2:00PM Water Cooler 5/19/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I got a late start. I will add more shortly. –lambert UDPATE All done!

Bird Song of the Day

The Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle

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At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site.

I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching. 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?

“Meet the Four Kinds of People Holding Us Back From Full Vaccination” [New York Times]. “After conducting a national survey of U.S. adults, we grouped people into distinct profiles based on their shared beliefs and barriers to getting the vaccine. This approach, borrowed from the marketing world, is called psychobehavioral segmentation. It will allow health officials to target their strategies in ways that ignore demographic categories, like age and race. In the United States, we used this approach to identify five distinct personas: the Enthusiasts, the Watchful, the Cost-Anxious, the System Distrusters and the Covid Skeptics…. With only 60 percent of U.S. adults having received their first shot, we are still far from President Biden’s target of 70 percent by the Fourth of July. This national average also hides an important truth: The country is a patchwork, with states like Vermont tracking higher (with 78 percent of adults having received their first dose) and states like Mississippi tracking lower (42 percent of adults). Therefore, we can’t rely on a one-size-fits-all approach.” • Which is exactly what “psychobehavioral segmentation” is, no?

MI: “Mobile soup kitchens take food, vaccine to Detroit’s poorest” [Associated Press]. “Mobile care teams consisting of nurses and a peer support specialist accompany the Bed & Bread trucks as they cruise Detroit, which lags far behind the state and nearby communities in the percentage of people vaccinated. Only about 33% of Detroit residents ages 16 and older have been vaccinated compared to more than half statewide. To reduce that gap, Detroit’s health department also is going door-to-door to encourage residents to get vaccinated at sites near their homes. In some other U.S. cities, in-home vaccinations are being offered.”

OH: “Vaccinations Spike In Ohio Following Lottery Announcement—But Will It Last?” [Forbes (Re Silc)]. “Data from the Ohio Department of Health shows daily new vaccinations surged from 12,914 on Wednesday, the day of the lottery announcement, to 21,580 on Thursday and 25,414 the day after, a more than 7,000-shot increase from the week prior. Before Friday, Ohio last recorded more than 25,000 vaccinations on April 23, when it administered 28,798 shots. The vaccination surge declined over the weekend, however, with Ohio recording just 14,453 shots administered on Saturday and 4,495 on Sunday, though the state’s weekend inoculation rate tends to be lower than other days during the week.”

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.)

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.

Deaths (Our World in Data):


More good news.

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?

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

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

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

Biden Administration

“In Biden White House, the Celebrity Staff Is a Thing of the Past” [New York Times]. “[T]he overall culture of the Biden White House… is the least personality-driven West Wing in decades. Because of his longevity in politics and underdog personality, combined with the depth of the crises he is facing, President Biden is undoing a longstanding Washington tradition in which staff members enjoy their own refracted fame…. Some of the president’s closest advisers — like Bruce Reed, his adviser and former chief of staff, and Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, his former campaign manager and current deputy chief of staff — are almost never heard from. The White House press office did not respond to requests to make Mr. Donilon available for comment for this story. Even officials who entered the administration with a profile of their own — like Symone D. Sanders, a onetime CNN commentator who is now an adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris — have become less visible.” • The Times carefully erases the fact that Symone Sanders worked for the Sanders campaign in 2016…

UPDATE “Progressives Ask Biden Not To Name Pharma Allies To Top Patent Posts” [HuffPo]. “The USPTO and NIST play a key role in granting and protecting brand-name pharmaceutical companies’ patents, copyrights and other intellectual property. Through the USPTO, the federal government processes requests for patents that effectively grant companies monopolies on production of certain products or features, theoretically as an incentive to invest in innovation. However, NIST is also the agency responsible for invoking so-called march-in rights. This power allows the federal government to ‘march in’ and effectively suspend the patent of a product that was developed with federal funding if the government decides the product is not available to the public on ‘reasonable terms.’ The two agencies, which coordinate closely with business sectors that rely on intellectual property, have traditionally been home to some of the most corporate-friendly figures in both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations… The letter, spearheaded by the Demand Progress Education Fund, wants Biden’s appointments to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Institute for Standards and Technology to reflect the concerns of antimonopoly advocates and patients’ and consumers’ rights groups ― rather than just brand-name drug companies, Silicon Valley tech titans and other business interests that rely heavily on intellectual property regimes.”

Democrats en Deshabille

“Mayoral Candidate Dianne Morales Water-Meter Bribe Probe Preceded 2004 Departure from Big City Schools Job” [The City]. “Mayoral candidate Dianne Morales years ago participated in a $300 bribe of a city Department of Environmental Protection inspector who offered to make her $12,500 water bill go away, city investigative records obtained by THE CITY show.” • Whoops.

UPDATE “Democrats Throw Justice Breyer Surprise Retirement Party Hoping He’ll Just Go With It” [The Onion]. “Some of the naysayers said old Breyer will cling to this seat until he croaks, but you sure proved them wrong.”

UPDATE “Stephen Breyer is delusional about the Supreme Court” [The Week]. “Should Biden get his programs passed, there is a strong possibility they will be struck down or weakened by the court. Worse, all too many liberals are in deep denial about the nature of this threat. One of them is on the Supreme Court himself: Justice Stephen Breyer, who is 82 years old yet thus far refuses to retire — as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg refused to in 2013, which ended up handing her seat to to the right-wing ideologue Amy Coney Barrett. Breyer is reportedly worried that retiring so he will be replaced by a liberal would introduce politics (heaven forfend!) into the court, and that would threaten its power and legitimacy.”

Republican Funhouse

“Mark McCloskey, The Guy Who Pointed His Gun At Protesters Outside His Mansion, Is Running For Senate” [Buzzfeed News]. “Mark McCloskey, the St. Louis attorney who made worldwide news last year when he and his wife pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters marching through their wealthy neighborhood, announced Tuesday that he is running for the US Senate. During an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, McCloskey officially declared he was throwing his hat into the crowded Republican primary to fill the Missouri seat of Sen. Roy Blunt, who is retiring. ‘I’ve always been a Republican, but I’ve never been a politician,’ he said. ‘But God came knocking on my door last summer disguised as an angry mob.'”

UPDATE “Josh Hawley Has a Populist Revolt to Sell You” [Jacob Bacharach, In These Times]. “Hawley is not as intelligent as his elite mentors seem to think he is, but he is undoubtedly a skilled opportunist. Before the Capitol riot dimmed his star somewhat, he had even begun to make inroads as a Trumpist that Democrats on the corporate-skeptical Left might be able to work with. Although his votes often belied his real loyalties — Hawley supported Trump’s tax cuts, for example — he was a reliable rhetorical ally for a growing coalition of writers, iconoclastic economists and politicians clustered under the broad umbrella of anti-monopoly advocacy.” • Less formidable than one might have imagined, then?

UPDATE “Fourth House GOP lawmaker issued $5,000 metal detector fine” [The Hill]. “According to the Capitol Police report documenting the incident last Thursday, Foxx set off a metal detector stationed in front of a door leading to the House chamber. Two Capitol Police officers tried to stop Foxx, but she threw her bag underneath a table near the metal detector and still went into the chamber. Foxx then returned to the metal detector and allegedly told the officers, ‘Good thing no one stopped me.'”


UPDATE “Accused Russiagate ‘Spy’ Kilimnik Speaks — and Evidence Backs His ‘No Collusion’ Account” [Aaron Maté, RealClearInvestigations]. Of the many discrepancies and idiocies, I’ll pick out one: “While the Treasury Department and Senate Intelligence Committee claim that Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer, no U.S. security or intelligence agency has adopted this characterization.” • Worth reading in full for the detail, as RussiaGate drags on like the Russian winter, full at the tag end of slush, mud, and dreariness.


Exactly like the Iraq War. Everybody who was wrong got promoted and made a lot of money.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Ed Gainey Defeats Incumbent To Become Pittsburgh’s 1st Black Mayor” [Payday Report]. “Tonight, Black PA State Representative Ed Gainey defeated two-term Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto to become the first Black mayor of Pittsburgh. Despite being out-fundraised nearly 4-to-1, which Peduto pumped into negative attack ads, Gainey, 51, was able to defeat Peduto, who coceded the election. Gainey was able to beat the mayor by building on a coalition of Black and white voters who were concerned about racism and the growing income inequality in a rapidly gentrifying Pittsburgh and who were upset with a Democratic establishment that seemed indifferent to their concerns. ‘People wanted justice and change,’ Gainey told me shortly after hearing of the win. Gainey’s victory comes after an impressive four years of bold electoral defeats for Pittsburgh’s Democratic establishment. As a result of those defeats, a new crop of young progressives, like socialist State Representatives Summer Lee and Sara Innamorato as well as county councilwoman Bethany Hallam and Liv Bennett, were elected to office and have helped build a counterweight to the old, white Democratic establishment of Pittsburgh.”

Stats Watch

Trucking: “April 2021 Trucking Marginally Declined” [Econintersect]. “Headline data for the CASS Freight Index show that truck volumes show volumes slowed month-over-month – but the year-over-year growth is now in double digits. In the opposite corner, the American Trucking Association (ATA) index also declined but is finally in expansion now year-over-year.”

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The Bezzle: “Bitcoin’s 40% crash ‘does feel like capitulation,’ says crypto specialist, but here’s where next crucial support level lies” [Marketwatch]. “Katie Stockton, founder and managing partner of Fairlead Strategies, said that bitcoin and the broader crypto complex is seeing one of its worst selling stretches since March 2020, with bitcoin down 40% from its April high. She estimates that the next support for bitcoin may be around $34,000. She told MarketWatch that that level is based on a 50% retracement of the uptrend for bitcoin that began in March 2020…. The slump for bitcoin comes after the People’s Bank of China was seen warning against using digital coins as payment.” • Hmm. Much bitcoin “mining” is done in China.

UPDATE Tech: “A Noisy “Ghost Bodega” in Gowanus Delivers Headaches to Neighbors” [Bklyner]. “An industrial lot at 246-250 6th Street near 4th Avenue in Gowanus, run by the delivery service NBRHD Kitchens, is filled with food storage units and refrigerated trucks that serve as a distribution point for a host of NBRHD-linked businesses selling ice cream, candy, chips and other bodega staples via UberEats and other delivery services….. The NBRHD service is a subset of REEF Technology, which calls itself ‘the largest operator of mobility, logistics hubs, and neighborhood kitchens’ in the US and Canada, along with a growing presence in Europe. The company has about 4,500 locations, most of which are parking lots on which REEF installs infrastructure for cloud kitchens, healthcare clinics, last-mile delivery and other services. Last year, REEF raised $700 million in investments from SoftBank and Mubadala Corporation.” Fascination business model, but I’m not sure I’d want to live next to one: “‘It runs 24/7 and is very loud,’ said Sara Sopher, a Gowanus resident whose building on 7th Street backs up onto the lot. ‘My neighbors and I have called 311 to complain about this noise but nothing has been done.’ ‘It’s near impossible to have windows open, and our balconies are now rendered unusable,’ said another nearby resident, Desiree Dymond, who also complained about ‘banging sounds’ at all hours caused by workers moving merchandise and slamming truck doors closed.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 32 Fear (previous close: 38 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 37 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 19 at 12:44pm.

Health Care

“COVID-19 updates: Texas reports 706 cases in past two days, lowest two-day total since March 2020” [WFAA]. “In Dallas County, health officials say 506 cases of breakthrough COVID-19 infections in fully vaccinated people have been confirmed, of which, 82 were hospitalized and seven have died.” • Oddly, that’s seven of the nine total deaths in Dallas County.

“Column: The evidence is clear — COVID lockdowns saved lives without harming economies” [Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times]. “Numerous studies from across the world have found that lockdowns succeeded in suppressing transmission rates. An Italian team found that lockdowns start to reduce the number of COVID infections about 10 days after they start, and keep reducing the case rate for as long as 20 days following initiation. French researchers, in a paper published in January, compared the experience in countries that imposed stay-at-home orders early in the pandemic and lifted the restrictions gradually — New Zealand, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Britain— to that of Sweden, which imposed no lockdown, and the U.S., which had (and still has) a patchwork of state policies often involving late orders followed by abrupt and premature lifting. The first group saw rapid reductions in infections and a rapid economic recovery, compared to the second. “Early-onset lockdown with gradual deconfinement allowed shortening the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic and reducing contaminations,” the researchers concluded. “Lockdown should be considered as an effective public health intervention to halt epidemic progression.” The UCLA researchers, meanwhile, estimated that reductions in movement resulting from stay-at-home orders reduced transmission in the hardest-hit communities, such as Seattle, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles by 50% or more. All these findings point to savings of millions of lives globally. None of it is especially surprising. Compliance with stay-at-home orders meant reducing one’s exposure to strangers whose viral conditions were unknown. That was especially crucial in locations where COVID was raging and therefore the prospect of coming into close contact with an infected individual was relatively high. That leaves the economic question. Critics of lockdowns typically advocate balancing the public health gains from stay-at-home orders against the economic losses from keeping bars, restaurants, hair salons, and other small businesses closed. They argue, as has DeSantis and other red-state governors such as Greg Abbott of Texas, that concerns about the latter should take primacy over the benefits of the former. The problem with this argument is that there’s very little evidence that lockdowns themselves damaged local economies more than individual behavior that would have happened anyway, lockdowns or not. Nor is there much evidence that lifting lockdowns produced a faster recovery….. As Austan Goolsbee and Chad Syversen of the University of Chicago said of their study of the economic slump during the pandemic, “The vast majority of the decline was due to consumers choosing of their own volition to avoid commercial activity.” • An exhaustive article, worth reading in full.

“Emergent faces congressional grilling” [Politico]. “Millions of shots from both J&J and AstraZeneca have been held in limbo at Emergent’s Bayview, Md. facility as Emergent works through a series of additional issues raised by FDA, from unsanitary conditions to congested facilities ill suited to manufacturing millions of vaccines…. Emergent boasted just months ago that it would produce a billion doses this year, but hasn’t provided a timeline for when it will get back on track.

“To the Bat Cave: In Search of Covid’s Origins, Scientists Reignite Polarizing Debate on Wuhan ‘Lab Leak’” [Kaiser Health News]. “Fauci also told KHN, in an email, that “we at the NIH are very much in favor of a thorough investigation as to the origins of SARS-CoV-2…. U.S.-China tensions will make it very difficult to conclude any such study, scientists on both sides of the issue suggest. With their anti-China rhetoric, Trump and his aides ‘could not have made it more difficult to get cooperation,’ said Dr. Gerald Keusch, associate director of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory Institute at Boston University. If a disease had emerged from the U.S. and the Chinese blamed the Pentagon and demanded access to the data, ‘what would we say?’ Keusch asked. ‘Would we throw out the red carpet, ‘Come on over to Fort Detrick and the Rocky Mountain Lab?’ We’d have done exactly what the Chinese did, which is say, ‘Screw you!’” • Personally, I don’t buy the Wuhan Lab Leak hypothesis. First, nature is fully capable of producing novel designs without an intelligent designer; it’s called evolution. We really are in “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence territory, here. Second, we know that the virus was circulating well before the Wuhan wet market outbreak, making the connection to the Wuhan Lab yarn diagram-level species (albeit an attractive coincidence of names). Note that I don’t raise the competence of Wuhan Lab scientists as a defense, since our own “world class” CDC has had horrific incidents.

UPDATE “The Pro-Trump Culture War on American Scientists” [David Frum, The Atlantic]. “Despite this softening, the scientific community for the most part continued to emphatically reject the lab-origin theory. Past pandemics had started when a virus leaped from animals or birds to people, so why should this new coronavirus be any different? U.S. scientists were perhaps also influenced by their respect for their Chinese counterparts. While Chinese officials had tried to stifle the flow of information to the rest of the world, Chinese scientists had generally proved highly cooperative with their Western counterparts. When Chinese scientists cracked the virus’s genetic code early in January 2020, they promptly posted full results for all to read. That did not seem to most Western scientists to be the behavior of conspirators.” More: “More than scientific expertise may be required to reach the truth. The truth may depend less on analysis of the virus itself and more on intelligence from inside the Chinese government. Very possibly—and this theory is often heard from intelligence officials—the Chinese national authorities themselves do not know for certain how the virus originated. If there was a lab mistake, the people culpable in that mistake may be very frightened of their own government, and may have organized their own cover-up to protect themselves. One big reveal from the early phase of the coronavirus disaster is that local Chinese big shots can often effectively deceive and frustrate their own national government.” • So I wonder when the leaks from anonymous sources in the intelligence community will begin….

“Health Care Lobbyists Are Trying to Block the Public Option at the State Level” [Newsweek]. “When President Joe Biden outlined his legislative priorities during his first address to Congress last month, notably absent was a major campaign promise: a public health insurance option. Instead, his current health reform proposal will funnel $200 billion more to private insurance companies to subsidize premiums, without any requirement that they cap out-of-pocket costs or eliminate them altogether. As a result of Biden’s approach, states have been left to introduce public option legislation themselves, in the process taking on some of the nation’s largest and most politically organized businesses. From coast to coast, health insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies are using every tactic at their disposal to block states from passing public option legislation. Such efforts show how determined the industry is to block any sort of reform that threatens its massive profits.”

The Biosphere

“How Suzanne Simard changed our relationship to trees” [High Country News]. “A descendant of French Canadian homesteaders in British Columbia’s interior, Simard was one of few women in the logging industry in the early 1980s. She wondered why the weeded, monoculture tree crops were so sickly compared to the remaining old-growth woods. ‘In my bones,’ she writes, ‘I knew the problem with the ailing seedlings was that they couldn’t connect with the soil.’ It seemed obvious that standard forestry practices were not good for the forest’s long-term health. But she knew she’d need ‘rigorous, credible science’ to prove herself and her hypotheses to the men who directed government forestry policy. Smard transitioned to working with the British Columbia Forest Service, investigating weeding effects in clear-cuts. A sense of duty drove her to speak out against wrongheaded practices — like removing native shrubs from tree plantations to reduce competition — and continue her research. Then, in 1997, Nature published her study on the way trees share carbon via fungal networks. Though government forestry policies didn’t change immediately, her paper received worldwide press and encouraged a new generation of scientists to pursue similar lines of inquiry. It’s not until the book’s final chapter that Simard explicitly lays out the connections between her work and the long-held wisdom of Indigenous traditions. She explicitly describes how her findings echo the teachings of tribes like the Secwepemc Nation, in whose ancestral territory she grew up and did much of her research.” • More on Simard, and trees, at NC here.

“Hurricane ‘Price Tags’ Could Reveal the Cost of Global Warming” [Wired]. “Now a team of researchers has put a specific ‘climate price tag’ on Sandy’s destruction in the area around New York City, estimating that climate change alone added an extra $8 billion in damages, and that an additional 71,000 people were affected by severe flooding. Altogether, the calculations state that human-driven global warming boosted Sandy’s total cost to the area by 13 percent. The new study focused on only one aspect of climate change: rising sea levels, caused by the melting of polar ice caps and the expansion of seawater as its temperature increases, a process known as thermal expansion. The study, published today in the journal Nature Communications, is the first time that researchers have put a dollar figure on the direct role of climate change for a specific event, and they say they hope to do it for future storms as well. ‘The fact that just a few inches of attributable sea level rise caused so much damage points to the idea that climate change is hurting us much more than we realize,’ says Benjamin Strauss, chief scientist at Climate Central, a Princeton, New Jersey–based research organization and lead author on the new paper.”

“Models show corals more resistant to ocean warming if they swap for more heat-resistant varieties of algae” [Phys.org]. “The simulations demonstrate that under moderate global warming conditions, many of the coral reefs around the world could survive if they were able to swap out for more heat-resistant algae. Their simulation also showed a limited impact on coral bleaching due to increasing acidification of the worlds’ oceans.”


“SC school bus driver says kindergartners’ curiosity helped stop armed hijacking” [WSB-TV]. “They asked him, ‘Why are you doing this?’ He never did have an answer for this one. They asked, was he going to hurt them? He said ‘No.’ They asked, ‘Are you going to hurt our bus driver?’ He said, ‘No. I’m going to put you off the bus,’” [Kenneth Corbin, the school bus driver] recalled. ‘He sensed more questions coming and I guess something clicked in his mind and he said, ‘Enough is enough already,’ and he told me to ‘Stop the bus, and just get off.’” • Why? Why? Why?

“Where The Shooters Come From” [The American Conservative]. “We can assume that every shooter nurses some sort of a grudge against their victims (or the world at large). We see how many recent killers have taken to publishing internet manifestos, and indeed to polishing the resentments that drive their killings, through membership of online groups. They anticipate online fame, support from those they imagine like them; the mosque shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, even filmed the whole attack for his audience.” • For causality, that seems to be the best we can do. More: “[Author Seamus] McGraw returns to the phrase ‘stop the killing, stop the dying,’ the priorities of police, to first stop the attack, then attempt to save the victims. But the key word is ‘stop,’ not prevent. Even in the best ‘good guy with a gun’ scenario, the bad guy is likely to still get off a few rounds first. The intervention is never soon enough to save everyone.” • Where’s that Can-Do spirit, America?

Class Warfare

“Who cares about the cargo?” [Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology]. “In a recent revisit to the work of Marx’s extensive writings on political economy, David Harvey (2019) interrogates Marx’s definition of capital as “value in motion.” In a series of arguments, Harvey uses a ‘flow model of capital in motion’ in order to lay out the fundamental processes that drive the circulation of capital (2019: 20).2 In this article, I take the idea of ‘capital in motion’ more literally and use it as a starting point for showing what sustaining the flow of global goods looks like on the ground and how container economies are dependent upon the labor of keeping capital in the form of cargo physically moving…. By ethnographically zooming in on the shipping container’s movement in the container port, I show that—much like money—the shipping container is both a measurement and an evaluation of other objects, as well as of ‘relations, services and persons’ (Maurer 2006: 16). At the same time, this colored steel box is a capitalistic object whose mobility and directions as the circulating capital of the global logistics industry is powered by money. By linking the shipping container to issues of containerization and waterfront labor in the port, the aim of this article is to draw attention to the shipping container’s multiple repertoires as symbolic, social, and material practices and systems…. In the second half of the article, I return to how shipping containers mediate the value of labor on the docks, with the dockworker as a central broker between cargo and the port.”

“The battle for the future of ‘gig’ work” [Vox]. “Last November, California passed a ballot initiative called Proposition 22, cementing Mighetto and her colleagues in semi-employee status. They still don’t get state unemployment, discrimination protections, sick leave, or collective bargaining rights, though they do have some bare-minimum guarantees of pay while actually carrying a passenger. The minimums were sold as a baseline that increased driver rights, but one study by University of California Berkeley researchers found that the guarantee could actually only be “the equivalent of a wage of $5.64 per hour.'” • Great to see Kamala out on the front lines, fighting that one. More: “Workers across the country are now worried that the effects of Prop 22 will spread, institutionalizing a “third category” of workers well beyond Uber and Lyft drivers who have fewer rights than regular employees but also lack the real autonomy of actual freelancers — and that it might happen under a Democratic administration, and with the sign-off of some labor unions. In other words, we’re at an inflection point, potentially for the entire American working class. Will labor figure out how to organize workers in dire conditions across the broad spectrum of “tech”-enabled jobs, from Amazon to Uber? Or are workers going to continue to see their conditions deteriorate, even as executives at the top just get richer?” And: “Even unions sometimes seem to forget that what makes unions powerful is not dues money but people acting together to challenge unjust power. It is not the ability to file a grievance but the implicit understanding that behind that grievance lies the principle of “an injury to one is an injury to all,” which Uber and Lyft have countered with a story of individual independence and flexibility. But that story of flexibility is pitting drivers against one another; to defeat it, drivers must be united.” • Worth reading in full.

“The “Hall Socialism” of Finnish and Ukrainian migrant workers with Kassandra Luciuk & Saku Pinta” (video) [Grassroots Economic Organizing]. “Historian-activists Kassandra Luciuk and Saku Pinta join us to discuss the “hall socialism” that flourished in communities of Finnish and Ukrainian migrant workers in the early 20th century. Though much of this incredibly vital social, political and cultural activity was successfully suppressed by anti-communist purges in the post-war period, the legacy and lessons of these networks lives on.” • I tend to avoid videos without transcripts, but this one sounds fascinating.

News of the Wired

“A New Frank Gehry Tower Rises Above the Quaint French Town of Arles” [Smithsonian]. “Standing 184 feet tall, LUMA Arles towers over the city—the next tallest building is the 12th-century Cathedral of St. Trophime at about 138 feet tall. It is the centerpiece of the LUMA Foundation’s 27-acre campus, which the arts philanthropic organization has situated in a former railyard turned park. It’s also the culmination of over a decade of work spearheaded by LUMA founder and billionaire Maja Hoffmann (the foundation’s name is a portmanteau of the first part of her children’s names Lucas and Marina). The tower, designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, seems to climb upward, twisting and turning as it stretches toward the sky. The building’s 11,000 reflective stainless steel panels spectacularly transform the building over the course of a day: It blends into a bright blue sky at noontime, gilds itself in the late afternoon, and twinkles as the sun sets. The style is unmistakably Gehry, with the sweeping, brushstroke-like lines and playful design cues that have become a hallmark of the dean of contemporary architecture.” • Here it is:

Somewhere, Christopher Alexander says that building like this are exterior reflections of the inner sociopathy of the elites that commission and approve them. So I am not surprised to here that there is a billionaire involved. (“Hoffman” comes from Hoffman-LaRoche, the pharma behemoth).

“Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence” (PDF) [Evolutionary Psychology]. ” Bullshitting, communication characterised by an intent to be convincing or impressive without concern for truth, is ubiquitous within human societies. Across two studies (N ¼ 1,017), we assess participants’ ability to produce satisfying and seemingly accurate bullshit as an honest signal of their intelligence. We find that bullshit ability is associated with an individual’s intelligence and individuals capable of producing more satisfying bullshit are judged by second-hand observers to be more intelligent. We interpret these results as adding evidence for intelligence being geared towards the navigation of social systems. The ability to produce satisfying bullshit may serve to assist individuals in negotiating their social world, both as an energetically efficient strategy for impressing others and as an honest signal of intelligence.” • So are these authors smart? How about Frank Gehry? Is Frank Gehry smart?

“Desire paths: the illicit trails that defy the urban planners” [Guardian]. “So goes the logic of ‘desire paths’ – described by Robert Macfarlane as ‘paths & tracks made over time by the wishes & feet of walkers, especially those paths that run contrary to design or planning’; he calls them ‘free-will ways’. The New Yorker offers other names: ‘cow paths, pirate paths, social trails, emonomichi(beast trails), hemins de l’âne (donkey paths), and Olifantenpad (elephant trails)’. JM Barrie described them as ‘Paths that have Made Themselves.’ Reddit has desire path threads, tens of thousands of people strong, delighting in the more mysterious or illogical-seeming of them. They can form anywhere from apparently forgotten corners of cities to the grounds of national governments, as has happened around the National Congress of Brazil; some are so well established that they are visible on Google Maps.” • For example:

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (BB):

BB writes: “Here’s a picture from the top of an apartment building in Kolkata during sunset where it’s already a hot, dry summer. Not spring :) Also, thank you to NC for the coronavirus academic journal links that you all post, particularly in regards to aerosols and nasal drug delivery. I forward them onto to my assistant professor husband for review where he sometimes uses them as a resource in his owm research.” You’re welcome!

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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. Wukchumni

    I’ve never been to Africa, but think of it as a place where people are outside all the time and obese people are few and far between, i.e. lots of Vitamin D.

    Could these be factors as to why Covid is so low there compared to elsewhere on the globe?

    1. marku52

      As i mentioned yesterday, there is lots of ivermectin usage in Africa as a prophylaxis against River Blindness (Onchocerciasis). Its success there earned its developer the Nobel prize. It was so endemic many people were blind by age 40. It’s a parasite that damages the eyes.

    2. Lee

      OTOH, FWIW, COVID-19 cases in Africa much more than reported: UN.

      The actual number of COVID-19 infections in African countries is much more than announced due to low testing in the continent, which is now facing a high risk of virus resurgence, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned Thursday.

      “Citing the results of its recent analysis, WHO said: “Three countries face a very high risk of COVID-19 resurgence, 20 face high risk, 22 moderate risk, and only one country faces low risk, according to the risk assessment of 46 countries in Africa.”

      “Most countries in the [African] region are experiencing community transmission, yet 31 out of the 46 countries analyzed performed fewer than 10 tests per 10,000 people per week in the past four weeks,” WHO revealed.”

      1. newcatty

        Thank you, Lee. Some factual reporting on the low testing that is done in Africa points to the most likely reason that an argument for numbers of Covid-19 being characterized as low in numbers. The not subtle implication that being “obese” is a major contribution to a person being infected is reflected in some people’s bias against ” obese” or, to be honest “over weight” people in general . There are numerous reasons a person might be labeled as “over weight. ” It is not always due to poor choices of food. Genetics, confounding medical conditions, lack of a practical and accessible way to exercise in many cities , disabilities ( often among aged peoples) can lead to, or exacerbate, weight gain.

        All of the “isms” that are existing examples of prejudice, bias against or egocentric judgements on people do not just include racial, ethnic or social class ones. Include the overwhelming media and Hollywood and fashion industry selling youthfulness and stereotyped “models” as the only version of beauty or attractiveness. Needless to say: mostly for females. This is being chipped away by examples of lead actresses in some films or TV. Often the old saw about “fat girls” are comedians, jokes often on themselves, is still supported, by and large, in even these works. It is too bad, some people just have a psychological need to be seen as important or to self create some way to be better than another other. Interestingly, some of these same people would be at least irate, if not defensive, about their open mindedness and “progressive” ID.

        Sadly ,many people who have had Covid infections are not fat. Like the many older nursing home patients who weigh 85 lbs soaking wet. Many homeless people. Children, teenagers and adults in ICE detention centers. Poorly nourished pregnant women, often POC. Front- line workers in hospitals, EMTs, grocery store workers, and the farm and food processing workers. Warehouse workers who pee in bottles and work long hours . Will stop here. A rant … We need kindness more than hubris ,or bullying, now.

          1. Wukchumni

            As far as I know, no thin as rails horse racing jockeys have contracted Covid, and think of the umbrage potential from the usual complainer, maybe a couple paragraphs or even a short story in regards to why the sport of kings should be banned?

    3. Synoia

      and obese people are few and far between…

      Not in my childhood in the markets of Lagos, Nigeria.

      In Africa Skinny people can be considered as sick.

      1. Procopius

        In first-half twentieth century America a common reason for being skinny was tuberculosis. It’s one of the reasons the stereotype Jewish mother is always urging her family to eat — cause and effect were reversed. Poor people hoped by gaining weight to prevent TB. In America today obesity is often attributed to lack of nutritious food, not wealth or prosperity.

  2. KB

    Thanks for the eagle calls/sounds….the first one you posted of a bald eagle I believe was a peal call, a defensive call…I have a pair that perch across the street from me for over 10 years and have a nest 1/2 mile away so in my backyard I am lucky to hear many of their calls. Doesn’t hurt I volunteered at the MN Raptor Center and watch eagle cam nests for years!.
    Today’s eagle sound is very different than the bald eagles…..

    1. fumo

      We have rather a lot of Bald Eagles here where I live and, particularly in spring mating season, they make a lot of vocalizations one would never expect to hear from an eagle. Some of the high-pitched vocalizations sound almost like they are coming from songbirds until you begin to recognize them.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’m glad people like the eagles! They do have different sounds, unlike last week’s cranes, which all had more or less the same squawk.

      Perhaps some bird maven in the readership can explain why some species seem to vary in their sounds and some do not.

      1. John

        My cat Molly freaked when I played that eagle call until she figured it was coming from the laptop. She usually ignores the other bird calls.
        Fortunately she’s lazy and not interested in birds…but there is a bald eagle in the neighborhood who would probably love to get him some fat cat. Molly, a shelter stray does not go 10′ from the house unless I am present. She knows, its a big, bad wold out there.

  3. Harold

    How is a “bullshitter” different from the “trickster” figure of folklore? As I recall Mark Twain’s Duke and Dauphin were tarred and feathered and ridden out on a rail. Also a “signal”.

      1. John

        I want to comment directly on this,but I fear it would not make the cut. Use your imaginations.

  4. fumo

    “How Suzanne Simard changed our relationship to trees”— good piece.

    I’ve got a Canadian friend here who has worked forestry in both the US and Canada. His take is that the US, as far as forestry management goes and as bad as it may be, is far more responsible than BC forestry where only the First Nations foresters and a few gadflies are the voice of reason. In the BC coastal forests, the destruction is *so* remote from any urban areas that management is politically basically an “out of sight, out of mind” wild west show.

    1. Sub-Boreal

      I worked in the BC Forest Service for a decade, and that’s a reasonable take. It doesn’t really matter whether the provincial government is controlled by the right or the (slightly) left, resource management policies show remarkable continuity.

      Unlike in the US, there are few legal levers for the citizenry to pull to compel land management agencies to behave better. The only major countervailing force that has emerged in the recent past is the rise of indigenous activism, after a series of important legal victories that solidified aboriginal title. This is particularly important in BC where most of the province does not have treaties that surrended land to the Crown.

  5. Henry Moon Pie

    “There are two types of people…”

    The great way is low and plain,
    but people like shortcuts over the mountains.

    Tao te Ching #53 (UK Le Guin, trans.)

    Or a dirt path rather than all that concrete.

    1. Laura in So Cal

      I read a story once about a landscaping firm at a new school that planted grass everywhere and waited a year to put in concrete pathways. Then they just used the paths everyone had carved (since there were no pre-planned paths) as the pattern for the permanent paths.

      1. bun

        Yup. My cousin is a civil engineer here in Vancouver and that is what they do in their developments. Where the owners allow them to, of course. I was struck by how clever and sensible that was, and why it is almost NEVER done in a city where there is a development on almost every block

      2. John

        I seem to recall something similar about the paths on the campus of, I think it was, Dickenson College in Pennsylvania.

      3. The Rev Kev

        That’s a brilliant idea that but in a bit of whimsy, can you imagine what a footpath would look like if designed by Frank Gehry? Oh my aching back.

      4. Userfract

        In Finland they do a similar thing with paths trodden in the snow. They use the stamped down paths in their urban planning.

      5. Jeff W

        “…they just used the paths everyone had carved…”

        They’re so common, at least in folklore, they have a name: “desire paths” (or, as these things go, lots of names: “cow paths, pirate paths, social trails, kemonomichi (beast trails), chemins de l’âne (donkey paths), and Olifantenpad (elephant trails)”). Supposedly that’s how Michigan State University designed its paths, along with, reportedly, Virginia Tech and the University of California, Berkeley.

      6. Jason

        Then they just used the paths everyone had carved (since there were no pre-planned paths) as the pattern for the permanent paths.

        In trying to understand the larger “mindset” or “worldview” that has led much of the world to its current predicament, I’ve come to the conclusion* that it is most effective to focus on the “little things” and work back. So, in this example, the problem is best illustrated by the desire to create “permanent” paths.

        In the first place, the paths already were “permanent” for all intents and purposes. What is being described as “permanent” here is actually a smoothing of the edges, if you will – the maddening drive towards exactitude that permeates almost everything about modernity. This imperative may be said to define modernity.

        But anyone who has ever experienced these natural paths themselves will instantly recognize that they aren’t in fact so permanent. There are often other, less worn paths, that branch out from the main path.

        But once the main path has been turned into a sidewalk (progress!), the other paths (the roads less traveled, if you will) are eliminated, and attempting to recreate them is seen as breaking the ultimate law of exactitude, the scientific law, as illustrated clearly and poignantly by Claude Alvares in the links below.

        Peter Shrag spoke to this tendency towards regulation (control) in an entirely different context, in his book 1975 book Mind Control:

        “There has been no end of debate about the effects of computerization on individual records. Some privacy experts have argued that computers, despite all dire prophecies, have not produced “revolutionary new powers of surveillance,” that most computer systems lend themselves only to internal use, that they are more limited in capacity and at least as accurate as the paper files they replace, and that it is usually easier to walk off with a set of paper files than to get information out of a computer.

        But such arguments tend to ignore the virtually unlimited capacity of computers to sort people by categories and to exchange information with other data systems and agencies. The person who can walk off with an individual’s dossier can also walk off with a print-out of all of an agency’s clients, together with the codes indicating the nature of their problems.

        The paper record is perishable and unwieldy; the electronic record is permanent, and with proper programming, instantly accessible. Particularly where they deal with “soft” material – psychiatric diagnoses, teachers’ judgments of schoolchildren, or anecdotal reports of deviance in credit report – paper records have a self-betraying modesty deriving from the literary limitation – the inky scrawls, the faulty grammar, the misspellings – the clerks, nurses, teachers, cops, and social workers who create them. The computer converts such material into codes and crisp uppercase letters, creates the aura of impersonal objectivity, and infuses the process with the trappings of scientific and technical precision. The further those subjective impressions move from the source, the more objective and precise they appear; qualifications vanish; certainty replaces doubt; and impression becomes fact.

        *This is both a decision of the more superficial “rational” based variety, and one that I know with the proverbial “every fiber of my being.”

        1. Jason

          Adding, the “permanency” was simply a well-worn path pursued by most, that still allowed for other, less-traveled paths. With the introduction of the permanent sidewalk* however, all other paths are instantly subversive.

          *It needn’t be a paved walk. It might be an “environmental” group keeping the path a bit rustic. The problem is the official designation as the one and only path one is allowed on.

      7. Jack Parsons

        UC Santa Cruz also. The whole campus opened around 1970 and just let people find the “desire paths”. The campus is very hilly, and this identified possible erosion points. They then asphalted all of the paths, and a whole lot of water shoots across the asphalt during rains.

  6. SD

    I love the Crested Serpent Eagle’s somberly lilting call. Thank you for providing these daily! I always look forward to the Water Cooler, and this series of bird calls is an added bonus.

    1. dcblogger

      Inside the Federal Bureau Of Way Too Many Guns
      There’s no telling how many guns we have in America—and when one gets used in a crime, no way for the cops to connect it to its owner. The only place the police can turn for help is a Kafkaesque agency in West Virginia, where, thanks to the gun lobby, computers are illegal and detective work is absurdly antiquated. On purpose. Thing is, the geniuses who work there are quietly inventing ways to do the impossible.

      1. JBird4049

        Actually, roughly, that would be closer to 80,000 or 40,000 deaths per year. Around 65% are suicides, a few percent are accidents, with the rest murders. The rate of gun deaths had been declining since the Crack Wars of the 80’s or over a few decades. It started to slowly go up around 2006 (the economy was hiccuping then?). Thing is the murder rate has only gone up a little and use to match the suicide rate; during the last ten-twelve years, the suicide rate is up faster and is strongly diverging from the homicide rate, if they are graphed.

        I think it is the suicides that are the problem. Yes, when the economy blows up and the various communities that people were a part of vanish, the rate of gun deaths go up. People committing crimes Les Misérables style and the suicides.

        But the 26,000 suicides (and rising each year) just by guns alone shows that something more than guns are the problem. Some schools used to have firing ranges and when I went to high school I never saw a metal detector and saw I police officer once, maybe twice, and the school was a rowdy, occasionally violent place. But I was never afraid of going there. Maybe I would have to punch some bullies who were my personal nemeses but so what. Now it is be scared, be verrrry scared! Now, I go to the local courthouse and it is like a fortification complete with scanners and cops even though there was more violence thirty years ago.

        The roughly 450 people murdered each year in a mass shooting or the very roughly 100 students injured and killed (out of 104,000 schools of all types and levels.) or the 1,100 killed by the police get all the attention. “If it bleeds, it leads.” as they say in the news media. But the 26,000 suicides (and rising each year) by the gun or the many tens of thousands who chose other means? For a grand total of about 48,000. Not so much. I guess they don’t publicly bleed enough, so they don’t lead.

        And yes, the part of the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) that tracks guns is a joke, but it has been for decades. Decades in which the Democratic Party was sometimes in control. They don’t even complain about the lack of funding for that part of the ATF, which is strange as it would be a great club to beat the Republicans with. Even some gun rights supporters might want a more functioning agency.

        No, we argue over the gunz, as if a nation that has been heavily armed and violent for over four centuries can be disarmed (without a real civil war) while the 130 Americans who kill themselves each day are ignored. As the economy keeps disappearing the yearly number of suicides keep climbing about a thousand a year and those deaths are anomalous. It is a good way to dispose of the unwanted while pretending to give a damn.

  7. Mikel

    “And why is Africa such an enormous outlier? Readers?”

    Hard to say. How many Africans, HUGE place,
    are on the grid of constant quantification?
    Maybe Africans spend more time outdoors?

    Still have to see how it plays out, but indeed, it is food for thought.

      1. cocomaan

        I have also heard the African continent typically has a younger population. That could make less people bother to do testing because less appear symptomatic, less severity, etc. Also more territory at equatorial lat so less of a seasonal variation.

        There has to be an explanation, because countries like Nigeria and South Africa are large and crowded. Nigeria has 200 million people in it! That’s bigger than France and Germany and Spain combined.

        I’ve also heard the same speculation about anti parasitic drug availability!

  8. IM Doc

    With regard to the lab leak vs natural hypotheses of the origin of COVID 19.

    I have sat through several lectures the last few weeks about this very topic.

    From what I can tell – there are 2 main sticking points. You say correctly Lambert that nature is fully capable of producing all kinds of genetic variants – and that is very true. But there is great concern that SARSCOV2 may have broken the rules. Yes, there are rules to how this all goes down in Nature.

    The genetics of this virus is the first sticking point. 2 issues there. For there to have been a furin complex placed in the RNA structure where it is would have required a recombinant event. My genetics friends tell me that the way this went down is so microscopically unlikely that it is just almost impossible. And then on top of that the furin complex has 2 arginine codons in a row. Why is that important? There are multiple arginine codons available – and the virus has 2 arginine codons just in that area that are NOT USED by beta coronaviruses except for 0.5 % of the time. Instead, the codons that are present in that location in COVID are exactly the CODONS that would have been manipulated into the virus by lab workers not the COVID virus if left to its own devices. The chances of both of these things happening together in nature (the recombination and the arginine codons) is virtually zero. This is why Dr. David Baltimore, an NIH virologist and Nobel Laureate has called the arginine codon problem a “smoking gun” for a lab leak. I am not saying they did it on purpose. There are lab leaks literally all the time. And the other problem was the Chinese Wuhan scientists were using a biosecurity status that was woefully unable to keep things clean – that has been confirmed.

    Probably a bigger problem for the nature hypothesis is that absolutely no trace – NONE – of COVID or anything remotely similar has been found in any possible intermediary host animals in China or elsewhere. And believe me – they have been looking like fiends. The Chinese have a vested interest in finding an animal intermediary and it just has not been found. Not a hint. And this is unprecedented in medical science – intermediary hosts are usually identified within months and almost assuredly within a year. The lack of results here is strangely peculiar – and becomes more peculiar with each passing day.

    So – we may never know – but the evidence is certainly tilting toward a lab leak. The medical community is really starting to come around on this as well. I have observed an almost 180 in just the past month. It is very very difficult to rebut either one of the above two issues.

    This is really the sticky wicket we get into when we politicize the scientific method and process. When “science” becomes political it almost turns into cult-like behavior. Trump said a lot of stupid stuff all the time – and he also said the virus had leaked. Therefore – everything he says must be proven wrong – AND THAT IS NOT HOW SCIENCE WORKS.

    This really matters in a big way – because our behavior toward the virus – and treatment must be tailored differently if the virus was man-made.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      On furin cleavage, I’m firmly in the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” camp. David Baltimore or no, we would never even be considering the Watchmaker Hypothesis if the adaptation had occurred in any other context but this one.

      On intermediary host animals, I seem to recall that it took a good long while to trace how AIDS made its leap to humans, and back in the early days, some thought the design of that molecule was so elegant that it, too, had to be man-made.

      On Wuhan Lab -> Wuhan Market, it seems to me that knowing Covid was out in the wild in Italy mitigates against the lab leak hypothesis. If the Wuhan Lab Leak was prior to September, why did the leak show up in the Wuhan Market only months later? Are we really saying that the virus leaked from the lab in Wuhan, was carried to Italy, and then carried back to Wuhan?

      1. pjay

        If I understand IM Doc and the furin cleavage issue correctly, the argument is precisely that the “extraordinary claim” would be a natural origin, and Occam’s razor points to a lab origin. On the other hand, your AIDS example makes a good point. Regarding the “wild in Italy” issue, it seems to me that finding out precisely when the Covid-19 virus makes an appearance in Italy and elsewhere — not least the US — would be very important. Yet it does not seem like much effort has gone into that inquiry outside of China.

        Generally I’m more skeptical of anti-China stories than a number of commenters here. But in this instance there does seem to be an effort to stifle open inquiry that just doesn’t “feel” right (to reference another discussion in today’s links). Sort of like the Ivermectin issue. There would be different motives for different interest groups; China’s is obvious, but there are others as well. It’s a real bummer when there are competing “experts” and literally every claim about anything is run through the “spin” cycle.

        1. grayslady

          Actually, in a CDC publication from February, 2020, it is reported that the first known case in Italy occurred in a youngster in December, 2019. The only reason the doctors found it is that they thought the child was suffering from Kawasaki disease. In the March, 2020 edition of the Journal of Medical Virology, Italian researchers had traced the earliest Italian cases to travelers from Germany and Hubei Province (where Wuhan is located). As the U.S. State Department said in its January 15, 2021 Fact Sheet on covid-19, “The CCP has prevented independent journalists, investigators, and global health authorities from interviewing researchers at the WIV, including those who were ill in the fall of 2019.”

          IM Doc has cogently and concisely laid out what happened. The only other causative factor missing, imo, is the arrogance of Fauci, Daszak, Baric, and Shi in thinking that they knew better than all the other scientists who advised against the dangers of gain-of-function research.

      2. DJG, Reality Czar

        Lambert Strether: A question for the commenters who understand viral mutation much better than I do: How and when does something that seems innocuous become a virulent disease?

        Could coronavirus travel back and forth from Wuhan to Milano, two cities in watery river valleys (and the Valley of the Po is famous for its fog), both climates known for humidity? It seems likely to me.

        It started off as a skin infection, it seems, just one of the many bugs living on human beings.


        British Journal of Dermatology:

        I forgot how much detail Dr. Gianotti had recorded. Indeed, this does seem to eliminate the “lab escapee” working hypothesis. This is more like a staph infection gone really, really bad.

        I seem to recall a study in France that put coronavirus in France about the same time–late summer 2019. Or am I misremembering?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > It started off as a skin infection, it seems, just one of the many bugs living on human beings.

          That link (Google translation) is fascinating. Here is the translated text:

          That Sars Cov 2 circulated in Italy well before China , on December 31, 2019, communicated to the WHO that an unknown virus caused very serious pneumonia, is now a fact. Some studies have confirmed the presence of the coronovirus in Italy in November and December and there is the hypothesis that it may have arrived in Italy even at the end of the summer. An international study, coordinated by Raffaele Gianotti of the State University of Milan, hypothesizes that “the first documented case of the presence of Sars-CoV-2 in a human being” dates back to November 2019. The research was published in the British Journal of Dermatology, the most prestigious scientific journal of dermatology.

          The researchers, analyzing skin biopsies from autumn 2019 , discovered the Sars-Cov-2 virus in a 25-year-old patient who had dermatosis as the only symptom in November 2019. The biopsy, dating back to November 2019 – reports a note from the ‘University – showed the presence of RNA gene sequences of the Sars-CoV-2 virus , identified through two different techniques on skin tissue: immunohistochemistry and Rna-Fish . Metaphorically, Covid-19 “fingerprints” were found in the skin tissue.

          “After studying the skin manifestations in patients with Covid-19 in the Milan area – explains Raffaele Gianotti , dermatopathologist at the University of Milan and the Cà Granda Foundation Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico di Milano – I re-examined the biopsies of atypical skin diseases performed under the microscope at the end of 2019 when it was not possible to make a precise diagnosis. We have searched in the past because in our works already published in international journals , we have shown that there are, in this pandemic, cases in which the only sign of Covid-19 infection is that of a skin pathology. I wondered if we could find any evidence of the presence of Sars-Cov-2 in the skin of patients with only skin diseases before the officially recognized epidemic phase began ”.

          “In the case of the young woman it was possible to demonstrate the presence of viral antigens in the sweat glands by means of immunohistochemical investigations carried out in our laboratory,” explains Giovanni Fellegara , head of the Pathological Anatomy Laboratory of the Italian Diagnostic Center, comments. This data was then confirmed by the finding in the same gene sequence structures of the viral RNA identified with the Rna-Fish technique performed at the European Institute of Oncology. “We demonstrated the presence of SARS-CoV-2 viral sequences, also quantitatively scarce, on the histological preparation of 2019 and also in six patients of 2020 suffering only from dermatosis but without systemic symptoms of Covid 19 infection “adds Massimo Barberis, director of the Clinical Unit of Histopathological and Molecular Diagnostics of the European Institute of Oncology. The patient, contacted retrospectively, reported the absence of systemic symptoms of Covid 19 infection, the disappearance of skin lesions after five months and the positivity of anti-Sars Cov 2 antibodies in the peripheral blood in June 2020. Based on data in the literature worldwide this is the oldest evidence of the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a human being.

          This new study is added to those of recent months that had detected the presence of coronavirus in the wastewater of Northern Italy in December 2019, that of the National Cancer Institute of Milan which had found antibodies to the virus in patients of a screening for lung cancer between September 2019 and March 2020, and that of the Milanese child who tested positive in a test done at the beginning of December 2019.

          The study in the British Journal of Dermatology


          On the sweat glands, I note today that’s what dogs are detecting. Sweat. Hmm.

      3. vao

        Remember the systematic culling of mink farms in Denmark and elsewhere during 2020 because of massive infections of the animals by a mutant covid-19?

        Well, there have been curious things of a similar nature happening in China in 2019, just before the very first presumed cases that could be uncovered retrospectively.

        The following WWW article is in French, but here is the executive summary:

        1) China breeds minks, foxes and raccoon dogs on a large scale for furs.
        2) A center of this activity is the province of Shandong (more than 70% of Chinese minks are bred there), located far away from Wuhan.
        3) On the other hand, Wuhan and neighboring cities have become a major center for the processing and commercialization of furs obtained from other provinces.
        3) Shandong is known to be a territory rich in bats carrying a variety of coronaviruses.
        4) Raccoon dogs are known to have been carriers of SARS-1 in the previous epidemic of coronavirus.
        5) In 2019, the stock of minks in Shandong collapsed (to 6.5 millions from 15 millions in 2018), while it decreased slightly in other provinces. The production of furs from other animals remained stable.

        There has been very little interest in pursuing that kind of lead, and the WHO does not seem to have delved into the matter. These clues are not conclusive, but when it comes to finding the intermediary host for covid-19, they are intriguing.

      4. DJG, Reality Czar

        Lambert Strether: I have a comment in moderation about the Italian case.

        I happen to be doing some editorial work on the Middle East. Here is an article about Iran.

        First cases are in December 2019, which means the coronavirus would have been in Iran in mid-November. The Italian case was in November.


        The timeline of cases is not supporting a lab leak, unless it indeed was in, oooh, September 2019.

        1. Procopius

          For what it is worth, I have seen two or three stories that a search of stored tests in Italy found the SARS-Cov2 virus in samples from September, 2019.

      5. Fern

        Nobel Laureate David Baltimore was quoted by Nicholas Wade as saying that the furin cleavage site issue was a “smoking gun”, i.e., it precluded the natural evolution of the virus. This got a lot of attention because Baltimore is such a widely respected virologist. The consensus among scientists of all views that I know and follow is that he was wrong on that one. Perhaps he hadn’t seen some of the newer research coronaviruses sequences.

        That aside, none of the scientists I know and follow believe that the lab escape theory is precluded by any known facts, and they all agree that it’s important to pursue that possibility. They believe that both the natural origin and the lab leak origin are possible.

        It should be emphasized that this shouldn’t be a geopolitical issue; it’s a lab safety issue. It’s a critically important issue concerning what kind of research should be done and under what conditions. Both the United States and France funded the research done in the Wuhan lab, so they would be implicated along with China if the virus arose and/or escaped from the lab.

        The article that Lambert linked to was weak in that it extensively quoted Peter Daszak, without pointing out that Daszak had a monumental conflict of interest. He was the one who passed the NIH money along to the Chinese lab that was doing the gain of function research, so if it escaped from the lab, he would be in hot water. He had a massive vested interest in arguing that the virus arose naturally, yet he was the only American on the team to investigate whether the virus escaped from the lab.

        There are a number of factors that make a lab leak plausible explanation:

        1) As IM doctor said, they could not find an intermediate host, even though they did an exhaustive search. This is in contrast to SARS and MERS, where they found the intermediate host quickly.

        2) Very dangerous work with bat coronaviruses was going on at the Wuhan lab — both in terms of working with numerous strains without proper safety protocol and in terms of doing gain of function experiments with them.

        3) The consensus as of now is that the outbreak started in or near Wuhan. Nothing has changed in that regard, despite some largely discredited papers claiming otherwise. The timing of covid-19’s appearance in Wuhan doesn’t rule out lab escape. If a credible paper proves that it appeared somewhere else first, that would indicate that the Wuhan lab wasn’t involved. This hasn’t happened yet.

        If the outbreak had occurred at the Wuhan wet market, as originally thought, it would have been an argument in favor of natural origin, because it would be consistent with the virus having jumped from some of the animals there. The fact that it didn’t actually made the lab escape theory more plausible.

        The excerpt from the Frum article is weak, IMO. First, it’s just wrong that scientists “for the most part continued to emphatically reject the lab-origin theory”. He hasn’t been following what’s going on. He says “past pandemics had started when a virus leaped from animals or birds to people, so why should this new coronavirus be any different?” The obvious answer that we’ve rarely done gain of function work on dangerous viruses in a biosafety level 2 lab. And finally, being a neocon and not a science reporter, he is trying to turn this into a China conspiracy thing. In fact, both the United States and a few U.S. scientists like Peter Daszak share a vested interest in the natural evolution origin since all were involved in the dangerous research.

        Here’s a good article from Taiwan News on Peter Daszak’s conflict of interest:


        1. Yves Smith

          The problem I have with “lab escape” or “lab leak” is it is still at hand-wave level.

          We know that this virus travels airborne channels, indoors. It pretty much does not travel outdoors. It diffuse too quickly.

          So the lab scenario means: either enough got into the air in lab that people in the lab breathed it and got sick OR someone got it on their hands and say touched their eyes or nose. It’s not plausible in a society like China that a rogue staffer would have taken a vial out of the lab (to sell?) and broken it in a way it would have spread.

          So the “lab leak” transmission theory is really “lab employee(s) got sick and took it into the community”.

          Do we see any questions being asked if lab employees got sick in the index case time frame? I’ve seen nothing of the kind.

          That suggests that the “lab leak” label (as opposed to “lab contagion/lab accident”) is a propaganda framing. “Leak” suggests intent. “Leak” also creates images that do not fit how Covid could have propagated, like a Chernobyl or chemical plant leak, where enough spewed out to hurt people OUTSIDE.

          I really hate this discussion. It’s rancid even if there might be a there there.

          No matter how you

          1. Proocopius

            So the “lab leak” transmission theory is really “lab employee(s) got sick and took it into the community”


            Do we see any questions being asked if lab employees got sick in the index case time frame? I’ve seen nothing of the kind.

            Isn’t it widely accepted that the CCP is not releasing information about how they conducted their investigation(s)? You certainly have seen a lot more information about the subject than is available to me, but who would be interested in reporting on such questioning after the “leaked from lab” hypothesis was crushed? I hadn’t even realized that was a possible meaning for the phrase “leaked from lab” until I read the Nicholas Wade article.

      6. Redlife2017

        The Internet has you covered on looking at possibilities outside of China. There is a very long thread here that goes into it. My linking doesn’t endorse, by the way. Just as another perspective.

        In summary (links to articles in the tweet storm):
        *2019, Mar 12 – SARS-COV-2 detected in waste waters in Barcelona (retroactive testing to that date)
        *2019, Apr 21 – Vaping lung mystery illness : Pulmonary Illness Related To E-Cigarettes in the US
        *2019, Jul 15 – FT Detrick Army germ lab in Maryland shut down by CDC in 2019 had several ‘serious’ protocol violations that year…
        *2019, Oct 30 – Flu season kicks off with more than 3,000 flu-related hospital trips in Maryland – only 111 out of 3154 cases responded positive to rapid flu test
        *2019, Nov 27 – SARS-CoV-2 circulating in Brazil back in November 2019 (waste water testing)
        *2021, May 07 – The ancestor of SARS-CoV-2’s Wuhan strain was circulating in late October 2019 – This new study shows that all COVID-19 variants found worldwide (including Wuhan) have a common progenitor… which is not Wuhan

        1. flora

          This still leaves an important question unaddressed: why were officials in China and the US and other countries desperate early on to downplay or outright deny C19’s importance once it was clear something new was on the ground. I think there’s a difference between not wanting to start a panic and not wanting take necessary containment steps early on. I don’t recall they responded this way with SARS-1, but perhaps I’m wrong.

          1. The Rev Kev

            As a guess for the US, perhaps because it was an election year and neither the Republicans or Democrats wanted to throw their carefully laid plans into disruption. It might have been different if it had arrived this year but if it had arrived in 2022, then you have the issue of your midterms.

      7. Fern

        Since my main comment is still in moderation, I’ll just submit a short note on the issue of the reported early appearance of covid19 in Italy.

        We don’t know that Covid was out in the wild in Italy early enough to preempt a China origin assumption. The paper that made that claim has been discredited by serious scientists. The paper was mentioned when it first came out last November, but after some negative analyses by respected biologists, it wasn’t really mentioned again. If it had been considered credible, you can be sure it would be part of the discussion, and it isn’t.

        Not every report or paper published turns out to be correct. That’s why scientists have to include their methodology and their data, allowing other scientists to assess it. This paper was considered to be terminally weak by respected scientists, and apparently, that was widely accepted in the field,

        Here are two very good substantive discussions by significant scientists that critiqued the Italy paper when it first came out. One is a research scientist at MIT and the other is the Director of the UCL Genetics Institute Professor of Computational Biology at the highly ranked University College London.




      8. Sue Blue

        With regard to the lack of an animal reservoir or intermediate, consider Ebola and the other filoviruses (Marburg). Decades of determined searching by dozens of scientists with the backing of the World Health Organization, the NIH, and others failed to find an animal source for this terrible virus that seems to spring full-blown and without explanation from the rainforests of equatorial SubSaharan Africa. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an animal source, only that it’s elusive. There certainly weren’t any high-tech genetic or microbiology labs anywhere in the region back in 1976 when the disease first appeared in the Bumba Zone of what was then Zaire. There was also an almost simultaneous outbreak of Ebola in southern Sudan, hundreds of miles away, without any highways or other transportation connecting the two regions. No one ever figured that one out, either. None of these mysteries meant Ebola was genetically engineered in a lab, and I don’t think difficulty in finding an animal reservoir or source for COVID-19 should be seen as evidence for a lab leak, either.

    2. Lemmy Caution

      From merely the circumstantial evidence, the Wuhan Institute of Virology certainly shouldn’t be overlooked as a prime suspect responsible for the origination of COVID-19.
      According to a U.S. State Department Fact Sheet,

      “Starting in at least 2016 – and with no indication of a stop prior to the COVID-19 outbreak – WIV researchers conducted experiments involving RaTG13, the bat coronavirus identified by the WIV in January 2020 as its closest sample to SARS-CoV-2 (96.2% similar). The WIV became a focal point for international coronavirus research after the 2003 SARS outbreak and has since studied animals including mice, bats, and pangolins.”

      So the lab was known to be experimenting with a virus very similar to the virus we now know as “Covid-19.”
      The Fact Sheet goes onto say,

      “The WIV has a published record of conducting “gain-of-function” research to engineer chimeric viruses. But the WIV has not been transparent or consistent about its record of studying viruses most similar to the COVID-19 virus, including “RaTG13,” which it sampled from a cave in Yunnan Province in 2013 after several miners died of SARS-like illness.”

      So “gain-of-function” research is right in the lab’s wheelhouse, although it denies doing such research with what became “Covid-19.” Fair enough, maybe that’s true. But the State Department makes another inconvenient observation.

      “The U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses. This raises questions about the credibility of WIV senior researcher Shi Zhengli’s public claim that there was “zero infection” among the WIV’s staff and students of SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-related viruses.”

      With the WIV actively experimenting with a virus similar to Covid-19 prior to the global pandemic, you would think the WHO investigation into the origins of Covid-19 would have devoted more than 30 pages to the lab-leak hypothosis out of its 300-page report.

      Now that the head of the WHO and even President Biden are leaving the door open to more investigations into the WIV, you know the case isn’t closed.

      1. Darthbobber

        As to the State Dept. Fact Sheet, you may notice that it provides no sourcing whatsoever for any of its assertions.

    3. Ghost in the Machine

      My brother in law is a molecular biologist running his own lab and he also agrees it looks like laboratory manipulation. There are no furin cleavage sites in other corona viruses of this type. The codons for arginine used are those preferred in the human genome and there are two of them. He was also concerned about the lack of genetic diversity in the original virus typical of cultured virus. They have found nothing in nature where this virus may have jumped from when in every other coronavirus spillover case they had good leads within months. The extreme low probability of these changes (many very organized changes occurring just right together) occurring naturally is actually the extraordinary claim that needs extraordinary evidence. The lab leak hypothesis is actually most parsimonious. However, it is extraordinarily explosive politically and for the science community. Extraordinary evidence will be required to overcome vested interests. But, that is different from what is the most parsimonious explanation scientifically. I am not a virologist but I worked with genetic mice for a few years as research faculty collaborating with a geneticist. We also used viral vectors to insert genetic fluorescent calcium indicators into mouse brain tissue via infection so it got into neurons, so I know a little. The viral vector could not infect humans so we were at a Biosafety level 2. And it looks very bad to me. I sincerely hope the lab leak theory is not true because the hard time scientists are getting already ( some deserved I admit). But this would be bad. This would be mad scientist stereotype stuff.

      1. John

        If Sars-CoV-2 appeared anywhere in Asia but in China, would the search and accuse campaign be as strident? If HIV appeared “too elegant” to be natural, why cannot this virus be equally so? I am in no position to dispute any of the testimony in the comments as to the inner workings of a virus or how they are manipulated in the laboratory and if there is trimming or mendacity by authorities in China, I find the pronouncements of the US state department equally suspect. Let us up bio-security in laboratories, calm down, and keep looking

        1. Temporarily Sane

          I agree. TPTB are cool with pushing the “lab theory” because it can be used to make China look bad.

          1. ambrit

            The problem with the TPTB ‘supporting’ the “China Lab – Baad!” story is that it has already lead to serious blowback against the Western Science Apparat due to the funding of gain of function research at Wuhan by the American Science Establishment.
            Roughly speaking, the “Lab Origin theory” makes Science itself look very bad. I couldn’t think of a better way to stoke anti-science fears among the general public.

        2. Procopius

          @Temporarily Sane
          Wait… what? Where did the assertion that HIV “appeared ‘too elegant’ to be natural” come from? I’ve never seen that, although it may be included in the conspiracy theories that HIV was created at Ft. Detrick specifically to kill certain groups of people. I’ve always dismissed those without examining details.

          1. Yves Smith

            There was a period when various scientists were insisting that HIV was just too cleverly nasty to be natural. Those theories have all been debunked. No one who is credible argues for the old view. I even recall a story tracing animal predecessors of HIV to chimps in Africa in the 1950s. Eating bushmeat (often undercooked) is now believed to be the reason for its appearance in humans.

    4. Jeremy Grimm

      The tail of your comment:
      “… our behavior toward the virus – and treatment must be tailored differently if the virus was man-made.”
      How does would a man-made origin for the virus alter the best behaviors [public health response for preventing spread of the virus(?)] and treatment?

      Are there good reasons for fiddling with the Corona virus other than to build better bio-weapons? Whether the virus came out of a bio-weapons lab, from a factory farm, or a wild animal market — all of those practices seem very unwise.

      1. IM Doc

        This is very much a Cliffs Note version. This was explained to me in a grand rounds I was zoomed in on about a week ago.

        Extremely complicated issues and I will do my best to make it accessible. More importantly, this is very offensive to some but it must be discussed in correct scientific terms.

        Most if not all of the human cell lines that viral clones and progeny in the labs are tested on derive from a cell lineage known as HeLa. This is also the case for a lot of oncology and immunology research. HeLa stands for Henrietta Lacks. Oprah made a movie out of the book written about this a few years ago. Truly fascinating. Ms. Lacks was African American.

        The hypothesis is that if the virus was indeed habituated in a lab to human tissue it would have been evolutionary selected for these cells. And those cells have other things going on unique to the gene structures of African American people. This may very well be why it seems to be much more problematic for that genetic subgroup – it may have more affinity for their cells. African Americans seem to have much different responses to this virus than even people from Africa.

        That would be critical to know. I am doing my best not to offend but science is science.

        A similar but profoundly more complicated issue is how a lab cultured virus may be affecting our kids. Also if it was birthed in a lab it has been through entirely way more evolutionary pressure than in nature and that would make it likely much more able to adapt in the wild. The speaker’s concern was that we may be already witnessing this.

        There is also concern that this virus came right out of the chute completely attuned to human cells. That is most definitely not natural.

        I think the most important issue in why this is so important is this must never be allowed to happen again if indeed it was from a lab. God only knows what other Godzillas have been cooked up.

        This is an issue that goes right to our survival as a species.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Thank you very much for your explanation. It explains a great deal and addresses one of the concerns your prior comment raised — how should knowing the origin of the virus alter our behavior toward the virus – and how must treatment be tailored differently. I focused in on this extract from your comment above:
          “Also if it was birthed in a lab it has been through entirely way more evolutionary pressure than in nature and that would make it likely much more able to adapt in the wild. The speaker’s concern was that we may be already witnessing this.”
          Since there are limited treatments and some vaccines with — I’ll say nicely — ‘spotty’ measures of their efficacy against the virus and its variants, and — nicely again — less than efficacious public health policies in the US, we are all left to our devices. Because I can, I will continue to hold up in my little apartment, order delivery of package goods to eat, avoid public spaces, especially enclosed public spaces as I would avoid the plague. I was already worried about my son and daughter who are out in the world and cannot avoid going into the world. Your comment solidifies my worry, but at this point there is little I can do for either of them.

          I sincerely hope your concerns that your comment might offend those who follow this blog and comment here are misplaced. I trust the Science when I can clearly understand it and it makes sense, just as I trust others in Science will review and contend with or corroborate what is reported. I am deeply offended by the way Neoliberalism has twisted science to bend it to the will of its profits, not so unlike the way the Church twisted Science to fit Church Doctrines. What you explained makes sense and I believe I understand most of what the researcher was telling you — although I am of course ignorant of the finer details of the researcher’s line of reasoning. I suspect, he might be suggesting things such as that the spike protein fits the exterior of human cells a little too well and from a better starting point can more rapidly and easily fine tune its attack surface.

          I hope the presenter you heard is wrong about a ‘Coronazilla’.

      2. Late Introvert

        “Whether the virus came out of a bio-weapons lab, from a factory farm, or a wild animal market — all of those practices seem very unwise.”

        Thanks Jeremy, my thoughts exactly.

        The only time I’ve had an NC comment spiked was back in mid 2020 asking about the gain of function research. A question! I understand this site’s goal of critical thinking, and again I wonder about gain of function research. But Jeremy sums it up better than I can.

    5. Jeotsu

      FWIW, the furin cleavage site, and the nucleotide sequencing coding for it, setoff my WTF!! alarms when I learned about it (I’m a PhD Biochemist). (And even if it did not escape from that lab, there needs to be a serious look about lab safety standard when you’re doing gain-of-function work. What has been described is dangerously negligent.)
      As for disease progression after a possible lab leak, the last 15months should have taught us how the high dispersion of CoV2 makes it unpredictable. The presence or absence of a super-spreader event is the difference between a chain of disease that sputters out, and one that takes off. So little outbreaks that self-quenched, but the PCR-able evidence in serum samples and waste water) are to be expected.
      My memory also tells me that the theory for why Italy got it so early and hard was the heavy tourist traffic from China, if that is the case than traces in Europe from infections that did not sustain to the point super-spreading are completely consistent with our previous understanding of how the disease spread in its early stages.
      There is another option, and that it a lab-leak but not from Wuhan. Who else is playing gain of function games, but not fully disclosing all the viruses they are poking?

    6. ahimsa

      @IM Doc

      Would be very curious to hear you comment on the seasonality aspect of the flu and Covid.

      I can’t help but think that some of the “success” of vaccine rollouts in US, UK and Europe are partially (but to what extent?) attributable to normal seasonal declines in viral infections.

          1. Isotope_C14

            If you are so deluded that you think Epstein could have helped with, um, anything, that explains a lot.

            I do feel bad for Mrs. Gates – and hopefully she comes out of this in a place of peace, and a realization that most people aren’t sociopaths.

            As I was raised Catholic, peace be with you. Now as an Atheist, I say, say that and mean it, and let’s go get a pint ;)

            1. Alfred

              that was a joke–need a snark tag. it refers to the time he took a trip with Epstein to meet some Nobel judges with Epstein introductions, years ago, ostensibly to get a nomination.

              1. Isotope_C14

                I worded my response poorly, I think I detected the snark, but had a few too many last night.

                I saw what you speak of on twitter today. ROFL.

                I guess if Obama got one for just not being Bush, he figures he deserves one for also not being Bush.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Hmmmm, that reminds me of something. I need to make a donation to this organization:


      Been telling those who are willing to listen. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how open people are to hearing about that, ahem, therapeutic.

    2. Cuibono

      association is NOt causation
      the final chapter on ivermectin has not been written. Me; i am waiting on the Gates funded trial through the prestigious Canadian University

      1. flora

        Yes to the first. Association is not the same as causation, but the observed results is strongly suggestive.

        Gates funding. I’ll bet the results are negative. Don’t know why I think that. /s

  9. zagonostra

    >“Meet the Four Kinds of People Holding Us Back From Full Vaccination” – [New York Times].

    I filed this one with “Vaccine Skepticism Was Viewed as a Knowledge Problem. It’s Actually About Gut Beliefs – NYT” and “Millions Are Saying No to the Vaccines. What Are They Thinking? The Atlantic” that I found previously linked here, at NC.

    This article has some nice graphics. What I found curious is the category of “System Distrusters.”

    The System Distrusters believe that the health care system doesn’t treat them fairly. Most, but not all, members of this group are people of color, and they prevail in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Georgia

    Well I’m not considered a person of “color,” though I’ve got a pretty good tan being in the sun a lot, and I don’t live in any of these areas. And, It’s not the “health care system” that I’m distrusting. It’s human nature and inherent biases in reporting, as was just pointed out today by NYT’s own science writer.

    System Distruster, you know it, but it’s the perfidious and immoral actors that run the “system” that troubles me more than the “system” per se. The knowledge of previous skullduggery that has me less than sanguine on far I can trust what my gov’t is telling me – about anything, you name it, UFO’s and all.

    1. Alfred

      Those of us who have known “the system” to be trustworthy at times do wonder about the individuals who corrupt it, thinking they are under cover of trust of “the system.”

  10. flora

    re: “SC school bus driver says kindergartners’ curiosity helped stop armed hijacking” [WSB-TV]. “

    The Ransom of Red Chief… / :)

  11. FriarTuck

    Re: “A New Frank Gehry Tower Rises Above the Quaint French Town of Arles”

    What in the world is that monstrosity?

    I mean, wouldn’t it be better, you would think, that someone with that kind of money would spend it on a more tasteful tower, then spend the excess of your billions to improve the neighborhood? IE so the scenery surrounding the building was improved, rather than just a single eyesore?

    Or is it the sociopathy of the billionare class that requires them to be able to point to something and say, “I own that”?

    1. jsn

      “Like mackerel by moonlight: it sparkles and it stinks!”

      If the smell is you, you don’t really notice it and get enamored with the sparkle.

      1. John

        “Like mackerel by moonlight: it sparkles and it stinks!” wasn’t that John Randolph of Roanoke?

    2. Swamp Yankee

      Arles is such a lovely town, too, full of Roman ruins and at the beginning of the Rhone delta (The Camargue). This is monstrous. [Family blog] Frank Gehry et al.

    3. diptherio

      Personally, I’m more interested in the building to the lower right of the photgraph, that appears to have had a “sun room” added to the top story some time after the initial construction.

    4. Return of the Bride of Joe Biden

      So, if a capitalist pig wealthy patron erected a more tasteful tower, say one designed in a neo-classical style (if that’s to your taste), pointed to it, and said, “I own that,” would it really be better? Is style really the problem here, or is it the fact that with enough money, one can force one’s preferences on others?

      Is “good taste” really a universal constant?

      1. Alfred

        That house is an example of incessant profanity, if it were equated with “free speech.” I’m not sure any kind of taste enters into it.

      1. newcatty

        Just looking at the tower, with no explanation about it’s location or architect, it looks like a dark, malignant building. I would have guessed it was an image , or a set, for a “Time Machine” world in a nightmare vision of a future feudalism. It’s hard to believe it’s an actual building in an actual French town. Life is reflecting some dark arts. Off topic, I guess, but thank Goodness for native Americans being a voice for forests and the trees.

    5. chuck roast

      par-o-dy: an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.

    6. Lunker Walleye

      From where our little B and B was in Arles, the building looks beautiful at night and recalls some earth formations in the area. It also reminds me of some of Cezanne’s geometric, pre-cubist shapes. I was never close up but will defend its appearance after dark. It might be dastardly in the daylight.

    7. Tom Stone

      That “Monstrosity is a reflection of Gehry’s soul, shiny twisted and hollow.

  12. Socal Rhino

    No prominent national figure visibly opposed Prop 22, despite numerous reports of plan to use it as a template for other states to adopt. Kamala had a lot of company.

    1. tegnost

      it’s a race to the bottom. My PMC family all voted for it except maybe my niece…my tech friends in seattle visualize a dreamworld where all workers are “decentralized” and unable to thwart the glorious techno-utopia being crafted one patent at a time… yes, that’s break everything…but not the patent system…oh no! Not that! Unamerican! Unpatriotic! Takings!
      So get your patents now before it’s too late!

      1. Kurtismayfield

        The pulling up of ladders continues unabated. I doubt most of the PMC learned anything from the feudal time periods, or how peasants revolt sometimes.

        Cue Frank Herbert:

        “Scratch a liberal and find a closet aristocrat”

        1. The Rev Kev

          I’m thinking from recent behaviour that that saying should be revised to “Scratch a liberal and find a fascist.”

        2. Procopius

          As Al Franken found from Barbara Tuchman:

          Any time that a liberal points out that the wealthy are disproportionately benefiting from Bush’s tax policies, Republicans shout, “class warfare!”

          In her book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, Barbara Tuchman writes about a peasant revolt in 1358 that began in the village of St. Leu and spread throughout the Oise Valley. At one estate, the serfs sacked the manor house, killed the knight, and roasted him on a spit in front of his wife and kids. Then, after ten or twelve peasants violated the lady, with the children still watching, they forced her to eat the roasted flesh of her dead husband and then killed her.

          That is class warfare.

          Arguing over the optimum marginal tax rate for the top one percent is not.

  13. dcblogger

    I don’t see how anyone can say the shut down did not hurt the economy. Many people have been unemployed since March. Thousands of restaurants and other businesses went under. Shut down was better than no shut down, in which millions of people would have died and the economic catastrophe would have been far worse, but the shut down did great damage. Just much better than the alternative.

      1. Laura in So Cal

        When I read the article, I was seeing a lot of circular arguments, it seemed. Maybe I’m missing something. He is saying that lockdowns didn’t hurt the economy because people were voluntarily staying home and avoiding commercial activity and he is also saying that government mandated lockdowns are needed and save lives. It seems like he is contradicting himself. One the one hand, people are smart, will listen to their common sense, and will avoid taking risks due to fear and on the other hand, government imposed lockdowns are necessary because people won’t stay home voluntarily?? I don’t think you can have it both ways here.

        1. Alfred

          People do need “permission” to stay home from work. The lockdowns keep non-believers from taking that opportunity to go goof off at a bar or get on a plane, or go shopping, defeating the whole purpose of promoting isolation. Since there is virtually no community in this country any more, it is tricky to explain the concept.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I think that the US was unique with major industrial nations in that with the lockdowns, those people were forced into lockdown with no payments to support them except for one or two lousy cheques. All the others actually gave those people regular payments which kept the economy turning over either directly or in post-lockdown with pent-up demand firing up the economy once more. And the businesses were supported as well. Net result? Those economies under lockdown went into a form of suspended animation whereas in the US it was all burned down.

      Why would they do that? I am going with the idea that when regular rents return again, millions will be thrown to the curb and even small landlords will go bankrupt. Then just like in 2006 it will be Fire-Sale America once more. Obama threw about five million families out of their homes so that the banks could get those home and sell them to Wall Street and turn them into rentals. With that lesson absorbed, the banks and Wall Street want to repeat this exercise again but on a bigger scale and make far more profits. Watch long term for American personal home ownership to drop and renting to take its place. As the Brad Pitt character said, America is a business.

    1. Alfred

      LOL. If it hardly makes any difference, why do neoliberals move heaven and earth to keep people like Bernie out of the Presidency??? Huhnngg?

  14. Mark Gisleson

    The Smithsonian article on Gehry’s LUMA Arles used the most flattering images available.

    Do an image search for “LUMA Arles” and see what it looks like in the context of the surrounding city. No matter the angle, altitude or time of day, the building looks deformed while at the same time being suggestive of giant alien robot spoor.

    I like modern art. This is modern crap.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      The building makes me think of Ethel Merman singing, “I Gotta Be Me!!!,” and that’s not a good thing.

    2. YetAnotherChris

      “Architecture is whatever you can get away with.” – – – Warhol someone somesuch.

  15. tegnost

    I’m less concerned about/don’t know if it matters regarding the lab escape theory outside of a general repugnance for the hubris of thinking some computer can outwit nature when combined with the always subjective nature of humans…it’s a catastrophe waiting to happen. A core element of that catastrophe is certainly the response to it. We live in a “never let a crisis go to waste” abusive environment, and pharma lobbyists were unquestionably hounding congresscritters with tales of remarkable tech saving everyone, while coincidentally making huge piles of money, making genetic mods acceptable, and crippling trumps reign, and all the while setting themselves up to be the great saviors, which is where we are now with the get back to work greedy lazy serfs meme. The goal is still herd immunity. After initial success I don’t think the vaccines are going to work because of the rapid deterioration of protections

    1. John

      Since Pharma was gifted with huge subsidies and relief from liability, how is that the profit is theirs alone? As usual, privatize the winnings, profits and socialize the losses. Heads we win. Tails you lose.Close regulation or nationalization is called for.

  16. jr

    I would just like to point out that I called the McCloskey campaign years ago. Thank you.

    (mic drops)

  17. zagonostra

    Health Care Lobbyists Are Trying to Block the Public Option at the State Level” [Politico]

    Was the hyperlink missing? When I searched I got:


    Anyway the comment that “such efforts show how determined the industry is to block any sort of reform that threatens its massive profits” for me reads “such efforts show how much control the corrupt corporate oligarchs have over politicians on a policy that is against the common good.” Nothing wrong with being “determined” there is something wrong when the object of that determination is evil.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s actually behind the Daily Poster’s subscribers-only paywall, so I searched for and found their cross-post to Newsweek and used that link. Thanks!

    2. Phillip Allen

      It will come as no surprise that the insurance industry here in Connecticut is going all out to ensure the defeat of the ‘public option’ being put forward by Gov. Lamont. (I’m not sure if legislation has made it out of committee yet.) The message I see most often is that any public option will put many people out of work. In CT that message has some legs.

  18. Toshiro_Mifune

    Mayoral Candidate Dianne Morales Water-Meter Bribe

    IDK – This a far more interesting story than I first thought.
    This would appear to be the meat of it;
    Morales recounted that the inspector told her father that the family had to hire someone to install a water meter, they were facing a fine, and they would have to settle the entire $12,000 bill. The worker then offered to install the meter and take care of the outstanding bill if they paid him between $150 and $300, the SCI report says.
    So – What we appear to have is a simple scam. Either break or find broken water meters that are registering far more water than is actually being used. Once the homeowner complains solicit cash from them to replace said meter and report back to the water co that the meter was broken and the last bill was unusable.
    You know – I don’t know anything else about Morales but I cant fault her here. There’s nothing else in the article indicating that she actually used $12000+ in water and only wanted to pay $300. The DEP inspector who she named as the one she paid the cash to was convicted of doing similar to a number of other people and was convicted of the same.

      1. Michael Ismoe

        NYC ought to elect her since she seems to have found a way to make the bureaucracy work for her. That’s basically a definition of the Mayor job. I still can’t fathom why Andrew Yang thinks of himself as mayoral material. He’s like Mayo Pete but even more awful.

  19. Wukchumni

    I enjoy going off-trail in the Sierra Nevada, and occasionally you’ll see a social trail here and there-usually leading to something interesting, but typically the only path is my companions & I, and if possible we’ll walk on hard surfaces to leave less of a reminder that we were there.

  20. Lee

    “Personally, I don’t buy the Wuhan Lab Leak hypothesis. First, nature is fully capable of producing novel designs without an intelligent designer; it’s called evolution.”

    This raises what I find to be a rather compelling point in favor of the lab leak hypothesis: the pathogen’s apparent fragility in the outdoor environment. In any event, for a variety of reasons having nothing to do with the science, I doubt we’ll know for sure any time soon.

  21. shinola

    “Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence” Clever title.

    The successful con artist has long been admired in the U.S. But one of the main tenets of the successful con is “Never believe your own B.S.”

    Since “intelligence” is a relative term, what does this say about those who have a weak or non-existent B.S. detector? Although I never found Trump’s BS convincing, apparently millions of voters did.

    Also, I can’t help but think that, somehow, today’s ‘Bezzle’ article about the Peoples Bank of China warning against using Bitcoin when China “mines” so much of it, is directly related to this. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the con from the mark.

  22. enoughisenough

    Meet the Four Kinds of People Holding Us Back From Full Vaccination

    Where is the category of “do not have time because they work 3 jobs” and “difficult to access vaccination place”

    I love the not grouping age and race like those categories mean everything, but the new categories are also patronizing.

  23. Doc Octagon

    Kostya Kilimnik lives in a two-million-dollar house in a gated community outside of Moscow. Is this the residence of a rarely photographed man without an apparent profession working for American interests rather than against?

  24. Falls City Beer

    Re: Lockdowns didn’t harm economies, citizens’ fear did.

    Six of one; half dozen the other, no?

    Panic chyrons were more effective at killing economies than any weak government “guidelines.”

  25. Phillip Allen

    With regard to the ‘Desire Paths’ Guardian article: Back in the mid-80s I studied at the New York Botanical Garden School of Horticulture. This included a stint assigned to the two staff gardeners responsible for the ~270-acre old growth forest. We spent fair amount of time surveying to update the forest map. Everything in the forest had a two letter code, i.e., AcRu (Acer rubra), QuPa (Quercus palustris), etc., including the designation VoPa – Volunteer Path. There are, of course, formal trails in the NYBG forest, as well as decades of volunteer paths. The latter sometimes change route, go into disuse, and new ones show up from time to time. Part of our task was to confirm already mapped VoPa trails and record any new ones. It was a wonderful time and I recall it often, for all it is in the Far Ago and Long Away.

  26. philnc

    That Gehry tower reminds me of the horrifically mutated buildings in Alastair Reynold’s _Chasm City_ (a chilling picture of how low the mighty can fall — although reading one or both of his _Prefect_ novels first is highly recommended).

  27. fresno dan

    Colorado officers are facing charges after allegedly using excessive force against a 73-year-old woman with dementia during an arrest.
    The charges were filed by prosecutors with the Eighth Judicial District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday, almost a year after the incident occurred, The Denver Post reported.
    Former officer Austin Hopp is being charged with second-degree assault and attempt to influence a public servant — both felony charges — as well as a charge of official misconduct, a misdemeanor.
    Former officer Daria Jalali is being charged with failing to report excessive use of force, failure to intervene in an excessive use of force and official misconduct, all misdemeanors.
    I brought up this incident ?2? or so weeks ago. All I can say is, about time. And its about time to gild the lily when it comes time to filing charges against the police as well – prosecutors can throw the book – and for far, far too long the police have been exempt from the kind of prosecution they should have been subject too. It was truly despicable behavior, and it is obviously only because of the public outcry that anything happened.
    I’m sure every jurisdiction has laws about other police intervening or reporting in excessive use of force incidents. Its just that prosecutors have refused to use their discretion against the police.

    1. The Rev Kev

      What they did to that poor women was bad enough. But to watch the cam footage later and have a good laugh about it was just sadistic. They should throw the book at them as those cops could have just picked that women up and put her in the back of a cruiser instead of going Rambo on her. Might be worth looking at their previous arrests to see if there were previous complaints.

    2. hunkerdown

      There are reasons they might not want acquittal, seeing as the whole force got a raise just two days before the DA filed charges against the totally bad apples. The message is that the terror forces of the state are doing their jobs but try to choose less sympathetic targets next time.

  28. John Siman

    “Somewhere, Christopher Alexander says that building like this are exterior reflections of the inner sociopathy of the elites that commission and approve them.”

    Thank you so much, Lambert, for quoting Christopher Alexander!

  29. The Rev Kev

    ‘Insisting that diversity and inclusion are “imperative” in all things, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has offered one-on-one interviews to journalists of specific skin color only.’

    Idiot. It would have been far better if she offered only one-on-one interviews to journalists of independent publications and podcasts. Probably would not do that as he knows which side of her bread is buttered on-


  30. Richard H Caldwell

    “ Florida and Texas are both entrepots to Latin America”

    should perhaps be

    “ Florida and Texas are both entry ports to Latin America”?

  31. Jack Parsons

    The “where did it come from” festivus is a pointless sideshow. The science that matters is the decoding of the 1890 “Russian or Asiatic Flu” as a previous Covid.

    It is very possible (not set in stone) that a currently “mostly harmless” coronavirus hit the world hard in 1890, and then gradually became “mostly harmless”. This is our only real history to extrapolate from, and the implication is that “herd immunity” is a pipe dream.

    It also implies that instead of “gain-of-function” research, the world’s scientists should be breeding a Covid-19 variant that is very transmissible but is stripped of fatality- we would graduate more quickly to having a fifth “mostly harmless” coronavirus. Now, imagine Fauci announcing this research initiative.


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