By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
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. Re workload: I eliminated charts for positivity, because I think private tests make those numbers useless. I cut back to a single hospitalization chart, because I think state-by-state data is more useful than a national aggregate. I retained vaccination (new administrations per day, plus percentage total), case count, and death rate (plus total). To spot new variants if and when they emerge, I changed the world chart to include countries that have form creating new variants: the UK, Brazil, and India, with Portugal as a baseline. I also retained rapid riser counties (though for now, with things so relatively quiet, I am including only this week’s data). Winter is coming! Do feel free to make additional suggestions. (If there were a global map that showed the emergence of new variants dynamically, for example, that would be helpful.)
Today I went looking for a map of United States wastewater data; but no joy, except for Missouri. I also went looking for maps of childhood cases and/or school cases; again no joy. I will keep looking, but I’m guessing our data collection efforts remain as half-assed and pissant as they have been throughout this pandemic, richest nation on earth etc. Thank you, CDC. Hat tip, public health establishment.
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.)
56.6% 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:
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.
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?
Boston wastewater detection:
Boston wastewater through 10/12
-still on plateau, but…cases dipping?
-curious b/c usually wastewater is leading indicator
–> lag in case reporting? case 'dip' really still part of plateau?
–> wastewater increasingly more accurate measure of spread compared to cases pic.twitter.com/C1XgsbQ2l2
— Joseph Allen (@j_g_allen) October 14, 2021
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.
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 — 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.)
Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):
Death rate (Our World in Data):
734,611. A continuing blip upward, despite a definite downward trend in death rate, mercifully. We approached the same death rate as our first peak last year. Which I found more than a little disturbing. (Adding: I know the data is bad. This is the United States. But according to The Narrative, deaths shouldn’t have been going up at all. Directionally, this is quite concerning. Needless to see, this is a public health debacle. It’s the public health establishment to take care of public health, not the health of certain favored political factions. Also adding: I like a death rate because it gives me a rough indication of my risk should I, heaven forfend, end up in a hospital. I should dig out the absolute numbers, too, now roughly 660,000, which is rather a lot.)
Covid cases in historic variant sources:
* * *
“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
“Left doubles down on aggressive strategy” [The Hill]. “Emboldened progressives are doubling down on their aggressive strategy after an early victory over centrists, suggesting they see that approach as a winner in the intraparty fight. Liberal lawmakers in the House and Senate are calling for social safety net programs to be as universal as possible, pushing back against centrist Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) calls for programs to be ‘means-tested’ and targeted toward the lowest-income households. They also want programs that provide benefits to families to start as quickly as possible, rather than have a delayed start date in an effort to minimize the price tag. Liberals won an early battle with centrists when the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the Senate was put on mothballs for a month; centrists had been demanding a vote. This week they appeared to win for a second time when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) quickly walked back comments that suggested she preferred moderates’ preferred approach to cutting the cost of the safety net package…. Progressives are holding firm on some of the specific items they want included in the measure, too. Most notably, they are insisting that the bill include expanding Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing care. ‘This to me is not negotiable,’ Sanders said on a press call Tuesday. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the CPC chair, then said on the call that Sanders’s comments are ‘the position of the House progressive caucus.’… ‘I want to be clear, this $3.5 trillion budget resolution is not some fringe wish list,’ Jayapal said Tuesday afternoon during a call with several progressive senators. ‘It is no more, and no less, than the president’s agenda, one that the American people gave Democrats the House, the Senate and the White House to .'” • It’s really amusing to watch Jayapal keep saying there’s no distance at all between progressives and Biden. I wonder how he feels about that?
“Four Waste Coal Provisions Manchin Put in the Infrastructure Bill” [Brick House]. “While he’s been demanding large cuts to the Democratic reconciliation package, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has consistently urged the House to take up and pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill that the Senate passed in August. Many of the business lobbying groups that fund Manchin’s campaigns back the infrastructure bill, but there may be another incentive driving Mancin’s support. A review of the legislative text shows that several provisions in a section drafted by Manchin’s committee would direct benefits to companies involved in waste coal, a niche area of the coal industry that happens to be what the Manchin family coal brokerage specializes in. Enersystems does not release information about its revenue, but the few public documents available show that it has a contract to provide waste coal to the only power plant in West Virginia that burns it for power. It is currently run by Sen. Manchin’s son, but Sen. Manchin earns about $500,000 from it annually through dividends on his shares, which he states in his financial disclosures are worth as much as $5 million.” • Sheesh. How do you bribe a guy who can write his own bribes?
Democrats en Deshabille
Sinema is a bigger problem than Manchin, which is a scandal. Disastrous recruitment mistake by the party leadership. Put a replacement-level purple-state Dem in that seat, and they probably have a deal by now. Recruit a non-sexter in NC, and it might well be a ≈$3.5 trillion one https://t.co/35DYAItwzr
— Eric Levitz (@EricLevitz) October 13, 2021
If your model is the current Democrat leadership built the party for maximum fundraising and minimum governance, the DSCC and Schumer’s choice of Sinema, and support for her campaign, was a feature, not a bug.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“You lost. Stop acting like you won” [White Hot Harlots (lyman alpha blob)]. “The abortion issue has been lost. I cannot fathom any plausible near or medium-term scenario in which the actually existing American left mounts a successful counteroffensive to the Texas bill. Poor women in red states and rural areas effectively do not have access to reproductive healthcare any longer. If they ever regain this right, it will be decades from now. This represents an immense and damning failure of all of America’s liberal institutions. In spite of access to abortion being generally popular–including upwards of 77% of adults wanting Roe to remain more or less in place–the Democratic party, their media apparatuses, and their NGO allies have absolutely shit the bed. They have lost. They have failed. Instead of taking a step back and examining their own tactical and moral failures, instead of owning up to their undeniable cowardice and naivety, instead of realizing that their messaging is at best confusing and at worse supremely alienating, instead of realizing that the other side doesn’t regard this as kayfabe but as a real issue they want to win… the Dems have done nothing. They’ve doubled down on failed strategies. They’ve retreated into their caverns of recrimination and mockery, wallowing in the comfort of blamelessness even as they presently control the executive branch and both houses of congress.” • In many ways, conservative Republicans are more serious about their politics than liberal Democrats, and liberals react to their ground game with aghastitude at the crudity of it all. That’s not helpful…
“Dems thought giving voters cash was the key to success. So what happened?” [Politico]. “When they took power this past winter, Democrats made a commitment to not repeat what many viewed as a critical misstep of the Obama years. The legislation they passed would do two things well: make sure that the benefits were frontloaded and that the impact was tangible. The result was a Covid relief package that included direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans, $300 per week in unemployment insurance supplements, and an expansion of the child tax credit for a year. Nine months later, whatever political benefits were supposed to accrue from that package have seemingly faded. The public’s support for the direct payments has been overtaken by its concerns about the lingering pandemic. The federal unemployment insurance benefits ended in September with no apparent appetite by the feds or state governments to extend them. And while Democrats are seeking to extend the expanded child tax credit past its expiration date this December, recent polling data suggests that they are getting little credit for it. A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released last week showed that 61 percent of respondents said they’d received the credit — a $300 payment per month for every child under the age of 7 and a $250-per-month payment for every child under the age of 17. But only 39 percent of respondents said that the payment had a major impact on their lives. And while 47 percent of respondents credited Democrats for passing the expanded child tax credit, just 38 percent credited President Joe Biden.” • First, Trump gave cash too. Perhaps Biden doesn’t get credit for continuing (and then abandoning) the policy Trump initiated. Second, Joe Biden owes me six hundred bucks. Commentary:
No minimum wage hike
No filibuster reform
No court expansion
No medicare for all
No green new deal
No student debt help
No pandemic plan
No closing child cages
No end to migrant abuse
No consequences for Trump thugs
Why are polls turning against us?😕
— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) October 14, 2021
“How Democrats Can Save Themselves” [Ross Douthat, New York Times]. “But even a strictly defensive strategy, one that just prevents more Hispanic voters from shifting to the Republicans and holds on to some of Biden’s modest Rust Belt gains, would buy crucial time for Democrats — time for a generational turnover that still favors them, and time to seize the opportunities that are always offered, in ways no data scientist can foretell, by unexpected events.” • Shorter Shor: The party of betrayal should pay more attention to polling.
“In defense of the old-fashioned idea of ‘racism'” [Matt Yglesias, Slow Boring]. “If we accept the definition that a racist is a person who supports racist policies, and what makes a policy racist is that it ‘produces or sustains racial inequity,’ then determining which policies are racist requires exhaustive analysis of controversial empirical questions. Sanneh uses the example of ‘ban the box’ laws which prohibit employers from asking about past criminal convictions. Many activists and the National Employment Law Center regard this as an important anti-racist measure since African Americans are more likely to have prior convictions and thus be disadvantaged by this question. But Jennifer Doleac and Benjamin Hansen find that ‘ban the box’ laws lead to worse employment outcomes for Black men because absent specific information about past criminal records, employers engage in statistical discrimination. ‘Are these laws and their supporters racist?’ Sanneh asks. ‘In Kendi’s framework, the only possible answer is: wait and see.’ Sanneh’s review suggests, rightly, that neither Kendi nor anyone else can consistently stick with this empiricist concept of racism. That the visceral reaction to animus, bias, and discrimination is still with us and still works as the primary meaning of ‘racism,’ even for people who would like to officially move to something more like Kendi-ism.”
“S2 E12 Populism Saved Us Before. Where is it Now?” [Thomas Frank, YouTube (flora)]:
This is really good. It’s nice to have a YouTube where (5:27) both host and audience know who William K. Black is, and what accounting control fraud is.
Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell to 293 thousand in the week ending October 9th, the lowest level since the pandemic hit the US economy in March 2020 and well below market expectations of 319 thousand. The steady labor market recovery continued amid a rebound in demand for workers and a slowdown in firings, layoffs and separations. Still, there are signs many individuals remain on the sidelines of the labor force due to lingering concerns over the coronavirus, with the level of new claims remaining above the average weekly pace from before the virus in 2019 and September’s labor force participation rate holding below its level from February 2020.”
Finance: “Breakdown: Buy Now, Pay Later’s bill is coming due” [Reuters]. “What do Goldman Sachs (GS.N), Square (SQ.N), PayPal (PYPL.O) and Amazon.com (AMZN.O) have in common? They all agree that buy-now-pay-later lending is the credit card of the next generation. The short-term financing tool is shaking up how consumers buy online, prompting established lenders to scramble to catch up with industry upstarts. Meanwhile, regulators are worrying about an explosion of unsustainable debts…. The main danger is that pay-later debt is hidden. The loans are usually not classified as conventional credit, so providers do not need to report them to credit bureaus which build an overall picture of a consumer’s debt position. Sometimes lenders do not even report late or missed payments. This blind spot lets consumers rack up loans from multiple providers…. However, any sustained regulatory crackdown is likely to slow the growth of pay-later lending, while greater oversight will also raise compliance costs. That’s important, because .” • Oy.
Story: A man called me who knew my name and the hospital address, said that he was Lieutenant Eric Swift from the Napa County Sheriff. (This person does exist but is evidently on vacation according to the real sheriff office.) Many of my patients live in Napa county.
— 🌈 Alana Kinrich, MD (@AlanaKinrich) October 13, 2021
Doctors, pass this along to you network!
Supply Chain: ‘Ryan Petersen on How Global Supply Chains Have Gotten Even Worse” (podcast) [Odd Lots]. “We’ve been covering global supply chain pressures almost since the beginning of the year on Odd Lots. And with each episode the question is “ok, so when will things normalize?” But basically, not only have things not normalized, things have gotten much worse. So why can’t the system stabilize?”
Intellectual Property: “Split Federal Circuit rejects constitutional challenge to patent board structure” [Reuters]. “In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled against Mobility Workx LLC on its claims that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board unconstitutionally favors reviewing patents because it and its judges receive more money if it grants more review requests, noting among other things that Congress controls its budget. That control ‘renders any agency interest in fee generation too tenuous to constitute a due process violation,’ U.S. Circuit Judge Timothy Dyk wrote.”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 39 Fear (previous close: 32 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 32 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 14 at 12:28pm.
“Indigenous knowledge and the myth of ‘wilderness'” [Phys.org]. “Aboriginal ideas of “wilderness” are in direct contrast to the romantic notion of “wilderness” as “pristine” or “healthy” that remains a powerful narrative in conservation efforts across the world today. Human impacts on the environment are almost always viewed as threats to ecological health. But this framing ignores the fact that Indigenous and local peoples have been actively creating, managing and maintaining most of the Earth’s landscapes for thousands of years. In fact, this ignorance runs so deep that many “high value” landscapes that are mapped in global conservation efforts are incorrectly assumed to be people-free, ‘wild’ places. In a special issue on tropical forests in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), our work shows that many of these high value ‘wilderness’ landscapes are in fact the product of long-term management and maintenance by Indigenous and local peoples…. Domestic plants, anthropogenic soils and significant earthworks all characterize large parts of what is considered “wilderness” in the Amazon. Indigenous and local peoples struggle constantly against wilderness-inspired conservation that seeks to deny them access to their homelands and the livelihoods that it sustains. Similarly, swidden agriculture—rotational agriculture based on small-scale forest clearing, burning and fallowing—has been used in southeast Asia and the Pacific for millennia, in some of the most biodiverse regions on Earth. These are areas that are today mapped as “wilderness” under scientific attempts to define the last remaining ‘Wild Places.’ But rather than being wild places, swidden agriculture has actively promoted landscape-scale biodiversity across the region, while simultaneously supporting the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of Indigenous and local peoples.” • Well worth a read.
On the doctor-patient relationship:
"My GP" is trending. I once wrote a monograph with @iona_heath about the therapeutic relationship. Here's what I said about my GP at the time.
I wish GPs weren't being attacked by politicians when the underlying problem is understaffing and underfunding. It won't end well. pic.twitter.com/tGc4fR8TVO
— Trisha Greenhalgh (@trishgreenhalgh) October 14, 2021
How it should be, but obviously the MBAs want to eliminate “therapeutic relationships” as such. Keep your eyes on that computer screen!
Groves of Academe
“At Stephen F. Austin State University, a quiet pay bump for the president sparks outrage and questions over the budget and furloughs” [The Texas Tribune]. “[T[he reaction was swift when faculty and staff discovered in late August that SFA’s board of regents had quietly handed Gordon an $85,000 pay bump last spring as part of a “contract” renegotiation, even as administrators warned members in that meeting of ‘turbulence ahead.’ The new contract also included an additional $25,000 pay increase each year for the next two years. In a word, nearly everyone – staff, faculty, even students – was angry. ‘We were told no salary increases, tighten your belts, we’ve got to buckle down to be frugal,’ said Matt Beauregard, a SFA math and statistics professor, interim chair of the physics, engineering and astronomy department and interim chair of the computer science department. ‘Why in anyone’s right mind would you renegotiate contracts? To me that shows just a lack of foresight or you just don’t really understand the academic mission of a university.'”… An apologetic Gordon quickly returned the pay raise at a special board meeting on Sept. 6, where the board claimed they approved the raise based on ‘information provided at the time.’ The next day, both Gordon and SFA’s board of regents chair, Karen Gantt, quickly set up a series of meetings with faculty and staff as part of a ‘listening tour’ where complaints could be aired, giving all a better path forward.” • Administrators. A “listening tour“….
The second-year law student, a member of both the Native American Law Students Association and the conservative Federalist Society, had invited classmates to an event cohosted by the two groups. Here is what the student wrote in an email to the Native American listserv: pic.twitter.com/4UTQz5AqGL
— Aaron Sibarium (@aaronsibarium) October 13, 2021
Assuming the words of the Dean and the Diversity Director are reported correctly, they seem rather thuggish.
Our Famously Free Press
I’m sure it’s just an isolated example:
Couric writes that she wanted to protect RBG and so she edited out RBG saying that those who kneel during the national anthem are showing 'contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life.' https://t.co/iQKyeHjgCB
— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) October 13, 2021
It’s in Miami, so let’s hope the lower floors are designed to be accessible by boat:
VIDEO: Developers in Florida have begun building the world's first pandemic-ready skyscraper. The Legacy Tower will feature bacteria-killing robots, touchless technology and modern air purification systems which developers hope will protect residents against future pandemics pic.twitter.com/EocEaQwoOR
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) October 13, 2021
Pandemic-ready it may be, but what happens to the elevators in case of a power failure?
“Dollar General Workers Stare Down Historic Union Vote, Vowing ‘We’re Gonna Fight'” [In These Times]. “In less than two weeks, a tiny group of a half dozen workers in Barkhamsted, Connecticut will vote on whether to become the only unionized Dollar General store employees in America. These six people in a small town about 20 miles northwest of Hartford now find themselves positioned to gain a historic toehold for organized labor inside a booming, low-wage industry. But it will not be easy. Ironically, the staffers in Barkhamsted who have launched the union drive say they enjoyed the job. ’The place is like a family. The people there are family. We all take care of each other,’ said a Barkhamsted Dollar General employee who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation at work. According to the employee, the union drive came about in September as a result of poor treatment of employees by a Dollar General district manager. The employee said that the district manager ignored a complaint of sexual harassment in the store, and was heard making racist remarks about the store’s manager. When the district manager unfairly accused the store’s manager of stealing, the employee said, ’We all got scared. If they could do something like this to someone who didn’t do anything, what could they do to us?’ Asked about the allegations about the district manager’s behavior, Dollar General said in a statement, ’As a company, we do not comment on allegations of employee wrongdoing, other than to reiterate our zero tolerance policy for unlawful discrimination and harassment.’ The store’s employees reached out to Local 371 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), which represents grocery workers, manufacturing workers, and others throughout Connecticut. On September 20 — after only a few days of organizing — the union filed for an election. On October 22, the vote will be held in a tent outside the store. As soon as the union petition was filed, Dollar General reacted with an intense anti-union campaign.” • Against six people!
On “the same sentiment,” you heard it here first:
This same sentiment is brewing at Class I Railroads too. Time for elites to share the pie or lose the whole thing.
— Ungovernable #GeneralStrike (@jcgad) October 11, 2021
Can readers in the railroad industy confirm or disconfirm?
“The Elite Are Unmasked. What About Those Who Serve Them?” [Bloomberg]. ” If you have attended a conference or public event recently, you may have noticed it: The wealthier attendees are not usually wearing masks, but the poorer servers and staff almost always are. Even if the attendees are wearing masks at the beginning, the masks come off once they start wining and dining — and they usually don’t go back on. Isn’t this a sign that mask-wearing is no longer so essential? At the very least, it sends a mixed message: If you want to be comfortable eating and drinking with your peers, it’s OK to take off your mask — but it’s not OK if you want to be comfortable serving food, carrying heavy trays and describing the dessert menu. Yes, there are reasons for this difference — for one, you can’t eat or drink with a mask on — but, just as surely, that difference is unfair. And that unfairness is heightened by the reality that, at least in the U.S., most of people who attend conferences or events tend to be White, wealthy and well-educated. The servers are often people of color and typically earn lower incomes. They are also hard workers. Are we really distributing the burden properly here?” And at the very end: “I also worry that the current practice of shaming less well educated people who have less efficacious vaccine and mask habits is going to backfire, and they will stop listening to elites altogether. Then American society will be even more divided than it already is.” • Yep.
“The Top 1% of Americans Have Taken $50 Trillion From the Bottom 90%—And That’s Made the U.S. Less Secure” [Time]. ” But in addressing the causes and consequences of this pandemic—and its cruelly uneven impact—the elephant in the room is extreme income inequality. How big is this elephant? A staggering $50 trillion. That is how much the upward redistribution of income has cost American workers over the past several decades. This is not some back-of-the-napkin approximation. According to a groundbreaking new working paper by Carter C. Price and Kathryn Edwards of the RAND Corporation, had the more equitable income distributions of the three decades following World War II (1945 through 1974) merely held steady, the aggregate annual income of Americans earning below the 90th percentile would have been $2.5 trillion higher in the year 2018 alone. That is an amount equal to nearly 12 percent of GDP—enough to more than double median income—enough to pay every single working American in the bottom nine deciles an additional $1,144 a month. Every month. Every single year.” • “Build Back Better” shows how hard it is to even tinker round the edges. (And I confess I never expected to see a headline like that in Time.)
“Minimum Wage Machine” [Blake Fall-Conroy]. “The minimum wage machine allows anybody to work for minimum wage. For as long as they turn the crank, the user is paid in pennies as time passes. For example, if minimum wage is $7.25/hour (the current US Federal rate), then the worker is paid one penny every 4.97 seconds. If they stop turning the crank, they stop receiving money. The machine’s mechanism and electronics are powered by the hand crank, and pennies are stored in a plexiglas box. The MWM is reprogrammed as minimum wage changes, or for wages in different locations.” • Photo:
Now let’s do surplus value:
— John Leavitt 🌹 (@LeavittAlone) March 2, 2020
“The Age of Exterminations (IV). How to Kill the Rich” [The Seneca Effect]. Since it’s out there: “As usual, the key to the future is in the past. Examining the destiny of the [Knights Templar], we may understand the factors that may lead to the extermination of a powerful (but not enough) financial guild. First of all, why were the Templars exterminated [by France’s Phillip IV]? I argued in previous posts (one, two, and three) that certain categories of people can be exterminated and their possessions confiscated when they are 1) wealthy, 2) clearly identifiable, and 3) militarily weak, The Templars clearly satisfied the first two rules but not necessarily the third: after all, they were a military order. Yet, when the King of France descended on them, they didn’t even try a military reaction. It may be that the prowess of the Templar Knights was much overrated: they were more like a private police force for a financial organization, not a real military force. But it may also be that it was exactly the presence of this force that hastened their downfall. Sometimes, a little military power may be worse than none at all, since it invites a decapitation strike.
News of the Wired
“Silverview by John le Carré — spies at the seaside” [Financial Times]. ” Silverview is [le Carré’s] 26th book and according to his children the only complete novel that was still left unpublished at the time of his death in December 2020…. At the novel’s heart is the question of what would drive an ageing spy, whose loyalty to the Secret Intelligence Service has never been in doubt, to turn his coat. The first inkling of this arrives when a letter is delivered to a senior spy in London warning him of a leak that threatens to endanger dozens of undercover agents. It is not virgin territory for le Carré, whose Tinker, Tailor trilogy also considered the pull of defection. But those novels were set during the cold war, when going over to the side of communism was never dressed up as anything but treason. The modern world of spying that le Carré contemplates here is presented as a far less Manichean place. The road is a tortuous one leading from the mass killing of Muslims in Bosnia during the Yugoslavian war to the west’s mendacious meddling in the Middle East.” • I bought Agent Running in the Field, which is very good, but I found my foreboding of whatever betrayals were to come so intense I could not finish it. So here is another book to fail, perhaps, to read. Here is an excerpt.
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 (Carla):
Carla writes: “Stokesia daisy feeding a bee in my garden.”
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