2:00PM Water Cooler 5/13/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

From Japan.

* * *


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. All the charts are becoming dull — approaching nominal, if you accept the “new normal” of cases, for example.

Vaccination by region:

Whoops. • Maybe the free beer is a better idea than we thought? Or, credit where it’s due, perhaps people listened to Biden? (We might speculate from Michigan that asking, as opposed to compelling, does seem to, if not work, at least not fail.)

“Anti-Maskers Ready to Start Masking—to Protect Themselves From the Vaccinated” [Vice]. Whatever works.

“3 Explanations for the Vaccine Slowdown” [The Atlantic]. The synthesis view: “From December to February, the share of Americans who said they’d already received a shot or wanted one as soon as possible rose by 21 points—from 34 percent to 55 percent. In March, that number increased by only six points. In April, it increased by only three points. We’re persuading fewer and fewer people as we approach the solid bloc of vaccine resistance. The Johnson & Johnson shots offered an ideal chance at expanding vaccine enthusiasm at a time when we were running out of eager adults. Across the country, health clinics said that many patients were uniquely excited about the one-shot regimen—due to either skepticism about mRNA technology or fear of needles. Some of that enthusiasm evaporated after the pause, doctors told The Wall Street Journal. That is, the government’s underselling of the vaccines (and overselling of their risks) did not exactly cause the dip, but did make it harder for enthusiasm to bloom among the skeptical.”

Case count by United States regions:

Continued good news. I have drawn an anti-triumphalist black line to show that cases levels we now regard with equanimity were regarded as crisis-level, a little over a year ago. Granted, we don’t have overflowing emergency rooms (or morgues). But the effects of long covid are the same.

The Midwest in detail:

Continued good news. But Michigan’s decrease is agonizingly slow.

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

Continued good news.

Test positivity:

Down, except for the West, now flat.

* * *


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Biden Administration

“America’s Broken Civil-Military Relationship Imperils National Security” [Foreign Affairs]. “Civilian control over the military is deeply embedded in the U.S. Constitution; the armed forces answer to the president and legislature. Starting in 1947, Congress built robust institutions designed to maintain this relationship. But over the past three decades, civilian control has quietly but steadily degraded. Senior military officers may still follow orders and avoid overt insubordination, but their influence has grown, while oversight and accountability mechanisms have faltered. Today, presidents worry about military opposition to their policies and must reckon with an institution that selectively implements executive guidance. Too often, unelected military leaders limit or engineer civilians’ options so that generals can run wars as they see fit. Civilian control is therefore about more than whether military leaders openly defy orders or want to overthrow the government. It’s about the extent to which political leaders can realize the goals the American people elected them to accomplish.”

“Debt Collectors Spending Big To Block A Crackdown” [David Sirota, Daily Poster]. “Two months ago, debt collectors won a victory when congressional lawmakers allowed stimulus checks to be garnished by creditors and government agencies. Now, as the credit industry hits a jackpot during the pandemic, the leading lobby group for debt collectors has more than tripled the amount of cash it funnels to lawmakers as it campaigns to block upcoming Democratic legislation to protect millions of Americans from the repo man.” • The debt collectors call themselves “the accounts receivable management industry.”

Democrats en Deshabille

“Donors gave millions to Garcetti nonprofit but kept their identities secret, Times analysis finds” [Los Angeles Times]. “After Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took office in 2013, he helped launch a charity fund that allows donors to support diverse programs from environmental initiatives to youth employment. Since then, Garcetti has reported raising more than $60 million from corporations, foundations, and individuals for the nonprofit Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. A Times data analysis found that at least $3.8 million of that total came from contributors who gave through accounts that mask their identity, a practice that alarms ethics watchdogs who say such donations skirt a state law intended to make those donors’ names public…. In required filings with the city’s Ethics Commission, Garcetti’s office reported that a $3-million donation requested by the mayor came into the Mayor’s Fund in December. An undisclosed account holder made the gift through a donor-advised fund overseen by Bessemer Trust, a wealth management firm. Garcetti spokesman Alex Comisar declined to reveal the individual or company behind the $3-million donation or other donations sought by Garcetti totaling about $1 million that have been given through donor-advised funds since 2014.” • Three millions bucks is a lot to try to fit in a paper bag, so let’s be fair.

Republican Funhouse

“Liz Cheney and the Big Lies” [MoDo, New York Times]. “She is willing to sacrifice her leadership post — and risk her political career — to continue calling out Donald Trump’s Big Lie.” • Trump’s “Big Lie” being that the 2020 election was stolen from him, presumably by Democrats. According to Wikipedia (sorry), the term “Big Lie” was actually coined by Hitler in Mein Kampf, “to describe the use of a lie so ‘colossal’ that no one would believe that someone ‘could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.’ Hitler claimed the technique was used by Jews to blame Germany’s loss in World War I on German general Erich Ludendorff.”

There’s no question that Trump’s 2020 election claim is, if not “Big,” at least excessively large. And to the extent that Trump dominates the Republican Party, fealty to the lie is a test of loyalty. Unfortunately for us all, RussiaGate, as well, is, if not “Big,” at least excessively large. (RussiaGate is also a tool for warmongering against a nuclear power, and so a more dangerous Big Lie than Trump’s). And fealty to the RussiaGate lie is also a test of loyalty, but for liberal Democrats.

It’s as if, in 30’s Germany, the Nazi Big Lie was that “the Jews stabbed Germany in the back!” and the Social Democrat Big Lie was “The Illuminati caused the German inflation!” Both party establishments are being run by crazypants people. We are in an unprecedented situation, I really don’t know how to think it through, and I don’t see a way out.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 34 thousand to 473 thousand in the week ending May 8th, the lowest level since the pandemic first hit the US labor market in March 2020 and below market expectations of 490 thousand.”

Inflation: “April 2021 Producer Price Final Demand Again Increased Significantly” [Econintersect]. ‘The Producer Price Index (PPI) year-over-year inflation increased from +4.2 % to +6.2 %.”

Debt: “1Q2021 Household Debt and Credit: Credit Card Balances See Second Largest Quarterly Decline in Series History” [Econintersect]. “The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data today issued its Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit. The report shows that total household debt increased by $85 billion (0.6%) to $14.64 trillion in the first quarter of 2021. The total debt balance is now $344 billion higher than the year prior. While mortgage, auto loan, and student loan balances have continued to increase, credit card balances have substantially decreased.”

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 08 May 2021 – Growth Surge Continues” [Econintersect]. “Total rail traffic – which has been in contraction for over one year – is now surging as it is being compared to the pandemic lockdown period one year ago.”

* * *

Commodities: “Colonial Pipeline Paid Hackers Nearly $5 Million in Ransom” [Bloomberg]. That’s all? “Colonial Pipeline Co. paid nearly $5 million to Eastern European hackers on Friday, contradicting reports earlier this week that the company had no intention of paying an extortion fee to help restore the country’s largest fuel pipeline, according to two people familiar with the transaction. The company paid the hefty ransom in difficult-to-trace cryptocurrency within hours after the attack, underscoring the immense pressure faced by the Georgia-based operator to get gasoline and jet fuel flowing again to major cities along the Eastern Seaboard, those people said. A third person familiar with the situation said U.S. government officials are aware that Colonial made the payment.”

The Bezzle: “Tesla stops payment by Bitcoin because of the impact on the environment” [Sky News]. “At current rates, such Bitcoin mining uses about the same amount of energy annually as the Netherlands did in 2019, according to data from the University of Cambridge and the International Energy Agency. In a tweet, Tesla chief executive officer Elon Musk said the company would not sell any Bitcoin, and intends to use Bitcoin for transactions as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy.” • A rare “Double Bezzle”!

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 37 Fear (previous close: 37 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 51 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 13 at 1:26pm.

Health Care

“‘A toxic cocktail:’ Panel delivers harsh verdict on the world’s failure to prepare for pandemic” [Science]. “There was warning after warning after warning, and yet the world failed to do what was needed to prepare for a pandemic, the first comprehensive review of the global response to COVID-19 finds. This lack of preparation left countries short of essential supplies, burdened by underresourced health systems, and scrambling to coordinate a response, while large vulnerable populations had few options to protect themselves. ‘The combination of poor strategic choices, unwillingness to tackle inequalities, and an uncoordinated system created a toxic cocktail which allowed the pandemic to turn into a catastrophic human crisis,’ the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR) writes in its report, which was presented today. To do better next time, the group proposes a top-to-bottom overhaul of the pandemic preparedness system, including the creation of a new global health council akin to the United Nations Security Council and more money and power for the World Health Organization (WHO). ‘Pandemics pose potential existential threats to humanity and must be elevated to the highest level,’ the authors write. ‘It’s a frank assessment of literally systematic failure in the COVID response at every level, from WHO down to country level,’ says Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University.” • I’d have to read it to know how “frank” the assessment is.

“Top scientists question the need for COVID-19 booster shots” [Reuters]. “In interviews with Reuters, more than a dozen influential infectious disease and vaccine development experts said there is growing evidence that a first round of global vaccinations may offer enduring protection against the coronavirus and its most worrisome variants discovered to date. Some of these scientists expressed concern that public expectations around COVID-19 boosters are being set by pharmaceutical executives rather than health specialists, although many agreed that preparing for such a need as a precaution was prudent. They fear a push by wealthy nations for repeat vaccination as early as this year will deepen the divide with poorer countries that are struggling to buy vaccines and may take years to inoculate their citizens even once.”

“‘If you’re vaccinated and you’re outside, put aside your mask,’ Fauci says” [CNN]. • You’d think, by this point, there’d be some sort of centralized messaging on Covid policy; the Obama Alumni Association was supposed to be good at that. So why is Fauci swanning around deciding policy in public?

The Biosphere

“Singapore researchers control Venus flytraps using smartphones” [Reuters]. “Luo Yifei, a researcher at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), showed in a demonstration how a signal from a smartphone app sent to tiny electrodes attached to the plant could make its trap close as it does when catching a fly. ‘Plants are like humans, they generate electric signals, like the ECG (electrocardiogram) from our hearts,’ said Luo, who works at NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering. ‘We developed a non-invasive technology to detect these electric signals from the surface of plants without damaging them,’ Luo said. The scientists have also detached the trap portion of the Venus flytrap and attached it to a robotic arm so it can, when given a signal, grip something thin and light like a piece of wire.”

Our Famously Free Press

“Michigan GOP lawmaker floats bill to register, fine ‘fact checkers'” [Detroit News]. “The “Fact Checker Registration Act” defines a fact checker as someone who publishes in print or online in Michigan, is paid by a fact-checking organization and is a member of the International Fact Check Network…. The bill requires qualifying fact checkers to file proof of a $1 million fidelity bond with the Secretary of State’s office, which will be tasked with developing the ‘form and manner of registration and filing.’…. Fact checkers found to be in violation of the registry requirements could be fined $1,000 per day of violation.” • And theory checkers?

“Meet the Censored: C.J. Hopkins, Critic of the ‘New Normal'” [Matt Taibbi, TK News]. “Most of all, Hopkins has been critical of the emotional tenor of propaganda around Covid-19, which treats the crisis not as a logistical problem to be solved but as a signal that people should fundamentally alter their expectations for life, lowering demands for political freedoms, making the terror of death a constant public relations fixation, and embracing a “new normal” of heightened surveillance and security rituals.”


“California orders Nestlé to stop siphoning spring water” [High Country News]. “California water officials have moved to stop Nestlé from siphoning millions of gallons of water out of California’s San Bernardino forest, which it bottles and sells as Arrowhead brand water, as drought conditions worsen across the state. The draft cease-and-desist order, which still requires approval from the California Water Resources Control Board, is the latest development in a protracted battle between the bottled water company and local environmentalists, who for years have accused Nestlé of draining water supplies at the expense of local communities and ecosystems. Nestlé has maintained that its rights to California spring water dates back to 1865. But a 2017 investigation found that Nestlé was taking far more than its share. Last year the company drew out about 58 million gallons, far surpassing the 2.3 million gallons per year it could validly claim.” • 

“Maine activists protest Nestle’s potential sale of Poland Spring Water to private-equity firm” [Bangor Daily News]. “If Nestle sells Poland Springs, [Nickie Sekera, the co-founder of Community Water Justice], believes the company effectively would relieve itself of the accountability it has promised to Maine communities. Nestle owns nine spring water sources in Maine, including the Bella Luna Spring in Lincoln, located more than 150 miles away from Poland Spring. … Sekera and others from Community Water Justice fear that Nestle’s water withdrawal permits, negotiated with different communities, will be included in the sale, with no input from the people who depend on the water sources in question. ‘We’re essentially becoming a resource colony for Wall Street,’ she said.” • Becoming?

Groves of Academe

“Swiss funder draws lots to make grant decisions” [Nature]. “The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) , Switzerland’s largest government research-funding agency, has started using a random-selection process as a tiebreaker to award grants, as a way to eliminate bias in the funding process. The agency says that the ‘physical lots’ scheme is a small step towards making the research-funding process more objective, and that it is unlikely to be used frequently. ‘In cases of grant applications of similar quality, bias often creeps in and influences the final call,” says Matthias Egger, president of the SNSF, which is based in Bern. ‘That is something we’d like to avoid.'”

Imperial Collapse Watch

“US fuel shortage: Drivers warned not to use plastic bags to fill up – as some fight for fuel” [Sky News]. • I’ve seen the photos. Yes, people are filling plastic bags with gasoline. Isn’t that one of the signs of the End Times?

“Battlestar Galactica Lessons from Ransomware to the Pandemic” [Zeynep Tufecki, Insight]. “Technically, our software infrastructure was not built with security in mind. That’s partly because a lot of it depends on older layers, and also because there has long been little to no incentive to build software infrastructure that prioritizes security. Operating systems could have (and should have) been built with different features like ‘sandboxing’: that’s when a program can only play in a defined, walled area called a ‘sandbox,’ where it can’t reach anything else. So if that program is malicious, the only damage it can reach is in that sandbox–and only in that sandbox. (This is similar to the idea of ‘air-gapping’: essentially, unplugging critical parts of the infrastructure from the network. It’s very hard to add security after the fact to a digital system that’s not been built for it. And there is a lot of what’s called ‘technical debt’ all around us. These are programs that work but were written quickly or sometimes decades ago. We don’t touch these rickety layers because it would be very expensive and difficult to do, and messing with them could cause everything else to crumble….. [O]ne thing that had been missing before was an easy or obvious way to monetize all of this digital malfeasance…. Enter Bitcoin.”

Guillotine Watch

“What To Know About Bill And Melinda Gates’ Divorce” [The Onion].

Class Warfare

“All Good Social Change Comes from Mass Disruption” [Rampant].

Historically, it has been revolutionaries who have been the most successful fighters for the basic social changes or reforms in people’s everyday lives. Look at any major historic reforms and they were introduced as concessions to revolutionary agitation and disruptions like strikes:

  • The existence of a weekend off work: Anarchists.
  • Unemployment supports: Communists.
  • Racial integration: Radical Black revolutionaries.
  • Legalized abortion: Mass women’s marches and illegal service provision.

Even as socialists and other radicals build the relationships, shopfloor networks and tenant organizations needed for socialists and radicals to have any influence on the course of this country’s politics, we cannot forget that movement self-reliance, inclusivity, and confrontational approaches have always been the most effective way to win reforms.

Hmm. And “All Bad”? or “All”?

News of the Wired

“Emotion recognition: can AI detect human feelings from a face?” [FT Alphaville]. • Only if the AI can distinguish humans who are acting from other humans.

“Obscura No More” [The American Scholar]. “I have come to recognize how fortunate I was to have landed in New York when I did, for I was able to witness photography’s transformation from a minor role to a lead actor in the drama of 20th-century art. When I started paying attention, art and photography were separate domains, and when I began writing for The New York Times (which I would do for most of the ’80s), I was assigned to cover photography exhibitions and books while the paper’s other art critics covered everything else. My territory initially was a small enough world that I got to meet and interact with many of the major players of an older generation—Berenice Abbott, André Kertész, Russell Lee, Helen Levitt, W. Eugene Smith, Ansel Adams himself—and to rub elbows with Peter Campus, Ralph Gibson, Nan Goldin, Duane Michals, Cindy Sherman, Carrie Mae Weems, and scores more contemporary artists.” • Quite a list!

I’ve noticed some good discussions on philosophy lately. Here is a song lyric parody for you all:

For those who came in late, an alert reader introduced me to this classic (lyrics):

* * *

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 (EH):

EH writes: “Sent from my iPhone.”

* * *

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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. ChrisFromGeorgia

    So, if the story is accurate and Colonial paid $5M to the hackers, did those hackers not perform a functionally equivalent role to our asleep-at-the-wheel regulatory apparatchiks?

    In other words, Colonial received a $5M fine for lax security practices. It was a private criminal org that did the needful, but essentially no difference. Perhaps we should be applauding the Darkside group for doing what our sold-out regulators won’t.

    Or maybe Darkside = CIA/NSA dark operation?

    1. Carolinian

      Gosh only knows what Darkside is. There’s a post on Pat Lang site (not him) suggesting that it really was Russians but because they have lots of computer nerds, not a govt op.

      As for the 5 million, perhaps if Colonial had let that cat out of the bag then the public and press would not have been so panicky. It sounds like they were always only planning to be down for a week or so.

      1. Wukchumni

        Dr. Evil : Shit. Oh hell, let’s just do what we always do. Hijack some pipeline and hold the southeast hostage. Yeah? Good! Gentlemen, it has come to my attention that a breakaway Russian Republic called Kreplachistan will be hacking an oil company in the United States in a few days. Here’s the plan. We get them locked out and we hold them ransom for… FIVE MILLION DOLLARS!

        1. FreeMarketApologist

          Oooh. Kreplachia. Hasn’t been much about them in a while.

          As Bette Midler said, “You don’t hear much from them since the Iron Curtain fell.”

          1. jsn

            Kreplachia has been out of the news since their peace deal with Rashpur.

            But their egg salad has improved…

        2. Carolinian

          I’m going with the twelve year old in his basement theory–just as plausible.

  2. Wukchumni

    It’s as if, in 30’s Germany, the Nazi Big Lie was that “the Jews stabbed Germany in the back!” and the Social Democrat Big Lie was “The Illuminati caused the German inflation!” Both party establishments are being run by crazypants people. We are in an unprecedented situation, I really don’t know how to think it through, and I don’t see a way out.
    Worthless German paper money was referred to as ‘Jewish Confetti’ (Judefetzen) during the Weimar hyperinflationary period and afterwards, so Jews got the worst of both worlds in post WW1 Germany.

    Free read of When Money Dies from 1975, by Adam Fergusson


    When and how our money dies is up for debate, but it won’t be anything like the past…

  3. Toshiro_Mifune

    Explanations for the Vaccine Slowdown” The synthesis view: “From December to February, the share of Americans who said they’d already received a shot or wanted one as soon as possible rose by 21 points—from 34 percent to 55 percent.

    Well, yeah. That’s because you prioritized a bunch of retired people first who had the time to schedule it and go out and get the shots. I’m working, so not only did I have to wait until about 2 weeks ago to be able to schedule an appt for the shot and I now have to schedule both work and the shot and the possibility that this thing is going to leave on my butt for a few days. I’ll get the shots but I got other things going on too.

  4. John

    Whose “big Lie” are you going to believe? The election was stolen from Donny from Queens or Vladimir the Invincible stole the 2016 election from Hillary, the queen in waiting. Consider that the letters that spell Public Relations also spell Crap Built on Lies and you have your answer. People accept lies when the truth is inconvenient and uncomfortable.

    1. Watt4Bob

      The first PR firm to focus on politics was formed by husband and wife team of Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter back in the 1930s.

      They were conservatives and worked mostly for republicans and against the efforts of progressives.

      When Harry Truman tried to institute universal healthcare in the late 1940s, they were hired by the AMA to defeat his proposed legislation.

      They did this by starting a successful multi-year campaign to convince the public that universal healthcare was socialism = communism, and that government controlled healthcare would lead inevitably to slavery.

      Leone Baxter would much later decide that the PR business was dangerous in the hands of the wrong kind of people.

    2. urblintz

      “Public Relations also spell Crap Built on Lies”

      …I’m stealing that. thanks!

    1. antidlc

      This was posted at 2:04 PM eastern time:


      The nation’s top infectious disease expert urged people to set aside their masks when outside, with the exception of very “unusual” outdoor situations.

      Speaking to CBS This Morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “If you are vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask outside.”

      He added that “it would be a very unusual situation, if you were going into a completely crowded situation where people are essentially falling all over each other, then you wear a mask.”

      “But any other time,” he said, “if you’re vaccinated and you’re outside, put aside your mask. You don’t have to wear it.”

      Nothing about indoors.

    2. antidlc


      The only exception to the rule is in certain crowded indoor spaces, such as buses, and planes, and in congregate settings, such as hospitals, homeless shelters and jails, where CDC still recommends people mask up.

      And Walensky warned that those who are immunocompromised should speak to their doctors before putting down their masks.

      The new recommendations come on the heels of a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Tuesday, where a handful of Republican members tore into Walensky for the agency’s “conflicting, confusing” and “senseless” guidance, and urged more “real-time” recommendations.

    3. Arizona Slim

      Here in Tucson, the buses are still rocking those “No Mask No Ride” signs. Word to the wise: Don’t even think of riding SunTran without your mask.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        i’m fully vaccinated(feels weird to say that out loud)
        and while i forget to bring a mask to the beer store occasionally(no one cares), i still wear one where it’s required or expected…or crowded(i rarely go anywhere crowded)
        when i have to go to a hardware store, whether the big Lowes down the road or the local yokels, i wear one…because nobody else is, and it’s become habit to be wary of such overt contrarians(by being a contrarian from the other end—and “owning the Trumpies”)
        I’ve also got my cancer wife to think about…Solidarnosc!, and all…as well as protecting her from whatever i pick up in my infrequent forays.
        she can get the vax early next month(based on some esoteric calculus regarding when she had covid, and when she’s not on active chemo)

    4. Jason

      C.D.C. Says Vaccinated People Can Go Maskless in Most Places

      In a sharp turnabout, federal health officials on Thursday advised that Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus may stop wearing masks or maintaining social distance in most indoor and outdoor settings, regardless of size.

      The advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes as welcome news to Americans who have tired of restrictions and marks a watershed moment in the pandemic. Masks ignited controversy in communities across the United States, symbolizing a bitter partisan divide over approaches to the pandemic and a badge of political affiliation.


      More details – answering some of the questions above – are in the article.

    5. ChiGal in Carolina

      I just don’t trust the CDC on this. They are looking at aggregate risks and what is best for the whole population, not any particular one of us. Their calculations inevitably allow for a certain number of breakthrough cases, which they evidently think are at at an “acceptable” level.

      The risk is nonzero and I for one don’t want to be compromised. I did this week however, for an hour at a time with HEPA filters running, resume in-person therapy, double-masked and distanced. Since I am only doing this with clients who are fully vaccinated, maybe given all the layers of mitigation I will however consider doing it unmasked. It was pretty weird not being able to see each other’s faces, which of course you can still do with teletherapy.

      See, I say I don’t trust them but I so much wanna believe I am already contemplating behaving as though they are trustworthy—ugh!

      1. Mantid

        Hello ChiGal, “I just don’t trust the CDC on this.”. Can I add “…. or anything”? The CDC has become a puppet of Big Pharma. They still mention nothing about vitamin D levels much less Ivermectin. It’s all vaccine uber alles.

    6. Keith

      Not sure about public transportation, but in Eastern WA, masks are coming off in the stores, like grocery and hardware. This includes all demographics, too.

      I was out running around yesterday and many were maskless, many more wore masks beneath nose/mouth, and this is now including the employees, too.

    7. allan

      This is going to make it very hard for anyone trying to advocate for filtration and ventilation in K-16 education.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Yes, that’s definitely a bonus.

        The stupidest possible outcome. We have a theory of transmission, after a year of fighting entrenched “scientists” at WHO and CDC and now we’re not going to get to implement it (even though it would help prevent the next airborne pandemic).

    8. QuicksilverMessenger

      And Seattle Public Schools announced today that schools will be fully opened in the fall. Nothing about masks, vax (mandatory or otherwise), etc. Also here in WA, Gov Inslee announced a state-wide ‘reopening’ by June 30.

    9. Mikel

      And the headlines aren’t going into detail and most people are going to take the headline and run with it.
      Another experiment to wait out.

    1. Romancing The Loan

      IMO the superior version. The contempt he puts into his voice is perfect.

      1. GroundZeroAndLovinIt

        I’ve been thinking that this song by They Might Be Giants should be added to the canon of songs about the “common people.” TMBG had this figured out in the 80s; the soul sucking dead end job. They pack a lot of sonic sarcasm into a few seconds of song. Minimum Wage. A favorite.

  5. Mikel

    “Both party establishments are being run by crazypants people. We are in an unprecedented situation, I really don’t know how to think it through, and I don’t see a way out.”

    How much they are despised is driving them crazy. They can only maintain the support of their paymasters if they demonstrate control over their constituancy.
    They’ve never gotten the chance to hear amd see the masses daily like they have in this era. Sure, they always expect some discontent, but not this.

    1. The Rev Kev

      ‘Both party establishments are being run by crazypants people.’

      And the big problem is that they are only selecting other carzypants people to stand for election, if not even crazier crazypants people (e.g. Tea Party republicans). Give a few more years and a Ted Cruz may find himself being left behind as being much too moderate. You stand back and think that if you just had a normal, regular person stand for election, that they would mop the floor with these ‘people’ but not only are they not being given a chance to stand for election, but that the main stream media works hand in glove with both parties to make sure that this never happens.

  6. curlydan

    Interesting profile of the Florida “data scientist” Rebekah Jones who claimed fraud in Florida COVID reporting and who in fact was not a data scientist. The source is the National Review which kind of makes me squirm, but the story seems like real journalism which is often in short supply these days.

    I work with many data scientists (and someone might claim I am one), so that’s partly why I highlight this story. Also, it reminds me of the pink-haired former Cambridge Analytica “data scientist” who claimed so many powers during the post-2016 election timeframe but was a bit of a story-teller as well.


    1. Foy

      That is quite the story, didn’t see that coming after all this time. Need my antennae checked.

  7. TimH

    The States that are going to roll back unemployment benefits because worker shortage… could they be sued for forcing people to take jobs with inadequate protections?

  8. drumlin woodchuckles

    Hating the big Russiagate lie Democrats so much that one dismisses the problem posed by the big Stolen-Election lie Republicans is something like hating heart disease so much that one dismisses the problem posed by cancer.

    The reason why the Big Lie Republicans are a problem for the rest of us is that most heavily armed people in America are Big Lie Republican sympathetic or aligned, and the Big Lie Republican Party is working to suppress and prevent non-Republican voting in as many states as possible and so forth.

    The Sic Semper Tyrannis blog has become a Fox News Amen Corner in many significant ways. It largely supports the Big Republican Lie. Here is an example of sentiment being organized and propelled over there.

    You may not be interested in the Big Republican Liars, but the Big Republican Liars are very interested in you. You may not believe me now, which is fine. If they come to your door with their loaded guns, then you will believe it.

    1. IMOR

      “That’s like sayin’ if you got a cold, take a dose of malaria.” – Dylan, ‘Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues’

    2. JBird4049

      “You may not believe me now, which is fine. If they come to your door with their loaded guns, then you will believe it”

      You’re starting to sound like Chris Hedges talking about Yugoslavia and his stay at Sarajevo.

      However, while there is truth here, although one potential side is more. heavily armed, I believe plenty of Americans who are not white nationalists or Fox watchers, are also well armed.

      Whatever faction decides first to use a putsch or coup d’état to get their way might be surprised eventually at how difficult it will be. The 1898 Wilmington coup had at least the tacit support or, better to say, the maligned neglect of perhaps the majority of White Americans at the time. I don’t see that happening today.

      Sheesh, what a depressing comment…

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        we’re pretty well armed out here…we just don’t wave them around or fondle them in public(it’s rude)
        anyone basing their threat matrix on Team Blue signs is a fool.

        and, based on virtual duck blind observations since at least 2002, the common assumption on the right is that all people to the left of Jack Chick are totally unarmed wimps, prone to fainting like a goat at even the sight of a gun.
        I actually look forward to the new gun laws that the texas lege is currently pushing…”constitutional carry”, or whatever.
        The cats well out of the bag, as far as prevalence of guns in the wild goes…and it
        should be quite enlightening when the law gets to the enforcement phase.
        hope these new(ish) black and socialist gun rights groups are ready, and have their stables of lawyers well fed and rested.

        1. rowlf


          I participated in a shooting competition last week while several other competitions such as 3 Gun and Tactical Training sessions were going on in other areas of the shooting facility. I’d say half of the shooters did not match stereotypes. (They also looked very squared away. Fit and purposeful.)

          Again, a lot of the new firearm owners over the last year or so are not the traditional NRA members but they are listening to firearm owner groups as they seek training.

        2. The Rev Kev

          Why should they stop at a ”constitutional carry” law? It should be a Constitutional right to be able to call in an air-strike. I’m sure that it is in the Second Amendment somewhere.

    3. shinola

      The R’s have morphed from a “political” party/organization into a personality cult (Trump worshipers). As the treatment of Liz Cheney, an actual, traditional R conservative, because she won’t get on board with the big lie demonstrates.

      1. hunkerdown

        Are neocons traditional conservatives? I mean, come on now, neither of these terrorist rackets deserves respect.

        1. Nikkikat

          Hunkerdown, No truer words have been spoken. Terrorist racket is apt. Thanks for the chuckle.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        an actual, traditional R conservative,

        In the sense that she always votes with big business, polluters, against civil rights etc. She is a traditional Republican.

        This is simply GOP infighting, and the whole idea of turning it into some kind of civic virtue is just bizarre. She has her job simply because her father was powerful to shoot in the face and get away with it. Like Romney, their problem isn’t Trump’s policies, its that they aren’t the ones doing it.


        Her 5% “pro-environment” support in 2020 gave her a life time 2% record with the League of Conservation Voters. She’s a Girl Boss now.

      3. Michael Ismoe

        Let’s not forget the “Obama worshippers” in the other camp. Just ask a Democrat who is ‘the greatest president of their lives”? The delusions run deep on both sides.

        1. Dr. John Carpenter

          Or the Clintons, either of them. How many elected Ds came out against Russiagate or the idea of Trump stealing 2016? I can’t think of any. That Bill still hasn’t been canceled should also tell you something.

        2. John Emerson

          Obama is regarded as a failure or worse by a high proportion of Democrats. The message “Don’t be an Obama” seems to have been effectively conveyed even to Biden.

    4. km

      Col. Lang seems to have a hard time accepting that Trump did not govern anything like what he campaigned for. There was no eleven dimensional chess, no master plan.

      Having invested so much of himself and his beliefs in justifying Trump, the Colonel also has a hard time admitting that his hero lost.

      Perhaps worst of all, he has a harder and harder time with dissenting opinions. Too bad, his site was a valuable resource.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Kunstler seems to be experienced the same lot of problems and you see it in his posts the past coupla year. Shame that.

    5. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Hating the big Russiagate lie Democrats so much that one dismisses the problem posed by the big Stolen-Election lie Republicans is something like hating heart disease so much that one dismisses the problem posed by cancer.

      How does saying both parties have lost their minds “dismiss” anything? Personally, I find it clarifying.

      And the liberal Democrats already showed up at our door with PropOrNot, in case you’ve forgotten.

  9. JBird4049

    “California orders Nestlé to stop siphoning spring water”

    It is beyond time for this to happen, but as water is required for life itself, the thieving executives at Nestlé really should be in prison. Not that those psychopathic crooks care, but California’s water system directly supports almost forty million Californians as well as the winter vegetables for most of the United States. Yet not only are farmers like the pistachio growers hogging the water, we have the bottled water sellers stealing it.

    Decades of living in a place like California trapped between the earthquakes, floods, fires, and droughts has given me very little patience with the “taxation is thief,” “Wonders of Free Market Capitalism,” “Greed is Good,” or the (almost always wealthy) water thieves.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I do not think that it is hard. You take them to court on fraud charges for taking far too much water than they were entitled too. Then you send the cops down to close that plant down and arrest anybody that gets in the way. Padlock the whole operation and start making noises about selling it off in compensation for monetary losses on the State of California.

      What should really happen is that Nestlé should be reminded that “Power is Power” sometimes, especially when you are talking about water. If this sounds harsh, remember that it was the head of this corporation that once stated not long ago that water was not a human right. And think back to how the people of an American city were cut off from water supplies not that long ago so (family-blog) them and the horse they rode into town on-

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ab6GyR_5N6c (1:57 mins)

  10. JBird4049

    Great song for today. Nicely subversive and it does hint as to why we have plasticine packaged as “music” nowadays. Music, poetry, news media, books, radio have been consumed Borglike by the Elite’s Neoliberal regime and remade into thought killing, soul murdering, power protecting plasticine.

  11. Wukchumni

    I had time to kill, a little over two hours…

    I was overseas for a spell way back when this ABC tv movie showed up, and I missed out and only watched it last night, its a pretty frank depiction of the aftermath of a nuclear exchange, with Lawrence, Kansas being the focal point.

    The Day After (1983 Full, Original – 1:75:1 Aspect Ratio)


    1. Katiebird

      I lived in Lawrence when it was being filmed. My boss had a tiny speaking part! … It was interesting to walk around downtown where they made everything look devastated.

      It had a kind of premier at the theater in the K.U. Student Union so I saw it on a big screen. It wasn’t the best movie ever made but seeing my own town so affected by a nuclear explosion was a pretty emotional experience.

      I wish movies like this would actually change things.

    2. The Rev Kev

      That was the film that shook Ronald Reagan up and probably got people think that a “limited nuclear war” was maybe not such a good idea after all. Of course such a film will never be permitted to be filmed these days.

  12. XXYY

    Battlestar Galactica Lessons from Ransomware to the Pandemic

    Tufecki gives very short shrift to the actual “lesson” from her own BG clip:

    I will not have networked computers aboard my ship

    Air-gapped systems are the simplest and most reliable defense against hacking. Critical computer systems should not be able to exchange data with the open internet at all. (If needed, limited data exchange can be hand-carried across the boundary.) This requires some hard thinking about how to partition your IT systems, and it imposes some (limited IMO) inconvenience and costs, but it’s relatively easy to get right and will be stable over time and across software upgrades, staff changes, and configuration screwups.

    We already do this with physical facilities like banks, hospital ERs, and other places: some things are “outside” in the area open to the public, and other things are “inside” behind bulletproof glass and steel lined walls. So on some level we get the idea that you can’t just put everything out on the sidewalk for random people to pick through.

    Tufecki’s main solution, that all software in the world should be “rewritten” to be more secure, is not happening any time soon. And there’s no reason to think the new versions would be better; their vulnerabilities will likely just be different.

    1. R

      Just when you think the US gun culture has lost its power to shock, you see something like this that stops you short.

      “hospital ERs, and other places: some things are “outside” in the area open to the public, and other things are “inside” behind bulletproof glass and steel lined walls.”

      In the UK, they are open to the street. Nothing separates the emergency surgery area from the waiting room except some double doors and corridors and signs and a general feeling of “you shouldn’t be here”. You could wander straight in with the ceash team from the ambulance bay, if you didn’t get stopped.

      It is just possible that there are card / pendant entry systems in some hospitals to the operating theatres but the only area customarily with access control is the maternity ward, to prevent kidnap, and intensive care, because patients are vulnerable and there is no collective security if you are all sedated and the nurse is busy….

      There’s no bullet proof glass anywhere. This was my experience in central London as well as the shires.

  13. Sub-Boreal

    “Swiss funder draws lots to make grant decisions” [Nature].

    That’s one way to reform research grant allocation. Another proposal – I’m trying to track down the original source – came from a couple of Canadian academics a dozen or so years ago. They noted that the national science granting agency had a fairly high success rate (>50%) for basic grants, yet the application and adjudication process consumed immense amounts of time and effort. So they suggested just giving everyone a basic grant, say $20,000 or 25,000, and saving the elaborate competition processes for special programs. (That amount of money sounds puny, but it would go a long way in the Canadian university system because the host institutions can’t suck overhead out of it, and profs are paid for 12 months per year, so they don’t have to raid their grants for summer salaries.)

    This idea has never been adopted.

    1. Jack Parsons

      This is how art grants should work. The artist should prove that they can support themselves via their art, and the grant should give them a year’s worth of sales. This would let them take time out and do something new.

  14. skippy

    Pulp – Common People … “alert reader introduced me to this classic”

    Will wonders never cease too amaze, your deadset the last person I would have thought unfamiliar. I’ve had it playing whilst reading or commenting on NC for years, linked it a few times I thought, it summarizes the second hand thought betters muse ***occasionally*** about genetic failures – albeit or aside a casual sexual encounter as a gift.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Will wonders never cease too amaze, your deadset the last person I would have thought unfamiliar.

      I basically got off the popular music train around 1979-1980 (this was my last concert). I’m not sure why, but that meant that I missed a lot of good bands people here know very well.

  15. Lee

    “Top scientists question the need for COVID-19 booster shots” [Reuters]. “In interviews with Reuters, more than a dozen influential infectious disease and vaccine development experts said there is growing evidence that a first round of global vaccinations may offer enduring protection against the coronavirus and its most worrisome variants discovered to date…”

    Meanwhile other scientist say other confusing things. From https://covariants.org/variants/S.E484

    “Tests in people vaccinated with the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines suggest S:E484K and S:N501Y individually, and both together in combination with S:K417N, cause a small but significant reduction in neutralization (Wang et al., Nature )”

    What does “small but significant” mean?

    I hate to link to Daily Kos but one must on the odd occasion give the devil his/her/its/their due.

    The COVID-19 crisis in India should be raising big alarms that go far beyond Asia

    1. kareninca

      Thank you very much for posting that. I can’t believe that I was just directly benefitted by a Daily Kos article; I feel unclean. However, those charts have made an impression on me. I don’t like that thin green line at all. I may actually get vaccinated now, given what is likely coming down the pike. So it isn’t P1 it seems; it is B1617 that may roar through here.

  16. Wukchumni

    Getting my second shot today, and sorry I waited so long to do it…

    My mom told us my oldest sister & I both had chicken pox so bad on xmas eve in 1964 that I had to be put into restraints because I was scratching myself silly, although I don’t remember any of it happening because I had just turned 3. We in turn gave it to the neighbors who came over for xmas dinner (always on the eve in our family), and their girl my sister’s age also came down with meningitis… thank goodness they finally came up with a chicken pox vaccine!

    Going for my second shingles shot today and am more glad for this vaccination than my Covid shot in some fashion, in that I have relatives who have had shingles, one of whom had it go into her eyes, yikes!

    Its covered under your health insurance, and if you are Generation Jones (1955-65) here’s a little prompting to get ‘er done.

    1. Michael Ismoe

      Shingles shots are NOT covered by Medicare. They are $125 each (you need two) and are out-of-pocket if you are a Medicare beneficiary.

  17. zagonostra

    There’s no question that Trump’s 2020 election claim is, if not “Big,” at least excessively large.

    I’m not so sure. When I see what happened to Bernie in Iowa and in 2016 you can’t deny that all types of election chicanery took/takes place. Being an omnivore in my media consumption, I see some dubious activities on the part ongoing investigations in AZ. And, it think I just read that five Maricopa County supervisors are to be subpoenaed Monday over the audit of ballot recount, I can’t say anything about “Big” lies.

    All I know is that my gov’t has lied to me in that past, is probably lying to me now and will continue to do so in the future. That’s the only “Big Lie” that I’m certain of, the details of particular events are just too damn hard to get at the bottom of from the remove of most viewers/readers.

  18. marym

    Cost of Voting in the American States: 2020
    (Includes charts of state-by-state ranking)

    The ease of voting across the United States is constantly changing. This research updates work which established the relative ‘‘cost of voting’’ during presidential election cycles, in each of the 50 states, from 1996 to 2016. The 2020 iteration takes into account the recent adoption of automatic voter regis- tration processes, expansion of early voting, new absentee voting laws, and the elimination of polling stations in some states.

    Legislation now moving forward in Republican legislatures would reverse the 2020 progress, undo (as this week in AZ) previous and long-standing practices that facilitate voting, and empower state legislators to overrule the results of the vote.

    The lie about the stolen election is part of the long-standing Republican project to use unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud to justify voter suppression.

    How it compares with Russiagate in impact on the polity mmv. The more important lie from the Democrats is that there’s what they like to call “our sacred democracy” and that they care about it.

    Overview of the study
    Copy of the study
    Originally published in the Election Law Journal

    1. rowlf

      How it compares with Russiagate in impact on the polity mmv. (sic?) The more important lie from the Democrats is that there’s what they like to call “our sacred democracy” and that they care about it.


      I don’t always agree with you but I always appreciate your research and aim. I don’t care or have feelings for either major party so for me a well argued viewpoint is enjoyed. Thanks for trying to keep the compass pointing correctly.

      1. marym

        Thanks for the kind words.

        mmv: mileage may vary. A variation on y[our]mmv, trying to make a different comparison of propaganda points without seeming to be starting an argument with Lambert’s original comparison.

        1. fresno dan

          May 13, 2021 at 10:27 pm
          I second rowlf comments. Your objective analysis is appreciated

  19. kareninca

    I volunteer at a library book sale. We closed during the initial months of the pandemic, but started up again in August. For eight months I’ve been willing to wander through several very large, very well ventilated rooms with six other people at a time, all masked (we have a contact tracing sheet). I’m one of only two volunteers willing to do this.

    Now our board is telling us that the CDC is saying that no masks are needed inside if people are vaccinated.

    I’m not vaccinated; I’m not sure that I plan to be. Even if I were, I don’t want to be inside a book sale with people without masks. Why should I care if they are vaccinated? The vaccinated can still catch and transmit; maybe even if the vaccine works for them, but certainly if they are of the ten percent or so for whom the vaccines are not effective. Plus variants.

    I guess they’ll need to find a new volunteer. Good luck with that.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I think that you may be wise here. Before, it sounds like you were making logical decisions based on current information but with the CDC undercutting all such advice, that book sale event now becomes a random high-risk area. The CDC will have a lot to answer for when this is all over.

      1. kareninca

        Even if it is true that vaccinated people are less infectious, how am I supposed to know that the patrons are actually vaccinated? Check their papers? I don’t think so.

    2. Jeff W

      “The vaccinated can still catch and transmit…”

      Monica Gandhi (Professor of Medicine and Associate Division Chief of the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine at UCSF/San Francisco General Hospital) says

      The CDC’s been documenting this and there hasn’t been a single case of you, after having been vaccinated, transmitting to someone else. And that’s consistent with about 10 studies now…

      That includes, apparently, according to Dr Gandhi, breakthrough cases—she says “…at this point we haven’t seen breakthroughs that can transmit…”

      1. Pat

        I remember when everyone was assured that all the tests made it clear that HIV was not transmitted by blood and the blood supply was safe. I also remember thinking that made no sense and was going to blow up in their faces AND how it turned out.

        Logically if the antibodies produced by the vaccine cannot fight off a particular version of the vaccine for a person, how would it neutralize any virus in the aerosols emitted by that person?

        The overwhelming rush to go back to “before” by our overlords regardless of the consequences to the rest of us is becoming increasingly more destructive. Too bad it isn’t becoming more obvious except to contrarians who no longer accept anything at face value.

        1. Jeff W

          “…how would it neutralize any virus in the aerosols emitted by that person?”

          Dr Gandhi says that “you have a very low viral load…within your nose” even in breakout cases. (It’s not clear in the interview she gave if that’s a conclusion based on the lack of infections or data based on nasal swabs or both.) She’s been pretty big on emphasizing the amount of inoculum and the severity of the disease so perhaps it’s not surprising that she points to viral load as a factor in transmission or the lack of it.

      2. kareninca

        The CDC is not going to give us data on breakthrough cases that don’t result in death or hospitalization. So I guess we won’t be able to find out what the truth is here about how dangerous vaccinated people can be to others when they are a breakthrough case.

        https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/health-departments/breakthrough-cases.html (“As previously announced, CDC is transitioning to reporting only patients with COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infection that were hospitalized or died to help maximize the quality of the data collected on cases of greatest clinical and public health importance. That change in reporting will begin on May 14, 2021. In preparation for that transition, the number of reported breakthrough cases will not be updated on May 7, 2021.”

  20. Grant

    “Both party establishments are being run by crazypants people. We are in an unprecedented situation, I really don’t know how to think it through, and I don’t see a way out.”

    I don’t think they are crazy if you put aside the irrationality of maintaining this system as is (the social and environmental costs in particular). What I think is that neither party offers anything on policy, they are run and controlled by people with a class interest that is opposed by most of society, we exist in a society, a country, with massive structural problems. To solve those structural problems we need changes that could undermine the capitalists and the large donors. It is also true that, almost without exception, politicians are rich and have a class interest that is opposite to most of their constituents. So, if all of that is the case, what you have is just theater. If the theater was more based in reality, that would make the theater appear more based in the lived experience of most people. But, what is left as society slowly breaks down? A really, really shiny object way over there. Look! Forget who has created policy in recent decades, who it benefits and who it harms, how much private wealth is dependent on the externalization of costs from those benefiting from policy, and certainly don’t look at the underwhelming performance electorally of a party that cannot beat a Republican Party that supports deeply unpopular policies. The Democrats are a nothing party, led by nothings.

    It reminds me instead of Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle. “In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.”

    1. lambert strether

      > What I think is that neither party offers anything on policy, they are run and controlled by people with a class interest that is opposed by most of society, we exist in a society, a country, with massive structural problems.

      I think that, in addition to having class interests, they are crazy.

  21. Darthbobber

    Colonial must have discovered that knowledge of the ransom payment wasn’t closely held enough to ensure it wouldn’t come to light.

    I suppose they may have been literally telling the truth, of sorts, when they said they had “no intention” of paying a ransom, since one usually doesn’t intend to do what one has already done.

  22. chuck roast

    Three millions bucks is a lot to try to fit in a paper bag, so let’s be fair.

    You know, that’s very insightful. Of course the well-connected steal huge amounts of $hit with impunity, but with the exception of applying the zeroes, $1.5B = $1,500,000,000 you really don’t get the full impact of the level of thievery. Using your logic, we can get a different view of the magnitude of the scam.

    For example: $1.5B in one hundred dollar bills takes up how many square feet, and how much does it weigh? Here are Walt and the wife trying to figure it out. Getting a 3-dimensional view of the grift would help us all in guaging its enormity. How “big” was the Mt. Gox theft? The London Whale? The Maiden Lane bail? Inquiring minds want to know.

  23. Andrew Watts

    RE: America’s Broken Civil-Military Relationship Imperils National Security

    That’s been a popular topic / grift since the 90s. It seems like there is an article every other month about the deteriorating civil-military relationship. The answer to it is always adding more civilian, or former military, to the ranks of the employees of the Pentagon in what is basically a make-work employment program for mediocrities who know nothing about the waging of war.

    The real problem is that our President isn’t George Washington. The Constitution was written with Washington’s presidency and an armed force of citizen-soldiers in mind. The original authors of the Constitution assumed that men seeking the presidency would be somewhat familiar with military affairs. Only Ike seemed to handle the dual civilian/military role well. Ike wouldn’t have been intimidated by the military brass and never would’ve gone along with an inane scheme like the Bay of Pigs.

    It probably never occurred to Obama that he wasn’t limited to the options provided by the Joint Chiefs and Trump’s attempted withdrawal from Syria ended up being a military fiasco.

    1. Darthbobber

      On recent evidence, our generals know no more about waging successful war than the average layman. Maybe less. In any case, there’s a difference between proceeding with technical competence to wage wars you are directed to fight and attempting to dictate whether those wars should be fought.

      It does seem to me, though, that the centre of irresponsible bellicosity is now more over at State and Spookville than in the military proper.

      1. Andrew Watts

        That’s a fair assessment, but the example of Donald Rumsfeld would beg to differ. His ignorance of military affairs is one of the primary reasons the Iraq war started and ended the way it did.

    2. km

      Trump was unable to pull out of Syria because Israel and Saudi Arabia were opposed.

      Take away those two and the United States has no interest in that country. The amount of oil there is piddling.

      1. rowlf

        Don’t forget Lt Col Alexander Vindman having a hissy-fit when the Commander In Chief veered away from Vindman’s ideas on Ukrainian policy.

      2. Andrew Watts

        Trump was solely responsible for green-lighting the Turkish incursion into Northern Syria in a phone call with Erdogan. He stranded American troops who relied upon the SDF allies he was abandoning for an evacuation plan. The Turks and their Islamist militants also targeted American soldiers in Kobani with bracketing artillery fire. The USAF was forced to blow up munitions that were left behind at the Lafarge cement factory during the scramble.

        No, it was a military fiasco and a national disgrace.

    3. Jason Boxman

      Eisenhower authorized several bizarre schemes to overthrow foreign governments by means of the CIA, so I can’t say that the Bay of Pigs is really the best counter example here.

      1. The Rev Kev

        The Bay of Pigs was actually an Eisenhower operation that Kennedy inherited when he took power. He never shut it down, probably because he was new to the Presidency. Big mistake.

        1. Andrew Watts

          Ike would’ve known that the plan wouldn’t have succeeded without extensive and overt American support. Eh, Kennedy? Not so much apparently.

      2. Andrew Watts

        I never said Eisenhower was a great president or that he didn’t let the CIA run wild. Only that he handled the dual role of head-of-state and commander-in-chief well.

        When Ike came into office in the midst of the Korean War he immediately sought a means of forging an armistice. The war wasn’t exactly going to the US / UN command’s advantage and another successful Chinese/North Korean offensive could’ve ended his presidency before it began.

    4. The Rev Kev

      Obama once made a peace agreement with Putin for Syria for a more settled status in that country. Then a few days later, the Pentagon had an airstrike launched on the defenses of a Syrian city under siege by ISIS so that they could take that city. The Russian and Syrian Air Forces had to roll in with everything they had to stop that happening and were in the end successful. But it was after that that the Russians started to label the US as being “agreement-incapable”. Obama should have sacked whoever was in command of aerial operations for Syria or yanked back the civilian neocon in charge of regime change for “consultations” but I think that he did nothing in the end.

      1. Andrew Watts

        If you’re arguing that Obama was a weak president as well as a bad one you’ll get no disagreement from me. It wasn’t in the US’s interest that the agreement broke down as Kerry later pointed out. The US received veto rights over Russian military support for Syria’s goal of capturing Eastern Aleppo.

        In effect this would’ve made the Syrian Civil War a frozen conflict if the agreement held.

  24. R

    Computer security may be impossible, Zeynep….


    An academic has published an exploit of a Gedenken Experiment, the abstract Universal Turing Machine which moves back and forth reading and writing an infinite tape of symbols. Apparently there is no safeguard of the separation between data and programme, I.e. no fool proof way to prevent somebody forming the data in such as to fool the computer into treating part of it as the programme in place of the real programme. The same concept as a SQL injection attack where a user enters a query into a database which is really a command in the database programming language.

    The problem is insoluble. How do you tell the Turing machine to restrict acceptance of a programme? By programming it….

    Amusingly, humans have the same problem with disinformation. Do not read that, it us unsafe. But is the warning safe?

    All Cretans are liars!

    1. philnc

      Have to strongly disagree on the possibility of computer security (“cyber” security is a term dreamed up by 9 year-olds, or PR types with the maturity of a 9 year-old). I have a shelf full of books published in the 90s and early oughts that predicted what we’re experiencing now, and prescribed effective, economical solutions. But the Masters of the Universe amd their intellectually challenged political managers couldn’t be bothered, and neither could the Apprentice-watching public. An AR-15 clone is no defense against the criminal hacker who just owned your identity, and neither is an aircraft carrier. Maybe instead of spreading around seed money to the hacker underground like wannabe VCs, the Five Eyes and their associated agencies should have been developing actual defenses against the hacks they exploited. At this point we’d need a massive, thorough education effort just to get people up to speed. Personally, I’d like to see passing the entry level CCNA exam as a prerequisite to anyone, including elected members, serving on technology-related Congressional committees.

    1. lambert strether

      The assumption behind “gain of function” theories is that “because there is a design, there must be a designer.”

      Creationists deeply believe this argument, which is called the Watchmaker Hypothesis. In that context, scientists, correctly, laugh it out of court.

      1. R

        Not so. Gain of function experiments are a real thing and you can read the NIH grant papers for funding to WIV for some of the GoF work they were doing.

        The questions we should be asking about the emergence from nowhere of SARS-Cov-2 are:
        – where is the intermediate animal host, given there are no horseshoe bats in Wuhan and certainly not in winter? And urban Chinese do not eat bat soup!
        – if there is not an intermediate host, why is it so poor at causing disease in bats – they barely seem to be the host either?
        – why do some of the most unusual mutations comprise human codons rather than coronavirus codons? The spike protein contains a furin cleavage site (not present in any other corona virus) the multiple alanines of which are coded for with the DNA triplet that humans use for alanine rather than the one found in coronaviruses. It’s like a spy film where the spy accidentally speaks in her native language and gives herself away. A single alanine could be a non-sense altering mutation but a stretch of them? It’s an implausible chance.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > about the emergence from nowhere

          This is silly. Things emerge “from nowhere” all the time. It’s called evolution. (I am told by an AIDS physician that people in that era thought that AIDS had a human designer, too, since it was so elegant. It didn’t.)

          Nice job on begging the question, though!

          1. R

            I’m not a tinfoil hat type. I am a balance of probabilities type (natural science, computer science, law, VC). There are good scientific reasons to give weight to the possibility it escaped from a lab with poor biosecurity.

            The letters in the Lancet and Nature claiming that Science(TM) says it did not come from a lab are poor quality strawman jobs (method x is a lab technique for engineering viruses, method x leaves traces, we see no traces therefore this virus was not engineered – syllogism 101).

            The Lancet letter was coordinated by Peter Dasczak who has more than a slight vested interest given his history of GoF experiments with WIV!

            I find it odd that NC is so sceptical of the self-interest and cynicism of finance and the Blob but science other than Big Pharma is still beyond suspicion.

            Glad you liked the Turing exploit by the way. :-)

  25. Bittercup

    “Across the country, health clinics said that many patients were uniquely excited about the one-shot regimen—due to either skepticism about mRNA technology or fear of needles. Some of that enthusiasm evaporated after the pause, doctors told The Wall Street Journal.”

    Also in J&J news, CDC upped their blood clot count to 28, new doses won’t be coming anytime soon per WaPo, and Norway is considering dropping it along with AZ. Is it conspiracy-brained to wonder if it’s being squeezed off the market in favor of the mRNA vaccines? Is the safety profile for the J&J seriously that much worse than for Pfizer/Moderna that it deserves this special treatment? What is Sputnik V doing differently with the same adenovirus vector as J&J? Be nice if J&J took them up on that purification technology offer and looked at it to see if that would work better.

    1. Yves Smith

      To your answer, our IM Doc says the VAERS database shows enough heart/stroke incidents with Pfizer/Moderna, which if you make conservative assumptions about how many were clotting induced or related, suggests that they have similar problem. This was indirectly confirmed when he described a horrific clotting case with a middle aged very healthy man who after his first Moderna shot, had a blood ox plunge in hours, tested positive, and experienced clotting that got much worse on the administration of Heparin (clotting so bad that his platelet count plunged, meaning a lot were tied up in the clots). Led to a pulmonary embolism. This was about a week BEFORE the J&J clotting story broke. Same pattern, different drug.

    2. Pat

      The winners have been chosen and we are being herded into an expensive and possibly life long ongoing pharmaceutical dependency.

  26. ProNewerDeal

    I am surprised by the CDC announcement that vaccinated persons can be maskless indoors.

    This seems anti-scientific & deeply irresponsible.

    I cynically feel it is certain industries pressuring Biden Admin to make this change, because they feel it will increase short-term quarterly sales & profits.

    I hope my state & county juridistiction does not eliminate the indoors mask requirement.

    AFAICT COVID policy should be based numerically on COVID prevalence or possibly other stats including hospitilazion. AFAICT indoor masks should be maintained until the COVID prevalence lowers to a 7-day average of 1 case a day/100K people, at least for the most dangerous environments including gyms, bars, churches, NBA/NHL areans, convention centers/etc. My county is at 16/100K.

    Personally I will keep my KN95 mask when in public indoors buildings until we get under 1 case a day/100K in my county. If I biomedical professional who seems credible to me tells me this is too stringent I would be open to reconsidering. That biomedical professional is not Biden Noble Liar hacks like Fauci or Walensky.

    Any take on this indoor mask elimination CDC news from a biomedical professional like IM_Doc or Ignacio?

    1. Cuibono

      they as much as said this is an incentive to get immunized. Pity the millions of immunocompromised Americans

    2. lambert strether

      > This seems anti-scientific & deeply irresponsible.

      It seems that way because it is. Worse, it buys into Republican framing that masking is an infringment (much like bathing) on freedom.

      If the virus kicks up again, it’s going to be very hard to get people to re-mask.

  27. EGrise

    I just don’t even know what to make of it all any more. After the initial cheering about the CDC’s announcement, I’m starting to see stuff like this: Confusing Messages From Officials On CDC Mask Announcement.

    Part of me cannot get past the timing of the announcement: right after Biden announces stepped-up enforcement of Unemployment Insurance fraud and wants states to restore job-search requirements, which itself came on the heels of a wave of stories about employers unable to find workers because “UI is too generous” and “people are too lazy to work.” It just smells fishy.

    After having been lied too, Noble Lie or not, so many times since the pandemic started, I just can’t trust them any more. At this rate I’ll be wearing a mask for the rest of my life.

  28. Cuibono

    That is, the government’s underselling of the vaccines (and overselling of their risks) did not exactly cause the dip, but did make it harder for enthusiasm to bloom among the skeptical.”

    well i would say they addressed that head on today with the news that masks are no longer needed for the vaccinated

    1. lambert strether

      > well i would say they addressed that head on today with the news that masks are no longer needed for the vaccinated

      They did. I hadn’t thought the Biden administration would use de-masking as a bargaining chip to encourage vaccination. Seems a little transactional.

  29. Mikel

    Re: “All Good Social Change Comes from Mass Disruption” [Rampant].

    “The system” is the relationships between the global elite. Revolution would be disrupting those relationships.

  30. rowlf

    From a Georgia firearms forum, maybe useful:

    It’ll probably take until the end of the month for everything to get totally sorted out.

    In a prior life I dispatched fuel trucks for a year.

    Most of the newer (built in past 10-15 years) stations have regular unleaded underground tanks that hold ~30,000 gallons. The Larger stations (costco, sams, QT/RT with 30 pumps) usually have two of the 30k tanks manifolded together for 60k. Smaller corner stations might only be able to hold 8-10k gallons.

    A fuel tanker can hold ~8500 gallons regular unleaded, 7500gallons diesel.

    So if just one station is completely empty with their 30k gal tanks it would take ~ 3.5-4 loads just to get them full. The super stations would take 7 loads. And that is just for one station.

    Average driver can run 4-5 loads per 12hr shift, more if the station is closer to the terminal. But there are sure to be long lines for the delivery drivers at the terminal as well.

    So while the panic will subside, it won’t be uncommon to see select outages for the next 2-4 weeks.

  31. VietnamVet

    The returned Obama crew is having huge PR messaging problems. No doubt due to their propaganda being divorced from reality.

    They just should have admitted that the government cannot control cyber crooks. Colonial Pipeline has paid $5 million to DarkSide and gasoline will be flowing again in a week. There would not have been any gas lines on the East Coast.

    One hundred and thirty million unvaccinated Americans have just been thrown under the bus. “Get vaccinated or else. Trust the science.” Except possible asymptomatic vaccinated super-shedders were told in effect to smile and infect others. The virus is endemic and mutating. New variants are a given. Pfizer and Moderna CEOs indicate that booster shots will be necessary. If there is a fourth spike this winter, today will not be forgotten. Although the victims will be blamed for not getting jabbed, the real cause of any new illnesses and elder deaths will be the establishment’s decision to make more money for corporations and not to eliminate the virus this year with a national public health campaign.

  32. John Anthony La Pietra

    Both party establishments are being run by crazypants people. We are in an unprecedented situation, I really don’t know how to think it through, and I don’t see a way out.

    Well, maybe we could try something crazy like, y’know, supporting efforts to elect non-crazypants people . . . from other parties — or from no party.

    (Such people do exist. No, honestly. They do. So do such parties. Pass it on. . . .)

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