Links 4/1/2021

Ancient coins may solve mystery of murderous 1600s pirate AP

Mastercard to Share $44 Million Fine Over U.K. Welfare Funds Bloomberg.

New Wells Fargo Employee Walked Through All The Crimes He’ll Be Asked To Commit The Onion

Spac boom fuels strongest start for global mergers FT

One of World’s Greatest Hidden Fortunes Is Wiped Out in Days Bloomberg. A family office.

Bull Market Bull The Big Picture

Why asset managers aren’t solving the climate crisis New Statesman

State of Maine orders review of $54.6m Workday project as it alleges delivery failure and threatens cancellation The Register


Interim Estimates of Vaccine Effectiveness of BNT162b2 and mRNA-1273 COVID-19 Vaccines in Preventing SARS-CoV-2 Infection Among Health Care Personnel, First Responders, and Other Essential and Frontline Workers — Eight U.S. Locations, December 2020–March 2021 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, CDC. From the Abstract:

“Prospective cohorts of 3,950 health care personnel, first responders, and other essential and frontline workers completed weekly SARS-CoV-2 testing for 13 consecutive weeks. Under real-world conditions, mRNA vaccine effectiveness of full immunization (≥14 days after second dose) was 90% against SARS-CoV-2 infections regardless of symptom status; vaccine effectiveness of partial immunization (≥14 days after first dose but before second dose) was 80%.”

This is the study of which out-of-her-depth CDC head Walensky said: “[O]ur data from the CDC today suggests that vaccinated people do not carry the virus.” Walensky must have been a humanities major; neither 100% – 10% nor 100% – 20% equal zero. Commentary:

Of course, Walensky could be motivated by a desire to increase vaccine uptake by implying that the vaccinated need no longer wear masks; that would imply that Walensky, like Fauci, believes that Noble Lies from persons in positions of authority are an effective public health strategy.

“Vaccine Passport” Certification — Policy and Ethical Considerations NEJM

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Virus Variants Can Infect Mice, Scientists Report NYT

* * *

Mix-up at Emergent BioSolutions Baltimore plant ruined COVID vaccine doses; plant not yet OK’d to distribute shots Baltimore Sun

Catching Covid-19 at a Covid-19 Vaccine Production Facility The Intercept

How Johnson & Johnson’s Vaccine Became the Hot Shot New York Magazine

* * *

I work at a Texas coffee shop. This is what it’s been like trying to enforce our mask policy CNN

Why indoor spaces are still prime COVID hotspots Nature. Amazingly, plenty of mentions for WHO, but none for CDC, which has butchered aerosol transmission/ventilation just as badly, if not moreso.

Can Wearing a Mask Reduce My Allergy Symptoms? NYT. Throwing a flag on the Betteridge’s Law violation.

Re-emergence of infectious diseases associated with the past The Lancet


China Wants a ‘Rules-Based International Order,’ Too Foreign Policy

China manoeuvres near Taiwan fuel concerns of potential attack FT

U.S. in Talks With Australia on Responses to War Over Taiwan, Diplomat Says Bloomberg

Veteran Hong Kong democrats found guilty in landmark unlawful assembly case Reuters

Blinken reaffirms Trump-era ruling on Hong Kong autonomy ABC

‘Xinjiang cotton is my love’: Patriots on show at China Fashion Week Reuters

Chinese ships remain in Julian Felipe Reef, disperse to other West Philippine Sea areas Philippine Star

WHO report; Hong Kong election system fixed; Taiwan; Useful foreigners Sinocism. Fixed, indeed!

US, China consulted on safety as their craft headed to Mars ABC


Analysis: Quiet Singapore turns up volume on Myanmar as regional fears grow Reuters. “Singapore is the largest foreign investor in Myanmar.”

Ousted Myanmar Parliament Plans National Unity Government Bloomberg

Myanmar slides towards civil war as ethnic armies join urban protesters The Telegraph

Myanmar junta offers ceasefire to some, as UN envoy warns of ‘bloodbath’ CNN

Myanmar – yesterday, today and a new tomorrow Chris Lamb, AsiaLink. Lamb is a former ambassador to Myanmar and president of the Australia Myanmar Institute.

US to seize gloves from Malaysia’s Top Glove over forced labour South China Morning Post

Missed it by that much: Australia falls 3.4m doses short of 4m vaccination target by end of March Guardian


India’s Kumbh Mela stokes Covid surge fears as millions flock to Ganges FT

Once Heroes, Kerala’s Ex-Gulf Workers Forge New Futures The Wire

Farmers’ protest: SC-appointed panel on farm laws submits report Times of India

Undeterred by farmer protests, BJP says will fight with hope to form next govt in Punjab Indian Express

The Koreas

South Korea to issue blockchain-protected digital COVID-19 ‘vaccine passports’ Channel News Asia

Report: Ever Given’s Crew May Risk Arrest Maritime Executive

Great Bitter Lake Association 99% Invisible


Barnard Castle Revisited Craig Murray

Peak of French COVID-19 wave could be within ten days: Veran Reuters

It’s Game Over for Arizona’s Controversial App Store Bill The Verge

Biden Administration

What’s in Biden’s Infrastructure Plan? NYT

We’re Kind of Overwhelmed by Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Slate

And while there isn’t much for Romney and Murkowski, there is definitely fodder for Sen. Joe Manchin. There’s a heap of money for broadband expansion, with an emphasis on nonprofit co-ops, which is a passion project of his. There’s also a section on hiring workers for mine and oil well reclamation efforts (not hard to see how that would be a boon to West Virginia), and lots of money for development of carbon capture and sequestration, which is another must-have as far as Manchin is concerned.

Biden’s plan is pocked with potholes Politico

How Biden’s infrastructure plan will go after biopharma companies beyond drug pricing Endpoints News

President Biden chooses corporate tax increases to pay for jobs plan Westlaw

Reconciliation all over again CNN

Biden to hold first Cabinet meeting amid infrastructure push AP

Biden, the Blob & the Banderites Bandera Lobby Blog

Yellen Signals Scrutinizing Hedge Funds a Renewed FSOC Focus Bloomberg


The Problems With Prescription Refills Medpage

Police State Watch

Study finds not prosecuting misdemeanors reduces defendants’ subsequent arrests Commonwealth Magazine

The Dangerous Gamification Of War The Banter

Guillotine Watch

Sackler family values. Thread:

What on Earth Is Amazon Doing? The Atlantic

Class Warfare

The Dilemma Over How to Reproduce the Elite Benjamin Studebaker. I think Studebaker is onto something here.

Why we can’t stop talking about billionaires Recode

Return of the city-state Aeon

Antidote du jour (via):

Bonus antidote:

Double-bonus antidote:

We may have run this video before, but from the video’s ending it occurred to me that elephants must have a childhood memory of standing in their mother’s shade.

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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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. allan

    US government does not own any remdesivir patents, GAO report finds [Endpoint News]

    The US federal government’s contributions to research on Gilead’s Covid-19 antiviral drug remdesivir did not result in any patent rights because the research did not create new inventions, the Government Accountability Office said in a report on Wednesday afternoon.

    The report settles a longstanding dispute over whether the government might be co-inventors of remdesivir, which has lingered since before former California attorney general Xavier Becerra (who’s now Biden’s HHS secretary) led a group of other AGs last summer in calling on the government to intervene and lower the more than $3,000 price tag for remdesivir because of the government’s significant contributions to remdesivir. …

    According to CDC officials, as of last month, they said it was “unlikely that CDC would conduct an inventorship analysis or pursue intellectual property rights given Gilead’s background intellectual property and the limited potential for CDC to license any such rights.”

    Chris Morten, a lawyer who currently teaches at New York University School of Law, noted that the report did not clarify if a CDC scientist, Michael Lo, co-invented Gilead’s remdesivir compound patents, and if so, “CDC would, under the default rules of patent law, have a claim to co-ownership. But CDC appears uninterested in pursuing its legal rights.”


    1. Grant

      “CDC would, under the default rules of patent law, have a claim to co-ownership. But CDC appears uninterested in pursuing its legal rights.”

      Simply amazing. There is never a question about what this state will do when you have powerful private interests set to profit off of something on the one hand and on the other what is in the public interest. If those two are in conflict, there is no question what side the state will come down on.

    1. Fraibert

      The second point really bothers me. In this concern, I am reminded that Social Security Numbers when first introduced were promised to not be national ID numbers.

      Of course…they’re now de facto national ID numbers.

      So I don’t believe any claims that there won’t be mission creep or expanded usage of this passport system. Government just can’t help itself.

      1. Yoghurt

        The problem with SSN is not that they are ID numbers in the sense of “username”. Nor is it really with the government. The problem is that non-government banks and lenders use the SSN as essentially a _password_ in giving out credit thus enabling “identity theft”.

        1. Pat

          They are used for identification more than you probably know.

          How do I know, you ask. My parents got my SS number for me when I was a young child. I have NEVER used the version of my name that was used for that. EVER. It was not used when I applied to College, not on any bank account or contract, not on taxes, nor my passport and drivers license, and most importantly on any voter registration. Many years ago I go to vote and there is the original SS version of my name for my voter registration. It takes awhile, but when I go to “correct “ my information I am told that I must have changed it. I curtly inform the clerk that I didn’t but am changing it to the RIGHT version now, which I do. Several weeks later I get the notice about my registration change with the old and supposedly new one. Shocker the one change I requested didn’t happen. I have periodically attempted to register to vote with my legal name, only to have the version I have never used remain my voter registration. I’m thinking that a couple of decades is long enough that I can really raise a scene the next time, not to mention I am considering correcting the rolls when I vote if making the office manually change it in my presence doesn’t work.

          There is one only one place the state could have gotten that name version, like I said my drivers license has the version I use. Clearly since no request to correct it completes, they only accept Social Security info as the identity. And if you ask any state official, including those at the registration office you are told they NEVER use your SS number as an identity check.

          1. JTMcPhee

            On the “convenience” use of Social Security numbers for identification and authentication:

            Lots of medical records are indexed by SSN. The VA uses it for identification. It’s everywhere, and a convenient tool for identity theft.

            All we need is another lootable number to try to keep secure and keep track of.

      2. BobW

        When I first moved to Arkansas in the early ’90s, your SSN was also your driver’s license number. You can see how convenient that would be for fraudsters. That changed pretty quickly after that, I am not sure exactly what year that was.

      3. Fraibert

        I didn’t have a chance to look back at this comment until now.

        My point is the numbers were represented at inception to have a singular purpose–administration of Social Security benefits–but the numbers nevertheless have taken on so many other roles in American life.

        American citizen who need to file income tax returns, even though your only income is unearned income not subject to Social Security taxes? Still need a SSN.

        Want to apply for federal student loans? FAFSA wants your SSN.

        Male turning 18, wants register for Selective Service online? Selective Service wants your SSN. (Need to register in paper if you don’t have a SSN.)

        Want a mortgage to buy a house? Lender and credit agency need your SSN.

        Want to check your credit score? SSN.

        Want a federal security clearance? Section 4 of the first page of the paper SF-86…wants your SSN.

        Want an interest bearing bank account? Hand over that SSN.

        Having a single number associated with a person is convenient. Having a centralized database of medical information is also convenient. That’s my concern–this convenience almost guarantees mission creep.

      4. Procopius

        The military also uses the SSN as your ID. When I enlisted in the Air Force in 1955, I was given an ID number. When I enlisted in the Army in 1965 I was assigned the same ID number, only with an RA prefix instead of AF. Some years later (I don’t remember, but only three or four years) they switched everyone to use SSN.

    2. Zamfir

      I find that weirdly one-sided. If we’re going to play by principled concerns, then the virus itself is a substance that I don’t want in my body. The threat of the virus is also ‘coercing’ people to restrict their movement.

      1. Phillip Cross

        Conversations like this show that the intense gaslighting PR campaign, to convince us the last 12 months was no big deal, is really working!

        Kudos to the people who cooked it up!

    3. Katniss Everdeen

      In an interview with Tucker Carlson on Tuesday, Glenn also said this:

      “That’s one of the things that always happens, and I think there’s a huge cultural strain here that liberals have this kind of punitive strain in their politics that they like the idea of being able to stigmatize people who don’t agree with them on vaccines by creating a second-class citizenry. For them I think that’s a big part of the motive,” Greenwald continued.

      I’d agree. “Liberals’ ” sole reason for being seems to be identifying groups of americans that they are oh so very much better than. Because unity.

      PS. “….. a substance into their body that they don’t want.” And is not fda approved. They’ll probably just pass a “law”–51 to 50–to “grandfather” it in, but they’re going to have to get around that somehow. Or not.

      1. Yves Smith

        The liberulz are making lots of scary noises, but with the vaccines approved only under an emergency use authorization (as you indicate), people cannot be compelled to take them. The text of the EUA makes clear any use is strictly voluntary. So the bluster is to compensate the lack of ability to compel.

        1. cuibono

          Yves surely that will change relatively soon. It us all but certain to be formally approved

          1. Shonde

            And if the vaccines are given final approval, does anyone know whether the complete release from liability given to the vaccine companies will still be in effect?

        2. km

          I can’t imagine something like laws stopping the government from doing what it wants to do.

      2. lyman alpha blob

        Not only are they under emergency use, but this is not a one-and-done vaccine like the measles or smallpox vaccines – indications are that annual vaccinations will be needed. Just like the flu vaccines, and nobody is required to show their papers for that.

      3. rowlf

        From The Babylon Bee*: Biden Proposes Some Kind Of Mark Or Patch To Identify Those Who Aren’t Vaccinated

        “Listen, folks, here’s the deal…” said Biden before losing his thought and falling asleep.

        Vice President Harris took over. “We need to make all the unvaccinated peasants wear big yellow patches so everyone will know they’re one of the undesirables,” she said. “We will make them second-class citizens, and thoroughly shame them until their spirits are completely broken! HAHAHAHA HE HE HE HE!”

        Dr, Fauci weighed in, saying patches are a “good idea,” and that maybe 4 or 5 patches would be even better. “If you have 4 or 5 patches, it will make your icky unvaccinated self more visible to passers-by. That’s according to all the latest science that I just did in my head just now.”


        1. Procopius

          Excuse me, rowlf. I’m old enough to remember the picture spread in Life Magazine of the death camps. There was still a real feeling of horror and revulsion when I was a kid. I think your “satire” is heartless, soulless, and offensive. I really dislike Kamala “The Kop” Harris, but your depiction is beyond the pale. I infer that you are a Trump supporter. This is not my blog, but I wish you would go elsewhere.

    4. marym

      Not to say the government wouldn’t turn it into a broader surveillance and tracking mechanism, or the libs turn it into a shaming mechanism, but isn’t the impetus for vaccine passports coming from businesses? I can’t find any links that speak to this in detail – just general references to business.

      Also, not to imply the Venn diagram is a circle, or that there’s no reason to be skeptical on particular issues, but where they intersect maybe those (elites and non-elites) who are hostile to wearing masks when entering other people’s workplaces; who demand that those workplaces “open up” without also demanding (some voting against) protections, healthcare or or hazard pay for the workers; who will choose not to get vaccinated; and who oppose requirements for vaccine documentation should maybe stop blaming just the libs and the wokesters for divisiveness and poor solutions without offering anything helpful.

      1. John Zelnicker

        April 1, 2021 at 10:59 am

        The reason that you are seeing the references to businesses is that the federal government is not promoting nor, AFAIK, considering issuing vaccine passports. All of the vaccine passport ideas have come from businesses and state or local governments. That’s not to say that the government won’t come in later and take over the database or have it provided to them.

        I’m happy to be corrected, events are moving very fast.

          1. John Zelnicker

            Thank you, flora. That was a very interesting video. I like almost everything I’ve seen Russell Brand do.

    5. Pelham

      Good points by Greenwald but I’m still inclined to disagree. There are all sorts of disease threats out there and, yes, we don’t monitor vaccinations for most of them. But IMO Covid’s contagiousness and the very high probability that anyone catching it will suffer months or years of impairment to major organs edges it into a rare category. And that’s before we take into account a non-negligible death rate.

      So not tracking those who might be carrying Covid — in my estimation and drawing on my status as a non-gun-owning gun nut — is analogous to this: Allowing someone who’s legally licensed to own and carry a gun to emerge blindfolded from his residence and fire his weapon randomly into the street. If we don’t mandate measures against Covid and certify those who’ve had their inoculations, we’re basically clearing the way for Covid spreaders to do their individual-liberty thing — at an impossible to individually trace cost to the rest of us.

      The emphasis on individual rights is admirable. But what about the obligations that should accompany those rights? Shortly after reading about a young Utah woman who died when her liver shut down after her second vaccination, I was scared witless about getting my second dose. (OK, so I’m a hypochondriac non-gun-owning gun nut.) But I braced up and did the right thing, thinking as I too rarely do about others around me and my duty — it’s a real thing — to my fellow man. I rather wish there were some enforcement mechanism so that those doing likewise — some of whom may suffer like the Utah woman — aren’t doing so in vain.

      1. Jason

        the very high probability that anyone catching it will suffer months or years of impairment to major organs

        There is a very high probability that anyone catching covid will suffer months or years of impairment to major organs???

        Yours is not a statement based in fact.

        1. Pelham

          By very high, I mean 20% or so, according to the record so far — and that’s much higher than the 1-in-200 chance of dying from Covid. Even people with cases that produce only mild initial symptoms often end up hobbled for very lengthy periods.

        2. occasional anonymous

          It’s really frustrating that we’re over a year into this and so many people still don’t understand that covid leaves behind a ton of damage even when it doesn’t kill you. At a certain point it’s just wilful ignorance.

  2. timbers

    China manoeuvres near Taiwan fuel concerns of potential attack FT……We’d better attack China now while we still can be first before they attack. They even admit having WMD since when did we say they can? And think of all the jobs (and profits!) a new war would create but this time let’s not hire mercenaries – only American citizens. Keep the jobs for us right here in USA…on the other hand there are all those immigrant children pouring in. Can they be trained to fly F-35’s?

      1. JTMcPhee

        …and then there were none,

        Only a few of these gray elephants actually at sea at any given time, too.

        I scanned a Naval Institute article where it was averred that a carrier and its weapons and associated vessels can laugh at the argument that they cost too much because that “investment represents only a small fraction of the gross national product…”

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I think the Tom Clancy book Red Storm Rising presented another scenario. The air craft carrier doesn’t have to sink to be disabled as an airfield.

          This is my favorite part of the article:

          “You have to be able to target and find that aircraft carrier … thousands of miles away,” he explained. In a high threat environment, the vessel would be maneuvering and changing its course and speed, he noted.

          That should make for effective combat operations. I’m less opposed to Space Force when I see stuff like this. The Pentagon may really need to break free of the past.

        2. JohnnySacks

          Sitting ducks in a bathtub for any opponent equipped with non Korean war vintage weapons.
          We’re oh so enamored with our perceived technological invincibility when up against primitive opponents wearing sandals and carrying AK-47’s. (who’ve been hammering us for close to 2 decades on the ground over in the sandbox)

        3. IM Doc

          I really do hope that Arthur C Clarke’s short story from 1951, “Superiority” is required reading at our armed forces colleges.

          It really is very enlightening and speaks right to this issue.

          Cliffs Notes version – the side with the technological fetish and the superiority complex and reliance on computers loses BIGLY and are shocked when they do so.

          I know it is science fiction and all – but that genre is more “real” than any others I know.

          1. JTMcPhee

            Another minatory source is the “hugest war game ever,” Millennium Challenge 2000, a $250 million joint exercise where the (barely camouflaged) “Iranian” side pretty much sank the US fleet, using “old tech” and “non-tech.”

            As a Vietnam veteran, I find reading about this was a very satisfying exercise. Maybe not “patriotic,” but then the “War is a Racket” types are about as far from being patriotic in any sense I would agree with as one can imagine. Good to see the imperial warmongers handed even such an own-goal defeat. Note that they just reset the game when it came up “Game Over,” with conditions imposed that would not allow a repeat of the FAIL. Not how it works in real life,but oh, the careers damaged by that failure to control the game conditions to produce the “right” result.

            Always have in mind that the ballistic and other nuclear weapons are on even dumber devices, with psychopaths’ fingers on the triggers and buttons and switches, and can kind of tilt the playing field until all the charred and blasted pieces slide off into the dustbin of galactic history…

            1. Procopius

              I saw an explanation and attempted justification of that “reset” from a general who supported it. It seems Millenium Challenge 2002 was not your grandfather’s war game. It was designed at a cost of many millions of dollars to “present concepts, tactics, and weapons that were going to be used for decades to come,” and the loss to the Red side would have upset policy decisions and contracts running into the billions. Therefore, Iran could not be allowed to win. He did not, in my estimation, explain why discarding those policies and contracts was not a better idea, since they would not work as advertised.

              1. occasional anonymous

                I can vaguely understand their perspective: the point of the war game was to simulate a seaborne invasion of Iran. That couldn’t happen if the invasion fleet was sunk in the first phase, so they ignored the sinking and continued on to the next stage.

                But just ignoring it is a big of an ‘assume a can opener’ type thing.

  3. Katiebird

    Thanks for the Baltimore Sun link to the J&J/AZ mixup story. It has useful information that I didn’t read in the NYTimes version of the story. First that the problem was discovered in the quality control step and Second that the plant hasn’t been approved for vaccine distribution yet.

    Since (as I mentioned in a comment on yesterday’s Cooler) my son got the J&J vaccine a couple of weeks ago, I have to admit that I feel better knowing that the plant probably didn’t ship any messed-up vaccines. But who knows. Just because they are still going through some process doesn’t mean they haven’t been allowed to ship vaccines.

    Also, like Lambert (in response to my WC comment) I wonder if I should imagine that there is a relationship here to AZ’s clotting trouble. When I first read about this I thought about sabotage…..

    All in all, I think I’m glad we haven’t rushed into getting the vaccine. I REALLY want one but I don’t think I feel confident yet.

    1. Katiebird

      I am getting the feeling that this story has a way to go before we know what’s happened:

      From the NY Post: Biden administration aware of Johnson & Johnson vaccine issues two weeks ago

      Some senior Biden administration officials were reportedly aware two weeks ago that there were problems with a Johnson & Johnson contractor – issues that could result in the delay of a substantial amount of doses of the vaccine, according to a report.

      But two senior officials working on the COVID-19 response said problems at Emergent’s production plant became clear earlier this month, Politico reported.

      And a third official told the outlet that the Department of Health and Human Services found out last week about Emergent’s blunder.

      “It was no secret that Emergent did not have a deep bench of pharmaceutical manufacturing experts,” the official said.

      The company’s failure will delay future shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and distribution of doses to states will be slowed during the next few weeks, two of the officials told Politico.

      So they knew before his Press Conference — no wonder he blasted past a discussion about vaccines (Transcript)

      How are we supposed to trust anything about what is reported on COVID-19 or it’s vaccines? If it wasn’t for the reporting and links here at Naked Capitalism, I’d be swimming in ignorance. As it is, I’m pretty confused.

  4. Amfortas the hippie

    regarding the Aeon bit on citystates:
    i remember reading a long article in Texas Monthly…maybe as long as 12 years ago(it was before i started building this house, at least) about this very thing.
    how feds and states were clunky and inept and not up to the task of navigating the current challenges…and how Big Cities(Houston featured predominantly) were seizing power to get things done…even to the extent of negotiating foreign trade.
    as far as Texas is concerned, the State of Texas has struck back repeatedly….re-seizing power over fracking, minwage, mask mandates and on and on…but there’s a question of legitimacy, here…and the Big Pink Granite Whorehouse in Austin has backed itself into a legitimacy corner with all the antivoter shenanigans and obvious disregard for the Will of the People.
    I’ve always been an advocate of decentralising as much as possible…a sort of superfederalism, with much smaller polities, operating under an updated and strengthened Bill of Rights.
    sure, devolved sovereignty has it’s problems….the historical uses of “State’s rights” to foment civil war and slavery and jim crow and all the rest….but this often has more to do with leaders(sic) who don’t represent the people(but pretend to) and are only in power because of that same tendency to mess with the vote(i don’t consider any of our “leaders” above the county level as all that legitimate)
    here i’ll flog Article the First, again:

    and advocate much smaller Polities as a necessary step to ginning up a countervailing power(s) against all the various egregores, national, supranational and extranational, currently astride the world.
    as I’ve said, i think of my 20 acres….and especially the 5 acre portion that is recognised by mom as mine…as a country…one with a balance of trade problem(exporting money, importing far too much of everything else).
    I’ve tried, over 20+ years to get the county leadership, official and defacto, to understand our county in a similar light….which has worked to some extent…
    but they, and the one city, here, are limited by state law in what they can do…an area of law that few seem to be thinking all that hard about.(and texas law is a convoluted mess, relying on amendments to the state constitution…which has, as a result, become incomprehensible).
    at the risk of sounding like a Qanon nutter, the idea of sovereignty and consent of the governed has been relegated to back burners for far too long…like Medicare for All…why not just ask the people themselves….put it to a vote, and test whether we’re the vaunted democracy we pretend that we are.
    similarly with Texas’ state vs Local conflicts.
    all those years of Texas GOP yelling about Local Control, tossed out when it bothers Big Oil or the sensibilities of a tiny minority of homophobic crazy people.

    rant: off.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I’ll add one small bit which makes me question that article. It said the following-

      ‘Until the mid-19th century, most of the world was a sprawl of empires, unclaimed land, city-states and principalities, which travellers crossed without checks or passports.’

      This is utterly false as there were all sorts of passports, customs posts, permissions to be gotten, etc. that had to be navigated. Happen to know this from studying the history of the British Grand Tour. Here is one small article talking about the situation in the 18th century-

      1. Charger01

        I remember a story from a former college friend that served in Afghanistan. It went like this: the archipelago of fiefdoms are so vast in the ‘stan, that if you were from “Boston” and a traveler from “New Orleans” was discovered without escort or permission, they were fair game. The ties the bound the locals were incredibly fierce, even to their fellow countrymen.

    2. JTMcPhee

      Of course “we” are not and have never been a democracy in any sensible way beyond disingenuous branding. A corporate continental Republic, maybe, with lootables and justice for the Few.

      Wish I could aspire to the degree of autarky you’ve achieved, but the proppity I share with the credit union that holds the mortgage measures 50 x 80 feet “MOL” and the house and paving occupy 3,000 of those 4,000 square feet.

      I just discovered that there’s about a half-acre tract of open land, bounded on one side by a retention pond, on two sides by privacy fences and the last by the community rows of USPS mailboxes that is platted as “community garden.” No idea how that sneaked in, maybe the original developer, under some earlier and more restrictive/less lobbied version of community planning rules, had to include it in his blueprints. It’s all sparse spurge and pigweed and quackgrass and nutsedge and the soil is basically Florida sand, but “someone” mows it regularly.

      I wonder if the pretty suburban “drive in and close the door” polity in our branched cul-de-sac might be brought to build some soil together, plant a food forest, and maybe learn some of those hard-won autarchic skills. Or if there are too many freeloaders and “don’t want to get involved with the neighbors” to let it happen. Going by the posts on the Next Door app, which might be a path to catalyzing something, I’m not assured there’s a necessary moiety of willing participants, but it might be worth a try.

    3. a different chris

      That sounds nice and I want to agree but.. we had this more than once:

      sure, devolved sovereignty has it’s problems….the historical uses of “State’s rights” to foment civil war and slavery and jim crow and all the rest….but this often has more to do with leaders(sic) who don’t represent the people(but pretend to) and are only in power because of that same tendency to mess with the vote

      “Leaders that don’t represent the people” is soft-soaping it into a Dove commercial. We’re talking real blood and death here.

      Not only was it landed Southern Gentry, but the north had the Mob who for all intents and purposes was the local government and you didn’t get to vote for them. In fact seeing your “local leader” in person was something you for sure did not want to do as there was a reason he wanted to talk to you and it probably wasn’t a good one.

      And it requires a Federal (the Union and then the FBI) effort, and a bloody one, to dislodge these people. The locals can’t do it, and moving into another fiefdom probably makes it worse.

      So as usual I don’t have any answers but be careful of the ones that you don’t realize have already been tried.

    4. pjay

      I had a much stronger negative reaction to this article. I’m afraid the serfs and peasants will not be benefiting from the coming New Feudalism. It is our New Feudal Lords among the global elite that have been trying, with considerable success, to destroy Nation-states all over the world, and demonizing anything that smacks of “nationalism.” There is a reason for this. Nation-states, as flawed as they are (and most of them are pretty flawed), are the only political entities to provide a degree of material and physical security for large numbers of people, and the *potential*, at least, to counter global capitalism. I’ve lost all faith in our own “nation-state,” yet its destruction, whether justified by libertarian or neoliberal or small-is-beautiful “communitarian” or any other utopian ideology, will bode much worse for most of us.

      Decentralized power sounds nice. But I think Charger01’s comment regarding Afghanistan is more relevant. Picture a world of global city-states run by our New Feudal Elites billionaire warlords and their mercenary retainers. To me the Axios article was a neoliberal (or libertarian – is there a difference?) wet-dream. And like most neoliberal wet-dreams it was completely oblivious to the dark side of this development.

  5. The Rev Kev

    “Missed it by that much: Australia falls 3.4m doses short of 4m vaccination target by end of March”

    Would you believe it? So Scotty from Marketing’s government has had several months to plan on how to distribute vaccines as they arrived in the country in coordination with the State governments. So instead they screwed up and managed to only deliver properly a fraction of what was promised. This was important to them as I believe the plan is that when the whole country has been vaccinated, then Australia will then be open for business with tourists, cruise boats, paying overseas students and all the rest of it. Unrealistic of course but there you are. So what did Scotty’s government do when the milestone came and went and proved a failure? Why they blamed the State governments of course. Straight away the State governments came down on them like a ton of bricks so now they are trying to make nice. When you have the Premiers of Queensland and New South Wales, who have been fighting each other the whole course of the pandemic, stand together in outrage and agreement, you know that something is up-

  6. a different chris

    And Momma Elephants are just like parents everywhere – “I’m so sorry, is he bothering you?” “No he’s fine” “Dumbo stop that!” “It’s OK he’s cute” “I just don’t know where he gets all the energy”

  7. Michael Berger

    As a humanities major, I would also highlight the significance of this passage from the CDC study:

    The majority of participants were female (62.1%), aged 18–49 years (71.9%), White (86.3%), and non-Hispanic (82.9%) and had no chronic medical conditions (68.9%).

  8. Samuel Conner

    re: Return of the city-state

    The thought occurs that sea-steaders have no market incentive to not ‘solve’ their internal pollution problem by simply dumping into the practically (for small scale polluters) infinite dilution volume of the ocean.

    My guess is that it won’t scale — will simply be a getaway for the sufficiently wealthy.

  9. Geo

    “Walensky, like Fauci, believes that Noble Lies from persons in positions of authority are an effective public health strategy.“

    As if trust in public institutions wasn’t already dangerously low. And they wonder why fake news and conspiracy theories are so popular? I’m the last person to defend the intelligence of our society but it’s never a good strategy to tell people they’re too stupid to handle the truth – even if they are. Did they actually think Jack Nicholson was the good guy in A Few Good Men?

    1. The Rev Kev

      I have began to think that trust is very much like a bank account and that an institution can have a large amount of “trust’ on deposit. People like Fauci believe that they can tell one lie after another and it will diminish trust only a small amount until it is eventually run dry way down the track. What they don’t recognize is that if they tell one lie too many, then you can get a “bank run” on trust in that account which empties it overnight.

      1. IMOR

        Yes. “You earn votes one at a time, but you lose them in bunches,” is a longstanding political aphorism.

    2. km

      PMC and adjacent types whining about The Deterioration Of Trust In Our Sacred Institutions should may consider that this deterioration of trust is entirely reasonable, and that if they wish to restore that trust, those institutions should maybe lie and mislead a little less.

  10. The Rev Kev

    “I work at a Texas coffee shop. This is what it’s been like trying to enforce our mask policy”

    People like those coming into that shop to let off steam cannot be helped. Maybe what is needed is a chalkboard over the coffee machine that is updated daily. If some people get argumentative on purpose, just point that number out to them. If they ask what it is and if it is the phone number for the manager, then say no. It is just today’s death toll in America – and that is why the masks.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Lots of US stores have had signs posted for public health reasons for years with barely a complaint – “No shirt, no shoes, no service.” Maybe add masks to the list and people would get the point?

      1. barefoot charley

        I’ve seen just that sign twice in our ‘hipneck’ rural NorCal community, where hippies and rednecks have interbred for several generations now. Only the reddest-necked alki bars posted the original triptych; I read the update as saying “We’re still old-timers, but be a good sport.”

  11. flora

    re: The Dilemma Over How to Reproduce the Elite

    That was a disappointing read. Nowhere does he mention the US Civil Service and states’ and cities’ civil service systems or why they were created in the first place (to root out cronyism and incompetence in public employment). If he’s talking about merit systems he would do well to at least nod in that direction instead of stopping with college entrance exams. imo. Even if only a nod in that direction to point out its current failing and room for improvement. (For the past 30 years there’s been a concerted attack on civil service systems in the US by the neoliberals wishing to make all employment in govt jobs “at will” employment. These are the same neoliberals who’ve worked to destroy unions.) Maybe civil service employees are not elite enough to be considered in Studebakers analysis, and I’d accept that. But I wish he hadn’t talked all around the system without ever mentioning it directly.

    This T move didn’t get a lot of attention last October, but it’s worth noting. Dr. Fauci, for example, is a career civil servant with an RF-00 job classification.

    1. flora

      This from Studebaker is nonsense. If he understood the civil service system he’d know this is nonsense.

      But in our society, disloyalty to the network is viewed as loyalty to impersonal merit. If we say we are defending a merit principle, we are given carte blanche to defame and humiliate anyone, and to be lauded as brave for doing so.

      The wokesters and neoliberals have turned the idea of merit on its head and they get away with it because for the past 30 years the merit system has been scoffed at and dismissed by “the cool people”. my 2 cents.

      John Michael Greer has an interesting essay (long) that seems pertinent to this discussion.

      1. Samuel Conner

        Thank you for the link; am reading now as I wait for — LOL — a pot of rice and beans to cook.

      2. David

        I think that what Studebaker is trying to say, albeit not very clearly, is that before the rise of the modern world, elite positions, especially in government, were essentially gifts, and often allocated in return for favours or as a result of personal lobbying, as in his Roman examples. Modern states from the nineteenth century on tried to get away from this by having recruitment and promotion on merit (which is not the same as a “meritocracy”) but no matter how objective you make the system, some will find it easier than others or do better for reasons that have little to do with ability as such. This, he suggests, is an insoluble problem, but by the same token I don’t think anyone these days would argue that a patronage-based system is actually better.
        OK, fair enough, but I don’t see that this leads to his conclusion that:
        “Those who are willing to lie, to say anything to remove rivals, enjoy a competitive advantage over the rest of us. Our system therefore produces an elite full of vicious manipulators who live in constant suspicion of one another.”
        I don’t see that at all, but in any case it depends what context you are talking in. It reads as though he’s talking about university admissions and such, where certainly it’s normal to be asked to write references for your former students. But where did he get the idea that someone is producing negative references designed to “lie and remove rivals”? Same goes for recruitment, I would have thought: I never expect to be asked to write a letter attacking a candidate for a position in government for example. I really don’t know what he’s getting at, unless it’s social media, but then he should really have said so.

        1. Pelham

          Good point. I’ve never in academic or professional life run across someone running down a rival like this.

          That said, given the alternatives laid out by Studebaker, I’d lean more to old boys network rather than a merit system. The old boys MIGHT at least have some sense of noblesse oblige. And as we’ve seen to the degree that merit has been implemented in recent decades, it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. For one thing, people with high merit tend to cling to failing policies regardless of the evidence while being more prone to common human foibles than the rest of us due to their cocksure nature.

          Ideally, though, we’d just pick broadly qualified people with modest backgrounds for high office and leave the supremely meritorious to occupy lesser, expert offices on the end of a short leash held firmly by the high officeholders. Not sure what kind of system would produce this outcome.

      3. Jeremy Grimm

        Thank you for the link. I just read it — while Moors and Christians is tasty I also like to trade the rice for corn tortillas when I can find decent tortillas. I finally located a good tortilleria within a half-hour drive. Their tortillas are good and remain usable for up to a month without refrigeration. But after the US Government flooded the market with cheap masa powder I have not found tortillas to match the ones my dad used to pick up by the kilo wrapped hot in white butcher paper from a tortilleria in Tijuana back in the 1960s.

        I have never grown either but I believe corn is easier to grow than rice and beans and corn are friends in the field, as on the plate. Corn needs lime though, which could present a little difficulty in some areas.

      4. Carolinian

        The Greer is a great article. Just one sampler

        When social elites feel their grip on the levers of power slipping, by contrast, they very often clamp down on the mildly dissident habits they encouraged during more comfortable times. That happened only in limited ways in Victorian England—most of the British elite class didn’t notice the waning of their empire until it was already out of their hands—but the shock that spread through England’s gay community when Oscar Wilde was sent to prison is legendary, and shows the way that boundaries shifted and long-neglected rules got enforced once the long afternoon of England’s power began to tip visibly toward evening.

        In truth a secure ruling class doesn’t go around canceling everybody.

        As for rice and beans, he is also doubtless correct that the PMCs have no concept of how the poor live or what they eat.

    2. UserFriendlyyy

      My complaint was more about holding merit up as a worthy way of selecting elites at all.

      and to also make it the worst of all worlds, that little bit of merit makes all the elites feel like they deserve it. And they deserve more. and more. and those stupid poor people should have worked harder in school if they didn’t want to be homeless and addicted to heroin.

      Obviously Bezos deserves every cent he has because he worked so hard selling books out of his garage. and then turning into a monopoly and destroying thousands of other business and rigging the rules in his favor. Deserves every penny.

      The 2008 financial crash? couldn’t be helped. After all, the best and the brightest were already in charge of all the banks. Putting any of them in jail would just lead to sub par leadership and we can’t have that during a crisis.

      Meritocracy is a total fucking joke. We have NOTHING even approaching anything that would resemble a meritocracy. We have elite immunity for all crimes, from pedofilie rings to so much fraud it destroys the entire world’s economy. Peons get jail for pot though.

      1. David

        As I said above, I think there’s a lot of difference between “selection on merit” and a meritocracy. Likewise, selection by merit isn’t the same as selection of an elite, or at least it shouldn’t be. In every area of life where there are interesting things to be done, there will be more applicants than openings; So there is a need for selection of some kind, and I think that merit is the last bad option so far identified.

      2. Henry Moon Pie

        Good examples, but I’d like to add one: leading us straight to ecological collapse.

        “Go shopping, folks. That’ll show ’em we’re still free! And don’t forget to patronize those bars and restaurants! The more you spend, the more you’re a Job Creator!”

        Deep thinkers, those elites of ours.

    3. Mark Gisleson

      People used to pay me to help them game the hiring process and I got a lot of referrals because (at the time) I was practically the only resume shop outside of Chicago in the upper Midwest that would tackle government hiring forms. References and name-dropping were absolutely critical to that process.

      Even if the form didn’t allow references per se, you could guarantee your client an interview by name-dropping. When you’ve interned under or shadowed a government official, the evaluator reads that as a reference and it invariably influences their evaluation.

      Insiders know which colleges to attend, what the best majors/minors are. Outsiders don’t because having skills helps only if the evaluators have actually understand the jobs they’re hiring for. In truth, the evaluators usually only grasp their own qualifications which usually were little more than having done the work of going to the right schools and hanging out with the right crowd.

      Memberships are also references. As are activities (tennis and golf? this applicant certainly sounds interesting!).

      I didn’t figure this out by myself, btw. My most senior clients (usually administrators nearing retirement age trying to get promoted to SES level jobs, the step above GS) coached me on how to do their applications (they came to me because I was a very good typesetter and editor, the latter being important because it’s freaking amazing how many top executives have sketchy written language skills).

      Studebaker’s post made perfect sense to me, and my sense of the current situation is that everything I dealt with in the ’90s and 2000s has just gotten worse in this regard. But the reality is not easily understood by outsiders no matter how long they serve in government (or the Post Office). The rules vary constantly depending on the culture of the people in charge. A solid performer may interact frequently with their superiors, but that doesn’t make them part of the club. If you’re being coached by your boss on your application for promotion, congratulations — you’ve just become an insider!

    4. km

      Interesting in light of this article to consider how the Chinese Imperial Bureaucracy came about, and the power struggles of the bureaucrats (assumed to be virtuous scholars) with the (assumed to be self-serving) eunuchs who controlled the Imperial Court.

      In theory, the bureaucracy was a meritocracy. and from time to time a peasant boy would do well enough in the Imperial Examinations to get a high position. In practice, not so much.

    5. John Merryman

      It reminded me of the old African saying; If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with a group.
      Basically, there will always be two sides to the coin and it’s a matter of recognizing the relationship, rather than one over the other.
      Generals run armies. Specialist is about one rank over private.

  12. Henry Moon Pie

    City states–

    Interesting article re: some history but no mention of Murray Bookchin in a discussion of city states? And calling those Propertarians like Thiel “libertarians?” Murray’s ghost may come and get the author. It’s especially galling given that Bookchin’s ideas served as a foundation for the Rojava and the Kurds much lamented by liberals.

    Libertarian Municipalism.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      Henry Moon Pie: The article gets too many things wrong to take seriously. In the first couple of paragraphs, the author asserts that the Roman Empire fell in 476 CE. In fact, the empire of the West fell, but the Byzantine Empire, which dominated the eastern Mediterranean, went on till 1453, and the Byzantines called themselves Romaioi, Romans.

      Then the author asserts this: “This shift in power is visible in the way that the mayors of major cities are political heavyweights in their own right: think of Bill de Blasio in New York, Sadiq Khan in London, Virginia Raggi in Rome, Ada Colau in Barcelona.” Raggi and deBlasio are not political heavyweights. Sorry. Maybe, Colau.

      Then there is the assertion that Turin was a city-state, which also is incorrect. The odd thing about the rise of Turin is that the Savoy dynasty, which already owned the Savoy region in France, moved the capital from Chambéry to Turin from 1563. The Duchy of Savoy was a sizable state, extending from near Lyon to the Po Valley, hardly a city-state. This is why the Duchy of Savoy became a player in wider European politics. I note that Venice also became a major player (and rival of the Byzantines) once it expanded on Terra Firma. Venice had an empire of islands–including Crete and Cyrus.

      The geography of certain cities allows them to be city-states. I note that countries like Japan, Portugal, and Thailand didn’t have city-states, for good geographical reasons. Venice is the exception that tests the rule.

      So the article is mainly speculation–with an anecdote about Liberland, libertarian utopia. Sheesh.

  13. antidlc

    “Walensky must have been a humanities major; ”

    From Wikipedia:

    In 1991, Walensky received a BA in biochemistry and molecular biology from Washington University in St. Louis. In 1995, she received an MD from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. From 1995 to 1998, she trained in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Walensky then became a fellow in the Massachusetts General Hospital/Brigham and Women’s Hospital Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program. In 2001, she earned an MPH in clinical effectiveness from the Harvard School of Public Health.[5]

      1. judy2shoes

        “So where did her theater training come from?”

        The Democrat School of Performance Art?

    1. Winston Smith

      Apparently, the vaccine rollout in Canada has been a disaster. Any idea why? This is particularly pertinent given the spread of variants, especially the nasty Brazilian variant in BC

      1. marieann

        Where I live the vaccine rollout has been fine. I just got my shot this morning…very organized and efficient.
        They are finishing up with the over 70’s now and moving on to those over 65. Those 55-65 have been getting their shots(Astra Zeneca) at pharmacies…though I think that is paused for now because of vaccine shortages.

        I am in Ontario though so no Easter celebrations with family…for a second year, so that’s a bummer.

        1. RMO

          We’re ranked 59th in the world in terms of percent of the population vaccinated here in Canada. That’s behind countries such as Chile, Bhutan, Turkey and Uruguay. it’s getting better but this isn’t great for a first world nation that usually does pretty well compared to the rest of the world in matters of public health.

  14. petal

    The RI pirate coins article and the Great Bitter Lake Assn. article were great. I passed them on to friends. Thank you. One recently moved to a house near the water in RI, so I said to tell their little kids to be on the lookout for pirate gold when they are digging in the yard. That’ll be great fun for them.

    1. The Rev Kev

      You should have suggested sending those kids into your friend’s garden to turn over the soil for them. For free! I bet that some of those coins turn up all over the continent as they would have made a good trade item for the Indian nations back them. I bet that there were extensive trade routes all over North America back then which would have enabled them to be scattered near and far.

      1. petal

        It was a fascinating story I hadn’t heard about before. I hope it spurs more archaeological/historical interest in southern NE. The kids are all under 7, so they’ll love it. Agree with you about the trade routes. There’s so much we don’t know. A Norse spear head was found in my hometown in the 1930s, and the thought is that the NA’s traded it around and it made its way down our way.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

 This kind of thing.

          Even later, there were monasteries that shipped the older members to Greenland to hunt and fish the Summer away while the crops were attended to by younger members.

          It might fall under the realm of conspiracy theory at the time, but there were rumors at the time of Columbus’ return that there were rumored maps to land approximately where the Americas were. Columbus was just an idiot who thought it was Asia not knowing the size of the Earth which everybody but the fundies in Spain knew. The issue besides Columbus not knowing Asia’s location was the reliability of ships without known ports and harbors. Its why everyone who was everyone descended on the Americas in short order.

          1. petal

            This is great, thank you! Something new to read about. I wish I had been allowed to study history instead of biology at college.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              These rumors extend to Portuguese fishermen too. To a large extent, the idea of “Columbus sailed the ocean blue” is a creation of the early American Republic and Washington Irving’s anti-Irish propaganda that was spread through schools. Columbus, himself, was intensely disliked by his contemporaries. There is a reason its the Americas and not the Columbias. He was a free figure for the American Republic to attach itself to because Spain has Amerigo Vespucci and Magellan, like Columbus not Spaniards. Genoa was stretched across the Mediterranean into the Black Sea. The New World meant nothing to them with the Ottomans on the move.

              Columbus went and came back, producing a way to make the journey without accidents or chance. Insurers would insure the trip. But the examples of the early English settlers demonstrate that simply showing up and replicating a European lifestyle isn’t super easy without support. Going would be risky which is why the Norse didn’t stay.

  15. The Rev Kev

    “Virus Variants Can Infect Mice, Scientists Report”

    As Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth from Futurama would say, “Good news, everyone!” Looks like Russia is all over this as they have now come up with a vaccine for animals. If this coronavirus starts to spread to farm animals on a large scale, then they too will need to be vaccinated. Remember those 4 million minks in Denmark that had to be slaughtered? Now we will have a vaccine for this. Same too for domestic pets like cats and dogs and I am sure that they will be thrilled at the idea of going to the vets for yet another needle-

    1. ArvidMartensen

      This is not good news RK. If this virus gets out into the wild into mice, then there will be a natural reservoir of the infection that can mutate and stay hidden until Bam, someone catches it from mouse droppings.
      And Aussieland is having a mouse plague right now, on the east coast the little critters are everywhere I believe.

  16. tegnost

    No one will be surprised i didn’t expect much from biden re infrastructure, but…

    “investments in scientific research, clean energy research and medical research”

    unless infrastructure means creating patentable ideas for the private sector to make easy money from, and to justify those ridiculous student loans…way weaker than evenI expected…

    1. Darius

      Biden wants it to be deficit neutral. He’s setting it up to fail with a built-in excuse. Peak Democrat. Democrats should have a whole department for overseeing the excuses and keeping them straight.

    2. freebird

      Yes! Maybe ‘infrastructure’ is the fresh new code word for domestic pork barrel spending, just to differentiate it from the foreign-military-armaments slush piles.

  17. EarlyGray

    re: “Can Wearing a Mask Reduce My Allergy Symptoms?”

    Hay fever sufferers in Japan (of which I am one) can attest to the effectiveness of masks in alleviating allergy symptoms. I have worn masks throughout the cedar pollen seasons of March and April every year since I developed hay fever, and they definitely help. Any time I went for a extended period of time outside without one, I always paid the price in a runny nose and heavy sneezing later on.

    In normal circumstances this time of year would be peak mask-wearing season. In fact pre-Covid, when I actually got to meet my colleagues in person, if I saw one wearing one in the springtime I would often ask “Hay Fever?” to which the answer was inevitably a sigh and a “Yes, it’s a pain isn’t it?”

    Why Japan has a high proportion of hay-fever sufferers is an interesting topic in itself. Back in the 1950s lots of natural forest was cut down and replaced with cedar trees plantations in order to provide cheap lumber for the construction industry, but by the time they matured it turned out it was cheaper to import than to cut down those trees and so they were just left as is. They eventually turned into hugely efficient pollen producers. The problem is that it is mainly one species of pollen that falls all at the same time inducing a large number of victims.

  18. DJG, Reality Czar

    The collapse of Hwang and Archegos. “Hidden fortunes.” This is why I read Naked Capitalism.

    Questions (because I am out of my depth):
    –Is the scandal that Hwang was hiding enormous assets in a so-called family office?
    –Is the scandal that these giant investment firms were trading for him, knowing (and let’s assume so, given his earlier sanctions) that they were dealing with someone sketchy?
    –Is the scandal the lack of regulatory oversight? I have a feeling I know the answer to this one. Someone mentions “invisible fortunes,” but they wouldn’t be invisible if the laws were being enforced.
    –How will these losses among the banks be reported? How do such large losses play out?

    1. Michael Ismoe

      Remember how all those Gamestock traders were going to :destroy capitalism when they sunk their $1400 checks into the stock market? Good times.

      If you steal a million dollars from 1 person, you are a thief. If you steal $1 from a million people, you are an entrepreneur.

    2. UserFriendlyyy

      The laws were enforced, the laws are expressly written so that rich and powerful people have no problem getting around them. Here is what should be the scandal, but isn’t:

      By Thursday’s close, the value of the portfolio fell 27% — more than enough to wipe out the equity of an investor who market participants estimate was six to eight times levered.

      Ponzi finance. That is what causes markets to implode with cascading failures. He wasn’t quite a big enough fish for that to happen this time, but damn close and very worrying.

    3. lb

      How about this: Who else is hiding (perhaps in plain sight, if you look at other signs of concentrated single-family wealth) behind this effective exemption of family businesses from oversight? Who does this exemption serve, today (and therefore how entrenched is the practice, how much resistance to actual reform would there be, et cetera?) It sure seems like a carve-out for the richest dynastic families on earth, to the untrained eye. Is there a bunch of overt but uninvestigated/unpunished fraud in this space? (It sure would be interesting if this space was occupied by a bunch of shadow hedge funds, wouldn’t it?)

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        And how many such “family business funds” are well-sterilized and plausibly-deniable cutouts for even more deeply hidden aggregators of money for the cutout “family business fund” to handle?

  19. The Rev Kev


    Since China is becoming a mainstay of the news, I thought that I would mention a tweet that I stumbled across today. So what appears to be an Asian-American woman starts by saying ‘my sister’s 6th grade social studies class took a quiz today…’ and what follows is, well, read for yourself-

    I cannot be sure but I think that this was in Carrollton, Georgia.

  20. UserFriendlyyy

    Things must have been crazy in Myanmar for there to be a union of Karen’s. Like does no one in customer service there know how to answer a phone?

  21. Knifecatcher

    The Workday / Maine article was an eye opener for me. I’ve had to interface with Workday during my career and they’re a massive PITA to deal with, though with some justifiable reasons. In my experience their processes and policies were very inflexible and they mandated that you follow their best practices to a much stronger degree than most vendors. So whether you were a customer, technology partner, or delivery consultant you did things their way or they showed you the door.

    Why? Because the prior generation of ERP / HR / Finance systems such as SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, etc. had a well deserved reputation for massive failed projects, and Workday wanted to avoid going down that same path. If the Maine situation is any indicator it’s possible they’ve relaxed that discipline, and will be seeing high profile project failures as a result.

    1. Jen

      There were a few things that caught my eye about that piece, one is that this is Maine’s 2nd attempt to upgrade their HR system. Another was the state’s current reliance on creaky legacy systems. A third, which almost made me snort coffee all over my lap top was Workday’s failure to provide ad-hoc reporting capabilities.

      I’ve been involved in few ERP implementations in academia. Sometimes the product is the problem. Sometimes the organization is the problem. There are decent products that can be terrible fits for an organization. An example I can give from a project I worked on is combining an infinitely customizable product with organizational leaders who could not make decisions. What should have taken 9 months took 3 years, and the end product was too customizable to upgrade.

      I personally wouldn’t touch WD with a 10 foot pole, but I colleague of mine endured an installation at his institution after which they discovered they had, wait for it, no ad-hoc reporting capabilities.

      I would say this is a WD problem, except that it’s been a problem with every system I’ve seen implemented at my humble institution. So I no longer blame the vendors when lack of reporting comes up. I blame the people selecting and implementing the products for being naive enough to expect a reporting in the first place.

  22. Jeff W

    “…Walensky could be motivated by a desire to increase vaccine uptake…”

    I kind of think that Walensky probably just misspoke in not properly qualifying her statements. Just adding “in the overwhelming majority of cases” would helped. Of course, someone in her position should be reasonably expected to properly qualify her statements so Walensky can be faulted for not doing so.

    That said, I think the more important story is that the findings of at least a few studies (the CDC one and two Israeli studies)—if I’m interpreting news reports of them correctly—show that the mRNA vaccines, or Pfizer’s vaccine, in particular, do appear to confer sterilizing immunity, which was not generally expected, at least judging from some statements on this blog. (I’m not familiar with the relevant literature.)

    1. Jason

      That article quotes one glowing scientist and raises a bunch of caveats. From the article:

      – The researchers said further study was needed on asymptomatic transmission among people fully vaccinated because they are less likely to be tested for COVID-19.

      Vaccine developers have also said more research was needed on transmissibility. In December, Germany’s BioNTech said it would take three to six months more study.

      – the cohort studied at the hospital were mostly young and healthy

      Pfizer declined to comment on the data, saying in a statement it was doing its own analysis of “the vaccine’s real-world effectiveness in several locations worldwide, including Israel”

      – Eran Kopel, an epidemiologist at Tel Aviv University said the Sheba study was important, but it focused on one hospital and a relatively small group of people, so “one could not draw clear-cut epidemiological conclusions from it”.

      The Health Ministry’s data was encouraging, he said, but further research and regular surveys were needed.

      “The vaccinations are a very good tool but this is hardly the end. This is a dynamic virus that has surprised the scientific world with its fast pace of change and variety,” he said.

      Much too early to declare sterilizing immunity.

    2. cuibono

      this is NOT true. the data so far shows a reduction in PCR positivity to be sure. that is a far cry from sterilizing immunity and those studies you mention are full of holes
      i agree though that it is supportive of reduced risk of asymptomatic infection as defined by PCR.

      1. Jeff W

        Thanks—that’s clarifying. It seems like I might have used the term “sterilizing immunity” incorrectly or too broadly. My apologies. I’ll adopt your phrasing: The data is supportive of reduced risk of symptomatic infection as defined by PCR.

  23. Kouros

    The Gamification of War:

    I am really looking forward for more and more police drones deployed on US streets. Maybe the Americans will start empathizing with all the ME countries bombed by drones to dust in the past 20 years…

  24. drumlin woodchuckles

    About how hard it is for young people in face-to-face food-and-drink retail to get Typhoid Maga mask-refusers to wear masks . . .

    It is only a matter of time before one of those Typhoid Maga corona-spreaders decides to conduct a mass shooting to express his displeasure over being asked to wear a mask.

    Those young people of Texas who can find safer states to move to ( if any states are safer) should move to them.

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