2:00PM Water Cooler 4/8/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

At reader request, Birds of Australia.

#COVID19

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:

A little dip, hopefully supply not demand. • 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, albeit in an upward direction.

Case count by United States regions:

Now a slight rise.

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

The big drop in New York, but flattening. Florida on the continues its slow climb.

Test positivity:

Hospitalization:

Still heading down.

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.

* * *

Readers, I have posts to finish, and so this will be an open thread, with nothing but the standing elements: Bird Song of the Day, Covid charts, and the plant. I will return tomorrow. –lambert

Here is a short parable for our times:

“The guy driving the Suez Canal excavator says he got by on 3 hours of sleep a night and hasn’t been paid his overtime yet” [Business Insider].

Freeing the Ever Given was an international effort, with winches, dredgers, tugboats, and excavators all brought in. But Abdul-Gawad was the man who was literally at the rock face of the problem. Once he got to the base of the ship, there was no choice but to start digging. In his estimation, the Ever Given’s bow was lodged about 6 meters, or 20 feet, higher than where the ship ought to have been floating. Its stern was also sitting on the opposite bank, and the sideways ship was blocking all traffic.

Under the looming sides of the ship, he feared destabilizing the ship and having it topple onto him. “The thing is, I was terrified that the ship might list too far to one side or the other,” he said. “Because if it fell onto its side on me, then it’s goodbye me, and goodbye excavator.”…

Two more excavators arrived at the scene a couple of days in, but their drivers were too apprehensive to do what Abdul-Gawad was doing, he said. Instead, they cleared away the materials near the base after he had dug it out.

Driving the excavator in his flip-flops, Abdul-Gawad undertook hours of digging.
This would be followed by half-hour bursts of the tugboats making an attempt to pull the vessel, when Abdul-Gawad and his machine would get a walkie-talkie signal to retreat.

“But, you know, until I got 5, 6 meters down, there was no movement,” he said.

On Thursday 25, a specialized dredger boat – the Mashhour – joined the efforts. Abdul-Gawad’s job was to shift rock and sand material from the ship’s bow while the Mashhour dislodged the silt from the canal bed, he said.

The combined effort – with the help of a high tide – gave hopeful signs the next day, and finally succeeded on March 29. Ever Given’s release set every worker cheering – and tugboats honking – in celebration.

But:

Abdul-Gawad said he had barely been included in the celebrations. Aside from a small ceremony held by one newspaper, he has received almost no official recognition for his role, he said. “I was invited to the ceremony where they honored the people who got the ship out,” he said. It was mainly for Suez Canal Authority employees, he said, which does not include Abdul-Gawad since he works for a subcontractor.

He said it felt like an afterthought. The event was in a city four hours away, and he got the invitation an hour and a half in advance, he said.

Plus, they owe him for the overtime. The fate of “essential workers” everywhere!

NOTE Kudos to Business Insider for getting this story. I can’t imagine why the New York Times or the Washington Post didn’t.

* * *

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 and the flowering trees are out in full force. From my walk on Saturday.” As readers know, I encourage walks, especially photographic ones.

* * *

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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.

101 comments

  1. fumo

    The plantidote is a red-flowering current, I’ve got one right outside my window here. Wonderful plant with very subtly scented blossoms—an odd but appealing mix of turpentine and perfume.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Better pre-buy your Pacific Ocean fish now, if you can. Either canned or fresh and then preserve it yourself.

      I wonder if an interesting pure-gamble speculation might be to buy thousands of cans of pre-dumping-radwater salmon and then when the water gets dumped, slowly sell it as pre-Fukushima-radwater-dumping salmon for a hundred dollars a can or so.

      Reply
      1. Alternate Delegate

        You would be making money out of pure unfounded fear if you did.

        I saw just one relevant number in the linked article: “If the government proceeds, the plan will be to dilute tritium down to just 2.5 percent of the maximum concentration allowed by national standards before dumping it out.”

        That means they were dumping 40x the concentration before as a matter of pure routine. Now that eyes are on them, they’re diluting it a bit more. And it’s going into … the Pacific. If you’re a victim of contamination panic, I have to tell you, the Pacific is already contaminated, and that predates humans.

        Potassium-40 is the largest source of natural radioactivity in animals including humans. A 70 kg human body contains about 140 grams of potassium, hence about 0.000117 × 140 = 0.0164 grams of 40K; whose decay produces about 4,300 disintegrations per second (becquerel) continuously throughout the life of the body.”

        Cellular mechanisms have evolved to cope with these background radiation levels.

        This amounts to confusing real dangers – 15,899 deaths due to the earthquake and tsunami – with fake dangers, e.g., “As of September 2018, one cancer fatality was the subject of a financial settlement”. They got paid off, but the number of deaths due to radiation is consistent with zero.

        Reply
        1. Skip Intro

          Careful about spreading misleading information. Potassium is in equilibrium in our bodies, it doesn’t bioaccumulate like strontium or cesium. I’m not sure abut tritium, but I assume it acts like hydrogen and is thus also in equilibrium. In general, the solution to pollution is not dilution, and anyone making claims like that is generally suspect. In particular the potassium canard is a famous bit of professional deception, and it’s based on the potassium chemistry above.

          Reply
          1. Alternate Delegate

            Background radiation levels are the point, not whether potassium levels are in equilibrium in the body.

            You use words like “misinformation”, “suspect”, “canard”, and “deception”. I turn those words back on you. Where are your links? Mine are in my comment.

            Reply
    2. Josef K

      I moved back to Japan about two years before the accident.

      In Japan, pretty much every offering of produce at the grocery/supermarket proudly displays its prefecture of origin. So in the year following Fuku-3/11, I and other shoppers engaged in a novel activity, looking at every piece of produce’s plastic covering to determine its place of origin—so as not to buy it if too close to Fukushima, the farther west and south the better. A casual look around would reveal a large percentage of the shoppers doing this, you could see the sort of uncomfortable, anxious checking.

      The threat of another major nuclear accident had the fuel pool at #4 collapsed was the main reason I left in late 2012, but the daily concern over ingesting contaminated food was a close second. We laughed about Cesium Salad and Pasta with Plutonium Sauce, but it was no joke.

      The governing party and certainly TEPCO have revealed massive amounts of corruption and lack of concern throughout this debacle. They were always going to release the water into the ocean, it’s just been a question of when they decided they could get away with it. They no doubt wrote an algorythm.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        Some of the smarter shoppers were using Geiger counters when they did their shopping but I heard that the Japanese government put a stop to the purchase of them to restore faith in the government. If those Tokyo Games go ahead, those athletes had better think of bringing in their own food or else they might find themselves with fresh produce – courtesy of Fukushima Prefecture.

        Reply
      2. Josef K

        From the article you linked to:

        “…the government has put off figuring out what to do with all of the contaminated water building up at the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant for long enough — and it’s time to start dumping it into the ocean.”

        “Suga’s hand is forced given that the plant will soon run out of space to store the contaminated groundwater seeping into the facility”

        Good examples of the level of discourse coming from the LDP, it’s been like this since the beginning: we’ve put it off long enough, and anyway there’s no more storage space. Our hand is forced.

        The flimsiest of excuses, another in a long line of them, insulting to anyone who listens to them at all critically.

        Reply
      3. UserFriendlyyy

        Typically stupid response. I would have sent a geiger counter to every household in the country so they can figure out on their own that Banna’s and potato chips are off the charts compared to anything coming from close to Fukushima.

        Reply
    3. UserFriendlyyy

      God you people are insufferable. That is the biggest nothingburger in the world. The chance of ANYONE getting any side effects from that water is zero. Fear and ignorance of nuclear power has killed a few million people so far just from the pm2.5 generated by the alternatives alone, to say NOTHING of climate change. We could have a fukushima every single year and we would still be saving lives.

      Your concept of the effects of radiation on people has literally nothing to do with reality. Like not even close. Sunlight, x rays at the doctors office, flying in a plane, living in denver, eating potato chips. All of those things increase your exposure to radiation. Yes, too much is bad, it increases your chance of getting cancer in the future. Yes, an extremely high dose can kill you in days. Happened to 29 people in Chernobyl. Your worst case scenarios about terrorists and earthquakes or whatever (that are about as likely as me winning the lottery) might have a few hundred people exposed to that much radiation. That and instead of the normal 30% of people in the immediate area developing cancer at some point in their life it bumps up to 35%, maybe 40% if its really bad. Whatever nuclear holocaust you have in your head has nothing to do with reality.

      Reply
        1. UserFriendlyyy

          No, there isn’t. There is the question of what to do with the millions of misinformed armchair chicken little’s who who don’t understand basic things like really long half life = not very radioactive. Or that all the (much more problematic) nuclear waste from our useless nuclear weapons boondoggle already gets shipped to, processed and stored in New Mexico and the only thing stopping the rest of the waste currently sitting harmlessly near many large metros at reactors for decades now is politics, thanks to uninformed chicken littles.

          Reply
      1. Alfred

        “The chance of ANYONE getting any side effects from that water is zero. ”

        That “anyone” being whatever does not actually live in “that water” presumably you mean. How typical of humans to think they live in discrete compartments they control completely. There is no “away,” but I presume when they release the radioactive water in Japan, you will be gorging yourself on Pacific fish just to prove your point.

        Reply
        1. UserFriendlyyy

          Hate seafood, always have. But I’d choke down some Hibachi Shrimp if it would make you people any less insane.

          How typical of morons to think that increasing their exposure to less radiation than there is in a Banana is going to kill anyone.

          Reply
      2. ambrit

        You are being disingenuous. The material in that released water is what is at issue. That ‘radiation’ you make light of comes from something in that water, substances that continue to emit radiation continuously for years into the surrounding environment.
        Depending on the physical substance observed, the half-lives of the radiation emitters run from that of strontium-90 and cesium-137, roughly thirty years, to the rightly dreaded plutonium-239, 24,000 years. So, this is a long term issue, not a short term, “business friendly” item on a back page of an annual report.
        See: https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/radwaste.html
        Some dangers are “normal” parts of living. Earthquakes happen, tsunamis roll inland, meteors streak down out of the sky; such items are literal “acts of god.” Other items are entirely man made. Chernobyl and Fukushima fall into this category. The bottom line here is that these threats did not have to happen. Someone made the bad decisions that brought these disasters about. So, stop blaming the ‘victims’ of these occurrences. Aim your fire at the idiots who are responsible.

        Reply
        1. UserFriendlyyy

          The substance in that water is tritium. Utterly harmless.
          You are being disingenuous. Radiation exposure is as natural a process as there is. There would be no life anywhere without it.

          Much more natural than pm2.5. Much more natural than any of the millions of other chemicals the world is awash in.

          Reply
      1. molon labe

        The funds themselves didn’t make the difference–that was due to the use to which the funds were put.

        Reply
    1. Louis Fyne

      is the rollout bad because lack of vaccine supply and/or distribution failures?

      If due to supply, why not buy and/or license to produce the Russian Sputnik vaccine in addition to the US vaccines?

      oh wait, anything Russian is inherently bad cuz of the DC narrative.

      Reply
      1. Darthbobber

        In Philly at least, the roll-out went badly at first because the city had decided to put a startup run by college kids with no directly relevant experience in charge of key elements of the operation. It worked out pretty much the way that always does. But governments at all levels keep falling for this, if “falling for” is accurate, rather than something more corrupt.

        Reply
      2. RockHard

        My friend says it’s due to Canada’s lack of vaccine production, FWIW, but also to the decentralized nature of their healthcare system. That was eye-opening since conservatives consistently characterize it as top-down, but the actual implementation is a lot like the USA – every province has their own plan.

        Reply
        1. UserFract

          Yes, neoliberals traded away our domestic capacity to manufacture vaccines. Then last year the neoliberals who are in still in charge signed a lot of contracts with vaccine manufacturers and were very pleased with themselves. Well it turns out that having manufacturing capacity is more reliable than having a contract in a crisis (how could we have known?!) and there have been delays getting vaccines from the countries who can actually make them. Now the various elites and politicians at the national and provincial levels are having a grand old time pointing their fingers at each other over who is to blame when the decision to offshore production of vaccines (and N-95 masks, and who knows how many other strategically essential goods) was done decades ago under establishment consensus. If they had invested in building vaccine manufacturing a year ago when this started, then it might be online by now, but they just sort of committed to maybe building one in Toronto a few weeks ago so you know maybe next year it will be ready I guess? And yes, obviously the idea that any safe medical technology could emerge from the minds of the citizens of a strategic rival such as Russia is as a priori absurd here as elsewhere in the Anglo sphere.

          Reply
          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > it turns out that having manufacturing capacity is more reliable than having a contract in a crisis

            Interesting to think of operational capacity (as opposed to purchase) as a form of insurance.

            Reply
            1. Jeremy Grimm

              I am stealing the fitting phrase “manufacturing capacity is more reliable than contracts in a crisis” to hoard away for a rainy day.

              Reply
        2. VietnamVet

          This is the elephant in the room. With the formal end of western colonies with the loss of the war in Vietnam, only Wall Street and the City of London with its Island offshoots were left to make money. The Western Empire had to turn itself into a protection racket and a financialization center.

          Literally everything of value was off-shored and democracy dismantled. This is why the talk of the coming boom is preposterous. Coronavirus will have to be eradicated. Value manufacturing returned to North America. Good governance restored.

          Reply
    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      I saw a point that the rollout still needed people in the vaccine distribution to make good choices. I would hazard one of the problems with vaccine rollout in better centralized healthcare systems is no one is making choices to open up spaces when they don’t get filled. A friend in a neighboring system was vaccinated early because he received a call the day of just to fill spots. His health district has/had the best vaccination rate in the state.

      WV had such a great early rollout because the independent pharmacists had the opportunity to make good decisions. If good decisions aren’t being made at the top in a highly structured system, its going to have fallout. My sister is a teacher and her appointment was made by her school, but as the day she was due for a follow up approached there was no messaging. She made arrangements herself for her 2nd shot, but the school finally communicated the morning for the day she was due for a 2nd dose when he appointment was. Based on what I’ve heard, there have been good and bad decisions made all along. I think at least people trying to get the vaccine has helped. The writer Amanda Mull posted on her twitter feed at least once that one of the large vaccine sites simply had no one show up and plenty of doses to give out and opened it up to the public at large for the day. People who were willing to say, here is a place to go, filled the vaccine center where they closed it to appointments because so many people showed up. The lesson is good decisions by people alerting others to the opportunity mattered.

      Reply
    3. tegnost

      You’ll excuse me please for pointing out this is all pretty positive towards pfizer. Plus the creepy “israel offered up their population because data”. Maybe Canada needs more private sector in it’s health care system.
      Just to point out, in your gazette link…
      “The 640 people who were scheduled to receive their vaccine Wednesday will automatically be rescheduled for another mass vaccination event on Sunday, where they’ll receive rhe[sic] Pfizer vaccine, Massey said.”

      But in the Denver Post…
      “Those now scheduled for Sunday will receive the first of two Pfizer shots, as that drugmaker’s vaccine previously had been scheduled for use on that day, state officials said.”

      Reply
      1. tegnost

        still 11 bad reactions in one day v 10 bad reactions previously is worth noting, the Post article is maybe just better

        Reply
      2. smashsc

        This article states that the J&J vaccine has the least amount of side effects. Unfortunately, for my families’ sample size of 3 for the J&J, all had aches, two had nausea, and 1 had the welt. So your mileage may vary.

        Reply
    4. flora

      The EUA time allowance for these vaccines is, I think, from late Dec 2020 to Jan 2023, approx 2 years or 24 months. (please correct if my info is wrong) We’re now in month 4, approx one/sixth of the total time allowance for the EUA. In my opinion, until more is know about these vaccines mid and longer term effects, it’s unwise to start C19 vaccinating children and teens until we know more. What’s that saying, ‘kids are our future’, or something ? My 2 cents.

      Reply
        1. Bun

          https://www.covid-19canada.com/?

          According to this site, it’s 20%, not 2%. Maybe 2% is for a double-dose, but up here they are prioritizing the first dose until everyone gets one. In our province 1M of 5M have got a shot,

          https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/covid-numbers-april8-1.5979936

          , and only 88000 got both shots, so consistent with above

          Issue WAS supply. Both Pzizer and Moderna reneged on commitments for about a month, like happened in the EU, but now vials are flooding in ahead of the schedule laid out by Ottawa back in January.

          I think the anxiety over the big third wave, which is real and serious, is making everyone very edgy, and of course the MSM is playing up any hiccups. e.g. they made hay that only x% of the vials were used by (i think) Monday, why so slow?? when a new shipment just came in that weekend and could not possibly have been deployed in just a couple days. Stuff like that.

          Of course it could always be easier and faster, but given the challenge, IMNSHO it hasn’t been bad here in BC. and they are ahead of their original schedule, so hard to claim its been a disaster.

          Reply
    5. Jen

      Peachy. I’m signed up to get the J&J on Sunday. That’s the 2nd day of a 3 day mass vaccination clinic in NH. Hopefully if anything goes sideways, it does so on the first day.

      Reply
  2. zagonostra

    >When Did Life First Emerge in the Universe?

    But life’s signatures will not last forever. The prospects for life in the distant future are gloomy. The dark and frigid conditions that will result from the accelerated expansion of the universe by dark energy will likely extinguish all forms of life 10 trillion years from now. Until then, we could cherish the temporary gifts that nature had blessed us with.

    I’ll stick to viewing the “gifts” as coming from God, nature has not blessed “us”, nature is indifferent to whether homo sapiens go the way of the dodo.

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/when-did-life-first-emerge-in-the-universe/

    Reply
    1. LifelongLib

      Existing in harmony with nature is usually considered the ideal, but nature is so brutal in its routine operations that I can’t imagine any consciousness being in harmony with it. Art, science, religion, technology are all efforts by consciousness to improve/control/escape the natural world. And I suspect that even if we’d gone down a different path many of those paths would have taken us to the same place we are now…

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I follow a number of African wild-animal accounts. Their videos and photos are not at all sanitized. Blood on the lioness’s muzzle as she licks her cub, for example.

        Reply
      2. Anthony K Wikrent

        What almost no one understands about Alexander Hamilton and the creation of the United States as a republic, is that the industrial revolution just then beginning, because of the Constitutional mandate to promote the General Welfare, and the hegemony of the idea of civic virtue of civic republicanism, resulted in the USA national economy being mostly based on the creative power of human minds to create new wealth, instead of the zero sum economics of feudal Europe of just raiding, looting, and hoarding a fixed amount of wealth. It was not just political freedom, but freedom from physical toil as well — increasing humanity’s power over the forces of nature. Ie., the productive power of labor.

        “Mind, acting through the useful arts, is the vital principle of modern civilized society. The mechanician, not the magician, is now the master of life.”

        [Edward Everett, “Address Before the Mechanics’ Association (1837). Orations and Speeches, 2:248].

        “There is an untold, probably an unimagined, amount of human talent, of high mental power, locked up among the wheels and springs of the machinist; a force of intellect of the loftiest character. This stunning din, this monotonous rattle, this tremendous power, and the quiet, steady force of these humble, useful, familiar arts, resulted from efforts of mind kindred with those which have charmed or instructed the world with the richest strains of poetry, eloquence, and philosophy… [The machinist] kindles the fire of his steam engine, and the rivers, the lakes, the ocean, are covered with flying vessels…. He stamps his foot, and a hundred thousand men start into being; not, like those which sprang from the fables dragon’s teeth, armed with weapons of destruction, but furnished with every implement for the service and comfort of man.”

        —Edward Everett

        Of those who opposed the advance of technology and the spread of machines, Everett demanded:

        “What is your object? …Do you wish to lay on aching human shoulders the burdens which are so lightly born by these patient metallic giants?”

        Obviously, slavery was the exception to this. That is why I think it is misleading to argue slavery was the origin of capitalism. The mechanization of agriculture and manufacturing could be done in a feudal slave economy, but only with great difficulty. Mechanization advanced much more quickly in the Northern economy of wage labor capitalism, and simply obliterated the agrarian Confederacy under the immense productive capability of the Northern industrial economy.

        It is not a simple picture, because there always was, and continues to be, management institutions run by feudal-minded sociopaths imposed upon the productive process. Veblen is excellent at describing this never-ending contest in his own terms of business versus industry.

        Heather Cox Richardson is also very good at explaining the different economic ideologies of the slave-holding oligarchs, and the leaders of the North such as Lincoln. She also explains how the feudal-minded economic ideas of the Confederates was transferred to the West after the Civil War, giving us the burdens of modern conservatism and libertarianism, and Ronald Reagan.

        Reply
        1. hickory

          No, it appears complicated because the rich are willing to lie. Exploitation of workers in coal mining company towns or factories was plenty vicious. Those quotes you share seem like the msnbc or weapon of the day – describing aspirations or high minded ideals that the people in power often simply didn’t hold. And slavery is far from the only exception in the history of the us.

          Reply
  3. Isotope_C14

    For those that don’t follow German politics, each federal state is generally much smaller than US states. They are largely independent of the national government, particularly regarding COVID regulations. CDU is the party of Angela Merkel, and CSU is the sister party in Bavaria. Merkel’s intended successor, Laschet, has made a number of statements over the course of the pandemic to make him about as electable as a soiled mess of toilet paper. He hasn’t even enforced the lockdown parameters he agreed to in the lockdown planning conferences with Merkel and the other leaders in his district of North Rhine-Westphalia.

    Here’s something that is destined to flush votes away from the CDU and possibly CSU:

    https://berlinspectator.com/2021/04/08/report-merkel-plans-partial-disempowerment-of-federal-states-in-pandemics/

    This would be an incredible concession of power by the federal states.

    Now the Greens are quite popular, though they are nothing like the US Green Party, and are rather centrist in comparison. This could be the sort of thing that could get them a majority.

    Reply
  4. Mikel

    RE: “The C.D.C. acknowledges what scientists have been saying: The risk of virus infection from surfaces is low.” NY Times

    After a year long clown show trying to make light of aerosol transmission…

    Reply
    1. grayslady

      Interestingly, the CDC website maintains that the flu virus is still primarily transmitted via surfaces and aerosols. Personally, I suspect that one reason there were almost no flu cases this year is that personal hygiene (hand washing, masks, cleaning surfaces) improved, based on fear of Covid. I have yet to see how many flu shots were dispensed this year, but my guess is we could save a fortune on vaccines if we continued to follow certain Covid guidelines during flu season.

      Reply
      1. Duke of Prunes

        This is what I don’t understand about the logic which points to improved hygiene, masks, social distancing, etc as being what limited the flu. If these actions worked so marvelously for the flu (I believe there ~100x few flu cases this winter vs last), why didn’t they work for Covid? Aren’t they both theorized to spread through similar mechanisms?

        “Everyone” masking up stops the flu, but one “maskhole” is a Covid superspreader?

        Reply
        1. Aomoa

          It’s not a horrible question. I guess for now I prefer to apply a healthy dose of “I don’t know” to it. Perhaps COVID being just extraordinarily contagious is a factor?

          Reply
            1. VietnamVet

              It is astonishing how everything is being swept under the rug. The flu apparently overwinters in the Southern Hemisphere. With the number flights reduced, the chances of infected travelers get close enough to an uninfected person are significantly reduced. Masks slow transmission. It appears that coronavirus is more contagious and outcompetes the flu virus for an airline seat to a virus free areas to infect others. Viruses take over the cells once infected and make new copies of themselves.

              No mentions how could the UK and Brazilian variants got to the USA in the first place to replace the NY one. My answer is the lack of a national public health service in the USA (inadequate testing, limited contact tracing, and no functional quarantines).

              Reply
  5. cocomaan

    I spent a summer in Egypt and the story about a guy not being paid is not surprising whatsoever. Amazing country, amazing people, but man, Egyptians can be nasty toward one another (not too different from any other country I guess).

    The story of his reaction to the meme of his excavator is really sad. What a great guy.

    Reply
    1. Michael Ismoe

      The reason that story is in Business Insider is that the future MBAs will read this article and learn how to treat their critical employees in the hopes of getting a better stock price.

      Reply
    2. Sierra7

      RE: Excavator operator:
      Maybe if he had been able to “work from home” he would have been a sensation!!
      Story of common labor across the capitalist world!

      Reply
  6. Expat2Uruguay

    I will contribute a link for those interested in the food sovereignty movement and agroeclogical production:

    “Argentina is one of the main food producers in South America. UTT is organizing small-scale farmers and peasants to produce fruits and vegetables without pesticides and within a fair-trade framework. The union formed 10 years ago, and now sells produce at more than 200 locations in cities around the country.”

    “For those who are part of the network, including peasants, vendors, and teachers, it all comes down to two words: food sovereignty. And the heart of UTT are the 10,000 families producing food on their own land to sell at fair prices to other families.”

    “Collective organization defines the whole network: from the
    peasants who put their papers in order, to the vendor who sets up a Whatsapp group to sell the vegetables. UTT has the capacity to reach even its most remote members with techniques, supplies, and growing methods.”

    https://nacla.org/news/2021/04/06/land-workers-argentina-food-sovereignty

    Reply
  7. Henry Moon Pie

    Long food and small farms–

    This is partly in response to the article about “long food” and the needed transformation of our food production and distribution systems.

    Chris Smaje, a British social scientist who abandoned academia for a small farm, has proposed a way to transform not only our food systems but also our society itself in a broad way. He advocates for “peasant agriculture” as a way to produce food with much lower energy inputs while repairing the land. This massive redeployment of people to small scale, labor intensive, subsistence (in the sense that they produce much of their own needs themselves) farming is laid out in his book, A Small Farm Future. He’s a regular writer at Resilience.org where this piece serves as a decent introduction to his thinking.

    Reply
    1. Lee

      With an eye toward a rural relocation and becoming a gentleman peasant, I’m currently rereading Helen and Scott Nearing’s Living the Good Life. While wear and tear over time have rendered me no longer capable of the kind of labor they put in, my adult son and some of his peers are also interested. Right now we are in the talking and thinking it over phase, so we’ll see how it goes.

      Reply
      1. meadows

        Lee, re Living the Good Life:

        Lots of young-uns apprenticed with the Nearings, including my brother in eastern Maine who has dug clams for a living for 40 years…. (actually, you “pull” them)… My wife and I were a part of this back to the land stuff in the 70’s in northern NE but the moment you have kids perspective changes. I believe the Nearings had no children tho I admired their diligence.

        One of the great parts of this model is no debt and healthy living, but self-reliance and self righteousness unfortunately do blend in this mode of small scale farming.

        Reply
        1. Lee

          Well, I’m considerably older than the Nearings were when they left the big city. I’ve been wrong enough times about enough things that I like to think my capacity for self righteousness is, if not utterly absent, then at least somewhat diminished. Nor do I share their passion for technical primitivism as manifested in their unwillingness to employ machines in their endeavors. As for self-reliance, we are perhaps the most altricial species ever to exist. Even in adulthood, precious few if any of us would survive for more than a week were it not for the inputs we receive from others both living and long dead, both known and unknown to us.

          Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > He advocates for “peasant agriculture” as a way to produce food with much lower energy inputs while repairing the land. This massive redeployment of people to small scale, labor intensive, subsistence

      Being a peasant is extremely hard work (and often involves going into debt). There is a reason peasants leave for the city (although it is true they still love the country).

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        How many peasants leave by choice, and how many are driven off the land by engineered Market Stalinism or outright organized violence?

        Many small and smallish farmers in Mexico did not leave their farms until their ability to make the making-money component of making a living was carefully destroyed by NAFTA. So that was by Market Stalinist force rather than choice. Were they an exceptional case?

        Didn’t Bill Clinton plot to destroy rice farming in Haiti in order to forcibly create a market in Haiti for Arkansas rice? Weren’t the Haitian rice growers thereby pauperized driven off the land rather than choosing to leave it? A second exceptional case?

        It would be good to know how much is choice and how much is orchestrated force.

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > How many peasants leave by choice, and how many are driven off the land by engineered Market Stalinism or outright organized violence?

          That depends on the culture and the country, you are correct and I over-generalized. In general, the force is economics; debt, higher wages in the city, make money to send back to the family.

          Reply
        2. Henry Moon Pie

          Smaje talks about this phenomenon historically including the swidden farmers of Scandinavia. Elites hate seeing any of their lessers be self-sufficient.

          Reply
  8. Daryl

    Unrelated to anything in links, I have been following the real estate market a little bit, and things seem quite out of hand. Houses are going for well over asking price, with contingencies waived, often all cash offers. The whole thing seems pretty wild. A popular refrain is “this isn’t 2008, there aren’t subprime mortgages, all these buyers can afford it.” Which, maybe it is different in some ways, but it sure seems unsustainable to me.

    I’d be interested in an NC-quality analysis of this situation if anyone has seen any links go by — it seems to be relatively unremarked on aside from the weekly “home prices rise” update in the news.

    Reply
    1. RockHard

      I don’t have a summary link, but wolfstreet.com has been running a lot of analysis on residential and commercial property. They’re a friend of the site (I found NC through him), take a look over there.

      Reply
      1. Daryl

        Thanks for this, looking through the articles seems like exactly the kind of coverage I was looking for.

        Reply
    2. Mikel

      Institutions or individuals with the cash? First, second, or third home purchases?
      All of that would help you in the quest as you ponder the mystery….

      And I was about to add about wolfstreet, but RockH took care of that….

      Reply
    3. Jason Boxman

      This is definitely the case in the Raleigh NC area as I understand it from people I know that recently bought property here and other anecdotes.

      Reply
    4. Glen

      This is a very non-analytical analysis. I think the bottom line is that there is no reliable place to invest money in the market to get good returns so all that Fed backed money is flowing into things Americans need to buy to have a life. Anecdotally, in my part of the country, roughly 30% of the homes being sold prior to the CV pandemic were being sold to Wall St backed PE. I suspect the ratio is higher now.

      I can tell you that I am called almost DAILY to see if I want to sell my house.

      Bottom line – rich people have more money that ever and they want to buy EVERYTHING you need to have a middle class life.

      Reply
      1. ObjectiveFunction

        In the words of the ‘Great Helmsman’, via John Candy:

        Our enemies are all those in league with imperialism! the bureaucrats; the Big Landlord Class; and the r̶e̶a̶c̶t̶i̶o̶n̶a̶r̶y̶ neoliberal segment of the intelligentsia!

        Reply
  9. Verifyfirst

    Meanwhile, here in Michigan, our Governor has……..lost it?

    Michigan ranks highest in COVID-19 hospitalizations amid surge as model predicts further worsening

    https://www.mlive.com/public-interest/2021/04/michigan-ranks-highest-in-covid-19-hospitalizations-amid-surge-as-model-predicts-further-worsening.html

    and:

    Top UM surgeon issues plea to Whitmer, White House as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge

    https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2021/04/08/um-surgeon-plea-whitmer-white-house-covid-19-hospitalizations-surging/7141718002/

    but:

    Whitmer on CNN: Michigan could shed COVID-19 restrictions, fully reopen this summer

    https://www.mlive.com/coronavirus/2021/04/whitmer-on-cnn-michigan-could-shed-covid-19-restrictions-fully-reopen-this-summer.html

    Foresure…………

    Reply
      1. Verifyfirst

        The Thumb is pretty rural, so……youth sports? Idk. The Governor thinks it is the variants, and the fact she did such a good job so far, meaning we have fewer people with disease-acquired immunity, in her view. The thumb is hard red, so maybe not much masking, etc.?

        Or maybe the variants we cultured in our prisons have now been released in the community? This is so far beyond appalling:

        Michigan Dept. of Corrections: COVID testing
        Search a location in the window below. Data is as of Feb. 17, 2021.
        Search in table
        Page 1 of 3
        Location Tested Positive Deaths Positive rate Death rate per 1,000 tested
        Carson City 2,508 2,116 6 84% 2.4
        Marquette 1,016 849 1 84% 1.0
        Chippewa 2,162 1,813 8 84% 3.7
        Newberry 1,051 853 1 81% 1.0
        Muskegon 1,385 1,112 9 80% 6.5
        Kinross 1,507 1,257 8 80% 5.3
        Earnest C. Brooks 1,268 1,008 2 79% 1.6
        Michigan Reformatory 1,184 945 1 79% 0.8
        Central Michigan 2,665 2,053 2 77% 0.8
        Saginaw 1,473 1,131 9 77% 6.1

        A total 25,039 prisoners among 40,603 tested since the pandemic began had tested positive as of Feb. 17, nearly 62%.

        https://www.mlive.com/public-interest/2021/02/michigan-prisons-near-herd-immunity-but-coronavirus-variant-poses-new-threat.html

        Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well, all the Republicanon pressure and all the sometimes-armed Maganon pressure may be getting to her.

      Reply
  10. Tom Stone

    Daryl, I haven’t been active in Real Estate for the last two years due to health problems and Covid, but I have kept up my MLS membership and have both kept an eye on the market and stayed in touch with agents who stayed active and whom I respect.
    The Real Estate market in Sonoma County is completely irrational, just like all the other markets.
    And it is my opinion that peak prices will be seen in June this year with prices declining for the next five years or more.
    The amount of leverage, the insane risks people are taking in a ZIRP environment, the widespread corruption and fraud, when things get to this stage( Salesforce tower, Jafri and Beeple, Tesla inclusion in the S&P 500….) things start to unravel.
    Archegos and Greensill are among the first, they won’t be the last.
    It’s going to pop like a lanced boil and my opinion is that it will happen this summer and likely before July.
    If you want to buy a home and can easily afford it, go ahead.
    Just don’t expect any real appreciation for a number of years unless you can afford the right neighborhood.
    And that is the crucial issue, location.
    With increasing inequality and increasing censorship and repression ( Remember Habeas Corpus?) I’d be real careful about where I bought.

    Reply
  11. lobelia

    Apropos of him, and his increasing maltreatment being brought up frequently in Links, along with one of the most brutal kicks to my teeth yet (which I don’t feel safe going into any detail on), I was reminded of this Craig Murray post which is still thankfully online (as I write this at least) and more germane by the day: 08/24/18 When They Decide to Get You (emphasis mine):

    As with Alex Salmond, some of the accusations against me were hideous – offering visas in exchange for sex, for example. They were so hideous that the mental anguish of not being permitted to take any normal steps to defend myself caused me a mental breakdown. I know what Salmond must be feeling. I received psychiatric treatment in St Thomas’ Hospital for a condition called “learnt helplessness” – meaning it was the dreadful experience of having things done to me which I was not permitted to take any normal steps to counter, which caused my clinical depression.

    The charges against me were entirely fake and entirely vexatious, even malicious, issued after I had objected to British complicity in torture in the “War on Terror”, which the government denied at the time, calling me a liar, though now admits. The charges were designed to destroy my reputation. You can read the full story in my book “Murder in Samarkand”, widely available in libraries. I believe it conveys the anguish that “learnt helplessness” can cause.

    https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2018/08/when-they-decide-to-get-you/

    Disclosure: I take issue with Psychiatry’s term, “Learnt Helplessness” (“Learnt” in the UK, “Learned” in the US). It is clearly Enforced Helplessness when it is deliberate and there is no known available path out of it, as the horrid dog torturer ‘psychologist,’ Martin Seligman who coined that term – and has likely now made millions off of his conferring with Human torturers at Guantanamo, and subsequent, equally horrid, just be happy and you’ll be fine (even when there’s no possible way to do that) promoting – well knows.

    Too busy being increasingly kicked in the teeth to look up those links to horrid seligman. The no brainer is: if this can happen to someone with Craig Murray’s background, resources and connections – in a so called Developed Nation – it’s been happening for centuries. Now that there’s a fully blown technocracy, Enforced Helplessness is exponentially increasing as human mental and physical labor is increasingly not considered necessary, and when it is necessary not recompensed with a livable income, or anything close to approaching humane regard. Biden’s repeatedly biting, clearly maltrained K-9 (as is frighteningly common among K-9s™; yes, I do have my own horror story) is treated with far more freedoms, protection, regard, sustenance, and comfort than the average citizen in the US.

    This Craig Murray piece follows up on that Enforced Helplessness that is now so pandemic it’s even increasingly happening to those like him: 03/20/20 The Long Dark Night of the Soul:

    …. But what is far worse is the terrible feeling of helplessness that has resulted. I have scarcely slept at all this night, and it really was a dark night of the soul. Having seen the crushing power of the state operate against both Julian Assange and Alex Salmond in the last month has been dreadful. It is of course, at a philosophical level, the state’s use and abuse of its monopoly of violence, including the violent enforcement of deprivation of liberty. I am excluded from the court by the state’s monopoly of violence, as I would discover very soon if I attempted to re-enter. I find the violence of the state, and its enforcement by officialdom, a more brutal and horrible thing than personal violence, which I abhor. It has kept me awake, in a sea of desolation, to think that how Julian and Alex feel tonight must be a million times worse than I am feeling, which is bad enough.

    https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/03/the-long-dark-night-of-the-soul/

    p.s. to all reading here, who are facing: utterly vicious and undeserved character defamation which they have no means to even know about sometimes, let alone correct (ghastly online social scoring™); potential homelessness; or have become homeless through no fault of their own and despite all efforts, my thoughts are with you, the UZ has misery and blood all over its hands, in their own back yards. People who’ve never committed any violence are being allowed to just die off – or live undeserved, horrid lives where they may wish they were dead, particularly whistleblowers – in the most agonizing manners. There are not enough candles in the D.C. malarial swamp to light and pretend to care about the increasingly unfolding and unnecessary human disaster taking place.

    gotta run

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      Can you imagine if they did a reboot of this show in the next year or two? I could see it being done to spruik the Democrats leading up to the 2024 elections. This is not as unlikely as it sounds. I remain convinced to this day that the TV show ‘Madam Secretary’ was really a way to make Hillary Clinton more appealing to the American electorate-

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madam_Secretary_(TV_series)

      Unlike her real-life counterpart, this Secretary did succeed in becoming President. Talk about your zeitgeist.

      Reply
  12. Robert Hahl

    A little bluegrass never hurt anybody.

    The David Grier Band – Salt Creek
    https://youtu.be/JsiH3zgrZCM
    The fiddle player is Stuart Duncan, but they are all great.

    Greta Van Fleet – Highway Tune (Live in Toronto / 2018)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m-lJb69wrs&t=46s
    This reminds me of times when I would first see that some band, like the Rolling Stones, really knew what they were doing.

    Jambalaya – Reina del Cid
    https://youtu.be/Q3aBTJIanDo
    It’s hard to appreciate how good the lead guitar player is sitting next to her high-wattage friend.

    One Fine Day – Reina del Cid
    https://youtu.be/7g1xjJtgCzI

    Al Jarreau & George Benson – Breezin’
    https://youtu.be/Lf8L2dp01_A?list=PL31EF7F04B79ED889

    Reply
    1. Michael Ismoe

      Is anyone really surprised? Californians just made serfs out of delivery drivers to save a quarter on their delivery fees. We’ve spent 70 years glorifying “individualism” at the expense of the “good for society”.

      We are truly alone.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Did the average Californian even realize that’s what the referrendum question was really for?

        Reply
        1. Sierra7

          Not surprising considering the lack of understanding of the history of labor not only here in the US but globally.
          The war between capitalism and common labor will not cease until capital has rendered the world’s “organized” work-forces unto abject slavery.

          Reply
        2. Mao "No Landlords Now" Zedong

          A Californian friend of mine voted for that nonsense after being bamboozled by all the “it actually helps workers” propaganda, so probably not.

          Reply
  13. MichaelSF

    I’ve a vaccination anecdote. I got my second Moderna dose today here in SF through Kaiser (I’m in my late 60s). They are using a very large gymnasium on the USF campus as a vaccination center. When I got the first shot a month ago there was a line (easily 50-100 people) outside waiting for their appointment time to be called. Today, I arrived about 20 minutes early (I’d barely made the appointment time last month so I wanted to make sure I didn’t hold things up for anyone by being late) and there were only a couple of people outside waiting for a few moments to have their temperatures taken and then be ushered in. It appeared that Pfizer, Moderna and J&J were all being administered today.

    I remarked to the nurse how much less crowded it was today than last month. She said that she thought the state of CA had only given them about 60% of their allotted doses for the day, so they’d had to cancel/reschedule a lot of people. We commiserated on how many people were presuming that once they were vaccinated they had zero chance of getting the virus. She remarked that she and her coworkers were all still at risk of becoming ill too, and she didn’t seem very cheered by how things were (or weren’t) going.

    I had minimal response to dose 1, some very mild soreness at the injection site was noticed later that day when I was lifting some dishes down from a high shelf. So far with number two, at 6 hours later no issues (maybe a little scratchiness in the eyes, but that could be seasonal allergies). I’m expecting that needs to hold true for a couple more days before I can presume I’ve missed having any side effects.

    Since my wife is holding off due to her health issues we’ll be continuing the isolation practices of this past year for the indefinite future. It would be great to have a meal from a favorite restaurant (if they haven’t all gone broke) but that’s not going to be happening anytime soon for us. Consider us “pessimistic” on the situation.

    Reply
  14. flora

    US media coverage of C19 skews more negative than other countries’ media coverage according to a paper. All doom and gloom all the time.

    The NBER’s research paper abstract linked in this story is interesting.

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/us-media-coverage-of-coronavirus-skews-overwhelmingly-negative-compared-to-international-sources-study/ar-BB1bz5Xx

    I’ve felt overwhelmed by MSM C19 stories’ fear-mongering this past year. C19 is real, it’s dangerous – more so to some populations than others , but making policy decisions based on fear is probably not good. Keeping the public in a state of fear in order to sell papers or to accept the official story is probably not good, for example WMD stories. All this fear mongering might have something to do with growing public skepticism. It might have something to do with increasing mental health problems in teens. Cases in my state are down to where they were last June. The media ignores that good news and continues with “the sky is falling” stories. /meh

    Reply
  15. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here is an article about Apple being Evil in its Evil design of an Evil product. Here is the link.

    https://appleinsider.com/articles/21/04/08/apple-presses-ahead-with-aim-to-replace-paper-passports-and-id-with-iphone

    Once Apple gets this ” I-Phone based Passport and etc.” concept worked out, Apple will then try hiring the Federal Government to outlaw paper Passports, licenses, etc., and force everyone to buy IPhones to have these governmental ID functions.

    At this rate, Mark Of The Beast Christians and other such will be the last line of obstruction to the total digicolonization of America.

    Reply
    1. Acacia

      and force everyone to buy IPhones

      Seems a bit overblown. They’ll try to pressure existing Apple customers to use this functionality, much like they already pressure them to use iCloud. There will be a convenience factor that some will embrace, even as it represents a further incursion of surveillance capitalism into their private lives.

      To me, it’s the existing “culture of convenience” that makes this possible. Apple is just taking advantage of it.

      Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Well, now I know why Apple is so fascist about your identity. It used to be that when you bought a machine, you owned it. Now, you have to prove who you are to use it.

      Reply

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