2:00PM Water Cooler 4/30/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

The Resplendant Quetzal!

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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?)

“U.S. vaccination pace slides further from peak levels as Covid case counts decline in most states” [CBNC]. “The combination of [the Pfizer and Moderna] vaccines peaked at an average of 3 million reported daily shots on April 16 and has declined 12% since…, More than 40% of Americans have received at least one shot and three in 10 are fully vaccinated, CDC data shows… Of those age 65 and older, 82% are at least partially vaccinated and 68% are fully vaccinated.”

“Vaccinations are plateauing. Don’t blame it on ‘resistance’” [STAT]. “[A]s fewer people sign up to get their shots, a dominant narrative is emerging: It’s because of hesitancy — too many people don’t want to get the vaccine. Some even call this vaccine resistance. Those are convenient narratives. But they are false, and can have harmful consequences. Let’s start here: If you didn’t get your flu shot last year, are you ‘vaccine hesitant’? If you haven’t been vaccinated yet and aren’t actively seeking an appointment to do that, are you ‘resisting’? If you skipped your vaccination appointment because the Food and Drug Administration’s pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine raised questions you wanted answered first, are you a ‘vaccine skeptic’? Few people would answer any of these questions with ‘yes,’ yet experts and commentators are quick to use hesitancy to explain the recent dip in vaccinations…. For most Americans — and that includes conservatives — who are given the chance to discuss vaccination on their own terms and timelines and for whom vaccination is easy, nearby, and supported by employers, the question shifts from if they will get vaccinated to when and how.” • Note that “easy, nearby, and supported by employers” are all material conditions. But I think we should try more scolding and shaming. It’s what we’re good at!

“Household COVID-19 risk and in-person schooling” [Science]. ” Data from a massive online survey in the United States indicates an increased risk of COVID-19-related outcomes among respondents living with a child attending school in-person. School-based mitigation measures are associated with significant reductions in risk, particularly daily symptoms screens, teacher masking, and closure of extra-curricular activities. A positive association between in-person schooling and COVID-19 outcomes persists at low levels of mitigation, but when seven or more mitigation measures are reported, a significant relationship is no longer observed…. While in-person schooling is associated with household COVID-19 risk, this risk can likely be controlled with properly implemented school-based mitigation measures.”

Case count by United States regions:

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

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. New York to drop below Texas, which is flat. California also dropping.

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.

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“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

“Biden’s Workmanlike Love Song to the Middle Class” [Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine]. “[H]is entire speech was one long, implied contrast with his predecessor, short on thunder and lightning but very clear on policy priorities and relatively light on exaggerations, much less the smorgasbord of lies offered in Trump utterances long and short. Like Biden himself, it was solid and workmanlike, and he managed to make you forget now and then the unusual setting and the bitterness of the last election. I’m sure it was an effort he’s glad to get behind him, so that he can return to the task of quietly turning the federal government 180 degrees.” • 180°? Surely not.

UPDATE “Joe Biden is proving progressives wrong. And they’re loving it.” [NBC]. “Liberals are pleased with Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill and his swift rejection of Republican attempts to cut it. They like his $2.25 trillion infrastructure and jobs proposal. They’re pleasantly surprised with his personnel decisions, particularly the hiring of Klain and the shunning of moderate Democratic White House veterans like Larry Summers and Rahm Emanuel. ‘I don’t think they would have been better if Bernie Sanders was the president,’ Larry Cohen, a form\er union leader who chairs the Sanders-aligned group Our Revolution, said of Biden’s staffing decisions. ‘The question will be the tenacity,’ he said. ‘These are the best proposals you could ever expect, but the question will be fighting for those things.'” • With friends like these…. (Now, it is fair to say that Sanders would have faced a professional services strike from the PMC and ferocious assault from national security goons, just as Trump did. But that’s not what Cohen is saying.

UPDATE “Biden should have addressed anti-democratic, fantasy-land Trumpism in his speech to Congress” [Matthew Dowd, USA Today]. “And until we fundamentally address the flaws of one legacy party and within our democracy, moving forward to a better future for all Americans is a hope with no relation to reality.” • One legacy party? One word: RussiaGate.

UPDATE “Democrats face big headaches on Biden’s $4T spending plan” [The Hill]. “Biden unveiled a $2.3 trillion infrastructure package late last month and a $1.8 trillion families package Wednesday night during his first address to Congress — presenting congressional Democrats with the herculean task of unifying their razor-thin majorities behind historically eye-popping figures. The two proposals are supposed to be Biden’s next big legislative achievement, but there are deep divisions among Senate Democrats about the scope and strategy: Centrists want at least part of the proposals to be bipartisan, while progressives want Biden to go even bigger. ‘We’re probably going to have some work to do in our own caucus,’ said Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.). ‘I think we’re still a ways away from that. I don’t think there’s a 50-vote consensus yet.’ Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), asked about how to move the two packages, said it’s ‘predicated on my whip,’ referencing how senators count the votes for a bill.” More: “[A] growing number of Democrats are skeptical of GOP outreach efforts, predicting that Republicans will never get on board in a meaningful way.” Oh, noes. Really?

Democrats en Deshabille

“Why Some Black Democrats Haven’t Embraced a Voting Rights Push” [New York Times]. “In Congress, the party is pushing a colossal elections system overhaul that would take redistricting out of the hands of politicians, introduce automatic voter registration and restore voting rights for the formerly incarcerated. For some Black Democrats in the South, the fact that this fight is happening at all — in 2021 — is a profound failure of the Democratic Party’s politics and policies. In interviews, more than 20 Southern Democrats and civil rights activists described a party that has been slow to combat Republican gerrymandering and voting limits, overconfident about the speed of progress, and too willing to accept that voter suppression was a thing of the Jim Crow past. But Black leaders are also facing some unexpected resistance from lawmakers who fear that the sweeping bill in Congress, known as the For the People Act, would endanger their own seats in predominantly Black districts. Republicans have often used the redistricting method to pack Black Democrats into one House district. The practice has diluted Democrats’ influence regionally, but it also ensures that almost all Southern states have at least one predominantly Black district, offering a guarantee of Black representation amid a sea of mostly white and conservative House districts. Some Black Democratic lawmakers in the South have so far remained relatively muted about these concerns of self-preservation, worried that it places their own interests above the party’s agenda or activists’ priorities. Still, the doubts flared up last month when Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, a Democrat whose district includes Jackson and who serves as Mr. Figgers’s congressman, surprisingly voted ‘no’ on the House’s federal elections bill. Recently, other Congressional Black Caucus members have urged Democratic leadership to focus more narrowly on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act — which aims to restore key parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, including the requirement that some states get federal approval before changing election laws — rather than pushing for the sweeping provisions of the For the People Act, officially known as H.R. 1.” •

“Former NY attorney general Schneiderman loses law license for a year over abuse” [The Hill]. “Schneiderman admitted to slapping several women and ‘on a number of occasions’ put his hands on their necks and applied pressure without getting consent, according to the filing released Tuesday. The filing stated that ‘at times’ he was also ‘verbally and emotionally abusive.’ According to the filing, Schneiderman and the committee agreed to the one-year suspension on the condition that he continues treatment with a mental health professional and reports to the New York Lawyers Assistance Program, which helps legal professionals struggling with various issues. The filing also notes that Schneiderman had not previously been disciplined and that he has ‘accepted full responsibility for his misconduct and is remorseful therefor.'”

UPDATE “Cuomo aide steps down from role as New York’s vaccine czar” [The Hill]. “Larry Schwartz, a top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), has stepped down from his role as the state’s COVID-19 vaccine czar, according to multiple reports…. Schwartz recently came under fire after The Washington Post reported that he called county officials to gauge their loyalty to Cuomo as multiple women accused him of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, oftentimes in the workplace.”

Republican Funhouse

“Vote-by-Mail Favored by Older, Affluent Voters, Census Finds” [Bloomberg]. “Those most likely to vote by mail in 2020 included some demographic groups that voted heavily for Donald Trump, new Census data show, undermining his claim that voting by mail only helps Democrats. Older and more affluent voters were especially likely to vote by mail in 2020. Almost 54% of voters age 65 and older — who supported Trump by 5 percentage points, according to exit polls — cast votes by mail. Less than 40% of voters under 65 did so.” • So against interest, perhaps Trump even believed it?!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Another Hillsong East Coast Pastor Resigns, This Time Over Revealing Instagram Selfies” [Julie Roys]. “A pastor for Hillsong East Coast has resigned after sharing revealing photos of himself on Instagram stories. His resignation comes at a time when the global megachurch has been rocked by multiple scandals, including last fall’s firing of ‘celebrity pastor’ Carl Lentz from Hillsong New York City after revelations of an extramarital affair.” • Reinforces my priors, I admit, as does this–

“Former Members of Manipulative Churches Say These Campus Ministries Aren’t the Faith Community They Hoped For” [Teen Vogue]. “Ross recommends new college students to think twice about the conversations they have with people that approach them on campus. ‘Always to remember, it’s not about what the group believes so much it is about how they behave,’ he adds. ‘Ask yourself to what extent do the demands of the organization impede or disable me from pursuing the other areas of my life.'” • As does this–

“’19 Kids and Counting’ star Josh Duggar arrested, indicted on child pornography charges” [USA Today]. “Duggar’s arrest comes less than a week after his wife Anna announced on Instagram that she is pregnant with their seventh child, a baby girl. In a video posted to Instagram Saturday, the couple stand in a field with their six children running in the background. Duggar opens an umbrella over himself and his wife, dropping pink confetti over them.” • So, a gender reveal that wasn’t lethal,…

Stats Watch

Personal Income and Expenditures: “March 2021 Real Income And Expenditures Significantly Improve” [Econintersect]. “The data continues to be affected by the pandemic and the stimulus payments. Expenditures improved month-over-month (and is in expansion year-over-year) whilst income also improved month-over-month and is in expansion year-over-year…. The note from the BEA says it all: ‘The estimate for March personal income and outlays was impacted by the continued government response to COVID-19. Economic impact payments associated with the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (which was enacted on March 11, 2021) were distributed in March. The full economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be quantified in the personal income and outlays estimate because the impacts are generally embedded in source data and cannot be separately identified.;'”

Leading Indicators: “April 2021 Chemical Activity Barometer Index Continues To Improve” [Econintersect]. “The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC),rose 0.7% in April on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis following a 1.1% increase in March and a 0.9% gain in February. On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer rose 12.0% in April (3MMA).”

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Commodities: “Why Dead Trees Are ‘the Hottest Commodity on the Planet’” [The Atlantic]. “Since 2018, a one-two punch of environmental harms worsened by climate change has devastated the lumber industry in Canada, the largest lumber exporter to the United States. A catastrophic and multi-decade outbreak of bark-eating beetles, followed by a series of historic wildfire seasons, have led to lasting economic damage in British Columbia, a crucial lumber-providing province. Americans have, in effect, made a mad dash for lumber at the exact moment Canada is least able to supply it. Climate change, which has long threatened to overturn dependable facts about the world, is now starting to make itself known in commodities markets, the exchanges that keep staple goods flowing to companies and their customers. For years, scientists and agricultural forecasters have warned that climate change could result in devastating failures among luxury goods, such as fine chocolate and wine. Others have speculated about several grain-producing regions slipping into a simultaneous drought, a phenomenon dubbed ‘multiple breadbasket failures.’ But for now, a climate-change-induced shortage is showing up more subtly, dampening supply during a historic demand crunch.”

Tech: “Can We Do Better Than Deplatforming?” [Galaxy Brain]. “In the next few days or weeks, Facebook’s independent Oversight Board will offer its ruling on whether the company ought to continue its ban (deplatforming) of Donald Trump. As you might expect, quite a few people have thoughts as to what the social network ought to do — so much so that the Oversight Board received over 9,000 public comments on the case and had to delay its decision in order to read them. Elected officials around the world are weighing in, perhaps because they’re worried that the decision might add a little friction to being a powerful person online.” • I hate the helpfully underlined verbiage, because it implies that Facebook’s so-called Oversight Board is a Court, or even like a Court, when it is no such thing. It’s just reinforcing Zuckerberg’s PR.

Tech: “Disney’s writer wage-theft is far worse than reported” [Cory Doctorow, Pluralistic]. “Disney argued that when they bought out Lucas, Fox, etc, they acquired their assets, but not their liabilities. In other words, they’d acquired the right to sell Foster’s work, but not the obligation to pay him when they did. This is not how copyright contracts work, period. If it were, then any publisher with a runaway bestseller novel could incorporate a new company, sell its assets – but not its liabilities – to that company, and stiff the writer. Both Foster’s agent and the Science Fiction Writers of America tried to negotiate with Disney quietly on this, but they were stonewalled and insulted (Disney insisted that they wouldn’t even discuss a deal without first getting nondisclosure agreements from Foster, another unheard-of tactic). After failing to make progress with private negotiations, they went loudly public, launching the #DisneyMustPay campaign. The good news is, the campaign was successful, and Foster has been paid. The bad news is that the campaign flushed out many writers who are also having their wages stolen by Disney. The company is stalling them, too – refusing to search its records or volunteer info unless the authors can name the specific instances in which they’ve been robbed.” And: “They have a form where writers who suspect that Disney has stolen their wages can report it, anonymously: https://airtable.com/shrE1hJbqMHsjP9Ll.”

Tech: “How to make online arguments productive” [Science Daily]. “The team developed 12 potential technological design interventions that could support users when having hard conversations. The researchers created storyboards that illustrated each intervention and asked 98 new participants, ranging from 22 to 65 years old, to evaluate the interventions.” • Worth a read, particularly pulling conversations temporarily offline, which is how people handle these things in real life.

Tech: “Show me your playlist and I’ll tell you who you are” [EurekAlert]. “According to the researchers, three songs from a playlist are enough to identify the person who chose the songs. Hence, companies like YouTube and Spotify can accumulate a great deal of information about their users based only on their musical preferences…. The findings surprised even the researchers. The analysis of the data showed that the group members were able to identify the study participants according to their musical taste at a very high level of between 80 and 100%, even though the group members did not know each other well and had no prior knowledge of each other’s musical preferences.”

Tech: “The New iOS Update Lets You Stop Ads From Tracking You—So Do It” [Wired]. “IF YOU’RE SICK of opaque ad tracking and don’t feel like you have a handle on it, a new iOS feature promises to give you back some control. With the release of Apple’s iOS 14.5 on Monday, all of your apps will have to ask in a pop-up: Do you want to allow this app to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites? For once, your answer can be no…. Though the tracking changes in iOS 14.5 are significant, they don’t extend beyond the walled garden that is iOS. Kint likens the immediate impact to squeezing one part of a water balloon: The liquid just expands to the other side. Platforms like Android and the web on most browsers will still allow tracking, and marketers may focus even more strongly there.”

The Economy: “What’s behind the growth slump? Takeaways from census data” [Associated Press]. “The U.S. population grew to 331 million, a 7.4% growth rate from the last time the Census Bureau counted every person in the country, in 2010. Those may sound like big numbers, but it’s actually the second slowest rate of population growth the census has ever recorded, just behind the 7.3% growth in the 1930s. That decade’s slowed growth was rooted in the Great Depression. Our past decade’s sluggish rate had similar beginnings in the long shadow of the Great Recession. The drawn-out recovery saw many young adults struggling to enter the job market, delaying marriage and starting a family. That dealt a blow to the nation’s birthrate. Then the pandemic hit last year and made matters worse. But while U.S. population growth recovered after the Great Depression, demographers are not optimistic it will pick up anytime soon. Most forecast even slower population growth in the decades to come. Americans are getting older — the median age in the U.S. is 38, up one year from 37 in 2010. Immigration had been dropping even before the pandemic effectively shut it down. And many Republicans have largely turned against the idea of immigration, legal or illegal, a new political barrier to the country adding more population quickly. ‘Unlike the Great Depression, it’s part of a process where we’re likely to keep having slow growth,’ said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. That has potentially grim consequences for the nation’s future.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 Greed (previous close: 66 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 61 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 30 at 12:10pm.

The Biosphere

“PM2.5 polluters disproportionately and systemically affect people of color in the United States” [Science]. “Racial-ethnic minorities in the United States are exposed to disproportionately high levels of ambient fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5), the largest environmental cause of human mortality. However, it is unknown which emission sources drive this disparity and whether differences exist by emission sector, geography, or demographics. Quantifying the PM2.5 exposure caused by each emitter type, we show that nearly all major emission categories—consistently across states, urban and rural areas, income levels, and exposure levels—contribute to the systemic PM2.5 exposure disparity experienced by people of color. We identify the most inequitable emission source types by state and city, thereby highlighting potential opportunities for addressing this persistent environmental inequity.”

“Melting glaciers have been shifting the Earth’s poles since 1995, new study suggests” [Physics World]. “The rotation of the Earth has been affected over the past 25 years by the rapid melting of glaciers caused by climate change, according to a study done by scientists in China and Denmark. Using satellite data and modelling, the team has shown that the melting of glaciers has caused an eastward shift in the position of the true North Pole and South Pole that began in 1995…. fter accounting for known influences on polar drift, the team concluded that the main cause of the polar drift that started in 1995 is the melting of glaciers in the polar regions. However, the size of the drift cannot be explained by glacier melting alone and the team believe that there is also a contribution from the extraction of groundwater at middle latitudes – in places like California, Texas, the region around Beijing and northern India.”

“Household aerosols now release more harmful smog chemicals than cars, study finds” [Sky News]. “Household aerosols such as air fresheners, deodorants and furniture polish have overtaken cars as a source of smog polluting chemicals in the UK, a new study has found…. While vehicles were responsible for most [Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)] emissions into the 2000s, scientists found that the use of catalytic converters on vehicles and fuel vapour recovery at filling stations has led to a rapid decline. In contrast, the global amount of VOCs emitted from aerosols every year is rising as lower and middle-income economies grow and people in these countries increase their consumption. Currently, VOCs are used in around 93% of all aerosols, the study said.”

“‘We Need to Hear These Poor Trees Scream’: Unchecked Global Warming Means Big Trouble for Forests” [Inside Climate News]. “Trees and forests can be compared with corals and reefs, he said. Both are slow-growing and long-lived systems that can’t easily move or adapt in a short time to rapid warming and both have relatively inflexible damage thresholds. For corals, a global tipping point was reached from 2014 to 2016. In record-warm oceans, reefs around the world bleached and died. The detailed new information and modeling on how water stress kills trees suggests there is a similar drought threshold for tree mortality, beyond which forests could also perish on a global scale.”

“Daisugi, the 600-Year-Old Japanese Technique of Growing Trees Out of Other Trees, Creating Perfectly Straight Lumber” [Open Culture]. “We’ve all admired the elegance of Japan’s traditional styles of architecture. Their development required the kind of dedicated craftsmanship that takes generations to cultivate — but also, more practically speaking, no small amount of wood. By the 15th century, Japan already faced a shortage of seedlings, as well as land on which to properly cultivate the trees in the first place. Necessity being the mother of invention, this led to the creation of an ingenious solution: daisugi, the growing of additional trees, in effect, out of existing trees — creating, in other words, a kind of giant bonsai. ‘Written as 台杉 and literally meaning platform cedar, the technique resulted in a tree that resembled an open palm with multiple trees growing out if it, perfectly vertical,’ writes Spoon and Tamago’s Johnny Waldman. ‘Done right, the technique can prevent deforestation and result in perfectly round and straight timber known as taruki, which are used in the roofs of Japanese teahouses.'”

Health Care

“Epidemics That Didn’t Happen” [Prevent Epidemics]. The funding.

“Variant Proportions” [CDC (JK)]. Handy chart:

B.1.1.7 seems not have been the disaster that was feared (at least at the national level). Of course, past results are no guarantee of future performance:


Come on, man:

“As the Caspian Sea Disappears, Life Goes on for Those Living by Its Shores” [The Moscow Times]. “According to a series of recent studies, the Caspian — the world’s largest inland body of water — is rapidly drying up as climate change sends temperatures in the region soaring. Having already fallen by several meters since its mid-1990s peak, the Caspian’s retreat represents a major threat to fragile ecosystems with hundreds of endemic species, and to huge areas of arid inner Asia where human life has always depended on the sea…. In 1996, however, the tide turned. That year, a sustained and rapid decline in the Caspian Sea level began, continuing up to the present day… While previous Caspian fluctuations were driven by unpredictable combinations of human and environmental factors, this decline — which has been accompanied by record high temperatures in landlocked inner Asia — has a more straightforward cause, say scientists. ‘This time, it’s about climate change,’ said Eldar Eldarov, a geography professor at Dagestan State University.”

Police State Watch

“Op-Ed: End the City’s ShotSpotter Contract” [Southside Weekly]. “Less than five minutes elapsed between the time a ShotSpotter alert summoned police officers to 24th and Sawyer and the moment officer Eric Stillman shot and killed thirteen-year-old Adam Toledo. The automated alert was part of the Chicago Police Department’s sprawling surveillance network of cameras, microphones, social media monitoring, facial recognition software, and a growing constellation of carceral technologies. In August, Chicago’s contract with ShotSpotter is set to expire, and the City should decline to renew it before the technology leads to another fatal encounter with police. Despite being pitched as tools for public safety, many of these technologies increase criminalization and lead to more interactions with police, which are always dangerous for Black and brown communities. The police killings of young people confirm that CPD’s surveillance system poses a present and growing threat to the safety and lives of Black, brown, and Indigenous Chicagoans. We must work to abolish the use of surveillance technologies to bring justice for Adam Toledo and others like him. ShotSpotter is a gunshot detection system which uses microphones, algorithms, and human analysts and alerts to send officers to respond to what the system thinks are gunshots. Tellingly, there are no ShotSpotter microphones deployed in majority-white neighborhoods in Chicago. Instead, they blanket the South and West Sides.”

“Autopsy shows ‘kill shot’ to Brown, attorney says. Ministers declare ‘moral emergency.’” [News & Observer]. “Attorneys for the family of Andrew Brown Jr., at an emotional Tuesday news conference in Elizabeth City, said a private autopsy showed that he died when Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies fired a ‘kill shot to the back of the head.’ Brown, 42, was killed in his car outside his home in Elizabeth City last Wednesday as deputies were serving search and arrest warrants related to felony drug charges. After hearing the autopsy results, Brown’s son Khalil Ferebee discouraged violence Tuesday as he addressed the crowd of about 100 people that stood outside the public safety building downtown. ‘To my pops … yesterday, I said he was executed,’ Ferebee said. ‘This autopsy report showed me that was correct.’ The autopsy also showed an additional four gunshot wounds to Brown’s arm. ‘That wasn’t enough?’ Ferebee said. ‘They’re going to shoot him in the back of the head? … That’s not right at all. Man, stuff gotta change. It’s really gotta change for real.'” • Meanwhile:

“Overland Park officer says he shot teen in van after he ‘didn’t listen’ to commands” [Kansas City Star]. “Police had been called for a welfare check on the teenager, who was believed to be suicidal.” • Bad idea…

The Agony Column

“People are ready to have sex again: Condom sales are surging” [CNN]. “Male condom sales in the United States increased 23.4% to $37 million during the four weeks ending April 18 compared with the same stretch a year ago, according to the latest figures from IRI, a market research firm that tracks point-of-sale data at big box retailers, grocery stores, drug stores and other retail channels. That’s after a 4.4% drop in all of 2020, according to IRI.”

Guillotine Watch

“$325,0002 bd3 ba2,500 sqft 1204 S 18th St, Saint Louis, MO 63104” [Zillow]. “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise, what is, it wouldn’t be and what it wouldn’t be, it would, you see. This is entirely bonkers but I’ll tell you a secret, all the best houses are. Sunken conversations rise to incredible heights. Tables that clearly show the wonders of the deep. Waterfalls and rooftop gardens. Outside/inside and angles of peculiar destinations. Mirrors that reflect upside down. Bridges that lead to spaces with no faces. Closed windows with light from unexpected places. Somethings real, somethings created – all things coming together to form an unexpected adventure through the mind of a visionary man. This could be your dream and you could decide where it goes from here. Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” • My eyes!!!!!

It’s very hard for me to think that whoever commissioned this interior was entirely sane. And this not some King Ludwig-style confection erected by some acid-dropping Silicon Valley squillionaire; this is St Louis, and the price point is $325,000. So even the American gentry are losing their minds.

Class Warfare

“How Austerity Destroyed the Public Good” [Adolph Reed, The New Republic]. “The cycle of strategic pillaging of public goods that produced the Katrina disaster is by now well documented: Free-market ideologues neglect the public welfare for decades; they then privatize and starve out funding for public goods and services; and finally point to the resulting shortfalls in public-sector performance created by their handiwork as a rationale for cutting funding and neglecting these critical services and infrastructures even more…. The yearlong-and-counting Covid catastrophe bears similarly painful witness to the entirely predictable results of four decades’ worth of leaders blatantly and cynically discrediting government while also hollowing out the country’s social and physical infrastructure—very much including the anemic public health systems that prolonged and worsened the pandemic’s course…. The orchestrated mass forgetting of the idea of the public good reinforces the broader suspicion of government as a knee-jerk principle. And this distrust in turn ratchets up rampant vulnerability to the frighteningly solipsistic—if not nihilistic—notion of “rights” as unqualified individual entitlement expressed in anti-masking propaganda and gun rights absolutism. The long-running atrophy of the public good as a framework for governance also creates an enormous opening for malevolent conspiracy theories that at least offer internally consistent accounts of the sources of people’s anxieties and concerns and promise to resolve them—even if through a mass purge of the political opposition or an apocalyptic reckoning. That, indeed, is the big punch line here. The neoliberal regime of intensifying economic inequality may be exhausting its capacities—in this country and elsewhere—for delivering sufficient benefits to enough of the population to sustain a nominally democratic order.” • As di Lampedusa did not quite say, “‘If we want things to stay as they are, things will have not fundamentally change.”

“How the middle class became downwardly mobile” [Financial Times]. “The economist Thomas Piketty points out in Capital in the Twenty-First Century that what we’re seeing is a reversion to the historical norm: in most epochs, the vast bulk of wealth comes from inheritance, not work. Piketty says the exception was the postwar era: once the Great Depression and the second world war had decimated family wealth, there was little left to inherit.” • And on the same theme–

Interesting thread from Doctorow:

News of the Wired

“Naming the fungal universe” [Nature]. “Nearly 150,000 species of fungi have been described up to this day1 and a third of those have had a DNA sequence published. Many of them have been named more than once or have been moved around in the fungal classification system, as taxonomic knowledge improves. As a result, the very same fungus may bear more than one and often multiple names. Most of these cases are of relevance only to taxonomic specialists, but when an ecologically or economically fungus has more than one name, complications arise. One example is the rice blast fungus, an important disease agent of rice. After corn and wheat, rice is the third most important staple food crop globally. It is essential to have a consistent label for the species that destroys the amount of rice that could feed an entire country in a year. When searching online for “rice blast fungus”, the scientific name Magnaporthe grisea likely comes up first. Next on the list would be Magnaporthe oryzae. Yet, the correct name is Pyricularia oryzae! The reasons for this lie in the often surprising discoveries of DNA-based research and the intricate rules of scientific nomenclature, explained in our paper linked below. But that’s not all of it. While the currently known 150,000 fungi have more names than they actually need, a large chunk of the global fungal diversity has no name at all.” • Same problem with Covid variants….

“State of consciousness may involve quantum effects, University of Calgary scientists show” (press release) [University of Calgary]. “A new study by University of Calgary researchers shows that quantum effects could be involved in how an anaesthetic called xenon affects consciousness. Xenon has been shown experimentally to produce a state of general anaesthesia in several species. While the anaesthetic properties of xenon were discovered in 1939, the exact underlying mechanism by which it produces anaesthetic effects remains unclear even after decades of research. The research team has developed the first-ever computational and mathematical model which shows — at the molecular level — that ‘quantum entanglement’ of electrons could play an important role. ‘We show that with this theoretical model we can explain how xenon works, through the quantum entanglement of the electrons in a pair of radicals (molecules with single, unpaired electrons). This suggests these entangled electrons are somehow important to consciousness,’ says Dr. Christoph Simon, PhD, professor of physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Faculty of Science. Radical pairs occur when the chemical bond between two paired electrons is broken. Even though they’re physically separated, the two electrons are still linked at the quantum level and affect each other — a state known as quantum entanglement. ‘Based on our model, it is possible that quantum effects at least contribute to the production of conscious experience,’ says study lead author Jordan Smith, a master’s student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.” • [!!!!!] Here is the original study in Science.

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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 (LL):

LL writes: “We’re having a bit of Chinook Spring. Fawn lilies from my walk on Saturday.”

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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. km

      Tweet appears to have been deleted.

      Too bad, I was planning to go. If the one Lib.U. student I knew is anything close to a representative sample, it ought to be quite the party.

    1. R

      Hi Lambert, don’t worry about the multiplicative process, as you put it, and the linear growth in vaccinated population. Focus on the rate of decrease in the susceptible, that is the unvaccinated, which is a reciprocal process (1/x, as a formula)..

      In a population of 100, the first vaccination reduces the susceptible population by 1%. The 51st vaccination reduces the susceptibles by 2%. The 76th reduces the susceptible by 4%, and so on. This is why the UK has prioritised initial doses – you can model the not-quite-full protection as a constant 0.7x (or whatever the number is) of a full person’s reduction in susceptibility. The benefit of single dosing therefore accelerates faster. The same argument applies if you vaccinate in age tiers, within the tier, the susceptible pool will shrink faster.

      Once the pool is small enough, real world constraints on transmission occur because the density of patients is too low for the super spreading events which drive the R value (because coronavirus is over dispersed, in the jargon).

      In short, a linear rate of vaccination produces non-linear marginal reduction in infection / transmission, once past a tipping point.

  1. QuicksilverMessenger

    > Identifying people by their playlists
    The article never explains what the ‘identification’ of said people actually is. I assume it’s age, gender, political persuasion, etc. but nothing is stated. Is this it? More? One’s education? Where one lives? If they come from a single parent family? If they have three brothers and one sister? If they are a cat or a dog person? Nirvana or Pearl Jam?

    1. ChuckTurds

      For some reason my first thought was that it would Identify you by name. Something like “Based on these songs, your name is Charles William Turds III, you live in Pensacola FL and reside at 555 Butt st.”. Then I figured that I was just being paranoid.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    “Daisugi, the 600-Year-Old Japanese Technique of Growing Trees Out of Other Trees, Creating Perfectly Straight Lumber” [Open Culture].

    There is nothing particularly Japanese about Daisugi, it is basically pollarding, a woodland technique that goes back to the Romans. Contrary to what the article suggests, its nothing to do with bonsai. For centuries it was the favoured way in much of northern Europe of creating narrow straight poles used in fencing or boat construction. A young tree (usually ash, hazel, willow or beech) would be cut at around 6-12 foot to encourage shoots to grow out from the ‘head’. This usually produces straighter and more regular wood than ordinary branches. Overgrown pollarded trees are still a common site in Britain (especially along canals) and the Netherlands.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      it’s only exotic because of the cool Japanese name and idiosyncrasies.
      I’ve got this going on all over.
      but we call it “coppicing”….perhaps because of where we cut the tree(about a foot for mesquite)? 10-15 years later, and do it again.
      willows, and others, you can bend over horizontal, and a bunch of new trunks will sprout along the old trunk, and grow straight.
      (mesquite does this all by itself…big one by the bar has a horizontal trunk on the ground that’s 20 foot long and 3′ in diameter, with multiple 1′ diameter secondary trunks…totally unmanaged, and straight(unusual for older mesquites))

      1. PlutoniumKun

        In terminology this side of the pond, coppicing is at near ground level, pollarding is when you cut 6 foot or higher. Pollarding usually produces bigger branches, so its more common for growing things like fencing poles.

        As you suggest, the authors just love the cool Japanese name and idiosyncrasy. I love Japanese culture, but it amuses me how so many westerners hop on every little Japanese thing and portray it as unique and special, when so often all that is special is the mystique the Japanese attach to it (i.e. good marketing). Japanese swords being a particularly good example – they are lovely and lethal, but the Chinese made even better blades, they just never got so precious about it.

        One writer referred to them as the ‘chrysanthemum crew’, a label I wish had stuck. These are the westerners in Japan who hype every little Japanese thing as special. They are particularly responsible for foisting a lot of terrible Japanese architects onto the wider world.

        1. Procopius

          Yes. Japanese swords were made from low grade ore (which was, oddly, all they had in Japan — surprising really, since iron ore is so common), and actually were very subject to breaking.

  3. Howard

    Regarding melting glaciers shifting earth’s poles: “melting of glaciers has caused an eastward shift in the position of the true North Pole and South Pole”. I am not a geo surgeon, but can someone explain how the North Pole can move any other direction than south and how the South Pole can move any other direction than north? Also, if the North Pole moves in one direction, won’t the South Pole necessarily move in the opposite direction? I assume that there is some convention about the eastern vs. western hemisphere going on here, though that supposition still doesn’t satisfy my second question.

    What will happen to the poor birds’ navigational systems?

    1. hunkerdown

      The birds have been handling it for much, much longer than we quantifying beings have, and arguably better. The best we can do is to agree that all the needles pointed to this relatively stable piece of dirt once long ago and try to define some permanent index place in the universe, as we all do. Who would rather everyone’s house shift up to 60km per year in a slightly uncertain direction as maps are modified to match the meandering molten magnetic mass? I wouldn’t.

  4. a different chris

    Ok the plebes do seem to be starting to have a sense of revolt – I always give a look thru other tweet threads when one comes up here (since I don’t pay any attention to Twitter otherwise) and skipping thru found one that picked out a LA Times article. It’s about the burning “hoverboards” but you don’t have to read it. The thing is halfway down, maybe beyond the editor’s late night gaze, is this gem:

    An Amazon spokeswoman, requesting anonymity even though she’s, you know, a spokeswoman,

    I mean WTF and kudos for this writers willingness to bare some teeth.

    1. cnchal

      Perhaps an ultra rare sighting of an Amazon “spokewoman” (note: not a man) having not completely lost her conscience in the service of Bezos, or is just plain embarrased to be working for him.

      In the meanest of times we are subjected to former Obama press secretary Carney’s blarney, verbally fellating Bezos.

  5. Ranger Rick

    I liked that article about growing straight cedar trees. Japanese woodworking is really fascinating to learn about. Their joinery techniques in particular are pretty cool.

    1. wadge22

      The tools are cool, too. Hard to resist describing them as superior to their western counterparts, although of course everything is always tradeoffs.
      Pull saws with narrower kerfs, hollow ground chisels and plane irons with advanced metallurgy and heat treating, and planes deigned to be serviceable by the woodworker himself.

        1. wadge22

          Amazon, apparently.
          I was going to point to Hardwick’s Swap Shop in Seattle, which is where I acquired much of my collection while I lived out there. But in researching for a link, I find out they’ve closed. Not surprised, but saddened. The place was a gem. But crapification marches on!

          I believe when I was younger, I managed to buy them at a local (NE Ohio, where I grew up and have returned to now) unique retail store, either Lehman’s Hardware (look into it, it’s awesome for gardeners, homesteaders, sustainablility mavens, etc) or Hartville Hardware. But while both have fought the odds and survived/grew, I don’t see cool Japanese tools on their websites, at the very least.

          I do think some of the concepts have made their way into mainstream stores like L’s or HD, especially pullsaws.

          Also, Woodcraft (a major woodworking retailer I have purchased from) seems to operate Japan Woodworker, a store I had heard of in it’s independent days but have never done business with. They may have some stuff at their Woodcraft brick and mortar locations.

          There are probably boutique shops in cities that support that sort of thing, and I would be sure to keep your eye out as well at cutlery shops that carry Japanese knives (another area where their tooling seems to outperform), which might carry woodworking (and hairdressing) stuff as well. I love supporting those types of shops, but they aren’t at all going to be the cheapest.

          Final hint, Ebay. Ebay legit is the best place for hand tools. Why pay retail, right? Used tools are just as good, and if they’re old but still in good shape, often better, than what you buy in the store. Ebay may be a despicable tech megaglomeration, but it is also a nationwide flea market. I say go with Ebay.

        2. wadge22

          These days probably amazon. Or used on ebay, which will be a much better deal.
          (Longer comment got disappearded, maybe too many links.)
          There are other possible sources, some DuckDuckGo-ing will be your friend. Saws make more sense to buy new, whereas chisels and planes you will need to sharpen anyhow. Good luck, and remember to be a woodworker, not a tool collector.

  6. albrt

    I don’t think that house was “commissioned.” I think the owner was deeply involved, perhaps with some friends in the trades.

    It is basically impossible to hire somebody to do crazy stuff like that these days because it is so much easier to make a living churning out whatever grey surface treatment Home Depot is featuring this year.

  7. Taka

    First time poster, long time reader. I’d argue that the Guillotine Watch house listing might be miscategorized. Having lived in St Louis for a decade, it falls in line with a certain aesthetic that, for lack of a better name, we could call St. Louis Weird. Prominent examples would be the City Museum and a house I passed daily that seemed to have been designed about 20° off on the x-axis. That interior is also remeniscent of idiosyncratic artists, Andre Breton’s home or certain fanciful Victorian homes in England. Great care was taken in making that house conform to an artistic vision, the garden at the end of the listing positively screams of it. I’d say it’s less an overindulgence of wealth than it is an expression of a singular aesthetic vision, somewhat like the Schmidt House was in NY state.

    1. FreeMarketApologist

      Agreed — it definitely looks like an artist’s house. There’s actually a fair amount of artistic continuity and integrity throughout. Reminds me a bit of the back half of Sir John Soane’s house in London – an idiosyncratic view of the combination of art, architecture, and lots of stuff. It looks very traditional to us now, but it was radical in its time (https://www.soane.org/collections)

      Architect Paul Rudolph did the minimalist version of this in the 1970s, focusing on views, multiple levels, and unexpected openings in his home in NYC (https://paulrudolph.org/project/23-beekman/)

    2. diptherio

      Same. Reminds me of a semi-communal apartment building I used to live in that had been home to several generations of hippy artists, of varying talent. The decor would make Lambert’s eyes bleed. And $350K doesn’t sound bad (that’s around the median home price in Missoula MT).

    3. The Rev Kev

      Beware of trendy architects and interior designers. I saw this interview of a trendy architect who built his own home with glass exterior walls as some sort of statement. Thing is, people use to travel to his street at night and watch what was happening with that home when lit up and even the architect’s wife had to go into a closet to get dressed.

  8. Dante

    ” Most forecast even slower population growth in the decades to come. Americans are getting older — the median age in the U.S. is 38, up one year from 37 in 2010. Immigration had been dropping even before the pandemic effectively shut it down.”
    California lost a house seat because of population decline, yet the state government is pushing for huge numbers of new housing units, in the face of a massive long term drought, climate change and sea level rise.

    Profits must be taken so that they can be returned in part to the politicians that push for more historical equity balancing, more low income housing with its captive nations of voters, more transit oriented housing, more market based condos, more groof!

    “city leaders say the 1.34 million new units assigned to the six-county area (including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties) is wildly overinflated, and there’s no place in their communities to shoehorn the hundreds or thousands of additional homes they’re currently mandated to put in their plans.”


    1. Milton

      California lost a house seat because their rate of population increase was less than other states in the south and west. California population increased by about 2.3 million, so yes, increased housing is still needed.

  9. flora

    re: “Vote-by-Mail Favored by Older, Affluent Voters, Census Finds” [Bloomberg].

    Using 2020 voting patterns, over 65s v under 65s voters. Hmmm. Wasn’t there something going on in summer and fall Nov 2020? Something about a pandemic, where the over 65s were most at danger for serious C19 complications? And where we were all shown long, long voting lines and crowded polling places? hmmm. Wonder if that had anything to do with the age related vote-by-mail percentages in 2020. / ;)

    re:“Why Some Black Democrats Haven’t Embraced a Voting Rights Push” – [New York Times].

    In Congress, the party is pushing a colossal elections system overhaul that would take redistricting out of the hands of politicians, introduce automatic voter registration and restore voting rights for the formerly incarcerated. For some Black Democrats in the South, the fact that this fight is happening at all — in 2021 — is a profound failure of the Democratic Party’s politics and policies.

    Good for the Congressional Black Caucus. If the Dems can’t win without changing the Constitution’s delegation to the states’ election rules there’s something wrong with their politics, imo. The Dems didn’t used to have trouble winning elections, say, before the Dem estab went for representing the neolib “because markets” dream.

  10. flora

    re: “$325,0002 bd3 ba2,500 sqft 1204 S 18th St, Saint Louis, MO 63104” [Zillow].

    Is this what happens to the brain after a year of lockdown relative sensory deprivations? Seriously. That interior looks like someone’s brain needed way more stimuli than it was used to getting in its pre-lockdown daily life. My 2 cents.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      i’ll add a nickel, and say that while i do clutter like a boss, have art poking out of everywhere, and mostly build things with trash, i find these images disturbing, and doubt that i could relax at all in such spaces.
      my place is more like Elrond meets Dolly Freed, with Keseyan Features.

  11. jsn

    At that price, no one commissioned that interior.

    Some one did that themselves, one piece at a time out of pure obsessive compulsion.

    It’s the selling of it I’d like to understand, out of money? Or needs more space to work now that this is perfect*.

    *by it’s own definition

    1. jsn

      I showed it to my interior designer wife: she has to go take magnizium to calm down!

      “It’s like a visual migrane!”

  12. Fraibert

    Re: The NYT article in redistricting.

    Wow, it’s not as if the _Department of Justice_ spent decades mandating that jurisdictions regulated under the Voting Rights Act have a certain number of “majority-minority” districts. In fact, in some cases, the regulated jurisdictions had to draw inane districts just to make it work. For example, I seem to recall one case where two separate cities and the highway between them were a “majority-minority” district, with the highway component simply included to form a contiguous geographical unit.

    That being the case, even jurisdictions not formally regulated under the Act probably followed suit–if it’s good enough for the Civil Rights Division’s formal preclearance review under the Voting Rights Act, one would think it’s probably good enough to survive a legal challenge in general, no? (Perhaps unsurprisingly–who would want to bring the case?–it was never resolved whether a jurisdiction’s compliance with the Voting Rights Act justified what appears to be facial discrimination based upon race.)

    My point is simple: “Liberals” used to love the majority-minority district concept, and now they dislike it as politically inconvenient, so they throw it out the window. I don’t view these districts as the fault of Republican legislatures because of this background.

  13. Henry Moon Pie

    Using satellite data and modelling, the team has shown that the melting of glaciers has caused an eastward shift in the position of the true North Pole and South Pole that began in 1995…. fter accounting for known influences on polar drift, the team concluded that the main cause of the polar drift that started in 1995 is the melting of glaciers in the polar regions. However, the size of the drift cannot be explained by glacier melting alone and the team believe that there is also a contribution from the extraction of groundwater at middle latitudes – in places like California, Texas, the region around Beijing and northern India.”

    For corals, a global tipping point was reached from 2014 to 2016. In record-warm oceans, reefs around the world bleached and died. The detailed new information and modeling on how water stress kills trees suggests there is a similar drought threshold for tree mortality, beyond which forests could also perish on a global scale.”

    ‘Unlike the Great Depression, it’s part of a process where we’re likely to keep having slow growth,’ said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. That has potentially grim consequences for the nation’s future.

    Perhaps someone needs to check the sanity of Frey and his colleagues at the Brookings Institution of Washington, D. C.

  14. Terry Flynn

    Sorry the only police watch of any kind us Brits are watching this weekend is the finale of Line of Duty on BBC1!

    Highest viewing figures since before “teevee” fragmented. I’ve put my theory out there. Only BBC show (apart from Inside No. 9) I think justifies the licence fee. Even then I am annoying people by saying I think it will finish or move channel. Jed Mercurio has had (allegedly) very rocky relationship with the BBC. A politically savvy viewer will spot lots of jabs against them in recent seasons (series as we Brits call them). De facto different from de jure when it comes to contracts.

      1. Terry Flynn

        It’s “back to form”. Kelly MacDonald is amazing. She played wonderful cop in a Black Mirror episode. Starts worse but then exceeds that here.

        50% of the UK is talking about the 4th baddie, the other 50% are saying STFU and go away.

        Not seen this level of water cooler discussion about TV since I was a kid in 80s/90s.

    1. neo-realist

      And the 2nd season of This time with Alan Partridge doesn’t justify a license fee? Steve Coogan’s self centered, boorish, and obtuse TV talk show host is a riot.

  15. phacops

    About the fungi. I enjoyed Mycology tremendously, but one question on its final exam brought home the importance of taxonomy and cladistics. We were asked to trace the evolution of fungi across Classes by providing specific examples of species that acted as bridges across each Class. I learned a lot just from that exercise.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks for this, and also for citing the complete headline, since when I searched on that, this comment came up, and I could give you a hat tip!

  16. VT Digger

    On PM 2.5 pollution and people of color (I believe BIPOC is the preferred nomenclature)

    A growing trend of subdiving the poor and pitting them against each other.

    “Yes we hear that you are poor and in need of help. However, you are also white, so you do not need help, yet.”

    Vermont is contemplating a special state office to enforce this idea, H.210, and a commission to buy primary residences for individuals based on racial criteria. Vermont also granted early access to covid vaccines based on racial criteria.

    89% of people in poverty in VT are white. (https://datausa.io/profile/geo/vermont)

    Just address the pollution/healthcare/opioid problem. Everywhere. It’s ok if you accidentally help a poor white family along the way.

  17. Cuibono

    For most Americans — and that includes conservatives — who are given the chance to discuss vaccination on their own terms and timelines and for whom vaccination is easy, nearby, and supported by employers, the question shifts from if they will get vaccinated to when and how.” • Note that “easy, nearby, and supported by employers” are all material conditions. But I think we should try more scolding and shaming. It’s what we’re good at!

    As a clinician I can confirm this is true based on hundreds of observations over the past couple of months.
    Give people respect and treat them as sovereign individuals with agency and good things may just happen.

    1. kareninca

      My GP can respect me from here to Sunday, and I do think well of him, but his opinion of the vaccine is of no interest to me. He is the employee of an HMO and so he is entirely constrained in what he can say.

      Here’s an idea: treat MDs as sovereign individuals with agency, and good things may just happen. I’m not holding my breath.

  18. Raymond Sim

    Hi Lambert, it’s the Yolo County guy again. I think you might find it interesting to compare the graphs for British Columbia, Alberta, Washington, and Oregon on STAT’s Covid-19 tracker.

    Ditto for Yolo County vs other Norcal counties especially Solano and Sacramento, which are adjacent.

    My impression is that Yolo and Oregon do a better job at surveillance than their neighbors, so I find the differences concerning.

    I don’t know how STAT’s site stacks up against others, it’s just the one I’ve found convenient. I usually kill the averaging and go with the spiky graphs.

    Another Davis wastewater data dump due tomorrow. Last week’s news was, imo, less good than most folks probably realize, but at least not the crack of doom.

    1. Raymond Sim

      It looks like our school district (Davis Joint Unified) did the Friday night bad news thing.

      Some time after 8:00 last night their Covid dashboard was finally updated for the day. Pioneer Elementary has a positive, a student. Fifteen students and three staff in quarantine.

      For me it’s a bit of a relief to see them reporting a case, since cases there were bound to be, but actual reporting I wasn’t so sure of, and updating of the dashboard has been irregular.

      If I recollect correctly Healthy Davis Together sequences all their positive tests, so if this positive is via their testing perhaps we’ll learn the variant as well.

  19. jr

    Hi all, I found this gem of divisiveness on Yahoo news, thought it would be appreciated:


    According to the author, we need to “shun” the vaccine hesitant because they are delaying herd immunity. Somehow alienating people further so that they harden their positions against vaccines seems pretty counterproductive in terms of herd immunity as well.

    1. kareninca

      I hope that I am shunned by people who are vaccinated, since they can still catch and spread the virus. Shun away!

    2. OIFVet

      What about the vaccine-“hesitant” shunning the vaccinated? I had my second jab on Friday. Thursday evening a friend called, about getting together on Saturday to celebrate orthodox Easter. I mentioned I will have my second jab, and she basically insisted that I have to quarantine myself for two weeks. This being Bulgaria, with disinformation rampant beyond anything people in the US could fathom, she thinks that getting the jab makes one contagious. I try to be open-minded and understanding, but that truly pushes my ability to remain amicable.

  20. The Rev Kev

    “Why Dead Trees Are ‘the Hottest Commodity on the Planet’”

    Maybe it is time to use other materials to build house frames with. How about recycled plastics? As long as it has the same strength of timber, it should work quite well and would not rot like normal timber. I heard that they are using it to make school play equipment with already. At the very least they could use it for the bracing in internal walls. As it is, we may not have a choice as time goes on and timber supplies dwindle.

      1. Tom Stone

        Thank you Meadows!
        Those in the US West who decide to rebuild their homes after this year’s fires should consider using ICF for its fire resistance alone.
        The fuel loads in the Sierra’s are terrifying, the Tahoe basin the same, Marin County, Home of “Sudden Oak Death Syndrome” is a tinderbox.
        None of the seasonal creeks has had any water in them this season.
        I started parking face out last week….

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      mom redid her back deck prolly 20 years ago with ” Lumber” made from old milk jugs.
      had to order it special, back then…and at some cost(but not really prohibitive,if memory serves).
      tough stuff, easy on the bare foot, not too difficult to work with(had to drill pilot holes for the screws)

      1. The Rev Kev

        They could embed the plastic materiel in a fire-resistant medium so it depends on what is available and how much it would cost. But if a fire is already into the framework of a house, it does not matter if it is wood or plastic as that house is toast.

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        a scrap end of it accidentally got into the burn pile, and wouldn’t burn at all.
        that somewhat charred bit is still there against the fence by the burn pile, 20+ years later(i do many such passive experiments…like with diapers)

  21. The Rev Kev

    “Can We Do Better Than Deplatforming?”

    Why would they want to? Deplatforming is such a useful tool after all – for the establishment. So I was just reading earlier how Facebook deleted Redfish, an award-winning Berlin-based digital content project affiliated with RT. Their crime? Putting up posts celebrating the fall of Benito Mussolini and the liberating of Auschwitz concentration camp because they were violating Facebook’s “community standards.”

    Doesn’t matter if the charges are bogus or not as Facebook can do what it wants and there is no honest appeal mechanism. So if you had a third major party arise in the US, I would not be surprised if they got banned from Facebook for the same reasons. After what happened with social media over the past several months, I am saying that social media is now beyond redemption-


  22. The Rev Kev

    “Disney’s writer wage-theft is far worse than reported”

    I think that I might rob a bank next week. And if I get caught, I will have Disney argue in court on my behalf that I should get to keep the money but that my crime be disassociated with myself. Sound good?

    1. Tom Stone

      If you get caught tell the Cops you did it to raise $ for Lori Laughlin’s “Go Fund Me” .

  23. Anthony K Wikrent

    “How Austerity Destroyed the Public Good” [Adolph Reed, The New Republic].

    Actually, there has been a faction in USA politics/economics at war against the Public Good ever since the founding. The Southern slaver oligarchs openly argued that allowing the national government to promote the Public Good by building “internal improvements” (infrastructure) would endow the national government with enough power to challenge the southern states and begin to curtail slavery – the libertarians’ slippery slope nightmare of the government impeding the “right to property.”

    Also, in the first century of the republic, the courts consistently held that the rights of the community could regulate or ever prevent certain uses of property. This began to change when the railroad companies began to formulate the legal argument that state regulations of fares was an unconstitutional taking of their property. This issue is fully covered in the following article:
    Property, Liberty, and the Rights of the Community: Lessons from Munn v. Illinois
    Paul Kens [Buffalo Public Interest Law Journal, Volume 30 (2011)]

  24. Michael Ismoe

    Some residents in parts of Kern County will get additional CalFresh (food stamp) benefits to buy safe drinking water starting March 2022:

    I hope those residents are camels because any human resident will be long dead by then from drinking the swill coming through the pipes. Really? the water is no good so we are going to give you some fresh water in 11 months?

  25. Some Guy

    “B.1.1.7 seems not have been the disaster that was feared (at least at the national level). Of course, past results are no guarantee of future performance:

    Ummmm… #P1 ?? variant’s case fraction % in New York City just rose over 30% in just one week. Any others growing? Not really—#B117 (while more common) only rose tiny bit, and the NY variant #B1526 is mostly flat.

    I’ve seen this movie before—in BC??—it didn’t end well. #COVID19 https://t.co/8ipjADUMWE

    — Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) April 30, 2021″

    If you want people to take Covid seriously, then I don’t recommend amplifying alarmist and serial misleader Eric Feigl-Ding. Take this particular tweet for instance – P1 is up 30%, sounds bad. Except the number of P1 cases went from 47 to 47, while the overall case rate was falling so P1 cases went from making up 2.6% to 3.4% of cases. Not exactly a crisis.

    But don’t take my word for it, Zeyenp Tufekci has repeatedly called him out on twitter for trying to scare people with misleading tweets. Last time I saw was April 20, “Look, I am not picking on this thread alone but pointing out a pattern that needs to stop. See this example with ~4K retweets: “COVID REPLAPSE” and “may remain in people’s brains”. Study was *in mice* genetically-engineered to express this very receptor.”

    Oh, I checked and I see she called out this particular tweet as well, making the exact same point I did. Anyway, more Tufekci, less Feigl-Ding, that’s my 2 cents.

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