health infrastructure. Federal, state, and local governments spend $93 billion annually on public health in the US, but most of this spending is at the state level. Thus, shoring up gaps in public health preparedness and response requires an understanding of state spending. We present state spending trends in eight categories of public health activity from 2008 through 2018. We obtained data from the Census Bureau for all states except California and coded the data by public health category. Although overall national health expenditures grew by 4.3 percent in this period, state governmental public health spending saw no statistically significant growth between 2008 and 2018 except in injury prevention. Moreover, state spending levels on public health were not restored after cuts experienced during the Great Recession, leaving states ill equipped to respond to COVID-19 and other emerging health needs.” • Thanks, Obama, good job.

“The detection dogs tracking poachers and Covid-19” (video) [BBC]. “Marlo is sniffing out coronavirus in the UK, and Thor is tracking poachers in Tanzania Read.” • I will admit there are no tracking cats. So dogs really are good for something.

Guillotine Watch

“Elon Musk props up carbon removal research with $100 million competition” [CNN]. • The headline. Doesn’t the idea that carbon removal is being “propped up” by one heroic billionaire veer perilously close to propaganda?

Class Warfare

“1 big thing: ‘Cancel culture’ comes for books” [Axios]. “Simon & Schuster faced a petition opposing authors associated with the Trump administration, including Mike Pence, The Wall Street Journal reports. The petition garnered 216 internal signatures and 3,500 from outside, including well-known Black writers.” • PMC class consciousness, one of the unintended consequences of Trump’s election. I think there could be a nice niche market for consultants willing to purge publishers’ backlists of people like Ezra Pound (fascist), T.S. Eliot (anti-semite), John Berryman (drunken abuser), Mark Twain (used the N-word), Flannery O’Conner (reactionary Catholic), Agatha Christie (colonialist), Jane Austen (where did the prospective husband’s money come from, anyhow?), and Emily Brontë (Heathcliff, ZOMG). Can’t “these people,” just for one second, get over themselves? Oh, and Homer (micro-aggressions).

News of the Wired

“Early alphabetic writing in the ancient Near East: the ‘missing link’ from Tel Lachish” [Cambridge University]. “The origin of alphabetic script lies in second-millennium BC Bronze Age Levantine societies. A chronological gap, however, divides the earliest evidence from the Sinai and Egypt—dated to the nineteenth century BC—and from the thirteenth-century BC corpus in Palestine. Here, the authors report a newly discovered Late Bronze Age alphabetic inscription from Tel Lachish, Israel. Dating to the fifteenth century BC, this inscription is currently the oldest securely dated alphabetic inscription from the Southern Levant, and may therefore be regarded as the ‘missing link’. The proliferation of early alphabetic writing in the Southern Levant should be considered a product of Levantine-Egyptian interaction during the mid second millennium BC, rather than of later Egyptian domination.”

“macintosh.js” [Felix Rieseberg, GitHub]. “This is Mac OS 8, running in an Electron app pretending to be a 1991 Macintosh Quadra. Yes, it’s the full thing. I’m sorry…. This is a toy – it’s not the best nor the most performant way to emulate an old Macintosh. It is, however, a quick and easy way to experience a bit of nostalgia if you’re not trying to do anything serious with it.”

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (AM):

AM writes: “Windy day, so challenging to capture. Orchid left to its own devices in tree for the summer. North Naples, FL 3/25/2.” You can practically see the orchid climbing the tree!

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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. zagonostra

    >“American Honey Still Contains Nuclear Fallout From the 1950s” [Popular Mechanics].

    Blame the geological nature of the region, where there’s less readily available potassium because of the way rocks and soil are arranged.

    No, I think I’ll blame the scientist and politicians of that era that were willing to blow up the atmosphere just to see if Trinity Nuclear test would work. As with the “Radium Girls,” history tends to suggest that you can’t “trust the science” and everyone certainly knows you can’t trust the politicians. So if you’re going to place the “blame” anywhere, I’d start with humans, specific humans.


  2. DJG, Reality Czar

    Homer (micro-aggressions)

    Homer was capable of some big aggressions, when he or the gods were in the mood. Let us not forget Odysseus and Telemachus dispatching, how many?, sixty moochers and suitors who were hanging around the family palazzo eating up all the spanakopita, once Odysseus managed to get back to Ithaca.

    The Axios squib links to that self-absorbed, whiny letter “of intent.” Sheesh. We saw that months ago, and as I pointed out then, it is made up mainly of authors (who don’t make decisions in publishing houses) and associate editors and other newbie-type staff. So the “executives” that the Axios squib points to have no decision-making power. I see a “senior design manager”–and design managers also have no decision-making power in a publishing house, despite the polysyllabic title. I see one senior acquisitions editor, which is a position with decision-making power. The guy is at Zondervan, an evangelical-religious division of Harper/Collins. Ironically, he is all exercised about Mike Pence, the very definition of Zondervan’s readership. So?

      1. ambrit

        Oh come on now.
        Anyone who can be both a “True” scientist and Exegesisiser of the Book of Revelation can’t be all bad.
        I still think that John Barth’s portrayal of Newton in Barth’s “The Sot Weed Factor” is the best.

    1. Tom Doak

      It occurs to me that one of the biggest differences between Obama and Biden is that Obama was very concerned at the start about being a two-term President and not a one-term failure, so, fearful of going too big out of the gate [if in fact he had any interest in doing so].

      Biden seems to not worry about re-election. Maybe he’s come in thinking he might not have eight years anyway? At least, he doesn’t seem afraid to fail.

  3. petal

    There is soooo much more to do in immunology. We don’t know anything, and have only scratched the surface. Very difficult and tricky. We are living in a grand age for it, though!

    1. Isotope_C14

      Hi Petal!

      You are absolutely correct, but as the capitalist education system dictates, a profit must be directly generated by the machine, otherwise the effort is meaningless.

      Basic science is quite unprofitable, as well as citizen science.

      Also, check the jobvector board, it’s worth it. Many jobs don’t require German fluency. :)

      1. petal

        Hi Isotope! Good to see you! You are spot on about the profit.
        I will definitely check out the jobvector board, thank you. I can’t leave for a bit because of my dogs, but it will be great to see what they are looking for and what possible options are out there.
        Take care!

    2. Hana M

      “If you thought that science was certain – well, that is just an error on your part.”
      ― Richard P. Feynman

      “Follow THE SCIENCE” fans, schills, grifters, PR types, et.al. should (but won’t) take notice.

      “We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress.”
      ― Richard P. Feynman

      “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”
      ― Richard P. Feynman

      1. Hana M

        I can’t resist one more Feynman quote that I hope will resonate in NC land:

        “Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out. But pompous fools-guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing people as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus-THAT, I CANNOT STAND! An ordinary fool isn’t a faker; an honest fool is all right. But a dishonest fool is terrible!”
        ― Richard P. Feyman

  4. boydownthelane

    I discovered a stupendous read “How To Love The Universe” when a recent shipment came in from https://www.hamiltonbook.com/ that contained a small bit of deliciousness by a German author named Stefan Klein [ https://www.stefanklein.org/about/ ; stefanklein.org ; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stefan_Klein ], whose interests run into high-end physics, art and analytical philosophy.

    Luckily it was translated by Mike Mitchell; my ability to read German is non-existent.

    At any rate, I found the fourth chapter to be simply delightful: you can buy a used paperback in very good condition at Abe Books for $5.50.]

  5. Henry Moon Pie

    Semitic alphabet’s “missing link”–

    The great empires of the Ancient Near East had to make do with hieroglyphics or cuneiform. It was the city states along the Levantine coast and Israel that had alphabets with Ugaritic and Hebrew.

    If you’ve ever endured learning to read Akkadian, especially directly from the signs, you might think, as I did, that an alphabet is a game-changing technological advance. The historians’ assumption is that only a few scribes and accountants learned how to decipher a language written with complex, polyvalent signs, and how could it have been otherwise? Isn’t mass literacy impossible without alphabetic writing?

    But the Chinese…

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      But the Chinese…

      Unless there are other examples of writing similar to Chinese area languages, my gut is the answer is bamboo, its basically a magic material that can be shaped with minimal input. And it lasts long enough to be useful. Whereas other societies would be looking for efficiencies, the Chinese would have freedom to experiment and invest into complexity.

  6. Sub-Boreal

    The valuations of tech giants based on online advertising are yet another bubble: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3ct1j92

    From the podcast’s description:

    Large companies have slashed their digital marketing budget. Airbnb and Procter & Gamble made such a cut in recent years, after coming to believe the cost doesn’t necessarily translate to increased sales. They follow in the footsteps of eBay who, in 2013, announced it would cease paying for ad sponsorship on Google. Economics professor Steve Tadelis, who led eBay’s research into this, explains how they came to conclude advertising wasn’t worth it. Also in the programme, brand safety advocate and co-founder of Check My Ads Nandini Jammi explains how the modern digital ad market works, and where some doubts lay about its effectiveness. Luke Smith of marketing consultancy Croud says companies need to be clearer in what they want from digital marketing, in order to get the most out of it. But what if the market is overvalued as a whole? Former Google employee Tim Hwang, author of ‘Subprime Attention Crisis’ says we might be looking at an inflated market that could threaten a financial crash online.

  7. RockHard

    I noticed that every US region except the south (and maybe midwest, which looks borderline) are below 5% test positivity rate, wasn’t that the target rate for “uncontrolled spread”?

    To me, the best curves of all would be rising continuously until there’s a sudden drop, because there’s nobody left to vaccinate. It’s too soon to see these numbers dropping. This should worry people.

    As far as vaccines, a few data points from Colorado:
    * I got an email from SCL Health saying they’re shutting down vaccine clinics due to lack of demand.
    * All Colorado mass vaccination sites to take walk-ins in bid to boost flagging demand for shots

    1. Yves Smith

      Well, except….

      Alabama has a high test positivity rate with very small % of population being tested.

      New York has test positivity rate 1/4 of Alabama’s….but the % of population being tested is 8x Alabama’s!

      So who is really doing better?

      I can tell you in Alabama the urgent care centers are charging for tests. And I am finding it hard to get my insurer to reimburse me (even though under their reg regime they are absolutely required to. I won that fight once and am pissed off that my insurer is still foot-dragging re reimbursing a second Covid test).

    2. John Anthony La Pietra

      I thought the key positivity value was 3% . . . and it looks like even the West region may be edging above that.

  8. molon labe

    Not sure if this is carelessness or personal leanings invading academics, but “Palestine” did not exist until sometime after 63 BC when the Romans conquered the local inhabitants: “A chronological gap, however, divides the earliest evidence from the Sinai and Egypt—dated to the nineteenth century BC—and from the thirteenth-century BC corpus in Palestine.” The earliest reference to Palestine was by the Greeks in the 5th century BC, but it was not known as that to the locals until much later. Regardless, even this was long after the 13th century BC.

    Also, quite a bit of snark from Lambert today. This may be the worst: “So dogs really are good for something.”

  9. FriarTuck

    RE: The Cuboid

    As someone who has used air purifiers for almost 10 years due to dust allergies, this is an interesting experiment. The only major flaw in the design as I see it is the lack of a large particulate pre-filter, which is common on most commercial hepa-grade purifiers.

    Dust, my eternal enemy, will cause those filters to fill quickly and need to be replaced. And I don’t have pets – I can’t imagine what pet owners would have to spend replacing prematurely spent filters.

    Adding carbon pre-filters to the design (either on the intake or beneath the fan) would improve the longevity of the filter stack. I have no idea where you would get the kind of carbon mesh or filter that would fit it though.

    1. Fraibert

      I agree that having a prefilter is huge for extending the life of fairly expensive HEPA filtration units.

      With that said, for the Cuboid, I think the prefilters sold under the Honeywell brand would work. These are basically rectangles of mesh filter medium with activated charcoal, so they both catch large particles and help with odors. They are easily cut to size and include a few velcro strips to allow them to be looped back on themselves. It might take more than one filter to cover the cuboid filters, though.

      Official store link: https://www.honeywellstore.com/store/products/honeywell-universal-carbon-pre-filter-hrf-ap1.htm

      They seem to work well, as far as I can tell, from usage in a large Honeywell brand HEPA filter that I’ve had for a number of years.

    2. wadge22

      Polyester filter material sounds like it would do the trick, isn’t too costly, and they sell it in rolls that could be wrapped around the whole contraption. I know they sell it on mcmaster and on amazon, and probably grainger, msc, or fastenal as well.
      Blue and white fluffy stuff. I’ve little doubt they sell different merv ratings or whatever of it, as well, and wouldn’t be surprised if they sell it with carbon.

  10. allan

    New SEC Enforcement Director Alex Oh Resigns [WSJ]

    The new enforcement chief for the Securities and Exchange Commission resigned after just a few days on the job, citing personal reasons, the agency said Wednesday.

    Alex Oh, a former partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, will be replaced on an acting basis by Melissa Hodgman, the SEC said.

    Ms. Oh was the first major hire announced by new Chairman Gary Gensler, who was sworn into his role on April 17. The enforcement director is the SEC’s most high-profile staff job, managing a division
    of 1,300 people and fashioning a strategy for regulating Wall Street.

    Ms. Oh decided to resign after a U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, in an order issued Monday, questioned her conduct during a deposition in a case filed against Exxon Mobil Corp. Ms Oh’s firm,
    Paul, Weiss, represents Exxon …

    Once in a while someone gets stuck in the revolving door.

    1. Fraibert

      Interestingly, Politico’s coverage seems to frame it more as “progressive” opposition as being a significant driver of Ms. Oh’s resignation (in addition to the conduct during the deposition). (https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/28/sec-alex-oh-resignation-484955)

      In any case, the conduct must be supremely unprofessional for someone like Ms. Oh to use it as grounds for resignation. Big law “litigators” get away with just about anything most of the time–while, notoriously, bar associations like grinding solo practitioners and the like into the ground to put on a show that they’re enforcing the rules of professional responsibility.

  11. Pat

    I admit when I read about Harris’ book being given to migrant children I didn’t immediately dismiss it. It took a moment for me to start laughing. So I agree with Dr. Fishbones – way more believable.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Normally I do not watch for people on Twitter for the simple reason that I don’t do social media. However, Dr. Fishbones has now become my first exception as the man has a wicked wit. Here are some examples-

      ‘AOC is 31 years old and has only been in office for three years and already she’s voting like 87 year old Dianne Feinstein’

      ‘Joe Biden raises the minimum wage for federal employees to $15 after getting the all-clear from his boss The Senate Parliamentarian’


  12. skk

    Any discussion of digital advertising has to include bob hoffman , google ‘ digital marketing bob hoffman website’ . He lays bare what a load of BS the numbers, not the loot for goog, fb etc,but of number of views, clicks are. I did this crap for 3 years, speciality digital attribution, i.e which ad or ads should get credit for a sale, when they’ve clicked and potentially been exposed to the ad over several months, across digital, tv, radio …. Horrendously difficult, bayesian wide ranges of uncertainty are needed.
    Tracking of course is key so you know who it is across the various channels. Quite disgusting !
    For my money and my industry experience, bob hoffman really gets it.

  13. CloverBee

    I point this out as an interesting point that apparently church officials and state scientists are focused on ventilation for preventing COVID, no matter what the WHO and CDC recommend:

    My daughter’s Episcopal church, as well as the cathedral for the diocese, are investing in air filtration for the nave. Until these renovations are completed, services will continue to be held outside. The nave is a large, old stone building with high ceilings in the Gothic style. The email quotes scientists from the state as recommending “air replacement” as critical to avoiding spreading COVID.

  14. hunkerdown

    It appears DroidScript competes with Google’s own Android software development kits, which is not allowed when you use their official SDK, section 3.2. Apparently, they’re trying to avoid admitting the motivating basis of their actions (as they would under an above-average level of anti-trust and other regulatory pressure) by claiming false injuries.

  15. The Rev Kev

    “Congress prepares for ‘strange’ and ‘extraordinary’ presidential address”

    In a change of procedure, there will be no Designated Survivor in case, you know, a jet-liner crashes into Congress wiping everybody out like in that Tom Clancy novel “Debt of Honour”-


    Fox News is saying that if there was such an event, then Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen would then become the new President of the United States and be the first female President. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is heard to grind her teeth.

  16. ambrit

    The Rev Kev @ 7:27 PM
    I do indeed remember a ways back in November of ’74, in the old National Lampoon magazine, a ten page comic entitled: “Constitutional Comics: 31 Days in October,” wherein we are regaled with the fell plots of the Secretary of Transportation to ascend, through hook or crook, to the office of President of the United States.
    Oh for those halcyon days when America could laugh at itself.
    No more. Now we weep.

    1. rowlf

      Dammit, I missed one. I must have gone to the Bucket On Their Head page or Foto Funnies on that issue and missed it.

        1. rowlf

          Ya know, once you realize you have to take a cycle of life through Hell, it is rather liberating. Should I save you a seat on the express bus? I dibs window seat. Need me to do some merit for you too?

          1. ambrit

            Hmmm…. We’re all Bozos on this bus.
            Save me a seat in the back of the bus. You know, where the winos and hipsters congregate and pass the bottle and ‘home rolled’ around.

  17. Fastball

    Sigh. I appreciate your comments Lambert, I read them every day. I lost my car, I got it replaced, but I can’t help financially right now. I am barely keeping my head above water, and if my car hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have that problem.

    One problem or issue if you will is that used cars cost amazing amounts of money. I just moved as well from an abusive situation. It was just dumb luck that my car chose the exact moment my car died as I committed to move to a new, non-abusive situation.

    I got lucky in that I paid the majority of the NEW (extensively used and old) car off and had a used car dealer who would allow me to pay a little more in a couple of months.

    Because of my credit which is a whole other story (ALL MEDICAL DEBT) I could have used the amount I paid as a massive down payment on a brand new vehicle.

    So, I love your posts. But it’s gonna be a few months before I can help people. It’s very expensive to not be wealthy.

    I have donated to you before. I thought you should know why I can’t. You probably won’t see this.

    1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      That’s great you have escaped your abusive situation :)

      Hang in there, Fastball!!!!!

    2. petal

      Fastball, good on ya! You’re going through the scary, hard part now. It’ll get better. Keeping you in my thoughts.

    1. Wukchumni

      I was 7 when we landed on the Moon the first time, and then about a month later poised on my dad’s shoulders on the sidewalk, I was briefly within 100 feet of the triumphant trio as they passed by in the ticker tape parade held in their honor in Manhattan.

      Every parade since then has paled in comparison…

      …farewell Hero

        1. The Rev Kev

          The views are to die for. No, seriously. If you were on the moon the vacuum would rupture your lungs causing them to explode and you would die.

          1. ambrit

            But what if I was ‘in’ the Moon? Would the Selenites be friendly?
            Oh b—-! For a gallon of Cavourite!

            1. The Rev Kev

              HAHAHAHAHAH! The best part of that film was at the beginning when the UN team of astronauts while exploring find a small, dusty Union Jack and a note claiming the Moon on behalf of Queen Victoria.

  18. rowlf

    A dumb question: during the Presidential Address tonight why are congress people wearing masks? Aren’t the leaders of the US all vaccinated by now?

    1. The Rev Kev

      Biden also had a black mask on when he was doing a video conference with international leaders the other day and he was the only one to do so. Why? Don’t know. Funny how when I was a kid that you only really saw masks on bank & stage-coach robbers in old Hollywood westerns. Seeing masks on politicians seems kind of fitting now.

      1. rowlf

        Actually, most of the congress members looked like Derek Chauvin at trial with the eyes darting around above the masks. I also like the VP hyperventilating as the President outlined his proposed taxes on the rich.

        Good times, even though this event every year is like having a bowl full of tin foil to eat instead of a bowl of popcorn

        1. The Rev Kev

          That article opens up even more questions. Why would he not have all those people put in an appearance by video instead of having them do walk-in appearances? Kinda risky that. Right now I take Joe Biden’s health very seriously and hope that he never gets infected due to his extreme age and chances of survival. And the reason that I do so is that I have no desire to see Kamala Harris elevated to Leader of the Free World.

          1. ambrit

            When Harris becomes Dear Leader, the World will ‘officially’ no longer be “free.”
            Who will be her Sejanus?

  19. Michael McK

    Great! (sarc) Musk is having a competition for carbon removal ideas. You give him all your ideas (you lose patent protection by entering them into a competition) for his potential investments. He also gets oodles of fawning press. All for the cost of a wee bit of prize money.
    Never mind that talk of Carbon removal tech (aside from removing Billionaires and letting natural plant and soil communities recover) is just a smoke screen/delaying tactic for business as usual.

  20. twonine

    RE Cuboid fan: I picture some small child’s fingers in the fan blades. Needs a screen at both ends..

Comments are closed.