2:00PM Water Cooler 11/17/2021

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Sounds like a whole flock, but I believe this is one bird (with another piping in the background).

“No Bird Wants to Live in a Murder Nest” [The Atlantic]. “Current tenants don’t have many options to waylay lurkers. Some of them can police their nest’s entrance hole, but prepping for parenthood is hungry work, and eventually the birds have to take leave to forage for food. So Slagsvold and Wiebe started to poke around for alternative home-defense systems that the birds might be using for unattended nests…. The key turned out to be feathers, which have long been known to ornament many cavity-loving species’ nests…. Across continents, the birds were most eager to enter feather-free boxes, sometimes flitting inside just seconds after approaching them. But the would-be interlopers froze at the sight of white feathers, sometimes dillydallying outside the structures for an hour or more…. Such histrionics over a few feathers might seem a little extra, but it’s pretty in keeping with the high-stakes lifestyle that many birds lead, Mark Mainwaring, an ecologist and bird-nest expert at the University of Montana who wasn’t involved in the study, told me: “All these birds have to do is make one mistake, to go into a nest box with a predator, and they’re dead.” That’s a lot of incentive to avoid risk—and from birds’ perspective, even a soft, floofy hint that death looms in the dark is plenty of reason to seek their fortune elsewhere. Human squatters, too, would probably think twice before bedding down in an apartment with hair, teeth, and shreds of torn clothing strewn about. “It’s all part of the bluff,” Mainwaring said. Feathers might not even be the only death decoys that duplicitous birds toss around. Other researchers have documented tufted titmice—another species of cavity-nesters—filching fur from raccoons, dogs, and other mammals to line their nests. The stolen fuzz might end up pulling double duty: coziness and psychological warfare that keeps invaders out.” • We humans have got it easy!

* * *

#COVID19

Readers, I have returned this section to its usual format (with some boilerplate revision). –lambert

Vaccination by region:

Still chugging along. (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.)

58.9% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, as of November 16. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Estonia, and just above the Czech Republic in the Financial Times league tables 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…

“Will Kids Vaccines Get the Pandemic in Check?” [Slate]. “A Chinese study posted on a preprint server on Monday painstakingly traced how two young school-age kids seeded an outbreak involving at least 223 people. The virus was transmitted mostly through schools, factories, and households. Of the cases, 132 were fully vaccinated teens and adults (with the Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccine), and six of the cases ended up being severe or life-threatening. The authors concluded children were ‘critical hidden spreaders’ in this instance…. Contrary to what we thought at the pandemic’s onset in the U.S., it’s now looking like kids catch and transmit the coronavirus about as much as adults and adolescents… ‘I know that Dr. Fauci has said this [pediatric vaccine authorization] is a game changer,’ said Dr. William Raszka, director of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and a professor of pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine. ‘But I am not nearly as sanguine as most of my peers that immunizing children 5 to 11 is going to dramatically decrease the number of infections.’ The reason, he said, is that only 1 in 3 parents plan to vaccinate their children…. [But] people are resentful with many schools for mishandling the pandemic—the delayed reopenings and evidence-free policies have profoundly disrupted the lives of children and parents alike. In the Virginia governor race, Republicans found a receptive audience for anti-school messaging of all stripes. Mixing mandates and children is bound to be explosive.” • “[M]ishandling the pandemic” just casually thrown in there…

“Children and COVID: Youngest Vaccinees Off to a Slower Start” [MedScape]. “Just over 1.35 million children under age 12 years have received the COVID-19 vaccine since it was approved on Nov. 2, putting them behind the initial pace set by 12- to 15-year-olds in the spring, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Case count by United States regions:

Still, the actual jump (and I have drawn an anti-triumphalist black line, which perhaps I should dub a “Fauci Line,” in honor of the public health establishment figure). The cases are broadly distributed in the Midwest, and concentrated in New York and especially Pennsylvania in the Northeast (see yesterday’s Water Cooler for state data). Alert reader Cocoaman discovered that Pennsylvania was now counting reinfections as cases instead of ignoring them (which makes sense if you want to, oh, allocate health care resources). But even if you backed out those cases, which would bring Pennsylvania back into line with New York, the jump is still extremely concerning. And right before Thanksgiving, too.

At a minimum, the official narrative that “Covid is behind us,” or that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), or “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) is clearly problematic. (This chart is a seven-day average, so changes in direction only show up when a train is really rolling.)

One of the sources of the idea that Covid is on the way out, I would speculate, is the CDC’s modeling hub (whose projections also seem to have been used to justify school re-opening). “Here is today’s version of the chart from the CDC modeling hub, which aggregates the results of eight models in four scenarios, with the last run (“Round 9”) having taken place on 2021-08-30, and plots current case data (black dotted line) against the aggregated model predictions (grey area), including the average of the aggregated model predictions (black line). I have helpfully highlighted the case data discussed above. The last time CDC updated the data, oddly enough, is 11/6, i.e. before the jump in cases.

(Note that the highlighted case data is running behind the Johns Hopkins data presented first.) Now, it’s fair to say that the upward trend in case data (black dotted line) is still within the tolerance of the models; it does not conform to the models’ average (black line), but it stays within the grey area (aggregated predictions) It’s also true that where we see an upward trend in the predicted case data (lower right quadrant) it’s much later than where we are now. It’s too early to say “Dammit, CDC, your models were broken”; but it’s not too soon to consider the possibility that they might be. But maybe we’ll get lucky, and the problem, if indeed it is a problem, will go away before Thanksgiving travel begins.

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

Yikes. As I have been writing: “It would be really bad if the case count jumped just as the students headed home for Thanksgiving.”

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 November 12, 2021” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties:

Minnesota improved. Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana really not. Pennsylvania is now normal (since the rise was a data artifact, and there was no further rise). California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico all improved. And there are lots of little red specks, Weird flare-ups, like flying coals in a forest fire. They land, catch, but — one hopes — sputter out.

The previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

I have helpfully highlighted the states where the “trend” arrow points up in yellow, and where it is vertical, in orange.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 786,268 784,779. Fiddling and diddling. But at this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s.

Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid). Last updated 10/30. Looks like CDC isn’t updating this one either:

Hard to believe we have no excess deaths now, but very fortunate if so. (CDC explains there are data lags).

(Adding: I know the data is bad. This is the United States. Needless to see, this is a public health debacle. It’s the public health establishment’s duty 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.)

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

Chile, Portugal, Peru, with Brazil slowing. Remember this is a log scale. Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away.

* * *

Politics

“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

“Poll: Voters’ doubts rising about Biden’s health, mental fitness” [Politico]. “Only 40 percent of voters surveyed agreed with the statement that Biden “is in good health,” while 50 percent disagreed. That 10-percentage-point gap — outside the poll’s margin of error — represents a massive 29-point shift since October 2020, when Morning Consult last surveyed the question and found voters believed Biden was in good health by a 19-point margin.” • I know what I saw in the primaries; they’ve clearly got Biden juiced up on something. That said… Is there an alternative?

Harris does have a lovely smile, doesn’t she? It would get me, if I didn’t know what she was.

Democrats en Deshabille

Lambert here: Obviously, the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself. Why is that? First, the Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community. (Note that voters do not appear within this structure. That’s because, unlike say UK Labour or DSA, the Democrat Party is not a membership organization. Dull normals may “identify” with the Democrat Party, but they cannot join it, except as apparatchiks at whatever level.) Whatever, if anything, that is to replace the Democrat Party needs to demonstrate the operational capability to contend with all this. Sadly, I see nothing of the requisite scale and scope on the horizon, though I would love to be wrong. (If Sanders had leaped nimbly from the electoral train to the strike wave train after losing in 2020, instead of that weak charity sh*t he went with, things might be different today. I am not sure that was in him to do, and I’m not sure he had the staff to do it, although I believe such a pivot to a “war of movement” would have been very popular with his small donors. What a shame the app wasn’t two-way.) Ah well, nevertheless.

And while we’re at it: Think of the left’s programs, and lay them against the PMC’s interests. (1) Free College, even community college. Could devalue PMC credentials. Na ga happen. (2) MedicareForAll. Ends jobs guarantee for means-testing gatekeepers in government, profit-through-denial-of-care gatekeepers in the health insurance business, not to mention opposition from some medical guilds. Na ga happen. (3) Ending the empire (and reining in the national security state). The lights would go out all over Fairfax and Loudon counties. Na ga happen. These are all excellent policy goals. But let’s be clear that it’s not only billionaires who oppose them.

“Democrats Shouldn’t Panic. They Should Go Into Shock.” [Thomas Edsall, New York Times]. From the final paragraph: “And no one foreshadows the dangers ahead more succinctly than Larry Summers.” • You had me, till Larry Summers. Stoller comments:

Or, as I put matters above, perhaps more vividly: “The Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself.”

“Election guru Rachel Bitecofer: Democrats face “10-alarm fire” after Virginia debacle” [Rachel Bitecofer, Salon]. “First, understand the following about the outcome in Virginia. A year before, basically on the night of the 2020 election, when it was clear that Joe Biden had won the presidency, the enthusiasm advantage for the Republicans was predictable. Republicans were going to be out of power, which meant they were going to get enthusiastic and engaged. Democrats were going to be in power, which meant that Democratic voters were going to tune out and participate less on the margins. Where that vote was going to disappear was always predictable. The Democratic coalition ebbs and flows in terms of turnout. Some of those voters are going to be Democrats and others are independents who tend to vote for Democratic candidates. There are certain demographics where this ends to happen in terms of turnout, such as with younger voters and minorities.” You had me, till this: “The only people who aren’t primarily self-interested are liberals.” Oh, puh-leeze!!!!!!

Republican Funhouse

“Wyoming GOP votes to no longer recognize Cheney as a Republican” [The Hill]. • Dick Cheney must be rolling in his grave. Oh, wait….

RussiaGate

N-o-o-o-o-o:

Sorry to hear about Taibbi’s stroke. And such a young man. Kidding!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Democratic Socialists Need to Take a Hard Look in the Mirror” [Fredrik deBoer, New York Times]. “The idea that most Americans quietly agree with our positions is dangerous, because it leads to the kind of complacency that has dogged Democrats since the “emerging Democratic majority” myth became mainstream. Socialists can take some heart in public polling that shows Americans warming to the abstract idea of socialism. But “socialism” is an abstraction that means little without a winning candidate. And too much of this energy seems to stem from the echo-chamber quality of social media, as young socialists look at the world through Twitter and TikTok and see only the smiling faces of their own beliefs reflected back at them. Socialist victory will require taking a long, hard road to spread our message, to convince a skeptical public that socialist policies and values are good for them and the country. Which is to say, it will take decades.” • Listening to Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast is extremely illuminating on operational capability. We’re doing the October Revolution now, and one of the nuggets Duncan tosses out is that the Bolsheviks organized the machine gun battalions of the Russian Army in Petrograd. Focused, or what? We are so far from anything like that. (I blame the NGO subnetwork of the Democrat Party.)

* * *

Stats Watch

Construction: “United States Housing Starts” [Trading Economics]. “Housing starts in the US unexpectedly fell 0.7% mom to an annualized rate of 1.52 million in October of 2021 from a downwardly revised 1.53 million in September and well below forecasts of 1.576 million. Starts fell for a second consecutive month to the lowest in 6 months, as high costs for building materials, specially lumber and copper, supply constraints and labor shortages continue to weigh on the market.” • Dr. Copper, is that you?

* * *

Banking: “Inflation accelerates adoption of cash-back card rewards’ [American Banker]. “Just as credit card issuers start to benefit from recovering loan growth and an uptick in travel spending, inflation is sparking increased competition in cash rewards. Cash-back rewards were already on the rise, but the trend is intensifying as Americans look for immediate ways to offset rising costs, instead of saving loyalty points for future indulgences, according to industry analysts. ‘During uncertain financial times, consumer behavior trends toward cash-back rewards, and the advantage is that when the cost of goods increases, so too do the cash-back rewards for every dollar spent,’ said Daniela Hawkins, managing principal at the financial services consulting firm Capco.”

Commodities: “How Much of the Worsening Energy Crisis is Due to Depletion?” [Richard Heinberg]. “But there’s another explanation for the high prices: depletion. I’m not suggesting we’re about to completely run out of coal, oil, or gas; there’s no immediate danger of that. However, the energy industry has historically targeted the highest-quality and easiest-accessed of these resources, which means that what’s left, in most cases, are fuels that will be costlier to extract and process—and also more polluting. The proximate causes of current price spikes may be transient market conditions (the see-sawing pandemic, Britain’s decision to leave the European Internal Energy Market, Russia’s reluctance to provide more gas to European buyers until a new pipeline is given final approval, and China’s choice to reduce coal imports from Australia). But behind the energy headlines is persistent, accelerating depletion.”

Shipping: “WTO Says Goods Trade Slowing Due to Supply Issues, Cooler Demand” [Marine Link]. “Global goods trade is slowing after a sharp rebound following the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic as production and supply disruptions and cooling demand for imports dampen growth, the World Trade Organization said on Monday. The WTO said its goods trade barometer dropped to 99.5 points, close to the baseline of 100, in November following a record reading of 110.4 in August. The Geneva-based trade body said supply shocks, including port gridlock arising from surging import demand in the first half of the year and disrupted production of goods such as automobiles and semiconductors, had contributed to the decline. Demand for traded goods was also easing, indicated by falling export orders.”

Inflation:

Inflation: “Inflation Is Not The Biggest Thing Happening In The Economy Right Now” [HuffPo]. ” inflation is actually just one of several big economic stories happening right now. There has also been a big reduction in child poverty ― and Congress could make it permanent. The same fiscal policies that are partly blamed for high inflation produced a 40% reduction in child poverty in July, according to researchers at Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy. The one-month decline was steeper than any year-to-year change in child poverty from 1967 until 2020, when Congress first sent out stimulus checks and boosted unemployment benefits in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Since July, the reduction in family poverty has been mostly sustained by monthly payments worth as much as $300 per child. The payments have lifted between 3 and 4 million children above the poverty line each month. ‘The sheer magnitude of just that number is not what we normally see on a regular basis, especially from a single policy,’ Megan Curran, director of policy at Columbia’s Center on Poverty, said in an interview. Democrats are planning to continue the payments through next year as part of the Build Back Better social spending bill that they hope to pass in the coming weeks. If Democrats succeed in entrenching the policy, it would represent a dramatic shift for the American welfare state in favor of families. One of Democrats’ biggest obstacles is inflation, with news that prices rose 6.2% since last October prompting fresh warnings from Republicans and even some Democrats that Build Back Better is a bad idea.” • Inflation is the biggest thing happening if you’re a creditor, and don’t particularly care for redistributing income to debtors. So who has more power in our political economy? Debtors, or creditors?

Inflation:

You can shrink a candy bar or a box of cereal and charge the same price for it. That’s harder to do with a gallon of gas.

The Bezzle: “Staples Center in Los Angeles to be renamed Crypto.com Arena” [Financial Times]. “The Staples Center in Los Angeles, one of the best-known sports and entertainment arenas in the US, is being rebranded as the Crypto.com Arena, the first such name change sin\ce the 20,000-seat venue opened its doors in 1999. The Singapore-based cryptocurrency platform has agreed to pay more than $700m for the naming rights to the downtown Los Angeles complex for the next 20 years, according to people familiar with the transaction. The rebranding will take effect on Christmas Day, with physical signage expected to change by June 2022. As well as securing a big windfall for AEG, the owner and operator of the arena, the deal marks one of the most eye-catching marketing ploys from a cryptocurrency company to date and comes as digital coins gain wider acceptance among retail investors.” • Reach me that Victory Gin,. wouldja?

The Bezzle: “Inside the cult of crypto” [FInancial Times]. From September, still highly germane: “‘If you look online at ‘what is bitcoin’, what you’ll see is a gigantic amount of literature and decontextualised media snippets that paint a beautiful picture of the imminent success and domination that is surely awaiting us,’ [former Bitcoin stan Chris DeRose] says. ‘However, if you look at bitcoin off the screen, what you’ll see is declining merchant uptake, zero evidence of blockchain deployment or efficiency, and mostly just a lot of promotional events offering cures to whatever ails you.’… For Jackson Palmer, one of the creators of dogecoin — the joke cryptocurrency that shot to prominence this year thanks to Musk — this has now morphed into something profoundly pernicious. “After years of studying it, I believe that cryptocurrency is an inherently rightwing, hyper-capitalistic technology built primarily to amplify the wealth of its proponents through a combination of tax avoidance, diminished regulatory oversight and artificially enforced scarcity,” Palmer wrote on Twitter this summer, announcing his permanent withdrawal from the industry.”

The Bezzle: “Crypto Is Cool. Now Get on the Yacht” [New York Times]. “On Monday, partyers packed into VR World in Midtown for a party DJed by an NFT collector named Seedphrase, who appeared on stage in a light-up CryptoPunk helmet. And on Tuesday, entrepreneurs rubbed elbows with drag queens at a downtown party hosted by Playboy to promote the magazine’s new ‘Rabbitars’ NFT collection. It was a more diverse group than one might think, due primarily to the presence of plenty of artists and musicians among the crypto die-hards, FOMO-stricken investors and corporate suits. Many NFT collectors know each other only from Twitter threads and Discord chats, and few use their real names or photos online, opting instead for pseudonyms and cartoon avatars. At first, they spent a lot of time figuring out who they might know as CoolCat43 or ApeChad690 and whether the guy who came dressed as CryptoPunk #3706 actually owned CryptoPunk #3706. (He did.) They also found that not all of the customs of the online NFT world translate well to meatspace. T-shirts emblazoned with rallying cries like “Wagmi” (we’re all gonna make it) drew some confused stares from passers-by.” • Narrator: “They didn’t all make it.”

Tech: “Twitter stops auto-refreshing timelines so tweets won’t disappear while you’re still reading them” [The Verge]. • I don’t know what’s come over Twitter. They actually did something users want.

Tech: “Israel’s Redefine Meat to serve 3D-printed, plant-based meat at eateries in Europe” [Times of Israel]. “Israeli startup Redefine Meat will begin offering 3D-printed plant-based ‘meat’ products at select high-end restaurants in Europe, the company announced on Tuesday, also unveiling what it called ‘the world’s first’ whole cuts that resemble lamb and beef cuts. In doing so, the company claimed to have ‘cracked the holy grail of the alternative meat industry,’ which is largely producing minced products that often lack the fibrous texture found in animal meat. Redefine Meat’s range of products, called New Meat, now includes the whole cuts, plus burgers, sausages, lamb kebabs, and ground beef as it hopes to become ‘the world’s largest meat company by offering every single cut that a cow does.'” • “Will that be New Meat Red™ or New Meat Yellow™?”

Corporations: “Dutch Divorce: How Shell Split With Netherlands After 114 Years” [Bloomberg]. Shell leaves the Netherlands for London. “‘Shell threatens to leave because they have to pay taxes on dividends,’ Jesse Klaver, the leader of GroenLinks, a left-wing political party, tweeted on Monday. ‘What does the cabinet do? Propose to scrap the entire tax. That is not the solution, that is blackmail. Who runs the Netherlands actually?’ The relationship between Shell and its home country had been under strain for some time. Hosting a company that pumps more than 3 million barrels equivalent of oil and gas each day is increasingly awkward for many in Dutch society, even though Van Beurden has committed the company to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Earlier this year, a judge ruled Shell’s transition to clean energy wasn’t happening quickly enough and ordered the company to slash greenhouse gases even faster out of respect for the human rights and opinions of Dutch citizens. Last month, the pension fund for government employees in the Netherlands decided in to dump all oil company shares, a decision that infuriated Shell’s management team.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 79 Extreme Greed (previous close: 82 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 82 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 17 at 1:52pm.

Health Care

“The Ebola Gamble” [The New Atlantis]. The deck: “How public health authorities put reassurance before protection.” Shorter: WHO and CDC has been broken with respect to aerosol transmission not only since the Ebola crisis (c. 2014) but since SARS (2002). Keep reading for the reveal:

Journalists and government investigators have uncovered a range of institutional problems at the CDC and the WHO since the Ebola outbreak began, and while an in-depth analysis is beyond the scope of this article, it is worth highlighting a few items.

Sheri Fink, in a report in the New York Times, described bureaucratic dysfunction that hampered the WHO’s early response to the Ebola crisis, including a “balkanized hierarchy” in which various offices “jockeyed for position.” Fink also remarked that “the whims of donor countries, foundations and individuals also greatly influenced the WHO’s agenda”; for example, as she noted in an NPR interview, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation now gives more money than any single country, “and they get to choose the priorities … as long as it fits within the WHO’s mandates.”

A similar, if much less pronounced, state of affairs may hold at the CDC. In a recent report in the British Medical Journal, Jeanne Lenzer revealed that the agency receives millions of dollars in funding from private individuals, philanthropic foundations, and corporations — including medical manufacturers. Although that money makes up a tiny portion of the overall CDC budget, Lenzer cites numerous instances in which the agency issued recommendations that seem to have directly benefited its corporate donors.

Meanwhile, investigations by the Washington Post and the New York Times have described bureaucratic friction between the CDC and the WHO. And a special panel convened to assess the WHO’s response to the outbreak has reported on several “organizational failings.” It found that the WHO “does not have an organizational culture that supports open and critical dialogue between senior leaders and staff or that permits risk-taking or critical approaches to decision-making,” and “does not currently possess the capacity or organizational culture to deliver a full emergency public health response.”

For present purposes, however, what is most interesting is the tendency of both organizations to put optics — public perceptions and political correctness — ahead of wise policymaking.

Here is the reveal: This article was written in 2015. Nothing fundamental has changed from pre-Trump to post-Trump. The institutional dysfunction is, if anything, worse, if you go by consequences. The whole article is worth a read, even if I almost did lose a tooth from the grinding. Oh, and one of Ronald Klain’s qualifications for being Biden’s chief of staff was his role as Obama’s ebola czar. So he knows all about this. And here we are! (On optics: I have recommended this article several times; worth a read if you haven’t.)

“‘COVID positive from Vegas.’ Phish concerts leave a long trail of infections, fans say” [Boston Globe]. “Music fans from Massachusetts to California have been flooding social media with reports on a series of concerts they attended in Las Vegas over Halloween weekend. But instead of raving about the setlist and extended jams, many are posting COVID-19 test results and seat numbers in a mass effort at grass-roots contact tracing…. In interviews with the Globe, Phish fans described a crowded venue with poor ventilation and few people wearing masks, despite a Nevada law requiring their use in indoor public settings. MGM said it requires masks indoors, except when eating or drinking…. Because contact tracing is performed by local health departments, one community may not realize a case is linked to many others several states away…. Exactly how many Las Vegas-related cases there may be across the country is difficult to know, in part because some Phish fans posting on social media said they felt ill afterward but did not get tested. Others said they had taken rapid tests, which are often bought over the counter and whose positive results are typically not reported to local or state health departments. Fans also say they visited restaurants, casinos, and other attractions while in Las Vegas, complicating efforts to pinpoint where they might have been infected. The Southern Nevada Health District, which includes the Las Vegas area, said it has not identified any cases among its local residents with a ‘confirmed exposure’ linked to the concerts.” • It does make you wonder what it would be like to live in a country that had a functional public health system.

“With 128 Covid vaccines in clinical development, we don’t know if the approved/authorized ones are the best ones” [STAT]. “Of the 128 Covid vaccines currently being clinically tested (21 of which have been cleared for use in general populations), Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, and AstraZeneca manufacture just four, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) data. Russia’s Sputnik V jab is being distributed in 39 countries with dozens of other markets potentially on the horizon; Sinovac and Sinopharm, both of China, have delivered nearly half of the world’s vaccine doses to date; Bharat Biotech in India won WHO emergency use approval for its Covid shot earlier this month. These are just a handful of the other companies with vaccines that are being given to people in many low- and middle-income countries. Another 194 candidates are in preclinical development in labs or being tested in animals. These companies and their products are largely unknown outside of the life sciences industry, some academic institutions, and government-backed public health centers. But just because massive, globally established pharmaceutical companies and universities have fueled the world’s vaccine supply to date doesn’t mean they have created the best ones. Other vaccines may prove to be more effective, or safer, or more appropriate for a certain coronavirus variant or among certain age groups in the coming years as the march of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is slowed and it becomes endemic…. By default, the current pandemic response has revealed a system where finance is a proxy for ‘best,’ as if it was a betting market, rather than letting science guide resource allocation.” • Only a loser would object to this…

“Jill Biden: What to do if you want to protect your kids” [CNN]. “Parents, we do absolutely everything to protect our kids, and in this pandemic, you did. You figured out how to support their virtual learning while working your job. Some of you even left your job to help your kids. You found ways to create online playdates and birthday parties. You chose to get yourself vaccinated.” Lol, remember when “essential workers” were important? They could not work from home, unlike those who have “email jobs,” and so naturally Dr. Biden erases them. More: “From the day you held your sweet, fragile, little baby for the first time, you have made the choice, again and again, to keep your child safe. Getting your kids the Covid-19 vaccine is your choice, too. Make the decision to protect your children with the same vaccine that has already saved millions of lives.” • It’s appalling. Dr. Biden recommends only vax. Dr. Biden does not discuss ventilation, or (for some ages) masking, or the nasal and oral prophylatics (e.g., Povidone) we have often discussed here. She does not use her national forum to discuss the “Swiss cheese,” layered strategy at all. Dr. Biden emits soothing pablum. Soothing lethal pablum. One might almost think that the Bidens, as a couple, oppose aerosol transmission entirely (q.v. President Biden’s visit to an apparently windowless schoolroom using plexiglass barriers. Shocking and appalling.

Zeitgeist Watch

“At the End of the World, It’s Hyperobjects All the Way Down” [Wired]. “Examples of hyperobjects include: black holes, oil spills, all plastic ever manufactured, capitalism, tectonic plates, and the solar system. Hyperobjects are often ancient or destined to be, like the sum total of Styrofoam and plutonium we have littered across the Earth over the past century, which will remain for millennia. A human being may see evidence of hyperobjects—pollution here, a hurricane there—but try gazing off into the distance to see the totality of them, or to the very end of them, and they disappear into a vanishing point.” • Call me an oldthinker, but I’d expect there to be a definition of “hyperobject” in there somewhere. Or as Wodehouse wrote: “What I had heard was, of course, of a nature to excite pity and terror, not to mention alarm and despondency, and it would be paltering with the truth to say that I was pleased about it. On the other hand, it was all over now, and it seemed to me that the thing to do was not to mourn over the past but to fix the mind on the bright future” (Right Ho, Jeeves).

Class Warfare

“Strike Canceled Across All UC Campuses After Non-Tenured Faculty Members Reach Deal” [NBC San Diego].

A tentative agreement was reached between the University of California and a union representing non-tenured professors, lecturers and some other faculty members on Wednesday, canceling a walkout that was planned over a dispute about several labor issues.

The University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) announced just before 5 a.m. that its planned strike had been called off after reaching a tentative agreement with the university system. The union said it “won transformative and groundbreaking improvements in crucial areas, including job stability, workload, and compensation.”

Part of the tentative deal includes:

  • Job security protections that offer opportunities for professional advancement
  • Raised salary floor and improved compensation, including annual cost-of-living adjustments for each year of the contract
  • More transparency, consistency and enforceability of workload issues
    Four weeks of fully paid leave to bond with a new child or care for ailing family members

News of the Wired

“What is Word of the Year 2021 according to Cambridge Dictionary? (clue: it’s not ‘pandemic’)” [Sky News]. “The word of the year for 2021 – according to the Cambridge Dictionary – is “perseverance”, with editors crediting global interest in NASA’s mission to Mars.” • Good!

* * *

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 (WB):

WB writes: “The the driveway Sumac is ablaze this year.”

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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.

138 comments

    1. Socal Rhino

      This is a reversal of a Trump change targeted primarily at NY and California. A material benefit for the PMC in my opinion.

      Reply
        1. Milton

          OK, I admit that I’m affected by the cap on deductions, but isn’t SALT really a reverse means-testing program where, instead of capping benefits if you are over a certain income bracket, you are limited in a deduction available to all homeowners? I think anyone who is against means-testing would also be against SALT. Besides, for the truly wealthy, a few tens of thousands of dollars in savings is but pocket change. Then there’s MMT…

          Reply
          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            If the Blue-Staters are unSALTED again, they might keep paying high state and local taxes anyway. Or they might do what Rove and Norquist intended by proposing SALT deductibility abolition . . . . lower their state and local taxes down to red state levels and adopt red state substandards and anti-standards for their blue states too. Pretending that rejecting de-SALT ification is based on revenge against Trump is trying to divert attention away from the Norquist-Rove origins of this plan, and its goals.

            If you want more federal taxes collected from rich people, raise the federal income tax rates in general . . . . all the way to Eisenhower era rates if we are dreaming here.

            Reply
            1. Objective Ace

              >If you want more federal taxes collected from rich people, raise the federal income tax rates in general

              That is what eliminating the SALT deductions does.

              I’m sympathetic to your point though, that SALT deductions might encourage states to tax more, which I guess could be good, but its important to remember any good it does is off the backs of people from other states who are subsidizing their higher spending.. I’m not entirely sure thats what we want. Better the country helps all of its citizens in my opinion

              Reply
    2. Darthbobber

      And when the predictable Republican attacks on this prove to be quite effective, we’ll get a bunch of whining pieces about how unfair it is for them to characterize his as-what it is.

      Reply
    3. MichaelC

      Explains why Schumer hasn’t even pretended to try to rein Munchin in.

      Or more cynically why Schumer,s actively encouraged him to hold the BBB hostage to force SALT relief for his (and Nancy’s) donors.

      + passing BBB w SALT tax cuts decimates the Bernie wing’s tax the rich plank.

      Well played.

      Also curious about what message was being sent w Sinema being offered center stage at the infrastructure bill signing.

      Reply
  1. Samuel Conner

    The Peripheral never penetrated further than the periphery of my awareness (I stopped reading sci-fi decades ago), but isn’t the 3D printed meat-like ingestible product eerily reminiscent of a technology in that book?

    Perhaps “the Jackpot” has arrived, but is not yet evenly distributed.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > isn’t the 3D printed meat-like ingestible product eerily reminiscent of a technology in that book

      In the future, they would use nanotechnology to make meat indistinguishable from biological meat.

      In Flynn’s world, I am not sure. Although they do have 3D printing, I assume the pork nubbins at Hefty Mart are real pork, or at least grown in a vat.

      Reply
      1. Sawdust

        I’m holding out for 3D printed human flesh. Just think: you could have a steak made from your own cultured muscle tissue. Wouldn’t that be fun on a date?

        Reply
      2. ambrit

        I think that an older, perhaps sixties science fiction work, posited a giant vat grown chicken meat thing, called, Baby Huey, a nod to a then popular cartoon character. I think that part of the plot involved runaway growth of the chicken vat thing.
        I’m waiting for 3D printed replacement human organs. If the “printed” meat like product is a real accomplishment, then the medical uses of the technology cannot be too far behind. Say, prime the 3D printer with some blood from the patient. “Grow” the “product” using the patient’s DNA as a template, and, voila, cheap, simple, body parts that do not suffer from rejection issues.
        Still, I want to see this 3D meat work as advertised first.

        Reply
      3. The Rev Kev

        Was watching the telly the other day and they had a story about vegetable foods packaged as meat. So one packet would have ‘Beef’ on if and a picture of a cow but in the bottom right corner was a disclaimer that it was all vegetable based. The point was to trick people to buy them and when they realize that it was not really meat, maybe get them to switch over. Both the guys individually pushing this thought it a brilliant idea. But one guy, who opposed it on the grounds that it was deceptive practices, said what if he made packets of plant-based food with pictures of vegetables on it but it would be really made of meat. When the interviewer posed this question to those two guys pushing these plant based foods, it was amazing to see them flip like a coin and decry it on the grounds that it would be deceptive and wrong to do. They literally had no self awareness at all.

        Reply
  2. Bazarov

    Regarding organizational capability being decisive in a revolutionary situation:

    From my reading of history, this is overplayed. Winning revolutionary groups held up as amazingly organized in the aftermath of their victory (usually by their own propaganda) prove to have been, shall we say, bumbling in reality. In fact, one often marvels that they succeeded at all. When pondering Cuba’s historical trajectory, it still comes as a shock that Fidel’s rag-tag group actually won!

    What I’ve learned vis-a-vis revolution is that success hinges most on the weakness of the ruling authority. In a power vacuum, a fairly fractious effort can be decisive. In the case of the October Revolution, everyone agrees that the Provisional Government was enervated and delusional–as if it caught the same political disease that destroyed the Tsarist regime. Batista’s government was similarly incompetent.

    It doesn’t take all that stiff a wind to blow over a dead tree.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I don’t think the Bolsheviks were a well-oiled political machine. Duncan points out plenty of bumbling. Would they have succeeded in their endeavors without “standing on the shoulders of giants” in terms of forty years of revolutionary agitation (including anarchists, Narodniks, Socialist Revolutionaries, and other strands), as well as their own internal conflicts trying to find the way forward? I don’t think so. They were disciplined and focused at a level that others were not. They were lucky, too, especially in their enemies! Our tiny little groupuscules just can’t compare. (I think there is the attitude that people/workers/identity verticals will spontaneously “rise up.” I just don’t think that’s a serious view.)

      > It doesn’t take all that stiff a wind to blow over a dead tree.

      I agree, but our environment seems close to a dead calm by historical standards (except of course on the right, but that’s a different story, and the missing element continues to be an organized militant tendency).

      Reply
    2. David

      As in most forms of conflict, I think, it comes down to being less disorganised than the opposition, and making fewer mistakes. From about 1905 the Bolsheviks did have the self-image of tightly disciplined professional revolutionaries, but, as you say, the reality wasn’t quite up to the advance billing. On the other hand, Curzio Malaparte , writing not that long after the event, credits Trotsky with realising that in a modern coup d’état it’s things like power generation and the telephone system that you have to seize, and carefully planning according. Malaparte (real name Kurt Suckert, his name is a pun on Buonaparte) was a very interesting guy, who moved from being a literal Fascist in the 1930s to either or both of a Communist and a Catholic after the war, depending on who you believe. As well as Technique du coup d’état, which I don’t think is available in English, he wrote Kaputt, which is: a skin-crawling account of his travels as a war correspondent around the Axis countries in WW2.

      Reply
  3. Milton

    58.9% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, as of November 16.

    Should there be a new vaccinated category for those past 6 months–maybe call it Effectively Vaccinated. You do something along those lines and pretty soon the rate drops in the single digits, boosters be damned.

    Reply
    1. Samuel Conner

      I was thinking along the same lines recently.

      The “time since vaccination” distribution is presumably really important for the future course of the epidemic, at least in terms of its implications for “stress on the health-care system.”

      OTOH, the charts Lambert is showing of #s vaxxed by date already exhibits this information, though you’d have to aggregate by eye.

      To my eye, the “area under the curve” before mid-May is about the same as the area after mid-May.

      As “boosted” people become a significant fraction of the total, that will make such eyeball integrations of that dataset increasingly useless.

      One would need a database that tracked individuals in order to update their “date vaccinated” to reflect receipt of boosters. Presumably tPtB are working on this.

      Reply
        1. Kevin Carhart

          Fascinating, given financial products like the “mitigation bonds.” At least where my imagination takes it would be very strange co-mingling between something happening in the world and tampering by people with long or short positions in an instrument based on the something happening.

          Reply
  4. Mikel

    “Crypto Is Cool. Now Get on the Yacht” [New York Times

    For heavens sake, somebody tell them “democratized finance” is a misnomer.
    But every generation gets a new buzzword or phrase for “pump and dump.”

    Reply
  5. IM Doc

    About the above linked article about Dr. Biden’s comments on CNN —

    Parents, we do absolutely everything to protect our kids, and in this pandemic, you did. You figured out how to support their virtual learning while working your job. Some of you even left your job to help your kids.

    I have been preaching to my students, residents, and patients for decades that the vast majority of disease I see in my office is a direct reflection of people’s reaction to “the American way of life.” That way of life has now produced over the 30 years of my career a huge increase in obesity, in diabetes, in mental anguish and stress, in kids on all kinds of meds, an explosion of diabetes in kids, and a level of depression and anxiety in my patients that was simply inconceivable when I started 30 years ago.

    To put it simply, people are allergic to being American. It really is that simple.

    What these elites have yet to figure out – as I have heard nothing about this really discussed in the press – is what the last 2 years has wrought.

    You see, when you give people the ability to do their work and life without the soul-draining hour long commutes, the mindless work days, leisure time every day instead of driving, and the incredibly decreased expenses without a commute – you gave them a chance of having a much better life. Leaving many parents much more time to be with their kids. My little rural community has now been deluged with millenial families uprooted from California and NY and SF and Chicago moving here with abandon. The empty U-Hauls are everywhere.

    In my experience as a physician and talking to hundreds of the new-found free, this has led to 2 big insights.

    1) Parents realized how absolutely craptastic was the kids’ experience in school and how atrocious many of the teachers are.

    2) Far more importantly, many families, especially the younger ones, are purposely having one of the parents stay home now – working or not. Many of them have quit working altogether. That is where a lot of our workers have disappeared to.

    Most of the stay-home parents have been the moms, but I have been taken aback by how many dads are staying home while mom works. Many of them here in my community and in my realm have realized how much of their lives and money were being spent on their previous life and have decided that spending that on their kids is the much better option.

    I could not be more thrilled. I have thought for a long time that we need to completely re-think our entire way of life. It may disrupt some of the sacred cows – for example – tenets of feminism and 2-career families. But so be it. I think we will all be much more healthy in the long run.

    As this continues to emerge, the changes may be very disruptive as we are experiencing now – but what was not disruptive about the previous way we were doing things?

    Dr. Biden and other elites like her spout off these kinds of platitudes all the time. She is really onto something here – I just do not think it is what she thinks it is.

    The times – they are a’changin’.

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      I wonder how many in the broad public know that Jill is a doctor of education, not medicine. Therefore her opinion on child vaccines is no better than oh, say, mine.

      Reply
        1. Carolinian

          I think most people would assume that a public figure who prefers to be called doctor is the medical kind unless they are obviously not like, for example, “Dr. Kissinger” If the news called everyone with a graduate degree doctor it would get quite confusing.

          Reply
          1. WobblyTelomeres

            Well, they just weren’t happy with Physician, were they? No, they wanted Doctor, too. Something about distinguishing themselves from barbers bearing leeches.

            Reply
    2. flora

      Thanks so much for your comments. I often wonder how much the US obesity “epidemic” is directly tied to the stresses of modern US life, even aside from high fructose corn syrup and the many other dietary concerns. Stress eating is a real thing.

      Reply
      1. clarky90

        Stress and……..

        Why vegetable/seed oils are probably causing all of your health problems? With Tucker Goodrich

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExhVWLu_hbk

        …..modern diets that include seed oils (aka Vegetable oils) have been an undeniable disaster to modern health.

        If you eat high amounts of Canola, Safflower, Peanut, Rapeseed, Canola, Margarine, compromised olive oils and soya bean oils assuming you are eating “Heart Healthy” foods, think again.

        I just happened upon this guy!

        Avoid linolaic acid……… This fat was a tiny part of our GGGrand’s meals. Now it is a huge part of even “healthy” diets.

        Reply
        1. Objective Ace

          >If you eat high amounts of Canola, Safflower, Peanut, Rapeseed, Canola, Margarine, compromised olive oils and soya bean oils assuming you are eating “Heart Healthy” foods, think again.

          Does this apply to all veggy oils? Avocado oils are our go to because of its higher boiling point. I assume there’s not much of a difference between it and the other oils healthwise, but it is conspicuously absent from your list

          Edit: I just looked up oils by Linolic acid and Cocunut oil seems to be the winner: https://www.news-medical.net/health/Oils-Rich-in-Linoleic-Acid.aspx

          Reply
          1. Greg

            I mean, it depends? Different plants have different acids in their fats, and different cultures depended on large amounts of each in history. These kinds of articles that claim “ancient man never ate x y z” or “only ate a b c” are generally assuming consistency that doesn’t exist in the archeological record.
            Hominids pre-15kya were omnivores and ate everything we eat and a whole lot more. Some groups were overdependent on specific plants or animals, some got more mixed diets.

            Obvious exception is everything industrial food and dependent on modern chemistry.

            Reply
          2. DJG, Reality Czar

            Objective Ace: Looking at the list given, I’m going to do some editing. First, canola = rapeseed. It was “re-branded” as canola (which has something to do with Canada). Margarine is suspect as a hydrogenated fat..

            Certain plants and trees have been oil plants for years. I’m thinking of olive oil (likely the best oil as a food), sesame (also quite good), and other tree oils like walnut (delicious). The irony is that coconut is among these trees.

            I’d check the history of avocados, if I were you. If they were never an oil plant, why are they now an oil plant?

            What Clarky90 is pointing to, I think, is that some oils in our foods are made from waste–from plants never used as sources of oil. The oil is derived by dubious chemical processes.

            Of these, I’m most skeptical of corn oil, soy oil, and cottonseed oil (yikes!). I won’t eat them.

            The entry for Crisco at Wikipedia is, errr, fascinating. Cottonseed is waste. Who knows if cows will eat it? So it became Crisco….

            Reply
      2. The Rev Kev

        I’m glad you mentioned that. I would add sugar as well since it is present in most of our processed foods. It actually became more profitable to make junk food that will give people a whole rang of health problems that real food which does not. And it was done in only a generation or two.

        Reply
        1. eg

          Precisely. The evils of sugar have been known since the 70s when John Yudkin published “Pure, White and Deadly.” Of course Yudkin was shouted into obscurity by that hack Ancel Keys and Big Sugar. We’re still paying for that disgraceful episode.

          Reply
      3. Phil in KC

        My doctor recommends dietary changes for wellness, and she strongly urged me to commit to a Mediterranean diet to stave off bad cholesterol. Well, I do like salads, but when I looked at the dressings–yuch!. Soybean oil, mostly. Here and there, canola oil. You have to do a bit of searching for an olive-oil based dressing that isn’t compromised with other dubious ingredients. My search led me to a notoriously high-priced nationwide natural foods store where I found such an item–organic, olive oil, nothing harmful–for a mere $3.69. In a glass bottle, it is, and so recyclable, an added bonus.

        Good nutrition is an essential part of self care, and you have to do it for yourself. If you don’t care, well, you just don’t care. But you will pay a price.

        Reply
    3. Anon

      IM Doc, your insight and wisdom are much appreciated.

      Recently, I asked my priest if he thought anything good might emerge out of the past two years of intense pain and suffering? Maybe people would become less materialistic, more loving toward their families, friends and fellow creatures on this precious planet? He said he hadn’t given it any thought. He’s a priest and he hadn’t even thought about it. I was amazed.

      Reply
      1. savedbyirony

        Priests are RC middle management and for the most part just cogs in the institutional church’s machine. Trying asking a sister (nun). Bet you get a very different and truly thoughtful answer.

        Reply
    4. zagonostra

      Very encouraging. I split my time between small central PA town where there is only 1 major traffic light and Ft. Lauderdale where I95 is like some Octopus that keeps expanding lanes. If I had a young family and had enough to survive, with one spouse staying home, the choice would be easy.

      I have a friend who moved to rural Kentucky and he is trying to raise his own food, with chickens and other farm animals. He sent me a pic of a deer he just shot and it will give him and his wife plenty of meat for the winter. These folks strongly oppose the CV19 mandatory vaccination, are religious and, yes, and, highly educated. The “American Life” that they believe in is the one they are trying to construct, or reconstruct, I should say.

      Reply
      1. Fiery Hunt

        Trust me, this Californian and his girl have been focused on this exact kind of plan…we visited Kentucky 3 years ago and are planning a trip to Ohio in the Spring.

        Can’t wait to get off this hellish treadmill!!

        Reply
    5. ChrisPacific

      2) Far more importantly, many families, especially the younger ones, are purposely having one of the parents stay home now – working or not. Many of them have quit working altogether. That is where a lot of our workers have disappeared to.

      This is certainly as plausible a theory as anything I’ve seen. I’ve wondered how people could afford to exit the workforce even with all the caveats around expenses, but if you’re a second income then it makes a whole lot more sense. By losing the expenses and picking up all of those other tasks that would normally cost money and/or be difficult to accomplish (we can now add home schooling to that list) I can see how it would add up to a compelling case. There’s been a lot of enforced change recently and I’m sure people are finding that not all of it has been bad.

      Reply
      1. Katniss Everdeen

        Way back before she became Senator warren, elizabeth warren and her daughter wrote a book called The Two Income Trap.

        The book lays out, in detail, how “precarious” the situation of a middle class family actually is when they live a lifestyle that depends on both parents working.

        It really will be a kick in the pants if forcing parents to stay home this past 18 months taught them that that crappy job for crappy wages wasn’t really as important as they thought it was, and they really CAN get along, if not live a better life, without it.

        https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/854759.The_Two_Income_Trap

        Reply
      2. Pelham

        I appreciate IM Doc’s contributions here and don’t doubt what he’s seeing about families choosing to survive on one income. Plus there’s a lot of press about Americans leaving jobs for whatever reason. But how do they do it? Aren’t most US households fairly deep in debt?

        The only partial explanation I can imagine pertains to millennials, whose prospects for a decent life, marriage, child-rearing and home ownership are so dim that maybe they’re ready to just chuck in the idea of saving for a future and instead live for the moment. Sounds foolish but it may also be the wisest choice.

        Reply
        1. Fiery Hunt

          Leave the high-rent/cost of living areas and suddenly, it’s manageable!

          The average cost of a 2 bedroom apartment in Oakland, CA is over $3,000…
          Typical cost of a single family home in the Greater Bay Area is over $1,000,000…

          Reply
        2. Will S.

          I’m a millennial, and from my anecdotal experience, the nihilistic attitude of “My student loans will never be paid off, and I will never be able to retire” is quite prevalent among my peers.

          Reply
    6. Arizona Slim

      Here we go again. Another IM Doc comment for my bookmark collection.

      Doctor, if this collection gets any bigger, I’m going to have to be the producer for your book!

      Yes, I know. I keep insisting that you write a book. Well, sir, you are well on your way, just with your Naked Capitalism commentary.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        Might be easier to open a new text file and copy-and-past all those comments into one file. Less book marks and all that valuable info in one file that is easy to read and search through. Just make sure you have backups for it though.

        Reply
    7. jsn

      “I have thought for a long time that we need to completely re-think our entire way of life. It may disrupt some of the sacred cows – for example – tenets of feminism and 2-career families. But so be it. I think we will all be much more healthy in the long run.”

      While there may be some resistance there, the overwhelming resistance will be from the Capitalist political market. Every cost that can be measured in dollars spent in the American system is someone’s profit flow.

      In our pay to play political system, no such problem can be solved because it would deprive a donor of a cash flow said donor has paid handsomely to get and will pay more handsomely to preserve. This is how a Sinema becomes a Senator, she has no other function but to dun donors to preserve or enhance their profit flows. This is why her party pulled out all the stops to end Sanders voter funded campaign: they like the money much more than they like their voters.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        It may not necessarily disrupt the tenets of feminism. If the female partner earns more money than the male breadwinner, then the male breadwinner becomes the stay-at-home parent.

        Reply
    8. ChrisFromGeorgia

      The times they are a changing, but beware the Empire striking back.

      As I scan my LinkedIn and other professional networks, I see a lot of articles and posts that imply that this past 21 months has been an aberration, and we all have to resign ourselves to going back to offices. The carrot approach is shiny new espresso machines, promises of “hybrid” work schedules, and new carpeting. The stick would be mandatory policies along the lines of “thou shalt report to the office at least 3 days a week, or else you get put on unpaid leave.” The vaccine mandates might be a backdoor way to corral folks back in to submission to the daily commute and senseless office politics.

      After all, if you’ll submit to getting an experimental vaccine that doesn’t even stop transmission, why would you rise up against being told to go back to spending 2 hours a day in your car, fighting traffic, and being around a bunch of folks you don’t really like?

      I’m not sure how much of this notion of things going back to 2019 is normalcy bias, or how much of it is contained to the financial services industry. Tech seems to be an outlier. But it sort of smells like a psy-op. I’ve come to referring to it as “Operation Gaslight ’em.”

      Kind of like an abusive spouse saying, don’t worry, that long, stressful commute isn’t giving you heart disease and the better life you’ve chosen isn’t so great. Gaslighting the nation to keep CRE from imploding.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        ‘The vaccine mandates might be a backdoor way to corral folks back in to submission to the daily commute and senseless office politics.’

        That makes sense that. The message would be that the pandemic is over so lets go back to 2019 and continue where we left off.

        Reply
      2. Jen

        Sounds like wishful thinking for any positions that don’t need to be on site. My employer was all gung ho about everyone coming back in September…then pushed it back to October…now the operative word is flexibility, except on the vaccine. Our local unemployment rate is 5% when the economy is in the toilet. The only people who can afford to move here are the executives making a ton of money.

        Even some of the most ardent “everyone must be on site” managers I know realize that they don’t have the leverage to demand that for positions that don’t require it.

        Reply
    9. Rick

      Yes.

      I have been fortunate to have a career in which it was possible (not easy, and not without financial and other sacrifices – men aren’t expected to pursue anything other than corporate advancement) to work part time for nearly all my life. This has been a life saver for me. I took care of my children from the time they were born, volunteering in preschool and the classroom. I have had time for a life outside of work. I had enthusiasm for a profession because I didn’t have to spend all my energy working long hours.

      I hope the times are a’changin’ but fear that won’t happen without a battle ragin’.

      Reply
    10. eg

      Bingo. Every time I hear some media talking head (or see the “hair and teeth” on TV) speaking of the longing to “return to normal” I think, who are you kidding? Normal sucked.

      Reply
  6. Carolinian

    Alex Berenson is making a big deal out of no MSM coverage of OSHA suspending their employer mandate and in truth a DDG search only yielded this daily mail link

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10214017/OSHA-SUSPENDS-Bidens-sweeping-vaccine-mandates-private-companies-13-653-fines.html

    Meanwhile the lottery for the consolidated all party case against the mandate has would up with the midwest 6th circuit that is considered Republican leaning.

    But if the mandate loses in court will those who have already been fired have any recourse other than the ballot box?

    Reply
  7. Kevin DeNardo

    AXIOS – A COVID strategy backfires at schools

    Excerpt: “School districts and universities have spent as much as $100 million on this technology — often for electronic air cleaning systems that have misleading, company-funded studies that boast 99.99% efficacy, said Marwa Zaatari, mechanical engineer and a board member of the U.S. Green Building Council.”

    Reply
    1. lambert strether

      Every aerosol scientist I follow was screaming “Don’t do this!” Makes you wonder how many steak dinners school administrators consumed…

      Waiting for vax-only goons to start chanting “ventilation doesn’t work!” in 3, 2, 1….

      Reply
      1. John

        In the school where I teach, we opened the windows and doors. Even in winter there is ventilation with outside air coming in and the use of fans. It worked last school year. It is working this year. I have no idea what “normal” will look like in the near future. The assumption that COVID is going to go away looks more and more like a fantasy; a fantasy of what folks want to happen and simply assume that because they want it, it will happen. The virus is doing what viruses do; evolve. Will it evolve toward something benign, something more lethal, neither, both? Let’s wait and see what happens because there is no other choice.

        I really do detest wearing a mask all day in the classroom.

        Reply
  8. Robert Hahl

    Inflation: There used to be seven hot dogs in a standard package of Hebrew National Beef Franks. Now there are six.

    Reply
        1. ambrit

          Ouch! I heard that inflation was so bad, the Air Force was returning to airships. (And yes, I know about electronic warfare aereostats. I’m talking good old LZs.)
          With the Pentagon ‘expanding’ into a Hexagon, I would be remiss if I didn’t float the old Conspiracy Theory about the War Department being run by the Benzine Ring.

          Reply
    1. Jen

      One positive development might be that packages of hotdog buns will shrink form 8 to 6, thus matching the number of hotdogs in a package.

      Reply
  9. MikeW_CA

    “The Singapore-based cryptocurrency platform has agreed to pay more than $700m for the naming rights to the downtown Los Angeles complex for the next 20 years”. They’re gonna collect that $700M up front, right?

    Reply
    1. Glen

      There is a certain irony having a “coin” based on “mining” that burns up electricity (latest estimates at the same rate as all of Argentina) all while the world is wrestling with global climate change.

      Can we just let them make money like the Fed by just creating it out of thin air?

      Reply
  10. Jen

    From Salon Kids COVID piece:

    “What is the bottom line on kids and spread?

    Contrary to what we thought at the pandemic’s onset in the U.S., it’s now looking like kids catch and transmit the coronavirus about as much as adults and adolescents.”

    Thank goodness they cleared that up, because here I was thinking COVID was the first contagious disease in the history of ever that kids don’t spread. I acquired 4 nieces and one nephew when my Dad remarried, and spent the week after every single holiday visit recovering from whatever those germy little contagion vectors (whom I love dearly, don’t get me wrong) gave me.

    I realize this is strictly observational, and of course I’m no scientist but do any of these people who spout this nonsense spend any time at all around kids?

    Reply
    1. Petter

      Talked to a neighbor who told me that a colleague of his and the colleague’s wife, both fully vaccinated, caught Covid from one their children. The colleague got a mild case, the wife got really sick. I don’t know if all the children caught Covid, I forgot to ask. The parents got their second dose about three months ago.
      My now retired former GP called me a few weeks ago to ask me how I’m doing (not good) and was thinking of visiting but didn’t want to put me at risk as friend of his caught Covid, three months after his second dose.
      Norway is now 70% fully vaccinated, as in two doses but is recommending a booster for everyone over 65. A month or so ago it was anyone over 65 with preexisting conditions.
      The numbers are going up, 2475 new cases reported today. Extrapolating that to the USA with its population of 330 million, that would be about 163,000 new cases today.
      Happy days.

      Reply
    2. Mark Sanders

      At the risk of starting a fire here, is there valid evidence that a vaccinated kid is less likely to get the virus and pass it on than one who is unvaccinated? If so, where? My understanding is that vaccination keeps you from getting very sick and dying, but being nonsterile, the vaccine does not prevent the virus from getting into your nasal passages, lungs, etc., and hanging out there long enough to spread to other people. Is a masked, non-vaccinated person more dangerous than an unmasked, vaccinated person?

      Reply
      1. outside observer

        I don’t believe there is, not yet. I recall the FDA and CDC requesting more information on the question of effect on transmission from Pfizer during the EUA meetings. Everything has the appearance of trying to get the guaranteed profit stream in place as fast as possible. Reminds me of ACA.

        Reply
      2. VietnamVet

        The closest answer to this question I’ve seen was posted here. A UK study followed vaccinated and unvaccinated families. 38% of the unvaccinated families caught COVID and 25% of the vaccinated families caught COVID. Only a 13% decrease. This and the fading efficacy that requires booster shots every six months makes getting vaccinated not the no-brainer that the private/public propaganda makes it out to be. mRNA vaccines cause “rare” cases of blood-clotting in young women and heart inflammation in young males. The long-term safety of the jabs and the effects of repeated booster shots are known unknowns.

        Until there is universal effective contact tracing in the USA, I would treat every stranger (vaccinated or not) as possibly shedding coronavirus. Avoid crowds, mask, and social distance as much as possible to lower the risks of playing Russian Roulette when being out in public. For an old-fogey stuck in a nursing home, the benefits clearly outweigh the risks.

        The Moderna CEO wouldn’t be a billionaire now if the USA had a functional public health system.

        Reply
  11. cocomaan

    Happy to help anything Pennsylvania!

    I love my state, but boy, is it weird and screwed up

    “Parents, we do absolutely everything to protect our kids, and in this pandemic, you did. You figured out how to support their virtual learning while working your job. Some of you even left your job to help your kids. You found ways to create online playdates and birthday parties. You chose to get yourself vaccinated.” Lol, remember when “essential workers” were important? They could not work from home, unlike those who have “email jobs,” and so naturally Dr. Biden erases them.

    Those who don’t have email jobs really don’t exist to people in the PMC. They don’t really encounter them on a day to day basis except in servitude. When they go to see donors, they’re talking to the email class, to meetings, they are talking to the email class, home for thanksgiving? Everyone is in the email class.

    Reply
          1. ambrit

            Probably the same place you found the small pox samples. Notice the similarities between the two classes of ‘object.’

            Reply
  12. cocomaan

    https://news.yahoo.com/vials-labeled-small-pox-found-in-lab-near-philadelphia-003127682.html

    Pennsylvania really showing off how great it is at public health again. (Always happy to help with anything related to PA!)

    A PA Merck facility had bottles labeled smallpox in some of their freezers. I assume that they were also marked as dangerous substances.

    This comes on the heels of Bill Gates warning of smallpox attacks at airports (????).

    Good thing the FBI and the CDC are on the case! I am sure they will do a fantastic job.

    Reply
    1. Jen

      Who knows how much of this stuff is lurking in freezers around the country. I can tell you from working in medical schools for my entire career that the contents of -80 freezers are like your great grandmother’s china – yeah, no one will probably ever use it, but no one wants to dispose of it because someone might want it some day. Finding locations for an ever expanding, never contracting array of freezers is the bane of any space planners existence.

      One of the researchers I know told me he found a few vails of small pox in the back of a freezer when he was a postdoc. I asked him what he did when he found them. “Pitched them into an autoclave.”

      And back in the day before small pox was eradicated, and everyone was vaccinated, you didn’t need the kind of safety precautions around it that you do today, which is while, periodically, someone will find a vail in a freezer, or a desk drawer or some such.

      Reply
          1. petal

            hahaha All sorts of good shizzle in freezers, man! Recently, I found stuff in ours from the early 90s. Great fun! One of my goals is to not be in my position when my boss finally retires-so that the freezer clean-outs will be someone else’s job. I try to not think about what might be lurking in the freezers of others, though-not good for the mind. When I read the article you posted, I started chuckling. Totally not surprised.

            Reply
            1. cocomaan

              With what you all have explained, I have this feeling that your strategic departure before freezer cleanup has been happening for decades and probably will keep going as long as the power stays on.

              Reply
          2. rowlf

            I live south of the Atlanta Georgia USA area in the lower Piedmont region. From observing the rigorous standards many in the area live up to for following policy and procedures, I bet there were/are many home conversations of CDC researchers like this:

            “Oh drat, I brought home the wrong thermos again!”
            -“Do you want me to wash it for you?”
            “Yeah, and tell the kids to stop playing with it.”
            “Maybe wash the dog’s water bowl too.”
            “I wished they marked these better.”

            Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Always happy to help with anything related to PA

      Please do. Pennsylvania is a very, very interesting state. I enjoyed my six years in Center City very much, though it took me awhile.

      Reply
  13. petal

    Thank you for the Phish article. I’m a big fan but can’t afford to go to shows anymore, plus they’re too far away. I do watch the clips that get posted from the shows, and noticed how jam-packed the venues were and that no one was wearing a mask, and were partying like it’s 1999. A friend wrote an article for the main Phish fan board about the need to mask up at shows, etc, but it looks like no one listened. We’ve been talking about it all during the Fall tour. Figured it was a matter of time before the shows became spreader events. The sh-tshow that is contact tracing in the US….hoo boy. Pandemic’s over, folks! /s

    Reply
    1. Aumua

      I actually did the leg from Phoenix through Vegas. The shows were all outdoors except for the Forum in LA and the MGM. The last night at the MGM (Halloween) seemed particularly bad as far as being (over) packed, hot, and smoky as hell. I mean it was pretty much the perfect conditions for spreading viruses, but I didn’t get covid. I was vaccinated in May (J&J).

      On another note, with the exception of Halloween the shows were really good. It was almost like seeing old Phish. They came back strong from this hiatus, and the crowds were great too, mostly.

      Reply
    1. Basil Pesto

      wowee! I know I shouldn’t be surprised (plants man!) but I still am that my pretty maroon spice was once a pretty solar tree

      Reply
  14. drumlin woodchuckles

    If the Democratic Socialists want normal people to consider Democratic Socialism, they have to prove that they don’t secretly mean Gulag Socialism. Snarky questions about whether Gulag Socialism is worse than what we have now will be met by snarky rejoinders about how it isn’t any better.

    Reply
      1. ambrit

        Forcing someone to try and prove a negative is an old trick in misinformation campaigns.
        I just tell such questioners that they would be apalled, absolutely aghast, at the “secret” meanings lurking in all of my communications. Play the Socratic Method to the hilt.

        Reply
      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        You’re right, one doesn’t ask. One simply studies what they say and write, what they have said and written, what they believe and stand for; and see what the logical implications of all that might or might not be.

        A lot of ordinary people will want some comforting-inducing evidence of Democratic Socialism not being the Same Old Gulag Marxism in disguise. The DemSocs can sneer at such concerns in public and insult the Normies for having these concerns, but that won’t gain them any Normie votes.

        However, its their call what approach to take. I am not one of them so it is not my concern what they do.

        Not my circus, not my monkeys.

        Reply
  15. drumlin woodchuckles

    The Democratic Party may be a corpse needing burial. Or it may be a moral superfund site in need of decontamination and remediation.

    Two different grouploads of people can pursue two different courses of action based on those two different approaches.

    Also, just as the Mao Communists conquered China from the Nationalists step by step, starting from the most isolated areas and reaching the capital last of all, the Remediators and the Burialists might consider starting from the isolated rural and small town areas and working outward and upward in steps, till they have conquered or buried the DemParty outside the Capital so thoroughly, that they then have the power base from which to either remediate the National Party or bury the National Party, depending on which path ends up being taken.

    If they don’t have the patience to start somewhere conquerable, they won’t start or get anywhere at all.

    Reply
      1. ambrit

        Maybe, if one took into consideration that an excellent class of things with which to populate the composting sphere is “a big pile of leaves.” Leave from where you ask? Don’t be silly.

        Reply
  16. ambrit

    Tiny zeitgeist report.
    I had to hoof it to nearby electronics and auto parts stores today. Paid some utility bills, then a side trip to the grocery and then home. In the seven places I visited, only one smiling face. All of the rest of the counter people or cashiers I dealt with looked depressed. Has anyone else seen this lately? Is it out of the ordinary, or is this the “new normal?”

    Reply
    1. flora

      I’m seeing it, too, in my very blue small city. Not sure what to make of it. Pre-Thanksgiving blues? Pre-Christmas blues? (The Christmas ads and ‘buy now!’ tv ads have started running.) Buyer’s remorse over the last election and how well that has or hasn’t worked out? Higher prices? Emptier shelves? Fewer workers in the old hangout places? Don’t know.

      Reply
    2. petal

      ambrit and flora, it’s real. Happened to talk with a couple folks that work at the local grocery this morning, and one of them was talking about how hard things are, have been, and are not going to get any better, and how disheartened she is. She thinks things are going to continue to get worse and harder for people like herself. It weighs heavily on her. Another one needed a shoulder to talk about her ailing elderly parents and the rotten situation they’re in with the nursing home and funds to pay for it(vampires).
      Things are tough and there’s no hope in sight that it is going to improve. Ever. People aren’t hiding those feelings anymore.

      Reply
    3. Fiery Hunt

      The burnout is deepening in those of us who have gotten NO break working these last 2 years.

      The grind, the resentment of those who have… be it houses, or work-from-home jobs, or vacation time, or growing investments accounts…yeah, the “essential workers” are very tired, frustrated, and more and more likely to be very clear on the fact that they’re doomed to toil til death.

      The disparity between the haves and the have-nots is too glaring and soul-crushing to be ignored.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        I have learned to also “read” body language, somewhat. Look for slouching posture, eyes fixed soley on the ‘products,’ slow movements; dull tones and hesitation in speech adds an aural aspect to the mix.
        Ading, down here in the North American Deep South (NADS), about one in four people you will encounter is masked, indoors or outdoors. The grocery store I shopped at yesterday has signs taped to the entrance doors stating: “Unmasked employees have shown proof of vaccination.”
        I’m putting the entire American Pandemic Experience (APE) down as an example of; “You can’t make this stuff up.”

        Reply
    4. Phil in KC

      Here in Kansas City it looks like the new normal is very similar to the old normal + masks + fears of COVID + deepening political fault lines. But this is the midwest and we usually are a few months/years behind the trends. For most people I know, life has not gotten better.

      Reply
  17. Tim

    “You can shrink a candy bar or a box of cereal and charge the same price for it. That’s harder to do with a gallon of gas.”

    It’s also hard to convince somebody a bag of chips is actually family size once it fits in a vending machine. You can only scale down for a while before people say “nope.”

    Reply
    1. John Beech

      Zipped into McD’s drive through with grandson, figuring small burger and fries off the dollar menu. burger was $1.39, fries $2.29 and up to $3.99. Said nope, Bought him a McChicken on sale and off we went, no fries.

      Reply
      1. eg

        I know someone (who is frightfully smart) who met Clinton in person. He claims that Clinton’s charisma is off the charts, which is probably what one ought to expect from a psychopath.

        Reply
  18. allan

    Trump gave an agency $100 million to fight Covid. Here’s what happened. [NBC]

    [Spoiler alert: nothing]

    A federal agency that was run by a college friend of Jared Kushner and assigned $100 million to spend on fixing the Covid supply chain crunch has so far failed to invest a single dime, according to a new government watchdog report.

    In 2020, the Trump administration directed the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to loan out $100 million in Pentagon funds through the CARES Act to “finance the domestic production of strategic resources needed to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, and to strengthen any relevant domestic medical supply chains.” …

    In July 2020 the agency announced a $765 million commitment to work with Kodak to make generic drug ingredients needed in the pandemic. Kodak’s stocks soared by 570 percent and the company said it was planning to expand existing facilities in Rochester, New York, and St. Paul, Minnesota.

    The deal came under immediate scrutiny and never went through. …

    The loan that is the furthest along in the process is an application from a Connecticut-based company called ApiJect, but the GAO says the project to build a new facility creating 650 jobs to make prefilled injectors for Covid vaccines has been delayed because the company has “encountered delays securing the necessary property rights for the project site.”

    ApiJect declined to comment on the report. A person familiar with the project told NBC News there is a legal dispute with the property landowners. …

    Very disappointing, coming from the self-proclaimed “A-team of people who get sh*t done.”

    Reply
  19. bob

    “A year before, basically on the night of the 2020 election, when it was clear that Joe Biden had won the presidency, the enthusiasm advantage for the Republicans was predictable

    This is gaslighting. It was not clear on election night who had won.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      We will see how the rank and file votes, but it looks like main issues were not addressed. From your link:

      Workers who’d seen details in the new contract said the changes focused largely on the company’s incentives program, or Continuous Improvement Pay Program. Union members who’ve criticized the program said the changes do not address their concerns.

      Other than minor changes to CIPP, the third agreement offered the same benefits as the second. The proposed contract does not include full health care benefits in retirement, which is a deal breaker for some workers.

      If the contract is ratified, some workers were told they should report back to work Thursday. However, other workers said plans are unclear and depending on how late results come in they might not return to work until later this week.

      If the contract is voted down, workers will remain on strike.

      “Whatever it’s going to be,” one worker outside of John Deere Seeding Group in Moline said, “it’s going to be close again.”

      Reply
  20. Basil Pesto

    Speaking if FT’s cult of crypto article, I note that FT’s caller-out of crypto and Uber bullshit, Izzy Kaminska, is leaving the paper. She’ll be missed.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Izzy Kaminska, is leaving

      I don’t know — guessing at her future plans, here — if the Substack model will work for her. I have her so firmly associated in my mind with the pink paper.

      Reply

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