2:00PM Water Cooler 11/23/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Rain forest complexity!

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#COVID19

Vaccination by region:

Small dips. (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.)

59.2% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, as of November 22. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Czech Republic, and just above Panama 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:

Fiddling and diddling.

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.)

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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:

(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, not updated since 11/19, oddly after the big jump:

Yikes. As I wrote: “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:

California, New Mexico, Minnesota better. Michigan, Missouri, Massachusetts, and Maine (!) much worse. (Let’s hope those cases up in the County aren’t coming in from Quebec.) More red specks in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. 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. Note that Massachusetts is vertical. We detected a rise first in wastewater data, then in case data, now in hospitalizations. So there are times when the data is good. Just not all the time!

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 794,952 788,012. 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). More stalled CDC data:

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.)

“US COVID-19 deaths in 2021 surpass last year’s toll” [The Hill]. “According to the latest available data from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has reached at least 770,691 COVID-19 deaths over the full course fo the pandemic. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that the total number of deaths involving COVID-19 in 2020 was 385,343. That means that at least 385,348 COVID-19 deaths — 15 more than the 2020 total —have so far been recorded in 2021, and that number will only rise in the days and weeks to come.”

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

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

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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

“Biden has been a disappointment on the pandemic” [Financial Times]. “The US share of world fatalities from Covid-19 far exceeds its share of the world’s population. It ranks between Mexico and Romania for deaths per 100,000 people. America has also been overtaken by Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil on the take-up of vaccines, despite having invented several of them. Under the maladministration of Donald Trump, these numbers could be explained away as something aberrant and fleeting: the wages of populism. But Joe Biden has now been president for around half of the duration of the pandemic. He was elected in large part to contain it. His failure to do so is the central fact of his presidency. It is also a curiously under-discussed one. No, if Biden is being excused his pandemic record, it is on the misplaced premise that he has too many forces ranged against him to succeed…. It is hard to know if his prior experience of government makes this lack of executive grip harder to fathom, or much easier. At least to begin with, Barack Obama’s White House, which he served as vice-president, fell for the idea that effective government is about people of good faith holding office: that first principles are enough. The importance of the grind, of sheer technical slog, dawned on them late, if at all. The mistake recurred upon Biden’s inauguration last January, when much of the US left assumed that not being Trump was half the key to a resolved pandemic.” • West Wing brain.

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. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“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.

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“Midnight is approaching” to pass voting rights protections” [Axios]. “‘Defenders of democracy in America still have a slim window of opportunity to act. But time is ticking away, and midnight is approaching,’ according to more than 150 top scholars of U.S. democracy in a new push to temporarily suspend the Senate filibuster and pass voting rights protections on a simple majority vote.” • On that whole “defenders of democracy” thing, anybody remember the 2020 Iowa Caucus? Or Obama’s Night of the Long Knives that installed Joe Biden? All that aside, the Democrat sector is losing its mind over voting rights, while the Democrat electeds don’t seem to care very much.

“Rashida Tlaib warns of “corporate Dems” killing Biden bill” [Axios]. “‘I know that they’ve been influenced and guided by folks that don’t have the best interests of the American people in mind,’ [Tlaib] said. Tlaib spoke Friday morning, shortly after the House passed the sweeping $1.75 trillion ‘Build Back Better’ bill. ‘I’m fearful’ of what might happen as the Senate takes up the bill, she added. ‘I’m fearful that those groups are gonna guide this agenda. It’s gonna be the people that are gonna continue to profit off of human suffering.’ ‘We have corporate Dems,’ Tlaib said. Asked whether she was talking about Manchin and Sinema, Tlaib said: ‘It’s those two, but I think there are some others that … have issues with the prescription drug negotiations there.’ ‘And so I can’t say it’s just those two. They seem to be leading the fight, but I wouldn’t be surprised if folks are hiding behind them.'” • Surely not.

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Why Democrats’ ‘Talking Points Are Not Enough’” (interview) [New York Times]. AOC: “We always try to tell people why they need to settle for less, instead of being able to harness the energy of our grass roots and take political risks in service of them, the same way that we take political risks in service of swing voters. We can do both…. You’ve got to give me something to work with, with my communities. And if you’re not, how can I make the argument that they should turn out again? And this notion that saying ‘We’re not Trump’ is enough — this is such a deeply demoralizing message. Democrats have a trifecta and have been unable to pass voting-rights protections. And so people can wring their hands and say ‘but Manchin’ all they want, or ‘but the filibuster’ all they want, but at the end of the day, what people see are the results of their actions and the results of investing their time.” And: “Before the Virginia elections, it was very clear that our help and our participation was not wanted or asked for, which is fine. I’m not here to tell people how to run their races. But at the same time, to consider the members here that have some of the tightest relationships to our political base as just a uniform liability — and not something that can be selectively deployed, or consulted, or anything — I think it’s just sad. I think it was a mistake. And we saw a big youth turnout collapse. Not a single person asked me to send an email, not even to my own list. And then they turn around and say, ‘It’s their fault.’ When I think it was communicated quite expressly that we were unwelcome to pitch in.”

“Will Redistricting Make AOC Westchester’s Congresswoman?” [Yonkers Times]. From August, still germane: “The big takeaway, and possibility for Westchester is that Congresswoman Alexandra-Ocasio Cortez, AOC, and her 14th District, may now include parts of Westchester County. According to Wasserman, and his proposed map, AOC would lose the Queens portion of her district, but would keep the Bronx and NY-14 would run into Southern Westchester, and include the City of New Rochelle, and the Town of Eastchester. ‘Tbh, (to be honest) the only way a Dem gerrymander of Upstate NY would work would be for #NY14 AOC, #NY16 Bowman and #NY17 Jones to absorb heavily GOP parts of Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam and Dutchess counties (while still keeping overwhelmingly safe Dem seats). We’ll see,’ tweeted Wasserman. The Republican majority Town of Eastchester would now be represented by AOC, and create an interesting dynamic between one of the more outspoken progressive democrats in the county representing a Town led by Eastchester Supervisor Anthony Colavita, one of the longest serving republicans in Westchester.”

2024

“Playbook: Biden tries to calm nerves about 2024” [Politico]. “Fresh off a physical that declared him fit for office, President JOE BIDEN ‘and members of his inner circle have reassured allies in recent days that he plans to run for reelection in 2024, as they take steps to deflect concern about the 79-year-old president’s commitment to another campaign and growing Democratic fears of a coming Republican return to power,’ WaPo’s Michael Scherer, Tyler Pager and Sean Sullivan report. ‘The message is aimed in part at tamping down the assumption among many Democrats that Biden may not seek reelection given his age and waning popularity, while also effectively freezing the field for Vice President [KAMALA HARRIS] and other potential presidential hopefuls. … But interviews with 28 Democratic strategists and officials, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak more frankly, show that the assurances have not stopped the internal debate over whether Biden will appear on the ticket. … Ok then: ‘One Democrat involved in campaigns said they couldn’t think of a single person they had spoken to in the last month who considers the possibility of Biden running again to be a real one.'” “• Meaning that they can’t bill to a Biden campaign, but could bill to others (who they are of course talking to). That said, if the Democrats think I’d vote for either Harris or Buttigieg they’re out of their minds.

“Pro-Trump Nonprofit Gives Millions To Groups Boosting His Agenda” [Center for Public Integrity]. ” nonprofit closely tied to former President Donald Trump and his administration gave millions of dollars in 2020 to an array of conservative groups, a new tax filing from the nonprofit, now called America First Works, shows. The largest grant to an outside group, nearly $4.8 million, went to Donors Trust, a donor-advised fund often used by conservative megadonors as a conduit for contributions to other nonprofits. The filing notes the money is “fbo [for the benefit of] Honest Ele,” but cuts off the rest of the description, rendering the ultimate recipient unclear. The information in the disclosure suggests the money could have been for the Honest Elections Project, a conservative group embedded in an opaque network of conservative nonprofits that receives money via Donors Trust. Honest Elections Project advocated against the expansion of access to mail ballots in multiple states last year.” • Honest Elections, I love it. Still, they’re pikers:

RussiaGate

“What to make of the intelligence failure over the Steele Dossier?” [The Hill]. • What failure?

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Manufacturing Activity Index in the US fifth district including the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and most of West Virginia decreased to 11 in November of 2021 from a 3-month high of 12 in the previous month. All three component indexes—shipments, new orders, and employment—continued to reflect growth. Survey results suggested that many firms increased employment and wages in November, but they struggled to find workers with the necessary skills. Survey respondents expected these trends to continue in the next six months.” • Heaven forfend employers should consider on-the-job training!

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Commodities: “The $5 Billion Hoard of Metal the World Wants But Can’t Have” [Bloomberg]. “On an industrial park about an hour’s drive toward the South China Sea coast from Ho Chi Minh City sit giant mounds of raw metal shrouded in black tarpaulin. Stretching a kilometer in length, the much-coveted hoard could be worth about $5 billion at current prices. In the esoteric world of aluminum, those in the know say the stockpile in Vietnam is the biggest they have ever seen — and that’s in an industry that spends a lot of time building stockpiles while analysts spend a lot of time trying to locate them. But as far as the increasingly under-supplied market is concerned, it’s one that may never be seen again…. What the piles of metal can offer is a reminder of the aluminum market’s turbulent recent history [described in the article]. The interest in the unreachable hoard reflects the metal’s watershed moment as an era of oversupply gives way to shortfalls because of Chinese curbs on production to reduce emissions.”

Shipping: “Hapag-Lloyd bids to cut soaring network costs by using fewer hub ports” [The Loadstar]. “Ocean carriers, obliged to temporarily omit severely congested ports during the current supply chain disruptions, are rethinking their network coverage in favour of a permanent change to fewer hubs. Hapag-Lloyd devoted a section of its Capital Markets Day yesterday to its aim of driving down its ‘complex’ network costs, which would help it achieve a top-tier ranking for schedule reliability.It said the complexity of its network had ‘grown historically’ over years of trade evolvement and acquisitions.”

Inflation: “History suggests that the supply-demand imbalances turbocharging consumer prices aren’t likely to be permanent. Transport bottlenecks and robust demand are driving double-digit percentage increases in the costs of cars, appliances and other manufactured goods, but even modest relief of some supply-chain strains could have significant effects…. ” [Wall Street Journal]. “On the supply side, partially built vehicles parked for lack of semiconductors should head for dealerships once auto makers secure enough chips to finish the job. The scramble by businesses to stockpile parts and holiday inventory could be painting a false picture of underlying demand, while lessening Covid-19 risks could shift more spending toward services, easing prices for goods like used cars. Climbing inflation can make it hard to remember that sectors from shipping to meat production routinely swing from shortages to gluts as businesses race to capitalize on rising prices.”

Inflation: “Attention, Inflation Skeptics. Shoppers Are Talking to You” [Bloomberg]. “The robust pace of U.S. consumer spending looks at first glance like evidence that inflation isn’t hurting a resilient U.S. economy. And that’s how Tuesday’s government report on strong October retail sales growth has widely been interpreted. Look harder, though, and a more ominous omen appears: one of inflationary psychology becoming entrenched and the risk of an inflationary spiral so intense it would require a damaging recession to correct. Data from the Commerce Department show that retail sales increased by 1.7% in October, beating forecasts. The gains topped those in September and August, even as consumer prices rose the fastest in 31 years. October’s spending gains were the largest since March. So far, so good. Consumers have money and they’re spending it. That looks like prosperity, not a portent of doom. Quarterly reports from Walmart Inc. and Home Depot Inc. show earnings beating Wall Street’s expectations. Walmart is even planning for inflation’s retreat. Not so fast. Part of the reason sales boomed appears to be that households did more Christmas shopping than usual in October.” • Yeah, because everybody read the news stories that the ports were jammed and Santa might come, ffs. Further, I interpretations of mass psychology should be viewed with caution these days, things being so unsettled. Price rises may or may not be real (some readers have mentioned they are), but the inflation narrative seems completely inorganic to me, and designed to rein in “social spending” by the Biden administration.

The Bezzle: “China’s exiled crypto machines fuel global mining boom” [Financial Times]. Handy chart:

The Bezzle: NFTs:

Tech: “Apple’s Mac Software Strategy Is More Confusing Than Ever” [Bloomberg]. “[T]he company must now focus on unifying its Mac software ecosystem—for the benefit of its own products, third-party app developers, and, of course, consumers.” • Maybe if Apple’s suits could figure out taps and swipes from fingers or pen are a completely different UI/UX from mouseclicks and keystrokes — the difference is as great as that between consumption and production — things will improve (and I say this as a heavy user of both technologies). Also, iOS’s windowing and file systems are laughably bad, completely unserious. (Also, I can tell when an iOS team has gone to work ruining a Mac feature; functionality is always buried, and nothing conforms to the Human Interface Guidelines that sold generations of users on the idea — indeed the fact — that the Mac “just works.” At least the mania for slimness is gone, and we producers have some ports and the MagSafe connector back, after years of screaming.

Tech: Kill it with fire:

Supply Chain: “Supply-Chain Snarls Deliver Windfalls to Wall Street” [Wall Street Journal]. ” Charter rates have soared, thanks in part to a global economic rebound that is translating into Covid-19-related labor shortages and port logjams. Cargo ships are in demand, following a yearslong decline in the number of container ships ordered and continued consumer spending on goods rather than services. To capitalize on the boom, hedge funds and lenders are flipping container ships, signing multiyear contracts to charter them out at high rates and taking gains on their equity stakes in container-shipping companies whose stock prices have soared…. The recovery is turning what looked like losing bets for earlier investors in shipping into winning ones.” • It would be a shame if the party ever had to end. Reminds me of something….

Travel: “Thanksgiving Travel to Challenge Airlines as Demand Returns” [Bloomberg]. “Would-be travelers seem optimistic. Tickets sold in the U.S. for domestic and international trips during the 14-day Thanksgiving travel period were 11% below where they were in 2019, according to Nov. 14 data from the Airlines for America lobbying group. …. ‘People aren’t going to be deterred by the possibilities of storms and delays,’ said Christie Hudson, a spokesperson for travel services provider Expedia Group Inc. ‘The pent-up demand is a huge factor, especially if you didn’t get to see your grandparents or family members last year or had to cancel trips earlier this year. Our mentality now is, ‘Screw it, I’m going.'”

Concentration: “Why Amazon’s Higher Fulfillment Fees Could Generate $3.1B In Revenue” [Benzinga]. “Amazon.com, Inc. has announced it will be raising its Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) fees starting Jan. 18, 2022, a move that could generate $3.1 billion in incremental revenue. Amazon will be raising FBA fulfillment fees by an average of 5.2%. The fee changes will be based on package size and weight. FBA monthly storage fees will also increase from 75 cents to 83 cents in off-peak months of January through September…. Assuming Amazon’s claims that alternative fulfilment options are still far more expensive, sellers seemingly have no choice but to pay the higher fees. Given Amazon will be providing no additional services for those higher fees, almost all of the incremental revenue should be profit.” • Because they can.

Labor Market: Interesting animation that contrasts Obama’s debacle and, well, Trump’s success (followed by Biden):

Thanks, Larry!

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 Greed (previous close: 64 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 82 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 23 at 1:05pm. Mere greed now.

Health Care

“Do childhood colds help the body respond to COVID?” [Nature]. “Some people are better at fighting off seasonal flu when the strain of influenza virus is similar to the first one they encountered in childhood — a phenomenon evocatively dubbed ‘original antigenic sin’, or OAS. Now, there is increasing evidence that people’s immune responses to COVID-19 could be shaped in a similar way by previous infections with common-cold coronaviruses…. But OAS also has potential downsides. Sometimes, antibodies produced as a result of imprinting are not a very good match to the virus causing an infection, but their production suppresses the activation of naive B cells that would otherwise produce more-protective antibodies…. It is difficult to tell from such early results whether OAS is beneficial or detrimental to the immune response against SARS-CoV-2, and the results of preliminary studies are open to interpretation.” • Important to remember that we do not actually understand the immune system.

MMT

“Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day” [Bloomberg]. Joe Weisenthal’s section: “[T]he last 18 months have vindicated many of [MMT’s] core ideas. 1. Fiscal expansion is incredibly powerful. … 2. Inflation happens when we see real resources stretched to capacity…. 3. Bond vigilantes still MIA. As MMTers would anticipate, the spending boom and the major Fed balance sheet expansion have not dented the stability of the dollar or Treasuries. … 4. You can’t win playing by the CBO’s rules. … [O]ne of the arguments made by its proponents is that the deck is stacked against fiscal expansion, by arbitrary “scores” (by the likes of the CBO) that establish whether a spending plan adds to the deficit or not. Given the contortions that the Democrats have made to satisfy its members in the Senate, while also aiming to get a good score by the CBO (not add to the deficit too much), this is another point of vindication…. Obviously, elevated inflation has caused a drop in people’s perceptions of the economy. And it’s possible that this will sour consumer spending plans in the future. So that’s potentially something to be reckoned with. But for one thing, it seems awfully premature to look at random polls in November 2021 and pronounce anything big about how the future will go. And regardless, a number of core MMT concepts have been empirically vindicated over the last year and a half or so.”

Guillotine Watch

“Wall Streeters Are Scouting Condos and Yachts Ahead of a Record Bonus Season” [New York Magazine]. “On Wall Street, 2021 will be remembered as the year things got really weird and everyone got crazy rich. Meme stocks like GameStop and AMC entered the lexicon in January, and then there were a record number of companies filing their initial public offerings, the rise and fall and resurrection of SPACs, and the biggest year ever for private equity deals. On Tuesday, Wall Street compensation consulting firm Johnson Associates put out a report confirming that just about everyone who had a hand in this financial free-for-all is going to get rewarded more handsomely than any time since at least the financial crisis. In its report, the company predicts a double-digit increase in bonuses this year practically across the board, with as much as a 35 percent bump for bankers who helped bring new companies to the public markets. For Wall Street’s biggest earners, though, they’re looking at much more than that — as much as three times their biggest bonus, ever, Intelligencer was told. For established bankers, that could mean millions more in their total compensation, just for this year.” • I hate the very idea that capitalism is anti-fragile, especially financialized capitalism. But it does look like it, doesn’t it? Anti-fragile until the planet steps in and takes care of the problem, anyhow.

Class Warfare

A lot of material on cities and suburbs lately:

The automobile and the city of Buffalo:

Like a plague of locusts.

“In Cities Around the US, Redistricting Is a Major Threat to Progressive Politics” [Jacobin]. “ies are crucial hubs for progressive politics. Places like Chicago, Illinois, and Buffalo, New York, are making historic advances by electing a record number of democratic socialists to the city council and winning mayoral primaries. Democratic socialists are on the front lines of efforts to reallocate police funds to mental health and social services, raise the minimum wage, implement rent control, and crack down on public utility monopolies. The advancement of democratic socialists and independent politics in cities, however, faces a looming threat: municipal redistricting. Redistricting is often seen as a competition between Democrats and Republicans, and gerrymandering in city councils (where Democrats dominate) receives less attention. The data, however, paint a different picture. To explore the consequences of municipal redistricting for independent politics, my research team digitized and analyzed ward maps from the cities of Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee from their founding in the 1800s to the present. We tracked the movement of wards within each city over time, paying attention to instances when wards were redistricted from one end of a city to another, as well as instances when wards never moved. Our study’s findings are troubling for progressive elected officials. Municipal redistricting has been used by the Democratic Party to discipline and suppress elected officials advocating for racial and economic equality.” • See India Walton…

“The Total Shame of LA City’s Redistricting System, Yet Again” [Tony Butka, City Watch]. The conclusion: “Even as our fly by night Mayor and 15 City Councilmembers celebrate their rapacity, in a State where the judicial system actually worked, they would all be in the slammer. Such is not the case, obviously, with only three of this rotten body headed for prosecution and hopefully jail time.” • The ins and outs are too complicated to summarize, but… Everything is like CalPERS.

I hate the very idea of a video Op-Ed (“Blue States, You’re the Problem“) so I couldn’t bring myself to run this until now, when it seems to fit in:

“How A History Of Racial Discrimination Created ‘Islands of Disadvantage’ In Northern Virginia” [DCist]. “Looking at overall statistics, Northern Virginia is a healthy and wealthy place. But within the prosperity of the region are “islands of disadvantage” — communities cut off from the good outcomes of their neighbors. Those neighborhoods are at the heart of a new report that examines the region’s 400-year history of racial segregation between Black people and white people, tracing its effects on the health of residents today. The report, “Deeply Rooted: History’s Lessons for Equity in Northern Virginia,” authored by Dr. Steven Woolf at Virginia Commonwealth University, is a sequel to a 2017 study that originally identified 15 “islands of disadvantage,” census tracts in Northern Virginia experiencing high rates of poverty, unaffordable housing, poor education, and lack of health insurance — measures widely regarded by public health researchers as social determinants of health. Life expectancy for some of the census tracts could be as much as 18 years below neighboring communities…. One central theme in the report is the history of Black community displacement as Northern Virginia shifted from rural plantations and farms outside D.C. to a collection of bustling, built-up suburbs. That transition started, Woolf says, after the Civil War, when newly-freed African-American residents set up communities in Northern Virginia — only to be pushed aside to make room for railroads, housing for federal workers during World War II, and, ultimately, Northern Virginia’s tangle of highways.”

* * *

John Deere:

And:

Good. Finally I can get a job:

“Higher Income Associated With Greater Compliance with Public Health Measures During Pandemic” [Johns Hopkins Hub]. “The higher a person’s income, the more likely they were to protect themselves at the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, Johns Hopkins University economists find. When it comes to adopting behaviors including social distancing and mask wearing, the team detected a striking link to their financial well-being. People who made around $230,000 a year were as much as 54% more likely to increase these types of self-protective behaviors compared to people making about $13,000.” • I am looking for a similar result on vaccination, but haven’t found one yet.

“Does QE Cause Wealth Inequality?” [Lynn Alden]. “Nobody should expect wealth to be equal in a society, but when wealth becomes extremely concentrated (way more unequal than usual), it’s often a sign that something isn’t working well and the society shifts towards higher levels of populism. After a while of that, the odds start to increase for some sort of major policy reversal (soft case) or outright revolution (hard case). That’s why it’s a macro topic that is important for investors to keep track of; extreme wealth concentration affects the likelihood of various otherwise-improbable fiscal or monetary policy changes occurring. And famous fallen empires in history often had very high levels of wealth concentration in the years leading up to their unraveling.” Sort of amazing to read this from an investment analyst; maybe Furman (above) is right…. On the issue of the headline: “QE and interest rates by themselves are significantly uncorrelated (or even inversely correlated) variables vs how much wealth concentration a country has, when comparing between countries. That is an uncommon view, but that’s simply how the math works out. Clearly we need to look at the nuances. The reason the math works out that way, is that fiscal decisions have larger effects on wealth concentration than central banks. Central banks facilitate fiscal policies, but are only one variable involved in a much more complicated set of policies. ” • I thought this was interesting and not full of crank theories; I’d be interested to see what readers think.

News of the Wired

“Cosmo is a cutting-edge take on the electric guitar by Verso” [Wallpaper]. The body is metal: “Because guitar pickups are magnetic, they naturally clamp themselves onto the surface of the body. ‘It was almost an accidental discovery that I turned into a unique selling proposition,’ [industrial designer Robin Stummvoll] says. Because the pickup can be moved around beneath the strings, the tonal characteristics of the guitar can be finely tuned. ‘Combine this with the steel plate and the instrument has a unique timbre with a lot of body resonance.’, he says.” • That, at least, sounds neat. The design? I dunno….

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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.

102 comments

  1. Cocomaan

    I didn’t see this one posted today. This article reminds me of some time I spent in a failed state abroad in college.

    Now it feels like I’m living in one.

    https://www.npr.org/2021/11/23/1057979170/school-closures-mental-health-days-families-childcare-thanksgiving-break

    Quote:
    Schools and districts around the country have been canceling classes on short notice. The cancellations aren’t directly for COVID-19 quarantines; instead schools are citing staff shortages, staff fatigue, mental health and sometimes even student fights.

    Parent Jennifer Reesman says, “We’re upset because it really is a slap in the face to all of those essential workers” who are parents. Reesman works in health care, in person, and is a single mother of a daughter in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. Her district canceled the half day before Thanksgiving with two weeks’ notice.

    Underscoring the extreme feelings this brings up for some families, she adds, “Granted, it’s only a half day … but talking with other parents, we all feel like we’re witnessing the death of public education up close and personal.”

    Reply
    1. petal

      Schools buckling under COVID
      Published yesterday in our local paper.
      “WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The Hartford School Board is considering shortening the school day to reduce the burden on teachers who say the COVID-19 pandemic is hurting their morale, affecting school operations and straining staffing levels.

      “Our goal is to strike a balance between staff needs and family realities,” the School Board wrote in an announcement of a “community engagement meeting” Tuesday evening to discuss changing the school day.

      The meeting comes as the head of the Hartford teachers union says the town’s elementary schools have seen unusually high levels of aggressive and violent behaviors, including hitting, kicking, pushing, biting, head-butting and spitting, by students against other children and their teachers.

      “I know there is some degree of unrest in other schools as well, but this year has hit the elementary schools like no other,” Nichole Vielleux, president of the Hartford Education Association, wrote in a late October letter to the board.

      The board seeks to help students’ families adjust to a shorter school day by providing options for out-of-school times such as expanding transportation options, after-school care or winter sports; or working with area nonprofits to offer weekly enrichment activities, the announcement said.

      Should the board decide to shorten the day it would be a “temporary measure,” School Board Chairman Kevin “Coach” Christie said on Monday.

      “This isn’t forever,” he said, but something is necessary to “provide some relief to our teaching teams around the schools.”

      The board’s consideration of shorter days comes after elementary school teachers in recent weeks have sent the board and school administration letters, included in the board packet for Tuesday’s meeting, outlining the many challenges they are facing this year.

      The letters pointed to a dearth of substitute teachers and paraeducators; large class sizes at Dothan Brook School; challenging behavioral issues; and a new elementary English and language arts curriculum as particular stressors this year.
      “Students and staff are feeling a trauma impact from this pandemic and need to be supported, not asked to increase their workload,” one letter signed by a five-member team of Hartford teachers said.

      Teachers are seeking a shorter school day or one early release day each week to give teachers more time to respond to student work, plan lessons, analyze data, make behavior plans and organize classrooms, Vielleux said in her letter.”
      More at the link.

      Reply
    2. Screwball

      I teach a STEM class for a local college and vocational school in Ohio. I read the article, but can’t say I understand all their points.

      What I can tell you – the state of our schools (at least the one I am familiar with) has went downhill over the last two years – and quite significantly IMO. I am not alone as other instructors I speak with feel the same way. I don’t have the answers, but I have some bullet points of observation;

      ZOOM meetings for school don’t work. It’s not the same as in school learning (obvious) and has done nothing but mask the importance of doing so. Just because we have ZOOM meetings doesn’t mean we are teaching or learning. But it sounds good.

      The stress on everyone involved, from teachers, administrators, and parents are real. People are stressed out. Kids are stressed out. They are not learning due to lack of “real” class time, but make up for it by playing games on their phones or general monkey business to keep them occupied. IOW, the lock downs, limited classroom time, lessened homework, has given them more time to horse around – and they like it.

      Many parents don’t understand the stresses people are under – all they care about is Johnny or Judy is in school so they can go to work – they do have bills to pay after all – and you are getting paid to teach – so do it.

      The kids are getting worse, behavior wise, as are the parents, and the stress for the schools is getting worse. The shortages are real, and understandable. The school system I am familiar with has been inept to begin with and now with these challenges, are even worse (they were inept when times were good).

      TL;DR – our school system is a complete mess. There is plenty of blame to go around. This is a perfect storm and is likely to get worse. We are producing a bunch of illiterates who can’t read, write, add and subtract, while the school Tweets how they are getting our youth prepared for the “real world.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s a mess and they are simply full of it.

      Reply
      1. Jason Boxman

        And this is the successive generation of children that will be making decisions about the future during the earlier stages of the climate end-game. That’s certainly not going to end well, I think. But perhaps by then outcomes are already baked in, so it won’t matter either way. Or maybe we’ll get more wars and overall social dysfunction!

        Reply
      2. Rainlover

        “We are producing a bunch of illiterates who can’t read, write, add and subtract…”

        How true. A friend, who has a 14 yr old granddaughter that entered high school this fall, began helping her with her algebra only to discover that the granddaughter didn’t even understand what the mathematical terms meant. Kinda hard to solve a problem when you don’t understand what it’s asking for. Plus her basic math skills are at fifth grade level. No wonder she hides in the bathroom at school.

        We have many despairing conversations about the state of education after covid. The granddaughter is lucky to have a grandmother who is able and willing to help her surmount her deficit. She’s not dumb, just untaught and disregarded.

        Reply
        1. Screwball

          I could give you a detailed example of this very thing, but it doesn’t matter, the examples are far and wide.

          Short form; we are putting our children in a position to fail, not succeed. We’ve adapted the manufacturing model in our school system creating a mass produced assembly line of learning, when what we really need is a job shop.

          People learn at different paces, for lack of a better word, and some “trades” are more suited for some than others. We need to identify those traits and direct our kids into what they can thrive at, not what makes the most money for the system.

          But we already know that. So sad.

          Reply
        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          Didn’t America’s ” war on reading” begin long before covid? Isn’t ” look-say” reading designed to prevent kids from learning to read and make reading so onerous and torturous that it immunizes kids against reading for life? Isn’t the boycotting of phonics and phonetics in schools designed to prevent kids from learning to read so as to advance the ” war on reading”?

          Didn’t Rudoph Flesch write a book about this way back in the 1950s?
          https://www.ablechild.org/2021/11/08/why-johnny-cant-read-and-what-you-can-do-about-it/

          Reply
      3. Old Sarum

        My take on school up to fourteen or so is that it is 99% childcare. I have never noticed any statistics to contradict my belief. When I share my belief with current and former teachers there is never any response. Not one word: generally on other topics they are quite chirpy.

        Pip pip!

        Reply
      4. curlydan

        My two boys go to schools in a relatively affluent area in a well regarded school district. I am shocked about how little homework they have. My 9th grader has homework maybe 1 out of every 10 days. My 7th grader has even less homework. It’s tough to realize how unprepared they will be for college–unless college has gone down hill a bunch as well.

        As for cursing, I can generally say that virtually every kid over 10 probably watches a huge amount of TikTok everyday where cursing is off the charts. If not TikTok, then YouTube provides similar vapid and vulgar content. It’s not a good situation. I primarily blame social media and the inane focus on testing instituted by Bush and Obama for the downfall of schools.

        I have for the past couple years been considering quitting my current job and teaching high school math. These stories I see here are scary. I think I would try a pencil and paper only approach if I could — no computer, no calculators.

        Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Wasn’t the forced downfall of schools the whole secret point of the excercise?

          Wasn’t it all designed to destroy public education and leave parents no place to send their children except extortionist profiteering charter schools?

          Reply
    3. Duke of Prunes

      My daughter is struggling through her first year of teaching 2nd grade. Although she student taught last year at a school in the same district, this year is completely different. The kids are horrible. “Kindergarteners in the body of second graders with the vocabulary of sailors”. F-bombs, fights over minor things… just this week, one student called a teacher a “trick-a** b***h”, another girl pulled up her shirt and showed her “boobies to the boys” (this kid’s words)… and these are 2nd graders from a lower middle/upper working class suburb. She cried after work every night for about the 1st month. There’s not many substitute teachers, the older teachers are retiring, and the days of parent volunteers helping out are long gone (even if they had volunteers, they wouldn’t be allowed in the school because of covid). Luckily, she’s young and resilient, and hasn’t been crushed by it all. God help us all.

      Reply
      1. Screwball

        A buddy of mine who is a bus driver got cussed out by a 2nd grade girl. He appropriately dealt with the situation, as it should have been. Her mom, who is sleeping with her husbands brother, as he is in jail, called the school and complained about my buddy the bus driver.

        I’ve had kids in the last year I watched very close because I thought they could become violent, and we are literally locked inside a classroom. Last year I did a class of 18 in a cafeteria to be safe distance, with masks, temp check at the door. They couldn’t figure out how to get my stuff to the overheads. I can bluetooth it to their projector, and offered to do so. IT dept. said no sale. Can’t bring computers into the building. OK. But I use a memory stick.

        Today, I watched a kid sit at a desk with a laptop, keyboard with keys sticking an inch or so up from the base, two headsets, playing a video game. He is not in my class but sitting in the back. I talked to him about it. He explained it was all about gaming. Later, after he had his headphones on, I asked the others how he got a computer in the class. Backpack, and they all have them.

        If he can smuggle in enough to make the Watergate burglars proud…

        Reply
        1. ambrit

          Your observations “from the trenches” as it were prompt me to note that we seem to be training the younger generations to ignore directions, game the system, and anticipate no adverse reactions to so doing. Just wait until one of these “bright young things” has a run in with a real punk on the street. They literally won’t know what hit them.
          Our young are being trained up to deal with a highly “theoretical” environment. Coping with adversity doesn’t seem to be on the cirriculum. We have made a mistake in coddling our children. When they realize just how great the betrayal is, watch out.

          Reply
          1. Mantid

            Ambrit, good call. Our district just added a few days off as stress relief, and it’s needed. And yes, correct about very little follow up or anticipatory action to avoid discipline problems. I put my blinders on, only deal with my students and their families and do my best to yes mam, no mam the admin, then go about my day. When you say this “we seem to be training the younger generations to ignore directions, game the system, and anticipate no adverse reactions to so doing” …. it’s as if the students are mimicking what they see in the adult world. Not many people, especially those in power, are being held accountable for current or past “transgressions”. Re-upping Powell at the Fed. is a great example.

            Reply
          2. Randall Flagg

            Ignoring direction, game the system, no adverse reactions. Sounds like perfect grooming for Wall Street and Banking in their future.

            Reply
  2. Carolinian

    Sometimes, antibodies produced as a result of imprinting are not a very good match to the virus causing an infection, but their production suppresses the activation of naive B cells that would otherwise produce more-protective antibodies….

    As I understand it this is what some skeptic sites are claiming the vaccine may be doing…suppressing normal immune response to other diseases by coopting the immune system. By way of evidence they are pointing to increased all cause deaths in high vax countries.

    Not endorsing this (or even sure I understand it)….just passing along.

    Reply
    1. Dean

      Antibody imprinting is also known as “original antigenic sin.” According to imprinting the original exposure to antigen interacts with B cells that have poor antigen affinity. Nonetheless these poor binding B cells are cloned and produce antibodies with low affinity. But they also expand memory B cells with low antigen affinity. This could lead to ineffective antibody responses upon second antigen exposure because the shear numbers of low affinity B cells compete against too low numbers of high affinity B cells.

      Antibody imprinting ( if it occurs) is antigen specific. It would have no effect on immune responses to other antigens so would not lead to other infection susceptibility.

      Most Covid vaccines are based on the spike protein fragment. Given the limited epitopes on this fragment, antibody imprinting appears extremely unlikely in my opinion. High affinity antibody response to vaccines also indicates imprinting is not occurring.

      Reply
  3. Cocomaan

    Higher Income Associated With Greater Compliance with Public Health Measures During Pandemic” [Johns Hopkins Hub].

    “Does QE Cause Wealth Inequality?” [Lynn Alden]

    All I can think of reading these articles is Alfred from Twin Peaks. In my mind he points at the PMC and says, “Look, it’s trying to think!”

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2hnBuCm5l8o

    But by all means, let’s just keep doing the same thing over and over again.

    Reply
    1. Michaelmas

      All I can think of reading these articles is Alfred from Twin Peaks. In my mind he points at the PMC and says, “Look, it’s trying to think!”

      I read the same analyst’s piece on ‘The Fraying of the US Global Currency Reserve System’ —

      https://www.lynalden.com/fraying-petrodollar-system/

      It seems accurate and succinct, especially in picking out the salient details of that system’s historical development, and surprisingly truthful about who in the US benefited and who lost from the system, and why and how it worked.

      It was not written by a stupid person. I would not be so dismissive.

      Reply
  4. Nick

    ” if the Democrats think I’d vote for either Harris or Buttigieg they’re out of their minds.”

    Here’s my Fantasy ticket to resurrect the nation:

    DeSantis/Gabbard 2024

    It would gather all the GOP voters, the anti war left, the veterans, both served with high ranks and honors, the Medicare For All voters, she’s for it, for real, environmentalists, WOCs, Red Dot Indians, and most importantly of all, those disgusted with partisan politics today.

    Reply
    1. GF

      I would switch the order – Gabbard/DeSantis. DeSantis is not the person to lead the USA. We don’t need another Trump in the White House.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I agree. We don’t need another Trump.

        I suspect voting in the Presidential part of the election will reach historic lows. Between DeSantis/whomever and Harris/Buttigig/or whomever, there really will be nothing left to vote for.
        Maybe vanity Third Party wannabes will pick up some votes.

        Reply
        1. John

          Gabbard disposed of Harris in a split second in the run up to 2020. Harris has been all but invisible as vice president. Why on earth would anyone think she would appeal to the electorate in a general election? I can think of no reason to vote for Mayor Pete. I see him as “all hat and no cattle.” Desantis is trying his best to be as Trumpian as he can manage. Gabbard is thin on experience, but she makes sense on foreign policy. I do not see a single other person that I think has any business offering herself/himself as a candidate. Of course, money has not weighed in on this question yet. A few billion should purchase the presidency for the candidate those-who-matter … and nothing will fundamentally change.

          Reply
      1. Mantid

        Voting is pointless. “A few billion should purchase the presidency for the candidate those-who-matter … and nothing will fundamentally change.”

        Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          It isn’t pointless at state and local levels. I voted for state-level marijuana legalization in Michigan and so did enough other people that we got state-level marijuana legalization in Michigan.

          Reply
    2. Martin Oline

      The major candidate(s) in 2024 right up until the Iowa primary will be a trillionaire who will be fawned over by their lapdog press. Trump has shown how malable the media is, especially if you’re powerful. This lesson has not been lost on Bezos. Gates will run a surrogate of some kind. Once the first primaries take place these ‘front-runners’ will show they are empty suits and have absolutely no attraction to the masses. We are lucky the first primaries don’t take place in states like California or New York with huge media markets and where voters seldom come accross a candidate. Once the primaries begin there will be a very small window for someone to gain the nomination. The winner of the Republican primary will be someone who has an excellent grassroots organization. The Democrat winner will likwly be a product of the back room like last year.

      Reply
  5. Questa Nota

    About your en deshabille list of Na ga happen items, there could be a ray of hope through marketing messaging. What if voters, citizens and any sentient being were confronted with presented with the bare cost differences between the choices?
    A billion here, a billion there, then per capita, that might get attention.
    Otherwise, their eyes glaze over, by design, at all the DNC, K Street and media FUD.

    Something in concept like this:

    Free college cost X, not free college cost Y, difference Z
    Free healthcare cost A, not free healthcare cost B, difference C
    etc 1

    Gatekeeper cost* in free college F, Gatekeeper in not free college G, difference H
    Gatekeeper cost* in free healthcare Q, Gatekeeper in not free healthcare W, difference E
    etc 2

    Cumulative costs, etc, showing absolute burden of the DC consensus and gatekeeper systems.
    etc 3

    *in theory, no gatekeeper costs, so maybe administrative burden?

    Since a family website, those capital letters were more or less random instead of spelling out how I’d really feel about the gatekeepers and their ilk.

    Back on planet earth, I recognize that there is very little chance of traction from the above.

    Reply
    1. JBird4049

      >>>Back on planet earth, I recognize that there is very little chance of traction from the above.

      There’s plenty of tread and the engine is being revved, but the gatekeeping gremlins are all busy keeping the transmission in neutral and the brakes in park.

      If the transmission is ever put in gear again, it will probably be stripped.

      Reply
      1. Hepativore

        I think that the elites have learned much since the New Deal era, especially how to prevent something like it from happening ever again. The means of surveillance of the precariat that capital has access to, not to mention the fact that capital controls both parties means that it can change election rules in its favor mid-race anytime it wants.

        While the vast majority of the population wants things like a single-payer healthcare system or free college, the Republicans have no problem openly condemning most of the population to destitution and the Democrats are basically a neo-WASP party of Ivy League elistists who share most of the opinions of the Republicans under a veneer of civility and pseudointellectualism.

        The Democrats would rather commit electoral suicide than let the unwoke and unwashed peasantry get ideas above its station as they are perfectly fine laying low and fundraising as the “Resistance” party for a few years until people get fed up with Republicans again.

        The cycle will probably repeat for the remainder of the US’s existence as a nation.

        Reply
  6. Sub-Boreal

    “Prepare developed democracies for long-run economic slowdowns”

    Abstract:
    Developed democracies proliferated over the past two centuries during an unprecedented era of economic growth, which may be ending. Macroeconomic forecasts predict slowing growth throughout the twenty-first century for structural reasons such as ageing populations, shifts from goods to services, slowing innovation, and debt. Long-run effects of COVID-19 and climate change could further slow growth. Some sustainability scientists assert that slower growth, stagnation or de-growth is an environmental imperative, especially in developed countries. Whether slow growth is inevitable or planned, we argue that developed democracies should prepare for additional fiscal and social stress, some of which is already apparent. We call for a ‘guided civic revival’, including government and civic efforts aimed at reducing inequality, socially integrating diverse populations and building shared identities, increasing economic opportunity for youth, improving return on investment in taxation and public spending, strengthening formal democratic institutions and investing to improve non-economic drivers of subjective well-being.

    Open access at: https://t.co/3XAhz9rAfq?amp=1

    Reply
  7. Robert Hahl

    The author of that story about the Cosmo clearly does not play electric guitar. No description of it’s range. And my guess is it is limited, but this is Mark I.

    Ephraim Giepen playing on Cosmo – Jazzy Hip Hop Vibes

    Reply
      1. Tom Stone

        That article on the Cosmo brought back memories of my time as the first credit manager at Nady Systems, John Nady held the patent on wireless Mic’s and wireless pickups for guitars.
        It was an interesting place to work, one of the consumer division’s sales people sold guns out of the trunk of his car, one robbed banks on his lunch hour, the casting room (For the Mic bodies) was
        AKA “The Pharmacy” and sold cocaine by the ounce.
        No joke,I’d answer an incoming call and they’d ask for the Pharmacy.
        I came in one Saturday to pick up some repaired Mic’s and take them to FedEx,heard some odd noises coming from the recording studio and walked in on a porn shoot.
        The actresses were…very worn out looking.
        I resigned after 18 Months after having some retired exec’s from SCORE look at the operation.
        “This is an incurable Clusterf…,get out” was their advice.
        I did.
        I once described John Nady as being like a 6′ tall vulture on cheap speed, nastier than an overfilled colostomy bag left in the sun for three days.

        Reply
    1. Mantid

      It also looks uncomfortable to play, sitting down. With essentially an inverted U shape, it will dig into your leg. Maybe not as heavy as a Les Paul, but still looks uncomfortable. The moving pick ups seem interesting though.

      Reply
    2. JohnH

      I clicked to see this design and I would never play such an instrument; look at the bridge. Intonation, who needs it?

      If NC has a resident guitar expert position, I’d like to apply. :D

      Reply
    1. zagonostra

      My ear needs to hear unmediated. I used to always take friends to task for listening to music on their computers or phones (I’ve fallen prey myself). To really evaluate the richness of the sound with all its overtones, unique timbre and characteristics it has to be unmediated (or through a high fidelity sound system).

      With guitars, the age also plays a factor, as well as the wood type. It seems that the older guitars somehow absorb the vibrations into their “soul”. The wood’s soul? Crazy maybe. I have old and new guitars, and the former seem to have a warmer tone, subjective? Anyway thanks for the link.

      Reply
      1. Tom Stone

        Zag,that’s true for Violins as well.
        My Ex’s 17th Century Violin has a warmth and depth that is wonderful, it has a soul.

        Reply
  8. zagonostra

    According to the latest available data from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has reached at least 770,691 COVID-19 deaths over the full course fo the pandemic.

    What’s never reported and nobody ever cares to know is that ~ 300K or 40% of those deaths could have been avoided if the person had health insurance, or insurance that was worth anything. (I posted link to the source previously, I think it was from the Lancet.

    Reply
    1. Robert Hahl

      Everyone I know personally who had Covid-19 (seven people, five vaccinated) was told to go home and sleep it off, and go to the ER if they couldn’t breath. All had health insurance, one needed to be hospitalized and died. Would an uninsured person who couldn’t breath be turned away from an ER?

      Reply
      1. zagonostra

        I’ve read that early intervention is critical. If you’re wondering how to pay the mortgage or books for the kids, you just might take it into your head all on your own to try and “sleep it off.”

        can certainly believe that there is a significant portion of deaths attributed to CV19 that could have been avoided, 40%? Who really knows. One thing I do know is that the stress of a hospital bill alone can shave years off someone’s life.

        Reply
      2. Objective Ace

        Perhaps having health insurance would have reduced these individuals odds of having comorbities leading to death. Personally, without health insurance I would never have been diagnosed let alone treated for cardiomyopathy

        Reply
        1. Robert Hahl

          My real point is that non-celebrities get no early treatment for Covid-19 even if they are insured. They test positive, stay home (or not), and hope for the best.

          Reply
  9. fresno dan

    VIDEO: From the rubble of Iraq’s war-ravaged city of Mosul arises the sight of androids gliding back and forth in a restaurant to serve their amused clientele.
    ==============
    That “android” is serving the same way self driving cars are driving themselves, i.e., self driving cars don’t and those android aren’t serving.

    Reply
    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      The Future is getting older and older. That looks like Buck Rogers in the 1980s. Automats look hipper than that.

      Reply
  10. jim truti

    “[T]he last 18 months have vindicated many of [MMT’s] core ideas…”
    I am not so sure about it, I think if anything it has proved that MMT is a failure.
    If I understand it correctly, MMT says printing money is not a problem until inflation starts going up which can be controlled by raising taxes to mop up the printed money.
    Well, we are having significant inflation and good luck trying to raise taxes.
    In the end, MMT like all “free lunch policies” looks to be no more than an opportunity for the well connected to benefit from free money while sending the bill to everyone else.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      The current inflation is not caused by excessive demand. Did you miss that car prices have gone up to a chip shortage, and that has led to increases in used car prices? Oil and gas are global commodities and the reason they are up is that after demand for fuel dropping like a brick during the Covid lockdowns, it swung back up before production could increase to meet the demand. Food price increases are due to supply chain issues and may get worse due to a nitrogen fertilizer shortage, which again has absolutely zero to do with fiscal spending.

      Fact free statements of ideology are not welcome here. Please read our site Policies before commenting again. If you can substantiate your claims, fine but you haven’t come within hailing distance of doing so.

      Reply
      1. jim truti

        Amen, I hope you are right and prices start come backing down again, people are hurting as everything is going up not just some pandemic related items.
        I have no doubt there is a perfect reason why prices are going up, shortages due to pandemic being the main culprit, but that doesnt explain why retail sales are higher than ever.

        Reply
        1. Mantid

          Also, inflation is a reflection of excess cash at play. And boy howdy did Powell toss the cash over the last 18 months. I think I even saw him on I-5 in so cal.

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith

            No, the current inflation is the result of supply chain issues, such as not enough chips for cars leading to lower car production and higher prices and more demand for cars generally due to more work at home. High gas prices are due to international oil prices and those are high due to a demand whipsaw resulting in production lagging behind current demand (US oil production is 12% below pre-Covid levels, for instance). Food is high due to supply chain issues…did you miss the shortages of some items?

            Reply
            1. Robert Hahl

              What about real estate prices? I saw land in Maine sell this summer that had sat on the market for years, and heard stories about houses selling above the asking price. I haven’t seen this before in 40 years. People seem to be buying rural land to protect themselves from inflation, not just Covid, and they have the money to speculate too.

              Reply
              1. Robert Hahl

                P.S. There was a small house three doors down my street in VA, which sat vacant for 20 years after the old folks died. It was torn down and replaced with a McMansion this summer. And a rental house across the street now stands vacant for the first time in 30 years and looks like it’s going the way of the McMansion too. Yes this is what happens, but the pace of it doesn’t seem normal.

                Reply
                1. Quentin

                  Some say the market rules. That may be why Iran is shut down, Venezuela is shut down by Washington D.C. because WE have decided they’re bad boys and girls, not our kind of ‘folks’. Yet everything revolves around the market. And now the Europeans are holding back the opening of NS 2. Maybe the Germans and their cohorts will sell the pipeline from Russia to Germany on the market. Yes that same market. Any buyers?

                  Reply
            2. drumlin woodchuckles

              As a mere layman I have to ask, is the “inflation” due to supply shortages really ” inflation” ? Or is it “scarcity pricing”? Either way, the price goes up. But does it make a difference to analytical clarity whether inflation and scarcity pricing are the same thing or whether they are different things?

              Reply
              1. Yves Smith

                I agree that it sure feels like inflation when it hits energy and food prices, which people buy all the time and are a big proportion of middle/lower middle class budgets. And Covid has put us out of bounds compared to old norms re how many product types are hit. But the lack of much labor bargaining power, despite much more worker agitating and withholding of services, means hasn’t yet become old style inflation.

                Reply
    2. Basil Pesto

      In the end, MMT like all “free lunch policies” looks to be no more than an opportunity for the well connected to benefit from free money while sending the bill to everyone else.

      Bugger me sideways, for the 3 trillionth time, MMT is not a “free lunch policy”. It is a framework that explains where money comes from in a post Gold Standard world in jurisdictions that issue a free floating (non-pegged) currency. That’s not a catchy slogan like “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” but it needs to be understood nevertheless.

      It is not in and of itself an opportunity “for the well connected to benefit from free money”. In fact MMT precisely explains how the well connected benefit from free money, while the peons get table scraps. It also explains that we can do better. As a framework, it helps us understand that a vastly superior handling of public money is possible. An understanding of where money comes from imbued in the public to replace the currently received wisdom (“taxes!”) enlightens the people and lets them understand that a post-catfood world is possible.

      It is also not a question of “sending the bill” to everyone else in a strictly pecuniary sense. Taxes do not fund currency-issuer spending in MMT countries like the United States; this is a straightforward, incontrovertible fact. There are however external costs that flow from the “largesse for the best/stinginess for the rest” modus operandi of politicians.

      If you do actually truly want to learn about MMT, you have to go to the primary sources; you can’t rely upon 2nd, 3rd, 4th hand hearsay. I am still waiting for a cogent critique of MMT – and I welcome one, let’s get a bit of socratic dialogue going – that doesn’t mangle, strawman, belittle, or falsify MMT positions.

      Reply
      1. jim truti

        Here is an interesting extract of interview where Jim Grant asked Bill White about MMT.
        GRANT: Bill, I wanted to ask you about this business about record levels of debt. There are those in the financial community who would say, yes, record levels of debt, and record levels of assets. And there is a body of contention, if not a rigorous theory, called Modern Monetary Theory that goes back, I guess, their heyday was the 1940s. Abba Lerner wrote essays that were very cogent and seemed very persuasive. And indeed today, they do persuade.
        00:47:45
        WILLIAM R. WHITE: Do you remember in the original– this is all sort of hearsay, it’s an essay that I read a little while ago about that period– Abba Lerner apparently said what he said at a meeting in Washington apparently. And Keynes was there. And Keynes listened to Lerner and he said something to the effect of, no, that’s just humbug. The government debt can’t rise forever. That’s what he said.

        Reply
        1. Basil Pesto

          I really must reiterate:

          If you do actually truly want to learn about MMT, you have to go to the primary sources; you can’t rely upon 2nd, 3rd, 4th hand hearsay.

          I have no idea why you would listen to Jim Grant and Bill White opining on MMT when, from that passage alone, it’s clear both that they don’t understand it, and have no interest in understanding it. They are dishonest intellectual actors, plain and simple. Furthermore, whether Keynes did in fact say that or not, besides the specific instrument of government
          bonds, there is no government debt. When the government creates money to spend on whatever, socialised medicine or bank bailouts, it is not – cannot be – indebted to anyone. And having got that out the way – MMTists say, repeatedly, that government spending (government “debt”) is not unlimited. This you would know if you could be bothered to read them instead of listening to the aforequoted unserious men.

          Reply
          1. jim truti

            I am superficially familiar with Wray and Kelton’s arguments.
            MMT is not new or modern, chartalism was popular before WWI then it was doomed after the weimar hyperinflation to be resurrected again now under MMT.
            I have no issue with how mmt describes the monetary system.
            I am less convinced by the prescriptions.
            I havent seen one single MMT proponent answer this simple question : If governments can print as much money as they want with impunity, why is there still poverty in the world? After all doesnt every country have a CB capable to print as much money as they want?
            I think we had a little experience of MMT here with government sending checks to people and PPP. The immediate result seem to be that inflation shot above 6%. Yves thinks its because of the supply chain issues and Yves is a smart woman.
            I think time will tell how this gets resolved in the end.
            PS: I have a lot of respect for B White, he is very knowledgable and insightful. I dont know why you call Bill dishonest.

            Reply
            1. Basil Pesto

              I am superficially familiar

              No kidding

              MMT is not new or modern, chartalism was popular before WWI then it was doomed after the weimar hyperinflation to be resurrected again now under MMT.

              The meme that Weimar-style hyperinflation is a natural consequence of major goverment spending has been thoroughly repudiated by MMT academics. It is an unserious analysis of both MMT and Weimar hyperinflation (ditto the examples of Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and so on)

              on the “there’s nothing new about MMT” meme, you can read the first of Bill Mitchell’s three part response to that argument from 2016 here

              I am less convinced by the prescriptions.

              For the three trillion and first time, MMT has no prescriptions. It can’t. Per me two posts ago: “It is a framework that explains where money comes from in a post Gold Standard world in jurisdictions that issue a free floating (non-pegged) currency.”

              There is one possible exception to this, and it is the Job Guarantee advocated by MMT academics. I have said in the past that, at least for laymen like me, this looks like a bit of a Motte and Bailey problem in MMT argumentation. But their argument, as I understand it, is that compared to what we have now (unnecessary unemployment), a job guarantee is a perfectly commonsense alternative buffer stock that redounds to the national commonweal in a way that unemployment obviously doesn’t. In that way it’s less a policy prescription than a no-brainer (here I must admit that I’m not fully au fait with the economic ‘buffer stock’ concept).

              Beyond that, MMT academics have different views on policy depending on their political views, which vary.

              I havent seen one single MMT proponent answer this simple question : If governments can print as much money as they want with impunity, why is there still poverty in the world?

              You cannot be serious. This cannot be a serious statement that I am reading. I mean, for one thing, I just informed you: “MMTists say, repeatedly, that government spending (government “debt”) is not unlimited”. That is to say, your premise, the proposition that “governments can print as much money as they want with impunity” is an absolutely false one that no MMT academic agrees with. Why you choose to ignore that, I don’t know. Maybe that’s what Jim Grant and Bill White say MMT says. But it is a flimsy strawman. And that you precede this with “I havent seen one single MMT proponent answer this simple question” as though it’s a slam dunk is hilarious because, in the first place, it’s obvious from everything you’ve written that you haven’t actually sought out an answer to that or any other question, and in the second place, why on Earth would they answer a leading question whose premise they don’t agree with and never have?

              For another thing, MMT explains clearly that not all countries operate under MMT. USA, Japan, Australia, UK do. Greece, Ireland, most (all?) of LatAm don’t.

              After all doesnt every country have a CB capable to print as much money as they want?

              No. See above.

              I think we had a little experience of MMT here with government sending checks to people and PPP. The immediate result seem to be that inflation shot above 6%.

              It’s the standard correlation problem in analysis of inflation. Correlation is assumed to be causation with scant regard for any other factors; government spending – “free lunch” as you charmingly put it – and inflation occur around the same time, therefore the inflation must be the result of the spending. Nope. This is feeble reasoning. This problem applies as well to analysis of the usual hyperinflation examples that I just mentioned, and MMT academics have analysed these extensively too.
              Yves mentioned supply issues worldwide and that’s certainly a more plausible cause. Another issue – an example of which is discussed in today’s Links – is that many companies who are inflating prices for their consumers also have ridiculously inflated executive compensation, and have had so for years. That these companies choose to increase RRP of their goods instead of decrease that executive compensation to even slightly less obscene amounts should be a fairly sizeable red flag that hey, actually, maybe government spending doesn’t have that much to do with the inflation problem after all.

              Yves certainly is a smart woman. If she thinks I’m leading you up the garden path with the substance of my remarks here, then I’m sure I’ll be on the receiving end of a richly deserved stern rebuke.

              PS: I have a lot of respect for B White, he is very knowledgable and insightful. I dont know why you call Bill dishonest.

              I have no idea who Bill White is. I called him and Jim Grant dishonest and unserious men based solely on the excerpt you quoted, because the analysis contained therein is dishonest and unserious. I admit that that is perhaps an uncharitable assessment of their character as a whole, I don’t know.

              If you do decide that you’re sick of being wrong and would like to begin a good faith investigation into MMT, Bill Mitchell’s blog is imo the best available free resource. He’s addressed repeatedly over the years the various canards and misconceptions you’ve brought up. Unfortunately, it can take a lot of time and patience not just to learn the MMT arguments, but to unlearn the bullshit as well.

              Reply
              1. jim truti

                The idea that the government can just dial the taxes up and down to compensate for inflation as MMT proponents suggest seems so far fetched in practice to anyone with some understanding of how bills get passed in DC.

                Reply
                1. tegnost

                  so it’s better to have the fed conjure with interest rates instead? How’s that working out?
                  Maybe cite something an mmt advocate wrote about taxes to clarify your point.

                  Reply
                2. Basil Pesto

                  It’s important to draw a distinction between what is technically possible, and what is politically possible. If we, collectively, deem things which are technically possible to be politically impossible (like passing rational laws grounded in reality, or covid elimination for example) despite living in a putative democracy, then we really only have our collective selves to blame.

                  Reply
                  1. Jim Truti

                    Agree. In an ideal world many things would make sense that are non starters in the real world. In my opinion, money is neutral. MMT in the end is dilution of the money. Yet another punishment of American savers. We don’t need to go that way.
                    If the US government was serious about revenue it would levy against finance transactions, it would tax finance to the point where it could be drowned in a bathtub. Going further, the US could cease being the provider of dollar credit for every wannabe Stalin. Right now Wall Street directly and indirectly finances America’s adversaries: Russia, China, Iran, North Korea via China, Turkey, dictators and gangs in Central America and Mexico. Why? The US gets cheap junk from China, dope from Mexico and petroleum to burn up for nothing. The real beneficiaries aside from the borrower countries are the banks which gain a seigniorage premium. The US could declare every dollar held outside the US is worthless, requiring repatriation. This would be disruptive, it would be a default, but one that would benefit the United States directly like Roosevelt taking specie out of circulation in 1933. It would also reduce the hazard- and potential costs of military confrontations. If Putin wants to take over the world let him do it on his own dime.

                    Reply
              2. judy2shoes

                Thanks for the link to Bill Mitchell’s blog, and thanks for the informative comments in response to jim truti, who doesn’t appear to want to spend the time to learn about MMT or unlearn the bullshit (judging by his comment above).

                Reply
  11. fresno dan

    “Does QE Cause Wealth Inequality?” [Lynn Alden]. “Nobody should expect wealth to be equal in a society, but when wealth becomes extremely concentrated (way more unequal than usual), it’s often a sign that something isn’t working well and the society shifts towards higher levels of populism.
    ….
    • I thought this was interesting and not full of crank theories; I’d be interested to see what readers think.
    =================================
    Inequality is not some kind of mystery. Both parties bail out the evil and stupid, completly thwarting whatever redistribution effects of the “free market” (housing collapse – socialism for Goldman Sachs, the free market for mortage holders) there are when bankers and associated finance types make decisions to swindle the system for their own gain. NO law enforcement, NO economic enforcement….Both parties refuse to enforce anti trust or do ANYTHING their rich masters don’t want them to do. Tax enforcement is purposely prevented. And low interest rates….for who? Credit cards still carry rates above 20%. C’mon man.

    Reply
    1. Carpediem

      “You should thank God for bank bailouts— absolutely required to save your civilization.  So I think when you have troubles like that you shouldn’t be bitching about a little bailout.  You should have been thinking it should have been bigger.  You should thank God the government saved the big banks and their investors. 
      Now, if you talk about bailouts for everybody else, there comes a place where if you just start bailing out all the individuals instead of telling them to adapt, the culture dies.  Suck it in and cope.” 
      Charlie Munger, Christian Science Monitor,  September 30, 2010

      Reply
      1. Justin

        The bank bailouts could have been structured differently: TARP could have sent money to banks to use as mortgage payments, which would have bailed out the banks and the homeowners.

        Reply
  12. albrt

    New Rochelle!

    Only forty-five minutes from Broadway
    Think of the changes it brings;
    For the short time it takes
    What a diff’rence it makes
    In the ways of the people and things
    Oh! What a fine bunch of rubens
    Oh! what a jay atmosphere;
    They have whiskers like hay
    And imagine Broadway
    Only forty-five minutes from here.

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      Oakland had a system of of local streetcar and bus lines as part of a larger transport system but it was deliberately dismantled in order to convert to buses and regular traffic hence the need for those highways bulldozing their way through those suburbs. And of course a lot of corruption was involved. Quite a story to read here-

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_System

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        And yet car-shamers choose to blame and accuse drivers of not taking the streetcars, trolleys and trains which were carefully abolished decades ago.

        Reply
  13. petal

    URMC adding COVID-19 vaccination requirement for organ transplant waitlist

    “ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The University of Rochester is adding a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for its organ transplant waitlist.

    In a letter obtained by News10NBC, the health system said that patients must get vaccinated for COVID-19 by Jan. 18, 2022, to remain active on its waitlist.

    The letter says patients will be on formal hold until they become vaccinated, or until URMC believes levels of COVID-19 in the community are at a level it deems safe enough to perform transplants on unvaccinated patients.

    It says patients will not lose waitlist time being on hold.

    Patients who have gotten COVID-19 and recovered are not exempt from the requirement, URMC says.

    News10NBC’s Patrick Moussignac asked Strong Memorial Hospital Dr. Jeremy Taylor if patients on the waiting list will be required to get a COVID-19 booster shot to remain on the list since they were part of the first group to receive their shots last year.

    “I think that might be coming at some point. You know right now we’re recommending that all individuals are at least fully vaccinated which is two doses of the mRNA, or just one dose of the Johnson & Johnson. The mRNA vaccine probably is preferable in the transplant population, but yeah certainly at some point in time it might come down to, you know, a third dose,” Taylor said.”

    Reply
    1. allan

      In adjacent news:

      Strong loses more than 200 clinical employees due to vaccine mandate [WXXI]

      Less than a third of the roughly 300 clinical employees at Strong Memorial Hospital who had remained unvaccinated against COVID-19 as of Monday’s deadline changed their minds, hospital officials said.

      New York state health care workers who previously had religious exemptions had until midnight Monday to get at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or face termination.

      On Tuesday, Strong officials reported that 220 of those unvaccinated employees continued to refuse the vaccine. They said the institution will treat them as voluntarily resigning.

      The state mandate went into effect after the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against religious exemptions for staff working in clinical spaces.

      Parrinello said the hospital has been preparing for the staffing shortage this may create.

      “We’re really grateful that many of our employees have decided to pick up extra shifts as well as some of our new hires that we’ve hired since the fall are coming off their orientation period, so they’ll be able to work independently,” Parrinello said during a media briefing Monday. …

      Inspires confidence.

      Reply
      1. petal

        allan, I’ve never had confidence in Strong. I was a pediatric rheumatology patient there in the late 80s-early 90s and we’d have to wait for several hours past my scheduled appointment time to even get in a room(to wait some more), and then the room would have blood, dirty used gloves, and used syringes littered all over it. Every time. I wouldn’t take my proverbial dog there.

        Reply
    2. Objective Ace

      >until URMC believes levels of COVID-19 in the community are at a level it deems safe enough to perform transplants on unvaccinated patients.

      Ignoring that vaccines dont prevent you from getting Covid–Are they not requiring testing before surgeries? Yikes–with the shortage of medical staff going on, I’d definitely stop working at that hospital

      Reply
  14. upstater

    re. Shipping: “Hapag-Lloyd bids to cut soaring network costs by using fewer hub ports”

    Wow, this is deja vu all over again!

    Some Precision Scheduled Railroading consultants, shoved forward by activist hedgies, found fertile ground with with Hapag-Lloyd and likely others. Hub ports are analogous to hump classification yards on railroads. The PSR Kool aid dictates to shut as many facilities as possible and shut down hundreds of paired city “service lanes”, creating longer truck hauls to move boxes from ports or or intermodal terminals to customers. We all know how lucrative drayage around ports has become for drivers.

    Watch NC for reports on how well this works out… what could possibly go wrong with further rationalize physical plant, reducing redundancy and resilience? It has worked great for railroads, look at their share price.

    Everything is broken…

    Reply
  15. Jason Boxman

    So does it make any sense to track the vaccination rate at all anymore? The link from BI Australia earlier today stated that 60% of the US population is ready-to-boost! so we’re apparently past the point when there’s any meaning in the vaccination rate without breaking it out into timespans and number of doses received.

    What a sh** show this all is.

    And we’ve got conservatives still arguing that natural immunity obviates the need for any vaccination at all, when natural immunity also wanes with time!

    It’s gonna be a fun winter. Stay safe!

    Reply
  16. The Rev Kev

    “The $5 Billion Hoard of Metal the World Wants But Can’t Have”

    It sounds like the source of the problem is too many middle-men playing it too smart by half gaming the supply system. Then it got caught up by a U.S.-led anti-dumping investigation in 2019 focusing on a Chinese billionaire which sounds like one of Trump’s ideas to go after China. As a civilization it seems that we are content to amuse ourselves with playing games with supply systems. So the price of oil is too high we say that we cannot let Iran sells their oil onto the word market. The cost of gas is sky-high in Europe but they are refusing to open the spigot on the Nord Stream 2 gas-line which would bring prices right down. There is a problem with aluminium but a mountain of the stuff which could solve that problem cannot be touched because somebody forgot to touch third base. And wasn’t there a story the other day about problems with Canadian maple syrup? I suspect that a lot of these problems have at their source either geopolitics or just plain greed.

    Reply
    1. Noone from Nowheresville.

      The Rev Kev: How soon we forget Goldman Sachs and their gaming of aluminum. To answer eg’s question: No, I don’t think there is anything that can’t be enron-ed.

      2013 NY Times op-ed excerpt

      Unlike investors in the past that bought up the commodities they were trying to control, Goldman is not buying the world’s aluminum. Rather, it is storing the metal for other banks, traders and aluminum producers in a complex of warehouses outside Detroit that it acquired in 2010. The problem, as described in The Times by David Kocieniewski, is that since the bank entered this business, the time it takes buyers to get the metal from those warehouses has shot up to more than 16 months, from 6 weeks. Goldman has attributed the delays to a shortage of trucks and forklift drivers. But Goldman also pays incentives to owners of the metal to keep it in the bank’s warehouses.

      I remembered the original headline but missed this Senate investigation. Don’t remember anything about the uranium issue from that time period so I’m just starting to read the report now.

      Here’s a link to the Senate Subcommittee which investigated Wall Street Bank Involvement With Physical Commodities. Goes beyond Goldman and Aluminum Nov 2014 400 page report.

      https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/subcommittees/investigations/hearings/wall-street-bank-involvement-with-physical-commodities-day-one

      For more than a decade, the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has
      investigated and presented case histories on the workings of the commodities markets, with the
      objective of ensuring well-functioning markets with market-based prices, effective hedging tools,
      and safeguards against market manipulation, conflicts of interest, and excessive speculation.
      Past investigations have presented case studies on pricing gasoline; exposing a $6 billion
      manipulation of natural gas prices by a hedge fund called Amaranth; closing the Enron loophole
      impeding energy market oversight; tracing excessive speculation in the crude oil and wheat
      markets; exposing the increased role of mutual funds, exchange traded funds, and other financial
      firms in commodity speculation; and revitalizing position limits as tools to combat market
      manipulation and excessive speculation.1

      This investigation focuses on the recent rise of banks and bank holding companies as
      major players in the physical markets for commodities and related businesses. It presents case
      studies of three major U.S. bank holding companies, Goldman Sachs,2 JPMorgan Chase,3 and
      Morgan Stanley that over the last ten years were the largest bank holding company participants
      in physical commodity activities. Those activities included trading uranium, operating coal
      mines, running warehouses that store metal, stockpiling aluminum and copper, operating oil and
      gas pipelines, planning to build a compressed natural gas facility, acquiring a natural gas pipeline
      company, selling jet fuel to airlines, and operating power plants.

      Reply
  17. The Rev Kev

    “Will Redistricting Make AOC Westchester’s Congresswoman?”

    Sounds like to me that the DNC is yanking AOC’s leash hard to remind her how they can mess up her re-election plans.

    Reply
  18. JTMcPhee

    The US is not France, so it’s unlikely the Gilets Jaunes phenomenon could ever be duplicated and improved on here. But the French sans culottes have kept the low level rumbling of mutiny against their set of neoliberal looters for three years plus, for anyone who wants to take some comfort that such a sustained revolt is possible. Not much reporting on the phenomenon in the MSM of course, but here’s a fun article that reports the continuity of it and claims the genesis was an “anti-Green” reaction to a tax on gasoline and emphasizes attacks on “property.” https://www.msn.com/en-ae/news/world/france-struggles-to-contain-revival-of-the-yellow-vests-protests-three-years-on/ar-AAQObUS

    From the article:

    Other organisers cling to the hope of a renaissance. Khider Mesloub, who took part in the protests and co-wrote a book on the gilets jaunes, says a weakening of spending power and more expensive essentials could spark a “season two”. He speculates that disaffection could spread beyond France.

    There is little to suggest this is likely. Intelligence services looking for signs of a significant rebound of the movement, such as blocked roundabouts, have detected only a patchy resurgence. While protests have been staged in several towns and cities, turnouts are described as “timid” or “feeble”.

    But in a volatile country with a long history of noisy street politics, there is recognition that one false move by government or police could change everything. The broadcaster Europe 1 reported on a confidential study that said the conditions for revolt are present. “One poorly understood measure, one development or some polemic could light the gunpowder,” it said.

    So very different from the Dying Empire, then?

    Reply
  19. Objective Ace

    >“How A History Of Racial Discrimination Created ‘Islands of Disadvantage’ In Northern Virginia

    As someone who lives in one of those “Islands of Disadvantage”, I don’t really buy what the article is saying. Some of these islands themselves had restrictive covenants in the 50s and 60s. Restrictive covenants that may have forced minorities to move around decades ago plays little bearing on the current makeup of these islands.

    The article does get a many things right though–poor people, more likely to be minorities, tend to buy in cheaper areas. Cheaper areas tend to have less public services (and more gangs like ms-13) which perpetuates the cycle. But this is the case in every city and state across the country–it has nothing to do with centuries of discrimination. The fact that most minorities in these Islands of Poverty are hispanic rather then black should have been an immediate tip off

    Reply
  20. FDW

    Oakland had more than just the Key System. The Key System were just (some) of the lines connecting to the Ferries into SF, and later via the Bay Bridge. Playing a similar role to the Key System were Southern Pacific’s Interurban Electric Railway, and the Western Pacific’s Sacramento Northern Railway. In addition, the Key System owned the East Bay Railway, which at one point operated one of the longest streetcar lines in the US.

    Of the Key System Routes, the only one that continues to survive in some form as an all Bus Route is the F. And it’s route that I would rather not have, as it existing gets in the way of just having a single route that runs the entire length of the main street it runs on in the East Bay.

    Reply
  21. FriarTuck

    Re: 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.

    I have an idea for a name for the network.

    The “iron cordon”.

    Cordon, n.
    1. a line or circle of police, soldiers, or guards preventing access to or from an area or building.

    Reply

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