2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

More soon. –lambert UPDATE All done!

Bird Song of the Day

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

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. Anecdotes aside, we ought to be seeing some pop soon from measures taken after Biden’s speech, which was given September 9.

55% 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.)

“New York hospitals brace for mass staff shortages as vaccine deadline looms” [The Hill]. “Maxine Carrington, the personnel chief for Northwell Health, said she has had personal conversations with each staff member who is not vaccinated in order to try to increase vaccinations. “I’ve had personal conversations with team members, and I was asked by one: ‘Are you really going to fire us on the 27th?’ And I said, ‘let’s put that aside for a minute and let’s talk about saving your life. Why don’t you want to get vaccinated?'” Carrington said.” • Did Carrington’s approach work? I assume not, since she doesn’t say.

Case count by United States regions:

Simply tape-watching, this descent is as steep as any of the three peaks in November–January. The question is whether we will ascend to a second (or third) peak, as in last December-January, or not, as in last August. Note also that the regions diverge: The South, which drove the peak, is finally dropping. The West was choppy too, and is now falling. However, all this drama has masked the steady rise in the Northeast and Midwest.

We could get lucky, as we did with the steep drop after the second week in January, which nobody knows the reasons for, then or now. Today’s populations are different, though. This population 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.

NEW From CDC: “Community Profile Report September 23, 2021” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties, this release:

Status quo. Speculating freely: One thing the consider is where the red is. If air travel hubs like New York City or Los Angeles (or Houston or Miami) go red that could mean (a) international travel and (b) the rest of the country goes red, as in April 2020 and following. But Minnesota is not a hub. If Minnesota goes red, who else does? Well, Wisconsin. As we see. 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). Everything works again today, CDC, good job:

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

Alabama now headed down, fortunately. Things are picking up in the Northern latitudes (note the up arrows in Wisconsin and Minnesota). From this chart, pediatric hospitalization, in the aggregate, is down. I should dig out some regional or better yet county data.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 703,043 699,853. Passing the 700,000 mark, a special day. A little blip down, mercifully. 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.)

From the Financial Times, this handy map of all-cause (not just Covid) deaths:

Covid cases worldwide:

European 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

Biden Administration

“Biden: Negotiations over economic agenda at a ‘stalemate'” [The Hill]. “Biden said the negotiations over his agenda are at a ‘stalemate,’ conveying less optimism than the White House conveyed earlier this week following Wednesday’s meetings. ‘Now we’re at this stalemate at the moment and we’re going to have to get these two pieces of legislation passed, both need to be passed,’ Biden said. The president said on Friday that his meetings with lawmakers involved him trying to get them to focus on what provisions they want in the reconciliation package, as opposed to the top-line revenue number. ‘Forget a number, what do you think we should be doing?’ he said. ‘Some of them, when they go through their priorities, it adds up to a number higher than they said they were for.'” • Biden, in other words, is asking the old question: “What do you want?” (A road, a post office, a defense contract, something for the district. Now that we have earmarks back, this is an easy question to ask, and to answer.) However, the grudge match between the “moderates” and the “progressives” is focused on the top line (which, given that it’s spread out over ten years, is important symbolically, but not so much pragmatically). And the “progressives,” correctly, see the existing $3.5 trillion top line as already a compromise. And the grudge match is the point of the exercise. It would be nice if, for once, the “progressives” didn’t cave. We’ll see!

UPDATE “Biden Can Transfer mRNA Technology and Leave the Legal Burdens with Moderna and Pfizer” [CEPR]. “‘Biden administration officials say that forcing the companies to act is not as simple as it sounds, and that an effort to compel them to share their technology would invariably lead to a drawn-out legal battle, which would be counterproductive.’ Actually, it should be possible to reverse the legal burden. Biden could offer to cover the legal expenses, and any subsequent damages, resulting from lawsuits by Moderna and Pfizer against former engineers for sharing their expertise with companies in the developing world or in other wealthy countries. These engineers have all signed nondisclosure agreements, which they would likely be violating by sharing this information. However, if they shared the information first, knowing that they would be protected, Moderna and Pfizer could do nothing to prevent the technology transfer. (If they were sharing the technology with another manufacturer in the United States, these companies could probably get an injunction requiring that they stop, which would expose them to criminal sanctions if they continued. But, US courts would have difficulty imposing an injunction against actions taken in another country.) In short, the Biden administration could find ways around the legal weapons that Moderna and Pfizer might use to block the transfer of the technology they use to produce mRNA vaccines.” • Interesting! International solidarity by engineers. I wonder how many it would take…

UPDATE “1st Florida school district gets US cash for virus mask vote” [Associated Press]. ” Florida school district has received cash from President Joe Biden’s administration to make up for state pay cuts imposed over a board’s vote for a student anti-coronavirus mask mandate. Alachua County school Superintendent Carlee Simon said in a news release Thursday the district has received $148,000 through a U.S. Department of Education program. Simon says Alachua, where Gainesville and the University of Florida are located, is the first district in the nation to receive such a grant. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials have begun cutting salaries paid to school board members in Florida who voted to require masks for students. DeSantis favors allowing parents to decide whether their children wear face coverings and is in the midst of court battles over this broader issue.” • That was fast!

Republican Funhouse

“Hand count in Arizona (again) affirms Biden won 2020 election, draft version of audit report says” [USA Today]. • Amazing outcome, especially from a faction that is said to be staging a coup. Apparently the story was broken by a blog. This one?

“We got the Senate audit report” [Arizona Agenda]. “The Arizona Senate is set to release its report on the Maricopa County 2020 election audit tomorrow, but we got our hands on a copy early…. There are allegedly multiple draft copies floating around among the local and national press corps, including, we hear, separate drafts with different verbiage. (The copies we have are clearly drafts, as they include wrong page numbers, missing pages and watermarks declaring them draft copies.) But the different drafts we’ve heard about all come to the same conclusion: Joe Biden won Arizona. Except the report doesn’t explicitly say he won. Instead, it claims the hand recount shows Biden got more votes than Donald Trump (what is democracy if not the person with the most votes won?), while continuing to throw out unfounded accusations of various nefarious acts. In fact, the audit claims Biden actually won with a larger margin than the county had previously tallied.”

UPDATE “Two new reports of Trump cheating attempts show why the ‘Electoral Count Act’ needs an overhaul” [Washington Examiner]. A very level-headed summary. “Before explaining why the ECA needs a complete overhaul, consider the two new stories. First, the New York Times reported the Trump campaign already knew it was hogwash when it held a press conference alleging a voting machine company worked with radical financier George Soros and communist Venezuela to steal the presidential contest. The campaign pushed the conspiracy theory anyway. The obvious goal was to create confusion and distrust widespread enough that former President Donald Trump could convince state legislatures, or eventually the vice president, to somehow overturn the election results. When legislatures didn’t comply, Trump turned his fire on his own vice president, Mike Pence. The second new story shows the lengths to which the president and a heretofore respected attorney went to convince Pence, on his own authority, to reject the outcome determined by 158,383,403 voters. Lawyer John Eastman wrote a six-point memo outlining a procedure whereby, he argued, Pence could unilaterally declare that because seven different states had presented two competing slates of presidential electors (itself a highly misleading claim), he would declare the states had submitted no ‘valid’ slates at all — meaning Biden lacked an electoral majority.” And: “This leads us back to the Electoral Count Act . The reason those remote possibilities existed even in Eastman’s convoluted, theoretical form is that the ECA is so cumbersome and poorly written. One top modern legal scholar wrote that ‘the law invites misrepresentation’ and ‘is turgid and repetitious. Its central provisions seem contradictory.’ A top scholar near the time it was written called it ‘very confused, almost unintelligible.’ It is the ECA whose so-called ‘safe harbor’ terms determined the disputed 2000 Bush-Gore presidential election, and it is the ECA that sets up a highly elaborate procedure describing how Congress should react if a dispute exists about the validity of each state’s electoral slate. The Rube Goldberg-like interplay between the ECA and the 12th Amendment, and questions about the ECA’s own constitutionality, are what create the muddle Eastman wanted to exploit. Congress should revisit the ECA. Because there is no way to know which party in the future might benefit, or suffer, from the ECA’s confusion, it is in both parties’ interest to pare down its processes and to describe them in plainer English.” • Important!

Democrats en Deshabille

But the fundraising:

Realignment and Legitimacy


The audience sitting, all embarrassed at the norms violation:

Bush makes Trump look like a piker. But he gave Michelle candy!

Stats Watch

Housing: “United States New Home Sales” [Trading Economics]. “New home sales in the US jumped 1.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 740K in August of 2021, following a big upward revision to 729K in July, and beating market forecasts of 714K. It is the highest reading in four months with sales jumping the most in the Northeast (26.1%), the South (6%) and the West (1.4%) while falling in the Midwest (-31.1%). ”

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Capital: “Supply Chain Delays Drag Cutting-Tool Orders” [American Machinist]. “Because cutting tools are required in the production of a wide variety of parts and components supplied to a range of industrial sectors, cutting-tool consumption is taken as an index of current manufacturing activity, comparable to shipments of durable goods…. New orders for cutting tools remain strong versus the pandemic period, but demand is stalling due to manufacturing outages linked to supply disruptions, labor shortages, and more.” • Handy chart:

Shipping: “LOIs – worth more than the paper they’re printed on?” [Hellenic Shipping News]. “Skuld recognizes a noticeable rise in the use of Letters of Indemnity in day-to-day operations in the industry, and, consequently, a great rise in the number of queries from our mutual members and assureds seeking Skuld advice or assurances on the drafted language. Skuld is always prepared to address these queries on a case-by-case basis, but in the meantime wishes to provide some reminders hopefully far in advance of parties needing to resolve a commercial dispute at a final hour. An LOI provides the very practical function of allowing one party on an ad hoc basis to take on specified risk(s) in performing a particular operation or set of operations involving risks that he or she may not otherwise be legally obligated to bear. The parties in the most ideal circumstances can continue to enjoy a cooperative commercial relationship with this promise of indemnity memorialized in a legally enforceable writing.” •This seems like a leading indicator of some sort. Shipping mavens?

The Bezzle: “China Bans Crypto Transactions, Vows to Stop Illegal Mining” [Bloomberg]. • That’s a damn shame.

The Bezzle: “Crypto Exchange Lawyer Braces for Wall Street-Style Regulation” [Bloomberg]. • As opposed to CCP-style regulation?

Tech: “A decade of the Tim Cook machine” [Benedict Evans]. “Every year, with metronomic precision, [Apple] delivers another new set of hardware and software, and another set of technology building blocks that fit into a decade-long strategic plan. Never mind Apple in the 1990s — Microsoft in the 1990s could never manage this. Every year a whole new phone arrives, exactly on schedule, keeping or leading the pace for the entire industry, and then ships in the hundreds of millions of units, machined out of aluminium and stainless steel, at a 40 per cent gross margin. This is very hard… But where’s the next Jesusphone? One answer is that Apple now has two very big projects — glasses and cars. A pair of glasses that become a display, and add things to the world that look real, seems worth trying — it might be the next universal device after smartphones, and Apple’s skills should put it at the forefront. But people have been trying for a long time: there are basic, unsolved optics problems, and we don’t know if Apple has the answer, or when it might. Apple Glasses might launch next week, or next summer, or never. Cars are a puzzle as well. Apple might design a better Tesla (and build one, with its $207bn of cash), but what problem would that solve? The iPhone wasn’t a better BlackBerry. Autonomous driving is a big problem, but is it an Apple kind of problem? Why would Apple solve a primary machine learning problem when Alphabet can’t?”

Labor Market: Hilton to make room cleaning optional:

That’s disgusting in so many ways. And a tip of the hat to AirBnB, for inventing the unregulated hotel business!

The Fed: “Have Consumers’ Long-Run Inflation Expectations Become Un-Anchored?” [Liberty Street Economics]. “With the recent surge in inflation since the spring there has been an increase in consumers’ short-run (one-year ahead) and, to a lesser extent, medium-run (three-year ahead) inflation expectations (see Survey of Consumer Expectations). Although this rise in short- and medium-run inflation expectations is relevant for policymakers, it does not provide direct evidence about “un-anchoring” of long-run inflation expectations. Roughly speaking, inflation expectations are considered un-anchored when long-run inflation expectations change significantly in response to developments in inflation or other economic variables, and begin to move away from levels consistent with the central bank’s (implicit or explicit) inflation objective. In that case, actual inflation can become unmoored and risks drifting persistently away from the central bank’s objective. Well-anchored long-run inflation expectations therefore represent an important measure of the success of monetary policy. In this post, we look at the current anchoring of consumers’ long-run inflation expectations using novel data from the Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE). Our results suggest that in August 2021 consumers’ five-year ahead inflation expectations were as well anchored as they were two years ago, before the start of the pandemic.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 32 Fear (previous close: 31 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 34 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 23 at 12:30pm.

Health Care

“Breaking: CDC endorses boosters for majority of Americans.” [Inside Medicine]. “Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend boosters for Pfizer recipients ages 65 and older, echoing the FDA panel vote last week. But CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on that and more this evening. Based on Dr. Walensky’s decision, the CDC has now expanded booster recommendations well beyond the initial recommendations of both the FDA and even the CDC’s own advisory committee’s votes. Per the decision memo, people ages 50-64 with underlying medical conditions should (not “may”) receive a Pfizer booster at least 6 months after the primary series. Walensky also rubber-stamped boosters for people ages 18-49 with underlying medical conditions, but that recommendation was less emphatic; such persons may receive a booster based on their individual risks and benefits. Most newsworthy is that it appears that Dr. Walensky has overridden one of the ACIP votes. The committee voted 9 to 6 against a proposal to allow boosters for adults ages 18-64 with ‘increased risk for Covid-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting’ after 6 months. But the CDC announcement went the other way, stating that individuals in this group ‘may receive a booster shot…based on their individual benefits and risks.” • Since in a pandemic we risk ruin as the contagion multiplies exponentially, I believe that Taleb would approve of going beyond “the science,” as Walensky has done. (The ethics of coercion are another matter, and neither “should” or “must” are the same as “shall.”) However, I think Taleb would not look with favor on our fundamental strategy of putting all our chips on vaccines. I think Taleb, facing ruin, would hedge, which is the exact opposite of what we have done. Vax vax vax! Taleb mavens please correct.

“Ivermectin Advocates Push Online for Using Unproven Covid Drug” [Bloomberg]. “When asked why the FDA and CDC warned against ivermectin, Moring said it comes down to money. She pointed to the $3.2 billion the administration is devoting to developing new antivirals. ‘But we already have one. It’s just that there’s no money in it,’ Moring said, echoing a common conspiracy theory that the government is working with big pharma companies to maximize profits. ‘Ivermectin is about as cheap as it comes.'”” • Wowsers, cray cray. (Read the whole piece for Moring’s views on public health, which I vehemently oppose.) Do note, however, that immediately above we have Walensky going beyond the science just as much as the most fervent Ivermectin advocate would. So it’s really, as Lenin said long ago, a question of “Who, Whom.” Who will control the science for whom?

“Male life expectancy in UK drops for first time in 40 years as Covid takes toll” [Guardian]. “Life expectancy for men in the UK has fallen for the first time since current records began 40 years ago because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show…. Estimates for females are broadly unchanged, with a girl born in 2018-20 likely to live for 82.9 years, the same as in 2015-17.” • Everything’s going according to plan!

“An appeal for an objective, open, and transparent scientific debate about the origin of SARS-CoV-2” [The Lancet]. “The fact that the causative agent of COVID-19 descends from a natural virus is widely accepted, but this does not explain how it came to infect humans. The question of the proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2—ie, the final virus and host before passage to humans—was expressly addressed in only one highly cited opinion piece, which supports the natural origin hypothesis.” • I don’t think that’s a question that can be answered, starting with geopolitics. Absent such proof, lab theorists must argue from characteristics of the virus itself, which come down to the argument that “a design must have a designer” (recognizable in other contexts as the Watchmaker Hypothesis beloved of anti-evolution loons). So in my view, the burden of proof lies with the lab theorists; it took us decades to trace the origin of HIV, for example (also originally thought to have a lab origin).

“USA Risk Estimates By County” [COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool]. “Funding: Ongoing support for the project is via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” • Interesting tool. But:

A risk assessment tool for events that does not take ventilation into account is both conceptually flawed and morally vacuous, in that it may encourage people to enter venues without assessing ventilation risk. (It treats two venues in the same county as equivalent based on floor space (!!)). It’s not impossible that CDC’s funding influenced this design decision.

UPDATE “Biosimilar Drugs Are Cheaper Than Biologics. Are They Similar Enough to Switch?” [Kaiser Health News]. “Many medical professionals look to biosimilar drugs [definition] as a way to increase competition and give consumers cheaper options, much as generic drugs do, and they point to the more robust use of these products in Europe to cut costs. Yet the U.S. has been slower to adopt biosimilar drugs since the first such medicine was approved in 2015. That’s partly because of concerns raised by patients like Moxley and their doctors, but also because brand-name biologics have kept biosimilars from entering the market. The companies behind the brand-name drugs have used legal actions to extend the life of their patents and incentives that make offering the brand biologic more attractive than offering a biosimilar on a formulary, listing which drugs are covered on an insurance plan. ‘It distorts the market and makes it so that patients can’t get access,’ said Dr. Jinoos Yazdany, a professor of medicine and chief of the rheumatology division at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.”

Household Tips

“How to navigate FEMA aid: Advice from a former employee” [Southerly]. “Patricia Stukes worked for FEMA for over a decade, from late 1995 through 2006 – a year after Hurricane Katrina made landfall. She took registrations, answered the helpline, and administered appeals. A native of New Orleans, she is now an assistant professor at Texas Women’s University in Denton, where she teaches women’s studies and sociology often through the lens of disasters. Following Hurricanes Laura and Delta last year, she provided volunteer casework for people navigating FEMA assistance in southwest Louisiana through the Disaster Justice Network. Since Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana over three weeks ago, Southerly has been gathering readers’ questions about FEMA, and posing them to Stukes for guidance. Here is what we’ve learned.” • If you are, or think you may one day be, in a situation where you’re dealing with FEMA, this looks like an excellent guide.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Why the Term ‘JEDI’ Is Problematic for Describing Programs That Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” [Scientific American]. “The acronym “JEDI” has become a popular term for branding academic committees and labeling STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) initiatives focused on social justice issues. Used in this context, JEDI stands for “justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.” In recent years, this acronym has been employed by a growing number of prominent institutions and organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. At first glance, JEDI may simply appear to be an elegant way to explicitly build “justice” into the more common formula of “DEI” (an abbreviation for “diversity, equity and inclusion”), productively shifting our ethical focus in the process. JEDI has these important affordances but also inherits another notable set of meanings: It shares a name with the superheroic protagonists of the science fiction Star Wars franchise, the “Jedi.” Within the narrative world of Star Wars, to be a member of the Jedi is seemingly to be a paragon of goodness, a principled guardian of order and protector of the innocent. This set of pop cultural associations is one that some JEDI initiatives and advocates explicitly allude to. Whether intentionally or not, the labels we choose for our justice-oriented initiatives open them up to a broader universe of associations, branding them with meaning—and, in the case of JEDI, binding them to consumer brands. Through its connections to Star Wars, the name JEDI can inadvertently associate our justice work with stories and stereotypes that are a galaxy far, far away from the values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. The question we must ask is whether the conversations started by these connections are the ones that we want to have.” • Help me. (Interesting use of “affordance,” however. I have previously seen it used only for user interface features in GUIs. Perhaps that’s how we are to think of language now. (A very bad idea, since irony, say, is not within the purview of the affordance model.)

Groves of Academe

“Why College Professors Have Had Enough” [Slate]. “Lindsay Ellis, a reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education, put out a call a little while ago for university employees who were looking to quit their jobs. She couldn’t believe the response. “There was a lot of anger, there was a lot of fear, and there was a lot of sadness. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my inbox like that,” Ellis says. “The last 18 months have left a lot of college employees feeling, frankly, disillusioned with the work that they do and unsure of whether the leaders of these institutions are going to sufficiently have their backs in in a pandemic.” • Allowing university administrators to think of themselves as leaders (which sounds better, as the old joke goes, in the original German) has been fantastically destructive to the ideal of the university.

Police State Watch

“Other than prison, electronic monitoring is ‘the most restrictive form’ of control, research finds” [NBC]. “In the past 18 months, as the judicial system has increasingly used electronic monitoring instead of prisons to monitor inmates through the coronavirus pandemic, newly released data confirm what activists and advocates have long argued: Ankle monitors are onerous, and they often subject wearers to vague rules, like avoiding people of ‘disreputable character.’ The ankle monitoring business, the research found, is also dominated by four profit-seeking companies, and it ultimately could drive more people back to prison.” • So ankle monitors are perfect in every way? I’d go long. Oh, and: “Crucially, wearers must pay both one-time and ongoing fees for the monitors, which can be $25 to over $8,000 a year.” Rents, wherever you work. Say, why don’t we just make everybody wear an ankle monitor? The default setting would, naturally, be off, but the monitor could be selectively turned on, remotely.

“Government seizes billions in cash from air travelers without ever filing a criminal charge” [FOX46]. ” Records obtained from the Department of Homeland Security’s Freedom of Information Act library show 30,670 cash seizures happened inside the nation’s airports between 2000 and 2016. The data was made public after the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm based in Washington DC, sued the government for the records in 2016…. Between 2000 and 2016, the government’s seized at least $1.8 billion from people in airports across the country. That total does not include the past five years of forfeiture data DHS has not yet produced in response to a FOX 46 FOIA request.” • You should read the story for the appalling detail. Civil asset forfeiture is very suitable for, say, the Tatmadaw. More:

See at 1:19. Paraphrasing: “Let us keep the money and you’re free to go.” This is what happens to some backpacker at a customs check somewhere in the Third World.

Our Famously Free Press

UPDATE “Federal arrest warrant issued for Brian Laundrie in Gabby Petito investigation” [NBC]. “A federal court in Wyoming has issued an arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie in relation to a grand jury indictment for his ‘activities following the death of Gabrielle Petito,’ the FBI announced Thursday. ‘We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie’s role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI,’ Special Agent Michael Schneider wrote in a statement. The FBI alleges that Laundrie ‘knowingly and with intent to defraud, used one or more unauthorized access devices, namely a Capitol One Bank debit card’ and personal identification numbers for two accounts.” • What puzzles me about this story, from the media critique perspective, is that “missing white woman” stories are for the mid-summer silly season. Is that really where we are, the silly season? Surely not.

Class Warfare

“Labor Dept. unveils rule rolling back Trump-era tip regulations” [Reuters]. “he U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday finalized a rule restoring the agency’s ability to levy monetary penalties on employers who pocket workers’ tips, even when the violations are not willful. The rule published in the Federal Register withdraws a Trump-era regulation that permitted DOL to issue penalties of $1,100 per violation only when employers were found to have purposely or repeatedly not paid workers the full tips they earned. DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) said the Fair Labor Standards Act does not limit penalties in that way, and it was inappropriate for the agency to circumscribe its own powers in the Trump administration rule. The new rule also clarifies that, under the FLSA, managers and supervisors may contribute to tip pools but cannot receive a share of the tips paid to rank-and-file workers. Managers can only keep tips they receive directly from customers for services they solely provide, DOL said.” • Good. Every little bit helps.

News of the Wired

I am not feeling especially wired this Friday, alas.

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (jsn):

jsn writes: “Bee luxuriating on Queen Annes Lace.”

Bonus plant, or perhaps anti-plant (JU):

JU writes: “The KNP Fire in the hills north of Ash Mountain Sequoia NP headquarters.” It has been decades since I’ve seen the California hills; I can practically taste the dryness in this photo.

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

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. RockHard

    So it seems that all workers are disgruntled. Just scrolling through, it’s hospital employees and university professors. We’ve known for a while that restaurant and bar employees are done. Retail too. Basically it’s Atlas Shrugged, except instead of the elites, it’s the masses who are saying “screw it, I’m opting out of this stuff”.

      1. Huey Long

        Spartacus Shrugged

        LOVE it!

        p.s. Skynet’s throwing all my comments into the mod queue. I haven’t made anybody upset around here have I?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > it’s the masses who are saying “screw it, I’m opting out of this stuff”.

      The term for this is “The Great Resignation“, apparently coined by management professor Anthony Klotz (see, ugh, LinkedIn).

      What I like is the double meaning of “resignation”: to resign, and to be resigned (i.e., the grass is not greener, it’s the same everywhere, suckers ha ha ha….).

  2. ambrit

    Most of we First World drones already ‘wear’ ankle bracelets in the form of Mobile Media; iPhones, tablets, beepers, etc. Anything on your person that can be tracked is fulfilling the faunction of an ‘ankle bracelet.’

    1. JacobiteInTraining

      My experience with the Fed ankle bracelets, circa 5 years ago, when they were used on my best friend (who had gotten into trouble with the feds, sadly)

      I can’t recall if they were waterproof, I think they were not, but he was able to take hot baths. Probably had to keep his ankle out of the tub. Its battery discharged at a rate that insured that every afternoon/evening *had* to be near a charger or bad things happened.

      It would have been easy to cut the little motherf***er off his leg, and part of me (wistful for cool hand luke) wanted to just do that and go ballistic. He was mostly in the ‘well, somehow I can figure out how to return to my life, so I will just suck it up’ attitude.

      Well, mostly, at least til it worked out that he couldn’t even get a job at McDonalds. (him = formerly highly paid, late 40’s) so in the end the main good point about the ankle bracelet was that (once we finally got in touch with his Fed ‘minder’, who had direct access to the data) ….it allowed us to narrow down the search for his body after his suicide to the backyard where, indeed, he was found, under a tarp, wrapped *in* a tarp. (My friend didnt want to leave a mess behind)

      Some random f***ing Fed deputy had the unmitigated gall to come knocking on my door (my friend & I shared a rented house) within a coupla days of that experience to ask me if I had the bracelet/charging pad/plugin for the monitor. He wanted them back.

      I told him (remotely via some other Fed functionary on the phone, because i damn well wasn’t answering my door – in mourning) …that if he wanted the bracelet he was more then welcome to go down to the county morgue and cut the damn thing off of my friends leg because that’s where it must be. I think I burned the charger/plugin/base unit in the backyard myself the next day.

      I try not to remember too much about those times. Sometimes it comes back. Sorry to vent.

      1. ambrit

        Sorry to hear about your friend’s demise.
        We are all programmed to some extent to “fit in” to our society. Too many people despair and take it out on themselves. (The alternatives I will leave to the imagination.)
        When “legal” employment is denied one, what else is the alternative? As Paul Muni replies in the film “They Made Me A Criminal” when asked how he lives “in the shadows”; “I steal.”
        We now live in a society where corruption is the baseline state.

        1. JBird4049

          Prison is another way to reduce the official unemployment rate, which is already an under-count. Lives, damned lives, and statistics is what the saying should be.

  3. jo6pac

    Updates are done;-)

    “That was fast!”

    Amazing he didn’t have to include congress. I wonder if he could do that for Rent, Extended Unemployment, Health Care. Nope that would be asking to much.

  4. CloverBee

    I don’t see missing white girl stories as silly season, I see it as a Don’t Pay Attention to Legislation tactic. Odd this one has a white boyfriend.

    1. ambrit

      The “white boyfriend” looks to be a genuine example of “toxic masculinity.” Memes have to come from somewhere.

        1. ambrit

          The kind of creep who views all women as objects to be used for his pleasure. I have met a few of those. Not all such were homeless or incarcerated. Some wore nice three piece suits. Epstein made a career out of catering to such individuals.
          I got to see some crime scene photos, at the Grand Jury this Wednesday, of a very good looking young woman who was beaten and abused by her boyfriend. She survived, physically. The boyfriend still claims that he did nothing wrong. The last statement is the point. Perpetrators of such crimes believe that they are entitled to treat others violently, and will continue to do so until they are stopped.
          The other side of the coin is the learned behaviour of appeasment of the demands of abusers. Many women are ‘taught’ this as they grow up. It is a major source of ‘enablement’ of abusive behaviour. The victim might have given the boyfriend the PIN numbers in the hope of defusing his anger. As poor Chamberlain learned, appeasing those who threaten violence never ends well.

    2. Geo

      It’s been interesting to see a lot of criticism of the “true crime” wave of entertainment that’s proliferated in the podcast/streaming era, and how it turns cases like this into spectacle. Sorta like in the past when shows like Hard Copy were pushing “fear everyone!” for ratings and ad dollars. But, as you said, it’s the stories they push that say a lot more than just the topics of the story. It’s interesting to see which ones “go viral” and bring in top ratings and which ones are buried in the deep recesses of the internet that rarely see any light of day. Often it’s the old standby trope (as you alluded to) of the cute blond with the dangerous dark boyfriend (OJ Simpson as the most notable modern day example) that captivates the nation. Or it’s the femme fatale stories of some all-American housewife or girlfriend turns slayer.

      There are many trying to highlight much more diverse stories that just don’t get much attention. A podcast called “A Few Bad Apples” focuses on police who have committed horrific crimes and is worth checking out if you’re into this topic. Or, you’d think something like the story of Jonathan Luna, a federal prosecutor who was uncovering FBI dirty deeds who was found with 30+ stab wounds and ruled a suicide by the FBI, would be something that would be getting major headlines.

      But, sadly, as a society we seem to still be stuck in the mindset of the old pulp novels and don’t seem to have much interest in hearing true crime stories that challenge our preferred narratives. If we did, the most popular “true crime” stories would focus on the daily goings on in the State Houses around the country, in executive board rooms, and the intelligence agencies like that tweet thread linked to today.

    1. Silent Bob

      Why quit and miss out on last few paychecks? Seems prudent to assess “success” of mandates after deadline has passed. These articles ( and the “don’t count on a religious exemption” articles popping up wif increasing frequency) have a delightful semi-hysteric tone to them. Who you going to trust? The media or your lying eyes?

      1. Pat

        Maybe. Heard today that similar to petal people here in NY with very real medical concerns are having their doctors refuse to give them exemptions.

        There is a break coming, not sure how it is going to break, but it is coming.

    2. IM Doc

      At my small rural hospital –

      I would say basically the mass exodus of employees has already happened long before anyone dreamed of vaccine mandates.

      Nurses are just plain burned out – and have left – we have gone from 40 or so a year ago – down to 16 now. The nursing home attendants have left in droves – the 20 dollars an hour offered – cannot compare to the 25 dollars an hour at the Dairy Queen.

      There is also a large contingent of remaining nurses – who literally REFUSE to take care of the unvaccinated patients – causing massive logistic headaches for the managers. I find that approach to be reprehensible. Did any nurse when I was young get the privilege of refusing to take care of an AIDS patient? Did any of my fellow interns? ABSOLUTELY NOT – would have been considered immoral.

      The ranks of the CNA and orderlies is so dwindled that I am reliving my intern year – and taking patients back and forth from radiology myself .

      I would say that the cratering of the employees was going on long before the vaccine mandates occurred. A loss of 1 employee now would be critical. I am guessing things may be similar for the examples you provided. I am hearing from colleagues this is going on everywhere. My hospital actually has it good compared to others in other places.

      I will put it to you like this – our current hospital load – COVID and others – is absolutely crushing because of the staffing deficiency. However – this amount of patients would have been a breeze last year during the last crash.

      Somehow – none of this is even remotely conveyed in the news stories.

      1. The Rev Kev

        There are stories about it but in a more general sense. Just Google ‘the great resignation’ and here is one example-


        It’s almost as if forty years of neoliberalism crappifying jobs, flat-lining pay, reducing conditions gutting unions, etc., etc., etc. has caused people to revolt because they know that it will only get worse. Just the other day Bloomberg lauded Amazon warehouses as the future of the American working class.

        1. Geo

          Well said!

          I’m no expert on social psychology but my guess (gathering from what I read, what friends are saying, and my own inner dialogues) is that with so much existential dread on the nearing horizon (climate and social deterioration, authoritarianism, etc), along with the indisputable awareness that the whole system is rigged against economic mobility, it’s causing a values realignment (maybe subconscious) in many where the pressure and demands required to just “get by” aren’t worth it.

          Reminds me of my favorite The Onion headline ever:

          “Cost of Living Now Outweighs Benefits”

      2. hunkerdown

        Hold up, a selective professional services strike by nurses? Well, I suppose the MSM wouldn’t want to awaken a civil war before the Forces of Good™ are ready to win it.

      3. Felix_47

        So what does the CEO make? What do the nurses who wear dresses and white coats and sit in meetings and offices make? And what are the invasive cardiologist, orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons making? The money is there but the problem is equity. Putting all health care workers on government salary with benefits and retirement is the only answer I can see. Like england except better funded. Let England have made the mistakes over the last 70 years. Why reinvent the wheel? The most critical care now is by firemen paramedis…..on salary with benefits.

  5. polar donkey

    After the Collierville (just east of Memphis) Kroger shooting yesterday, there were many people who work at Krogers in the area that quit last night. After a year and half of dealing with Covid at a grocery store, a mass shooting by a coworker is enough.

    1. Mikel

      We forgot about the other mass shooter pandemic.
      And now it’s getting to the point where it gets closer and closer to home.
      It becomes “how much mass death is supposed to be tolerated?” “We’re doing what for what again?” Especially when the means and ability exists to prevent it in so many cases.

  6. Andrew Watts

    RE: Government seizes billions in cash from air travelers without ever filing a criminal charge

    There was a video of an activist asking Hillary sometime in 2016 about ending the drug war. Hillary, who probably thought she was talking to an adult, answered the inquiry in a very honest manner. She said that the war on drugs wouldn’t ever end because there was too much money in it.

    The horrified look on the activist’s face probably clued Hillary in on the faux pas she committed. But one should never ask a question that they aren’t fully prepared to hear the response to. I still have a hard time not liking her for answering that question honestly.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      That’s very good. Good for her in that actual instance.

      Did anyone get that on video? Such video could be viralized with the right kind of effort.

      1. Andrew Watts

        Oh, there’s much more to like about Hillary even if this is all unintentional. She admitted in 2009 that the drug war was fueled by demand and supplied with arms from the US. This was either before, or while, the ATF and the DEA was supplying some of the cartels with weapons during Operation Fast and Furious.


        Personally, I think the weapons illegally purchased during Fast and Furious were gratefully received by their intended recipient parties. Just like the CIA’s Timber Sycamore program,

        Pure speculation on my part though.

        1. Geo

          She also succinctly explained how we created the Taliban. The video pops up every now and then.

          She’s an odd one. Both clearly informed on how horrifically unjust and destructive our MIC is, yet one of its biggest champions and hawks.

          Reminds me of how as First Lady she visited Palestinian kids and spoke out about their human rights then when running for Senate in NY became a diehard Israel hawk.

          Sorta makes her seem more evil in my opinion. It’s one thing to be deluded into doing horrible stuff, but to know what you’re doing is evil and continue doing so is pretty darn dark. Like hanging with Epstein & Ghislaine, putting out Weinstein as a campaign surrogate, protecting her “faith advisor” from harassment claims (for which David Brock later fired him), and trashing Bill’s accusers, all while claiming to be a feminist hero. Psychopathic stuff.

      1. Andrew Watts

        Sorry, I didn’t save it at the time. My various attempts to find it since then has only yielded stories about a BLM activist confronting Hillary over the crime bill. However, when she was Secretary of State she had a similar response to a question about drug legalization with a Mexican news outlet.

        QUESTION: In Mexico, there are those who propose not keeping going with this battle and legalize drug trafficking and consumption. What is your opinion?

        SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t think that will work. I mean, I hear the same debate. I hear it in my country. It is not likely to work. There is just too much money in it, and I don’t think that – you can legalize small amounts for possession, but those who are making so much money selling, they have to be stopped. They can’t be given an even easier road to take, because they will then find it in their interest to addict even more young people. Mexico didn’t have much of a drug problem before the last 10 years, and you want to keep it that way. So you don’t want to give any excuse to the drug traffickers to be able legally to addict young people.


        1. eg

          This reminds me of a very old Toles political cartoon. It depicts Uncle Sam instructing a government agent to remove a weed labeled “drugs” with the instruction, “pull it out — by the roots!”

          The agent dutifully complies. Several panels depict a lengthy vine being pulled up from the ground. The final panel depicts a startled Uncle Sam being pulled into the ground as it becomes obvious that America is itself the root of the drug trade on the demand side.

    2. The Rev Kev

      It is probably the same answer for why millions of Americans remained imprisoned. Because it is profitable. Kamala Harris more or less admitted it when she defied court orders to release people from Californian jails and said that she could not do it because those prisoners were needed for the Californian workforce.

      1. ObjectiveFunction

        Ha, in the ‘history doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes’ department, I just read a similar piece by Aris Roussinos, “How Liberals Made the British Empire (in Africa)”:

        Writing in 1852, Dickens was satirising the dramatic failure of the 1841 Niger Expedition, the brainchild of the Quaker abolitionist Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton. Like other liberal abolitionists of the era, Buxton believed that the only way to stamp out the slave trade in West Africa was to penetrate the continent’s unexplored interior to establish model villages and trading settlements, where, under the influence of free trade and Protestant Christianity, African kingdoms whose economies had depended on slavery for centuries would be civilised into liberal modernity.

        There is a timely lesson for us about mission creep and the unintended consequences of moral crusades in distant lands….

        1. JBird4049

          >>>African kingdoms whose economies had depended on slavery for centuries would be civilised into liberal modernity.

          More importantly, those individual kingdoms each depended on the weapons supplied by the slave traders, without which they would be destroyed by the slave raids and invasions of the other kingdoms; not all those kingdoms willingly embraced that political economy when it was started, but the surviving ones realized that they did not have the choice; selling all those people destroyed what non-slave dependent economies there were as well as sending all that energy, intellect, talent, capabilities overseas to be consumed. Those kingdoms and empires eventually could neither stop the raids or develop the resources to change their economies and it went on for centuries.

          I can make a good case for the Americas as well with the destruction, or at least crippling, of the economies of much of Americas and the Caribbean by the United States usually at the behest of American businesses; the weakened governments have a reduced ability to resist the American Empire, and the more energetic and desperate citizens turned cheap, controllable help were forced to go north, often for mere survival.

          Too many people insist on ignoring why other people do what they do, instead using simplistic, ignorant dogma for why the poor are poor and the rich, rich. Or why many countries are.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I know Minneapolis has an international airport, but it’s not in the same league as LAX or JFK (which already has form, let us recall). And how many direct international flights does it have, and to where?

      1. KB

        Good question. Minnesota has a high vaccination rate. latest today was app. 70 percent of Minnesotans fully vaccinated 16 years and older….so I’d like to know more. Like who is testing positive, ie. vaccinated or unvaccinated or which age groups etc….this has become difficult to find out.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        I remember having to spend a night in JFK airport once some years ago. I remember it as a very aggressively nasty and heartless passenger-hostile place of low-grade torture. For example, every bench was full of those “don’t rest here” bumps and rails and lumps.

        Has it gotten any better?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > I remember it as a very aggressively nasty and heartless passenger-hostile place of low-grade torture.

          It’s been awhile since I’ve been there, but the international arrival section was extremely depressing, the luggage collection area worse, especially the bathrooms, and then one must confront the horrid transport system outside. (New Yorkers are great, but the infrastructure….). Oh, and as usual, the security people were fat and happy. Everybody else looked bowed down.

          A horrid and degrading entrance to The Greatest Country In The World™. I wonder if LAX is equally sociopathic?

      3. DeltaFrequentFlyer

        24, mostly to Central America and the Caribbean, but also to Tokyo, Seoul, London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt.

        Apparently it’s the 17th busiest US airport. Perhaps not in the same league as JFK/LAX, but not a small airport either.

      4. ex-PFC Chuck

        Northwest Airlines, which was headquartered in the Twin Cities and bought by Delta in 2008, pioneered routes from the USA across the Pacific to Japan beginning in the years after World War II. IIRC initially those flights left the States from Seattle and stopped for refueling in Alaska but with the advent of the Boeing 707 began non-stop flights from SEA. As planes’ ranges increased they began to originate international flights from MSP as well. By the time they disappeared into Delta they’d had provided service for several decades from MSP to Europe as well, especially the UK and the Scandinavian countries. I recall flying NWA to the UK on business in 1986. MSP had been an NWA “fortress hub,’ and that status has been maintained by Delta since the merger.

        1. ObjectiveFunction

          MSP was my secret in my bicoastal road warrior days in the early 2000s. Premerger, NWA and Continental had reciprocal rights, so as a Platinum flyer (on the client dime) if I took a redeye via MSP, I’d always get a bizclass upgrade, which meant a solid 4 hours sleep in the bigger seat. No hope for upgrades on the nonstops. I could grab coffee in the club lounge, then work on the short leg into DCA or EWR (I avoided JFK like the plague; among other things, those cement walls create huge cell coverage dead zones even today, in important spots like baggage claim).

          Never spent much time in the Twin Cities, but recall MSP fondly; they also never got socked in for snow or ice. I think a tornado warning was about it….

  7. Geo

    “A decade of the Tim Cook machine”

    This article seems to think Apple is still a tech company and ignores that it’s become a fashion/lifestyle brand. If it does the glasses they mention it will be because, like the watch, they feel it could become a trendy status item with enough life hack gimmicks to justify (in the minds of the consumer) why they need to strap a data-syphoning, ad-pushing, surveillance device to their face. As for the car thing – my guess is they’ll do a branded car much like those old “Eddie Bauer” Ford Explorer SUVs in the 90’s or other branded cars that pop up now and then.

    But everything about Apple now days is about the Apple lifestyle: from Apple+ streaming shows/movies tailored to their demographic, ostentatiously large and shiny phones and watches that reek of class status, and slim glossy tablets and laptops that have become beacons of identity. If any of it actually works then that’s just an added benefit.

    And I say this as a lifelong Apple consumer.

    1. David

      This kind of article (which is far too frequent in the tech press) is a good example of the other side of the coin from the complaints about Apple changing things, or introducing new technologies or incompatible connections, that you find on this site and elsewhere from time to time. A large part of the tech press lives by pushing the line that unless Apple produces totally new products every five minutes it is DOOMED, and will be reduced to Nokia-like status overnight. There are entire internet sites devoted to tracking and mocking such claims, but they do have an enormous influence on the way Apple is perceived in the wider world, and by the kind of idiots who write in the financial press.

      For what it’s worth I don’t think Apple is a “lifestyle” company except incidentally. I don’t actually know (and have never actually known) anybody who has bought Apple products for lifestyle reasons. People like me buy them because they work well, are no more expensive than the competition for the same standard, and have better security. And many of us were traumatised by the problems of Window$ in the 1990s. Yes, the design is good, but critics of that largely illustrate the blindness of Anglo-Saxon culture to considerations of industrial design, which is taken far more seriously elsewhere. (Only an Anglo-Saxon culture could remember Clive Sinclair with affection). In France or Germany or Italy or Japan they wouldn’t understand what you were talking about. They expect things to be well designed there.

      1. Geo

        Good points. I was painting with a fairly broad brush there. And, as someone who had a PC for a brief spell in the 90’s it was a traumatizing experience and the Apple G3 computers hooked me into the Apple ecosystem.

        My take on this is mainly how Apple has maneuvered away from making more niche but powerhouse professional tech like they used to and instead are predominately focused on consumer tech aimed at the mass market (obviously much smarter business model) and how the tech innovations since the iPhone have been for the most part pretty aesthetic.

        That said, this new M1 Chip is incredibly impressive and for the first time in well over a decade I’m actually anxiously anticipating the release of their M1x (I think that’s the name they’re going with) second gen version and hoping they release it in their pro systems. My lil’ Mac Mini smokes my other systems for render times, graphics processing, and other processor intensive operations. But, wowsers is that computer a delicate little flower. Doing large projects is impossible on it. And, my work desk went from a nice orderly workspace to a labyrinth of dongles, hubs, cables, and blinking lights. Sure, the computer is adorably small, it’s a processing beast, and it’s price is almost unbelieveably low – but it’s not for pros. It’s a toy for Youtubers and tiktokers. I find myself editing and doing design work on my laptop most the time. Of course, the very fact I was able to somewhat replace my old MacPro tower (which cost upwards of $6K) with a $900 computer is an impressive tech feat. And, probably some workplace/sourcing violations I’ll just have to ignore.

        So, you’re right that their items definitely work – for their consumer market. My bitterness comes as a “pro” user who feels like an old maid whose spouse has been gallivanting around on him for too long but I’m too dependent on them to leave. I just want Apple to love me again. :)

        1. David

          That seems entirely reasonable to me. I, on the other hand, am a representative of the “consumer” tendency, that just wants stuff to work so I can get on with the things. I can understand that professionals might feel aggrieved.

      2. eg

        “I don’t actually know (and have never actually known) anybody who has bought Apple products for lifestyle reasons.”

        Literally thousands of parents have bought their children iPhones precisely for this reason. I forced mine to use an Android phone for their first cellphone (figuring that exposure to different operating systems might have some value) but had to cave to immense pressure on their part to replace them with Apple products after two or three years.

        1. ambrit

          Different ages, different mores. Back in the eighties, we didn’t allow our children to have any phones, period. There is such a thing as being overconnected.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > This article seems to think Apple is still a tech compan

      Did you read it what I quoted:

      Every year a whole new phone arrives, exactly on schedule, keeping or leading the pace for the entire industry, and then ships in the hundreds of millions of units, machined out of aluminium and stainless steel, at a 40 per cent gross margin. This is very hard

      Sounds pretty “tech” to me. Marketing is another issue.

    3. Basil Pesto

      from the article (emph added):

      Apple might design a better Tesla (and build one, with its $207bn of cash), but what problem would that solve? The iPhone wasn’t a better BlackBerry.

      Correct; it was a better Pocket PC

  8. Raymond Sim

    Regarding the recently revealed EcoHealth Alliance proposal to DARPA: They wanted to test delivery of an antigen (spike protein in this case) via aerosolized nanoparticles or orthopoxviral vectors.

    If this worked it could usher in a new era of biowarfare, because it would permit the covert mass immunization of selected populations prior to release of a pathogen.

    I would love to be proven wrong, but I’m inclined to believe this was the main point of the research.

  9. drumlin woodchuckles

    ” Hilton ditches housekeepers”.

    Do the various non-Hilton hotels and hotel-chains still retain their housekeepers? If so, there will need to be a very swift and harsh movement to get millions of people to switch from hotelling at Hilton to hotelling at non-Hilton. It will have to be swift and broad enough to cost Hilton more money through lost business than Hilton saves through riffed housekeepers let go.( Reduction In Force = rif. ” We’re not firing you, we’re firing your job.”).

    If Hilton is allowed to get away with it, the other hotel chains will all be forced to do the same just to avoid losing business to Hilton as Hilton lowers its prices based on its lowered costs. Hilton must either be forced to re-hire all the housekeepers and cancel the “optional opt-in” housecleaning policy, or Hilton must be forced to go into irreversible roach-motel liquidation.

    Who is in a position to whip up a movement of “torture Hilton to reverse course” hotel customers fast enough and broadly enough to torture Hilton into reversing course? I don’t know.

    Part of the pressure could come from organizations that schedule conferences and conventions at these grand middle class hotels. Conference-and-convention-goers have been a big part of these grand hotels’ business, from what little I can see. If organizations could be tortured into boycotting Hilton by refusing to have their conferences and conventions there until Hilton reverses course, then the power of Conference and Convention Boycott could perhaps torture Hilton into reversing course. If someone can torture thousands of organizations into boycotting Hilton for all their conference and convention needs in time to make a difference.

    I don’t think the Air B’n’B hustlers are really competing with the grand middle class conference/convention center hotels.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Perhaps the kind of people who attend conferences and conventions could tell their Organizational Membership Groups that they personally will not attend any conference or convention held at a Hilton Hotel until Hilton reverses course.

      How would such a movement reach the sort of people who belong to organizations which hold conventions and go to conferences?

    2. ambrit

      The Hilton people could be reading “the writing on the wall” and preparing for the ‘New Normal’ of lower travel numbers for the foreseeable future. Zoom meetings will cut into physical conferences and initial sales pitches. Even if, for example, a direct in person sales pitch is usually more “productive,” the non salesforce bean counters at Corporate will make the decisions based on their blinkered view of the world. Magical thinking to the rescue!
      I would be very interested to see just how much of the purported “savings” from the reduction in internal services is credited towards customer bills, and how much goes into the pockets of the management.
      This looks like management is looting the company before an anticipated crash. Keep an eye on the employee retirement schemes, if there are any. They are the logical next ‘victims’ of a looting spree.

    3. Objective Ace

      I’m not sure I understand the outrage here. As someone who doesn’t mind making my bed myself and absolutely do not want my sheets and towels washed/dried daily, I’m having a hard time seeing the downside. If anything, there is less energy wasted which is good for the earth.

      It sucks for the individuals that lose their job, but if other travelers are like me, their job was essentially “to move boulders back and forth all day” with no actual production value added. Are we similarly outraged that the horse and buggy producers lost their jobs? I understand the compassion for the out of work maids, but lets be sure that compassion is directed at the right place–sufficient government welfare programs (or job creation/guarantees)

      1. Nikkikat

        Are you serious? how about if there is no maid and you have to pay for them to put CLEAN a sheets on your bed? Vacuum or clean the bath room ? It okay if people dependent on their already low pay lose their jobs? As in paid by the number of rooms they actually clean not hourly pay? Hilton has plenty of money. I just traveled across the country and every hotel was pretty much full. I stayed at a Hilton and three other big hotels over 7 days. I paid on average over 200.00 per night. But it’s okay to just fire these people to turn a few extra bucks? Do you think welfare will cover their expenses?
        The highest amount in California is 540.00 for three people. In states like Mississippi
        It’s around 200.00 a month or less. All blue collar workers are just Boulder movers with no value? I wonder if your boss will ever say that to you? What job creation program are you talking about one established by Hilton?

        1. Objective Ace

          > if there is no maid and you have to pay for them to put CLEAN a sheets on your bed? Vacuum or clean the bath room ?

          I think you may be misinterpreting what is happening. They arent getting rid of all maids. Rest assured, you will arrive at your room and your bed will have a sheet, the bathroom will be clean, there will not be other people’s left behind garbage, etc. The only difference is Hilton wont default to cleaning your room daily the whole time you are there.

          As I said, I sympathize with anyone losing their job. But if their job is unproductive it should be eliminated. Its called creative destruction. I imagine you are correct that government welfare will not cover them. We should demand much more from our government. Demanding private employers take over a government function makes no sense and serves cover/conflates the issue that it is the governments duty to provide basic necessities for its citizens

          If you want to get upset about Hiltons compensation scheme: paying by the task vs the traditional hourly/weekly/annual wages–thats fine, and I agree. But thats not what people are complaining about here. They’re specifically complaining about Hilton not cleaning your room in the middle of your stay unless you request it.

          1. Huésped Adulto

            I feel your observations. In the very infrequent event I stay at a hotel for multiple days, I’d prefer not have someone come in and clean my room every day. As long as it’s clean when I check in, that’s all I need. I don’t have someone cleaning up after me at home, and I am fine with not having someone do the same when I’m not. Who needs their bed that only they’ve slept in made by someone else? Do it yourself, just the way you like it. Who insists on clean sheets or towels daily at home? It seems like an enormous waste. Just leave enough coffee pods for my stay and I’m fine. I can keep the room clean to my standards myself. Prefer it that way.

        2. Anon

          A better question is… will Hilton be lowering their rates to reflect the ‘New Normal’? Or is this just them socializing the costs to ensure their shareholders won’t detect a difference? Seems all aspects of the travel industry are going a la carte. Car rentals will likely have tire fees soon: “If you choose the slippery-saver package, you’ll have to purchase the mandatory life/liability insurance as well…“

      2. The Rev Kev

        It looks like Hilton Hotels have come full circle. The first ones were only glorified flop-houses from what Conrad Hilton wrote in his autobiography and took advantage of a local oil boom requiring any place to stay. But before you get too comfortable about things like not having freshly-washed sheets, there are plenty of videos online showing the hazards of this. Next time you travel, pack a UV flashlight with you. Here is one such video-

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGqTn9LFM6I (3:43 mins)

      3. Henry Moon Pie

        “less energy wasted which is good for the earth”

        Exactly. We should be focused on how many jobs we can eliminate in a society bustling with a lot of churn with little to no social benefit and many with a negative social impact (.e.g fast food jobs). Jobs with a negative environmental impact, e.g. oil patch employment, need to be eliminated first.

    4. CoryP

      Agree that this is an example of crapification and Hilton eliminating jobs.

      But I’m with the other commenters who don’t see the need for daily cleaning. I tend to hang the do not disturb thing on my door during my entire stay. I’m not worried about theft— I’m just embarrassed that anybody should have to clean up after me daily because I’m a man child with a messy room. (This is a case where I’m trying to reduce the burden on staff but it ultimately ends up eliminating their jobs).

      But unless something uncommonly gross happens, I probably won’t need fresh sheets or towels in a week-long stay. (Maybe towels, since they never really dry)

  10. Pat

    Two hosts of the View were asked to leave the stage during the show that aired this morning. Both tested positive for Covid. Both were vaccinated.

    Breakthrough cases with VISUALS.


    Unfortunately, rather than jumpstarting the needed realization conversation that vaccines are only a partial tool to combat Covid, watch it become about booster shots. The needed controls will never be allowed. It shuts down too much and needs too much spending on public health and support for the quarantined.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > a functioning civil society.

        “[W]ho is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.” –Maggie Thatcher, neoliberal sociopath

        1. DJG, Reality Czar

          Lambert Strether: Well, thanks for the poke in the eye with the stick.

          Whenever I see references to Thatcher, and to this line of illogic, I recall that she and Reagan both were plagued by dementia. Having refuted the need for society, and our obligations to society, both of them were left with their small and malfunctioning “selves” (if the self can be said to exist on its own, outside society).

          A counter-offer (even for someone as skeptical of religion/spirituality as I am):
          From Rick Steves’s report on visiting Assisi and the great pilgrimage church of Saint Francis:

          Here Giotto shows a nearly naked Francis — the rich kid tossing his fancy clothes to his father — befuddling high society by trading a life of luxury for one of simplicity. But ultimately, even the pope recognized that Francis could restore a church and society in great need of reform.

          1. Henry Moon Pie

            “even for someone as skeptical of religion/spirituality as I am”

            I’m a little baffled by this statement in light of previous comments about use of the I Ching and the Tao te Ching. It’s not my business to inquire into your personal feelings in this area, but I can’t help but be curious about what strikes me as a contradiction.

    1. Geo

      If only there was a vaccine for Neoliberalism which seem to be more infectious and dangerous than Covid. The fact that, as NC posts about regularly, all the focus in on vaccines (some on masks) and the “experts” are still ignoring and even squashing discussion about radical stuff like ventilation and overseas travel is amazing to me.

      Reminds me of the link yesterday about mushrooms and depression. “Experts” are only now discovering what the “radicals” have been saying for eons. My only fear is their acknowledgment means they’ve found some way to make a massive profit from mushrooms. And, since Amazon is now pushing for weed legalization (obvious they see the profit potential for them) it’s clear they only are interested in finding solutions for problems when those solutions can make their paymasters another couple hundred billion dollars. Thus, why we need a vaccine for Neoliberalism more than any other disease.

  11. marym

    AZ ninja audit report

    Maricopa County will provide a line-by-line response to other claims in addition to the ballot count results. Probably there will be a consolidated report, but if anyone is interested in following the developing response below are two threads posted today (so far from a draft version).


    NEW: After a preliminary review of the draft #azaudit report, we can provide a #FactCheck on several of the claims Cyber Ninjas identified as the most serious in their report

    (claims such as ballots mailed from a prior address, people voting in multiple counties)

    NEW: Here’s round two of our #FactCheck on several of the claims Cyber Ninjas identified as the most serious in their report:

    (claims about the database)

    1. skippy

      As a kid that grew up in AZ I can attest to the level of corruption one way or another, Silver Dollar was a relative. This whole election thingy is like an argument about who bought the most drinks before voting started.

      1. marym

        The most I can do in assessing claims of fraud is to try to provide links to court cases, recounts and audits, procedural documentation from election officials, and journalists whose reporting seems well documented.

  12. bassmule

    Is it time for a Department of Spontaneous Rage?

    “A JetBlue passenger who departed from Boston choked a flight attendant and tried to force his way into the cockpit of a Puerto Rico-bound aircraft while shouting in Spanish and Arabic that he wanted to be shot, the FBI said in court papers.

    The passenger was identified in an FBI affidavit as Kahlil El-Dahr, but no other information about his background was available Friday morning. He is facing prosecution in Puerto Rico for interfering with a flight crew, records show.”

    Unruly JetBlue passenger departing from Boston chokes flight attendant, attempts to force his way into cockpit, FBI says (Boston Globe)

    1. Woman in Seat 42E

      “Difficult” passengers are a perfect fit for a universal international one strike no-fly database. I’m far more likely to be killed by an angry anti-masker passenger than any terrorist.

  13. The Rev Kev

    UPDATE “Biden Can Transfer mRNA Technology and Leave the Legal Burdens with Moderna and Pfizer” [CEPR]. “‘Biden administration officials say that forcing the companies to act is not as simple as it sounds

    What Biden could do is tell those pharma corporations that they will never receive for free any research whatsoever from government institutes unless they play ball. I have gotten the impression over the years that big pharma depend on government research as otherwise they would have to pay to do the research themselves. So as an example, a long time ago the government medical institutes developed this drug which proved in their studies to be quite effective. So then the government handed over this drug to a big pharma corporation to work out the dosage for it for free. After a brief study, that corporation worked it and and then put a patent on that drug to make god knows how much money. Can a big pharma corporation survive without this research model?

    1. Geo

      He could do that but unless his senility has changed his values I can’t imagine him actually doing it.

      Surprisingly, Forbes had a pretty thorough critique of the times Biden “got things done” and how he only seems to fight for stuff progressives are against like making permanent the Bush tax cuts, the crime bill, etc.

      Nothing you don’t already know here but interesting to see it in Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/taxnotes/2021/01/05/joe-biden-makes-deals—but-are-they-good-ones/

      Of course, they published it long after the primaries were over. Wouldn’t want their journalism to be useful to the unwashed masses!

    1. hunkerdown

      “Democracy” is another word that has come to mean its opposite: private property. Try it on when reading official speech and see if it makes more sense in context.

      1. ambrit

        s/ You want ‘context’ do you? Sorry bud but ‘context’ is restricted to properly credentialled PMCs. /s

        1. Chauncey Gardiner

          Context?… Noteworthy footnote 2 in Jeremy Rudd’s Fed staff working paper (hat tip to economics professor Daniela Gabor and AP reporter Chris Rugaber): “I leave aside the deeper concern that the primary role of mainstream economics in our society is to provide an apologetics for a criminally oppressive, unsustainable, and unjust social order.” See: ‪https://federalreserve.gov/econres/feds/files/2021062pap.pdf‬

        2. hunkerdown

          Turns out Richard’s post, thus transformed, tracks with Mr. Lenin’s “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we hang them.” I do believe I am on to a theory here, “restricted” context or no.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      We have to render the planet uninhabitable to save the bars and restaurants…and SUVs and trips to Tuscany and 4-car garages. And the return on the billionaires’ capital.

  14. Acacia

    I’ve been puzzling over this article:

    US Congress Taking Revolutionary Steps Towards A Central Bank Digital Currency

    The future of money is here; will the Federal Reserve Board be authorized to use distributed ledger technology for the creation, distribution and “recordation” of all the transactions of a Digital Dollar?

    If the FED were to set up a blockchain for digital FRNs and they managed it directly, they, not commercial banks, would be able to create/destroy money. If I were a commercial bank, I wouldn’t be very happy about this, but I guess it depends who exactly is given access to the new “Fedchain”. More broadly, I’m not sure what the implications of this are, but they seem potentially significant.

  15. philnc

    “Do I understand correctly that Congress could have codified Roe vs. Wade into law anytime between 1973 and now and they just…didn’t?” It’s a shame how few people have actually read Roe, given that it’s the foundation of modern privacy law. Not only could Congress have codified it, but conservative Chief Justice Berger’s majority opinion practically begged them to.

  16. VietnamVet

    “Rochelle Walensky overruled an advisory committee and added a recommendation that people 18 to 64 at risk of exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting” can get Pfizer Booster shots.

    This is not “following science”. When for-profit mRNA vaccines is all that you got, this introduces contortions into the system.

    The US COVID death rate graph keeps spiking. The reason must to be that fundamental public health policies are not being followed and the mRNA vaccines are non-sterilizing and infections are more deadly to the vaccinated. Vaccine passports and mandates won’t work. The vaccinated themselves catch the disease and pass it on to others. As the View clip shows; vaccinated COVID outbreaks are becoming noticeable.

    Either neoliberalism gets peacefully overthrown or chaos which is now stalking the West engulfs the world.

    1. Yves Smith

      You are going beyond evidence. The fact that the vaccines are non-sterilizing and yet the vaccinated are 1. still for the most part going unmasked and often doing risky things like going to restaurants and 2. being told they do NOT have to quarantine after exposure to a Covid case (while the unvaccinated are told the reverse) is a prescription for more cases, which = more deaths.

  17. DJG, Reality Czar

    Henry Moon Pie: Indeed.

    Emphasis is on “skeptical,” which may come about because my patron is the god Hermes, who is not as grand as some other gods. (Although Mercury, astrologically, goes into retrograde in a day or two, and the god will manifest.)

    My inclination is toward a kind of religion that is old Roman–watching for the numina. Listening for prophecy among the leaves of an oak tree. Immanence.

    If you have read the Little Flowers of Saint Francis, you know that many of his tactics where highly unusual, even suspect, yet doctrinally, Francis was orthodox. And the god of Saint Francis is a transcendent god, of which I remain skeptical.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      Thanks for that response. I’m seeing people struggling with terminology who are interested in the things that intrigue me. They try “religion” or “spirituality”, etc.. I like the distinction you just made: transcendent (and usually monotheistic and patriarchal–they seem to go together) vs. immanent. Divine transcendence and the Potter’s Model have led us far astray.

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