2:00PM Water Cooler 4/6/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

At reader request, Birds of Australia. A pair of Superb Fairy-Wrens.

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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:

That’s the stuff to give the troops. • Early in February, I said a simple way to compare Biden’s performance to Trump’s on vaccination would be to compare the curves. If Biden accelerated vaccine administration, the rate of vaccination post-Inaugural would kink upward, as the policies of a more effective administration took hold. They have not. The fragmented, Federalized, and profit-driven lumbering monstrosity that we laughingly call our “health care” “system” has not responded to “energy in the executive,” but has continued on its inertial path.

Case count by United States regions:

Long may the downward trend continue. It was caused by a drop in New York (see the chart of Big Sttates below). The Midwest is slowly rising, however. I have helpfully drawn a black line to show that our valley today was the second peak, then regarded as horrific. All I can say is that if you have a system that has worked for you, keep at it. And avoid closed, crowded, close-contact settings, evem so-called outdoor dining. Don’t share air!

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

The big drop in New York, but flattening. Hopefully, it’s not a reporting issue.

Test positivity:


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

Case fatality rate (plus deaths):

Good to see those deaths dropping. The fatality rate in the West is dropping now, for some reason as unknown as why it rose. I have helpfully drawn a black line to show that deaths today are only less than the first, earliest peak.

“Reported daily COVID-19 deaths dropped to lowest point in year on Sunday” [The Hill]. “Johns Hopkins data typically show a dip in coronavirus deaths on Saturdays and Sundays amid different reporting patterns of state and county COVID-19 statistics, a situation that may have been exacerbated by the Easter holiday.” • Nevertheless, the trend has been down.

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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

Capitol Seizure


Biden Administration

“U.S. Senate parliamentarian says Democrats can use reconciliation to pass more bills” [Reuters]. “The U.S. Senate parliamentarian ruled on Monday that Democrats may use a procedural tool known as reconciliation to pass more legislation this year, a spokesman for Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said, which could clear the way for passage of an infrastructure bill without Republican support.” • Something must have concentrated the Parliamentarian’s mind. Now do the minimum wage.

“Biden set to announce he’s moving deadline for all US adults to be eligible for Covid vaccine to April 19” [CNN]. “With all states having opened eligibility to the public or at least having announced when they plan to do so, Biden will announce that every adult in the country will be eligible to be vaccinated by April 19, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed on Tuesday, instead of Biden’s original deadline of May 1. ‘The President will announce officially later this afternoon that we’ve reached 150 million shots in arms since entering government and that by April 19 all adult Americans will be eligible to get the vaccine,’ Psaki said at a White House briefing. Psaki continued: ‘That doesn’t mean they will get it that day — it means they can join the line that day if they have not already done that beforehand.” • Painting the bull’s-eye round the bullet hole.

Breaking down Biden infrastructure spending:

This seems underpowered, to me. And putting all the preening aside, the Obama Alumni Association has form.

““Did somebody say ‘jobs plan?'” [Marshall Auerback, The Scrum]. “This is a very sweet deal if you’re an affluent, urban, professional Democrat in New York, San Francisco, or Austin. The Biden administration will increase the reserve army of low-wage immigrant day care and elder care workers via immigration policy which has drifted away from many of the traditional Democratic Party concerns about economic displacement expressed some 15 years ago in the Barbara Jordan Commission on immigration reform. The goal now is to subsidize the day-care and elder-care industries to enable you, the affluent professional, to keep paying low wages to other people to raise your kids and care for your parents and cram these low-income, subsidized day care and elder-care serfs into tenements within bus or subway distance (but not next door to rich Democrats; their tight zoning laws, which exacerbate the problem of homelessness, will remain in place). All the while, Biden’s plan will drive up the property values of the urban Democratic elites who own homes, condos, or rental properties. Stripped of its flourishes, it comes to constituent services for Democratic professionals and rich donors. If you own a rental property and rent it to your maid, it’s a twofer! The government subsidizes you as an employer and as an urban landlord… What this plan doesn’t do is offer a realistic framework to upgrade America’s decaying infrastructure, revitalize U.S. manufacturing, and create the kinds of high-quality jobs that Biden promised to provide during his campaign.” • Bracing!

“‘Aspirational’ Amtrak Map Depicts Train Car Married, Happy, With Little Caboose Baby” [The Onion].

Wait, I thought the Post Office was important?

Democrats en Deshabille

“Jon Ossoff’s top Senate aides reflect Georgia’s diversity” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. • Jon, good job. Now do #MedicareForAll. And you owe me six hundred bucks.


“Janitors Union Endorses Nina Turner For Congress In Ohio” [HuffPo]. “A union that represents nearly 2,000 Ohio janitors and food service workers endorsed former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner in the Democratic primary for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District. Service Employees International Union Local 1, which has 500 members in Ohio’s 11th, credited Turner’s long-standing support for union priorities like raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour…. Turner’s history as an ally of organized labor goes back to her days as a state senator from 2008 to 2014. When then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) tried to gut public-sector unions’ collective bargaining rights in 2011, Turner traveled the state campaigning in favor of a referendum that overturned Kasich’s bill. ‘The house of labor certainly has not forgotten that,’ Turner told HuffPost. “I’m on their side and they’re on my side.'”


“A Senate Majority, If You Can Keep It” [RealClearPolitics]. “What should we expect, then, in 2022? Democrats have no room for error, given their razor-thin majority, but they have one thing going for them: This class hasn’t had a good Democratic year since 1998. Republicans ran well in 2004, and then pushed deeply into Democratic territory in the 2010 midterms. It was thought that Republicans would lose a substantial number of seats in 2016, but the party minimized losses by riding Trump’s coattails. Put differently, Democrats simply don’t have much exposure this election. Democrats don’t have any incumbents up for reelection in states Trump carried, although two hail from states that narrowly went Joe Biden’s way (Georgia and Arizona). They have two other seats up in states that lean somewhat in the Democrats’ direction (Nevada and New Hampshire) and one in Colorado, which has elected Republicans narrowly in wave years but has since moved in the Democrats’ direction. Republicans don’t suffer from a massive amount of exposure either, but they do hold seats in two Trump-then-Biden states: Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. ”

Obama Legacy

“Jay Carney, Biden’s Former Spokesman, Now Battling Unions As Amazon’s Top PR Guy” [HuffPo]. “[Jay] Carney left his longtime job as a journalist with Time magazine in 2008 to become Biden’s first communications director as vice president and then became President Barack Obama’s press secretary. Many of Biden’s closest allies, including White House chief of staff Ron Klain and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, are his former co-workers. Carney joined Amazon in 2015…. He’s still a Biden fan.” • I wonder if they gave Carney a bottle and a bag when he signed on.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Georgia election law’s strict food and drink restrictions won’t be prosecuted in Gwinnett” [11 Alive]. “The Gwinnett County Solicitor’s Office will not prosecute individuals arrested for distributing nonpartisan beverages and/or food to voters waiting in line for long hours on Election Day in Gwinnett County as there is no rational, legal basis for this law.”

“The facts about Georgia’s ban on food, water giveaways to voters” [Politifact]. “The bill also states that poll workers can make available “self-service water from an unattended receptacle to an elector waiting in line to vote.” But nothing in the law requires poll workers to make water easily available to voters while they are waiting in line.” • I wonder if the localities could add that requirement on their own (thereby owning the right by expanding the functions of government).

“If It’s Not Jim Crow, What Is It?” [Jamelle Bouie, New York Times]. “[Is the Georgia Election Law] a throwback to the Jim Crow restrictions of the 20th century?Democrats say yes…. Republicans and conservative media personalities say no… The problem with the “no” argument here is that it mistakes both the nature and the operation of Jim Crow voting laws. There was no statute that said, “Black people cannot vote.” Instead, Southern lawmakers spun a web of restrictions and regulations meant to catch most Blacks (as well as many whites) and keep them out of the electorate. It is true that the ‘yes’ argument of President Biden and other Democrats overstates similarities and greatly understates key differences — chief among them the violence that undergirded the Jim Crow racial order. But the ‘no’ argument of conservatives and Republicans asks us to ignore context and extend good faith to lawmakers who overhauled their state’s election laws because their party lost an election.”

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Talking point alert:

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“How Not to Fight Antisemitism” [The Editors, Jewish Currents]. The conclusion: “In attempting to reclaim the mainstream narrative of antisemitism—concerned with the immutable, transhistorical figure of the Jew-as-sufferer—we have lost sight of our actual, and varied, material conditions. There are innumerable paths into the urgent work to be done, work that is perhaps enriched by a collective memory of oppression, but that must not rest upon it. As we exit the Trump era, following a summer of Black-led uprising, we find ourselves called more urgently out of the cocoon of Jewish organizing and into broader coalition politics. This must be the occasion to enter a second wave of Jewish left praxis, one that faces our partners and not our own navels.”

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Job Openings” [Trading Economics]. “The number of job openings in the US rose by 268 thousand from the previous month to 7.367 million in February 2021, the highest level since January 2019 and above market expectations.”

Housing: “February 2021 CoreLogic Home Prices: Home Price Growth Reaches 15-Year High” [Econintersect]. “CoreLogic’s Home Price Index (HPI) home prices reaching the highest annual gain since April 2006…. Price growth exceeded my forecast for the year – home prices are continuing very strong.”

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Shipping: “Greece Launches Sale of Crete Port Stake” [Maritime Logistics Profressional]. “Greece on Monday launched a tender for the sale of a majority stake in a port on the island of Crete, a popular tourist destination in Europe…. Greece is also selling majority stakes in the ports of Alexandroupolis and Igoumenitsa in northern and western Greece, as part of a privatization scheme aiming to raise 1.8 billion euros ($2.11 billion) this year.” • The Chinese bought Piraeus already….

Shipping: “Portugal Envoy Urges US to Bid on Key Seaport as PRC Influence Grows” [Voice of America]. “Analysts warn that unless the U.S. moves quickly, China will soon expand its control over a key Portuguese seaport. A month from now, the fate of a new terminal at the Port of Sines on Portugal’s southwestern coast is scheduled to be decided. Sines is ‘the first deep water port if you go from the United States to Europe, so it’s a very important infrastructure,’ Domingos Fezas Vital, Lisbon’s ambassador to the United States, said in a phone interview. In 2012, the People’s Republic of China acquired a stake in one of the four terminals at the port, drawing attention to Beijing’s strategic design. ‘We now have an international bid for a fifth terminal, which will be a second container terminal,’ Fezas Vital told VOA. ‘We would very, very, very much like to have American companies competing for this bid; I think it will be very important to have an American presence in Sines.'”

Housing: “If You Sell a House These Days, the Buyer Might Be a Pension Fund” [WSJ]. “The country’s most prolific home builder booked roughly twice what it typically makes selling houses to the middle class—an encouraging debut in the business of selling entire neighborhoods to investors….. From individuals with smartphones and a few thousand dollars to pensions and private-equity firms with billions, yield-chasing investors are snapping up single-family houses to rent out or flip. They are competing for houses with ordinary Americans, who are armed with the cheapest mortgage financing ever, and driving up home prices.”

Tech: “How to Check if Your Phone Number Is in the Huge Facebook Data Leak” [Gizmodo]. “The website The News Each Day has a simple tool where you can input your phone number and see if it’s in the leak. Gizmodo tested the tool against some data from the actual Facebook leak and found it to be accurate….If you’re willing to risk handing over your phone number, all you need to do to check is input your phone number without any hyphens or periods.”

Tech: “Google Is Testing Its Controversial New Ad Targeting Tech in Millions of Browsers. Here’s What We Know.” [Electronic Frontier Foundation]. “Today, Google launched an “origin trial” of Federated Learning of Cohorts (aka FLoC), its experimental new technology for targeting ads. A switch has silently been flipped in millions of instances of Google Chrome: those browsers will begin sorting their users into groups based on behavior, then sharing group labels with third-party trackers and advertisers around the web. A random set of users have been selected for the trial, and they can currently only opt out by disabling third-party cookies…. Right now, a site administrator has to make a conscious decision to include code from an advertiser on their page. Sites can, at least in theory, choose to partner with advertisers based on their privacy policies. But now, information about a user’s visit to that site will be wrapped up in their FLoC ID, which will be made widely available (more on that in the next section). Even if a website has a strong privacy policy and relationships with responsible advertisers, a visit there may affect how trackers see you in other contexts.”

Tech: “Google wins major copyright victory” [Politico]. “After a decade of fierce litigation, the Supreme Court handed Google a win over Oracle on Monday in a closely-watched copyright dispute that has huge implications for how companies build software to work across platforms. The justices ruled 6-2 that Google’s use of 11,000 lines of Oracle’s software code in developing its Android mobile operating system was legal under ‘fair use’ provisions of copyright law. It is a key ruling on how that law applies to APIs, software code that enables programs to work with each other. Google had stood accused of pilfering chunks of API code developed by Sun Microsystems, which was later acquired by Oracle. The court said Google’s use of the Java API ‘included only those lines of code that were needed to allow programmers to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program.’ The court emphasized the public benefits that the copying produced — like greater creativity and competition.”

Mr. Market: “‘Big Short’ investor Michael Burry deletes his Twitter profile after warning of market bubbles for months” [Business Insider]. “Michael Burry has deleted his Twitter profile, signaling an end to his dire warnings about rampant speculation and excessive valuations in financial markets. ‘This account doesn’t exist’ is the message that now greets visitors to the Scion Asset Management chief’s Twitter page. Burry previously had a telling picture of his bookshelf as his header image. As recently as Monday, his bio highlighted several heavy-metal bands and called for boycotts of Amazon, Facebook, Coca-Cola, and Major League Baseball. Burry is best known for his billion-dollar bet against the US housing bubble in the mid-2000s, which was immortalized in the book and the movie ‘The Big Short.’ He also helped lay the groundwork for the GameStop short squeeze in January, as he bought a stake in the video-games retailer in 2019 and penned several letters to its board.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 65 Greed (previous close: 64 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 45 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 1 at 5:15pm. One year ago, just after the end of the Before Times: 28 (Extreme Fear). Last updated Apr 6 at 1:19pm.

The Biosphere

“Paleopharmaceuticals from Baltic amber might fight drug-resistant infections” (press release) [Eurakalert]. “Each year in the U.S., at least 2.8 million people get antibiotic-resistant infections, leading to 35,000 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ‘We knew from previous research that there were substances in Baltic amber that might lead to new antibiotics, but they had not been systematically explored,’ says Elizabeth Ambrose, Ph.D., who is the principal investigator of the project. ‘We have now extracted and identified several compounds in Baltic amber that show activity against gram-positive, antibiotic-resistant bacteria.'”


“Piney Point wastewater leak continues but no new breach is found” [Tampa Bay Times]. “Around 2 a.m. Monday, an infrared drone “identified what could be a second breach” in a wall surrounding a polluted reservoir at the former Piney Point phosphate plant, Manatee County officials said…. Late Monday, the Department of Environmental Protection said there is only one confirmed breach in a wall that crews continue to monitor. In what was another example of the urgency and uncertainty of the predicament, engineers determined it was safe to continue working on the site. Officials have four major lines and smaller pumps moving water out of the site, Saur said. They fear pressure from the leak could break apart stacks of phosphogypsum around the pond. Phosphogypsum is a radioactive byproduct of the fertilizer industry. The reservoir holds a mix of seawater, rainwater and a polluted byproduct of processing phosphate for fertilizer, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. It is slightly acidic and has high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. Evacuation orders around the old plant remain in place.”

Health Care

“Epidemiologic Evidence for Airborne Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during Church Singing, Australia, 2020” [Emerging Infectious Diseases]. “An outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection occurred among church attendees after an infectious chorister sang at multiple services. We detected 12 secondary case-patients. Video recordings of the services showed that case-patients were seated in the same section, >15 m from the primary case-patient, without close physical contact, suggesting airborne transmission…. We believe that transmission during this outbreak is best explained by airborne spread, potentially the result of by 3 factors. First, singing has been demonstrated to generate more respiratory aerosol particles and droplets than talking (7). Second, minimal ventilation might have enabled respiratory particles to accumulate in the air, and convection currents might have carried particles toward the pews where secondary case-patients were seated. Third, the primary case-patient was likely near the peak of infectiousness on the basis of low Ct values (8) and symptom onset occurring around the exposure dates (9). Although we cannot completely exclude fomite transmission, this transmission would not explain the spatial clustering of case-patients within the church over 2 days. Strengths of our investigation include detailed case and contact follow-up, availability of video recordings of the services to confirm movements and locations of case-patients, high uptake of testing by contacts, and that SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing provided supportive evidence that case-patients were closely related genomically.” • One can only hope that Walensky, between bouts of weeping, is listening to, well, “the science.” Handy schematic:

“Coronavirus: children could be silent carriers of Covid-19 in community, Hong Kong researchers find” [South China Morning Post]. “Children could be more contagious silent carriers of the coronavirus, with over 40 per cent of confirmed cases aged three and below in Hong Kong displaying no symptoms, local researchers have found.

Data collected locally by researchers at Chinese University showed the coronavirus survived in stool samples for as long as 36 days in the case of one child. Researchers in the city also cited a separate study in the United States that showed toddlers had significantly higher viral loads than even adults who needed intensive care, making them more contagious. ‘They are more likely to become a hidden source of infection, and may play a role in community transmission,’ Professor Ng Siew-chien, associate director of the Centre for Gut Microbiota Research at the university, said on Tuesday.” • Commentary on this study:

This great thread includes not only fecal aerosols but drainage system transmmission. However, in this instance, there is surely a case to be made for fomites as well. (Turns out that China giving visitors anal swabs might not have been such a bad idea.)

“WHO does not back COVID-19 vaccination passports for now: Spokeswoman” [Channel News Asia]. “The World Health Organization (WHO) does not back requiring vaccination passports for travel due to uncertainty over whether inoculation prevents transmission of the virus, as well as equity concerns, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday (Apr 6). ‘We as WHO are saying at this stage we would not like to see the vaccination passport as a requirement for entry or exit because we are not certain at this stage that the vaccine prevents transmission,’ WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said. ‘There are all those other questions, apart from the question of discrimination against the people who are not able to have the vaccine for one reason or another,’ she told a UN news briefing.” •

“Is This the Future of Face Masks?” [New York Times]. “After the surgical mask and the do-it-yourself mask and the fashion mask: the smart mask.” • Oh gawd. “Smart.” More: “Called Xupermask and made of silicon with athletic mesh fabric on the sides, it is a joint venture between Will.i.am and Honeywell. It fits snugly around the bottom half of the face and comes with three dual-speed fans, a Honeywell HEPA filtration system (which the company is careful to say is not medical quality), as well as noise-canceling headphones, LED lights for nighttime, a rechargeable battery and Bluetooth capability. It allows you to play music and take calls, has a seal over the nose to keep glasses from fogging and makes the wearer look sort of like a sci-fi rhino warrior.” • Says Will.i.am: “So I wanted to make a mask to fit the era that we’re in.’ That means, in part, learning the lesson of the sneaker… After all, what are shoes, Will.i.am said, but protective equipment for the feet? We’ve just forgotten that was their original purpose because shoes have become a form of self-expression.” • Ha. Called it (NC, May 10, 2020).

“The Biden administration launches a $500,000 contest to improve face mask designs” [CNN]. “[T]he Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched the $500,000 ‘Mask Innovation Challenge’ to find new and effective masks people will find more comfortable to wear. Contest participants have until April 21 to submit innovative ideas that would help eliminate common concerns that come with wearing masks while making sure they effectively protect against the coronavirus…. If you have a unique idea that follows required safety guidelines, you can submit your idea here by 5 p.m. ET on April 21.” • Kudos to the Biden Administration for this!

“Coronavirus FAQs: What Should I Do With My Vaccine Card? Is Choir Practice OK Now?” [NPR]. • I’m actually happy with CDC for deciding on a paper card. It’s 100% fit-for-purpose, and the information won’t go into a database that’s going to be hacked, releasing all my personal data.

Groves of Academe

“The Fed’s education constitutional amendment would turn schools over to economists and lawyers” [Minnesota Reformer]. “At first glance, the constitutional amendment proposed by Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari and former Supreme Court Justice Alan Page to give every Minnesota student a right to a ‘quality public education’ seems like a great idea. Who could argue with a right to an education?… .The primary purpose of the proposed amendment is to establish that there is a ‘fundamental right to a quality public education’ in Minnesota. Fundamental rights are rights that receive a high degree of legal protection. Here’s the problem: there is already a fundamental right to an education in Minnesota. This was decided in 1993, in the Minnesota Supreme Court case Skeen v. State. So in this respect, the amendment isn’t really adding anything new… Supporters of the amendment, which is now being considered by the Legislature, have mostly ignored this reality, and focused heavily on the fact that Minnesota students currently have a right to an “adequate” education. The Kashkari/Page amendment, they point out, would create a right to a ‘quality’ education. This change might seem significant, but it has little real effect. The reason is simple: educational ‘adequacy’ is a concept with a robust legal meaning, while ‘quality’ doesn’t have any established legal meaning at all. A long line of court cases have established that schools can be inadequate because they are underfunded, poorly staffed, academically insufficient, or even racially segregated. By contrast, the idea of a quality education is highly subjective. There is no definition of ‘quality’ in Minnesota law. The amendment would replace a defined term with an undefined one.” • So guess who will write the definitions. And since when did Federal Reserve Presidents get into the Constitutional Amendment business?

“On Essays and SATs: Some Students are Just More Prepared Than Others” [Freddie DeBoer]. “I’ve said this many times: our school system is asked to do two flatly contradictory things at once, promoting equality and sorting students into a hierarchy of performance on academic tasks. These are totally contrary goals, and 21st century education is so fucked up because no one will look at this essential tension and take it seriously. We now speak as if promoting socioeconomic equality and superficial diversity are the only job of colleges, but this conception is very new and has resulted in awkwardly grafting a progressive ideology onto institutions that are inherently, inevitably, and existentially vehicles for creating inequality. The very act of saying “Student A did better than Student B” is identifying inequality, inequality in performance. A degree makes its holder unalike some other job applicants and it’s that inequality that is sold on the labor market. Just like you can’t actually diversify the British royal family, you can’t make colleges tools of equality; creating hierarchy is their very function.”

Our Famously Free Press

Sad but true:

What brought this on:

I’ve known (and said) that the press is often inaccurate when quoting Trump; this was evident as soon as Trump began his run. But outright fabrication is another matter. Still, lots of outrage, lots of clicks, and lots of contributions for Democrats. So it’s all good.

“San Francisco Examiner names Carly Schwartz editor in chief” [San Francisco Examiner]. • Schwartz previously helmed a house organ at Google, lol.

Class Warfare

Nothing yet on the Amazon strike:

“DoorDash Drivers Game Algorithm to Increase Pay” [Bloomberg]. “Dave Levy and Nikos Kanelopoulos are trying to beat the algorithm. The two DoorDash drivers—Dashers, as the company calls them—are trying to persuade their peers to turn down the lowest-paying deliveries so the automated system for matching jobs with drivers will respond by raising pay rates. ‘Every app-based on-demand company’s objective is to constantly shift profits from the driver back to the company,’ Levy says. ‘Our objective is the reverse of that.’ Their main tool is #DeclineNow, a 40,000-person online forum that provides a view into a type of labor activism tailored for the gig economy. While there’s no reliable way to quantify its impact, #DeclineNow’s members say they’ve already increased pay for workers across the country, including in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, where Levy and Kanelopoulos live. But the effort raises difficult questions about the nature of collective action, and there are reasons to doubt whether using a company’s own software systems against it is a strategy that can prove effective for a sustained period of time.”

“LA Teachers Won a Safe Schools Reopening by Organizing” [Jacobin]. “Throughout the pandemic, Los Angeles’s local governments prioritized private companies’ revenue by keeping malls open, maintaining domestic and international travel, and allowing unsafe working conditions to persist at the virus’s peak. If our country had effectively responded to the pandemic by implementing contact tracing, passing rent and mortgage relief, and providing working-class families with safe childcare support, we may have been able to minimize community spread and flatten the curve beyond the summer. We did not, and in one year, Los Angeles County has seen more than 1.2 million reported COVID cases and over 23,000 deaths…. LAUSD, to its credit, met the challenge by expanding meal and supply distribution to students and their families. District superintendent Beutner seems to have adopted some of the ‘common-good’ bargaining priorities insisted upon by UTLA during the 2019 strike…. The three safety demands for campus reopening, that were ratified by members with a 91 percent approval, are full vaccinations for school staff, returning only when LA County is out of the purple tier, and enforceable safety conditions and protocols at every school…. Despite being in a less-than-ideal bargaining position because of public pressure and pandemic organizing challenges, the UTLA bargaining team walked away from the table with all three of the membership’s health and safety demands met.”

News of the Wired

Nothing new under the sun:

“Men who identify as feminists are having more — and more varied — sex” [The Conversation]. • Fine, fine, I’m happy for everybody concerned. It’s that use of “identity as” that gets me. One “identities” “as” Black, or a “as” a woman, or as (presumably) White. Is that really the same as “identifying as” a feminist? Is there anything that one cannot “identify as”? “I identify as a firefighter.” Is that a nonsensical statement, or not? How about “I identify as a six-year-old child”?

“The Great Depression led to many of the hobbies we enjoy now. The pandemic created a whole host of new ones” [CNN]. “In the 1930s, it was the game of Bridge that kept people busy during the Great Depression. In 2020, during the global pandemic, it was ‘Animal Crossing.’ It’s no surprise that the pandemic has led to a surge of hobbies. What’s interesting, some experts say, is that the surge mirrors what happened during the Great Depression. Among the hobbies that emerged: stamp collecting, music making, woodworking and birdwatching…. More walking, gardening and cooking, Mihm said, seem likely to remain permanent additions. Post-pandemic, some virtual hobbies — online classes and events, for example — may even remain common.” • Like model railroading, in fact. Via Moon of Alabama (hat tip alert reader AC)–

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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 (EB):

EB writes: “Peppers in green house.” Readers, do any of you have greenhouses? I toyed with the idea, but in the end a greenhouse seemed too ambitious for me.

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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. doug

    Get a greenhouse OR get access to a greenhouse.
    Larger the better. Doens’t need glass to the north..

  2. Sub-Boreal

    “Readers, do any of you have greenhouses? I toyed with the idea, but in the end a greenhouse seemed too ambitious for me.”

    Don’t chicken out! Having a greenhouse (not artificially heated) has made a huge difference to my gardening in the not-terrific (i.e. 90-day frost-free period) climate of central British Columbia. My 8′ x 12′ unit came with self-opening vents which lasted a dozen years before the 4 mechanical openers needed replacing (@ $CDN 100 each), and the polycarbonate panels with UV-resistant coating are holding up well after 20 years. Not sure of current pricing but the kit cost $CDN 3500 originally. But amortized over that length of time, it has been a bargain!

    Three big advantages: (1) heat-loving crops like full-sized tomatoes and peppers will ripen reliably, (2) it allows much larger capacity for producing seedlings, and (3) it effectively adds at least a month to the frost-free period.

    Disadvantages: (1) it needs almost daily attention for watering, so you need a reliable neighbour or friend if you want to take a mid-summer trip, and (2) some pest and health problems are worse, so you need to pay attention to sanitation and ventilation.

    1. 430MLK

      I made a small greenhouse this year for starting my greens: Cut some (Rockcastle) river cane and used it to construct a 4 foot long, 3 foot high hoop-house, and then threw some translucent landscaper fabric over it. I planted a bit late, but so far things have worked well. It stayed warm enough during the 3 or 4 sub-30 degree nights/mornings that we had last week, and I’m about to transplant or give away the seedlings. My basil seeds are new sprouting, so they should be a descent size when I transplant them in 4 weeks.

      I’ll make some improvements on the cane hoop-house design next year, but overall, I was happy with year 1.

  3. Isotope_C14

    Ok, the Eric Feigl-Ding tweet with the image of the plumbing system is very interesting.

    I’m not an engineer, but anyone with working knowledge that could compare the Germany/France/Italy plumbing systems would have some unique insight on why the virus spreads where and when it does. The correlation to the initial spread in the early days of the pandemic would be fascinating.

    I wonder if the central and eastern Germany locations have incredibly leaky pipes compared to northwestern regions that seem to have much lower COVID incidence. Right now, the highest incidence seems to be in old East Germany, and the central area near the Czech border. – Perhaps they have similar plumbing across the border, and would explain their high rates.

    It would be really cool to also compare the southern vs. northern areas of Italy, as there is a wealth inequality there as well.

    Here in my crappy 33 m^2 apartment, I have a standing shower that I suspect also drains on the toilet side, but my wash basin is on the opposite wall, so it must run under the floor.

    Also, German hot water is 60C. I wonder if that has an effect on the system, not sure on the rules in France or Italy on that.

    1. Duke of Prunes

      I had a friend travel to Eastern Europe (Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia) this spring. He saw no social distancing or masking. Crowded cafes just like the before times. Maybe this has something to do with it as well.

      1. fumo

        I have a friend living in Sarajevo. He reports that he and his family are the nearly the only people in town masking or social distancing. This as recently as yesterday.

    2. Death by Privatization

      ” the highest incidence seems to be in old East Germany, and the central area near the Czech border.”
      – yes, because the privatized healthcare system in this region is relying on cheap Czech labour. Czech has the highest Covid death rate in the world.

    3. ambrit

      I was a plumber in a previous life. That schematic has a very questionable set of traps attached to the appliances. If the illustration is true to life, those appliances are using s-traps, illegal in most American jurisdictions. Those types of trap are prone to siphoning of the water needed to stay in the lower section of the trap, which water is the seal against mephitic vapours backing up into the structure.
      See: https://www.startribune.com/a-primer-on-s-traps/157165945/
      It is somewhat common for a shower to drain directly into the toilet stack, above the inlet point of the toilet. That way, the shower trap has the larger toilet stack vent portion to protect it against being siphoned off by the vacuum resulting from flushing the toilet. Roughly speaking, the shower drain inlet is never completely covered by running water from the toilet flush. There are distance requirements involved that control when a separate vent is required.
      The basic source for these rules and figures is the Hoover Report of 1928, basically the work of Dr. Roy B Hunter.
      Curiously, I cannot fault the layout of the stack and vent system shown at the right of the illustration.

      1. Splashoil

        I always vented all trap arms per the Uniform Plumbing Code. There is a table showing the allowable distance from the crown weir of the trap to the takeoff tee for the vent piping which is routed to a point above the flood rim of the highest fixture.
        That way the seal provided by the trap is not compromised by suction from other fixtures such as toilets flushing, etc.. The usual problem where this practice is not done is a stinking shower where sewer gas escapes. That is a health hazard!
        The trap arm vents are as important as the drains as the aerosol is shared in the building envelope.

        1. ambrit

          Complete agreement. As long as the horizontal section of the secondary vent is above the flood rim of the sinks, all should work as advertised.
          Now, if we were to have to deal with the New York Code, oh boy.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I’m not an engineer, but anyone with working knowledge that could compare the Germany/France/Italy plumbing systems would have some unique insight on why the virus spreads where and when it does. The correlation to the initial spread in the early days of the pandemic would be fascinating.

      That’s a very interesting idea, the idea that the built environment is something that we don’t take into account with Covid, and that makes it more capricious than it really is.

      For example, surely ventilation code and construction is completely different in the snowy Northeast, and the sunny South, and not just because the age of their respective physical plants will differ.

  4. a fax machine

    Dunno if I’ve mentioned it here before, but recent legislation recently transferred North Coast freight service from the depreciated public NCRA to the local Sonoma Co SMART transit district. This creates an exciting situation where Sonoma Co will have a unique ability to plan and expand freight operations over the North Bay and North Coast. Other agencies in CA are certainly watching – a setup like this has been suggested for the dominant Caltrain service for a decade and it has also been suggested for the nearby Santa Cruz area. I suppose it never happened because, should the current freight provider (Union Pacific) exit, they’d basically force the state to build a regional-sized competitor that could (through pooled resources and cooperative land use planning from individual counties) provide cheaper service.

    With all the talk about PSR (Precision Scheduled Railroading) and the industry slowly gutting itself in a quest to make more high-value trains that can replace coal I’m gonna guess UP doesn’t want to encourage California of all places reintroduce the idea of government freight to industry because some industries might run with it.

    I also emailed my congressman about problems at the USPS: President Biden could reverse Bush’s policy banning Amtrak from taking USPS mail because private industry “deserves” those contracts. It’d be cool if Amtrak could get back into the mail business and if individual states could rebuild mail infrastructure as they rebuild Amtrak… although, in fairness, this would merely segregate Amtrak between rich blue states and red ones as similar policies did in the 1990s.

  5. fresno dan

    “Georgia election law’s strict food and drink restrictions won’t be prosecuted in Gwinnett” [11 Alive].
    So I have been voting 45 years now – in Fresno Ca, Montgomery county, MD and back in Fresno except for some absentee voting while in the Air Force. Never ONCE did I have to wait more than 5 minutes. Now, I always tried to go before what I knew would be popular times. But is it common through the country that people have to wait hours to vote???

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > But is it common through the country that people have to wait hours to vote???

      When one party wishes to suppress votes, it’s quite common to manipulate voting locations and the quantity of voting machines to create long lines, yes. It doesn’t happen all the time everywhere, but it does happen. To Sanders voters in Michigan, for example.

      1. rowlf

        In Georgia the counties run the elections.

        Changes affecting local elections offices
        One change buried in the bill would give county elections officials greater flexibility with voting equipment for smaller, lower-turnout races. Previous law requires one ballot-marking device per every 250 active voters. Statewide general elections would still require that ratio, but any other election would be subject to the local elections officials’ discretion, based on expected turnout, the type of election, number of people that have already voted and more.

        What Does Georgia’s New Voting Law SB 202 Do?

        I think what has the political machines freaked out is the new law lets the state take over elections from counties that have problems running their elections, through a process.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > I think what has the political machines freaked out is the new law lets the state take over elections from counties that have problems running their elections, through a process.

          I think that’s far more important than the water bottle issue.

        2. marym

          Re: .”.. the new law lets the state take over elections from counties that have problems running their elections, through a process.”

          In context: the law would give majority-Republican state legislators a process to take over elections in majority-Democratic counties about which GA Republicans made unsubstantiated claims of problems in 2020.

          The law also gives any voter the right to unlimited challenges of other people’s rights to register and vote.

          1. allan

            “the law would give majority-Republican state legislators a process to take over elections”

            Bingo. The Georgia legislature is gerrymandered,

            … In 2016, Georgia’s legislative races were the least competitive in the country with 81% of legislative seats going uncontested as a result of partisan gerrymandering. …

            so with SB 202 it’s basically game over.

            One man, one vote, one time.

        3. Martin Oline

          What could go wrong? See The Shame of the Cities by Lincoln Steffens on Wikipedia. A quote from the piece “Though Steffens’ subject was municipal corruption, he did not present his work as an exposé of corruption; rather, he wanted to draw attention to the public’s complicity in allowing corruption to continue.”
          I suppose we have work like this (begun in 1901) to thank for the municipal reforms enacted in many cities around the turn of the century. I wonder why large cities tend to become corrupt? Is it nature or nurture? I miss The Wire. . . . .

      2. fresno dan

        I find it amazing that lawsuits wouldn’t be/haven’t been filed. Wouldn’t it be rather easy to prove disparate impact if time to vote are considerably different at different places?
        I’m all for my civic duty, but I wouldn’t even wait 15 minutes to vote. You see the TV pictures of people waiting, but you can’t see an image of someone who left…

        1. albrt

          A basic principle of American election law is that you can’t overturn the vote by complaining about how the election was run after the election is over. That’s a big reason why most of Trump’s lawsuits were dismissed, but it is also why you can’t get much relief when poor and minority precincts get sandbagged with broken voting machines and such. The only relief you can get is an easily broken promise to do better next time.

      3. neo-realist

        When one party wishes to suppress votes, it’s quite common to manipulate voting locations and the quantity of voting machines to create long lines, yes. It doesn’t happen all the time everywhere, but it does happen. To Sanders voters in Michigan, for example.

        Kerry voters in Ohio in 2004.

      4. skippy

        Any system which can not be openly audited through a simple ITP can and will be abused regardless what it pertains too ….

    2. Boris

      We’ve gone to mail-in only voting here in Washington State. It has its detractors, but I’ve been completely happy with it.

    3. JTMcPhee

      So you got “machine politics” slapping Winged Democracy in the face with “voting machines…”

      The Daley Machine in Chicago and Cook County knew how to run an election, see? Involved a lot of “assisted straight ticket voting” as the big old machines had a lever you could pull (with assistance from your ward committee person) to deliver a single voting action that recorded a vote for every Dem candidate. No others need apply. https://www.salon.com/2016/02/14/election_fraud_chicago_style_illinois_decades_old_notoriety_for_election_corruption_is_legendary/

      I thought the very idea of voting machines was anathema hereabouts? Hand makrked paper ballots, marked in secret and hand counted in public. That’s the real ticket…

  6. Nate

    Hoop house! There’s plans for these online, but they all boil down to just a few basic steps. Lay down cardboard as flooring. Build a frame out of 2x8s. Arc lengthwise three our four cattle panels side by side into frame and staple in. Drape clear 6 mil polyethylene sheeting over the top and sides and secure. Fill w/compost and/or soil, 2×12 or pavers in the middle as a walkway. Looks kind of like a conestoga wagon without wheels.

    Some people may balk at the plastic issue, but ours has held up perfectly well for about three years now. One side we mounted plywood and a door on for ease of access. Total cost was about $100, mostly for the cattle panels.

  7. fresno dan

    Glenn Greenwald

    This is exactly my experience. I’ve been a critic of corporate media outlets for 15 years but always assumed one could get basic facts (even if flawed) by reading them.

    I now no longer think this. Their journalistic and business model makes me distrust everything I read there.
    Quote Tweet
    Sohrab Ahmari
    · 16h
    I’ve worked in mainstream media for a decade. I used to see NYT/WaPo/network stories and generally assume they were basically true, even if the outlets made mistakes from time to time (we’re all human).

    Now I think, “What kind of bullshit are these ideologues pulling on me now?”
    I think about all the errors documented in the FISA process by the IG regarding Carter Page. I found it hard to believe it was just incompetence and random error. It would be bad enough if it were just greed, desire for clicks, and casual indifference to reality. But I no longer think that – purposeful agendas are being advanced.

    1. JBird4049

      Yes, I agree with the last part. I thought in the past, it was to be either ideological blindness, or worse, creative editing, but with no outright lying. Now, it is all the lying liars with the lies that they tell. We’re all post-modernistic truthiness now with our own Washington Post/Izvestia and New York Times/Pravda. However, the soviets knew that their newspapers contained little news or truth, but our professional managerial class all seem to think that they do.

  8. Howard

    “Men who identify as feminists”

    Perhaps those who started ramping up the use of the locution “identify as” a number of years ago were just trying to find a more noncommittal way of saying “is-are-am-be,” and now usage has finally caught up with the original intention.

    So everywhere you see “identify as” you could without loss of meaning substitute the appropriate form of the verb “to be.”

    For instance, I now identify as someone who has received my second Pfizer vaccination. And the two-year-old who lives in our house sometimes identifies as a monkey, a pig, a dinosaur, or a scary monster.

    1. Stephanie

      And the two-year-old who lives in our house sometimes identifies as a monkey, a pig, a dinosaur, or a scary monster.

      Well, who doesn’t?

    2. wadge22

      I’ve often interpreted “identifies as” as a synonym for ‘is’ that also succinctly/silently carries the information ‘it’s none of your darnn business, though.’

      Doesn’t exactly fit with the men claiming feminist situation.
      Sometimes but not always, I perceive, “identifying” as something lets us know that it is to some considerable degree important to the person doing the identifying. That they ‘actively identify’ themselves as whatever-the-thing, as opposed to passively just ‘being’ it.
      I suspect we may be dealing with something closer to the second usage with these lucky gents. It’s all that ‘activity.’

  9. Glen

    I’m going to have to agree with Greenwald, the MSM seems to have finally jumped a shark so large that people cannot ignore it anymore. It’s gotten just about impossible to trust them for honest reporting of basic facts.

    But Matt Taibbi is also right, the news channels profit by causing division and hate so I don’t see this ending any time soon.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s extremely discouraging, although I suppose the emergence of figures like Taibbi is a bright spot. Interestingly, Sirota is the only one who’s trying to create a publication, instead of an individual brand. I think he’s got the right of it.

      1. albrt

        Greenwald created a publication, but is no longer employed there. Won’t work unless the creator wants to spend all his or her time managing crap.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Greenwald created a publication, but is no longer employed there. Won’t work unless the creator wants to spend all his or her time managing crap.

          He did. Perhaps “create” was the wrong word. However, many, many careers ago, I worked in the newspaper business, on the production side. The process of getting the newpaper out every day was a wonderful, wonderful thing, but the idea that the newspapering is a valuable activity in and of itself needs to permeate the entire organization, including management. Hence, private equity is death blow. Private equity does not create, it only extracts.

    2. John k

      IMO msm problems preceded trump. Consider the anti Bernie focus by msm, particularly wapo, that publication’s attacks on alternate media like NC… Nyt not as blatant, but same anti progressive slant on every issue and quick to follow Wapo’s lead, no doubt appreciating that every story was deep-sourced.
      My local rag, LA times, had to be chastised for failing to cover the largest political rally in years, apparently because it happened to host Bernie…
      I haven’t depended on msm for news some time… but I’m addicted to the bridge column and funnies, so still take the online version.

      1. Temporarily Sane

        The MSM has been pushing propaganda and establishment friendly viewpoints since, well, forever. Chomsky and Herman wrote ‘Manufacturing Consent’ in 1982 and does nobody remember the media’s BS peddling during the build up to the 2003 Iraq invasion?

        I have to laugh when people say the media, besides making an honest mistake here and there, used to be a fount of truth and only recently became the ideology pushing misinformation outlets they are today.

        But at least “back then” the BS wasn’t so thick that an astute person couldn’t read between the lines and inform themselves.

        During the Trump years the mainstream media completely jumped the shark and went into full time propaganda and gaslighting mode.

        So, yeah, it’s really bad now and unreadable when it comes to certain topics and subjects, but the golden age of ethical media that some people want to believe existed is a comforting myth, particularly for those who work, or worked, for a major media organization.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > xthe media’s BS peddling during the build up to the 2003 Iraq invasion?

          I remember it well. I think, or like to think, that back in the old days, like 2003, the BS peddling was episodic or confined to particular beats. Now it is, for lack of a better word, “the norm.” The desperate condition of the newspaper business doesn’t help, optimizing as it does for low salaries, snitching, and general connivance and backstabbing.

          1. Pat

            It wasn’t as pervasive then. Sure the NYT would have Judith Miller on the front page but if you got past it you could at least find some contrary reporting buried inside. Now even if forced to report something contrary, they not only put it deep inside, they usually erase context. You have to know what It was used for to understand importance of the revelations of the false claims in the Carter Page FISA warrant application, they aren’t going to tell you if for some reason it gets a report.

            And the biggest gateways to the internet hadn’t been as crappified as currently. If you went searching because something didn’t seem right you would find counter reporting on items in the run up near the top of the search results not three pages in.

            I am afraid about what I am missing now, I know if it isn’t “acceptable”, I won’t get the full story or catch up without rapidly disappearing reporting and outlets for that reporting.

      2. Lynne

        Way before Trump, the press has been biased. Consider the edits NBC did to the 911 call from Zimmerman about Trayvon Martin. Even after the editing was made public, I heard the edited recording repeatedly on all 3 major networks and PBS, with pundits weighing in on what it “proved.”

        And I recall clearly during the Clinton Administration the allegations that Hillary ordered FBI files on her political opponents be delivered to the White House for her review. PBS briefly mentioned it and then had Daniel Schorr do a lengthy segment on how he was on the Nixon enemies list. Anything to distract and cover for the Clintons.

  10. allan

    Ventilators are so last year wave:

    Canada’s hospitals deploy artificial lungs, scramble for staff as COVID-19 hits younger patients [Reuters]

    Younger Canadians are bearing the brunt of the nation’s latest COVID-19 surge, creating growing demand for artificial lungs and a struggle to maintain staffing in critical care units as hospitals make last-ditch efforts to save patients.

    Treatment with artificial lungs, known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, is much more likely to be deployed for patients under age 65, explained Marcelo Cypel, surgical director for the extracorporeal life support program at Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN).

    Last week, there were a record 19 ECMO patients at UHN, 17 of them with severe COVID-19. When the sickest COVID-19 patients’ lungs fill with fluid and mechanical ventilators can no longer do the job, artificial lungs can save lives. …

    The need for these artificial lungs reflects a change in Canada’s epidemic, which has taken a turn for the worse, with new cases surging and outbreaks hitting workplaces and schools. …

    Coming to a collapsed but reopened empire near you.

  11. Pelham

    Re the Senate parliamentarian green-lighting more action by the Dem majority: I wonder whether the Democrats truly welcome this. The parliamentarian would seem to serve as a very convenient excuse for doing nothing at certain inconvenient junctures.

    1. Jen

      I, for one, suspect my lamentable delegation will be fine with it as long as no one tries to use it to raise the minimum wage.

    2. GA Bulldog

      The dissonance between the “public positions” and the “private positions” of the D party is intrinsically much greater than that of the R party. Having the WH, plus a majority of both houses of a Congress puts the D party in a much trickier position than it does the Rs whose public and private positions can be much more closely aligned.

      1. JBird4049

        Just because neither party wants to govern, especially the Democrats, but only cut checks for the wealthy while getting those political donations bribes, while doing the Kobuki two-step…

  12. SlopeyMcSlope

    but has continued on its inertial path.

    Not sure I agree. The slopes look about the same, but because this is measuring a daily rate, it does reflect improvement. Stagnation would be the charts leveling off, and the slopes approaching zero.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’m not saying the numbers are not improving; they are. The inertial path is that the entire system is getting better (much as with treatment; we learn what works in the doing of it). What I am not seeing is any sort of inflection point after Biden’s inaugural, and there’s been time enough to see it.

  13. John Siman

    Wow! Everyone should read Marshall Auerback’s piece on the condescendingly false neoliberal promises contained in Biden’s “infrastructure” plan, which is — surprise! — not about rebuilding American infrastructure at all but rather about shifting more goodies up the food chain to the Democrats’ favorite donor constituencies — plus slathering on a thick gooey green coating of woke virtue-signaling. This is Thomas Frank-level insightful! Indeed, as Auerback notes, “Democrats serve the affluent professionals and managers who live downtown or in inner suburbs and employ maids and nannies and nursing-home workers, not the low-wage service workers themselves, who are assigned to multifamily housing and endless competition with new waves of immigrants for jobs changing the diapers of the children and parents of elite Democrats.”

    1. Estuary

      A self-licking ice cream cone, given the growth of the aspiring PMC wannabe interns, relatives and Friends of Bill, or whoever. Someone has to manage those new programs and channel the budget dollars into the right correct hands. That leads to job growth, begetting higher budgets, greater campaign contributions and better brunch invitations.

      1. Duck1

        Looked to me there was more than twice as much $ for electric vehicles than for mass transit and passenger rail combined. Let’s double down on the failed paradigm of individual transportation as we hurtle off the energy surplus cliff.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Would it be vulgar to point out that some of old Joe’s infrastructure plan includes completing sections of Trump’s Wall? Because priorities.

    3. skippy

      What like Bill Clinton’s pick of Federico Peña as Secretary of Transportation after all his good works in Colorado during the so called minority business program. So the state and fed were tasked to give X contracts to minorities [non wonder bread] as a market driven [neoliberal] means to advance non traditional capital into the market in the name of “equality for all”[tm].

      Anywhooo … the BSDs of construction just did a run around and set up minority contractors to bid and then used them as a front house face [aww look at the hard working minorities getting ahead] whilst the flows of funds lingered momentarily over their balance sheets before right back to the BSDs. Almost everyone was happy except the previous generation of contractors as the whole thing crammed down labour/project costs as the minorities under bid and utilized lower cost migrant labour – think Uber et al.

      At DIA airport the drummy Italian Terrazzo tiles debacle was a hoot, had to bring in some old Italian guys to sort it. Notched trowels is not the appropriate way to lay that tile, needs a slurry which is buttered to the tile and then laid, so no air is present.

      Its absurdly delirious to consider the only difference between the GOP and the Corp Dem teams is the loaf of bread allowed on the dinner table …

  14. polar donkey

    Is it illegal for employers to make employees get a covid vaccination? I thought it was since it is not an approved vaccine. If it is illegal, what is the punishment for the employer?

  15. Cuibono

    “I’m actually happy with CDC for deciding on a paper card. It’s 100% fit-for-purpose, and the information won’t go into a database that’s going to be hacked, releasing all my personal data.”
    10:1 it gets replaced with something electronic before 2023

  16. rowlf

    While waiting in line to ask for a prescription refill at a local Kroger pharmacy the pharmacist came out to ask anyone in the store if they wanted a Covid-19 vaccine shot as he had the vaccine and space on the schedule. I thought that was interesting to see. I didn’t stick around to see how many people he rounded up as I treat my masked trips into a store like I have a film badge on me.

  17. Mikel

    Tech: “Google Is Testing Its Controversial New Ad Targeting Tech in Millions of Browsers. Here’s What We Know.” [Electronic Frontier Foundation]. “Today, Google launched an “origin trial” of Federated Learning of Cohorts (aka FLoC), its experimental new technology for targeting ads. A switch has silently been flipped in millions of instances of Google Chrome…”

    Again, can’t make out the words. All the words in the article look like “Ghostery” and “DuckDuckGo”

  18. SlayTheSmaugs

    Lambert I hear you about being irritated by “identifying” as a feminist.

    That said maybe what’s happened is the American linguistic habit of turning nouns into verbs.

    I mean I would not have been irritated if he said that part of his identity was being a feminist that his feminism was so essential to who he was as a person it formed part of his identity.

    I am also not surprised that a person who respects and appreciates women as people has great sex.

    I mean the origin of the phrasing of identifying as a feminist may have happened via the linguistic habit I said just above, but then people took it and ran with it in ways that are counterproductive and irritating. If they simply spoke precisely, creating understanding would be much easier. And so would public policy.

    1. Darthbobber

      I think in this case its just an artifact of survey taking. Either you just ask respondents whether they are feminists and report that they claim to be that, or you come up with some goofy pseudo-objective test to run them through in order to report whether they are “really” this thing. The first is both cheaper and leads to a much shorter battery of questions. And with “identify” you basically disclaim making any judgement and avoid setting some standard that many will inevitably disagree with.

      1. SlayTheSmaugs

        Maybe the popularization is due to survey taking, but I don’t think it’s the origin story.

        Saying “I identify as” is a completely different use of the verb “to identify” than categorizing and discovering what types of something the observer is looking at. It is a verb form of identity. I wonder, can it be conjugated without the preposition as?

        While I don’t have an OED to check, I’m willing to bet a dollar that the usage “I identify as” is a verb-i-fa-cation of identity. (I only ever bet stakes I am willing to lose)

        1. SlayTheSmaugs

          Actually I think I lose the bet
          upon further reflection I think “I identify as” is simply a kind of corruption of “self-identify”

          1. Basil Pesto

            ‘I identify (myself) as’ is simply a reflexive verb. Conjugated thus:

            ‘You identify (yourself) as’
            ‘She identifies (herself) as’
            ‘We identify (ourselves) as’


            1. SlayTheSmaugs

              Sure. But when did we start using the verb “identify as”?
              We’ve had philosophers for so long as we’ve had people surely, but there’s a difference between pondering the nature of reality including one’s own existence, and reductively defining oneself as a label.
              It seems to me relatively modern to be “identity” obsessed in a way that would neatly transition into using the verb identify as. The mutability of “identifying as” as opposed to “being” feels like it flows after an acceptance of the social construction of reality.
              But I’m no historian or scholar generally and maybe the verb is as old is English itself.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > I wonder, can it be conjugated without the preposition as?

          It is the “as” that makes “identify as” performative (or, as we say, “fluid”).

          What I want to know is whether there are sentences of the form:

          I identify as ______

          that are impermissible, best of all syntactically, but also semantically.

          For example:

          “I identify as White” vs. “I identify as white animals” vs. “I identify as a sheep” vs. “I identify as sheep” (the collective noun in the last example could be a syntactic violation).

          “I identify as a man” vs. “I identify as Paul Bunyan” vs. “I identify as the statue of Paul Bunyan.”

          “I identify as a Christian” vs. “I identify as Christians” vs. “I identify as Christ.”

          I suspect that the placeholder “______” can only be filled by words from the list of approved identities in the current woke PMC zeitgeist:

          “I identify as Asian-American” vs. “I identify as Asian” or “I identify as American” vs. “I identify as Hmong” vs. “I identify as the hyphenated.”

          Only the first (“Asian-American”) would be permitted. (However, already we have “Asian-American-Pacific Islander,” although “Pacific Islanded” would not extend to to the inhabitants of Pacific islands like, say, Tasmania, let alone Pitcairn Island.)

          I am reminded of an idea from several careers ago, that “the word ‘is’ can be replaced by ‘has been categorized as’ with no loss of meaning.” Is the same true for “identify as”?

          1. SlayTheSmaugs

            Note “has been characterized as” is much closer to “is” than “identify as” is, Because has been characterized as relates to one labeling another, some thing/one outside of the labeler, whereas the internal, self-referential “identify as” is a further step away from is.

      2. Temporarily Sane

        I’m very, very wary of any claims that are based solely on statistics generated from public opinion surveys or questionnaires. You can “prove” almost anything by playing with the construction of the questions, using a small sample size etc. Even if the survey/questionnaire is carried out in good faith, making sweeping claims based on the answers provided should always be taken with a grain of salt.

        Maybe men who “identify” as feminists do get laid more often but I’ve also heard from women that self-described feminist men tend to be creeps who use that label to ingratiate themselves in order to get into their pants.

        I would argue that a man “identifying” as a feminist is neither here nor there. It’s just a label after all. Anyone can call themselves a feminist regardless of their actual character. A man who genuinely does appreciate and respect women will show that by how he acts, regardless of what he does or doesn’t “identify” as.

  19. Tomonthebeach

    Vaxxports. The red-state governors have jumped on the hoaxwagon to assert that vaccination proof is anti-American and they are banning any “requirement” to get a vaxxport. The WH reacted asserting that they never had plans to “require” vaxxports. At both levels, the key term is “require.” Neither group of pols have legally prohibited voluntary vaxxports.

    That is important for those of us who travel internationally. If you want to go to London, and the UK requires proof of vaccination (see BOJO’s recent remarks), they will likely laugh at our little locally-issued cardboard souvenirs. They will want government certification that we are vaxxed or it’s two weeks in the London Hilton for you. Then if you plan to go from London to Norway, it’s two more weeks at the Oslo Hilton. And, so on. So the US DHS/CIS will have to eventually issue vaxxports or vaxxvisas, or nobody can go anywhere.

    OBTW, the USA and most other countries absolutely require proof of vaccinations for entry. Americans only encounter this in countries requiring visas, and even then other countries trust US passport certifications for most diseases (14 as of now).

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I like the “vaxxport” coinage.

      I think the use cases of international travel and business entry are different. For international travel, other countries can require whatever they like, and I do doubt that the CDC cards will be enough for that. Or, in times of crisis, political views, those already being framed as contagion.

      For business entry, the idea of having to hold up a cellphone and be scanned — presumably the vaxxport would be an app — to be allowed to pass into a business chills me to the bone. Leaving aside the equity, privacy, and data theft issues, the technology will surely be repurposed for social credit, or some such totalizing technology.

  20. Darthbobber

    I was a bit underwhelmed by Auerback’s analysis of the infrastructure bill, though he makes some useful points.
    A characterization like this of who might benefit from subsidies for childcare and eldercare:
    “Two-income urban professionals who rely on day care and elder care”. Is this an accurate summation? I doubt it very much. It seems that any family with both members working, or any single-adult household would benefit provided they had children or elders in need of care. And households with both adults working, or with only one adult are hardly confined to urban professionals. In fact its probably the professionals who are most likely to find it possible to make do with one income for at least a few years. I know plenty of working stiffs in Wichita, Ks, Tulsa OK, Chambersburg and Shippensburg, Pa who might feel they stood to benefit from this, but who would be quite surprised to hear that they belong to one of the most already advantaged groups.

    And this: “Service-sector unions, who will benefit from massive subsidies for day care and elder care.” Indirectly, but surely the primary beneficiaries (other than those receiving the care) would be the workers themselves. Now, are these workers benefitting from union representation (is that a bad thing?) also among the already most advantaged groups? Or is his objection simply to the fact that these unions understandably generally align with the democrats?

    “Urban homeowners” as a class of uniquely privileged people? Given that the census bureau’s most recent data gives a 65.8% homeownership rate, and that 80.7% of the American population is categorized as urban, this group among the citizenry is considerably larger and more diverse than Auerback’s rhetoric would have us believe. I think he means us to think of lawyers, engineers, stockbrokers, and software developers living in the megacities, but the reality is that that hardly represents most urban homeowners.

    He also drags immigration policy into it (though it isn’t even part of this package) and seems to simply assume that the Biden policy will be meaningfully less restrictive than Trump’s (or Obama’s for that matter), what tea leaves he’s reading to justify that conclusion is not clear to me.

    1. VietnamVet

      Professionals are most likely to buy into the reigning ideology. They really must believe it to climb up the ladder. I am a real dinosaur. I have a civil service pension plan so generous that it puts me in Joe Biden’s top 15%. But we are isolated at home in our own bubble, avoiding the public, no home cleaning, no maintenance, nor medical appointments. Supplied by front porch home deliveries.

      My risk of hospitalization and death is around 50% if I come in contact indoors with a shedding coronavirus carrier for more than 50 seconds. In New Zealand, transmission occurred when two adjacent quarantine hotel rooms when the doors were left open that long. Their public health system is successful so they must have rule out transmission by the hotel’s air supply system. Face Masks cut the risk down only if everyone is wearing one.

      My feeling like Cassandra is the result of the US government deeming it not necessary to conduct a national public health campaign to eradicate coronavirus like Asian and South Pacific nations are doing. With a Green Zone around the Capitol, the US government is not secure. The first thing that went when the Soviet Union fell were government pensions.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > A characterization like this of who might benefit from subsidies for childcare and eldercare:
      “Two-income urban professionals who rely on day care and elder care”. Is this an accurate summation? I doubt it very much. It seems that any family with both members working, or any single-adult household would benefit provided they had children or elders in need of care. And households with both adults working, or with only one adult are hardly confined to urban professionals. In fact its probably the professionals who are most likely to find it possible to make do with one income for at least a few years. I know plenty of working stiffs in Wichita, Ks, Tulsa OK, Chambersburg and Shippensburg, Pa who might feel they stood to benefit from this, but who would be quite surprised to hear that they belong to one of the most already advantaged groups.

      That section was a little light on links, I thought.

  21. Mikel

    Is the Biden administration really mulling over boycotting the Beijing Olympics in 2022?
    Nobody is boycotting all that stuff on the shelves in places like WalMart.
    They dug this hole with China squeeze out the American workers and now they want all this “ideological” support?

    1. Temporarily Sane

      They’ve really lost the plot re. China. Even some supposedly sensible leftists and “progressives” who don’t buy Russiagate are on the “omg China is out to get us!” bandwagon.

      It’s fascinating how many people fall for propaganda if it lines up with their prejudices and biases. Of course, like with marketing and advertising, many of them will say “hey that stuff doesn’t affect me” even when it clearly does.

    2. The Rev Kev

      You heard right as Washington is thinking about it. And if they do, they will “encourage” other nations to do likewise – or else. Maybe they will do a Russia on them and demand that the Chinese compete not do so under their own flag but only an Olympic flag instead with no Chinese national anthems played if they win. That will make the next Olympics in Los Angeles (their third) be very interesting indeed-


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