2:00PM Water Cooler 10/20/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Media notes: “Trilling made by a chick which has just left the nest hollow for good and is taking its first flights. At least one if not both of the adults were present the entire time while the chick left the nest and climbed higher up the nest tree. Occasionally one of the adults would fly further afield only to return. The adults did not vocalise. The chick eventually flew into one of the nearby trees (paperbark).”

* * *


Patient readers, I have started to revise this section, partly to reduce my workload, but partly to focus more as an early warning, if that is possible. Hopefully I will have a variant tracker map soon. In the meantime, I added excess deaths.

Vaccination by region:

Coercion works? Or boosters? (I have also not said, because it’s too obvious, that if by Bubba we mean The South, then Bubba has done pretty well on vax.)

57.1% of the US is fully vaccinated (CDC data. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Czech Republic, and just above Turkey, as of this Monday). We are back to the stately 0.1% rise per day. I would bet that the stately rise = word of mouth from actual cases. However, as readers point out, every day those vaccinated become less protected, especially the earliest. So we are trying to outrun the virus…

Case count by United States regions:

Let’s hope they start going steadily down again.

Simply tape-watching, this descent is as steep as any of the three peaks in November–January. It’s also longer than the descent from any previous peak. 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: There is the possibility that natural immunity is much, much greater than we have thought, although because this is America, our data is so bad we don’t know. Also, if the dosage from aerosols drops off by something like the inverse square law, not linearly, even an extra foot of social 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. And although readers will recall that I have cautioned against cross-country comparisons, I’m still not understanding why we’re not seeing the same aggregates in schools that we’ve see in Canada and especially the UK, although we have plenty of anecdotes. Nothing I’ve read suggests that the schools, nation-wide, have handled Covid restrictions with any consistency at all. So what’s up with that?

Even if hospitalizations and the death rate are going down, that says nothing about Long Covid, the effect on children, etc. So the numbers, in my mind, are still “terrifying”, even if that most-favored word is not in the headlines any more, and one may be, at this point, inured.

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.

From CDC: “Community Profile Report October 19, 2021” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties:

Flare-ups in New Mexico, Montana, California (and central Maine):

Speculating freely: One thing to 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 — for example — 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. (Red means getting worse, green means bad but getting better.)

I guess I have to go back to showing the previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 748,827 746,529. The upward trend in death rate begins anew. We had approached the same death rate as our first peak last year. Which I found more than a little disturbing.

Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid), for which I should give a hat tip to an alert readers, but cannot find their mail. Take a bow in comments, whoever you are!

(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 in historic variant sources, with additions from the Brain Trust:

Chile and Peru rising. Chile especially not looking good. Remember this is a log scale. Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away.

* * *


“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 Mice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Biden Administration

“Biden discusses $1.9 trillion top line for economic package and tells Democrats free community college is out” [CNN]. “President Joe Biden informed House progressives Tuesday afternoon that the final bill to expand the social safety net is expected to drop tuition-free community college, a major White House priority, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter. And the President discussed a $1.75 to $1.9 trillion price tag [over ten years] for the sweeping spending package, according to a person familiar with the talks. While the number is not finalized, it is far closer to West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s $1.5 trillion top line [over ten years] than progressives’ number, which was $3.5 trillion [over ten years]. Moreover, he indicated that the child tax credit — a key Democratic priority — would likely be extended for one additional year, much shorter than what many in their party wanted, one of the sources said. The child tax credit will also likely be means tested, keeping with what Manchin had wanted. Biden also indicated to the group that they would reduce the proposed funding for so-called homecare for the elderly and disabled — down to less than $250 billion, sources said. Democrats had wanted to keep the funding at $400 billion. The President told progressive lawmakers that negotiators are weighing reducing the duration of the paid leave benefit outlined in the package to four weeks, down from a proposed 12 weeks, according to three sources familiar with the meeting.” • Maybe we should have checked with President Manchin first. Like during the campaign. Now Joe Biden owes me a lot more than six hundred bucks. (Adding, I think what LBJ would have done: Nominated Manchin for Secretary of Energy, then strangled him with lower-level political appointees who would report to Manchin only nominally. Of course, that assumes that what we are seeing is something other than the outcome desired by Democrat leadership.)

“Biden Concerned Ambitious Agenda Could Be Stalled By Him Not Really Caring If It Happens Or Not” [The Onion]. • From May. Still germane. Commentary:

If error it was. Ugliest example of Lucy and the Football I’ve ever seen. She can’t even tee the ball up, and Charlie Brown falls over anyhow.

“Jayapal hails Biden as ‘mediator in chief’ after spending talks” [Washington Examiner]. “Addressing reporters outside the White House, the congresswoman from Washington state was asked how she would describe Biden in his role as president, to which she gave a rave review….. ‘The president is the inspirer, he is the closer, he is the convincer, the mediator in chief,’ Jayapal said. ‘He really is doing a phenomenal job.'” • I understand the tactics of Jayapal showing no daylight between herself and Biden. But she didn’t have to humiliate herself.

“Dems edge closer to ditching disarray” [Politico]. “With their party’s long-sought priorities on the line, the speaker and Senate majority leader are hustling to clinch a deal as soon as possible that would lock in evasive centrists on a framework for President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion social spending [over ten years] package. That framework, in turn, would free up needed progressive votes for a bipartisan infrastructure bill by Oct. 31.” • At some point, it’s not worth it. Let President Manchin write the bill and vote Present. More: “Though the odds are still stacked against the party, Democrats say it’s clear there’s a renewed sense of urgency among party leaders. Schumer is nudging his holdouts more than ever before, Pelosi is free from the constraints of an agreement with moderates that imploded and Biden is finally engaged in a meaningful way. Plus, nearly everyone has accepted the bill won’t be $3.5 trillion, as originally proposed.” • Maximum fundraising, minimum governance, rotating villains. There’s no disarray at all, or no more than usual. Both Manchin and Sinema are creatures of the DSCC; this is the party Pelosi and Schumer built.

“Democratic lawmakers ask Justice Roberts for info on judicial conflict failures” [Reuters]. “Two Democratic lawmakers on Thursday asked U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for information on failures by judges to recuse themselves from cases in which they had financial conflicts as they questioned whether he had done enough to enforce ethics rules. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington cited as a reason for their concerns a Wall Street Journal report that 131 judges failed to recuse themselves from cases involving companies in which they or their family members owned stock. The lawmakers in a letter to Roberts, in his role as the presiding officer of the U.S. Judicial Conference, the judiciary’s policymaking body, said the ‘stunning’ report ‘will justifiably reduce public confidence in the justice system.’ They cited other instances in which Supreme Court justices similarly did not recuse themselves from cases despite potential financial conflicts as further evidence of a “systemic failure that requires accountability.’ ‘These extensive ethics breaches are, at least in part, a direct result of the inadequate processes for judicial accountability,” the lawmakers said in the letter.'” • Congress plays the ponies. Why not judges?

Republican Funhouse

Seriously, but not literally. One hopes:

Democrats en Deshabille

“US politics: Virginia governor’s race offers first test of Biden presidency” [Financial Times]. “At a corn maze and pumpkin patch in northern Virginia this month, former Carlyle chief executive Glenn Youngkin set out his stall. Dressed in a Nantucket red fleece vest, navy trousers and a white collared shirt, the private equity boss turned politician confidently told hundreds of supporters that next month, he would be elected Virginia’s new governor. ‘We stood up, and we said, you know what? We are going to absolutely reject this left, liberal, progressive policy agenda,’ Youngkin said to cheers.” • Democrats are. So why not elect a real Republican instead of a fake one?

“Iowa Democratic Party chair reports lynching threat after writing op-ed critical of Donald Trump” [Des Moines Register]. “Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn received multiple threats, including one of lynching, after he penned an opinion piece critical of former President Donald Trump, he told the Des Moines Register…. After the essay’s publication, Wilburn said he received two threatening phone messages and one threatening email to his legislative email address, which all made reference to what he wrote in the article…. ‘I’m concerned about this type of escalation of comments, including violent references, that are happening, even down to some of the school board meetings and elections that are coming up,’ he said. ‘… If anyone’s ever subject to these types of threatening actions, I encourage them to don’t just sit by and take it. Report it.'” • Wilburn is saying, in essence, that the threats were “inappropriate,” which indeed they are; at some point, somebody’s gonna get whacked, or a building blown up. But the way I read this is that conservatives are more serious about their politics; they would prefer to be the ones to whom things are reported, rather than doing the reporting. At some point, probably when it’s too late, the Democrats will discover that they needed a militant wing. But who on earth would defend them, and why?

UPDATE “Democratic Child Care Plan Will Spike Prices for the Middle Class by $13,000” [Politico]. “Under the Democratic child care plan, child care worker wages will increase to the wages currently received by elementary school teachers. The median child care worker is currently paid $25,460 per year while the median elementary school teacher is currently paid $60,660 per year. Thus, this mandate will increase child care worker pay by 138 percent. If we increase the salary cost from the CAP estimate above by 138 percent, the unsubsidized price of child care goes from $15,888 per year to $28,970, an increase of $13,082 per year. And this is not the only thing the bill does that will increase the cost of care…. But in the first 3 years of the program, families with incomes that are just $1 over 100% of the median income (year one), 115% of the median income (year two), or 130% of the median income (year three) will be eligible for zero subsidies, meaning that they will be on the hook for the entire unsubsidized price, which as discussed above will now be at least $13,000 per year higher than before.” • It’s like they looked at the ObamaCare bubble and said “That was great! Let’s do it again!” On the bright side, at least we don’t have Bronze Child Care, Silver Child Care, Gold Child Care, and Platinum Child Care. Perhaps that would have been a little to on-the-nose?

Realignment and Legitimacy

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of note today.

* * *

Commodities: “Dune Is the Sci-Fi Epic Commodities Traders Have Always Wanted” [Bloomberg]. “At its heart is the spice—the reason Arrakis is so valuable, the (nominal) reason the Atreides are sent there, and the reason the house’s bitter rivals, the Harkonnens, are so keen to wrest the planet back from them. It’s here that the eyes of any commodities traders in the audience will light up as they realize, for what seems like the first time, there’s a blockbuster tailored to their exact interests.” And the ending: “[W]hile not every element manages to come together perfectly, the framing does provide a solid bedrock for the action playing out on screen, as well as an opportunity to reflect on the economic systems that shape our world. If greed is intrinsic to capitalism and inevitably leads to conflict and inequality, that, and sandworms, should be avoided at all costs.” • Er, have the traders priced this in?

Commodities: “Unhappy with prices, ranchers look to build own meat plants” [Associated Press]. “Like other ranchers across the country, Rusty Kemp for years grumbled about rock-bottom prices paid for the cattle he raised in central Nebraska, even as the cost of beef at grocery stores kept climbing. He and his neighbors blamed it on consolidation in the beef industry stretching back to the 1970s that resulted in four companies slaughtering over 80% of the nation’s cattle, giving the processors more power to set prices while ranchers struggled to make a living. Federal data show that for every dollar spent on food, the share that went to ranchers and farmers dropped from 35 cents in the 1970s to 14 cents recently. It led Kemp to launch an audacious plan: Raise more than $300 million from ranchers to build a plant themselves, putting their future in their own hands. ‘We’ve been complaining about it for 30 years,’ Kemp said. ‘It’s probably time somebody does something about it.’ Crews will start work this fall building the Sustainable Beef plant on nearly 400 acres near North Platte, Nebraska, and other groups are making similar surprising moves in Iowa, Idaho and Wisconsin. The enterprises will test whether it’s really possible to compete financially against an industry trend that has swept through American agriculture and that played a role in meat shortages during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Shipping: “They’ve been stuck for months on cargo ships now floating off Southern California. They’re desperate” [Los Angeles Times]. “Some 300,000 of these migrant merchant sailors have been stranded on vessels at sea or in ports around the world, according to the International Transport Workers’ Federation, a London-based trade union that is among the maritime agencies lobbying governments to address what’s been labeled the “crew-change crisis.” They endure unbroken monotony and growing desperation. Their unions and charity groups describe exhaustion, despair, suicide and violence at sea, including at least one alleged murder on a cargo ship headed to Los Angeles…. Imagine weeks at sea or at anchor without the ability to contact loved ones, spotty Wi-Fi connections at ports, living on a food budget that amounts to $7.50 per person, per day. Imagine living in cramped quarters, confined to a 680-foot by 98-foot ship for months longer than you agreed to, your direct contact limited to a couple of dozen other crew members. And the coronavirus has added a two-fold stress increase.” • See NC on the crew change crisis here. For a crisis, it’s been going on a long time. Maybe it’s a new normal?

UPDATE Shipping: “Inside the airline industry’s meltdown” [Guardian]. “To customers, investors and airlines, an earthbound existence was unimaginable before the coronavirus. For commercial aviation, the past two decades have been a period of superheated growth. In 1998, airlines sold 1.46bn tickets for one kind of flight or another. By 2019, that number had shot up to 4.54bn. This year has undone it all. Early in March, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) published two potential scenarios. The more extreme one forecast a global loss of revenue of $113bn…. By June, Iata had to issue a revision: Revenues will fall by $419bn this year, precisely half of what airlines earned in 2019. These numbers are scarcely credible, even to industry veterans.” • The whole article is very interesting, well worth a head.

The Bezzle: “Canon makes ‘all-in-one’ printers that refuse to scan when out of ink, lawsuit claims” [The Register]. “Canon USA has been accused of forcing customers to buy ink cartridges when they only want to scan and fax documents using the manufacturer’s so-called All-In-One multi-function printers.” • Some marketing guy dreamed this up, managers approved, programmers coded it, and project managers wrangled it. If the consequences weren’t relatively trivial, I’d call this an atrocity.

Tech: “Explainer: What is the “metaverse”?” [Reuters]. “The idea of the metaverse is that it will create new online spaces in which people’s interactions can be more multi-dimensional, where users are able to immerse themselves in digital content rather than simply viewing it.” • In other words, the metaverse is a way for Silicon Valley to manipulate the dopamine loop even more brutally than it does now. But no pr0n. Right?

Tech: “Facebook is planning to rebrand the company with a new name” [The Verge]. “Facebook is planning to change its company name next week to reflect its focus on building the metaverse, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter. The coming name change, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28th, but could unveil sooner, is meant to signal the tech giant’s ambition to be known for more than social media and all the ills that entail. The rebrand would likely position the blue Facebook app as one of many products under a parent company overseeing groups like Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and more. A spokesperson for Facebook declined to comment for this story. Facebook already has more than 10,000 employees building consumer hardware like AR glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones.” • I can’t imagine anything less attractive than a dystopia designed by Mark Zuckerberg. I mean, as opposed to the one we’re living in now:

Tech: “Mark Zuckerberg will be added to a Facebook privacy lawsuit.” [New York Times]. “The attorney general for the District of Columbia plans to add Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, to a consumer protection lawsuit, in one of the first efforts by a regulator to expose him personally to potential financial and other penalties. The attorney general, Karl Racine, said on Tuesday that continuing interviews and reviews of internal documents for the case had revealed that Mr. Zuckerberg played a much more active role in key decisions than prosecutors had known…. Facebook’s lawyers have been particularly combative about attempts to name Mr. Zuckerberg in previous regulatory actions. In 2011 and in 2019, its lobbyists and lawyers fought back attempts by the F.T.C. to name him as a respondent in privacy cases. The company succeeded in keeping its chief executive off a $5 billion settlement with the F.T.C. in 2019. As a respondent, Mr. Zuckerberg could be exposed to financial penalties. Mr. Racine can seek up to $5,000 for any of the district’s 300,000 residents who may have been affected by the Cambridge Analytica data privacy violation.”

Tech: This things are getting such good press, you wonder if there’s product placement going on:

I mean, they only “stole the limelight” because the press said so. Kill them with fire.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 68 Greed (previous close: 62 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 32 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 20 at 12:30pm. Perhaps Mr. Market is in his happy space because Build Back Better is no longer a thing?

Health Care

“Modeling SARS-CoV-2 RNA Degradation in Small and Large Sewersheds” (preprint) [medRxiv]. From the Abstract: “Wastewater-based epidemiology has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet little is known about losses of SARS-CoV-2 in sewer networks. Here, we used advanced sewershed modeling software to simulate SARS-CoV-2 RNA loss in sewersheds across Houston, TX under various temperatures and decay rates. Moreover, a novel metric, population times travel time (PT), was proposed to identify localities with a greater likelihood of undetected COVID-19 outbreaks and to aid in the placement of upstream samplers. Findings suggest that travel time has a greater influence on viral loss across the sewershed as compared to temperature. SARS-CoV-2 viral loss at median travel times was approximately two times greater in 20°C wastewater between the small sewershed, Chocolate Bayou, and the larger sewershed, 69th Street. Lastly, placement of upstream samplers according to the PT metric can provide a more representative snapshot of disease incidence in large sewersheds.” • Eew, a model. Still, the parameters are worth thinking about in relation to MWRA results, all of which are at the end of long-ish or really long pipes on Deer Island.

The Biosphere

“Bitcoin-mining power plant raises ire of environmentalists” [ABC]. “An obstacle to large-scale bitcoin mining is finding enough cheap energy to run the huge, power-gobbling computer arrays that create and transact cryptocurrency. One mining operation in central New York came up with a novel solution that has alarmed environmentalists. It uses its own power plant. Greenidge Generation runs a once-mothballed plant near the shore of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region to produce about 44 megawatts to run 15,300 computer servers, plus additional electricity it sends into the state’s power grid. The megawatts dedicated to Bitcoin might be enough electricity to power more than 35,000 homes. Proponents call it a competitive way to mine increasingly popular cryptocurrencies, without putting a drain on the existing power grid. Environmentalists see the plant as a climate threat.” • So, Bitcoin is the new fracking?

Groves of Academe


Class Warfare

UPDATE “From Kellogg’s to John Deere, who is striking right now — and why?” [Today]. And the deck: “Workers across the country are demanding better pay and working conditions.” • Sort of amazing to see this on national television.

UPDATE “‘Let’s Put a Wrench in Things Now’: Deere Workers Strike as Company Rakes in Record Profits” [Labor Notes]. “Deere is attempting to run the plants with salaried employees—some engineers but many white-collar office workers as well. According to one of these workers, some had to buy steel-toed boots in preparation for their strikebreaking deployment. Just hours into the strike, an ambulance had already been called at the Drivetrain Operations in Waterloo. At the Tractor Cab and Assembly Operations across town, a salaried worker crashed a tractor into a pole on the first day. In Coffeyville, Kansas, members on the picket line reported hearing alarms repeatedly going off in the plant, and it was rumored that a salaried employee attempting to operate the furnace had been calling members and retirees for advice. White-collar Deere workers, who are not union members, have their own gripes. Deere cut hundreds of salaried jobs in 2020 and forced some of the remaining employees into lower pay grades and contractor status, according to salaried workers. Now, hundreds of these workers find themselves working 12-hour days, six days a week, in jobs they are not trained for and did not sign up for. About 650 were reassigned to the Parts Distribution Center in Milan, Illinois. ‘If Deere wanted to piss off all of their employees simultaneously, they’ve done a very good job of doing so,’ one white-collar worker wrote to Labor Notes.” • This is a very, very good round-up, including lots of contract details.

UPDATE “Watch now: UAW members from other states, other local unions join Deere employees on the picket lines” [Quad City Times]. “UAW members from Buffalo, New York, as well as Michigan and Ohio and AFSCME locals join Deere & Co. employees on the picket line in East Moline.” Telling quote: “‘What are they calling this, Striketober?’ he said. ‘The workers are striking back. It’s about time.” • Told you “Striketober” wasn’t organic. Ha.

UPDATE “John Deere, UAW resume negotiation as strikers receive community support” [WQAD]. “As Day 6 of the John Deere UAW strike went by, workers felt the support of community members when a caravan of food and supplies reached the front lines. The strike continued on Tuesday, October 19 for its sixth day with the UAW and John Deere resuming negotiations after the strike decision first came down on October 14. As the process begins, striking workers are still on the front lines speaking their mind. They were joined by community members and leaders pitching in to support them with the things they need to keep going. Community members, led by Illinois State Representative Gregg Johnson, put together a supply caravan consisting of food, supplies, and support and delivered to the picket line.”

UPDATE “A Salaried John Deere Employee Reportedly Hit A Striking UAW Member With A Car” [Jalopnik]. “However, according to Jonah Furman, a journalist covering the strike on the ground, the driver was a salaried Deere employee. Thankfully, Furman says the UAW member wasn’t seriously injured or killed…. As Furman points out, though, this isn’t a one-off incident. It’s happened several times at different strikes so far this year. It’s horrible any time someone attempts to murder someone else with their car, but it sounds like workers participating in the the Warrior Met Coal strike in Alabama have been targets of this particular type of violence. According to journalist Kim Kelly, there have been five separate car attacks that sent multiple people to the hospital.” • Furman is ubiquitous and driving a lot of the coverage.

* * *

UPDATE “Cinematographers Guild Lays Out Gains In New IATSE Agreement & Rollbacks Sought By AMPTP That Were Thwarted” [Deadline]. • Bulleted list of “gains.” We’ll see what the rank and file says.

“Pitt faculty votes to unionize in landslide election” [Post-Gazette]. “Faculty at the University of Pittsburgh will be forming a union, capping a five-year organizing campaign with an overwhelming vote in favor of joining the United Steelworkers. The final tally Tuesday showed that 1,511 faculty members, or 71% of those who cast ballots, voted in favor of a union, while 612 members, or 29%, voted against. … Pitt’s faculty union will become the largest new union of any kind in the country this year, organizers said, with more than 3,000 people represented across all five of the university’s campuses. The union includes all full-time and tenured professors, as well as some part-time faculty.”

UPDATE “The Value of Nothing: Capital versus Growth” [American Affairs]. “The conventional explanation for this prolonged period of high and rising valuations focuses on low interest rates and other accommodative measures taken by the Federal Reserve. Fed policy is un­doubtedly a major factor contributing to high asset values, but intense debates over monetary policy have arguably overstated its import­ance. After all, Japan has implemented even more ambitious monetary policies in recent years, including negative interest rates, yield curve control, and central bank purchases of equities. Yet Japanese stock market valuations are relatively low. The European Central Bank has also maintained low rates, and many European sovereign yields are lower than U.S. Treasury yields, but European equity valuations are not as high. A more comprehensive explanation would simply state that the U.S. economy is, to a unique extent, organized around maximizing asset values and returns on capital independently of growth—in terms of corporate behavior, financial market incentives, and government and central bank policy. This may seem obvious or even tautological: what is capitalism if not a system aimed at maximizing returns on capital? But the disconnect that has emerged between returns on U.S. financial assets and underlying economic performance—and even cor­porate profits—over the last few decades should raise deeper questions about basic economic policy assumptions and their theoretical foundations. Insofar as rising asset values are not linked with growth or productivity—and at the very least it is clear that they can diverge for meaningful lengths of time—then not only are different policy approaches required to achieve these distinct objectives, but the larger relationship between capitalism and development ” • Financialization….

News of the Wired

“Researchers make hardened wooden knives that slice through steak” [Phys.org]. “‘Cellulose, the main component of wood, has a higher ratio of strength to density than most engineered materials, like ceramics, metals, and polymers, but our existing usage of wood barely touches its full potential,’ [Teng Li, the senior author of the study and a materials scientist at the University of Maryland] says. Even though it’s often used in building, wood’s strength falls short of that of cellulose. This is because wood is made up of only 40%–50% cellulose, with the rest consisting of hemicellulose and lignin, which acts as a binder. Li and his team sought to process wood in such a way to remove the weaker components while not destroying the cellulose skeleton. ‘It’s a two-step process,’ says Li. “In the first step, we partially delignify wood. Typically, wood is very rigid, but after removal of the lignin, it becomes soft, flexible, and somewhat squishy. In the second step, we do a hot press by applying pressure and heat to the chemically processed wood to densify and remove the water.'” And: “The first step requires boiling the wood at 100° Celsius in a bath of chemicals…” And: “After the material is processed and carved into the desired shape, it is coated in mineral oil to extend its lifetime.” • So it might be possible to do this at home?

* * *

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 (Henry Moon Pie):

Fruits of labor:

Henry Moon Pie writes:

These are pictures of our Cayuga White grape vines in June, grapes on the vine in July, and a carboy full after siphoning from the primary fermentation bucket yesterday. There was not enough room in the 3.5 gallon carboy for all of the original 4 gallons of must. I’ll now wait for it to settle and clear before bottling. Given the bounty, I hope to have a couple of slower ripening grapes to toss into a couple of bottles with a little more yeast to make a couple of bottles of sparkling wine.

We planted 3 bareroot grape vines in ’17. In ’19, I fermented about 1.5 liters in a large, upright vase. Last year, we made about 2 gallons with the pictured kit. This year, the birds and chipmunks had already been feasting, and still I had more grapes than I could use.

The problem: the invasive Asian Spotted Lanternfly, fond of grapes and the hops I have growing up the west side of the house, has been found within a mile of here in the last week.

Do we have any other winemakers in the readership? (I always wanted to get into distilling, because the process was so attractive, but that wouldn’t have been legal….)

* * *

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

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

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

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

About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Neilo

    “the final bill to expand the social safety net is expected to drop tuition-free community college”

    But in spite of ‘withdrawing’ from Afghanistan, the largest defense bill in history.

    You voted for that

    By the way, the manner to destroy a robot dog is with a good old fashioned Argentine bolo, three weighted ropes tied together in the middle and whirled like a lasso then thrown to tangle the legs, once down, sledghammers, rocks, paint or mud on sensors and it’s done.

        1. John

          Insert robot dog in steel barrel. Fill with concrete. OR Tar and feather robot dog with special attention to cameras etc.

        2. curlydan

          Or use mini x-wing fighters with tow cables as employed by the Rebel Alliance against the Empire’s AT-AT snow walkers in “The Empire Strikes Back”

          1. The Rev Kev

            Sorry guys. I’m still going with armour-piercing bullets. Something that small cannot carry much armour.

          2. Greg

            A light sabre to the battery pack is also sufficient. Or just pull the battery quick release handle on the bottom and laugh.

            1. Late Introvert

              What about lasers directly beamed in all the sensors? I know you can ruin an expensive camera that way. This is all news you can use.

  2. allan

    Re: the MSU culinary services story. Think of the synergy.
    Faculty could conduct review sessions for the upcoming midterm exams while slinging Turkey Tetrazzinni,
    advise students on their majors while wiping down the tables,
    or write their next grant proposal while doing the dishes.

    Seven years of graduate school down the drain.

    1. Eric R

      Actually in Michigan, one member of your food service staff must be SafeServe certified to pass your county health inspection. Not every person, but at least one. Suddenly that certificate becomes more valuable than X years of graduate school. Also if SafeServe certified staff should be the staff who quit or go on strike, well that would be an example of a critical bottleneck.

      1. John

        Yet another reason to return to the faculty senate form of governance for the university and pare the “administrative staff/drones by 90 %.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          That could be part of the “grand bargain” between society and universities. ” We will restore your funding to where it was before the Great Tax Revolt if you pare your administrative/staff payroll by 90%”.

          We could say: That’s the deal. Take it or go into liquidation and let Diane Feinstein’s husband turn your buildings into condos.

  3. zagonostra

    “The president is the inspirer, he is the closer, he is the convincer, the mediator in chief,’ Jayapal said. ‘He really is doing a phenomenal job.'”

    I understand the tactics of Jayapal showing no daylight between herself and Biden. But she didn’t have to humiliate herself.

    It a clear and explicit “Let’s go Brandon” statement. NC should create a new Rubric called “LGB”, no that won’t do…this is isn’t the first statement from Jaypal of this type, remember when asked about Biden and the “Progressive” agenda, she said that it “exceeded all her expectations.”

      1. zagonostra

        My interpretation of the “Lets Go Brandon” meme is that it concretizes/reifies gas lighting, or if you like, that the “emperor wears no clothes.”

        Jayapal would have to be completely bereft of any understanding of American history if she believed what she said. The person interviewing Brandon would have had to have been completely deaf to not hear the audience roaring FCB.

        When I first saw the meme I thought it was a perfect metaphor to encapsulate the way many people view MSM. They know they are being bamboozled. And I think the MSM knows that the audience knows it’s being lied to. It’s like Pravda at the end of the Soviet Union.

        I wish that I could believe that she was being Ironic. If that was the case, I missed it and would actually be more favorable disposed to her if that was true. But I think that was not the case based on her previous comments on JB’s “Progressive” agenda.

      2. Big River Bandido

        I think the implication is that Jayapal actually hoped to put lipstick on the pig, but that her statement came off as “Let’s Go Brandon” desperation. I agree with you — it’s humiliating. And she probably knew it even as she said it, which added to the lameness of the statement.

        For Jayapal and for her entire caucus, the only face-saving way out of this is to kill the bill outright. They would at least save their *own* skins next November.

        1. DJ

          I’ve only heard one venue (a podcast) mention this possibility, but with Pelosi supposedly planning to step down as Speaker, does anyone think that maybe Jayapal is intending to try to replace her (as Minority Leader if the Dems lose control of the House)? She wouldn’t have any hope of garnering the support she needs to do so if she doesn’t support the Dem team. Maybe I’m making the mistake of assuming (hoping?) that she’s just playing 12-dimensional chess, but on the other hand the payoff of having Jayapal as Minority Leader (or Speaker) could be huge.

        2. NotTimothyGeithner

          Putting lipstick on the pig, myself, I wouldn’t be surprised if flattering Biden has been the strategy.

  4. Lee

    Re robotic dog.

    “Tech: [These] things are getting such good press, you wonder if there’s product placement going on.”

    One product placement deserves another: Bolawrap

    1. Helena

      I still resist buying a gun, but it sounds like bolawrap is something to get and master. If someone actually manages to break into my house, they won’t know what hit them. And those ‘dogs’

      1. festoonic

        It’s a great idea, but Bolawrap reviews indicate they don’t work very well. Or else the LAPD, which operated a sizable pilot program with them, prefers to go right to the traditional modes of violence they’re famous for and opted to deliberately tank the tests. Either way, though, a lot of money changed hands, so that’s good.

        1. Helena

          the video only shows stationary people with their legs together–that does not seem like it would happen very often in actual practice for the police. I didn’t realize it was for law enforcement when I watched it. That does look like it’s not reliable enough for those extreme situations. I guess I’ll stick to my 20 ft wasp spray to aim for the eyes.

          1. jr

            Get pepper spray, I understand the wasp spray isn’t that effective against intruders. This stuff will stop a dinosaur:


            Me? I’m thinking of this muther:


            and this one too:


            Unregulated in most states, able to punch through thin metal, and the carbine model will bring down a 140 lb. wild hog. Sometimes when someone is shot with a bullet, they can regain their feet. I’d like to see them do that with six inches of aluminum in them.

            When the witch hunts start, I’m taking some of them with me. Good times!

            1. jr

              One note: Don’t buy the original Stinger, it’s cheaply made. The Stinger 2’s are solid by all accounts.

              1. Helena

                Thanks! Will I be setting off any alarms bells by ordering this stuff? It’s really hard to find where I live any more. I’m thinking I don’t need a crossbow…

                1. jr

                  The pepper spray company won’t ship to you if it’s not legal in your state/city. I talked to an NYPD white shirt (brass) about it and he said the Foxlabs stuff will leave welts. It’s Defcon 4 in the pepper spray world. You may be able to get another brand though, in NYC that stuff is illegal but you can get the stuff the cops carry. You have to go to NJ to get it.

                  The white shirt also said it is legal to carry spray but legal/illegal doesn’t mean much to NYPD, in so many words. Their policy is it’s legal to carry but illegal to use. The circumstances will have to be in your clear favor. If I spray someone because they are in my living room and they present a threat, that’s one thing. If I am out at a bar and get into a drunken brawl, that’s another. No guarantees either way but I’m much more likely to get leniency in the first instance. I dare say a woman using it is going to have a bit of an easier time than a guy.

                  1. Helena

                    Well, I don’t need it out on the street–It would be for home invasion use. I used to be able to find several varieties of stream-type and foam at the local hunting store, but it disappeared for some reason they won’t talk about. There are no restrictions except using for criminal purposes. Very permissive state over all. Thanks for all your info!

                    1. jr

                      Try to get the “cone” shaped spray, much easier to hit your target’s face and if you miss it’s still going to put a cloud of it around their head. Spray back and forth a bit to fill the air around the target. Hold your breath and step aside from your position in case they rush you.

                      Also, consider a powerful flashlight. I have one that goes up to 1200 lumens, it’s like looking into the sun. I also have a smaller one to mount on the bow that strobes to disorient the target. Additionally, I have a marine distress horn that sounds like a freight train is running through your living room.

                      The plan is horn and light first, spray second, then an arrow in the guts.

      2. Gravity Falls

        UDAP Bear Spray, it has an orange dye that would be hard to clean without soap and a pressure washer.

    2. doug

      Someone needs to 3d print something similar, as those bolo wraps only go to agencies, I think.
      They would be perfect for the robot dog.
      Also cast nets might interest some. One that is 5-8′ diameter with light weights is not that hard to learn to throw, and if you are good they get bigger.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I would have thought the sensors would be the most vulnerable point. One of those big water guns with a bucket of paint in it. Or some kind of really sticky oatmeal?

          1. ProudWappie

            In that case, I’d think of a flashlight. Some of those devices can generate a rather intense ray of light. Laser light can potentially blind people, and this is most likely less harmful. And these devices don’t fall under any restrictive legislation as well.

    3. The Rev Kev

      One year ago – ‘Oh look. Dancing robots. Isn’t that cute?’

      Today – ‘Is that an assault weapon strapped to that robot dog?’

      If there was more footage of that robot dog at the fashion show, they could have talked about the great accessories that it comes with to make a fashion statement. A colour-coordinated assault rifle, an edgy Musk-inspired flame-thrower and a slinky taser gun all coming together in the latest must-have.

  5. Helena

    Pardon my ignorance, but do they really have to get cellulose from wood? Isn’t plant cellulose just cellulose? Sounds like a lot of unnecessary processing.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The first step requires boiling the wood at 100° Celsius in a bath of chemicals, which could potentially be reused from batch to batch. For comparison, the process used to make ceramics requires heating materials up to a few thousand degrees Celsius.

      Perhaps, a different set of organic materials would be better, but my guess is the researchers simply started with what was easy and widely available and went bam.

    2. Samuel Conner

      I think that this process is contemplated for use at scale, and it might be that tree inputs are the least problematic in terms of total costs, including growth and harvest and removal of other compounds present with the cellulose (an example is that tree heartwood is pretty inert; smaller plants have a higher ratio of cambium to structural stem, with more sap as a fraction of total weight).

      I recall seeing this process mentioned some years ago as a potential substitute for steel in building construction, and IIRC a way of sequestering large amounts of carbon.

      A possible advantage to using trees is that one can form larger structural members from large single pieces of tree than with inputs from smaller plants. That might have a strength advantage.

      I wonder if the lignins and other compounds removed in this process have any uses; perhaps as biofuels?

      I wonder how this process compares with “mass timber” approaches to construction. I would think that mass timber ought to be a good bit cheaper, but perhaps is more limited in terms of the achievable strength of the structural elements.

    3. Greg

      Speculating, the density of cellulose dense cells in secondary growth is much higher than in primary growth. “Wood” is lots of dead cells without the goopy cytoplasm, so a big thick wodge of not much more than cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and water.
      If you processed the cellulose from other types of plant tissue you’d have to do a lot more processing to get down to just cellulose, and it wouldn’t be as densely organised.
      It also looks like they’re leveraging a certain amount of the pre-existing structure of the wood to give them the strength in the final product – working from a less dense base tissue would require more processing to arrange the cellulose in appropriate formations for strong products.

      Anyway I’d like to see a combo of this and the “make cellulose transparent” tricks used to make wooden window panels (on NC a while back). Transparent metal detector evading knives wooo! (cue several heart attacks at airport security)

    4. Brandon

      Wood is the original composite engineering material, not really all that different from the highest end unidirectional carbon fiber reinforced polymer(CFRP) used in aerospace. And like CFRP, it is highly what is called anisotropic, which is to say its strength/stiffness varies significantly depending on the direction a force is applied to it, unlike a metal say that has the same strength/stiffness in all directions.

      Also, the link to the article is borked, here’s the correct one- https://phys.org/news/2021-10-hardened-wooden-knives-slice-steak.html Read it, it’s very short and non-technical.

  6. Carolinian

    Re Canon–I blush for the makers of my excellent Canon camera. Meanwhile HP probably kicking themselves for not thinking of it first (or perhaps they did).

    You’d think that after all these years the printer ink scam would finally be over.

    1. Helena

      I did stop getting those phone calls–guess they fired everyone and had the software developers do the deed. I have an old Brother laser printer with lots of bells and whistles I could still get a cartridge for. And I got it for free from someone upgrading. It is pretty hunky, but completely cooperative and hooks up to my little computer. This is how I get most of my stuff, except I had a bad experience with shoes once and buy them new. And I won’t answer any questions about any other clothing staples.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Another Brother laser printer user here! The thing is built like a brick [family blog] house and it just runs and runs. Only thing I ever have to do is replace its toner cartridge.

        And, on a completely different topic, I am not a wine maker but I do make mead, aka honey wine. Just started a new batch on Monday. Aiming to have it ready by Thanksgiving.

        1. Helena

          That printer is built to survive a law office, it’s great.

          Hope your mead turns out well–I tried a couple of times and didn’t like my results compared to the stuff I can get around here. I am better at fermenting veg.

          1. BlakeFelix

            Some mead can be improved with age, one of my friends made a batch and it was bad, then we tried it the next year and it was okay, and the year after that it was good!

    2. John k

      My hp is currently on strike bc it wants more blue, so I can’t scan, fax or print black.
      No idea who was first with this fu customer support.

      1. Late Introvert

        I decided if I needed color prints I could go to a shop, and have been enjoying my B&W Brother laser printer for 10 years and 1 toner cartridge change. No, I don’t print a ton, but with a kid in school all those years, so it gets use. Helps to set the print quality low,

  7. Jason Boxman

    So we’ve been hearing about this in the news occasionally, and here is a continuation of the sad tale of PFAS everywhere: Shell Game’: How Chemical Companies Avoid Paying for Pollution

    And what’s astounding is that, if a foreign power did this to the United States — exposed everyone in America to a dangerous chemical — we’d be at war right now. Full stop. But somehow the scale of the evil is so large, as with the Sacklers, no one is going to be held accountable. Maybe abroad:

    Dutch prosecutors began criminally investigating Chemours for the use of PFOA at a factory in Dordrecht from 2008 to 2012, before Chemours was created.

    And the EPA stance that novel chemicals are harmless until proven otherwise is beyond insanity and impossible to justify or comprehend except by referring to the rules of neoliberalism: 1) because markets 2) go die.

  8. Samuel Conner

    The story about ranchers “going vertical” cooperatively struck me as deeply encouraging at several levels; it looks superficially like it has the structure of a cooperative enterprise, it’s an entry into a field dominated by powerful corporations that may not care much about the interests of either suppliers or customers, it might make the food supply chain a bit more resilient. One could probably find other reasons.

    I’m tempted to say (imitating Lambert) “now do Pharma!”

    1. Wukchumni

      We just took a drive through the Sierra foothills to Kings Canyon and Cedar Grove the other day, and I was riding shotgun and counted about 60 range cattle visible from where I was sitting.

      We drove by endless amounts of old ranches with barns, corrals, often bedraggled and/or beat up fences and all the infrastructure needed to make a go of it in 1951. I’d guess I saw enough equipment et al to manage 50,000 cows, easy. It all boiled down to economics, no way-no how could you beat a CAFO , so they went out of business.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If we surrounded America with a Big Beautiful Wall of Economic Protection, so that we could ban foreign beef imports to stop them from tearing down our price structure, and if we could institute the Full Metal Hansen fossil carbon fee-tax dividend against all fossil carbon at the mine mouth or wellhead; we could drive up the price of fossil fueled CAFO sh*tbeef enough that pasture and range fed shinola beef would no longer be ” more expensive” by comparison; then all that pasture-and-range shinola beef-cattle-raising infrastructure could come back into use.

        And if it were still somewhat more expensive, so what? Shinola customers with shinola taste could buy the pasture and range shinola beef, and sh*t consumers with sh*t taste could buy the CAFO sh*tbeef until the Hansen fee-tax bit so hard and deep that CAFOs were all shut down completely. At that point, if the sh*t consumers became mad about not having any more CAFO sh*tbeef to buy, they could just eat GMO petrochemical soybeans.

        1. Charger01

          Please support the kids with 4-H and FFA animals. They do a wonderful job ethically raising animals.

    2. Objective Ace

      I’m waiting for the bigAg lobbyists to somehow stop them like Comcast did with local township cooperative internet ventures

      Best of luck to the ranchers though–I’ll be rooting for them!

  9. Carla

    “Democratic lawmakers ask Justice Roberts for info on judicial conflict failures”

    Huh. Here in Ohio, Pat DeWine, son of Governor Mike DeWine, sits on the Ohio Supreme Court. Our Supremes are about to hear cases regarding Republican shenanigans to game gerrymandering reform. Gov. DeWine, as a member of the (discredited) commission that drew our new, once AGAIN, gerrymandered maps, is a defendant, and despite that, his son Pat DeWine is refusing to recuse himself from the case:


    1. John

      Well of course he is on the case. As the son of one of the defendants , he is in an excellent position to know the “facts” and thus be able to render an informed verdict.

  10. griffen

    Naming competition for the new, new edition of FB. Can be a hyphenated or catchy phrase. We want this to be a remarkable moment, for all the right reasons. While we continue doing what we’ve always done before, natch.

    Call the guy who did “Hot Pockets”. That genius must be found!

      1. TroyIA

        No Pinkertons because Deere is too cheap. The security guards they hired to patrol don’t seem to be taking their job very seriously because every time the guard would drive past my picket site she always smiled and waved. One time I gave her a fist salute and she gave me one right back so then I started chanting One of us! One of us! every time she drove by.

        1. rowlf

          “We accept her, we accept her”?

          Hold the line, and good luck to all of you. Hopefully the company made themselves weak.

        2. griffen

          Build enough public libraries and history shines better on Mr Carnegie and his robber baron cohorts. But enough of us can read the history!

  11. KD

    Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn received multiple threats, including one of lynching, after he penned an opinion piece critical of former President Donald Trump, he told the Des Moines Register…. After the essay’s publication, Wilburn said he received two threatening phone messages and one threatening email to his legislative email address, which all made reference to what he wrote in the article….

    How much you want to bet this is a Jussie Smollett-type hate hoax? As a statistical matter, its got to be about at least 4-1 fake “I-got-beat-up-by-Trump-Supporters” to any actual incident. For this to be true, the person making the threat would have to be able to read, would bother to read the Des Moines Register, and would have to care what the Democratic Party Chair thought about Trump. [Let me guess, he said something mean about him. . . which was just the last straw after four years of consistently negative press.]

    For this to be false, it would just take the same Pavlovian credulity that gave us Russiagate Conspiracies, PP tapes that don’t exist, and Hunter Biden corruption stories (previously reported by AP) as “Russian Disinformation”. These true Blue types are dumber than posts and more credulous than the denizens of Faith Healing Old Time Bible Revivals. Just tell a big lie and repeat it, and true Blue will cash in all our individual liberties to protect us from their imaginary enemies.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      It would be an interesting exercise to track down exactly where those threats came from and from whom. Anything is believable in this strange time.

      Given that one of the many arms of the Kochtopus is now organizing and prompting vicious mobs of screaming threat-makers to invade school board meetings, I would not be surprised if these threats came from a sincere conservative threat-maker or makers.

      1. KD

        I will grant that it is possible that this is not a fake threat, but you got to remember these are the people who brought us the free and fair Iowa caucuses. It is also possible to put a rabid ferret in your pants and not get bitten.

        1. Helena

          This reminds me of an old Columbo episode from the 70s, “Candidate for Crime,” where the campaign manager gets the bright idea of fabricating threats on the candidate’s life for sympathy votes. It backfired on him–the candidate used it as an opportunity to murder the manager as a case of mistaken identity. I love those old Columbos. Wonder if them Iowan Dems have been watching them too.

    2. marym

      Surely Trump supporters know how to read? Time will tell if there’s more to be learned about this particular story from Iowa. As far as telling a big lie, creating imaginary enemies, and cashing in our rights:

      “Through public records and interviews, Reuters documented 102 threats of death or violence received by more than 40 election officials, workers and their relatives in eight of the most contested battleground states in the 2020 presidential contest.”

      GA, AZ, PA

      Bi-partison resolution of the National Association of Secretaries of State on Threats of Violence Toward Election Officials and Election Workers

      “Voting Laws Roundup: October 2021
      In an unprecedented year so far for voting legislation, 19 states have enacted 33 laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote…[and] at least 25 states enacted 62 laws with provisions that expand voting access.

      But this expansive legislation does not balance the scales. The states that have enacted restrictive laws tend to be ones in which voting is already relatively difficult, while the states that have enacted expansive laws tend to have relatively more accessible voting processes. In other words, access to the right to vote increasingly depends on the state in which a voter happens to reside.”

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Several years ago, I read articles ( and saw a little bit of taped deposition) indicating that Trump really does not know how to read very well, or even hardly barely at all. And he really doesn’t like to do it.

    1. Helena

      Fearful, by this account:

      Its call is similar to a clear human scream, increasing in volume and tone and emitted in a series, each pulse being repeated at intervals of ten seconds.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Just for clarity, that Powerful Owl was recorded in Randwick, New South Wales, Australia but Randwick is not a town but a suburb in Sydney’s inner city.

  12. Muffin Cthulhu

    re: Metaverse
    The facebook article reminded me of Snow Crash, which I haven’t read in years. But re-reading the synopsis gave me the willies.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I read the Facebook article about the Metaverse but to me, this seems like Facebook is trying to re-invent “Second Life“. After filing off the serial numbers of course-


      Tens years from now Facebook intends to have users have an ‘immersive’ experience with them. So people will get into fluid-filled clear tanks and have an input/output plug go into the back of the head so that you can get the full Facebook experience.

      1. Helena

        Oof, Second Life was a terrible place. I got persuaded to enter that world early in its creation by this guy who lived on the left coast. Somehow, even the prospect of avatar sex was more than I could even think about. And it’s just boring. You had to shop all the time, and it has money, not just virtual money. It was way too much work for me. If the FB metaverse is anything like that it sounds exhausting.

  13. MonkeyBusiness

    The metaverse is where you go to play multiple rounds of Squid Game. With Zuck as Chief VIP, there’s no limit to the abuse you’ll be subjected to.

    1. Art Vandalay

      Working in tech, I’ve added “meta” to my list of bullshit tells, pretty much like “smart.” I think it’s reasonable to presume anything meta can be filed under “Bezzle” until proven otherwise.

  14. Chas

    Progressive democrats don’t know how to negotiate. They are making concession after concession but never demand concessions from Manchin and Sinema. The progs would do much better if they started demanding cuts from programs benefiting the rich that are in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

    1. Glen

      It would be interesting to know more details on the infrastructure bill since one hears that it contains “asset re-cycling” where we give away infrastructure. Not sure I’d believe that, but Wall St seems to approve of it which gets one immediately suspicious.

      Given the choice between a crappy road with potholes or a crappy road with potholes and a toll booth, I’ll take the one with just the potholes, thank you!

    2. Michael Ismoe

      Leave them alone. They are doing their best to ensure that they never have a majority again in my lifetime.

    3. jr

      Do they really want to negotiate better? Do they really give a fig? Would an AOC who manned a political barricade have been invited to the Met Gala?

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Well . . . this is her moment to show whether she would or wouldn’t, or will or won’t. The eyes of some are upon her.

    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      The “left” was spiritually debilitated and weakened by the influence upon it of the Pacifists. Quakers, A.J. Muste, Joan Baez, etc.

      Making demands, especially by threatening to cancel Upper Class programs, is a very impolite, not-nice, and frankly emotionally-violent thing to do. And so today’s Pacifist-inflected left won’t do it.

      I would do it. But I am not on the “left”.

    5. neo-realist

      Manchin and Sinema are bought and paid for suicide bombers to the democratic agenda. Given the count of GOP and Democratic Senators, there is little room for extracting meaningful concessions without Manchin upsetting the power balance going independent or republican and giving the legislative power back to the republicans and Sinema leaving DC for another donor junket.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Well, first let us see if we get an acceptable bill from Manchin and Sinema. If we don’t, then I would like the Democrats to goad them into blowing themselves up.

  15. Arizona Slim

    The news of the University of Pittsburgh faculty unionization vote has me cheering here in Tucson.

    Back in the 1980s, I spent a miserable 15 months in the employ of that university. I wasn’t faculty, I was staff, and I and my fellow staffers were treated like shhhh…

    If any place deserves a unionized workforce, it’s the University of Pittsburgh. I hope that the staff is the next group to unionize.

  16. notabanker

    I’ve done a fair bit of wine. Making drinkable wine is fairly easy, but takes some patience. Making napa quality wine is difficult and takes a long time, years. I’ve brewed a ton of beer, which is very easy to do and also very easy to make with quality better than store bought. I don’t really drink alcohol anymore, but if I did I would drink more of my own beer than anything I would buy. It doesn’t take long to get the process down and create whatever style you fancy. You can make very good wine and beer with a very minimal investment in equipment.

    Distilling is a whole different thing, and pretty dangerous even when you know what you are doing. Never had any desire to go down that path. Equipment costs are expensive as well.

    1. SiggyTheViking

      Freezer distillation is a pretty interesting alternative. This is how, for instance, apple jack was made here in America.

      It is not particularly efficient, at least when using just a normal freezer, and not resorting to dry ice in acetone, or other techniques I might deny knowledge of under oath, but the product is stunningly different. You can reach maybe 30 proof in your freezer.

      With heat distillation, you are removing the alcohol from the mash, and what flavor there is to the hooch is incidental contaminants that get drug along with it (and then flavors from the barrel aging, or whatever). With freezer distillation, you are removing the water, and leaving behind stuff like the sweetness and etc.

      When the starting point was mead, we called the product Dragon’s Breath. Good stuff.

      1. Grateful Dude

        corn meal can, so I’m told, filter water out of a water-alcohol mix (is it a solution?), leaving almost pure alcohol to filter through. Zeolite too.

        It can then be dried and used again.

    2. meadows

      Cider is even easier to make, been doing it 10 years, up to 200 litres pressed on my own built cider press from local city apples… I prune trees for neighbors, they give me most of their apples… boom. I also make sweet cider which I spread around the hood.

      BTW, distilling also takes patience, equipment costs not too bad, and it ain’t as dangerous as driving a car on the highway.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If this makes you beloved by protective neighbors in times of disorder, their loving protection of you ( and their ongoing access to cider) could be more protective than any number of loaded guns in the house.

  17. Tim

    “The Bezzle: “Canon makes ‘all-in-one’ printers that refuse to scan when out of ink”

    My Epson refused to print black once one of the 3 tiny color cartridges ran out.
    And the XL size cartridge and regular size cartridges are the same size which means regular size is an already small underfilled cartridge.

    Into the trashcan it went.

    I actually went back to Cannon because their ink cartridges last and black will print when color is out. Haven’t tried to scan when all ink is out though..

  18. Tom Stone

    I have had complete strangers try to run me over twice, one drove up on the sidewalk screaming “Honkie Bastards” at the top of his lungs.
    The other was a white dude in an old pickup truck with good shocks and a nice sounding engine, he was screaming with rage when he came around the corner on two wheels, straightened out and came right at me, he went 6′ off the road and nearly rolled it again getting back on the pavement.
    Oakland, a few minutes after 7 AM on a Wednsday and Blucher Valley Rd near Camp Rd, 95472 about 11:30 on a Saturday morning.

    1. Helena

      I consult my guardian angels just in case before going out about the current ‘crazy’ zeitgeist potential. I ride a bike on the wind-y roads and it’s good to have a heads-up. It kind of sucks to feel like you’re living in a jungle, but, I learned from my goats to keep my awareness up. They do it without even thinking.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      If one stranger screamed “Honkie Bastards” at you, one has to presume that he was “non-Honkie”.

      If the other one was White ( or as the anti-White bigots would say . . . “Honkie” ) then what do you think he thought you symbolized?

  19. The Rev Kev

    “Dune Is the Sci-Fi Epic Commodities Traders Have Always Wanted”

    Gee, do commodity traders really want to go with the Dune story? I mean you have a desert planet inhabited by an ultra-religious people who eventually kick the exploitative, evil empire out and take back what was theirs. After what happened in Afghanistan only several weeks ago, you would think that the parallels with that story are a little to close to be comfortable about.

    1. Anthony Noel

      Umm no they don’t, they are co-opted by an off worlder who uses their religious beliefs to take over their culture and society, then he turns them into an army of religious fanatics and unleashes them on the universe in order to cement his imperial rule, which is then past down to his son who literally wipes out their entire culture and way of life.

      There is a reason why Herbert when he wrote Dune Messiah had Paul compare himself to Hitler, it’s because lots of people didn’t seem to realize that Paul “winning” wasn’t a good thing.

  20. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here is a Mother Jones article about Manchin consulting and thinking about how to sleaze on out the side door of the Big Democratic Party tent.


    Why would he be talking about thinking about doing it? To keep extorting things from the Senate and Presidential Democrats with the threat to take the Dem Senators’ majority-status away from them if they don’t support every little thing he asks for.

    I would like to see the Dem Senators expel him from their caucus right now, and strip away every committee and sub-committee assignment he has. If there is a coastal state with a Republican Senator who takes the global warming sea-level rise threat seriously, that Republican Senator can vote with the Democrats for the sake of herm’s own state’s physical survival just this one time. And if the Dem Senators expel Sinema from the caucus, maybe another Republican Senator from a coastal state will vote with the Dem Senators on countering global warming just this one time.

    And if they won’t, then let their coastlines go under the waves.

    1. neo-realist

      If they throw Manchin out of the caucus and strip away his committees and chairmanships, he likely jumps the party ship. If he throws in with the republicans, McConnell will give him some chairmanships and if he votes the way they want him to, he will be a likely be a republican for the foreseeable future, or they primary him for a dependable right wing MAGA mook.

      There are likely Republican Senators who take global warming deeply, but will get primaried out of office if they vote to do so, so they ain’t doing it.

      The problem is if the MAGA soldiers get power, they will sink the country long before coastlines get sunk.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If there are any Republican Senators who have millions of dollars invested in seaside land and/or businesses or invested in land and/or businesses in the floodzones of tomorrow, they might vote New Green Deal to save their investments. But that depends on whether they value their investments more than they value their ego-validation from being Senators.

        If Sinema and Manchin do not surrender and give in to the Big Biden Bill, I hope the Dem Senate Caucus ejects them from caucusing with the Dem Senators. And I hope that Manchin and Sinema then bring their singular lack of character to the Republicans. Let it be a clarifying Naked Lunch moment, where every piece of lunch is naked and exposed on the end of every fork.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        MAGA soldiers would only sink the “country”. The land itself, the Great Turtle Island, would still abide. Global warming would sink the physical coastlines of the land itself. If some Seaside Republican Senators were to vote for Big Green Deal and accept getting primaried, they will have saved the physical land itself from a fate worse than MAGA.

  21. The Rev Kev

    God, this looks so embarrassing now-

    ‘Nima Shirazi
    For all you youngins out there who weren’t paying attention to this back in 2003, these are actual cartoon renderings presented by Colin Powell to the United Nations less than two weeks before the invasion as “irrefutable and undeniable” evidence that Iraq had biological weapons.’


    At least during the Cuban missile crisis of ’62, they had actual aerial pictures of those missiles.

  22. drumlin woodchuckles

    ” Maximum fundraising, minimum governance, rotating villains. There’s no disarray at all, or no more than usual. Both Manchin and Sinema are creatures of the DSCC; this is the party Pelosi and Schumer built. ”

    Based on this, I still like the phrase ” Democrats in cahoots” rather than ” in disarray” or ” en deshabile”.
    Because it is all either deliberate in real-time granular detail or at the very least pre-determined by the candidate-selection engineering which Schumer and Pelosi did to build the Party exactly the way they wanted it to be, in order to get exactly these results, which are exactly the results their class comrades and/or funders want.

  23. drumlin woodchuckles

    Question for Wukchumni . . .

    All those ghost ranches you drove through in the Sierra foothills, did oak trees used to grow there in the days before ranching? Did Indian Nations used to live there and harvest the acorns? Did it used to be an acorn-rich area?

    Or did that only happen in the coastal hills of California?

    1. Grateful Dude

      Here in the foothills a little further North, small tribes lived throughout: the Maidu around here, and there are still some around here. They live like the rest of us depending on what they can afford. Some have large families.

      There are acorn grinding bowls in polished bedrock streambeds. Pine nuts and Manzanita berries also figured large; and abundant fish in the streams. Salmon! other abundant wildlfe. The Sierras are very alive.

      They lived well until …

  24. VietnamVet

    The Democrats are acting out blaming deplorables, Russians, and the unvaccinated, instead of themselves for doing exactly what their donors want. It has given me an existential dread that way surpasses what I felt in 1968. I’m too old now not to know better.

    This is similar to the “Phony War”, the year before Dunkirk. Although it was very real for the French troops on the Maginot Line before it all fell apart. But it is three long years until Donald Trump can shake up the deep state imperialists once again.

    Cops, SEALs, Doctors, Nurses, Farmers, Firefighters, Linemen, and Pilots are not the people you want to piss off. If the plague is still around next year for the mid-terms and the US public health system is still dysfunctional, the fireworks start. It is soul shocking to see newsreaders and VIPs not acknowledging that mRNA gene therapy jabs do not stop viral transmission. Anyone could be shedding the virus without universal accurate daily testing before going out in public. The vaccine mandates, passports, and firing workers are pointless.

    1. Acacia

      Isn’t that a big part of their job, though… deflecting blame to others who aren’t actually responsible, and getting millions of followers onboard with this sleight of hand? I mean, of course they’re not going to blame themselves, let alone accept anything less than being blameless.

  25. The Rev Kev

    Working link for “Researchers make hardened wooden knives that slice through steak” article at-


    A fascinating article this. I wonder if it can be scaled up to full production. More to the point, will it be competitive with metal-ware? In some ways, it is like reading about one of these alternative history stories where a deliberate choice was made about what materials to use and in this case, wood was more thoroughly researched and made use of.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      One wonders further whether it could be applied to bigger pieces of wood . . . pieces big enough to be used in construction including skyscraper construction.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          I vaguely remember having read this article over a year ago. And I have read it again. If I understand it correctly, it is not wood washed of all its non-cellulose chemicals and then the pure cellulose super compressed. It is wood which is still wood, but cut into layers which are then glued to eachother at cross angles to eachother. I understand it as being a kind of plywood but not for wide sheets, rather for structural beams and other members. And it seems strong enough to be very promising. And it can already be done with technology and understanding already existing.

          The purified cellulose super-compression seems to me different. And possibly far stronger than these ply-beams. Which then raises the question, if super-compressed cellulose lengths could themselves by super-glued to eachother with the axis of each oriented differently than its glued-together neighbors, would the result be even stronger?

  26. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here is a little video of where a public meeting is happening and a Nebraska farmer has brought in some frackwater and asks an official if he will drink the frackwater the way the official had promised the Nebraska farmer in conversation earlier that day that he ( the official) would drink the frackwater.

    Here is the link.


    Now, this is Nebraska. And that’s a Nebraska farmer who is against fracking. If we had a political party devoted to banning fracking, such a party might gain that farmer’s favorable attention in the Red Red state of Nebraska. The current DLC Democrat party will not be that party. Nor will the Republican party, of course. It sounds like a few real problems like that create a political vacuum for a legitimate new Political Party to try and fill. And then solve those problems.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      On the Trillbillies podcast, they call that “The Devil’s Milkshake.” Iirc, they coined it after Obama’s Flint “can I get a glass of water?” stunt. I hope that term will gain traction because, sadly, I think we’re going to see more of them.

Comments are closed.