2:00PM Water Cooler 10/27/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

No UPDATEs today. This is the lot! –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

A duet from the Himalayas.

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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.)

57.5% of the US is fully vaccinated (CDC data. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Turkey, and just above the Czech Republic in the Financial Times league tables 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:

Downward trend resumes. Levels that once were a crisis is now not newsworthy (presumably because hospitals are not overwhelmed, normal medical billing is about to resume, etc.).

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:

Seems like a sine-wave pattern on the right. Why?

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 25, 2021” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties:

Arizona worse. Trouble spots in the West. Upper Midwest improved. Weird flare-ups, like flying coals in a forest fire. They land, catch, but — one hopes — sputter out.

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.)

The previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Finally some relief for the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, although I don’t understand why they they have the bad luck to be so stubbornly still red.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 760,080 757,849. Going down again, mercifully. 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):

So how long does it take before 10% “excess” deaths becomes the new normal?

(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 Chile rising. Also Portugal, oddly, which lifted restrictions about a month ago. 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



In general, “progressives” have been very quiet. I’m not sure whether that’s discipline, or lack of coverage, or a hunker down mentality, or what. Then again, it is a hostage situation. Those tend to be tense….

“White House: Biden can negotiate on world stage without spending deal at home” [Politico]. “‘I don’t think world leaders will look at this as a binary issue: is it done, is it not done,’ [national security adviser Jake Sullivan] said. ‘They’ll say, ‘Is president Biden on track to deliver what he said he’s going to deliver?’ And we believe one way or the other he will be on track.’… ‘These global leaders are sophisticated,’ [press secretary Jen Psaki] said. ‘They’re familiar themselves — although they all have different systems — with how you legislate here in the United States. They watch closely. They know it can take some time.'” • Throwing in the towel?

About those tax hikes:

Democrats en Deshabille

“Cook Political Report shifts Virginia governor’s race to ‘toss-up'” [The Hill] (the original is paywalled). “The nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifted the Virginia gubernatorial race from “lean Democratic” to “toss-up” on Friday, just over a month from Election Day. The development comes as polls show the race, which is widely viewed as a barometer for next year’s midterm elections, is becoming increasingly close. A University of Mary Washington survey released on Wednesday found Republican Glenn Youngkin leading former Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe 48 percent to 43 percent among likely voters. McAuliffe led Youngkin 43 percent to 38 percent among all registered voters.” • It would be a damned shame if Obama and Biden together couldn’t drag the bloated body of Clinton fixer and bagman McAuliffe over the finish line.

“McAuliffe-Youngkin Governor’s Race Tests Democrats’ Tenuous Hold on Virginia” [US News]. “Especially worrisome to Democrats was what political analysts call an ‘enthusiasm gap.’ For instance, one poll released Sept. 22 by the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, found registered voters preferring McAuliffe to Youngkin, 46% to 41%, but ‘likely voters’ – those deemed by the pollster to be likelier to actually cast a ballot – favored Youngkin to McAuliffe, 48% to 43%. That’s a net shift of 10 points between the survey’s two assessments. (More recent polls have had McAuliffe ahead among likely voters by between 3 points and 7 points.) Even worse for McAuliffe backers, there were anecdotal indications that Democratic turnout levels during early voting was lagging expectations. And unlike the California gubernatorial recall earlier in the year, in which Democratic performance ended up exceeding the level that the polls had indicated, Virginia does not send ballots to every registered voter. California’s universal mail balloting made it easy for even soft supporters of the state’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, to cast a ballot in the recent recall election.”

“Loudoun Co. judge rules teen sexually assaulted girl in school bathroom” [WTOP]. “The teens had ‘sexually charged conversations,’ and had engaged in consensual sexual relations twice in weeks prior, in a bathroom at the school. On May 28, the boy texted the girl and asked her to meet him in the girls bathroom, and she agreed. However, during that encounter, he forced himself on her, without her consent. The girl reported the incident to school administrators, and was questioned by sheriff’s office investigators that day. DNA evidence was gathered and processed before the boy was charged with one felony count of forcible sodomy and one felony count of forcible fellatio… The girl’s family has pledged to file a civil lawsuit against the school system, for failing to protect her by allowing the boy to transfer schools after being arrested. The family, and others are alleging the school system and school board engaged in a coverup.” • Loudon Country, median household income: $142,299. Interestingly, “Incomes [ are so high in Loudoun that even after adjusting for a cost of living 12.3% above the national average, it remains the richest county in the U.S. by a wide margin.” “Loudon County CIA” also brings up a lot of interesting hits. The Blocked and Reported podcast (36:20) devotes half an episode to the story, which was broken by (give credit) The Daily Wire. For whatever reason — the male perp was “allegedly” wearing a dress (!) — this episode has now entered the culture wars (“Loudoun County parents demand superintendent and school board members resign over ‘cover-up’ of sexual assault in order to ‘push school’s pro-transgender policies“) and school board meeting attendance is through the roof. (The “CRT” controversy is also in play at the Loudon Country school board, but in parallel.) At this point I should point out that cross-dressing, even if motivated by “gender fluidity” — if that is why the perp wore a dress at all, as opposed to camouflage — is not at all the same thing as gender dysphoria, and that equating cross-dressers with trans people is prima facie a category error.

“Democrats’ Betrayals Are Jeopardizing American Democracy” [David Sirota & Alex Gibney, Rolling Stone]. “Democrats’ equivalent of a new New Deal — a reconciliation spending bill to bolster the social safety net — started out at $6 trillion, moved down to $4 trillion, then to $3.5 trillion, then below $2 trillion. And now party leaders are reportedly bowing to their corporate donors, stripping out wildly popular provisions to reduce medicine prices, expand Medicare benefits, and give workers paid family leave, after they already abandoned a promised $15 minimum wage. …. Meanwhile, Biden has refused to use his existing executive authority to lower drug prices, cancel student debt, and more widely distribute vaccine recipes to combat the pandemic.” • Man, I wish we had Obama back. This wouldn’t be happening with Obama.

Fundamentally, nothing will change:

“The Owners of the Democrats’ Big Data Firm Have a Side Gig: Working to Elect Far-Right Republicans” [David Corn, Mother Jones]. “one of the most important data outfits on the Democratic side—and, consequently, one of the more influential players in politics today—is a for-profit company that few Democratic voters, grassroots activists, or cable news junkies have ever head of: TargetSmart. It provides crucial services to the Democratic National Committee, state Democratic parties, and a wide assortment of progressive outfits and makes millions of dollars a year. On its website, the firm has posted a significant declaration: It “has always focused on the Democratic Party, Democratic candidates, and progressive organizations” and “does not work with Republican candidates.” But a Mother Jones investigation found that the owners and founders of TargetSmart also own a company that earns millions by helping to elect Republicans, including far-right GOP state legislators who have tried to overturn the 2020 election results, who were involved in the January 6 march on the US Capitol that turned into a seditious riot, and who have been part of the Republican crusade to skew election laws against the Democrats. That is, the parent company of this vital Democratic data firm is profiting by aiding conservative and authoritarian political forces that seek to defeat the Democrats and progressives supported by TargetSmart.” • One hand washes the other. What’s the issue, here?

Our Famously Free Press

It’s been open season on Biden ever since he ended a war:

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Durable Goods Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US durable goods declined 0.4% mom in September of 2021, following a downwardly revised 1.3% rise in August and compared to market forecasts of a 1.1% drop. It is the first decline in five months, due to ongoing supply chain disruptions.”

Inventories: “United States Wholesale Inventories” [Trading Economics]. “Wholesale inventories in the US rose 1.1 percent month-over-month to $739.5 billion in September of 2021, easing from a 1.2 percent increase in August, a preliminary estimate showed. Durable goods stocks rose less (1.1 percent vs 1.3 percent in August) while nondurable ones advanced faster (1.1 percent vs 1 percent). On a yearly basis, wholesale inventories advanced 12.7 percent in September. ”

* * *

Commodities: “China traders hunt for coal price directions as Beijing reins in data providers” [Channel News Asia]. “Chinese coal traders say they are scrambling for price information on spot transactions, relying on personal communications as Beijing steps up scrutiny amid efforts to tame prices. The country’s top economic planner, the National Development & Reform Commission said this week it would investigate coal and energy index providers over spreading ‘fabricated’ price information. The agency is also studying a new mechanism to guide coal prices within a reasonable range over the long term. The heightened scrutiny adds strains to the Chinese coal trading community, which is already struggling to keep up with rapid market and regulatory changes in the world’s top coal consumer. The pricing confusion also compounds the country’s worst power crunch in years, which is hampering industry while Beijing tries to lead a recovery from the pandemic. Beijing has since September unleashed a raft of measures – from ordering mines to immediately boost production to liberalising thermal power pricing. ‘We stopped reading domestic indexes for a while as they are confusing. We now just call up other traders to get the daily prices,’ said a Guangxi-based coal trader, who like others interviewed for this story declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.”

Real Estate: “Tighter Warehouse Space Adds to the Supply-Chain Squeeze” [Wall Street Journal]. “‘Space in our markets is effectively sold out,’ said Thomas Olinger, chief financial officer of logistics real-estate firm Prologis Inc., in an Oct. 15 earnings call. ‘In the last 90 days, supply-chain dislocations have become even more pronounced, with customers acting with a sense of urgency to secure the space they need.’…. The squeeze on distribution space is adding to the broader congestion in supply chains, from tight container shipping capacity to backups at inland rail hubs, that has locked down inventory restocking efforts and dragged down economic recovery efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic. Space has been particularly hard to find near U.S. ports as shippers and logistics companies seek out warehouses to store containers and goods. The surging demand for warehouse space since the pandemic began has been driven by the move by consumers to online shopping and efforts by retailers to position goods closer to their customers for faster delivery. After the pandemic moved more shopping online, ‘a good percentage of that behavior change, it turns out, has stuck,’ said John Morris, who leads CBRE’s industrial and logistics business in the Americas.”

Shipping: “United Parcel Service profits keep growing as the company’s shipment count keeps shrinking. The package giant’s third-quarter revenue climbed 9.2% from a year ago to $23.2 billion and earnings reached $2.3 billion compared with $1.96 billion a year ago. The WSJ’s Paul Ziobro writes the earnings reflect UPS’s strategy to focus on business that generates more revenue and profit rather than sheer volume. The profit also shows the impact of stronger pricing and the leverage UPS holds in a market marked by strong demand and tight transportation capacity. Average revenue per piece grew at a double-digit pace across most of the company’s business lines, including a nearly 15% increase in yield for overnight air shipments. The company is benefiting as more customers try to ship around bottlenecks. UPS will maintain its disciplined approach during the holidays, with plans to tightly control parcel volume to avoid overwhelming its network.” • Oh good. Optimization.

Tech: “Five points for anger, one for a ‘like’: How Facebook’s formula fostered rage and misinformation” [WaPo]. “Five years ago, Facebook gave its users five new ways to react to a post in their news feed beyond the iconic ‘like’ thumbs-up: ‘love,’ ‘haha,’ ‘wow,’ ‘sad’ and ‘angry.'” Nothing for empathy or compassion, one notes. “Behind the scenes, Facebook programmed the algorithm that decides what people see in their news feeds to use the reaction emoji as signals to push more emotional and provocative content — including content likely to make them angry. Starting in 2017, Facebook’s ranking algorithm treated emoji reactions as five times more valuable than ‘likes,’ internal documents reveal. The theory was simple: Posts that prompted lots of reaction emoji tended to keep users more engaged, and keeping users engaged was the key to Facebook’s business. Facebook’s own researchers were quick to suspect a critical flaw. Favoring ‘controversial’ posts — including those that make users angry — could open ‘the door to more spam/abuse/clickbait inadvertently,’ a staffer, whose name was redacted, wrote in one of the internal documents. A colleague responded, ‘It’s possible.’ The warning proved prescient. The company’s data scientists confirmed in 2019 that posts that sparked angry reaction emoji were disproportionately likely to include misinformation, toxicity and low-quality news.” • Facebook continued to tinker with the algo, but you can’t buff a turd. The whole process of ranking posts algorithmically should go away. The timeline should be subscription only, sorted by date. If users “like” something, they can forward it along* to their friends. The blogosphere was so, so much better than Facebook. NOTE * Assuming that Facebook gives URLs to posts, lol. What a mess.

Manufacturing: “Boeing’s Dreamliner Pain Spreads to Suppliers” [Wall Street Journal]. “Boeing Co. manufacturing problems with its 787 Dreamliner are creating challenges for suppliers who expect production of the wide-body jets to remain low into next year. The Chicago-based plane maker has been producing about two of the wide-body jets a month, people familiar with the matter said, compared with a pre-pandemic high of 14. Boeing has halted deliveries for much of the past year since discovering flaws that have forced it to repair aircraft. The reduced production has choked the global supply chain for the aircraft, denting sales of parts and components sold by suppliers like Raytheon Technologies Corp. and Hexcel Corp. Analysts estimate Boeing has more than 100 new 787s awaiting delivery while it seeks regulatory approval for proposed inspections before handing the jets over to customers.” • 100 aircraft seems like rather a lot. Hopefully the plastic wings aren’t melting in the sun, or anything like that (this is a joke. I know carbon fibre isn’t plastic).

Manufacturing: “TSMC founder chides U.S. plan for full chip supply chain onshore” [Nikkei Asia]. “s U.S. lawmakers look to invest $52 billion in the American chip industry, the founder of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. calls the plan far too small for rebuilding a complete supply chain in the country. Morris Chang, an American citizen who founded the company that is now the world’s most valuable chipmaker, says it would be impossible for the U.S. to have a full chip supply chain onshore even if it spent far more — and that such a move may not be financially desirable in any case, ‘If you want to reestablish a complete semiconductor supply chain in the U.S., you will not find it as a possible task,’ Chang told a tech industry forum in Taipei on Tuesday night. “Even after you spend hundreds of billions of dollars, you will still find the supply chain to be incomplete, and you will find that it will be very high cost, much higher costs than what you currently have.'” • But he would say that.

Supply Chain: I’m hoisting my own comment (in response to this brilliancy prize comment by Dave in Austin) because I think it will be helpful for readers to get a sense of what modern railroading is all about, and have the overpowering scale fixed in their minds. On awe-inspiring stack trains:

Here is a video, which doesn’t capture the sound of the engines, but does capture the sound of the extremely lengthy train:

As I said, trains like this are what the railroads want to do (and what an engineering feat this is; the country can still do some things). Notice also the variety of containers, all the different colors. For the railroads, containers are fungible. For ships, judging by the colors one sees of stacked up containers, the same applies. But not for ports. An impedance mismatch of insane proportions, driven solely by rents [at the ports], so far as I can tell.

Supply Chain: “Workers in the U.S. are finding that supply-chain logjams are following them back to the office. Deliveries of laptops, desktop monitors and other necessities of technology-driven work are running late… as shortages of components like semiconductors weigh on production while port delays and other transportation bottlenecks tie up distribution” [Wall Street Journal]. “It’s a turnabout from the scramble that companies faced last year, when millions of workers locked down at the start of the pandemic and sought to set up office work stations at home. The return to work is triggering surging demand for the electronics to provide shared desks and hybrid home-work arrangements. But supply chains haven’t caught up, and research group Gartner says deliveries may be delayed by several months. Manufacturers are trying to adjust operations to get more goods moving. But Gartner says world-wide personal computer shipments actually declined last quarter.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 67 Greed (previous close: 70 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 67 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 27 at 1:22pm.

Dear Old Blighty

Material realities:

Screening Room

“‘Dune: Part 2’ Officially Greenlit, Release Date Set for 2023” [Variety]. “The first part of the sci-fi epic, which opened Oct. 22 in the U.S., earned $41 million in ticket sales in its first weekend. That result was the best film opening of the year for Warner Bros. and a sign of fans’ desire to not only stream “Dune,” but see it on the big screen. The film has also performed well overseas, earning nearly $225 million globally. Its domestic opening results were roughly in line with what Warner Bros. expected the film to generate when it was greenlit, which is notable because that’s long before COVID-19 upended the media landscape.” • I still think there should be three parts. Part 2 (ecology and culture): Paul and Jessica integrate with the Fremen. Part 3 (ecology and strategy): Paul takes down Shaddam with “desert power.” Let the story breathe just a bit!

Our Famously Free Press

I don’t know what The Jeff Bezos Daily Shopper™s agenda might be, but there certainly is one:

Remember this?

Raymond Williams stans rejoice:

Zeitgeist Watch

“10 Things People Don’t Know How to Do Around the House Anymore” [Family Handyman]. • “Unclogging a Toilet”? People don’t know how to use a pliunger? Really? Let me make up a suitable Silicon Valley name… Plumbr™: Uber for plungers!

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Design Thinking is a Rebrand for White Supremacy” [Flat Journal]. “The Italian graphic designer Massimo Vignelli often is cited as defending the practice of using only four typefaces and disparaging ‘visual pollution.’ Whether Vignelli realized his eugenics-adjacent language or not, his belief in the designer’s fight ‘against the ugliness’ further cemented Modernist practice of erasure and consolidation.” • Come on, man. Still, this is a great chart:

All true!

Class Warfare

“IATSE and Studios Reach Tentative Area Standards Agreement Deal” [Hollywood Reporter]. “According to the union, key gains in the tentative Area Standards Agreement — like those in the Basic Agreement — include low-wage IATSE members seeing a boost of up to 60 percent in hourly minimum wages, members receiving a minimum of a 9 percent scale wage increase by the end of the three-year contract, changes to rest periods and meal breaks, and improved compensation from streaming services. No more specifics were provided by press time. ‘We were able to achieve gains in all of our core areas,’ [IATSE international president Matthew Loeb] said in a statement. ‘Quality of life issues were at the top of our priority list. The protective terms we negotiated in this agreement and the agreement reached earlier establish a defined weekend with the studios for the first time. The two agreements incorporate stiff penalties for failing to provide meals and breaks. Taken together, the improvements we made at the bargaining table are very significant and directly due to the solidarity of our members.’ Within the next few weeks, members should be receiving a memorandum of agreement that will fill them in on the fine print of the Basic Agreement and Area Standards Agreement tentative deals. The ratification votes for the Area Standards Agreement and Basic Agreement will occur simultaneously online, the union has said.” • Workers will have to read the memorandum, obviously.

I’ve always hated this heart-warming “equality v. equity” cartoon, because either way, the kids aren’t empowered; they’re just onlookers to the game. As we see in this revision:

A thread on The Great Resignation. Averages conceal, as usual:

Good for Marty Walsh:

Remember when Obama promised he’d put on his “comfortable shoes” and walk the picket lines? Good times.

News of the Wired

Well, hardly ever:

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

JALP writes from Mid-Michigan: “Forsythia in very late blossom — they didn’t do much this spring, and in fact the lilac bushes next to them had hardly any bloom at all. But maybe the very warm and occasionally very wet weather here brought the yellow flowers back out.” The same thing happened to me several years ago with my forsythia. I walked out the driveway one September morning, and there they were. I put it down to global warming. Have other readers had the same experience with their forsythia? (The photo is a little bit soft, but documents blooming forsythia and fallen leaves.)

* * *

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

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Cory

    “California’s universal mail balloting made it easy for even soft supporters of the state’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, to cast a ballot in the recent recall election.”

    And people, usually older and more conservative, who went to the polls to vote in person, without the envelope that their mail in ballot was enclosed in, or even those with it, were not allowed to exchange it for an in person ballot, but instead were often given a bullshit provisional ballot that history has shown is either not counted, or is counted late.

    Same thing that happened the 2016 California Democratic primary to disenfranchise independents and decline to state voters most likely to vote for Sanders. Youtube video Uncounted

    interviews dozens of ballot workers crying fraud and shots of shredder trucks at the San Diego Registrars office the day before ballots were counted. The California Democratic Machine rolls on. They learned a lot from Mayor Daly and the Chicago Machine.

    1. Janie

      Oregon is the state to emulate. Register when you get your driver’s license or ID card, voter info pamphlet arrives by mail, ballot follows. Return the ballot to convenient locked boxes (local grocery stores, government offices) or mail it back. That’s it. Twenty-some years and no problems that I know of.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. Where are the Joe Manchins and Ted Cruz’s? Not even a Mark Warner.

        1. Lost in OR

          Yeah, well, and then there’s Kurt Schrader. Remember him? He’s one of the reasons we can’t have Pharma competition. He’s as corrupt as the day has Oregon sunshine and he’s stuck to us like wet clay. Voting procedures are just a start. Then there’s having something to vote for, as opposed to against.

          I venture the suggestion that a progressive populist republican could unseat him. Yeah, I do believe they exist. I suspect I’m becoming one.

    2. marym

      Looks as though there’s been some progress on reducing the number of provisional ballots??

      11/06/2020: “Officials who faced a mountain of 1 million provisional ballots four years ago instead found just over one-third of that this year. The Secretary of State’s office reported Thursday that counties have an estimated 354,600 to process.

      Under the Voter’s Choice Act of 2016, the 15 counties set up vote centers where voters with issues such as a change of address can get help….But when the state ordered every voter in the state to get a mail ballot in response to the pandemic, all but 16 counties decided to set up the equivalent of vote centers….because poll workers in most counties could check up-to-date electronic databases to determine instantly whether someone already voted, they could avoid giving a voter a provisional ballot.”

      I wasn’t able to find a total count of provisional ballots for the 2021 recall election. According to the link there weren’t a great proportion of them among the uncounted 2 days after the election.

      09/17/2021: “Of the 2,918,010 ballots remaining as of Thursday, an estimated 2,759,294 are vote-by-mail ballots, 55,001 are provisional ballots and 52,182 are conditional voter registration provisional ballots, or those ballots cast by voters who register on election day.”

  2. Paradan

    Woo Hoo! Lake Tahoe is up 6 inches!
    Droughts over!
    I showered twice today, and now I’m gonna go wash my car and water my lawn, how are you gonna celebrate?

    1. Samuel Conner

      > how are you gonna celebrate?

      I’ll take a leisurely pee in my stillsuit. Don’t want temporary abundance to fool me into letting down my guard.

  3. IM Doc

    I feel like I need to give an update from my world. Many things are happening all at the same time.

    In brief, I feel that the “troubles” have started in earnest now in medicine in ways I did not see coming just weeks ago. What we in medicine are simply not going to be able to abide right now is a surge like we saw last winter.

    First of all, as a PCP, I have always had the ability to zap small non-invasive skin cancers. We do that with liquid nitrogen. We have been out of this for a week or so now. Sourcing a new supply is now virtually impossible. And the amounts being asked for what is left are so astronomically high that we simply cannot afford it. Medicare reimbursement (which is most of these patients) will not even come close to recovering the cost. I understand from the supplier that the same issues are occurring to some degree with dry ice and more ominously liquid oxygen (used in hospitals of patient oxygen). I heard from 2 different suppliers the reason why this seems to be happening – but the reason is so “tin foil” that I am not going to repeat it here until I can confirm this more reliably.

    I know there are lots of biomedical folks here in labs that are frequent commenters….Are any of you having the same problems?

    If this becomes a pattern, I would recommend to all to get your derm visit scheduled ASAP – my understanding is this will not be temporary.

    Our hospital staff is so diminished that my clinic employees are constantly being pulled to cover issues there. Outpatient clinical medicine is no longer organized here – it has become a frantic triage. Right now, I would urge all Americans to not take their anger and temper out on medical office employees. They and their physicians are absolutely overwhelmed.

    That problem however is minor. The hospital system pre-COVID was a disaster area – it is now officially a shit show. The discharge process is now turned into a complete cludge. The problem in brief is that the companies that do home health and home oxygen and nursing home care have had their staffs now vanish to unworkable levels. Much of this has to do with exhaustion. But it is also the vaccine mandates. These are all national corporations – so they instituted mandates weeks ago. And promptly lost large segments of their staff. Enough time has now passed for the remaining employees to experience complete exhaustion. You can only do so many 80 hour work weeks after all. So now – there is nowhere for these discharging patients to go that is safe. They are having to stay in the hospital – but that is simply not going to be workable for long. The hospital too has had its staff decimated.

    I have sat through a whole 4 months or so of patients condescendingly tell me they would never allow an unvaccinated HCW to touch them. Over and over. My constant refrain was to be very careful about that feeling – you may have NO health care workers to touch you if you keep that up. And we are slowly but surely arriving at that destination. At least two of these patients stuck in the hospital are two who could not bash the intransigent HCWs enough. They have now received their wish. Payment in full.

    My niece just graduated from nursing school in June. Immediately hired on a COVID unit in a major hospital in one of our big cities. She has been there three months as dozens and dozens of nurses, MAs and RTs have left. My mind was completely and totally blown when she called to ask my advice last night – THEY HAD JUST OFFERED HER THE JOB OF FLOOR CHARGE NURSE in her hospital – a 3 month nurse – a job that in other times was given to grizzled veterans.

    I am not sure we are going to have to wait for judicial input into these vaccine mandates. The slow motion implosion has already begun at least in medicine. I am hearing the same stories if not worse from colleagues everywhere.

    I am not trying to alarm or scare. I am presenting my world as it is. I do not believe most Americans understand how dire this situation really is.

    1. Arakawa

      I think this is the rare case where the word ‘decimate’ has been used accurately as connoting eliminating a numerically small percentage of people (e.g. workplaces of all kinds love citing their ‘95% in compliance! No problem here!’), but with disproportionate impact on the whole thing.

      The Roman Army that practiced decimation as a punishment was organized for redundancy, for obvious reasons that soldiers tend to die in a war. Contrariwise, the modern medical system has been priced and staffed for perfection. The mandates are the product of either delusional symbol manipulation or a deliberate controlled demolition of the medical system.

    2. Arizona Slim

      Doctor, we have never met, but let me tell you something: Through your NC comments, you have laid out what doctoring truly means.

      A big, hearty round of applause from Arizona Slim!

    3. curlydan

      a few days ago someone started a comment thread about “what grocery/other necessities is your area short on?” I’m sure a very interesting and similar thread could be compiled for medical providers right now as you mentioned with liquid nitrogen.

      For example, my son broke his wrist about 10 days ago playing soccer. Not a bad fracture. We go to the orthopedist (we are repeat customers ha ha), and they ask if we want a waterproof cast. It costs $50 for BS reasons. We of course say yes because it’s way easier. They then say that they might be out. Apparently, we get one of the last “rolls” of water proof casts (i.e. some kind of flimsy film) after they dug around for some. This is a large orthopedics practice.

      Waterproof casts are probably a “first world problem”, but who knows how many other more important medical needs are out and not likely to be filled soon?

      It’s crazy and again reminds me of the “cascading failure” problem discussed in this interesting blog post that also was mentioned in comments here a few days ago: “A failure cascade occurs when you have a system with interdependent nodes, and where the failure in one node causes malfunctions and failures to spread to other nodes, who then in turn spread that failure further. What makes failure cascades so dangerous is that the speed at which nodes fail increases exponentially due to the way the system is set up.” I fear a large cascading failure in many places in our economy this winter.


      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If ” waterproof casts” means the ones for broken bones and etc., maybe it is a real problem. Would water-soakable casts allow in and then trap moisture against the skin of the immobilized limb? If so, would that ever-wet skin begin to mold/rot/gangrene?

    4. Tom Stone

      A floor nurse after 3 Months on the job?
      Holy shit.
      There are flyers all over town “Need a job? High pay and flexible hours working in Home Health Care”
      No experience necessary.
      All over?
      I’ve seen them on every bulletin board I’ve looked at, half a dozen or more.

      1. rowlf

        During the rapid airline expansion in the 1980s and 1990s, a low experienced lead was to be avoided. They didn’t know what they didn’t know, so everyone on the crew muddled through. At the same time, an experienced lead could usually handle a 10 – 20 person crew if maybe up to four people were new. When half or more of the crew was new the old leads gave up their positions, as they couldn’t be confident the new people were having good oversight by the lead or their fellow workers.

        I mention this as nurses and airline mechanics seem to fit together (get married) due to responsibilities and shift work.

      2. The Rev Kev

        That is a lot of responsibility for a three month nurse and if she takes it up, a lot of that job will be a matter of on the job training. Not a good sign however.

        1. cocomaan

          Hopefully she’s up for it. The ones that aren’t up for it will have dead patients on their hands.

    5. TBombadil

      My first thought is: was this intentional? Surely the powers that be knew well how stretched things were already well before mandates. And surely they can read the ample evidence on natural immunity. One would think logically based on that evidence they would be preferentially hiring naturally immune nursing staff?
      But I wonder: will this downsizing not affect the 1%? It LIKELY won’t affect the .1%. Maybe that is all that matters now.

      1. lordkoos

        You give our “leaders” far too much credit as to their intelligence and ability to think logically.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I mean look at Mayo Pete. The guy was offered the VA, but he threw a tantrum and managed to get transportation where he is demonstrating that not all small town mayors under board of supervisor governments are ready to have real jobs.

      2. JTMcPhee

        PMC is immune to the effects of their “rationalization” and installed “efficiency.” Effing private equity likewise. How do us mopes identify and deal with the people who bring this horror on us?

    6. Kevin

      Early on in the pandemic doctors and nurses were putting out quite a few videos – first hand accounts direct from the hospitals. Great stuff!, straight from the front-lines – giving it to us straight.

      Unfortunately, this was snuffed out.
      Thanks for fillng in that missing link IM Doc, it is greatly appreciated.

    7. Zagonostra

      Thanks for the “boots-on-the-ground” report. The “world as it is” is so heavily mediated I don’t know who to trust anymore.

    8. skippy

      “THEY HAD JUST OFFERED HER THE JOB OF FLOOR CHARGE NURSE in her hospital – a 3 month nurse – a job that in other times was given to grizzled veterans.”

      Blood Stripes issued in a war zone if there ever was where the generals are far removed from the front … where the only thing worse than covid exposing neoliberalisms lies in delivering a more perfect reality …. is the ex nihilo mental virus axioms its built on …

      The idea that this was a reality built on investors seeking a return on them deploying their Capital and the outcome would be the best of the best, after the market decided, because Governments squander or worse steal the hard work of Capital.

    9. petal

      Hello Doc, yes, the LN2 shortage drama was my yesterday. I did comment on it but stuff gets buried. I run a research lab at a well-known med school. We have a -140 freezer. It was alarming, which is unusual. We had been given 1 regular tank and 1 half tank instead of the usual 2 regular tanks-1 attached and 1 for backup. Both tanks we had were empty, including the attached half tank even though it was showing half full(or half empty, whichever kind of person you are…). Our Airgas guy comes once a week anywhere from Tuesday-Thursday. I emailed the manager, got an out of office reply(great!). Called the #, got a live guy. He said he’d ring the delivery guy and see if he could swing by with a partial tank because it’s an emergency. He said there’s a nationwide shortage of LN2, and they “are having trouble getting it.” Luckily the guy dropped off the partial. I let my friends in a core facility (they have 2 huge -140s) know about the LN2 shortage and they’re freaking out(as was I). We cannot lose what’s in these, and cells can’t be stored at -80 for long before losing viability.

      I did a net search, and a bunch of space industry articles came up(this stuff is needed for rockets). They said due to the spike in covid patients being put on vents, there’s a spike in the need for liquid oxygen for the vents, and that trucks that used to carry LN2 are being converted to carry liquid oxygen because the premium is higher than if they deliver a load of LN2. That’s all I found. So if there’s also a shortage of liquid oxygen, I don’t have any ideas, unless it’s the whole trucker shortage thing. Not a clue.

      My anxiety level is through the roof due to this LN2 shortage and various backorders, and I rarely sleep anymore. I’m worn out mentally from everything, and I can’t fix what’s happening. There are no end-arounds I can do these days. It’s like all brick wall. I was meaning to email the Airgas manager to see if I could get more details but haven’t gotten a chance today. If I do, I’ll post what I hear for you.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Musk’s SpaceX extravaganza uses LN2 to proof-test the tanks of the Starship rocket and booster. By the multi-ton-load. He does get some props for working to install his own LN2 condensation equipment. Which takes a lot of electricity, of course.

        And it’s not just Musk, of course — current tech rockets largely depend on LOX as oxidizer for rocket engines. https://www.sciencealert.com/space-organizations-are-running-low-on-liquid-oxygen-because-covid-19-patients-need-it-to-breathe

        Priorities, people… though if the bas***ds who have created the supply chain fragility had left a little more “margin for error” rather than pursuit of “profit” (aka banked externalities) maybe it would not be such an ugly either/or in this and all the other elements of our once and future political economy…

      2. Jen

        Hey petal, a suggestion if I may. Someone further up the food chain needs to be freaking out about this. A few scientists knowing their entire careers’ work could be destroyed…get that word up the food chain because no one wants to see that happen. And I can tell you there’s no awareness further up the food chain of how dire this situation is. Individual labs should not be fighting this one on their own.

        1. petal

          Hi Jen, thanks! The friend I told is a core facility manager, so I think it’ll move up the chain.
          Heard from the local Airgas manager, and he said he doesn’t know of any LN2 shortages and made it seem like I was crazy. But the guy working for him that answered the phone the other day when I called said there’s a nationwide shortage, etc, so I don’t know who to believe. And there are plenty of news articles out there(mostly from the space industry, and now IM Doc’s post) that says there’s a shortage.

          1. ambrit

            Not to get too cynical here but, unless you have a personal connection to the manager, it would be safest to assume that everything he tells “the public” is tailored to cover his a– in case of catastrophic failure.
            Thus, the conversation between the manager and corporate would go something like:
            “Uh, Manager, why are we not meeting our monthly sales quotas recently?”
            “Well Corp, it’s like this. Who could have known that we would be having such severe supply and delivery bottlenecks?”
            “Not to put too fine a point on it but, that is your job; to keep on top of such things.”
            “Uh, with all due respect, but where was the guidance that I could have used to get on top of this? Corp, you sent me nothing.”
            “Come-on man. We can’t send you ‘guidance’ if we don’t get regular reports from “on the ground.” You all acted as if there was nothing wrong.”
            “But that’s what you let us know that you wanted.”
            “Got that in writing?”
            “Oh s—! They never taught us this in the MBA cirriculum.”
            “Good. Now that we understand each other, we will be expecting a full recovery of product pass through volumes by next month.”
            “Next month! Wait just a minute. There’s such a thing as ‘the real world’ we have to deal with!”
            “That’s not our problem Mr. Manager. Just keep in mind our Secret Motto: ‘When the going gets tough….'”

        2. petal

          It’s gotten up to procurement(“they have not been notified of this”-meaning a nationwide shortage), and now I’m being told I’m making sh-t up. I’m so tired of everything. I pray every night that I win the lottery so I can quit.

          1. ambrit

            You might want to get management to give you a signed waiver of responsibility for lost or corrupted experiments that result from Liquid Nitrogen shortages.
            That or send an urgent e-mail to the Administrator saying: “OMG!!! Mr. Disney’s brain is thawing out! We just detected Delta wave activity! Run!!!”
            Sorry that you have to suffer all of this oxidative stress from conditions that you have no control over.
            Is there an ice cream factory nearby?

            1. petal

              I told the administrator about the space industry articles, that the guy covering for the gas manager literally said “nationwide LN2 shortage”, and mentioned IM Doc’s anecdote. It’s up to them now. I should learn to care less, but I am one of those people who dislikes doing a bad/half-arsed job. We have projects in the freezer that could be pretty important.

              There’s a little farm nearby that makes the best ice cream I’ve ever had(Strafford Organic Creamery if you guys ever get up this way), but it’s gone up 50 cents a pint so I can no longer justify buying it. With gas and other food and stuff going up so much, been cutting back. Already losing ground.

    10. Mantid

      IM Doc, always informative and appreciated. And the same thing is happening with your child’s education in public (and private) schools. Here in the Pac NW of US substitutes are hard to find, not enough bus drivers, custodial staff are still spending more time washing surfaces than installing any form of HEPA (even DIYS) filters in windowless rooms, admin bouncing around from crisis to crisis – getting nothing done. The local districts are offering token assistance. They will eliminate pro development days (kids no school so teachers can focus) and have dropped the pro goals system (surveillance of teachers via software and a many days worth time suck). Any increase in wages? NO. Any testing of children if sent to office for “sniffles”? NO. Any reporting among staff (confidentially) regarding who’s been sent home with Covid pos? No. Lastly, the state dashboard numbers of kids out due to Covid are way below what I know is happening. ….. It’s really quite difficult and so tiring to teach in these times. More and more parts of the various public systems are collapsing. I’m very curious where this will go, besides the obvious down, down, down. But hey, Wall St. is booming!

      1. Utah

        The school sub and drivers thing, IMHO, is because last year so many districts paid more because of money from the feds. Schools need federal covid funding again, but then the Biden administration would have to admit there’s a problem. In my area, sub pay is $102-135 per day depending on the district, and you can’t work more than 15 days per month. Last year those rates were $20 or so higher. Bus drivers are being offered $22/ hr, which is a huge increase from the before times. But you have to be with kids who are the biggest vectors. And there’s no hazard pay. That all came from the cares act. Schools don’t have the money on their own.

    11. lordkoos

      Thanks as always IM Doc, for your invaluable input.

      I’m familiar with the liquid nitrogen treatment for superficial skin cancers, but isn’t it almost as easy to simply remove them surgically? I once had liquid nitro treatment for a small basal cell cancer that did not take, and ended up having it removed surgically, which was a quick and relatively painless procedure.

      1. rowlf

        An old mechanic trick was to use chunks of dry ice to take care of problems. Cheap but maybe not the best advice.

        1. Glen

          Dry ice use in my industry (aerospace) is extremely common. So much so that you don’t have to walk very far in the factory to come across a 240 L Airgas Dewar.

      2. Eustachedesaintpierre

        IM Doc – I wish I had access to a UK version of yourself in order to have a similar insight into how the NHS is coping. An earlier post here featuring shortages in the UK had me wondering about how our double Brexit/Covid whammy might effect medical supplies. I can’t recall anything at all regarding the subject in the media so I did a search & –

        90 % of drugs are imported into the UK & as is also stated below in reference to particular drug shortages is scary enough without even considering the likely reality of staff shortages.


    12. Glen

      IM Doc, thank you for the update, and your service.

      It doesn’t take a genius to look around and see many places in America right now that are falling apart. Docks are backed up, stores missing goods, everybody trying to hire, take you pick.

      My company is also struggling. Management has leaned out the workplace, treats every employee as a replaceable widget, and is now suffering from a decades long history of mismanagement. Well, I say mismanagement, but all of the upper management has actually done quite well, including the ones that essentially got fired.

      So as I look around, that is the one common thread that I see – American mismanagement. American CEOs that wrecked our industrial base and sent it overseas. That turned our supply systems into just-not-in-time Gordian knots. That figured out how to profit from any little hick or bump in the system. That figured out how to strip mine our legacy industrial corporations for profit while destroying them. That quite literally worked hand-in-glove with the Chinese government to enable China’s growth, but now want to start a cold war.

      But no matter how dysfunctional your workplace or life has become – it’s still record profits. So “nothing will fundamentally change” (trademark Joe Biden 2020) until we have achieved unrecoverable collapse.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Is it the CEOs who want to start a cold war with China? Or is it the elected officeholders and neoconservative intellectuals and the neo-Wilsonian intellectuals who want to start a cold war with China?

        The only CEOs I can imagine wanting to start a cold war with China would be the military-industrial CEOs who imagine they would profit from more cold-war spending against China.

    13. Lee

      “Our hospital staff is so diminished …”

      Not to further darken the gloom but last evening I watched a 20 minute interview of two nurses, a staff nurse who recently quit nursing and bought the farm (literally), and a traveling nurse who says she has been getting paid as much as 10 times the rate staff nurses receive, which she feels is both outrageous and indicative of a rotten medical system on the verge of collapse.

      Hospitals in Crisis: Why Nurses Are Burned Out and Quitting

      1. outside observer

        Thanks for this video and thank you IM doc for your eye-opening comment. It’s quite apparent that this country is chock full of competent and intelligent people, just none of them in positions of power.

    14. Psmith

      To one raised on the Sue Barton series, this kind of promotion is not surprising. (Was Sue Barton offered a job supervising a ward at the hospital that trained her upon graduation? If so, she turned it down, as the third book in the series is Sue Barton: Visiting Nurse. She does not become Superintendent of Nurses until the fifth book–still at an amazingly young age.) I guess the surprise is that life is imitating fiction.

  4. Carolinian

    Re Dune–FWIW I got to see it and thought those who are coming to revel in Villeneuve’s visual imagination get their money’s worth and those who are big fans of the novel do as well. He’s clearly going out of his way to show respect for the material and avoid any of the camp overtones in the Lynch version. So in that sense it’s more of a visualization than a separate work in its own right. But presumably no final verdict is possible until part 2 finally appears.

    1. jsn


      Also agree with lambert they’d do better to make it 3 films to flesh out characters and Arakis.

    2. Soredemos

      I finally saw it today as well. It’s nigh-perfect as an adaptation, at least of what it chooses to feature. My understanding is that a lot was filmed but was cut (and Villeneuve is insisting that what was released is his final vision, so we may never see a longer version, which is unfortunate. I’m actually kind of hoping that greedy studio execs step in and release a bunch of deleted scenes anyway, just so they have something to help sell the Blu-ray release. Because I very much want to see all that extra stuff). The original book is so densely packed and has so many threads that run through the whole book, it was probably impossible to pack everything into a movie. As is, I think what we get is a damn fine edit, that whittles it down to bare essentials, while still throwing in extra bits occasionally. The palm tree scene didn’t need to be included, but I’m pleased that they featured it, even if in modified form from how it was in the book. I also really appreciate the scene of Paul foreseeing what his actions will unleash.

      Significant elements of Dune are probably essentially unadaptable because of how much it leverages its nature as a book. If you’re not going to do narration or voice-over, as Villeneuve chose, your options become even more limited.

      They should have kept far more of Herbert’s dialogue (it’s weird that they didn’t. You’re literally making more work for yourself when you choose to rewrite and say the same things with different words).

      I kept hearing that the soundtrack was bad, but I disagree. It’s not memorable; it’s no Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings score. There’s no Dune Theme that you’ll come away humming. But also, maybe it didn’t need to be. The music here is basically all tone setting, it’s ambiance to fill out a scene. I appreciate that it was there and what it was doing, even if I didn’t come away really remembering any of it.

      1. Carolinian

        Zimmer is quite capable of producing a melodically memorable score–example: Gladiator–but looks like Villeneuve was shooting for a more other worldly vibe and the sort of score Zimmer does for Christopher Nolan. I thought the music similar to what he had done for Dunkirk. For sure it’s not easy listening but his job is to serve the director.

  5. John

    Business friendly tilt in the quasi-social-safety-net-infra-structure-sugar plum tree reconciliation bill. Does that mean everything that us proles found attractive has been removed to soothe the tender fi-fis of the much maligned donor class? How low do you have to fall as a people and nation to even conceive of, much less understand, and use a term like “donor class?” Makes my finger tips feel soiled just typing it on the screen.

    Lambert, I recall it being Lambert, said the Democrats differ from the Republicans by being less cruel. I agree to the extent that the Democrats try harder to slip the knife between your ribs with as little immediate pain as possible.

    None know the meaning Common Good.

    I am an old guy, over 80. USA may denote the same country, but not the connotation.

    1. lambert strether

      Republicans punch you in the face or kick you in the [family blog]s. Democrats put a friendly arm round your shoulder, the better to sleep the shiv in. Then they walk away before you realize you’re bleeding out.

        1. jo6pac

          Yep, ice cream for all that stopped us from doing something nice for the surfs;-) Their pay master will be pleased.

      1. lordkoos

        Compared to Republicans, the Democrats may use more lubricant while screwing the people, otherwise the difference is slight.

  6. Nikkikat

    I think many of us here saw this coming. Thanks Doc for your reports from the war zone. Always informative.

  7. cocomaan

    So when do we start calling Biden’s administration a failure? Can we put a little pile of stones on top of it to mark where it Peter-ed (Buttigeig) out?

    I’m struggling to name major achievements. You’ve got his passage of a stimulus bill early in his presidency (it would have been passed no matter who was president, despite the FDR comparisons.)

    And you have a vaccine mandate, which is probably going to die of a thousand cuts in courts, states, etc.

    That’s it. He hasn’t done anything else actively. He has overseen the ushering in of the Shortage of Everything, though.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        So like the Obama years, its the kind of thing a back bencher in the House in a vaguely functional democracy would list as an accomplishment. The bum is the President, not a Representative who can rattle off the minor league teams in his district.

      2. Mantid

        In response to: To his credit, Biden also increased and expanded eligibility for ACA marketplace subsidies. It made a huge difference for many people.

        Oh, thank heavens. Now the hotel staff, gas station attendants, dishwashers and meat packers can get in line to pay a few hundred dollars each month to be allowed to have insurance with a $6,000 deductible.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          A minor change to a bill Democrats vowed to fix minutes after it was passed. Wow, the legacy of the 47th President of the United States is secure!

        2. Lemmy Caution

          My premium went from $1400 a month to $460 a month. Now I can afford insurance. Yes, I have a $8,500 deductible, but at least I have coverage. Of course it’s a horseshit system, but Biden did make a concrete, material benefit in my life. If you’ve ever had to buy insurance as an individual, you would appreciate the difference this change makes.

          1. lance ringquist

            but you cannot afford to use it unless you are dying, even then the private sector parasites may just stonewall you till your dead. and wait till you pay taxes on the subsidy.

            a ruling party must give universal concrete material benefits, not means tested band aids.

          2. Big River Bandido

            It is good that you were one of the lucky few who got to go to Happyville.

            The trouble is that most people don’t. Many get taken for a ride. Most get sent to Pain City. The reasons for all this are so arbitrary that those in Pain City look at Happyville and come to resent it.

            The opponents of “social spending” purposefully create and exploit such divisions among potential supporters of universal healthcare, designing such underfunded, technocratically unworkable programs precisely in order to discredit the very idea of social spending. That’s why FDR insisted that Social Security be universal.

            The ACA is a monstrosity, and any “fixes” Biden makes will not survive his presidency.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Biden is a small man. The only way for him to succeed was to hand the keys to a Sanders. Even in a prosperous period, he would be a failure curled up in a ball. Its a job far too big for a guy known for cramming to barely pass.

      1. Michael Ismoe


        Yeah, Bernie Sanders would have whipped Sinema and Manchin into shape! LOL.

        If Bernie were president, the two of them would have bolted to Mitch McConnell’s arms and the Dems wouldn’t even be getting judges confirmed. Biden is awful. Bernie would’ve been a disaster.

        1. Helena

          Yeah, at least Manchin and Sinema are at least pretending not to be in Republican arms. That’s better optics, and optics under Bernie would have been so disasterous.

          Since taking office, President Joe Biden (D) has nominated 51 individuals to federal judgeships on Article III courts. As of October 26, 2021, 23 of the nominees have been confirmed.[1] [ballotopedia]

          Yeah, that’s really what we want–judges.
          Bernie really puts the fear of something into some people, in a big way.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Merrick Garland wouldn’t be the AG under Bernie. If Joe Manchin’s daughter was facing a criminal probe right now for operating a price cartel, you would find Manchin would be much more pliable.

            1. neo-realist

              I could see a criminal probe of his daughter being a red line causing Manchin to go republican. Wouldn’t be surprised if this was suggested by progressives followed by a warning by Manchin that he would bolt the party.

              1. NotTimothyGeithner

                So. He’s not doing anything now, and he’ll be gone in the next election anyway. What’s the difference? Chuck Schumer will get a smaller office?

        2. jsn

          Yes, but a bigger disaster sooner!

          We need as big a failure as we can get as fast as we can get it.

          The longer TPTB stave it off the more lethal it will be for us proles.

        3. Objective Ace

          While I agree, Sander’s insistence on playing nice is a negative he can be creative. He may have found effective means to get the deal done. Perhaps sat down for a townhall in Charleston and inviting Manchin to debate/explain exactly what it is he wants taken out of the bill while he describes how it benefits the citizens of WV

    2. Rodeo Clownfish

      Biden does deserve some credit for ending the debacle of a war in Afghanistan. That will be the one good thing I will remember of him. Kind of like when Trump pulled USA out of the TPP trade pact. Each of them is generally awful, otherwise.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Biden deserves credit for not falling off his perch so far which would leave you with Madam President Kamala Harris.

    3. lance ringquist

      can anyone even name one universal concrete material benefit the deplorable got from nafta billy clinton, empty suit hollowman obama, and now nafta joe biden?

      1. Blowncue

        Closest I got was Obama not getting pulled into Syrian civil war, material but not concrete. Nothing else comes to mind. Literally 20+ minutes thinking. Bust up Ma Bell? Predates all three.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          not getting pulled into Syrian civil war

          Huh? The civil war only happened because of expectation of American involvement, and oh, right, there is a US military base in Syria. The best is he didn’t start World War III.

        2. lance ringquist

          yep, nothing. no wonder trump got elected promising to reverse nafta billy clintons disastrous polices. he even sorta did a few things and reaped even more votes.

          2022 will be interesting indeed.

          1. ambrit

            2022 will be interesting for more than just the latest turn in the Democrat Party versus Republican Party dog and pony show.
            I do not see any Republican politicos shifting their ground to take advantage of the massive opportunity the Democrat Party is handing them. From what I’m hearing “on the street,” after you peel away the ‘true believers’ on each side of the faux duopoly, there is no political movement that has caught the fancy of the great majority of the voting public. None of the so-called “left” parties has established a national level “Presence.” We have regional small scale “Third Party” organizations, but nothing with a National appeal.
            As for Sanders, well, the most charitable view of him I hear from others is that he was kneecapped by the Democrat Party and has never recovered. Most people “on the street” react to my mentioning of Sanders with a; “Eh. Poor man. He’s done for.”
            So, with the “official” Republican Party failing to capitalize on the Democrat Party Seppuku, I can well see Trump, or his annointed successor sweeping to victory in 2024. The 2022 mid-term elections will tell the tale as to how big a victory a Trumpista could garner.
            We live in interesting times.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Well . . . after President Elder Bush helped degrade and near-destroy FEMA as revealed by its poor response post Hurricane Andrew, Clinton did make Jamie Lee Witt into the FEMA Director and Witt did restore some professionalism and morale to FEMA such that it could respond somewhat well to weather disasters happening in Deplorable Country. Witt’s FEMA also oversaw the post mega-flooding purchase of some riverside land most destroyed by floods and most subject to future flooding and turning that land into wildlife management land. Some small townloads of people were assisted in rebuilding their towns on higher less flood-prone ground.

        Small but real.

        Such is my memory.

        1. lance ringquist

          important, but small. what is needed is universal concrete material benefits like social security, unemployment, welfare for all.
          or desegradating the military, beating back five attempts to make Gatt into a nafta billy clinton W.T.O., making sure kids got a full education instead of just training to do a job, national higyway system, NASA to the moon, the spinoffs were tremendous, civil rights laws, medicare that was supposed to evolve into medicare for all.
          instead, really going back to carter, working people became the enemy, or as the nafta democrats politely say the “DEPLORABLE”

    4. ChuckTurds

      Doubtful that he runs in 2024 but if so his slogan can be “Fundamentally, nothing changed.”. Or maybe the republican populist candidate can use it as an attack ad. So versatile!

  8. antidlc


    ERs are now swamped with seriously ill patients — but many don’t even have COVID

    Inside the emergency department at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Mich., staff members are struggling to care for patients who are showing up much sicker than they’ve ever seen.

    Tiffani Dusang, the emergency room’s nursing director, practically vibrates with pent-up anxiety, looking at all the patients lying on a long line of stretchers pushed up against the beige walls of the hospital’s hallways. “It’s hard to watch,” she says in her warm Texan twang.
    KHN logo

    But there’s nothing she can do. The ER’s 72 rooms are already filled.

  9. Jeremy Grimm

    Happy Vasily Arkhipov day! The World has somehow survived another year without being destroyed in a Nuclear Holocaust. Thank you Vasily for our early reprieve. Thank you for your bravery and wisdom. We thank you, our children thank you … and I remain hopeful our children’s children will also be able to thank you. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasily_Arkhipov]

    With so much mendacity and corruption in out world, I am very pleased to have a true hero to admire, and — though I hope such circumstance will never come to pass — aspire to emulate. Thank you Vasily!

    1. griffen

      Very interesting, compelling to learn about his performance on the quite troubled (radiation!) K-19 and the other you make reference to above. Pretty incredible, which seems like an understated thing to write.

  10. John

    “10 Things People Don’t Know How to Do Around the House Anymore”
    I not only know how but actually have done and still do all ten as need demands proving what I already knew, I have officially passed the “sell-by” date.

    1. Lemmy Caution

      Number 8 on the list of things people don’t know how to do around the house: Make a bed without a top sheet.
      Say what? Took me a bit to figure out they were referring to the flat sheet that comes with every set of sheets I’ve ever used or bought. Are there really people who don’t use them?

      1. Meg

        Apparently the millennials don’t put top sheets on. They just throw a duvet over the bottom sheet. They say it saves them on laundry. My thought is that they must never wash the duvets!

        1. Glossolalia

          Wife and I are 50 and ditched the top sheet years ago for just a duvet. I guess I’m young beyond my years!

      2. Janie

        Top sheets are not ordinarily used in parts of Europe and Canada that I have visited. American tourist hotels use them.

    2. HotFlash

      I also have done all 10 and still do them as required. I plumbed and wired my house (renovations of then-150 yr old house, getting on to 200 now), also drywalled it, over a 1/4″ ply base (hang a picture anywhere!), then mudded, primed, and painted same. Thanks to my husband, I am now a fairly accomplished woodworker and instrument builder, my specialty is decoration, finishing, carving, and chisel work, and I work mostly with hand tools (he does the power tools — I am afraid of them). I can design and maintain our website, grow or forage a lot of our own food (learning more techniques, current limitation is space); I can can*, pressure can, dry, ferment and otherwise preserve food. Oh, and I can light a fire in most circumstances, and I can cook. Clothing: I can knit, sew, weave, crochet, dye, and even tat; I can spin yarn and own an antique manual sheep-shearer in case I ever run into a woolly mutton. I can make paint, stain, and linseed oil (given linseeds, which I know how to grow and have grown). I can make paper (from previous paper, anyway); I can make ink and know where to find walnut trees. I can make alcohol and beverages involving same, as well as vinegar.

      I can *theoretically* keep bees and chickens, but regulations and neighbourliness do not permit it here at this time.

      New skills I am learning/want to learn: leather working, shoe repair and making. Solar power, esp 12 volt DC (off grid). Growing cotton in temperate climes (it is possible!)

      What I cannot (yet) do: butcher an animal (not sure I could even kill one but if we get hungry enough, possibly/probably), plow (don’t think it’s necessary, anyway), and I know little about keeping livestock. I can use a bowsaw and a two-man crosscut with a good partner. Learning axe and hatchet.

      While, on the other hand: I can fix bikes and other stuff; I was overhauling my neighbour’s bike a couple of months ago (gears wouldn’t work, turned out that the bike shop that put her kickstand on had trapped the gear cables under the plate). I untrapped the cables and adjusted the gears, replaced the brake pads and some cables, adjusted the brakes and gears, and they were delighted! Husband says, “Oh, we can take the baby carrier off ourselves (the “baby” was 10 by then), turns to his wife, “Honey, do we have a screwdriver?”

      A couple who were my computer clients had had their thermostat replaced with a programmable one, free, by our local (public) power company, but the new ‘stat was rectangular and the old (Lowey design) one had been round. Alors! Unpainted spots! They called a painter — not kidding.

      As my very wise father often said,”If you can read, you can do anything.”

      And finally, I have to ask, these people who can’t do the 10 things, do they know about YouTube?

      * Baby, you can can can, too.)

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        And if you are able to do some of these things really well, you might be able to barter goods and/or services with others who can do other of those things really well.

  11. griffen

    Equity Market Value Destruction, 2021. In what one could call celebrity stock holders death match, long term shareholders of Boeing will face off against long term shareholders of Intel. May the worse corporate team win, er, fail!

    Recent champion of the corporate leadership failure program, General Electric, awaits to hand off their hard fought and deserved award. Not all companies are reaching to the sky for that $1 Trillion market cap brass-plated ring!

    1. Michael Ismoe

      It takes a special business talent for a chipmaker like Intel to lose money during a chip famine. This guy has a future in politics!

  12. Laura in So Cal

    The great resignation…what I’m seeing. I’m seeing lots of retirements of people in their mid-50’s and older. This has been going on as a trickle since covid hit, but seems to be accelerating. I work at a defense contractor and we’ve been hit with the “federal contractor” vaccine mandate and you must be in compliance by 12/8. I do know that a co-worker got a religious exemption approved so that was good news. All of the people who are leaving are experienced with lots of institutional knowledge. The company doesn’t have a lot of redundancy due to “lean” initiatives. I can already a lot of problems.

    1. Anthony Noel

      And then Nancy will sternly talk to her on the floor. AOC will break into tears, change her vote and then spout word salad as an excuse while anyone who dares to not Yes Queen her, will be labeled a racist misogynist.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Well, you have now made a specific prediction. We shall see if it happens that way or not.

        ( If the other DemProgs all surrender, she may follow them. It depends how tough they are as a group and how intelligent they are about believing not so much as one word that Nancy Pelosi may have to say about anything. ” The whole text, now. Or no bills for anyone.”)

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > “We have had framework for six months. We need text.”

      This is not an unreasonable demand. And there’s no good faith reason not to meet it (exactly as there was no good reason to break the BIF and BBB into two parts.

  13. Elizabeth

    Thanks IM Doc for your report from the trenches. Here in northern Iowa our regional hospital has signs up outside the hospital for open interviews for all positions. We have a high covid transmission rate. here and deaths from it go up every week. Same in the nursing homes – way short staffed even pre-covid. Also I read the other day that drugs for chemo, heart drugs and antibiotics are more and more difficult to obtain. This is very frightening. Third world country stuff.

  14. Adam Eran

    Why aren’t progressives demanding a change in the party apparatus as compensation for going along with the watered-down Sanders plan? Is it because Republicans go for the jugular while Democrats go for the capillaries?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I think they missed Biden is weak and likely were winning all arguments with him. Obama was devoted to the men in suits, but Manchin is openly breaking a very public agreement. Its astonishing to see the President, any President just kind of shrug and go back to watching reruns of Mama’s Family.

  15. Matthew G. Saroff

    Regarding, “Design Thinking is a Rebrand for White Supremacy,” I just read it, and while the graphic is cool, I cannot for the life of me tell if the author is serious, or trolling in the manner of the Sokal hoax, which (tongue in cheek, but the editors did not know that) posited that gravity was a social and linguistic construct.

    Really, any hints? Is this real, or a troll?

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If there is a difference, it would be one of intention. The troll intends to get the target to give in and then subject the target to mockery for having done so.

        The sincere Wokeness Extortionist sincerely wants to extort humiliating displays of self-abnegation from the target.

  16. Michael Ismoe

    Researchers now believe that Viking explorers reached Newfoundland as early as 1021 AD. Here’s why that’s bad new for Joe Biden.

    Because Joe was waiting on the shore to greet them?

      1. Wukchumni

        The reason you don’t hear much in regards to Hunter the Viking, is everything that happened was on his laptop made of runestone, and nobody has been able to crack the password.

  17. Jason Boxman


    A paid family leave program is likely to be dropped from the social policy bill at Manchin’s urging. What did these people even run on, exactly? Build Back (nothing) Better?

    Someone ought to start a pool for bets on what might be left in this bill, besides the huge tax cuts for the wealthy by way of SALT repeal.

    The mere fact that a bill wasn’t brought to the floor the first day each respective house of Congress was in session back in January is all we need to know about liberal Democrats will to govern. That and were’s my $600?

  18. peon

    My neighbor’s nephew is in the Army. He just returned home from deployment (his 3rd). He has 6 more months to complete and was planning on an honorable discharge and Vet benefits. Instead, since he refuses to be vaccinated, he is facing the threat of a dishonorable discharge and no benefits.
    It seems like a bad idea to make enemies of the military and the police.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I wonder how many young people were thinking of joining the military but now that they know that they will have to get this jab at least twice a year from now until forever, have decided to give the military a miss.

      1. Mikel

        I have a cousin who was in the Army decades ago. She refused alot of the experimental jabs they were dishing out back then and didn’t get a discharge.

  19. petal

    Gas price watch(NH): premium went from $3.599(Oct 14th last time I filled up) to $3.899(noticed this morning) at my gas station, so up 30 cents a gallon in less than 2 weeks. (I have a soon to be 24 year old Volvo that takes premium.)

  20. upstater

    Lambert, while it is impressive to see 12,000 ton, 2 mile long freight trains moving great distance (e.g., LA/LB to Houston or NJ), these things are basically land barges that move relatively slowly. Precision Scheduled Railroading moves bigger trains, more slowly over the longest haul possible, with the fewest locomotives and crews and between the fewest terminals. The US, Mexican and Canadian railroads all employ the same PSR kool-aid. It does juice share price, while intentionally physically ripping out 30% of capacity.

    Service is slower and less dependable than 40-50 years ago when, for instance, a full 120 car trainload of produce could be loaded in the Central Valley of California and would be at the Hunts Point produce terminal in the Bronx in 4 days. Santa Fe operated a 40 hour schedule for containers between LA and Chicago in 40 hours. Railroads cannot and will not do things things today.

    We should note that in Europe freight trains are generally limited to 1 km in length or a little longer. For the most part they are electrified and operated at higher speed conventional passenger trains (i.e., 120 kmh, with much faster starts and stops). Countries like Switzerland and Russia move most freight on electrified trains, while there is ZERO freight electrification in the US. Indeed, what little there was was ripped out in the 1980s. Switzerland only has short hauls, a segment abandoned by the Carter deregulated railroads decades ago. Russia certainly parallels US railroads for freight with a continental system and huge traffic with commodities and containers of Chinese trinkets. They also have a HUGE passenger business, like Switzerland.

    Electrified railroading increases capacity by 30% and greatly reduces fuel costs per ton mile. But electrified railroading is a “nice thing” we can’t have here because Wall Street would immediately destroy the share price of any railroad that doesn’t fully embrace shrink-mode PSR and embarked on a longer term view of electrification and growth to supplant trucking.

    It really is going according to plan…

  21. VietnamVet

    The basic problem is denial. US politicians are hand-cuffed by their donors. The severity and spread of shortages have passed being an annoyance and are becoming critical.

    This appears to be due to a lack of workers, acerbated by burn-out, and the vaccine mandates. Cascading just-in-time node failures. The USA will have to go on a war-footing to fix it. Draft and train truck drivers. Nationalize health care and transportation companies.

    This is the last thing corporate donors want. They and the State are refusing to acknowledge reality. Either a working Pentagon – White House/Corporate Partnership is established to address the transportation issues right now or everything goes to hell when logistics grinds to a halt and food, energy, medicine deliveries are at a standstill.

  22. Bruce F

    I found this thread at the Practical Machinist site to be full of thoughtful comments about wages, inflation, etc from the perspective of machine shop owners and/or experienced machinists.

  23. Michael McK

    Um, actually, Carbon fiber is plastic, sort of. The fibers are often created by charing nitrogen containing plastic fibers. The binder that they are embedded may be polypropylene. If the end product is expected to get UV exposure the resin is often bis-phenol (like in most 2 part epoxy resins) which is kind of a plastic itself but even more toxic.

  24. drumlin woodchuckles

    Someone raised a question as to whether the Darin Buzon article was “real” or “troll”. I don’t know and one would have to ask Darin Buzon himself if he meant it sincerely.

    Does “Darin Buzon” even exist? He seems to. A cursory websearch offers a photograph of someone called ” Darin Buzon” from a twitter account associated with a website bearing the Darin Buzon name. Here is the twitter picture of ” Darin Buzon ” . https://twitter.com/_dabuzon/photo

    The face in the photo looks pretty young and very earnest. If this is ” Darin Buzon “, I suspect the article that ” he wrote” ( if indeed he wrote it) is intended sincerely and not trollishly. But that is just my feeling based on the youngness and cool-hipness of the person in the photo.

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