2:00PM Water Cooler 6/15/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Extended solo.

“‘Terribly scary’ situation as birds die, go blind in D.C. area” [Bird Watching]. “In the last 10 days, people in the Washington, D.C., metro area have been reporting increasing numbers of sick, blind, injured, and dead birds. For the most part, they have been juvenile Common Grackles, European Starlings, and Blue Jays. ‘Eye issues were reported in what otherwise looked like healthy juvenile birds, causing blindness and the birds to land and stay on the ground,’ said the Animal Welfare League of Arlington in a statement. ‘Animal Control is now seeing additional species of birds affected. Other agencies and localities across the region and state are reporting similar issues.’ City Wildlife, a wildlife rehab nonprofit in Washington, said on its blog that the eye issues lead to “blindness and neurological problems affecting the birds’ balance and coordination. Other regional agencies are reporting the same, as well as many dead fledglings. Some people commenting on Facebook and elsewhere speculate that people are spraying chemicals to deal with the current cicada emergence and that may be impacting the birds. There is absolutely no reason to spray cicadas, as the Animal Welfare League of Arlington said on Twitter.” • In a related post: “Wildlife experts in Washington, D.C., and nearby states say they have not identified the cause of recent deaths of many birds in the region, but they are encouraging the public to temporarily cease feeding birds to avoid the potential spread of disease at feeders.” • Readers, have any of you noticed something similar in your area?

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

I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching. I’ve been thinking of new charts to monitor to alert us to the next outbreak, assuming there is one, but for now, the data from the South means I’ll stick to the status quo.

Vaccination by region:

Up and down, up and down, with a trendline that’s slighly up.

Case count by United States regions:

Case decline has now clearly flattened.

Here are the case counts for the last four weeks in the South (as defined by the US Census: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia):

Florida, capital of Latin America, has joined Texas in breaking away from the pack.

I’ve been yammering about Texas and Florida for a few days, and now we have some stories:

TX: “Texas COVID hospitalizations increase as Delta variant spreads and vaccination rate remains flat” [WFAA]. “The new Delta variant of COVID-19 first discovered in India and responsible for India’s outbreak is growing across the U.S. and Texas. Last week, it made up 2% of cases in the CDC’s Southwest region, which includes Texas. Now it’s up to 10%…. The weekly average of COVID hospitalizations in Texas has gone up four days in a row, which hasn’t happened since mid-April. The current hospitalization level, 1,571 patients, is still far below the state’s peak, but Sims says the deadly winter the state and country just experienced should be a lesson to not wait until the spread gets worse…. Texas vaccinations have slowed, though, with 46% of eligible Texans fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the country. The U.S. is now unlikely at its current pace to meet President Biden’s goal of 70% of Americans vaccinated by July 4.”

FL: “Florida’s first weekly-only COVID-19 report shows increase” [News4Jax]. “orida just changed how it reports COVID-19 cases, deaths, testing rates and vaccination data from daily to weekly, calling it a transition from an emergency response to a more traditional public health response. The Department of Health’s first weekly-only report, released Friday afternoon, showed 12,157 new cases of coronavirus among Florida residents, 10.5% increase in cases over the week ending June 4…. County vaccination rates range from a high of 67% in Sumpter County, home of The Villages, to a low of 27% in rural Baker and Union counties. Clay County’s rate is 39%; Duval’s is at 45%, Nassau is at 48% and St. Johns County’s rate is 59%.”

FL: “Despite highest rate of COVID-19 infection in NE Florida, Baker County residents saying no to vaccine” [News4Jax]. “State data show 3,557 Baker County residents have had COVID-19 cases and there was an 8.8% positivity rate among people tested within the county in the past week — the highest rate of coronavirus infection in the region and among the highest in Florida….. Most of the Baker County residents who spoke with News4Jax on Saturday said they aren’t getting the shot. Some people said they don’t feel comfortable with the vaccine. One person told News4Jax now that most everything has reopened, they don’t feel a need to get it. ‘They believe that their body is a temple and a vessel and they have a right not to take the shot just as well as a person that wants to take the shot has the right to take the shot,’ one resident said.”

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

Not entirely good news.

Test positivity:

Up in the South,

Hospitalization (CDC):

Continued good news.

Deaths (Our World in Data):

Continued good news.

Covid cases worldwide:

Monroe Doctrine countries not doing so hot.

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

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

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

Biden Administration

Biden runs late for his G7 presser. AP:

And NBC:

“Ukrainian tweet scrambles Biden’s press conference” [Politico]. “Just before President Joe Biden started his news conference Monday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted that NATO agreed that his country could join the alliance…. Biden was inexplicably running late, two hours late, and the tweet suddenly appeared to explain what could be causing a delay.” • “Appeared” means Politico doesn’t even have a source; they’re making excuses for the guy. Come on. Two-and-a-half hours? If Jed Bartlett was held up for two hours, no matter the issue, it would be worth a whole West Wing episode. And then there’s this–

“Biden Repeatedly Mixes Up Names Of 2 Countries During G-7 Speech” [HuffPo]. “President Joe Biden raised eyebrows on Sunday when he repeatedly mixed up the names of two countries during a news briefing at a summit of world leaders in the United Kingdom. Biden referred to Syria as Libya three times in the span of 90 seconds while speaking about potential areas where the United States can partner with Russia despite the countries’ fraught relationship.”

And then there’s this:

Lambert here: I try not to do armchair diagnosis. That said, Biden is frail; I remember the video of an aide clearly leading him in the 2020 primaries. Biden can rise to the occasion, and for hours at a time (as debates, meetings, and speeches show). But there are other times when he does not. And we can be 100% certain that the press will cover for him, as Politico did here (think back to the way the lid was slammed on the Hunter Biden story). Something to monitor…

* * *

It’s certainly odd that President-in-Waiting Kamala Harris was in South Carolina, and not at G7:

We didn’t say “the late Joe Biden.” We said “Biden’s late.” Calm down.

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “Industrial Production: “May 2021 Headline Industrial Production Improves” [Econintersect]. “The headlines say seasonally adjusted Industrial Production (IP) improved month-over-month – and remains in expansion year-over-year due to comparison to the recession period one year ago. Our analysis shows the three-month rolling average improved.”

Manufacturing: “June 2021 Empire State Manufacturing Index Declines” [Econintersect]. “The Empire State Manufacturing Survey index declined but remained in expansion….This report is considered a little worse than last month.”

Inflation: “May 2021 Producer Price Final Demand Inflation Continues To Rise” [Econintersect]. “The Producer Price Index (PPI) year-over-year inflation increased from +6.2 % to +6.6%.”

Retail Sales: “Headline Retail Sales Slowed in May 2021” [Econintersect]. “Retail sales slowed according to US Census headline data. The three-month rolling average improved. Year-over-Year growth also declined due to the reopening after the lockdown period one year ago.”

Housing: “April 2021 CoreLogic Single-Family Rents: Single-Family Rent Growth Rate More Than Doubles Year Over Year in April” [Econintersect]. “The Single-Family Rent Index (SFRI) shows a national rent increase of 5.3% year over year, up from a 2.4% year-over-year increase in April 2020. While rent growth dipped significantly last April at the start of the pandemic, rising affordability issues and supply shortages in the for-sale housing market and ongoing demographic pressure from aging millennials have continued to place upward pressure on the single-family rental market — leading to the largest annual rent price increase in nearly 15 years in April 2021.”

* * *

Commodities: “Column: A nickel refinery tops U.S. battery metals wish list: Andy Home” [Reuters]. “But the Department of Energy (DOE) has identified Class 1 nickel, the type best suited to lithium-ion batteries, as both key vulnerability and key opportunity. The United States is import-dependent across the spectrum of battery metals with large parts of the supply chain captured by China, a problematic international trading partner. However, the nature of the dependency differs by mineral, starting in the ground. The United States, for example, ‘has lithium resources and domestic corporations well-versed in recovery and refinement globally’, according to the report [commissioned by the Biden administration]. The ambition, therefore, is to stimulate more domestic mining and, even more importantly, domestic processing through a potential mix of purchasing guarantees, federal funding and research and development into enhanced recovery technology. … When it comes to nickel, however, the only active U.S. mine – Eagle in Michigan – is due to retire in 2025 and domestic deposits are small and low grade. There is no domestic nickel processing capacity outside a limited amount of by-product salt production. Yet this particular battery metal is the one likely to experience the most significant demand increase over the coming years, the report says, with ‘market indications that there could be a large shortage of Class 1 nickel in the next 3-7 years.'”

Commodities: “Chlorine Shortage Hits Pool-Happy America” [Bloomberg]. “Planning to float around in a pool? Well, there’s also a shortage of the chlorine tablets that are commonly used to zap parasites and prevent algae from growing in the water. So prices are soaring there, too. The chlorine squeeze is especially acute because Americans are more pool-happy than ever. Demand for pool upgrades and new construction skyrocketed during the pandemic as stuck-at-home consumers focused their spending power on sprucing up their backyards. Even pool owners who didn’t do any extra work started using their pools more; what else was there to do? The trend was a big help to the industry: Pool Corp., a distributor of maintenance supplies and related products, generated a record $3.9 billion in revenue in 2020. The chlorine market likely would have been able to keep up were it not for a fire at a BioLab chemical plant in Louisiana last August in the wake of Hurricane Laura, Stuart Baker, vice president of business development at Hayward, said in a phone interview. The damage rendered the plant inoperable, taking out a facility responsible for a significant portion of the popular chlorine tablets produced for the U.S. market. There are few alternative domestic sources of supply, and Chinese imports are complicated by freight issues fouling up other parts of the global supply chain and U.S. tariffs, industry experts say. About two-thirds of the 5.2 million residential in-ground pools in the U.S. use traditional chlorine systems, and that means the problem will affect the vast majority of pool owners, Baker said. But few consumers seem aware of the issue.” • General practioners beware, if pool water isn’t sanitized.

Shipping: “If You Thought The Ever Given Blocking The Suez Canal Was Bad, What’s Coming Could Be Worse” [Forbes]. “The container ship Ever Given blockage of the Suez Canal earlier this year attracted global attention to how disruptions to maritime trade routes could impact global supply chains. But recent Covid-19 outbreaks in southern China, Southeast Asia, and Taiwan are threatening to cause more pain as their effects ripple through supply chains over the next few weeks and months. A Covid-19 outbreak led to a five-day traffic halt for inbound container deliveries to the Yantian International Container Terminal in Shenzhen at the end of May. Yantian is the largest container terminal in the Pearl River delta, and one of the largest in the world. It has natural deep-water berths that can handle the largest container ships like the Ever Given… The outbreak led to a shutdown of the west side of the terminal, though it continued to operate at around 30% of its overall capacity. Last year they told me that their worst truck backup stretched 20 kilometers. Recent reports of extensive traffic backups suggest that this time it might have been even worse. At times as many as 40 container ships were waiting for a berth, which reminds us of the back-ups this year on inbound ships at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach…. All this news tells us that the world’s supply chain woes are not over, and more broadly, that the Covid-19 pandemic is not over. Until all the world is vaccinated and gets the contagion under control, we can expect continued disruption and surprises.” • And then, of course, there’s the next pandemic. I’m not sure how to short tight coupling, but it might be a good idea. Maybe somebody who actually plays the ponies can suggest something.

Shipping: “The Ever Given Crew Are Still Stuck at Sea” [Foreign Policy]. “All over the world, seafarers endure the same tragic fate: stuck on their ships, sometimes for years, because shipowners and governments can’t solve their disagreements. Sometimes, they’re eventually turned over to authorities after committing no crimes. They’re the hidden victims of the world’s increasing dependence on shipping…. For crews in limbo, stuck really means stuck: Although a seized or abandoned vessel is typically anchored at a harbor, crews are not allowed to leave it. And the situation is worse for crews of abandoned ships, who have no idea when they’ll be released from their floating prisons. As long as they remain on board, the ship’s owners should technically pay them, although unscrupulous owners typically have no intention of paying their abandoned ships’ crews even if they do stay on board….. The International Labour Organization’s database of abandoned vessels contains countless such stories.” • I’m not sure crews are the victims of something as abstract as “dependence.”

Manufacturing: “Millions of sleep apnea devices recalled over cancer risks” [The Hill]. “Leading global medical device company Phillips issued a major recall Monday for several of its ventilator products amid reports of health risks associated with use of its devices…. Some of the possible health risks reported to Phillips included headaches, inflammation, respiratory issues and toxic and carcinogenic effects and other irritations. The devices that are under recall are the Phillips Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure (Bi-Level PAP), Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and mechanical ventilator devices featuring polyester-based polyurethane (PE-PUR) sound abatement foam. Devices with the PE-PUR foam could disintegrate into particles which enter the device’s air pathway and be inhaled by the user, exposing the individual to possible harmful chemicals. Both devices focus on treating sleep apnea.”

Supply Chain: “The Real Solar-Panel Price Crisis Hasn’t Begun Yet” [Bloomberg]. “Panel modules that cost $1,870 per kilowatt in 2010 were changing hands for $163 per kW last year, turning photovoltaic, or PV, power from an expensive curiosity into a technology that’s remaking the energy system…. That trend has come juddering to a halt in recent months. The price of panel modules is up nearly 15% so far this quarter. If that continues, it would represent only the seventh quarter out of the past 45 when prices have failed to decline. An industry whose growth model is predicated on continually falling costs is having to cope with its first bout of inflation. Raw materials are to blame. Prices for polysilicon, the shiny, semi-metallic substance from which both solar panels and computer chips are made, have been surging as stepped-up plans for renewable installations crash into the supply chain problems of a global economy awakening from Covid-19. At $29.41 a kilogram, PV-grade polysilicon is now as expensive as it’s been since 2012, and costs nearly three times its $10.57/kilogram price at the end of last year.”

Supply Chain: “Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies” [NBC]. “The Girl Scouts have an unusual problem this year: 15 million boxes of unsold cookies. The 109-year-old organization says the coronavirus — not thinner demand for Thin Mints — is the main culprit. As the pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. The impact will be felt by local councils and troops, who depend on the cookie sales to fund programming, travel, camps and other activities. The Girl Scouts normally sell around 200 million boxes of cookies per year, or around $800 million worth. By early spring, when troops usually set up booths to sell cookies in person, U.S. coronavirus cases were still near their peak. Hundreds of girls opted not to sell cookies in person. Online sales and even a delivery partnership with Grubhub failed to make up the difference.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 52 Neutral (previous close: 54 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 49 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 14 at 12:50pm. Still stuck in neutral!

The Biosphere

“Drought is here to stay in the Western U.S. How will states adapt?” [NBC]. “Water is increasingly scarce in the Western U.S. — where 72 percent of the region is in “severe” drought, 26 percent is in exceptional drought, and populations are booming. Insufficient monsoon rains last summer and low snowpacks over the winter left states like Arizona, Utah and Nevada without the typical amount of water they need, and forecasts for the rainy summer season don’t show promise. This year’s aridity is happening against the backdrop of a 20-year-long drought. The past two decades have been the driest or the second driest in the last 1,200 years in the West, posing existential questions about how to secure a livable future in the region. It’s time to ask, “Is this a drought, or is it just the way the hydrology of the Colorado River is going to be?” said John Entsminger, the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.”

“Looming California Heat Wave May Strain Electricity Supplies” [Bloomberg]. ““Triple-digit heat” is expected to begin Tuesday and last through June 18, though it’s not expected to trigger rolling blackouts like those that left more than a million Californians in the dark last August, the California Independent System Operator said Friday. Demand for electricity will likely surge enough that the agency advised power plant operators to defer scheduled maintenance, starting Wednesday afternoon.”

“Human-food feedback in tropical forests” [Science]. “When modern humans occupied all tropical forests (13,000 to 45,000 years ago), they began to alter the natural processes that shaped these ecosystems . As human societies accumulated knowledge, practices, and technologies, they spread domesticated species and landscapes. For instance, the Brazil nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa) has been cultivated by Indigenous peoples for millennia and today is a dominant species in the Amazon basin. In Amazonia, many forests are also dominated by pequi and pequia trees (Caryocar spp.) with signs of domestication (2, 6). In South America, and later in Central America, cacao has been cultivated for more than 5000 years, which has led Theobroma cacao to dominate many forests. Araucaria seeds have also been cultivated in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, which expanded the distribution of Araucaria angustifolia (10). The same happened with many arboreal species that have edible fruits and seeds in other tropical forests: in Africa with coffee seeds of Coffea spp., oil palm groves of Elaeis guineensis, and locust beans of Parkia biglobosa, and in Borneo and Papua New Guinea with sago palm (Metroxylon sagu), breadfruit (Artocarpus spp.), pandanus nuts, and marita red fruits (Pandanus spp.). Tropical forests are therefore centers of polyculture agroforestry, where numerous edible arboreal species have been cultivated. These areas are also centers of plant domestication, where globally important staple crops originated, such as maize, manioc, yams, and bananas. The ancient interaction between Indigenous peoples and tropical forests implies that both are part of a social-ecological system, formed by mutually dependent feedbacks. In particular, the positive feedback between Indigenous peoples and food availability is one with the potential to transform forest composition and amplify food production at large scales.” • As shown back in 2005 in Charles C. Mann’s wonderful 1491, in the chapter on Amazonia (see NC on Mann and edible forests here).

Health Care

“Was Trump right about hydroxychloroquine all along? New study shows drug touted by former president can increase COVID survival rates by 200%” [Daily Mail]. “The authors of the new report state: ‘We found that when the cumulative doses of two drugs, HCQ and AZM, were above a certain level, patients had a survival rate 2.9 times the other patients. ‘By using causal analysis and considering of weight-adjusted cumulative dose, we prove the combined therapy, >3 g HCQ and > 1g AZM greatly increases survival in Covid patients on IMV and that HCQ cumulative dose > 80 mg/kg works substantially better.'” • Patients on ventilators. I’m not sure about this, simply because so many of the studies done to refute HQs claimed effectiveness as a prophylactic were done in hospitals. Irrelevant to that use case, but relevant here.

“Health Ministry drops ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine from COVID-19 treatment guidelines” [Business Today]. India. “The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), under the Health Ministry, has dropped drugs such as hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, doxycycline, zinc and multivitamins that were earlier prescribed by doctors to asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic COVID-19 patients from the revised guidelines issued by it for treatment of infection. However, the new guidelines have not been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research yet. The revised guidelines said no medication is required for asymptomatic cases, while anti-pyretic and anti-tussive medicines have been prescribed for symptomatic relief in mild COVID-19 cases.”

“Risks when trying to optimize a Complex System (any Complex System) : Global vaccination during a pandemic might not be such a good idea…” [systems perestroika – éminence grise]. “The Bossche paper can be found here. The gist of the paper is that it might be a very bad idea to force an extremely fast paced vaccination program upon the entire population of the world, *during* an ongoing pandemic – the overall result of such a strategy might end up being a virus that learns how to defeat *all* human immune system defense mechanisms. Basically, an arms race where the virus eventually will break the last remaining component of human immune defense. At which point the entire human race is in really deep sh*t.” • Well, we’re hardly vaccinating the “entire population of the world.” So that’s alright, then. Some responses to Bossche here and here.

The Conservatory

Reminds me of my model trains:

Sports Desk

“He Made Sticky Stuff for MLB Pitchers for 15 Years. Now He’s Speaking Out.” [Sports Illustrated]. The deck: “Aces texted him and hurlers across baseball used his “stuff.” After the Angels fired him, this clubhouse attendant wants to know why he’s the lone fall guy.” • Well, somebody’s got to be the lone fall guy. Seems like baseball is like everything else: “Criminal behavior incentivized at the highest level,” as Matt Stoller put it this morning. Of course, doctoring the ball isn’t criminal; it’s only a pervasive form of cheating. But still.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Forget what you know about 1619, historians say. Slavery began a half-century before Jamestown” [USA Today]. “ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. For David Nolan, watching the nation commemorate the 400 year anniversary of the first arrival of slaves from his home here in the United States’ oldest city is frustrating. Nolan, a local historian, author and civil rights activist, insists it only advances a false, racist belief that Englishmen founded America and created the system of slavery that defined this country. ‘It makes me want to scream,’ says Nolan. ‘Tou’re robbing black history.’ The truth is Spaniards settled in St. Augustine, Florida, with enslaved blacks more than a half-century before any arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619 aboard a ship captured by English pirates. Historical records document the presence of black slaves dating back to their arrival in what was known as Spanish Florida in 1565. They built military forts, hunted food, cut wood and later even created a settlement for freed blacks, Fort Mose. But the influence and significance of the Spanish on the country’s founding was ignored and lost as English laws, language and culture established a stronghold in the new nation.”

At least one Union soldier knew exactly what slavery was and opposed it:

“Why Confederate Lies Live On” [The Atlantic]. At the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana: “Did the white visitors, I asked [Yvonne, the site’s director of operations], experience the space differently from the Black visitors? She told me that the most common question she gets from white visitors is ‘I know slavery was bad … I don’t mean it this way, but … Were there any good slave owners?’ She took a deep breath, her frustration visible. She had the look of someone professionally committed to patience but personally exhausted by the toll it takes. ‘I really give a short but nuanced answer to that,’ she said. ‘Regardless of how these individuals fed the people that they owned, regardless of how they clothed them, regardless of if they never laid a hand on them, they were still sanctioning the system … You can’t say, ‘Hey, this person kidnapped your child, but they fed them well. They were a good person.’ How absurd does that sound?’ But so many Americans simply don’t want to hear this, and if they do hear it, they refuse to accept it. After the 2015 massacre of Black churchgoers in Charleston led to renewed questions about the memory and iconography of the Confederacy, Greg Stewart, another member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, told The New York Times, ‘You’re asking me to agree that my great-grandparent and great-great-grandparents were monsters.'” • Hmm. This whole article is well worth a read.

News of the Wired

I am not wired today. Maybe tomorrow!

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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 (Bob or Janet):

* * *

Bob or Janet writes: “A rather large showy orchis, on a south facing slope in northern Virginia.”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Mikel

    Re: Birds

    I’ve been forwarding these types of articles to a friend in Ohio who has experienced birds flying into her building and terrace door this year. Youngstown, Oh.

    1. Rod

      Re Avian afflictions—
      SC had this first ever announcement on Siskin Mortality in March of this year. Traced to feeders.


    2. cocomaan

      My wild speculation is that something is latent in the cicadas being eaten by these birds, because Brood X has overlap with the problem (Maryland, DC getting a lot of cicadas).

      I know, out there, but stranger things have happened. You don’t hang out underground for 17 years without absorbing some chemicals.

      This theory brought to you by someone who fed his chickens way too many caught Japanese beetles and made one of them sick.

      1. Jon D

        This is weird because there’s been no bird shortfall where I live (North Bethesda) and until yesterday no shortage of cicadas either. The bugs seem to be dying off at the moment.

        1. Glossolalia

          Those of us in Bethesda know that there’s no such place as North Bethesda, only South Rockville (inside joke).

        1. Wukchumni

          My twitter feed in the foothills and in the higher climes seems as chatty as ever, and the things they are saying about me behind my backyard!

      2. Robert Hahl

        I have seen a lot of cicadas dead or dying of a fungus that seems to eat away their backsides, like a leprosy. I try to stop my dog from eating those.

        1. Darius

          I think that’s pretty common. I remember seeing a lot of those in 2004.

          I haven’t heard of people thinking they need to spray poison on the cicadas. (Shakes head) They don’t harm anything, and provide a windfall for wildlife. Their habitat is under threat from development, so I was pleased to see them all over the place in Washington DC and Maryland. I even picked up some flailing upside down on the pavement. I put some on trees, which they instinctively climbed. Others flew away on their own.

    3. chris

      Living in DC/MD/VA region, confirm weird avian behavior in the last few months. Strangest I’ve seen are three birds who trapped themselves in the open area below our sun room and beat themselves against our sliding glass door until they died. The first one did it, and I thought it was odd. The second one came the next day and I had no idea what was going on. The third one started on our upper level windows before falling to the ground and bashing his poor head in the same way as his fellows. I’ve never seen that behavior before. These appear to have been starlings.

  2. Isotope_C14

    I hope this isn’t a Covid mutant in the birds. West Nile virus was pretty lethal in crows, but not sparrows. Any information on other birds being just fine? That might imply that it isn’t connected to spraying. Early in the season one culex species predates on birds exclusively, and then starts mating with culex pipiens and this expands their diet to humans. Hopefully this is not the case here…

  3. Mikel

    Re: “Why Confederate Lies Live On” [The Atlantic].

    My mind drifted to the 1960s movie, “Rosemary’s Baby.”
    A true horror film because of the end…where we see the character sympathized and empathized with throughout accepting the evil as a daily part of her life – rocking the baby in its cradle.

    1. Jon D

      Also a shocker because it was one of the first movies made after the end of the 1934 Film Code under which bad things were always supposed to happen to bad people. When nothing happened to Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer it was extremely disconcerting.

  4. Carolinian

    Kamala was here telling everyone to get vaccinated (I haven’t). No word on whether she gave out cookies.

    I can report that masks are rapidly becoming far less commonly worn around here (I still do). Our library took down their ‘masks required’ sign.

    1. Yves Smith

      I have friends who should know better who removed masks while visiting because vaccinated. Thank CDC not-scientifically-founded messaging! Fortunately I was 6 feet away and had two windows open enough to get a little breeze. Did extra povidone iodine afterwards.

      1. neo-realist

        Going to a July 4 get together—all invitees have been vaccinated, and the festivities will be outdoors. Seems ok. Will keep mask around the neck.

  5. TMoney

    Stuck on a ship for years at time ? I think my boat would “spring a leak”. A very very big leak. Purely coincidentally, the crew would be walking on deck at the time and would be able to man the lifeboats.
    I am surprised it hasn’t happened yet.

  6. fresno dan

    Why Confederate Lies Live On” [The Atlantic]. At the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana: “Did the white visitors, I asked [Yvonne, the site’s director of operations], experience the space differently from the Black visitors? She told me that the most common question she gets from white visitors is ‘I know slavery was bad … I don’t mean it this way, but … Were there any good slave owners?’ She took a deep breath, her frustration visible. She had the look of someone professionally committed to patience but personally exhausted by the toll it takes. ‘I really give a short but nuanced answer to that,’ she said. ‘Regardless of how these individuals fed the people that they owned, regardless of how they clothed them, regardless of if they never laid a hand on them, they were still sanctioning the system … You can’t say, ‘Hey, this person kidnapped your child, but they fed them well. They were a good person.’ How absurd does that sound?’ But so many Americans simply don’t want to hear this, and if they do hear it, they refuse to accept it.

    1. Lee

      ‘You’re asking me to agree that my great-grandparent and great-great-grandparents were monsters.’”

      Welcome to the human race. I am descended from at least four ethnic populations that I know of that in the course of written history slaughtered each other in their multitudes. And written history represents but a mere fraction of our species’ existence. During the much longer prehistorical period of our tenure, archeological evidence indicates that human groupings have been periodically and in all parts of the globe hackin’ and hewin’ on each other for as long as we’ve been around. It’s a wonder there are now so damned many of us.

      1. Keith

        I think that’s the thing that gets lost. All people’s have committed atrocities against the “other” when they had the chance throughout history. Heck, we may be descendants of genocidal monsters who slaughtered other humanoid species. End of the day is does it really mattered what they did? In the end, you cannot change or make better for the people who have long died off. History has moved on, and so should the people. Hopefully, humanity has been improving incrementally.

      2. ChrisPacific

        I think the whole point is that they weren’t monsters, and that all of us are capable of the same thing in the right circumstances (in this case, because it was an accepted part of society and opposing it was transgressive). As Terry Pratchett put it:

        There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.

    2. Bruno

      “Were there any good slave owners?” This question is the exact counterpart of such questions as “Were [are] there any good factory owners? Any good landed-estate owners? Any good mine owners?” And the answer always is “The ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ of an individual acting within the constraints of a determining system is always a relative matter pertaining only to a specific individual as ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than some other person. It is the system of class domination that is *necessarily* bad and the source of evil as well as the source of revolutionary opposition to that evil.”

      1. JP

        It’s late in the day as I respond but anyway I disagree with these equivalencies.

        I’ll just respond to the first, “are there any good factory owners?”

        The factory worker is not usually inextricably bound to the factory and is generally free to go starve somewhere else. But if you really want to explore your disconnect simply give the factory, you know, the one that is just a little better then subsistence farming, that actually pays money, to the workers and see if they can hold it together, you know sharing without electing a new boss that just recreates the initial situation. (Thorsten Veblen sentence)

        It’s easy to bash the PMC but the unwashed have all their faults and more but have not been in a position to flourish as top turds. It is possible to be a “boss” who pulls it all together, who makes sure the resources are in stock and aligns labor to produce a marketable product in a manner that is competitive enough to sell, who has the interests of the workers and the enterprise.

        There often is a kinda Red Guard sentimentality here that wishes to kill anyone in a management position but I think you need to walk in those moccasins before you judge.

        There are also those who steward the land but I’ll let you fill in the blanks. My point being, slavery is not a counterpart to the other social conditions.

        1. tegnost

          It is possible to be a “boss” who pulls it all together, who makes sure the resources are in stock and aligns labor to produce a marketable product in a manner that is competitive enough to sell, who has the interests of the workers and the enterprise.
          yes it’s possible, the current problem is that incentives have become unreasonably misaligned. See union busting and unrestrained undocumented exploitation

      1. Catoblepas

        So far as the internet can determine *everyone* involved in that incident was black. (Alleged) shooter, cashier, intervening off-duty deputy. The (alleged) shooter was identified as Victor Lee Tucker, if you feel like doing your own googling (duckducking?) to verify.

        “Mask fatigue” is pretty widespread and not limited by race.

        And the shooting did answer the question of whether he can be made to wear a mask. In prison, yes he can in fact be made to wear a mask.

      2. rowlf

        what makes ‘Mericans believe shooting solves their problems?

        ‘Mericans shoot themselves, shoot people they know, shoot people they don’t know, and shoot people in other countries. It’s their nature, their core competency.

        1. rowlf

          I should have used the Hunter Thompson quote “America…just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable”

        1. Catoblepas

          It’s very weird. You get different people’s (ie, different race) mugshots as the first result depending on which search engine you use.

          The authoritative source, however, should be the DeKalb county sherriff’s department booking system, which has his entry at:


          and lists him as black. (The “out of custody” note in his booking info is due to him being in the hospital at the moment, ie, he is not physically in the custody of the sherriff’s department.)

          Maybe something which feels the need to put “trusted” in the name falls under the injunction to “never eat at a place called ‘Mom’s'”?

  7. Henry Moon Pie

    Social-ecological system–

    Thomas Berry was calling us into a similar relationship in a new Ecozoic era as we seek to first halt the damage we’re causing and then to ameliorate it:

    The Cenozoic is the period of biological development that has taken place during these past 65 million years. The Ecozoic is the period when human conduct will be guided by the ideal of an integral earth community, a period when humans will be present upon the Earth in a mutually enhancing manner.

    The Cenozoic period is being terminated by a massive extinction of living forms that is taking place on a scale equalled only by the extinctions that took place at the end of the Paleozoic around 220 million years ago and at the end of the Mesozoic some 65 million years ago. The only viable choice before us is to enter into an Ecozoic period, the period of an integral community that will include all the human and non-human components that constitute the planet Earth.

    The first principle of the Ecozoic era is recognizing that the Universe is primarily a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects. This is especially true of the planet Earth. Every being has its own place and its own proper role in the functioning of the planet, its own presentation of itself that might be identified as its voice.

  8. a different chris

    >Reminds me of my model trains:

    This time, I tell you, for sure when I start my new layout at my new place all the wiring is going to be planned in advance, with distributed access points and consistent color coding and wire size allocations. When I go under my layout, it will be obvious, clear as day I tell you, what is doing what and going where.

    (quiet voice in the back of my head: “yeah, sure it will, those other 5 builds were just anomalies…”)

    PS: the past is another country, and trying to assign modern concepts of “good” or “monsters” is completely pointless. In fact, getting contemporaneous views right of said concepts is just as useless because they are all, you know, dead. Can’t punish the bad and reward the good at this point.

    The only useful thing is to get the hard facts right and make clear (sigh, you wouldn’t think it would be necessary) why we don’t condone that behavior today. Yes, your grandad would be an unquestioned monster if he behaved that way today. And if grandma had wheels she’d be a bus is just a relevant.

    Ted Bundy’s parents weren’t mass murderers. Nor were/are his children. So why does this guy even care?

    1. upstater

      DCC for model trains. No other way to go forward, unless all your locomotives are brass.

    2. HotFlash

      Yes, your grandad would be an unquestioned monster if he behaved that way today. And if grandma had wheels she’d be a bus

      LOL!! Thanks for this, not the same chris, and I will totally be using this in upcoming conversations.

  9. drumlin woodchuckles

    ” Human-food feedback in tropical forests”

    I hope this and articles like it will slowly stop people from saying ” mankind destroys the planet”, and change that over to modern industrialized mankind destroys the planet. That way, Modernistani Industrians can start to think about how to de-modernise and de-industrialize this modern industrial civilization.

    Let the little minds whine about their consistency hobgoblins. Meanwhile, smarter people can think about various ecotechnic approaches such as John Michael Greer used to write about. Various artisandustrial approaches can be learned about, tried and improved.

  10. Tom Doak

    Re: cheating by major league baseball pitchers:
    Your commentary is spot on, Lambert. Lowly clubhouse attendants are taking the fall for helping out pitchers who make money in private equity territory. But, then again, private equity guys are starting to be the owners of major league teams, so Quelle Surprise!

    1. Wukchumni

      MLB is attempting a suicide squeeze play at the offering plate by condoning altered surfaces in between the stitches, but what happens if they accidentally kill off their elderly fan base in the process by not paying heed to delivery charges?

  11. Wukchumni

    “Drought is here to stay in the Western U.S. How will states adapt?” [NBC].
    Almost tantamount to an approaching tornado, a torrid time tomorrow through to Tuesday, its the Hades and very few Hades not on this side of the 100th Meridian, which means A/C use will be taxing every power system that could in theory lend excess to other systems, that is if they have any.

    The effect of course will that of a convection oven, baking the already bone dry gang land hoods of Mother Nature who earn a living in the underworld.

    6 straight days of around 110 or more here in the Central Valley

    All that heat is gotta go somewhere, and the favored method is for it to coalesce into clouds bearing thunder, that is after lightning makes an appearance.

    In mid August one day last summer @ the turn to Mineral King road on Hwy 198 it was 110 degrees, and we drove up to MK Valley 25 miles later where puddles of rain were on the road after the heavens had opened up as we were en route, and it was 67 degrees… quite the temperature variant-that.

  12. allan

    Wall Street’s Candidate Gave Herself $8 Million for Manhattan District Attorney Race [Intercept]

    … Tali Farhadian Weinstein, former general counsel to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, gave four contributions to her own campaign between May 20 and June 7 totaling $8.2 million — more than the total amount raised by the other seven candidates combined. A poll released last week by Data for Progress shows Weinstein, whose husband is a hedge fund manager, and former chief deputy attorney general for New York state Alvin Bragg leading among likely Manhattan Democratic primary voters. … Major Republican donors have also contributed large sums to Weinstein’s campaign, New York Focus reported. … Hillary Clinton endorsed Weinstein in May. …

    A government of the hedgies, by the hedgies and for the hedgies.

    1. Pat

      She has flooded my mailbox at a rate of about five times more frequency than the next candidate. She is also now rivaling Sean Donovan and Michelle Cabrera Caruso in number of television ads I see, honorable mention to Scott Stringer. She has spent a ton on direct and indirect marketing.

      In my case this was a huge waste. Clinton doesn’t impress me much, and having Holder sing her praises tells me that she would be a protector for the rich and deeply corrupt uninterested in the biggest crooks except as friends. Sleeping with the enemy is only to be expected.

    2. tegnost

      Thanks allen,
      I guess major republican donors and hillary clinton will have even more in common now…jeez, get a room already…

  13. Wukchumni

    Today is the unwrapture in Cali, hope the lack of spike strips {uh, just felt a 3.17 in the vicinity of the Salton Sea} doesn’t sync R.I.P.s

  14. Mikel

    RE: “And then, of course, there’s the next pandemic. I’m not sure how to short tight coupling, but it might be a good idea. Maybe somebody who actually plays the ponies can suggest something.”

    I see alot more determination in the people seeing how far short-term thinking will take them.

  15. Wukchumni

    ORLANDO, Fla. — Planning to go to a firing range later, Mustafa Alameen, an Iraqi immigrant, said he forgot he had 100 rounds of ammunition and a handgun in an otherwise empty stroller when he arrived at Disney Springs this year.

    The 21-year-old stepped through the security detector and when an alarm went off, he realized his mistake. But it was too late, and he was arrested.

    Disney World, the biggest theme park resort on the planet, has seen a spike of people arrested and charged with carrying concealed firearms over the past year, despite being closed for months and operating at reduced capacity because of the COVID-19 epidemic.

    Some guests are forgetting about their handguns in purses, backpacks, fanny packs, or in one case, a diaper bag, where Orange County deputies found two guns at Epcot last summer. A handful of times, visitors left their weapons in their pockets or strapped to their waist, unaware that Disney bans guns, as they strode up to security.

    “Is there a problem?” asked Luis Piloto Serrano, 31, of Hillsborough County, when he was stopped and arrested for wearing a loaded 9mm pistol on his right hip at Magic Kingdom security just before Christmas, according to a sheriff’s report. He didn’t have a concealed permit.


    Don’t Need A Gun, by Billy Idol


    1. JBird4049

      >>>Some guests are forgetting about their handguns in purses, backpacks, fanny packs, or in one case, a diaper bag, where Orange County deputies found two guns at Epcot last summer. A handful of times, visitors left their weapons in their pockets or strapped to their waist, unaware that Disney bans guns, as they strode up to security.

      In high school, I had a conversation with about half a dozen of my fellow hearing aid wearers about forgetting that they were wearing hearing aids. Those very expensive things that hang off the side of our heads and without any of us could hear. Hearing and not hearing are two different states, yes?

      Yet, somehow we all had stories to tell about near misses or just plain disasters: diving into pools, swimming, showering, bathing, whatever and then oops. So, whenever someone goes “how could they have forgotten?” I can respond with “it is so much easier than you think.”

      I can’t even feel my aids unless I make a deliberate effort to do so. If I am not talking to someone or listening to the radio or a podcast, or some birdsong, I am not paying attention to whether I am actually hearing anything. Why would I? If I do not consciously check for my wallet, I often cannot tell, forget remembering, if I am carrying it in my back pocket. Again, why would I once I was out the door?

      None of this relieves a person of their responsible to know where their gun (or hearing aid) is at all times, but it is not act of stupidity to forget. It is merely human and normal.

  16. chris

    Absent from the Bloomberg article on California and stretched power supplies is how water is essential for cooling power plants in operation, as well as for their hydro facilities. You even need water to wash down solar panels regularly because even a thin layer of dust drastically effects their efficiency. And then there’s the ready supply of water you need to handle wild fires that can encroach on power generating facilities. I will be surprised if we don’t see some of these issues come into play this summer.

    1. solar jay

      A thin layer of dust does not dramatically change the performance of solar PV panels.
      It does dramatically change the performance of solar thermal/ electric panels, such as those used in parabolic or power tower type thermal applications.

      1. chris

        Begging your pardon, but there have been a variety of studies for years looking at this. Dust, even a thin layer of dust, absolutely effects solar PV. You need to regularly wash down the panels to maintain efficiency.

        While the type of dust covering will vary with the humidity levels, researchers have reported effects on solar PV covered in dust ranging from about 20% to about 90% reduction in power output.

        Solar thermal has other issues with it but the ways most methods use heat instead of light to generate power tends to mitigate the effect of dust on the collecting elements.

        California has other issues with respect to solar though. Their peak usage tends to occur well after sunset for most of the year based on industry statistics from 2018. Without good options for storage there is no way solar can be used as a reliable power option for their grid.

      2. chris

        Ack, my reply with links is lost in moderation. Short answer, no, thin layers of dust absolutely effect solar PV. Solar thermal is less effected by dust but has many other issues. Humidity, wind speed, rain frequency, all contribute to how dust builds up and effects solar PV. Solar thermal collectors tend to be less sensitive to dust because you’re ultimately relying on heat not the photoelectric effect to generate power.

        1. solar jay

          The loss associated with dust ( officially called Soiling) is completely related to exactly how much lost input irradiance there is. Solar electric panels produce in exact linear way to input energy. Cut the energy 10% and you lose 10%, reduce 20% you lose 20%, whether by clouds, or soiling etc.
          Here is a link to a classic simple graph/curve that shows the loss due to irradiance.


          Of course its very subjective about how much is a lot of soiling. Working with solar for 25 years, I’ve never seen 29% loss due to soiling. But desert regions or near cities with lots of pollution it might be different.
          There are also lots of other factors, such as tilt angle of the panels. Steeper tilt is more self cleaning than flatter.
          In my experience, 5% is sort of about the most common loss I’ve seen.

  17. Greg

    Re: PV

    That trend has come juddering to a halt in recent months. The price of panel modules is up nearly 15% so far this quarter. If that continues, it would represent only the seventh quarter out of the past 45 when prices have failed to decline. An industry whose growth model is predicated on continually falling costs is having to cope with its first bout of inflation.

    This is as daft as industries based on perpetual growth. It seems obvious to me that reducing costs based on scale can never be a linear trend, only ever an S curve limited by resource costs and the penalties incurred by excessive scale. If any part of the PV industry is relying on perpetually reducing costs to make their business models work, it’s just another scammy scheme. I hope instead this is just a case of lazy reporting and sentences that sound good in writing, rather than sourced facts.

  18. Left in Wisconsin

    The United States is import-dependent across the spectrum of battery metals with large parts of the supply chain captured by China, a problematic international trading partner.

    1. Countries don’t trade or manage supply chains; companies do.
    2. Apparently, the companies that source production to Chinese companies/locations don’t find it “problematic” or else they wouldn’t do it.

    1. hickory

      In countries where the state is dominant, it does economic planning and does indeed manage supply chains. See China, for example, or Russia.

      In ‘inverted totalitarian’ societies like America (Wolin’s phrase), where companies dominate over the gov’t, the gov’t may or may not manage supply chains. Even America’s gov’t clearly affects supply chains by for example sanctioning Venezuela, Iran, and Russia.

  19. solar jay

    The Bloomberg article about solar panel pricing is wrong. Panels are priced per watt, not per kW. And at $163 per kW, would be $.0163 cents per watt which is FOB the factory and even then thats low. Closer to $.018-$0.19 per watt.
    What they have correct is that there is a shortage of poly silicon which is driving up module prices. Exactly how much is unclear.
    FWIW, retail solar panel prices are in the $.50-$.90 per watt. Of which some of this is still due to tariffs on chinese OEM parts. Obama started this, it was continued under Trump and Biden. Its around a 20% tariff, and no I don’t know who exactly gets that money. And some of the difference in price has to do with US modules needing UL listing which is unique from the rest of the world ( making it more expensive and not safer) and of course shipping across the ocean.

    1. tegnost

      “march to mediocrity”.
      I thought that was what you say when you walk in the amazon warehouse for your shift…

  20. jr


    Detailed study of the usefulness of povidone iodine mouth rinses. I use it every time I ride the train or go to the grocery store.

    “ Thus, this paper highlights the rationale, safety, recommendations, and dosage of PVP-I gargle/mouthrinse as an effective method to decrease the viral loads during the pressing times of COVID-19.”

        1. Adam Eran

          Works great, as do inverted yoga poses.

          True story (if a little TMI): I was addicted to a prescription antihistamine long ago. It turns out your sinuses have poor circulation, so infections persist without being flushed away by the blood’s remedies. The solution I found was to get my head lower than my feet (head stand, shoulder stand). I haven’t had sinus trouble since I discovered this way to increase circulation.

          Neti pot is for seriously persistent stuff.

  21. freebird

    Re: the Girl Scout cookie fall in sales.

    Sure, blame coronavirus if you must. Let’s see next year’s sales. How much has word spread that they reformulated Thin Mints, and, like once-beloved Pecan Sandies, the result is much like New Coke. ? People don’t buy them because they want to be good Scouts, they loved the taste.

    1. tegnost

      Also Grubhub? No thanks…I was in it mostly for the kids being enterprising…
      “And what can you tell me about those with the peanut butter?”
      That’s what I paid money for, not the stinkin’ cookies…yeesh.

  22. Glen

    Not a slow news day:

    Israel bombs Gaza

    Southwest Airlines grounds whole fleet due to computer outages

    No links provided – sorry.

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