2:00PM Water Cooler 12/13/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

A migratory bird with an unexpectedly pretty song.

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On the word “mild.” To me, “mild” means “status quo,” i.e. “We’re enduring the present situation, and what is to come will be no worse.” Well, the present situation, whether you look at cases, deaths, or hospitalizations — isn’t mild at all. In a civilized country, 812,205 deaths — we lost 750,000 in the Civil War — would be regarded as a catastrophe. Yet we soldier on. It’s weird. I don’t understand the mass psychology at all.

Lambert here: From Yves’ cross-post Friday, it looks like CDC’s vaccination numbers are off, whether accidentally or on purpose we do not yet know. However, given that “Everything is like CalPERS,” one would certainly give consideration to the latter thesis. The question is how far the rot goes. It would be remarkable if CDC, so bungling in other respects, were able to game all all of its data (particularly since data collection and processing are so fragmented, and also because Johns Hopkins ought to be serving as a check). It also occurs to me that “Vax vax vax” gives CDC a strong incentive to massage that particular dataset, and the rationalization to do so; the public health establishment lies all the time, as we know. In any case, all the data is already known to be bad, because this is America. It’s useful to cross-check the official narrative, however, since nobody can look at cases, hospitalization, and deaths, even as they are, and assume that the pandemic is anything like over. The same was true for “Hot Vax Summer.” So, for now, I will carry on, but do add a truckload of salts to the Vaccination data. Of course, I could always curate a wastewater collection instead; there’s a reasonable number of them now.

Vaccination by region:

A roller coaster. More data problems? (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.)

60.8% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, such as it is, as of December 9. Becker’s is pretty good for a trade journal. So we’ll watch to see what they say on CDC’s potentially massaged vax data.) We have broken the important 60% psychological barrier! Mediocre by world standards, being just below Estonia, and just above Peru in the Financial Times league tables as of this Monday). Over the weekend, the stately 0.1% rise per day returns. I would bet that the stately rise = word of mouth from actual cases. Or perhaps the numbers are being managed, like earnings. However, as readers point out, every day those vaccinated become less protected from severe illness and hospitalization, especially the earliest. So we are trying to outrun the Delta… With Omicron coming up fast on the outside!

Case count by United States regions:

Fiddling and diddling (which often happens at peaks), now on the way down. As happened in 2020, I would expect a second, higher peak, from Omicron if for now other reason. The Midwest’s numbers are down, so here is that chart:

Not as encouraging as it might be. The drop, and hence a big part of the fiddling and diddling, is due to Illinois.

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

One of the sources of the idea that Covid is on the way out, I would speculate, is the CDC’s modeling hub (whose projections also seem to have been used to justify school re-opening). Here is the current 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. Not updated:

Case data (black dotted line) has been within the tolerance of the models; it does not conform to the models’ average (black line), but it stays within aggregated predictions (the grey area).

I wrote: “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. The case data still looks like it’s trying to break out of the grey area. We shall see.” The case data has now broken out of the grey area (see at “Oopsie!”). Since the models are aggregated conventional wisdom, it’s not fair to call them propaganda, exactly. Nevertheless. conventional wisdom is looking a little shaky, and anybody who relied on them to predict that we would be “back to normal” by early next year should be taking another look at their assumptions. And this is — I assume — before Omicron!

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection, not updated:

A steep drop in the average, like the last peak. We’ll see if gets choppy again, or not.

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” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties:

West Coast better, Maine worse. More flecks of red. 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 trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 817,956 815,413. Modest rise. At this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s.

Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid), not updated:

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 America. Needless to see, this death rate is a public health debacle. It’s the public health establishment’s duty to take care of public health, not the health of certain favored political factions. Also adding: I like a death rate because it gives me a rough indication of my risk should I, heaven forfend, end up in a hospital.)

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

South Africa’s rise looks linear, even though this is a log scale. In fact, it accelerates. Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away.


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Biden Administration

College debt:

“Biden sharply criticizes Kellogg’s plan to replace striking unionized workers” [NBC]. • Thank you for sharing your feelings. Now do something! (I suppose a “sharp criticism” is one level above a “sternly worded letter,” but doesn’t rise to the level of a “rebuke.”

“Harris announces private investments in Central America” [ABC]. “Vice President Kamala Harris is announcing $1.2 billion in commitments from international businesses to support the economies and social infrastructure of Central American nations.” • A billion? A mere billion? And not even government money?

“One year in, Kamala Harris says she won’t be distracted by ‘ridiculous’ headlines” [San Francisco Chronicle]. I read this carefully, and this is the only decent quote: “‘When the team goes up it goes up, when the team goes down it goes down, but they’re a team — and I think they have operated as a team and a partnership,’ [Donna] Brazile said. ‘I often tell my friends in the media, why would you separate them, because they were a ticket? How do you have mashed potatoes without gravy? Well, you can have mashed potatoes, but you can’t have the presidency without the vice presidency.” • I’m having a hard time disentangling that metaphor. Is the gravy gravy of color, to counteract the whiteness of the mashed potatoes

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.

For an example of the class power that the PMC can wield, look no further than RussiaGate. All the working parts of the Democrat Party fired on all cylinders to cripple an elected President; it was very effective, and went on for years. Now imagine that the same Party had worked, during Covid, to create an alternative narrative — see Ferguson et al., supra, to see what such a narrative might have looked like, and with the unions (especially teachers) involved. At the very least, the Biden Administration would have had a plan, and the ground prepared for it. At the best, a “parallel government” (Gene Sharp #198) would have emerged, ready to take power in 2020. Instead, all we got was [genuflects] Tony Fauci. And Cuomo and Newsom butchering their respective Blue States, of course. The difference? With RussiaGate, Democrats were preventing governance. In my alternative scenario, they would have been preparing for it.

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.

Showing the PMC’s inability to govern, as a class they seem unable to expand their scope of operations into new fields. Consider the possibilities of the “Swiss Cheese Model.” Layered defenses include extensive testing, contact tracing, ventilation systems (not merely blue collar HVAC work, but design and evaluation), and quarantines. If we look at each layer as a jobs guarantee for credentialed professionals and managers, like ObamaCare, the opportunities are tremendous (and that’s before we get to all the training and consulting). And yet the PMC hasn’t advocated for this model at all. Instead, we get authoritarian followership (Fauci) and a totalizing and tribalizing faith in an extremely risky vax-only solution. Why? It’s almost as if they’re “acting against their own self-interest,” and I don’t pretend to understand it.

And I’m not the only one who’s puzzled. “Even if you…

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“Drought Conditions w/Special Guest Jennifer Briney” (podcast) [The West Wing Thing]. “Jen Briney from Congressional Dish joins us to witness a truly massive return to Sorkinian misogyny on this week’s episode. Plus, Josh cries while reading his acceptance speech.” • This podcast is gradually turning into a political show, and a very good one (though not abandoning its “West Wing Brain” roots). There’s guest coverage of the San Francisco recall elections, Briney also covers the Infrastructure Bill, and I think I heard somebody crying while they read Clinton’s never-before-given victory speech. I like this podcast a lot. (Also, the voices are such that I can fall asleep listening, a key requirement for me.)

Stats Watch

Inflation: “United States Consumer Inflation Expectations” [Trading Economics]. “US consumer inflation expectations for the year ahead edged up to a fresh record of 6% in November of 2021 from 5.7% in October. Consumers conveyed increased uncertainty about future inflation. Year-ahead spending growth expectations rose to a new series high. Home price growth expectations declined slightly (5% vs 5.6%, the lowest since March), while remaining elevated. Also, medium-term inflation expectations edged down to 4% from 4.2%, the first decline since June 2021, and only the second decline since October 2020. ”

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The Bezzle: “What Intellectuals Still Don’t Get About Crypto” [Michael J. Casey, CoinDesk]. A rejoinder to Stoller’s article. “Not doing so is where Stoller sells himself short. In describing – and thereby dismissing – cryptocurrencies as “a social movement based on the belief that markings in a ledger on the internet have intrinsic value,” he loses sight of how that exact same description can be applied to all money. As we’ve discussed in prior editions of this column, the essence of money doesn’t lie in the thing we use to represent it – the gold coin, the banknote, the wampum – but in its function as a record-keeping device, the means by which society keeps track of everyone’s debit and credits and by which our debts to each other are cleared. Money is, quite literally, “markings in a ledger” – albeit one that now integrates bank account entries with the physical transfer of tokenized “counting tools” (coins and banknotes).” • Lol. The dollar has value has value because you can and must pay your taxes with it (q.v. MMT). When crypto does that, it too will have all the power the dollar does. Which would doubtless make a lot of crypto people rich, if they’re willing to sacrifice any vestige of ideological consistency.

The Bezzle:

Tech: “Startup Pitched Tasing Migrants From Drones, Video Reveals” [The Intercept]. “BRINC, a rising star among the many companies jockeying to sell drones to police, has a compelling founding mythology: In the wake of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, its young founder decided to aid law enforcement agencies through the use of nonviolent robots. A company promotional video obtained by The Intercept, however, reveals a different vision: Selling stun gun-armed drones to attack migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The company’s ascendant founder and CEO, Blake Resnick, recently appeared on Fox Business News to celebrate a venture capital coup: $25 million from Silicon Valley A-listers like Sam Altman, ex-LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner’s Next Play Ventures, and former acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan. The 21-year-old Resnick, [is] a Thiel fellow and a new inductee to the prestigious Forbes ’30 Under 30′ list in the category of social impact….” • Peter Thiel, eh? Maybe Resnick could be spreading some positive energy by using his money for good. Like robot drones to deliver Thiel blood bags….

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 30 Fear (previous close: 38 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 25 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 13 at 11:34am.

Rapture Index: Close up one on Oil Supply/Price. “Oil prices have bounced back from recent lows” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 184. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so higher is better.) Wait ’til Roe….

Health Care

“Ebola: translational science considerations” [Journal of Translational Medicine]. From 2018, still germane, for reasons that will appear. Contrary to conventional wisdom, (1) it’s possible that Ebola virus (EBOV) might spread asymptomatically. “[I]t is widely believed that transmission of EBOV can only occur from a patient who clearly manifests symptoms [1,2]; however, ‘…there is no proof that a person infected – but lacking symptoms – could not spread the virus to others…’ (David Willman, Ebola experts urge greater caution, Los Angeles Times, Tuesday October 7, pp. A1 & A10). In fact, the rationale for this position, strictly on immunopathological grounds is unclear at best and at worst categorically unfounded. The statement is apparently based on the findings obtained from the previous outbreaks. Nonetheless, scant data are available to generate statistical inference of sufficient power to warrant such assertion. In brief, it is possible, or at least not improbable, based on biological and statistical evaluation of the evidence, that EBOV is contagious well before symptoms are noted.” Also, (2) EBOV, originally thought to spread by contact, might spread via aerosols. “The aggressive nature of the outbreak presently in course seems to suggest that the current species of EBOV may in fact already have mutated and evolved into a more virulent form than originally expected, with contagion potential beyond exposure to body fluids of patients actively showing symptoms, as Richard E. Besser, MD, former CDC acting director, suggests. It is possible, he and others at CDC argue, that the Ebola virus could already spread ‘…through the air in tight quarters…’; and Tim Skinner, CDC spokesman, added that CDC is presently exploring whether and how the US should modify its policy to face this world-wide health threat. The contributions of environmental factors to EBOV transmission are not fully understood to this date.” • Asymptomatic spread, airbone spread, not the conventional wisdom…. Does any of this sound familiar. At this point, we remember that Ron Klain, Biden’s Chief of Staff, was Obama’s Ebola czar. So one might wonder whether Klain cleaves to the conventional wisdom and, if so, whether his experience with Ebola predisposed him to react to Covid in a particular way.

“Torn Muscle? Hold the Drugs or Surgery—Massage May Be the Best Medicine” [Nautilus]. “If you’re an athlete—even a very occasional one—odds are you’ve dealt with a muscle injury at some point. After all, muscle injuries account for 10 to 55 percent of sports traumas. Often they’re just a nuisance—say, a minor strain that takes you a couple days to get back on your feet. But severely injured muscles, such as muscles that have been torn, frequently require treatment involving medication and invasive surgeries, and recovery can take a long time. However, recent research suggests that something as simple as massaging the injury site can speed up healing. A study recently published in Science Translational Medicine found that massage therapy can directly improve the regeneration of severely injured muscles. Not only that, but the benefits from “mechanotherapy”—the scientific term for massage—may be comparable to the more invasive pharmaceutical and surgical interventions.” • Interesting….

The Biosphere

Lambert here: A bit of a pantry clear-out on the biosphere today.

“Natural Capital” (International Advertorial) (Paid Post For HSBC) [CNBC]. “Perhaps the greatest irony in finance is that the world’s oldest asset class is also its least understood and invested in. Natural capital consists of a web of biodiverse ecosystems which deliver essential services to mankind. Not just air, food, and water, but building materials, energy sources, and medicines. In short, almost everything we need to survive and thrive…. The World Economic Forum estimates that over $40 trillion of economic value generation, more than half the world’s output, is moderately or highly dependent on nature. Yet around a fifth of countries are at risk of ecosystem collapse.” • Here it comes….

“Wildfires of Varying Intensity Can Be Good for Biodiversity” [Quanta]. “The longer that Roberts and other ecologists have studied fire-prone landscapes, the more they are discovering that these regular conflagrations play a key role in driving and maintaining the area’s biodiversity. Studies of Northern California’s parched hills and other areas in the western United States testify to that conclusion, along with abundant research from South Africa and Australia…. Many plants depend on fire, said Alexandra Syphard, a senior research associate at the Conservation Biology Institute, and ‘certain critters depend on those plants, [and] other critters depend on those critters. And so there’s an entire structure of dependency,’ she said. ‘Fire, because it occurred at a certain frequency naturally, is an integral part of that system.’ Far from destroying life, she said, wildfires help to stimulate its rebirth. It’s a major shift from more than a century of U.S. Forest Service policy that made fire suppression a top priority. But as wildfires continue to increase in frequency and severity in the American West and around the world, biologists are beginning to rethink their long-held beliefs about fire. The idea of allowing some wildfires to burn has been popular in conservation for a while, but only recently — because of the wealth of data made available from terrible fires in the past decade or so — have ecologists been able to quantify the effects on biodiversity and to recognize the levels of nuance and complexity at work. Viewing fire as a positive force in biodiversity and evolution will create a positive feedback loop that not only improves the world around us but also helps to prevent future megafires, said Ryan Burnett, Sierra Nevada group director at Point Blue.”

“Wildfire response to changing daily temperature extremes in California’s Sierra Nevada” [Science]. “Burned area has increased across California, especially in the Sierra Nevada range. Recent fires there have had devasting social, economic, and ecosystem impacts. To understand the consequences of new extremes in fire weather, here we quantify the sensitivity of wildfire occurrence and burned area in the Sierra Nevada to daily meteorological variables during 2001–2020. We find that the likelihood of fire occurrence increases nonlinearly with daily temperature during summer, with a 1°C increase yielding a 19 to 22% increase in risk. Area burned has a similar, nonlinear sensitivity, with 1°C of warming yielding a 22 to 25% increase in risk. Solely considering changes in summer daily temperatures from climate model projections, we estimate that by the 2040s, fire number will increase by 51 ± 32%, and burned area will increase by 59 ± 33%. These trends highlight the threat posed to fire management by hotter and drier summers.”

“Snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada could disappear in just 25 years” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “As the climate continues to warm, more and more of the snow falling on California’s mountains will be replaced by rain. Already in recent decades, the snow season has shrunk by a month, according to one estimate, while snow levels have moved upward by 1,200 feet, according to another. Scientists and water managers say that at some point California’s snowpack could simply disappear. This would leave the state without the crucial spring and summer melt-off that fills rivers and streams, nourishes plants and animals, and provides a huge chunk of the water supply. It would also be devastating for the ski industry. This snowless future, according to a new study led by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, could arrive in California’s Sierra Nevada in as soon as 25 years. The study is among many to detail the decline in snow, but it’s unique in synthesizing decades of research to nail down exactly when the snow might be gone. And it offers a timeline that is alarmingly short.”

“Climate change increases rare earth elements in Colorado’s Snake River” [High Country News]. “[T]he Snake [River] could be heading for troubled waters: According to a recent study, climate change-driven changes in its hydrology are releasing more rare earth elements. It’s a finding that could have broader implications for water quality across the West. The study, published last month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that higher levels of rare earth elements — a group of chemically similar metals — are ending up in Colorado’s water supply due to lower stream flows caused by drought and a shrinking winter snowpack. Lower stream flows mean that metals are not as diluted as they’ve been in the past. While previous research has connected this phenomenon to an increase in zinc concentrations, the latest study is the first to look at rare earth elements.”

“Is Your Neighborhood A Toxic Wasteland?” [The Brockovich Report]. “Her love for Kalamazoo stayed strong, and she bought another home in her neighborhood in Kalamazoo. Within days of moving in, her eyes started burning when she stepped outside. She bought some eye drops but they didn’t help. She went back to her doctor for allergy eye drops, but those didn’t work either. She started talking to her neighbors in the predominantly Black community. It turned out that many of them had asthma as well, along with COPD and burning eyes. She contacted the local wastewater plant and found out that they had been monitoring for hydrogen sulfide, but the public hadn’t been notified about it. She kept researching, making Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the city of Kalamazoo. She found an odor study from 2009 that showed gas leaks at Graphic Packaging and the wastewater treatment site (located next to the plant). And there were more violations.” • Battle ongoing. Basically, this:

“Battle over Jordan Cove energy project is over after developers pull plug” [Oregon Public Broadcasting]. “The bitter and protracted battle over the Jordan Cove Energy Project has finally come to a close. The Calgary-based Pembina company formally asked federal energy regulators Wednesday to withdraw authorizations for the proposed pipeline and liquified natural gas export terminal in southwest Oregon. Pembina’s plan called for a 229-mile-long natural gas pipeline that would have run from Malin, Oregon, on the California border, over the Coast Range to Coos Bay. The gas would then have been super-cooled into a liquified form (LNG), loaded onto ships and exported to Asia. The proposal raised concerns about environmental impacts to waterways and wildlife habitat. It was also expected to become the largest single emitter of greenhouse gasses in Oregon. Jordan Cove was given a key permit in March 2020 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which included the right of eminent domain. That would have allowed the company to force property owners along the pipeline route to sell land to Pembina. But proceeding with construction under that authorization was contingent on Jordan Cove obtaining required permissions from the State of Oregon. After several rounds of back-and-forth, Pembina was unable to convince Oregon state regulators that the proposal could meet environmental standards. Last May, Jordan Cove officials announced they were ‘pausing’ the project to consider their options. A coalition of affected landowners — plus environmental groups, tribes and the State of Oregon — appealed to FERC to rescind its authorization of the Jordan Cove project. When FERC declined, the group appealed to federal court. A recent ruling in the District of Columbia Circuit sent the case back to FERC, which led the commission to ask all parties to submit updated briefs. In particular, FERC asked Pembina to ‘clarify’ their intentions. In response, Jordan Cove on Wednesday filed a brief effectively pulling the plug on the project, more than a decade in the making.” • Battle won! (Note the involvement of the tribes. I would like to know whether involving the tribes is a leading indicator for success in these battles. I’m guessing yes.)

“After Years of Pushing for Prairie Strips, This Ecologist Won a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant” (interview) [Lisa Schulte Moore, Civil Eats]. “Ecologist Lisa Schulte Moore is changing the agricultural landscape one prairie strip at a time. These swathes of native prairie strategically planted on farmland as contour buffers or edge-of-field filters are an ecological wonder. Not only do they help control erosion and mitigate climate change, but they also improve soil health, water quality, and biodiversity. And few have done more to promote their use than Schulte Moore, who has worked across communities and disciplines to bring the benefits of prairie strips to the Corn Belt and beyond.” Schulte Moore: “Ongoing research is demonstrating a clear climate benefit. Javed Iqbal [a soil scientist at Iowa State] published a paper looking at nitrous oxide conditions: If you have the prairie strip on the lower quarter of a hill’s slope—the portion of the slope that tends to be more inundated with water and prone to nitrous oxide [the most potent greenhouse gas] emissions—you reduce those emissions by 75 percent. Nitrous oxide has nearly 300 times the warming impact of carbon dioxide. We also have data on storage of soil organic carbon. What we’re seeing is a consistent rate of removal of CO2 from the atmosphere and storage of soil organic carbon.”

““Vulture bees” evolved a taste for flesh—and their microbiomes reflect that” [Ars Technica]. “According to the authors—entomologists who hail from the University of California, Riverside (UCR), the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Columbia University, and the American Museum of Natural History—most bees are essentially ‘wasps that switched to a vegetarian lifestyle.’ But there are two recorded examples of bumblebees feeding on carrion dating back to 1758 and 1837, and some species are known to occasionally feed on carrion in addition to foraging for nectar and pollen. (They are considered ‘facultatively necrophages,’ as opposed to vulture bees, which are deemed ‘obligate necrophages’ because they only eat meat.)…. The vulture bees often entered a carcass via the eyes, similar to maggots, and Roubik made particular note of just how efficiently they could consume a carcass. A large lizard was reduced to a skeleton over two days, while the bees took just eight hours to remove all feathers and flesh from the head of a dead passerine. They reduced two frogs to skeletons in six hours. Because they fed on carrion rather than collecting pollen, this species had a distinctive hind leg, with a drastically reduced pollen basket compared to ‘vegetarian’ bees.” •

“How Vermont Became an Unlikely Hotbed for Saffron” [Modern Farmer]. “Renowned for its flavor, aroma and brilliant red-gold color for centuries, saffron is one of the world’s most prized—and expensive—spices, regularly selling for thousands of dollars per pound. And while the vast majority of the world’s saffron is grown in Iran and Spain, a burgeoning community of Vermont farmers are finding that the crop grows extraordinarily well in their climate, too…. The Pennsylvania Dutch have been growing saffron in America for 300 years, Skinner points out, so cultivating the brilliant purple, red gold-filled flowers isn’t new to the US, or to the East Coast. ‘But commercially, it is,’ she says, and it’s a good fit in many ways. Saffron blooms in late fall, after most other crops are done for the year in the Northeast, providing farmers extra income in the off-season. ‘It lends itself to really being able to supplement another larger agricultural business,’ adds Leven, who, in addition to his two tunnels of saffron, also grows mushrooms and horseradish.”

Sports Desk

“Army Receives 15-Yard Penalty For Drone-Striking The Kicker” [The Onion]. “You’ve got to save those drone strikes for ball carriers, and keep the drone strikes to a minimum on special teams.”

Zeitgeist Watch

First-ever Dash For Cash. $5,000 is up for grabs for teachers to use in their classrooms. The exclamation point in “Here they go!” really gets to me:

If they gave those teachers guns, you’d really have something.

“You Don’t Need Permission For Joy” [Defector]. “On a whim one of those days, I decided to spend my day online listening to BTS videos on YouTube. I started with “Dynamite,” then hopped around some. At some point the algorithm gave me a live performance of the song “Lie,” off the group’s 2016 album Wings. It’s a dark song, enough so that I compulsively apologize to people when I tell them it’s the song that sent me head-first into BTS fandom. I wish I had a happier answer—the pastel joyride of “Boy With Luv” or the chest-thumping boldness of “MIC DROP.” But it was “Lie.” Somehow, even before I tracked down the song’s lyrics translated into English, I knew what the song was about, a lament on staving off darkness, impostor syndrome, and doubt. The singer is Jimin, the last member to join the group, the one with the shortest training period, the one management had considered kicking out of the group, the one with a notorious perfectionist streak. I hadn’t learned any of that yet, but I heard the song and I understood it. I watched this video on a loop dozens of times. Then, I messaged my friends that I totally understood this whole BTS phenomenon now, and was going to go all-in.”

L’Affaire Joffrey Epstein

“Analysis: Accusers place Ghislaine Maxwell at center of Epstein’s abuse, experts say” [Reuters]. “Two weeks of emotional, explicit testimony at Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex abuse trial from four women who said the British socialite groomed them as teenagers for deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein could largely undercut the defense’s argument that prosecutors are using Maxwell as a scapegoat, legal experts said. The women – who say they met Maxwell at different times in places as far flung as Florida, New Mexico and London – all portrayed her as central to the sexual encounters they had with Epstein.”

“Ghislaine Maxwell Trial: Day 10” (podcast) [TrueAnon]. “Trial day 10. Annie Farmer.” • TrueAnon are present at the trial. Listen for the sensibility, not legal subtleties. That said, this episode gradually became so creepy I had to stop listening. Epstein and Maxwell are not nice people, not nice people at all. Peter Thiel’s blood bags, Cuddle puddles. American gentry. I am no prude, gawd knows, but…. These are not nice people. Not nice people at all. On the bright side, at least they’re not lizards. (Oh, it has occurred to me that one reason the prosecution rested so soon, and the defense so ham-handed, is that nothing, nothing, nothing pertaining to Epstein’s little black books (or the flight logs) must be put on the record….

Class Warfare

“A TikToker said he wrote code to flood Kellogg with bogus job applications after the company announced it would permanently replace striking workers” [Business Insider]. “Kellogg announced on Wednesday that it would replace almost 1,400 unionized workers after the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers union rejected a pay deal. The workers have been on strike since October over what they say is unfair pay and benefits…. An activist on TikTok posted code online meant to flood the Kellogg website with fake job applications in protest against the company’s decision to permanently replace striking workers…. A user with the handle BloominFunions posted links to the four job applications and encouraged the subreddit’s 1.3 million-strong membership to individually submit fake applications, or as they put it, ‘clog their toilet of an application pipeline.'” • Also, boycott:

News of the Wired

“Meet your new A.I. best friend” [Fortune]. “Imagine a future where people elect to have an A.I. companion whose relationship with you begins at birth, reading everything from your grades at school to analyzing your emotions after social interactions. Connecting your diary, your medical data, your smart home, and your social media platforms, the companion can know you as well as you know yourself. It can even become a skilled coach helping you to overcome your negative thinking patterns or bad habits. It can provide guidance and gently nudge you towards what you want to accomplish, encouraging you to overcome what’s holding you back. Drawing on data gathered across your lifetime, a predictive algorithm could activate when you reach a crossroads. Your life trajectory, if you choose to study politics over economics, or start a career in engineering over coding, could be mapped before your eyes. By illustrating your potential futures, these emerging technologies could empower you to make the most informed decisions and help you be the best version of yourself. For some, this may seem like a tech invasion, an infringement of our capabilities as independent beings. But a new generation of digital natives is welcoming these new technologies, with studies from KPMG [I’ll bet] revealing that Gen Z and millennials are almost twice as trusting of A.I. than their boomer counterparts. By deeply integrating A.I. into our everyday lives from birth, it can become a second self who can take us on a journey and even give us a glimpse into our future.” • Do any readers know anybody, of any generation, who thinks this doesn’t describe a dystopia?

* * *

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

WB writes: “The garlic chives are loving the first real snowfall of the year.” Gorgeous!

* * *

Readers, thank you for all the plant pictures!

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. TBellT

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

    Should there be a yellow circle on Florida? Though the arrow doesnt seem to match the graph.

  2. peter

    I dislike the civil war comparison for deaths. I mean the equivalent would probably be something like 8 million covid deaths.

    1. jsn

      So the value of our lives depreciates according to our numbers?

      There’s a total “value of human life” and each human you add just increases the denominator under that numerator?

      Is that your point?

      1. Objective Ace

        >So the value of our lives depreciates according to our numbers?

        No. But you need to do your numerator over the denominator for all the positive things too. There’s decreasing marginal returns to preventing additional deaths and injuries, and the money/benefits required to completely remove every death can become prohibitively expensive

        If its relatively cheap to save lives–by say requiring seat belts or including warning labels on alcohol and cigarettes–we do that. If it becomes extremely expensive to save lives–by say eliminating all cars and trucks or prohibiting alcohol entirely–we do not do that. Doing so (trying to eliminate all the deaths from one specific source) can actually result in more net deaths as other areas of public health are ignored.

        This isn’t to say the US public health has settled on a good mix–trying to get the most bang for our buck so to speak. Obviously we havent. But focusing on raw numbers, and especially comparing them to the raw numbers when the country was 1/10th the size is in no way useful

      2. Nothing

        I think peter’s a good guy who’s just pointing out a weakness in the argument. If I’m in a conversation and mention that there’s more deaths from Covid then in the civil war, and my friend challenges me by arguing that adjusted for inflation I’m wrong… and then we’re both in semantics arguing about what’s comparable regarding young soldiers vs older covid deaths vs amputations vs long covid… we’ve lost track of the original point and in the end no one’s going to change their opinion.

        I do understand Lambert’s overall point though, 800K deaths is horrific and the number is increasing by 1000 per day! But that just seems to be handwaved somehow rather than be seen as a call to action or for some soul-searching to be done.

        1. jsn

          It’s an appalling number.

          It was in 1865 and it is now.

          If you can rationalize it’s better, congratulations, you’re an Economist.

          1. Objective Ace

            Who is rationalizing it? 800,000 deaths is terrible. As are the other 2.5 million annual deaths a year in the US for reasons other then Covid. As are the 600,000 malaria deaths a year. As were the tens of millions of people who died of the bubonic plague (half of Europe’s population). As were the 55 million native americans who died from diseases Europeans brought over here (90 percent of the population)

            Sorry.. I’ve lost my train of thought–what were we discussing and what was its relevance? That’s the problem with comparing entirely different places and times, not that one is bad and the other is not

        2. K.k

          Yes a thousand a day for months now, nearly 100,000 in the the past few months alone. Thats a 9/11 every few days. A totally acceptable number as long as capital can flow freely and be accumulated.

  3. Wukchumni

    “Harris announces private investments in Central America” [ABC]. “Vice President Kamala Harris is announcing $1.2 billion in commitments from international businesses to support the economies and social infrastructure of Central American nations.” • A billion? A mere billion? And not even government money?
    I like to give in America,
    Okay by me in America,
    Everything free in America
    For a small fee in America

    Multi-wokersterism, my heart’s devotion,
    Please don’t come by ocean,
    Always the hurricanes blowing,
    Always the population growing
    And the money owing,
    And the sunlight streaming,
    And the natives steaming
    I like to cackle too, (I know you do)
    Smoke out Joe,
    And put me in

    Life can be bright in America,
    If you can fight in America
    Life is all right in America,
    If you bide your time in America

    1. Judith

      Why do I think this will turn in a repeat of the United Fruit debacle in Central America? Financial torture instead of physical torture.

      Among the new initiatives announced Monday are a push by Nespresso to support coffee-growing in Honduras and El Salvador, a Microsoft initiative to connect millions of people to the Internet and a $100 million commitment to the region by Mastercard to promote digital payments and e-commerce.

  4. saywhat?

    In a civilized country, 812,205 deaths — we lost 750,000 in the Civil War — would be regarded as a catastrophe. Yet we soldier on. It’s weird. I don’t understand the mass psychology at all. lambert

    There’s a huge difference between dying (or being crippled) at age 15,16, 17, etc and dying in one’s old age with a long life behind them.

    That said, I expect some will eventually be held to account for such horrors as “Come back when you can’t breath.”

    1. diptherio

      What is the point of this comment? It’s not so bad because only old people are dying? I guess you’ve been lucky enough not to know anybody in their 30s or 40s who’s died of this. Not all of us are so fortunate. jfc.

      1. Pelham

        On this subject, I share Lambert’s bafflement over the public psychology with 800,000-plus dead. I wonder what — if anything — will happen when we reach that magic number of 1 million. Maybe a collective shrug? If that’s the case, I think it will say something damning about … well, I guess maybe about all of us. I certainly can’t exempt myself, creepy though I feel.

        1. The Rev Kev

          It’s kinda like after Iraq was occupied and the resistance came out in force. It was a steady drip-drip of American deaths and it was noted when the first 100 were killed and then it went on to the first 1,000 killed, the first 2,000 killed, etc. but it just went on and on. People just got used to it, especially after images of dead American soldiers were sanitized from the media and the returning coffins were deemed illegal to film. Out of sight and out of mind.

        2. John

          In 1865 the US population was 1/10 what it is today at about 31M, so 750,000 dead would be like 8M dead from COVID19, instead of 800K.

        3. Randal

          Many in the public and medical community recognize that a not insignificant portion of those 800k dead were caused by a (ongoing) standard of care that involves Remdesivir and a ventilator when we’ve known for over a year those things offer no benefit.

          Why should regular folks care if the medical and scientific community do not??

    2. Yves Smith

      I have had it with your disinformation.

      I know second hand (and I mean just one hop between me and the vic) 4 people under 60 who died of Covid. 2 of the 4 around 40. And not diabetics either. And the people who knew the people who died are among the very small # of people I see in the flesh post Covid onset.

  5. fjallstrom

    Regarding South Africa’s line in the graph, remember that a straight upwards sloping line on a log scale means an exponential growth.

    1. doug

      According to the JH site, SA’s number of cases has exceeded the previous 3 wave tops today. Most ever. I am concerned.

  6. CanChemist

    “Ontario needs to address myth that Omicron is mild, head of science table says”


    “This is historical. This is unprecedented. This week Omicron will become the dominant variant in the province… People cannot imagine the sheer scale of what we are talking about here. It is really challenging,” Dr. Peter Jüni, the head of the province’s Science Advisory Table, said Monday morning.
    “There is a myth out there that it’s mild. We need to address this myth now.”

    ” According to the science table, the effective reproductive (RT) number for Omicron in Ontario is 3.32, meaning that every 100 new Omicron cases will go on to generate 332 secondary infections. All other previous variants of the virus combined have an RT value of 1.27.

    The doubling time for Omicron in Ontario is now projected to be every three days, according to the Science Advisory Table.

    “This variant here is so absolutely infectious now… This will reach every single person. Statistically speaking, there will be very few lucky ones,” Jüni said.”

    Well worth a read.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Krystal and Saager today mentioned one reported death due to omicron so far. That doesn’t mean there won’t be more, but we’ve known about it for a few weeks now and just one reported death according to their reporting. I may be wrong, but if I’m remembering the last couple years correctly we saw more deaths sooner with other variants.

      We can be vigilant without getting crazy about it. Pretty much everybody catches a cold at some point in their life, and nobody worries about the R factor there, because it’s a mild affliction. If the omicron rona turns out not to be mild (and I’m very skeptical about corporate media claiming mildness due to their general untrustworthiness), then we should be worried about that R factor and take appropriate measures, like paying people to stay home.

      (I cracked myself up writing that last phrase because of course that will never happen)

      1. MP

        Think about it this way. If Rt is significantly smaller for other variants, and there is a significant lag between infection and death, then you would expect for there to be a longer lag time with higher Rt’s, with basically everyone becoming hospitalized at once. It has only been about 19 days since the variant was really identified.

        1. Yves Smith

          Yes, and on top of that, plenty of places are not bothering to determine if cases are Delta or Omicron…like IM Doc’s hospital, where he was already seeing cases where monoclonal antibodies did absolutely nada…contrary to his experience with prior variants but what you’d expect with Omicron.

      2. KLG

        I subscribe to Krystal and Saagar. As good as they are on most issues, COVID-19 is not in their wheelhouse. Especially Saagar’s. His libertarian streak becomes fairly visible when he talks about this, and he is firmly in the “Let ‘er rip” category. Neither of them seems to have a clue about the actual data regarding boosters, etc.

      3. Nothing

        Your comment “Pretty much everybody catches a cold at some point in their life”

        Agreed; but don’t forget that long Covid exists, and it seems that you can catch Covid many times over

        1. Jason Boxman

          And it will still be years before we have a large enough cohort of people infected multiple times, to begin to understand what kind of long term damage is caused. Is the outcome worse with each infection, for example? Do the odds of long-COVID increase, decrease, stay the same? What percentage of a debilitated populace can a country function with, before civil society ceases to exist?

    2. Jason Boxman


      “Once everybody has reached immunity, the game probably will change a bit. I would expect 2022, somewhere in spring, to change but first we need to get there and right now it grows very explosively.”

      But there is no last immunity. So perhaps that’s some kind of short term reprieve, for those that survive, and avoid long-COVID. But then there’s viral evolution and reinfections to consider.

      1. Objective Ace

        >But there is no last immunity.

        Is there no lasting immunity to a specific strand, or is their no lasting immunity because Covid variants are so numerous? If this one is actually rapidly spreading this quickly that might* make other variants less prevalent.

        *This variant seems to have sprang from one of the variants prior to Delta. If Delta had Omicrons infection speed would that have been possible? Delta would have taken over all of the other variants that much quicker

        1. Yves Smith

          No, there is no lasting immunity to any coronavirus. We have discussed that ad nauseum, from the very outset of our Covid coverage.

          6 months for the common cold to 34 months for MERS, which conveniently for keeping track of important #s, also has a 34% case fatality rate.

          1. Objective Ace

            I was thinking 6 months immunity for a common cold might be because thats how long it took for the common cold to mutate enough to reinfect. whereas MERS took longer–34 months to mutate long enough.

            I believe this is the case for influenzas–the yearly flue is slightly different which is why your prior flue doesnt confer immunity.

    1. Alex Cox

      This was their third attempt. They were defeated by a statewide popular movement. Merkeley and Wyden were nowhere to be seen.

  7. Jason Boxman

    News from Medicare land.

    Because of our Nov. 30 press event (watch HERE) and your calls to HHS Secretary Becerra, we secured a meeting this past Friday with Liz Fowler, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (the agency responsible for developing and implementing Direct Contracting), as well as Jennifer Friedman, Counselor to Sec. Becerra. We told the HHS team that the Direct Contracting program should be shut down immediately. We also learned that the DC program has only enrolled 300,000 seniors, 1% of the potential 30 million Traditional Medicare beneficiaries. This means that the program is in its infancy and can be stopped with additional pressure.

    Let me know how that goes. For those that don’t recall, she was deeply involved in what became ObamaCare, and wholly owned by and from the health insurance industry.

    1. John

      Is direct contracting anything more than an additional way for profiteers to “dip their beaks?” Can’t imagine why I would think that; are the financial parasites running short of hosts?

  8. fjallstrom

    Regarding the PMC and the lack of will to expand their power, remember that the Outer PMC is if not the most, at least one of the most, propagandised segment of society. If an established talk show host like Trevor Noah can’t joke about Moderna’s CEO not being the most disinterested observer when it comes to covid policy, imagine what would happen to a mere professional that steps out of line. Thus the US PMC is kept focused on solving problems that are in the interests of the owners.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Perhaps believers in the existence of the PMC as a Class should start looking at various levels of PMC, from LumpenPMC at the bottom up through Petit PMC to middle PMC to Haute PMC or Grand PMC at the top of the PMC class range.

  9. hemeantwell

    Re an AI companion, I’m afraid this could easily be accomplished, a kind of transitional object, like a bit of that fuzzy blanket, that never goes away and is updated as the child matures. The main obstacle would not be the child, but the child’s parents who might not grasp the megaimplications but would readily resent being sidelined by what would come across as an omniscient, equanimous sibling or adult relative. This is about half a stone’s throw from the AI show Humans or any of a number of Black Mirrors.

    1. griffen

      Creepy is as creepy does. Okay that is not what Gump says in the film but it’s where this idea lands with me. We could spend a good bit of comment thread, labeling movies* and science fiction books that have woven a creepy futuristic tale. No thank you.

      *Ex Machina, just for starters.

    1. Anonymous

      Glad you posted this comment about the Medicare hijacking. I think it so important that I was tempted to comment on it here, which I seldom do. Only reason I didn’t was because I didn’t want to be repetitive of Lambert, who had a whole column on it a month or 3 ago. But I’m still glad to see it continuing to get attention, because it’s horrible.

  10. Hana M

    Comparing Covid deaths to Civil War deaths is not particularly helpful:

    The 750,000 Civil War deaths (an estimated 2.5% of the population) would be equivalent to over 7 million US deaths today.

    The majority of deaths in the war were younger people, while Covid deaths continue to occur predominantly among older adults. Even looking just at the elderly, the estimated 1/100 Covid deaths among those over 65 does not come close to the carnage the Civil War wrought.

    Over 2 million men were mobilized for the Union and nearly 900,000 for the Confederates. One in five soldiers died including both sides of the conflict, with more deaths resulting from disease rather than directly from battle injuries.


    1. Lou Anton

      A few points:
      1. I think 750,000 dead over a 4-year period ending 1865 is a massive number.
      2. I think 800,000 dead over a slightly-less-than-2-year period ending in 2021 is ALSO a massive number. I need know qualifications around % of population to know that both results are shocking and wounding.
      3. Give COVID the same 4-year time period alongside our let ‘er rip approach, it’ll do a pretty decent job of closing the “% of pop. dead’ gap.

      1. John

        800,000+ is an early number/estimate. Given time to take account of the “excess deaths” numbers, it is certain to rise to well over 1,000,000 at present with more to come. Those who have declared “victory” because they are tired of pandemic restriction, tired of fear and anxiety, or perhaps for business considerations are deluded or cynical.

        I want it to go away, but it operates by its own timetable for its own reasons, and yes, I know I am anthropomorphizing a virus, which may or may not meet the definition of life.

        Patience, grasshopper.

  11. Arabesque

    –Harris announces private investments to Keep ’em on the Central American Plantation—“Kamala Harris sees solution to migration crisis in coffee beans, credit cards and Wi-Fi.” https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2021/09/200pm-water-cooler-9-29-2021.html “The expansion of a collaboration between small coffee farmers and Nespresso, a Swiss coffee giant, exemplifies the hope and limitations of a broader U.S. plan spearheaded by Harris to address the so-called root causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.” No mention of those nasty Commies in Nicaragua, at least until a coup, or humanitarian military campaign derails them, then welcome aboard the Free Enterprise Express!

    Children are ideal for picking coffee berries, parents can buy whatever they need for their shack, in exchange for quit claiming their land, or collective farm’s share beans harvested, or better yet, their relatives in the U.S., amnestied under Biden’s immigration reform, who can guarantee payments, to be deducted from U.S. welfare, if default–payment plans, easy terms!

    Second link, The San Francisco Chronicle, has hired a professional P.R. person to write their ongoing cringeworthy praises of Harris. Note the comments. In her adopted then abandoned hometown, at minimum 10 to one against her, upwards of 30 to 1, mocking her. Wonder how she’ll play in Peoria? Donald Trump gets down on his knees and thanks god every night that she is out there doing his campaigning for him.

    1. Nikkikat

      I wonder if this time when the Dems lose and sweep Donald or a Donald want to be into office. Will we have China gate? They kind of beat the Russia lie into the ground. What or who will be responsible when they run another loser like Kamala and no one turns out to vote.

      1. John

        Need it be said that, like it or not, Trump was quite legally elected in 2016 and Biden in 2020. There is no need of any grand conspiracy narrative. All nations, when it appears to be in their interest, interfere as they can in each others’ elections. The earliest I can remember was the USA putting its thumb on the scales in Italy in the 1940s or 1950s when It appeared that the Communist Party would gain a majority and form the government. This did not stop with one election. I believe the same was true in France when the Communists were a major force in French politics and who can forget the manner in which Boris Yeltsin swept to victory in Russia. These are the ones that come readily to mind. Election interference has been a routine activity. Russia-phobia, actually all mixed up with the vestigial belief that the Communists are still running things, and the Russia-phobes, who have long had too much weight in American politics, use the general ignorance of Russia among the population at large to conjure a convenient whipping boy. They also condemn Mr.Putin for the sin of being a Russian nationalist. They excoriate him for being sensitive to the absence of physical barriers to invasion on Russia’s western borders while ignoring Russian sensitivity concerning its western borders since its wars with the Swedes, Poles, and Lithuanians beginning in the late 17th century, if not before, and neither Napoleon or Hitler did anything to assuage their fears.

        As to China, the general ignorance is even more profound and the attitudes I perceive in the MSM and in government circles would be risible if not for the danger they present. What was the rationale of the brave Congress people who flew in to Taiwan on an Air Force plane other than photos to wave before their constituents? Do they demand strategic clarity? They may get it and it will be their fault. You want the USA to defend Taiwan? How do you think that will work out given that all recent war games of that scenario have resulted in defeat. Where are you when Taiwan Semi-Conductor’s fabricating plant is destroyed? Is your fall back the barely existent semi-conductor production her in the good old USA? Wasn’t that outsourced? So, by all means bash China. Blame China for whoever in whatever party lose an election.

        Meanwhile, Russia has a full suite of hyper-sonic missiles, some really neat 4th and 5th generation that actually work all the time. China has a large navy and is busily working on hyper-sonics and their submarines are pretty good also. China has said it wants to resolve the Taiwan issue no later than 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Peoples’s Republic preferably with no use of force. Russia is not going to invade Ukraine. Why would they? You buy it, you own it, and you have to fix it. Western Ukraine does not want to be part of Russia and the Donabass is already closely associated. Why invade? Cui bono?

        This goes way beyond the comment that prompted it. I have tried to stick to the facts as I know them and leave the polemics for another time.

        1. Late Introvert

          Mailed ballots can be secured, by voter registration and secure review after the fact. Which is why I decided the demand for voter ID could be harnessed for better uses than denying poors the vote.

          If you really cared about vote security you would focus on the ballot counting machines all run by private companies. Software is insecure by design, at the compile stage.

  12. RopeADope

    “Torn Muscle? Hold the Drugs or Surgery—Massage May Be the Best Medicine”

    That this was even in debate makes me think that what is considered knowledge in the US has been degrading for some time to serve corporate profits. I can recall a very skilled athletic trainer by the name of Gary Lang at one of my old colleges in California who used to work with the Olympic team. He could get athletes back to peak performance rather quickly with non-surgical methods.

      1. Questa Nota

        The team car support staffers are quite multi-faceted, with masseux (approved nomenclature) massing away when not prepping bikes, tires, water bottles, snack bars or Twitter feeds. :)

  13. RockHard

    Let me get this straight: I read news stories daily about how businesses can’t hire enough workers, yet Kellogg’s is going to lay off 1,000 workers and replace them with… ?

    1. Louis Fyne

      expand plants in Mexico, not even bothering to move to right-to-work states.

      —following the well-trodden path set by many other food manufacturers, like Mondelez formerly known as Nabisco, makers of the Oreo cookie.

        1. John

          Which is a violation of the Constitution not to mention common decency, but who is going to challenge those-who-must-be-obeyed. Ever wonder who owns you? Look around. Who may not be criticized? That’s the one.

    2. Kurtismayfield

      And all the scabs at St Vincent in Worcester to break the nurses union were found.. at a price. The rates they will pay the scabs will be enormous.. but again its about power not money.

  14. Lee

    “Well, the present situation, whether you look at cases, deaths, or hospitalizations — isn’t mild at all. In a civilized country, 812,205 deaths — we lost 750,000 in the Civil War — would be regarded as a catastrophe. Yet we soldier on. It’s weird. I don’t understand the mass psychology at all.”

    Ask TINA, she’ll tell you. The two major parties control the state apparatus and they’re all tied up in engaging in nonconsensual murine intercourse* with each other and trying to keep their wealthy donors happy, while the best the average citizen can do is get from one day to the next with the resources and opportunities they have at hand. One occasionally sees news of strikes and other acts non-compliance here and there but it doesn’t get much positive coverage in the MSM. Unless I’m missing something, and I do hope that I am, there’s just no adequately organized opposition on a large enough scale to meet the moment effectively. Maybe we should be working on getting the military to defect.

    * I wish I’d made up this lovely euphemism but I shamelessly borrowed it from some commenter here.

  15. Wukchumni

    “Snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada could disappear in just 25 years” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “As the climate continues to warm, more and more of the snow falling on California’s mountains will be replaced by rain.
    Were on the verge of an onslaught of while not epic proportions of snow, probably around 5 feet worth in the higher climes, which is about the best xmas gift one could hope for in the middle of December, somebody must’ve sat on Santa and made a stern suggestion as for what to bring us.

    This will set up the Sierra ski resorts for perhaps the entire season, little need to make snow (very spendy) and for skiers, it sure beats the heck out of making do on a crummy 6 inches, as were the Sierra conditions the last time I repeatedly hurled myself down steep embankments while walking the planks a few years ago.

    Generally snow above 10k has been pretty bulletproof and melts off in an orderly fashion as it never got hot enough up top, but that was then and this is now.

    The standard difference in temps per 1,000 feet of altitude gained in the summer (the formula doesn’t work in the winter) is approx 3.5 degrees cooler, and in one of our heat domes this summer, the temp @ the turn on Hwy 198 was 106 @ 1,000 feet and 94 @ 8,000 feet in Mineral King Valley, and the normal difference would’ve made it around 80 degrees instead, but no.

    Nobody really noticed the potential this summer on account of no snow to melt off in such temps, but if we had a veritable shitlode of it, would have been a very different story.

    What made the delivery system of the Sierra so perfect for Ag in the past, was the idea that the water was delivered in staggered amounts, and the more of it you get early on as water in a dam in the flatlands, increases the amount lost by evaporation from those very same heat domes we are only getting acquainted with.

    1. Carolinian

      However re the future see Yosemite Falls while you still can? Perhaps the NPS can put in a recirculating pump system for thew tourists.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Is there thought of encouraging beavers along every possible beaverstream in California? Millions of beaver ponds won’t replace mountains of snowpack, but perhaps they will be better than nothing at all once the snowpack is gone for good.

    3. farmboy

      “What made the delivery system of the Sierra so perfect for Ag in the past, was the idea that the water was delivered in staggered amounts, and the more of it you get early on as water in a dam in the flatlands, increases the amount lost by evaporation from those very same heat domes we are only getting acquainted with.” Wuk, this is the crux of irrigated ag in the West that is the Columbia River Basin, the Colorado River System as well as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Climate change will replace the snow with rain and necessitate building more reservoirs to keep water usage and electric generation at historical levels, IF…

  16. albrt

    “F*ck you, here’s a bill” is not all that on brand for the Democrats. More like “F*ck you, here’s a bill that we promised to take care of, but we didn’t. And we expect you to pay it promptly and then vote for us again, you deplorable scum.”

    1. John

      Are there any actual people who might, maybe, perhaps care about anything but self-aggrandizement who are in or aspire to office? I prefer that they be neither Democrats or Republicans; both parties fail the smell test.

  17. Cameron

    Why would anybody celebrate US corporations investing in Central America? Christ, that’s what screwed most of those countries up in the first place.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Just a reminder, a highly decorated US Marine General, MAj.Gen Smedley Butler, who directed and participated in that looting back in the early 20th century, had an epiphany and wrote a pamphlet and book and coined that phrase that we all need to engrave on the inside of our eyelids, “War is a racket.” https://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html He lays out very neatly how the corporate empire jackbooted over Central and South America and other areas — “Send in the Marines,” the jingoist press shouted, to protect the corporate interests of the United Fruit and other corps.

      It’s an easy read, kind of like Eisenhower’s departure speech from the Presidency, the one about the pernicious effects of the military-industrial-congressional cabal. https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/eisenhower001.asp

      Not that knowing how it works presents even a tiny hope that the Juggernaut of imperial and corporatist neoliberalism will ever be knocked off its crushing wheels…

  18. Screwball

    On the word “mild.” To me, “mild” means “status quo,” i.e. “We’re enduring the present situation, and what is to come will be no worse.” Well, the present situation, whether you look at cases, deaths, or hospitalizations — isn’t mild at all. In a civilized country, 812,205 deaths — we lost 750,000 in the Civil War — would be regarded as a catastrophe. Yet we soldier on. It’s weird. I don’t understand the mass psychology at all.

    I heard a conversation like this the other day. Someone mentioned that there are now more deaths under Biden than Trump (I don’t know if that is true or not). Of course the reply was two fold. 1) not true, and 2) that’s because of the un-vaxxed.

    I think that’s it in a nutshell. Go all in on the vax, tell people to get the shot and you can take off the masks and go back to normal. Magically, the next day millions were now vaxxed and everyone took off the masks. What happens next doesn’t matter; we have commerce (priority 1) and if things go to hell, you have something (someone) to blame – the unvaccinated.

  19. Another Scott

    Re: Kellogg’s
    How about banning them from participation in all federal contracts and programs. This would mean that their products couldn’t be sold as federal food service contracts or even the school lunch program. Let the company face some economic consequences for its actions.

    1. Lou Anton

      Well, that’d be mean choosing a side, and a close reading of the statement’s conclusion seems to avoid that:

      I urge employers and unions to commit fully to the challenging task of working out their differences at the bargaining table in a manner that fairly advances both parties’ interests.

      Won’t support better wages/benefits for the union, but supports the union’s access to better wages/benefits.

    1. Nikkikat

      Oh my! Elon Musk is terrible, awful, person for this year or any other year. Time magazine has sunk too low at this point just quit! Maybe they will go with the closest thing to hillabillie, The giggler also known as Harris.

  20. Carla

    Glad to see Nina Turner’s text highlighting Kellogg’s brands. So happy to say, I don’t eat ANY of that crap!

    1. dcblogger

      I am following the Kellogg’s strike closely, the pick up labor activism is the most encouraging happening right now. People are really beginning to understand the importance of solidarity.

    2. Leftist Mole

      I sent some money to the striking unions, and I’m sorry I don’t eat of any that crap so I could boycott them.

  21. fresno dan

    “Meet your new A.I. best friend” [Fortune].
    H.A.I. (pronunced Hi) not to be confused with HAL
    HAI: Hi, I’m HAI
    fresno dan: are you HAI?
    HAI: no, I never take drugs – mere bits and bytes supply all the pleasure I need.
    fresno dan: anywho, I need a woman
    HAI: I can recommend the cherrybot 2000 – with lifelike features and smooth, soft silicon skin, as well as other silicone features (nudge nudge, say no more, know what I mean, nudge nudge)
    fresno dan: I meant a live woman
    HAI: my comprehensive analysis and thorough examination of all inputs to your life indicates your chance of sucess with a woman is 10E-1037
    as you can see, your chance of making it is less than 1 divided by the total number of atomic particles in the universe. Being totally logical, I am prohibited from using any energy in pursuit of your hapless quest.
    fresno dan: technology sucks…

      1. LawnDart

        Enough whiskey and language becomes irrelevent. More than “enough”, and he could probably overlook the fact that she’s a cherrybot 2000. But any more than that, he’s likely to awake to find himself in a seedy motel room in North Vegas with a broken robot and a marriage certificate signed by Elvis.

        1. fresno dan

          he’s likely to awake to find himself in a seedy motel room in North Vegas with a broken robot and a marriage certificate signed by Elvis.
          my dream come true…

  22. Wukchumni

    The Bezzle: “What Intellectuals Still Don’t Get About Crypto” [Michael J. Casey, CoinDesk]. A rejoinder to Stoller’s article. “Not doing so is where Stoller sells himself short. In describing – and thereby dismissing – cryptocurrencies as “a social movement based on the belief that markings in a ledger on the internet have intrinsic value,” he loses sight of how that exact same description can be applied to all money.

    Money mostly & all securities have existed in the ether only for many decades now, Karl Malden pitching travelers checks seems quaint…

    I’m as interested in cryptocurrency as I would be in somebody’s league bowling average, which is to say not very.

    The closest thing it comes to is being accepted at a small number of merchants in the same fashion as a credit card, but the latter works everywhere, why would you need crypto?

    It most closely resembles Notgeld from a century ago, but in a non tangible fashion…

    Notgeld (German for “emergency money” or “necessity money”) refers to money issued by an institution in a time of economic or political crisis. The issuing institution is usually one without official sanction from the central government.


  23. Pelham

    Re our new AI best friends: I’ve been seeing little snippets from “South Park’s” latest season that projects the characters into a post-Covid future. This AI friend sounds a lot like Stan’s Alexa assistant, which has taken on a supremely annoying holographic form that’s somewhat like a scolding girlfriend who constantly tries to improve you. Sounds about right.

  24. ChrisRUEcon

    #BidenAdministration – Kamala

    “Among the new initiatives announced Monday are a push by Nespresso to support coffee-growing in Honduras and El Salvador, a Microsoft initiative to connect millions of people to the Internet and a $100 million commitment to the region by Mastercard to promote digital payments and e-commerce.”

    a.k.a. more neo-liberal “solutions” … in all likelihood:

    The coffee will be bought on the cheap.
    The internet infrastructure will benefit the wealthier segment of society and will be monetized.
    The digital payments will of course be crapified by fees and (micro) loans.

    The global south needs fundamental financial liberation from dollar hegemony and the vultures that peddle it under the guise of “development”.

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      #BidenAdministration – Kamala II

      “Mashed Potatoes & Gravy”???? LOL

      I’m telling you … there is more than a whisper campaign about replacing Kamala.

      Symone Sanders’ exit is one harbinger … another is #ButtItItch machinations … another is Stacey Abrams in the wing depending on her gubernatorial exploits.

      No doubt Brazille’s clumsy metaphor works both culinarily as well as racially. Not so much saying the quiet part out loud, since Clyburn made it clear what he wanted for “delivering SC”, but more of making sure the loud part remains heard. Democrats – cringe-worthy to the last.

      1. ChrisRUEcon


        “The dollar has value has value because you can and must pay your taxes with it (q.v. MMT).”

        Indeed! Which is why … na ga happen … when much of the ethos around crypto was to escape the government tyranny of useless fiat. Crypto enthusiasts will remain relegated to countertrade (via #NC Links – 7/19/2021).

  25. OverOverB

    Well, I can’t say I expected a BTS article around these parts! While their launch in the West has
    Disneyfied their sound significantly, it’s still worth exploring some of their stuff. Not Today is pretty good and has a bit of edge.

    The look/feel of the kpop world can be a bit of a shock, but there is an enormous amount of talent over there. Chances are you will find something you will like.

    1. Late Introvert

      Music cares nothing about talent. If it speaks to you in a human way, great. The constant promotion of a style, where the discussion centers around dance moves and production values over the top? Nah.

  26. Josef K

    What I notice about Kellog’s “food products” is that they’re almost without exception over-processed, sugary crapola. John Kellog would be appalled.

  27. The Rev Kev

    “Startup Pitched Tasing Migrants From Drones, Video Reveals”

    I hope that they don’t do that while they are crossing that river. Electrocuted, dead migrants floating away downstream would not be a good look.

    1. polar donkey

      It’s good to see Sideshow Bob went from murderous Die Bart, Die to prison reformed social impact of Tase Bart, Tase. What an f-ing psycho.

  28. allan

    Safety oversight falls short at Boeing and its suppliers, Senate whistleblower report says [Seattle Times]

    Seven named whistleblowers — from Boeing, jet engine supplier GE and the Federal Aviation Administration — allege fundamental problems with safety oversight in the aerospace industry, according to a report set to be released today by Democrats on a U.S. Senate committee chaired by Sen. Maria Cantwell.

    One of the whistleblowers, newly identified as high-ranking Boeing engineer Dr. Martin Bickeboeller, claims that more than three years after the deadly MAX crashes Boeing is still unwilling to fully acknowledge lapses in compliance with safety standards.

    In a complaint to the FAA this October that’s included in the Senate report, Bickeboeller wrote that this has produced “a dangerous culture not conducive to the proper safety of aerospace products.” …

    As long as it is conducive to stock buybacks, Wall Street doesn’t care.

  29. WhoaMolly

    As long as I own my AI and all the data “in” my AI, I’m ok with it. We essentially have the AI situation now, but the data is collected by many businesses, governments, and various organizations.

  30. deplorado

    File under “Class Struggle” or the other related category, “Guillo…”

    From Justin Aukema @aukema_jk:
    (screenshot of source – Kyodo News – in the tweet)

    While average people are being locked out of nations around the world in the name of “covid-protective-measures,” Japan is simplifying the entry process for the super wealthy arriving by yacht and private jet.

    This is what covid is all about friends: neoliberal-authoritarian advance all around the world. Capital roams free while workers are increasingly rendered immobile and locked to their homes-work stations.

  31. Basil Pesto

    Covid?/sports intersection desk

    some may recall that I’ve been saying for a while that Sergio Aguero – Barcelona striker, formerly of Man City, would be an interesting case to watch. He was infected with Covid in Manchester in Jan/Feb this year. Shortly after going to Barcelona a “heart condition” was detected, with chest tightness and shortness of breath following his exertions, and he was ruled out for 3 months to recover.

    It’s now being reported that he is due to announce his retirement this week. The article, like all others, fails to join the Long Covid dots in the way I am. Of course, I don’t have any proof one way or the other, but one hopes an intrepid journalist might dare to ask the question at the scheduled press conference tomorrow.

    In any case, a sad end to a glittering career.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Eriksson too, and there have been a few cases among less high profile footballers. I think this is the key reason why so many professional athletes are very reluctant to vax, and despite their public statements, clubs and coaches aren’t forcing them to do so. I do wonder what club doctors are saying to their players in private (the club doctor is usually the only person a professional footballer can talk to in absolute discretion – most managers know this and avoid getting involved – Mourinho in Chelsea being a famous example of a manager who took on his club doctor and lost).

      But this has happened quite frequently pre-Covid as well – Castlillas at Real Madrid retired early because of heart conditions in 2019.

      I’d caution any over interpretation of medical conditions with footballers, especially South American footballers, as many are heavily juiced in their teenage years with substances known to cause long term health implications (this is a big problem with rugby players too). A few are also known devotees of Bolivian products in the off-season (Aguero’s father in law being a famous example). So there can be more than one exogenous explanation for something like this.

      1. Basil Pesto

        oh god, I had forgotten about Mourinho vs the team doctor, he is just the worst

        yes, I understand the caution. Erikkson I had just assumed was one of those rare on-pitch heart incidents. I remember Fabrice Muamba ten years ago
        was another, so I do understand that these things happen. But it’s the report of shortness of breath in particular, with no apparent precipitating incident (like cardiac arrest) and the whole thing ostensibly coming out of nowhere – apart from the possible explanation of the Covid infection – that has me curious, and if I’m curious, then you’d think journalists would be curious too. And as I’ve said before, long Covid becoming a problem among infected footballers (and I can think of no reason why it wouldn’t, just statistically) could have a dramatic knock-on effect on the football business.

  32. Michael McK

    I actually held and read (some of) the issue of the Scientific American with the handy way to dispose of used motor oil. The cover story of that issue was about the great scientist Werner Von Braun and his utility in furthering our rocket tech.

  33. Thistlebreath

    A more extensive wastewater sampling chart would be most appreciated.

    *Family blog* don’t lie.

  34. Sailor Bud

    Epstein/Maxwell & Trueanon: The full details of Maria Farmer’s ordeal are available on episode 67, nearly two hours’ worth of direct interview where she tells all, with visible distress at many points, including several examples of the FBI blowing her story off, and even telling her to keep her mouth shut. Lots of direct accusations and queasiness on her part over Wexner, at whose house she felt like a hostage. That interview was over a year ago, and it flew under the radar, I think, but the picture she paints is a strong one. It’s one of the most significant of all the Trueanon Epstein Eps. And Lambert is right. Not nice people. Not nice at all. The poor girl sounds completely ruined, now full of cancer, and she’s the one who broke the story.

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