2:00PM Water Cooler 5/26/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day~

A duet!

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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:

Whoopsie. Odd how the curves fluctuate together for the last month or so; apparently social, political, regional, cultural distinctions don’t show up in the aggregates. It’s as if the issue has been nationalized.

Case count by United States regions:

Continued good news. National case count is now slightly below the Northeast’s case count was when New York was an enormous crisis.

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

Continued good news.

Test positivity:

More good news.

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. I have added an anti-triumphalist black line.

Covid cases worldwide:


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

* * *


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

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

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

Biden Administration

“Biden administration unveils offshore wind plan for California” [Los Angeles Times]. “Under the plan, the administration would allow wind power projects to be built in federal waters off the coast of Central California northwest of Morro Bay, as well as at a second location west of Humboldt Bay. Officials estimate that the two areas combined could generate 4,600 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 1.6 million homes. The government’s plans represent a ‘breakthrough,’ said Gina McCarthy, President Biden’s senior climate change advisor. ‘It’s an announcement that will set the stage for the long-term development of clean energy and the growth of a brand-new made-in-America industry.’ Gov. Gavin Newsom praised the plans, noting that California had spent years trying to advance offshore wind power under the Trump administration, with no success. The state, he said, will accelerate its own environmental review process in order to speed up the projects, which he estimated would be built at least 20 miles offshore with enough space for roughly 380 wind turbines.”

“Second gentleman Doug Emhoff is hitting the campaign trail” [Politico]. “Emhoff is no stranger to the trail. He was a mainstay of Vice President Kamala Harris’ primary bid and did solo events during the general election after she joined the Biden ticket. Emhoff has spent the vast majority of his time as second gentleman being dispatched by the administration for events dealing with the pandemic, local businesses hit hard by the economic downturn and pushing for the president’s infrastructure plan.”

“Sanders drops bid to block Biden’s Israel arms sale” [The Hill]. “Sanders was short of the votes needed to get the resolution through the Senate. Under the Arms Export Control Act, Sanders needed a simple majority, but faced opposition from Democrats.”

“Top Democrats jump-start push to offer a health care ‘public option,’ a Biden promise” [NBC]. “Two Democratic committee chairs overseeing health care policy are seeking to jump-start a legislative push to craft a “public option” to compete with private insurers. House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., wrote a letter to interested parties Wednesday seeking their input by July 31 on how to structure a government-provided plan. ‘We believe bold steps are necessary in order to achieve universal coverage and lower health care costs,’ they wrote. ‘Health care affordability remains a challenge for many American families despite the fact that the United States spends more on health care than any other country.’ …. A ‘public option’ was one of President Joe Biden’s campaign promises, billed as a moderate alternative to rival Bernie Sanders’ plan to scrap private coverage and put all Americans in Medicare. But Biden has not included the policy in his economic rescue and stimulus proposals so far, instead seeking to infuse cash in the ACA exchanges and invest in Covid-19 vaccines. But the Democrats are signaling it is still a priority, and aim to introduce a bill by the end of this year, a Murray aide said.” • Slow as molasses. Biden isn’t the only “sleepy” Democrat.

“Joe Biden’s Liberalism Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be” [Jacobin]. “The perceived change in Biden has yielded what can safely be called a deluge of media commentary drawing comparisons between the new administration and those of FDR and LBJ…. For what it’s worth, a nearly identical media cycle surrounded the early months of the last Democratic president and was subsequently less than borne out by events. More importantly, though, it remains to be seen whether the administration’s embrace of new spending will really go beyond the current context of economic and social crisis: new programs established, cash transfers and social benefits made permanent, budgetary taboos broken in the long-term, etc…. As recent reporting from the Washington Post makes clear, the next Biden budget proposal (expected later this week) will jettison key campaign commitments: most notably its pledge to overhaul health care policy by enacting a public option, arguably the centerpiece of its domestic agenda during last year’s Democratic primaries. Also on the chopping block this week are promised measures to lower prescription drug costs, raise the estate tax, and relieve student debt (an issue on which the new Biden has quite audibly begun to sound like the old one)…. the language currently emerging from the White House is potentially so revealing, its increasingly conservative lawmaking strategy beginning to look a lot more like garden variety liberal triangulation than canny maneuvering… . Between these noises and a series of utterly quixotic attempts to strike a bipartisan deal on infrastructure spending, we are left with a picture of liberal governance that looks more conventionally managerial than it does transformative with each passing week — and a White House that seems increasingly likely to follow recent precedent by gradually shedding any serious effort to make permanent changes to the political or economic status quo.” • “Fundamentally, nothing will change.”

“Biden Concerned Ambitious Agenda Could Be Stalled By Him Not Really Caring If It Happens Or Not” [The Onion]. • As above…

Democrats en Deshabille

“New head of largest state worker union won’t back Newsom” [Associated Press]. Interesting nugget: “[Newly-elected California SEIU Local 1000 President] Richard Louis Brown promised to end the union’s political involvement generally, a step he said is needed to draw support from state employees across the political spectrum. With its heavy involvement supporting Democratic candidates, ‘you’re alienating half your union,’ he said. ‘You can’t unify your union if you’re involved in politics.'” • It’s probably to much to hope for that Brown will do the right thing re: CalPERS. But it sounds like at least he won’t be actively doing the wrong thing. The whole article is worth a read, because it sounds like an earthquake in California state politics.

“‘Time For Self Care’: Dianne Morales’ Campaign Goes Dark As Sources Say Multiple Senior Staff Quit” [The Uprising]. “Morales, a relative political unknown, made waves in the mayor’s race with an unabashedly progressive platform. Despite exceeding expectations, thus far, she has failed to break into the top tier of candidates in most polls. Signs of more serious trouble for her campaign first emerged on Tuesday evening when author, reporter, and general man about town Ross Barkan tweeted “multiple sources telling me senior staff have quit the @Dianne4NYC campaign over a lack of pay.'”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Fighting the Last War, Losing the Current One?” [Cook Political Report]. “Last September, KFF and the Cook Political Report teamed up to survey voters in three critical Sun Belt states — Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona. Nine months later, KFF analysts Ashley Kirzinger, Audrey Kearney and Mollyann Brody, went back to match the results from those surveys with actual voting records from Election Day to “better understand the demographics of voters who cast ballots during this election…. Conventional wisdom has long held that a surge in Latino and younger voters would disproportionately help Democrats. Yet, KFF concluded that “neither party had an advantage with low propensity voters.” According to the KFF analysis, 23 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Republicans in Florida, North Carolina and Arizona voted in 2020 but not in 2016. …. Those low-propensity voters are also the most likely to sit out an election if they find that the process is too complicated or restrictive…. Given that many of these new voters were GOP voters, culling permanent absentee voter rolls and/or making it more challenging for a voter to cast a ballot absentee could end up depriving Republicans of some of the new participants to the electorate. Instead of rolling out a welcome mat to infrequent voters, Republicans may have put up a barrier.”

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of note today.

* * *

Shipping: “UPS establishes worldwide cold-chain logistics unit” [Freight Waves]. “UPS Inc. said Monday that it has consolidated all its cold-chain logistics and delivery services into a dedicated global operation that falls under the Atlanta-based company’s UPS Healthcare umbrella. The operation, called UPS Cold Chain Solutions, will more than double the company’s worldwide freezer storage capacity to 1 million square feet, and in particular expand the size of UPS’ European cold chain network, including a new facility in Italy. Dan Gagnon, UPS Healthcare’s vice president of global health care strategy and marketing, said UPS will broaden relationships with airlines with proven pharmaceutical delivery capabilities, as well as continue using its own freighter fleet. Gagnon said UPS will also use more less-than-container load (LCL) ocean services to move specialized containers that don’t require the immediate urgency that typically justifies the use of airfreight services. UPS has offered the cold-chain services on a relatively limited and ad hoc basis. However, the COVID-19 pandemic, and UPS’ crucial role in distributing COVID vaccines, convinced the company to establish a dedicated operation to meet what is expected to be a growing worldwide need for biologics and other temperature-controlled drugs to treat a wide range of diseases. UPS cited data from the Biopharma Cold Chain Sourcebook that forecast 48% growth from 2018 to 2024 for the storage and delivery of drugs maintained at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, the traditional range for most biologics.” • Interesting. Go long chill.

The Bezzle: “Blockchain startup Propy plans first-ever auction of a real apartment as a collectible NFT” [Tech Crunch]. “The auction will be of the NFT attached to a modern, brand new, one-bedroom apartment in Kiev, Ukraine, that Propy previously made history with by making it the first-ever blockchain-based real estate sale.” • Location, location, location!

The Bezzle: “Ethereum Closes In on Long-Sought Fix to Cut Energy Use Over 99%” [Bloomberg]. “Ethereum and better-known-rival Bitcoin both operate using a proof-of-work system that requires a global network of computers running around the clock. Software developers at Ethereum have been working for years to transition the blockchain to what’s known as a proof-of-stake system — which uses a totally different approach to secure the network that also eliminates the carbon emissions issue…. The change — delayed time and again by complicated technical setbacks — couldn’t come soon enough for the cryptocurrency world, which weathered one of its biggest bouts of volatility ever this month after Elon Musk announced that Tesla Inc. would stop accepting Bitcoin as payment for cars because of the surging energy use…. The transition Ethereum developers are making is a huge undertaking. They have to create, test and implement an entirely new way of securing their network while maintaining the existing blockchain. Then when the time is right, they’ll merge the existing blockchain into the new architecture that uses proof of stake to verify transactions. The shift will also radically increase the speed of transactions that Ethereum can process, making it more competitive with established payment networks like Visa or Mastercard… In proof of stake, the cryptocurrency Ether replaces hardware and electricity as the capital cost. A minimum of 32 Ether is required for a user to stake on the new network. The more Ether a user stakes the better chance they have of being chosen to secure the next batch of transactions, which will be rewarded with a free, albeit smaller, amount of Ether just as in proof of work.” • Hmm.

The Bezzle: “Opinion: It’s time for Elon Musk to start telling the truth about autonomous driving” [MarketWatch]. “Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has shown that he has an influential platform by roiling the cryptocurrency market with his tweets. It is time for him to use it for a more important purpose: Telling the truth about autonomous driving… Musk’s hyperbole is nothing new, and is not unique to him, but when it comes to autonomous driving, the consequences can be dire. Tesla fans have latched on to Musk’s words instead of the warnings in their owner’s manuals, and publicly performed dangerous stunts like sitting in the back seat of their cars as they operate on Autopilot…. Tesla says its $10,000 computer for “self-driving capabilities” improves with software updates. The fine print on Tesla’s website, however, says its cars come with “features [that] require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.” …. While fans post videos on media platforms of dangerous maneuvers — such as a man in the Bay Area of California who was arrested for riding in the back seat, then got out of jail, purchased a new Tesla and did it again for a news crew — Tesla is also now a party to at least 16 lawsuits filed across the U.S. in the past two years in which plaintiffs allege malfunction or problems with Tesla Autopilot, according to data gathered by PlainSite. None of the cases seek class-action status, and all have been filed by individuals, contending dangerous malfunctioning of the software. Tesla has not outlined the suits in its regulatory filings.” • Hmm.

Mr. Market: “The Economy Is Booming. Why Don’t Firms Believe It?” [Bloomberg,]. “One of the most interesting aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the success of fiscal policy in preserving consumer spending, and the second-order effects of that success. Rather than an economic crash during the pandemic, we have instead seen aging supply lines straining under a surge in demand, the likes of which hasn’t been seen for decades. Whether in lumber, shipping, semiconductors, or any of a range of industries, this has been a fascinating through-line in recent episodes of Odd Lots…. The whole point of a “market economy” for most people is the idea that price signals work by telling folks where to invest for the highest return. What’s been surprisingly consistent in recent episodes – and commentary from guests afterwards – is that firms don’t trust the boom in demand to last past the transitory disruption. In shipping, the drop-off in demand following the 2008 crash created a vicious economic environment that led to a wave of bankruptcies and consolidation in shipping. Marc Levinson speaks well to this dynamic. For lumber, the problem was in dusting off old mills and making the investments necessary to pull them back online, and then find trucks for the boards. The reason the dynamic described by Harrod’s model isn’t kicking in yet is that the investment signal from recent demand spikes is not nearly as loud as the signal from over a decade of structurally low demand. While it is hard to know what the future holds, it is easy to expect that it will be like the past, and in the past the demand was almost never there.”

Travel: “The airline recovery is looking K-shaped” [Yahoo Finance]. “According to Jefferies senior research analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu, total U.S. airline traffic is around 40% of what it was at the same time in 2019. But the difference between destinations is stark: international is down 67% and domestic is only 22% lower. ‘International is still quite weak,’ Kahyaoglu told Yahoo Finance Live. Because of this, domestic airlines like Southwest (LUV) have been seeing much better numbers compared to the larger airlines that fly broader routes out of the country. This appears to be somewhat of consensus right now, due to the discrepancies of the U.S. vaccination campaigns versus the rest of the world that still waits. (Airlines are becoming creative around incentivizing vaccinations.)”

Concentration: “Amazon buys MGM in a mega media deal” [CNN]. “[T]he simplest reason Amazon wanted to buy MGM is that it can afford to. The hefty price tag for the acquisition is nothing of significant consequence for Amazon, one of the world’s wealthiest companies. Amazon, which paid nearly $14 billion for Whole Foods in 2017, has a market cap of $1.7 trillion. Ultimately, the deal gives Amazon more content, a respected studio in Hollywood and a stylish super spy. That will only help it further compete in the ruthless world of streaming.” • Maybe they can put big screens in the warehouses and play movies to the workers.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: The Fear and Greed screen is blank again! [CNN]. Last updated May 26 at 11:48am. New intern?

Health Care

Dominic Cummings testifies on the Johnson government’s Covid response before Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee:

I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about this; the clips are extraordinary.

“SARS-CoV-2 infection induces long-lived bone marrow plasma cells in humans” (accepted manuscript) [Nature]. Final sentence: “Overall, our data provide strong evidence that SARS-CoV-2 infection in humans robustly establishes the two arms of humoral immune memory: long-lived [bone marrow plasma cells (BMPCs)] and [Memory B cells (MBCs)]. These findings provide an immunogenicity benchmark for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and a foundation for assessing the durability of primary humoral immune responses induced after viral infections in humans.” • A bit above my paygrade; perhaps readers can comment.

“Cleaning indoor air may prevent COVID-19’s spread. But it’s harder than it looks” [Science News]. “Indoor air ought to be regulated for infection control, much like food and water are, air experts propose in the May 14 Science. Indoor air has mainly been conditioned to control odors and temperature, but systems should be upgraded to strip out pathogens, too, the scientists say. Knocking respiratory viruses out of circulation wouldn’t just improve health, it would also be good for the bottom line. In the United States alone, yearly economic losses from flu total $11.2 billion, and other respiratory viruses cost about $40 billion. COVID-19’s global monthly harm is estimated to be $1 trillion. ‘There needs to be a shift in the perception that we cannot afford the cost of control, because economic costs of infections can be massive and may exceed initial infrastructure costs to contain them,’ the scientists wrote.” • Worth reading in full. Lots of nuance.

CO2 meters are handy:

“HHS commits $4.8B for testing uninsured people for COVID-19” [The Hill]. “The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Tuesday that it is designating $4.8 billion to provide relief funding for COVID-19 testing for uninsured people in the U.S. The administration intends the funding from the American Rescue Plan to ensure the approximately 29 million uninsured U.S. residents have access to COVID-19 testing in order to track where the virus is prevalent for appropriate responses.” • The insanity of making testing during a pandemic dependent on insurance.

The Biosphere

“Shell Loses Climate Case That May Set Precedent for Big Oil” [Bloomberg]. “Royal Dutch Shell Plc was ordered by a Dutch court to slash its emissions harder and faster than planned, a ruling that could have far-reaching consequences for the rest of the global fossil fuel industry. Shell, which said it expects to appeal the ruling, has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% within a decade, and to net-zero before 2050. That’s not enough, a court in The Hague ruled Wednesday, ordering the oil producer to slash emissions 45% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels. The court said the ruling applies to the entire Shell group, which is headquartered in the Dutch city and incorporated in the U.K. That raises the prospect of the company having to radically speed up its current climate and divestment policies in order to hit the new target. The ruling will be scrutinized globally amid a new era of litigation related to climate change.”

Carbon cycle animation (year at top right):

The Agony Column

“‘Leaving to sin’ is more about evangelicals’ obsessions than the desires of those who leave” [FLUX]. “The canard that the “real” reason people leave Christianity is to embrace a “life of sin” is an old standby in the apologist’s bag of tricks…. [T]he suggestion that sex plays a role in the deconstruction of authoritarian Christianity is not entirely incorrect, though things hardly ever play out in real life as they do in the fevered imaginations of Christian apologists…. Instead of accepting that leaving a high-control form of Christianity to potentially pursue greater sexual freedom is somehow contemptible, we should focus on patriarchal Christianity’s longstanding and extremely unhealthy obsession with sex. From that vantage point, we can see that the Christians who make literally everything about sex are the real problem. That being the case, it is only natural that matters related to sex, sexuality, and gender are going to be important to the deconstruction of the faith.”

Under the Influence

“A Guide to Online-Grooming Allegations (and Why Everyone’s Talking About Them)” [New York Magazine]. “As celebrities, influencers hold a unique type of clout that no one is chasing after. All interactions between celebrities and fans begin as parasocial interactions where one person is emotionally invested in a relationship while the other party is unaware. It is experienced across mass media. Being a wealthy public figure creates a power dynamic between a celebrity and a fan that’s more similar to a boss and an employee, or a coach and an athlete, than two friends. ‘The very idea that you’re a social-media influencer is that your ability to influence people is what has made you a celebrity or noteworthy online — that in and [Laura Palumbo, communications director at [National Sexual Violence Resource Center] says. ‘That’s why brands are partnering with you. That’s the business model of what it is to be an influencer. And so when it comes to relationships, that power needs to be taken into account. For anyone with any type of celebrity, for them to assume they’re on a level playing field with anyone who is not a celebrity or influencer is off base.'” • More cult-like behavior? Lots of icky behavior in the story that I’m skipping over. Such behaviors have always happened, but now thanks to the Internet and social media, they can happen “at scale,” as they say in the Valley.

Zeitgeist Watch

Brain bleach, stat!

I assume it comes with its own generator in case of power failure?

“Good news for nihilists? Life is meaningless after all, say philosophers” [CBC]. “Nihilist viewpoints begin with a refusal to believe that human life draws meaning from a greater context, such as the will or purpose of a divine being, or another external force such as fate or moral goodness, or any measure of the worth and quality of human life. In some interpretations, a purely nihilistic outlook disdains any attempt to attribute value or meaning to anything at all. Such views traditionally receive bad press and blunt condemnation from thought leaders across the world.” • Sounds good so far. More: “‘Life is the common ground,’ said [British philosopher James Tartaglia]. ‘If you’re a nihilist, you don’t think that anything goes beyond life. If you’re not a nihilist, you think there’s something extra. OK, but there’s still this massive common ground. Fundamentalists on one side or the anti-religionist brigade … [with nihilism] we can all understand each other, right? We can all agree on life.”

“American Solitude: Notes Toward A History Of Isolation” [Perspectives on History]. “The American pursuit of a high-technological strategy made far-flung and exotic geographies—the Arctic, the deep sea, outer space—into new terrains for warfare. Alone in the Canadian wilderness, radar operators along the Distant Early Warning Line watched for the earliest signs of nuclear attack, bathed in the green glow of the radar screen. Both the military and the popular press imagined the boredom and monotony that accompanied solitary duty not only as a threat to the psyche of these individual soldiers but to the nation itself. Newly dominant on the world stage, the United States was thought to be only as strong as the vigilance of its soldiers in isolation. Accordingly, psychologists and psychiatrists across North America made laboratory hermits out of research subjects in a scientific vogue for isolation and sensory deprivation…. Often funded indirectly by the CIA, research on isolation furthered the development of scientific means of solitary confinement, new techniques of indoctrination to be used against enemy combatants. Indeed, CIA interrogation manuals from this period cite this research heavily, indicating that this line of research directly shaped ethically dubious intelligence practices. Experiments in isolation explored the depths of boredom endemic to American hegemony while producing new and dangerous forms of weaponized solitude.” • Makes me wonder if there is a connection between the increased isolation of quarantines and WFH, and all the cray cray. The Covid pandemic might also be conceived of as an enormous natural experiment in isolation, as well.

Class Warfare

“Top Republican says he wants to hear bank CEOs ‘defend capitalism’ during testimony” [CNBC]. “CEOs including JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, Wells Fargo’s Charles Scharf, Citi’s Jane Fraser and Goldman Sachs’ David Solomon begin two days of hearings on Capitol Hill later Wednesday.” • I can’t imagine better spokespeople. Pass the popcorn.

“Hospitality Workers Struggle to Find Reliable, Affordable Ways Home” [Washington City Paper]. “She took Metrorail to work for $6, but taking it home wasn’t an option since trains currently stop running at 11 p.m., even on weekends. That put Owens, who doesn’t own a vehicle, at the mercy of ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. Owens grabbed a seat at a nearby bar while she refreshed the apps and watched fares fluctuate from $67 down to $56 and then back up to $81… Owens finally settled on a $44.64 fare at 2:06 a.m. ‘I basically walk into every shift knowing that a third of it is going to go to getting home,’ she says. ‘Unfortunately I feel like that’s what a lot of servers in the District are doing. You have to bite the bullet. What am I going to do? Walk five hours home to Fairfax? They have us by the balls.'”

“Some child-care workers at Google live up to 50 miles away. The company is calling them back with no transportation plans” [The Lily]. “Google announced that its child-care centers would be reopening at the end of May, despite the company’s widely used transportation services still being unavailable because of safety concerns. Those private transportation services were essential for at least 10 child-care employees, Belardes said, some of whom live up to 50 miles away from the Googleplex campus in Mountain View, Calif…. On May 7, members of the Alphabet Workers Union circulated a petition addressed to some of the company’s top executives asking for a $1,500-a-month transportation stipend for the affected employees. ‘When workers raised this issue, the corporate response was ‘Transportation is just a perk, not a benefit,” the petition read. ‘Shifting this cost to essential workers, who earn far less than the Googlers whose children they care for, is unacceptable.'”

News of the Wired

If any of you are doing this, please do not send pictures:

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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 (EC):

EC: “I have 2 Camellias under windows on the back side of the house. One has white flowers, the other has deep red flowers. Photo taken with my phone one morning in February when I was out with the dog.”

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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. cocomaan

    On our daily walk, my wife and I noticed that the cicadas in our area of SE PA seem to like poison ivy and red clover. Lots of discarded shells and a few cicadas still drying out down there on the ground plants. I took some pictures for posterity.

    Mr. Market: “The Economy Is Booming. Why Don’t Firms Believe It?” [Bloomberg,].

    I liked this article. The way that someone beats the cycles is to not do what everyone else is doing. Which, I think, requires a keen ear to the ground.

  2. hunkerdown

    Two camellias? EC is tea(s)-ing us.

    Northwest of Morro Bay… There used to be a lot of upper-middles living out that way, near Cambria and San Simeon. SLO County’s political tendency was moderate Republican, but my impression of the few times I was in that northwest part of the county was an artistic community. It looks like there will be no harm done to Hearst Castle’s view (pdf), yellow journalism being what got them all where they are.

    1. Samuel Conner

      I tried to grow Camellia sinensis some years ago, plants sourced from a nursery called “CamForest”. The thought of picking fresh tea off an edible part of the landscaping was very appealing. CamForest flogged a book about growing Camellias in non-Southern climes; it is possible with care. I think this is the title


      The author has a newer title out.

      In the end, I think grazers — either rabbits or ground-hogs, I guess — got my small Camellias and I never tried again.

      1. Tim W

        Re. Camellias
        We are far from Southern Climes here on the 45th. parallel but Camellias grow like weeds. Reliably 6 weeks or so before Rhodies.

  3. allan

    Count the cost of disability caused by COVID-19 [Nature]

    Focusing only on cases and deaths hides the pandemic’s lasting health burden on people, societies and economies.

    Or, as Scott Atlas and Brit Hume will put it soon enough, disabled with COVID-19, not disabled by COVID-19.
    I’m old enough to remember when the sociopaths on the WSJ editorial board were mocking veterans
    who had been disabled by Gulf War Syndrome as impressionable slackers.

  4. Max Ullrich

    There was a shooting today in San Jose at one of the main public transit maintenance stations. About a mile from my house. The Valley Transit Authority (VTA) has been working all through COVID in a pretty thankless job – the South Bay is undeserved w.r.t. public transit, and has a big, broad demographic of users but whenever I have interacted with any VTA workers, they have been nothing but friendly, patient and kind. I know that mass shootings are the defacto reality nowadays but it is really depressing when it’s in your own community.


    1. dcblogger

      I saw that on Twitter, much sympathy. There was a murder in the alley behind a house where I used to live, I was shaken for an entire month.

  5. dcblogger

    Anybody here from Virginia? what, if anything, do you know about the gubernatorial primary?

    1. John

      I voted for Lee Carter, the Dem Socialist candidate today…yoohoo…
      The Clintonite dude will probably get it for a rinse and repeat…
      At least pot is legal July 1.

  6. cocomaan

    Biden admin has a panic attack and orders 90 day investigation by intel community into virus origins. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/05/26/statement-by-president-joe-biden-on-the-investigation-into-the-origins-of-covid-19/

    I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days.

    If they are redoubling their efforts, does that mean they were only searching for the greatest national security threat in US history at 50% before the announcement?

    1. Darthbobber

      Clearly spies are now thought to be the people most qualified to resolve a scientific/medical question.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Sounds like Team A/Team B to me. And that’s the least bad possibility.

        After RussiaGate, I can’t see any reason to trust the intelligence community on any matter whatever.

    2. km

      Remember those mysterious aluminum tubes? Remember those visits to Niger and that lovable scamp Curveball, the Iraqi defector fake scientist who told the CIA about those mobile WMD labs?

      Now that China has been designated as the Official Big Bad Scary Enemy, we can expect stories like these and more, seemingly plausible, but all lies.

      1. Lemmy Caution

        What is all lies? That Biden has tasked the IC to redouble their investigatory efforts or the lab leak theory?

        1. albrt

          Whatever public statement comes out of the mouth of a person who works for the “intelligence community” is a lie by definition. Whatever they believe to be true is classified. Hence whatever they say publicly is a lie.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        If we don’t actually manage to foment a war with it — note this is a separate issue from The Truth — I expect the story to keep circulating forever, like RussiaGate or the Skripals.

        1. ambrit

          Ah hem. The Skripals are “out of circulation.”
          The Skripals are probably safely enjoying their “retirements” on Fantasy Island, along with Epstein, Hale Boggs, Snowden, et. al.
          If the “Inward Looking Eyes” were to raid the offices of the NIH, Fauci, and EcoHealth, then I would take the effort seriously. Otherwise, Kabuki as usual.
          Something that tries to be ‘balanced;’ draw your own conclusions. [The website is sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Centre. (Old timers will get the implication.)]
          See: https://www.factcheck.org/2021/05/the-wuhan-lab-and-the-gain-of-function-disagreement/

    3. Aumua

      If finding out where it came from meant that anything was going to change, whatever the result might be, then I might think it was worthwhile. But since the whole point is probably just to lay the blame and point the finger then I’ve always felt like it’s not all that important where it came from. It happened, it’s not the first time and it’s surely not the last time we’re going to see something like this, or worse.

    4. The Rev Kev

      Is he going full Trump yet and labeling it the “China Virus”? And that he made a Presidential “finding” that it is all China’s fault and saying that China now has to pay the world back the trillions it has cost for the Pandemic?

      1. Michael Ismoe

        No. But I could see an orange-haired gentlemen who might use that argument to ride back into an old position. If they find out it came from the lab, I’d give The Donald a 50-50 chance of winning in 2024. Ergo, they never will.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Trump will always blow himself up through gross incompetence and a lack of focus. The one to watch for is the person that has the same beliefs as Trump but is actually competent. Maybe someone like a Mike Pompeo. It wouldn’t be the first time that America had a President that was a former CIA Director.

            1. jsn

              Yes, whoever it was that levered COVID relief through reconciliation has been banished to the outer darkness by the Obama Alumni Association.

              A brief dip was all the Ds could take in the icy waters of actual governance.

              By the time the endorphins wear off, they will have lost the midterms already.

            2. albrt

              I don’t think you are giving adequate consideration to the timing issues. Yes, Trump will always blow himself up due to gross incompetence. But he very well might do it after he gets re-elected. Especially since Joe Biden will almost always blow himself up due to gross incompetence. American voters will also blow themselves up due to gross incompetence, for that matter.

            3. Lambert Strether Post author

              > Mike Pompeo

              Pompeo v. Harris 2014. Please kill me now.

              Still, I think DeSantis is a lot more feral than Pompeo, who I’m not sure has the chops for the campaign trail.

              DeSantis v. Harris 2014. Also please kill me now.

              I’m not sure what the stupidest possible outcome is, here, so I’m hesitant to predict.

              1. Pat

                I am even more frightened for 2024. :-)

                Seriously barring a miracle the possible “choices” we may be presented in the next few elections look increasingly dismal. The NYC primary for June is already making me sick to my stomach.

    5. Mantid

      cocomaan, Mark my words. The report will focus on China and how evil they are. The Chinese will refuse to cooperate with any in-depth analysis. The Americans will skirt any responsibility – though they funded it. China will be blamed for their lack of openness and the story will slowly fade. No Americans will be held accountable (Fauchi, Danszak, et al). If worst come to worst, the WHO will be condemned but again, no heads will roll. It’ll be a hot potato of blame and denial.

  7. Arakawa

    The ‘vaccination’ charts remind me of watching an economic bubble unravel, which it does symmetrically to how it starts and with plenty of ‘false hope’ upward movements.

    With respect to the likely final trajectory, I noticed in https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations that Israel hit a wall at around 60% of the total population.

    Looking at the situation from a detached perspective, I’m unsure I want to root for the success of the rollout. Although most of the personal-level arguments against vaccines have been based on safety concerns, it may take percentage-point levels of adverse effects in the population (or it would take the wild ‘depopulation’ conspiracy being true) for that to be a primary concern on the society level. Rather, the primary concern on the society is that immunity may not last very long and the vaccine campaign normalizes the “subscription model” of “solving” public health with a top-down imposition of yearly booster shots. The only way out of this nightmare scenario may be for the mystical “high 80%s herd immunity target” and the vaccine mandates to crash and burn and for society to be forced into handling Covid without relying on top-down directives from bureaucratic medicine.

    1. ChrisFromGeorgia

      Just doing a linear extrapolation (dangerous) it looks like it will all be over but the shouting by Labor Day.

      That chart Lambert posts is a 7 day average and when I drilled into the daily numbers on the 91-divoc site, I notice that today the total number in all four regions dropped below 1M. If that keeps up (or keeps decreasing) then that 60% number as a final one for the total percentage of the population may indeed be the wall.

      It appears that the administrations goal of 70% by 4th of July is in serious jeopardy … absent an upturn in those graphs real soon. Get ready for some spinning and goal post relocation.

      I agree with your appraisal of the situation insofar as a partial failure of the rollout may be preferable in the long run, although I have always suspected that when we hit the vaccine wall it will get ugly with shaming of the non-vaxxed.

    2. dontlooknow

      You propose two wildly different theories.
      Here is one more: the campaign is mostly designed to divide the populace in dramatic and unforgivable ways

  8. Dean

    “SARS-CoV-2 infection induces long-lived bone marrow plasma cells in humans”

    Looks to me to be good news. The number of patients were small and appeared to have mild disease (most received no treatment and only 6 hospitalized, only one hospitalized patient had bone marrow sampling). But it does indicate that humoral (antibody) responses can provide some protection against reinfection.
    Antibody levels (they measured anti-spike protein) go up within 10 to 14 days of infection as specific B cells are cloned and eventually mature to plasma cells. Plasma cells main function is to secret antibodies for a few days but then die off. If the virus is cleared there is no more stimulus for conversion of B cells to plasma cells so they remain as memory B cells. The loss of plasma cells will lead to lowering of circulating antibody levels over time but a lower level persists. This article indicates that the persistent level may come from bone marrow plasma cells. Either activated B cells or already differentiated plasma cells migrate to the bone marrow where they inhabit a special environment or niche. That niche stimulates continued secretion of antibodies and prolongs the lifetime of the bone marrow plasma cells. they may survive and secrete antibodies for decades or even a lifetime.

    The article also showed significant levels of S-specific memory B cells in patients.

    Survivors may have two sources of humoral protection against secondary infections; low level circulating antibodies and memory B cells that can be quickly expanded and mature to antibody secreting short lived plasma cells.

    Another mechanism, known as affinity maturation through a somatic cell hypermutation mechanism, can also improve protection. The initial affinity or binding between antibody and target improves over time so that the bone marrow plasma cells and the memory B cells produce antibodies that bind the S protein much more strongly than antibodies produced in early infection.

    While this study is important it needs to be repeated (I would guess it is already under way) in vaccinated individuals.

    1. marym

      Georgia too!

      For the AZ audit in addition to hand counting they’ve been scanning (I think that’s what the laptop reference is) and photographing ballot images. So whatever they do with the images (print, count, check for fibers and folds, who knows?) shouldn’t there be audits of those procedures, software, and equipment?

    2. The Rev Kev

      You know that they are not really serious. If you told them that there is a solution to this ever happening again, they would be immediately interested. But if you told them that the solution was paper ballots, hand-counted in public they would immediately lose interest.

  9. chuck roast

    “Second gentleman Doug Emhoff…”

    Why don’t they call him Second Mate. You know, like the Second Mate on a ship…the person who is the mate of the first in line of succession to the presidency. And then you could have the Third Mate who would be the mate (or the pool boy) of the third in line to the presidency who is the President pro tempore of the US Senate. Doesn’t this kind off fit in with the whole non-binary thingy they have going these days? And we can dispense with all of the gender nonsense that has been such a burden to us all these past decades.

    1. Michael Ismoe

      the difference is that a Second Mate is useful. No worries about that with Second Gentleman. Hell, they can’t even find a gig for Kamala, let alone her husband.

      1. albrt

        I thought her gig was to be responsible for all the promises that aren’t actually going to be kept by the Biden administration? That seems like a very, very big job to me.

  10. Wukchumni

    Sure looks as if the Tokyo Olympics aren’t going to happen, although contestants in the mass shooting event are busy training in the USA-the perennial big shot, and the one to beat.

    Random Nipponese in the capitol city are said to be relieved…

  11. Amfortas the hippie

    incredibly busy for a crippled unemployed person.
    (add me being jitney for mom as well, ferrying her to san antone at random to look in on stepdad, who is in a bad way)
    i remain remarkably productive, given my bodily and financial limitations.
    wanted to toss this over the wall…from long ago…and say that i agree with it in its totality.

    farm policy(sic) is even worse, now.
    and i’ve seen little mention of the utter drag big ag represents on everything from economy to healthcare of late.
    indeed, i’ve seen nothing at all about ag policy.
    (given superbusy, and all)
    Pollan’s totally compelling case, and his remedies, remain compelling, some 18 years later.
    being less stupid in these matters would be all but revolutionary.

    1. Alfred

      Thanks for this link. Vilsack is the unimaginative choice again. Living in Vermont is a respite as small farms, integrated farming, regional food CSAs, etc. are doing well and more appreciated than ever, opposite the large dairy that still limps along with subsidization. Locally, I am encouraged, nationally, I want to cry.
      Here’s to your continued perseverence!

      1. newcatty

        Hear, here! It is wonderful that locally there is a respite in Vermont for “small farms, integrated farming, regional..CSAs, etc. There are examples of this same sane and sustainable agricultural models in every state. Some may only be in back yard gardens…not at the scale of small farms, or large. We need to have an agricultural regenerative revolution at a national level.

  12. The Rev Kev

    “Sanders drops bid to block Biden’s Israel arms sale”

    Didn’t Bernie introduce that measure the day before the 15-day window ran out when Congress could block it? And that to work, it would have had to have gone to the foreign relations committee who would have had to have approved it – provided they agreed – so that it could have gone to the floor to have been voted on the very next day? And that the Senate would more likely to order a bombing of Israel than to deny Israel bombs at all. And isn’t the House not in Session at the moment but not due to take any votes until June? I have only seen this mention once so it is hard to establish a time-line here but if so sounds pretty useless.

    1. Michael Ismoe

      But think about the Twitter. The Twitter was alive with Bernie’s rage and support for something.

      Even a Lippanzzanger Stallion takes a day off from being a show-horse once in a while.

      there was a two week run up about threatening to introduce the bill, three days of headlines when he did introduce the bill and a little blurb at the end when he withdrew the bill.




      Don’t for get to send in your $27.

  13. The Rev Kev

    ‘Dr Ola Brown
    May 21
    Would you grow your baby in a pod like this instead of a womb?’

    Hopefully the cleaner would not come along and unplug the pod so that they could do the vacuuming. Stuff like that has happened before! When it showed that calf in a bag and wondered if it could be done for humans, this idea was featured in a 2005 film called “The Island”-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zpw2R8Wh_9E (1:58 mins)

    1. ambrit

      I’d be worried that a band of wild Tharks would come along and break all the ‘eggs’ in the creche.

  14. Michael Fiorillo

    Regarding so-called haute pwogwessive NYC mayoral candidate Diane Morales and the endemic bogosity of much of the liberal Left, earlier in her career our “most progressive” candidate worked for New Visions for Public Education, a privatizing non-profit which profited handsomely from the vicious policies of Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein’s (and Barack Obama’s) Department of Education. New Visions was a direct beneficiary of the many public school closings in that period. It’s good to see her flame out.

    Any suggestions for how to use ranked voting in NYC defensively, with the main purpose of keeping Yang and Adam’s out? I’m not sure about the math of it, but plan to vote for Stringer (since the #MeToo accusations against him are likely bullshit), and whomever else might keep this bad crop (including Wiley, endorsee of Devil’s spawn Hakeem Jeffries) from being delivered. My thinking was Stringer first, followed by the least likely other candidates. Whatever, it’s likely to be a s#*>show.

    Any comments from other New Yorkers and people with ranked voting experience?

  15. jr

    Re: baby pods

    Leave it to the ghouls at “Tech Insider” to come trumpeting this weirdness. They are all about denigrating the human experience there, always sneering about how the latest tech is going to do away with some other aspect of our humanity.

    I have no problem with these pods in the proper circumstances but I worry about the disconnect between people and the birthing process. Can it be a good thing when such a profoundly important event is erased from human affairs. Now it becomes akin to growing a houseplant. Not that the vast majority of humans will have the luxury of growing their kids in a bag but the points stands: More running away from one’s humanity.

    1. albrt

      As far as I can tell, Americans already don’t value their kids’ futures any more than houseplants. Judging by SUV/truck ownership among non-contractors and nominations for all the top positions in both political parties.

  16. VietnamVet

    “Senior people did not understand asymptomatic transmission and that the virus is airborne”. This is still true today. The CDC is ignoring breakthrough coronavirus infections. With the end of masking and social distancing, the unvaccinated will be at risk in crowed indoors with vaccinated and unvaccinated shedding new variants asymptomatically. Due to the lack of cheap accurate tests to determine who is infectious and inadequate contact tracing, no one in the West will know what is happening until after the number of hospitalizations and deaths climb again.

    The Southern Hemisphere is starting winter. If coronavirus spikes down under where vaccination programs are underway this will be a good indication that mRNA vaccinations won’t prevent a fourth spike in North America next winter.

    Better PR won’t solve this disaster. 606,170 total deaths in the USA to date. Culling is an apt term for Washington DC whose population is evenly divided between black and whites when 82% of May 2021 coronavirus cases are black and 9% are whites who have better access to vaccines. Lowlifes simply don’t matter to money seeking “job creators” or professional managers.

  17. The Rev Kev

    From the Department of You Can’t make This Stuff Up. Recently there was video of an American-Israeli guy stealing a Palestinian’s family home who said at the time “If I don’t steal it, someone else is going to steal it.” Just came across an article talking about this guy and who he is. Turns out he is a Trump-supporting, anti-vaxxer from Long Island and his last name is – wait for it – Fauci. You read about him in this article and he is exactly who you think that he might be-


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