By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
The Strange Weaver has exactly one sample. It’s very pretty!
I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching.
Case count by United States regions:
The Midwest in detail:
Continued good news.
Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California):
Continued good news.
Down, except for the West, now flat.
“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
“The American Rescue Plan as Economic Theory” [J.W. Mason]. “The size and design of ARPA is a more consequential rejection of this [prevailing macroeconomic] catechism. Without being described as such, it’s a decisive recognition of half a dozen points that those of us on the left side of the macroeconomic debate have been making for years. 1. The official unemployment rate is an unreliable guide to the true degree of labor market slack, all the time and especially in downturns. … n… 2. The balance of macroeconomic risks is not symmetrical. We don’t live in an economy that fluctuates around a long-term growth path, but one that periodically falls into recessions or depressions. These downturns are a distinct category of events, not a random “shock” to production or desired spending….. 3. The existence of hysteresis is one important reason that demand shortfalls are much more costly than overshooting…. 4. A full employment or high pressure economy has benefits that go well beyond the direct benefits of higher incomes and output…. 5. Public debt doesn’t matter. Maybe I missed it, but as far as I can tell, in the push for the Rescue Plan neither the administration nor the Congressional leadership made even a gesture toward deficit reduction, not even a pro forma comment that it might be desirable in principle or in the indefinite long run…. 6. Work incentives don’t matter.” • Interesting. It’s not MMT, but it is interesting. Well worth a read.
UPDATE “Biden Family Plan Will Cost $700 Billion More, Penn Wharton Says” [Bloomberg]. • Good. Great!
“U.S. judge throws out moratorium on evicting renters” [Reuters]. “U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich said the “plain language” of a federal law called the Public Health Service Act, which governs the response to the spread of communicable diseases such as COVID-19, blocked the CDC from imposing a moratorium. The moratorium had been due to lapse on June 30…. The moratorium was issued last September, during former President Donald Trump’s administration, and had been extended three times, most recently in March under President Joe Biden’s administration.” • Another continuity…
“The Biden State Department Nominee Who Worked for Saudi Arabia and Big Oil” [The Nation]. “[O]ne of Biden’s own top State Department nominees, Jose Fernandez, previously worked for Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and oil giants like Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, and the multinational oil and gas company SK E&P, his financial disclosure forms reveal. Once confirmed, Fernandez will be charged with leading the State Department’s environmental and “economic growth” policies abroad. Fernandez, who in March was officially nominated to be the undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy, and the environment, provided “legal services” to Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund while he was a partner at the law firm Gibson Dunn. He also disclosed that he has done separate legal work for a number of oil companies and owns stock in fossil fuel companies like Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, Sempra Energy, and the Southern Company.”
“Column: Every president faces a major crisis. What will Biden’s be?” [Los Angeles Times]. “So if you were starting to feel good about Biden’s early months, don’t get too comfortable. The president’s good fortune — his healthy popularity ratings, the steady advance of his legislation — is unlikely to last forever. Compared with his predecessors, he’s had it easy so far. The real tests are yet to come.” • Covid isn’t still a major crisis?
Democrats en Deshabille
“Republican John Cox Campaigning for California Governor with 1,000-Pound Bear” [Times of San Diego]. “Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox, who ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 2018, is campaigning with a live, 1,000-pound bear and promising to make ‘beastly changes’ if elected. The Cox campaign is spending $5 million on an advertising campaign that portrays Newsom as the ‘beauty’ who needs to be replaced by a ‘beast.’ ‘The beautiful politicians have failed California,’ Cox said. ‘We need big beastly changes to save it. I’ll cut taxes, make California more affordable, and shakeup Sacramento.'” • Here is Cox’s “Beauty and the Beast” ad:
You say “Even Elon Musk left” like that’s a bad thing! (I have to say I don’t like the “pretty boy” subtext much.)
UPDATE “Democrats still won’t get out of their own way” [The Week]. “Biden’s infrastructure bill would help with Democrats’ plight. Juicing the economy to create jobs building stuff will mean a better political environment in the 2022 and 2024 elections, and raising taxes on the rich and corporations that offshore jobs and profits actually makes it more popular. Indeed, if anything the bill is too small to accomplish its goals on climate. More importantly, the PRO Act would change the fundamental structure of American politics. The anachronistic and toothless structure of the existing National Labor Relations Act makes it extremely difficult to organize a union, as we saw in the failed drive at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama…. So passing the infrastructure bill, and reversing some of the damage of neoliberalism, is a matter of basic political self-preservation. To be fair, even many establishment Democrats seem to see the logic here…. It is apparently only a handful of people on the Democrats’ right wing standing in the way of progress here (though their obstruction may be convenient for other potential sellouts who support labor rights only if they will not pass). But the party as a whole is going to be judged on what it manages to get through Congress, and so far there seems to be little effort outside of organized labor itself or democratic socialist groups to pressure Warner, Manchin, and the others to see sense. If President Biden and the rest of the Democratic Party can’t find some way to get their party to act in its own self-interest, they will be instructing the American people that in terms of positive achievement, there isn’t much point to voting for them.” • I would have thought that a political party exists to solve collective action problems like this. It seems not.
“GOP leaders add own fuel to Trump’s fire: The Note” [ABC]. “McCarthy was central in shielding Cheney, R-Wyo., from removal from leadership after her vote to impeach Trump. But Cheney is simply continuing to say what she has said for months now — that Trump lost and that his actions leading up to and on Jan. 6 constituted a “betrayal” that should not be forgotten. The stakes for the GOP are about more than who the third-ranking member of House leadership is. It’s about whether Republicans of any stature should be allowed to call out Trump for his lies — or have any opinions about his future role in the party that don’t align with MAGA-world.”
“Trump Facebook ban remains but oversight board rips company policies” [Reuters]. “The board, created by Facebook to rule on a small slice of its content decisions, said the company was right to ban Trump following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump supporters. But it said Facebook inappropriately imposed a suspension without clear standards and that the company should determine a response consistent with rules applied to other users of the platform. It said the company could determine that Trump’s account could be restored, suspended temporarily or permanently banned. ‘Indefinite penalties of this sort do not pass the international or American smell test for clarity, consistency, and transparency,’ said former federal judge Michael McConnell, co-chair of the Oversight Board, during a press conference after publishing its decision on Wednesday. In its decision, the board said , including those on how its news feed and other features affected the visibility of Trump’s posts and whether the company planned to look into how its technology amplified content as it had done in the events leading to the Capitol siege.” • “Siege,” yet! Maybe somebody can explain to me why platforms, especially platforms owned by one person, have to have any “rules” other than the terms of service? If Facebook were a public utility, that might be difference. Or if the Board was truly independent and had subpoena power, which of course it doesn’t and can’t. All the press coverage on this tries to present the Board as being somehow a separate entity from Facebook itself, which it isn’t, exactly as the Senate Parliamentarian is in no way independent from the Majority, although we may wish to pretend they are for appearance’s sake.
“Trump responds after Facebook ban extended pending additional review” [ABC]. “Trump responded to the board’s ruling, saying in a statement, “What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country. Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before. The People of our Country will not stand for it! These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price, and must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our Electoral Process.” • It is not clear to me if there is a clear dividing line on which lies are OK to tell and which are not, other than party membership.
“Why Trump’s new blog could lead to more social media takedowns” [Politico]. “Trump has launched a web page making it easier for users to post his remarks verbatim to both Facebook and Twitter, and it could lead to more run-ins with the social media companies policies. A Twitter spokesperson told POLITICO in a statement Tuesday that sharing content from Trump’s new site — “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” — generally ‘is permitted as long as the material does not otherwise violate the Twitter Rules.'” • Let’s not kid ourselves. The rules are whatever the platforms say they are. As “Richard Nixon” says:
It was ban him or bring the antitrust lawyers in the front door.
— Richard M. Nixon (@dick_nixon) May 5, 2021
Our Famously Free Press
“CNN’s Jake Tapper questions giving some GOP leaders airtime” [The Hill]. “CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday questioned why any Republicans who promote false election fraud theories should be given any airtime. ‘If they’re willing to lie about Joe Biden wanting to steal your hamburgers, and QAnon and the Big Lie about the election, what are they not willing to lie about?’ Tapper said. ‘Why should I put any of them on TV?'” • After years of Maddow yammering about RussiaGate, arguably far more crazed and dangerous than Trump’s election fraud theory, since (a) it promotes the liberal Democrat’s election fraud theory, and (b) foments war fever with a nuclear power.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“How most of the West got the pandemic so badly wrong?” [Mainly Macro]. What I find shocking is the failure of governments to learn a much simpler and less controversial point, which is that when cases start increasing you lockdown hard and quickly. In other words the second and now third waves we are seeing in Europe is a terrible indictment of the quality of the politicians leading these countries. No one disputes that if countries had locked down earlier and with full severity during the first wave less people would have died and the lockdown would have lasted for less time. (Eradication is about going the extra mile after any lockdown has brought cases right down.) Yet despite this obvious truth, European politicians have failed to implement this lesson. Failed not once, but twice. In the cases I know about they rejected advice from experts, and tried to get away with weaker restrictions that failed to stem the rise in cases…. But we also need, and this is a sentence I never expected to write, to give loss of life a greater weight in political calculations. The average COVID death leads to between 10 and 20 years of life lost (e.g. here), but those lost years seem to carry far too little weight among the politicians of the West. That is shocking.” • Handy chart:
UPDATE “The Real-Life Victims of Democrats’ Irrational Deficit Paranoia” [The New Republic]. “without imagining taxpayers as victims of government deficits, it’s hard to point to anyone actually harmed by a government department giving unrealistic estimates of future revenues.” • So much for that talking point. And then there’s this: “The complete incoherence of the current Democratic position on spending and deficits is summed up well in another Wall Street Journal story, where Montana Senator Jon Tester was quoted saying, ‘I don’t want to raise any taxes, but I don’t want to put stuff on the debt, either.… If we’re going to build infrastructure, we have to pay for it somehow. I’m open to all ideas.'” • Sounds like a job for public-private partnerships! (This article is actually a very good summary of a recent WSJ story on student debt, which makes repayment schemes seem a lot like HAMP, among other things. It’s worth reading for those blocked by WSJ; I just pulled out the two objects that were brightest and shiniest to me.
Employment Situation: “United States ADP Employment Change” [Trading Economics]. “Private businesses in the US hired 742 thousand workers in April 2021, compared with an upwardly revised 565 thousand increase in March and below market expectations a 800 thousand rise. It was the fastest pace of job creation since September, as the labor market recovery gathered pace amid an acceleration of COVID-19 vaccinations, the lifting of pandemic business restrictions in many states and the government’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package.”
Private Sector Output: “United States Composite PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The IHS Markit US Composite PMI was revised higher to 63.5 in April of 2021 from a preliminary estimate of 62.2 and above March’s 59.7, to signal the sharpest upturn in private sector output since data collection began in October 2009. The overall expansion was supported by faster growth in both manufacturing and service sector activity. New business growth was the steepest on record and new export sales rose at the fastest rate since data collection for the series began in September 2014. Companies indicated a sharp upturn in employment amid a marked accumulation in backlogs of work. Pressure on capacity led to the second-strongest rise in workforce numbers on record. ”
Services: “United States Services PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The IHS Markit US Services PMI was revised higher to 64.7 in April 2021, from a preliminary estimate of 63.1, signaling the sharpest pace of expansion in the sector since data collection began in late-2009.”
Shipping: “Maersk expects tailwind to last amid high demand for containers” [Reuters]. “Denmark’s Maersk said on Wednesday it expected its ‘exceptionally strong’ performance in the first quarter to continue for the rest of the year, driven by high demand for shipping containers from China to the United States. Maersk, which handles about one in five containers shipped worldwide, said there were not enough ships available in the world to meet a surge in consumer demand, resulting in record-high freight rates.”
Tech: “US-China tech war: Beijing’s secret chipmaking champions” [Nikkei Asian Review]. “[China’s] ambitious, state-directed aim of [is to weed out] the [Yangtze Memory Technologies’] American suppliers, along with those reliant on U.S. technology. The equipment used to manufacture high-end computer chips is virtually an American global monopoly. Eighty percent of the market in some chipmaking and design processes such as etching, ion implantation, electrochemical deposition, wafer inspection and design software is in the hands of U.S. companies. It is a frustrating area of dependence for China, which imported $350 billion worth of semiconductors last year, according to the China Semiconductor Industry Association. Removing this source of U.S. leverage over its economy became a national priority two years ago, when Washington put sanctions on China’s biggest telecommunications equipment maker, Huawei Technologies, amid spying allegations that the Chinese company has constantly denied. This was followed by sanctions on several other major Chinese technology companies, from its top contract chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co., to Hikvision, the world’s biggest surveillance camera maker. Over a hundred companies in total have been placed on a trade blacklist prohibiting most U.S. technology to be sold to them without a license. That has spurred an aggressive effort by Beijing to identify and replace risky parts and suppliers. The result has been an unprecedented flourishing of chip-related companies within China. Dozens of Chinese companies, with specializations mirroring U.S. incumbents in key areas from ion implantation to etching, have sprung into prominence over the past few years, accelerating as the state realizes the enormity of the self-sufficiency project.”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 52 Neutral (previous close: 51 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 61 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 5 at 1:14pm.
“Microplastics are everywhere — but are they harmful?” [Nature]. “Regulators are taking the first step towards quantifying the risk to people’s health — measuring exposure. This July, the California State Water Resources Control Board, a branch of the state’s environmental protection agency, will become the world’s first regulatory authority to announce standard methods for quantifying microplastic concentrations in drinking water, with the aim of monitoring water over the next four years and publicly reporting the results. Evaluating the effects of tiny specks of plastic on people or animals is the other half of the puzzle. This is easier said than done. More than 100 laboratory studies have exposed animals, mostly aquatic organisms, to microplastics. But their findings — that exposure might lead some organisms to reproduce less effectively or suffer physical damage — are hard to interpret because microplastics span many shapes, sizes and chemical compositions, and many of the studies used materials that were quite unlike those found in the environment.”
Thanks! Per recent NC link, I’m in the highest reaction group, but three days since Moderna #2, and still no reaction (arm still a little sore). A friend told me her father had no reaction to Moderna 2 and theorized it was because he hyper-hydrated starting the day before. I tend not to drink enough water so started guzzling Thursday for Saturday jab. While checking into the VA clinic yesterday for PT, I remarked to the admin that I was surprised I was feeling well enough to make the appointment. Without prompting, she replied, ‘The key is hydration.’ On my way out, I asked her for a source on that info. She didn’t know where the recommendation originated, but said she was working the COVID vax operation at the regional VA medical center, and that’s what they were telling everyone. They’d told me that at the clinic, too, but I took it as the standard advice for cold and flu in case of flu-like reaction, i.e., rest, take ibuprofen, drink lots of fluids, etc. She said that was also recommended, but said specifically that her group was telling people to make sure they stayed hydrated before and after being vaccinated.
Can readers confirm or disconfirm? Both to the fact of the advice, and to its value?
UPDATE “Qualia” [Cory Doctorow, Locus]. “Quantitative disciplines – physics, math, and (especially) computer science – make a pretense of objectivity. They make very precise measurements of everything that can be measured precisely, assign deceptively precise measurements to things that can’t be measured precisely, and jettison the rest on the grounds that you can’t do mathematical operations on it. This is the quant’s version of the drunkard’s search for car-keys under the lamp-post: we can’t add, subtract, multiply or divide qualitative elements, so we just incinerate them, sweep up the dubious quantitative residue that remains, do math on that, and simply assert that nothing important was lost in the process. This is one of the reasons that ‘contact tracing’ apps were such a bust. When a public health worker does ‘contact tracing,’ they call patients and the people who may have been exposed to them, establish a person-to-person rapport with those people, win their trust, and both question them about other contacts and give advice on how to get tested and avoid potential further spread. By contrast, the ‘contact tracing’ apps we were urged to install were purely quantitative. They measured whether two low-powered Bluetooth radios were within range of one another, and for how long. If your Bluetooth device was within range of a device that belonged to someone with a positive test, you would get a notification that you had been exposed. ‘Exposure notification’ is the residue that’s left behind when you put ‘contact tracing’ in the quantitative incinerator. Shriven of context and connection, the numeric facts that your device was in contact with another device for a clinically significant duration does very little to contain the disease. It doesn’t distinguish between devices that sensed one another in adjacent, sealed automobiles in slow-moving traffic and devices that made contact while their owners were competing to set the all-time Fort Lauderdale record for the longest eyeball-licking session.” • Thank you for that image.
Our Famously Free Press
“Be it Resolved: The Mainstream Media is Dying, and that’s OK. Matt UP Debates Ben Bradlee, Jr.” (transcript) [Matt Taibbi, TK News]. “We’ve lost thousands of local newspapers since the early 2000s. The situation has resulted in a major class schism in journalism, because so many of those local news reporters in those smaller papers — these aren’t rich people. They’re not children of privilege. They don’t have a lot of money, but they served a very valuable role in small communities and they reported on things that were important to ordinary people. And also, they were in touch with the people in their own community because they live there. What’s happened with the disappearance of those types of organizations is that the only thing left is the national news media, which increasingly — and I watched this process happen because I’ve been in the business — it’s increasingly made up of people like me who are upper-class white folks from big cities of the coast, of the East Coast and California. If you go on the plane on the campaign trail, most of the people on the plane now are graduates of Ivy League universities. They live in rarefied areas of expensive, cosmopolitan neighborhoods. Socially, they see themselves as being the same people as the politicians they’re reporting on. That’s a terrible situation. I think that it’s an underrated problem within modern news media. It’s lost some touch with mass audiences — in part because they’re no longer the people who are covering the affairs of ordinary people.” • The interchange on RussiaGate is also interesting, and Bradlee’s response is particularly weak: “[J]ust because Mueller didn’t sign off on a formal conspiracy blessed by Putin doesn’t mean that there wasn’t….” [ellipsis in original]. Why isn’t “Yes it does” an adequate rejoinder, here?
“What is Ours is Only Ours to Give” (review) [Crooked Timber]. Review of Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future (TMFTF). “Right now, most of the blockchain mining in the world happens in China, where provinces with the cheapest energy set up mining operations to do the ‘proof of work’ calculations that the dominant paradigm of blockchain requires. Factories that ostensibly make other things now acquire significant computing hardware and dedicate energy in order to, essentially, print money that’s then stored offshore. A recent study shows that 40% of China’s mostly bitcoin mining is powered by coal-burning. We also already know that non-blockchain server farms in cheap energy countries consume so much energy they distort national grids, and throw off huge amounts of heat that then need cooling for the servers to operate, creating a vicious cycle of energy consumption. All to say, I don’t see how a global blockchain currency as envisaged in TMFTF can be a good thing. Best possible case scenario; it uses mostly renewable energy to generate the proofs of work, displacing other, better uses for that energy. Worst case; it puts more zeroes on the end of the total carbon emissions we currently dedicate to computing. I didn’t spot anything in the novel about how or even if the carbon produced by the pointless computation for the new currency would be mitigated.” • Well, it’s science fiction. I enjoy science fiction, which is what KSR writes.
Groves of Academe
“24/7: A Closer Look at security cameras on campus” [The Piedmont Highlander]. “According to Board Policy/Administrative Regulation 3515 from the [Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD)] Board of Education, “The Board believes that reasonable use of surveillance cameras will help the district achieve its goals for campus security.” … When asked to identify the security cameras’ brand, [PUSD Superintendent Randall ] Booker, principal Adam Littlefield, and assistant principal Erin Igoe said they were not able to specify the company from which the cameras were purchased. Palmer said that he did not want to identify the cameras’ manufacturer because of a concern that making such information public could lead to hacks. After independent research and investigation, TPH concluded that at least 13 of 14 cameras on the PHS and MHS campuses are ‘Dome Series’ cameras from Verkada, a San Mateo-based company that specializes in Internet-connected surveillance cameras, facial recognition technologies, and artificial intelligence-powered analytics. ‘Verkada cameras have an intelligent archiving feature that remembers every face that enters the camera frame,’ according to Monarch, a San Francisco company that sells Verkada products. ‘The faces are categorized and given ‘names’ for easy search access [and the technology] is so advanced it can even accurately detect faces wearing masks.’… “The facial recognition— that’s a pretty big invasion of privacy,” [director of facilities Pete Palmer] said. ‘I can’t ever see that happening here.'” • Oh. What’s wonderful is that this is a high school newspaper (with mastheads going back to 2012. Kudos to the students and to faculty advisor Beth Black). Please give them some clickthroughs.
“The Untold Story of How Jeff Bezos Beat the Tabloids” [Bloomberg]. Lots of interesting detail, but then I came to this: “Like many modern couples, Bezos and Sanchez’s relationship played out digitally as well. The richest man in the world was, to put it bluntly, sexting. Sanchez shared many of these texts and photographs with her brother, a talent manager who represented a variety of cable news pundits and reality-TV contestants. But all of that was happening well outside Bezos’ line of sight. He was enthralled by the adventurous Sanchez, and by nature he wasn’t predisposed to be paranoid or immediately skeptical of anyone—especially not the brother of his new paramour. His philosophy, according to a friend, was essentially: ‘.'” • Wait, what? Really? Who is this “friend”?
Why I don’t ask for help, part 1 million.
I asked a service to deliver flowers to my house. The flowers were a hostess gift for a friend’s birthday, which I specified. This is what they chose. The stalks weigh 20 lbs. pic.twitter.com/TDC5ODY37O
— Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd) May 5, 2021
Lose your labor shortage in one week with this one weird trick that some Pittsburgh area businesses are using. https://t.co/YC4mkx0w0Y
— Arindrajit Dube (@arindube) May 4, 2021
You’ll never guess….
News of the Wired
New York subway posters:
Every molecule in my body longs for the good old days in 2019 when I would regularly find myself on a train back to Brooklyn at 2am after making some questionable choices pic.twitter.com/RXciuEt2iC
— Alison Wilgus (@aliwilgus) May 4, 2021
“Red wine in space may age faster than on Earth, study finds” [Space]. “Compared to a bottle of the same wine that aged for the same amount of time on Earth, the wine that aged at the International Space Station ‘was really maybe one to two or even three years further evolved than you would expect from the one that had remained on Earth,’ wine writer Jane Anson, who participated in the taste test, told reporters in a press conference earlier this year. … ‘Differences were perceived concerning the color of the wines. Concerning aroma and taste components: the two wines were described with a rich vocabulary attesting to remarkable olfactory and gustatory complexity; sensory dimensions of sweetness, harmony and persistence were particularly noted,’ Darriet added.” • These guys should go into macroeconomics…
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Lee writes: “A neighbor’s heavenly gate.” Oh, that’s just ridiculously great!
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