2:00PM Water Cooler 8/20/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I got a late start today. More later. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

A juvenile (cheeping?) and an adult (quietly clapping?).

* * *


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:

Back up in the South.

51.1% of the US is fully vaccinated, a big moment, breaking the psychological 51% barrier. Every day, a tenth of a percentage point upward. However, as readers point out, every day those vaccinated become less protected, especially the earliest. So we are trying to outrun the virus… (I have also not said, because it’s too obvious, that if by Bubba we mean The South, then Bubba has done pretty well.)

Case count by United States regions:

I would say we’ve moved off the vertical a bit, conforming to the drop in “Rapid Risers” and the drop in positivity. The South begins to slow, but other regions still rise. Still lots of momentum. As far as reaching the peak of January 8, 2021, with 295,257 cases per day … I’m not that pessimistic (modulo a new variant brought into the country by our ridiculously lax policies on international quarantines). What we might call, after Everest, the “First Step” (November 25, 2019) with 178,466 looks in striking distance, especially if the case count purple line continues go near vertical. If things go on as they are, we should hit the first step just in time for Labor Day. But what do I know, I’m just a tape-watcher.

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

California is Texas’s wingman. Meanwhile, Florida staggered ahead. What’s with Georgia v. Louisiana?

NEW From CDC: “Community Profile Report August 19, 2021” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties, this release:

California, the South, the Acela Corridor all more pink. Kansas and Oklahoma more green, part of the general improvement of the Mississippi Valley. Remember, however, that this chart is about acceleration, not absolute numbers. This map, too, blows the “Blame Bubba” narrative out of the water. Not a (Deliverance-style) banjo to be heard. Previous release:

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

Test positivity:

Drop in the South, and an enormous drop in the West. Could be data.

Hospitalization (CDC): Dammit, this one’s gone dark. I wish CDC wouldn’t do this. Here the CDC’s hospitalization visualization, from the source above:

Yet more red states now, still in the South. Not good.

Deaths (Our World in Data):

Deaths on trend rising; nowhere near meriting an anti-triumphalist black line, being an order of magnitude less than there were at peak. (Adding: I know the data is bad. This is the United States. But according to The Narrative, deaths shouldn’t have been going up at all. Directionally, this is quite concerning.)

Covid cases worldwide:

Southeast Asia doing better, I presume because little-covered Indonesia is past a peak. US sphere of influence under the Monroe Doctrine not doing so well.

* * *


“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

“Exclusive: FBI finds scant evidence U.S. Capitol attack was coordinated – sources” [Reuters]. “Though federal officials have arrested more than 570 alleged participants, the FBI at this point believes the violence was not centrally coordinated by far-right groups or prominent supporters of then-President Donald Trump, according to the sources, who have been either directly involved in or briefed regularly on the wide-ranging investigations. ‘Ninety to ninety-five percent of these are one-off cases,’ said a former senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. ‘Then you have five percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely organized. But there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.'” • Assuming the FBI itself didn’t organize any “grand schemes.” Again, they do have form.

Biden Administration

“Biden Says Taliban in ‘Existential Crisis’ Over Role in World” [Bloomberg]. “‘Let me put it this way: I think they’re going through sort of an existential crisis about do they want to be recognized by the international community as being a legitimate government,’ Biden told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News in an interview that aired Thursday morning. ‘I’m not sure they do.’ Biden’s comments point to a looming question of whether the U.S. will recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government after they swiftly took control of the country, including the capital city of Kabul. The U.S. has already taken steps to block money from flowing to the Taliban and could opt to negotiate relief from economic sanctions if they agree to block international terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and protect the rights of women and minorities. But any dealings with the Taliban will be politically fraught for Biden, who has already faced widespread criticism on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers from both parties are calling for more information about the crisis. The House Intelligence Committee is to receive a classified briefing on Afghanistan on Monday from representatives of several intelligence agencies, according to an official familiar with the plans.” • Because of course they are.

UPDATE “Biden Afghanistan policy counts on war weary Americans to lose interest” [The Hill]. ” President Joe Biden is brushing off criticism of his administration’s chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal because he and his aides believe the political fallout at home will be limited, according to White House allies and administration officials…. The strategy is based on internal and public polling that shows the Afghanistan withdrawal had been by far the most popular decision Biden has made, even though the issue was not central for most voters.” • Not if the press has anything to do with it.

“Biden admin cancels student debt for borrowers with severe disabilities” [The Hill]. “The Biden administration announced on Thursday the latest in a series of student loan reprieves forgiving the debt of borrowers with total or permanent disabilities (TPD). More than 323,000 borrowers will be covered under the loan discharge, which will total more than $5.8 billion. Borrowers will be identified through existing data supplied to the Social Security Administration.” • I’m happy for them. But does the Biden Administration really think that, well, tokens will make the problem go away?

UPDATE “Three U.S. senators test positive for COVID-19” [Reuters]. “Three U.S. senators – Republican Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Democrat John Hickenlooper of Colorado and independent Angus King of Maine – disclosed on Thursday they had tested positive for COVID-19. All three had been vaccinated against the coronavirus.” • So maybe breakthrough infections will start getting some attention?

Our Famously Free Press

The Moustache of Understanding:

Yes, it was very bad.

“The Media Is Helping Hawks Win the War Over Biden’s Withdrawal” [Eric Levitz, New York Magazine]. “In recent days, much of the mainstream media has comported itself as the Pentagon’s Pravda…. The mainstream media has an obligation to hold the Biden administration accountable for its errors. But we also have an obligation to contextualize the events of the day. As is, the news industry is helping hawks recast an indictment of martial adventurism into an object lesson in the hazards of military restraint.”

“Where are the anti-war voices?” [Popular Information]. “Yesterday’s newsletter detailed how the media is largely overlooking voices that supported Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. Instead media reports are almost exclusively highlighting criticism of the withdrawal — often from people complicit in two decades of failed policy in Afghanistan. We have reason to believe that this is not an accident. On Wednesday, Popular Information spoke to a veteran communications professional who has been trying to place prominent voices supportive of the withdrawal on television and in print. The source said that it has been next to impossible:

I’ve been in political media for over two decades, and I have never experienced something like this before. Not only can I not get people booked on shows, but I can’t even get TV bookers who frequently book my guests to give me a call back…

I’ve fed sources to reporters, who end up not quoting the sources, but do quote multiple voices who are critical of the president and/or put the withdrawal in a negative light…. In so many ways this feels like Iraq and 2003 all over again.

Democrats en Deshabille

For once, I have something good to say about Democrats. Two of them!

Hopefully with Hochul’s support, the Buffalo Democrats won’t abolish Walton’s office because they don’t like the fact that she won it.

UPDATE “India Walton Won Big With Renters in Buffalo” [Jacobin]. ” So I got the voter files from the New York State Board of Elections to find out: who are the voters that led India Walton to a win in Buffalo’s Democratic mayoral primary? There’s a simple answer: renters. Renters — who, in Buffalo, tend to live in less valuable, lower-quality housing and earn less than homeowners — strongly favored Walton over Brown. More than 64 percent of ballots in the primary were cast by people whom the data suggest rent rather than own their homes, roughly proportionate to recent Census Bureau estimates showing that about 60 percent of households in Buffalo are renter-occupied. And my statistical estimates suggest that Walton won that demographic by a landslide, capturing over 61 percent of the renter vote.” • Now do San Francisco. And New York. And… And…

* * *

UPDATE “Congress’s hip-hop legislation is the latest symbolic gesturing that doesn’t improve Black lives” [CNN]. “In a recent move that seemed to go largely unnoticed, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution designating August 11, 2021, as Hip-Hop Celebration Day, August 2021 as Hip-Hop Recognition Month and November 2021 as Hip-Hop History Month. … [T]he resolution served as a reminder that, since last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, there have been no national policy achievements that might radically alter the experiences of Black Americans.”

Republican Funhouse

UPDATE “Dan Patrick blames COVID surge on unvaccinated African Americans, prompting widespread backlash” [Houston Chronicle]. “‘The COVID is spreading, particularly, most of the numbers are with the unvaccinated,’ Patrick said in response to a question about people attacking the policies of Governor Greg Abbott, who is embroiled in legal battles with school districts and counties that have required masks despite the Republican governor’s ban on such mandates. ‘The Democrats like to blame Republicans on that,’ continued Patrick, a Republican. ‘Well, the biggest group in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated. Last time I checked, over 90 percent of them vote for Democrats in their major cities and major counties.'” • I have no doubt that many Republicans have actively worked to make life worse for Black people. That said, one would think that the party whose unofficial motto for several years has been “Listen to black women,” would have taken effective measures to make sure that Blacks did not have the lowest vaccination rate of any major identity vertical, and especially for the poor and working class black woman, many of whom are essential and/or health care workers. They did nothing of the kind. Instead, all we get is “Blame Bubba,” useful only as deflection and Pilate-style handwashing.

UPDATE “How Trump uses fundraising emails to remain undisputed leader of the GOP” [The Hill]. • Basically, Trump has an effective email operation that sounds a lot like the Democrats’ Mothership operation.


“Forty-four Republican senators demand Durham report be made public” [The Hill]. “He reportedly wanted to have the review finished by the end of this summer, but the newspaper reported that the target date will likely be delayed, according to people familiar with the matter. Durham is reportedly looking into criminal charges against lower-level FBI officials and tipsters who possibly fed false leads to the FBI during the 2016 investigation.” • Barr really did Biden a solid with the timing on this.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Requiem For The ‘Stan” [IM 1776]. “At times I’ll be grinding through my Normie job, or on my porch, or driving in my truck and I’ll remember how the sunrise felt there on patrol. How bright the stars were as we pulled security at night (I have never seen so many!). Then as we prepared for Stand-To, as the Army has done since back when it was fighting the French and the Indians, the darkness softened to gray, then yielded to sunrise, and you clung to the fading coolness as you watched the merciless sun take its sweet time getting into position to torment you and your buddies for the rest of the day. As BOB (the “Bright Orange Ball”) cracked the horizon, a word would come down from somewhere on high, and the legion would rise to start the day’s march in pursuit of Haji. Though we owned little on our person and were cogs in a great machine lumbering along for nebulous political ends beyond our ken, there was something liberating about it as well. To be with other men, venturing outside The Wire with weapons in hand, on the hunt…it stirred up something. Some primal sense of rightness; that we were close to realizing some fundamental purpose in the quick of our being. At the risk of romanticizing it though, I also remember the butcher’s bill. There were men I knew whose lives ended in Afghanistan. Good Lord, looking back, they were so young. One was a friend. ‘Speedo’ was going to get married when he got home. There were children, too. I have never known silence like I found in the village where almost an entire generation of their young had been killed simply because a pilot had missed.” • Some offensive sexist remarks, too. But this sentence: “Something is coming and we can all feel it. We could even back then.” • I agree. Alert reader vlade linked to a tune appropriate for the times here. Here’s the YouTube version of a great peformance:

YouTube periodically takes this down; it’s worth a listen before that happens again. The band is terrific, too.

“Demography Is Not Destiny” [Adam Serwer, The Atlantic]. “Neither the fiction of race nor the political identities that emerge from it are necessarily permanent. The party of white supremacy can become the party of civil rights. Yesterday’s ‘beaten men from beaten races’ can help rescue the world from fascism, just as New Deal stalwarts can someday become Reagan Democrats. The pro-immigrant communities of yesteryear can become the nativists of the future. The radicals of the past can grow into the middle- and upper-class establishment. Those once seen as bearing the “hallmark of oriental despotisms” may become tomorrow’s ‘model minorities.’… The census may herald a more inclusive and harmonious future, or it may simply foreshadow yet another moment in American history when some borders shift while others remain closely guarded. But what the census cannot tell you is where lines of partisan identity will be drawn. It can tell you how Americans define themselves, but not how their politics flow from that definition. The census cannot tell Americans who they will become; that we must decide ourselves.”

Stats Watch

Leading Indicators: “13 August 2021 ECRI’s WLI Growth Rate Decline Continues” [Econintersect]. “ECRI’s WLI Growth Index which forecasts economic growth six months forward again declined but remains in expansion…. This index accurately forecast that the economy would be in expansion year-over-year in the first and second quarters of 2021. It is currently forecasting an ever slowing rate of economic growth for the rest of this year and into next.” • Wait, what year is next year? Oh… 2022.

* * *

Retail: “Amazon is taking another swing at blending physical and digital retail. The online behemoth plans to open several U.S. sites resembling scaled-down department stores and offering items from top consumer brands as well as its own private-label goods” [Wall Street Journal]. “The aim is to expand Amazon’s reach by allowing customers to inspect clothing and other goods before they buy and also exposing the tech company’s products to shoppers who otherwise might not have tried them. Amazon’s rise to e-commerce dominance disrupted traditional retail, accelerating the decline of malls and taking market share from physical store operations. But the company has also been adding outposts for years that sell books, groceries and other items through a network aimed at harvesting data and providing new shopping experiences. Bigger storefronts with more products could also bolster Amazon’s logistics network, bringing goods even closer to customers.” • I dunno. What business is Amazon in, here? Bricks and mortar but kinda like sh*tty second growth after an enormous forest fire?

Retail: “The Delta variant is throwing retail planning for a loop. Rising Covid-19 cases are casting doubt on the staying power of a recent rebound in clothing sales… as Macy’s, Kohl’s and other merchants juggle supply-chain problems with uncertain consumer demand” [Wall Street Journal]. “Shoppers refreshed their wardrobes this summer on expectations that life would return to normal as schools reopened and workers headed back to the office. Online marketplace FashWire says sales of dresses and other items are slowing as consumers revert to shopping habits from earlier in the pandemic and swap going-out clothes for loungewear. The uncertainty comes as retailers are also coping with factory shutdowns in Asia and congestion at the ports, with some importers pulling shipments forward to guard against holiday-season shortages. That risks saddling retailers with unsold inventory if demand fizzles.”

Shipping: “Shipping Moving Towards Zero-Emission Period, but Pace is Still Quite Slow” [Hellenic Shipping News]. “The shipping industry has a central role in the global supply chains with vessels on average carrying more than 80% of worldwide trade by volume. Regulators, maritime companies and financial institutions act to drive the sector towards decarbonization. The maritime industry is one of the few sectors not particularly discussed on the Paris Agreement on climate change. The industry is estimated to be responsible for approx. 3.0% of global CO2 emissions, but several scientists have projected that the sector could account for 17% of the total annual CO2 emissions by 2050.”

Travel: “Travelers are canceling trips with COVID numbers rising again: ‘It was really kind of heartbreaking'” [CBS]. “After a rebound in travel this summer, people are once again canceling plans for trips because of the surging number of COVID cases. In a recent survey, 27% of respondents said they postponed a trip and more than 54% said the Delta variant has made them less interested in traveling right now….. There’s been a 33% increase in people buying cancelable tickets…. For all the people canceling plans, a sizable number still plan to stick to their trips. 26% of people say they plan to travel in October, according to a recent survey.”

The Bezzle: “The Insane, Ongoing Saga of a $600 Million Crypto Theft” [Bloomberg]. “DeFi is one of the hottest, fastest growing areas of the cryptocurrency world, a mini-industry that promises to remove all the middlemen from finance — no banks, no brokers, no custodians. Like bitcoin, DeFi uses blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that crypto is built on, but takes that concept and squares it. Instead of one chain, there are many platforms — hence, the decentralized aspect — that can be used for all kinds of so-called smart contracts that trigger financial transactions when certain conditions are met. That’s where Poly Network came in. Like Mr. White Hat, there isn’t a lot of information about the company. An unsigned message from its communications email address declined to make any executives available or answer most questions. It’s unclear if it even has a base of operations, though ICANN, the domain-name registry, says the company’s mailing address is in Shanghai.” • And so, people “are desperate to get their money back.”

Tech: “Twitter’s Longform Strategy” [Divinations]. “Essentially, Twitter is giving writers that use their recently-acquired newsletter platform, Revue, a killer feature that no other newsletter publishing platform can offer: premium placement on your Twitter profile…. This is obviously huge for writers and publishers. Twitter knows what they want, and it is simple: email subscribers. Especially for those building paid subscription businesses, the most important thing is to build deep, recurring relationships with readers. Email is the best channel for that right now. Twitter’s goal, it seems, is to make Revue the best place to publish for independent writers considering Substack or Ghost. If Ghost gives you the most control with the lowest fees, and Substack is the most widely-known brand with the biggest network of paid newsletter subscribers, then Twitter is hoping it can win by siphoning some of their massive flows of attention directly into your email list.”

Tech: “OnlyFans: How it handles illegal sex videos – BBC investigation” [BBC]. “Internal documents, leaked to BBC News, reveal that OnlyFans allows moderators to give multiple warnings to accounts that post illegal content on its online platform before deciding to close them. Described as a ‘compliance manual’, the documents also show that staff are asked to be more lenient towards successful accounts on the British content-sharing service. Moderation specialists and child protection experts say this shows OnlyFans – which is best known for hosting pornography – has some ‘tolerance’ for accounts posting illegal content. OnlyFans says it goes far beyond ‘all relevant global safety standards and regulations’ and does not tolerate breaches of its terms of service. On Thursday evening, Only Fans said it would ban sexually explicit content on the site from October. The announcement comes after BBC News approached the company for its response to the leaked documents, and concerns about its handling of accounts posting illegal content.” • Looks like Only Fans wanted to get out in front of a PR debacle.

Tech: “The infosec apocalypse is nigh” [Cory Doctorow, Pluralistic]. On the Pegasus Project: “But as Snowden points out, none of this would be possible were it not for the vast, looming, grotesque tech-security debt that the IT industry has created for us. Everything we use is insecure, and it’s built atop more insecure foundations. We live in an information society with catastrophic information security. If our society was a house, the walls would all be made of flaking asbestos and the attic would be stuffed with oily rags. It’s hard to overstate just how much risk we face right now, and while the Insecurity Industry didn’t create that risk, they’re actively trying to increase it – finding every weak spot and widening it as far as possible, rather than shoring it up. It’s a cliche: ‘Security is a team sport.’ But I like how Snowden puts it: security is a public health matter. ‘To protect anyone, we must protect everyone.’ Step one is ‘to ban the commercial trade in intrusion software’ for the same reason we ‘do not permit a market in biological infections-as-a-service.’ We should punish the cyber-arms dealers – but also use international courts to target the state actors who pay them. But this fight will be a tough one. The huge sums that governments funnel to cyber arms-dealers allows them to silence their critics – I’ve been forced to remove some of my own coverage thanks to baseless threats I couldn’t afford to fight.”

Tech: “OnlyFans to Bar Sexually Explicit Videos Starting in October” [Bloomberg]. “Starting in October, the company will prohibit creators from posting material with sexually explicit conduct on its website, which many sex workers use to sell fans explicit content. They’ll still be allowed to put up nude photos and videos, provided they’re consistent with OnlyFans’ policy, the company said Thursday. The popularity of the social-media service exploded during the pandemic as sex workers, musicians and online influencers used it to charge fans for exclusive access to photos, videos and other material. OnlyFans has attracted more than 130 million users. That popularity also brought with it additional scrutiny, and OnlyFans is positioning itself more as a forum for musicians, fitness instructors and chefs than sex workers.” • So, October. Just in time for the next wave to peak. Madness. Sex is what OnlyFans is for.

Tech: “Apple says collision in child-abuse hashing system is not a concern” [The Verge]. “Researchers have produced a collision in iOS’s built-in hash function, raising new concerns about Apple’s CSAM-scanning system — but Apple says the finding does not threaten the integrity of the system…. In a call with reporters regarding the new findings, Apple said its CSAM-scanning system had been built with collisions in mind, given the known limitations of perceptual hashing algorithms. In particular, the company emphasized a secondary server-side hashing algorithm, separate from NeuralHash, the specifics of which are not public.” Oh. So that’s alright then. More: “A proof-of-concept collision is often disastrous for crytographic hashes, as in the case of the SHA-1 collision in 2017, but perceptual hashes like NeuralHash are known to be more collision-prone. And while Apple expects to make changes from the generic NeuralMatch algorithm currently present in iOS, the broad system is likely to remain in place. Still, the finding will is unlikely to quiet calls for Apple to abandon its plans for on-device scans.”

UPDATE Manufacturing: “HOTR: When “Buy American” isn’t” [Leeham News and Analysis]. “President Biden’s “Buy American” policy means increasing the US content in things purchased by the federal government. Except when it doesn’t. Biden announced the policy in July. LNA raised the prospect that the increasing US content requirements could make it difficult for Lockheed Martin and Airbus to offer an A330-200-based airplane for the US Air Force’s KC-Y Bridge Tanker. LNA now has clarity on this. Under Biden’s Buy American policy, there are—as it turns out—some key exemptions…. .The Buy American Act of 1933 already exempted public interest, unreasonable costs, commercially available off-the-shelf products (a category the A330 already falls into), and ‘qualifying countries.’” • And more…

UPDATE Manufacturing: “Under delta, supply chain strains, Toyota slashes production” [ABC]. “Japan’s top automaker said Thursday that it will cut back production at home by 40%, affecting 14 auto assembly plants in the country.” • Holy [family blog], 40%?

Concentration: “Epic has sent out its unredacted antitrust complaint against Google, which reveals some things that were not revealed before, such as ..,”

Oops. They put this in writing?

Labor Market:

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 22 Extreme Fear (previous close: 25 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 42 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 19 at 5:04pm. Surely not Afghanistan?

Health Care

“Post-viral effects of COVID-19 in the olfactory system and their implications” [The Lancet]. From the Conclusion: “After infection with SARS-CoV-2, the olfactory system could be said to serve as a so-called viral sensor, alerting health professionals to the presence of the pathogen. One benefit of early detection can be the interruption of forward transmission.” “Could” because this is a “more study needed” article (and quite right, too).

“Column: Coronavirus tests are supposed to be free. But there’s a nasty loophole in the law” [Los Angeles Times]. • You’ll never guess: Surprise billing from out-of-network labs!

UPDATE “Coronavirus: ‘We’re really still too much in the dark,’ Yale professor says” [Yahoo Finance]. “‘We have a higher level of uncertainty now than we’ve had since the spring of last year,’ Dr. Howard Forman, professor at the Yale School of Public Health, said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above). ….. ‘Governors and mayors have a lot of responsibility to manage their own locale as best they can, which may include masking, may include other measures,’ Forman said. ‘We have to hope they take those measures at the right time to mitigate as much as possible. What’s going to happen after this wave is unknown to anybody. We’re really still very much in the dark.’…. ‘One should make the case that if we’re going to use a third shot in [the U.S., it should be for very good reasons and not because people are panicking or thinking something that might not be true,’ he said.” • Oh, good point. Needless to say, Biden owns this wave in its entirety. And the next. And the next…

The Biosphere

“This Report Could Make or Break the Next 30 Years of U.S. Astronomy” [Scientific American]. “From the outside looking in, one would not realize the enterprise of U.S. astronomy is teetering on the edge of crisis…. Most astronomers, [Jason Tumlinson, an astronomer heading the community missions office at the Space Telescope Science Institute] says, seem to misunderstand what the Decadal’s “governing dynamic” actually is. “A Decadal report is the beginning of a multiparty, multiyear negotiation between the scientific community, NASA, the aerospace contractors, Congress and the White House,” he explains—which is why aiming high at the outset is in astronomers’ best interest. “I would hope, with Astro2020, we temper our natural desire to mitigate risk and cut costs,” Tumlinson says, “because all the other forces in this system will be doing that for us anyway.'” • Seems like rather a lot of very expensive projects not going well, on Earth and in space. I thought this would be about billionaires ruining the night sky with satellites, but it’s not; the field seems to be in real trouble.

The Conservatory

“The beautiful world of heavy metal” [Unherd]. “songs about devils and demons. Slayer, one of the popular beat combos I saw on that warm Milton Keynes afternoon, has a pentagram logo and lots of songs with titles like “Angel of Death”, “Hell Awaits”, and “Black Magic”. Oh, and “The Antichrist”. You could see how that might mislead people into thinking that they had a thing for this Satan character. Lots of metal is aggressive or violent in content: bands with names like Cannibal Corpse or Bloodbath, songs with names like “Hammer Smashed Face” or “A Skull Full of Maggots”. But from the inside, metal feels nerdy and warmhearted. Metal gigs have always, to me, had the sort of vibe of a classic car meet or a real-ale festival: a place for slightly socially awkward people to find a social group outside the mainstream. The aggressive image it projects is at odds with the rather gentle souls you actually meet doing it. This was particularly made clear to me when I went to Download festival in 2015 and asked lots of metallers for their musical guilty pleasures, and came back with lovely photos of pierced, tattooed, bearded thrashers holding up whiteboards saying ‘C’est la Vie by B*witched’ or “Katy Perry, Firework”. And everyone was super lovely.'” • Not my world. Readers?

Groves of Academe

“Refusing to Proceed as Normal” [Inside Higher Ed (Allan)]. “A tenured professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville resigned this week over the institution’s COVID-19 mitigation policies — or, in his view, the lack thereof. ‘Some faculty, staff and administrators are looking the other way, holding their tongues, holding their noses, or holding their breath in fear as they prepare to convene or attend in-person gatherings on campus,’ Jeremy Fischer, the professor, wrote in his resignation letter. ‘It seems that only when we reach a political as well as a public health crisis will our university move most or all classes safely online. But this is a moral emergency, not a time for craven and timorous — or self-serving — responses.’ Fischer, a philosopher who specializes in moral psychology, wrote that any professor would be punished for endangering public health by, say, smoking in class. COVID-19 presents a greater immediate threat to public health than secondhand smoke, he said, yet professors who refuse to convene large classes in close quarters this fall at Huntsville over public health concerns will be punished.” • So, the Administrators knocked off another tenured professor. Good. Great!

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Movement for Black Lives: Feds targeted BLM protesters” [Associated Press]. Wowsers, what a shocker. “The federal government deliberately targeted Black Lives Matter protesters via heavy-handed criminal prosecutions in an attempt to disrupt and discourage the global movement that swept the nation last summer in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, according to a new report released Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, by The Movement for Black Lives… A key finding of the report was that the push to use federal charges against protesters came from top-down directives from former President Donald Trump and former Attorney General William Barr…. The report also raises concerns about the involvement of Joint Terrorism Task Forces and found 20 cases that explicitly referenced task force involvement. The government “greatly exaggerated” the threat of violence from protesters, the report says.” • So presumably Biden is dropping those prosecutions that have not yet made their way through the courts?

Class Warfare

“The week in US unions, August 12-19” [Who Gets the Bird?]. A lot of activity. I never know quite how to excerpt it. Here’s one nugget: “Lauren Kaori Gurley at Vice profiled a few new apps built for organizing unions. The ocean of hot takes doesn’t need my little droplet, but I think it’s good that people are trying to organize new unions in a labor law regime and labor movement that can’t seem to figure out how to do it at scale; it’s also probably true that an app is not the thing we’ve been missing.”

News of the Wired

“Whatever Happened to Walt’s Garage Studio?” [Cartoon Research]. • Albert Speer remodeled it?

UPDATE “Friends with a fox” (podcast) [Conversations, ABC Australia]. “Biologist Catherine Raven was living off-grid in a remote valley in Montana when she unexpectedly became friends with a wild red fox.”

“Mike Duncan Takes On the Turmoil of History” [New Republic]. “Revolutions is a chronological blow-by-blow of 10 historical revolutions that took place between the seventeenth and early twentieth centuries: the English Civil War of 1642, the American Revolution of 1776, the French Revolution of 1789, the Haitian Revolution of 1791, the Spanish American wars of independence of the early nineteenth century, the French Revolution of 1830, the pan-European upheavals of 1848, the Paris Commune of 1871, the Mexican Revolution of 1910, and finally the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917. Each of these takes up a season, and each season is the product of roughly 20 to 25 books that Duncan has read and synthesized into a coherent narrative. If that all sounds straightforward, it is, and yet it’s also completely addictive. It’s hard to say exactly why it works so well. There are no gimmicks, no skits, no interviews or special guests, no sound effects, no music besides a few bars of Haydn at the beginning of each episode. [Duncan’s] interpretations of the relevant historiography aren’t particularly radical or groundbreaking, nor are they steeped in academic jargon. He’s folksy but not gratingly so, romantic about the sweep of events but never overwrought. He is, quite simply, telling us what happened.” • Well, I’ve got to draw the line at the naiveté of “telling us what happened.” Come on, man. Nevertheless, I’m a big Duncan fan, mostly because I think he’s really fair-minded (as shown by his treatment of The Bearded One in the run-up to the Russian Revolution of 1917). Duncan is also not at all romantic or sentimental.

* * *

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: Re Sicl sends in a wonderful garden construct:

Left hand detail:

Right hand detail:

* * *

Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Water Cooler on by .

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. enoughisenough

    Excellent article

    “On a deeper level, though, the proposed Obama monument is in fact the perfect emblem of what was achieved by the Obama presidency, which always tended toward show over substance. The OPC is a symbol symbolizing symbolism, a postmodern extravaganza built on a gee-whiz scale that only serves to amplify its irrelevance. The tower’s gleaming emptiness echoes Obama’s own soaring, cliché-ridden rhetoric, rich in uplifting abstraction and lacking in edge and specificity. It is meet and fitting that a president who situated himself above and beyond the sharp-elbowed reality of politics, who delicately finessed bottom-line questions of class and power, is memorializing himself with a purely decorative pseudo-library that scrupulously avoids contact with unvarnished actuality and passively discourages substantive and potentially critical research.”


        1. KLG

          No, actually. Jackson Park Golf Course is operated by the Chicago Park District. Back before he had his night time interaction with the fire hydrant near his house after his then-spouse read his interesting text messages, Tiger Woods had plans to renovate the course, with a probable subsequent hike in green fees that would make JPGC much less “public.” Dodged that bullet! The Obama firepower is bigger, however. Much bigger.

            1. Basil Pesto

              Unlikely. It seems the planned renovation has been scrapped due to the projected cost of the Woods proposal. There’s no real reason for it to be privatised. A course like Jackson Park as it is today is never going to be massively profitable; as is, it’s there for the benefit of the community. It’s a bit of an open question what will happen to it post-OPC, but I don’t see ‘privatisation’ being on the agenda.

    1. enoughisenough

      it’s positively Neronian.

      via Tacitus’ take on the Domus Aurea

      after the fire of 64 had displaced the residents, Nero built a pleasure palace on the ruins.

      1. John

        I dislike the very idea of presidential museums.Presidential papers ought to be the property of the nation. If they must be, could they not display a degree of modesty … and stay out of public parks.

        1. timotheus

          OPC is not a presidential library and will not be operated by National Archives. It is to be a temple for Obama worship exclusively.

    2. Carolinian

      It’s a good article but I question how much black people were really “hoodwinked” by Obama. I suspect many of them saw him for exactly what he was. Oprah on the other hand……

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        And voted for him anyway? Because Black?

        ( I, on the other hand, voted for him because Insane McCain and Caribou Barbie after that).

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            I remember reading somewhere that the number of Black registered non-voters in Milwaukee was greater than the number of votes that Trump won by in Wisconsin.

  2. Toshiro_Mifune

    Metal gigs have always, to me, had the sort of vibe of a classic car meet or a real-ale festival: a place for slightly socially awkward people to find a social group outside the mainstream. The aggressive image it projects is at odds with the rather gentle souls you actually meet doing it.

    Not my world. Readers?

    It depends on the bands and the time. Slayer and Motorhead shows during the 80s were nice places to meet some Angels or Pagans loaded to the gills on amphetamines.
    That was during the 80s though and there was a very noticeable dichotomy between the crowds who showed up at Slayer/Exodus/Celtic Frost/Venom/etc shows (all the indie/thrash/speed metal bands) and the ones who went to Judas Priest/Ozzy/Kiss or the hair metal shows.
    Today though? I’m honestly not sure. The article’s author could very well be correct as I haven’t been to a show in about 20 years. Time has worked it’s magic though and music that was transgressive has become normalized. Slayer was on the Tonight Show playing Raining Blood after all. An act completely unimaginable when Reign in Blood came out.

    1. aleph_0

      I’ve had some of the most meek, kind people come up and strike up conversations when they see me wearing my Opeth shirt. The metal shows I’ve seen in the last 10 years haven’t really been any rowdier than the electronic and bass music shows I’ve seen. Which is to say that even if there is a pit, no one’s getting hurt.

      I think it may depend on place and band. In a large part of the US, super hard metal is basically a geeky thing because you have to work hard to ever be exposed to it. That means the community tends to be small and tight-knit. There’s a lot of gatekeeping, but once you’re in, it comes with a lot of solidarity.

      With the more popular bands, I think some of that may be lost, but I’m not sure. There aren’t really any new metal acts at the same stature of, say, Judas Priest or Metallica anymore so I think the next generation of those crowds went somewhere else… Don’t know where, though. Probably hip hop? But even then, hip hop seems to be more into downers these days. Mark Fisher had a lot of interesting stuff to say about the evolution of music and drugs against the backdrop of society and culture.

      I’m not really surprised that metal musicians’ guilty pleasures being other very produced, theatrical music. Many are technicians and showmen at heart.

      I also really agree with Toshiro, metal sound and iconography has also been somewhat normalized and gentrified, and it doesn’t really pack the same punch against the mainstream.

      1. urdsama

        I take a difference approach to metal. While I like Priest and Metallica, some of their best work was when they first started out (admittedly not unusual for many bands). And I think this is true for metal in general. I don’t really see the issue you and Toshiro see (if I understand you correctly) with metal in general as much as with certain bands or styles. The hair metal genre is a great example of this overall trajectory.

        While there are certain bands and/or styles I will always enjoy, I tend to keep an eye out, as much as I can and as suits my musical tastes, for newer bands and genres. For example, I’ve found JINJER and Once Human to be nice finds, and acts like Babymetal (while yes, it does fall into the Japanese manufactured girl band trope, the lead singer has a good voice and the backing musicians are amazing) break the mold of what defines metal.

        1. Soredemos

          Oh boy, an opportunity to direct people toward possibly the world’s greatest rock band: Band-Maid.


          Fundamentally a hard rock band, not a metal one (though they’ll borrow from metal, or any other genre, when they feel like it), which I’m more than fine with, because while metal declined it never really died. It split off into dozens of different subgenres, which mostly seemed to generate enough revenue to warrant continuing to produce. If you were into metal there was always something new being made. If you were more into hard rock though (as I am; there’s a self-aware cheesy cringe factor to metal I’ve never been able to fully embrace), it mostly died in the west, aside from a few old bands that continue to tour and make the occasional new album despite being half dust.

          Band-Maid was clearly viewed as a gimmick by its original studio, and they weren’t allowed to write their own songs. But then it turned out most (or possibly all) of the band are actually musical geniuses, and three albums and a label switch later they’ve been set free.

          The lead guitarist started as a concert pianist before switching to guitar in highschool, inspired by Santana. She’s exceptional at guitar, but so are lots of people (although few are as clearly happy about playing guitar). Turns out though that she’s a genius composer who brings an obsession with complexity that is frankly almost entirely alien from rock music in general. The drummer is probably the best on the planet right now, full stop. Jimmy Page went out of his way in 2016 to get a picture with her and told her she reminded him of John Bonham. The bassist is similarly talented, and seems to have simply invented a ‘pick flip’ technique of playing slap bass without dropping the pick.

          Their lead singer has exceptional vocal range and control, as well as endurance (I’ve seen video of multiple full live shows where she sounds exactly the same at the end as she did at the start); she might qualify as a genius in her own right. She’s developed an extreme degree of on stage charisma and audience command as well, though it took her a while to get there.

          That just leaves the girl who is now their rhythm guitarist, Miku. She founded the group and came up with the maid gimmick (she wanted there to be a ‘perception gap’ between the visuals and the actual substance of the band), with the intention of being lead vocalist, before quickly stepping aside for the current lead when it turned out she was just better. When they were just playing songs provided by their first studio this essentially just left Miku as a fifth wheel, a mascot with nothing to do other than some backing vocals. Once they were allowed to start writing their own songs, it 1. turned out she’s exceptional at lyrics, and 2. the lead guitarist insisted she learn guitar from scratch, and it turned out she’s, if not a genius, at least more than competent and an exceptionally fast learner.

          I know it sounds like I’m simping for them (https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=simping), but once you get into them it’s kind of hard not to. Go to any of their videos on YouTube and the comments are full of stuff to the effect of “I’m a 68 year old rocker, and this is the best band I’ve seen in 50 years of going to shows”. Now, I’m not in that demographic, but I think I can appreciate where they’re coming from. Not only is the band catering to a genre that is effectively dead in the west, but they’re doing it while legitimately being better than basically any of the old classic acts.

          And they do it while entirely dispensing with the leather and tats faux tough guy act that has been synonymous with rock and metal for most of its existence. Also they may be the happiest rock act of all time. They’re like some inverted version of Van Halen, where half the group hated each other.

          Japan is kind of the promised land of all-female rock and metal bands these days. They seem to be mass producing absurdly talented women musicians, particularly drummers.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > Japan is kind of the promised land of all-female rock and metal bands these days. They seem to be mass producing absurdly talented women musicians, particularly drummers.

            Thank you for this terrific comment.

            The smiles remind me of this great clip:

            1. Soredemos

              Never knew Bae Doona was in a Japanese film, playing a Korean no less (looks like she’s been in another Japanese one as well where she plays…a sex doll. Mmmkay…). That’s a type of cultural crossover you seldom see.

              If we’re talking teenagers, as opposed to just women, Japan also gave us JUNNA, a prodigy who only started drums at fifteen, just five years ago.

          2. skippy

            Zowee … sh – is – driving that bus!!!!!

            Going to have fun with this and some graying players/fans … Ta.

    2. Riverboat Grambler


      Metal is one of my favorite genres but I’ve never been an avid concert-goer. I’ve heard that there is a non-insignificant number of pro-Nazi/fascist black metal bands, especially from Europe, but they are considered the ugly fringe much like Nazi punks.

      This is purely anecdotal but in my experience working in food service/retail the people you can clearly identify as metal-heads based on their clothing/piercings/whatever are almost always more pleasant and polite than your average person. I can’t recall the last one I met who came off as rude.

      I do agree with the article that there’s an inherent sort of nerdiness to metal, which often engages with fantastical topics instead of just endless songs about love, sex, breakups and making lots of money.

      1. hunkerdown

        Confirming the nerdiness, technical thrash band Dark Angel’s multisyllabic voice extended to social critique on their final 1991 album, Time Does Not Heal, which concluded with a song on the import of a certain Disney movie (lyrics by Genius, line breaks reformatted to match the original liner notes) and an almost The Atlantic level of dudgeon:

        Brutal cinematic display Upon our children’s minds it preys
        A subtle induction into horror With implications we can’t ignore
        Malevolence hidden behind doe-eyes How many see through its disguise?
        Burning itself into the minds it haunts
        Is this really what we want?

      2. Soredemos

        Black metal is just unpleasant in general, whether fascist or not. If anyone reading this is into it, I won’t attempt to shame you for it. But black metal was by design created basically as a kind of anti-music. It was created by a bunch of edgelord kids who found every other type of metal to be insufficiently ‘extreme’. It was intended to sound like nothing anyone had ever heard before. They succeeded, and the whole sound and aesthetic is hideous.

        The only death metal group I have any interest in or respect for is Al-Namrood, an anti-clericalist Saudi Arabian band. I find their music just as awful as every other black metal group, but they’re breaking Saudi law simply by existing. They’re literally risking execution for their music and have to record anonymously. They’re probably one of the few musical acts that have ever genuinely risked anything for their art. In that sense they’re more punk than pretty much any punk group that has ever preached dissent (and I say that while liking punk, a lot).

    3. Dr. John Carpenter

      I agree I think it depends on the band/scene. The people I’ve met into stoner/doom, drone or death are all sweethearts. Not saying that’s across the board, but there’s a real sense of community and camaraderie among the people I’ve met and it’s certainly more welcoming than some of the other genres I’ve been interested in.

    4. urdsama

      From what I’ve seen, the metal scene has even more breakouts and niche areas than it did 20 or 30 years ago.

      And invoking Cannibal Corpse or Bloodbath seems like an attempt to shock the reader, just like invoking Slayer (not to mention the songs listed). No mention of Vader, Carcass, or even Death which are massively influential and still going strong today while CC is more like GWAR these days. Not to mention Slayer is thrash metal and the others are death metal. And this doesn’t even begin to address more “mainstream” metal, as well global differences…

      So, essentially what you’ve said, only to me it also feels a bit fake and “look how edgy I am”.

      1. Hazel Down

        I haven’t figured out how to share links here yet but I do want to mention Hey Colossus. British Noise. 10 albums and they’re all still working day jobs. Very DIY and wonderful. I think of them as the Mekons of metal.

    5. Robert Hahl

      “…asked lots of metallers for their musical guilty pleasures, and came back with … ‘C’est la Vie by B*witched’ or ‘Katy Perry, Firework’.”

      The chorus of “C’est la Vie” is good, and the video theme of four talented women lusting after one man (ah, to be seventy again) explains its 31 million views on youtube. But what explains the 1.3 billion views of Katy Perry’s “Firework,” a total mediocrity from beginning to end. Her looks? To me she looks just like every other young women in California. Is it a lack of anyone else who is better? I am as mystified by her stardom as that of Harrison Ford’s.

      1. Big River Bandido

        Views, clicks, likes…these are easily and cheaply purchased in bulk. The costs of this are certainly low enough that any promotions budget from one of the majors will include lots of it.

    6. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I haven’t been to a show in about 20 years

      Since I know nothing about heavy metal, I went on YouTube and searched on Metallica. Moscow really does seem to bring out the best in many bands:

      Here is a long series of quotes and remarks about the song. I am fascinated to learn that “[Enter Sandman] marked a shift from Metallica away from the more complex tracks with multiple time signatures.” What I do notice is that there’s some swing to it. It’s danceable, which I like. I like to see others dancing.

    1. enoughisenough

      I love St Clair’s Friday roaming charges, they are always sad, though full of appreciation of art and nature

      1. Nikkikat

        I look forward every Friday to roaming charges. There is laughter and tears to his long winding stories. I do enjoy every minute regardless; as the truth must be faced even when grim. It is a struggle for me to get through the climate change and pollution stories. Again, facing our truth, while we are surrounded by Nero like fiddlers and ostrich people with heads planted in the sand or some where else.
        I am reminded of the show Fear the walking dead. The zombie apocalypse is raging in Los Angeles, a family manages to escape and make their way back to their suburban home. They have barely managed to survive. But, as they drive down their street a neighbor waves as he mows the lawn and another house shows a harried young Mother hosting a birthday party. They are all completely oblivious to the death and destruction that surrounds them and have no idea what is coming. It seems the same for us. It is difficult to know what is coming when no one else seems to even have a glimmer of that reality.

    2. Carolinian

      Here’s the money quote

      + In 2004, Alexander Cockburn and I conducted an extensive interview with an Afghan businessman named Kabir Mohabbat, who detailed the numerous efforts by the Afghan government to turn over Bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks and after–only to be repeatedly rebuffed by the Bush administration, which was hellbent on war.

      We’re hearing a lot of antiwar commentary this week but before that much much than in oh say 2001. And that goes for the left in general and not just Counterpunch. The right used the War on Terror to make the left shut up and now the left (some of it) are using Covid and 1/6 to make the right shut up. Indeed as St Clair points out it’s the Dem supporting media who are doing the most moaning and groaning about this latest blow to our imperial prestige.

  3. jr

    Re: BLM repression

    I’m sure BLM’s leadership is working feverishly to liberate their comrades in the trenches:



    Kahn-Cuttor’s identity sure is fluid…not everyone could take her hypocrisy, so this guy quit in disgust:


    to start advocating for charter schools, as far as I can tell. He was incensed when BLM went after charter schools, he relays. Black families deserve “quality”education to prepare them for “success” in the years ahead.

    I am a supporter of BLM at the street level but I knew they were going to get hosed by BLM Inc. when push came to shove. I’m sure there are more stories like these. A harsh lesson in class relations for the people.

    1. jr

      Addendum: Rashad Turner, the charter school champion above, is a vocal enemy of the teacher’s unions.

    2. Geo

      We will only achieve true equality when people of all colors, creeds, and genders can step on the backs of the lower classes on their way up the mountain top. /s

  4. allan

    Alexander Gaffney @AlecGaffney

    A little scoop in AgencyIQ today: The FDA is calling in some help to conduct the complex reviews for Pfizer, Moderna and J&J’s vaccines. …

    Refers to Gaffney’s paywalled article, but he quotes himself enough for you to see that,
    1.5 years into the pandemic, it looks pretty bad.
    If only there were a government agency with this kind of expertise …

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks. I’ve been having a bad feeling about this for some time. When everybody and their siblings is screaming at the FDA to get on with it, what’s the problem, and the FDA is conspicuously silent, not even a leak, it’s worrisome. I mean, the vaccines were administered (says a Google chart) for the first time on March 1, so we won’t know about the children with flippers until nine months from that date, which is [checks date calculator] December 1, which is [checks calculator again] 91 days letter than everybody seems to want it….

      1. Arizona Slim

        Children with flippers? I went to high school with one. She had two prosthetic arms and one prosthetic leg. The other leg was her only complete limb.

        And, yes, her mother took Thalidomide.

        1. Anonymous

          Just a reminder for anyone not old enough to know about thalidomide, that thalidomide is not a vaccine. It was prescribed off label to pregnant women for morning sickness. So if your analogy is meant to be that we shouldn’t rush approvals I can agree with that, but it could be construed that vaccines caused these horrible abnormalities.

            1. Arizona Slim

              I knew that Thalidomide was not a vaccine. Mom told me that when she explained my classmate’s condition to me.

              Mom was a teacher in my high school. She had this girl as a student.

              Speaking of swine flu, one of my mother’s teaching colleagues took the vaccine and got Guillain Barre Syndrome. Colleague was sick for a long time.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > we shouldn’t rush approvals

            Yes. I really don’t like that FDA approval is universally assumed before the approval has happened, and that we have no details of the regulatory process other than that they hired more bodies. Compare the coverage of the FAA and Boeing. The FDA is an independent regulatory agency precisely so that its process will be respected, but the rush undermines it.

            If the real reason to get the approval is to get more shots in arms, then one has to question what the Administration’s vaccination strategy was in the first place, because they’ve had nine months (counting the transition period) to get it right by persuasion, and now require FDA approval to move to coercion. It’s almost as if its all about authority and not science (and a continually self-undermining authority at that).

        2. PlutoniumKun

          My local doctor who gave me my vaccine last month was a Thalidomide victim. If it wasn’t for Covid he’d be competing in the Paralympics now, he’s a high level sailor (as in, racing sailing boats).

  5. drumlin woodchuckles

    ” So presumably Biden is dropping those prosecutions that have not yet made their way through the courts? ”

    If this is genuinely being asked as a question, the answer is: no. Biden is not, and will not drop any such prosecution. I can think of several speculative reasons for why he isn’t and won’t. But the simplest reason is that the Repuglan Party will accuse Biden and the DemParty of supporting Black Riotism if any such prosecutions are dropped.

    1. John k

      Oligarchs fear pitchforks and therefore want a militarized police force, which is why that’s what we have.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I wonder how heavily staffed various police departments are with White Power militia members or “ex” members.

        Officer Proud Boy, etc.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I have been irony-defficient for years. Irony has to be pretty broad, crude and heavy before I can detect it. So sometimes I miss things.

  6. Matthew G. Saroff

    I’m more inclined to believe that FBI Chief Christopher Wray is in the tank than I am to believe that there was not a conspiracy.

    At best, the Capitol assault was a form of stochastic terrorism, but when one considers the large amount of money involved in getting people to DC that day, this blithe dismissal of a conspiracy is suspect..

    1. PHLDenizen

      So I suppose if I ensure a “large amount of money” is spent (lunches, transportation fees, admissions, etc.) on taking a bus load of 4th graders to the Franklin Institute, only to discover that a few of them get riled up and start punching holes in the Giant Heart exhibit, that’s an act of “stochastic terrorism” and the parents and school all conspired to vandalize a very fine science museum. After all, some of those terrorists were heard yelling “science sucks! I hate school!” in the run-up to the affair.

      You say “money was spent”. You don’t say by whom specifically and specially for what purpose. To my knowledge, making plans to travel as a group isn’t criminal conspiracy. If that were the case, every destination wedding I’ve been to should have wound up in gitmo.

    2. hunkerdown

      Trump won those who can afford to vacation at least once per year and didn’t have other ideological commitments. The rioters (at best) had few other such options in the preceding months.

  7. zagonostra

    >Biden Afghan press conference

    This afternoon’s conference seemed bleak. If you turn off the sound and just let the optics guide your reaction what do you feel? I see Antony Blinken on Biden’s left and Harris on his right, both stiff and darkly masked like some characters from the underworld. I’m sure everyone in attendance was vaxed, yet all wore dark masks. I don’t know what is more repelling, Pelosi with her color-coordinated masks or the grim-reaper-looking people. Bad mojo in the air.

    1. FluffytheObeseCat

      What’s truly bleak is all the Very Important Americans pretending this Taliban sweep wasn’t a foregone conclusion. I can’t remember which link from this morning I was following, but one of them led me to a diplomatic photo of the Chinese foreign minister formally meeting with his counterpart from the Taliban. On July 21st, 2021.

      Where were the frantic English language “news”media articles about Afghanistan then?

      Any sensible adult knew this was coming; the sole surprise was the speed and lack of internal warfare. Given that gunfire, RPGs, and other munitions don’t ask politely if you are a combatant or not before entering your body….. all of Afghanistan is better off for the speed and completeness of the collapse of the puppet government in Kabul.

      The only sane Americans right now are the ones who are completely ignoring this event. Which fortunately, is most of us.

      I’m glad Biden is tossing some milky gruel towards the neocons and their myriad allies in the greater Beltway. I’ll be perfectly happy for him to keep it up until the next frantic media freak out knocks Afghanistan off the front section of every mainstream venue. As has happened more times than I can count over the past 20 years.

      1. Geo

        “Where were the frantic English language “news”media articles about Afghanistan then?”

        Back in mid 2003 I bought a book called “Behind The Invasion Of Iraq” by an economic think tank from Mumbai and it’s still to this day the most insightful, well-rounded, and even quite prophetic thing I’ve read on the subject.

        Seems the only way to know the truth about our own country is to read what others write about us.

        Side note: I’m rereading it for the fifth time. Every few years I give it another read to remind myself how boldly we were lied to, how accurate the predictions of our failure and the fallout were (for those willing to listen), and affirm that I’m not the one going mad and it’s our official narratives and social dialogue that are truly demented lunacy.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Seems the only way to know the truth about our own country is to read what others write about us.

          Yes, the subalterns know the master better then the master knows themself. And both MR and NLR really show how cool-headed analysis is done. Not that the press or the political class in general care.

          Am I the only one who thinks the Kabul airport coverage is remarkably similar to the “But the babies!!!!” hysteria under Trump? (So quickly abandoned under Biden even though nothing changed.)

  8. Michael McK

    I just had cause to leave a link at an earlier story and thought it worth sharing here for everyone. It is about “Phillip Cross” who is an impossibly busy editor at Wikipedia who scrubs all mention of things inconvenient to NATO, and the Establishment in general. “He” seems to be a full time project of a whole department and used to comment here but was ferreted out by Yves. I am shocked he used the same ‘name’ here for a while after being outed by the Grayzone and assumed it was an irreverent fellow traveler but never really analyzed his musings for misdirection (silly me).
    Using the same name here was very poor tradecraft, possibly outsourced. That the Borg is soooo incompetent sometimes gives me hope.
    It is often worth a reminder that the web is full of shadow actors and manipulation and to always value your own experiences and those of your community members more than what the web says.

    1. jr

      I always thought Cross was at the very least an idiot and an a$$#o!e. “He” only ever addressed me once with a clumsy, cheap swipe. Now I know it was a room full of them. Taken together, the lot of them, they contributed next to nothing as far as I know although YMMV. Unless their mission wasn’t the intentional sandbagging of NC, that is. Cowards and fools. Quivering mediocrities.

      Thanks for the intel, McK.

    2. PHLDenizen

      For all but a few purposes, I’ve abandoned Wikipedia as useful source. The amount of cross-checking what it purports to be accurate and complete is exhausting. Whatever they claim needs to be vetted with other sources. Especially for things geopolitical and ideological. It’s useful if you want to know the contents of the PMC and blob. And little else.

      They’re sitting on piles of cash, yet have the nerve to cry poor on a regular basis, defacing their own pages with these vulgar and déclassé demands for donations.

      Might as well rechristen it “JudyPedia” after Judy Miller of NYT Iraq war cheerleader fame. They’re both stenographers to the establishment.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      The web is not really a “thing” that “says things”. The web is just a “place” where “people” say things.

      ” On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

  9. roxan

    Biden cancelling student loan debt for the disabled looks good but it’s deceptive. Student loans have always been cancelled for disability–just have a form signed by your dr and send it in. For next year, I think it is, you can’t work even one day, or they will be reinstituted–they don’t tell you that at the time. Then, several years of limited income. I don’t know how current rules work.

    1. Nce

      My understanding is that if you qualify for SSI your student debt is forgiven. I knew of two grad students who were having problems with their depts like I was, but their strategy was to apply for SSI based on mental disability. First of all, as disabled students they would have more legal protections and it would be more difficult for their chairs to drop them from their programs, but also their student debt would be forgiven. I thought that was pretty drastic, but if it helped why not.
      I don’t understand what Biden has done that expands on that. What’s new?

  10. allan

    Florida mayor urges water limits because of COVID-19 surge [AP]

    A completely normal Friday afternoon headline in DeSantistan.

    The mayor of the Florida city of Orlando asked residents on Friday to stop watering their lawns and washing their cars for at least a week, saying water usage needed to be cut back because of the recent surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

    The Orlando Utility Commission treats the city’s water with liquid oxygen and supplies that ordinarily go toward water treatment have been diverted to hospitals for patients suffering from the virus, Mayor Buddy Dyer said. …

    The city-owned utility typically goes through 10 trucks of liquid oxygen a week but its supplier recently said that it would be cut back to five to seven trucks a week to accommodate hospitals …

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If the Democrats had a taste for winning elections ( which they don’t), DeSantis’s DemParty opponent for Governor would run on ” Republicans are vilel lepers who spread death and disease. Just look at DeSantis”
      which they won’t.

      A Party bent on winning would do that.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The city-owned utility typically goes through 10 trucks of liquid oxygen a week

      That is an example of interdependence (fragile close-coupling?) I never would have thought of. Thanks for the link. Makes you wonder what happened to sanitation in Southeast Asia (India; Myanmar; Indonesia) where they really had oxygen supply problems.

  11. antidlc


    U.S. reviewing if Moderna shot tied to higher heart inflammation risk – Washington Post

    U.S. health officials are reviewing reports that Moderna Inc’s (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccine may be linked to a higher risk of a rare heart condition in younger adults than previously thought, the Washington Post reported late on Thursday, citing people familiar with the review.

    The review was focused on Canadian data that suggests a higher risk from the shot than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, especially in men below the age of 30, according to paper.

    The Washington Post report quoted a source saying it was too early for the regulators to reach a conclusion, and that additional work was needed before any recommendation was made.

    1. Daryl

      It’s fun, figuring out what long-term effects the vaccine will have, after getting it. Sort of like the US government’s model of passing legislation to figure out what’s written in it.

  12. zagonostra

    >Taliban Didn’t Win in Afghanistan, the Defense Contractors Did | Opinion – Newsweek

    Perhaps, one can hope, that outrage will swell over time, as more Americans come to learn of what exactly transpired—and how much of their treasure was squandered. I must insist journalists do their part to follow the money.

    “I must insist journalist do their part”…Where the hell was Newsweek and the rest of the corporate Media in the last 20 years. All these lets-close-the-barn-door bloviators coming out of the wood-works is maddening.


  13. Mildred Montana

    “UPDATE “How Trump uses fundraising emails to remain undisputed leader of the GOP” [The Hill]. • Basically, Trump has an effective email operation that sounds a lot like the Democrats’ Mothership”

    Do not underestimate Trump. He ain’t gone away, he ain’t goin’ away. and come 2024 he’s going to be a presidential contender (remember: he doesn’t need the popular vote, just the electoral college).

    He’s got some serious political chops. The goofy MAGA cap, the wisecracks, the disparaging nicknames for his opponents, all these appeal to the strong anti-intellectual streak in many Americans. Just a little tweaking to his speaking style (a little less repetition, a few more flamboyant gestures) and he will be the kind of demagogue America is ready for. I’m sure he learned something in 2020. If nothing else, the power of the Big Lie.

    All that talk about his prosecution for various ill-defined crimes? Ain’t gonna happen. Crooks don’t indict a crook lest they themselves be indicted. The ranks of the 10% (including politicians, judges, prosecutors) are filled with crooks, crookedness is a job skill at those exalted heights, and whether it be tax evasion, expense-account jiggery-pokery, or time-theft (“sick” days, golfing and dining and drinking with “clients”, etc.) they nearly all do it.

    TRUMP 2024! /sarc

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Do not underestimate Trump.

      I don’t. Mothership is very effective, particularly at extracting money from elders, and the GOP has always been very good at direct mail, from which these operations descend. A/B testing is the name of the game in direct mail, and we know Trump loves A/b testing. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was sharpening his message.

      That said, I’m not sure Trump wants the Presidency again. Attention (money (power)) yes. The office? I’m not so sure. However, and showing the limits of the GOP, the “smart Trump” doesn’t seem to be showing up.

  14. Watt4Bob

    About those Heavy metal shows.

    My favorite bar, which I would have described as a Roadhouse style establishment, Roots music, Americana, Blues and old style Rock ‘N’ Roll was sold a few years ago.

    It was a real estate play, the place was old, just on the edge of down town, and the land worth far more than what a bar could justify.

    Anyway, it ended up in the hands of a very rich guy who for a while kept it open and booked Metal acts.

    My friends and I continued to hang out there and so got to see what the Metal crowd was like.

    I’d say they were nice nerdy people, long hair and beards, lots of tattoos and piercings, and all dressed in black T shirts and respecting of each others personal space to a remarkable degree, meaning the dance floor was populated with guys standing exactly six feet apart, nodding in unison with the music.

    One of the booking agencies, which I heard was located in Nashville, always passed on rumors that their acts had “BIG followings” so expect a good crowd, but it always seemed that the crowds for this agency’s bands were dominated by road crew and entourage that had arrived as a caravan. Two or three buses, and a couple trucks, I suspect the involvement of “Investors”.

    The local, and regional bands were reliably nice guys who would offer us herb and edibles when we met them in the parking lot, us enjoying “fresh air”, and them loading-in.

    Every act seemed very concentrated on good behavior, and professionalism, so coming from a sort of Punk Rock, Garage Band background, I found this surprising.

    Anyway, unknown bands, some with wealthy backers, some in rusty old vans, all very earnest in their efforts, and all very very polite.

    Maybe when they get successful they’ll cut loose, but for now, very polite.

  15. Wukchumni

    An oldie but a goodie ditty when the surge was working…

    Ooo bonk me Dave Patraeus
    Bonk me Dave Patraeus…
    Bonk bonk bonk bonk me Dave Patraeus
    Bonk me all the time to the top

    He was into Intelligence
    And he lived in the big city
    It was near Vienna, in Langley
    Where he did everything
    He had Humordor by the balls, in the CIA halls
    But a couple women loved him
    And each one shouted:
    Come on and bonk me Dave Patraeus

    Patraeus, Patraeus, Patraeus
    Patraeus, Patraeus, Patraeus
    Patraeus, Patraeus, oh oh oh bonk me Dave Patraeus

    He was Superstar
    He was popular
    He was so exalted
    And then his peter got excited
    He was a reverse cuckold
    As his wife was looking old
    And he shouted:
    Come on and bonk me, i’m Dave Patraeus


    1. Sawdust

      Kyeyune really drives home the point that should be on everyone’s mind right now: the USSR went kablooey three years after withdrawing from Afghanistan, and they did a much better job of it than Uncle Sam has. So everyone’s gotta wonder if the U.S. is gonna crack up in a big way soon.

      On the other hand, you could argue that America doesn’t have as much to collapse as the Soviet Union. The Soviets promised a communist workers’ paradise and went down when no-one could pretend that was ever gonna happen. America, meanwhile, has never really promised anything besides an outside chance of getting filthy rich.

      Rising inequality, declining life expectancy, so what? Just invest in crypto and you could be the next Elon Musk! Hard to know which alternative is more depressing.

      1. JBird4049

        That “outside chance of getting filthy rich” used to be much, much more realistic. When I was a kid, people could say with some veracity that the next generation would do better than the next. Now, it is problematic for a growing number of Americans will remained housed and forget about buying a house; more importantly, it is getting impossible to blame the victims for this.

        Yes. I’m sure that some, including politicians, will blame anarchists, socialists, or being lazy, stupid, or mentally ill, but really that is just going to be laughed at. Even the old red herrings about “the Blacks” are probably losing their effectiveness. Even if you are a racist, who would you blame for shipping the jobs overseas as well as losing multiple wars, if you include Iraq, in one generation? The Cripes and the Bloods?

        That is not to say that some power hungry, ambitious politico or greedy corporate type will not try to use a modern “Southern Strategy” or try to bring back the Black Code or Jim Crow. Or bloviate about the evils of Socialism. However, too much of the American population has been getting desperate for too long to put the blame on just their fellow members of poor or working class. Well, they can try and I know that the police budgets will just on expanding despite what our politicians will say, too many hungry and homeless people (and their families) or nearly so with too many guns.

        Then there is climate change…

        I am not looking forward to what will happen between now to seven years from now. If the next election isn’t the spark, by the next general election something will be that spark.

    2. Andrew Watts

      “dead white thinkers such as Sun Tzu”

      Heh, heh!

      Why does Sun Tzu’s skin color even matter?

  16. allan

    COVID-19 Incidence and Hospitalization Rates are Inversely Related to Vaccination Coverage
    Among the 112 Most Populous Counties in the United States
    [medRxiv, so not peer reviewed]

    We tested whether COVID-19 incidence and hospitalization rates were inversely related to vaccination coverage among the 112 most populous counties in the United States, each with a population exceeding 600,000. We measured vaccination coverage as the percent of the total population fully vaccinated as of July 15, 2021, with the exception of 11 Texas counties, where the cutoff date was July 14, 2021. We measured COVID-19 incidence as the number of confirmed cases per 100,000 population during the 14-day period ending August 12, 2021. We measured hospitalization rates as the number of confirmed COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population during the same 14-day period. COVID-19 incidence was significantly higher among counties in the lower half of the distribution of vaccination coverage (incidence 543.8 per 100,000 among 56 counties with mean coverage 42.61%) than among counties in the lower half [typo alert!] of the distribution of coverage (incidence 280.7 per 100,000 among 56 counties with mean coverage 57.37%, p < 0.0001). Hospital admissions were also significantly higher among counties in the lower half of the distribution (55.37 per 100,000) than in the upper half of the distribution (20.48 per 100,000, p < 0.0001). In log-linear regression models, a 10-percentage-point increase in vaccination coverage was associated with a 28.3% decrease in COVID-19 incidence (95% confidence interval, 16.8 – 39.7%), a 44.9 percent increase in the rate of COVID-19 hospitalization (95% CI, 28.8 – 61.0%), and a 16.6% decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100 cases (95% CI, 8.4 – 24.8%). Higher vaccination coverage is associated not only with significantly lower COVID-19 incidence, but also significantly less severe cases of the disease.

    Recent, so Delta-adjacent.

    1. Skip Intro

      How did they find confirmed cases to measure incidence I wonder. The CDC discourages testing of the vaccinated, and doesn’t record breakthroughs convincingly. This seems to be a recipe for undercounting positives among the vaccinated. I’d like to see relative testing rates.

  17. The Rev Kev

    “OnlyFans: How it handles illegal sex videos – BBC investigation”

    Yeah, OnlyFans is pulling all it risque content to please its investors. Why yes, most of them do live in Saudi Arabia – plus some new investors in Afghanistan. OnlyFans CEO Tim Stokely said that it was the correct thing to do, the moral thing to do and the righteous thing to do in order to please their investors. Stokley then had to cut short the interview as he was to his way to file for unemployment after having to close down onlyFans due to lack of visitors.

  18. The Rev Kev

    “Exclusive: FBI finds scant evidence U.S. Capitol attack was coordinated – sources”

    The FBI did find evidence that the U.S. Capitol attack was coordinated but could not use it because all those doing the coordinating were actually FBI informants.

  19. John k

    What business is Amazon in?
    I remember when they began doing their own transport, and thinking, how can they out-compete against all the long-established transport companies?
    Of course that cost is built into their price, but I’ve tried a couple times to get something too large for PO to ship, and the lowest quote must have been multiple times Amazon’s cost. Just one state away…
    How many industries are they disrupting? Started with just books…. Maybe they should look at healthcare…
    Granted they mistreat their workers, but pretty standard fare here.

  20. Gregorio

    “The U.S. has already taken steps to block money from flowing to the Taliban and could opt to negotiate relief from economic sanctions if they agree to block international terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and protect the rights of women and minorities. ”

    Maybe that would work with the Saudis.

    “We droned them for 20 years and it didn’t work, so let’s try starving them with sanctions.”

  21. ObjectiveFunction


    Nothing at New York’s “Homecoming” vaccination concerts this weekend will match the March 17, 2020, jest where Morrissey began his London concert with an a capella rendition of the Skeeter Davis hit “End of the World.” He crooned the timely lament — then sneezed. At that point, the backdrop projection flashed a mock album cover photo of Morrissey wearing a COVID mask alongside a satirical title “You Are the Quarantined” (riffing on Morrissey’s 2004 comeback album You Are the Quarry).

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If we can reverse and destroy every single gain that UberLyft have made from Day One, then all the investment money that rich people have spent on keeping UberLyft zombie-alive will have been for nothing. A dead loss which could only be wept over.

        How can we do that?

        What do UberLyft claim to supply? Instant short-distance mobility access at the push of an app-button. What else can do that? Those little app-scooters which infest urban areas and are so roundly condemned. But app-scooter riders look like they are having more fun than UberLyft passengers. Or drivers.

        What if urban areas could be flooded with tens of millions of app-scooters? Would so many heretofore-UberLyft riders begin riding app-scooters that UberLyft would be defected-from and attrited into extinction?

        How could cities and app-scooters be made more hospitable to eachother? How could they be made to co-evolve? How many app-scooter riders do there need to be until they become an irrestible force in favor of app-scooter lanes? And could such lanes be joint-use appscooter and cyclist lanes? Could each community force-multiply the other community?

        And could the danger app-scooter evolve into being a safety app-scooter the way the early danger bicycle evolved into being the safety bicycle of today? If so, would that attract even more people onto the hoped-for safety app-scooters of tomorrow and therefor out of the UberLyfts? Thereby helping to exterminate UberLyft from the face of the earth?

        Would this be an unexpected kind of tight inverse-coupling or whatever the word would be? More app-scooters — less UberLyfts?

        Worth a try?

  22. The Rev Kev

    “Requiem For The ‘Stan”

    This is really a keeper this article, especially when it talks about the timeless patterns of soldiering. I’m sure that a British redcoat or a Roman legionary would nod their heads at some of the things that he talked about. But in talking about the problems that he is facing after coming home with an establishment that treats him and his ilk as the enemy, there is something that he said that gives hope and that is this-

    ‘And yet, if Haji can endure the Leviathan and win, so can we.’

Comments are closed.