2:00PM Water Cooler 8/26/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

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

Vaccination by region:

South still fiddling and diddling.

51.7% 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, much in the same way that a golf drive does approaching its peak, conforming to the drop in “Rapid Risers,” the drop in positivity, and the decrease in hospitalization in Florida and Texas. 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.

“Are schools contributing to a spike in COVID-19 cases among kids? Partly, experts explain.” [USA Today]. “In Florida, school districts around the state, including in Jacksonville’s Duval County, are closing schools as cases rise. New Orleans School District saw 299 active COVID-19 cases and more than 3,000 students and staff in quarantine, according to district data. A Mississippi public health official said about 20,000 students across the state are in quarantine. School outbreaks caused by high community transmission and lack of mitigation measures have not only disrupted academic plans, health experts say, but also may be contributing to a spike in COVID-19 cases among children across the country. They worry cases will continue to rise if schools don’t implement masking and other basic prevention measures, and adults in the community remain unvaccinated…. Nationally, child cases have more than quadrupled in the past month, rising from 38,000 cases during the week that ended July 22, to 180,000 during the week that ended Aug. 19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, reaching levels not seen since the 2020-2021 winter surge. Children represent more than 22% of weekly reported COVID-19 cases and up to 3.6% of hospitalizations, the academy reported.”

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

Cooking time for Florida’s data seems to have increased. Sadly, Texas back up. Meanwhile, Georgia and Lousiana have diverged.

From CDC: “Community Profile Report August 25, 2021” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties, this release:

Lots and lots of yellow and green, especially in the South and the Acela Corridor. I hate to be optimistic, but it looks like this fever has broken (thought the back to school bump, IMSHO, has yet to really take hold.) Remember, however, that this chart is about acceleration, not absolute numbers, so the case chart still has momentum. 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:

The South is now fiddling and diddling at more or less the same level, and the enormous drop in the West persists. Could be reporting problems.

NEW Hospitalization (CDC): Dammit, this one’s gone dark; the last data I see is for the week of August 14. 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.

The Gulf Coast is red, but moderating.

“Pediatric Covid hospitalizations surge to highest on record in U.S. as doctors brace for more” [CNBC]. “New Covid hospital admissions for kids have reached their highest levels since the U.S. started tracking pediatric cases about a year ago. Doctors are warning that it could get worse as schools begin to reopen and the swift-moving delta variant drives cases higher. While delta is more contagious than previous variants, causing a surge in pediatric hospitalizations, so far it doesn’t appear to cause more severe disease in children.” • Although about pediatric long Covid we obviously can’t know anything yet.

Deaths (Our World in Data):

Deaths on trend rising. (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. Needless to see, this is a public health debacle. It’s the public health establishment to take care of public health, not the health of certain favored political factions.)

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.

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

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

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

Capitol Seizure

“Capitol Police officers sue Trump, extremists, alleging conspiracy, terrorism on Jan. 6” [USA Today]. “Seven officers from the United States Capitol Police are suing former President Donald Trump, his longtime adviser Roger Stone and members of far-right extremist groups, alleging they conspired to use violence Jan. 6 to attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday morning, alleges that Trump and the other defendants conspired with one other through the use of force, threats and intimidation that culminated in the attack on the Capitol. Officer Jason DeRoche, an 18-year veteran of the Capitol Police and a Navy veteran, said the civil lawsuit isn’t about winning a financial settlement. Rather, he said, the lawsuit aims to set the record straight about what happened Jan. 6 and make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.”

“U.S. Capitol Shooter of San Diego’s Ashli Babbitt to Reveal Himself on NBC News” [Times of San Diego]. “Some 232 days after fatally shooting San Diego’s Ashli Babbitt, the U.S. Capitol police officer who pulled the trigger Jan. 6 will reveal his identity in an interview with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, it was announced Wednesday. The interview is set to air at 6:30 p.m. ET Thursday — three days after the the police agency announced it would not discipline the officer following an internal investigation…. Video footage from the siege showed that Babbitt being shot while climbing through the busted-out window of a door to the Speaker’s Lobby.

Biden Administration

UPDATE “Opinion | Let’s Not Pretend That the Way We Withdrew From Afghanistan Was the Problem” [New York Times]. “Focusing on the execution of the withdrawal is giving virtually everyone who insisted we could remake Afghanistan the opportunity to obscure their failures by pretending to believe in the possibility of a graceful departure. It’s also obscuring the true alternative to withdrawal: endless occupation. But what our ignominious exit really reflects is the failure of America’s foreign policy establishment at both prediction and policymaking in Afghanistan.” That should be ” the failure of America’s foreign policy establishment at both prediction and policymaking in Afghanistan.” • It is true that Klein deploys “my heart breaks.” But when you’ve lost Ezra Klein…. Comment:

Must have driven Trump crazy when he discovered this…

“Democrats set aggressive timeline to pass Biden’s multitrillion-dollar plans, with pitfalls” [NBC]. “But key House progressives warn that they won’t vote for the infrastructure bill unless it comes side by side with the larger spending bill. And that increased the pressure on Democratic leaders to quickly craft a $3.5 trillion package that can pass under narrow House and Senate majorities.”

If this isn’t a subtweet, I don’t know what a subtweet is:

UPDATE “Progressives dig in for fall fight with centrists” [The Hill]. “[A] vocal group of 10 centrists, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), publicly called for holding an immediate vote on infrastructure before adopting the budget resolution for the $3.5 trillion package. Pelosi ultimately struck a deal with the moderates — which she later downplayed as a “clarification” — by saying the House would vote to send the infrastructure bill to Biden’s desk before October…. Progressives have characterized Pelosi’s pledge as nothing more than a symbolic placation that has little practical impact given that the House was already poised to act on renewing transportation programs next month. ‘I think this was meaningless,’ Omar said of the agreement Pelosi reached with centrists. ‘It’s not binding. There’s no leverage that I believe was gained by them. I actually think they lost leverage by doing this little fiasco.’ One source close to senior leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) said Pelosi’s handling of the days of stalling and threats by the so-called mod squad sent a signal that a massive spending bill would end up passing without any major cuts. Progressives have outlined a number of policies around the environment, child care and education that they consider to be non-negotiable…. Another key promise that centrists secured from Pelosi is that the House reconciliation package will need to pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian, meaning it can’t include controversial measures — such as a provision to grant legal status to certain immigrants — that would later be axed in the Senate.”

Democrats en Deshabille

“California’s Recall Election for Governor Gavin Newsom Is a Warning Sign for Democrats” [Teen Vogue]. “Newsom learned the risk of seeming out of touch with voters at his fancy maskless dinner. What Democrats should be focused on, both in California and across the country, is a multipronged approach: vaccines and mask mandates, immediate economic relief, and messaging campaigns that communicate these policies clearly to voters and help shore up their trust.” • Vaccines and mask mandates are the bare minimum and probably not enough; ventilation must be addressed, and we need also to consider better testing (especially through wastewater), and better treatments. (We also need to burn CDC to the ground, salt the earth, plow everything under, and rebuild on new ground, starting with decent data gathering. But that’s just me, and I doubt it will be an issue in the Newsom campaign). I say this because even Teen Vogue isn’t thinking big enough.

“Repair work paused on S.F.’s Millennium Tower due to continued sinking” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “The $100 million fix meant to shore up San Francisco’s famously sinking and leaning Millennium Tower has been put on hold for up to a month while engineers try to figure out why the building has settled an additional inch during the current remedial construction… [E]xperts concluded that the building’s piles should have been driven to bedrock.” • Oops.

“California housing department mismanaged COVID-19 funds for the homeless, audit says” [Los Angeles Times]. “The California Department of Housing and Community Development did not properly distribute federal relief funds meant to help homeless residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the mismanagement was so prolonged that local organizations might lose the money because of missed deadlines, auditors said Tuesday. After receiving $316 million under the federal CARES Act to reduce the effect of COVID-19 on unhoused people, the department ‘did not take critical steps to ensure those funds promptly benefited that population,’ the state auditor’s office said in a report. The department was in charge of distributing the funds to local groups that collaborate on homeless services and prevention under the so-called continuum of care. It took so long to finalize contracts that the local entities did not have access to much of the funding during the height of the pandemic, auditors found.”

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“Josh Gottheimer walked into a bar. It didn’t go well.” [Ryan Grim, Bad News]. • A very funny New Jersey story, involving a bullet-proof vest, too long to except. Suffice to say that Gottheimer is co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus (ugh).

“The Centrist Who Taught the Left” [Eoin Higgins, The Nation]. “Reid’s ex-staffers have leadership roles throughout the progressive movement. Rabin-Havt was Sanders’s legislative director until July; Shakir is still a senior adviser as well as the founder of the progressive media outlet More Perfect Union. Joshua Orton, another Reid alum who worked for Sanders as a senior adviser from 2018 to 2021, is now a senior policy adviser to the Labor Department secretary. Jentleson, Reid’s former deputy chief of staff, is an author and an advocate for abolishing the Senate filibuster; he and Katz, formerly Reid’s communications director, run Battle Born Collective, a progressive messaging shop. Another former Reid communications director, Kristen Orthman, is now Warren’s deputy chief of staff; and Urbina, Reid’s former senior adviser for Latino and Asian affairs, is a managing director at Indivisible. These and other former Reid staffers, who call themselves ‘Reidworld,’ are reshaping Democratic Party politics.” • Fascinating look back at the 2006 election.

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Republican Funhouse

“‘Profound abuse’: Judge disciplines pro-Trump lawyers over election lawsuit” [The Hill]. “In a highly anticipated written ruling, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker in Detroit said the pro-Trump lawyers, including Powell and prominent litigator Lin Wood, should have investigated the Republican former president’s voter fraud claims more carefully before filing what Parker called a ‘frivolous’ lawsuit. Parker, who dismissed the Michigan suit last December, formally requested that disciplinary bodies investigate whether the pro-Trump lawyers should have their law licenses revoked. The judge also ordered the lawyers to attend classes on the ethical and legal requirements for filing legal claims.” • Ouch.\

Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE “American Antifa” [Reuters]. “You wouldn’t know it, but Armbruster, 5’5″ and under 130 pounds, is a militant activist in the far-left Antifa movement. She has clashed on the streets with the rightwing Proud Boys extremist group, with the alt-right movement and with police. Her arrest record – in Washington, DC, Arizona, Virginia, Minnesota and Florida – dates to 2003, for charges of unlawful assembly, failure to disperse, violating the Riot Act and assaulting far-right leaders and a police officer. Most of her prior charges were dismissed by judges or prosecutors; she faces three pending cases. ‘We are prepared to put our bodies on the line in the event of police or fascist or racist violence,’ she said. ‘And it’s really, like, a duty to humanity to do that, right?’ Militant Antifa activists rarely speak publicly. Some have been hostile to journalists, shoving them, shining laser pointers at cameras and using umbrellas to thwart videography…. Armbruster now lives a nomadic lifestyle with another Antifa activist, plus her dog and cat, operating from a vintage canned-ham camper she tows from campground to campground. In one RV she sometimes lives in, a needlepoint sign on the window announces: “Come back with a warrant.'” • Well worth a read.

UPDATE “Enough is Enough: Antifa Attacks Reporter in Portland” [Matt Taibbi, TK News]. “This past Sunday, while covering a protest in Portland, Oregon for our video partner News2Share, a reporter named Maranie Staab was attacked by members of an Antifa-affiliated group. After complaining about a report she’d done in Colombia in conjunction with TK News, they maced her, shot paint at her, and threw her to the ground…. In the coming longer video report on this site, viewers will see that the idiocies of Sunday ranged far and wide, with no shortage of violence from the Proud Boys and other rightist groups that showed up that day. However, only one group saw fit to attack a videographer, and I think it’s time the wider press took more notice, because this is not an aberration with this type of activist.”

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“Are Wisconsin’s Political Maps Unconstitutional? 3 Lawsuits Say Yes.” [Up North News]. “Two new lawsuits filed Monday—one by a coalition of liberal groups, one by a prolific conservative law firm—argue that Wisconsin’s current electoral maps are unconstitutional in light of the new US census data. Each takes a different tack on who should oversee the next round of maps, depending on political preferences and predicted outcomes. The suits’ arguments mirror that of one filed earlier this month by a prominent Democratic lawyer: The maps no longer align with legal requirements after new population data was released. Because of population changes revealed by the census, the suits argue, political districts no longer have a roughly equal number of people, which is a requirement in redistricting law. … Two lawsuits make the same core argument, but ask for starkly different solutions from different jurists—the conservative-led state Supreme Court or a federal court.”

“Lawsuits over voting maps have become a strategy for challenging political power, study finds — plus, 3 tips for covering redistricting” [The Journalist’s Resource]. “Lawsuits challenging changes to voting district maps often claim officials have moved district boundaries in a way that diminishes the political power of minority groups or unfairly gives one political party an edge. But new research that examines redistricting lawsuits across six decades surmises the real reason behind them might have less to do with correcting an unjust imbalance and more to do with pushing out the party in power.” No! More: “Earlier this month, the U.S. Census Bureau provided states with data from the 2020 census. As officials review district maps and debate changes, researcher James G. Gimpel points out that redistricting disputes are most prevalent in so-called ‘purple’ states, where voters support Republicans and Democrats at similar rates.Litigants tend to file legal challenges in places where a favorable court ruling could tip the political scale, says Gimpel, a political science professor at the University of Maryland who is the lead author of the new paper, ‘The Geography of Law: Understanding the Origin of State and Federal Redistricting Cases,’ published in Political Research Quarterly.”

“First Interactive Map Shows How Primary Votes Moved Across The City” [Gothamist]. “Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams secured a victory in the city’s first ranked-choice voting primary election—and for the first time new data mapped by the Center for Urban Research at The CUNY Graduate Center shows where and how he won, plus how leading candidates saw their votes transfer through eight rounds of tabulation. (You may recall we did this after Mayor Lenny’s victory in our practice election.)… [T]his localized, very detailed data is really important because it enables us to see the nuance and the subtleties and the variation in how voters behave across the city. And by mapping it like this, we really get a sense of what the neighborhood by neighborhood almost block by block pattern.” • A fun tool!

UPDATE “Arizona judge orders Cyber Ninjas to preserve all records in 2020 election audit” [The Hill]. “An Arizona judge on Wednesday ruled that Cyber Ninjas, the company leading the GOP-backed election audit in Arizona, must preserve all records from their process so they can be released to the public, the Arizona Republic reported. The order was made in a case brought forward by the Republic. There are currently two lawsuits seeking the release of these records, with another brought forward by the group American Oversight, which is suing the Arizona state Senate. Cyber Ninjas had argued that records connected to their audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County are not subject to Arizona’s Public Records Law which would require them to be disclosed. The Republic is arguing that since the audit is being conducted under the orders of the state Senate, the records must be made public.”

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “21 August 2021 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Improves” [Econintersect]. “Market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Econoday) were 325 K to 362 K (consensus 340 K), and the Department of Labor reported 353,000 new claims. The more important (because of the volatility in the weekly reported claims and seasonality errors in adjusting the data) 4 week moving average moved from 378,000 (reported last week as 377,750) to 366,500.”

Manufacturing: “United States Kansas Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Kansas City Fed’s Manufacturing Production Index declined to 22 in August of 2021 from 41 in the previous month, the lowest since January. Durable goods plants continued to drive the growth in district manufacturing activity, in particular primary metals, computer and electronic products, and transportation equipment while nondurable goods manufacturing remained steady.”

Coincident Indicators: “21 August 2021 New York Fed Weekly Economic Index (WEI): Index Decline Continues” [Econintersect]. “The New York Fed’s Weekly Leading Index (WLI) declined this past week. This index’s trend is worsening based on the 13-week rolling average…. This data set should be considered a high-frequency coincident indicator.”

GDP: “Second Estimate 2Q2021 GDP Growth Improves Marginally To 6.6%” [Econintersect]. “The second estimate of second-quarter 2021 Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) marginally improved from 6.5 % to 6.6 %…. I am not a fan of the quarter-over-quarter exaggerated method of measuring GDP – but year-over-year growth is now in positive territory as it is being compared to the beginning of the recession.”

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Retail: “How Target Got Cozy With the Cops, Turning Black Neighbors Into Suspects” [Bloomberg]. “For decades, Target fostered partnerships with law enforcement unlike those of any other U.S. corporation. It became one of the most influential corporate donors to law enforcement agencies and police foundations, supplying money for cutting-edge technology and equipment. When it developed a network of forensics labs, it made them available to police across the U.S. Starting in the early 2000s, Target developed a program, called Safe City, that poured money into police and sheriff’s departments to install neighborhood surveillance systems and fund equipment. In Minneapolis, Target worked with the City Attorney’s Office to have petty criminals banished from the downtown business district through what are called geographic restriction orders. Eight out of 10 people expelled were Black or American Indian, according to an analysis of city data. In an article last summer, Aren Aizura, a professor who teaches courses on race and gender at the University of Minnesota, wrote that Target’s deep ties to the police made the company “an appropriate outlet for rage.” • A “network of forensics labs”?

Tech: “The All-Seeing “i”: Apple Just Declared War on Your Privacy” [Edward Snowden, Continuing Ed]. “Apple’s new system, regardless of how anyone tries to justify it, will permanently redefine what belongs to you, and what belongs to them. How? The task Apple intends its new surveillance system to perform—preventing their cloud systems from being used to store digital contraband, in this case unlawful images uploaded by their customers—is traditionally performed by searching their systems. While it’s still problematic for anybody to search through a billion people’s private files, the fact that they can only see the files you gave them is a crucial limitation. Now, however, that’s all set to change. Under the new design, your phone will now perform these searches on Apple’s behalf before your photos have even reached their iCloud servers, and—yada, yada, yada—if enough ‘forbidden content’ is discovered, law-enforcement will be notified…. How long do we have left before the iPhone in your pocket begins quietly filing reports about encountering ‘extremist’ political material, or about your presence at a ‘civil disturbance’? Or simply about your iPhone’s possession of a video clip that contains, or maybe-or-maybe-not contains, a blurry image of a passer-by who resembles, according to an algorithm, ‘a person of interest’? • Once again:

Manufacturing: “Misaligned factory robot may have sparked Chevy Bolt battery fires” [Ars Technica]. “‘What we’re looking at is a perfect storm,’ [Greg Less, technical director of the University of Michigan’s Battery Lab] said. The Bolt’s battery packs are made up of pouch-type cells, which are essentially layers of cathodes, anodes, and separators that are flooded with liquid electrolyte and encased in a flexible polymer pouch. The torn anode tab, he said, would create a projection in what should be an otherwise flat battery. The projection brings the anode closer to the cathode. ‘And that would probably be OK if the separator was where it was supposed to be,’ he said. But in problematic Bolt batteries, the separator wasn’t where it was supposed to be. Separators are placed between the anode and cathode to prevent the two electrodes from touching. A torn tab wouldn’t necessarily be an issue on its own because the separator would prevent any projection from bridging the anode-cathode gap. In cells with a folded separator, though, the gap would be missing from at least part of the battery. If the anode bridges the gap, Less said, ‘you have a short, and it’s all downhill from there.’ ‘It wouldn’t surprise me if both defects are caused by the same thing,’ he added. ‘I would imagine that the separator must be folded at the edge near where the anode tab is at. What I’m guessing is that at some point during the handling of the cell, before it’s fully packaged, some part of the robot machine is catching. The tab is catching, the separator is catching—something is catching very infrequently so that it hasn’t been noticed, and it’s causing this damage.'” • Interesting.

Supply Chain: “The World Economy’s Supply Chain Problem Keeps Getting Worse” [Bloomberg]. “A supply chain crunch that was meant to be temporary now looks like it will last well into next year as the surging delta variant upends factory production in Asia and disrupts shipping, posing more shocks to the world economy. Manufacturers reeling from shortages of key components and higher raw material and energy costs are being forced into bidding wars to get space on vessels, pushing freight rates to records and prompting some exporters to raise prices or simply cancel shipments altogether… China’s determination to stamp out Covid has meant even a small number of cases can cause major disruptions to trade. This month the government temporarily closed part of the world’s third-busiest container port at Ningbo for two weeks after a single dockworker was found to have the delta variant. Earlier this year, wharves in Shenzhen were idled after the discovery of a handful of coronavirus cases.” • So the consumer has decided to “let ‘er rip” and “live with it,” while the manufacturer is for “zero Covid.” Quite a contradiction. I wonder who will win?

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 42 Fear (previous close: 44 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 22 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 25 at 12:04pm.

Health Care

It’s called the Streisand Effect:

“Mississippi Is Pleading With People To Stop Using A Livestock Drug To Treat COVID-19” [NPR]. • Allow me to tiresomely repeat that Ivermectin in the United States is approved by the FDA for limited human use. If “your doctor” wishes to prescribe it for an “off-label” use, they can. (Personally, I wouldn’t use an animal drug, and the FDA gives several good reasons why not, besides that the doses are calibrated for large animals: “Many inactive ingredients found in animal products aren’t evaluated for use in people. Or they are included in much greater quantity than those used in people.” So I look on at how our hysterical PMC’s strategy of associating Ivermectin exclusively with animal use has backfired not without a little irony. (Now, of course, they can’t back out and say “Go ahead, doctors, prescribe it. The human formulation is at worst harmless, and cheap. Knock yourself out!” No, they’re dug in. Stephen Colbert’s writers have come up with some jokes about it, so you know the matter is settled.) And speaking of comedy–

There it is. If you take Ivermectin, you’re an animal. Hey, kidding!

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“Vaccine penalties are here, and it’s unclear whether they’ll work” [Axios]. “Delta Air Lines’ decision to charge unvaccinated employees an extra $200 per month for health insurance signals that rewards alone aren’t doing enough to measurably increase rates of COVID-19 vaccination. Employers are playing a central role in getting more people vaccinated, but it’s unclear how much, or if, these types of penalties will help. Federal law allows employers to charge higher health insurance premiums to workers based on a health factor only if that factor is within a ‘wellness program,’ according to Georgetown University health insurance expert Sabrina Corlette. ‘Most [wellness] programs do not work,’ health policy researchers wrote in 2017. ‘Some raise serious legal concerns.’ Delta’s surcharge may not follow federal guidelines…. Health insurance premiums are automatically deducted from workers’ paychecks, so people won’t feel the penalty like they would if they had to pay $200 from their wallet.” • Well worth a read!

UPDATE “It’s time to admit it: The vaccination campaign has hit its limit. Mandates are the only way forward.” [WaPo]. Amazingly, some self-reflection: “Our field is ‘public’ health, not ‘Democratic’ health. Our gross failing to connect with half the country has been on full display. Appearing on left-leaning outlets is not working. Time to get out on Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, Facebook and, yes, even Newsmax.” But: “Why are so many people acting like this is some kind of affront to our liberties? It’s routine to get vaccines for all sorts of things. Immunization records are required to go to school, to summer camps and for international travel. We have a silver bullet that can end this crisis. Why are we afraid to pull the trigger?” • Well, elsewhere in the article: “[Vaccination is in the] 40 to 50 percent range for unionized workers such as New York City’s police, firefighters and corrections officers, as well as 60 percent for the city’s Education Department workers…. The CDC reported this week that only 45 percent of aides in long-term care health-care facilities are vaccinated. For doctors, it’s only 75 percent. Some hospital systems are showing similar levels.” So the “failure” is indeed “gross.” Maybe ask why? But: “Businesses see this is the only way.” • So alright then.

“Desperate Texas doctors turn to antibody treatments to slow down surging COVID-19 hospitalizations” [Texas Observer]. “What surprised Texas retiree Kathy Hardman most was not that she got COVID-19 five months after being fully vaccinated. And it was not even that she qualified to receive an increasingly popular — yet still largely unfamiliar — experimental treatment that had been prescribed to some of the most powerful people in the country. What shocked the 66-year-old grandmother of four was that the monoclonal antibody infusion therapy, estimated to decrease chances of hospitalization by up to 70%, was available to her at her hometown hospital in Mount Pleasant, a community of 15,000 in rural Northeast Texas…. The infusions are, in fact, more available and accessible to Texans than ever before, with ever-loosening restrictions on who may qualify, more people hearing about them and an increasing number of doctors across the state learning about the therapy and prescribing it to their patients suffering from COVID-19.” • Obviously, if people know there’s a treatment, they might not get vaccinated. Dang clinicians!

“Hawaii locals beg tourists to stay home, citing COVID-19 concerns” [ABC]. “Many Hawaii locals have been asking tourists to stop visiting the islands during the pandemic, and the governor is now echoing their calls. ‘It is a risky time to be traveling right now,’ Gov. David Ige said at a press conference on Monday. ‘We know that the visitors who choose to come to the islands will not have the typical kind of holiday that they expect to get when they visit Hawaii.’ The delta variant is ravaging Hawaii, with the state having more confirmed cases than at any point in the pandemic. Averaging more than 700 cases a day, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, roughly 72% of the state’s hospital beds are full.” • Air travel…

Here is a good thread on ventilation in schools and other facilities. It’s challenging, which is why we should have started on it already:

“The Role of Wastewater Testing for SARS-CoV-2 Surveillance” [Science Table]. Canada. “Wastewater testing for SARS-CoV-2 is relatively new; however, it builds on existing public health surveillance infrastructure. There is a limited but growing evidence base for its use, despite notable interpretation challenges. Wastewater testing results have helped to inform public health policy and interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario and other jurisdictions. Wastewater testing for SARS-CoV-2 is useful for early detection of outbreaks and surges as well as population-wide surveillance of COVID-19 that is complementary to clinical testing. Further, it offers an efficient means of SARS-CoV-2 surveillance for specific settings such as correctional facilities, shelters, and university residences. Wastewater testing can also be used for the detection and monitoring of variants of concern (VOCs).” • Good thing the CDC recommended that all colleges do this. Oh, wait…

Our Famously Free Press

Nobody’s heart is breaking when they say “my heart is breaking,” sheesh, especially if they use a broken heart emoji:

Thank you. Could we turn the knobs down to, say, 10-and-a-half?

“Joe Rogan, Confined To Spotify, Is Losing Influence” [The Verge]. “With a self-asserted reach of more than 200 million monthly downloads in 2019, Rogan is one of the biggest — if not the biggest — podcaster in the world. Spotify hoped he would bring much of that audience along with him when he signed exclusively to the platform in 2020 in a reported $100 million deal, giving it the reach and power needed to take over the podcasting industry…. However, a new data investigation by The Verge finds that the powerful podcaster’s influence has waned since he went behind Spotify’s wall. His show has declined as a hype vehicle for guests, and Rogan’s presence as a mainstay in the news has plummeted…. prior to going exclusive, from December 2019 to November 2020, Rogan’s guests could expect to gain around 4,000 Twitter followers in the week after their episode premiered. After he went exclusive, that number declined by half to around 2,000, suggesting a drop in listeners.” • Good. I don’t want monopolies in podcasting.

“Axel Springer to Acquire POLITICO” [BusinessWire]. “The publishing group Axel Springer signed an agreement to acquire POLITICO, including the remaining 50 percent share of its current joint venture POLITICO Europe, as well as the tech news website Protocol from Robert Allbritton.” • No price mentioned in the press release, but:

Class Warfare

This looks like something (some) might would like:

News of the Wired

“Social Media Algorithms Are Controlling How I Grieve” [Wired]. This: “‘[V]ery few’ people have taken advantage of Facebook’s memorialization features, which allow them to name ‘legacy contacts’ that can help manage their profile after their death—and thus avoid the unnecessary triggering of loved ones.'” • No no no no no. [family blogging] ghouls.

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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 (pq):

pq writes: “Evening primroses (Oenothera), introduced into my garden as a few limp stems from a large pile of strays a neighbor was ripping out of her pollinator patch. As a biennial, it needed three years in my garden to establish a cycle ensuring an abundance of blooms every year. Evening primrose propagates both by seed and spreading roots — far faster than ‘weedy, invasive’ milkweed, at least in my garden conditions. However, having ‘rose’ in its name instead of ‘weed’ is better PR for those who want lots of wild butterflies and bees their backyards but cringe at the thought of misbehaving plants.”

* * *

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

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Lou Anton

    >”I hate to be optimistic, but it looks like this fever has broken”

    It’s almost like the reds/pinks are a weather pattern! Started in/around the Ozarks, spread mostly south/southeast at first, and now it’s easing their but the ‘High Pressure System’ is now sitting over the Ohio Valley. We’ll see if the better vaccination rates keep hospitalizations at bay over the next month or so.

    And yeah, back-to-school is whole different animal. We’ll see if the CDC starts producing some Under 18 and Under 12 charts.

    1. curlydan

      Or if not a weather pattern, then it could be a view into the future. India in April was the UK’s future in May and June, the UK in May was the Ozarks future in June, the Ozarks of June is now the current reality of MS, TN, GA, etc.

      It’s interesting to look at the UK. After the Euro soccer championships ended, infections went down quite a bit BUT still remain on a per capita basis above US levels and are not bottoming out quite like India. This leads me to believe that we might be headed for an extended “plateau” maximum for this wave, especially if schools lead to the spread.

      And in other trends, South Dakota has the highest growth rate (+152%) among any state now vs 14 days ago.

    2. Greg Taylor

      I’d be careful about interpreting declining positivity rates as fever breaking. Colleges are now in session and most require weekly testing of all unvaccinated students. Lots of vaccinated students are voluntarily testing as infection rates are soaring at many universities (at least in the U North Carolina system) Some require testing twice weekly. More required asymptomatic testing will reduce positivity so these rates aren’t good indicators for where infection rates are heading.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I’d be careful about interpreting declining positivity rates as fever breaking.

        This fever. I think the return to school is a whole other dynamic from the summer.

  2. Darthbobber

    Rogan and Spotify.
    Well, loss of reach is loss of reach. But a hundred million is a hundred million. And I’m sure this deal brought that in way faster than he might otherwise have managed.

    I think we saw the same with Stern in radioland. He became much less omnipresent after the Sirius deal, but I imagine he agreed with his accountants that it was worth it nonetheless.

    1. Mikel

      I’m not sure what “self-asserted” reach means.
      But I agree, he should have taken the hundred million while hot. Spotify or no Spotify, the time in the Sun has a shelf-life.

    2. Larry

      I was thinking of Stern as well! He was very much in the media eye, but once he went to Sirius, nobody talks about him or what he says on the air at all.

      I also think of the sport of boxing. Formerly on the public airwaves, but raked in huge cash with PPV and Mike Tyson and then became irrelevant with no new stars behind him.

      1. neo-realist

        Aside from the lack of stars in boxing nowadays, people seem to be way into the UFC competition. The boxing aspect of UFC is totally lacking in craft and skill for my taste: Lots of catching punches with very little in way of bobbing, weaving, slipping, and footwork.

  3. Matthew G. Saroff

    There were some links that showed up briefly and then vanished, I only caught one, from Willamette Week about the PPB turning a neighborhood over to the Proud Boys.

    Was this a glitch or something?

  4. Glossolalia

    Welp, there are now dead marines in Afghanistan. We’ll definitely need to postpone the withdraw indefinitely until we can avenge their deaths in the most expensive way possible.

    1. bassmule

      Yes, my first thought too. And that it was probably within The Blob’s capablities to have ordered a black flag operation, given the easy predictablity of the outcome. Or not. I’m at a loss, really.

      1. Mikel

        “The second blast was at or near Baron Hotel, where many people, including Afghans, Britons and Americans, were told to gather in recent days before heading to the airport for evacuation.”

        I would have went near there, close enough to see when everybody was leaving, but not exactly with them.

    2. Milton

      If full court pressure of the entire western media consortium doesn’t work on Joe B., maybe a little false flag activity might do the trick.

      Boy, I hate that I’ve become so cynical :(

    3. Darthbobber

      Can’t we just launch some cruise missiles at a random empty mountain ana announce that that’s where the perps came from?

    4. curlydan

      21st century ISIS song:
      “I married ISIS on the twenty-sixth day of August
      But I could not hold on to them very long
      So I cut off my hair and I rode straight away
      For the wild unknown country where I could do more wrong”

      1. Tvc15

        Jen Psaki, chief propagandist just said Biden is laser focused. Yeah, I bet he is…and Trump isn’t a con man either. C’ mon man, no one is home in Biden’s brain. This entire thing is absurd and seems like a poorly orchestrated play. Not diminishing the deaths, heartache and tragedy. I’m inclined towards bassmules black flag hypothesis. We have a long history here. A magic bullet didn’t kill Kennedy, nor did two planes take down WTC 7 as collateral damage. Wake me up when the person behind the curtain speaks.

        1. Pavel

          After watching that pathetic Biden presser (brief though it was) my feeling was that Chauncey Gardiner would do a better job.

          Jesus wept. And god damn Obama, the DNC, and MSM who foisted this useless corrupt lying senile incompetent on the world just because Orange Man Bad and Bernie was too progressive.

          Joe and Kamala, the worst Dem ticket in my lifetime.

          (Do I sound bitter yet?)

          1. Pat

            Looking at some of what has happened with Biden and remembering her history and campaign promises to expand operations in Syria in a manner sure to engage Russia the worst was Clinton/Kaine by far.
            Unfortunately in both 2016 and 2020 we were given dreck as choices. My only consolation is that the majority of Congress, the MIC and the Intelligence community would have been working in tandem to bring down my personal choices if they got in (Sanders, Gabbard, Gravel). It would have made 2017-2020 look like a mutual admiration society get together.

    5. Aumua

      Yeah, also attention conspiracy theorists! This is what an actual real world false flag attack looks like. Not a school shooting, but this.

      Not saying I know anything, I’m just saying.

    6. The Rev Kev

      Pretty sure that the Pentagon has a fair idea where ISIS forces are located, not that they have done much about them, but they should coordinate with the Taliban before launching any strikes.

  5. Big River Bandido

    Re: Rogan losing influence

    I’m agnostic on Rogan per se. But not at all when it comes to “creative-theft rackets” whose business model is to undercut the ability of creative artists to make a living. If Rogan is actually losing audience since going exclusively with Spotify, this is a very good thing indeed — rather akin to the seeping knowledge of the coming Uber/Lyft bubble burst. Had I been a Rogan fan before he moved to Spotify, I would have stopped watching him once he moved, as I refuse to patronize companies like Spotify, BookFace, Insta, Amazon, etc.

    As for Rogan, hopefully he can extricate his enterprise before his “exclusive deal” completely destroys his audience. Amazing how social media eats its host.

    1. petal

      I’m one that stopped listening/following since he moved over to Spotify. I used to listen often and enjoyed it but haven’t followed. Have noticed his lower profile so to speak. It’s like he isn’t around anymore.

      1. Beyond the rubicoN

        Yea I just couldn’t be bothered to download another app (data harvesting machine) to listen to something for free. YouTube has a very low barrier to entry. I have also skipped Rogan because of his move. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything

      2. Objective Ace

        >Have noticed his lower profile so to speak

        It doesnt help that most of the media is actively trying to supress much of what he talks about anyway. See his discussions with Pierre Kory and Yeomni Park from North Korea

    2. Tom Doak

      I know nothing of the various platforms here, but wasn’t a big part of Rogan’s burgeoning success in 2019 and 2020 to do with his coverage of politics leading up to the election? Nobody in media is making nearly as much on that topic in 2021.

      1. Keith

        It was about being open to have anyone on and let them have their say and engage in a conversation with them. something you longer see anymore.

        He stuff is still available as clips on Youtube, I am guessing as teasers. They are fun.

        I think the big issue is people expect all this stuff for free and do not really want to spend the money on it, hence why advertising, while still annoying, is so important.

    3. Arizona Slim

      I’m selective about my Rogan listening. If the topic interests me, well, hello, headphones. I’m plugging in while I’m working away at the good ole standing desk.

    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      This comment is only tangentially related to your comment, but . . . the Uber Lyft bubble will not burst on its own. It will have to be bursted by others.

      One way to attrit and degrade the Uber Lyft bubble would be to make urban areas and app-scooters more adapted to eachother. Make app-scooters so much safer and user-friendlier that huge new numbers of people will want to use them, and use those huge new numbers of app-scooter users as leverage to get urban areas to create app-scooter lanes and other scooter-friendly things to make app-scooter using even easier.

      So easy that almost every current Uber Lyft rider defects from hailing a Uber Lyft to riding an app-scooter. If it works it could deflate the ” ride-share” bubble leaving Uber Lyft bubble gum stuck all over the faces of the investors.

  6. flora

    re: what is this livestock character you’re playing?

    No one told Japan it’s only for livestock. (In Japanese with Eng. subtitles.)

    “Tokyo’s Medical Assoc. Chairman holds live press conference recommending #ivermectin to all doctors, for all Covid patients.”


    from Investment Watch magazine:

  7. Mikel

    “The All-Seeing “i”: Apple Just Declared War on Your Privacy”

    TPTB are scared – – – – less.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Superior Apple users will ditch their Apple products.

      Inferior Apple users will keep on using them.

      ” Having an Apple or not” will become one way of telling the smart from the dumm.

      I think in the future there will emerge a saying . . . . ” the smarter the phone, the dummer the person”.
      and . . . ” the smarter the person, the dummer the phone.”

  8. Londonbridger

    [E]xperts concluded that the building’s piles should have been driven to bedrock.
    San Francisco is a mausoleum in waiting. Hundreds of older non-ductile concrete buildings from the 1920s through 1990s and many more steel framed high rises will become human trash compactors when the Big One, or even the Moderate One lets go on the Hayward or San Andreas Fault.


    ‘The California Geological Survey’s 1987 Earthquake Planning Scenario for a Magnitude 7.5 Earthquake on the Hayward Fault in San Francisco Bay Area anticipated 1,500 to 4,500 deaths, depending on the time of occurrence, and three times that number of nonfatal casualties.’

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > San Francisco is a mausoleum in waiting.

      I looked up the Millennium Tower in Wikipedia (sorry) and found this sentence: “Millennium Partners would not submit to a peer review, as that study would have potentially delayed construction by years.” Oh.

      1. Fiery Hunt

        They just halted $100 million “repair” work because, after sinking 38 some-odd new piers to be connected to the old piers somewhere under ground….the building have settled inches more in the last couple of weeks.

        It’s got a 5 inch lean on the 58th floor!

        1. Lee

          Not an engineer, but even a 5 inch shift with that kind of weight at one end of a 600 foot lever has gotta be bad.

          1. Questa Nota

            Awaiting news of new anchor tenant to be announced during the Grand Opening of the Pelosi Library. Separate minor fiscal action tax increase to pay for upgrades, emoluments, sinecures, transitional items and staffing.

            1. Michael Ismoe

              The Gavin Newsome Gubenatorial Library – originally scheduled to lease 8 floors – may only need two after all.

            2. tegnost

              I think it’s time for an art project ala hammering man but this time it’s a gender non specific humanoid form, well anchored (hey, you gave me the idea so you should make all the money, I’m ok with that…) to somewhere near the marina or something with a cable going to the top of the leaning tower.
              Problem solved.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Who sinks a buildings foundations in clay on land that was originally swampy, if not reclaimed? Why not go down to the bedrock? Talk about penny wise and pound foolish. Will the developers sue the city authorities for allowing them to build something so dodgy? There might be a reason why “The Towering Inferno” was set in the city of San Francisco.

        1. JBird4049

          Have the developers sue the City for being too corrupt to stop the same corrupt developers? Huh, that is as insane or good a plan as any I guess; Consider the puzzlement or protective stupidity shown by the developers in that they didn’t understand or at least nobody told them to drive the piles all the way to the bedrock, so why should they have done so!

          That list of thirty eight high rises that could fall in another 1906 quake is disturbing. I have walked or driven by all of them. IIRC, most of those buildings could easily take out another one, or two, or three buildings. Joy.

          1. ambrit

            No one has mentioned the elephant in the room; that the tower might have to be demolished. No matter who ends up “holding the bag,” this will be a very expensive undertaking. I can see an insurance company going into recievership over this claim. No “Act of God” get out of jail free card available.
            Some writer, perhaps Gibson, mentions in passing in one of his future set books the “Godzilla Earthquake” of Tokyo in the 20 somethings. Since the second re-boot Godzilla film, we can now set a “Godzilla Earthquake” in San Francisco.
            Bedrock is about 200 feet below ground level at the tower site. It is not an impossible task to drill to the depth, and even beyond. Not even, if it had been done during original construction, prohibitively expensive. It’s a billion dollar investment after all. To ‘cheap out’ on the foundation is criminal.
            See: https://www.geoforward.com/earth-around-millennium-tower-sinking/

            1. gc54

              Time for ISIS@Afghanistan to fly a 737Max into it … big kaboom to mask the thermite strapped on those piles.

              1. The Rev Kev

                ISIS has already put out a statement saying that they will never try to fly a Boeing 737 MAX on such a mission as they may be suicide bombers but that plane is just to dangerous to fly.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well, that’s nothing. A New Madrid 2.0 Earthquake all over the Lower Midwest will kill a lot more people than that.

  9. Carla

    Re: Evening primroses (also called sundrops in these parts) — yes, they’re invasive and we have to pull and/or dig out many each year to keep them under control. But a nice feature they offer that I’ve never heard people mention is the leaves turning a vibrant, lovely red in September. And of course, the pollinators delight in the sunny yellow June blooms.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I believe in setting invasives against each other. Just plant some bee balm in back of those primroses. Plus, you’ll get a lovely yellow and red combination!

      1. Lee

        A good friend of mine was an entomologist at U.C. Berkeley who specialized in the identification, study, and when deemed safe to do so, the introduction of parasitic wasps from all over the world that were obligate predators of invasive insect pests.

        1. Lee

          The relationship between a prey and predators is paradoxically intimate, particularly so in cases where the predator preys on but one other species. I am reminded both of Daniel Quinn’s Story of B, and some lines from Robinson Jeffers’ The Bloody Sire:

          What but the wolf’s tooth whittled so fine
          The fleet limbs of the antelope?
          What but fear winged the birds, and hunger
          Jewelled with such eyes the great goshawk’s head?
          Violence has been the sire of all the world’s values.
          Who would remember Helen’s face
          Lacking the terrible halo of spears?

          1. Bazarov

            See also James Dickey’s The Heaven of Animals:

            Here they are. The soft eyes open.
            If they have lived in a wood
            It is a wood.
            If they have lived on plains
            It is grass rolling
            Under their feet forever.

            Having no souls, they have come,
            Anyway, beyond their knowing.
            Their instincts wholly bloom
            And they rise.
            The soft eyes open.

            To match them, the landscape flowers,
            Outdoing, desperately
            Outdoing what is required:
            The richest wood,
            The deepest field.

            For some of these,
            It could not be the place
            It is, without blood.
            These hunt, as they have done,
            But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

            More deadly than they can believe.
            They stalk more silently,
            And crouch on the limbs of trees,
            And their descent
            Upon the bright backs of their prey

            May take years
            In a sovereign floating of joy.
            And those that are hunted
            Know this as their life,
            Their reward: to walk

            Under such trees in full knowledge
            Of what is in glory above them,
            And to feel no fear,
            But acceptance, compliance.
            Fulfilling themselves without pain

            At the cycle’s center,
            They tremble, they walk
            Under the tree,
            They fall, they are torn,
            They rise, they walk again.

      2. Pate

        And I’m not done. Playing The Great Game in your garden. Have you no shame? What’s next – pitting Japanese Maples against Chinese Pistachios?

        1. Brunches with Cats

          In his book Monarchs and Milkweeds, author Anurag Agrawal dispels the myth of cooperative evolution between the two. Agrawal, professor of environmental studies at Cornell and one of the world’s leading researchers of monarchs and milkweeds, likens the relationship instead to an arms race in which monarchs develop increased tolerance to the toxins in milkweed latex, provoking increasingly elaborate defenses by milkweed against voracious monarch caterpillars. The first bite of a milkweed leaf actually can kill a baby caterpillar, not due to poisoning, but because the latex gushes out of the cut so fast that it drowns the little guy. Their survival depends on an adaptive behavior of disabling the pressure by taking little bites out of the leaf stem before proceeding to devour the plant.

          Even if you’re not into monarchs and milkweeds, this book is a fascinating read.

      3. Henry Moon Pie

        Bee balm vs. primroses? That might make a decent undercard match. How about Jerusalem artichokes vs. blackberries?

      4. Brunches with Cats

        Pitting “misbehaving” plants against one another, exactly! I’m finding that this strategy works for milkweed, too, but I don’t want to make a bold pronouncement to that effect until observing for another season or two.

        One of the most beautiful examples I’ve ever seen was a photo of a raised bed planted with mint, ivy and nasturtium.

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          My front yard this summer was Three Sisters with nasturtiums at the edge. At the back along the house is periwinkle with clumps of Florentine fennel and stinging nettle, with some spearmint and peppermint at the edges.

          It’s positively Hobbesian.

          1. Brunches with Cats

            Sounds amazing — and not at all well-behaved ;-) The closest I get to front-yard food is cherry tomatoes in a container on the front steps, and even that’s probably a bit much for the neighbors, judging by all the hanging baskets of geraniums and neatly mowed lawns. My garden space is limited to one side of the house, and it doesn’t get enough sun for food crops. A little over half is a shade garden, a small part of it with a woodland feel. It’s very much a work in progress. Really love reading commentariat’s gardening notes.

        2. CM

          Misbehaving is certainly the better term, as milkweed is not an invasive species (as in non-native). It is also an important plant for many, even hundreds of types of insects, not just Monarchs.

          1. Brunches with Cats

            Native plants can be “invasive” if provided with ideal conditions, but in general, I agree that native plants within their range shouldn’t be called invasive. It actually bugs me that common milkweed — the most plentiful milkweed species in the eastern half of the U. S. and by far the one monarchs prefer to lay their eggs on — is routinely called weedy, invasive, aggressive, impossible to get rid of, etc. Even researchers who should know better do it. Not only does that label discourage home gardeners from planting a very useful plant, as you point out, but it has led to commercial breeding of “prettier,” more “well-behaved” hybrids, which are not native. I’m all in on milkweed for small home gardens.

      5. Copeland

        Love the idea of setting invasives against each other, but red and yellow in combination? As tasteful as…McDonalds?

        Apologies Lambert, I’m an opinionated garden designer and I couldn’t help myself!

        1. Phillip Allen

          It could be the native light blue/lavender flowered Monarda fistulosa (aka wild bergamot, bee balm), or the very interesting-flowered Monarda punctata (aka horsemint, dotted beebalm). There are several more. Monarda didyma (aka scarlet beebalm) is the red-flowered species and plays a large role in the lineage of most horticultural varieties.

          Something calling itself the National Garden Bureau has declared 2021 the Year of the Monarda, and there’s even a little promo video about it. “National Garden Bureau is a non-profit organization that exists to educate, inspire, and motivate people to increase the use of plants in homes, gardens, and workplaces by being the marketing arm of the gardening industry.”


  10. SteveD

    Regarding Teen Vogue’s “California’s Recall Election for Governor Gavin Newsom Is a Warning Sign for Democrats”
    IMO it is a win for Newsom each time a media outlet recaps the French Laundry dinner as a tale of masking/lockdown hypocrisy, rather than the much more damning tale of (1) whose birthday was being celebrated (2) Newsom’s relationship to the birthday boy, (3) birthday boy’s relationship to PG&E, and (ta-da!) (4) How Newsom and PUC collaborated to avoid putting PG&E put of business. A profoundly wasted opportunity – one that may not present itself again in my lifetime, and the only reason I need to vote FOR the recall, despite it’s dubious origin.

    1. Otis B Driftwood

      Agreed on Newsom. But I disagree with you on the recall.

      This tactic has been deployed against politicians who are far more worthy – like Chesa Boudin (the DA in San Francisco) and Kshama Sawant (City Council member in Seattle).

      It’s an abuse of the democratic process.

      1. SteveD

        Certainly it is discussable as to whether recalls in general, or even this recall in particular, are an abuse of the democratic process. I see it is a rare opportunity to thwart the choice-constraining machinations of the dem party. Newsom had arranged two paths for himself, depending con circumstance: In no particular order (1) appoint himself to fill DiFi’s senate seat when she retires and (2) run against Harris in 2024 for the big job. I don’t want to see him in either of those roles.

        1. Frida

          He is personally loathsome, sleeping with campaign managers wife(s), gigiloing himself out to a billionheiress and worse, being part of the state Democratic machine that churns out chorizo sausages to get immigrant votes, or blood sausages to get the presumed black vote that they feel like they own.

          Worse yet, fake corporate “democrats” like Pelosi, Harris, and Newsom, distract just enough people to keep them distracted with foaming at the mouth anti-Trump rhetoric to derail real Democratic policies like Medicare For All, corporate tax hikes or public power ownership.

          I backed Bernie and Tulsi and am voting for the recall of Newsom.

    2. hunkerdown

      It’s not hypocrisy, it’s elitism. The “classless society” narrative is a psyop. They all deem themselves inherently and essentially superior to us, of a different substance.

  11. FreeMarketApologist

    Health insurance premiums are automatically deducted from workers’ paychecks, so people won’t feel the penalty like they would if they had to pay $200 from their wallet.”

    What a ridiculous statement. You still end up with $200 less in your pocket on Friday. Unless you’re making a fair amount of money, I think it would be readily noticed, felt, and could well be challenged as coercive. (I’d notice it, and I’m quite well paid).

    1. Arizona Slim

      When do the work slowdowns start? ISTR that airline employees are quite good at doing that.

      Or, how about this, an outbreak of CHAOS? It’s an airline employee acronym that stands for Create Havoc Around Our System.

      1. Chef Boy-Ar-Dee

        In Italy it’s common for transportation workers to stage what are called “scioperi bianchi”— literally “white strikes.” These are tactically similar to American ‘Work to Rule’ slowdowns. The reduced schedules are published well before the slowdown, even in the official Trenitalia or Alitalia etc. website timetables. It’s a softer action than a shutdown strike, it still applies significant pressure, and the paychecks keep coming.

    2. Objective Ace

      >You still end up with $200 less in your pocket on Friday

      It’ll actually be more like ~140 since that 200 was taxed previously before hitting your wallet

  12. cnchal

    > Supply Chain: “The World Economy’s Supply Chain Problem Keeps Getting Worse” [Bloomberg].

    . . . Manufacturers reeling from shortages of key components and higher raw material and energy costs are being forced into bidding wars to get space on vessels, pushing freight rates to records and prompting some exporters to raise prices or simply cancel shipments altogether

    Lots of cheap stuff is not worth making when ocean freight is that costly, so there is a silver lining to the unfolding disasters.

    1. Lee

      Just had a lovely medium sharp cheddar and cracker snack. The cheese is from Australia. I live in California, where cheese of similar type and quality is made within less than an hour’s drive from where I live but costs considerably more. I hate to think of all the infernal market machinations at work contributing this paradoxical result. I like the idea of supporting my local farmer but one finds these days that more and more of our local artisanal farms are investor owned.

      Heard a California almond grower representative on the radio today defending the raising of the thirsty crop in our drought stricken state on the basis of its contribution to the state’s economy as measured in dollars. It was a call-in show and am pleased to report that she got well and properly hosed for spouting such nonsense by those who still understand the true relationship between currency and the material world.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If a local artisanal foodmaker becomes “investor owned”, does that mean you boycott the local artisanal foodmaker?

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          “Investor owned” pretty well describes the medical “profession” these days, at least the part of it who sold their souls to PE.

          IMDOC is a fine exception to that. It must be very tough to be a real healer these days.

        2. Sudsy McDuff

          Huge perennial debate in the microbrewery sphere, although it’s more likely to be conglomerate buy-outs. They often leave the production end pretty well alone.

        3. drumlin woodchuckles

          I think that if a local-to-me artisanal foodmaker became “investor owned” and yet the artisanal maker were still left alone in place to keep making the same artisanal food the same way, I would keep buying from the investor owned artisanal foodmaker. He/she would be a mere employee of the owning investor, but as long as he/she was left alone to keep making the artisanal food artisanally, then buying his/her food would keep that local skills-user in place locally and maybe still supporting his/her suppliers locally.

          If the investor owner decreed that the owned artisanal employee-in-place degrade the product down to investor specifications, I would give up and find something else if I could.

          I would handle bought-out craft beers the same way. If the bought-out beermaker were still making the beer craftly, still supporting the same supplier economies as before, I would keep buying the beer.

          I wonder how much the idea of “start-up culture” has polluted the whole society? How many artisanal this-and-that makers think they are “supposed to aspire” to being bought out?

      2. LifelongLib

        I welcome correction, but it’s my impression that the local cost of doing business is a much greater factor in the price of a retail item than the cost of shipping is. I suppose that could change if shipping becomes very expensive compared to what it is now…

        1. cnchal

          There was a huge shock to the shipping system when the USPS switched from a price system based on mass, to volume. Price increased near fourfold at the end of January 2020 for some, killing small businesses or using UPS as the least bad method.

          Note how corruption pays off when the shipping oligopolies capture the government entity and eliminate competition. UPS is bragging in the financial press these days about how it’s making soaring profits on the same or fewer number of packages moved, and the press marvels at the sheer genius of UPS management and scorns the imbecilic ineptitude of USPS management.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Did deJoy do that to deliberately on purpose degrade and attrit the amount of shipping moved through the USPS?

            I note with interest that Biden and the Dems still support deJoy as Postmaster General by refusing to replace the Postal Oversight Board with a slate of Kangaroo Members tasked with firing deJoy. The fact that Biden hasn’t done this says to me that Biden supports exterminating the USPS so that Feinstein’s husband can make even more money brokering the sale of even more surplusified USPS property and assets.

          2. Stillfeelinthebern

            My business has shipped for over 25 years with UPS and the USPS all over the US and to foreign countries, mostly to Canada. Ave. weight of a package 3-20 lbs. Our biz depends on shipping. Initially, we used UPS, but now almost all goes by USPS.

            We did have a price increase in Jan 2020, but it wasn’t four fold. We have never had a price increase of that size with either shipper. On balance, UPS is more expensive. Also, USPS supplies the boxes/envelopes for shipping, UPS does not, this is a significant expense.

  13. Pelham

    I note that Axel Springer’s reported $1 billion acquisition of Politico is in the same ballpark as Viacom’s $900 million deal for a few more years of “South Park.” Comparing the two, I’d say Viacom clearly got the better bargain.

    1. jsn

      Why are we not hearing about the incompetent generalship that led to this.

      I mean, could anything be more predictable?

      FFS terrorist provocation is how we got there, someone wants to stay really bad and if Biden doesn’t call them out they’ll probably get their way: at a minimum this is incompetence, more realistically sabotage.

      1. Keith

        I suspect we will get hearings out of this. they will drag into the fall and maybe the winter and act as a start to campaign season. Combine that with the debt limit, and all the oxygen will get sucked out of the room, derailing any legislation.

        GOP will beat the drums of Carter 2.0 with military failure and inflation, while …

        Dems will beat the drums of blame Trump and the world is ending,

        both finishing their respective arguments with campaign fund requests.

        1. Fiery Hunt

          Damn, this is this best tasting insight I’ve gotten to drink all day.
          True to the last drop.

          Truly…hat tip.

      2. hunkerdown

        New on Twitter, and look how respectful they’re being right now: “Multiple fatalities reported following two explosions outside Kabul airport, a Taliban spokesperson confirms” Never mind the degendering, I’m stunned that they’re recognizing the Taliban as diplomatically competent and addressing their spokespersons, which is a little promising. Almost want to give them a pat on the head.

        Also trending on Twitter: “President Harris”

        1. PHLDenizen

          Given the Taliban’s treatment of women as little more than property, I can’t see how President Harris is going to do us any favors. Westernized countries will accord her due deference, but the Middle East and fundie Islamic North African countries will never take her seriously.

          Especially Harris. Thatcher had balls. Albright had balls. Merkel has balls. Harris doesn’t exude any of that gravitas. She’s incapable of occupying a political position and holding it fast against countervailing forces. She comes across as unserious and quick to cave.

          It’s a large world, there are still pockets where women’s lib is heresy, and, though it pains me to say, there is some strategic advantage in having a man as head of state. I guess call it the glass border?

          1. Keith

            Especially when you’re the POTUS. You don’t want your undercard to outshine you! Could be a reason she was chosen for the job.

            1. Darthbobber

              Nah. Biden didn’t voluntarily choose her. She was shoved down his throat by what was effectively a big donor boycott until he picked her

              1. JBird4049

                So, our esteemed overlords demanded that likely the most incompetent, weaselly, self-serving, sadistic, vain and corrupt presidential candidate we had in the last election be the vice president?

                Makes sense. She is all about the money, power, and attention. And who has the money?

                1. drumlin woodchuckles

                  The big donor class saw how she immunised and impunified Steve Mnuchin for his crimes when she was California A G. They liked what they saw and thought she would be the best President to immunise and impunify them for all the crimes they have committed, are comitting and plan to keep on committing till the next Great Financial Crash.

                  Which they will probably try to ripen up for exploding once she is safely in office as their President.

          2. hunkerdown

            One plan could be to run foreign policy by committee and off camera to the extent possible, while she liquidates the homeland with her practiced, cruel indifference and her surgically sliced material benefits. It’s only about two years. She does her duty, signs over public goods to private inactors, guns down a couple of marches, preaches a bunch of canned spam about hard choices, retires at the stroke of noon 1/20/25 into the sunset, and the next neolibcon suit from the newly constituted Blinken World (an equal opportunity employer) takes over to run the globe like a business. Banal as a banana.

    2. Keith

      Gets even better, Politico – DC’s Gossip rag – is reporting Team Biden has given the Taliban lists of Afghans and Americans to be evac’d:

      U.S. officials in Kabul gave the Taliban a list of names of American citizens, green card holders and Afghan allies to grant entry into the militant-controlled outer perimeter of the city’s airport, a choice that’s prompted outrage behind the scenes from lawmakers and military officials.

      The move, detailed to POLITICO by three U.S. and congressional officials, was designed to expedite the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan as chaos erupted in Afghanistan’s capital city last week after the Taliban seized control of the country. It also came as the Biden administration has been relying on the Taliban for security outside the airport.


      1. neo-realist

        We were hard pressed to have a clean exit from the country, particularly with an recalcitrant MIC that wanted to keep the cash cow of endless war going on in that country and was never interested in strategizing an exit.

  14. SKG

    So Georgia (my home) has 2.5x the population of Louisiana, so some divergence is expected.

    Looks like Atlanta area is flattening out at merely absurd rates, while the rest of the state blows into Florida territory.

  15. Phillip Allen

    As of yesterday, 25 August 2021, six of CT’s eight counties are now considered to be “high transmission”, including the latest, Litchfield County, where I live. The county is overwhelmingly rural but has lots of travel to and from cities like NYC and Boston, lots of 2nd, weekend, and summer homes, and has seen a very large influx of pandemic displacements, along with the usual seasonal influx. (NYC is about 110 miles from 06098, Boston about 120.) The remaining two counties in CT, Tolland and Windham, are rated as experiencing “substantial transmission”.

    Yesterday was also the first day of school for most of the elementary grades in our town’s school system. Masking is required for all staff and students, except during outdoor activity and while the students are having lunch. The guidelines provided require 3′ distance between students “where possible”, which is definitely not the case in the one school I’m most familiar with.

    On the first day back to school Wednesday, Pearson School staff were no longer checking students’ temperatures in the morning; classrooms were full; Plexiglass, for the most part, was not used to keep people from breathing on each other; students could access their lockers again and an entire grade could eat together in the cafeteria.

    From https://www.rep-am.com/local/localnews/2021/08/25/winsted-students-staff-return-to-school-like-normal/

    I’ll report back in about two weeks how all this ‘normality’ plays out.

    1. Kevin Carhart

      Riddle. In what way does the pandemic make you an excellent reader?

      The lag is such that there’s always a “we should know in about eight days”, “report back in two weeks”, “We should know if the Indy 500 was a superspreader in a week or two…”

      What to do during the interim?
      …. Read a book!

    2. Maria

      Loved Glen Greenwald’s blog this morning about how every single protective measure is vital in the fight against Covid-without calculating the cost, like a year and a half out of school for the nation’s children, mass depression and suicide=excess deaths, plus lack of medical interventions, or Newsom’s destroying 1/3 of the restaurants in California.

      Funny how air travel continues though…

    1. PHLDenizen

      If you read through to the FDA’s grant of EUA, you’ll find this:

      The data supporting this EUA for sotrovimab are based on an interim analysis from a phase 1/2/3 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial in 583 non-hospitalized adults with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms and a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result. Of these patients, 291 received sotrovimab and 292 received a placebo within five days of onset of COVID-19 symptoms. The primary endpoint was progression of COVID-19 (defined as hospitalization for greater than 24 hours for acute management of any illness or death from any cause) through day 29. Hospitalization or death occurred in 21 (7%) patients who received placebo compared to 3 (1%) patients treated with sotrovimab, an 85% reduction.

      Small sample size. Vaguely defined endpoints. I can’t tell if they’re controlling for confounds. “…any illness or death from any cause…” seems, well, vague to the point of meaninglessness.


      Sotrovimab is not authorized for patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 or require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19. This treatment has not shown benefit in patients hospitalized due to COVID-19 and monoclonal antibodies may be associated with worse clinical outcomes when administered to hospitalized patients requiring high flow oxygen or mechanical ventilation.

      So it can actually exacerbate severe illness. And isn’t even approved for use inside hospitals. I’m not seeing how this is all that much more useful than vaccines. And it’s also experimental. Vaccine datasets were much larger.

      Then again, biotech and medicine aren’t my areas of expertise. Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems like GSK is fishing for a quick FDA approval of their EUA, same way Pfizer got theirs.

      1. Captain Obious

        Well, there’s plenty money still to be made — unless we’re talking about ivermectin.

      2. hunkerdown

        If I am reading it correctly, they cured the common cold. The great dead god Progress actually delivered on one of Its promises. Or something just fell out of Its floppy hand.

    2. Mikel

      Any treatment helps at this point.

      But I noticed:
      “The FDA granted an EUA for sotrovimab in late May after trials showed that people with mild to moderate COVID-19 infections who received an infusion of the therapy had an 85% reduction in rates of hospitalization or death, compared with placebo.”

      Doesn’t address any prevention of spread of virus in the article?

    3. Mikel

      All of these treatments will need hospitals/clinics staffed and supplied consistently and sufficiently to administer them.
      Countries are still doing “hospitalization” watches with baited breath because of these issues that persist.

    4. Henry Moon Pie

      That sounds pretty remarkable. So how would they make these antibodies at scale?

      Frankly, I’m ready to try antimatter. Suppose Scotty can hook me up with some?

  16. urblintz


    “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been arm-twisting journalists into relinquishing their reportorial independence, our investigation reveals. Other institutions are following suit…

    It was a faustian bargain—and it certainly made editors at National Public Radio squirm.

    The deal was this: NPR, along with a select group of media outlets, would get a briefing about an upcoming announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration a day before anyone else. But in exchange for the scoop, NPR would have to abandon its reportorial independence. The FDA would dictate whom NPR’s reporter could and couldn’t interview.

    “My editors are uncomfortable with the condition that we cannot seek reaction,” NPR reporter Rob Stein wrote back to the government officials offering the deal. Stein asked for a little bit of leeway to do some independent reporting but was turned down flat. Take the deal or leave it.

    NPR took the deal. “I’ll be at the briefing,” Stein wrote.

    Later that day in April 2014, Stein—along with reporters from more than a dozen other top-tier media organizations, including CBS, NBC, CNN, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times—showed up at a federal building to get his reward. Every single journalist present had agreed not to ask any questions of sources not approved by the government until given the go-ahead.

    “I think embargoes that attempt to control sourcing are dangerous because they limit the role of the reporter whose job it is to do a full look at a subject,” says New York Times former public editor Margaret Sullivan. “It’s really inappropriate for a source to be telling a journalist whom he or she can and can’t talk to.” Ivan Oransky, distinguished writer in residence at New York University’s Journalism Institute and founder of the Embargo Watch weblog, agrees: “I think it’s deeply wrong.”

  17. Kevin Carhart

    Labor history in aspic is fine, but let’s defetishize Kickstarter also.


    Collaborative Fund was keyed around “collaborative consumption,” early euphemism for the gig economy. Lowercase invested in Uber among others. Chris Dixon invested in Kickstarter and praised regulatory hacks, writing “…Uber is being threatened by the taxi industry, Aereo by the TV broadcasting industry, and Airbnb by the hotel industry…”


    At some level, broad adoption of a crowd-related service that has common DNA with the misclassification and wage-theft ghouls also condones the ghouls, several of whom bought a law and pulled a regulatory hack on the minimum wage.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > let’s defetishize Kickstarter

      I don’t see a reason to avoid Kickstarter for small projects. Why not? It’s nothing like the sharing economy (assuming you don’t put your money into a project started by con artists, of course).

      1. hunkerdown

        You just fetishized Kickstarter! There are other, coeval options that don’t have ghouls behind them, such as Indiegogo or Crowdsupply (for the maker) or Patreon (for the creative).

        1. Kevin Carhart

          I know you think I’m taking it too far, but 2 of your examples have equal ghouls like Tim Draper, and Kleiner of the Pao lawsuit, and John Doerr’s “no conflict, no interest”. (plug them in to the dealroom url.) I didn’t say don’t use any of the four but the history should be front and center since, like Gofundme also, they pop up in endless situations where the emphasis is on what is happening over the platform and not on the platform itself.

  18. allan

    News from the Abbottoir:

    Texas Supreme Court blocks San Antonio schools’ mask mandate

    … It’s likely that other cities, counties and school districts that have won temporary restraining orders or temporary injunctions allowing them to have mask mandates will also be subject in the comings days to similar rulings that also put their mandates on hold, said Dale Carpenter, a law professor with the Southern Methodist University School of Law in Dallas.

    “The writing is on the wall” and Abbott, a Republican like all the justices on the Texas Supreme Court, will probably win in the end, Carpenter said. …

    Actually, the virus will probably win. File under The Culture of Life™ Isn’t.

  19. Jason Boxman

    An update on getting IVM from my family doctor in rural western NC; No dice. The PA relayed a message from the doctor, a different one than my own doctor, for this practice has several as it happens. The message can be summarized as:

    – Insufficient human evidence
    – Do not take animal IVM
    – Immunization, social distancing, and hand washing(!!) best prevention
    – Call if I have symptoms (to what end, the message does not say)

    The prevention steps were read as if from a standard vanilla index card.

    I hope others have more success. Good luck!

    1. Mikel

      “immunization” – again that implication there is some type of sterilizing magic drug out there.
      I’m “immunized” agains mumps, measles, polio, chicken pox. How many ways to say shots out there for covid aren’t in that league?

      Somebody holler if any doctor has ventilation recommendations.

  20. a fax machine

    re: Y2K/Millennium Tower

    As a result of this, Caltrain Downtown Extension work will be delayed again. Because DTX work is delayed, adjoining 2nd Transbay Tube (as proposed by BART/Amtrak) is also delayed. This is rapidly becoming the biggest urban planning [family blog]-up in the past half century. San Francisco wanted a downtown train terminal and 2nd tube but built the big fancy station first and the train tunnels last. The realtors and developers won out, everyone else lost. And of course, SF itself (including the Governor, who used to be Mayor) don’t actually support the trains that would use the station they just want more BART as they have political control over BART. A total shitshow from start to finish.

    This will be contrasted directly to the remarkable competence to the south, where the maligned transit agency Samtrans is making a serious shot at rebuilding the derelict train bridge they own. While Samtrans is certainly not above criticism, they have a clear plan and a clear path forward on a project that will make regional transportation far better. $12 billion buys it, and this number seems achievable if they are able to partner with 2-3 other adjacent rail agencies (Amtrak and ACE most likely) to do it. This would also impact the HSR program, as this route was once proposed (&rejected) as an HSR corridor – if it can be built then electric train service to Stockton (by way of San Jose AND Modesto) could be conceivable by 2040. As it pertains to Caltrain, already half their ridership and revenue is based within Silicon Valley. At what point does Caltrain shift down south away from SF – towards future services to Santa Cruz and Monterrey? This time is fast approaching thanks to the HSR work happening between San Jose and Gilroy. It has major consequences for political control that SF presently wields.

    So in summary: while SF forgets how to build a subway and gives up on mass transit, the rest of Norcal is going all the way in on it. I beilive the latter will find far more success.

    1. upstater

      Just the way to end my Watercooler reading today. Managerial and engineering incompetence everywhere one looks.

      California should just hire China or maybe Japan to build things, or even run the whole state. Didn’t Newsom say the state didn’t need to employ experts and everything could be hired out?

      We are living in a failed state…

      1. a fax machine

        I’m a bit more optimistic. For as bad as SF is, the damage is (thus far) compartmentalized within the City. If the City government can’t work out mass transportation, they will loose and San Jose will win. SF is in a constant battle against geography, for the past twenty years the city has constantly chosen to give up. The new Eastern Span, built by China no less, is perfectly emblematic of the problem: billions of dollars and ten years wasted for 0 new transit capacity. This situation does not exist elsewhere in Norcal, again using Samtrans as an example they’ve been working hard on building up their corridor which will one day have much greater statewide (plausibly national) implications. The city government has not responded to this other than whining about their lack of control over regional trains. Newsom, to his credit, has become cognizant of this problem as Governor.

        There is a direct correlation between a stable, diverse, recession-tolerant economy and having a lot of industrial things and transit in a given place to allow people, goods and businesses the ability to move around. Markets work best when they are free, so to speak. People won’t work in SF commutes hit 3 hours as SJ’s trains are 2 hours – at 3 hours you could live in suburban Sacramento and commute in to a much nicer job in Silicon Valley instead.

        The HSR project will change the tides, if it can be built. At the very least, progress is happening on it which is far more than can be said for SF’s projects.

  21. Mikel

    So “terror” attacks in Afghanistan now warrant press conferences “vowing to fight ISIS”. Almost seems like yesterday that these stories weren’t front page worthy.

    The best way to reduce deaths of soldiers, since that was what spurred this conference, would be to get them out.

    MIC hissy fit activated….cause it’s all very infantile.

    1. Aumua

      13 U.S. soldiers and several dozen others dead is definitely newsworthy. Mostly the U.S. soldiers part though.

  22. Wukchumni

    130 million pine trees in the Sierra Nevada died in the 2012-2016 drought, almost all of them below 7,000 feet. Our cabin community is @ 6,900 feet and when the trees start going toes up all around you, you tend to notice-especially the newlydeads that threaten cabins were they to topple over.

    I watched healthy trees die in just a matter of days, one of them was a 5 foot wide approx 400 year old Lodgepole near a friend’s cabin. He asked me to come over one day, and when I looked up @ the 210 foot tree, there was a steady stream of water about the size of a #2 pencil emanating from around 20 feet up, as the tree’s vascular ability to push water up in the crown had been compromised by beetles, a day later it was dead, the needles all uniformly tan-that quick.

    This summer there isn’t much dying below 7,000 feet, now it’s more like from 7,300 feet on upwards where the dead zone is…

    A study from the University of California, Davis, provides some of the first evidence that climate change and drought are shifting the range of infectious disease in forests suffering from white pine blister rust disease.

    “Because pathogens have thermal tolerances, we are seeing expansions and contractions in this disease’s range,” said lead author Joan Dudney, a Davis H. Smith postdoctoral fellow at UC Davis in the lab of Professor Andrew Latimer, a study co-author. “Climate change isn’t so much leading to widespread increases in this disease but rather shifting where it is emerging.”

    “Our study clearly demonstrates that infectious plant diseases are moving upslope, and they’re moving fast,” Dudney said. “Few pines are resistant to what is basically a Northern Hemisphere white pine pandemic.”


    1. Greg

      That sort of range shift is so much faster than you’d get in the nice smooth models that get a lot of viewing. Thanks for sharing your local observations, it’s good to hear what’s actually happening.
      My similar example is looking at (too short) temperature series in the southern alps >1400m, and noticing that they’re averaging about 4 degrees higher now than they were twenty to forty years ago, throughout the cold part of the year.
      There’s not enough data in a ten year month-series to be robust, and we don’t have enough weather stations up high where we need them, but by the time we have more data it’ll be too late and it sure as hell looks like it’s way warmer than it used to be.

  23. VietnamVet

    The overriding problem is that the Western Empire whose sole goal is to make the rich wealthier has created a magical reality that in no way resembles the real world

    President Joe Biden ordered the Blob to leave Afghanistan but his staff couldn’t plan how to do it orderly. The Imperial Media is harping about the danger of ISIS at Kabul Airport but the forces on the ground did nothing to protect themselves. Thirteen Americans and at least 90 Afghans reportedly died.

    VP Kamala Harris lays the wreath at the Hanoi memorial of the shooting down of John McCain.

    The FDA continues to say that “mRNA vaccines are safe and effective” despite the statement being false. Efficacy declines within months of injection. Viral transmission is not prevented. Heart inflammation and blood clotting effects have been reported. BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine was approved with no public hearing and without mutagenicity, teratology, reproductive, and chronic toxicity/oncogenicity studies. FDA did not even require them to be conducted and submitted at a later date.

    This charade of government regulation is basically required because for-profit mRNA vaccines are the sole way the USA is fighting the viruses. it is unwilling and unable to conduct known proven basic public health measures that will eradicate the virus and prevent future outbreaks of new mutated variants. Yet, China, Taiwan and New Zealand are controlling the virus right now. Two are democracies. The USA, Canada and Mexico cannot. The European Union cannot.

    The Delta Variant outbreaks are causing a global shortage of goods. Workers have gone missing. Drought and heat are wreaking havoc on western crops. There are too many crises for the dysfunctional authoritarian corporate state to handle. Lies and dividing the people doesn’t work. Restoration of democracy, truth and the rule of law are desperately needed now before everything collapses.

  24. allan

    A watched pot might never boil, but cooked COVID death stats bubble pretty hard when exposed to light:

    Florida COVID update: 901 added deaths, largest single-day increase in pandemic history
    [Miami Herald]

    … All but two of the newly reported deaths occurred after July 25, with about 78% of those people dying
    in the past two weeks, according to Herald calculations of data published by the CDC. …

    In the last seven days, on average, the state has added 242 deaths and 22,556 cases each day, …

    1. marym

      There are many variables as to what may have happened without Soviet and US intervention, along with internal contradictions in Afghanistan, to consider in saying whether 1970’s Afghanistan was on a path to becoming what the west would consider a liberal state.

      There was also factionalism in the PDPA and resistance in Afghanistan prior to the Soviet invasion at the end of 1979. “Even by the PDPA’s own account, by the beginning of 1980 they controlled only 5,500 of the country’s estimated 35,500 villages.”* (The following pages describe the breakdown of the army and police forces, resistance to the government’s land reform and social programs, resistance to a secular basis for government, and unrest even in the cities.) It was the possibly-impending failure of the Afghan central government that prompted the Soviet intervention.

      * Thomas Barfield, Afghanistan, 2010, p. 229

  25. anon y'mouse

    on reddit, you see it all:

    an earlier post by user mentioned they had been shot by a passenger. upon a question for clarification, they respond:

    “Yes. Gonna post about it in this sub once I finish wrapping my head around it.

    Lesson learned from the experience? Carry a gun. If a passenger threatens you with a firearm? Kill them. Lyft isn’t going to cooperate w the police, the police aren’t gonna do their job effectively. And you’ll be stuck paying your own medical bills. So yeah, kill your passenger if threatened with a firearm.”

    have no idea if this person is still working for them, as i tend not to userstalk.

    just thought it might be interesting for your Jackpot category.

  26. Howard Beale IV

    I’m waiting on seeing about getting the “UnSmartphone” until it shows up in production quantities and gets reviewed by the trade press for just one reason only – the external antenna.Other than that, its novelty (and for the true paranoids, which the maker freely admits) is what I think will make it sell some units. At $390 tho, its pricey. Since the website lists its core technology components, I may spend some time estimating what her actual costs are for this piece of kit….

    1. Yves Smith

      I suggest you use Google rather than trash her product.

      She did a previous build and it was reviewed: This rotary cell phone actually works — and you can buy it, too

      The external antenna is a plus, means phone gets better reception, and this photo shows it is very solidly attached:


      And she builds electronic instrumentation for a living. She had so much demand for her first kit that she improved the design and is on to version 2.0.

      I bet you wouldn’t raise these doubts about a male inventor.

      1. Howard Beale IV

        I did use Google, and that’s when I noticed the specific radio module she was planning to use was incorrect due to the TV voice channel shutdown, and I emailed her about it.

        Or should I just go-ahead and post the email traffic between us, to which you were copied on, discussing the issue?

        1. Yves Smith

          I get over 1000 e-mails a day and I don’t read most of them. Your e-mail name is two initials. It looks like spam. Your subject line said smartphone and I have no interest in smartphones. Hers is not a smartphone. So I had no basis for seeing it as about her rotary cell phone.

          If you are going to attack her, the rules of engagement here are good faith argumentation. That means bringing up a real issue. It would have been fair game for you to talk about the the VoLTE flub, describe its impact on the product, and say that’s why you are holding back, she might have other glitches with the upgrade. Most people don’t buy 1.0 products. IM Doc even recommends against new drugs in their first year.

          The external antenna was in her $240 build. It’s an established feature and one of the lowest tech features. That phone sold out and people want more. So harping on that looked like caviling for the sake of caviling.

          And this phone is clearly not for 85 year olds unless they are retired engineers. No stereotypically tech averse senior wants a phone they have to assemble themselves. The phone is for people who are privacy freaks (notice her having designed in being able to disconnect the battery and the mike) and those who’d find the geek novelty appealing.

          I hope never to have to deal with DHS trying to get at my data at the border. But if that were ever to happen, I would enjoy seeing them go on tilt when the encountered the phone.

          1. Howard Beale IV

            And I did bring up a real issue. Sorry that you missed it. But as currently spec’d per her website (last updated early in the year), it won’t work without a radio board swapout. Its as simple as that. Don’t believe me? Compare the TOBY-L2 as listed on the website vs. the TOBY-R2 (with Voice over LTE support) and tell me I’m wrong.

            1. Yves Smith

              You assume I use a phone like most people. I don’t. I sit at a desk and when I leave that desk, I don’t want to be bothered. That means not carrying a phone. I carry it only when I travel and even then it is off pretty much all the time.

          2. Howard Beale IV

            I showed the phone to my 86 year old mother -she didn’t like it, plus it wouldn’t support the Kardia 2-lead device she uses to check for afib.

            (Do any of us ever sleep? ?)

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > At $390 tho, its pricey

      I think of it as a “top of the line” phone; its featurelessness is the key feature. For a top of the line phone, it’s not expensive at all.

      1. Howard Beale IV

        Unfortunately, due to being a wage slave at a major financial institution, I can’t use it for work due to apps required for me to do my work will never be available. C’est la vie..

          1. Howard Beale IV

            I wish – had my phone been issued by my employer it’d be a different story -but businesses being businesses these days, it’s put everything on the employee – at least I got a corporate issued laptop, rather than having to use my own…

      2. Howard Beale IV

        Sadly, the lack of documentation on the UnSmartphone is annoying me. Guess i’ll wait until reports come in and doc gets published before I do anything more with this piece of kit..

  27. urblintz


    “The assumption is that many children were infected over the past year and a half but showed no symptoms, and therefore were never diagnosed.

    Israel’s authorities hope that a significant proportion of children ages 3-12, who are not currently eligible for vaccination, will be found to have antibodies and will thus be eligible for a Green Pass, exempting them from mandatory isolation should they be exposed to someone COVID-positive, and from COVID-19 testing which is now mandatory in order to enter sites and attractions. They will be able to maintain their daily routine, including attending school, and will reduce the burden on the education and healthcare systems.”

  28. urblintz


    Comparing SARS-CoV-2 natural immunity to vaccine-induced immunity: reinfections versus breakthrough infections

    This study demonstrated that natural immunity confers longer lasting and stronger protection against infection, symptomatic disease and hospitalization caused by the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, compared to the BNT162b2 two-dose vaccine-induced immunity. Individuals who were both previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 and given a single dose of the vaccine gained additional protection against the Delta variant.



  29. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here is a tiktok video made by a serving U S Army servicewoman . . . . riffing off of a political video made by a “conservative activist” anti-coronavax citizen. She lets the tape of the citizen talking run a while, stops it to make an on-point reply or observation, lets it run some more and then replies-to or observes something, etc. It kind of speaks for itself, I think.

    Here is the link.

  30. Anthony K Wikrent

    RE: Washington Post, The vaccination campaign has hit its limit. Mandates are the only way forward.”

    The underlying problem is that the 3/4 century campaign by movement conservatism against the “liberal consensus” has succeeded, and as Margaret Thatcher put it so directly, there is no longer any society. At some point, you have to face the simple reality that there must indeed be limits on speech by corporations – and also by the rich. Liberals tend to freak out at this point, as if freedom of speech is sacrosanct, but isn’t rolling back the Citizens United decision restoring limits on speech by corporations? And what about the strict cultural limits on military officers speaking out about political leaders and political decisions and policies? We need to restore the idea of society — contra Thatcher and movement conservatism — and that will have to include similar, strict cultural limits on people who fund and promote the idea that there is no such thing as society. Otherwise, we will repeat the whole damned past 3/4 century nightmare.

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