2:00PM Water Cooler 5/18/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

I am so happy there is a creature called the “Short-toed Snake-Eagle.” Also, eagles seem to have calls that are more differentiated than cranes (thank heavens).

* * *


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:

Still whoops. I guess we’ll see if Biden abandoning masks provides sufficient incentive. There’s also been a lot of discussion about polling that shows different uptake between Republicans and Democrats, and across identities. But since about a month ago, the curve shapes have been in synch by region, arguing for a more uniform (national) explanation. Perhaps supply. Or class?

Case count by United States regions:

Continued good news. Since this is a weekly average, the Biden/CDC masking kerfuffle will not show up for awhile, if indeed it does show up. (As promised, I killed the Midwest map, now that Michigan has fallen back into the pack, and replaced it with a World map, below.)

Continued good news. Looks like I can abandon this chart when Michigan is no longer an outlier. I think I’ll do a case chart for the world instead.

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

Continued good news. (This chart may seem redundant but I’m trying to think through where the next wave, if God forbid there is a next wave, would show up. Florida and Texas are both entrepots to Latin America, and New York and California to Europe and Asia, respectively. (Now that I think of it, a map of counties near resort towns would be helpful, too; the historical correlation between skiing and superspreading is pretty clear, in Europe and the US. Maybe I can dig one up.)

Test positivity:

The West is flat. The South is rising.

DIVOC-91 no longer updates hospitalization and death so I went and found some substitutes; neither provide regional data.

Hospitalization (CDC):

More good news. I have added an anti-triumphalist red line.

Deaths (Our World in Data):

More good news. I have added an anti-triumphalist red line.

NEW Covid cases worldwide:

I think it makes more sense to look at all regions rather than individual countries (even if we know, for example, that WHO’s Southeast Asia is mostly India by sheer weight of numbers, even though many individual countries are having issues). And why is Africa such an enormous outlier? Readers?

* * *


“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

I’m not the only one with Biden Fog:

“White House: Biden committed to codifying Roe v. Wade regardless of Miss. case” [The Hill]. “The White House says President Biden is committed to codifying the outcome of Roe v. Wade regardless of how the Supreme Court rules after the justices agreed to hear arguments over a Mississippi law that bans virtually all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy…. It’s unlikely Congress will pass a law cementing the precedent set by Roe v. Wade into law, as it would require at least 10 GOP senators to vote with all 50 Democrats and independents. Only Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) have made clear their support for the law.” • So what does “codify” mean, then? An Executive Order?

“Biden warns that states with low Covid vaccination rates may see cases rise again” [CNBC]. “For the first time since the pandemic began over a year ago, Covid-19 cases are down in all 50 states, Biden announced during a White House press conference on the nation’s progress fighting the virus. That progress could still be reversed, he said, especially in states where a low percentage of people have been vaccinated. ‘We know there will be advances and setbacks, and we know that there are many flare-ups that could occur,’ Biden said. ‘But if the unvaccinated get vaccinated, they will protect themselves and other unvaccinated people around them.’ He said it would be a needless ‘tragedy’ to see Covid cases rise among those who do not get vaccinated. ‘I want to thank the American people who have stepped up and done their patriotic duty and gotten vaccinated,’ he said.” • How about all the goddamned Americans who did their patriotic duty and masked up and stayed home and social distanced. And how about all the goddamned essential workers who risked their lives to feed their families. Biden’s gooey sentimentality is starting to irk me.

And speaking of being irked:

To me, this reads like Biden thinks people who sacrificed personally for the sake of public health are a minority, weak people who need to be protected with him, and not deserving of respect by default. Am I overly irked?

Democrats en Deshabille

It’s just one poll:


The Arizona recount:

Above my paygrade, I admit.


“Trump’s Engaged Party Defining The Battle For 2022” [Democracy Corps]. A Democrat shop but one of the saner ones. “We were also surprised by how much Donald Trump’s loyalist party is totally consolidated at this early point in its 2022 voting and how engaged it is. Yes, they have pulled back from histor-ic presidential year levels: the percent scoring 10, the highest level of interest in the election, has fallen from 84 to 68 percent. But Democrats’ engagement fell from 85 percent to 57 per-cent. Republicans are following their political theater much more closely than are Democrats — producing an 11-point gap. Neither is showing the level of interest of the presidential election in 2019 and 2020, but they are higher than a comparable point in 2018, suggesting the era of high turnout elections is not over. And with such high early engagement of Republicans and white working class voters in this survey, it means the era of Donald Trump shaping the electorate is not over either.” • Of course, the electorate shapes Trump, too. That’s one of his strengths.

“Trump signals he’s ready to get back in the game” [The Hill]. “An emboldened former President Trump is preparing to become more active as he looks to boost GOP allies while mulling a new run for the White House. Trump is expected to hit the road soon resuming his signature rallies, which will put him more in the public eye and create questions for television networks about coverage. He’s also set to hold his first fundraiser for his new super PAC at a time when his control over the GOP was augmented after House Republicans voted to dump Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from their leadership team over her repeated criticism of the former president’s false claims about his loss in the 2020 election. ‘I think he feels good. I think he feels vindicated,’ said one Trump ally, who said the developments make it more likely that Trump will be ‘aggressively on the playing field’ stumping for GOP candidates in the coming months ahead of 2022. Even GOP critics of Trump acknowledge that what happened to Cheney underscores the former president’s clout. ‘That is a reflection of where the membership is and ultimately where the voters are. The Republican conference is a pretty accurate reflection of where the Republican base is,’ said GOP strategist Doug Heye, who has criticized Trump in the past.” • Which has not always been the case with Republicans, and is the case with Democrats, but only because they threw the working class under the bus, condemning themselves to a permanent 50% + 1 strategy (albeit a strategy lucrative for consultants).

Stats Watch

Housing: “‘There’s no way I can pay for this:’ One of America’s largest hospital chains has been suing thousands of patients during the pandemic” [Econintersect]. “Headline residential building permits improved and construction completions worsened. The rolling averages improved for both permits and construction completions…. The backward revisions this month were small. It is always difficult to understand the trends as the backward revisions sometimes reverse trends month-to-month. The nature of this industry normally has large variations from month-to-month (mostly due to weather) so the rolling averages are the best way to view this series.mThe rolling averages say this sector is growing.”

Housing: “March 2021 CoreLogic Single-Family Rents: High-End Rentals and Inventory Pressure Quicken Single-Family Rent Growth in March” [Econintersect]. “The Single-Family Rent Index (SFRI), which analyzes single-family rent price changes nationally and across major metropolitan areas, for March 2021 shows a national rent increase of 4.3% year over year, up from a 3% year-over-year increase in March 2020. According to the U.S. Census, the occupancy rates for single-family rentals is at a generational high, which is driving up inventory pressure and, subsequently, rent growth. A recent CoreLogic survey shows that nearly 70% of consumers agree high prices for homes are causing many people to rent. However, as demand continues to drive rent prices higher, we may expect to see growing affordability challenges on the rental front as well, as 36% of consumers already feel rental options in their neighborhood are not very or not-at-all affordable.”

* * *

Debt: “Credit Card Balance Declines Are Largest Among Older, Wealthier Borrowers” [Liberty Street Economics]. “Total household debt rose by $85 billion in the first quarter of 2021, according to the latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit from the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data. Since the start of the pandemic, household debt balances have increased in every quarter but one—the second quarter of 2020, when lockdowns were in full effect…. One of the most confounding changes in debt balances is that of credit cards. In the first quarter of 2021, balances shrunk by $49 billion, the second largest decline in the history of the time series, which begins in 1999…. [I]t appears that many households are working to reduce their revolving debt balances, and this is happening across the board…. Credit card borrowers in the two lower income areas reduced their card balances by 15 percent in the year since the pandemic began, while those in the highest income zip codes saw a 19 percent reduction.”

Tech: The Internet of Sh*t:

Wait ’til the family bot puts the turkey in the crib and the baby in the oven. (Hilariously, the replies to the tweet give other anecdotes of the same “fastidiousness.”)

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 39 Fear (previous close: 40 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 51 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 17 at 12:49pm.

Health Care

I’ve been annoyed the phrase “I’m leading my life,” generally by not masking up or taking other elementary public health measures, especially when the individual involved presents this choice as courageous. My view is different:

(Gotta work on my calligraphy, I guess. Image is Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son, from the Prado.)

Long thread with technical detail on ventilation:

“School Building Ventilation Survey” [NYC Department of Education]. “Properly ventilated classrooms are key to school safely. The DOE continues to monitor ventilation in all spaces throughout the building on a regular basis and posts updated information on each school’s page on our website, on the Overview tab, under Building Ventilation Information on a regular basis. As always, the health and safety of our staff, students and families is our number one priority…. Any room that does not meet our stringent safety standards will not be used for instructional purposes unless it is repaired or remediated. We want to remind you that while ventilation is essential to our COVID-19 prevention plan, it is only one part of a comprehensive strategy to keep our students, educators, and staff members safe inside and outside our schools.” • With reports on every school. Kudos.

“COVID-19: Regulator increases time Pfizer jab can be stored in a fridge to one month” [Sky News]. “The European Medicines Agency (EMA) previously advised that vials needed to be kept at an ultra-low temperature, between minus 70C and minus 80C, until a few days before use when it can be transferred to a standard medical fridge. But the EMA said in a statement it had extended the approved storage period for an unopened thawed vial when kept in a fridge between 2C and 8C from five days to one month.”

The Biosphere

“Just 20 companies are responsible for over half of ‘throwaway’ plastic waste, study says” [CNBC]. Just 20 companies are the source of more than half of single-use plastic items thrown away globally, according to a study that highlights the devastating impact on the environment. The Plastic Waste Makers Index, published Tuesday, names the companies that are at the forefront of the plastic supply chain and manufacture polymers, known as the building block of plastics. It also highlighted that the firms identified are supported by a small number of financial backers. Single-use plastics, such as bottles, bags and food packages, are the most commonly discarded type of plastic. Made almost exclusively from fossil fuels, these “throwaway” plastics often end their short lifecycle polluting the oceans, being burned or dumped into landfills. The study says 20 petrochemical companies are responsible for 55% of the world’s single-use plastic waste. The findings were published by the Minderoo Foundation, one of Asia’s largest philanthropies. The research was conducted by academics from the London School of Economics, the Stockholm Environment Institute, Wood Mackenzie, among others. U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil tops the list, contributing 5.9 million metric tons to global plastic waste, closely followed by U.S. chemicals company Dow and China’s Sinopec. The study says 100 companies are the source of 90% of global single-use plastic production.” • Enough said. That’s a deal:

Guillotine Watch

“Celebrity Couples Explain What Made Their Marriages Last” [The Onion]. • The Obamas are #10.

“The Dirt Piles on Bill Gates Following Divorce Announcement” [New York Magazine]. “Pursuing sexual relationships at a powerful institution he co-founded was not just limited to Microsoft, or the affair in 2000. According to the New York Times, Gates tried to date women working for him at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, asking people out by email — ‘If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened,’ he wrote in 2006 — and in person. Witnesses also claim that he was dismissive of his wife in meetings at their shared group, and that Gates did not respond to her request for an outside party to investigate a sexual-harassment claim against their money manager, who is still on the job. More information on the Epstein connection also came to light on Sunday evening. While it’s already understood that Melinda Gates was not thrilled by her husband spending time with the alleged sex trafficker, the Times notes that Gates ignored her advice on the subject and continued meeting with him. Epstein provided some advice of his own, according to the Daily Beast, which reported that the predator met with Gates dozens of times between 2011 and 2014 and told him how to end his ‘toxic’ marriage to Melinda. Apparently going to Epstein’s Upper East Side mansion to get the advice was more impactful than the advice itself.” • Ouch.

Class Warfare

“How Teachers Fought for Their Safety in the Pandemic—and Won” [The Nation]. “McCann credits the actions of thousands of Philly teachers who taught outside in protest that day for the change in vaccine eligibility rules, as well as more transparency about building conditions. “The action worked—we pulled it off,” she said. Arthur Steinberg, president of the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania, noted that the teachers also secured a “robust” testing and tracing program in the schools, which was ‘directly attributable to our activism and mobilization,’ he said. Whether and how to bring teachers and students back inside school buildings has been the subject of intense debate since last summer. But a clear theme has emerged: Expanding on recent waves of activism, teachers were able to band together and compel school districts to adopt protocols for masks, ventilation, testing, and even vaccination. Teachers have secured ‘really innovative agreements that were unprecedented,’ said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.”

The magic of the marketplace:

“Labor, Gig Companies Near Bargaining Deal in N.Y.” [Bloomberg]. “New legislation creating collective bargaining rights for gig-economy workers is poised to be introduced in New York State in the coming weeks, according to the president of the Transport Workers Union. If passed, the proposal would represent the fulfillment of a long-sought goal for companies like Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc.: a compromise that stops short of making workers into full employees. TWU President John Samuelsen said the union is backing the proposal after criticizing past deal-making efforts elsewhere. ‘I had every intention of staying away from it, and now after seeing how much it’ll advance gig workers, I’m fully supporting it,’ Samuelsen said Monday. ‘I actually think it becomes a national model.'” Oh. Commentary:

“How Artificial Intelligence Depends on Low-Paid Workers” [Tribune]. “Lurking behind the amorphous and often abstract notion of ‘AI’ are material realities. 80 percent of machine learning development consists of repetitive data preparation tasks and ‘janitorial’ work such as collecting data, labelling data to feed algorithms, and data cleaning – tasks that are a far cry from the high glamour of the tech CEOs who parade their products on stage. At other times, the computing purportedly being done by AI is actually being done by human workers: start-ups have workers pose as chatbots or transcribe information it claims is being done through ‘smart’ technology. The invisible and insecure nature of this form of work places a suspicious lens over the supposed freedoms of ‘anytime, anywhere’ ideals of working. Defined by Mary L. Gray as ‘ghost work’ in a book of the same name written with Siddharth Suri, this form of work is endless in both the number of possible tasks available (transcription, translation, data labelling, survey work) and in terms of the culture of expectancy, in which workers should always be completing or thinking about new work. As Gray states, ‘the great paradox of AI is that the desire to eliminate human work generates new tasks for humans.’” • I’m sure maintaining all this data is totally unproblematic, too. I wonder if the human laborers ever game the inputs?

News of the Wired

An enormous thread on “spite walls,” with many examples:

The analogy to cancel culture (or, as the Greeks called it, ostracism) seems clear.

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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. Mikel

    Re: “Then the robo-vacuum awoke at 7am to complete its programmed run, and fastidiously smeared shit all over the house..”

    It’s a feature, not a bug…

    Lifted from the twitter thread:

    Buzzfeed – 2016

    Newton explained that they had programmed the Roomba to run through the house at 1:30 a.m. every morning. Unfortunately, this night Evie had an accident on a rug. The consequences were horrifying:

    1. Keith

      There are many reviews on Amazon documenting those incidents, with pics, too.

      Taught me to use my robotic vacuum only after I am sure there is no poop lying about.

      1. newcatty

        Hmmm, my Spidey sense knew robotic vacuum were a bad idea. In same category as Alexa or door bell cameras . The better to see you and hear you, my dear. Anyway, we couldn’t use one cause our kitties are good about using their litter box, but it would be gross to wake up to hair balls and their precious bodily fluids smeared over the house. Me and partner will keep on sweeping and , he will keep on vacuuming …until we don’t.

        1. Keith

          Honestly, those things are great, especially with a house full of animals. We even named our vacuum Johnny. It is not a deep clean machine, but he does one heck of a job picking dust and hair on a daily basis.

      2. Michael Ismoe

        They probably had to hire an undocumented worker from Honduras to clean it up. Life is hard for the PMC.

  2. ambrit

    The “spite walls” issue is probably based on the old Common Law principle of “Ancient Lights.” As long as the original wall stays up, the adjacent homeowner cannot sue for “access” to light or air.
    Once a homeowner can document twenty years of “access” to light and or air to a window or windows, no one can ‘restrict’ such access.
    So, “spite” is the proper word to use in describing the situation.
    See: https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/ancient+lights

    1. a different chris

      That makes sense. Spite is funny but might be too strong a word, if the guy had thoughts about adding to his mansion then the real problem with the new people would be that in 20 years time they would be able to tell him no.

      More like a calculated investment. Even if they have a written record of the wall builder saying exactly that “I don’t want them looking down on my stuff” it still doesn’t mean his wall was actually built for more prosaic reasons.

  3. a different chris

    Ok time for a short rant unrelated no doubt to anything posted above as I haven’t looked at it yet.

    These f(amily blogg)ers:

    This time around, they were focusing on three little letters – YES – in favor of a constitutional amendment to allow the state legislature to override and end an emergency declaration issued by the governor, a proposal spurred by the commerce-crunching COVID-19 pandemic.

    “The big thing is voting “Yes,” said Richard, who proudly recalled casting his first vote to ensure Richard M. Nixon became president of the U.S. He and Phyllis said voting in the state Supreme Court race was high on their agenda for Tuesday as well.

    “I don’t like the way things are going,’ Phyllis said as she walked up to get her voting chit.

    How about the fact that I, a dude with a job which pays SS which means I subsidize these jerks, found out that I had to be out of town today and thus cannot vote in this election. But Mr Senile and his wife can. Long senile, if he voted for Nixon and seems to have been and remains proud of it.

    People like me risk their most vital info, aka their credit cards, to the ‘Net every day. But I can’t click on something using that same security technology and make my voice heard in this election. In 2021.

    So freakin’ stupid. I can’t even cancel out one of their cow-to-the-slaughter-like votes.

    It’s buried in this story, here’s the link:


    1. Keith

      Properly identifying people prior to voting Is disenfranchisement, while letting any random person show up at the booth is democracy in action. Hence the problem.

      1. hunkerdown

        The two terrorist parties prefer to have the rancor and the ability to rig elections freely in their own joint and separate interest, or they would have found the change in the seat cushions to simply issue ID cards and hire social workers by now. Everything about the “voter ID” argument is clearly disingenuous. They need to admit they just want a good pretext to rig elections in favor of elite parasitism, just like the other party.

    2. phoenix

      As a Pennsylvania millennial, I went and canceled out one of their votes for you. Unfortunately, I think PA is one of the states with the oldest average age and young people are leaving in droves (wish I could leave) so it’s probably futile. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the old ghouls holding back progress in this country will live long enough to prevent any actual chance at averting climate catastrophe and then shuffle off into the ether before most of the effects are felt.

      1. LawnDart

        Yeah, the neolibs and neocons own that turf– it’s solid purple. It’ll take a generation or more before life gets better for the working-stiff in Pennsylvania, as the old breed needs to die off or get replaced by their idiot progeny who can then be usurped or overthrown.

        You say you can’t, but you have one spin at the wheel– life is better elsewhere (I escaped from SWPA after a decade in exile there, so I’m not talking out of my arse).

        1. tegnost

          combine any old junky car and the other side of the mississippi river, throw away the car when you get to where ever you get to and get a bike.

          1. Wukchumni

            It was probably easier for the downtrodden to get around the country riding the rails during the Great Depression, versus now where if you don’t have a car, you ain’t going nowhere.

        2. phoenix

          Once I pay my student loans off (my private ones, I’m paying as little on my federal loans as possible. I know Biden won’t do anything on those but I still hold out hope. It looks like he’s not going to do much of anything period at this rate), I’m outta here. I work in cybersecurity so theoretically I should be in a better job seeking position than most. Still, it’s not a great feeling to be living at home at 30 watching home ownership slip further and further out of reach. And they wonder why the birth rate is dropping like a rock in this country lol

  4. gnatt

    The Metropolitan Labor Council (150 unions) is selling out all New York City retirees as we speak, switching from Medicare to a Medicare disAdvantage plan to save the city 600 million a year by reducing care and adding expenses for 250,000 elderly people.
    The union bosses get reelected year after year. They don’t sit down with the people they’re supposed to represent but with the politicians and CEO’s they’ve become more comfortable with.
    We’re all gig workers now.

    1. IM Doc

      I could write a novel about Medicare Advantage plans – as in all the tragedies I have seen.

      They hook the seniors with a big steak dinner for the pitch – and then gym memberships that they never use etc.

      But in essence they have literally signed their lives and their benefits away.

      These companies haggle over every little thing in the doctor’s office. The patients have literally no choice in their medications – and often the worst possible 1970s technology drugs are the only choice.

      Need a referral to the rheumatologist – forget about it.

      But the worst of all is what happens in the hospital. They simply do not pay for any kind of post hospital rehab care – NONE. So your grandma is in the hospital after a massive stroke – and has been deconditioned by 21 days in the hospital. This is after the Medicare HMO has told the case managers that they are only going to pay for 3 days. Grandma cannot walk – grandma cannot do her daily activites – she can do nothing – but GET HER THE HELL OUT OF THE HOSPITAL NOW. By the way, everyone else – including those still on traditional Medicare get to go to a rehab unit. BUT NOT GRANDMA. They do not pay for them. Here is the thing – if your grandma’s doc is a chump like me – and OK with getting all kinds of demerits from the hospital – grandma may be lucky to sit it out in the hospital for 2 weeks while having her Medicare changed back to traditional so she can go to rehab. If not – she is DCd home – and then starts a merry go round of ER visit hell until she gives up and dies.

      Folks – this is the way it is. They have to be able to afford the 10s of millions in salaries for their executives somehow. And I have never understood the whole system. Many of these patients are transferred back to traditional Medicare during these crises. The Advantage plans get all the benefits of the “cost savings” and traditional Medicare gets stuck with the gigantic bills. The taxpayers are getting hammered.

      The city workers of New York likely have no idea what they are getting signed up for. This is all such a tragic mess. I just cannot believe my country anymore.

      1. antidlc

        Many of these patients are transferred back to traditional Medicare during these crises.

        How do they go back to traditional Medicare? To switch from Medicare Advantage to Medigap part B, you usually have to go through underwriting. Or do they just drop the Medicare Advantage, stick with Part A, and just go without a part B plan?

        I’m confused.

    2. Michael Ismoe

      No union can switch you from Medicare to Medicare Advantage. Only the beneficiary can do that.

        1. Michael Ismoe

          When you join a Medicare Advantage Plan, you’ll have to give these:

          Your Medicare number
          The date your Part A and/or Part B coverage started
          This information is on your Medicare card.

          Medicare plans aren’t allowed to call you to enroll you in a plan, unless you specifically ask to be called. Also, plans should never ask you for financial information, including credit card or bank account numbers, over the phone.


          1. flora

            An employer’s health plan benefit for retirees can be anything the employer decides, including no retiree health benefit at all. My employer has retiree health benefit options of trad Medicare and Medicare Advantage. It could decide to drop the trad Medicare plan for retirees if it wanted. Then retirees would have to either stay with the employer’s retiree benefit Medicare Advantage plan or go individually on their own to the trad Medicare plan, outside of the retiree plan, and pay the Medigap premium and part D premium themselves. I know several people who’ve done that.

  5. Sue inSoCal

    I’m fairly certain you can use the term genocide. I recommend Max Blumenthal’s book “Goliath”. He’s doubtless written more. But I think it’s that one I read some time ago. For me, it was very enlightening.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      You offered too little to re-look in the links. I do not know what you are responding to. Whatever you are responding to — I believe the term genocide must be used extremely judiciously. The word is loaded with far too much to use otherwise. Occam would argue that you need no more than necessary.

      1. GF

        I think the term fits when describing the slaughter in Gaza by bibi. It could also apply to gnatt’s comment above; kill off the useless eaters instead of raising union dues to cover the costs of health care for all union members including retired. Another path to cost reduction – lobbying for a single payer system – could result in the elimination of a big chunk of the $600m by getting rid of the insurance company leaches.

      2. Carolinian

        “Mowing the lawn” sounds like genocide and also “Death to the Arabs.” If the Israelis object to the term then maybe some of them should watch their own language, not to mention their behavior.

  6. a different chris

    >Democrats, but only because they threw the working class under the bus, condemning themselves to a permanent 50% + 1 strategy (

    ???? Maybe we’re talking across one another, because that’s exactly the opposite of every thing I’ve ever read, including here, about the D strategy. Or what we have to call as strategy, because they think it is.

    Their strategy seems to be to run up the vote in blue areas and then show stunned surprise when they re-discover, every 2 years like clockwork, that this isn’t really a democracy in any sane sense of the word.

    A 50+1 strategy was what the most non-Democrat you can imagine, Karl Rove, bragged about. Would have been nice if the D party had actually listened and learned instead of sitting back and waiting for that Democratic Majority to emerge like it would make any difference if it did.

  7. PlutoniumKun

    Bram Stoker was born in a spite wall. His birth home, 15 Marino Crescent in Clontarf, Dublin was built by a wealthy developer with a grudge against a local landowner, Lord Charlemont to block his view of the sea. The original ‘blocked’ house is long gone, but the crescent is still here, although ironically its view of the sea was blocked later by a railway viaduct.

    The modern version is the dreaded leylandii hedge. Years ago I read a report that oversized leylandii hedges were the number 1 cause of property disputes in Britain. They grow very fast and very tall and can easily block out all sunlight to a typical suburban home. There are way of dealing with them (involving drills and potassium chloride crystals), but I’m pretty sure they aren’t legal.

    1. Copeland

      >leylandii hedge

      Yes! This hybrid monstrosity has been inflicted on much of the Pacific Northwest US, where as a landscape designer I had to regularly talk clients out of using it.

      “B,b,but the plants are so cheap, and they grown so fast, how else will I obliterate my neighbor without spending a fortune?”

  8. FannieTang

    More about Vice president Harris’ mentor and launching pad in San Francisco.
    How low can one’s jaw go?


    “Brown plucked Newsom from obscurity, appointing him to San Francisco’s Parking and Traffic Commission and later to District 2 supervisor. It was all part of Brown’s master plan to sculpt a compliant mayoral successor. With the elevation of each protégé, Brown keeps his finger in the political pot. The marriage of Harlan and Naomi Kelly, which Brown officiated, was one of the biggest feathers in his fedora, but it came amid rumors that Harlan was “a player” not ready to settle down. Melanie Lok of Mlok Consulting, who recently received a subpoena from the FBI (along with Harlan Kelly, his most recent gal pal SFPUC Assistant General Manager Juliet Ellis, and wife Naomi Kelly’s city administrator department) is said to be a former girlfriend. Lok’s firm received a multimillion-dollar contract with the SFPUC before Kelly was in charge, but he amended it to increase the dollar amount after he took the helm.”

    “Street cleaners also said Gomwalk told them to participate in a Dec. 2 get-out-the-vote event sponsored by the Harris for District Attorney campaign, riding in vans organized by Harris to the Department of Elections at City Hall, where they were pressured by crew chiefs to cast absentee ballots for Newsom. After casting their ballots, they said, crew chiefs asked them to turn over their voter stubs. One street cleaner even said a crew chief peered over her shoulder as she voted….As the FBI picks off the city family one by one, the silence from Mayor London Breed — another Brown protégé — is deafening. The Board of Supervisors, other than Catherine Stefani and new-kid-on-the-block Matt Haney (who seems genuinely disgusted by the brazen corruption enveloping City Hall) has also been mostly mute. Not only were Mohamed Nuru
    and other members of the city family corrupt under the noses of four mayors, they were corrupt under the noses of numerous supervisors and aides who would become supervisors — some who are still in office today.”

    1. JBird4049

      Willie Brown’s nickname hasn’t been “Slick Willie” since he was the Assembly’s Speaker forty years ago by accident.

      All that skill of his (and he is just awesome as a politician) and the state of California and the city of San Francisco is declining because people like him want the profitable corruption and incompetence. It’s one of the reasons why we have so much homelessness. All the funds allocated to deal with it just disappears into administering the various programs. Why solve anything when they can remain issues to get the faithful riled up, donating and voting.

    2. Redlife2017

      This is going to be a long comment…

      Gavin Newsom was plucked from obscurity??? That is the weirdest way for the article to describe Gavin Newsom considering the first part of the sentence: “A handsome businessman and friend of the powerful Getty family”

      THAT is not obscure. Gavin Newsom was informally adopted by the Getty Family – he isn’t “just” a friend. They backed his businesses and his political career. There is a great article on the relations between the Pelosi, Newsom, Getty and Brown (not Willie, but Pat / Jerry) families that is here. The quote at the end is telling:

      “Gavin Newsom had been informally adopted by the Gettys after his parents divorced, returning a similar favor that the Newsom family had done for a young Gordon Getty many years earlier. Newsom’s PlumpJack business (named for an opera that Gordon Getty wrote) led to a career in San Francisco politics, a stint as mayor, the lieutenant governorship and now to the governorship, succeeding his father’s old friend.”

      Brown is slick because he sees which way the wind is blowing. Whilst I’m sure Willie was helpful, I suspect that if Willie hadn’t been his godfather moving him up, someone else would have. So it was a no-brainer if he wanted to keep his fingers in the pie. He is not the one making the real decisions…

      And if you want another good article on the ruling families of San Fran / California, take a look at this article here.

      Choice quotes:
      “That year, Newsom ran his first campaign: a bid to hold on to a county supervisor seat, which then-Mayor Willie Brown had appointed him to fill. At the time, the Chronicle wrote that Brown valued Newsom’s “easy familiarity with San Francisco’s upper crust.””

      Rick Swig notes – “There are guys in Washington who make fun of San Francisco values, but really San Francisco values are those that find their core in the families that have been around 75 to 150 years, who have supported everything … good about San Francisco — social, political and business. And Gavin recognizes that, appreciates that and respects that.”

  9. Nikkikat

    Gnatt you are correct about unions, particularly the Labor councils. The union leadership is bought big time. My own union The American Federation of State, County, Municipal employees, was saturated with Democratic Party cheerleaders. They, along with the district councils exist almost completely to collect money for Democratic Party politicians. They do not want the locals to file greviences, negotiate contracts or much of anything else for members. I was President of my Local and had to spend most of my time fighting the council over setting up political pacs and demanding all the membership money be spent on political support. These politicians, from the County Board to state and local to Washington DC itself never, ever did one thing to advance workers.
    The blame rest with the Unions themselves of course; but the Democratic Party buys these people with dinners, sports tickets etc. Shocking that people can be bought so cheap.
    The democrats not only do not support Unions they have actively destroyed them.
    You will also find this with the Anti war movement, the environmental groups etc.
    My local remained an outlier as we refused to set up pacs or attend political events, but most go along. Randy Weingarten President of the largest Teachers Union comes to my mind as a sell out. There is a Federal labor law called the Weingarten Ruling. It kept management from taking a represented employee and shaking them down without a Union Rep. present. This came about due this happening to Weingarten herself and taking it to court. She has long forgotten anyone she represents and is now nothing more than a D party Apparatchik.

    1. gnatt

      you’ll notice that after the amazon debacle in the south, the amazon workers in staten island checked out offers from large unions to represent them in forming a union and decided that it was better to go it alone. they might even win, and in any case they couldn’t do any worse.

  10. Nikkikat

    With regard to Mc Donald’s etc offering higher pay and benefits.
    Proof positive they can afford it. Finally workers are fighting back and are not showing up, are calling for strikes and trying to unionize.

    They ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more!

    God Bless them

      1. The Rev Kev

        There has got to be a point reached that between inflation, transport to & from work costs and such works out more than what you would actually receive in pay from a job. So what would be the point? I thought that this was how a free market works. That employers have to raise wages until there are workers willing to accept the work at that level of wages. I say good on those workers. If there is nothing else that they learning during the present pandemic, it was how much society actually valued them, especially if they were “essential workers.”

    1. tegnost

      It seems to me they’ve mostly done nothing so far and the mask thing makes me wonder what clever machinations are going on inside the opaque murky haze

  11. marym

    Re: Arizona recount:

    “Sooo… they’ve now “recovered” the allegedly deleted files? Wonder if our technical document explaining this helped.”

    “Major news out of AZ Senate meeting on the supposed “deleted directory” of Maricopa County election files, repeated by @ArizonaAudit & Donald Trump. Auditors found files they said were deleted. Auditors’ explanation for what happened lines up exactly with what county thought.”
    https://twitter.com/JenAFifield (Reporter – The Arizona Republic @azcentral)

    Local reporters have been providing great coverage on this!


    1. John

      The Republican dominated Senate in Arizona hires a firm with no known experience in ballot counting. I read that the owner(?) is in some way a Trump partisan. The ballots are being trucked around to get out of the way of a previously scheduled event. Are we supposed to believe that said ballots are secure? The elected officials in Maricopa County, four of the five responsible for the conduct of the election being Republicans, are not amused and yet Mr. Trump is making portentous comments intimating that this is the first step on his road back to the White House before 2024. Do I have all that more or less correct? All this lacks is a pie throwing contest.

      1. marym

        Last week there was a carnival at the fairgrounds outside where the “audit” was happening, so maybe there was a pie throwing contest or something equally fun!

        1. ambrit

          It’s Arizona! It has to be a chair throwing contest! The contestants must dress up to look like Bernie Sanders.
          Then maybe the Arizona Republicans will begin to understand how the Arizona Democrats managed their version of “The Steal.”

  12. flora

    re: Goya’s painting ‘Saturn Devouring His Son’. aka, “I’m leading my life.”

    There isn’t often a meme striking me as a perfect encompassment of the times but this meme is one.

    adding: Goya’s painting itself isn’t large, isn’t bright, and isn’t particularly visually engaging by normal standards. Even so, walking into a room where it’s displayed with other, larger, brighter colored, more visually engaging paintings, it commands the room. The madness of Saturn driven by irrational forces comes through in the painting with overwhelming force. Even the much smaller, preparatory, sketch paintings for ‘Saturn devouring his Son’ are overwhelming.

    1. flora

      adding: Goya’s print series ‘Disasters of War’ are indescribably gut wrenching. Similar to Matthew Brady’s photos of US Civil War battlefields except worse because the clear individualization of the horrors by both attacker and attacked are shown. There’s nothing ‘personally accidental’ in the destruction.

    2. urblintz

      I spent many hours in the Prado when I was a younger lad living in Franco’s Spain..

      The Goya was mesmerizing in a most macabre, unsettling way. It made the myths I’d grown up with in a Greek family all the more palpable and frightening.

  13. Rod

    hey lambert

    cranes and herons sound too prehistoric
    and chill me more than
    eagles and osprey
    on the water

    anyway, throwing this over the transom for your thought.

    HEADLINES Carolina Panthers Deal:
    Rock Hill, South Carolina Is Coming Up Short

    Bond problems imperil crony capitalist deal …

    not quite the lede you see every day
    FITS put it out there 5 days ago/local CHLT TV 2 days ago/Local newspaper web 7hrs ago
    Letter sent 12 days ago…


    1. tegnost

      Panthers? Isn’t that like a cat or something? ;/
      Ever since they didn’t take my suggestion that they name the team “the b@stards out of carolina” I haven’t cared what happens with them, except when they’re beating the seahawks which happens a little too often…

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        Panthers is a better name than Trash Pandas for which our local pols spent 50M to build a stadium.

        Too much time spent learning the ropes playing SimCity or just straight corruption?

        1. tegnost

          ….I’m speechless…
          …and their #1 fan, how could you not love the trash pandas? where’s the merch…

  14. Carolinian

    Re Biden–we share your irk. However as a speed shopper I don’t regard 10 minutes spent masked in a store as any great sacrifice. Therefore only some of us are noble….the ones who do it day after day, all day.

  15. The Rev Kev

    ‘David Sirota
    The much-promised $15 minimum wage and public option have been so thoroughly erased from politics, elite media and the Biden-Is-FDR Narrative that I’ve caught myself wondering if my mind is playing tricks on me and the promises were never actually made (note: they were).’

    A $15 minimum wage? Of what is this $15 minimum wage that he talks about?

  16. marku52

    Africa—In much of Africa, River Blindness (caused by a parasite) is so prevalent that lots of people take Ivermectin routinely as as a prophylaxis. That might reduce cases.

  17. Wukchumni

    Goooooood Afternooooooon Fiatnam!

    Nobody in the platoon ever carried coins, for if the VC (Venture Capitalists) heard the jingle-jangle of base metal while laying wait in ambush, it’d be a cashacre.

    To say we were over the moon with joy when DogfaceCoin came out, might be underplaying our sentiments, as finally we were locked & loaded virtually, not to say how handy it is for acquiring hard to get armaments online, with same day delivery for anything smaller than an F-35. (great deal on those now, buy 1-get a whole squadron for free)

    VC wizened to us, and have intentionally set up wi-fi hot spots in the triple canopy jungle, with no password needed.

    All it takes is one grunt yelling out ‘I’ve got 1 bar!’ and a VC sniper takes out what he assumed was a really green lieutenant.

  18. Steve

    That Buc-ee’s (Bucky) picture is misleading as used by that twitterer. Bucky has long paid well over the minimizing wage. Located in Texas they are known for amazingly big and clean bathrooms. The old ones were small the new ones are giant, and it’s an experience. With 4 kids it makes a great stretch stop on the way from Dallas to the Texas gulf coast. Anyhow my recollection is way back in 2008 or so they were paying well over double minimizing wage. It’s one reason I made a point to stop there!

  19. Ben Dalton

    The sudden opening of Gates’ closet and the rate at which skeletons are tumbling out is very, very suspicious. There is a flurry of unmistakably coordinated articles and posts. His peccadilloes from the past that were seemingly common knowledge are being reported breathlessly as if it is the Scoop of the Century. Is this a fallout of internecine warfare among TPTB? Who is so powerful that even Gates cannot escape their wrath? How did he manage to piss them off, if there is indeed such a vengeful person? Or am I reading too much into a run-of-the-mill scandal of the uber rich?

    1. Redlife2017

      That was definitely my take. He had outlived his usefulness. Maybe he got cold feet or maybe he was just too Dr Evil and obvious. Or probably something completely unrelated that only members of the ruling class are aware of…maybe they need a new face for the Great Reset.

      It’s not like he’ll lose any money on this issue (OK – to his soon to be ex-wife, but he’ll have 10s of billions left). He just won’t be carted out on TV anymore…

    1. Rod

      thanks for the reminder. It is a wonder that he lasted soooo long being such an inarticulate bully. \ ;-]

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