2:00PM Water Cooler 5/3/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I got wrapped around the axle on Biden’s horrid visit to a school room, so there will be more in politics and in health (lots of interesting developments) shortly. –lambert UPDATE Readers, I just couldn’t get to the health stuff. Tomorrow!

Bird Song of the Day

I just liked the name “Sociable Weaver.” More sociable weavers, please.

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#COVID19

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.

Vaccination by region:

I have helpfully added a vertical black line to show that the number of those vaccinated per day has now been going down for 21 of Biden’s 100 days. Has there been some sort of plan rolled out to address this, and I missed it?

Case count by United States regions:

I have helpfully added a horizontal line to show that a level of cases now regarded as a cause for celebration (and relaxation) was once regarded as horrific.

“Biden adviser: President didn’t say ‘absolutely’ open schools in fall because virus is unpredictable” [CNN]. “‘He said ‘probably.’ He did not say ‘absolutely,’ ‘ Senior Adviser to the President [and Harvey Weinstein advisor] Anita Dunn told CNN’s Jake Tapper on ‘State of the Union. ‘Because we’ve all seen this since unfortunately January of 2020. It’s an unpredictable virus. And it is a virus that has — you know it mutates. So we can’t look in a crystal ball and say what September looks like.’ Dunn’s comments come after Biden said Friday that K-12 schools ‘should probably all be open’ in the fall for in-person learning after more than a year of challenges with remote learning and as more Americans get vaccinated. ‘Based on the science and the (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), they should probably all be open. There’s not overwhelming evidence that there’s much of a transmission among these people, young people*,’ the President had said during an interview with NBC’s ‘TODAY.'” • Damage control? Or trial balloon? NOTE * Biden not a believer in the precautionary principle, it seems.

“Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe” [New York Times]. Ah, experts. I wonder who? All the way at the end: “Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the Biden administration’s top adviser on Covid-19, acknowledged the shift in experts’ thinking. ‘People were getting confused and thinking you’re never going to get the infections down until you reach this mystical level of herd immunity, whatever that number is,” he said. ‘That’s why we stopped using herd immunity in the classic sense,’ he added. ‘I’m saying: Forget that for a second. You vaccinate enough people, the infections are going to go down.'” • First, Fauci was (and no doubt is) telling noble lies again; he was giving numbers for herd immunity for months! Granted, he was shifting the goalposts, but he was still giving numbers. He sure wasn’t saying “whatever that number is.” Second, I think the Times headline is not quite as pointed as it could be. How about: “Biden Administration Throws in the Towel on Covid”? Also, this is nice: ” The drive for herd immunity — by the summer, some experts once thought possible — captured the imagination of large segments of the public.” Captured the imagination… Like, spontaneously? All on its own?

The Midwest in detail:

Continued good news.

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

Continued good news.

Test positivity:

Down, except for the West, now flat.

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Politics

“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

Headline should be: “Biden Endorses Hygiene Theatre, Droplet Theory of Transmission”

President Biden and Not-A-Medical-Doctor Biden actually lift a plexiglass “protector” and put is on a child’s desk. (Since droplets, being ballistic, fall in a short radius, plexiglass barriers can be expected to stop them. Unfortunately, the main transmission route for Covid is via aerosols, which float around the barriers to fill the room). Holy [family blog], I was wrong, go long plexiglass after all, if you can stomach it.

Too bad none of the kids said: “Mr. President, Mommy said that ‘If those things worked, I could smoke in restaurants.’ Was my Mommy wrong?”

No, but seriously, folks: (1) The room is a death trap. Nothing shows ventilation: No fans, no filters, no windows shown open, and a low ceiling. (2) Plexiglass protectors don’t protect children:

However, as aerosols follow the air movements indoors, the protective effects of the plexiglas barriers against aerosols will be limited. Plexiglas barriers alone are not a sufficient approach to protect against aerosol transmission. Their installation alone cannot protect against indoor aerosol transmission and should not be regarded as safe and sufficient protection. See the rest of these FAQs for more effective means of protection.

As Zeynep Tufecki writes, plexiglass theatre is a denial that #CovidIsAirborne:

Now, I would like to think that this debacle is an example of West Wing Brain: Somebody thought (see the stories under the “Case count by United States regions” section under #COVID19) that Biden had committed some sort of gaffe with school re-opening and they needed to get out in front of it, so they rushed to get him a photo op in a school, and nobody thought much about the actual school. Against that is the fact that we were sold on Ron Klain because of his supposed pandemic expertise from the Ebola scare, and you’d think Klain would have approved the (unventilated, lethal, hygiene-theatre setting). I mean, Leo would have, so why not Ron? (“Rachel, can you recommend a school location for a photo op?”) So we have to come to grips with the idea that the dead hand of the droplet paradigm has the White House in its grip. Talk about a President modeling bad behavior! Gaaaaaaaaah! (Oh, and Biden is taking these tiny, mincing steps. Not always, but often enough to notice. It’s weird. Why is that?)

* * *

Catapulting the propaganda (origin):

UPDATE “Joe Biden Is Electrifying America Like F.D.R.” [Nicholas Kristof, New York Times]. “Then there are Biden’s proposed investments in broadband; that’s today’s version of rural electrification.” Big if true. And: “Yet beginning in the 1970s, America took a wrong turn. We slowed new investments in health and education and embraced a harsh narrative that people just need to lift themselves up by their bootstraps.” • Note lack of agency.

UPDATE “The Jimmy Carter and Joe Biden Show” [MoDo, New York Times]. “Biden is all about the good vibes right now, so of course he’s not icing out Carter.”

* * *

Democrats en Deshabille

Clyburn clears up this racism thing:

“Elizabeth Warren’s ‘Persist’ Is Generous To Her ’20 Democratic Rivals (Except One)” [NPR]. “Candidate Warren takes an ill-fated DNA test to show her Native American roots. The point in telling this: She’s contrite, she knows it was a dumb mistake — but she also parlays it into a broader point about the importance of white people trying to learn more about race in America.” • She could and should have asked the Cherokee nation, which she never did; one might speculate — because Warren may have terrible political judgment, but she’s not “dumb” — that’s because she hoped for a better result from from her private deal with Stanford geneticist Carlos Bustamante than from tribal genealogists (“[T]he Cherokee Nation [doesn’t] have specific blood quantum requirements, but require proof of descent from an enrolled member in the historical record”) It’s all-too-believable she’s persisting in this. And: “The alleged comment from Bernie Sanders that a woman couldn’t defeat Trump? She mentions it and then drops it, without delving into the controversy it stirred up.” • I’ll bet she does. Not that I’m bitter, or harbor grudges.

“How three political novices with turbulent pasts helped spark the Newsom recall” [Los Angeles Times]. “The ‘French Laundry’ show reflects the full spectrum of viewpoints powering the once-underestimated coalition to oust Newsom from office. Some listeners call in to label Newsom a ‘Nazi’ or ‘one of the golden boys of the new world order,’ while others air real-world grievances. They talk about closed schools, businesses suffering from COVID-19 restrictions and the failure of Newsom and other California Democrats to make a dent in the state’s growing homeless population. The show reveals the movement’s challenges ahead — maintaining the fervor of the anti-Newsom movement, while keeping in check some of its more extreme elements, which might turn off mainstream voters. But for now, the campaign is claiming a milestone, with the secretary of state releasing reports Monday confirming organizers had submitted enough signatures to put the question before voters.” • Talk radio. The other stories that came up are about how on-message Democrats are, or how bothersome the whole thing is. Intuitively, that doesn’t bode well for Newsome, who was what going for him, exactly? Can California readers comment?

“Turmoil shakes California National Guard with firing, suspension of top generals” [Los Angeles Times]. “Turmoil has gripped the leadership ranks of the California National Guard, with the firing of the general who commanded its air branch, the suspension of a second key general and new limits placed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on the organization’s use of fighter jets for civilian missions… The abrupt actions against the two generals mark the second major shake-up in California’s Military Department in as many years. And they were announced on the heels of a Times report that Guard members were concerned that their leaders had readied an F-15C fighter jet last year for a possible mission in which the aircraft would fly low over civilian protesters to frighten and disperse them… Guard sources told The Times that last year’s order to put the F-15C on an alert status didn’t spell out the mission but that, given the aircraft’s limitations, they understood it to mean the plane could be deployed to terrify and disperse protesters by flying low over them at window-rattling speeds, with its afterburners streaming columns of flames. Fighter jets have been used occasionally in that manner in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, they said.” • California has a “Military Department”? Really?

Republican Funhouse

“Trump keeps winning rounds in GOP’s civil war: The Note” [ABC]. “On Saturday in Texas, perhaps the most competitive special House election of 2021 landed the Trump-endorsed candidate in the top spot heading for a runoff. Perhaps more tellingly, the only anti-Trump candidate finished ninth in an all-party primary; he garnered barely 2,500 votes, or just more than 3%, and trailed four Republicans as well as four Democrats. On the same day in Utah, the only Republican to vote twice to convict Trump, Sen. Mitt Romney, was greeted by a raucous round of jeers at his home-state party’s convention. Those boos will be remembered longer than the effort to censure him over his public breaks with Trump, which failed narrowly. Romney was trying to tell his fellow Republicans about his policy differences with Biden when the boos forced him to pause. ‘Aren’t you embarrassed?’ he asked the crowd. That didn’t require an answer. Nearly four months after Jan. 6, pro-Trump forces are energized about being just that — with ramifications for Biden’s governing agenda, and of course for the future of the Republican Party.”

“Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel arrested for battery after physical altercation with student” [Kansas City Star]. “On Wednesday, Samsel, R-Wellsville, was substitute teaching at the Wellsville school district’s secondary school. Throughout the day, high school students began recording videos of the lawmaker talking about suicide, sex, masturbation, God and the Bible. In one video shared with The Star, Samsel tells students about ‘a sophomore who’s tried killing himself three times,’ adding that it was because ‘he has two parents and they’re both females.’ ‘He’s a foster kid. His alternatives in life were having no parents or foster care parents who are gay,’ Samsel tells students. ‘How do you think I’m going to feel if he commits suicide? Awful.’ In another video, Samsel is recorded telling students, ‘make babies. Who likes making babies? That feels good, doesn’t it? Procreate … You haven’t masturbated? Don’t answer that question. … God already knows.’ Videos shared with The Star — by parents of students in the class — show Samsel focusing most of his attention on one male student. Both Samsel and the student paced around the classroom, talking back and forth. Samsel is shown following the student around and grabbing him. In one video, he puts his arms around the student and says that he was being hard on him.” • What does this dude think school is? Bible camp?

Our Famously Free Press

This is not a happy cat:

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Manufacturing PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The IHS Markit US Manufacturing PMI was revised slightly lower to 60.5 in April of 2021 from a preliminary of 60.6 and compared to 59.1 in March. Still, the reading indicated a robust improvement in the health of the US manufacturing sector, and the steepest since data collection began in May 2007. Overall growth was supported by quicker expansions in output and new orders, with the latter rising at the sharpest pace since April 2010. The headline index was also pushed higher by unprecedented supplier delivery delays (ordinarily a sign of improvement in operating conditions). Raw material shortages also led to the fastest rise in cost burdens since July 2008, with firms seeking to pass on supplier price hikes through marked upticks in output charges. Meanwhile, business confidence moderated, amid concerns regarding supply chain disruptions and strains on future production capacity.”

Manufacturing: “United States ISM Purchasing Managers Index (PMI)” [Trading Economics]. “The ISM Manufacturing PMI fell to 60.7 in April of 2021 from 64.7 in March, well below market forecasts of 65 as shortages of inputs likely constrained production. Still, the latest reading pointed to expansion in the manufacturing sector for the 11th month. … All of the six biggest manufacturing industries expanded, in the following order: Fabricated Metal Products; Chemical Products; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Computer & Electronic Products; Transportation Equipment; and Petroleum & Coal Products.”

* * *

Commodities: “Lumber is shockingly expensive. Thanks, Obama.” [The Week]. ” President Obama’s Recovery Act was probably less than half the size of what would have been needed to fix the economy, and by early 2010 he pivoted to austerity to cut the budget deficit…. The result of these choices was a prolonged depression in housing construction…. all this made the lumber industry deeply pessimistic and conservative. A whole decade passed where wood sales were chronically weak, and anyone who tried to boost production risked bankrupting themselves (particularly because it is very expensive to grow, harvest, transport, and store wood). Firms therefore ran tight operations, with little investment in tree plantations, sawmills, or spare inventory, and were always terrified of the next crisis — thus they shed most of their inventory during the pandemic, for fear of another 2008-style collapse…. Instead the opposite has happened. Especially now that the coronavirus pandemic is slowly ending in the U.S., most ordinary Americans are more flush with cash than they have been since before 2008 (though many are still struggling, of course)…. In short, spiking lumber demand is running into constrained supply — hey presto, prices are way up.” • Hysteresis (“weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living”).

Commodities: “Deepest Backwardation Since ‘07 Shows World Short on Commodities” [Bloomberg]. “For an idea of exactly how strong the fundamentals are for commodities such as metals, agriculture and oil today, consider this: These markets are now showing the steepest backwardation in more than 14 years. That is, the premium for commodities that can be delivered now versus later into the future is the highest it has been since at least 2007, signaling just how strong the world’s demand is for raw materials and how tight supplies are….. In commodities markets, futures are frequently pricier at longer maturities because they reflect the cost of carrying inventories over time as well as future demand expectations. But urgent demand has flipped about half of major commodity markets tracked by the Bloomberg Commodity Index including oil, natural gas, copper, soybeans into backwardation. Prices for everything from copper to oil have sky-rocketed as the largest economies rebound from the pandemic amid massive government stimulus spending.”

Retail: “Walmart Expands Delivery to Your Fridge, Pandemic Be Damned” [Bloomberg]. “In the fall of 2019, Walmart Inc. started testing a service to deliver groceries right into fridges while customers were out…. While Americans are venturing out more as vaccinations increase, there’s still a big question of whether they want someone nosing through their refrigerator. To put customers at ease, Walmart uses its own long-tenured employees, who meet customers (and sometimes their pets) before the first order and get trained on things like how to neatly stock a fridge. Delivery staff wear masks, gloves, booties and body cams, which live stream and record the delivery, and they enter homes (or garages) with one-time access to smart locks. Pets must be kept out of the way, although Walmart is testing letting them roam free in one market. The service costs $19.95 a month with a 30-day free trial.” • $19.95 a month is far too cheap, so one might wonder what’s in it for Walmart.

Retail: “Shoemaker Allbirds reportedly in talks with banks for IPO as public market heats up” [CNBC]. “During the health crisis, Allbirds has seen growing momentum for its products — including its iconic slip-on sneaker made out of wool and other sustainable materials. The brand started with a cult-like following in Silicon Valley that quickly spread to global recognition.” • Alllbirds are like boatshoes that disintegrate when wet.

Manufacturing: “Intel CEO Says Chip Shortage Will Persist for ‘Couple of Years’” [Bloomberg]. “The global semiconductor shortage roiling a wide range of industries likely won’t be resolved for a few more years, according to Intel Corp.’s new Chief Executive Officer Pat Gelsinger. The company is reworking some of its factories to increase production and address the chip shortage in the auto industry, he said in an interview with CBS News, based on snippets from its ’60 Minutes’ program. It may take at least several months for the strain on supply to even begin easing, he added. ‘We have a couple of years until we catch up to this surging demand across every aspect of the business,’ Gelsinger said. Demand for semiconductors was boosted in 2020 as consumers scooped up home gadgets during the pandemic. But meeting that increase has been hard, thanks to shuttered plants, among other factors. Companies worldwide say they expect supply-chain constraints due to logistics backlogs and the chip shortage to continue for much of 2021. The global crunch has catapulted semiconductor firms into the limelight and to the top of political agendas. The Biden administration last month told companies vying with each other for semiconductors that he has bipartisan support for government funding to address the shortages. Gelsinger said U.S. dominance in the industry had dwindled so much that only 12% of the world’s semiconductor manufacturing is done in the country today, from 37% a quarter of a century ago. Intel is the only manufacturer of high-end, cutting edge chips, he told CBS.” • Elites, good job.

Manufacturing: “Italian IPO to square God’s work with capitalism” [Reuters]. “Can God and the stock market coexist? In Italy, the cradle of Roman Catholicism, this seems possible. Automatic door maker FAAC, worth some 2 billion euros, may soon ascend to the Milan exchange. The Vatican’s Archdiocese of Bologna, which inherited the business in 2012 from its penitent owner, can use the proceeds to fund good deeds. Moreover, the firm’s rapid growth may convince investors their bet is solider than a parish raffle. Under pontifical oversight, FAAC has expanded and prospered.” • I keep thinking the Catholic church has rather a lot of doors…

Concentration: “Amazon Q1 2021” [Tim Bray]. • Worth a read because Bray, a former Amazon VP who resigned on principle, knows Amazon cold. But these two sentences caught my eye: “If I were an Amazon shareholder (I’m not) or executive, I’d seriously look at doing that AWS spin-off while they can do it the way they want, not the way Washington DC, which seems unusually flush with antitrust energy, says, while pointing a gun at them,” and “Once again, if I were in leadership, I’d be working on getting out in front on this stuff while I still have the reins in my hands.” • Bray seems to think Amazon is less impregnable than I do. But then, perhaps the better sort of aristocrat picks up the faint sound of tumbrils in a way I would not.

Concentration: “Amazon knew seller data was used to boost company sales” [Politico]. “An internal audit seen by POLITICO warned Amazon’s senior leadership in 2015 that 4,700 of its workforce working on its own sales had unauthorized access to sensitive third-party seller data on the platform — even identifying one case in which an employee used the access to improve sales. Since then, reports of employees using third-party seller information to bolster Amazon’s own sales and evidence of lax IT access controls at the company suggest that efforts to fix the issue have been lackluster. The revelations come as trustbusters worldwide are increasingly targeting Amazon, including over how it uses third-party seller data to boost its own offerings. The European Commission opened an investigation into precisely this issue in November 2020, with preliminary findings suggesting Amazon had breached EU competition law. ‘This is fuel for the suspicions I had,’ Dutch internet entrepreneur Peter Sorber said when told about the audit. Sorber sold children’s clothes on Amazon, but 18 months after setting up his ‘Brandkids’ store on the platform and entering the required sales data, his products disappeared from the search rankings. ‘You cannot ask a retailer to show his entire story with all sales statistics and then show that to your own purchasers. This is worse than not done. This is simply unfair competition,’ Sorber said. An Amazon spokesperson said that like all companies, it audits its policies for compliance and makes improvements based on its findings. ‘This includes Amazon’s internal seller data protection policy, which limits the use of seller data.” • Little fish to bigger fish: “This isn’t done!”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 53 Neutral (previous close: 56 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 58 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 3 at 12:38pm.

Rapture Index: Closes down 1 on Drug Abuse. “The lack of activity has downgraded this category” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187 (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so high is better.)

Our Famously Free Press

“Brie Larson Pivoted to Video” [New York Times] • And how the Times envies her!

“Silicon Valley Algorithm Manipulation Is The Only Thing Keeping Mainstream Media Alive” [Caitlin Johnstone]. “All the algorithm stacking by the dominant news distribution giants Google and Facebook also ensures that mainstream platforms and reporters will have far more followers than indie media on platforms like Twitter, since an article that has been artificially amplified will receive far more views and therefore far more clicks on their social media information. Mass media employees tend to clique up and amplify each other on Twitter, further exacerbating the divide. Meanwhile left and antiwar voices, including myself, have been complaining for years that Twitter artificially throttles their follower count. If not for these deliberate acts of sabotage and manipulation by Silicon Valley megacorporations, the mainstream media which have deceived us into war after war and which manufacture consent for an oppressive status quo would have been replaced by independent media years ago. These tech giants are the life support system of corporate media propaganda.

All things in moderation, not:

Everybody’s a Critic

Dogs Playing Poker:

The Agony Column

“I Went Braless During Lockdown. What Do I Do Now?” [New York Times]. • Drop the Times subscription and go with Teen Vogue?

Groves of Academe

“That’s What the Money Is For” [Culture Study]. “All across the United States parents and caregivers are receiving and forgetting instructions on what they’re supposed to be preparing for their preschool and elementary school kids’ teachers. That’s because next week is officially “Teacher Appreciation Week,” an official holiday orchestrated by a combination of Classroom Parents and PTAs that, over the course of the last four decades, has exploded into an intricate, overly-complicated, largely hollow performance of gratitude…. Teacher appreciation — outside of verbal and written praise — shouldn’t manifest in individual tokens that hinge on family income and gendered labor, because we actually have an efficient, effective, and generally fairly distributed way to show public servants our gratitude and support. It’s called taxes.” •

Class Warfare

“Was novel born and died with the bourgeois society?” [Branko Milanovic, Global Inequality and More]. “Noticing that the birth of the novel was in the mid-18th century, contemporaneously with the Industrial Revolution, and that its peak was probably in the 19th century Europe, and noticing also that the type of society-revealing novel that both he and economists have in mind, has become much rarer now, Lukacs asks: has novel died at the same time as the bourgeois class-compartmentalized society dissolved? He uses the fact noticed by many that around the turn of the 20th century, novels became much more focused on individual experiences which did not necessarily have much to do with the surrounding society. It is not that Julien Sorel or Emma Bovary were not focused on themselves. But that self was described as it navigated and struggled in the world riven with greed, arrivisme, social mimicry, and class divisions. So the self was seen against the background of society. At times that background moved even upfront, became the real topic of the book (which may be the case with Dickens, for example). But in the novels of the early 20th century and increasingly afterwards, Lukacs writes, the societal background recedes: what we see is mostly an individual with his issues, family, friends, sex, love, depression. Grand societal themes raised by the past literature are gone.” • And this indicates the dissolution of “bourgeois class-compartmentalized society” why exactly?

News of the Wired

“‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ VHS tape rented in 1999 leads to felony charge for Texas woman” [NBC]. “Former Oklahoma resident Caron McBride, 52, says that she first learned of the charges when she tried to change her name on her driver’s license after she was married in Texas in November of 2020. ‘I went to change my driver’s license, during this Covid thing you had to make an appointment, and so, I sent them an email and they sent me an email and they told me… that I had an issue in Oklahoma and this was the reference number for me to call this number and I did,” McBride told NBC News. When McBride was referred to the Cleveland County District Clerk’s office in Oklahoma for more information, a woman informed her that she had felony embezzlement charge — and it was because of a VHS tape that was rented in 1999 and never returned.” • So there’s a bright side to Covid after all!

Always some skeptic:

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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 (EH):

EH writes: “These are the beautiful Shadbush (Amelanchier), a woodland understory tree that blooms before the dogwood in our eastern forests and here are growing in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. They are supposed to bloom when the shad, a fantastic, but bony fish, are running up the Hudson.”

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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.

106 comments

  1. Dave Eggert

    For whatever reason, the charts you are showing for both Hospitalizations and Deaths have been frozen for almost two months now, into early March (and appear to be that way from the source you are using). I know that the deaths are significantly below that number now.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      A graph to which there is a link should not be dead, is all I can say [grovels]. I was wondering whether I should kill them off. But I want another source on hospitalization. I apologize.

      Reply
      1. Dave Eggert

        Thanks for the response. I greatly, greatly appreciate this page which I have been checking daily now for many months.

        Reply
  2. chris

    Sharing this Atlantic piece because of two reasons: (1) Kendi makes a good point that we are missing a lot of data that is needed to understand how to help our citizens, and (2) he is so wrapped up in his anti racist thesis that he refuses to see class as a factor here at all.

    The virus isn’t racist and the reasons why some citizens are more susceptible than others falls on class divisions, not ethnicity or culture. If you’re black, and wealthy, and could work from home, odds are good you don’t have the health problems that are comorbidities for COVID and you were able to minimize your exposure risk. But if you’re black and poor, with insecure food and housing, possibly with night shift work, you’re open to a host of problems that make it more likely for you to be exposed to the coronavirus and suffer complications from infection. Hopefully we will collect more data so we can understand what happened this time and prepare for next time. Hopefully people like Kendi will support good analysis of what data we collect instead of only pursuing it to further anti racist consulting contracts…

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Social Justice Wokeism is the New McCarthyism.

      Anti-racism is the new anti-communism.

      Reply
      1. Glen

        How about we make every Fortune 500 non tax paying corporation pony up $1M per person for reparations because it’s the right thing to do?

        Any woke corporation should support something so reasonable.

        Reply
        1. chris

          No no no. You’re missing the point. We only pay “symbolic costs.” What you’re proposing requires actual transfer of real money!

          Reply
        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          If you support making these corporations pay reparations for Strip Mining, I will support making them pay reparations for Slavery.

          Its the fair thing.

          Reply
      2. Aumua

        No the new McCarthyism is the new McCarthyism, and capitalism, libertarianism and fascism are the new anti-communism. Same as the old anti-communism. Social justice wokeism has its problems, but is probably tangential to either axis.

        Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Social Justice Wokeism is the new McCarthyism. It is a movement based on falsely accusing people of racism in order to consolidate its own political power and cultural dominance.

          Anti-Racism is the new Anti-Communism. The Anti-Racismists are successfully forcing people to attend Maoist self-criticism sessions and Struggle Sessions. They are beginning to try forcing people to sigh Loyalty Oaths here and there.

          The New McCarthy Wokeists are secret agents for capitalism, libertarianism and fascism. Some of them reveal their class-allegiance and class-valence by such capitalism-adjacent and libertarianism-adjacent activities as speculating on carbon-emitting cryptocurrency, for example, in a determined drive to enrich themselves so they can join the capitalist class.

          Reply
  3. Rick

    Re: vaccination – Oregon is running a natural experiment with 36 petri dishes. The vaccination rate by county varies from 23% to 52% (at least one dose, in theory the mRNA vaccines give as good of protection with one dose as the J&J does with one).

    I have made a chart of prevalence, vaccination rate, and population, sorted by each variable.

    Would be nice if the influence of vaccination rate were more clear. NC commentariat input is welcome, while I wouldn’t expect a perfect correlation, some effect should be apparent.

    Oregon data

    Reply
    1. Adam1

      It’s not clear if “prevalence” is based on recent data or some longer term average. I’d use some type of average because the prevalence of the virus in a community does ebb and flow, while memory persists longer. For example, the positivity rate in the NYC area is close to the lowest in NYS right now and the highest is in western NY which is 5+ hours from NYC. Yet NYC had near catastrophic levels of virus last spring while western and upstate NY got away almost scott-free. I would suspect that episode last spring was more impactful than the current low rates now.

      Reply
      1. Rick

        Prevalence here is the same as the CDC uses: the sum of one week’s new cases per capita. This seems to be a common proxy for community prevalence. So it’s just the past week.

        Subsequent to this post I ran a regression on the data and no correlation showed up.

        It’s weird, I really didn’t expect this result but don’t see what the confounding factor is.

        Prevalence discussion.

        Reply
  4. CanCyn

    Re today’s plant – In Ontario, the common name for Amelanchier is Serviceberry. Lovely, hardy tree-like shrub. Good tasting, though very seedy, berries (a bit like tart blueberries) if you can beat the birds to them.

    Reply
    1. Sub-Boreal

      Same genus as the saskatoon (A. alnifolia) found all across western Canada. The cultivar that I have in my central BC yard is now about 5 m high, with a crown spread of 4 m, and most years it produces more than enough fruit for a couple of households. I agree about the seediness, although when the fruit is cooked into jam or pie filling I find that I prefer the flavour to blueberries. For almost a decade, a local winery has produced several mixed berry wines which include a proportion of saskatoon.

      Reply
    2. Harold

      It got its name, supposedly, because it blooms when the ground is thawed enough to dig graves and have services for loved ones who had died over the winter and had to be put in storage somewhere because it was too cold to do so. That’s the story anyway.

      Just looked it up in wikipedia which claims this derivation is ‘fanciful’ — not sorry to learn.

      There are 20 or more species, and also numerous other common names. Natural range is North America, Europe and Asia.

      Reply
    1. Pelham

      The evidence for aerosol transmission now is so solid that you have to wonder why just about everyone in authority refuses to sign on.

      For my part, I start by excluding the possibility that they’re just uninformed or misinformed. Something else must be at work. My conclusions:

      1) The administration, governors and others are responding to their real constituencies who care little about public health but are clamoring to get the economy back on track;

      2) These authorities know very well that doing so requires A) ignoring or slighting the fact of aerosol transmission and B) focusing instead on distractions such as plexiglass barriers;

      3) They also know that all this means Covid will continue to be a public emergency, but;

      4) (and here’s the key) They have gamed a way to PR themselves out of any responsibility for the resulting wave of additional deaths, lung transplants and prolonged and perhaps permanent disabilities due to impairment of long-Covid sufferers’ major organs, while;

      5) The authorities calculate they personally will be fine by the time they leave office for quiet but plush and safe Covid-free obscurity (like Newsom at the French Laundry, or in bunkers or New Zealand).

      Reply
      1. Harold

        I think a lot of people may find it hard to grasp that there is a difference between droplets and aerosol. It’s not really intuitive.

        Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Explain it as fog versus raindrops.

          It will intuitise just fine.

          If I could think of that off the top of my head, you may be sure the authorities are doing all in their power to prevent anyone else from thinking of it in time to foil their little plan to make coronavid permanent.

          Reply
      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        You left out one or two more.

        6) They want to prevent and delay counter-aerosol action long enough to turn the coronavid into a permanent endemic disease, on purpose and with malice aforethought.

        Why?
        well . . .

        6A) The pharmavaccine-industrial complex they front for want to be able to sell high-priced high-profit boosters every year for the next few decades at least. That requires a steady reservoir of perma-coronavid in the population to keep breeding up new variants in order to hustle new boosters.

        6B) The “Deep Authorities” want to add perma-coronavid to the other perma-diseases and conditions being engineered into place to work together to kill off 7 or so billion people over the next century and make it look like an accident. ( Plagues, fate, unlucky diseases, etc.)

        Reply
        1. PHLDenizen

          My friend and I do a lot of audio production and I joked that Pro Tools’ subscription model will soon have a “live performance” add-on, which is a monthly shot of Covid vaccine if you plan on playing your record live.

          Ticketmaster or whatever the f*** they call themselves now could offer a joint marketing campaign with Pfizer or Moderna, with a “show safe” fee that covers a vaccine shot with each ticket purchased.

          Vaccines are already a de facto subscription model, so co-branding and bundling are the next logical step.

          Reply
        2. JBird4049

          I assume that the “Deep Authorities” believe that the virus will not mutate like the Spanish Flu? It went from merely unpleasant to very lethal once. Yes, there was a world war with tens of millions of sick military people and civilians, many poorly fed and living in bad conditions (reminds me of the United States) but once it was established, it just took off. And although there are flu vaccines every year, sometimes they misjudge which ones are going to hit. Corvid19 is far more likely to become death on steroids for anyone and side step the vaccines, the more it stays around.

          But then I am assuming common sense from the ruling elites, which has been lacking for sometime.

          Reply
          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Senators and Congressmen and Supreme Court Justices and even many Presidents are not among the Ruling Elite. They are the visible Camp Kommandants who work for a ruling elite which tends to keep itself hidden from view.

            Jamie Diamond is not ” the Ruling Elite”. He is ” the Ruling Elite’s” very well paid Master Butler.

            Who paid for the Georgia Guidestones? There’s your “ruling elite” right there.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_Guidestones

            Reply
      3. The Rev Kev

        ‘The evidence for aerosol transmission now is so solid that you have to wonder why just about everyone in authority refuses to sign on.’

        Because that would mean serious money, time and effort to actually deal with. And would also mean actually re-configuring the economy to deal with as well. Better just to do plexiglass theater as you get to keep the present economy with just some window dressing added.

        Reply
          1. ambrit

            Much of the public architecture here in the North American Deep South is designed around full time air conditioning. I’m not surprised that the windows in the school rooms do not open. Throw in “Security Theatre” for ‘safety’ and you get a pretty good approximation of a Fortress.
            Since you’re in the Memphis region, that would put them in South Haven or Olive Branch?
            Anyway, stay safe.

            Reply
        1. CanCyn

          Ding! Ding! Ding! I agree Rev.
          Simple answer is the best.
          I worked in community colleges for most of my career. Fixing ventilation and windows is something they are not going to want tackle…
          for goodness sake, look at the Grenfell fire in the UK TPTB we’re willing to let people die in order to save money. Sigh

          Reply
    2. Synoia

      All this Droplet Theater will come home this winter.

      In the flu epidemic which started in ’57, the worst incidence (number of cases) was in the first 3 months of the new year.

      I have no memory of flu in 1957/58, I was at day school. If I became ill, I would have stayed home.

      Of 1958/59 I recall half our House (55 Boys under 12) at Boarding school being affected.

      I also recall I was a late, after the peak, in getting the flu on 1959.

      The test for COVID containment is coming this winter, 2021/2022, in January through March, especially in the NE (Cold with closed windows).

      Reply
  5. allan

    Corporate Criminals Above The Law [Public Citizen]

    Corporate impunity increased to record levels during President Trump’s last year in office, with federal prosecutions of corporate crime plunging to the lowest level in more than 25 years, a Public Citizen analysis of federal sentencing data has found.

    The number of federal prosecutions of corporate criminals plummeted to a new low of just 94 in fiscal year 2020, according to data released by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a decline of 20% from 118 in 2019. This decline means that only 94 corporations either pled or were found guilty of crimes, down by two thirds from the peak of 296 corporate prosecutions in 2000 and the lowest on record since the U.S. Sentencing Commission started releasing corporate prosecution statistics in 1996. The year-over-year decline in corporate criminal prosecutions is greater than the 15% pandemic year decline in federal criminal cases overall.

    At the same time, the number of times the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) negotiated leniency agreements with corporate offenders instead of prosecuting them rose during the pandemic year. According to data from the Duke University/University of Virginia Corporate Prosecution Registry, Trump’s DOJ entered 45 deferred prosecution agreements and nonprosecution agreements with corporate offenders during the 2020 fiscal year. This represents an increase of 73% over 2019’s 26 agreements and makes 2020 the year with the highest number of these agreements over the four years of Trump’s presidency (Chart 1). …

    Who could have predicted that tough-on-crime Bill Barr would prefer to wrist slap tongue bathe corporations.

    Reply
        1. The Rev Kev

          Or picking up dead branches off a forest floor owned by a Lord so that you could keep yourself warm and cook your family meals. A century or so ago that would get you arrested and fined ( and maybe imprisoned) by the local judiciary – who were all pals with the same Lord.

          Reply
    1. PHLDenizen

      I’ll give you points for performative outrage, but I snapped a simple linear regression across the graphs with my eyeball and the general direction of the slope is downwards. W prosecuted more corporate malfeasance than Obama, who in turn prosecuted more than Trump. The referenced article fixates on Trump and Barr, while failing to narrate the role of Obama and Holder in normalizing complete apathy towards throwing corporate-personhoods in jail or giving them the death penalty.

      Liberals are allergic to introspection, which is incredibly grating. Particularly when it comes to their culpability in electing Trump. “Who could have predicted that tough-on-crime Bill Barr would prefer to…tongue bathe corporations” as sarcasm is less useful than “how are Holder and Saint Obama immune from the same criticism?” Or “how are you surprised that Trump is following Obama’s grand tradition of ‘foaming the runway’?”

      I don’t see Biden teeing up to rescue us from this situation…

      Reply
    2. chuck roast

      It really is a universal thing. My sister-in-law sent me a link to a Danish post saying that the police have dropped money laundering charges against three senior executives of Danske Bank. The original charge was that they laundered the equivalent of $225B US through Estonia. Just don’t get caught shoplifting a Snickers in Copenhagen.

      Reply
  6. Hana M

    That poor traumatized cat! Everyone knows a new cat should be kept in a small room with food, water and litter pans for several days to get used to the sounds and scents of its new home. I’m betting that guy turns on his torturers and starts peeing on the carpets and clawing up the furniture in the press room–and the oval office for good measure. Good Kitty!

    Reply
    1. Alfred

      That cat in the photo is Socks, from the Clinton admin. I have noticed that Larry of No. 10 is treated with a lot more respect than the U.S. counterparts.

      Reply
      1. km

        1. That poor cat looks miserable. Persecuted, even.

        2. IIRC, the Clintons gave Socks away after the cat was no longer a good prop for photo ops. To be fair, this was probably better for the cat.

        Reply
        1. Alfred

          Yeah, lucky Socks! went to live with the former White House secretary “owing to continuing conflicts with the Clintons’ dog Buddy.”

          Reply
  7. Grant

    “They talk about closed schools, businesses suffering from COVID-19 restrictions and the failure of Newsom and other California Democrats to make a dent in the state’s growing homeless population.”

    Correct me if I am wrong, but a majority of the costs of housing comes from the land and locational value. We as a country encourage people to buy a home, and as it appreciates, the owner can make money for retirement. But, if the home is appreciating, that appreciation is largely the land the home is on (I realize that some increased value can come from actual improvements), and if the locational value is increasing that economic rent will go to the person owning the home. So, in encouraging home ownership and getting people to support policies that lead to appreciating home values, are we not encouraging the very thing that is making housing unaffordable? And how exactly do you address this if Prop 13 is in place? What exactly would the right, who were the force behind Prop 13 to begin with, offer at all to actually make housing more affordable? I keep on hearing about how more units (i.e., more supply) is supposed to bring down the cost of housing. But, I don’t think that is necessarily true if the economic rent goes to the owner of the land and not the community or larger geographical area that is collectively making a good portion of that locational value to begin with.

    Not a fan of Newsom or his party, but I don’t see any solutions coming from his right.

    Reply
    1. jrs

      There was a chance to repeal part of prop 13 but not the part on personal property, but at least on commercial property. But the voters voted against it. They voted in favor of massive commercial landholders just out of the misinformed fear of property tax hikes (slippery slope and other nonsense as that was never in the bill). And of course they voted for Uber workers not to be employees. At a certain point if voters are going to vote this badly and keep voting for the plutocrats, in general referendums where they get a direct vote on actual issues, what can anyone do?

      Yes the problem with unaffordable housing in L.A. almost requires the equivalent of land reform as it’s all zoned for single family, zoning would have to change at least. In the bay area there are hard land limitations. Price of shelter isn’t the only cause of homelessness as there are other issues (including homeless moving to CA from other states) but obviously it’s contributing. Homeless is just thrown in as a general purpose issue that everyone is annoyed at. It is pretty non-partisan, everyone is sick of there being so many homeless, but just being angry about the state of things, isn’t going to resolve it, nor are tax increases here and there enough to fix the scale of the problem either.

      Newsom should be recalled is the thing, but for opening up CA too recklessly in the pandemic, and letting it get hit so hard, the hospitals got overwhelmed in L.A. and they had to have known this would happen, and they let it happen. He should pay the price. It’s just of course that Republicans offer nothing of value to anyone, so no Republican should get elected in the recall.

      Reply
    2. jsn

      With OSHA, EPA current codes and any environmental ambitions whatsoever, all of which are essential, affordable housing is an incoherent term.

      As a society we need to decide people deserve housing for the simple act of being people and that because they are people they should have those basic amenites in their living quarters our society can sustainably afford.

      Under market ideology, affordable housing is an oxymoron.

      Reply
    3. CuriosityConcern

      California Property values – the wealthy enclaves passed the NIMBY-ish zoning laws around the time Prop 15 went through. Affordability in so-cal seems more reasonable than nor-cal probably because of the more permissive so-cal zoning laws(but not in the enclaves mind you). Open space is nice, but I am of a mind that it also can be related to a sort of artificial scarcity. The stratospheric costs of SF are related to an aversion of tall buildings through the nineties, tapering off in the aughties.
      All my layman’s opinion mind you.

      Reply
    4. Procopius

      I think it was when I was in high school I learned that the reason New York City has tall buildings is because the land is so expensive. I know it was 1955 when a fellow student took me to spend a weekend (or holiday, I don’t remember) at his home, which was an apartment on the tenth or fifteenth floor. Don’t remember which borough it was, but his family was middle class. Probably that’s what we need to do.

      Reply
  8. WillyBgood

    The people I have known who take “tiny, mincing steps” suffer various degrees of neuropathy, apparently related to their diabetes. Biden looks very similar in stride and mannerisms, but who knows what goes on in that enigmatic body?

    Reply
    1. Lee

      It can also be attributed to age-related muscle loss and arthritis. I do recall that my mother’s shuffling gait was considered as one diagnostic criteria by her doctor indicating a possible mild stroke and subsequent dementia.

      Reply
    2. IM Doc

      I am not present in the room – and so you must take what I am going to say with a grain of salt.

      A very very important test to do on the elderly when they are in the office is to watch them walk. You would be amazed how many diagnoses can be arrived at by looking at the gait. It takes years to learn to suss this out but it is invaluable. A well-trained general internist really can be like Sherlock Holmes; there are so many things that just leap out at you in the blink of an eye if you have been trained to pay attention all your life.

      This gait demonstrated in this video is very common for patients who have had a previous stroke. It may be only a very small area. But that being said – it is very characteristic.

      It would be very nice to see how he is holding the feet as well (not well demonstrated in this particular video) – for another problem may be happening and this is known as tabes dorsalis. This is malfunctioning of a part of the spinal cord called the posterior columns. The classic disease that causes this problem is pernicious anemia or B12 deficiency. This would be checked on instantly if a patient was walking like this in my office.

      All of these things can predate the development of various types of dementia (most notably NOT Alzheimer’s) and a general internist seeing such a patient should keep a very close eye on the gait and the mental status going forward.

      Again – I am not there – but videos are very important and can predict many things. For example – I remember looking at my wife more than a decade ago – and informing her that Pat Buchanan was about to have a major cardiac problem. He has a very noticeable Frank’s Sign on the ear lobes. It was not even a month that it was announced he would be having a bypass surgery. It is always a helpful thing to blow your wife’s mind with your predictive skill every once in a while!

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        Been reading too how some doctors have managed to make diagnoses of people from old paintings including one very old painting that showed that the women was experiencing breast cancer (“Bathsheba at Her Bath”)-

        https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/doctor-will-frame-you-now-mds-diagnose-diseases-two-famous-paintings-180959227/

        Of course a past master of the art of observation was Dr. Joseph Bell who became the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes-

        https://www.pastmedicalhistory.co.uk/dr-joseph-bell-the-real-life-sherlock-holmes/

        Reply
        1. IM Doc

          It is also important to note that it has not just been physician/writers who were expert at doing this.

          One only has to look at the works of Dickens and Chaucer to note how able they were with descriptions of medical symptoms. Dickens described a character so well with obstructive sleep apnea – Little John in The Pickwick Papers – that his description was awarded the eponym for this condition – namely “Pickwickian” which is how we refer in modern medicine to the very obese patient who is lethargic and clearly having breathing issues. Chaucer described gout and alcoholic brain degeneration in an incredibly detailed way.

          This even goes back to the Bible. For example, King Herod is described in The New Testament as being “eaten by worms”. That leads to all sorts of fun imagery in the mind when you are 11 and sitting in Sunday School. However, it was a very apt description of dying from severe congestive heart failure and all the edema this causes. In those days, open wounds and swelling like that would be covered in maggots. So in our modern world with all of our medical advances – we have taken away some of these long-standing conditions that humans have had to suffer through for millenia so completely that we do not even recognize the descriptions in the ancient literature.

          Reply
          1. The Rev Kev

            Thought that you might appreciate an anecdote from Dr. Joseph Bell on the importance of using the powers of observation. So one time he had his students in class and showed them a container of urine. He then dipped his finger in it and put his finger into his mouth and then instructed his whole class to do so one at a time which they did. When the whole class had finished, he asked them what they had learned. Some opined on the taste and so forth but he said that they were wrong. Bell then told them that if they had actually observed what was happening in front of their eyes, they would have seen that he dipped his index finger into the urine but had only put his middle finger into his mouth. True story that.

            Reply
          2. Carolinian

            Great stuff. Conan Doyle of course started out as a doctor and back then they likely also practiced the art of observation rather than peering at an electronic tablet before yelling “next!” (kidding)

            Those of us who are fans of Doc Martin on PBS know that he often diagnoses by eye.

            Reply
          3. Basil Pesto

            this is a bit of a tangent but in my reading experience, I’ve always found the descriptions of psychiatric illness from the time before the DSM was a twinkle in anyone’s eye to be far more compelling as literature than I find them to be now.

            Even more tangential but on the medicine/literature nexus, the Flaubert museum in Rouen is part literary/biographical museum, part medical museum as Gustave’s father was a medical doctor (the museum is on hospital grounds). Highly recommended!

            Reply
      2. Copeland

        I have Pernicious anemia and have had major problems from my lower back on down (worst in hips) for 5 years now.

        Out of dozens of docs (many specialists of all stripes) that I’ve seen, none have ever uttered the words “tabes dorsalis”.

        My wife and I have often thought that my pernicious anemia was “catching up to me” in my 50s, since doctors have come up with no other diagnoses for my chronic, debilitating illness.

        Thanks for you insights.

        Reply
        1. IM Doc

          Tabes occurs in B12 syndromes. It causes pain and neuropathy in the legs. It is caused by demyelination of the big sensory trunks in the spinal cord.

          It is also more highly associated with neurosyphilis. I did not put that in the original comment because I did not want anyone thinking that of our President.

          But it can happen with both. And in our day and age when syphilis to that degree is fleetingly rare and usually treated long before that occurs, B12 is the most common cause. When you look at textbooks about it, it is very focused on syphilis but other things more commonly cause it nowadays.

          Reply
        2. IM Doc

          I forgot to add. The patients walk is altered not because of motor problems. They cannot feel their feet and lower legs correctly so they change their gait to compensate.

          Reply
  9. cnchal

    If your business depends on a platform, you don’t have a business, what does one make of the infamous “snowmobile” that rolls up to corporate headquarters to suck all the data out and transfer it to Amazon’s power sucking data centers. Do those corporations have a business anymore?

    On the other hand, as I’ve said before, there’s a major potential headwind here. Anyone who’s spending say $1M/month with AWS has to be thinking that they’re sending $3.6M/year to Amazon’s bottom line, and that’s not a very comfortable feeling if Amazon is competing with you, which it probably is, and if it isn’t, apparently will be next year.

    Timmy agrees. If your business depends on Amazon, you don’t have a business.

    That $3.6 million in raw profits is then used to subsidize the money losing or barely break even torture chambers euphemistically called warehouses to sell mostly useless Chinese crapola, which ends up in the dump after a few months of use. A perfect circle. Chinese working conditions come to America at the hands of a psychopath, with massive government subsidies providing an assist to the cruelty. What’s moar is that to “compete”, working conditions everywhere else must match or be even worse, lest they fall behind.

    What will life be like when Amazon “earnings” match the current stawk price? Glad I never had children.

    Amazon shopper = whip cracking sadist. Where is the app that adds the whip cracking sound for those that relentlessly push the buy button?

    Reply
    1. IM Doc

      I wonder where the electronic medical record corporations fit into this.

      Most Americans have literally no idea that their physician offices and hospitals are storing their medical records on systems that are largely run by Amazon Web Services. Cerner does for sure – and I understand that Epic does as well. The two of them together are probably 3/4 of the market in the USA.

      Do the electronic medical record companies actually have their own business? I hate to think about how that situation may come to light in the future. Nothing good that I can see.

      Reply
      1. cnchal

        That quote by Tm Bray, an engineer that quit Amazon due his conscience objecting to the gross mistreatment of warehouse employees would indicate, no, they do not have a business.

        One third of what they pay for AWS services is profit to Amazon, and Amazon looks at everything like it were a sickly Gazelle. Predator isn’t even the correct description because a predator eats a meal and leaves the rest of the herd alone till hungry again. Amazon never stops eating, and why anyone would trust Amazon to not spy on them when that data is on an Amazon server is beyond my understanding.

        You see it the way I see it. Nothing good comes from Amazon.

        When the team up was announced by Amazon, Chase bank and W. Buffet to get into “sick care” and it didn’t pan out, the reasons given that it was just too tough to deal with entrenched interests rang hollow to me. My hunch is that Chase and Buffet figured out that Bezos was playing them for inside info which he would use against them when the time was ripe. Amazon doesn’t do second banana.

        Reply
      2. PHLDenizen

        Most physicians have zero idea what the backend of EMR systems look like. Denizen dad is an invasive cardiologist and Chief of Cardiology at a Philly area health system. Between battling insurance companies, seeing patients in the lab and office, dealing with hospital admins, and doing most of the admin work for his practice, he has little energy and time left to dig into the architecture of EMRs. Every single physician he knows thinks of EMRs as an invasive time suck optimized only for billing purposes. Managing patient data is an afterthought. It’s loathed and for good reason.

        I’ve tried discussing with him UI/UX decisions in systems like Epic that actually make patients less safe. Security issues. He agrees they’re problematic, but since he’s a hostage to it, there isn’t much he can do. Vendor lock-in and EMRs functioning as the data hub for all patient care make the transition costs astronomical.

        I had no patience for patients and had a less than stellar post-secondary academic performance. Bipolar, burned out. Should have taken a year off. Feel like a middle age loser. Anyway, I fell into tech and I have a talent for it, which is better than living under a bridge. I deal with AWS and Azure on a daily basis, so I can confidently state that patient data in the cloud is safer than on-prem self-hosted systems.

        Securing systems properly inside hospitals gets in the way of them being usable and healthcare IT staff doesn’t have the resources or skills to do it. Most AWS breaches are due to some idiot setting S3 or DynamoDB permissions incorrectly and allowing public access. AWS has changed their defaults to make it harder to do so and the new security and monitoring services keep watch over it all.

        Reply
  10. grayslady

    Could someone please explain to me how Twitter, YouTube, etc. “throttle” an account to reduce subscribers? I understand how taking down posts which these entities’ algorithms deem controversial could hurt views, but apparently there is some other process at work that I don’t understand. I tried doing a search on this issue, but if you use the term “throttle”, search engines automatically seem to default to issues of ISP speed, not content.

    Reply
    1. FriarTuck

      From what I understand, “throttling” in this context refers to a couple of potential actions Twitter/Youtube is taking:

      1. removing people’s subscriptions/follows
      2. reducing the chances of your new videos appearing on people’s homepage/timeline under suggested tweets/videos
      3. reducing the probability of appearing in people’s “play next” or “explore” queue
      4. lowering the priority of your tweets/videos when they appears under search results

      …mainly all having to do with how “the algorithm” determines what users see.

      I should mention that a lot of these claims of throttling are anecdotal, based on Social Blade (a social media analytics/ranking website) scores, or based on limited a/b testing on dummy accounts. Because Twitter and YouTube doesn’t expose the algorithm and regularly changes it without notice, it’s a breeding ground for conspiracy and supposition.

      I’m not sure if it ever can get any better, though, because as soon as you expose such algorithms, people come out of the woodwork to game the system.

      Reply
      1. Procopius

        I’ve started “hiding” all “recommended for you” posts on my Facebook “news feed.” I haven’t seen one yet that interested me, which is one reason I believe their algorithms are GIGO.

        Reply
    2. aleric

      The main issue I have heard about is stealth unsubscribes, where someone who has chosen to follow person X, will notice that they are no longer following, without either them or person X knowing what happened.

      Its also possible that retweets are limited in some cases, which is difficult to track or prove.

      Reply
      1. grayslady

        Thank you both, Friar Tuck and aleric. I think I’ve heard of (silently) limiting retweets (I believe Craig Murray claimed this had happened to him), but I don’t use Twitter so am not sure how Twitter justifies this. On the unsubscribing, I guess I don’t understand why someone on YouTube feels compelled to subscribe, other than as a handy bookmark. On YouTube, I always look at number of views for a particular video rather than number of subscriptions, but if I were paying for a subscription, I’d be hopping mad if I were unsubscribed. However, if YouTube has its algorithms tailored to subscriptions rather than views, I can see how easy it would be for large corporations, for example, to game the system or anyone who could set up subscription bots.

        Reply
    3. The Rev Kev

      For YouTube, they can de-monetize your account which means that a YouTuber will earn no money from it. Or they may block that video from being seen on some made up reason and don’t have to justify doing so. I believe that if you get three such “offenses”, that they kick you off YouTube altogether. Recently one news channel had their video of a street confrontation yanked and they were awarded an “offense” for it – but other YouTube channels like CNN, MSNBC, Fox, etc. were free to and did use the footage from that independent news channel to make money from. Or as aleric say below, you may find yourself unsubscribed from a channel and so you do not know when new videos go up. Or you may find yourself being subscribed to channels like CNN, MSNBC, Fox, etc. on your behalf by YouTube which you did not ask or want – but which boosts numbers for those main stream media corporations.

      Reply
  11. ambrit

    Notice the little child right of centre in the near background in the Cezanne, along with the centre card player. Then look at some of Picasso’s ‘Acrobat’ paintings from his Rose period. The greats steal from each other with joy; the joy of learning and the joy of teaching.
    I am a bit confounded that the table top has only one horizontal line defining it.
    What would a neo-liberal Cezanne have painted?

    Reply
    1. polecat

      Yeah … leaves most of the ‘post modern’ stuff in the dirt! Once the idea of ‘high progress’ became endemic within science .. in engineering .. and especially, the arts, society went haywire! We are soooo now removed from Nature, and as a global civilization, no less .. that we push forth our own demise .. just because a portion of us think ourselves as amoral, omniponent gods, who are looked at in awe by the remainder!

      Won’t we be surprised ….

      Reply
    2. Phil in KC

      Actually Cezanne is already the great neo-liberal painter of his day, as he often neglects to put in the same degree of “finish” to corners and other places he thinks unimportant on the canvas–cutting corners? Or just neglect? In either case, the uneven investment of effort on the canvas sure sounds like neo-liberalism to me!

      Reply
  12. Gulag

    I believe Milanovic answers your question in the last paragraph of his review essay with he own question, when he states:

    “But now as the importance of capital incomes increases and capitalist societies grow increasingly stratified, with the rich attempting to confer and transmit all the advantages to their off spring may not both the class analysis in economics and the classical novel make a comeback?”

    Milanovic may also be attempting to hedge his bets a bit about the future stability and durability of capitalism.

    In his recent book “Capitalism Alone,” he makes the powerful point that today we do not really need the capitalist mode of production in factories if we have all, to a great degree, become capitalist centers ourselves–that is, we willingly, even eagerly participate in commodification because through long socialization in capitalism we have all become capitalistic calculating machines–with each of us now a small center of capitalist production assigning implicit prices to our time, our emotions and our family relations.

    He seems to presently believe that the most we can hope for is what he calls people’s capitalism where everyone has approximately equal shares of capital and labor, but because of the recent mammoth increases in wealth and income inequality, he may also be worrying more and more about things coming apart.

    Reply
  13. FriarTuck

    Re: “Brie Larson Pivoted to Video”

    Larson is viewed by many in the YouTube community with disdain; she’s seen as a rich “traditional” celebrity horning in on their territory, someone clearly trying to whitewash their reputation via transparent PR, and someone not attracting genuine attention via doing anything interesting.

    Puff pieces by the NYT certainly don’t help things.

    Reply
    1. John

      Brie Larson? A person I presume from the context. From what did she “pivot to video”? Is her pivot on the order of the pivot to Asia? FriarTuck refers to her a “traditional ” celebrity? Celebrated for what? Why does her reputation require whitewashing? Clearly, I am so far behind the curve that the curve itself is not even in sight. Need I care one way or another?

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        She was the actress given the “Captain Marvel” roll and was brought in to the Marvel Universe alongside Captain, America, Thor, Ironman, etc. but alienated everybody by her entitled, arrogant attitude. In media interviews which fellow actors, you can see them look away or become disinterested when she is talking. Here is a video talking about her in the “Captain Marvell’ film and it is not complementary-

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdRBPApeqdA (8:48 mins)

        Reply
        1. Procopius

          When I was a kid, Captain Marvel was a crippled orphan boy who survived by selling newspapers. He turned into a flying superhero by saying the magic word, “Shazam!” I keep meaning to view the movie but have never gotten around to it. Thanks for the reminder.

          Reply
      2. FriarTuck

        I use the term “traditional celebrity” to mean the standard PR hype train used by Hollywood productions. When you get on that train, you have a giant opportunity to become a celebrity, or I suppose “desired quantity,” thus being able to monetize your skills and appearance through the efforts of giant corporations. YouTubers have to claw their way up from, sometimes literally, no one paying attention to them to be able to get the opportunity to monetize their skills/appearance by way of the content they produce.

        Her reputation needed whitewashing because of the disaster that was her participation in the Captain Marvel and Infinity War PR campaigns. The Rev Kev provides good detail above.

        The NYT frames “pivoting to video” as simply starting a YouTube channel, which features basic lifestyle activities. This kind of channel is typically a dime a dozen and is seen on YouTube as “low effort”. These efforts garnered her a large following of viewers overnight, the number of which has stagnated and (dramatically) declined over time.

        As a side note: curiously, her YouTube videos feature a house completely devoid of decoration and personality, as if she purchased a house merely to serve as her “studio”.

        Reply
  14. jr

    For those with an interest in questions of ontology:

    https://www.essentiafoundation.org/reading/the-flip-and-the-flipped-leaving-materialism-behind-an-interview-with-jeffrey-j-kripal/

    “OK, so not only did the early quantum physicists combine comparative mystical literature and quantum physics. They insisted the mystical literature was the best place to go to see what the effects of quantum reality are “up here,” in our world and experience. They saw this comparison almost instantly. Too many physicists today, I think, would say something historically ignorant, like: ‘Well, this comparison between mystical literature and quantum physics is just a countercultural fluke. You know, it was New Age hippies who did that.’ And I want to say, “Sorry, this is simply not true. You know, your own founders, people you still read and revere, they were all saying this back in the 20s, 30s, and 40s. Just go read them. Stop the nonsense. And, oh, by the way, stop making fun of the New Age and hippies. They aren’t punching bags.”

    Reply
    1. Tom Collins' Moscow Mule

      See and hear also,

      1. “Bernardo Kastrup on Panpsychism and Cosmopsychism”

      https://mindmatters.ai/podcast/ep96/

      2. “If physics doesn’t tell us what fields and particles are, then this opens up the possibility that they might be forms of consciousness. This approach, known as panpsychism, allows us to hold that both physical matter and consciousness are fundamental. This is because, according to panpsychism, particles and fields simply are forms of consciousness.”

      “The universal mind” https://iai.tv/articles/the-universal-mind-kastrup-goff-idealism-auid-1586

      Or, for those individuals that prefer the Alan Watts version of ‘The Universal Mind’:

      “God also likes to play hide-and-seek, but because there is nothing outside of God, he has no one but himself to play with. But he gets over this difficulty by pretending that he is not himself. This is his way of hiding from himself. He pretends that he is you and I and all the people in the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, and all the stars. In this way he has strange and wonderful adventures, some of which are terrible and frightening. But these are just like bad dreams, for when he wakes up they will disappear.

      “Now when God plays hide and pretends that he is you and I, he does it so well that it takes him a long time to remember where and how he hid himself. But that’s the whole fun of it — just what he wanted to do. He doesn’t want to find himself too quickly, for that would spoil the game. That is why it is so difficult for you and me to find out that we are God in disguise, pretending not to be himself. But when the game has gone on long enough, all of us will wake up, stop pretending, and remember that we are all one single Self — the God who is all that there is and who lives for ever and ever.”

      http://www.michaelppowers.com/path/taboo.html

      Reply
        1. rowlf

          There are lots of Alan Watts recordings that are very fun to listen too. Some are on youtube and some are available on an Alan Watts app for phone/etc. Watts had an enjoyable, humorous way of presenting material and I think he did a good job of it.

          Reply
  15. Solar Hero

    Californian here — Newsom is just another neoliberal shitlib (plus an upper class twit) so he’s not popular at all. I got texted (presumably because I registered as a Dem to vote for Bernie) to support the anti-recall campaign, and just texted back that I will be voting for the recall.

    The recall law does not allow Newsom to be a candidate on the ballot if the recall succeeds. Up ’til now he has been able to keep any major Dem from throwing their hat in the ring, but I can’t wait to see who breaks first as it dawns on the Cal Dem establishment that he will be recalled and replaced with Caitlyn Jenner (if no prominent Dem runs)! Real popcorn time and I’m loving it!

    Reply
    1. JBird4049

      I heard about Caitlyn Jenner. Remember when the jokes were only about Governor Moonbeam or the Governator?

      As for Newsom, the man does have some serious charisma, is an excellent speaker, and if you like his helm of hair, he even has looks. I also haven’t heard him espouse anything but California style neoliberalism. All this means that if you are not paying close attention, you will only see the gorgeous facade that appears to show all the right things for an upper middle class Californian and not the chicanery, hypocrisy, corruption, and sleaze.

      But you do need to look and not just take MSMNBC or CNN word.

      Reply
    2. FlamingTelepath

      Fellow BernieBro here, I don’t care for Newsom either but as a CA native and survivor of the 2003 recall shitshow, if Newsom is recalled, the chance we’ll end up with someone even worse is high.

      Stick around.

      Reply
  16. JBird4049

    >>>California has a “Military Department”? Really?

    California, if it was silly enough, could have its own completely separate military complete with tanks, fighter jets and attack subs. Any American state has that right and the further in the past, and the more east you go, the more likely a state did/does have one. One of the reasons for the Constitution was the desperation to prevent states like Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey going to war over stupid stuff like the then interstate tariffs. They didn’t, quite. I think they were even threatening to use their existing navies.

    IIRC, the modern national guard is what replaced the hodgepodge of state militias; here is your shiny federally funded “state” military for which you, the governor, can play around with (usually for disaster relief) and the President will just borrow it as needed. However, there is nothing saying that a state can not just form another military out of its own money and some still do for whatever reason. It has been that way since the very first colony. I think that the California military has some pint size units that are mostly on a org. chart with some real people attached to it. Since the state has both the state national guard and its own state “army,” since much of the state government is not quite a political sewer, I am not surprised at all that it has a military department and that it is incompetent.

    Reply
  17. Basil Pesto

    Allbirds make good stuff. The more basic shoes lack a certain structure but they are comfortable, and I find they’re really good for long distance travel especially (flights in the before times, car trips etc) as well as short sojourns out of the house. They’ve branched out into other items like socks (which are also pretty good), t-shirts, and warm weather basics which I suspect will be good (I was actually going to buy some this week). The IPO is inane, though. Outlier, which helped kickstart the newfound taste for Merino and fabric innovation (sorry) in fashionable menswear, precedes Allbirds by some years, has no outside funding and, afaik, re-invests profits. On the flipside, they struggle to scale, I think, in the way that Allbirds has in a short space of time, but they still do pretty well while working within the confines of a sustainable business model.

    Reply

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