2:00PM Water Cooler 7/21/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

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#COVID19

At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching….

Vaccination by region:

Flattened, interestingly. This after only 48.7% of the US population is fully vaccinated. (For those following at along at home, that’s not even a majority). And our public health establishment has discredited non-pharmaceutical interventions like masking, and has been fighting treatment tooth and nail, as hard as they fought aerosols, good job.

Case count by United States regions:

The non-triumphalist black line of today’s new normal is a definitely above the peak of the first wave, back in early 2020. (Note that these numbers are if anything understated, since the CDC does not collect breakthrough infections unless they involve hospitalization, and encourages health administrators in the states and localities not to collect the data either.) We should know the impact of travel and all the family gatherings by July 4 + 14 call it July 21 or so. And of course summer camp, Bible School, etc. NOTE: That’s today. I’m perfectly happy to call the beginning of a new wave (the fifth?), even if we don’t know how high it will go. So far, the country is dodging a bullet in terms of hospitalization and death ((no longer going down, but not spiking either). I don’t know why that is. (Long Covid is another matter.)

Covid cases top ten states: for the last four weeks (hat tip, alert reader Lou Anton):

California and Texas on the rise again.

NEW From CDC: “Community Profile Report July 20 2021” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties, this release:

More red. Last release:

(Red means getting worse, green means bad but getting better. This chart updates Tuesdays and Fridays, presumbly by end-of-day.)

Test positivity:

South running away with the field. But other regions now playing catch-up.

Hospitalization (CDC):

Hospitaliztion flattens, no longer in decline.

Deaths (Our World in Data):

Deaths flatten after increasing.

Covid cases worldwide:

Every region is trending up.

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Politics

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

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

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

Capitol Seizure

“Watching the Watchmen” [Buzzfeed]. “The man who’d advised them on where to put the explosives — and offered to get them as much as the task would require — was an undercover FBI agent.” • That’s not at all unusual; FBI informants inside the Bundy’s Malheur compound gave weapons training to the occupiers, after all. Filing this here because the FBI has form, and the FBI also had — unsurprisingly — informants in the milieu that gave rise to the Capitol riot.

UPDATE “Capitol attack committee chair vows to investigate Trump: ‘Nothing is off limits’” [Guardian]. “In an interview with the Guardian, Thompson said that he is also prepared to depose members of Congress and senior Trump administration officials who might have participated in the insurrection that left five dead and nearly 140 injured. ‘Absolutely,’ Thompson said of his intent to pursue a wide-ranging inquiry against the former president and some of his most prominent allies on Capitol Hill. “Nothing is off limits.’… But Thompson went further, and said that he expects anyone – whether a sitting member of Congress or former White House official – who may have spoken to Trump on 6 January to become the subject of the select committee’s investigation.” • They keep saying nothing is off limits, but they never mention the FBI.

Biden Administration

UPDATE “President Biden’s net zero revolution?” (video) [Financial Times]. The blurb: “Sweeping reforms promise to transform the US from one of the world’s worst polluters into a net zero pioneer. But wind, solar and plug-in cars won’t be enough. As the FT’s Myles McCormick explains, President Biden is relying on huge advances in technology and the unlikely support of political opponents to make his green dream a reality.”

UPDATE “POLITICO Playbook: ‘Reckless tax and spending spree’: The GOP battle plan takes shape” [Politico]. • Holy Lord. Trump’s CARES Act was an enormous spending spree and extremely successful.

UPDATE “Gun violence is surging — researchers finally have the money to ask why” [Nature]. “[There is] a new pool of federal money for gun-violence research in the United States, which has more firearm-related deaths than any other wealthy nation. Although other countries fund research on guns, it is often in the context of trafficking and armed conflict. US federal funding of gun-violence research has not reflected the death toll, researchers say. The new money comes after more than two decades of what has essentially been a freeze on funding for the topic. … Spurred by advocacy that followed some high-profile school shootings, Congress has now authorized $25 million for each of the past two years to go to the NIH and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the study of gun violence as a public-health issue. In April, President Joe Biden suggested doubling that figure. Although researchers were initially slow to answer the funding call, studies such as Wallace’s are starting to look at how gun policies affect homicide rates. Others will investigate strategies to reduce suicides, which typically account for nearly two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States. And a handful of state health departments around the country are getting funding to collect better statistics on gun-related injuries.” • Another good small thing done by the Biden Administration (small by the side of, say, climate). Enough? Probably not. Also, let’s hope the CDC doesn’t run true to form and butcher it.

“Elder Rises, Jenner Falls, As Newsom Recall Election Gets Real” [New York Magazine]. “The long-shot Republican effort to recall California governor Gavin Newsom got a jolt of energy this week as popular conservative radio talk-show host Larry Elder joined the field (which officially closed on Friday) of “replacement candidates” who are competing for the job if voters give the incumbent the boot. Veteran California political observer George Skelton is among those who think Elder may immediately jump to the top of the nearly 80 candidates who qualified for the second ballot question in the September 14 recall election. (The first is whether Newsom should be removed from office, and the second, which only matters if the first is answered affirmatively by a majority of voters, is who should then become governor… So he has high California name ID and a national fundraising base. He’s also not exactly a cookie-cutter right-wing gabber; he supported Trump in 2020 but has a libertarian-ish background. And as a longtime Black Republican figure who grew up in South Central Los Angeles, he is neither an opportunist nor a stuffed-shirt country-club type.” • So, you can beat somebody with somebody?

Democrats en Deshabille

“Cuomo staff attendance records withheld for ‘law enforcement purposes’” [Albany Times-Union]. “As the Times Union reported in April, at least two junior Cuomo staffers were assigned book-related tasks last year, while also earning substantial overtime payments in 2020. Cuomo’s office says that no overtime was paid to staffers for work related to ‘American Crisis,’ and that any overtime requested was ‘to help assist in the operation of state government.’ The office is declining to release the records that may confirm that assertion.” • Oh.

2022

“GOP eyes Latinos in South Texas in effort to regain Congress” [Associated Press]. “In Republicans’ bid to retake control of Congress, this traditionally Democratic stretch of South Texas has quietly become a top battleground. After making unexpected gains last November, the GOP is zeroing in on a trio of House seats in the region as key targets heading into next year’s midterm elections. They include the 15th Congressional District, which hasn’t sent a Republican to Washington since its creation in 1903, but where a GOP newcomer came within three points of winning in 2020. Republican leaders believe the party is on the precipice of a political realignment among Hispanic voters in communities along the U.S.-Mexico border like McAllen.” • IIRC, Sanders won those districts, but the liberal Democrat threw them away. To me, the golden path to understanding the 2020 election is: Why did Sanders lose Texas? I’ve done some research and all the answers I’ve found were miserably inadequate.

Trump Legacy

“Trump Ally Tom Barrack Charged With Secretly Working For UAE” [HuffPo]. Meanwhile: “President Joe Biden has pledged to push controversial American friends like the Emiratis to abide by rights standards, and many top Democrats want to hold him to that promise. But after reviewing a massive $23 billion weapons package that Trump offered to the UAE, Biden OK’d the arms deal, HuffPost revealed in April. The fight over the package is ongoing ― and fresh frustration toward the UAE will not help its case.” • And of course, the UAE plays both sides of the street. It’s bad. Is it bad in some unique or interesting way?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“With 2 weeks to go, the special election for the Ohio 11 Congressional seat heats up” [News5 Cleveland]. “The campaign of Nina Turner is out with an ad attacking Shontel Brown, alleging she used her seat on Cuyahoga County Council to enrich friends, family and herself. ‘On council, Brown voted to give more than $32 million in taxpayer contracts to a company connected to her boyfriend and family. She even voted to give herself a $7,000 pay raise for a part-time job on council,’ the Turner ad said of Brown. County Council President Pernel Jones sees that as an attack on the entire council and their practices. ‘I’m telling you there is nothing improper that is being done,’ Jones said. ‘To say that is untrue.’ Jones was joined by Members of the Cleveland Clergy Coalition, who are supporting Brown in her run, to denounce the negative ads.” • Well, that should do it. Cleveland politics are, of course, notoriously clean. As anybody from Akron knows.

UPDATE “Ohio becomes battleground for rival Democratic factions” [The Hill]. “Turner, who has been the front-runner for much of the race, has seen her lead narrow in recent days amid new attacks and endorsements for her opponent from national Democrats and aligned special organizations. An influential slate of outside groups, including the Congressional Black Caucus PAC and the New Democrat Coalition’s action fund, recently endorsed Brown, as did Hillary Clinton, the former Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. The Democratic Majority for Israel PAC has also supported Brown’s campaign through targeted advertising.” • What a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

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“Hannah-Jones: “All Journalism Is Activism”” [Jonathan Turley]. “Hannah-Jones told CBS News that journalists now have set aside notions of neutrality. She noted: ‘When you look at the model of The Washington Post, right? ‘Democracy dies in darkness,’ that’s not a neutral position. But our methods of reporting have to be objective. We have to try to be fair and accurate. And I don’t know how you can be fair and accurate if you pretend publicly that you have no feelings about something that you clearly do.'” • Sort of amazing, except not, that Hannah-Jones treats the Jeff Bezos Daily Shopper™ not just as an exemplar, but a moral exemplar.

“Identity Tethering in an Age of Symbolic Politics” [The Hedgehog Review]. “The reality is that identity tethering is a type of cultural work that we all engage in; it operates along multiple social scales, from the more pedestrian level of consumer advertising to the more transcendent level of imagined communities. And like many successful social phenomena, it is meaningful to different people for different reasons. Symbolic behaviors like driving a pickup truck and refusing to wear a mask at the grocery store compound into a potent if unstable formation of symbolic capital. We engage in this cultural work of accruing symbolic capital because, like financial capital, it is valuable to us. It can help us cope; it grants admission to social cliques or professional advancement; it offers membership in communities of patriots or the faithful or the “reality-based community” (to use a term from the George W. Bush years). That symbolic capital is something we all more or less create or cocreate is the surest sign that it has something to offer everybody. Its pervasiveness, however, is also the reason it is vulnerable to culture war dynamics and to those who have something to gain from producing a steady diet of what used to be called propaganda. It is hard to get people to defend the powerful, but it is easy to get people to defend themselves. This is one way identity tethering works. You tether people’s identity to a political and economic order.”

“Men in Dark Times” [Harpers]. Deck: “How Hannah Arendt’s fans misread the post-truth presidency.” More: “Mapping Arendt’s framework onto Trump obscures the way his lies operated, and what they were: not totalitarian world-building so much as boardroom bullshit. Far from resorting to terror, Trump made only paltry efforts to convert his lies into action. He antagonized the press but never made moves to dismantle it. Even when he contested the 2020 election result, he made his case through lies and lawyers rather than recruiting the kind of organized military force that might have executed a bona fide coup. On January 6, there was no serviceable plan because Trump never made the defining totalitarian effort to bend reality to his fictional world. His lies never progressed beyond the singular goal of saving face.”

“Philadelphia sees $40 mln in possible costs from Trump ally’s election probe” [Reuters]. “After [Republican state Senator Doug] Mastriano announced his probe last week, the Pennsylvania Department of State issued a directive to the state’s 67 counties warning it would decertify any equipment handed over to third parties because the chain of custody would be broken…. Schmidt, who has repeatedly defended the integrity of the vote count in heavily Democratic-leaning Philadelphia, said Mastriano’s request for a wide array of equipment could force the city to replace some $30 million worth of voting machines and an additional $10 million in central programming and tabulation equipment.” • Well, that’s what they get for buying voting machines.

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

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Commodities: “The mining companies are among a wide array of companies, including many transportation operators, that remain cautious on investments in capacity and output amid pandemic-driven uncertainty in the global economy” [Wall Street Journal]. “Dry-bulk ocean carriers are reaping the benefits of the strong commodities market, with rates in the sector boosted in part by capacity constraints.”

Supply Chain: “The controversy over alleged forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region is reaching operations far from the remote area. Chinese factories that supply Apple and Nike and make other products sold in the U.S. are shunning workers from Xinjiang in apparent moves to steer clear of potential repercussions in their supply chains” [Wall Street Journal]. “That Apple supplier Lens Technology phased out Uyghur factory workers transferred from Xinjiang through a state-backed program last year as Western companies stepped up their scrutiny of labor in the region. The about-face by Chinese suppliers highlights the growing pressure firms face as Western governments push multinationals to eliminate forced labor from their supply chains. It also shows the complexity of the effort. Apple says it conducted more than 1,100 audits and interviewed 57,000 workers to check if suppliers were following its standards.

Supply Chain: “Thousands of opioid-crisis lawsuits hanging over major drug distributors and manufacturers are nearing a conclusion. The outlines of a $26 billion deal between states and four companies is taking shape this week… along with the likely resolution of a $1 billion settlement of some of New York’s claims” [Wall Street Journal]. “The events won’t end all the cases surrounding the opioid crisis that has enveloped the U.S. But they should clear some of the legal clouds that have raised significant questions over the responsibility that pharmaceutical suppliers hold over the distribution of their products. Distributors AmersourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson have been seeking to resolve thousands of lawsuits filed by state and local governments. As part of the settlement, the distributors and manufacturer agreed to create a clearinghouse to help detect and stop suspicious drug orders.” • A clearinghouse? How long has the ([profit-driven) opioid “crisis” been going on? A decade?

The Bezzle: “Consumer Reports says Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ software lacks safeguards” [Reuters]. “‘Videos of FSD Beta 9 in action don’t show a system that makes driving safer or even less stressful,’ says Jake Fisher, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center. ‘Consumers are simply paying to be test engineers for developing technology without adequate safety protection.'” • Ouch!

Mr. Market: “Will asset-price bubbles burst and tear down the economy? Here’s what leading luminaries say.” [MarketWatch]. Experts ask to rate teh chances on a scale of 1-10, 10 high. Deutsche and the Petersen Institute say 3 and 2 respectively, so I guess the changes are 7 or 8. “Robert Litan, non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, rated the risk at five.” As Brookings would do. More: “He was skeptical that the rise in inflation will be sustained and trigger Federal Reserve tightening. Besides, he adds, how much macroeconomic damage would be caused even if asset prices do suddenly fall? This time around, the asset-price runups are not debt driven, and bank capital cushions are much thicker. He said any asset-price fall would damage the economy like the mild downturn after the dot-com bubble burst, though the high levels of government debt relative to the size of the economy will make cleaning up after the next mess more difficult.”:

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 23 Extreme Fear (previous close: 20 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 34 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 21 at 12:48pm. Mr. Market still chewing his hands.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on floods. “Massive floods have hit areas all over the world” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 186 (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so high is better.)

The Biosphere

Alert reader JU writes: “Circa 1900 cooling tower near Sequoia NP”:

“My favorite of the 100 or so i’ve seen around these parts.” Looks doable.

“What are the treaties being invoked by Line 3 opponents?” [Minneapolis Post]. “Tribal council representatives and members of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe will be gathering at the Minnesota Capitol today to request a ‘nation-to nation’ dialogue with Gov. Tim Walz and President Joe Biden in an effort to stop construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline. Last Friday, leaders of the tribe gathered in a press conference to raise concerns about the pipeline’s effects on surrounding resources and waters, most notably the treaty-protected wild rice, and said continued efforts to build the pipeline was in violation of the tribe’s treaty rights….. ‘Manoomin (wild rice) is our most important spiritual, sacred, central part of our culture. This is part of the American Indian Religious Freedoms Act and our rights,” said Frank Bibeau, tribal attorney for the White Earth Band, during the press conference. “Manoomin grows everywhere right now in northern Minnesota. And it’s being starved out from water. It’s being starved out for its nutrients.'” • Good review.

“Plummeting reservoir levels could soon force Oroville hydropower offline” [Los Angeles Times]. “A major California hydroelectric power plant could soon stop generating power amid worsening drought conditions. According to state water officials, the Edward Hyatt Powerplant at Lake Oroville could go offline as soon as August or September — a time frame that would coincide with a feared power crunch this summer. The plant, which opened in the late 1960s, has never been forced offline by low lake levels before…. Like many things in California, recent travails at Lake Oroville have been a tale of extremes. In 2017, millions of gallons of water eroded the dam’s main and emergency spillways, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents. The 2016-17 rain season was one of the wettest in California history, bringing more water to Lake Oroville than the reservoir could hold, which was one of several factors that led to the 2017 crisis. Just four and a half years later, fortunes on the banks of the lake look vastly different.”

“Massive DNA ‘Borg’ structures perplex scientists” [Nature]. “Scientists analysing samples from muddy sites in the western United States have found novel DNA structures that seem to scavenge and ‘assimilate’ genes from microorganisms in their environment, much like the fictional Star Trek ‘Borg’ aliens who assimilate the knowledge and technology of other species…. Their vast size, ranging between more than 600,000 and about 1 million DNA base pairs in length, is one feature that distinguishes Borgs from many other ECEs. In fact, Borgs are so huge that they are up to one-third of the length of the main chromosome in their host microbes, Banfield says…. .Borgs seem to be associated with archaea, which are single-celled microorganisms distinct from bacteria. Specifically, those Banfield and her team have discovered are linked to the Methanoperedens variety, which digest and destroy methane. And Borg genes seem to be involved in this process, says Banfield.” • Maybe — modulo any “grey goo” problems — we could get the Borgs eating methane. There are rather a lot of micro-organisms, after all.

“US to end large, old-growth timber sales in Alaska forest” [Channel News Asia]. “The Biden administration said Thursday (Jul 15) that it is ending large-scale, old-growth timber sales in the country’s largest national forest – the Tongass National Forest in Alaska – and will focus on forest restoration, recreation and other noncommercial uses. The US Agriculture Department, which includes the Forest Service, also said it will take steps to reverse a Trump administration decision last year to lift restrictions on logging and road-building in the southeast Alaska rainforest, which provides habitat for wolves, bears and salmon. A 2001 rule prohibits road construction and timber harvests with limited exceptions on nearly one-third of national forest land. The Trump administration moved to exempt the Tongass from those prohibitions, something Alaska political leaders had sought for years. Restoring those protections in the Tongass would return “stability and certainty to the conservation of 9.3 million acres of the world’s largest temperate old growth rainforest,” the Agriculture Department said. It expects to initiate a rulemaking process next month that will include a chance for public comment, Forest Service spokesperson Larry Moore said.” • Good. Symbolic, though. Except for the forest itself.

“Once planned for North Carolina, Active Energy’s wood pellet experiment in Maine hits a snag” [Progressive Pulse]. “The company has heralded CoalSwitch wood pellets as a game changer for utilities. The patented technology creates a pellet that can burned alongside coal or as a standalone fuel in traditional power plants with no loss of heat. Utilities that use CoalSwitch pellets wouldn’t have to spend millions of dollars to retrofit their facilities. And because the manufacturing process uses steam to explode the pellets to remove some contaminants, they burn cleaner than coal. However, the pellet production process itself can emit tons carbon monoxide, particulate matter and hazardous air pollutants. Kennedy said Maine regulators don’t yet have emissions data from the trial period, but expect to after it concludes. This data could be instructive for the NC Department of Environmental Quality, which has questioned the accuracy of the company’s most recent emissions estimates.” • Wood pellets remind me of ethanol. Too cyncical?

“The orchardist rescuing fruit trees in New Mexico” (photo essay) [High Country News]. “Tucked into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, it’s not just trees that matter on the small 15-acre farm. Tooley’s land is lively: The rich soil is home to diverse species of grasses, insects, pollinators — and, of course, trees. Crucially, no ground is left uncovered, the groundwater level is kept at high levels, and bats and birds feast day and night on would-be pests. Everyone plays a role, and Tooley uses his encyclopedic understanding of the land to teach others how to work within the ecosystem…

Health Care

“Conflicts of interest: an invisible force shaping health systems and policies” [The Lancet]. “Despite years of discussion and frustration about why public health evidence does not influence policy decisions as much as it should, there has been little attention to a fundamental force in decision making: conflicts of interest. Conflicts of interest arise when the potential for individual or group gain compromises the professional judgment of policy makers or health-care providers. Conflicts of interest underpin rent-seeking and informal practice across the world, but their nuanced nature makes them challenging to identify, research, and address. Conflicts of interest are often very subtle; no action needs to be taken for them to exist. In many countries, the heterogeneous nature of mixed health systems and complex care pathways are compounded by weak governance mechanisms,1 which increase the potential for conflicts of interest to occur and make them difficult to address with existing regulatory and policy frameworks, including self-disclosure mandates or malpractice procedures. To begin to illuminate these issues and to develop a research agenda, we have characterised three different types of conflicts of interest that are particularly pervasive in mixed or pluralistic health systems (table). We emphasise how these conflicts impede the development of health policies to better structure and govern state and non-state health-care providers.” • Here is the Table:

Competing interest Example of effect on policies
Policy makers or regulators are expected to formulate and implement policies thatensure appropriate care delivery by private health-care providers A secondary relationship that results in financial, social, or familial connectionwith the institutions they are responsible for regulating, such that the policy actoror regulator may prefer weaker controls. Weakening of policies: policy formulation influenced such that weaker rules are introduced.Alternatively, policy implementing bodies (eg, drug inspection agencies) are under-resourcedto enforce rules.
Formal health-care providers have a responsibility to provide and support the provisionof health care in accordance with local regulations and professional ethics standards Financial flows from informal (illegal) providers or practice create additional sourcesof income for formal providers. Covert opposition to change: formal providers publicly support stronger regulationof informal practice, but covertly influence the policy-making process to enable itto continue and thrive.
Policy decisions should reflect public health evidence and best practice Policy makers do not want to introduce or enforce rules to curtail the private sectoras they know these will be unpopular with large segments of the population and couldpotentially expose gaps in roles of the public sector. Regulatory impasse: stronger regulations to curtail inappropriate private sector activities,which are sound from a public health perspective, are avoided as they might cost policymakers popularity and personal career growth.

“Six more California counties ask people to wear masks indoors as Delta variant rages” [Los Angeles Times]. “Six more California counties are urging residents to wear masks in indoor public settings amid concerning upticks in coronavirus cases and continued circulation of the highly contagious Delta variant. The latest recommendations from Santa Barbara, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, Santa Cruz and Ventura raise to 17 the number of counties now asking even fully vaccinated individuals to wear face coverings as a precaution while inside places like grocery stores, movie theaters and retail outlets. So far, only one — Los Angeles County — has gone a step further and mandated that masks be worn in such settings. The city of Pasadena, which has its own independent health department, said it would do likewise later this week.” • Another blow to whatever credibility the CDC has left.

Long Covid:

10-50% is a pretty broad range, just saying.

The Agony Column

“We Hate Small Talk Because We’re Bad at It” [New York Magazine]. “[Nicholas Epley, a professor who specializes in behavioral science at University of Chicago Booth Business School] has spent years researching our general aversion to engaging in conversations with strangers. The overwhelming reality is that while we might say we dislike small talk, or even consider ourselves bad at it, it does make us happier to partake in it (no matter how awkward it is). ‘The result is so reliable, it’s almost becoming boring in my lab. No matter who folks are talking to, or what they’re talking about, it’s better than expected,’ he says. In Epley’s most recent study with Juliana Schroeder, ‘Hello, Stranger?’, they found that while commuters on the London Underground knew that socializing would make their rides more enjoyable, they still felt apprehensive toward starting a conversation — out of fear of people around them not being interested in chatting, or fear of simply failing to strike up a conversation…. [T]he best way to get better at small talk is by practicing and engaging in it. No matter how awkward it feels at first, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by how much happier meaningless conversation makes you.”

Zeitgeist Watch

I have yet to process the “Gender Reveal Party” — “reveal” used to be a verb — as a zeitgeist indicator:

Guillotine Watch

Jeff Bezos in his happy place (1):

Jeff Bezos in his happy place (2):

Jeff Bezos in his happy place (3):

Weyland-Yutani:

Good question:

Class Warfare

UPDATE “‘They Treat Us Horribly’: Striking Frito-Lay Worker Speaks Out About Conditions In Topeka Facility” [The Flashpoint]. “[Samuel] Huntsman told me that those grueling, relentless hours were built into the worker contract through language that carved out a ‘company needs’ exception to their 40 hour weeks. That means seven 12-hour days, or an 84 hour week. And the physical conditions for workers are terrible. ‘They used to have fans in all workstations last year and this year they have not given us fans,’ Huntsman said.” • Oh, great. Poor ventilation.

UPDATE “This thing is designed to squeeze folx out of senior care – By design – UFT Members react as NYC Unions Confirm Decision To Shift Retirees Onto Privatized Health Insurance” [Ed Notes Online]. “A key is the duplicity of the unions and their support of the health care industry – as is the support of the Dem and Rep Parties, So even if they lower medicare to 60 – we know that these people will be lured by the massive marketing — money in essence out of our pockets — of the industry. As I’ve been saying — they are making the details look good on paper. But the key is that we are going from having 20% of our care managed and controlled privately to 100%. Morally and philosophically and any other way you want to put it — even if I get the exact same service – I am opposed. Just like I oppose any privately managed charter school controls of the school system. Imagine what Mulgrew would do it we are switched from the current 5% managed charters to 100% in NYC — the UFT would be wiped out. It goes into effect Jan. 1 — UFT elections start in March — retirees need to make them pay for this act by voting for the opposition — as long as there is one clear opponent, not multiple slates. The major thing I see is a truly mass rally and march not of hundreds but of thousands in protest. This will not happen without mass organizing and some time to do it. Sometimes impatience can be an enemy. As someone wise once said — Build it and they will come. Jan. 1 is when the abomination goes into effect. October — think of the first UFT Retired teacher meeting and of course they are afraid to have it in person — I don’t know the date but a Tuesday in October — but we can be outside 52 Broadway at 1 PM to shout our disapproval. We also need to organize moves to enlist medicare for all friendly politicians, I think people are beginning to work on that?”

“Genetic Endowments and Wealth Inequality” [Journal of Political Economy]. Abstract only: “We show that genetic endowments linked to educational attainment strongly and robustly predict wealth at retirement. The estimated relationship is not fully explained by flexibly controlling for education and labor income. We therefore investigate a host of additional mechanisms that could account for the gene-wealth gradient, including inheritances, mortality, risk preferences, portfolio decisions, beliefs about the probabilities of macroeconomic events, and planning horizons. We provide evidence that genetic endowments related to human capital accumulation are associated with wealth not only through educational attainment and labor income but also through a facility with complex financial decision-making.”

“Sex work from home” [Chicago Reader]. “Chicago-based adult performer Griffin Barrows says unlike studio work, which often entails signing contracts with studios that have enormous control over the adult film productions, platforms like OnlyFans give the performers themselves a previously almost unheard-of level of agency over their own content. Barrows, who boasts more than 675,000 Twitter followers, has more than 500 videos on his OnlyFans page and is arguably one of its most recognizable gay male creators.”

News of the Wired

Nobody’s taking the Acela? Really?

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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 (AM):

AM writes: “Oakland Cemetery next to Roger Williams Park, Providence, RI. Dramatic lighting at 7:22 in the evening of May 12. Maple trees leaves in the background much farther along than the oak in the foreground. Nice to have my daily after WFH walk in the daylight.”

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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.

92 comments

  1. Wukchumni

    In the wake of the loss of perhaps 10,600 giant sequoia trees to last year’s Castle Fire in California, a multi-agency coalition has formed in a bid to reduce fire risks to the towering, emblematic forests and seek solutions to crippling drought that also places the trees in jeopardy.

    “The unprecedented number of giant sequoias lost to fire last year serves as a call to action,” Clay Jordan, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks superintendent, said Monday when the Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition was formally introduced. “We know that climate change is increasing the length and severity of fire seasons due to hotter temperatures and drought. To combat these emerging threats to our forests, we must come together across agencies. Actions that are good for protecting our forests are also good for protecting our communities.”

    But the task the group faces is daunting. Drought and catastrophic wildfires seem to be popping up more frequently, combining to produce stand-destroying fires that burn hotter and with more intensity and erratic fire behavior. The phenomena are challenges the country so far has been unable to easily overcome or contain.

    To better safeguard giant sequoias against wildfires, work already is underway to reduce understory fuels that can provide flames racing along the ground with fuels as well as ladders up into a forest’s canopy, said Sintia Kawasaki-Yee, the public affairs officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, during a phone call. Some of the work involves prescribed burns, though mechanical thinning of forests also will be utilized.

    “We actually have a project happening, it already started and it might still be going on, in the Big Stump area on the Kings Canyon side of the park,” she said. “So there are actually projects in place right now, helping with that.”

    Science also is being conducted to try to determine which of the sequoia groves are most at risk from wildfires.

    “What are the groves that are highest risks right now that we should be addressing in priority order?” explained Kawasaki-Yee. “It’s unrealistic to think that we’re going to get to all of them in the next year, you know, get up to speed on so many decades and centuries of backlogs of these efforts.”

    https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2021/07/coalition-strives-save-giant-sequoias-wildfire-climate-change

    Reply
    1. Watt4Bob

      How about we enlist prisoners to provide the labor, rewarding them with automatic enrollment in firefighting school after their participation in protecting the big trees.

      There’s going to be unlimited need for fire fighters going forward, right?

      Win Win

      Reply
      1. Mantid

        Sir, California does this already. However, the prisoners do not earn any Brownie Points for fighting fires. They are given a few dollars per day, then it’s back to their cell when the day’s done. This is not sarcasm, this is done in California.

        Reply
        1. Objective Ace

          Dont forget that the prisoners who are trained and have valuable experience combatting wildfires are actually barred from becoming fire fighters when they are released, because of course they have felonies (why having a felony only matters when you are not in prison vs when you are in prison has never been clear to me)

          Reply
            1. Wukchumni

              How’d we go from the discussion of saving Sequoias to only talking about lowlifes-the dregs?

              If only we could make an enemy out of fire, demonize it in a fashion we carved the Japanese to be, circa 1942.

              In a patriotic fervor, oh so many would enlist in droves to the CCC, er the Civilians Conflagration Crew, and we’d clean up around the crown jewels in the forest for the trees in a jiffy.

              Reply
              1. Sierra7

                The so-called “dregs” I’m assuming you mean the prison inmates who fight so many of our fires…..that’s an insult.
                Too many of our “wildfires” are started by man made events.
                And, there is some sense in bringing back an organization such as the CCC Corps that helped so many of the Depression Era youth regain a footing in our society and then provided so many enlistees to fight in WW2.
                Fires will always be with us. It’s up to us as a society to educate how to prevent “wildfires”.

                Reply
                1. Wukchumni

                  What if after Pearl Harbor, we emptied our prison population into the armed services and paid them $4 a month to fight WW2 for us?

                  We don’t need ad hoc slaves to save Sequoias, utilize professionals instead.

                  Reply
        2. Watt4Bob

          You’re not reading closely.

          My suggestion was, and is to enlist prisoners in clearing the understory of fuel around the big trees, and in addition to allow them a path to becoming firefighters, neither of which is being done at the moment.

          Reply
    2. Glen

      [family blog]!

      I am so NOT willing to watch it all just BURN, this is INSANE, this is IRREPLACEABLE, NONTRANSFERABLE, life DESTROYING!

      What the flaming [family blog] is wrong with my country? We have enough unemployed and looking for a real mission people in this country that we could put a person every three feet around every [family blogging] grove in the state.

      Why? Just why? Ah, the crimes we commit in the defense of “normal”.

      Reply
  2. Filomena

    “Governor Newsom needs cover from his unconscionable failure to extend eviction protections, something he should have done a month ago. Half the state lives in terror, fearing eviction, because Gov & Leadership focus on pleasing landlord lobby rather than helping people. Back to rent relief. The promise — that everyone’s rent debt will be fully paid — is a lie. It would be great if true, but it isn’t. The Governor must know that.”

    “In fact, guess how much money tenants have received from this state program to date? $1,465. No, I didn’t forget any zeros. And a grand total of $2.79m has been distributed to landlords. 8 days before the eviction cliff a grand total of $2.79m has been distributed. (Source: HCD)” @DeanPreston

    Then there’s behested payments:
    “Facebook, Google and Blue Shield of California are among the companies that contributed $226 million to government causes on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s behalf last year, an unprecedented level of spending that is raising alarms about the influence large corporations are amassing in Sacramento.”

    “State records reviewed by The Times show that so-called “behested payments” surged in 2020 compared with the year prior, when companies gifted $12.1 million on Newsom’s behalf. The governor’s haul last year during the COVID-19 pandemic was six times as much as that reported by former Gov. Jerry Brown during his final eight years in office combined.”
    https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-04-27/corporations-donate-226-million-toward-newsom-2020

    Reply
  3. Isotope_C14

    Borg DNA paper in Nature;

    “It would be risky to do this in natural wetlands, Banfield says, but it might be appropriate at agricultural sites..”

    Don’t worry, science is always solving problems and not causing them!

    Reply
  4. Mikel

    RE: Market risk…Marketwatch

    “Experts ask to rate the chances on a scale of 1-10, 10 high. Deutsche and the Petersen Institute say 3 and 2 respectively, so I guess the chances are 7 or 8. “Robert Litan, non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, rated the risk at five.” As Brookings would so. ”

    Yep, squarely 9 or 10 chance in 10…but they are going to say whatever necessary to pump and dump with prices as high as possible.

    Reply
  5. Lou Anton

    Delta executing a pincer movement on the Ohio River Valley.

    Showing how the Rapid Riser counties lets you see how the virus spreads in every direction. Would not surprise me if the whole gulf coast is some shade of red by this time next week.

    Reply
    1. curlydan

      “We learned yesterday that a White House official tested positive for Covid-19 after coming in contact with a staffer for House speaker Nancy Pelosi who tested positive after escorting some Texas Democrats who tested positive this weekend.

      All parties involved had been vaccinated. These are called breakthrough infections or breakthrough cases: when a person who has completed all recommended doses of a vaccine tests positive.

      White House press secretary Jen Psaki later disclosed that there have been other breakthrough cases among White House staff, but did not have the exact number. A memo from the attending physician at the US Capitol also disclosed that “several vaccinated Congressional staff” and “one member of Congress” have tested positive”.

      Try to run, try to hide, break on through to the other side!

      Reply
  6. pck

    RE the Turley article – not a huge fan of NHJ, but when has journalism ever been objective? I’m thinking about chomsky’s worthy and unworthy victims, for instance. Not to mention the structure of media, irrespective of individual journalists, is also going to impose constraints and biases on what actually gets reported…

    Reply
  7. Milton

    CA Election Recall
    Larry Elder: he supported Trump in 2020 but has a libertarian-ish background.

    So the worst of both worlds…

    Reply
  8. Henry Moon Pie

    Identity tethering–

    The author calls in the heavy artillery:

    The less democratic a country, the more cultural its politics. This sublimation of politics into culture promotes destructive feedback loops. The more politics fail to provide solutions, the more it must turn the “other” into a problem. In this way, symbolic identities—or what Erik Erikson called “pseudo-identities”—are coping mechanisms. They make sense of the world for us. They both disturb and comfort: They confirm our fear that things are seriously wrong but diminish our fear that things must seriously change if those wrongs are to be righted. Symbolic identities replace the flimsy self—what Carl Jung called the “plaything of circumstance and general expectations”—with a wholesale, symbolic identity.

    We’re getting there. Lying behind identities, behind ideologies, behind professed religious beliefs is a worldview, and that worldview is best understood as a system. Just as we have a complex circulatory system, we have a worldview consisting of many of these reinforcing and balancing loops. While the function of the circulatory system is to move energy and waste around our bodies, the purpose of the world view system is to make the cosmos comprehensible to us as the world comes at us through our senses and thoughts. When stress is high because of, for example, feelings of powerlessness brought on by a lack of democracy, the behavior we see is not the result of some linear cause-effect relationship but is a much more complex interaction of these systems loops striving the keep the world understandable for the worldview’s “owner.”

    The better we understand the different systems archetypes for worldviews, the better able we’ll be to identify leverage points to effect worldview changes en masse to exorcise some of Chesterton’s devils that are currently making it impossible to deal with the ecological crisis.

    Reply
    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      Henry Moon Pie. Maybe I have become too much the Jungian (or have shuffled the tarot deck too many times). There is this:

      Symbolic identities replace the flimsy self—what Carl Jung called the “plaything of circumstance and general expectations”

      at the end of the paragraph–and I’ve taken the liberty of chopping off the redundancy.

      I’d argue that identity tethering is grasping for some guide that transcends–a failure of monotheism–or some revelation that transcends–a weakness of revealed religions. But that isn’t a worldview. So one must embrace the strength of one’s flimsy self (which is composite, but is not composite in the way that the current “theories” posit).

      For some time, I’ve been under the influence of hexagram 14, Ta Yu, Possessing Great Measure.

      From the Wilhelm translation:
      POSSESSION IN GREAT MEASURE.

      Supreme success.

      “The two trigrams indicate that strength and clarity unite. Possession in great measure is determined by fate and accords with the time. How is it possible that the weak line has power to hold the strong lines fast and to possess them? It is done by virtue of unselfish modesty. The time is favorable–a time of strength within, clarity and culture without. Power is expressing itself in graceful and controlled way. This brings supreme success and wealth.”

      Success and wealth aren’t economic success and wealth. Fate and time, or space and time, don’t operate the way that business schools tell us that they do. So I keep an eye on the oak tree in front of the building. Zeus used to prophecy by means of an oak at Dodona: Power expressing itself in a graceful and controlled way.

      Reply
      1. Henry Moon Pie

        That is a very nice metaphor.

        I was doing some stretching there. What I’m suggesting is that these “coping mechanisms” are all part of larger system.

        I’ve been working under hex 11 (Pervading) but with a weak yin in the 4th line. I’ll check that Wilhelm translation out.

        Reply
    2. hunkerdown

      On the other hand, the better “they” understand the different systems of archetypes for worldviews, the better able “they’ll” be to fashion the narratives that keep the grand grift running regardless of climate, and (as is the existential goal of every elite) succeed in making themselves and their descendants needed. That’s a total loss of this historical moment.

      In extremis, democracy as a distribution of power entails the permanent ethic of making sure that every attack on us is answered by destroying some of the enemy’s capabilities and making them accept that. Anything less is best considered a loss to be recovered with interest. None of this “we survived, therefore we won” babble from elite institutions like bourgeois movement politics. We are owed and they are not.

      Reply
      1. Andrew Watts

        That’s assuming that these identities aren’t artificial creations designed to divide and conquer.

        Reply
      2. Henry Moon Pie

        I think “they’ve” been working on that for at least the last century, and their efforts are getting more and more effective, in part because of technology like Facebook employs and in part because their understanding is deepening. We need to get in the game.

        Reply
  9. Carolinian

    That’s an excellent Harper’s that I was just reading this morning along with this one which takes on 1619.

    The political limits of origins-centered history are just as striking. The theorist Wendy Brown once observed that at the end of the twentieth century liberals and Marxists alike had begun to lose faith in the future. Collectively, she wrote, left-leaning intellectuals had come to reject “a historiography bound to a notion of progress,” but had “coined no political substitute for progressive understandings of where we have come from and where we are going.” This predicament, Brown argued, could only be understood as a kind of trauma, an “ungrievable loss.” On the liberal left, it expressed itself in a new “moralizing discourse” that surrendered the promise of universal emancipation, while replacing a fight for the future with an intense focus on the past. The defining feature of this line of thought, she wrote, was an effort to hold “history responsible, even morally culpable, at the same time as it evinces a disbelief in history as a teleological force.”

    https://harpers.org/archive/2021/07/history-as-end-politics-of-the-past-matthew-karp/

    In other words the “left” came to embrace or at least accept Thatcher’s TINA and turn it’s guns on the past and Tom Jefferson. Put more cynically you could call it their face saving way of selling out….so much easier to take on dead presidents and Confederates than living Wall St moguls.

    As for the Arendt, she also, the above article claims, thought political theorists too ready to personalize everything rather than study less comfortable historical trends–i.e. Hitler and WW2 as an extension of earlier imperialism and not merely exemplars of “evil” or a one off. For this she was attacked.

    Reply
    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      Thanks for the link.

      From the article:

      Moreover, Douglass questioned the wisdom of any historical politics that undermined the prospects for present-day change.

      Reply
      1. hunkerdown

        The rest of the paragraph is even better.

        “[…] This did not imply a purely instrumental contempt for the past, in the manner of the Trumpian right, but rather reflected a clear-eyed determination to treat history not as scripture or DNA, but as a site of struggle. “We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future,” Douglass declared. “To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time.” For some scholars, this must read like rank presentism—yet unlike the neo-originalist framing of the 1619 Project, it gets the order of operations right.”

        Or, as another luxuriously coiffed and bearded fellow put it, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.”

        Reply
    2. Andrew Watts

      “In other words the “left” came to embrace or at least accept Thatcher’s TINA”

      It seems more like an embrace of futility and passive nihilism. Behind the whole notion of progress was the expectation of an escape from history into some kind of secular heaven. Marx similarly engaged in that kind of wishful thinking when he talked about what came after capitalism.

      The whole debate around history is merely a theological one albeit without Jesus. Which is what I think when I hear terms like “original sin” being thrown around. There isn’t any redemption or transcendence without Christ in Christianity. But isn’t that kinda the whole point of this? We can just shrug our shoulders when any misfortune befalls our country and double down on a status quo that is suffering from multiple epic fails.

      Reply
    3. The Rev Kev

      Thanks too for that link. It’s a good line of thought. If you do not want to examine present constructs of power or the implications or where we are going if we follow present trends, yeah so lets go after how things were done a coupla centuries ago where nothing can be changed or altered. And that is why the present elite love ‘1619’ so much. All they have to do in response is to throw some (deductible) pocket change in some people’s direction, do some performative art like taking a knee in front of their bank vault and then carry on as usual. Imagine if instead of doing the ‘1619’ project, that they had done a ‘2021’ project instead and examined the present power relationships. But that is the last absolute thing that the present elites, Democrats or Republicans would ever want and it would never have been funded. And guaranteed that educational institutes would have been extremely hostile to such a project as tat puts their rice bowls in hazard.

      Reply
  10. Raymond Sim

    I’m under the weather, but because I don’t see it get discussed much, and I think it’s likely going to be a big part of the Delta wave, I would like to once again attempt to draw everybody’s attention to the consequences of the fact that SARS-CoV-2 spreads in zones, not via individual contact. Apologies in advance for typos or lack of clarity.

    Usually these zones are fairly ephemeral, but the virus is persistent in air, and the constant presence of an infected individual is not necessary for an enclosed area to be continually high-risk.

    Back during the early days of the first wave, I used info from Wuhan and iirc a 2 hr half-life for airborne virus to get a back-of-the-envelope estimate that by the time the rate of active infections reached 2% of overall population an hour spent breathing in a typical grocery store would carry a 30%-50% risk of infection.

    Assuming that most household send at least one member grocery shopping every week, as infections rise past 1% of overall population you would expect to see the percentage of households with at least one infected member rise much, much more rapidly than the average number of persons per household might lead you to expect. Since household transmission occurs at much higher rates than general community transmission, this will produce a sort of ‘phase shift’ with a sudden acceleration of spread.

    I believe the events in New Rochelle, New York and Westport, Connecticut were examples of this. The Westport outbreak got blamed on a party, but as one resident observed “Everybody goes to the same four stores.”

    And of course, what goes for stores, goes for public transit, schools, factories and so on. The seriousness of the situation being governed by the percentage of households exposed to that venue.

    Now consider what an order of magnitude increase in the average number of viral particles an infected individual sheds might mean. Aside from providing an explanation for the absolutely blistering rates of increase recently observed in some locales, it also forces you to consider dose related effects.

    Whereas before I calculated risk of infection, now we might want to be calculating the risk of getting a big enough dose of particles to severly suppress your immune system.

    Reply
    1. CuriosityConcern

      Can you share the math? Did your figures account for mask wearing? Any assumptions about air exchange?

      Reply
      1. Raymond Sim

        Masks were still just something those goofy Asians did back then, so no allowance for protections. Chinese researchers had published a study in which they analyzed a number of gatherings where they were able to establish with high confidence that a single individual present was infected.

        I don’t recall the details of how I arrived at it, but from their article I decided to use .38 as the probability of infection after sharing a 10,000 cubic foot volume with a single infected individual for 30 mins. It was actually this shockingly high number that got me to thinking about high-traffic public spaces. I didn’t have data on air exchange, so I made no allowances one way or the other. An acquaintance who happened to knock on the door knew the square footage of all the grocery stores in town (local politics) and I believe I assumed 400 square feet of floor space corresponded to 10,000 cubic feet of air volume.

        Those were, I think, all the basic assumptions, I’m sorry that I don’t recall the article title or the authors names. I never anticipated regaling anyone but family with any of this. I did calculations assuming various rates of public pass-through, but the upshot was that if active infections hit 2% then the morning, lunchtime and evening rushes were going to make grocery stores bad places to be 8 am to midnight.

        As I recall I decided that any establishment in our town that saw one or two people per minute passing through was going to be a Covid zone for so much of any given business day that my wife’s notion of zooming in and out at opening time was worth the hassle.

        Reply
  11. fresno dan

    https://www.npr.org/sections/tokyo-olympics-live-updates/2021/07/21/1018680679/athletes-at-the-tokyo-olympics-are-being-given-condoms-and-warnings-not-to-use-t

    As they have since the 1980s, organizers ordered thousands of condoms for athletes to safely hook up in Tokyo. To be specific, Japanese organizers ordered 160,000 condoms to be handed out to athletes in the Olympic Village.
    But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tokyo organizers also want participants to refrain from any kind of intimate physical activity outside of their sport.
    That means: Those condoms we gave you? Don’t use them — at least not while you’re inside the Olympic bubble.
    ==============================================
    I vaguely, vaguely recall some posts about condoms…from the distant past…so, so long ago…
    AND people say NPR is not relavant.

    Reply
    1. Howard Beale IV

      For the longest time Japan did not allow female birth control medications to be dispensed – hence their massive condom market.

      Reply
  12. Noone from Nowheresville

    We should know the impact of travel and all the family gatherings by July 4 + 14 call it July 21 or so.

    In the Midwest, there are also town festivals, outdoor music festivals, art fairs, etc… leading up to State and County fairs. I assume the same flavor of things happen all over country.

    July is a big little-town festival month around here. People return to their rural roots from their urban locations around the country. A lot of places use them as class reunions. There is excitement in the air around here about seeing people again.

    Went to the grocery store yesterday, I’d say maybe 10% masking.

    Could be very interesting by Labor Day.

    Reply
  13. Ranger Rick

    That Financial Times video is a restatement of a Congressional plan that was rolled out… almost exactly a year ago. I wonder what prompted the review? They do get one thing right though, if nothing’s done about electrical generation then the rest of it is basically useless since it all hinges on clean power generation.

    Reply
  14. XXYY

    [Tesla] Consumers are simply paying to be test engineers for developing technology without adequate safety protection.

    It’s worse than that. The rest of us using the road system are also serving as potential crash test dummies for Musk whether we want to or not.

    I don’t understand how public roads can silently become a test bed for things that are not known to work.

    Reply
    1. RMO

      Tesla has also been saying that all their cars since 2016 have everything needed for “Full Self Driving” so they would only need a software update when FSD was ready. Now they are saying that if you have a Tesla earlier than a 2019 you will need to take it in to a service center and pay $1,500 to have them install a newer computer. They’ve also want to sell FSD as a subscription for either $99 or $199 (depending on what FSD version you opted for at purchase) per month instead of just the one-time $10,000 charge.

      And of course the “Full Self Driving” still requires the human at the wheel to continuously monitor the computer as it controls the car and to be ready to take over at a moments notice if (when really..) the computer decides it can’t cope with the current situation or if it starts doing something dangerous. This means it’s more like being a flight instructor up with a student not very far along in training and nowhere near ready for solo let alone being given a license than it is like relaxing in the back of an airliner or executive jet while the flight crew handle everything. I can tell you from experience instructing that watching a student, continuously monitoring the situation and being ready to take control if things get hairy takes a lot more energy than just flying the plane yourself!

      Reply
  15. Josef K

    That so-called Japaneses screenshot? Fake. In Japan they don’t pixelate the rear orifice. An actual Japanese digital censor would have pixelated around Bezos.

    (/s)

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      Jeff Bezos may have thought that taking this short hop into, kinda, space would make him cool but if Jeff Bezos was any more unhip, his b** would fall off.

      Reply
  16. Howard Beale IV

    Scene from a popular meme goes like this:
    [Star Trek]Sir: Gender Reveal parties breaking out on decks 4, 8 11…[/Star Trek]

    Reply
  17. allan

    Re: Watching the Watchmen,

    FBI agent at center of Whitmer kidnap probe assaulted wife after swingers’ party, authorities say [Detroit News]

    As one does.
    Because this is a family blog, will skip the prurient aspects of the tawdry case, but this jumped out:

    … Aside from his FBI duties, Trask opened a gym at his rural property in Oshtemo Township near Kalamazoo and offers CrossFit training, according to social media posts and state business filings. He filed state paperwork for BCB Health & Wellness last year and maintains an active Instagram account showing him exercising, flexing and posing shirtless. …

    FBI agents are allowed to have side gigs? Is that really a thing?

    Reply
    1. hunkerdown

      Surely you didn’t think the stork brings law enforcement front businesses into existence. Critical thinking!

      Reply
    2. Josef K

      SA Trask looks and sounds, from the article, like a swell guy. Only the best and brightest I guess. Kudos to his wife for employing the Daoist dictum of solving a large problem by taking on it’s smallest part.

      Reply
    3. Objective Ace

      Sounds like a business not a side gig. As long as he’s not employed by it, it should be tantamount to owning stock. *Not a lawyer though

      Reply
    4. HotFlash

      I read some of the tawdry details. Test this man for steroids and possibly lead poisoning (from range shooting). An IQ test wouldn’t hurt either.

      Reply
  18. enoughisenough

    Well, we just sent our trash up there, but then you came back.

    “”We need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry, and move it into space. And keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is. That’s going to take decades to achieve, but you have to start. And big things start with small steps.”

    Reply
    1. enoughisenough

      “all polluting industry” – well, that’s the goal of space travel, isn’t it? To send our military* up there?
      unintentional hitting the nail on the head, there, Jesse James.

      *world’s biggest polluter

      Reply
        1. Josef K

          Add that to his other “world’s worst” awards. He’s going to have to order a bigger trophy cabinet from amazon.

          Reply
    2. The Rev Kev

      Maybe Bezos got that idea from the spaceship from the original film ‘Alien.’

      https://alienanthology.fandom.com/wiki/USCSS_Nostromo

      But it solves nothing. You still have to launch the raw materials into orbit which even at scale would be prohibitively expensive and then you have to land them which is also expensive. And I think that most industry uses water – colossal amounts of it. Where will that come from in space? Here are two links that show just the water problem alone-

      https://www.the71percent.org/industrial-water-usage/

      https://www.watercalculator.org/footprint/the-hidden-water-in-everyday-products/

      Reply
      1. enoughisenough

        yeah, Rev Kev, it makes zero sense. He’s a raging idiot.

        Looking at the wonder of space, and thinking: maybe we can use it as a landfill.

        Which: of course we can’t. And if we couldn’t it’d be disastrous.

        He must be stopped.

        Reply
      2. RMO

        Given the technology for a space elevator (yeah, I know “Assume a can opener”) this would be possible and potentially of great value. But we are nowhere near being able to make one that would work on a planet with the mass of the Earth. Raw materials in the space manufacturing ideas that have been thought about for decades would come from the Moon, asteroids, comets etc. Pulling that off would also require considerably more advanced drive systems for spacecraft – NERVA or project Orion type nuclear propulsion, solar sails, beamed laser power etc. We’re nowhere near the point of those being practical at large scale either. And of course Bezos, Musk and their ilk aren’t going to solve those problems no matter how much time they have.

        Reply
        1. BlakeFelix

          It’s not totally impossible to harvest resources in space, theoretically. Musk is the only one on course to actually have a shot at it in our lifetimes though. You can get an awful lot of rare materials from some asteroids, and water and such from asteroids or Mars. And if the Starship program works well grabbing asteroids isn’t out of the question, especially if we get a NERVA operational.

          Reply
    1. enoughisenough

      Yeah, that was all so appalling.

      a “leading journalist” not knowing the difference between reporting and an opinion column.

      we’re pretty screwed.

      Reply
      1. hunkerdown

        They knows the difference; as a member of the lower elite at the top of a censorship regime, they create reality. Why the reaction? It’s what ruling classes always do and have done. The only reason we think otherwise is that we erroneously let dead people tell us what to value.

        Reply
        1. enoughisenough

          the reaction is the recognition that the reality they are creating is dangerous, and as a humanist, I mind that very much.

          Saying “that’s how it always is” is not untrue, but it’s a cop out.

          Reply
          1. enoughisenough

            My main problem with it is *the spread of misinformation
            *the obfuscating and altering of meanings of words
            *the maligning of logic and reason, which makes the very tools to avoid more conspiracies inoperable.

            We need to be able to logic and reason our way out of bad, convoluted messes. This kind of stuff just paves the way for us to have no choice than to attach ourselves to a demagogue. It’s all about cult of personality, if we have nothing else to hold on to.

            If they think this is how racial justice is going to be achieved, by unmooring us from objective reality, they are delusional.

            Reply
            1. flora

              Or, you know, not. LBJ mid-60’s: “We seek no wider war. ” etc. (Ignore what MacNamara was saying privately to LBJ at the time. There was money in the MIC hills to be made, and US and international political face to be saved. )

              The riders on the US govt gravy train never change their tune without obvious failures, imo.

              Reply
              1. NotTimothyGeithner

                Kissinger and the CSA types are/were bad, but deep down, I don’t think I really hate anyone as much as MacNamara. Knowing better and still being evil is part of his problem.

                Reply
                1. flora

                  Yep. MacNamara’s analysis of “war by spreadsheet” seemed to work in WWII. WWII was the second 20th century iteration of industrial mechanized warfare. (WWI being the first iteration of same.) But in VN, the “industrial model” was largely useless, imo. (Heaven help us if “Fixed in this time and place and capacity” AI algos dominate our forward going decision making .)

                  Reply
                  1. JBird4049

                    War by spreadsheet only worked during the the world wars because the nations and empires were fighting to the death or at least unconditional surrender. For example part of the German war plan after the Schlieffen Plan failed was to literally bleed the French nation to death, to kill so many Frenchmen that they no longer had enough people to fight a war. Then there was the Second World War where several genocides almost succeeded, and the destruction of entire cities with tens of thousands dying became almost routine. The use of massive armies that won or lost by how many tanks, artillery pieces, soldiers, it had left and had killed and how much fuel was left was normal versus its opponents. Germany lost partly because it ran out of human fuel. The Soviet Union was approaching this. Japan was being burnt completely down and facing annihilation through starvation, followed by a massive invasion that would have ended it, if not for the atomic bomb.

                    Since it was so, the general populations were willing to do almost anything, to endure almost anything to win. In that situation, war by spreadsheet makes sense and Robert McNamara learned war from the world wars.

                    However, Americans were not convinced that the war with Vietnam and its neighbors really was a life or death thing, but for the Vietnamese, it was, and South Vietnam’s leadership was corrupt, cynical, and did not really care about the people. This gave the southern Vietnamese people no chance, no matter how patriotic and willing they were, to win.

                    Three nations, one willing to keep fighting no matter the costs, and two that weren’t. If either the South Vietnamese or the Americans really thought it was a fight truly to the death, I’m guessing North Vietnam would have lost. And the spreadsheet would have been useful.

                    It was there to see real early, but I guess that MacNamara and others refused to see it. So they kept expanding the war, trying to cut off the North Vietnamese, killing ever more people, and failing. And again, it was all there to see before the war started.

                    Reply
                    1. The Rev Kev

                      ‘JBird4049
                      July 22, 2021 at 12:21 am’

                      I will only add two more data points to your excellent comment. First off, after the German military failures during WW1, the German General Staff did evolve a plan to bleed the French nation to death, particularly around the fortress at Verdun. Unfortunately for them, in doing so it also bled the German nation of fighting men as well leaving none at home.

                      And that remark about MacNamara was more true than you realize. He determined that the best way for America to win in Vietnam was to kill more North Vietnamese each year than were born annually to replace them. That is why the obsession of ‘body counts’ – it was the only way to ‘measure’ his success. And of course it never happened in all those years fighting.

            2. hunkerdown

              I only argue that to give professional activists the benefit of the doubt on what they should already know as supposed professionals, is just maybe a postural issue. I suggest a more accusatory posture. “What are you hiding from us?” “Who are you REALLY working for?” “Who else have you been talking to?” “Name your source or stfu.” as sketches of the sort of reporter’s approach that, if coordinated a bit quietly off-platform, might tarnish their effectiveness as regime apologists, at the very least. Maybe it will follow them back into private life down to their local nail bar.

              Reply
    1. hunkerdown

      “How does one explain…”

      That they’re living in the lies of insane elites who cast evil spells over us every day? That’s one good start. Maybe they’ll join a protracted people’s war group and do some good for the world, rather than writing liberal tosh in Manhattan on the payroll of some elite parasite.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        Just like those faulty field and lab drug tests. It has been a problem across the country for decades, but as it is good for getting convictions, the justice system has been slow in fixing the problem.

        Reply
    1. JBird4049

      The Republicans blocked funding for federal research on the whole subject for decades when honest research could have been done because there might have been uncomfortable truths that would inconvenience gun rights advocates while helping the supporters of gun control; now after the whole subject has become completely politicized and weaponized, the Democrats will want to have the process distorted so the “right” conclusions will be made. Like with the vaccines and Ivermectin. So, nothing for years and now here comes propagandist manure.

      Although I’m a serious supporter of the 2nd Amendment, but we really, and I do mean really, do need research on the whole subject, but between the decades of no funding for research on gun violence and the politicization of much of scientific research, especially if it is funded directly by the government, means I have little faith that we will have honest, detailed, and useful research with trustworthy results or conclusions anytime soon.

      So, it does not matter what you believe, want, or even need to survive, but only what serves the political establishment’s need for political propaganda. Just look at the propaganda, distortions, and just plain lies on anything regarding COVID by our ruling “elites,” the nomenklatura and the apparatchiks.

      I get why many people just do not trust the government or the approved mainstream media on anything especially when the propaganda and the lies just buries us all. It use to be that I could believe, that I could trust, the CDC and the FDA on what they said. I might have disagreed with the conclusions and the recommendations, but I could trust them to try to do the right thing. Now, after COVID mess, and some of drug approvals of the past two decades, I don’t trust them at all. And that is a horrifying feeling.

      Reply
        1. JBird4049

          Which is part of the research. Exactly who, what, when. where, and why how rather than the “it bleeds, it leads” model.

          Just look at the Crack Wars/Epidemic where the lies of Hilary Clinton’s superpredators helped President Clinton pass some odious “crime” legislation, which locked many people for decades if not life for pathetically little in the way of actual crime. Then there was the welfare deform bill which eliminated most aid to most people. Both of these were passed using the same “news” as is used both for and against guns, vaccines, COVID, Ivermectin, climate change, and so on for today.

          It is very difficult for anyone to get reliable news without being a news junkie who knows how to do some research. It is so easy to disappear into some Qanon hole, never to be seen again.

          Reply
  19. R

    Dear God, psychologists tried asking London commuters to talk to each other! If you read the article, 10% assigned talking quit on the spot and a further 20% “did not follow the instructions”. That’s the spirit!

    Given they choose a weird set if railway stations (chlemsford, Cambridge, liverpool street, I forget the fourth) my tongue in cheek guess is the talkers were all Cockney barrow boy traders (Chelmsford), students and tourists (Cambridge) and all of the above + eastern European immigrants (Liverpool Street). They should have tried Paddington for the West End types or Waterloo for City gents.

    Reply
  20. The Rev Kev

    ‘Alec MacGillis
    You would never guess that the US was experiencing one of the stronger post-pandemic economic recoveries based on the scene at the train station in the nation’s capital. It remains astonishingly moribund, almost completely deserted.’

    Maybe, just maybe, those people have better access to information about the real pandemic situation in the nation. And having learned that, have opted to work from home for the duration which is leading to that semi-deserted train station.

    Reply
  21. Richard H Caldwell

    I am sick to late modern era period death of “ask” for “request”, “reveal” for “revelation”, and other nounifications of verbs. Throw in ridiculizations like “orientate” for “orient”, even “utlize” for “use”, and it’s just out of control.

    I realize language is a hot, fertile mess constantly evolving into something new. That doesn’t mean I have to enjoy the process, damnit…

    Reply
  22. VietnamVet

    The Reagan/Thatcher ideology of “there is no alternative”, “there is no such thing as society”, “all that matters is markets” (money); has really come home to roost in 2021. Confederate Jackson and Lee statues are hauled off to museums, because the past is the only place that the present has any agency. The future is now a nihilist unchangeable wasteland. America is at the edge of the cliff; join the lemmings and jump; or try to survive as long as possible. Wear masks, social distance, and demand that government do its job, restore the public health service and protect the people. If doing nothing wins, American life expectancy will continue its relentless decline, first with opioids, now from coronavirus; tomorrow civil war and famine.

    Reply
  23. eg

    Am I the only one puzzled by all of the excitement about a couple of billionaires going into low earth orbit almost 60 years after Project Gemini?

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      They haven’t even replicated some of the accomplishments of Project Mercury. Or even Yuri Gagarin’s flight for that matter.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        Or the not quite 52 years after the Lunar Module Eagle landed and Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon?

        It was all presented as a race between nations, a triumph for all of humanity, as well as showing what we could do if we wanted too, and now we have a few egotistical jackasses trying to one up each other for, I guess, emotional and ego masturbation. This truly does make make me want to weep.

        Reply

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