2:00PM Water Cooler 11/2/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I got a late start. Because I am avoiding UPDATEs, I’ll make it up to your tomorrow. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

“Long-tailed bat wins New Zealand’s Bird of the Year contest” [NBC]. • Batty McBatface?

* * *


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:

The numbers bounce back. (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% of the US is fully vaccinated (CDC data. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Turkey, and just above Argentina 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…

Case count by United States regions:

Still rising. This chart is a seven-day average, so changes in direction only show up when a train is really rolling. That said, I don’t think this is the surge some of us Bears have been waiting for (see the “tape watching” remarks below). It’s driven by cases widely distributed through inland California (see last Friday for maps). The local economy is heavily driven by outdoors-y tourism, but there are no major airports, so possibly cases are being spread by drivers. Beyond these speculations I cannot go.

* * *

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). 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. Speculating freely: There is the possibility that acquired immunity is much, much greater than we have thought, although because this is America, our data is so bad we don’t know. 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? And nothing like California yet.

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:

Lots of red in Alabama.

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: 767,442 766,312. 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). Still not updated ffs:

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. 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:

Look at Chile go! Also Portugal, 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

“When are the social spending plan and infrastructure bill going to become law? Dems say before Thanksgiving.” [Politico]. Did they say of what year? “This push for a quick vote comes as many progressives are indicating they’ll relent on allowing a vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill this week, essentially placing the burden on President Joe Biden to wrangle Manchin’s vote on the social spending bill in the end…. In a shift after weeks of linking the two bills, Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, conceded the infrastructure plan would likely become law before the social spending bill— but that she hopes the latter will pass the Senate soon. ‘Hopefully we can get it done before Thanksgiving and we will have this transformative piece of legislation,’ she said. ‘On all of this, we are trusting the president to deliver 51 votes in the Senate.” • There’s a lot of heartburning over this, and personally I’m in “burn it all down” mode on this. Alternatively — and especially if Jayapal thinks McAuliffe is doing to lose — perhaps handing the Manchin tar baby to Biden isn’t such a bad idea. To switch metaphors, point made, so time to get out from under the widening shadow made by the falling safe…

Democrats en Deshabille

“A Last Word on Virginia” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “Whatever happens on Tuesday, the takeaways for the national environment shouldn’t be all that different whether McAuliffe wins by a tiny margin or Youngkin wins by a similarly small margin. sThe more interesting result would be if the race broke clearly one way or the other — as in, if either candidate won by more than a few points. A Youngkin win by several points would offer confirmation that the political environment has broken wide open against Democrats. Meanwhile, if McAuliffe wins by several points, it may indicate that Biden’s poor approval ratings are not as much of a drag on Democrats as one might otherwise think. There will be plenty of time to analyze the results after we get them. But let’s assume that the bulk of the polls are correct and that the race ends up being very close either way. Both of those possible results — a narrow win by either candidate — would suggest a significant falloff for Democrats from their strong Virginia performances in the Trump era and represent, at the very least, a bright red “check engine” light at the midpoint of the Democrats’ journey from last year’s presidential race to next year’s midterm.” • Every pundit already has both hot takes already written!

“5 things to watch when Virginia votes” [Politico]. “Whether Youngkin’s momentum can overcome the state’s increasing partisan lean to the left is the central question of the race, and it will be tested acutely here in Loudoun County, the sprawling home to Washington outer-ring suburbs and exurbs. In a clear sign of his campaign’s big bet on Loudoun — which went Democratic by nearly 20 points in the last gubernatorial election — Youngkin closed out his campaign here Monday night, with a rally at the county fairgrounds that drew roughly a thousand supporters…. The last time McAuliffe was on the ballot, in 2013, he barely carried Loudoun, winning just under 50 percent of the vote. But last fall, Biden won a whopping 62 percent of the vote in Loudoun, beating then-President Donald Trump by 25 points…. If Youngkin can remain competitive in the suburbs — especially in populous exurban Loudoun and Prince William counties, where Biden ran up the score — he will have proved that there is life after Trump for suburban Republicans. The trick is just to thread the needle between the Trump-loving GOP base and the suburbanites who recoil at the thought of him…. The flip side of cutting down McAuliffe’s margins in the vote-rich suburbs: turning out the Republican base of Trump fans in rural areas.” • Democrats control both houses of the Virginia legislature. Much as the defeat of Clintonite bag-man McAuliffe would pain me — who among us, after all, would want to see the upper ranks of the Democrat Party purged? — Youngkin’s governorship might be crippled from the start. Unless, of course, his private equity roots and personal charm induce Democrats to extend the right hand of good fellowship across the aisle and “work with” him.

Republican Funhouse

“Jim Bob Duggar Running for Arkansas Senate” [The Roys Report]. “Jim Bob Duggar, an outspoken evangelical Christian whose large family was featured in the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” has announced he’s running for a seat in the Arkansas Senate. Duggar, who previously served in the Arkansas House, announced Friday on the family’s Facebook page that he’s running for the district in northwest Arkansas that includes Springdale.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Liberals Read, Conservatives Watch TV” [Hanania Newsletter]. On lying: “There are two ways to lie in politics. Let’s say Side A wants to spend more on government, and Side B wants to spend less. Side A might exaggerate the benefits of investing in poor communities, and Side B might tell a story about how tax cuts for the rich will pay for themselves. This can be called directional lying, with each side trying to convince you of something, and this is how politics pretty much worked until the last few years. Republicans, because they are tribal and not ideological, do not punish their politicians for non-directional lying, or simply making things up. I already mentioned the schizophrenic messaging about Biden and crime.” • Er, RussiaGate? Handy table:

Maddow? The West Wing?

Stats Watch

Economic Optimism: “United States IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index” [Trading Economics]. “The IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index in the US fell for the 5th straight month to 43.9 in November of 2021, the lowest since September of 2015, and just undercut the prior pandemic low of 44 in July 2020, as the second Covid wave was hitting. With the delta variant slowing the jobs recovery and inflation fears mounting, household financial stress is spiking and faith in federal economic policies is sinking.”

* * *

The Bezzle: “Burger King, Robinhood hand out free dogecoin in play to lure back retail investors” [Yahoo Finance]. “Last week, Robinhood’s third-quarter earnings fell well below Wall Street estimates, causing the company’s share price to sink more than 10%. With crypto trading down 78% from the prior three-month period, the company needs to lure more investors to use their platform, especially for trading cryptocurrency. Now it’s offering free dogecoin along with BTC and ETH through a sweepstakes in partnership with fast-food giant Burger King, which is owned by Restaurant Brands International.”

The Bezzle:

No. It’s not four words (“Fortune favors the brave”). It’s two: “crime pays.”

The Bezzle: “Fear and Loathing in Cryptoland” [Of Dollars and Data]. “If you think that Cryptoland is going to overturn the traditional financial system and our way of life in general, you are equally misguided. How can I make such a bold claim? Because of the Lindy Effect, or the theory that the life expectancy of an idea is proportional to its current age. In other words, the longer something has been around, the more likely it will be around in the future. And guess what? Too much of what Cryptoland hopes to disrupt is lindy. Fraud protection is lindy. Government-issued currency is lindy. Hanging out with people in real life is lindy. Even centralization is pretty lindy. After all, I like centralization for some things. I want my bank to give me my money back after a fraudulent transaction occurs. I don’t want to have to manage (or risk losing) the private keys to my wealth. I trust companies won’t screw me over because they want to stay in business and make money like everyone else. Self-interest is lindy. All of this is a roundabout way of saying that Cryptoland seems to have gotten a bit ahead of itself…. Once the initial, unbridled optimism has cooled a bit, then we will be able to take stock of how Cryptoland will actually change society. Unfortunately, right now there is so much polarization on both sides that any reasonable debate on this topic is taken as idiocy by one side or the other.”

Tech: “Facebook says it shut down Nicaraguan government-run troll farm” [Al Jazeera]. “The social media giant said on Monday that the troll farm – a coordinated effort to manipulate public discourse using fake accounts – was intended to amplify pro-government and anti-opposition content. The accounts were operated by the government of President Daniel Ortega and the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front party, said Ben Nimmo, threat intelligence lead for Facebook’s parent company Meta.” • Clarifying. Given that Facebook is an appendage of The Blob, we can be confident it will never be broken up:

Tech: “Robots hit the streets as demand for food delivery grows” [Associated Press]. “Hundreds of little robots __ knee-high and able to hold around four large pizzas __ are now navigating college campuses and even some city sidewalks in the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere. While robots were being tested in limited numbers before the coronavirus hit, the companies building them say pandemic-related labor shortages and a growing preference for contactless delivery have accelerated their deployment…. Starship has more than 1,000 robots in its fleet, up from just 250 in 2019. Hundreds more will be deployed soon. They’re delivering food on 20 U.S. campuses; 25 more will be added soon. They’re also operating on sidewalks in Milton Keynes, England; Modesto, California; and the company’s hometown of Tallin, Estonia….. The robots have drawbacks that limit their usefulness for now. They’re electric, so they must recharge regularly. They’re slow, and they generally stay within a small, pre-mapped radius. They’re also inflexible. A customer can’t tell a robot to leave the food outside the door, for example. And some big cities with crowded sidewalks, like New York, Beijing and San Francisco, aren’t welcoming them.” • “Contactless” is the bleakest, most dystopian word….

Tech: Kill it with fire:

Supply Chain: “Panama Canal Saw Record Year as China-U.S. Trade Tensions Eased” [Bloomberg]. “The Panama Canal saw a jump in cargo as China and the U.S. eased trade restrictions, opening up the market for grains, pork and liquefied natural gas, canal administrator Ricaurte Vasquez said during a press conference on Thursday. The canal saw a record 516 million tons of cargo pass through its locks in fiscal year 2021, which ended last month, an 8% jump on the previous year.”

Supply Chain: “Apple supply shortages bite into revenues and cost iPhone maker $6bn” [Financial Times]. “Tim Cook, chief executive, said ‘larger than expected supply constraints’ cost the company $6bn in the three months to September, adding that the shortages would cost it even more in the holiday period — its most lucrative time of the year. Supply constraints ‘affected the iPhone, the iPad and the Mac’, Cook told investors, citing chip shortages and ‘Covid-related manufacturing disruptions’ in south-east Asia.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 77 Greed (previous close: 72 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 71 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 1 at 12:37pm. Now that poor people won’t get dental, Mr. Market is in his happy space.

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Anti-Christian. “Christians have had fewer attacks in recent days” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 186 (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so higher is better.)


“The MetaVerse: Brave New World or Capitalist Hellscape?” [NASDAQ]. Pulling out this one amazing paragraph: “You’re going to hear a lot about Axie, because it’s heralded as the future of the Metaverse… Axie Infinity is a game made by a company called Sky Mavis. Seemingly all young dudes, the company started in 2019, is private, and is headquartered in Vietnam. They’re on their B round, which just closed for $152 million, giving them a private implied valuation of about $3 billion. Axie is their only current game. The game itself (with all due respect) is mediocre…. at the core, the game is about getting three of your monsters (called Axies) to go beat up three of someone else’s monsters, using a bunch of cards and abilities…. The reason Axie is interesting is because instead of just standing up servers to host their virtual world (like, say, Blizzard does with their Battle.net client, online stores, and individual games like World of Warcraft), they chose to develop the entire ecosystem on a private blockchain called Ronin, which is modelled after the Ethereum network. What that means, in practical terms, is that how you get into the game is completely unique…. Axie lets you make the account and download the game for free, but without Axies — the monsters — you can’t play. So you have to buy Axies, which are, in fact, regular old NFTs like a JPG of a rock or a Bored Ape. They’re just NFTs in Sky Mavin’s Ronin blockchain. To buy those Axies you use your WETH (ETH, the coin of Ethereum you would have bought somewhere else, and then transferred into the Ronin blockchain, using a bridging mechanism common in Crypto — but it’s easy right? It’s a game?) on the marketplace run by Sky Mavin….. playing the game gets you rewards in the form of a cryptocurrency (on the private Ronin blockchain), called “Smooth Love Potions.” (Sigh). You need SLP, as it’s known, in order to take two of your Axies and breed them, which you do in order to sell them on the marketplace to people who want to join this little circus. You also need a whole other kind of token in order to breed your Axies (!!!)… The problem is, someone has to play the game to keep the engine working, so like all good capitalists, those folks with more money than time in this ecosystem simply pay poor people to play for them. Completely outside the official game environment, just out on websites, “Managers” (capitalists with big collections) calve off trios of axies into clone wallets and let people play them. And the manager then (hopefully! It’s the honor system!) splits the earned SLP with the player. The ecosystem (run by a company) has all the tools to enable this, and the economics of the environment are very much front and center. It’s in all the patch notes. So the “scholar” (read, “poor”) players here do work for the “Manager” (read, “rich”) players by playing the game for them, so that (depending on how you want to imagine it).” • Thank you, Vietnam….

“U.S. Senator Heartbroken Men Watch Porn And Play Video Games” [Kotaku]. “Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, took the stage at the National Conservatism Conference yesterday to decry the war on men. In a long and meandering speech, he sounded the alarm about falling marriage rates and college attendance, and argued that more and more men are dropping out of the workforce and retreating into porn and video games…. Hawley ended his speech with a call to fight the war on men by increasing the number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and creating new tax credits for getting married.” • Tax credits? Sounds bipartisan!

The 420

“Public Health Ministry to push Thailand as internationally-recognized medical marijuana hub, starting from November” [TPN National News]. “[T]he Ministry of Public Health will follow the plan of pushing a medical marijuana policy into effect, starting from November 10th. In this case, marijuana will be widely used for medical purposes and developed as a major industrial crop which could potentially boost the domestic economy and creditability of medical treatments in Thailand…. In addition, pushing Thai medical marijuana will also likely help revitalize the tourism industry and solve Thai people’s financial problems, according to his statement.” • Thailand has an enormous and excellent system of health tourism, so this might actually work.


“Radical Heterodoxies & Parallel Institutions w/ Mat Forstater” (transcript) [MR Online]. • This is a fascinating intellectual history of MMT. At some point, somebody’s going to write a book about the MMT Thought Collective, and this will be source material.

Our Famously Free Press

I just broke an FT URL and tried this. It’s true!

Zeitgeist Watch

Lots of coverage of Mexico’s “Day of the Dead” this year:

A minor tributary of wokeness, no doubt, but I’m wondering if there could be another reason….

Screening Room

“”Dune” (the movie), annotated” [Read Max]. Lots of detail. Here’s one: “If I’m being deeply honest with myself, a huge portion of my goodwill toward this movie can be chalked up to the many extremely sick shots of spaceships arriving/departing. (Sick shots of spaceships landing are among the deepest and most elemental of cinematic images, alongside trains and vampires.) Basically any quibbles or hesitations are erased by images like the above, of the Bene Gesserit departing that spaceship, and about which I can only say: That’s f*cking sick as hell. This sh*t rules.”

Class Warfare

Some anti-triumphalism on strikes:

“Land of Capital” [The Nation]. “The crash of 2008, however, proved to be a scholarly as well as a social and economic wake-up call. The study of American capitalism gained new attention and soon spawned cottage industries around the history of slavery, the advent of financial instruments, and the racist exploitation that American capitalism has long appeared to thrive on. Many pieces—mostly monographic and narrowly construed—of what could be a big new story have come to litter the scholarly field, raising provocative questions that are often disconnected over time and space. Jonathan Levy’s Ages of Capitalism, one of the first large-scale and synthetic works to pull together much of the new interest and interpretive orientation of this history-of-capitalism field, thereby fills an important intellectual need. It is an ambitious and impressive book, a cut above much of the recent literature not only in its scale but in its determination to construct a historical arc based on clearly articulated concepts. … Capitalism, Levy writes, is “capital.” Lest anyone imagine that this is just a tautology, he explains that capital is not a thing but a “process” in which a legal asset is imbued with a pecuniary value in view of its capacity to yield future gain. This is not just the profit motive, which Levy acknowledges has existed from time immemorial; instead, it is a historically specific form of investment in which money, credit, and finance are the crucial components, and the empowerment of capital’s owners (i.e., the capitalists) has been the result. Levy presents his interpretation—including the salience of different types of liquidity—as three “theses” in the book’s introduction, although one would be hard-pressed to find a general thesis or argument that runs through the rest of the book. He also claims that the United States’ history of capitalism may be divided into four “ages” with steadily narrowing chronological spans. The first is the “Age of Commerce,” which takes us from Britain’s reorganization of its North American colonies to the secession of the slaveholding states: two full centuries. The second is the “Age of Capital,” which begins during the Civil War and extends to the Great Depression: eight decades. The third is the “Age of Control,” which encompasses the tumultuous period from the New Deal through the 1970s: five decades. And the last is the “Age of Chaos,” initiated by Paul Volcker’s interest rate “shock” and the election of Ronald Reagan, and it remains intact, according to Levy, as of this writing: four decades and counting. Each of these ages, Levy continues, is marked by the prevalence of particular forms of capital, and each emerges as a result of political crises and state interventions.” • Another damn book to read.

“This Is Film Industry Culture” [Eoin Higgins, The Flashpoint]. “The death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins Thursday on the set of the film Rust was the culmination of decades-long, systemic issues relating to mistreatment, overwork, and cost-cutting. ‘This is film industry culture,’ Kira Murdock, a first assistant cameraman with ties to the Rust crew, told me…. The film industry regularly prioritizes speed and cost over safety and cultivates a culture where objecting to that pace is highly discouraged…. ‘Coming from the top is this nonstop mentality of rush, rush, rush to be more productive, be faster,’ Branco said. ‘And I think you aren’t even aware that you have a voice to say ‘no.’”

“Returning to Work: Millions in Uncharted Waters Due to Long-Haul COVID-19” [Healthline]. “The impact of long COVID cases on the U.S. workforce could be immense, even without considering how many people may end up becoming full-time caregivers for family members. The U.S. workforce is estimated to be made up of about 161 million people. According to the CDC, around 25 million people within the working-age group have developed COVID-19. A new study out this week from the University of Oxford found that more than 1 in 3 people report lingering symptoms of COVID-19 up to 6 months after initially developing the disease. According to these estimates, as many as 8 million people in the workforce could have at least one long COVID symptom.” • Does make you wonder how many “essential workers” (remember them?) have long Covid, and whether that’s an issue with labor shortages. I haven’t seen a study that links Long Covid to income, let alone occupational categories. Readers?

News of the Wired

“A shot in the arm for linguists: Vax is Oxford’s word of the year after ‘injecting itself into the bloodstream of the English language’” [Daily Mail]. “The word of the year is based on usage evidence drawn from Oxford’s continually updated corpus of more than 14.5 billion words, gathered from news sources across the English-speaking world. Oxford Languages said the trend had been seen in other languages, including ‘vacina’ in Portugal and the French ‘vaccin’. Casper Grathwohl, the president of Oxford Languages, said: ‘When reviewing the language evidence, vax stood out as an obvious choice. ‘The word’s dramatic spike in usage caught our attention first.'” • Oh come on.

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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 (Re Silc):

Re Silc writes: “Ipswich mass.” Certainly some sort of mass!

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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. Darryl

    Moxie, the little boy’s robot companion is to parenting as a left hand is to marriage and family.

    Any parents that foist that off on their kid instead of actually being there, are mentally ill.

    1. Sawdust

      Nah, I’ll bet the psychological deformities produced by stuff like that end up becoming a status symbol, like foot-binding for the mind.

    2. ambrit

      It’s an animatronic version of “The Elf on the Shelf!” A ‘trusted’ companion who endlessly rats you out. I foresee a generation of overachieving paranoids. Hmmm…. they would be perfect ‘hires’ for the Intelligence agencies!
      I wonder if this technology could be optimized for producing Alpha class psycopaths? Just what our present Elites want! Clones of the Oligarch.
      It does remind me of Stephenson’s plot element of the Young Lady’s Chapbook from his book “The Diamond Age”: ‘A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer.’ Remember how that worked out?

    3. Glen

      Its where Faceborg, oh, ah, Meta plans to download your brain, and then they charge the robot company for supplying the AI.

  2. Judith

    Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel, “Klara and the Sun”, has a rather more complex and disturbing vision of robots as companions for children.


    Klara is an AF – an Artificial Friend – androids bought by parents to provide companionship for their teenage children, who, for reasons that become clearer over the course of the book, are home-schooled by “screen professors” in the novel’s polluted and anxious future America. Klara is chosen by Josie, a fragile young woman who we soon learn has an illness that may kill her as it killed her sister. As with Never Let Me Go, one of the enormous pleasures of Klara and the Sun is the way Ishiguro only drip-feeds to the reader hints and suggestions about the shape of this futuristic world, the reasons for its strangeness. We are left to do much of the imagining ourselves, and this makes the novel a satisfyingly collaborative read.

    1. Hepativore

      The Moxie robot in of itself seems harmless and perhaps it can be useful for some children to develop their social skills.

      The problem is, like with most of these “smart” toys and gadgets, you can bet it will be loaded with data-collection/surveillance capabilities for both corporate and governmental eavesdroppers. I am sure that many alphabet agencies would love to be able to keep tabs on little Susie or Timmy as well as seeing what their parents are up to.

      I am not a Luddite by any means as I think too many people romanticize the Good Ol’ Days before the industrial revolution as I am sure that if we had time machines we would find out that they were not nearly as great as people thought they were.

      With that being said, it seems a lot of new technological gadgets and devices being advertised to the public seem to be glorified corporate surveillance tools or have backdoors in them that would easily allow them to be used as such. This is less of a critique of “technology” on my part as opposed to the same old motivation of the people who make and market these things. There have always been power-hungry and voyeuristic institutions who wanted to be able to do such things. All that has happened is that they have found different ways to exert their will.

      Perhaps the realization comes too late to people now, but the lesson for the ages as this is what happens when you let the right to privacy die.

      1. Sawdust

        I think the problem is inseparable from the technology itself. If you have systems that enable mass surveillance, there will be mass surveillance, regardless of what anybody has to say about it. It doesn’t even require greed or malice, only confidence in one’s ability to identify the greater good. But none of this stuff is remotely sustainable and the people of the 24th century will probably live much like the people of the 14th.

      2. B flat

        Out of curiosity I poked around the Embodied website. Weird but interesting reading in the cooments, mostly parents of children on the spectrum. It’s understandable why Moxie is appealing, the robot is effective at getting children to focus. More detail on the website about that. The gotcha ofc: Moxie costs a hair under $1000, plus a required subscription.Also available on a rental basis. And the kicker: Moxie records everything, photographs your kid, plus voice prints.
        Hurry, sweet meteor of death!

    2. Lee

      I admit to having developed emotional attachments to some machines in my life: certain cars, an old tractor on a hippie communal farm in the middle of nowhere Oregon, and certain power tools come immediately to mind. But I draw the line at the notion that a machine would have feelings for me. That would be weird.

  3. MCB

    How did y’all not include the worst part of “family values” candidate Jim Bob Duggar running for office? Namely that he’s bankrolling the defense for his pedophile son’s federal charges for possession of child sex abuse images. This is after it came to light Josh had molested 3 of his sisters (that we know of) and got caught in that Ashley Madison leak, no less. I guess they couldn’t run Jed! Duggar again after he lost so miserably to some bland Democrat.
    But seriously Jim Bob and the rest of the adults in that family are monsters for enabling Josh. The only person who has spoken out unequivocally against Josh is son in law Derrick, a guy most famous for harassing a transgender teen on Twitter.

    If people on NC are interested in the rabbit hole that is the Duggar’s I highly recommend the duggarsnark subreddit. Its kind of petty but a treasure trove of details about the misdeeds of this particular petit bourgeois Christian conservative freak show.

  4. Wukchumni

    The Bezzle: “Fear and Loathing in Cryptoland”
    Cryptoland would make for an interesting virtual board game, but it’d be a board game about nothing, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Each virtual roll of the dice can be whatever you’d like from 2 to 12, and unlike Monopoly the bank never runs out of money.

    The winner gets indignant with the other contestants, who by virtue of losing weren’t really worthy of playing against.

    1. John Zelnicker

      Wuk – Small quibble; in Monopoly the bank can’t run out of money. If the preprinted money runs out the instructions say to cut plain paper to size and write the amounts on it.

  5. TMR

    RE: Liberals Read, Conservatives Watch TV – you rarely read that combination of smug and self-unaware often, but when it happens, it’s a doozy

    1. Darthbobber

      Author seems to think that conservative and liberal are coherent categories, and that Republican and Democrat track them so closely that they can be treated as synonymous.

      1. Donald

        I am reading the piece and it so far makes sense, not that I necessarily agree with all of it. I think the table is a confusing summary.

      2. Val

        That table appears to be a summary of lazy category errors integrated through euphemisms. Common enough but seldom in tabular form. Designed to appeal to/console fretful Maddowniaks? Reminds one of Trilling’s “irritable mental gestures that seek to resemble ideas”.

        It was helpful in that I avoided reading the article. Though “ultimate orientation”, etc were all amusing.

  6. JBird4049

    >>>Another damn book to read.

    Personally, I cannot allow myself to die for I have hundreds and hundreds of delicious books stacked on bookshelves, tables, chairs, and the floor in my small apartment all awaiting my eager eyes. Next there are books I am reading on my bed all stacked next to the cat’s sleeping area. Finally, there is the long list of Books Wanted I keep on my home library app.

    I expect to die, maybe a century (or two) from now while reading.

    So don’t think of it as being an eternal labor like for poor Sisyphus, but of never being bored.


    1. dcblogger

      audio books are your friend, especially if much of your life is spent waiting for and riding on buses. for the first time in my life I am caught up on all the books I meant to read.

      1. JBird4049

        Audio books are nice and I use them. But even with both of my hearing aids, I sometimes don’t hear too good. Just how good the reader is, is extremely important. Also, reading is quicker and more thorough especially when I am using a pencil to underline and annotate. Somehow my eyes are better at getting (and keeping) knowledge than my ears.

    2. Arizona Slim

      On Easter Sunday 1996, my spiritual grandmother wasn’t feeling well. This lady practically raised me while I was growing up, and, truth be told, she was a lot kinder to me than my parents.

      She went to bed and took a book with her. That was her standard practice.

      While her husband was getting ready for bed, he asked her if she wanted a drink of water. Silence from the bedroom.

      He went to investigate and found her lifeless body, and, yes, it was true. My spiritual grandmother had died while reading a book.

      1. flora

        With great respect:

        “There are more thing in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

        -Shakespeare, from Hamlet to Horatio in his play ‘Hamlet’

    3. Adam Eran

      I’ll save you the trouble: the most interesting discovery in Levy’s book: after 1980, American manufacturers made 60% of their profit from financial transactions, not making stuff. Before that, the figure was 20%.

      Financialization rules! (and Levy admits we’re currently stuck with it).

      It’s an “OK” read for the history, but like Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money, supremely uninformed about MMT, and even US financial history, never mind (in Ferguson’s case) ancient history.

      It’s actually tough to read a book you’re arguing with all the time.

      Much better: David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      to paraphrase McConaughey’s weird character in “Dazed and Confused”…”it would be cooler if it was…”
      but i had my suspicions.
      regardless…among my Mexican-American Wife’s familia(she’s 5th generation Texan), Dias de los Muertos is a pretty big deal…and after 23 years of close observation, i still don’t really grok why.
      best guess, aside from the Mexican Catholicism: about half the historical ancestors come from the area around Guanajuato…with their weird obsessions around death and preservation(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guanajuato_City#Mummies)…

      the cool part of my adopted familias’ affinity for this holiday, is that they don’t make a big stink about all the bones and skulls stuck on fenceposts and whatnot….very much unlike many of the white folks in the more charismatic churches hereabouts(who reckon that i’m a pagan priest who sacrifices dogs to satan–
      (this really happened–a wake for the dog i had to shoot because he got a taste, then a hankerin, for live goat throat meat belonging to my crazy neighbor( later, my Prowler for 8 years…now deceased), was severely misinterpreted as a pagan ritual by the relative of someone who was there, pouring a beer on the rock headstone…this almost prevented my now wife from continuing to date me…because this charismatic evange woman took it upon herself to warn my then future wife to avoid my satanist ass…wife crying “tell me it isn’t true” is how i learned about the whole mess—ah, small town Texas))

      1. ObjectiveFunction

        Comrade Amfortas, you are truly our NC shaman!

        Sometimes when I read your chronicles I am put in mind of a Tarot card reading a la Calvino.

        Anyway, enough gushing, many thanks again for sharing!

  7. Darthbobber

    It’s pretty funny. I like the way Maddow’s name just evades them when looking for a counterpart to Hannity.

    The difference between TV and newspaper is also less than it appears. For example, I consume CNN online the same way I do the times. I read it. As do many others.

    1. truly

      re MMT history:
      An older fellow came to our Occupy MN gaterhings and was asked to do a teach in. Richard Kotlarz presented to us in the year 2011 what I now know as MMT. I have sat with him in discussions since, and invited him to address a group of 20 in my home several years ago. His version has at least some differences, but as far as I know he developed most of his theory on his own, and it is quite similar despite not working with Kelton, Mosler, Wray or others. I had a chance to talk with him just 2 years ago. I asked him about MMT and what he thought the similarities and the differences were to his views. Sadly, due to his age and some health challenges he has faced I could not get a good answer. As far as I could tell he had never heard of MMT outside of his own work. Now with Covid I can not access him anymore.
      But I am very intrigued that he seemed to have developed in parallel a very similar heterodox economic viewpoint. Also that he honed his thinking while working the land as Forstater seems to have too. Kotlarz gave to me a several hundred page “manual” of his thinking to hold onto for historical purposes. I have to admit I have not opened or perused it. I accepted it and am keeping it safe. Someday when time permits I will compare his work to what is now the official “MMT”.

  8. CloverBee

    On dropping case counts…
    From discussions with my kid’s school, and friends in health care, two reasons for the dropping case counts:
    1) Home tests are easy and, if positive confirm you have it. If negative, get a PCR or assume they are fine.
    2) If you don’t report, you don’t have to quarantine. With the pandemic leave support having disappeared, and no chance of an infection offering you protection from vaccine requirements, there is zero incentive to report or get an official PCR test.

    1. Dora

      “Vax is Oxford’s word of the year after ‘injecting itself into the bloodstream of the English language.”

      “Mandavax” or portmanteau for “Mandatory Vaccine”

      should also be there.

      1. CloverBee

        Since Lambert was questioning the cause of post-summer drop off in cases, and most of the vaccines administered were prior to that drop off, I doubt that vaccines are responsible for the drop in cases post summer. Certainly vaccines were responsible for the significant drop from the February peak. We currently have massive community spread, my state’s hospitals are on essential surgeries only, but case counts are still down.

    2. Objective Ace

      This doesnt entirely hold up when you consider that at home tests have no bearing on hospitalization and deaths due to covid, both of which have also been decreasing

  9. Samuel Conner

    So Sen. Hawley wants government to intervene in the marriage market.

    This is a handy illustration of a point made in another link at todays WC that present-day Rs are not ideological.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Cabinet secretaries are at the President’s beck and call. That’s it. They have no and should not be part of labor protections. They can always quit.

  10. Kevin


    Looks like a Chicken of the Woods?, which are typically shades of orange. I think perhaps this is an old one – I believe they lose their orange color and turn white with age.

    1. Chris

      Agree that it look like old Chicken of the Woods but then again I always rely on a much more experienced mycologist when foraging.

  11. anon y'mouse

    and to think that we used to get actual toys in our happy meals, not fake digital money.

    oh, chart on political orientation is pure denial and projection, and a particular kind of boasting. is it humblebragging? no, but something related.

  12. Basil Pesto

    sports desk (?)

    this caught my eye earlier today, in the graun, Barcelona’s Sergio Agüero unavailable for selection due to cardiac evaluation:

    Sergio Agüero will be unavailable for the next three months while the Barcelona striker undergoes “a diagnostic and therapeutic process” following a cardiological evaluation.

    The former Manchester City forward was admitted to hospital on Saturday after needing to go off in Barcelona’s 1-1 draw against Alavés in La Liga. In what was his first start at the Camp Nou since arriving on a free transfer in the summer, the striker had to be replaced after 41 minutes having felt dizzy on the pitch.
    Barcelona’s Sergio Agüero admitted to hospital after Alavés draw

    The Argentinian had breathing difficulties and felt discomfort in his chest but was able to make his own way off the pitch to be replaced by Philippe Coutinho.

    Something occurred to me which went unmentioned in the article, so I looked it up. Sure enough, from February: Agüero weeks from playing again as he recovers from Covid

    Correlation != causation and all the rest of it, and footballers suffering heart issues on the pitch, while not exactly common, is not without precedent. Nevertheless, it’s something I’ve been mindful of as a lot of footballers came down with Covid because of course the show must go on. While clubs disclosed this, I wouldn’t expect them to disclose any long covid symptoms because that would wreak havoc with player valuations on the transfer market.

    Players undergo a medical when they sign for a new club but I’m not sure how detailed/strict it is or whether it’s just some pro forma insurance requirement.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      That is interesting. He has apparently been told to take a 3 month break, so clearly they found something wrong.

      In most cases, players medical checks are not formalities, they are very detailed and state of the art – its an insurance requirement apart from anything else. But given that this was one of those backroom deals sorted out long before he made the trip to Barcelona there may not have been shortcuts taken (and as an older player he may not be insured).

  13. Amfortas the hippie

    regarding the healthline thing on Long Covid:
    “Hopkins has lost hope that she will ever be able to return to work. She has since filed for social security disability, although that is also proving to be a challenge in itself.
    “If I was able to return to work, I believe I would face criticism as I would automatically come in with ADA [American Disability Act] paperwork on my first day of work,” she said.
    “I just want people to know that this disease is not a laughing matter or a political matter, it is real and it will affect you in ways you could never imagine. Just take the necessary precautions, and hopefully, you will not experience this disease,” added Hopkins.”

    …sent me into near flashbacks to ’06, when i finally had to quit working a regular job, because i couldn’t promise the boss that i would be there tomorrow…due to arthritis all over, what they’re finally calling “fibro”(with the occasional “fibro fog”) and what was then a dead hip joint.
    as i’ve lamented many times, it took 6 1/2 years to get a hip…and by the time SSI caught me, my SS “credits” from working had withered to nothing, and i was no longer even eligible for “Disability”, proper.
    now, all these years later…after wife and i decided that her career(spanish teacher) was a better bet than my cook/chef-hood, and that i should be Mr Mom….I’ll likely never work a “real job”, again.
    Self Employment is my only option….
    so i feel for all these people…and warn them to expect an unsympathetic ear, and a default assumption of fraud, in all their dealings with the disability system as it currently exists….as well as their more right leaning friends, family and acquaintances parroting the “Mooch”/”welfare queen”/”Lazy” narrative at them.
    I recommend Marcus Aurelius to learn fortitude, as well as learning how to not give a shit what other people think.
    it ain’t an easy road.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      more:”“Unless you’re in a hospital on a ventilator, it’s difficult to prove. You really need a doctor and you’ve got to go through medical testing,” Marcolus told Healthline.
      Long COVID symptoms can also be very subjective and not all doctors recognize them. And even if people can prove their disability, their claims may not be heard for many months.
      “I think the Social Security Disability system, which is for people who cannot work, is overtaxed already. So, [people with long COVID] are going to be waiting in line to have their cases heard,” said Wachtel.”

      —with me, i had almost zero medical records since the wreck, in 1990, that caused the whole thing.
      i’d been working ever since i learned to walk again, but had never had health insurance, since that time(on my dad’s company ins when i had the wreck)…so i borrowed and cajoled my way into getting an MRI, etc…as much documentation as i could to prove my condition.
      every single doctor who saw me…including Disability’s own, kept, doctor, said that my skeleton looked like that of a 70 year old( i was in my late 30’s).
      what really mattered to Disability, it turned out, was money…how much i had made, and why didn’t i have insurance.
      they don’t care about medical records…unless it’s frelling obvious…the proverbial “…“Unless you’re in a hospital on a ventilator, it’s difficult to prove….”(ibid)….getting accepted for Cancer seems relatively straightforward, by comparison(apparently there’s a special dispensation for Cancer; wife’s not on disability or SSI, yet gets medicaid and medicare…confusing mess, all around(Hypercomplexity hides the Knife)

      relatively invisible illness…like my global arthritis or long covid…well, expect denials after denials and a hard slog through the institution.
      our civilisation is in no way prepared for this situation on such a large scale.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        and one last:
        “Wynn now faces one of the toughest decisions in her life. Once her savings and her retirement funds finish, she may have to sell her house to financially sustain her life.
        “It is a hard pill to swallow, particularly when you have dedicated your life to helping and serving people… To even try to go back to work at this point, what employer, in their right mind, is going to say you can have every other day off or take off when you need to,” she said. ”

        i was 2 years into my struggle with all this when Obama came along, acting all FDR, and then initiating the great debate around healthcare….i had abindant time on my hands, since i could hardly move by that time…so i advocated for the ACA….the version with expanded medicaid all over, a public option, and the idea that the whole thing was a “Path To”(tm) Universal Healthcare.
        of course, that was a wash…and a betrayal…for which i will never forgive the demparty.
        our decision for me to be a stay at home dad and a househusband was one of the hardest we’ve ever made…and it was still the right decision at the time, no matter what befell after(her cancer).
        still…in the richest frelling country in the history of humanity, it shouldn’t be this damned hard to get the care one needs, have some help when shit goes south….and one definitely shouldn’t be punished…by government, and society itself, for falling on black days through no fault of one’s own.
        my experiences with this taught me that we are a cruel and vindictive society, and went a long way towards making me a misanthrope…something i struggle with to this day.
        my sincerest best wishes to all these long covid folks who are about to discover just how expendable they really are.

        1. polycarpus

          I keep in mind all the rich sociopaths who get richer by doing nothing – the “moral hazard” of getting state support or not paying back corporations for debts incurred by their scams has lost its effect on me. My wife got her disability when she applied a second time in probably record time due (I think ) to one of her doctors was president of the county AMA chapter. Don`t criticize yourself, fight for what you need.

        2. Stillfeelinthebern

          “and one definitely shouldn’t be punished…by government, and society itself, for falling on black days through no fault of one’s own, my experiences with this taught me that we are a cruel and vindictive society” This is it simply stated. Every day I struggle to understand WHY there is no attempt to really help people. Deeply disappointed.

      2. Utah

        I heard or read somewhere that the good old US of A has the most difficult disability process in the Western world. The thing that helps the most is getting a lawyer, but people without means can’t do that.

        Sorry you had to go through that.

        1. John Zelnicker

          November 2, 2021 at 5:08 pm

          I have an old friend who has been a successful disability lawyer for most of his career.

          These lawyers work on a contingency fee of 25% of the eventual lump sum award from Social Security or SSI, if successful. There’s always a lump sum because the process takes so long and benefits are retroactive to the 6th month, IIRC, of disability.

          This may be the only decent thing about the SS disability application process because it allows folks without resources to hire an attorney to help them get the benefits they deserve.

        2. Amfortas the hippie

          it was eye-opening, fer sure…since i had always believed(when i thought of it, at all), that it would be stupidly easy to gain access to public insurance that i had been paying for with every paycheck in my working life.
          all the doctors, friends and family(esp. the PMC types) corroborated this assessment.
          “just sign up for disability”, they said.
          but by far the most startling thing(aside from the kafkaesque reality of it all) was the general opprobrium i got from random people in town…”you look ok to me”, and the like.
          very Red area, and other such caveats…but it was pretty shocking just how angry people were with a white guy attempting to “get on welfare”.
          (indeed, on my third trip through the whole process(out of 4), i offered up on the forms that i would like to forgo any monthly check, dammit…i just need a frelling hip!)
          (and, weirdly, after i got on actual “welfare”, SSI, and got the hip…all was well…and i was genuinely disabled in the eyes of the community at large…there’s a white paper bubbling in my subconscious about all this, if i ever get around to it.)

          we’re doing it wrong.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            as for lawyers…first time through the process, i did it myself…stupidly easy and all.
            second time, i went with a tv lawyer in austin who rejected my case for lack of medical records.
            3rd time, a rinkydink lawyer up the road who stuck with me until the 3rd denial.
            4th time, i did it myself, again…and 6 moths into this last attempt was informed that i didn’t have “credits” anymore, and was not eligible, so why was i bothering them.
            i contemplated…not for the first time…robbing a bank, stealing a boat, and venturing to Cuba…where the hip i needed cost $14k, rather than $300K…and included a private nurse and recovery in a bungalo on the damned beach(!)
            six months later, SSI caught me in it’s frayed net….but the local tax assessor had appreciated the run down trailerhouse while i wasn’t looking–the tax itself was super low, but the “valuation” got up to $6K…which put me over the asset limit for SSI…so i had to find a sympathetic realtor and list it in the paper for 9 months at that idiotic price before i finally qualified, and got my frelling hip.
            (of note…with this and the property tax mafia…if i would have to actually pay someone to haul it off, does it really have any “market value”?)
            all of this was the last straw on my way to misanthropy and antipatriotism(i hate my country).
            so i seceded, and declared myself a sovereign state(no one heard me, as i was naked and stoned on a dead end country dirt road)

  14. farragut

    Re: the VA gubernatorial (which, I think we can all agree is a fun word to pronounce, not only because it contains the phonetic gem ‘goober’, but also is an apt description of most gubernatorial aspirants) race. In my daily rounds, I’m seeing the usual collection of blue signs for the walking slime mold, McCauliffe, within town limits and the usual assortment of red signs for ‘markets should decide what to do with your children’ Youngkin, when you travel 2 feet outside of town. What’s different this cycle, is the *increased* number of red signs in formerly all-blue enclaves–such as my own neighborhood–infested, as it were, with PMC types (myself & my wife, included).

    You and I know there’s very little difference between Ds & Rs, but for those who haven’t yet had that epiphany, a fair number of them appear to be choosing the R this cycle. Based on that, I’m predicting a big win by the Republican, Youngkin.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I mean the state of schools is an issue which is apparently a real disaster in VA compared to other states, but Virginia nice has been an issue for the GOP in recent cycles. Between Cuccinelli and Stewart and the weenie Gillespie, Youngkin is a GOP wet dream. So the signs will go up. “Nice” and not a “weenie”.

      Signs don’t vote. Taliban Bob had a similar vibe. He won, but the state party was a mess. The state party director Mansell was dumping cash into his mother’s seat and Ward Armstrong’s seat instead of winnable races among other issues.

    2. Jason Boxman

      Oh no. “Outside of town” isn’t maintaining at least 6 ft of distance. We’ve got a violation here!

  15. Lynne

    Just for the record, you’ve said before that Minnesota is not a hub, but the Minneapolis-St Paul airport is a hub. It used to be for Northwest (or Northworst, depending on the day), but now it’s Delta and some small carriers.

    1. truly

      Agreed. Mpls St Paul is actually a hub for western WI, northern Iowa and the Dakotas. Lots of folks come in on weekends for shopping, dining and sports events. Lots of flights come and go. Lots of trucks running freight in and out. Not a hub in the sense Chicago or Kansas City is. But a hub that would likely impact Covid patterns.

    1. Michael Ismoe

      I can’t say that they are any more delusional than the people who think Biden is the same as FDR.

      Oh, by the way, the SALT deduction has worked its way into the final reconciliation bill. The cost of this deduction will take about one third of the $1.5 trillion cost of the bill.

      Burn it down.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        and all the MSM(save faux, i suppose) are saying thet the 1.7(or whatever ) trillion dollar pricetag is half the original(3.5)…when it’s really less than a quarter of the original bill(6 tril)
        but we’re not supposed to have working memories.
        and now jayapal has caved, it seems, and will release the infrastructure hostage and hope that Unca Joe pulls the Other Joe into the fold on the real bill.
        for the first time in my life, i just drove by the polling place on an election day.
        because there’s nothing on offer to vote For….and no “none of the above” allowed on the ballot, either.
        indeed, in Texas, if i getmy ballot and just scrawl “none of the above” all over it(as there’s no “space provided”)…they’ll just toss it, and noone will even be aware of my protest but the handful of people in the courthouse, tonight.

        and they wonder where trumps come from,lol.(not stork delivered)

      2. ambrit

        Burn it down.
        Tear down the ruins.
        Sow SALT in the remains.
        “New Deal delenda est.”
        The Barbarians have always been inside the gates.

  16. fresno dan

    Rapture Index: Closes down one on Anti-Christian. “Christians have had fewer attacks in recent days” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 186 (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so higher is better.)
    The Rapture Index has two functions: one is to factor together a number of related end time components into a cohesive indicator, and the other is to standardize those components to eliminate the wide variance that currently exists with prophecy reporting.

    The Rapture Index is by no means meant to predict the rapture, however, the index is designed to measure the type of activity that could act as a precursor to the rapture.

    You could say the Rapture index is a Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity, but I think it would be better if you viewed it as prophetic speedometer. The higher the number, the faster we’re moving towards the occurrence of pre-tribulation rapture.
    This reminds me of the doomsday clock. Which is always perilously close to the end, but never quite there, and no money back guarantees. And anyhoo, how if you did actually know the end time, would it benefit you – I mean, if you were virtuous? Now, if you’re like me (i.e., non-virtuous), well, extra drinking and gluttony of cholesterol laden food, and a trip to the local massage parlour so that when the ending comes… it will be … happy.
    Which seems to me no different than how the virtuous and non virtuous would behave at the rapture.
    And of course, the Good Book actually states that of the hour of the rapture, no one knows. So isn’t it kind of against what the Good Book says to actually speculate that the rapture is getting closer?

    1. Wukchumni

      One thing I don’t get, in the standard best case scenario evang end of days version of the Rapture ® the faithful who paid proper feasance leave nothing behind but the clothes they were attired in on the floor in a clump, so when Jesus meets em’ upon arrival, they’re all nekkid as jaybirds… we’re talkin’ awkward.

  17. wmkohler

    Lots of coverage of the Day of the Dead, to be sure, but be aware that the photo with the drone skull above is fake. See Snopes, eg.

  18. ChrisPacific

    Portugal is an interesting one to look at as it’s the most vaccinated country in the world by full vaccinations (slightly ahead of UAE at time of writing). Their case numbers are going up a bit, but their death rate is still pretty low, maybe a few a day. If it continues it would project out to maybe 1500 to 2000 Covid deaths a year for them, which would put it outside the top 10 causes of death and below historical death rates from flu. Death rates do somewhat understate the impact as ICU and hospitalization rates are still high (about 10 and 100 respectively for each death) but if there is such a thing as a new Covid normal, Portugal might have the best shot at it.

    The key here is ‘if it continues’ – if nature abhors a vacuum then Covid abhors stability. It’s usually a safe bet with Covid that things will change in future, and probably dramatically so. Declining vaccine effectiveness and/or a new variant would seem the most likely candidates to upset the apple cart.

    1. Objective Ace

      Uttar Pratesh is even more promising. 20 cases per day and only a single death in the past month. This in an area with 250 million people.

      And FYI: Only 20 percent of the country is fully vaccinated there

      1. ambrit

        Their treatment protocols are of interest here. Alas, when our “official” Medical and Political elites “bet the farm,” on vaccines…
        It really is the epitome of a Neo-liberal Paradise in America; “Every man for himself.”

  19. FriarTuck

    Re: “The MetaVerse: Brave New World or Capitalist Hellscape?”

    Gamer here.

    The game Axie looks like just a conglomeration of techniques (aka “dark patterns”) already deployed by multiple other game companies (most often in mobile games), all designed to part you from your money. https://www.darkpattern.games/ is a good catalogue of mobile games that employ these techniques.

    Traditional videogame developers that publish on consoles and PCs have long been salivating at the dollar signs generated by mobile games, and trying to figure out how to employ those techniques on those platforms. So far, outside of sports games, they’ve failed – see EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront 2 as evidence.

    The next big thing supposedly are crypto games, where games implement some sort of cryptocurrency. Either as representation of in-game “ownership” or a reward of playing the game.

    I’m wondering if Axie is going to jump the shark where instead of paying for centralized server space, your computer and your internet connection power the game world, and you get compensated via a virtual token pittance, something which you redeem for in-game gameplay. Then you add a market where there’s multiple different kinds of tokens that buy different things, with a byzantine token sales systems where you convert real currency into different tokens at some obtuse rate, and you have gold sitting in them there digital hills.

    Games aren’t fun any more. Games are big business.

    1. ChrisPacific

      I have a comment in moderation where I discuss the value of blockchain in this system (spoiler alert: it doesn’t exist).

      As you say, this isn’t really as revolutionary as the author seems to think. The free to play/microtransaction gaming space is well evolved by now and there are established methods for monetizing it. One, possibly counterintuitive, principle is that you need to look after your free-to-play players well, because they provide buzz, critical mass and a strong community, and those are the things that make the big spenders stick around and pay money. So if you are one of the aforementioned free-to-play players, and are disciplined about not spending, you can often enjoy quite a lot of good content and experiences without paying a cent. Somebody out there is paying for you, and hopefully it’s a bored rich kid spending his inheritance and not a hopeless addict spending the weekly food budget for the kids, but you have no way of knowing for sure.

    1. outside observer

      Thanks for the BMJ link. Is this what following the science looks like?

      “In several cases Ventavia lacked enough employees to swab all trial participants who reported covid-like symptoms, to test for infection. Laboratory confirmed symptomatic covid-19 was the trial’s primary endpoint, the employee noted.
      “I don’t think it was good clean data,” the employee said of the data Ventavia generated for the Pfizer trial. “It’s a crazy mess.”
      Since Jackson reported problems with Ventavia to the FDA in September 2020, Pfizer has hired Ventavia as a research subcontractor on four other vaccine clinical trials (covid-19 vaccine in children and young adults, pregnant women, and a booster dose, as well an RSV vaccine trial”

    2. Reader

      Maybe one of our experts can explain this anomaly in the trial that led to the CDC today approving the Pfizer shot for 5 to 11 year olds.

      From page 33 of the FDA Briefing Document for the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee Meeting on 10/26/21:


      “For this analysis the estimate for ages 12-15 years is applied to ages 5-11 years because vaccine-associated myocarditis/pericarditis data is not available for this age group.”


      Did they really just make up data?

      1. Objective Ace

        To be fair, thats essentually what they did with all the other age groups. Things that infrequent will not show up in the control trials which is why full approval generally takes years.

        From Pfizer’s original phase 3 adult trial:
        “This trial and its preliminary report have several limitations. With approximately 19,000 participants per group in the subset of participants with a median follow-up time of 2 months after the second dose, the study has more than 83% probability of detecting at least one adverse event, if the true incidence is 0.01%, but it is not large enough to detect less common adverse events reliably.”

  20. ChrisPacific

    The Axie article is interesting as a reflection on the two ways to conceptualize blockchain: as a way of reliably establishing trust with strangers (the technical premise) or as a speculative play for making lots of money (the financial premise).

    If we use the first definition, what they are doing with it makes no sense at all. Yes, you ‘provably’ (thanks to blockchain) own the assets that you have purchased in the game. But as the article says, it’s only because of the game and its mechanics that those assets have any value, and the company is in complete control of those things. It’s like having shares in a company, if the company wasn’t subject to any securities laws and had carte blanche to do what it liked with them, up to and including rendering them all worthless if it so chose. So simply by participating, you are already taking a massive leap of faith. Why on earth would blockchain provide any value at all in that scenario? It’s like investing in all manner of fancy and expensive locks for your front door, while all the time your back door is wide open 24/7.

    So we see that the appeal is all in the second point – speculative vehicle for making money – and indeed the game seems to be set up in such a way as to encourage that. But in this scenario, it’s practically a textbook case of ‘trading sardines’ (Google it if you aren’t familiar with the reference). You are blockchaining something to remove the need for trust on a virtual item that depends absolutely and fundamentally on your trust in the gaming company to even exist – a trust that comes with no assurances of any kind. Why on earth would you do that? It adds no value whatsoever. You could do it without blockchain and it would be no different at all, except that it wouldn’t have the sexy ‘blockchain’ name attached to it. So it’s another case of “if we add blockchain to it, people seem to give us more money.”

  21. Pakalolo Pete

    The 420: Thailand at one moment in time was known as the supplier of the best and most premium cannabis in the world—at least putatively, it’s since been learnt that most of what was sold as “Thai stick” was in fact grown in Northern Laos because it was less risky to do so there.

    There are a whole family of high-THC cannabis varieties that can practically only be grown outdoors in the tropics. The first tropical country that legalizes farming specifically for export will potentially have a significant first-mover advantage as the only supplier in a legal export market that doesn’t currently exist but which looks inevitable within a decade at most. Thailand could get a lot of mileage from their old reputation that would probably give them a marketing head start. Outdoor cultivation is also significantly lower GHG emission and sustainable than indoor farming, which has become the norm for supplying the large markets in temperate countries.

    Hawaii will be in a similar advantageous position with respect to the US market once interstate commerce is allowed, which will likely happen sooner than internationally as countries are tied into archaic agreements at the moment that would prevent that. Hawaii is more socially conservative than you might expect but the lure of a new farming sector that brings in tens of billions of dollars annually into the relatively small pond of the islands’ economy and at the same time cutting GHG emissions and increasing sustainability might change some minds.

  22. Soredemos

    >“U.S. Senator Heartbroken Men Watch Porn And Play Video Games” [Kotaku].

    He’s definitely on to something. I don’t think the problem though is porn or video games themselves, but that so many are using them as a way to fill an emptiness in their lives.

    And with porn in particular, there’s been a huge explosion in the amount of it being produced, as so many people, especially women, realize they can make a living off of sites like Only Fans and Pornhub. I’m all for sex work being legal, but I also think most people who do it don’t really want to be doing it, and are, or feel they are, compelled, directly or indirectly, to do it.

    (I also think there’s a large degree of stolen valor going on when someone acts like selling feet pics online is comparable to being a street prostitute, that it’s all equally ‘sex work’)

    Because the Left won’t take any of this seriously, the Right will swoop in and take up the cause. For instance, I’m pretty sure addiction to masturbation is a real thing, because humans seem able to get addicted to pretty much anything. But any services or support for it are completely dominated by prudish religious types who themselves don’t really have a healthy attitude towards sexuality. For everyone else, it’s just the butt of a joke.

    1. The Fog Woggler

      >(I also think there’s a large degree of stolen valor going on when someone acts like selling feet pics online is comparable to being a street prostitute, that it’s all equally ‘sex work’)

      There’s no difference between “sex work” and any other wage employment. There’s no valor to steal. You’re every bit the prostitute they are.

  23. Wukchumni

    Day of the Debt dept:

    Hadn’t ventured into the Big Smoke in a fortnight for vittles & sundries, and me oh my inflation hit me with quite a wallop.

    I’d been down under down Mexico way in the 80’s when their hyperinflation bout was in progress, and you’d see prices being raised all the time as the Peso plummeted, as anything imported went up in concert in wholesale price along with everything else in your not so typical hyperinflation episode in that it lasted a dozen years. The plight of the Mexican merchant back then was physically having to put new prices on everything, it was quite laborious merely trying to keep up on that alone, all before computers.

    Well, no problem now keeping up with the prices for a supermarket, easy peasy as nothing has a price sticker on it these days.

    And we aren’t in hyperinflation territory or anywhere near, and being a creature of habit when it comes to buying the same things all the time, I remember what things cost, and today everything was a minimum of 10% higher to as much as 25% higher on everything versus only 2 weeks ago

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Based on precincts in different parts of the state, I’m familiar with, it looks like Youngkin just pulled in extra Presidential only voters from precincts that Team Blue tends to avoid for obvious reasons. Terry’s gaffes and general lack of campaigning probably don’t do that other years, but an exit poll indicated parents with kids in K-12 were swinging towards Youngkin.

      That Culpeper thing is wild.

      Its arguably not dissimilar to the Kaine win in 2005. Kaine won by more, but Kaine stayed in the “he’s for education” lane (still waiting on that universal pre-k). There was more organizing, but getting Presidential only voters to vote was a huge deal especially against his opponent Kilgore who was bogged down in his campaigns accusations against Kaine that never landed and a nasty ad that backfired.

      I guess the good news is Terry McAuliffe is probably the worst candidate the Democrats could run besides recruiting Pete Buttigieg. Most Republicans won’t have the relative discipline as Youngkin.

      1. allan

        Matt Stoller @matthewstoller

        I love that Terry McAuliffe couldn’t attack Youngkin’s Carlyle group record
        because McAuliffe was an investor in a Carlyle fund.

        Ladies and gentlemen, the Democrats!
        9:12 PM · Nov 2, 2021

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I’m trying not to hijack, but the first I spoke to Terry Mac at any length was in the Summer of 2008, long enough after the primary season to avoid any awkwardness but not close enough to the election where I would have been canvassing.

          McAuliffe was on a “listening tour” of the Commonwealth. I was sent to this even to see what he did as I was connected to one of the other Team Blue would be claimants for the 2009 nomination. I tried to be positive and no be pre-judgmental. I listened to him, and he had an earnestness to him and talked about issues in very broad terms. He connected it to some things he had done as a DNC chair and some of the very few things done in the Clinton Administration. It was very short on specifics, even by normal politician standards, but he did have an idea about some of the needs of the state. For background, the Deeds/Moran fight was picking up with Kaine auditioning for the VP slot (yeah…Kaine prevented a huge transportation win by forcing the Deeds tax funding and the Moran policy or the reverse its been a while). I left with the expectation that the guy could be a good candidate if he narrowed down some specifics and hammered out a message about his plans. He recognized me as a plant to spy. Half the people there knew what I was doing and for, so it wasn’t a shock. He was nice. We spoke for at least 15 minutes. He probably would be a threat to my official candidate to spoil his chance than the other candidate.

          So McAuliffe came back as a candidate in early January, and he gave the same exact spiel with a bit more rah rah. The lack of substance and ideas that he would need to separate himself from the other two candidates just wasn’t there. McAuliffe did squeak out a very distant 2nd place, but he largely just ran around the state, saying that he was running but not on anything else. He definitely outworked Moran and Deeds too, but Deeds when he was out talked about issues in the primary. The general was another mess. I would not be shocked if a similar mess occurred.

  24. VietnamVet

    “The Decisive Battle” was posted in total in the Moon of Alabama’s comments;
    ”Let’s go Brandon!” It is funny — “a mockery of the sitting President”.

    The irony to me is that this is the rallying cry of the little people against the incompetence — the exploitation by the Empire’s Elite continuously since the Clinton Administration. The truth is there is no empire, no nation without the ordinary working men and women, her shopkeepers, firemen, cops, sanitation workers, nurses and truckers doing their jobs. Without family supporting income there are no families. The Republic is gone. The well-being of American workers is of no matter. But the top 10% divide and conquer rule by its very nature can never be victorious.

    ”There are no reserves of fence-sitting journalists that can be drafted to fill in the holes. There are no huge reservoirs of apolitical, unwoke university professors that can be drafted into talking some more sense into the chuds.” ‘the woke now increasingly hunker down for a long political war of attrition that they on some level must know they structurally cannot win”

    With 96% of the vote counted, Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton Democrat, trails at 48.2% in the Virginia governor race. Not yet called by the NY Times.

    1. ObjectiveFunction

      Wow, I do so love a tortured analogy! and one bringing in a World War 2 lesson is even better…..

      One important historical point left out of the history lesson though is that the Japanese decision to attack the US also hinged on the fact that Germany controlled some 70% of the European continent, occupying every one of the old colonial powers save Britain, whose army had been run out of Greece and looking to lose Egypt as well, and whose Royal Navy was struggling in the Battle of the Atlantic. And over the second half of 1941, Germany had eviscerated the Red Army to the tune of some six million men plus half its industrial heartland.

      They reckoned that if the USSR collapsed, which looked entirely likely as of Oct 1941, even the mighty USA would have its hands full keeping Britain on life support and would therefore elect to negotiate an advantageous peace with Japan, preferably after a couple of stinging naval defeats at the hands of Yamamoto’s then world class kidobutai.

      That calculation of course proved lethally incorrect, but at the time appeared slightly less stupid on stilts than it does in hindsight.

  25. Grebo

    I have seen the Starship robo-deliveries in Milton Keynes. The novelty must have worn off for the kids as rather than mobbing them I saw a group of play-fighting kids ignore one that was trying to get past them. A resident told me they have seen kids helping them when they get stuck. They say “thank you”!

    Apparently they work quite well, though I guess Milton Keynes is pretty much the ideal environment for them.

  26. Vandemonian

    “Long-tailed bat wins New Zealand’s Bird of the Year contest”

    To be fair, bats are not birds.

    Cute bat, though, as bats go…

  27. Vandemonian

    Re: Facebook and Nicaragua:

    The accounts were operated by the government of President Daniel Ortega and the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front party, said Ben Nimmo, threat intelligence lead for Facebook’s parent company Meta.”

    Oh that Ben Nimmo…


  28. SomeNewGuy

    Today I am just trying to see if skynet lets me through
    I’ve not been able to comment for weeks…

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