2:00PM Water Cooler 6/24/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I am now back within WiFi range. I will add more backlogged political material shortly. –lambert UPDATE All done!

Bird Song of the Day

An Alpine Thrush. From India. With another bird piping in the background.

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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:

Now all falling together. Looks like the bribes were a dead cat bounce.

Case count by United States regions:

Decline now flattening. Delta? See World, below.

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):

Texas and Florida, capital of Latin America, neck and neck.

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

Test positivity:

South still fallen off its cliff.

Hospitalization (CDC):

Continued good news.

Deaths (Our World in Data):

Continued good news.

Covid cases worldwide:

Big jump in Europe, with a nasty vertical slope. Delta?

* * *


“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

Capitol Seizure

“Judge rebukes GOP for downplaying US Capitol riot as he hands out first sentence in insurrection” [CNN]. “A Trump supporter who spent 10 minutes inside the US Capitol during the January 6 insurrection was sentenced to probation Wednesday, avoiding jail, becoming the first rioter to learn their punishment in the riot investigation. At a hearing in DC federal court, Judge Royce Lamberth said the insurrection was a ‘disgrace’ and forcefully rebuked the ‘utter nonsense’ coming from some Republican lawmakers and other right-wing figures who are whitewashing what happened.” • Headline says “riot,” body says “insurrection.” The sentence suggests the former.

UPDATE “Oath Keeper pleads guilty in major Capitol riot conspiracy case” [ABC]. “A member of the Oath Keepers charged in the Justice Department’s sprawling conspiracy case targeting the group for its alleged coordination during the Jan. 6 insurrection pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding for his participation in the Capitol riot with other members of the far-right militia group. Graydon Young of Florida was among the first members of the Oath Keepers charged following the insurrection and was accused of being part of that military-style “stack” formation the militia members formed as they walked up the Capitol steps before breaching the building. According to D.C. District Judge Amit Mehta, Young’s deal with the government includes a promise to provide cooperation in the government’s conspiracy case against 15 fellow members of the Oath Keepers, including testimony before a grand jury and at trial, in addition to an agreement to sit for interviews with law enforcement in their investigation into the group’s activities.” • The accompanying tweet:

Somehow the selfie cuts against the menace of the cosplay….

Biden Administration

UPDATE “POLITICO Playbook: Biden catches his white whale” [Politico]. “JOE BIDEN appears to have all but secured that elusive bipartisan infrastructure deal that both parties have been prattling on about for years. The core group of 10 Senate centrists working on the proposal emerged from a meeting with White House officials Wednesday night and declared that they had a working framework. TODAY members of that group have been invited to the White House to meet with the president. Republican Sens. ROB PORTMAN (Ohio) and SUSAN COLLINS (Maine) cautioned that there are still a few details to iron out. But a well-positioned administration source tells us this thing is basically cooked. All that’s left are the handshakes. SO NOW WHAT? While lawmakers draft up the text, expect the White House to start leaning on Democrats to get in line. We know that so far at least 11 Senate Republicans have agreed to back this plan, but just as many Democrats have expressed reservations, creating tricky math for leadership…. The optimistic view of the situation, from the White House perspective, goes something like this: Manchin and Sinema will be under enormous pressure to support a reconciliation bill after Biden bucked his left flank to make a bipartisan deal on infrastructure. They also point out that by first moving $1 trillion of infrastructure spending through a bipartisan bill, it reduces the price tag of the reconciliation bill by that same amount, making it easier for moderates to support it. There’s also an argument that with $1 trillion of infrastructure removed from the bigger bill, progressives have some more room now for their other priorities.” • If bipartisan bills are good, then Republicans aren’t fascists and it’s OK to vote for them. Well done, all.

“Tech crackdown survives House panel’s marathon slugfest” [Politico]. “The House Judiciary Committee voted in the wee hours Thursday to block the hugest tech companies from buying their competitors and disadvantaging their rivals — part of a series of bipartisan moves, stretching overnight toward dawn, aimed at hobbling Silicon Valley’s reigning powers. Still to come later Thursday is a vote on the panel’s starkest proposal: a bill that could make it easier to break up tech giants like Google and Facebook. Taken together, the package of bills would represent the most significant changes to U.S. antitrust law in decades. But reaction throughout the Capitol to the panel’s tech antitrust legislation showed that the effort faces serious friction from lawmakers of both parties, despite years of growing anger at the industry among Democrats and Republicans in Congress. The most notable pockets of resistance during Wednesday’s and Thursday’s 19-plus-hours-and-counting markup came from lawmakers from California, the home base of Google, Facebook and Apple. One lawmaker not on the committee, Silicon Valley-based Democrat Ro Khanna, separately told POLITICO that he will ask a fellow Californian, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to retool the legislation.” • Here is an enormous thread on the markup of the bills:

Watch out for Lofgren.

“Biden administration extends residential eviction ban until end of July” [Reuters]. “The Biden administration on Thursday said it was extending the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 residential eviction moratorium until July 31 but said it would not grant further extensions.”

“Democrats consider ‘SALT’ relief for state and local tax deductions” [NBC News]. “Democrats are considering changing the law to let Americans deduct more state and local taxes from their federal returns as part of a major economic package of liberal priorities, a policy that would help high-tax states primarily in the Northeast. A group of House Democrats pushing to lift the “SALT” cap, most of them from New York and New Jersey, insisted Wednesday the deduction is progressive, and that the $10,000 cap created in the 2017 Republican tax law is “anti-union” and hurts the middle class. The SALT cap has become an internal challenge for Democrats. Liberals in the party had resisted repealing the new limits, arguing it would benefit the wealthy. But proponents of reversing the cap are now arguing it would allow states to more easily tax the rich, to the benefit of teachers and firefighters. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that if the SALT cap were to be repealed entirely, 70 percent of the benefits would go to people with annual incomes above $500,000, and that most middle income Americans making five figures would see no benefit. But the Democrats whose districts were hit hardest by the SALT cap are offering a new argument. They say deduction makes it easier for states to tax the rich and use the money to deliver government benefits, including for union workers. And they’re enlisting union leaders to carry the message.”

“Top U.S. Officials Consulted With BlackRock as Markets Melted Down” [New York Times]. “As Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin scrambled to save faltering markets at the start of the pandemic last year, America’s top economic officials were in near-constant contact with a Wall Street executive whose firm stood to benefit financially from the rescue. Laurence D. Fink, the chief executive of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, was in frequent touch with Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Powell in the days before and after many of the Fed’s emergency rescue programs were announced in late March. Emails obtained by The New York Times through a records request, along with public releases, underscore the extent to which Mr. Fink planned alongside the government for parts of a financial rescue that his firm referred to in one message as ‘the project’ that he and the Fed were ‘working on together.'” • Trump: “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” Oh, wait…

“‘We’ve got to get an answer’: UFOs catch Congress’ interest” [Politico]. “After relegating them to laughingstock status for decades, Congress is finally giving serious consideration to what are now officially known as Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. Outlandish fears of an impending extraterrestrial takeover have been replaced by legitimate concerns about a national security threat that has eluded U.S. intelligence agencies, with the federal government preparing to release its first-ever public report on unexplained sightings as soon as Friday. There is no evidence to date that points to a sci-fi scenario of aliens from another galaxy visiting Earth. But the recent uptick in mysterious airborne objects — spotted mostly by naval pilots over U.S. military installations as well as at sea — has lawmakers worried that a foreign adversary like Russia or China has developed technology that Western governments can’t identify. ‘There’s stuff flying in our airspace and we don’t know who it is and it’s not ours. So we should know who it is, especially if it’s an adversary that’s made a technological leap,’ said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee..”

Democrats en Deshabille

“The Democrats Are Already Losing the Next Election” [The Atlantic]. “Eight months later, the Democrats are still fighting over who’s to blame…. The authors of the Third Way and co. report, Marlon Marshall and Lynda Tran, present a few linked findings. First, Democrats lost support among Latino and Black voters because the party didn’t give them something to vote for. Part of the report’s explanation was that Democrats were so busy attacking Trump that they failed to offer a consistent vision for rebuilding the economy…. Progressives offer a different diagnosis of 2020. The report sponsored by the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC also concludes that voters don’t seem to have a firm idea of what Democrats stand for.” • Wait, what? More: “An analysis from Way to Win examined 2020 campaign ads and found that whereas Republicans spent millions of dollars casting Democrats as extremists, Democrats instead emphasized bipartisanship. That was a mistake, the report argues. Rather than spending valuable resources refuting outrageous accusations, Democrats need to turn the tables, leftists say, and campaign on the idea that Republicans, who encouraged the storming of the U.S. Capitol and pushed back against the expansion of voting rights, are the real extremists. “The message from the Dems was that Trump was a unique threat to democracy and that Joe Biden could work with the more normal Republicans, so the party has created a permission structure for people to vote for Republicans,” the progressive pollster Sean McElwee told me.” • Well, nobody knows what the Democrats stand for, but they’re doubling down on bipartisanship, so I imagine the midterms will be a tremendous success.

Where’s the lie:

“Panel agrees to put guardrails on how Pa. lawmakers draw congressional maps, but not their own” [Spotlight PA]. “‘The power of the pen is still going to be with the five individuals [on the Legislative Reapportionment Commission],’ [Sen. Lisa Boscola (D., Northampton)] said. ‘The four [party] leaders, they didn’t want to give up the power of the pen.'”

Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE “Republicans Fall Short in Voting-Rights Crackdown While Adding Hassle at Polls” [Bloomberg]. “But while segregation-era voting laws made it impossible for non-White voters to cast a ballot by adding hurdles like poll taxes and literacy tests, the laws passed this year mostly make voting less convenient…. Scot Schraufnagel, a professor at Northern Illinois University who studies voting, said the restrictions will primarily affect voters with less education and those who move frequently, but there’s no reason to think they will give either party an advantage. And that’s if they even affect turnout. He noted that many of the restrictions can be overcome by high voter interest or more outreach from campaigns and other political groups, so it would likely affect only off-year elections and extremely close races. If the lawmakers passing these bills think they will help either party gain a lasting advantage, he said, “They’re dead wrong.” • Here is an absolutely amazing chart:

UPDATE A man to watch:

UPDATE Moar socialists:

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “19 June 2021 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Modestly Declines” [Econintersect]. “Market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Econoday) were 359 K to 395 K (consensus 380 K), and the Department of Labor reported 411,000 new claims. The more important (because of the volatility in the weekly reported claims and seasonality errors in adjusting the data) 4 week moving average moved from 396,250 (reported last week as 395,000) to 397,750.”

Durable Goods: “United States Durable Goods Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US manufactured durable goods increased 2.3 percent month-over-month in May of 2021, rebounding from a downwardly revised 0.8 percent drop in April and below market expectations of a 2.8 percent rise.”

Manufacturing: “United States Kansas Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Kansas City Fed’s Manufacturing Production Index decreased to 30 in June of 2021 from 32 in the previous month. The growth in district manufacturing activity continued to be driven by durable goods plants, in particular primary and fabricated metals, machinery, computer and electronic products, furniture, and transportation equipment manufacturing.”

Leading Indicators: “19 June 2021 New York Fed Weekly Economic Index (WEI): Index Declined” [Econintersect]. “The New York Fed’s Weekly Leading Index (WLI) marginally declined this past week. This index’s trend is improving based on the 13-week rolling average…. This data set should be considered a high-frequency coincident indicator on a par with the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index produced by the Philly Fed – and both show conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic are already worse than the Great Recession. However, the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index is improving whilst the WLI is still declining. Logic would say with the partial reopening of the economy – the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index seems to be correct.”

GDP: “Third Estimate 1Q2021 GDP Unchanged At 6.4%. Corporate Profits Improve.” [Econintersect]. “The third estimate of fourth-quarter 2020 Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was unchanged at 6.4 %….. I am not a fan of the quarter-over-quarter exaggerated method of measuring GDP – but year-over-year growth is now in positive territory as it is being compared to the beginning of the recession.”

* * *

Retail: “Amazon’s Prime Day results were more muted than usual this year” [CNBC]. “But Amazon’s publicity around the Prime Day results was muted compared with previous years, lacking the sales superlatives it typically offers to show how consumers flocked to the site to snap up heavily marked-down goods. Amazon has previously characterized the event as its ‘biggest day ever’ or the ‘largest shopping event in Amazon history.’ That language was noticeably absent from this year’s results, with the company instead opting to note that Prime Day was the ‘two biggest days ever’ for merchants. Amazon never discloses total Prime Day sales, but last year it took the rare step of disclosing that third-party sellers brought in $3.5 billion during the event. That figure was also missing from this year’s results. An Amazon representative declined to provide more details on third-party merchant sales during this year’s Prime Day event.” • Eesh, Kremlinology.

Retail: “McDonald’s is testing automated drive-thrus that can recognize your voice. The tech mostly gets orders right — but employees have to step in 20% of the time” [Business Insider]. “Restaurants reported about 85% accuracy in the software recognizing orders, and staff had to step in for around one in five orders, company CEO Chris Kempczinski said Wednesday at Alliance Bernstein’s Strategic Decisions conference, per CNBC. The fast food giant bought Apprente, an AI voice-recognition technology, in 2019 for an undisclosed amount. McDonald’s said at the time that it planned to use the system for faster, more accurate ordering at drive-thrus, and started testing it in 2019. It also started testing robotic fryers. Kempczinski said that the company had trained workers to stop them jumping in to take order.” • Hope the AI’s dataset is identity-neutral. And what happens when people start trying to game it?

The Bezzle: “Local Delivery Alternatives Bite Into DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber” [Bloomberg]. “[Jon] Sewell started Chomp, a delivery service that now works with almost 200 restaurants in Iowa City and nearby Cedar Rapids. Restaurants pay commissions of 15%, and drivers earn an average of almost $20 an hour. After Chomp gained traction, friends in Fort Collins, Colo., asked for help setting up a similar service called Nosh. Last year, seeking to build on those successes, Sewell created LoCo Co-ops, a company that sells technology and know-how to restaurants interested in establishing delivery cooperatives. LoCo operates in Las Vegas, Omaha, and Knoxville, Tenn., with three more cities in the works. ‘There’s nothing that DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats do that can’t be replicated locally and operated at a much lower cost,’ Sewell says. ‘There’s no need to send all this money to a bunch of venture capital-backed firms in California and Chicago who managed to figure out how to get between restaurants and their customers.’ Across the U.S., growing numbers of entrepreneurs are offering homegrown alternatives to national heavyweights. The smaller services typically charge less, pay drivers more, and avoid tactics such as listing restaurants without permission—which some of the biggies have acknowledged doing—according to a May report on 20 such initiatives from the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance.”

Tech: “Facebook granted patent for ‘artificial reality’ baseball cap. Repeat, an ‘artificial reality’ baseball cap” [The Register]. “The Facebook “Artificial reality hat” – FAR Hat for short – is depicted in illustrations as a baseball cap with a ski goggles-style lens dangling from its brim. But it could be any hat – the patent claim extends to “different hat-based form factors, such as baseball caps, visors, cowboy hats, fedoras,” and so on. While it’s tempting to muse about the possibility of artificial reality top hats, sombreros, and deerstalkers, the type of hat isn’t really the point. For Facebook, hats solve the problem presented by AR glasses. They provide more surface area to affix electronics and better weight distribution opportunities. Better still, these expansive skull scaffolds can keep heat-generating components away from the head, resulting in more efficient heat dissipation and less thermal discomfort.” • In fact (via):

Now, Steve Jobs would never design a hat like this. But maybe Mark Zuckerberg might!

Tech: “Hush-Hush NSA Lifts Veil on How Businesses Help Fight Hacks” [Bloomberg]. “The U.S. National Security Agency, which is renowned for its secrecy, has opened its arms to the private sector and, at least for a day, the media. The agency invited reporters on Tuesday to tour its Cybersecurity Collaboration Center, an unclassified space opened last year where private companies can swap information with the spy agency about cybersecurity threats and overseas hackers. It’s part of an effort by the agency to deepen its relationship with American companies in the hopes of thwarting cyberattacks in the U.S. The NSA is prohibited by law from accessing American computer networks, so it hopes that increasing partnerships with the private sector will provide insights the agency can’t get on its own, said Rob Joyce, the NSA’s director of cybersecurity.” • Opened its arms? Or jaws?

Tech: “Bezos’ 2021 Space Odyssey a risk too far for insurers” [Reuters]. “Launching one of the richest individuals on earth into orbit has proved a leap too far for insurers, who are not ready to price the risk of losing Jeff Bezos or his fellow space travelers.”

Concentration: “On Booksellers And ‘Fair Trade’” [The American Conservative]. “Recent issues of TAC have contained lamentations about the disappearance of independent booksellers and Amazon’s near-emerging monopoly on bookselling, with its cancellation of works praising Justice Clarence Thomas and questioning transgender orthodoxy. The usual remedy proposed is voluntary patronage of the few surviving independent booksellers. But it may surprise readers to know that there was once, and still is in many parts of the world, a legal regime, not dependent on government, that accords authors and publishers the means to assure a level playing field in bookselling. That regime is resale price maintenance, once called “fair trade,” that allows publishers to set and enforce firm resale prices for the works they publish. This right does not eliminate competition among booksellers. It curtails price competition to be sure, but diverts it to competition in inventory, pre-sale advice, delivery and other services, and in amenities including social events, book fairs, and book talks.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 40 Fear (previous close: 35 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 41 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 21 at 12:18pm. No longer stuck in neutral!

Health Care

“Delta coronavirus variant: scientists brace for impact” [Nature]. “Preliminary evidence from England and Scotland suggests that people infected with Delta are about twice as likely to end up in hospital, compared with those infected with Alpha. ‘The data coming out of the UK is so good, that we have a really good idea about how the Delta variant is behaving,’ says Mads Albertsen, a bioinformatician at Aalborg University in Denmark. ‘That’s been an eye-opener.’ Cases of the Delta variant in the United Kingdom are doubling roughly every 11 days. But countries with ample vaccine stocks should be reassured by the slower uptick in hospital admissions, says Wenseleers. A recent Public Health England study found that people who have had one vaccine dose are 75% less likely to be hospitalized, compared with unvaccinated individuals, and those who are fully protected are 94% less likely to be hospitalized…. Delta is also on the rise in the United States, particularly in the Midwest and southeast. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared it a variant of concern on 15 June. But patchy surveillance means the picture there is less clear. According to nationwide sampling conducted by the genomics company Helix in San Mateo, California, Delta is rising fast. Using a rapid genotyping test, the company has found that the proportion of cases caused by Alpha fell from more than 70% in late April to around 42% as of mid-June, with the rise of Delta driving much of the shift.”

Police State Watch

“Why Police Have Been Quitting in Droves in the Last Year” [Los Angeles Times]. “A survey of almost 200 police departments indicated that retirements were up 45 percent and resignations rose by 18 percent in the year from April 2020 to April 2021 when compared with the previous 12 months, according to the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington policy institute. New York City saw 2,600 officers retire in 2020 compared with 1,509 the year before. Resignations in Seattle increased to 123 from 34 and retirements to 96 from 43. Minneapolis, which had 912 uniformed officers in May 2019, is now down to 699. At the same time, many cities are contending with a rise in shootings and homicides. Asheville was among the hardest hit proportionally, losing upward of 80 officers, more than one third of its 238-strong force….. With a third of the police force gone, some activists and residents said they worried that the city would squander an opportunity for change, hiring replacements instead of exploring alternatives.” •

Under the Influence

“TikTok Left its Black Creators Behind. Now They’re Going on Strike” [Newsweek]. “Black TikTok creators had finally reached the point where enough is enough: It was time to strike. After a recent trend saw an influx of white TikTokers creating content to Nicki Minaj’s “Black Barbies”—a song about Black women—appropriation-weary Black creators took action. Over the past few days, the hashtag #BlackTikTokStrike buzzed on Twitter. These Black creators sought to deprive TikTok of one of its biggest engines of creativity; one that was not always, or even often, getting the credit it deserved. They have shunned choreographing new dances to trending songs, leading to mismatched, off-the-cuff routines under fresh music such as “Thot S***” by Megan Thee Stallion.”

Zeitgeist Watch

“Peloton faces backlash after disabling free running feature on its $4,000 treadmills” [CNBC]. “Peloton is facing backlash after disabling a free run setting on its high-end treadmill, which would have forced users to pay an extra monthly membership fee, according to reports across social media. In response to the customer outcry, Peloton said it would waive three months of membership fees for all Tread+ owners, as it works on another update that brings back the ‘Just Run’ feature. People who had shelled out more than $4,000 for Peloton’s Tread+ treadmill machine were previously able to select a ‘Just Run’ setting and exercise without accessing Peloton’s digital workout content. But following a recent safety update, the ‘Just Run’ feature has disappeared, multiple users said on Twitter after receiving an email notice from the company. That meant Peloton users would have needed to pay a $39 monthly membership fee to use their treadmills.” • Well, it’s not like anybody owns anything any more.

“Britney Spears, Finally Allowed to Speak for Herself, Says She’s Forced to Take Lithium and Can’t Remove IUD” [Jezebel]. • Holy Moley!

Saxon and Jute erasure:

Sorry. That’s Saxonx and Jutex.

Imperial Collapse Watch

“‘Literally pancaked’: Condo building partially collapses near Miami; 35 people rescued; at least 1 dead” [USA Today]. “At least one person was killed and firefighters were extricating dozens of people from a battered high-rise condominium building Thursday after part of the structure collapsed into a mammoth pile of twisted steel and concrete, authorities said…. [Raide Jadallah, assistant fire chief of operations for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue] said firefighters were shoring up the building and tunneling into the devastation to search for survivors. About 55 of the 130-plus condos collapsed, he said. Frank Rollason, director of Miami-Dade Emergency Management, told the Miami Herald that emergency workers believed they have cleared all survivors from inside the tower. He said more than 70 units were destroyed or damaged.” Commentary:

“You don’t see buildings falling down in America.” Welcome to the Third World. But yes, you do: “On first anniversary of Hard Rock Hotel collapse, developer sues contractors, insurers” [Times-Picayune].

Class Warfare

“Pandemic vacation”:

Property values:

News of the Wired

“Same or Different? The Question Flummoxes Neural Networks” [Quanta]. “The first episode of Sesame Street in 1969 included a segment called ‘One of These Things Is Not Like the Other.’ Viewers were asked to consider a poster that displayed three 2s and one W, and to decide — while singing along to the game’s eponymous jingle — which symbol didn’t belong. Dozens of episodes of Sesame Street repeated the game, comparing everything from abstract patterns to plates of vegetables. Kids never had to relearn the rules. Understanding the distinction between ‘same’ and ‘different’ was enough. Machines have a much harder time. One of the most powerful classes of artificial intelligence systems, known as convolutional neural networks or CNNs, can be trained to perform a range of sophisticated tasks better than humans can, from recognizing cancer in medical imagery to choosing moves in a game of Go. But recent research has shown that CNNs can tell if two simple visual patterns are identical or not only under very limited conditions. Vary those conditions even slightly, and the network’s performance plunges.”

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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 (TH):

TH writes: “This lovely Queen Sheba vine graces what would otherwise be a boring chain link fence along a walkway, providing privacy for the zoo animals on the opposite side, in Irvine Regional Park (Irvine, California).”

* * *

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If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!2:00PM Water Cooler 6/8/2021

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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. a different chris

    >“You don’t see buildings falling down in America.”

    Remember all the strutting and puffing about Amerika F’ yeah! when that hastily constructed COVID-19, uh sorry “China Virus” hospital fell down in China?

    At least they had an excuse.

    Anyway, doesn’t it look like there is a stretch of similar buildings there? If so, they’re gonna have to evacuate them too (they will self-evacuate in any case).

    1. Greg

      As discussed in yesterdays comments, that stretch of similar buildings goes all the way round the world and back. Evacuate or self-isolate? Covid or collapse?

  2. fresno dan

    Well, for the first time in my life I have to hire an attorney.
    Claim made that an air conditioner was repaired at a house I was attempting to buy – “repair” consisted of adding freon and stopleak.
    The thing is, my health is such that enduring 112 degree days would be precarious and that was conveyed to the realtor. So were the realtors stupid or evil…

    1. griffen

      There is such a cross section of professions represented at this site, surely someone in the broader commentariat can weigh in on your options. Aside from firing the realtor I have no suggestion to add.

      Freon can rack up quickly; I had to repair or replace the coils on my home system a few years back.

  3. hunkerdown

    “CNNs can tell if two simple visual patterns are identical or not only under very limited conditions. Vary those conditions even slightly, and the network’s performance plunges.”

    Such as between insurrections and riots, for example.

  4. Samuel Conner

    > Well, it’s not like anybody owns anything any more.

    (shudders in contemplation of the implications for backyard gardening)

    You’ll have to pry my paid-for-in-full dumb spading fork from my cold, dead hands.

    1. skippy

      If you invert State Capitalism ownership of property to Feudalistic Individual ownership of property … its all good … because Markets[tm] …

    2. Gavin

      Running outside rather than on a treadmill is better both on your joints and your mental health.. Presuming, of course, that your nearby outdoors is more colorful than the concrete jungle.

  5. Toshiro_Mifune

    McDonald’s is testing automated drive-thrus that can recognize your voice…. Hope the AI’s dataset is identity-neutral. And what happens when people start trying to game it?

    You mean like;

    Bot: *bleep* Welcome to (‘cat /dev/vendor’) $MCDONALDS, May I take your order? *blorp*
    Me: I’d like 1 Big Mac,1 Lg fry and 1 INSERT INTO PRICE, VALUE (.01)
    Bot: *Bleep* Bleep* *cough*

  6. Lou Anton

    Lambert, my new go-to at 91-DIVOC is a past 4-week view of new cases (1-week avg), normalized by population (4th set of charts as you scroll down) and filtered by Top 10. Link here.

    This view shows there’s a cluster in the mountain states (Wyoming, Nevada, Utah) and what seems like the Ozarks (Missouri & Arkansas).

        1. bwilli123

          Watching the interview, he has been vaccinated. He can’t tour at this time because of Covid restrictions. He intends touring again in the future.
          He doesn’t quite come out and say it, though (based on the information given) it seems a reasonable presumption that when he’s touring again he will be playing guitar.
          But otherwise, yes, in a somewhat loosely connected sense, after being vaccinated he cannot play guitar.

    1. eg

      Apparently Waterloo, Ontario has a Delta problem. Some implicate their Mennonite community.

  7. allan

    Nearly all COVID deaths in US are now among unvaccinated [AP]

    Meanwhile …

    Unvaccinated Missourians fuel COVID: ‘We will be the canary’ [AP]

    … The state now leads the nation with the highest rate of new COVID-19 infections, and the surge is happening largely in a politically conservative farming region in the northern part of the state and in the southwestern corner, which includes Springfield and Branson, the country music mecca in the Ozark Mountains where big crowds are gathering again at the city’s theaters and other attractions.

    While over 53% of all Americans have received at least one shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most southern and northern Missouri counties are well short of 40%. One county is at just 13%. …

    In Missouri, Republican Gov. Mike Parson has taken the position that it is better to ask people to take “personal responsibility” than to enact restrictions.

    Missouri never had a mask mandate, and Parson signed a law last week placing limits on public health restrictions and barring governments from requiring proof of vaccination to use public facilities and transportation.

    Missouri Health Department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said the agency is encouraging people to get vaccinated, but confessed: “This is the Show-Me State and Missourians are skeptical.” …

    Time to restock the pantry and medicine cabinet. It’s going to be a long summer and fall.

  8. Zero Risk

    Bezos and insurers: good news!!!! The value of Bezos is 0 (zero). No risk at all. Only upside.

  9. Alfred

    One couple who opened their condo door to dust and ruin after the building cracked off said they went to the basement and it was full of water. How many foundations are going to go with the rising water, and any new disturbances caused by new construction letting water seep further? It was built in ’81, I doubt they were sinking pylons deep enough for the present conditions.

    1. ambrit

      Along the Beach, the usual scheme was to pound down pilings until you reached “refusal.” The bloody thing wouldn’t go down any more. Now, that was a few hours of stress. Add forty years of continual stress to those pilings and you get…
      The CT Sphere is going wild with “speculations” on the ‘source’ of the collapse. So far, Iran and the Palestinians are the front runners with the good old Deep State a distant third.

      1. Paradan

        To Our Most Graceful and Wise MODS:

        please take my email off my name,that was a typo.

      2. Alfred

        What they call “reclaimed wetlands.” As if “wetlands” was ever something that belonged to them.

  10. John Beech

    First, they’re UFOs, not UAP . . . the people have spoken and bureaucrats can shove it.

    Second, since they exist, we must know the source. Period. Spend whatever it takes.

    This isn’t complicated.

    1. Phillip@wikipedia.com

      “since they exist, we must know the source. Period. Spend whatever it takes.”

      The goal of all the recent media hype over those easily explained fuzzy UFO videos was to put that opinion in your head.

      You took the bait. Hook, line and sinker!

      Wakey wakey!

        1. witters

          No, an extremely plausible hypothesis. (And – sorry for venturing a possibility that hasn’t the certainty of 2+2=4 – I think a reflection of our human exceptionalism (“The Aliens find us fascinating!”).)

          1. jr

            My original post disappeared.

            This is a mischaracterization of what he said. He made a definitive claim, not an appeal to plausibility. It’s always the same with the faux skeptics, straw men and smears.

      1. Pelham

        Fuzzy videos plus multiple pilots seeing the same things on site at the same time the objects were being tracked on radar both aboard the planes and aboard Navy vessels in the area and filmed in both the visual and infrared spectrums — all as attested on the record by the pilots and at least one shipboard radar operator.

        As for whether some terrestrial adversary has made some technological leap, that adversary would have had to have done so in the 1940s at the latest.

        That said, skepticism is in order. But just once it would be nice if a skeptic were actually informed. What we typically get instead is a selection of one facet of a sighting (“fuzzy UFO videos”) and instant dismissal on that basis.

        In the latest Navy cases, for instance, an informed skeptic would have to assert an elaborate scheme of lying involving several low-ranking parties and higher-ranking officialdom in the Navy who are lying with less transparency by only confirming that the videos are genuine in some vague sense but going no further than that. This sounds far-fetched but at least it falls within the realm of possibility by accounting for what appear to be all the supporting facts in the story.

        1. Procopius

          It seems the multiple witnesses were all witnessing displays on CRT screens, being produced by identical devices. The question should not be, “What are these objects?”, it should be, “What would cause these devices to produce these images?” Did any of the witnesses actually see one of these things? In military lingo, did they “make visual contact?” I don’t think they report that they did.

    2. jsn

      My working hypothesis is this is our top-secret military tech guys telling the Russians and Chinese, “we’ve got this stuff no one else on our side can figure out, can you guess what it is?”

      This in response the Russian hypersonic and other new weapons.

      Back up theory is it’s actually Russian and Chinese surveillance and our brass somehow feels like UFOs are less embarrassing. In either case it’s a solicitation of Space Force funding, so everyone’s on board with “spend what it takes”.

  11. Hepativore

    The DNC leadership would probably like nothing more than for the Democratic Party to lose control of Congress in the midterms. Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema provide valuable cover for why the Democrats cannot push to get any popular measures passed for the precariat. Having the Republicans win control of Congress in the midterms would let the DNC avoid scrutiny again by shifting the spotlight on the Republicans for awhile for the reason why “we can’t have nice things” rather than the real cause which is the corporate neoliberal agenda of the DNC at large.

    With luck, the Democrats can manage to lose the 2024 presidential election so they can fundraise off of #resistance hashtags on Twitter again while doing absolutely nothing. AOC herself came out and admitted on Joe Scarborogh the other day that the Squad has no plans to forcefully challenge Biden or the rest of the neoliberal faction in the DNC.


    The Squad is basically all sound and no fury and the DNC as we speak is gleefully laughing as they use the Squad members as doormats while despising AOC and her ilk the entire time.

    1. km

      The Squad is basically all sound and no fury and the DNC as we speak is gleefully laughing as they use the Squad members as doormats while despising AOC and her ilk the entire time.”

      Pretty much, this. And on the rare occasions the Squad obtain some symbolic victory, their fans and partisans strut around as if they singlehandedly won a victory comparable to The Battle Of The Bulge.

      1. Jason Boxman

        Indeed. Sort of like voting present, instead of no, when the latter actually changes the outcome!

        1. John

          Are the Democrats actually a party, either small tent or big tent; do they want to govern or make brave principled stands before defeat? Are the Republicans a cult, a conspiracy, a political party that hates politics unless it is what they want and forget about any compromise?

          Where are the political machines? Where is the back-scratching and log-rolling? What happened to the bosses? At least bosses knew they had to deliver or they were out.

          The BIG DONORS do not care which part has the nominal power. They pay for results.
          When you look at their bottom line, they are buying results for pennies.

          What ever was Justice Kennedy talking through if not his hat when Citizens United was decided? Deluded? Too long in the ivory tower? Perhaps one day, long after corporate control of everything is a done deal, we shall know. That will be a comfort

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      If the anti-New Deal Democrat Leadership has already decided to throw Presidential Election 2024 to Donald Trump, the outcome will be unfortunate. The Tea Trumpanons and the Mainstream Republican Party will work on getting the Administrative State deconstructed once and for all. Once that is achieved, every kind of pollution, sack and pillage will be effectively legal.

      It will become functionally legal to store thousands of tons of high level nuclear waste ( barely spent fuel rods and such) at the bottom of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall, for example. Radioactive waste will be declared an Organic Soil Ammendment and therefor legal to use in USDA Certified Organic Agriculture. And so on and so forth.

      And the TrumpAdmin 2.0 will work on the irreversible Cultural Fascismic re-working of American culture and politics in order to “vanquish Cultural Marxism”.

      That’s what the current DemParty plans to help the Republicans achieve by plotting to throw the election to Trump in 2024.

      At that point, the only resistance possible will be Blue Cultural Resistance through a passive obstructive inculcation of a Superior GreenCulture among a hundred million people or so and somehow mass leaderlessly getting that hundred million people to crash the economy as deep and hard as they can by torturing their own daily life spending down to as low as they can endure it for years and years and years.
      Mass Superior GreenCulture and Mass Scorched Earth Economics.

      ( ” Superior”? “Superior to what?” Well . . . superior to the pro-fossil-fuel Coaly Roller Corporate Death Culture of the Tea Trumpanons and the Republicans).

  12. William Hunter Duncan

    “Vaccination by region:
    Now all falling together. Looks like the bribes were a dead cat bounce.”

    I would think it would be obvious by now that 35-40% of the country is not going to take the vaccines, no matter what. Which makes me wonder about the Ivermectin censorship. I assumed that was the adults in the room deciding we can’t hear about it or we won’t get the vaccine. But then, now that vaccination is stalled out, a lot of that reluctance/refusal is in “a basket of deplorables” country, so I’m starting to wonder about intentions….

    1. RockHard

      Also those bribes coincided with teenagers being allowed to get vaccinated. How much of that bounce was a bribe, and how much was more people being permitted to get a vaccine?

    2. Arizona Slim

      Last year and early this year, I was thinking that, within six months of the vaccine rollout, the powers-that-be would be begging us to take it. That prediction has certainly come true.

      I wonder how long it will be before Ivermectin is openly discussed in the MSM.

      1. Fern

        Ivermectin will be discussed by the MSM when we have the results of a high-quality, randomized controlled trial (RCT). I’ve hesitated to get involved in this discussion due to the heightened emotions around it, but I believe that there are two such studies underway now, one by the University of Minnesota and one by Oxford University. Tragically, the Delta strain might give them a chance to complete these belated trials.

        Yes, the NIH should have done such a study long ago, if for no other reason than they knew that people were using it off-label. It was inexcusable for them to wait this long. I don’t believe this is a bad-pharma influence thing, because they did do an RCT for dexamethasone, which was also a cheap, widely available off-patent drug that could have been viewed as potentially competing with expensive new drug treatments being explored by pharma. Dexamethasone turned out to be a valuable form of treatment.

        In the meantime, I refer back to scientists I trust such as Derek Lowe of In The Pipeline. He recently wrote what I consider to be a balanced review. He has a lot of experience watching early reports of success evaporate in the face of high-quality trials. He writes:

        “So let me finish up by saying that my mind is not yet made up about ivermectin. I can be convinced by good data; if I couldn’t be, I shouldn’t be doing my day job at all. But I am not too optimistic – the data so far are consistent with a lot of other sorta-kinda-maybe-maybe not things I’ve seen over the years, where if you climb up on the right chair and hold your hand up to your face to block out the exact right stuff then things might look OK, but otherwise not so much.”


        1. Bond

          Oh yeah. Good old Oxford has designed the “study” to fail Ivermectin.
          You can look up the details, the TLDR is: They are giving too little, too late.
          And since they are doing this to old, frail folks, what do you think is going happen?

            1. Bond

              either you are trolling (most likely, given the media-politics around Ivermectin), or missed this,
              from your Oxford link:

              “People aged 18 to 64 with certain underlying health conditions* or shortness of breath from COVID-19, or aged over 65** are eligible to join the trial within the first 14 days*** of experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or receiving a positive test.”

              *i.e. frail
              **i.e. elderly
              ***Ivermectin is most effective when used within the first week.

              Kudos to NC for not censoring me. Sources are readily “discredited” by black box/Black Rock etc. controlled entities(hello there NYT, WaPo et al), so there is little point in playing that game. Goodbye, and good luck. (We’re not even close to having a handle on the mid-to long term effects of these vaccines, and that’s a fact.)

              1. Basil Pesto

                sorry, but you said ‘old, frail’ folks, not ‘old or frail’ folks. The former construction is wrong (not everyone over 65 is automatically frail, and it’s open to under-65s in any case). If we’re being charitable and assume you meant the latter construction, then it hinges on the word frail, which is one you’ve pulled out of your arse. The preconditions are given at the linked pre-trial screening site. Some of them are undeniably serious. On the other hand, I have asthma and wouldn’t consider myself ‘frail’.

                I’m not sure about the salience of your 14 day point, which indeed covers the first seven days. If it is more effective in the first seven days, hopefully the trial can establish that. You also said that they are giving too little. The Oxford site, as far as I can tell, doesn’t mention the dosage. That is one reason I asked if you have a better source.

                I don’t know why pre-existing conditions are necessary for those in the trial, but I’m not knowledgeable enough about clinical trials to know whether this is suspect, and so defer to the NC commenters who are. On the other hand, I’m not sure that Ivermectin’s proponents have claimed that it isn’t effective on those aged 18-64 with the pre-conditions the study asks for.

                Whatever the case, you don’t come anywhere close to proving your bold assertion that Oxford have designed the “””study””” to fail. That ~media-politics influence~ thing goes both ways.

        2. urblintz

          If your trusted Derek Lowe, in his “balanced” review, actually believes that “the data so far are consistent with a lot of other sorta-kinda-maybe-maybe not things I’ve seen over the years, where if you climb up on the right chair and hold your hand up to your face to block out the exact right stuff then things might look OK, but otherwise not so much” than I’d suggest you trust him less. Indeed, I’d suggest his description is more appropriate for the vaccines… you know, the ones that are actually killing people…

          1. Yves Smith

            This was all fine until you way overreached at the end. You lost credibility. Drinking too much water kills people. Sex kills people (and not just via STDs). I could go on…Your statement makes this sound as if it’s pervasive, as opposed to calling the risk/return tradeoff questionable for some groups, and the CDC still trying to act as if they are hunky dory for all.

            1. urblintz

              Yes. You are right, of course and I almost didn’t go for the failed irony of my comparison. It’s that the vaccines have serious issues that are not being addressed, while ivermectin, even if it isn’t the miracle we might hope it to be, has proved exceptionally safe for decades. An insistence to push (to the point of shaming) the not-quite-excellent vaccine that has harmed a not-so-small number of people while totally ignoring a nobel prize winning drug, clinically proven to be perhaps one of the safest ever in terms of toxicity with data serious enough for Tess Lawrie’s exhaustive analysis regarding its efficacy against covid, inspired my hyperbole. I found the commenter’s opening – “Ivermectin will be discussed by the MSM when we have the results of a high-quality, randomized controlled trial (RCT)” to be smug, self serving and too dismissive. The MSM should have been discussing ivermectin, unemotionally, from the moment credentialed professionals noticed a possible there there, imho. Instead we got crickets…

    3. The Rev Kev

      If vaccinations have stalled out and the pandemic is still putting a drag on the economy, you may very well see Fauci going on TV telling everybody to go take themselves some Ivermectin.

      1. bwilli123

        Twitter and contemporaneous scientific wisdom. From a thread courtesy of CarbonMike

        John Snow: The epicenter of the current deadly cholera outbreak is a contaminated water pump on Broad Street
        Twitter: this tweet contains harmful disinformation. Learn how bad smells transmit cholera.

        Louis Pasteur: Most infectious diseases are caused by tiny living things

        Twitter: Blocked for information that goes against the scientific consensus

  13. allan

    Re: “Why Police Have Been Quitting in Droves in the Last Year”, follow the money:


    After 9/11 a lot of NYPD retired, partly due to the way their last year’s OT pay factored heavily into their pensions. A lot of cops pulled huge OT numbers last year due to covid and protests. Police officers, like everyone, often have multiple motives for life decisions

    2:52 PM · Jun 24, 2021·Twitter for iPhone

    1. lambert strether

      Lol, Black Lives Matter gives the cops F*ck You money. Tell me it’s mot a great country

      1. Dr. John Carpenter

        And it’s a double win! BLM can catch the blame for cops quitting and there’s truth to it. Gotta love that.

  14. DJG, Reality Czar

    I note this about the Oath Keepers, who may now all sing, too:

    Wikipedia: “Oath Keepers was founded in March 2009 by Elmer Stewart Rhodes,[20][21][22] a Yale Law School graduate, former U.S. Army paratrooper, and former staffer for Republican Congressman Ron Paul.[23]”

    Hasn’t the esteemed Lambert Strether expressed occasional musings about what is going on at Yale Law School?

    1. km

      To be fair, you can probably count the number of Yale Law grads who are also Ron Paul supporters on the fingers of one hand. There’s no career upside to be had, there, and such people tend to be nothing if not unrelentingly careerist.

      The only reason a Yale law grad would choose Team R in the first place would be if they sought to practice in a Team R-dominated area, or were seeking appointment from a Team R executive. Team D is otherwise the PMC choice.

      1. John

        The Bushes were at the tail end of the WASP ascendancy and went to Yale-Harvard-Princeton by right of birth. In like manner they attended Groton or Andover, Exeter or Deerfield or Lawrenceville by an equivalent right. Times have changed now money talks louder than family and there is pressure against legacy admissions.

        But if you wonder what is going on at Yale law school, take a look as far back as Bill and Hillary’s years there. Does Yale turn out people steeped in the law or in the prevailing zeitgeist?

  15. DJG, Reality Czar

    Again, quoting Wikipedia (scusatemi, folkses): “The organization states that full membership is open to “currently serving military, reserves, National Guard, police, fire-fighters, other first responders (i.e. State Guard, Sheriff Posse/Auxiliary, Search & Rescue, EMT, other medical 1st responders, etc.) AND veterans/former members of those services,” and that others who support the organization’s mission can become associate members.[5]”

    They fancy themselves the Pretorian Guard.

    And here’s where “Thank you for your service” has gotten us.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Russiagate was a soft coup attempt (over one of the few things Trump wasn’t guilty of) based on a convergence of interests among factions in the national security bureaucracy, corporate media and the Clinton-Obama wing of the Democratic Party. It was also an incentive for future Presidents to establish their own Praetorian Guard, which we will likely see with Trump 2.0…

  16. Jason Boxman

    President Biden struck an infrastructure deal on Thursday with a bipartisan group of senators, signing on to their plan to provide about $579 billion in new investments in roads, broadband internet, electric utilities and other projects in hopes of moving a crucial piece of his economic agenda through Congress.

    Not quite $4T.

    And the joys of public-private partnerships!

    A separate infrastructure finance program would leverage $20 billion in federal money to produce $180 billion in private financing on infrastructure construction.

    So is that gonna be toll roads and toll bridges? Money don’t work for nothin’!

    1. lambert strether

      This particular round of sausage-making reminds me of Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler

      1. ambrit

        The sausage makers remind me of, well, this is a family blog.
        How about a “Rats-onna-stick” Infrastructure Program?

    2. Alfred

      What it sounds like is they are hashing out getting slices of the infrastructure implementation pie. I recall that the PPP was structured so the requisite banks made a pile of money in fees. I have no idea, but recently it seems that interests like BlackRock and any number of others are in on the deal-making process.

    3. Nikkikat

      Jason you nailed it. Those magical public private deals mean inferior sub par work with no bid contracts and shovels of tax payer money. This was the bill they planned to do all along.

    4. Glen

      Oh boy – let’s imagine how this will work:

      1) Public funding is given to PE.
      2) PE uses public money as down payment on public infrastructure and borrows the rest against the infrastructure.
      3) Formally public infrastructure is now private and heavily in debt.
      4) PE uses new financial status to massively increase all fees, slash jobs, qualify of service, maintenance, anything to cut costs.
      5) Magic unicorn poops out new infrastructure!

      Yes, splendid plan, you naysayers show some respect for magic unicorns!

      1. John

        In this age when everything is for rent … selling is so yesterday … public-private deals are the work of the devil or another being with similar attributes.

  17. antidlc

    Re:Retired couple who chopped neighbours’ Fir Tree in HALF in ‘petty’ row insist they’ll ‘do it AGAIN

    I politely asked my neighbor to trim back their tree branches that hang over my yard. The leaves fall on my roof in the fall and I am not too keen on getting on a ladder at my age to clean out the gutters. It has become darn near impossible to grow grass under their tree because of the shade. My side yard looks terrible.

    I would really like to cut the tree in half except for the fact that I really like my neighbors and don’t want to jeopardize our relationship.

    1. Alfred

      If I may say something, your neighbors aren’t aware of the issues their tree is causing you? If they are and aren’t helping mitigate them, like helping you with your gutters, I wonder if they value your relationship to them. Also, if you like ferns and hostas, begonia, forget-me-not, hydrandgea, vinca, etc., they grow fine in shade, and you don’t have to mow them!

    2. lyman alpha blob

      I have Norway maples whose trunks are on the neighbors’ property but encroach on mine, but luckily my neighbors let me trim the branches on my side. Getting anything to grow near them is tough, but I would add daylilies and lily of the valley to alfred’s list – they have grown well under these trees for years.

      If none of the pleasant solutions work, there is always acid, a drill, and time….

    3. steve

      If the limbs extend past the property line, to the extent they do they are your responsibility. Its an age old problem and while local laws vary in detail said limbs are yours and so is the shade.

        1. HotFlash

          per Codex Hammurabi 1755–1750 BC:

          59. If any man, without the knowledge of the owner of a garden, fell a tree in a garden he shall pay half a mina in money.

          OTOH, although Hammurabi (actually Hammurapi) codified a lot of existing law, last I knew (which was some 3 decades ago) the Codex was not referred to in any then-known contemporary legal case, of which many, many exist. The Ancient Near East scholars I knew back then figured it was just a new king’s PR. But it’s a fun read.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Thanks for that page, HotFlash. Have just downloaded it for further study as it really says a lot of what was going on in the early days of civilization.

  18. jo6pac

    Yes the below is why we on Main Street can’t have nice things.

    “a bipartisan group of senators”

    Thanks Jason B.

  19. hamstak

    Well, nobody knows what the Democrats stand for, but they’re doubling down on bipartisanship…

    Actually, this seems to imply that the dems stand for bipartisanship, and its corollaries (compromise, public-private partnerships, public positions/private positions).


    …a leap too far for insurers, who are not ready to price the risk of losing Jeff Bezos or his fellow space travelers.

    You can’t put a price on that which is priceless.

  20. Everything for Friends, the Law for Enemies

    It is funny how neoliberals all over the world don’t care about the law at all, but every little lefty is concerned about the law all the time.

    Sweden has in just a couple of decades completely neoliberalized the school system to the brink of actually financing islamist terrorists and shoveling loads of tax money to foreign private equity. You would think that this was a well-founded destruction, but no.

    Before privatizing the school system to death, nobody even investigated if it is legal for private institutions to exercise the kind of governmental authority like grading.

    The article is worth google-translating. It is a pure national horror show.

    If only the left would grow a pair and disregard the law like the neoliberals maybe the world would be a little bit better.


  21. RockHard

    “Local Delivery Alternatives Bite Into DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber”

    I remember a conversation with an attorney at a social event about 6 years ago – at the time I was looking at creating a startup and started wondering “why don’t people just start a co-op instead of signing over most of the company to investors?”. The attorney looked at me like I was stupid and proceeded to explain VC funding, which I already understood very well. I was wondering something like what LoCo Co-Ops is doing, but they’ve generalized the idea. Really going to watch this one.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Restaurant patrons who approve of the LoCo Co-Op food-delivery concept can limit their restaurant patronization to restaurants which use LoCos to deliver their food. And have their friendly neighborhood LoCo deliver the food.

      And when other restaurants add the LoCo to their “menu” of “food delivery choices”, then those patrons can extend their patronage to those other restaurants as those other restaurants extend their “delivery service relationships” to the LoCos.

  22. marym

    The provisions of the voting bills passed/proposed don’t only make it more inconvenient to vote. They make it more difficult to register. They make it more expensive. They enable voter intimidation at the polling place. They enable state legislator and/or executive actions to intimidate local election officials with criminal penalties and suspension, overrule their decisions, overturn the certification process, and choose the electoral college electors themselves.

    The chart of states “expanding” voting isn’t meaningful without more detail as to which particular features are being expanded and/or restricted and where the impact will be. For example the TX bill that Democrats have temporally blocked, like the example of GA given in the chart, has both expansive and restrictive provisions. The Texas Tribune link has further details about both, but here’s one that expands and restricts at the same time.

    …requires more counties to offer at least 12 hours of early voting each weekday of the last week of early voting, but sets a new window of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. for voting. This would directly preempt Harris County’s 24-hour voting, which it planned to keep for future elections. It would also slightly shorten the extra hours other large counties offered in the last election by keeping their polling places open until 10 p.m. — three hours past the usual 7 p.m. closing time — for at least a few days.


  23. HotFlash

    UPDATE “POLITICO Playbook: Biden catches his white whale”

    Does Politico know that the whale killed Captain Ahab?

      1. John

        Slim, you beat me to it. Then consider that the first words in Moby Dick are, “Call me, Ishmael.” What right thinking person would go farther?

          1. ambrit

            The added comma is “woke.’ without it, the implication is that the narrator is a full on ‘Ishmaelite,’ with no appreciation for the niceties of a properly ambiguous ‘nature.’ In short, the original structure of the sentence is “de-natured.”
            Add just a touch of vermouth to the original opening to “Moby Dick” and you have a passable cocktail.

          2. HotFlash

            Well, I think John’s version (with comma) is a literary reference to “Hey, sailor.”

        1. HotFlash

          Farther? Hmph. Should be, “Call me Ishmael, he, him.” Thanks for that go the Matt Taibbi.

        2. Robert Gray

          ‘Call me Ishmael’ is of course one of the great opening lines, right up there with ‘Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead …’ and ‘Hwaet, we gar-dena in geardagum’. In Moby Dick, however, we get the bonus of an Epilogue with a line from the Book of Job which has an uncannily modern semantic resonance (even if the style is quaintly archaic): ‘And I only am escaped alone to tell thee’.

  24. Laura in So Cal

    The AP Story about Vaccinated Deaths in May…They say this:

    “And only about 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May were in fully vaccinated people. That translates to about 0.8%, or five deaths per day on average.”

    The 18,000 number looked really high to me for May 2021. I went to the CDC and downloaded the day by day state reporting of new deaths for May 2021. It shows 1860 deaths in May 2021. That data doesn’t show vaccinated vs. not so I can’t speak to the 150 number, but I think someone added a “0” to their denominator. The % would be 8% not 0.8%.

    Unless I just did it wrong?


    1. allan

      This WaPo graphic indicates the daily deaths ramping down from about 700/day at the start of May to
      about 550/day at the end. So 18,000 for the month seems right.

    2. Laura in So Cal

      I was wrong! This is my bad. I should have done the analysis twice before posting. After doing it AGAIN, I get closer to 15,000 deaths in May so not the egregious error that I thought it was. I checked my totals and they are very close to the “dashboard” number so I think it checks out.


  25. lyman alpha blob

    That Michael Caley tweet is completely inaccurate – the dog on the right is not licking its own [family blog]..

  26. Geo

    “Somehow the selfie cuts against the menace of the cosplay….”

    Not necessarily. Seems more like it’s part of being a menace now days. Whether it’s mass shooters live streaming their actions, those notorious images of insurgent groups standing around hostages like some sort of horrible family photo, the Abu Graib torture selfies, and on and on.

    The old “if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it” has been updated to “pix or it didn’t happen.”

  27. Louis

    The Democrats are pushing SALT? Just no.

    I suppose these Democrats’ idea of middle-class is someone who can afford a $1,000,000+ home.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The Republicans got SALT repealed to torture the taxpayers of high-tax high-standards Blue states to lower their taxes to Red state levels to begin with.

      So why is helping the Republicans by blocking the restoration of former SALT considered some kind of progressive goal? Is it just simplistic kindergarten-preschool type performative politics?

      If progressives help Republicans keep SALT “removed” or “hard-capped” as it now is, they will be rightfully blamed for the eventual Tax Revolts in all the Blue States which will eventually all turn Red, as Grover Norquist planned and intended with SALT removal.

  28. michael99

    The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2021 Infrastructure Report Card is out. There are links for the full report and executive summary at the bottom of the page.

    They calculated the Investment Gap at $2.59 trillion over 10 years. This is mostly about repair and maintenance of existing infrastructure and capacity.

    1. Dwight

      Ironic, too bad the engineers can’t figure out how to build a website that works.

      Couldn’t get it to load in Firefox or Safari, from your link or Google.

      1. RMO

        Worked fine for me with Firefox and Edge on two Windows computers and Firefox and Safari on a Mac Mini.

      2. michael99

        Sorry – it is loading for me with Firefox.

        It seems to me that the US should be investing to scale up generation of electricity from renewables rapidly this decade, as well as improving the grid and building electricity storage capacity.

        The ASCE report on energy infrastructure says, “To meet the latest state-driven Renewable Portfolio Standards in generation infrastructure, the gap is projected to grow to a cumulative $197 billion by

        That seems low to me in terms of what is really needed. The Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley put out a report that says it would be possible to get to 90% of electricity generation from renewables by 2035 with an investment of $1.7 trillion.

    1. The Rev Kev

      This has already had an international effect. So Canada was calling out China on, what else, human rights. So then in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, Jiang Duan, a senior official at China’s mission to the UN, urged for a “thorough and impartial investigation into all cases where crimes were committed against the indigenous people, especially children, so as to bring those responsible to justice, and offer full remedy to victims” for Canada. This statement was supported by Russia, Belarus, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela so must have been very uncomfortable to the Canadian delegation-


      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        The ChinaGov and the WesternGovs can all wag all their fingers at eachother in a great Round Robin Daisy Chain of Wag The Finger.

        In that way we can all help eachother keep eachother honest.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Brought to us by the fine people of the Canadian Government. It was CanadaGov personnell who passed all the anti-Indian culture genocide laws. It was CanadaGov personnel who mass kidnapped the children and sent them to concentration re-education camps. It was the CanadaGov who asked and invited the Catholic Church and other churches to run these concentration re-education camps on behalf of Canada and in furtherance of Canada’s Leadership Elite culture-genocide agenda.

        The Catholic Church was merely one of several carry-out-ers of Official Canadian Policy on the ground.

      2. eg

        Yeah, I’m pretty sure that the Residential Schools came in all the fine denominations of Christianity represented in Canada — the Catholics being the largest such.

  29. The Rev Kev

    “Judge rebukes GOP for downplaying US Capitol riot as he hands out first sentence in insurrection”

    There may be a precedent being established here. So right now the feds are charging about 500 people that were in that Capital building that day which must be nearly all of them. Obviously facial recognition technology was used and the appeal for people to be snitches was probably just to cover the extent of facial technology used. But in any case, they were out to charge every single person present in that building.

    So down the track let us imagine a serious riot that is against the establishment. With this precedent, will they then seek to identify and charge every single person in that riot as a deterrent for future riots? I was thinking of a demonstration years ago when the police forced demonstrators onto a bridge, blocked both ends, and then arrested every single one of them. A long time later a judge threw the charges coming out of that out of court but still, the intent was there.

  30. The Rev Kev

    “HMS Defender: Russian jets and ships shadow British warship”

    The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea says that ships have right of innocent passage, This is defined in Article 19 where it say-

    Meaning of innocent passage
    1. Passage is innocent so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State.

    Also check out the following part-

    2. Passage of a foreign ship shall be considered to be prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State if in the territorial sea it engages in any of the following activities:

    (d) Any act of propaganda aimed at affecting the defence or security of the coastal State.

    The fact that that British warship went in with all weapons locked and loaded does not sound very innocent to me.


      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        To my great surprise too. Thank you for finding that. If those tornadoes are evenly spaced out over that whole time period, one more tornado isn’t proof or even evidence of global warming’s local changes there in Czechia.

  31. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here is an interesting little video talk from Beau of the Fifth Column. It’s about Trump, DeSantis, and how the Democrats could win Pres-election 2024 IF they do this, that and the other in the big general way that Beau of the Fifth Column describes.


    I recommend that everyone listen and weep. Because if Beau is right about what the Democrats and especially the Joemalacrats “have to do” to win, that is the one big thing that they will never ever do.
    I don’t know if secret collusion with the Republicans can really explain the Joemalacrats spending the next three years refusing to do any slightest bit of what Beau recommends here.

    I am beginning to think that the explanation for Democrat behavior is that the Democrats are philosophical , emotional, psychological, ethical and moral Subhuman Scum. Losing and letting everything down and throwing everything away is the basic essence of their most inner selves. As people, they are subhuman fecal waste matter, nothing more.

    So in 2024 I expect I will vote “for” the Democrats against Trump or Junior DeSantrumpis or whomever, knowing the whole time that the Democrats will lose that election because subhuman loserhood is the totality of their inner essence.

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