2:00PM Water Cooler 9/21/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, more soon in the overly dynamic Health arena. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

A jungle road!

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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….

We already start to an instant rebound from Labor Day, I assume because reporting is returning to normal. Nevertheless, Labor Day, as the end of summer, also signals life changes for Americans, so those changes will affect the numbers too. We shall see!

Vaccination by region:

Flat everywhere but the South.

54.7% of the US is fully vaccinated (mediocre by world standards, being just below Czech Republic, and just above Switzerland and Malaysia). We are back to the 0.1% stately rise per day. This is the number that should change if Biden’s mandates “work.” 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:

Weirdly choppy, but it does look like we’re descending from a peak. We could get lucky, as we did with the steep drop after the second week in January. The populations are different, though. This one is more vaccinated, and I would bet — I’ve never seen a study — that many small habits developed over the last year (not just masking). Speculating freely: If the dosage from aerosols drops off by something like the inverse square law, not linearly, even an extra foot of distance could be significant if adopted habitually by a large number of people. And if you believe in fomites, there’s a lot more hand-washing being done. On the other hand, Delta is much more transmissible.

Looking at the case count above, I see no drop from a peak followed by the bizarre choppiness we see now, especially when the choppiness confined to one region, the South. So here is the case for the South by itself:

Choppiness in Texas, Florida, with wild spikes in Tennessee and Kentucky. So, to be blunt, it’s not just DeSantis jiggering the numbers.

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

More red in the northern latitudes: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan holding. Speculating freely: Kids have gone back to school and the windows are closed (Minneapolis, MN ranges from the mid-50s to mid-60s Fahrenheit right now.) Rockies still suffering, Ohio Valley and now Pennsylvania improving. Remember, however, that this chart is about acceleration, not absolute numbers. This map, too, blows the “Blame Bubba” narrative out of the water. Not a (Deliverance-style) banjo to be heard. Previous release:

(Red means getting worse, green means bad but getting better.)

Test positivity:

The South, the leader, steadily dropping.

Hospitalization (CDC). This is last week’s. Ever since the CDC “improved” this chart, it’s been consistently flaky. Today the numerical popup is failing:

Here the CDC’s hospitalization visualization, from the “Community Profile” report above:

Alabama now headed down, fortunately. Things are picking up in the West.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 694,795 692,012. We are approaching the same death rate as our first peak last year. Which I am finding more than a little disturbing. (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.) (Also adding: I like a death rate because it gives me a rough indication of my risk should I, heaven forfend, end up in a hospital. I should dig out the absolute numbers, too, now roughly 660,000, which is rather a lot.)

Covid cases worldwide:

American exceptionalism?

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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

“The chair of the House’s Jan. 6 investigation hopes to wrap up by ‘early spring’ of next year. That’s a tall order.” [Politico]. “that’s an extremely aggressive timeframe, particularly if/once subpoenas start to fly and legal pushback begins…. Timelines slip all the time on Capitol Hill, so [this writer] is betting on a delay in that estimate for the Jan. 6 panel to wind down.”

“Federal officer arrested at Capitol rally won’t be charged” [Associated Press]. ” federal law enforcement officer was arrested carrying a gun at Saturday’s rally at the U.S. Capitol billed to support the suspects charged in January’s insurrection but will not be prosecuted. The 27-year-old New Jersey man is an officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He was arrested by Capitol Police for illegally possessing a gun on the grounds of the Capitol after people in the crowd reported seeing him with a handgun and notified nearby officers. His arrest and presence at the event were surprising because the rally was billed as an event to support those who have been charged in January’s riot.” • I don’t know if it was as surprising as all that.

Biden Administration

The Biden Agenda:

Moderates seem to be using a Rovian strategy: Attack the enemy’s strengths.

UPDATE “Right-Wing Democrats Ramp Up Assault On Biden Agenda” [The Intercept]. “When Joe Biden entered office in January, Democrats knew they had two years to enact a mountain of critical legislation before midterm elections threatened their slim majorities in the House and Senate. That two-year window is now down to roughly one. But much of that time will be spent campaigning, meaning that the next month or two will shape the direction of not just the Biden administration, but arguably also the course of U.S. and global politics for decades to come. With the administration’s $3.5 trillion vehicle careening toward a September 27 deadline, conservative Democrats have been at work trying to derail the White House’s ambitious agenda. First, they cobbled together a small, corporate-friendly bipartisan infrastructure package that they hoped would take the steam out of the larger effort. When that didn’t work, the conservative bloc pushed to shrink its size down from $6 trillion to $3.5 trillion, then pushed to decouple the two efforts. They are now threatening to destroy it altogether.” • Perhaps they would rather be in the minority while not governing, yet still cashing in. Pelosi, by contrast, would rather be in the majority, while not governing, and still cashing in. (That’s certainly what the party Pelosi and Schumer built is optimized for. As I’ve said, Biden is a better politician than his party — see, e.g., Afghanistan — so we’re about to see if Biden is more like LBJ or, well, Obama.)

UPDATE “Pelosi’s back-to-school math problem” [Axios]. “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may need votes from an unlikely source — the Republican Party — if she hopes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by next Monday, as she’s promised Democratic centrists. With at least 20 progressives threatening to vote against the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill, centrist members are banking on more than 10 Republicans to approve the bill. While Pelosi is a master at counting votes in her own party, she has less experience getting an accurate read on the Republican side of the aisle.” • Lucy and the football again.

UPDATE “Dems rope debt to government funding, lassoing GOP into clash” [Politico]. “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced plans Monday afternoon to link a short-term government funding bill with another measure to suspend the nation’s debt limit through the 2022 midterm elections. But even with the House slated to vote on the high-stakes package this week — just days before government funding expires and as the clock ticks on a potential U.S. debt crisis — lawmakers were still awaiting key details of the strategy by Monday evening. Perhaps the biggest question mark is whether Pelosi and Schumer can force GOP leaders to blink in the Hill’s fiscal standoff, with Republicans refusing to negotiate on the politically toxic issue of the nation’s multitrillion-dollar debt default when the Democrats are in power…. The Democrats’ plan grew more complicated Monday, as McConnell only hardened his position that his GOP conference would not assist Democrats in addressing the debt limit when their party controls Congress and the White House.” • Last I checked, McConnell was in the minority. What’s the issue?

“Biden to raise refugee cap to 125,000 in October” [The Hill]. “The Biden administration on Monday said it would raise the refugee admissions cap to 125,000 in fiscal 2022, meeting a target that President Biden set during his presidential campaign. The State Department said it transmitted a report to relevant congressional committees recommending ‘an increase in the refugee admissions target from 62,500 in Fiscal Year 2021 to 125,000 in Fiscal Year 2022 to address needs generated by humanitarian crises around the globe.’ The next fiscal year begins in October.”

Democrats en Deshabille

“Democrats Sick Of Being Blamed For Cowardice On Issues They Actually Just Don’t Care About” [The Onion]. Schumer: “I’ve had it with being labeled spineless simply because, at the end of the day, I really don’t give a shit whether we tax the rich to help poor families or hungry children or whatever.” • Except…. Federal taxes don’t fund Federal spending.

UPDATE “Dems Flail Over Pharma Cash And Drug Pricing Vote” [Andrew Perez, Daily Poster]. “In a contentious Zoom meeting last Friday with health care reform advocates who live in his district, Peters refused to stop taking pharma money, according to a recording of the meeting provided by a Daily Poster subscriber. ‘I’m not going to unilaterally disarm and defund my campaign so that Republicans can win, I just think that’s a dumb thing to do,’ said the congressman, who represents a solidly blue district. Peters warned that if Democrats reject funds from corporate political action committees, companies will donate that money to Republicans instead. ‘I aim to win races and I’m totally in favor of changing the rules,’ he said. ‘I will play the rules that apply, and when they change, I’ll play by those rules.'” • Oh. Why did this guy run for office in the first place, then?

Republican Funhouse

UPDATE “Trump endorsements jolt GOP races” [Politico]. “Staten Island borough president. Michigan state Senate. Arizona secretary of state. Donald Trump is endorsing candidates in party primary elections all the way down the ballot, a level of involvement that’s virtually unheard of among recent former presidents. What’s remarkable about Trump’s picks isn’t just their breadth — he’s endorsed close to 40 candidates so far in 23 states — it’s their seemingly random quality. What’s even more unusual is that the political goals of the GOP’s de facto leader aren’t necessarily in sync with his own party — in some cases, they are starkly at odds. If there’s a thread running through nearly all of Trump’s endorsements, it is his habit of rewarding allies and punishing enemies. So far, at the national level, he’s backed primary challengers to four House GOP incumbents and one sitting senator — all of whom voted for impeachment. When it comes to state and local races, Trump’s seal of approval is often linked in one way or another to his failed efforts to have the 2020 election results overturned. In the three secretary of state contests where he has endorsed — Arizona, Georgia and Michigan — the common denominator is that his claims of election fraud were dismissed in those places by the current secretaries of state due to a lack of evidence.”

2020 Post Mortem

“Trump lawyer’s memo on six-step plan for Pence to overturn the election” [CNN]. Commentary:

UPDATE Lambert here: I’ve seen three disorderly presidential transitions: In 2000, when George W. Bush was inaugurated after his brother Jebbie purged the Florida voter rolls for him, the (very close) Florida recount in Broward County was halted by the famous “bourgeois riot”, and the Supreme Court, in the infamous Bush v. Gore decision halted recounts with Bush ahead, effectively selecting him as President; in 2016, with RussiaGate; and in 2020, with the Trump campaign’s election challenges, capped off by the Capitol Riot of 1/6. So, of the six Presidential elections from 2000 to 2020, half were marked by disorderly transitions. That’s not a sign of a healthy electoral system; Bouie’s aghastitude is therefore overly limited in scope. Of the campaigns that organized and sought to leverage disorder — Bush 2000, Clinton 2016, and Trump 2020 — only Bush 2000’s attempt succeeded in seizing power. Bush 2000 had the best lawyers; Trump 2020 by far the worst. Clinton 2016‘s attempt was backed by a uniquely overlapping flex-net of Democratic operatives, the press, and the intelligence community that persists to this day; neither Trump 2020 nor Bush 2000 had anything remotely similar. Trump 2020’s attempt was characterized by uniquely clownish operational ineptitude at all levels, up to and including 1/6. A “smart Trump” might well do better, since trust in the electoral system has decreased with each disorderly transition, and the, as it were, immune system of Presidential transition is far weaker.

Stats Watch

Housing: “United States Housing Starts” [Trading Economics]. “Housing starts in the US were up 3.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.615 million units in August of 2021, rebounding from a downwardly revised 6.2% fall in July and beating market forecasts of 1.554 million. Starts of buildings with five units or more jumped 21.6% to 530,000 while the single-family segment dropped 2.8% to 1,076,000.”

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Shipping: “Regulators eye new container-fee rules to address alleged overcharging” [Hellenic Shipping News]. “‘Demurrage and detention charges when properly utilized are intended to work to incent the movement of cargo by limiting the amount of time available for the pickup of cargo, and the retrieval of cargo equipment in order to maintain traffic fluidity,’ said Commissioner Carl Bentzel, who voted in favor of a rule that would impose the above requirements. ‘Carriers and marine terminal operators should not be charging demurrage or detention caused as a result of their own operational challenges, but on the other hand, shippers also need to pick up cargo left on-dock on a timely basis. While this is clearly a delicate balance, I believe that we should move forward to consider new standards for the imposition of demurrage and] detention.'”

Shipping: “NGO Reports Seven Shipbreaking Fatalities in Two Months” [Maritime Executive]. “Last week, NGO Shipbreaking Platform warned of the need for enhanced safety measures in the ship recycling industry due to rising numbers of fatal accidents and injuries. With seven workers dying while dismantling vessels in Bangladesh and Turkey in less than two months, the industry must prioritize the safety of workers and the protection of the environment, according to the organization. In Bangladesh, five workers were killed and three severely injured in seven separate accidents on the shipbreaking beaches of Chattogram. The fatalities were caused by explosions, falls from height, falling steel plates and exposure to toxic fumes. NGO Shipbreaking Platform Project Officer Sara Rita da Costa said the series of accidents in Chattogram shows a lack of responsibility by shipping companies, as they continue to sell their end-of-life vessels to be broken under well-known dangerous conditions. It also shows the limited ability of the Bangladeshi government to regulate the industry.” • Ship-breaking is an exceptionally nasty industry; see NC here.

Shipping: “Leasing firms buy more planes than ailing airlines for first time” [Reuters (UserFriendly)]. “Aircraft leasing companies are for the first time buying more of the world’s passenger planes than airlines after the pandemic clobbered carriers around the world, senior industry executives said on Monday. The historic shift, following decades of gradual growth, is down to leasing giants being able to access cheaper financing than carriers in another sign of the financial woes facing much of the airline industry, they said…. ‘Leased content has grown to around 60% of deliveries,’ Udvar-Hazy, executive chairman of lessor Air Lease Corp (AL.N), told the Airline Economics conference in London.”

The Bezzle: “Uber on course to post first profitable quarter” [Financial Times]. “Uber has said it is on course to report its first-ever profitable quarter, on an adjusted basis, after more than a decade of burning through billions of dollars in cash… ‘With positive adjusted EBITDA in July and August, we believe Uber is now tracking towards adjusted EBITDA break-even in Q3, well ahead of our prior guidance,’ said [Uber’s chief financial officer Nelson Chai], in a filing released before markets’ opening on Tuesday.” • So, for some definition of “profit”….

The Bezzle: “China rolls out autonomous driving standards as carmakers work towards making self-driving a reality” [South China Morning Post]. “:China has published its first national standards for grading autonomous driving, which will come into force in March, providing a benchmark for carmakers to develop the futuristic technology. China’s six-level standards, called ‘Taxonomy of Driving Automation for Vehicles,’ provides official definitions for self-driving cars from level zero (L0), which relies largely on human drivers, to L5 that achieves ‘full driving automation.’ Before its introduction, local carmakers used the United States-based Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) definition. While it is similar to the Chinese version, the mainland standards give technology a slightly larger role, experts said…. It was drafted by 11 major carmakers and suppliers, including Ford, BMW and Volkswagen’s China units as well as some domestic giants like Geely and GAC Group, and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) will oversee its adoption. Last year, the MIIT published the draft standards, and state-broadcaster CCTV reported that it would take effect in January this year. However, its implementation was delayed without any explanation.”

The Bezzle: “AI Can Write Code Like Humans—Bugs and All” [Wired]. “Some software developers are now letting artificial intelligence help write their code. They’re finding that AI is just as flawed as humans…. The risks of AI generating faulty code may be surprisingly high. Researchers at NYU recently analyzed code generated by Copilot and found that, for certain tasks where security is crucial, the code contains security flaws around 40 percent of the time. The figure ‘is a little bit higher than I would have expected,’ says Brendan Dolan-Gavitt, a professor at NYU involved with the analysis. ‘But the way Copilot was trained wasn’t actually to write good code—it was just to produce the kind of text that would follow a given prompt.'” • BWA-HA-HA-HA!!!! Because that’s all AI can do!

Tech: “In Amazon’s Flagship Fulfillment Center, the Machines Run the Show” [Bloomberg]. “Automation has made it possible for each fulfillment-center supervisor to manage dozens of employees, a factorylike operation becoming standard in the industry. In 2012 a logistics warehouse manager supervised about 10 workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2020, after Amazon had become the industry’s biggest employer, there were almost twice as many frontline workers for every supervisor. The company’s competitors strive to imitate its operations, but its approach to automation is also a focus of its critics, who bemoan the working conditions for hourly employees. Amazon’s algorithms tell workers what to do on the warehouse floor, set productivity targets, and flag employees who fail to meet them. In interviews workers describe feeling like cogs in a giant machine that can spit them out with little more than an automated termination email. Amazon acknowledges its algorithms aren’t perfect. It says most processes in its facilities allow for human oversight or intervention. Managers say they can accomplish more with the powerful software behind them, and the company continues work on its operations. Maju Kuruvilla, a former Amazon engineering executive who left the company last year, says Amazon noticed several years ago that bosses sometimes became little more than ‘faces behind laptops,’ speed-walking through the facility on their way somewhere else. ‘Fulfillment-center managers were not engaging with associates,’ says Kuruvilla, who worked on automation tools designed partly to help foster human interaction. ‘If that doesn’t happen, it can be a downward spiral for Amazon. This is when unions come in, when you’re not taking care of people.'”

Tech: “Twitter offers to cough up 80 days of annual sales to settle ‘false’ user count lawsuit” [The Register]. “Twitter has offered to pay $809.5m to settle a class-action lawsuit filed in 2016 accusing it of misleading investors by falsely inflating its number of monthly active users. ‘The proposed settlement resolves all claims asserted against Twitter and the other named defendants without any admission, concession or finding of any fault, liability or wrongdoing by the Company or any defendant,’ the web biz stated in an announcement. ‘Twitter and the individual defendants continue to deny any wrongdoing or any other improper actions.’ The micro-blogging site said it is prepared to cough up the cash in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to a filing with America’s financial watchdog, the SEC. To put this in context, Twitter recorded a $1.13bn net loss in 2020 from revenues of $3.72bn. The settlement thus represents about 80 days of annual sales.”

Tech: “Apple Is Working on iPhone Features to Help Detect Depression, Cognitive Decline” [Wall Street Journal]. “Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, who oversees Apple’s health unit, has spoken enthusiastically to employees about the company’s potential to address surging rates of depression and anxiety as well as other brain disorders, according to people who have heard him talk about the efforts. If they are successful, Apple and its partners could improve the detection of the conditions, which affect tens of millions of people world-wide. But the extent of user tracking that may be required could spark privacy concerns. To address them, Apple aims for algorithms that work on users’ devices and don’t send the data to Apple servers, the documents show.” • Er, what about paranoia?

Regulation: “Managing traffic in the skies is becoming a lot harder” [Axios]. “The FAA manages about 45,000 flights per day, including commercial airlines, cargo carriers and private planes…. There are roughly 870,000 registered drones in the U.S. — four times the number of commercial and private planes…. In Europe, authorities aim to segregate drones from other types of aircraft. But in the U.S., safely integrating them into the national airspace is the goal…. its plan is to establish a drone traffic management system that would complement the FAA’s existing air traffic management system. The FAA will let drone operators know where they can and cannot fly, and then it’s up to them to manage their operations safely within those constraints — without contacting air traffic controllers.” • What could go wrong? Fascinating article, well worth a read.

The Economy: “How Car Rentals Explain the 2021 Economy” [New York Times]. “In the spring and summer of 2020, the industry was in a state of collapse as people stopped traveling. With a glut of cars — a much higher supply of rentals than demand — prices plummeted; major rental car companies sold off hundreds of thousands of vehicles; and Hertz went bankrupt. The price to rent a car or truck was 23 percent lower in May 2020 than it was before the pandemic started. Fast-forward a year, and millions of vaccine jabs later, and Americans were ready to travel again — but the rental car industry was stuck with its diminished fleets. And it faced challenges replenishing those fleets quickly, because automakers were facing supply constraints of their own because of production rollbacks in 2020. In the second quarter of this year, for example, the combined fleet of Hertz and Avis, the two major rental car companies that report public data, was 312,000 cars smaller than in the second quarter of 2019 — a 30 percent drop. (Enterprise Holdings is bigger than either, but is privately held).” • Hysteresis!

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 24 Extreme Fear (previous close: 21 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 31 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 21 at 12:37pm. First Extreme Fear in awhile.

The Biosphere

“Rock dust could put a drain on atmospheric carbon — will this technology work?” [The Hill]. ” At this point, humanity needs to increase the size and speed of the atmospheric carbon dioxide drain, removing billions of tons of carbon dioxide each year and securely transforming this greenhouse gas to a solid-state. … The most viable solutions must hit that sweet spot between economic realities, the opportunity for local financial benefits, and — perhaps most importantly — impart permanence to carbon dioxide removal so that it won’t return to the atmosphere after it’s been captured. One of the most promising approaches that tick these boxes involves the repurposing of rock dust into agricultural soils, which can be gathered in hoards from the mining industry, demolition of buildings, or cement and steel manufacturing. Adding rock dust derived from volcanic geology can soak up carbon dioxide and convert it to a form of carbon that is highly protected from atmospheric return, and these rocks can provide agronomic benefits in terms of yield enhancement, lower fertilizer costs and maybe even support healthier crops that have a higher density of nutrition for people and animals. ” • Experts please correct this brainwave, but this seems to me to be wrong way to think about the problem. Nature doesn’t transform things into permanent solid states often. If we could manage to circulate carbon in such a way that it didn’t outgas into the atmosphere wouldn’t that accomplish the same thing? (It’s as if the experts think that carbon is money, so they want to bank it, instead of making the economy in which money moves more complex and, well, richer.) They had the same idea about soil. Soil isn’t a sink. It’s a living thing. It circulates carbon. We might not want to capture carbon as to reroute or deflect it. Can’t make a market in that, of course, as you can with a bank.

Health Care


(Note comment on the northern latitude in the #COVID19 section.) If any readers attend on of these shindigs, I’d love to hear about it!

“The Stakes Feel Higher Than Ever As The Education Secretary Welcomes Students Back” [NPR]. “So Cardona’s job is two-fold: to use his bully pulpit to push schools and, in some cases, state leaders to adopt the kinds of strong safety measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and to reassure anxious parents, caregivers and educators that, with those measures in place, kids can — and should — return to school.” • Tough? Lol. To be fair: “At every stop, Cardona will almost certainly talk up the enormous infusion of federal funding schools have received since the pandemic began, including in the American Rescue Plan, which carried a roughly $122 billion lifeline to help schools pay for everything from improved ventilation and extra staffing to summer school and tutoring for children to recover some of the learning time they may have lost during the pandemic.” And: When several states banned schools from requiring that students wear masks, the secretary announced his department would investigate them for potentially violating the civil rights of students with disabilities. When Florida withheld the salaries of some school officials who defied the state’s mask mandate ban, Cardona unveiled a grant to cover the costs.”

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UPDATE “Gottlieb: ‘Nobody knows’ origins of six-foot social-distancing recommendation” [The Hill]. “Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on Sunday that “nobody knows” the origins of the six-foot social-distancing recommendation. During an appearance on CBS’s “Face The Nation,” Gottlieb told host Margaret Brennan that the recommendation was arbitrary, saying that the Biden administration asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to change its guidelines from six feet to three feet in an effort to re-open schools last spring. ‘Nobody knows where it came from. Most people assume that the six feet of distance, the recommendation for keeping six feet apart, comes out of some old studies related to flu, where droplets don’t travel more than six feet,’ Gottlieb told Brennan.” • No mention of aerosols from Gottlieb? And what business is the CDC in, anyhow?

UPDATE “Effectiveness of the Single-Dose Ad26.COV2.S COVID Vaccine” (preprint) [medRxiv]. J&J. From the Abstract: “These non-randomized data across U.S. clinical practices show high and stable vaccine effectiveness of Ad26.COV2.S over time before the Delta variant emerged to when the Delta variant was dominant.” Commentary:

UPDATE “Johnson & Johnson says additional dose boosts Covid vaccine efficacy” [STAT]. “Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that a large, global study showed its Covid-19 vaccine is more effective when given as a two-dose regimen, and that other data indicate the efficacy of the vaccine does not wane. The two-dose regimen prevented 75% of moderate to severe Covid cases in all countries where it was tested — and 94% of such cases in the United States, where fewer troublesome variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus circulated at the time the trial was underway. Importantly, the two-dose regimen was 100% effective against severe disease. It appears J&J may use the data to argue in favor of making a booster broadly available to people who received the one-dose vaccine six months ago or more. A press release from the company did not say so explicitly, but stated J&J had submitted the data to the Food and Drug Administration and plans to submit them to other regulators and the World Health Organization. The data could also help increase use of the vaccine in the U.S. and globally. Currently, in the U.S., it is the least-often administered of the Covid vaccines authorized or approved by the Food and Drug Administration.”

UPDATE “Scientists claim that overeating is not the primary cause of obesity” [Science Daily]. Important:

The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 — 2025 further tells us that losing weight “requires adults to reduce the number of calories they get from foods and beverages and increase the amount expended through physical activity.”

This approach to weight management is based on the century-old energy balance model which states that weight gain is caused by consuming more energy than we expend….

The authors of “The Carbohydrate-Insulin Model: A Physiological Perspective on the Obesity Pandemic,” a perspective published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, point to fundamental flaws in the energy balance model, arguing that an alternate model, the carbohydrate-insulin model, better explains obesity and weight gain. Moreover, the carbohydrate-insulin model points the way to more effective, long-lasting weight management strategies.

In contrast to the energy balance model, the carbohydrate-insulin model makes a bold claim: overeating isn’t the main cause of obesity. Instead, the carbohydrate-insulin model lays much of the blame for the current obesity epidemic on modern dietary patterns characterized by excessive consumption of foods with a high glycemic load: in particular, processed, rapidly digestible carbohydrates. These foods cause hormonal responses that fundamentally change our metabolism, driving fat storage, weight gain, and obesity.

UPDATE “Transport noise linked to increased risk of dementia, study finds” [Guardian]. “Now an “impressive” study involving two million adults, conducted over more than a decade, has concluded that people living in areas with transport noise face a higher risk of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease. The findings were published in the BMJ. Researchers investigated the association between long-term residential exposure to road traffic and railway noise and the risk of dementia among two million adults aged over 60 and living in Denmark between 2004 and 2017. The level of exposure at the most- and least-exposed sides of buildings was estimated for every residential address in the country. After taking account of potentially influential factors related to residents and their neighbourhoods, the study concluded that as many as 1,216 out of the 8,475 cases of dementia registered in Denmark in 2017 could be attributed to transport noise. Of those, ‘the diagnosis in an estimated 963 patients was attributed to road traffic noise, and in 253 patients to railway noise.'”

Household Tips

“Floods Have Swamped the US. The Next Health Problem: Mold” [Wired]. “‘We don’t have systematic surveillance for mold infections in the United States,’ says Luis Ostrosky-Zeichner, a physician and professor, and director of the mycology research laboratory at UTHealth’s McGovern Medical School in Houston—a city that was flooded by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. ‘If you are a clinician and you have someone who thinks they have been sickened by mold exposure, there’s no official name for it, there’s no diagnosis code,’ says Joan W. Bennett, a fungal geneticist and professor of plant biology at Rutgers University, who moved to that position from Tulane University after her New Orleans home was flooded and left moldy by Hurricane Katrina. ‘How are we going to gather data on how often this phenomenon occurs? It leaves you with a bunch of just anecdotal stories.’ It’s an important data gap not just because these illnesses appear to be under-reported, but also because climate change is making floods more frequent and more extreme.” And: “Acknowledging the rising incidence of floods, the CDC has published public service announcements warning about mold and cleanup guidance for homeowners and renters. Agency officials are collaborating with several physicians on a continuing medical education unit to alert them to possible problems in patients. Those could reduce the likelihood that people make themselves vulnerable, and keep down the incidence of infections. But this won’t solve the conundrum of not knowing how many people are becoming infected, which is always a precondition for getting funding and attention needed to solve a public health problem.”

The Agony Column

“Revenge bedtime procrastination: A plight of our times?” [Medical News Today]. “It is late at night. Your day’s work — day job duties, homework for your course, house chores — is all done. You glance at the clock: it is past midnight already. You are all ready for bed and so tired that you could almost pass out. However, instead of closing your eyes and drifting off to sleep, something else happens. You start reading a book, watching an episode of your favorite show, or adding one more row to that knitting project. Before you know it, one more page has become five more chapters, you have binge-watched an entire season of that show, or all but finished your knitting project. By this time, however, it is 3.00 a.m., and you know you have to wake up at 6.00 a.m. You are very tired, and you know you will be sleep-deprived, but you could not help yourself. Why? If this scenario seems familiar, it is because many people around the world have been increasingly engaging in this form of behavior. This phenomenon has become so widespread that it has earned the moniker: revenge sleep procrastination.” This has certainly happened to me. More: “A study from the Netherlands that appeared in Frontiers in Psychology in 2018 aimed to answer the question as to why people may delay their bedtime on purpose, even when they are tired. The study authors found that the more a person had to ‘resist desires’ during the rest of their day, the more likely they would be a bedtime procrastinator. This means that the less enjoyable things a person could do during the day, the likelier it was that they would try to reclaim that time at night and engage in the more pleasurable activities they had not been able to do during the day. ‘One of the significant causes of revenge sleep procrastination is where our current working culture intersects with our personal and leisure time expectations in our p.m. bookend,’ Chambers told MNT.” • Hmm. I’ve not sure I’d call that revenge.

Under the Influence

“Wall Street Influencers Are Making $500,000, Topping Even Bankers” [Bloomberg]. “At first no one could explain why business was picking up at Betterment, a robo adviser aimed at newbie investors. There were about 10,000 signups in one day. Then came the answer: A 25-year-old TikToker from Tennessee was posting videos describing how to retire a millionaire by using the platform. His name is Austin Hankwitz, and he’s managed to land one of the hottest new gigs: full-time ‘finfluencer.'” • Well, since “blog and grow rich” never did work out…

Our Famously Free Press

The Times is taken seriously by the sort of people who take the Times seriously:

This is a great account. The people who do the Times Twitter account, and many Times reporters, have no grasp of basic writing mechanics.

“The dying art of the hatchet job” [Unherd]. The deck: “Film critics have never been so weak or timid.” More: “Why has negative criticism become so contentious? One factor is the growing vulnerability of both journalists and the artists they cover. When there is less space for book coverage, it makes sense to foreground good work than cackle over the bad, except when a real stinker from a big name hoves into view and critics can take the gloves off with a sigh of relief…. In the world of music, when most albums don’t make money, it is understandable for critics to pull their punches. The world of album reviewing now is so much more collegiate than the knives-out music-press culture that I grew up on. I’m glad that young critics no longer have to make their names with an act of ritual cruelty towards a soft target, but the really thoughtful takedown is an endangered species without which music journalism is merely PR. Older critics tend to lose their taste for blood while, as Clive James wrote, ‘among young writers, there seems a shortage of critics unhampered by excessive good manners.’ I would suggest, though, that it’s as much a question of self-preservation as good manners, due to social media’s abolition of context.”

From The Department of Ridiculous Self-Absorption and -Congratulation:

Where was the aghastitude for the previous twenty years?

Class Warfare

“When McDonalds Came to Denmark” [Matt Bruenig]. “n late 1988 and early 1989, the unions decided enough was enough and called sympathy strikes in adjacent industries in order to cripple McDonalds operations. Sixteen different sector unions participated in the sympathy strikes. Dockworkers refused to unload containers that had McDonalds equipment in them. Printers refused to supply printed materials to the stores, such as menus and cups. Construction workers refused to build McDonalds stores and even stopped construction on a store that was already in progress but not yet complete. The typographers union refused to place McDonalds advertisements in publications, which eliminated the company’s print advertisement presence. Truckers refused to deliver food and beer to McDonalds. Food and beverage workers that worked at facilities that prepared food for the stores refused to work on McDonalds products. In addition to wreaking havoc on McDonalds supply chains, the unions engaged in picketing and leaflet campaigns in front of McDonalds locations, urging consumers to boycott the company. Once the sympathy strikes got going, McDonalds folded pretty quickly and decided to start following the hotel and restaurant agreement in 1989. This is why McDonalds workers in Denmark are paid $22 per hour.” And: “When I bring this up, people sometimes respond by saying that these kinds of strikes are illegal in the US. This is a true and worthwhile bit of information, but insofar as it is meant to imply that the different legal environment is what accounts for the labor radicalism, this obviously has things backwards. The laws aren’t driving the labor radicalism, but rather the labor radicalism is driving the laws.” • Yep!

News of the Wired

“The Framework is the most exciting laptop I’ve ever used” [Pluralistic.net]. “Then I saw Ifixit’s teardown of a Framework laptop. They described a computer whose hardware was fully user-maintainable/upgradeable. The system opens with six “captive” screws (they stay in the case) and then every component can be easily accessed. There’s no tape. There’s no glue. Every part has a QR code that you can shoot with your phone to go to a service manual that has simple-to-follow instructions for installing, removing and replacing it. Every part is labeled in English, too! The screen is replaceable. The keyboard is replaceable. The touchpad is replaceable. Removing the battery and replacing it takes less than five minutes. The computer actually ships with a screwdriver. All this, without sacrificing size or power – it’s so similar to a Macbook that a friend who came over for dinner (and who knows about my feelings about proprietary Apple hardware) expressed shock that I’d switched to a Macbook!. Having used this system for nearly a month, I can unequivocally recommend it!” • This looks extremely interesting. The price is right, too!

* * *

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:

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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. Carolinian

    Re Unherd–so these days Pauline Kael, having waited decades to make the big time as a writer, would be fired immediately. Actually she was fired from McCall’s for her rather mean review of The Sound of Music. But her rep survived and she landed at The New Yorker where a columnist would, much later, attack her for not liking Shoah. But then the later New Yorker is not the William Shawn New Yorker nor today’s 4th estate that of 1968. Seems obvious.

  2. bradford

    The Minnesota state fair was Aug 26 through Sep 6, which is roughly three weeks behind Sturgis. The web sites show attendance at about a half million and 1.3 million for Sturgis and the fair, respectively. Is the current MN/WI bump similar to the Sturgis bump but lagged three weeks?

  3. PlutoniumKun

    “The dying art of the hatchet job” [Unherd].

    I think Rev Kev has mentioned him before, but there is an amusing and acerbic YouTuber The Critical Drinker who takes a particularly dim view of modern cinema, and by implication the critics who often give many mediocre films good write ups. He backs up his often NSFW takedowns with some pretty well structured arguments. Its striking how much slack modern critics give to stupid empty Marvel and Disney films these days, often reserving their ire only for fairly obscure low budget films that probably nobody really cares about apart from the Directors mother. I suspect its a mixture of fear of getting cut out of nice red carpet events, the fear of hordes of fanboys and girls attacking them on social media, along with the reality that many just aren’t much good at what they do. I usually just read reviews of films and books on the Guardian (cheapskate that I am), and the current crop seem to genuinely have no clue about the arts they are reviewing. Its one thing to see a review you disagree with, its infuriating to see a review by a supposed expert who clearly either didn’t bother watching the film or who simply uses it as an excuse to rehearse some tired personal obsessions.

    Maybe its hindsight talking, but it seems to me that this is far more common these days. You have to go to specialist websites or publications now if you are interested in genuinely enlightening writing.

    1. Ian Perkins

      I usually just read reviews of films and books on the Guardian

      I usually like movies the WSWS recommends, and find those it describes as second-rate just that. Usually, but not always – they can highly recommend incredibly tedious stuff! Look for Arts and Culture at the top of their website. (They put me on to Waiting for the Barbarians, which got fairly lukewarm reviews elsewhere, and I thought it one of the best movies I’ve seen recently.)

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I usually just read reviews of films and books on the Guardian

      I used to do exactly the same in the New Yorker, back in the day before they had a table of contents, and there were pages of wonderful and acerbic single-paragraph capsule reviews of movies at the front of the magazine.

      1. Carolinian

        If classic films those were written by Pauline Kael. See 5001 Nights At the Movies. She started writing blurbs back when she owned an art theater in Berkely.

    3. voteforno6

      Even after his death, Roger Ebert’s site still carries good movie reviews (along with the occasional TV show). Still, I do miss his reviews – I would read the good ones, and the bad ones, because he could be scathing.

      1. NoOneInParticular

        Indeed, he could be scathing, and he could be overwhelming with praise as well. His reviews are unlike 90% of other reviewers’ reviews (whether movies, books, plays, etc.) in that he never tried to impress us with his writing. He wrote in his voice, and his voice was always clear — not cluttered with clever turns of phrase of the kind that other reviewers depend on (I wonder if they review because they like to hear themselves write). And he never over-intellectualized movies. He rated films based on other films in the same genre, which allowed him the freedom to enjoy schlock, as long as it was well-made schlock.

      2. johnnyme

        I miss his reviews, too. His complete evisceration of Rob Reiner’s 1994 film “North” (worth reading in full) was one for the ages and concludes with:

        I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.

        I hold it as an item of faith that Rob Reiner is a gifted filmmaker; among his credits are “This Is Spinal Tap,” “The Sure Thing,” “The Princess Bride,” “Stand By Me,” “When Harry Met Sally…,” and “Misery.” I list those titles as an incantation against this one.

        “North” is a bad film – one of the worst movies ever made. But it is not by a bad filmmaker, and must represent some sort of lapse from which Reiner will recover – possibly sooner than I will.

  4. cnchal

    > “Biden to raise refugee cap to 125,000 in October”

    > Tech: “In Amazon’s Flagship Fulfillment Center, the Machines Run the Show”

    It is called skating to where the puck is going to be. With an annual employee turnover rate of 150%, equivalent to replacing all the workers every eight months, twice the accident and injury rates of other warehouse jawbs, Amazon is looking for new blood constantly, and the Haitians on the receiving end of the whip the other day is a stark reminder of how horrific working conditions are at Amazon, the leader in depravity which others have to compete with or be left behind.

    Amazon shopper = whip cracking sadist

    1. Kurtismayfield

      If the “worker shortage at the rate the bosses want to pay them” continues, I fully expect the BBB to be petitioning for millions of immigrants soon. Because wages must be supressed.

      1. Caleb

        Millions of homeless, water shortages, lack of low income housing, insufficient federal money for M4A, masks and now the Pharmacrats want to bring in thousands of 3rd worlders, not tested for covid or any other disease and distribute them all over the country with SBA loans, housing vouchers and of course, voter registration cards.

        The midterms are going to be a Demo lition derby.

        1. marym



          CBP works with appropriate agencies that facilitate testing, diagnosis, isolation, and treatment of migrants, including:
          Local governments and non-governmental organizations for persons released from CBP custody;
          DHS and ICE for testing of persons to be released from CBP custody, particularly in locations without local government or NGO testing capability; and,
          HHS for testing of unaccompanied children.
          DHS has developed a partnership model to test and isolate families who test positive for COVID-19, and reimburse 100 percent of the cost, provided that the state does not stand in the way.



          Q: Has the COVID-19 vaccination been added to the list of required vaccinations as part of the medical examination?
          A: Yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated the Technical Instructions (TIs) for panel physicians to include a section on COVID-19. The new TIs add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations. The new requirements go into effect on October 1, 2021. The update requires all IV and K visa applicants be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to going to their medical examination.

          Q: Do I need a COVID-19 test to travel to the United States?
          A: Effective January 26, all airline passengers ages two years and older to the United States must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel. Alternatively, travelers to the United States may provide documentation from a licensed health care provider of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel.


          Voter registration cards: Of course not

          1. Francis

            170,000+ entering the country last march and you are really claiming that “CBP works with appropriate agencies that facilitate testing, diagnosis, isolation, and treatment of migrants”?

            An alien culture needs other alien cultures to disguise their activities, that’s the only conclusion after watching who is behind enhanced immigration.

            1. marym

              170K: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2021/06/links-6-24-2021.html#comment-3564850

              Testing, etc.: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2021/07/200pm-water-cooler-7-22-2021.html#comment-3577444
              Probably works about as well as many systems – public and private – these days. That’s true for people who are already here too, some of whom refuse to take any pandemic precautions themselves.

              aliens: Why does it seem as though public health isn’t really the issue here? No, everyone you don’t like or don’t agree with isn’t an alien.

              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                > Why does it seem as though public health isn’t really the issue here?

                It certainly wasn’t aliens who brought Covid here for the first time. It was international travelers flying in to New York (almost certainly US passport-holders, most likely well-heeled). And from there to the rest of the country, as the maps of infection show.

                So the concern about “aliens” is misplaced, one might almost think a form of “othering,” of which there is a lot right now.

    2. Ian Perkins

      Fulfillment centre sounds like something straight out of 1984, as if working for Amazon floats above even self-actualisation and transcendence in Maslow’s pyramid.

      1. cnchal

        Amazon is way worse than 1984

        At core, Amazon is a fraud. It’s stawk price is predicated on the idea that the extreme working conditions, finely crafted to extract maximum productivity by the data scientists working for Bezos, who feel the crack of his whip too, will never change and will become worse as time marches on. Amazon is nothing if not pushy to the end.

        I do not believe this is sustainable. Were the machinery slowed down to a humane speed Amazon would be losing money hand over fist. Something is going to give.

        1. ProudWappie

          In my opinion, Amazon’s cloud operation is where they really make money. Together with Microsoft (Azure) they’re the leaders in the field. Since the barrier to entry is so large, this is something that won’t go down easily, and they’re more or less critical in this area, since so many companies have build infrastructures on their platform.

          The whole web shop thing is indeed highly overrated. The margins are thin, and the costs of handling transport, as well as return policy, are a form of overhead which is hard to get down. This is why they cheat in other areas, like working conditions.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > Amazon’s cloud operation

            AWS sounds like a single point of failure, to me. I’m long printed books, local manufactures, gardens…. [horrified face, as I realize I’m becoming prepper-adjacent].

            1. ambrit

              Start wearing the Guy Fawkes mask and we won’t be able to see your anguish.
              Plus, a lot of what Americans would call “prepper adjacent” was considered “normal” living a hundred and fifty years ago. During the War Part the Second and the Great Depression, people reacquired such skills out of necessity. Who says that it cannot happen again?
              Another thing related thereunto is that, in years gone by, the cost of food was a larger share of the average family’s resource budget than today.
              The often trotted out phrase, “Good Old Family Values” disguises the fact that, for the majority of the population, life was a lot harder and precarious than today. I am fairly certain that the people who use and abuse that phrase imagine that they will be at the top of the heap when those “Old Family Values” are reimposed. Nothing is written in stone.
              It all reminds me of the New Testament story of the owner of the vinyard: “The last shall be first, and the first last.”

          2. cnchal

            One buck out of three handed to AWS for services is profit. Governments grossly overpay for this service and could have their own data centers to store the zeros and ones they collect. That would also spread the coding jawbs around so they could have a chance to work for someone other than Bill and Jeff.

            A thirty percent return rate of the crapola sold is fraud.

            On top of that you have the billions in subsidies by regional governments to put the satanic mills up. Another fraud.

            Third party sellers pay to be found or no sales. Another fraud.

            Third party sellers stuff gets copied. Another fraud.

            Delivery companies and drivers subjected to a supposed AI driver critique system that is designed to chop pay for non existent infractions. I don’t know if this is fraud or a deliberate half baked implementation.

            Review and ratings fraud.

            Copyright fraud.

            Biggest fraud of all?

            Amazon shopper = whip cracking sadist

            By now everyone knows and none care.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Amazon, Facebook & Uber have already pledged to hire Afghan refugees to support the US economic ‘vision’ which I take it to mean that they are so desperate and have lost everything, that they will take any work at all-


        But what really got me going was how the other day Bloomberg not only praised Amazon, but said that they were ‘the future of working class’ as if that was a good thing. The 19th century had the infamous “satanic mills” but the 21st century now was the “satanic warehouses.” Which mean that after over a century of advances of conditions for workers, they are going backwards now to the conditions of the early 19th century-


  5. jsn

    “Bizarrely, the parts of Biden’s agenda that are most popular seem to be most at risk right now.”

    Bizarrely assumes voter preferences matter in “Our Democracy TM.”

  6. Mikel

    “AI Can Write Code Like Humans—Bugs and All” [Wired)

    GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. If you took any intro computing course, wasn’t that like the first thing you were supposed to learn?

    Reminds me of every other industry under the psychosis of neoliberalism…constantly “relearning” historical knowledge that was tossed in the garbage bin because it interferred with a bezzle or short term profit.

    It’s why there are continuous articles everywhere about “studies” that “discover” something that should give anyone, even moderately literate, a sense of deja vu.

    1. hunkerdown

      According to the Ehrenreichs, one function of the PMC is the ongoing digestion of job lore and skills into protocols and procedures to be performed by the unskilled. Just why were they telling us to “learn to code” all this time, if this is their plan, and might always have been.

      1. Mikel

        Alot of this is just what happens when BS is turned to protocols and procedures.
        If it was BS to begin with, automation only makes it automated BS.

      2. Mikel

        I’ve noticed in the last 2 decades that many times automation of some function(s) is introduced to solve a problem when the root of the problem is a work flow problem that then only becomes an automated work flow problem.

        1. hunkerdown

          Mmmyep, that might have been me. Alas, some clients are very particular about their office’s workflow and won’t be swayed.

  7. Robert Hahl

    Re: Uber’s unprofitability

    I have read several of Horan’s takedowns of Uber but I don’t recall any explanation of why costs are so high relative to revenue. Isn’t it just because the executives pay themselves too much? That doesn’t seem like such a fundamental flaw in the business.

    1. Skip Intro

      I believe the real costs are high, and the prices are subsidized to gain market share/monopoly status, so revenue is low. The difference is covered by suckers Softbank investors. The business model won’t be sustainable until they have the market power to jack up the prices, assuming, of course, that the actual model isn’t just a Ponzi scheme.

      1. Phil in KC

        Anecdotal evidence suggests that prices are being jacked upward now, which may explain the approach of a near-profitable quarter. Nonetheless, given that some cab and livery companies have survived the nearly decade-long assault of Uber on the traditional cab business, competition may yet arise, given the easy entry into the field for an individual. All Uber has really done is burn through billions of investor dollars and make crappier an already crappy business. Which is an interesting business model worthy of study!

    2. Yves Smith

      Horan has explained long form that Uber is not a low cost provider and never will be. There are no scale economies in the taxi business, except at the city level and then due ONLY to fleet management, which Uber can’t do due to not owning/controlling its fleet. That’s before getting to the negative competitive factor of national and international overheads.

      Uber has chosen to be more uneconomical by using investor subsidies to put more cars on the street to give riders more availability than taxi economics will support. Uber has clearly been engaging in predatory pricing. BUT there are virtually no barriers to entry in the local ride business. And with an inherent cost disadvantage, when Uber tries to jack up its prices to recover its many years of losses, local cab drivers will gain ground, big time.

      1. Robert Hahl

        “BUT there are virtually no barriers to entry in the local ride business.”

        Like Thomas Friedman, I get most of my information by talking to cab drivers. I asked one why the conventional taxis can’t seem to fight Uber with an app of their own, maybe a national co-op. He said there are two reasons, in this order: First, the average yellow cab driver wants to sit in front of a hotel or airport terminal and only go back and forth between them. That is, no motivation to compete with Uber. Second, if a yellow cab customer uses an app to call a taxi, but another taxi happens to come along, or is sitting in front of the hotel, they will get in that one. So the car being called finds no customer waiting. These seem like problems that will not go away when Uber runs out of free money. Maybe they will just lower their executive’s pay and survive.

  8. SteveD

    Perhaps they would rather be in the minority while not governing, yet still cashing in. Pelosi, by contrast, would rather be in the majority, while not governing, and still cashing in. (That’s certainly what the party Pelosi and Schumer built is optimized for

    Is perhaps the most concise statement of The Problem with Democrats as I have seen. Kudos, Lambert

  9. antidlc

    Judicial Watch Sues HHS for Biodistribution Studies for the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson Vaccines

    Judicial Watch, the government watchdog group, announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for biodistribution studies and related data for the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 1:21-cv-02418)).

    Good luck with that. They couldn’t get the info from the FDA, CDC, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease. and BARDA.

    Why is this info so hard to get? I wonder…

  10. Lou Anton

    >Last I checked, McConnell was in the minority. What’s the issue [w/r/t debt ceiling]?

    Can Team Dem really think a single Republican would do anything on this? McConnell is right to say “you have the majority, do it yourselves via reconciliation.” And why wouldn’t Democrats love this? You lump it in with the $3.5 trillion budget and get to reap the benefits of bringing 40 million people (IIRC) between 55-64 into Medicare eligibility.

    The only reason NOT to plow ahead would be to avoid making Manchin & Sinema uncomfortable. They are already tut-tutting about the $3.5 T number, and putting the budget bill alongside the debt ceiling in the same vote makes it hard for them to say no.

    I would say that’s a beautiful solution, and it’d be putting the debt-clockers over the barrel.

    1. djrichard

      Better yet, do away with the debt ceiling altogether. If the dems can push it out for some period of tiime under the reconciliation bill, they could just as easily abolish it altogether.

      But the dems don’t want to do that. Because abolishing the debt ceiling untethers them from one of the knots that they like to be restricted by. As Lambert brilliantly diagnosed yesterday on a related topic:

      it’s more auto-kinbaku-bi; the Democrat jouissance from tying themselves up, and rendering rhemselves helpless (filibuster; Parliamentarian; moderates). It’s not merely pragmatic; I swear they actually get a thrill, a guilty pleasure, out of it.

      In particular, the dems don’t want to be untethered from the knot that the deficit matters. The debt ceiling is one step removed from that; undo that knot and it’s only a matter of time before the “deficit matters” knot becomes undone.

      Edit: I might be wrong and they might not be able to abolish the debt ceiling by reconciliation. Still same difference, even pushing the debt ceiling to the right unilaterally is getting too close to the 3rd rail they don’t want to touch.

  11. Darthbobber

    Will Jordan may find it bizarre that the broadly popular parts of the Biden program are precisely the ones those somehow still invariably referred as moderates want to block, but it’s exactly what I would expect.

    Once you accept that “moderate” here doesn’t denote a position on the political spectrum at all, but is simply a euphemism for Corporate, the matter resolves itself. They’re all things that corporate doesn’t care for, so they need to be blocked. No matter what happens to mere citizens or even to the party for that matter.

    Then they’ll strive to blame the inevitable electoral debacle on the nigh-powerless progressives, socialists, whatever. Probably while rolling a pair of ball bearings around in their hands and muttering about treacherous mutineers and strawberries.

    1. Ranger Rick

      We can get even more cynical: a large (in length and dollar amount) bill intended to address a popular issue mysteriously paralyzed in Congress? Leadership unwilling to bring it to a recorded vote? Sabotage in the form of competing bills and amendments to tack on outrageous riders and complications?

      The next fundraising vehicle has arrived! They’ll be milking this all the way into the midterms.

      1. jsn

        Doing what they are paid to do.

        And I’m not talking about their salaries as public officials.

        The big money is in the grift called “campaign finance” that spins the golden threads of congressional parachutes.

  12. Carla

    Congress Critter Peters: “‘I aim to win races and I’m totally in favor of changing the rules,’ he said. ‘I will play the rules that apply, and when they change, I’ll play by those rules.’” • Oh. Why did this guy run for office in the first place, then?

    Lambert, it seems obvious. He ran to PLAY.

  13. Carolinian

    Re transitions–don’t forget Kennedy (likely) stealing the vote in Chicago, Nixon convincing the South Vietnamese not to make peace because they’d get a better deal with him, Watergate funny business, Reagan convincing the Iranians they’d get a better deal (or at least revenge on Carter) with him, etc. When it’s for all the marbles then playing dirty is the rule rather than the exception which makes the pearl clutching over 1/6 even more of an eye roller.

    1. Pelham

      Thanks for reminding us of those. Some may say they don’t fall into the same category, but I think they do. Long ago it began to appear that every single aspect of US politics is either phony or toxic, even if some good occasionally emerges by happenstance.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Some may say they don’t fall into the same category

        I don’t think they do. Politics ain’t beanbag, but not all non-beanbag plays are disorderly presidential transitions. JFK is like a lead-up to Bush v. Gore, but Bush v. Gore was more than election theft.

        Note that the mechanics of a presidential transition were the focus of the memo that sparked this discussion.

    2. Dr. John Carpenter

      But those were all done the acceptable way by the right people. The idea of the everyday peons rising up and overturning an election is just beyond the pale. That has to be tamped down hard so no one gets that idea again.

      1. marym

        The people at the riot may have been mostly peons, but not the Senators and Representatives who voted against accepting the certified electoral votes; state legislators who proposed alternate electoral votes without regard to any popular vote tallies; lawyers and plaintiffs who filed (and lost) court cases challenging the election; the president who tried to pressure state and federal officials; politicians and media that propagated the “fraud” theme; and the guy who wrote the memo being discussed today.

        1. Carolinian

          I think what i’m trying to say is that the notion that either party has great respect for democracy is historically doubtful. Weren’t the Dems themselves pushing a “fraud” theme with the Russiagate smear after 2016? Lying to people is a way of showing contempt even if you keep telling yourself–as the Dems do–that it’s all in a good cause. And when they win it turns out that ‘nothing will fundamentally change’ because threatening the powerful might also hurt ‘the good cause.’

          From the cheap seats a lot of people feel none of this has anything to do with them. Which is to say, democracy it isn’t.

          1. marym

            I was distinguishing between peons and elites, not Republicans and Democrats. The people in the cheap seats at the Capitol were serving an elite project. Trying to nullify the votes of working class and poor people in a few counties in a few swing states is a way of showing contempt, even if the rioters in this case keep telling themselves it’s all in a good cause because Dems are bad.

  14. Sub-Boreal

    The science behind the idea of enhanced C sequestration in soils via rock dust application is sound.

    The proposal would simply make use of natural chemical weathering reactions which transform CO2 into bicarbonate ions in water accompanied by certain metal ions (e.g. calcium, magnesium) released when silicate minerals gradually dissolve in soil water. This process is always happening in soils, but as they age, the supply of “fresh” minerals gets depleted and/or their reactive surfaces get coated in substances which slow down the reactions. By artificially spiking a soil with fresh ground-up rock, you’re just feeding the soil weathering system with a fresh raw material. It’s a small-scale analogue of what happened when the Corn Belt got covered in rock dust blown in during the last ice age when the continental glacier pushed heaps of ground-up bits of Canada into the U.S. Midwest. (You’re welcome.)

    How this results in C sequestration is related to the fate of the bicarbonate and metal ions in the soil water. Under the right conditions, as water moves down through the soil, it may precipitate carbonate minerals at depth, or further transport may flush the ions into groundwater and ultimately the ocean where carbonate minerals can be precipitated either inorganically or biologically (e.g. coral reefs). When you do the sums for all the reactions along this pathway, the net result is that CO2 gets taken out of the atmosphere.

    On a human timescale, this precipitation is pretty much for keeps, but on a geological time scale, the loop gets closed. CO2 is eventually released back into the atmosphere when ocean floor crust gets subducted into the mantle, and the carbonate rocks that went along for the ride get heated up, with CO2 ultimately venting via the volcanoes that accompany subduction zones, on the inland continental side of the plate boundary (e.g in the Andes along the west side of South America).

    This weathering – subduction – volcanism cycle of CO2 is probably what regulates its atmospheric level on really long time scales, but it ticks over at a modest rate, which is easily outpaced temporariliy by the kinds of extreme volcanic outbursts that triggered some mass extinctions OR of course, our own fossil fuel blip.

    So the rock dust proposal is probably best considered as another kind of geoengineering, and it’s likely one of the more harmless variants. Like all geoengineering schemes, the unspoken assumption is that this will be an easier out than the much less appealing route of reducing consumption, and/or diverting lots of social capital into big-scale energy system reforms. And because rock dust is bulky and heavy, and its production involves lots of energy when rocks are ground up, I’d want to see a pretty rigorous and full accounting of all of the energy and financial costs involved per tonne of CO2 sequestered.

    Hope this helps a bit.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I’d agree, I’ve always been intrigued by it. Of all forms of geoengineering, it seems to me to be the most likely to work and the one with least risk of unintended negative consequences. One interesting proposal I read about was to dump partially ground up olivine (mined in Norway) off shorelines along western Europe. The idea was that it would lower ocean acidity, draw down carbon dioxide, while adding valuable extra material to slow down erosion. Natural coastal processes would aid the slow break up of the stone.

      The main problem seems to be working out a way of paying for it – or put another way, nobody has worked out how to make a profit doing it.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        My first thought was, grinding rock as a primary goal takes energy. Collecting disperse, heavy, industrial tailings takes energy. Friggin entropy.

        But yes, anything that isn’t shielding the Sun or such I find intriguing as well. I still need to be talked down from fleets of wood-gas fueled vehicles servicing vast forests of coppicing and distributing biochar to a waiting world.

        Wouldn’t a return to paper packaging reduce a lot of carbon, if we just buried it in the landfill?

      2. John

        Nothing is going to happen to mitigate climate change until Greenland melts and no one can figure out how to make money from it.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      And isn’t there the secondary benefit that in human-year terms, the basalt ( or other multi-mineral igneous rock) releases plant-nutritional/ soil-life nutritional minerals into the soil where plants and plant-supporting microbes can get them and support greater than otherwise plant growth.

      Which would help plants to take up and bio-fix greater than otherwise amounts of carbon dioxide from the ambient air right around them. And inject some of it into the soil through their roots to feed root-born bacteria and mycorrhizae, facilitating shortish-term carbon-level restoration into the soil itself.

      Or such is my layman’s understanding of what I have read.

      1. Sub-Boreal

        Yes indeed. I hadn’t mentioned this because the focus was where the CO2 was going, but you’re correct that there is a mild fertilizing effect because various nutrient elements (P, K, Ca etc) get released during the weathering process. (Again, this is like the periodic rejuvenation of soils that occurs downwind of continental glaciers.) But it happens at nature’s pace, and most human agriculture tends to be a bit more impatient!

        1. Stephen T Johnson

          In case it’s any help, a project I worked on a few years back – injection of supercritical CO2 into a deep brine reservoir, with the intention that over time the CO2 would react with Calcium chloride to make Calcium carbonate (aka limestone) – chemically, these seem like pretty similar processes

    3. Rodeo Clownfish

      One must ask whether the CO2 generated to produce and transport the rock dust is effectively offset by the amount of CO2 capture in the resulting soil amendments. I suspect that it is not.

      1. Michael Mck

        I share your concerns. Perhaps if rock crushers at a shallow mine (most Olivine is deep) could be run intermittently off “waste” renewables (like near a wind or solar farm on a windy and sunny day) and the rubble was not transported far… I have heard the idea of coastal deposition mooted because waves finish crushing the rocks for you. I am pro-ultramafic in theory but blocking a pipeline under construction or reducing aggregate demand however you can seems like a better use of resources..
        Energy spent on Carbon sequestration ‘solutions’ now is a diversion. First we need to stop burning fossil Carbon. All the hocus-pocus allows us to keep blathering about Carbon neutrality by 2050 instead of acting radically now.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > By artificially spiking a soil with fresh ground-up rock, you’re just feeding the soil weathering system with a fresh raw material.

      This is very helpful, and it sounds like my vague idea of storing carbon dynamically instead of statically might not be that far off.

    5. farmboy

      Let’s say alternative ag has looked at this for years. Issues are attendant toxic materials that nullify benefits, cost of transport, and cost of spreading. I’ve looked at using spent lime from a paper mill and ash from a coal plant. Similar analysis of any recycle material from chicken manure to natural peat deposits and resulting fulvic acids hinges on transport and material analysis. Agronomic benefits from rock dust are very real, especially in “farmed out” or spent soils. Good run down by Sub-Boreal. With temperate zones moving north, drying ag soils will hold less carbon from the reduction both microbial and plant life. Long horizon depleting or storing materials are very appropriate in the coming climate regime. Tracking benefits over time and who pays for the activity are merely crucial.

  15. Jason Boxman

    So I wonder if one factor involved in decreasing hospitalization numbers is the increasing number of deaths, in addition to the number of admissions falling? An unhappy thought.

  16. PlutoniumKun

    Scientists claim that overeating is not the primary cause of obesity” [Science Daily]

    This is a good case of a paradigm shift long after the science has changed. Contrary to popular belief there is very little evidence that people eat much more or exercise less than the 1960’s or 70’s. Its pretty clear that whatever is happening to raise obesity rates is mostly hormonal, and the most likely culprit is the processed food industry.

    I don’t know what other peoples experience are, but I’ve personally talked to doctors and nutrition experts who are entirely wedded to the ‘diet/exercise’ notion and are actively dismissive of low carb diets or ketogenic diets or fasting. One nutritionist I read recently declared that intermittent fasting was a form of eating disorder, which would have been news to Hippocrates.

    For what its worth, I did a bit of self experimentation a few years ago, trying different eating patterns and habits to see if I could get rid of some stubborn weight. A ketogenic diet was spectacularly successful at shedding weight without losing muscle, although I didn’t want to try long term. Regular fasting is easy, cheap and also extremely successful, with lots of evidence that it has major health benefits.

    1. David

      Yup, my first reaction was “what took them so long?” I’ve been on a high-fat low-carbohydrate diet for ten years, and my recent photos show me looking younger than I did then. In the first three months I lost 15 kilos, and I wasn’t greatly overweight to start with. I’ve stabilised at a very reasonable weight for some years. It’s clear that refined carbohydrates are the real culprits in weight-gain. I don’t follow a strict keto diet, and I don’t think you really need to, to get most of the benefits. Fasting helps detoxify the body, and I do it from time to time. I also have days when I eat all my meals in a relatively short period (8 hours for example).

      The good thing is that there are now masses of books, videos and internet sites by reputable experts who explain what to do and how to do it. The LCHF regime has been making steady progress in recent years among experts, and I suppose, if you wait long enough, even the conventional medicine establishment will catch up.

      1. curlydan

        I wish researchers would “name names” better when it comes to refined carbohydrates. I looked up “highly processed carbohydrates”, and white rice and white bread immediately pop up as the first examples.

        But how bad can white rice be if it’s a staple of Asian countries with very low obesity rates?

        Maybe if someone said “Funions”, “Cool Ranch Doritos”, “Coca Cola” or something like that, it would be more helpful.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Back in the 19th Century a Japanese physician called Takaki Kanehiro realised that the highly polished white rice beloved of sailors and the new Japanese urban middle classes was terrible for their health – it took decades for him to persuade the Navy to insist that sailors ate some whole grains.

            The key reason I think why white rice hasn’t caused problems in Asia is that traditionally most Asians would eat lots of vegetables, especially leafy greens with their rice. The Japanese too would often add a touch of vinegar, which can reduce insulin response. But of coruse diets are changing rapidly now all over Asia, and its not good news.

      2. Jason Boxman

        Wow, I put LCHF into Google and the first result has great visual aids showing carbs per 100 grams of food. This is awesome! You’ve changed my life! Now I don’t have to guess about vegetables! My love affair with carrots and beetroot is not completely wrong, only slightly misguided. And cauliflower is a big win. Awesome with olive oil, soy sauce, tumeric, paprika, pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste, roasted. Actually goes well with scrambled eggs mixed in, if you can imagine.

        (I need to throw away my new full size Belgian waffle maker, though.)

        NC really is the best!

      3. ilpalazzo

        I’ve been on LCHF for over twenty years. I wear the same pants size since HS.

        The next step is ditching soap and going water only :)

        (spoiler: it works).

    2. ChetG

      What one didn’t have in the 60s and 70s but which one has today is fast-food restaurants everywhere. That has to make a difference, and since they’re popular, the weight climb is, to my mind, understandable.

      I can give one other example: Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve lost about 15 pounds. The difference? My wife and I stopped eating at local restaurants (good food but perhaps large portions). In the end, I think eating less will make the largest difference.

      1. IM Doc

        Not only did they not have fast food restaurants everywhere in the 60s and 70s – but the big offender in the problem is sugared drinks.

        When I was a kid in the 1960s/1970s – the small drinks at fast food places were about the same size as a shot glass. The LARGE drinks back then were SMALLER than the small drinks are now. The large drinks now are actually often appearing to be 1 liter or more.

        That kind of liquid processed carb is absolutely hellacious – and millions of Americans do this to themselves daily.

        1. Wukchumni

          The real turning point was when fast food places introduced all-you-can-drink soda bars, help yourself to endless refills on that neighborhood gulp, so everybody did.

          This would have been around 1984…

        2. The Rev Kev

          From “Super Size Me”, a discussion how fast foods have been increased in sizes over the years-

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EV_Uvu_rYXM (2:56 mins)

          Those half-gallon cups were frightening. In that film, they talked to a couple who had them all the time and the guy blamed them for going temporarily blind when he went to work one night. They had to call the guy’s wife to come pick him up.

          An interesting exercise is to look at photos of people in the 60s and 70s and trying to find the grossly overweight in them. Hint – it would be easier trying to find Wally.

        3. Objective Ace

          How do we feel about sugarlose? I can’t help feeling like there’s no such thing as a “free lunch” as I drink a delicious “zero sugar” beverage with no carbohydrates

          1. PlutoniumKun

            There is some evidence that the body reacts to sweet flavours as if it is getting sugar. Not quite the same, but you get an insulin response. I’m not a doctor or biochemist, but from what I’ve read stevio is probably the least harmful of sweetners.

            I’ve found the website/youtube channel nutritionfacts.org a great source of information on lots of nutrition issues, so long as you take account of the heavy pro-vegan bias.

            For more detailed deep dives into health issues, foundmyfitness.com has really interesting information on things like fasting or particular nutrients, although according to my physician niece they tend to run a little too far with science that isn’t really settled.

      2. Jason Boxman

        Out here in small town western NC, the road right off the highway has a half dozen fast food restaurants. The line of cars at each is always impressive to behold. But the Chick-Fl-a(?) takes the top spot, with a two car drive through capacity sort of like a bank, with employees coming out and taking orders from those waiting in cars. Some days, cars backup the road waiting to get into the McDonalds. Two full size grocery stores sit not even 1,000 feet away.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > perhaps large portions

        American portion control is out of control. Apparently, French children learn portion control in school. This resonates with me, because I only learned to enjoy food relatively late in life, when I moved to Montreal (where, for example, vegetables have equal status with meat at many fine restaurants; the concept of “sides” was alien.

        Whenever I would cross the border back into the imperial heartland, the grotesque levels of obesity in America were stunning. And please don’t deploy “fat shaming” on me, this is a population-level problem.

    3. Basil Pesto

      I tried the calories in/out thing in my early 20s and it worked pretty dramatically but, of course, I lapsed. This is very interesting though. The problem is, I bloody love carbs and eating generally :’(

      1. Jason Boxman

        This worked wonders for me as I lost 30 pounds, but the extreme misery I’ve never again been able to quite tolerate. I again succeeded at the onset of the pandemic, but eventually gained it all back.

    4. KLG

      Bullet point summary, based on a Grand Rounds in Internal Medicine presentation I did two years ago:
      1. A famous physiologist starts making shit up about the danger of dietary fat in the 1950s. He received a federal grant to show that fat was bad and those are the results he got. Imagine that.

      2. Fat and by extension cholesterol are fully demonized throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s as the Diet-Heart Hypothesis becomes dogma. Dwight Eisenhower lives out his last 15 years on a miserable melba toast diet and still dies of a heart attack IIRC. A frowning bacon and egg face appears on the cover of Time.

      3. By the 1970s healthy fat and protein calories were replaced by (mostly) refined carbohydrates as the Great American Food System takes over, completely.

      4. The Obesity Epidemic and Metabolic Syndrome ensue, because…

      5. Insulin is an anabolic hormone.

      6. Because of insulin, all that sugar (doesn’t matter if it’s whole-grain bread or Frosted Flakes) is converted into fat and stored. Slowly but surely we became a nation in which the “most popular by sales” sizes of golf shirts in the US are XL and XXL, according to my nonscientific survey of golf professionals. 30% of Americans (wild ass guess based on simple observation) have metabolic syndrome and/or Type 2 diabetes, sometimes as young as 10 years old.

      7. The PMC blamed the Deplorables for their bad habits. Once and forever.

      8. Here we are. The typical American Tourist Couple in Florence can be identified from 500 yards as they sit on their asses on the low ledge of Palazzo Medici Riccardi waiting for the bus to take them to the Duomo, about a 400-yard, 4-minute walk down the street, seen but barely believed with my own eyes.

      9. In 2015 the USDA states that they will have no further advice on dietary cholesterol because (paraphrase) there are no data showing that consumption of cholesterol is a dietary problem, period. This announcement is not featured on the cover of Time. Imagine that. Deplorables are still blamed for their problems.

      At the end of my talk entitled “What if Medicine Were Taught Like a Science,” which was well received by a gaggle of internists, one of them told me that they would still be sending their heart patients home with a statin prescription and advice to continue eating the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet that put them in the hospital. And to count their calories and exercise! Even though that works only for Tour de France cyclists and Olympic swimmers and the like. A colleague has a grant to determine if obese women in rural Georgia can become non-obese by exercising more while eating less of the same crap. Actually, no. Not unless they eventually run regularly in marathons.

      See the books by Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz for excellent treatment of this sordid history.

      And like others here, in a experiment of n = 1, I changed to a low-carb, high-protein/fat diet and lost 25 pounds without ever being hungry (195–>170). Blood pressure and resting pulse are the same as when I was 18, in 1973. Can still walk 18 holes and carry my clubs in a Georgia summer while everyone else pays $24 each (+tax) to ride in a cart and work on that heart attack.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Thanks for that comment KLG. Was watching a doco about this episode of American medicine, particularly that ‘famous physiologist’ that you referred to. Didn’t he once say that ‘Coca-Cola was “a healthy between-meals snack”? It made out that it was when Eisenhower had his heart attack in ’55 that medicine, under the influence of corporate interests, decided that sugar had no part to play in being a problem in American diet but that fat was and that calories should be counted. And it has been downhill ever since


      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > show that fat was bad

        My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness and my mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips. –Psalms 63:5

        For a long time, I was on a diet of steak (with fat along the edge) plus cracked pepper plus good red wine. Period. (Organic steak from an Amish farm at the Reading Terminal Market.) No suffering involved there!

        I certainly didn’t have metabolic syndrome then. Now I do, mostly due to the “lockdown twenty.” I find the anecdotes here encouraging (especially as they don’t recommend going to the gym, which I find a form of physical self-display, and hence repugnant, or walking x miles a day, which I do not have time to do, unless I can master some form of street photography, which goes against the grain for me). Sigh.

      3. eg

        Not too long ago there was a discovery of a trove of documents which definitively reveal that Big Sugar was playing the same game as Big Tobacco all those years ago.

        Big Pharma is in on it too — the better to push moar drugs.

        The love of my life is a carb addict. It’s difficult to watch her struggle with the inevitable weight problems that causes, and it makes it more difficult for me to stay disciplined. As addicts do, she is scornful of attempts to enlighten her about the metabolic consequences of her poison of choice.

        Our son’s habits also worry me.

    1. Martin Oline

      I will take a wait and see position because I prefer to use Linux. This is from the site: Available in configurations with Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro, we’ve also tested for compatibility with common Linux distributions and will be publishing guides on using them. I would have to ensure the wireless system was compatible.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        From the site, you can customize most (every?) aspect of your laptop, and that includes Linux instead of Windows.

        Of course, you could always just blow away Windows and install Linux.

        As to wireless, I can’t speak, except to say that installation must be easier today than it was back when WiFi was introduced, and you had to understand the Great Runes to get Linux to recognize your card. (I ran it on a Sony Vaio, a neat little little machine, the one that got bricked on 9/11.)

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      From a first glance it looks to be tuned for Linux. Hardware issues are the remaining problem with the recent systems when you try convert a computer.

      I’m using a linux Mint box I got from a build-it-for-linux shop online. Really great. There are a few things I’ve had to tweak but the next time I have to think about upgrading the system is 2023. Then about 2028.

      Meanwhile I’ve got a sweet white 07 MacBook with an SSD and Mint that I can’t figure out a use for. So laptop isn’t such a breakthrough for me.

  17. Cuibono

    revenge sleep procrastination? I suffer from its opposite. 9 PM rolls around and no matter what i book or show beckons zzzzzz

  18. Ranger Rick

    I’d like to think that it’s fairly well-known by this point how much better US fast food restaurants are as soon as you cross an ocean. McDonalds Japan, for example, enjoys a reputation as a decent restaurant, employer and hangout spot that would shock the average patron here in the States accustomed to how that business treats its food, workers and customers.

    1. Acacia

      It does seem that the usual McDonalds in Japan isn’t surrounded by the same “oil stench cloud” one encounters with the US branch, but there is so much better food available in Japan — including burgers — that Micky D’s is a sad and puzzling choice.

  19. Jeff N

    On the “area of concern continuum” map for 20SEP, the county that turned red in northeast WI is Oneida County. 2010 population around 36k.
    Rhinelander its biggest city, and three small fishing-vacation destinations in Pelican Lake, Three Lakes, and Clearwater Lake.

    If the county to its north (Vilas) turns red, that would point to tourists contributing to the problem.

    1. rswojo

      Forest county should be red too. Crandon Brush Run Labor Day weekend. 30,000 in attendance in a very small town. Last weekend was the Tomahawk Fall Ride, a mini Sturgis. Northern and central Wisconsin will soon be covid hot spots. Sucks because it was very quiet concerning covid for a while around here. It is already picking up due to Crandon but in 2 weeks it will be really, really bad.

      Forest county is the source for now.

      My view from Lincoln county.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > If the county to its north (Vilas) turns red, that would point to tourists contributing to the problem.

      I really, really like that readers are reporting on their individual counties. (Note that a tourist area might be incentivized to suppress numbers.)

      Please keep up the good work!

  20. bassmule

    Speaking of the arbitrary CDC, a query: On August 27, with a story on the lack of organized data-gathering hindering COVID research, the New York Times brought on Zeynep Tufecki. Not a word since. None that I know about, anyway, except she’s quoting Helen Branswell on the Twitter.

    Show Me The Data (NY Times)

  21. flora

    Fascinating discussion about mass psychology. utube, ~ 1hr. 14minutes.

    ‘Mattias Desmet, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Ghent University in Belgium, and his observations over the past 18 months have led him to conclude that the overwhelming majority have indeed fallen under a kind of spell.’


    1. ProudWappie

      I’ve seen a number of discussions with him on a Dutch channel, and he has made some good points there as well, already last year. I think this got him, or a fellow Flemish critic, into trouble with his employer, as in being fired.

      This makes it clear, that fear is being used to push measures, which politicians would never have dared to put on the table otherwise, like the Covid passports, which are currently rolled out across Europe. And that a significant number of people have been so caught by that fear, that they willingly go along with these measures.

  22. Wukchumni

    George Durkee who was author of this piece which I heartily agree with, was a backcountry ranger for 45 years, and is legendary…

    Walking among the Giant Sequoia forests of the west slope of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, visitors are struck by the peace and sense of profound age surrounding us. Many of these trees live to over 3,000 years old – the so-called Monarchs – and have survived extensive droughts, fire, the Little Ice Age, floods, and now, the greatest potential threat to their continued existence, modern humans.

    There is now a fire burning on the slopes below one of the largest groves of Giant Sequoia at Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. Many press reports are understandably concerned that this fire – and others – can wipe out these iconic trees as fire spreads through the groves. Using sometimes overheated prose, they describe fire as possibly devouring the groves. Unquestionably, fires are often dangerous and even tragic but it is important that, in this new fire regime, we begin to put all fires in perspective and use them more wisely

    In the sequoia groves of our national parks (Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon) though, there is hope that the long-time fuel treatments of the Giant Forest Groves will prevent any significant mortality of large trees, should this or future fires get that far.


    1. Ghost in the Machine

      Thank you for this. I visited Sequoia national Park when I was a child with my parents and I took my kids in 2017. It is a very special place.

  23. Henry Moon Pie

    Rocking the soil–

    You’re right, Lambert. Soil carbon isn’t static. It’s dynamic. And contrary to the proposed chemical approach, soil carbon is part of a complex, biological process. Gabe Brown explains:

    Plants transform these sugars into a wide array of other compounds. Many of these compounds are used by the plant for growth, however, a significant amount of them are transferred to the root tips where they are “leaked” into the soil as root exudates.

    Why would a plant leak those exudates …into the soil? To feed microbes, of course! A myriad of lifeforms use liquid carbon as a food source. The plants, in return, benefit from the nutrients released from the soil and transferred to their roots. Consider that 95 percent of life on land resides in the soil, and you’ll understand how important this relationship is…

    Some forms of organic carbon, such as crop residues, animal manures, or compost, can be spread on the soil’s surface. These visible materials (called organic matter) have many physical benefits, but they eventually decompose, producing carbon dioxide. Root exudates, on the other hand, are key to soil building, because they are the main source of carbon for microbial communities deep in the soil profile. Microbes supported by root exudates are essential to the production of humus, a highly stable and long-lived form or organic carbon with high cation-exchange and high water holding capacity.

    Gabe Brown, Dirt to Soil, p. 45.

      1. Henry Moon Pie


        I found this link that leads to another download link. I didn’t try that second link because I’m a little wary, but it doesn’t look obviously risky.

        I received a free copy by virtue of being enrolled in the second “semester” of the Common Earth course.

  24. The Rev Kev

    “The chair of the House’s Jan. 6 investigation hopes to wrap up by “early spring” of next year. That’s a tall order.”

    Wouldn’t it suit the Republicans to have this going all through next year in the lead up to the 2022 midterms? They could point to it and say how the Democrats are using it to punish all Republicans that cross them. And if Republicans want payback, that they should go to the polls in force and ‘take back the country’ or some such rubbish. And I think that they will do it too.

      1. Basil Pesto

        never experienced anything like it. it was kinda cool tbh (nobody seems to have been injured, thankfully. just some scattered property damage). Funny as well how, in my building, we all went on to our balconies after it happened like “wtf was that?”. I reckon it would’ve come in at about a IV on the ol mercalli scale

  25. drumlin woodchuckles

    Ran Prieur has written about an experimental new search engine which is text-heavy and is trying to avoid some of the crap-nastiness of the mainstream search-obstruction engines of today.

    Perhaps some search enginologists might want to look at it and see what they think. Here is the link.


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Hmm. I tried “reserve currency” and got some unusual results. I’m not against unusual results on principle, but I have to question what their crawler has been collecting. Then I tried “Michael Hudson.” Also unusual. YMMV.

      The About page says it’s optimized for serendipity. Interesting approach. So I tried “constant capital.”

      Not a workhorse, but doesn’t claim to be. I searched on “Ivermection” and found nothing from medRxiv on the front page. I think the algo overvalues fringe.

  26. Brunches with Cats

    > Apple aims for algorithms that work on users’ devices and don’t send the data to Apple servers, the documents show.” • Er, what about paranoia?

    Not sure fearing they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn qualifies as paranoia.

  27. Anti-Propaganda Panda


    Not an actual thing in the real world. You should probably re-read, or just read for the first time, The Mueller Report.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Unfortunately, in politics as in fantasy, one must often give names to things that exist only in the imagination. “Excalibur is a sharp blade” is, in fact, a meaningful sentence. Does this help?

  28. Anthony K Wikrent

    United States housing starts at 1.615 million units is where the US economy was in the 1960s, when total population was just passing 180 million people, compared to 330 million today. Avoiding per capita or per household comparisons over time is the foremost way elites and their toady economists hide the post-industrial collapse of the USA economy.

    Similarly, retail sales of new cars and trucks of around 16 million is where the US economy was in the 1970s. Add the consideration that we should be replacing internal combustion engines with electric motors as quickly as possible, and new vehicle sales should be perhaps triple or even quadruple what they are now. But the physical manufacturing capacity — for vehicles, steel, glass, plastic, components, machine tools, robots — etc. for that level probably does not exist.

    I have long thought that Congresspeople on their game would do well to grill USA corporate executives about how much larger their sales might be if the execs abandoned their stupid anti-labor ideas and allowed the entire USA population to fully participate in the economy, instead of limiting themselves to Citibank’s plutonomy.

  29. Grateful Dude

    Catching up days later: On “Because that’s all AI can do! ”

    That’s Machine-Learning AI of which you speak. AI was originally called heuristic programming at the MIT Computation Lab – IIRC, I’m getting on a bit. That’s a mixed bag of techniques and algorithms that together mimic human behavior. Robots were the favored target – I got my MS in AI in ’84.

    Subsequently in my career I trained in computational semantics: how do we capture, filter, transform, transmit, and format information so that it’s more meaningful than we can reason through: human-configured logic as rules reasoning over ontological data models stored as knowledge graphs.
    This evolved from the still-flourishing AI we used to call Expert Systems, now folded into the Knowledge Graphs that are used by the social media companies, NSA and their ilk, to collect information about everybody and then target advertising and/or find “persons of interest”… . There isn’t a whole lot of maybe in monotonic common logic, just true or false.

    Deep Learning – juiced up neural nets, can solve a lot of discreet problems where there is a lot of data, and can coax systems closer to optimal where human eyes and minds can’t easily get in, is not just maybe, but very hard to verify. DL also can improve itself over time by learning on the fly as data is digested. So there’s that.

    To get to robotic cargo vehicles will require controlled roads in the spirit of our noble and neglected railroads, probably without human drivers anywhere near who could die when a robot fails. Even sharing a right -of-way with an 80+ ft 100 ton vehicle at 80 mph is very scary.

    All of this could be better used to support our civilization, but these days, it seems, everybody just wants to cash out and move to New Zealand or Montana or some other isolated place distinctly separate from us commoners where they can try to survive with money in big houses. I’m going to find a respite at about 7000 ft, with lots of water and neighbors who have survived near there for a couple of thousand years, and close enough to the ocean and some rivers where I can refresh myself in the heat.

    I’d really like to use equine transportation. A day’s ride on a horse with a mule or two for groceries is just so appealing. I could go out that way.

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