2:00PM Water Cooler 5/21/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I got a late start again. I will add more shortly. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

The Changeable Hawk-Eagle. (I confess I’ve been choosing these eagles because of their names, but their songs have been really various.)

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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 upward movement.

“Pentagon push has more US servicemembers getting vaccinated” [FOX News]. “Now 71% of troops surveyed say they have gotten the vaccine or plan to do so. Only 39% of active-duty spouses say they plan to get vaccinated – which could be a problem as hundreds of thousands of troops and their families plan to move to new bases this summer. If the 600,000 troops and their families don’t get vaccinated before their summer moves, they could be a vector to spread the disease as happened during the 1918 Pandemic. The virus traveled with military personnel from camp to camp and across the Atlantic, and at the height of the American military involvement in the war, September through November 1918, influenza and pneumonia sickened 20% to 40% of U.S. Army and Navy personnel…. ‘One of the big issues that people have right now in the military and the veteran community is there’s a general lack of trust any time the government’s involved,’ [Nick Palmisciano, a former Army combat infantry officer who started the clothing company Ranger Up] told Fox News. ‘Whether you’re talking about the anthrax vaccine back in the day that caused problems or burn pits or all these things that kind of the military is used as a guinea pig.'” • Then again–

“With Half Its Troops Unvaccinated, Pentagon Aims to Persuade Skeptics” [Defense One]. “As roughly half of the active-duty force remains unvaccinated against COVID-19, the Defense Department is pushing harder for troops to accept the effectiveness of the vaccine…. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten released a memo Thursday on how to ‘enable and encourage vaccination.’ The memo is a break from DOD’s past messaging, which called getting the vaccine a personal health choice. The new memo says ‘widespread vaccination’ within DOD is a ‘critical part’ of the ‘nation’s fight against COVID-19.'” • The picture I have of what happens when you join the military is that you get your shots. It’s an order. Has the DoD considered following that precedent? Meanwhile, from Stars and Stripes, is the Pentagon’s messaging:

Nothing like trashing the non-pharmaceutical interventions we’ll need tomorrow for the sake of a temporary advantage today.

“The 10 states that have vaccinated less than half their population now have higher COVID-19 cases” [The Hill]. “Ten states have less than half their adult residents vaccinated, and these states also have higher coronavirus cases. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming are averaging more than 78 new cases per 100,000 people… The Biden administration has set a goal for states to vaccinate at least 70 percent of their adults with at least one shot by July 4. Seven states have achieved this: Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Vermont. The states, all of which are red except for Georgia, are also comprised of rural areas, which tend to see uneven vaccination rates. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in April found that 3 in 10 rural residents said they would “definitely not” get vaccinated. The respondents said they would only get a vaccine if it were required. In an interview on Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Rochelle Walensky, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that unvaccinated people have to be ‘honest with themselves,’ saying those who are not vaccinated are not protecting themselves.” • Great messaging from Walensky, there. You’ll have to pry shaming from the liberal Democrats’ cold, dead hands. They just can’t help themselves.

UPDATE More great messaging:

Dating apps will certainly effectively target rural counties, as well as working class people who can’t afford to take a day off or get sick (who number in the millions).

UPDATE “Obama to join social media event on vaccines next week” [The Hill]. • Ditto. Do liberal Democrats know how to do anything other than preach to the choir?

“Getting More People Vaccinated Against Covid-19 Means Wasting Doses” [Wall Street Journal]. “As part of the effort to reach the unvaccinated, authorities are aiming to send vaccines to smaller settings, such as doctor’s offices and pop-up clinics. Rather than vaccinating hundreds or thousands of people a day, a site might vaccinate tens of people, or fewer. However, bulk packaging, ideal for mass-vaccination sites, might lead to more wasted doses at smaller clinics…. The CDC has said it hopes to maintain wastage below 2% of total doses delivered. Most states are reporting wasted doses far below that number, with a national wastage rate of 0.4%, as of May 20. That is concerning some health officials who think that at this stage of the rollout, some waste should be acceptable. The CDC said that as vaccination supply expands and opportunities to receive the vaccine increase nationwide, it anticipates wastage may increase.”

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.

Test positivity:

The West is flat. The South is falling again.

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

UPDATE “White House budget plan set to leave out some health care proposals from campaign” [WaPo]. “White House officials have left key Biden campaign promises on health care out of their coming budget proposal, as the administration focuses on trying to pass what it has already introduced, according to four people briefed on the internal matter. The White House jettisoned months of planning from agency staff as their initial plan could fuel criticisms that the administration is pushing new spending programs too aggressively. The budget will not include President Biden’s campaign pledge to enact a public option to create a government-run health insurance program, or his pledge to cut prescription drug costs, the people said. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal administration deliberations.” • Of course. Joe Biden owes me six hundred bucks.

UPDATE “Biden’s bank shot to win GOP support for his infrastructure bill” [Politico]. “The Biden White House is aware how hard it will be to convince congressional Republicans to support an ambitious infrastructure and jobs proposal. And so, they’ve enlisted other Republicans to help them do the convincing. Over the past few weeks, senior White House officials, Cabinet members, and President Joe Biden himself have held dozens of calls or meetings with local Republican leaders to talk roads, bridges, and modern infrastructure investments. Much of the outreach has been done in private, with the White House not providing readouts of what was discussed. But in conversations with more than a dozen local officials familiar with the White House’s efforts — including those on the receiving end of the outreach — a few themes emerge. Chief among them is that the White House wants local GOP mayors and governors to convince their Republican representatives in Congress of the need to back the president’s proposals.” • Let me know how that works out.

“Has Biden Changed? He Tells Us” [David Brooks, New York Times]. “Another piece of his basic worldview comes from 20th-century Catholic social teaching. He said that his father loved the French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, and later in the conversation mentioned that he, too, was guided by Maritain. Like most of the major figures of Catholic social teaching, Maritain placed great emphasis on social solidarity, the organic interdependence of people and communities. If you’re drenched in Maritain, you believe we have serious responsibilities for one another…. The Biden administration has broken with the thinking that dominated the Clinton and Obama administrations in other ways as well, though it’s not clear how much of this is driven by Biden and how much by the team around him. As Ronald Brownstein noted in The Atlantic, for years the dominant Democratic view was that wages would rise if you gave people more skills and education. The dominant Biden era view is that you also have to give people more union bargaining power to balance corporate power. For years Democrats predominantly believed you could help Black Americans if you designed colorblind policies aimed at the working class. Now Biden officials are more likely to believe you have to create race-conscious policies that explicitly benefit Blacks.” • It’s been a long, long time since Democrats designed “policies aimed at the working class.”

“Joe Biden Declares That America Is A ‘Product Of A Document’ Not Geography, Ethnicity, or Religion” [The Political Insider]. “The president made these comments as he signed the Coronavirus Hate Crimes Act at the White House…. ‘We’re unique among all nations in that we are uniquely a product of a document — not an ethnicity, not a religion, not a geography, of a document,’ Biden said. ‘Think about this, I’m being literal,’ he added. ‘Uniquely a product of a document.'” • Hmm.

“What is Bidenomics?” [Financial Times]. “If Biden’s strategy can push the US economy to a permanently higher or even faster growth path, everyone can, in fact, be made better off — including those he is asking to pay more in tax. And Yellen wields precisely this argument: ‘We are confident that the investments and tax proposals in the Jobs Plan, taken as a package, will enhance the net profitability of our corporations and improve their global competitiveness. We hope that business leaders will see it this way and support the Jobs Plan.’ The other implication is that the debate about whether Bidenomics will stoke inflation misses one big point. If the administration is correct that its policies can shift the US economy to a higher and possibly faster growth path, then its supply capacity will expand to satisfy more of the current demand stimulus than standard analysis would predict. A positive productivity shock is disinflationary, after all, so the productivity theses built into the administration’s arguments imply that price pressures may abate and let the Federal Reserve keep interest rates low. Do not be blinded by the size of the spending. This is supply-side economics.” • Interesting.

“Progressives nearly tank House Democrats’ Capitol security bill” [The Hill]. “A small group of progressives known as the ‘squad’ came close to sinking the House Democrats’ Capitol security spending bill on Thursday over concerns about Capitol Police accountability. Democratic Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) all voted ‘no,’ while Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.) voted ‘present.’ Their opposition created a dramatic scene on the House floor leading up to the vote, as Democratic leaders scrambled to secure the necessary support and prevent an embarrassing loss on a high-profile proposal to address the security failures of the Jan. 6 insurrection. Every Republican opposed the measure, leaving little room for error. Voting ‘present’ allowed those three Democrats to express their frustrations without actually tanking the legislation. If all six of the Democratic defectors had voted ‘no’ with all Republicans, then the bill would have failed. In the end, Democratic leaders secured passage only narrowly in the nail-biter 213-212 vote with the three ‘present’ votes. The near-miss offered the latest example of the challenges Democrats face with a historically tight House majority, in which they currently hold only 219 seats over Republicans’ 211, with five seats vacant.”

Democrats en Deshabille

“Ex-FBI chief gave $100K to Biden grandkid trust as he sought ‘future work’: Hunter emails” [New York Post]. “Former FBI Director Louis Freeh gave $100,000 to a trust for two of President Biden’s grandchildren as he sought to pursue ‘some very good and profitable matters’ with him, newly surfaced emails revealed Thursday. Freeh apparently made the gift in April 2016 — when Biden was the outgoing vice president — and shortly before he told Biden’s son Hunter, ‘I would be delighted to do future work with you,’ according to the emails.” • Of course, if this were Trump, there would already be anonymous leaks about Freeh’s Russian connections, and the indictments would already be being prepared. So it goes.


“The Inside Story of the Biden-Harris Debate Blowup” [Politico]. “Debate prep sessions are like writers’ rooms. Toss out ideas, work them out, shoot them down, build them back in.” • BWA-HA-HA-HA!!!! Another case of West Wing Brain!

Stats Watch

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 15 May 2021 – Growth Surge Continues” [Econintersect]. “Total rail traffic – which has been in contraction for over one year – is now surging as it is being compared to the pandemic lockdown period one year ago.”

Housing: “United States Existing Home Sales” [Trading Economics]. “Existing home sales in the US unexpectedly sank 2.7 percent to 5.858 million in April of 2021, compared to forecasts of a 2 percent rise. It marks three consecutive months of declines as housing supply continues to fall short of demand. “We’ll see more inventory come to the market later this year as further COVID-19 vaccinations are administered and potential home sellers become more comfortable listing and showing their homes. The falling number of homeowners in mortgage forbearance will also bring about more inventory”, said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.”

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The Bezzle: “TRANSCRIPT: Aaron Lammer On Yield Farming, DeFi, And Ethereum” (podcast) [Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal, “Odd Lots,” Bloomberg]. “We speak with Aaron Lammer, the host of the Exit Scam podcast and an avid DeFi* trader.” LAMMER: “So I have most of my DeFi money in things like the top 10 DeFi tokens, things like Uniswap that you’ve heard of. Um, and then as you say, 2000 being added a day, there’s a lot of really tiny cap coins. So I’ll admit I for a period would scan the top 500 coins top gainers. Um, when NFTs were big, I just looked through the entire list on CoinGecko of NFT-related coins. I’m looking for a good logo. I’m looking for a clear presentation that offers what the value is. And above all, I’m looking at the market cap.” NOTE * “DeFi stands for ‘decentralized finance’ and refers to the ecosystem comprised of financial applications that are being developed on top of blockchain systems.”

The Bezzle: “Bitcoin’s growing energy problem: ‘It’s a dirty currency’” [Financial Times]. “‘Bitcoin alone consumes as much electricity as a medium-sized European country,” says Professor Brian Lucey at Trinity College Dublin. “This is a stunning amount of electricity. It’s a dirty business. It’s a dirty currency.’ Economic authorities are starting to take notice. The European Central Bank on Wednesday described cryptoassets’ ‘exorbitant carbon footprint’ as ‘grounds for concern’. In a paper earlier this month, Italy’s central bank said the eurozone’s payments system, Tips, had a carbon footprint 40,000 times smaller than that of bitcoin in 2019. Measuring precisely how dirty bitcoin is has become a cottage industry in itself. The latest calculation from Cambridge university’s Bitcoin Electricity Consumption index suggests that bitcoin mining consumes 133.68 terawatt hours a year of electricity — a best-guess tally that has risen consistently for the past five years. That places it just above Sweden, at 131.8TWh of electricity usage in 2020, and just below Malaysia, at 147.21TWh…. The true figure for bitcoin could in fact be much higher; Cambridge’s extreme worst-case scenario calculation, based on miners using the least energy-efficient computers on the market as long as the process is still profitable, has peeled away from its central estimate sharply since November last year as the price of bitcoin has rocketed. The rationale: a rising bitcoin price attracts new miners, and also means that mining with older, less efficient equipment, makes financial sense. The higher price also means the machines producing bitcoin are forced to complete ever-tougher puzzles in search of their quarry. At the upper limit, bitcoin’s electricity consumption would be about 500TWh a year. ”

The Bezzle: This is brilliant, regardless:

Supply Chain: “Kansas City Southern to merge with Canadian National, paid Canadian Pacific $700 million breakup fee” [MarketWatch]. “Shares of Kansas City Southern rose 0.6% in Friday morning trading, after the Missouri-based railroad company said it has terminated its merger agreement with Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd., and will go with it determined was a ‘superior’ bid from Canadian National Railway Co. As a result, Kansas City Southern will pay Canadian Pacific a $700 million breakup fee, which will be reimbursed by Canadian National.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 34 Fear (previous close: 37 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 40 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 21 at 12:22pm.

Health Care

“In-Depth: Delaying the second COVID-19 vaccine dose has benefits and drawbacks” [ABC10]. “A new study suggests delaying the second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine improves an important part of the immune response in older recipients. U.K. researchers measured immune cells in a group of people aged 80 and up. They found that waiting 12 weeks for the second jab generated 3.5 times more virus-fighting antibodies than the standard 3-week interval. Scientists have observed this pattern in other experimental vaccines, said Dr. Shane Crotty, a professor at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. ‘After that first immunization, your immune system is essentially still learning about the target for quite a while,’ he said. ‘It’s not done learning at three weeks, and it’s not done learning at five weeks.’ By ‘learning,’ he means the white blood cells that make antibodies, called B cells, actually evolve when they encounter a pathogen, and that takes time. ‘If you come back with a second immunization later, you take more advantage of that learning,’ he said.” • This one is making the rounds. Note that the link is a preprint. Participants: “172 people aged over 80 years of age.”

“‘Swept under the carpet’: When health records are held ransom, patients are the hardest hit — and last to know” [STAT]. “Consumers might assume their health care providers are securely maintained, HIPAA-guarded fortresses. They might also expect to be made aware if and when those protections were breached, especially by criminals. But under federal law, providers are only required to publicly report breaches of protected health information impacting more than 500 people. According to the federal health department — which maintains a database of reported breaches experts have dubbed the ‘Portal of Shame’ — the health records of 23 million individuals were breached in the U.S. last year, with another 16.6 million so far in 2021. Experts say those figures are almost certainly an undercount. ‘It’s an unknown fraction of what’s actually occurring,’ said health care cybersecurity expert Nick Culbertson, ‘a fraction of a sliver of a slice of a piece.”” • I wonder how many insurance companies buy those stolen records so they can deny people care.

Police State Watch

“Police Use Painful Dog Bites To Make People Obey” [The Marshall Project]. “‘Pain compliance’ is a catch-all term for the methods police officers use to get a suspect under control. The idea is to apply quick, targeted amounts of pain—digging a thumb into a sensitive pressure point, twisting a wrist, stunning with a Taser—to force a person to follow orders. And police across the country, from Utah, to Ohio, to Arizona, also use dogs to hurt people in an effort to make them obey. The Marshall Project, AL.com, IndyStar, and the Invisible Institute examined more than 150 police dog bites nationwide and found numerous instances of their use for pain compliance—often on people who were unarmed and suspected only of minor offenses like traffic violations. Several suffered severe injuries, requiring surgery or months of recovery.” • “Pain compliance.” That’s a keeper. I mean, it works for the reserve army of labor.


“California governor declares drought emergency in 41 counties” [Reuters]. “California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday issued an expanded “drought emergency proclamation” for 41 of the state’s 58 counties, citing above-average temperatures and dry conditions for April and May. Newsom, a first-term Democrat facing a recall election over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, directed the state’s water board to consider modifying requirements for reservoir releases and take other conservation measures. The declaration also gives the state flexibility in regulatory requirements to mitigate drought impacts, which Newsom attributed in part to global climate change…. The move was criticized by Save California Salmon, a wildlife protection group that accused Newsom of favoring big agriculture interests.”

Our Famously Free Press

“An interview with Emily Wilder, recent Stanford grad fired from AP job over criticisms of Israel” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “Wilder, who worked with the Arizona Republic upon graduation until this May, became a national news story after the Stanford College Republicans wrote a Twitter thread Monday highlighting Wilder’s pro-Palestine activism in college as well as some of her old Facebook posts. In one post, Wilder referred to the late Sheldon Adelson — who was a Jewish billionaire, Republican mega-donor and staunch defender of Israel — as a ‘naked mole rat.'” • Seems legit. What’s the issue?

“‘Vulture’ Fund Alden Global, Known For Slashing Newsrooms, Buys Tribune Papers” [NPR]. “Alden already owns roughly 100 newspapers and 200 publications. In interviews with NPR, journalists who have worked at these publications warned about the hedge fund’s track record of steep cuts, consolidations and sales of real estate assets. In one six-year period, according to the News Guild union, Alden cut staff at guild-represented papers by an average of 75 percent. Former executives and news leaders in markets including Northern California, Denver, and Connecticut sketched out ways in which Alden made recurring layoffs and buyouts a way of life. They say Alden’s cost-cutting measures made it much harder for journalists to expend the time and resources needed to hold public officials, corporations and other major players accountable through solid reporting. In an audio recording obtained by NPR, Tribune Publishing chief content officer Colin McMahon warned journalists at Chicago Tribune in February that Alden sought to nearly double profits at its newspapers. Those profit margins currently range from 10 to 13 percent, according to McMahon; he told staffers that Alden would want them to exceed 20 percent. (McMahon is also editor in chief of Chicago Tribune.) That’s particularly daunting given that Tribune Publishing already has severely reduced headcounts at its newspapers. The Baltimore Sun newsroom, for example, has some 80-odd journalists, down from 400 two decades ago.”

“Inside the Simon & Schuster Blowup Over Its Mike Pence Book Deal” [Wall Street Journal]. “Publishing the [recent Mike Pence memoir], some staffers said at the session, would be a betrayal of the company’s promises to oppose bigotry and make minority employees feel safe. A petition soon followed, signed by more than 200 staff members, or 14% of the staff, plus about 3,500 outside supporters, including Simon & Schuster authors. It demanded that the company scrap the Pence memoir, part of a two-book deal, and refrain from making any deals with members of the Trump administration. It said Mr. Pence advocated for policies that were racist, sexist and discriminatory, and that publishing the book would be ‘legitimizing bigotry.'” • You can be sure that these deeply principled staffers would have no trouble at all publishing a book by the war criminal President who gave Michelle candy, or the President who destroyed a generation of Black wealth with his foreclosure policies. “Safe,” forsooth. Grow the [family blog] up. (I would speculate that the eternal quest for “safe spaces” is in fact displaced anxiety for the class position of the PMC, which is “predatory precarity.”)

“Inside the disinformation machine: How far-right media brainwash millions daily” [Flux]. Timeline:

Over the past two decades, the American media landscape has been transformed. At the turn of the last century, a hundred-year-old news canon still reigned supreme: professional journalism from wire services such as the Associated Press and leading newspapers set a national news agenda. Magazines, broadcasters, and local newspapers added their own reporting, but paid close attention to the national template. The formula worked: the late 20th century was the Golden Age of the journalism business. Professional news organizations played a powerful role in society, and ad-rich newspapers and broadcasters made record profits.

That all changed in the early 2000’s, when the new digital platforms — including Google, Facebook, and Craigslist — challenged that structure and blew up its business model. Journalism’s mainstays, lucrative display and classified advertising, migrated online with the advantage of reaching targeted consumers. Audiences who had been told “content wants to be free” balked at the paywalls that compensated journalists to report and editors to vet their work.

As a result, between 2000 and 2020, network news divisions closed scores of foreign and national bureaus, and one in five US newspapers failed. Over a thousand counties, most of them rural, were left with no newspaper at all.

But nature abhors a vacuum, and as professional journalism disappeared from thousands of communities, new media models stood ready to take its place. The Radical Right’s media ecosystem was built on previous decades of media development through religious broadcasting and political direct mail. They benefited not just from the news deserts, they also combined with the opportunities presented by new media technologies. These would mushroom into an entire ecosystem of religious fundamentalist radio programs and podcasts, many of them disguised as “news programs,” as well as countless digital platforms and social media initiatives that have been feeding a toxic diet of political propaganda and COVID misinformation to their audiences in recent years.

To understand this ecosystem, it’s useful to explore its roots. Many of these can be traced to a shadowy organization called the Council for National Policy, founded in 1981 in the wake of Reagan’s election. Its founding fathers were strategist Paul Weyrich, networker Morton Blackwell, and mass marketer Richard Viguerie.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Obama says UFOs are out there. But are they aliens or humans?” [MSNBC]. “Even former President Barack Obama weighed in on these objects Monday. ‘What is true, and I’m actually being serious here, is that there is footage and records of objects in the skies that we don’t know exactly what they are,’ Obama said on CBS’ ‘The Late Late Show with James Corden.’ (Sidebar: What a bit of synergy there for the ’60 Minutes’ segment; well done, everyone on the CBS crew who made that happen.)” • Synergy.

I hate to give Elon Mush credit for anything, but:

Imperial Collapse Watch

I’m sure there’s a metaphor here somewhere:

Class Warfare

UPDATE “What if the U.S. had a national maximum wage?” [Janet Nguyen, MarketPlace]. ““A maximum wage would send a message that there’s more to life than chasing after ever greater amounts of money,” [Sam Pizzigati, co-editor of Inequality.org] said. ‘Less inequality, less concentrated wealth, less power among a small elite would be good for our democracy.’ To Pizzigati, the ideal ratio for CEO-to-worker compensation would be 10-to-1. ‘If we want a society where people can acknowledge each other’s humanity, we have to be close enough to them in income that we can really see them and understand the life that they’re leading.’ He said we were closer to this formula in the 1960s, when it stood at about 20-to-1. However, Ioana Marinescu, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said there could be potential downsides to a maximum wage policy. It could encourage firms to eliminate low-paid employees and instead hire contractors or freelancers to do the same work without formally being part of the company. That would make the pay gap between executives and the company’s direct employees seem smaller, she explained, making it appear that everyone is well-paid. And even with a higher tax rate, Marinescu said, if companies were disincentivized from paying top executives lavishly, there’s a question of what they will do with the money they save. Instead of redirecting it to lower-paid workers, Marinescu said it could be used to reward shareholders.” • Somehow I don’t see Jeff Bezos accepting 10:1 peacefully.

“Workers feel burned by bosses’ broken promises about the future of remote working and about ‘BS’ corporate culture” [MarketWatch]. “A recent survey of full-time corporate or government employees found that two-thirds say their employers either have not communicated a post-pandemic office strategy or have only vaguely done so… Whether workers said they were staying remote for now, returning to the office or still unsure, we found that nearly a quarter of the people in our sample said their leaders were not giving them meaningful explanations of what was driving the policy. Even worse, the explanations sometimes felt confusing or insulting. One worker complained that the manager ‘wanted butts in seats because we couldn’t be trusted to [work from home] even though we’d been doing it since last March,’ adding: ‘I’m giving my notice on Monday.’ Another, whose company issued a two-week timeline for all to return to the office, griped: ‘Our leadership felt people weren’t as productive at home. While as a company we’ve hit most of our goals for the year.…Makes no sense.’ After a long period of office shutterings, it stands to reason workers would need time to readjust to office life, a point expressed in recent survey results. Employers that quickly flip the switch in calling workers back and do so with poor clarifying rationale risk appearing tone-deaf. It suggests a lack of trust in productivity at a time when many workers report putting in more effort than ever and being strained by the increased digital intensity of their job—that is, the growing number of online meetings and chats. And even when companies said they wouldn’t require a return to the office, workers still faulted them for their motives, which many employees described as financially motivated.”

UPDATE “Can a Driver Uprising Make Food Apps Deliver?” [Labor Notes]. “These immigrant gig workers—who toil for apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash, GrubHub, and Relay—drew headlines in April when 2,000 drivers snarled traffic, whooshing on their e-bikes and scooters towards City Hall in the pouring rain. They are demanding better wages and improved working conditions, including access to bathrooms and protection from theft and assault. They have a powerful ally in the building service union 32BJ SEIU, bolstering their existing partnership with a Brooklyn-based worker center called Worker’s Justice Project (WJP). Estimates put the number of app-based food delivery drivers between 50,000 and 80,000 in New York City alone. Lionized as essential, immigrant workers have also been treated as disposable. A year ago, when lockdowns allowed some workers the flexibility to work from home, others—especially low-wage immigrants in housekeeping, food service, and construction—were laid off and cast out into the streets. They needed a job, fast, with no-frills onboarding. This made them easy marks for temp agencies and unscrupulous contractors. Among the most predatory were app-based companies, offering an endless supply of gigs and the convenience of signing up on a mobile phone. Legions of immigrant workers flocked to these platforms to schlep food and commodities to New Yorkers sheltering at home. Now these workers are testing their newfound power in numbers, building up committees throughout the boroughs, and notching their first wins against the tech giants.”

UPDATE “Cashing in on Our Homes: Billionaire Landlords Profit as Millions Face Eviction” [Institute for Policy Studies]. From March 2021, still germane. “There are 61 individual billionaire landlords in America with collective wealth totaling $240.9 billion.

These billionaire landlords have seen their wealth increase $24.4 billion since mid-March 2020. Corporate landlords have a worsening track record of poor maintenance, rising rents and fees, and harassment of tenants and evictions. 20 corporate landlord companies are responsible for at least 3,152 evictions across the U.S. during the pandemic. Many large landlords received financial support from the coronavirus relief package — sometimes while continuing to file eviction notices against their tenants. One in five renters weren’t caught up on their rent as of early February 2021. This represents 13.5 million Americans. If being behind on rent were a state, it would be the fifth-largest state in America…. The 20 corporate landlords in this report…. own or manage almost 2 million units of housing — about 4 percent of all rental housing units in the United States, or more than one in 25 rental units nationwide. Have amassed at least $245 billion in ‘cash on hand’— loans, cash and other funds from investors, banks and financial firms — to purchase homes and companies active in the market.”

UPDATE I like the @BlackSocialists account a lot; they strike me as level-headed and disciplined. This thread descriibes what sounds like an interesting project:

In the unlikely event any NCer gets involved, please report back!

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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 (CS):

This year’s Second Place Winner from the Tree of the Year site, suggested by CS. About the tree:

The Curinga plane tree is located in a very unusual position: overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, it juts out over a small stream. From the height of its majesty, this “guardian” seems to lovingly watch over the forest. It is thought to be planted by Basilian monks who arrived in Calabria more than a thousand years ago and that built the hermitage of Sant’Elia, but its trunk may be even older. Its trunk is completely hollow and has an opening more than 3 metres wide; whoever enters it has the feeling of being inside an incredible woody cave. Thanks to the huge size of its circumference it is now the largest plane tree in Italy.

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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. Samuel Conner

    Today’s plantidote evokes “Old Man Willow” from Fellowship of the Ring for me, though from the description this tree is considerably less ill-tempered.

  2. Samuel Conner

    re: Biden: “‘Uniquely a product of a document.'”

    Is he referring to an Act of Parliament imposing a tax on the inhabitants of the Colonies?

    1. PHLDenizen

      Given his long and deliberately ghastly record as a legislator, I think the documents in question are things like NAFTA, TPP, Gramm-Leach-Bliley. They make uniquely awful our great experiment that is AmeriCaca. To wit:

      Man is a marvelous curiosity. When he is at his very very best he is a sort of low grade nickel-plated angel; at is worst he is unspeakable, unimaginable; and first and last and all the time he is a sarcasm. Yet he blandly and in all sincerity calls himself the “noblest work of God.

      Twain basically nailed it. Substitute “USA” for “man” and you have the true nature of this place. And the PMC’s sole purpose is to spit polish and fix up that nickel finish as they themselves corrode it.

      1. hunkerdown

        No, they scream at the help to do it, align society against anyone who doesn’t submit to their infallible designs, as perfectly exemplified by the unmasking debacle. What stunning arrogance.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Old Joe says that he is talking about the Declaration of Independence but I would have to say that it is the US Constitution as that is at the basis of America no matter in what age. Those early Americans after the Revolution were certainly aware of this and I have read accounts how they treated it as something that made them unique among nations which it in fact did. Remember that most governments back then had their powers invested in a hereditary monarchy but the US Constitution was revolutionary as it was a break with how the world’s governments were run.

      1. JBird4049

        The Constitution is supposed to be the Declaration of Independence made reality; the Declaration of Independence is the political reasoning and philosophical support of both the war and of the Constitution. It is harder to have a good understanding of the why of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights without reading the explanation given by the Declaration. If there is ever another American Civil War, the reasoning of the Declaration of Independence will be used to justify it.

  3. antidlc

    “I wonder how many insurance companies buy those stolen records so they can deny people care.”

    I wonder how many corporations buy those stolen records so they can discriminate in hiring/firing.

    1. dcblogger

      I have long suspected that data breaches are inside jobs, and not by worker bees, but corporate owners seeking out additional profit centers.

      1. Alfred

        you win–and I thought I was a hardened cynic. I don’t doubt you may be correct.

  4. Arakawa

    > The picture I have of what happens when you join the military is that you get your shots. It’s an order. Has the DoD considered following that precedent?

    That’s exactly what the DoD tried to do with the anthrax vaccine. The result was that a precedent was created for the military to be unable to mandate an EUA vaccine without having to look forward to prosecuting a vast number of court-martials.

    1. rowlf

      Thanks for beating me to the explanation. The military vaccination stories also seem to bring out the inner control freak in people, like missionaries insisting the natives wear clothes. The natives have their own ways of doing things.

      Beside the issue of most people never interacting with regular military people, I wonder how many service personnel were previously infected when the US flew in thousands of people into Poland last April/May for war games?

      1. The Rev Kev

        Well right now they are staging massive exercise in Europe which the US are sending thousand of troops over for. It is called Defender 21-


        So with these new vaccines, even if they are vaccinated they can still carry the infection and spread it to others. Better hope that when those troops return to the US that they do not bring back some “souvenirs.”

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > The military vaccination stories also seem to bring out the inner control freak in people

        Well, part of being a soldier is that you obey (putatively lawful) orders. I don’t think only control freaks point out that aspect of civilian-military relations.

        One reason I find it irritating — putting aside the EUA argument, which is a good one — that we are asking permission of those who have agreed to be under authority is that the exact same dynamic is playing out with the generals as with these troops: The Generals didn’t give the “Commander-in-Chief” permission to leave Afghanistan when Trump was President, and so we didn’t. It’s not clear that Biden will have permission either, when the time come. Who’s in charge, here?

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        I’m now simply waiting for J&J to ship something that’s not cleaning fluid, but the Emergency Use Thing is really under-reported. I’m irritated by the nudge articles about requiring a vaccination that don’t mention this.

        For me, taking precautions against Covid isn’t as much bother as the many absurdities in my 8 to 5 job. I’m around people who are adjusting. It’s not unreasonable to assume a lot of sensible people will wait for better validation.

        I’ll probably have to pay for the booster shot, so over the course of weeks I can say ‘what’s the rush?’

    2. Procopius

      I can believe that. Most people don’t know that the military stopped trying to prosecute deserters during the period from 1965-1975. Maybe they still don’t, I don’t know. The reason was two-fold. First was that it was hard to prove; somewhere the precedent was established that the prosecutor had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had left with the intention to never return to military custody. Second, of course, was that there were just so many of them. My unit in Vietnam got several inquiries from police departments in the States whether we wanted them to send an individual to us who had been arrested for something and had gone AWOL from Nam five or six years previously. No. They were supposed to be turned over to the nearest Military Police unit, and then they were administratively processed for a Less than Honorable discharge within thirty days.

  5. zagonostra

    “Police Use Painful Dog Bites To Make People Obey” [The Marshall Project]

    “You’re gonna get bit!” the officer shouts at the man on the pavement. It’s after 8 p.m. but still daylight outside a busy grocery store.

    The officer, holding the dog’s collar with both hands, guides its mouth toward the man’s right leg, and the animal sinks its teeth into flesh. The man screams in pain.

    Pain Compliance, well there’s a new turn of phrase for ya! Somebody should compile a list of these sick euphemism that the police and military come up with. Sadism by any other names smells as rancid.

    Maybe that will be the next phase after they finish with the carrot approach of lotteries, free beer, joints, and scholarships to convince those rejecting getting vaccinated.

    1. Tom Stone

      Zagonostra, that’s how Cops have always acted.
      I both witnessed and personally experienced abuse by Cops when I was younger.
      I knew better than to report what i saw with no supporting evidence, why paint a target on your back?.
      Here in California we have the LA Sherriff Department with more than 30 criminal gangs among its ranks, the San Diego County Sheriff getting caught listening in to privileged attorney/client conversations, coaching and rewarding jailhouse snitches and knowingly providing false evidence to Courts and Juries for a decade and a half.
      And my favorite is Ross Mirkarimi, lately sheriff of San Francisco and an admitted wife beater ( Pleading to that made him a “Prohibited Person” banned from possessing a firearm and some other weapons).who showed up on TV repeatedly wearing a sidearm.
      A felony each time.
      There was some criticism in the SF Chronicle.
      Where was the SF DA?
      The Attorney General of California?
      How about the California Association of Sherriff’s?
      And a FISA judge described the FBI as having “an institutionalized lack of candor”.
      It’s going to be an interesting summer…

  6. Mark Hessel

    The Bezzle: “Bitcoin’s growing energy problem”

    Has anyone calculated the energy usage of

    – Banking Systems
    – All Stock Market Transactions
    – High Frequency Trading
    – Bloviating Politicians

    Just kidding on the last one. We all know they use way to much energy.

    1. urblintz

      I seem to recall a metric identifying the Pentagon as the single greatest contributor to global warming… exponentially. I have little simpathy for bitcoin but all those voicing concern about its energy consumption/waste might find more important (and far more worthy) targets if they cared to look for them.

    2. Alfred

      yes,speaking of CO2 output–cow flatulence has nothing on bloviating–hell, politicians

      1. Yves Smith

        That is an absurd comparison. The banking system easily process 4 orders, maybe ever 5 more of transaction #s and volumes. And way faster too.

        1. Acacia

          No question that the traditional systems have better throughput, though as an ordinary banking customer in the US it always takes days for a transaction to clear for me.

          One of the current shifts in cryptos seems to be from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake (e.g., Ethereum and its clones), with the latter being much more energy efficient. The tweet from Musk that provoked the most recent panic sell didn’t mention Ethereum by name (last sentence), but that was evidently the connotation.

  7. Keith

    Regarding the military engaging in forced jabs, I think the issue there is related to it being still experimental. Once it is a normal shot (for lack of a better term). they can.

    But then there is the optics issue. The notion of forced jabs being under taken by the military. Add that to the pictures of the guard offering them in Dallas the other day, and you get all sorts of conspiracy and backlash. On the plus side, i t should make for great news cycle.

  8. jsn

    “policies aimed at the working class.”

    Let’s be fair, the Democrats have aimed plenty of policies at the working class, just none to HELP them since the Nixon Administration.

    1. Nikkikat

      I think the Dems. Like to say they give us “access to their Policies” you know like health care. Lol

      1. Synoia

        they give us “access to their Policies”


        they sell “access to their Policies”

  9. zagonostra

    >Has Biden Changed? He Tells Us” [David Brooks, New York Times]

    I haven’t read Jacques Maritain and I doubt very much Biden has. I’ve seen and heard many references to this Catholic philosopher, Bishop Barron often refers to him. I can’t get myself to stomach reading an article by David Brooks. I doubt very much that Biden would ever support a policy based on Catholic social teachings if it conflicted with his donors/controllers.

    I’d love to be proven wrong but I think the majority of people that rise to such positions of power serve mammon and the diabolic not the angelic – the exceptions like Thomas Moore are the rarity.

    You may be an ambassador to England or France
    You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
    You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
    You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
    Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
    Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

    [Dylan gotta Serve Somebody]

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I was just a bit mind-boggled that David Brooks (along with his Irish Setter, “Moral Hazard”) was serving as Biden’s interpreter to the American people.

      Louis Phillippe, another (post-Napoleonic) Restoration figure, was caricatured as a pear:

      The Biden administration increasingly reminds me of this “pear-shaped” image: Immobile, bottom-heavy, soft and softening further, rotten.

      1. Darthbobber

        Could also be like the IRA mortar attack on Heathrow, deliberately using inert ammo. “This could be the real thing easily enough. “

      1. The Rev Kev

        At this point you can write the Intercept off. Greenwald’s reply mentions Robert Mackey’s attack video on a coupla small-time independents who actually go to events to film them. Robert Mackey’s photo is at the top of this article. Anyway, these two guys have filmed Antifa smashing things because, well, they are Antifa. What Robert Mackey has done is to show Antifa on video who these are guys so that not only can they be spotted and their equipment be smashed by them but these guys themselves be beat up. That video was a hit piece done by a piece of it.

    1. Carolinian

      Oh c’mon Jesse was a lot better than Sharpton. He did have his foibles.

      Greenwald is calling out AOC in that piece for saying she would vote no and then abstaining. Others may debate but hasn’t she turned out to be yet another left disappointment? She calls Pelosi big mama.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Jesse was a lot better than Sharpton

        Jesse, unlike Sharpton*, was the real deal, ran for President twice, and panicked the Democrat establishment of that time, whose candidate was… Michael Dukakis. Dukakis then got eaten alive by the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1988.

  10. Alfred

    gee am I the first since the WTF?

    That dating app thing or whatever it was–wanna get laid? git yer jab. I am old, and it seems like we have not gotten past Reefer Madness in the gummint.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Lot of behavioral data just waiting for some entrepreneurs.

      The out-of-touch thing is profound. I’m in a college town and the only time I hear post-80s music in public is when a car comes by.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > The out-of-touch thing is profound. I’m in a college town and the only time I hear post-80s music in public is when a car comes by.

        That’s a very interesting datapoint. Can other readers confirm?

  11. Geo

    On the flip side of the DoD messaging on masks/vaccines, saw this fun ad from California Public Health stating that vaccines are effective over a photo of a guy double-masked.


    Honestly, I have no clue how to properly message this stuff at this point since everyone seems to have their own rock solid viewpoint by now and any angle will upset a large group. It’s a mess and the constant mixed/contradictory messaging from up high has done nothing but make it worse.

    I fully expect in the next six months to see a quarter of the population to be living in isolation bubbles while another quarter will be fully nudist (making concealed carry much more exciting) and licking door knobs defiantly.

    1. hunkerdown

      I’m 98% sure you dismiss the idea that the two neoliberal parties unite against the people’s interest as something close to a conspiracy theory, but could they have scuttled yet more public properties, both the recognition of the collective biome we all share and the very idea of public health, any better if they had?

    2. Isotope_C14

      Our world is upside down. If you check out Julia Galef’s talks about scout vs. soldier (which in itself is quite binary thinking) there is a serious issue regarding human information processing, or dare I say, lack thereof. The people who would be the best scouts (and this is a spectrum, not to support the binary component) are summarily ignored for the easier to accept, soldier sorts. The information that supports your personal conclusion is accepted, and all others are dismissed. Anything complicated has to be reduced to something so simple it would never actually occur in the real world.

      I think you are spot on with your expectations.

      Humans are generally not adapted to the speed of information that we are currently adsorbing. The people who are, will always be ignored by the masses, because they will occasionally say something that while true, sounds pretty horrific.

      The question then, is how do we get real discourse with people with conflicting opinions on “heated” topics? I realize the whole “lab leak” theory is one of them, but I see “leak” also as someone got sick because they had a sandwich in the BSL 2 lab. Been there, seen that. Is stupid somehow better than intentionally cruel? I see humans as a cruel species for the most part, and stupid generally, we ain’t that far from Chimps…

      It would break my heart if NC became some kind of place where certain topics of discussions would become verboten. This is one of the last places left.

        1. Isotope_C14

          Really great – though I wonder if it is limited to Americans, I wonder if it is a class thing.

  12. Toshiro_Mifune

    I would speculate that the eternal quest for “safe spaces” is in fact displaced anxiety for the class position of the PMC, which is “predatory precarity.”
    That’s interesting.
    Maybe the need for a safe space is deep rooted subconscious anxiety because they know what they’re guilty of.

    1. Alfred

      Hah! Very good. My bi-polar brother would complain to me, “Why do you keep going to motivation?”
      His “safe space” was my ignorance.

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      Deliberate preparation maybe? The next generation of technocrats will be pining for subtlety of nudge theory and humanitarian sanctions.

      Where are the safe spaces for essential workers?

    3. Procopius

      I was in high school during The McCarthy Years, and I developed the hypothesis that virulent anti-communists were somehow aware that they were, indeed, guilty of the crimes Marx accused them of, and the anti-communism was a displacement mechanism. In their class culture they cannot admit that they have done evil; after all, they know they are good people and that their intentions are good, so what they do cannot be evil. Just like Heinrich Himmler.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > can’t thank lambert enough for writing this all in place place history of the public option bait and switch scam

      De nada. Who could have imagined that the public option would be what it has always been?

  13. Alfred

    “The budget will not include President Biden’s campaign pledge to enact a public option to create a government-run health insurance program, or his pledge to cut prescription drug costs, the people said. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity…”

    Anonymity. Yeah, sure, keep your shitty jobs in a lying administration. Thanks for nothing. And we would have found out soon enough. What a load of BS–why do we keep falling for it?

    1. Michael Ismoe

      No one I know who voted “for” Joe Biden actually voted for Joe Biden. The alternative was exponentially worse. He may be a senile old woman groper but at least Jill puts him on a short leash. The other alternative had NO filter whatsoever.

      So yeah, we expected a crap presidency but at least the senile one can’t send a signal the Proud Boys and that’s a good thing.

      1. neo-realist

        And the senile one won’t allow federal marshals to pick up boho demonstrator minding their own business off the street and drive them off in vans to some holding pen like some Banana Republic dictatorship.

      2. AndrewJ

        Yeah. At least this one will assuage our fears another four years, while the pot gets another dozen degrees toward boiling. I’m sure the next leader from the blue team will find a way to turn off the fire. Ribbit.

  14. Riverboat Grambler

    Funny how they can stuff things like the budget and coronavirus relief packages with odious giveaways to the most rich and powerful and we just have to suck it up and pass them because They’re So Important, but that never seems to apply to popular policy that materially benefits the working class. Those must be made their own stand-alone bills that can be snipped and trimmed and pre-compromised down to almost nothing, and of course no Republican will vote for them anyway.

    I can already see the narrative forming: keep kicking the min wage/public option down the road until the midterms. Say it sure took awhile to clean up the bad orange man’s mess, so fulfilling those campaign promises is now contingent on on everyone voting D in the mid-terms. When that fails, blame the stupid voters for failing to do their job. What a shame, because the Dems reeeeeally wanted to do that stuff.

    If by some miracle they sweep the mid-terms, no matter; there will always be enough Manchins and Sinema’s to stop it.

    1. Michael Ismoe

      Hey The Squad ALMOST made their concerns known. Notice how they changed their votes to make sure the bill still passed but they were all abuzz on Twitter and that’s what’s important.

      1. Riverboat Grambler

        I’ve been giving them the benefit of the doubt but it’s getting more and more difficult.

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          I’ve been giving them ‘you can’t bring a gun to a sword duel’, but it’s wearing thin.

  15. Alfred

    ‘Think about this, I’m being literal,’ he added. ‘Uniquely a product of a document.’

    I have been thinking about this. This “document,” was it produced by aliens from outer space, and imposed on humans in perpetuity, and everyone said “Yikes, we have to do this stuff, it’s in the document! or maybe God gave it to somebody on some Murican mountain someplace…I’m thinking, give me time…

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      NTSBiden: Do we have a better explanation of why we’re all doing this thing other than the Constitution?

  16. Nikkikat

    Alfred, you made my day with the last comment on “the document”. I have been laughing for the last 10 minutes. In fact your commentary today was all very entertaining.

  17. Durans

    The Elon Musk tweet is for the most part bullshit. Resolution hasn’t changed that much in the last few decades. The line for camera resolution should go up at first then start to plateau.

    Sure digtal sensors are going up in resolution but that doesn’t really mean that much in the end. The lens and the conditions in which the picture was taken reflect far more on image quality than the resolution of the sensor, once you get past very low resolutions.

    While digital sensors have seen dramatic improvement, camera lenses have barely improved at all. And conditions in which the shots were taken of course haven’t changed at all. Its the last part that is the biggest reason for the poor picture quality. Cameras set up to have a wide range in focus, are not going to have high detail focus on anything, especially moving objects. That’s just the way they work because of the combination of the lens needed and exposure time being used to produce the image.

    The only techno-wizardry way around this is to have multiple sensors and lenses all set to focus on different areas and distances. Now cameras with multiple sensors and lenses exist but most of these just have a few at most, and truly large arrays are rather rare.

    P.S. I have no strong opinion as to if UFOs exist or not. I haven’t really even being paying attention to the topic at all. I’m just a (somewhat former) amateur photographer who used to go around and take pictures of nature and landscapes. I just wanted to add a dose of reality to the issues of camera image quality.

    1. Basil Pesto

      well, yes and no, a 1MP photo from a 1990s digital camera with a 35mm focal length of an object, say, 1km away, isn’t going to resolve anywhere near as much detail as 100MP photo from a 2020s digital camera with the same focal length equivalent at the same distance (and sensor size plays a role too). Resolution shouldn’t be synonymous with ‘image quality’, which is a bit nebulous (and lens is very important), but it is related to detail – the amount of information within the photo, without question.

      1. Greg

        Digital isn’t the only sort of camera in the world though, right? Especially if you’re drawing a line back into the past, where crappy low res cameras are the exception rather than the rule.

      2. Procopius

        I don’t know enough about the technology, but for the Navy videos recently released, we’re talking about Forward Looking Infra Red sensors. For some reason few people seem to have noticed that the distance to the target is not shown. What if it’s not 1 kilometer away, but 100? Beyond the range of the plane’s radar? I recommend a site called MetaBunk, and several YouTube interview with titles like, “I’m not saying it’s not Aliens, but it’s not Aliens.” The thing that bothers me the most is that these Navy and Air Force guys are supposed to depend on these sensors for their lives. They should know how to interpret the images.

    2. Grebo

      I haven’t seen Musk’s comment, because Twitter, but if he is asking how come UFO pictures are still crap I think it’s a reasonable question. What I wonder is, now that everyone has a camera with them at all times, and every street corner and shop front has one too, how come we are not snowed under with UFO pictures at least some of which are mindblowing. Do they exist but we just assume they must be fake?

      1. Eureka Springs

        I don’t know what boggles my mind more these days. NC people giving credence to the public option a la Biden or UFO’s a la the new space farce.

  18. The Rev Kev

    “Progressives nearly tank House Democrats’ Capitol security bill”

    Really. This is what the squad is taking a stand on. Not medicare for all. Not a $15 minimum wage. Not student relief from crippling debts. They threatened to use their power on this? And even then they caved on only minor concessions with theatricals by three of them saying only ‘Present.’ When Gabbard did that, it was a matter of conscious about the Trump impeachment vote. And Gabbard got a lot of criticism by AOC at the time and I am willing to bet by the rest of the Squad too. But now it is OK to do the same? So what are the Squad going to do next? Have a force the vote on a permanent wall around the Senate?

    1. JBird4049

      The Show must go on. That’s entertainment!

      Seriously, it is Kabuki Security Theatre produced by the professional managerial apparatchiks in whatever version of Pravda that they work in the Mainstream News Media™ as directed by the nomenklatura. This is just another part of the… reality façade that is assiduously created and maintained.

      I am thinking of doing some research on the soviet media because our current media seems to steadily become more like the soviets. What I notice the most is the self censorship and the Potemkin like mind’s view of reality of both

      1. rowlf

        If you get a chance try to meet immigrants that came from behind the Iron Curtain. They are usually a hoot to talk with and they have seen all of this before, but done badly. The ones I talk with say the US is much slicker in “no news in Pravda and no truth in Izvestia”.

    2. neo-realist

      Not enough votes for medicare for all and $15 minimum wage. Not enough progressives in congress willing to provide massive student debt relief. Outnumbered by congresspeople in the pockets of those against medicare for all and $15 minimum wage. Election of more progressives and development of more progressive institutions needed to give progressive politicians flight, but those are long term projects that won’t solve near term problems.

  19. Matthew G. Saroff

    I looked at the Dual Power App tweet, and one of the first responses notes that the app mines Bitcoin in the background.

  20. jr

    Re: UFO’s

    Here is an interesting discussion with Kevin Knuth, a physicist and UFO researcher about the Nimitz video and related topics. One interesting note is his discussion of how a space faring civilization could remain a unified society spread out across the galaxy:


  21. chris

    The article on pain compliance is interesting because based on my training, it’s not as reliable as mechanical compliance. Locking out the skeleton or putting the target in a position where they can’t move but still can breathe and can calm down has always been taught to me as the superior option.

    Pain compliance also doesn’t work if the target is in an altered condition, on drugs, or has some other physical impediment to calming down during the encounter. I’m also not sure why tasers are included in that category because they attack the nervous system and can kill. Things like pressure point attacks can’t.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The article on pain compliance is interesting because based on my training, it’s not as reliable as mechanical compliance. Locking out the skeleton or putting the target in a position where they can’t move but still can breathe and can calm down has always been taught to me as the superior option.

      That’s clarifying.

    1. Acacia

      I wonder how many will get one just to stick needles in the eyes. Voodoo doll, y’all.

  22. Carla

    Re: a maximum wage. Boy, I’ve been waiting for this all my life.

    Lambert: “Somehow I don’t see Jeff Bezos accepting 10:1 peacefully.”

    Well then let him launch his own (family blog) army.

    But somehow, 330 million or so people accept 1:5,000 , or 1:10,000, or 1:10 million — or whatever the (family blog) income ratio of mere mortals to God Bezos is. Why the hell is that?

    God Bezos doesn’t like it, let him go elsewhere. He seems interested in Mars. I say let him have it. Let’s send him there pronto.

    The idea that 330 million people continually bow down before one of the greatest owners of ill-begotten wealth on the face of the earth because we don’t know what else to do is just nauseating.

  23. howseth

    “What if the U.S. had a national maximum wage?” –
    I would be willing to concede even a 20:1 maximum wage – but the deserving CEO would then have to buy their own stock with that 20:1 salary, excuse me I mean ‘compensation’ – no friggin stock options would be included.

  24. thoughtful person

    And why is Africa such an enormous outlier? Readers?

    Refering to the covid19 chart by region of the world. Here’s a little speculation:

    1. It has a younger average age per capita. We know that so far, more severe cases show up among older age groups. More severe cases are the most likely to be noticed and counted.

    2. On average across the continent, more people may spend more time outdoors, or at least out of sealed air conditioned spaces. We know well ventilated spaces are less likely to harbor the virus as long.

    3. Humidity may reduce the longevity of aerosols, much of sub Saharan Africa is relatively humid?

    4. Less testing per capita? If so less cases identified.

    1. Danco

      There was also some speculation regarding parasite loads. Humans, the theory states, with a variety of internal parasites, as has been the norm throughout the ages, have a more balanced immune system reaction to the virus, ie no cytokine storm.
      An interesting theory which appeals to the ecologist in me.

  25. Synoia

    Humidity may reduce the longevity of aerosols, much of sub Saharan Africa is relatively humid?

    Not relatively humid, it is very, very humid. Where I lived, there were open drainage channels, always wet.
    Also, much sunlight and outdoor living, which could increase Vit D Levels. Without AC it is uncomfortable the stay inside.
    And the overall demographic is 50% or so below 20 years old.

    Humidity+Outdoor Living+Sunlight+Age for a start.

    And possibly a fitter populace, as most walk long distances.

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