2:00PM Water Cooler 12/22/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Another migratory bird. Busy busy busy!

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Vaccination by region:

Either exhortations aren’t working, or there are data problems.

61.6% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, such as it is, as of December 21. The stately 0.1% rise per day returns. We have broken the important 61% psychological barrier! Mediocre by world standards, being just below Hungary, and just above Turkey in the Financial Times league tables as of this Monday).

Case count by United States regions:

Hearing toward vertical. I have added an anti-triumphalist “Fauci Line.” As happened in 2020, I would expect a second, higher peak, from Omicron if for no other reason.

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!

NOT UPDATED MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

I wrote: “We’ll see if gets choppy again, or not.” This blip upward is the first sign of choppiness.

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:

Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties going red. Boston to New York bad. More flecks of red in the South. 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):

Better than previous; calm before the storm. II 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: 830,990 828,836. At this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s.

Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid):

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

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

Gauteng goes to the beach or up-country; the UK goes to the pub. This is a log scale. Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away.


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

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

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

Biden Administration

UPDATE Something seems to have concentrated Biden’s mind wonderfully:

(See below under Stats for the economic data.)

“Manchin joins Senate Democrats to discuss future of Build Back Better bill” [NBC News]. •​ As I read this, Manchin didn’t move an inch. The Democrat Party is a machine that turns itself off.

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…

A second example of the PMC’s inability to govern comes under the rubric of “our democracy.” Of the various components of the Democrat party, NGOs, miscellaneous mercenaries, assets in the press, and the intelligence community all believe — or at least repeat vociferously — that “our democracy” is under threat, whether from election integrity issues, or from fascism. But other components — funders, vendors, apparatchiks, and electeds — don’t believe this at all. On election integrity, HR 1 has not passed. Gerrymandering continues apace (also a sign that Republicans take their politics much more seriously than Democrats do). On fascism, I suppose we have Pelosi’s January 6 Commission. But nothing unlawful took place, or we would have Merrick Garland’s January Investigation. The combination of hysterical yammering from some Democrats and blithe indifference from others is extremely unsettling. (This leaves aside the question of whether Democrats, as a party, have the standing to whinge about either the erosion of democracy or the imminence of fascism. I say no.) Of course, there is a solution to the problems with “our democracy”:

It is said, I believe by Thomas Frank, that the Democrats are the Party of Betrayal. Certainly the “Build Back Better” debacle provides many examples of combinatorial betrayal. Manchin betrayed Biden (by lying to Biden at his house). Biden betrayed everybody (by believing, I am persuaded, and acting as if he had Manchin’s vote in his pocket*). Schumer betrayed everybody (by keeping Manchin’s written request a secret). Pelosi betrayed Jayapal (by splitting BIF and BBB into two bills and by relying on Republican votes). The Democrat leadership betrayed the Progressive Caucus (by explicitly and verbally making the face-to-face promise that BBB would be passed, and then not delivering). And, though this is harsh, Sanders betrayed his voters with his 2020 turn toward electoralism (by personally liking Biden, and relying on his deal-making ability, now shown to be a sham). I don’t think the Squad betrayed anybody, unless you regard participating in the process as a betrayal, so there’s that. NOTE * I believe Biden’s top line was Manchin’s from the beginning, and nowhere near Sanders’.

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Republican Funhouse

“Bill O’Reilly says Trump will run again” [The Hill]. • True, Trump would massively own the libs, especially if Harris runs, but is it really worth the aggravation? I like the concept of Trump as Speaker of the House a lot better. Trump could lay off all the actual work, and still own the libs just as much. Best of all, the Ethics Committee would be burying investigating everything he did!

Trump Legacy

“Trump’s tax law hits four-year anniversary in a safer spot” [The Hill]. “Four years after former President Trump signed his 2017 tax-cut law, most of the measure is unlikely to be reversed in the near term, even under a Democratic president and Congress. Democratic lawmakers were united in voting against the legislation, and they and President Biden subsequently campaigned on rolling back the law’s tax cuts for high-income individuals and corporations. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called it ‘the worst bill in the history of the United States Congress’ several weeks before the 2017 tax law was enacted. Four years later, Democrats are struggling to undo major portions of the law, and it increasingly looks like the Trump bill will be lasting…. Democrats were prepared to target the $10,000 ceiling the law imposed on state and local tax deductions, which Trump and the GOP had aimed at blue-state districts, as part of the Build Back Better agenda. But that issue badly divided the party, with some seeing a provision to raise the ceiling as benefiting the rich.” Correctly! More: “The failure of Democrats to make significant progress on rolling back the Trump tax law comes as a surprise to some tax-policy experts.” • No doubt!

“Trump says he’s ‘very appreciative’ and ‘surprised’ Biden thanked previous administration for helping make the COVID vaccine available to the public” [Daily Mail]. “Biden several hours prior had commended his predecessor for leading efforts to make the U.S. one of the first countries in the world to get a vaccine against COVID-19. ‘Thanks to the prior administration and our scientific community, America is one of the first countries to get the vaccine,’ Biden said Tuesday afternoon. ‘Thanks to my administration and the hard work of Americans, we led a rollout that made America among the world leaders in getting shots in arms,’ the president added. Trump, who has frequently complained about not getting enough credit for his decisions in pushing the vaccine manufacture, said he was pleasantly surprised by the president’s words. ‘I’m very appreciative of that – I was surprised to hear it,’ Trump told Fox News Digital.'” • ”A rollout that made….” is in the past tense. Correctly.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Civil war a Beltway moral panic?

“The idea that there’s a wide swath of Americans that support violence is wrong.” Perhaps (though I don’t know how many Americans, other than the Southern Fireeaters, thought anything on the scale of the Civil War was coming). What I keep hearing, in most of the many circles I frequent, is a general sense that nothing works anymore. Whether that’s anything like a pre-revolutionary state I don’t know.

“Power and the Liberal Tradition” [Samantha Hancox-Li, Liberal Currents]. “This conception of faction and its power has implications for our conception of a liberal society. Contra Rawls et al., the precondition of liberal democracy is not the mere moral equality of human beings. It is to be found in the power structure of society’s factions. To reframe Madison: the republican principle consists of the idea that the power of the faction of the people as a whole outmatches that of private factions, at any given level of analysis. ‘Ambition must be made to counteract ambition,’ Madison says in Federalist no. 51. One might instead say ‘power must be made to counteract power.'” • As I wrote, considering Federalist no. 10: “[T]he protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property [is] central to the material basis for faction formation.” Hancox-Li seems to assume that property interests are evenly distributed among a homogenous people; they are not; hence the people cannot be a faction. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see a reasonably self-aware liberal try to struggle out of the straitjacket they’ve locked themselves in.

Stats Watch

GDP: “United States GDP Growth Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The US economy grew by an annualized 2.3% on quarter in Q3 2021, slightly higher than 2.1% in the second estimate and following a 6.7% expansion in the previous three-month period.” • 6.7% to 2.3% is quite a drop. I assume that got the attention of somebody in the West Wing….

National Activity: “United States Chicago Fed National Activity Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago Fed National Activity Index dropped to 0.37 in November of 2021, from a three-month high of 0.75 in October, pointing to a slowdown in US economic growth. Production-related indicators contributed +0.21 in November, down from +0.42 in October, as industrial production increased 0.5%, after rising 1.7% in the previous month. ” • As above.

Profits: “United States Corporate Profits” [Trading Economics]. “Corporate profits in the United States rose 3.4 percent to a fresh record high of USD 2.52 trillion in the third quarter of 2021, slowing from a 10.5 percent jump in the previous period and compared with preliminary estimates of 4.3 percent.” • As above.

Consumer Spending: “United States Real Consumer Spending QoQ” [Trading Economics]. “Personal consumption expenditure in the United States grew by an annualized 2 percent in the third quarter of 2021, easing from an 12 percent expansion in the previous period.” • As above.

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Banking: “Column: Sorry your dad’s dead. Mind if we hang on to his money?” [Los Angeles Times]. “Carter’s dad, an Alhambra resident, had about $24,000 in his checking account when he died at the age of 89. In most cases, next of kin can obtain such funds by submitting a death certificate and a few other forms. But Carter, 65, discovered that no mater how many times he and other family members turned in the same documents, no matter how many times they called and were subjected to epic waits on hold, they just couldn’t get the bank to make good on its pledge. ‘They kept saying that all the paperwork was in order and that they’d quickly release the money,’ the Pasadena resident told me. ‘But then they’d turn around and say again that documents were incomplete or missing.’ Carter said he gradually came to believe that BofA, which reported its third-quarter profit rose by 58% to $7.7 billion, was determined to hang on to the money for as long as possible.'” • In other Third World countries, you’d pay a fixer to remove tiresome bureaucratic obstacles. Perhaps we should just give up the unequal struggle and go that route.

The Bezzle: “In splashy SPAC case, profs claim Pershing amicus brief is ‘suspect.’ Bill Ackman denies it” [Reuters]. “If anyone should know what investors believed they were buying when they purchased shares in billionaire Bill Ackman’s special purpose acquisition company, you’d think it would be the investors themselves. But in a new filing in the high-profile lawsuit alleging that Ackman’s SPAC is actually an illegal investment company, two prominent law professors contend that things are not always what they seem when it comes to representations by Pershing Square investors. Last week, 62 shareholders with a $25 million stake in the Pershing Square Tontine Holdings Ltd SPAC filed an amicus brief supporting Pershing Square’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The shareholders’ lawyer, Matthew Peller of Rolnick Kramer Sadighi, said in the brief that these investors bought their shares in the Pershing SPAC because they believe in its mission: to identify and acquire a private company with high-growth opportunities.”

Tech: “Boeing, Airbus executives urge delay in U.S. 5G wireless deployment” [Reuters]. “‘5G interference could adversely affect the ability of aircraft to safely operate,’ the letter said, adding it could have ‘an enormous negative impact on the aviation industry.’ The industry and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have raised concerns about potential interference of 5G with sensitive aircraft electronics like radio altimeters. The FAA this month issued airworthiness directives warning 5G interference could result in flight diversions.”

Tech: “Developer creates ‘Quite OK Image Format’ – but it performs better than just OK” [The Register]. “A developer named Dominic Szablewski has given the world a new file format with a splendid name: the Quite OK Image Format (QOI). The file format might be better than that. Szablewski explained that he decided the world needed a new image format because the likes of PNG, JPEG, MPEG, MOV and MP4 ‘burst with complexity at the seams.’ ‘Every tiny aspect screams ‘design by consortium’,’ he added, going on to lament the fact that most common codecs are old, closed, and ‘require huge libraries, are compute hungry and difficult to work with.'”

Tech: “Using Neural Networks to Predict Micro-Spatial Economic Growth” [NBER]. “We apply deep learning to daytime satellite imagery to predict changes in income and population at high spatial resolution in US data. For grid cells with lateral dimensions of 1.2km and 2.4km (where the average US county has dimension of 55.6km), our model predictions achieve R2 values of 0.85 to 0.91 in levels, which far exceed the accuracy of existing models, and 0.32 to 0.46 in decadal changes, which have no counterpart in the literature and are 3-4 times larger than for commonly used nighttime lights. Our network has wide application for analyzing localized shocks.” • Hmm. I wonder what’s happening in the dark counties wihout lights…

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 36 Fear (previous close: 31 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 34 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 22 at 12:57pm.

The Biosphere


“Fascine Mattresses: Basketry Gone Wild” [Low Tech Magazine]. “With stagnant or slow-flowing fresh or brackish water, planting reeds on the waterline can protect riverbanks. However, this approach doesn’t work with saltwater, nor does it prevent damage from large waves. At least 400 years ago, the Dutch came up with a solution: the fascine mattress. A fascine mattress consists of thousands of fine twigs, mainly from willow trees. These are woven together into a sturdy mat dropped at the bottom of a canal, estuary, or river. A fascine mattress can lay partly on the river-bank or dyke. Fascine mattresses were often rectangular and of large dimensions: usually between 20 and 30 metres wide and up to 150 metres long (sometimes more). The structures were made on land, towed to their location, and then sunk to the bottom by weighting them with rubble. Everything happened by hand. Nearby coppice plantations supplied the wood for braiding the mattresses.” • Cool!

Health Care

“Omicron at Least Doubles Risk of Getting Infected on a Plane” [Bloomberg]. David Powell, physician and medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association: “Is it safe for healthy passengers if an omicron case is sitting on the plane?It’s an enclosed space, but it’s a leaky box, and we pressurize it by putting a huge airflow on one end of it, and then having an exhaust valve out the other end. So you’re sitting in a very high-flow airflow environment. It is an enclosed space, but that doesn’t shout ‘risk’ to me. An Irish pub with a fan in the corner shouts ‘risk’ to me, or a gymnasium with a whole lot of people shouting and grunting and sweating. But any flight you take does involve airports as well, which are a little bit less controlled. So, there is risk there. What can you do? Vaccination, testing, mask-wearing, distancing. Are surgical masks better than cloth masks? Yes, probably. On average, maybe 10-20%.” • Erase N95s. Attaboy! Not to mention that Darth Vader-like respirator….

Maybe after test kits, do respirators?

They knew:

More evidence for the Hague prosecutor….


The 420

“California pot companies warn of impending industry collapse” [Los Angeles Times]. Huh? “The letter signed by more than two dozen executives, industry officials and legalization advocates followed years of complaints that the heavily taxed and regulated industry was unable to compete with the widespread illegal economy, where consumer prices are far lower and sales are double or triple the legal business. Four years after broad legal sales began, “our industry is collapsing,” said the letter, which also was sent to legislative leaders in Sacramento. The industry leaders asked for an immediate lifting of the cultivation tax placed on growers, a three-year holiday from the excise tax and an expansion of retail shops throughout much of the state. It’s estimated that about two-thirds of California cities remain without dispensaries, since it’s up to local governments to authorize sales and production.” • I wonder if there are ice cream edibles in Pelosi’s freezer….


“Monopoly Money: The State as a Price Setter” [Pavlina R. Tcherneva, Oeconomicus]. From 2002 (!), still germane; recommended today by Mosler. From the Abstract:

The case of Colonial Africa illustrates how taxation can serve as a launching vehicle for a new currency. Prior to colonization, African communities were engaged in subsistence production and internal trade and, therefore, had little need for European currency. After colonizing Africa, the Europeans employed a system based on taxation that endowed the new currencies with value. The colonial government, in need of real goods and services such as cash crops and wage labor, imposed a tax liability on the population, denominated in European currency. Taxation compelled the members of the community to sell their goods and/or labor to the colonizers in return for the currency that would discharge their tax obligation. Taxation turned out to be a highly effective means of compelling Africans to enter cash crop production and to offer their labor for sale. In any system—democratic or authoritarian—the government can ensure the value of any currency through these three basic powers: the power to levy taxes, the power to declare how tax obligations must be satisfied, and the power to issue currency. These powers are the basis for securing the purchasing power of State money. Contrary to the conventional idea that taxation “finances government expenditures,” here the primary function of taxation is guaranteeing that a particular monetary unit—the one issued by the government— will be demanded in exchange for any and all other real goods and services and will, thereby, dominate a country’s monetary system.

Hmm. Interesting historical connection to file away.

Book Nook

“The Underground Man at Age 50” [The Honest Broker]. “Around the same time The Underground Man was published, Macdonald told Newsweek magazine: ‘Freud was one of the two or three greatest influences on me. He made myth into psychiatry, and I’ve been trying to turn it back into myth again in my own small way.’ Given this predisposition, I can’t help seeing the ‘underground man’ as a canny reference to those unconscious and troubling aspects of the human psyche that are deeply buried, not in soil but in the recesses of our minds, and come back to the surface under prodding or in a crisis. Macdonald’s novel is filled with these buried artifacts—that’s actually a trademark of his stories, in which the crime is often the least interesting part of the tale. Almost every character in these pages has some past scandal or tragedy they would prefer to repress. In order to highlight these psychic depths, Macdonald constructs a story that involves the childhood experiences of many of its main characters. Against these long-term psychological case studies, he superimposes two different crimes separated by 15 years. In the first instance, three youngsters steal a car—a seemingly minor infraction, hardly worthy of a detective novel. This incident seems connected, for a variety of reasons, to a series of later crimes, including murder, kidnapping, and theft.” • I dunno. I prefer Rex Stout to Ross Macdonald. I prefer tropes and genres to myths, perhaps. Light irony, that’s the ticket!

The Gallery

This strikes me as photo-style framing:

(Manet often gives me the same feeling.) This, on the other hand, doesn’t strike me that away:

I think, however, that an AI would classify the geometry of the two paintings as the same (see the right of the Hopper and the left of the Franquelin), although the artists made different decisions at the left. Is there any art critic who discusses framing? I can’t bring one to mind. Readers?

Groves of Academe

“Professor who hid clues to location of cash prize in syllabus is disappointed to discover no one claimed it: ‘Today I retrieved the unclaimed treasure'” [Daily Mail]. “A Tennessee university music professor hid a cash prize on campus to see if his students fully read the class syllabus – only to find the crisp $50 bill he had placed in a locker still there at the end of the semester. Kenyon Wilson, the associate head of performing arts at Tennessee at Chattanooga, decided to hide $50 in a random music locker and bury the combination for the locker in the middle of his syllabus. The hint read: ‘Thus (free to the first who claims; locker one hundred forty-seven; combination fifteen, twenty-five, thirty-five), students may be ineligible to make up classes and …’ He even went so far as to set the combination lock on a certain number to verify if it had been moved. But at the end of the semester, the $50 bill and the note that went along with it were untouched by Wilson’s 70 students. ‘Congrats! Please leave your name and date so I know who found it,’ the unread note requested.” • That’s because the students are all working three jobs and triaged the syllabus, probably rightly.

Xmas Pregame Festivities

More trees:

No it’s not:

I remember my sense of disillusion when my parents explained to me that the gingerbread houses in the Sears catalog had cardboard walls, to which the candy and the gingerbread were affixed. I never did believe in Santa Claus.

“Five Things You Didn’t Know About Mistletoe” [Smithsonian]. “You read that right — all mistletoe species are parasites. But it’s a little more complicated than the Hollywood depiction of parasitism. Mistletoes are specifically known as hemiparasites, a term for a plant that gets some or all of the nutrients it needs from another living plant, explained [Smithsonian botanist Marcos A. Caraballo-Ortiz]. In a mistletoe’s case, it attaches to the branches of a woody tree or shrub and siphons water and food from the host…. Because of their parasitic nature, mistletoes don’t ever touch soil. ‘They don’t touch the ground,’ Caraballo-Ortiz said. Instead, when a mistletoe seed drops onto a potential host plant, it ‘grabs’ on and starts to germinate. ‘Their fruit is covered with a sticky substance called viscin,’ explained Caraballo-Ortiz. ‘It’s like a fiber that allows the seed to attach on the branches of trees.’ The seed uses its own photosynthetic powers to produce a hypocotyl, or stem, that pokes out and kicks off the mistletoe’s growth. It then forms a structure called a haustorium, which acts like a root by burrowing into the host branch and funneling water and nutrients from host to parasite.”

“Smattering Of Half-Remembered Facts From Ezra Klein’s Podcast Somehow Fail To Change Conservative Family Member’s Entire Worldview” [The Onion]. • All over the country….

Guillotine Watch

Good idea:

Class Warfare

“How the Koch Network Is Spreading COVID Misinformation” [Jacobin]. “Scott Atlas, Jay Bhattacharya, and Martin Kulldorff — are connected to right-wing dark money attacking public health measures. The trio also has ties to the Great Barrington Declaration, a widely rebuked yet influential missive that encouraged governments to adopt a ‘herd immunity’ policy letting COVID-19 spread largely unchecked, even as the virus has killed more than 800,000 Americans.” • Wait. I thought that was bipartisan?

Classification is hard:

News of the Wired

“Atlas of Endangered Alphabets” [Atlas of Endangered Alphabets (Re Silc)]. “85% of the world’s writing systems are on the verge of vanishing — not granted official status, not taught in schools, discouraged and dismissed. When a culture is forced to abandon its traditional script, everything it has written for hundreds of years — sacred texts, poems, personal correspondence, legal documents, the collective experience, wisdom and identity of a people — is lost. This Atlas is about those writing systems, and the people who are trying to save them.” • With interactive map.

Seems legit:

“Love it and leave it” [Noah Smith, Noahpinion]. ” I think one of the most useful things you can do, in order to gain perspective on society and politics and institutions, is to live in another country for a while. I’ve lived about four years total in Japan, and the experience has been utterly transformative in terms of how I think about my own country…. [L]iving abroad is different, in a number of ways. You get to see another system in action — a whole different way of organizing a society, with institutions that developed in a very different historical context. The hysteresis of national development means that countries have different ways of doing things — sometimes with good reason, sometimes for no good reason at all. Some differences are cultural, some have deep economic roots, and some are accidents of history — and it can be difficult to tell which is which…. In fact, living abroad helps you see all kinds of things about your own country that you tend to overlook or take for granted. I never realized how much Americans tiptoe around the topic of other people’s personal appearance until I saw Japanese people telling each other “Oh, you lost weight!” I never thought of shouting down a waiter until I learned that that’s what you have to do in Japan. I had simply internalized an unconscious list of things to talk about and things not to to talk about, and when I saw people who had internalized different lists, my own became more visible to me. In fact, living in supposedly hyper-polite Japan made me realize that Americans — who think of ourselves as blunt and direct — are governed by a delicate, complex web of behavioral rules that are second nature to us.” • There’s plenty not to like about Noah Smith, but I think he’s got hold of the right end of the stick, here.

Another bricoleur:

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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 (Copeland):

Copeland writes: “Depoe Bay, Oregon. Watched gray whales all day.”

* * *

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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. Carolinian

    Southern Fireeaters

    Oh we haven’t eaten fire in decades.

    And re living abroad–I’ve spent time in Canada and months at a time in Europe and my impression was that both are often far too much like us (they probably think it’s the other way around). But yes Europeans also seemed more direct. Must be all that crowding. NYC seemed the same.

    Down here we sip our juleps and beat around the bush.

      1. fjallstrom

        If we should learn anything from civil wars, it is that people don’t plan on murdering their neighbours, they murder their neighbours because they become convinced that their neighbours will murder them if given the chance.

        However, first you have to have a civil war. Given the might of the US military and the strenght of the US propaganda apparatus, the only way I see a civil war is if the military splits. Unlike in the 19th century, I don’t think that will happen because some states secede and thake the troops stationed their with them. But it could happen if you get a political crisis with two competing candidates, backed by their factions, claiming that they are actually, for real, the president, and different parts of the military sides with the different “presidents”. Then you might have escalation leaving to a war. However, the war would probably be short as one side gets the upper hand in bombing and drone striking the other sides bases and kills their president (and vice-president etc).

        The bad news is that the US seems stuck in a political spiral of de-legitimisaiton of the other sides president. The January riot / lazy coup attempt, was the latest step but it was a logical step on the escalation af accuations of the president not being the real president and we will get rid of him as soon as the long form birth certificate / Senate intelligence report comes out. If the otehr side winning isn’t legitimate, why not refuse the result?

        The good news is that in the scenario above, I don’t think there would be much time for mass mobilisation, and learning fear your neighbour enough to kill your neighbour.

        1. VietnamVet

          Secession of the United States is inevitable along with an economic collapse unless government by and for the people is restored.

          Nuclear armed Russia is reasserting its right to regions of influence on its borderlands.

          Market-ticker’s chart of Denmark’s recent data is hopeful for the unvaccinated but frightening with “attack rates in vaccinated people exceeding that for unvaccinated with Omicron”;

          An exposure risk less than one (0.41) indicates a decreased risk for the unvaccinated exposed group. But the risks for the Total vaccinated (1.15) or those with 2 shots (1.33) is above one. Even the 3 shots (0.59) risk is burdened with the fact that mRNA vaccine efficacy fades within months and more jabs will be necessary to keep the risk below 1.

          Clearly for the ruling western elite, corporate profits outweigh human life. Public health is heresy. When surviving young males of former middle-class families realize that they are of absolutely no value and that they have nothing left to lose, all that is needed is a charismatic leader to jump in front of the marchers. Seattle WA and Portland OR are close to this tipping point. Southern Cal will split into separate Cartel and Anglo lands but the US military won’t give up San Diego Naval Base any more than the Russians would leave Sevastopol Naval Base. If the “Shock Doctrine” chaos explodes into civil war, there will be an ethnic cleansed access corridor to the naval base (if nuclear war is avoided).

  2. Hepativore

    I am not sure if this has already been linked to on Naked Capitalism, but it is more pertinent than ever.

    The Democrats Are Trying To Lose by David Sirota


    I suppose it still sounds like a wacky conspiracy theory to the liberal crowd, but what other explanation is there? We have all seen how the Democratic Party can get organized to block something or get it passed such as stopping Bernie Sanders or increasing defense budgets so this is the only other logical conclusion that remains.

    How do you stop or punish a party that does not care if the resulting backlashes from their inaction cause them to fail electorally?

    1. Geo

      I think it’s much more simple than that. It’s that Democrats are convinced they are the smartest people in the room and any notion of change is mocked because that would mean they aren’t already correct. It’s why Hillary blames everyone/everything but herself for losing, why Pelosi & Schumer still lead their party, and why “nothing will fundamentally change” was the only honest thing Biden ever said.

      It’s everybody else’s fault the Dems fail because the alternative would be that they aren’t as smart as they believe they are. Otherwise known as malignant narcissism.

    2. jo6pac

      Thanks I’m going pass it around to few friends that still think demodogs are good and will help us on Main Street.

    3. Huey Long

      How do you stop or punish a party that does not care if the resulting backlashes from their inaction cause them to fail electorally?

      Hmmmmm, the toughie here is that the Democrats (DNC) aren’t a true party per se, but rather a corporation that can do as it pleases according to court filings by the DNC.

      The thing is though, the local party organizations are often actual organizations with bylaws, etc:


      Here you’ll see that Bergen County NJ Dems have an elected county committee. Those elections are like the primaries that catapulted AOC and India Walton into the spotlight; they’re low turn-out and thus vulnerable to grassroots activism and a well organized ground operation to turn out the vote.

      There’s vast swaths of the country that no longer even have a local Democrat party. Whoever sets one up and starts running candidates could run whoever they wanted to on whatever platform they wanted to…

      The DNC’s vulnerable. They let Joe Crowley get his ass beat by AOC, couldn’t get AOC out in the following primary, and freaked out when India Walton won the primary in Buffalo.

      The bigger problem is apathy on our side. Lambert’s right, the GOPers take they’re politics far more seriously and do what is needed to make their pols fear the base. Dems on the other hand loath their base and why shouldn’t they? We fall for the “Lucy and the football” every damned time which is contemptable.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        The apathy is due to learned helplessness and learned hopelessness, very carefully and patiently taught by the National Scale DemParty and its officeholders as a group.

        Perhaps smaller scale little DemParty outposts can be infiltrated and taken over. Or conquered by brute force attack. Or besieged and starved into surrender.

        But if any “we want results” activists manage to do that, they will need an effective Intelligence-Counterintelligence office to keep every DLC/Clintoninte/Obamaturd/etc. infiltrator out of the DemParty outpost the “we want results” people have just managed to conquer. They will also need a permanent Intel/Counterintel function to track all personnel related to all the National DemParty-adjacent consultants, law firms, spin mills, etc. and shun contact with any entity which contains even one of those persons.

      2. Left in Wisconsin

        Mitch McConnell fears his base? The Koch’s fear the base? I think you’ve bought into a lot of performative theater.

    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      You make them lose so totally and utterly that they are no longer worth funding anymore. When the funders discover they get zero value for money, they will stop funding their Pet Democrats. And that’s how you punish particular DemParty personnel who have created this situation down the decades.

      But you have to be willing to take decades of even more pain than what we suffer now along the way to growing, maybe, a legitimate political party-movement. Some irony-mongers and etc. may come on here and say ” can it really get any worse?”.

      Well . . . yes. Yes it can. And it will. Don’t believe me? ” Watch, and learn” as Dr. Zoidberg likes to say.

  3. lyman alpha blob

    RE: “California pot companies warn of impending industry collapse”

    I don’t think government taxes are the sole cause of the problem here. Prior to widespread legalization, the cost of a quarter ounce was $50-$100 or so, and the high cost for a small amount of easily grown plant material was due to the fact that if was illegal. Now that it’s been legalized, why hasn’t that product cost gone down drastically, especially given that there is now a huge supply? I’d chalk that up to corporate greed, since much of the production comes from large scale corporate operations.

    Government has botched things too though. Maine legalized the jibbah for recreational use in 2016. It had been legal for medical use much longer, but there were few places you could actual buy it. The state legislature dragged their feet for four years trying to implement regulation around the new sales, and they really screwed it up. In late 2020 they finally allowed retail sales, and now we have pot shops all over the place – far more than are needed to supply everybody. In my town it’s become a bit of a running joke since nobody though to put a cap on the number of stores who could sell it, and it’s easier to find a joint now than a cup of coffee. Of course in another couple years 3/4 of these stores will be out of business.

    And you can’t sell weed in a convenience store along with beer and wine – that would have involved way too much common sense. The stores that do sell it are weed-only stores so they take up a huge amount of retail space to sell a product that in a sane world would just be sitting on a small shelf behind the cash register with the cigarettes. And not only that, but there are two types of weed stores – one sells “medical” marijuana and the other sells “recreational” marijuana, even though it’s the exact same weed and there’s no real reason to differentiate any more. The trick is the taxes are much higher on the recreational weed to the point where it’s about double the pre-legalization price. Medical weed is significantly cheaper, but still a little more expensive than the street price, and you have to register with the state as a “patient” to get the cheaper rate.

    With the options being pay double what you used to, or register with the state for a medical condition you don’t actually have, it isn’t surprising that a lot of people refuse to purchase from state sanctioned outlets.

    If the states would tax wealthy people rather than trying to make millions from weed smokers and the growers would price their product reasonably, maybe we wouldn’t be having the problems described in the article, if those problems are actually real and not just the big growers blowing smoke trying to make even more money.

    Glad it’s legal now, but the rush to get rich quick from so many people is really off-putting. Little Feat, take us on out.

    1. Screwball

      I think you are correct, although it may depend on where you are. Example; Michigan has both medical and recreational. An oz of top line (THC content) cost 460 bucks, PLUS 6% state sales tax PLUS 10% additional tax. That puts the price of an oz around $530 bucks. You can buy an oz on the black market for 250-300.

      Guess where people will go?

      1. lyman alpha blob

        In Maine the new law allows for growing your own, and many other states do too. I’d expect many people to start doing that as long as the price stays high. I’ve already been a little surprised at how many people are going the DIY route, but it really isn’t hard to do at the small scale.

        That hardest thing these days might be getting the seeds. People talk about the increased THC content over the years which I think is complete BS – I haven’t noticed a difference personally. What I have noticed is you don’t get seeds with your purchase anymore. When I was much younger there were always some seeds in the bag of ditch weed and once you were done with the smoke you could throw the seeds in a flower pot and watch them grow, but I haven’t encountered a seed in years.

        1. Screwball

          I have not found any seeds in the Michigan pot, but to be honest, I didn’t look, although I would have noticed some I would think. I agree with you on the THC content over the years too. I don’t remember what the Michigan THC number was (high 20s I think it was), but it isn’t as good as what we had back in the 80s.

          The 80s stuff was almost purple and real sticky to the touch – badass stuff – much better than today. An oz would last forever it seems. Today’s stuff is like burning cottonwood in a wood burner – also known as gopher wood – put some in and go for more. Same with this pot.

          I’m in Ohio, but drove to Michigan to buy an oz about a month ago when my normal guy died. I don’t know if you can grow in Michigan, but I think you can. In Ohio, we only have medical, and I don’t know about growing your own if you have a card. I don’t, so I can’t.

          On Ohio, it is a messed up deal, and not cheap either. My daughter had a med card but could only buy so much before you had to renew the card, or something like that. I guess it was so you couldn’t buy too much. It is still cheaper to buy black market here so that’s what she did instead of keep shoveling money to the state.

          There is talk of going recreational in Ohio, but I’m not sure if it will pass or not. It got on the ballet once, maybe 5-8 years ago, but failed. If passed, you could grow up to like 3 plants – which would be super fine to me – it’s easy to grow.

          1. B24S

            Once upon a time, when Ken Kesey and the Pranksters rolled through, some of them got off the bus, and dropped about five pounds of Kansas ditch-weed at a friends birthday. It was real bunk, probably hemp, and it took us all night to get high. Hell of a party, though, wasn’t much left the next day.

            Cannabis doesn’t grow “true” from seed, that is, every seed is a hybrid. That’s one reason clones are so popular. The other reason is clones from females are females, and don’t fertilize each other and produce seedy weed.

            I grew my allotted six plants. The stuff was so sticky you could barely trim it, and over a year later what I pull out of the jars is still sticky. I did grow a purple variety, very fruity. YMMV.

      2. Huey Long


        Yeah, that’s highway robbery. I think the local governments need to lower their expectations revenue-wise before they kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

        1. Screwball

          We did some shopping before we went and that was the cheapest we could find within a reasonable driving distance.

          I will add here as well, I was in Oregon in 2018, where it is legal. Not cheap there (compared to street prices here) and they actually had articles in the paper that said they had a pot surplus, so those prices are still inflated even with an over supply.

          But they had shops everywhere. It was pretty cool watching for the green cross.

      3. Expat2uruguay

        Here ian Uruguay permanent residents have three options. They can buy it in a pharmacy from a state-run institution, they can join a growing Collective and buy into the operation to receive part of the Harvest, or they can grow their own at home with a limit of six plants I think. For some reason I continue to buy it illegally on the black market. Tourists cannot legally buy marijuana here.

        1. Mantid

          Up here in Oregon it’s been legal for a while now. A person can grow 4 plants for themselves. A clone plant is only a few dollars and it grows, well, like a weed. People grow it, give it away, exchange it for work, on and on. An 8 – 10″ clone will become a 6 – 8′ plant. I can’t imagine a single person smoking an entire 8′ plant in a year’s time, but to each their own. I hear it’s real effective against Covid.

    2. B24S

      My simple solution:

      The summer before (2020), with nowhere to go and no one to visit, I did what I’d been waiting over 50 years to do; grew my own, legally. Spent a fair amount of time (I should point out that I’m sort of retired), wanting to do as good a job of it as possible, and was well rewarded by my harvest. Now vacuum packed in jars, I have way more than enough to last me a few years (we put up a lot). It was a lot of work, and impressed upon me that small growers, like any farmer, are not only busting ass, but gambling their time, money, and effort on the weather (and the market), and they deserve a fair price.

      Taxes, starting with the growers, and compounding each step, through distributors, testing, retailers, deliveries, and eventually “sin” taxes, raise prices exponentially. And many local governments get bulldozed by parents scared of the horrors of drugs, despite all the vineyards, wineries, brewpubs, etc., all written up and advertised in the local papers, thus leaving many areas with no retail outlets. Please, let us have a full discussion of “gateway” drugs, starting with coffee and beer. I should add that “under 21” is not even allowed inside Cannabis retail, unlike liquor stores.

      A new neighbor moved in that September. SFPD, family and kids, great guy. His comment was that it sure looked good. The whole neighborhood reeks in the late summer/early fall.

      A while back I had a “young’n” (it’s all relative) ask me how much was in a dime bag. Simple, I said, ten dollars worth. But how much weed? Ten dollars worth. But, but… They had trouble comprehending that it was the price that was standard, not the weight.

      1. barefoot charley

        It was pretty standard when and where I was a kid–there were five nickel bags in an ounce and that was that.

        ps, an ounce could be had for 15 dollars, but you could pay more.

        1. Michael

          While we are talking weights and measures, back in my “the day”, 5 quarters with the coppery edge equaled one oz to the hundredth = 28.35g. Made the cheapest scale with the clip on a chain as accurate as a triple beam. Embarrassed a few friends too!

          1. Mantid

            And more on weights and measures. “In the day” we’d have kilo parties. 4 -5 people in a row like a factory line. One person to take out the large stems, another put a big handful of leaf in the bag, the next would weigh it and then add some colas on top to finish it off. I’m old enough to remember buying/selling in cans. Then baggies came out (pre zip lock) but we still called them “cans”. I still find it amazing that’s it’s legal, but it’s about time. It was also our first foray into the metric system.

            1. B24S

              Closest thing I ever saw to “cans” were the 5 gallon tins from Thailand in the 80s. Still have a “Barking Deer Brand” label.

              But the first really heavy $#!t I saw was the Park Lane cartons, imported from ‘Nam, back in ’70.

              About the same time there was the crystalline THC from the Palo Alto Police Dept. Tested, pure as the driven snow, and blottered out at unknown but rather massive doses. But not as big a dose as when two friends rinsed the “empty” bottle out and split it. One was out cold, and we had to take him to the hospital for observation. He woke up two days later, and didn’t touch weed for a year. The other guy thought the Martians had landed…

          2. Screwball

            Love it. There was also a little tool you could buy in an auto parts store. It was used to weigh the float in a carburetor to see if it was waterlogged and costing you gas mileage. This was 70s. I worked in an auto parts store and stocked a bunch of them. The turnover was amazing.


          3. Wukchumni

            Shyster gold buyers in the UK would pay by the pennyweight using an old pre 1968 UK Penny which weighed twice as much as a dwt.

            I missed out on the 4 finger lid era, they were using scales by the late 70’s…

              1. ambrit

                Hah! I knew a chemistry major who was manufacturing certain “substances” in the school’s lab after hours. Some of the Professors had to be in on it. That was where to obtain the purist “substances” around.
                Likewise, the best place to ‘score’ the good South of the Border cannabis in Miami was at the Coast Guard Station at the extreme southern edge of Miami Beach. (Not a theory, but tested fact.)
                As we are learning to our discomfort today, there is always someone out to make an extra buck.

                1. B24S

                  One of my BILs was in the CG, stationed in southern Fl. somewhere. He would confirm your observation.

                  I was a goldsmith then, still have my scales and dwts.

        1. ambrit

          Oh yes. African. I got some Nigerian ‘Black’ once for pretty cheap compared to the “local” stuff. “Mountain grown” was the tagline. Almost too strong.

          1. Sue inSoCal

            Never heard of that one! I was never a big pot person. I thought Thai stick and San Simeon were scary. The mellow stuff, Panama Red, A. Gold were nice but those times were a rarity. 60s/70s there was always benign Tucson dirt weed. The stuff today imo bears no comparison to the stuff then. This corporate pot is paralyzing. Urged to try it, I found two choices. Bad and worse.

  4. Greg Taylor

    I recall smelling smoke on flights in the 1980s, even when the those puffing were several rows away. The ventilation systems seemingly haven’t changed so why should we believe that the virus can’t spread in flight?

    1. JustAnotherVolunteer

      Depoe Bay is also the worlds smallest natural harbor so lots of fun to be had watching boats navigate across the bar. Threading a needle.

  5. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Writing systems of the verge of collapse

    I don’t think it’s just the lesser used traditional scripts either. The kid went to overnight camp for the first time last summer and wrote my better half and I letters regularly. The handwriting on the first one we got was atrocious, especially for a kid on the verge of being a teenager. It looked more like how a 3rd grader would write. Then it dawned on me – 3rd grade was about the time they shoved an ipad at the kids in school and they started doing all their work digitally with the help of apple and google and the rest of the silicon valley asshats bent on destroying everything good in society.

    I will say that the kid’s penmanship did improve dramatically after writing letters every day for a couple weeks. Too bad is was camp that taught her and not the public school.

    1. anon y'mouse

      that’s sad news.

      when i was in school, girls vied to have their own distinctive and attractive penmanship. i was the only one left out of this contest because i had dysgraphia (fine motor control issues) and writing actually caused me pain, no matter how much coaching i got on it (some kids had to write lines for their miscreant behavior during class, but my parents made me write them after because my chicken scratch continually showed my parents how uncivilized and uneducated i was—dirty social class slip was exposed to the world & my teachers).

      they would show off their skills by passing notes to each other in the halls between periods, exchanging gossip, plans, poetry, sketches and sharp observations written out during classtime. they would then fold them into those locked letter shapes, which Nakedcapitalism provided a link for about a year ago proving that this has been longstanding letter-sending practice back to the 1700s, possibly even before. learning the origami of folding these was another art form in itself, and the outsides were never left undecorated.

      how sad that such handicrafts of social exchange have fallen out of favor. sending a text with premade emojis doesn’t strike me as quite the same, even if the social motivations are from the same need to connect.

      1. flora

        Yep. “Thank” the Common-core standards* (as such). Who needs cursive on a keyboard?


        I now receive hand printed notes from 30-somethings, not hand written. They know how to print (barely) but do not know how to write. Very sad.

        *On the other hand, guy who pushed Common-core into schools via his foundations now says it’s a failure. (We could have told him that some time ago, when teach-to-the-test came a cropper.)


    2. CanCyn

      I’m not sure exactly when they stopped teaching cursive writing in schools here in Ontario but there are a lot of children, teenagers and young adults who can neither write it or read it. I recently listened to a podcast by a 20 something couple trying to trace the history of ownership of the land that their newly purchased condo is on. When they got to older handwritten documents, they had to take them to their parents to get help reading them. IDK how I feel about this. Does it matter? I worry more about math skills. I’d feel much better if they knew the basics of arithmetic and didn’t have to use a calculator for very simple equations.

    3. Huey Long

      Never learned cursive, can’t stand it either! I’m actually quite pleased to learn it is dying out, reminds me of my nasty 3rd grade teacher who used to like to run her mouth and get fresh with me over my inability to write cursive, copy stuff off the blackboard, etc.

      I had a learning disability as a kid, was disgraphic. My IEP allowed me to print and my penmanship only got readable in my late teens/early 20’s when I had to write in a lot of handwritten logs during my military service. We had to print too, cursive was verbotten.

      1. Harold

        Since a as a child moved around a changed schools a lot, my handwriting instruction was sporadic and I never seemed to get the hang of penmanship, and later on even typing was very difficult for me. As an adult I discovered Getty Dubay’s books on printed and cursive italic and I never tire of praising them. They claim that the looped cursive known as copperplate that we are taught are particularly hard to write and to read.

        With Italic you don’t have to learn two writing systems (first ball-and-stick printing, and then fancy copperplate) but only one, and it has no loops. It seems that most European countries use italic also, though to my mind, they are not as pleasing as the Getty-Dubay version, which is based on the calligraphy of the Renaissance. Their books also include a short history of the various alphabets, Phoenician, Greek, Roman and so on, which is very interesting. https://handwritingsuccess.com/about

    4. Romancing the Loan

      The most beautiful penmanship I have ever seen is from lifer prisoners. They get a lot of practice.

    5. Valerie

      My understanding is that under “No Child Left Behind”, third grade is the first year state skills tests scores have punitive repercussions for both teachers and students. It does not serve a third-grade teacher to teach anything that is not on the state test if they wish continued employment. Cursive is not tested so that skill is relegated to the last two weeks of school after testing has been completed. It’s no surprise that children’s ability to write in cursive is deficient or non-existent. If the state is interested in preserving cursive they will have to include it on the state testing instruments.

    6. lyman alpha blob

      Just to clarify since a few people mentioned cursive, in my comment above I was referring to normal print handwriting. I’m ambivalent about cursive, but it would be prudent to retain some form of written communication for when that big solar flare comes some day and fries our digital infrastructure,

      1. polar donkey

        When I went to have lunch with my second grade son in September, as I was waiting for a teacher to escort me to the cafeteria, a grandparent called the school. I heard the school secretary talking to the caller explaining why they don’t teach cursive. After the phone conversation,the secretary told me how they get at least a call a day about cursive handwriting. If the community is this passionate about a subject, why wouldn’t you teach it. Doesn’t this feed into the alienation parents/families feel toward school curriculum. I’m going to teach my kids cursive writing at home.

        1. Wukchumni

          Cursive writing is all the rage in California, I must’ve seen it hundreds if not a thousand times on display today.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        If all you have is a paper and pencil/pen, and you want to take notes on what the speaker is saying, cursive lets you write way faster than printing lets you write.

    7. Mantid

      Then again, cursive and handwriting in general brought out the ambedextriousness (sp?) in me. I was a lefty but in kinder, the teacher said “Oh no Mantid, use your right hand and do this….” (me): “OK lady”. Been messed up ever since. Made me a decent basketball player however. “Balls in” :-)

  6. 430MLK

    On the class syllabus with the $50 hidden prize:

    I don’t know if I’d call that good student triage. The clue was hidden in what appears to be the attendance policy portion, a key part (along w/ class work requirements and grading breakdown) of any syllabus.

    Having said that, if that teacher’s has experienced administrative syllabus bloat like mine (from1-2 pages to 7!), it’s not all on the students.

    1. Mildred Montana

      “…it’s not all on the students.”

      No, it’s all on the professor. A paltry fifty bucks?! That guy is either seriously out of touch with the current value of money or too cheap to offer more.

    2. anon y'mouse

      what i was surprised about was that all of my college instructors took going over the syllabus as a sort of stand-in for a contract between you and them quite seriously, so that there would be no tears and arguments later one assumes.

      in fact, almost nothing beyond reading that document and the obligatory “let’s go around the room introducing ourselves and proving our skill at self promotion” would occur for the first meeting or so.

    3. Mikel

      Remember the old grade school trick teachers once did?
      They’d give a pop quiz with short time limit. The top of page would be instructions that said please read all instructions before beginning the test. The last item on the instructions would be to go to the end and sign your name and turn in the test for 100% – all to see which students were following instructions. You’d see very few kids getting up after a couple of minutes to turn in the quiz. Any that did would get baffled looks by people sweating the quiz and watching the clock.

      I used to read every bit of syllabuses and speed read / skim through each book for classes before the start of the semester and all the people and fun returned to campus. Saved a lot of study time during the year.

  7. griffen

    Re never believing in Santa Claus. Well I suspect quite a few of us folks here are or were in the same boat. I came about the non belief in Santa the old fashioned way. Brain washing*!

    *Thankful it was not in a Guyana commune hosted by a real whack job, Jim Jones.

    1. anon y'mouse

      i had worked out logically at 5 that the Christian God i was told about could not possibly exist, at least as evidenced by the reality around me so Santa never got a chance.

    2. Mildred Montana

      I believed. I believed fervently. I was six. I remember being taken by my mother to a Christmas celebration at our local church. Santa Claus was there and gave presents to all the kids. Then he beat a retreat into the back of the church. For some reason, I decided to follow him.

      Alas, he was nowhere to be found in those rooms and corridors. So I went outside and scanned the skies for a sleigh and reindeer. No luck there either. Santa Claus was gone, and far from diminishing my belief his magical disappearing act only strengthened it. For a few more years anyway.

  8. LawnDart

    RE: Tweet, Civil War

    Another internal threat? Maybe expand powers of the surveillance state? “See something, say something” (v2)?

    Love it! I confess that I have a list of people that I wish to denounce to the authorities!

    …Oh wait… …those are the authorities.

    1. Huey Long

      Americans fight a civil war?

      Not while COINTELPRO or whatever the FBI calls it now is still going on. The proud boys guy is on the frigg’in payroll for cry’in out loud!


      So long as the federales can infiltrate and sabotage domestic insurgent groups at will there will be no civil war*

      *Unless some excel spreadsheet analysis determines that civil war will result in more plunder for the oligarchy than peace

    2. dcblogger

      Koch brothers et al have been encouraging this for years. Why all those open carry laws? Why all those stand your ground laws? The entire point of those laws are so that white men can kill minorities for any reason or no reason. Why is Kyle Rittenhouse being invited to speak at Turning Point USA? They want to kill anyone who might pose a challenge to them. And they want to frighten the rest into silence.

      1. JBird4049

        I am not entirely convinced that the Koch Network is pushing open carry and stand your ground laws just to get the black man, but if they are, then the leftists, then the liberals, then any non crazy conservatives, finally any law abiding Constitutionalists are all adjacent targets and in that order.

      2. TMR

        Way more mundane than that: it’s consumerist fetish culture. Everyone knows that artillery, armor, and air power obliterate any resistance with small arms, and since it’s home territory, it’s a lot easier to co-opt and buy off local persons of influence.

        Small arms are allowed to flourish because they represent no real threat to the system, just the threat of stochastic violence that helps reinforce despair.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Why didn’t artillery, armor and air power obliterate any Taliban resistance to NATO forces in Afghanistan?

          1. JBird4049

            Remember the final drone strike in the Afghan War that killed 10 people, most of them children, as well as their father or uncle had just left work that day from the US aid group Nutrition and Education International.


            “If there is any justice and regard for human rights and respect for human dignity, then it’s their responsibility to punish the culprits and compensate the victims,” said Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi.

            It’s interesting seeing my country being schooled by the Taliban. So much for “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.’ (Chuckles darkly.)

            Most of that powerful weaponry of ours was used in wiping out wedding parties, farmers, and the like. Each person that was killed left any number of friends, family, and even random strangers wanting some payback like those proverbial heads of the Hydra.

            “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

          2. TMR

            Because we were foreign invaders, who everyone agreed was making things worse on the whole, even if certain groups benefited in a big way. That would be a very, very different scenario than any sort of organized civil conflict within the bounds of the US.

            Let’s put it a different way – in this country, if the cops decided to drone a bunch of Proud Boys or Antifa, do you think there would be unanimous outrage? A historical analogue:

            “A Gallup Poll taken the day after the [Kent State] shootings reportedly showed that 58 percent of respondents blamed the students, 11 percent blamed the National Guard and 31 percent expressed no opinion.”

        2. Benny

          Sage observation, TMR. There isn’t a single historical instance in which swarms of irregulars with small arms have caused significant problems for a well resourced conventional military.
          Not one :)

          1. TMR

            >and since it’s home territory, it’s a lot easier to co-opt and buy off local persons of influence

            This is the part you’re missing, and why it’s not analogous to what we saw in the Middle East.

          2. ambrit

            You forget the Soviet Resistance to the Wehrmacht back in the Hitler War, aka, World War Part Two. The best tactics target supply columns. Let the front line troops shoot off all they want. When the ammo dwindles though…or the rations stop.

          3. Roland

            It’s not really a question of a causing trouble to the military.

            It’s mostly about murdering people in the factions you don’t like!

            “That superb army of yours might hurt us, but it can’t stop us from hurting you.

            Guerrilla warfare is not about Utility. It’s about making a list, and crossing off names.

            The Russian anarchists of the late 19th cent. never overthrew the government, but they perpetrated thousands and thousands of successful homicides. I’m sure all those dead officials were comforted to know that the army faced no threat.

            1. TMR

              That’s a great point, Roland – while there is no systemic threat, there certainly is one to particular well-connected individuals.

  9. Reader_In_Cali

    Though it, of course, makes complete economic sense to extend the pause on student loans (especially in light of the BBB implosion, child tax credit sunset, ominous OMICRON etc.) I was still pleasantly surprised to see Joe make it happen.

    Interesting interview with Christine Byrne, a prominent cancel student debt advocate, working on a “parking lot” strategy for cancellation. Let’s hope there’s enough momentum to see it happen!

    Unlocked interview here

  10. Duke of Prunes

    The Underground Man article confused me… until I realized the author of the book in question was not Dostoevsky.

    1. hamstak

      “I am a sick man, I am an angry man, I am an unattractive man. I think there is something wrong with my liver.” One of my favorite opening lines from any literary piece, at least translated as such.

    2. ambrit

      I like Ross Macdonald’s work. His wife, crime writer Margaret Millar is quite good too.
      Margaret: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Millar
      Ross: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_Macdonald
      The two were big birders and were in at the founding of the Santa Barbara Audobon Society.
      Perhaps I am crazy to, no, make that, I am crazy, and consider a Jungian Private Detective as someone like Nick Danger.
      Of course, everything I know is wrong.
      As the sign on the window says, “!efaS yatS”

      1. jonboinAR

        My mom knew Ross. I wonder why I didn’t know he was a birder. We could have chatted birds, although I’m a desultory birder. Lifetime, though!

  11. Hank Linderman

    How on earth is India keeping covid under control? They have 4x our population and fewer deaths. I haven’t heard about a massive vaccine campaign. Is it Provodine? WTH?

    I mean, if iodine nasal and mouth spray protect you from getting or spreading the disease, wouldn’t we all want to do it? Biggest side effect seems to be a slight bit of discomfort and I suppose the possibility of staining your teeth (or clothes), but lower concentrations should be fine.

    What other factors are at play in India?

    (Apologies if this has been discussed before.)


    1. Arizona Slim

      I just started using ImmuneMist Nasal Cleanse, and holy cow. Instructions say to shoot two squirts up each nostril. I do that, then BAM! The stuff makes me feel like my sinus pipes just got an industrial-strength cleaning.

      It’s not unpleasant, but I do get the feeling that it’s really drying the sinuses. That’s why I’m only doing two nose hosings per 24 hours.

      1. polar donkey

        I got a machine that makes hypochlorous acid. I use HOCL as mouthwash, eye drops, nasal spray. Run it in a humidifier to sanitize room and cut down covid in air. Smells like the beach. Cosmo Kramer would love it. The stuff is great.

        1. ambrit

          That is a valuable resource there. Hang on to it. We use hypochlorous instead of hyperchloric for cuts and abrasions.

    2. Adam

      Excess death count for India actually puts the likely death count at around 4 million, which is a similar death rate to the US. Granted, their recent numbers are still way off their highs while our case counts are skyrocketing.

  12. Lunker Walleye

    Hopper: “Framing”
    John Canaday, Mainstreams of Modern Art, talks about “snapshot compositions” of Degas and in olden days my art history profs discussed the idea. See A Carriage at the Races, Portraits in an Office and various ballet dancer paintings.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      When I see Hopper paintings they remind me of the compositions of the Japanese film maker Yasujiro Ozu. The framing of his films is incredible – he frequently frames within frames (aided by the particular layout of japanese homes). There are two very interesting youtube analyses here and here.

  13. Vic_bold

    Former reader having a peek here…what exactly is “PMC”, in Lambert’s references to the Dem. Party?

  14. enoughisenough

    Yeah, composition and framing are huge topics, not niche. The 1825 painting is, of course, prior to photography.

    It was the Impressionists and the 19th cent. avant garde who were sick of “academic” (Royal Academy/French Academy) rules of painting, much of which included composition, of course.

    After the exposition in 1867 in Paris, they not only were influenced by photographs (see also Caillebotte, not just Degas) but also the asymmetry of Japanese prints.

    The Hopper is definitely influenced by photography, as was Thomas Eakins before him.

    Many painters of the turn of the century used photographs instead of/in addition to sketches to prep a painting.

    (I teach this stuff)

    1. enoughisenough

      There’s tons of bibliography on this. You might have to search “academic vs avant garde” painting, usw.

      1. enoughisenough

        Later, but vaguely parallel* trends in Modernist architecture also eschew centrality. See for example the entrance to the Bauhaus, which is not highlighted in the plan at all, vs. …say Monticello.

        *in the sense of also wanting to break from traditional norms

    2. howseth

      Yes, the off center framing in 19th century painting and later – does feel ‘modern’ and It acknowledged – by those artists, like Degas, the importance of photography on our visual awareness.

      Hopper is an example of how photography can liberate a painter: Hopper frames paintings – as if from a camera – and then by using his painting technique – color and abstraction – he evokes such strong emotions, while maintaining the illusion of realism. Love Hopper! (I once visited his house in Nyack – now a house museum)

    3. Judith

      Eugene Atget, who died in 1927, worked as a commercial photographer in France. He sold his photographs to painters, which was a practice at the time. It wasn’t until long after his death that he was recognized for his photography. His work is quite visionary, I think.

      1. howseth

        Ah, Yes. I’ve spent more time looking at Atget photos than any other photographer (and I’ve spent a lot of time looking at photos – he’s my favorite – but he was not at first, his work took time to sink in – and sink it does -eventually ones senses a ‘Vision’ of Paris and surroundings one wants to imbibe. (Incidentally – I was a photographer for 25+ years.)

  15. drumlin woodchuckles

    About the article ” “Column: Sorry your dad’s dead. Mind if we hang on to his money?” ” . . . simply assuming that only a hired fixer can solve problems like this anymore may be prematurely defeatist.

    What if some redditors formed a subreddit to share stories just like this? What if they called it ” antibank”? What if it gained a big enough following after a while that when a story just like this hit the “antibank subreddit”, that a million or several million antibank subredittors and may millions more sympathisers from all over Reddit and beyond, all visited Bank Of America’s computers to voice their opinions? All at once? Over and over and over again? Hundreds or thousands of times per day per voicer-of-opinion, because each voicer-of opinion feels just that strongly about it?

    Might the Bank of America release the money to its owners?

    I think this is another whole field of social interaction where John Robb’s “Global guerillas” blog has something to offer about how to proceed.

  16. dcblogger

    Question for the NC community, has there ever been a hostile takeover of a business by workers? I am not talking about revolutions or nationalizations, I am talking about worker owned enterprises. The usual model is to create a new business that is worker owned, or takeover a failing business. But suppose, just for example, the workers of Dow Chemical decided that they wanted to own it. How could they mount a hostile takeover, not unionize, but own the company outright? Has that ever been done?

    1. lyman alpha blob

      This probably isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, but there was a trend in South America several years ago where owners would relocate a business and the workers realized that although the financing had changed, they and the factories were still there, so they occupied them and kept producing. This article touches on it, but not sure what happened in the long run – https://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/South_America/Occupy_Resist_Argentina.html\

    2. Huey Long

      How could they mount a hostile takeover, not unionize, but own the company outright? Has that ever been done?

      Not sure if it has been done but all you’d need to do to take over the company would be to get a great big pile of money, tender an offer to the board, and if the board don’t wanna play nice engage in a proxy fight to elect a more amenable board.

      The problem here is where do the workers get the great big pile of money? What bank is going to loan a bunch of proles millions of dollars to buy out their bosses?

      Ok, so a loan is off the table. Let’s imagine our plucky workers have a big fat pension fund, like this one:


      9.8 billion clams, sounds like a lot right? If the CSPF used all 9.8 billion dollars on the books to buy shares in UPS they’d end up with just 5.4% of the firm.

      The problem here is lack of access to capital. All the capital is in the hands of the oligarchy and that’s just the way they like it (see Kalecki)

    3. Lou Anton

      I wonder whether companies would put enough common/preferred stock out there to enable a hostile takeover. But the mechanics would have to involve driving down the price to near-zero, and then picking up as much as you can. Been a little while since I’ve read Varoufakis’s “Another Now,” but your question reminded me of that book. It’s worth checking out if you haven’t already! Maybe give you some ideas to start plotting :).

      1. dcblogger

        those are all problems, and I almost didn’t bother with the post because, yo, Wall Street is never going to loan money for that. And what if the company is privately owned? It is a thought that occurred to me today and it probably is not possible, but I am going to keep thinking about it. The Auto Workers won some great victories and for 50 years they provided their members with a good standard of living. But ultimately the companies moved production over seas. The answer is to own the means of production. Something to think over.

        1. fjallstrom

          You might want to have a look at the Swedish Employee Funds. The original proposals aimed at a take over of ownership of the big corporations by funds managed by the unions. It caused quite some resistance and the version that existed during the 80ies was explicitly forbidden to own more than 8% of a company.

        2. Romancing the Loan

          Driving the price down to near zero does sound like something workers could collectively exert some control over though doesn’t it?

        3. Left in Wisconsin

          I worked on a couple of employee buyouts when I was at the UAW in late 80s, early 90s. They were all relatively small potatoes, typically small machine shops or whatever where the owner was retiring, couldn’t find a traditional buyer, and was not opposed to seeing if the employees could make a go of it. As said above, financing is a big problem. We never even heard that businesses were for sale until they had been shopped around for awhile already and not found any (traditional) takers. Any really attractive business would be scooped up by PE or some competitor, who wouldn’t have to beg for bank lending. And the lenders that were receptive to employee buyouts always insisted on some level of worker concessions, to show that they had “skin in the game.” Which, understandably, was never a slam dunk with the workforce. The Canadian steelworkers actually set up a buyout fund to try to normalize the idea of selling a business to the employees, but they shut it down after awhile because they had a hard time raising $$, lots of potential buyouts couldn’t pass due diligence (the business was failing), and it didn’t have many successes.

          Also, the management question was always an issue. In smaller firms, the divide between the hourly workers and management wasn’t always that great, so one didn’t necessarily have to worry about the whole of (remaining) management (and sales and engineering) quitting rather than “work for the union.” But in the one larger one I worked on, we lost a lot of middle management and had to go through head hunters to try to find replacements, which was not ideal.

          The notion of trying to do a hostile employee/union takeover of a functioning business seems like an impossibility to me. I can’t imagine a functioning shop floor while the process was playing out, even if you could figure out the $$ part.

    4. HotFlash

      Don’t know if this fits “hostile takeover” exactly, although there was some, ahem, hostility. The Republic Replacement Windows Co. went tits up or something (owners tried to sneak out in the dead of night, IIRC) and the workers took over the place, paid the rent, and so far as I know are still there, making replacement windows.

      There was also a steel company in Ohio, a Republic Steel plant that was closed? Can’t find the reference and I may have the wrong name, perhaps someone out there knows. The union workers tried to take over the plant, had business lined up and all the workers and know-how, just needed some financing. Asked the the govt, which said, “Not on your nelly.” So the plant was shuttered, scraped and later, IIRC, the land was ceded? sold? to the local port authority. As the underpants gnomes say, “Profit!”

      In less hostile takeovers, when Chelsea Green Publishing owners decided to retire they sold their biz to the employees. Working great, last I heard.

  17. drumlin woodchuckles

    The California legal pot price could perhaps be lower than it is, but it can never go as low as the illegal pot price. At some point buyers will sort themselves out into ethical legal buyers and unethical illegal buyers. The legal producers will serve the ethical buyers. The illegal producers will serve the unethical buyers.
    The way to reduce the illegal market would be to target the PMC professionals who launder the money, who structure the multi-layer matryoshka-doll shell company money hidey-holes in tax haven jurisdictions, etc.

    The carceral state has hundreds of thousands of spaces for people who help the pot cartels launder and hide their money. We just need to release several hundred thousand prisoners who shouldn’t be there so we can incarcerate the several hundred thousand ( or maybe several million) money-engineering professionals who should be there, instead of helping the Drug Cartels launder and hide the money.

    Also, if it isn’t state-legal for California home-owers to grow their own personal-use marijuana, make it legal.

    1. Michael McK

      Except that (at least in my neck of the woods) most people who could afford to jump through the legalization hoops were not the “Mom and Pop” small ethical farmers. They were black market distributors who had been selling for the same price out east after the wholesale price in California dropped after Medical legalization. They made such huge profits many of them bought out and massively expanded the old hippy farms they had been buying from. Now the big guys are growing more than ever, legally, and claiming it was moldy and destroyed or not entering it into the track and trace system to begin with and flooding the “black” market through their preexisting channels.
      The way to reduce the illegal market is to restrict any person from having a beneficial interest in more than 5000 sq ft of growing space and make licenses easy to get with counties being the middlemen between farmers an stores.

  18. Mikel

    So now the US Army is issuing press releases about the covid shots they have in development.
    What mandates have wrought! I can’t recall there ever being as many rush to get approved or rushed approved drugs for the same thing. And with the records keeping we’ve seen so far, it’s going to be quite the cluster down the line figuring out what’s wrong when something goes wrong.
    And we’re still early on the clock for understanding the long term consequences of all that’s happening.

  19. B24S

    Thank you for posting the Diane Arbus Xmas tree. When I was little we were neighbors, in Manhattan, from ’56-’60, in a five story walkup (empty elevator shaft) above a mortuary. I think it was 106th and Amsterdam, SW corner?

    She and her roommate welcomed all us kids, let us play dress-up and run around, as long as we’d sit so she could shoot us. She was wonderful friend to us. I must say that that Levittown living room looks nothing like her flat did.

  20. Pat

    Joe Biden tripling down on vaccines on David Muir’s program (and mixing up tests and pills) , my favorite being that of course they ordered enough of the new Pfizer wonder drug because everyone who has two shots and a booster won’t need them. Oh and no one knew Omicron was coming. (I do give Muir credit for confusing the old man enough that he had to admit they did know it was possible but you plan for the best…)

    Idiots and sociopath, we are ruled by idiots and sociopaths.

    Oh and he is running for re-election and would love a Trump rematch. Goody/s

    1. cnchal

      > Idiots and sociopath, we are ruled by idiots and sociopaths.

      No. We elect narcissists which are then surrounded with psychopaths. Since it is psychopaths over narcissists we are ruled by psychopaths.

      How does one get to the top of the heap? Kiss the right ass and stab the right back in the correct order, and there is the key to getting to the top of the greasy pole of status and power. So, once the fatuous narcissists we call politicians win the popularity contest, they get to deal with the highly skilled ass kissers and back stabbers at the top of the bureaucratic and business heap.

  21. Greg

    Re: mistletoe, the sixth (first!) most interesting thing is how stripped down their genomes are; like many obligate parasites, they have trimmed down the amount of DNA they carry around, removing functions that they now depend on the host for. Similar to how chloroplasts and mitochondria are missing a bunch of stuff that regular archaea/bacteria still have.
    It’s fascinating because it means there is a bunch of interesting things being passed between two “individual” organisms that normally wouldn’t be. Most parasites do this! It’s neat!

    Paper and some pictures of the attachment points that are pretty cool here:

    And a slightly more common-man version of similar results here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150622162031.htm

  22. Jason Boxman

    The White House announced Wednesday that it was ramping up purchases of Covid treatments, as federal health officials tried to reassure Americans that it was safe to travel during the holiday season — so long as they are vaccinated and avoid large gatherings.

    But it’s not safe to travel. These people are insane.

    Go die for capitalism.

    1. Tom Stone

      Dude,dude,the Fed Gov will provide Covid tests for ALL Americans, “Free” for the asking.
      All 50 Million of us.
      Joe is undoubtedly among the four best American Presidents to take office in the 21st Century.

    2. ChrisRUEcon

      Yep! Keep supporting those airlines after they got pandemic assistance money and used it for stock buybacks … LOL (via Columbia Political Review)

  23. Carla

    “What I keep hearing, in most of the many circles I frequent, is a general sense that nothing works anymore. Whether that’s anything like a pre-revolutionary state I don’t know.”

    Lambert, my hunch is, it may more nearly resemble a pre-collapse state.

  24. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here is a fascinating 6 minute and 44 second video by Beau of the Fifth Column called . . . ” Let’s give Trump a boost . . . ”

    It is about how Trump and Bill O’Reilly are touring the country and playing half-empty stadiums where, among other things, Trump comes right out and tells the audience that it might be a good thing if they were to get vaccinated and maybe even vaccine-boosted. And some in the audience boo Trump.

    These are Trump’s hardest core supporters. Why are they booing? And why will Trump keep enduring that humiliation to keep suggesting to half-empty stadiums half-full of fans that they should maybe consider getting maybe, like . . . . vaccinated?

    Beau of the Fifth Column gives a very plausible explanation for all this. If there were a transcript, I could link to it. But there is no transcript. The video is all there is. And its only between 6 and 7 minutes long. It might even be interesting. Here is the link.

  25. ChrisRUEcon


    Yes, one of the underpinnings of MMT is chartalism, which per another wonderful offering from Pavlina, “Chartalism and the tax-driven approach to money” (via Modern Money Network), “posits that money (broadly speaking) is a unit of account, designated by a public authority for the codification of social debt obligations”. Another good read for those who have time!

  26. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here is a little Weather Channel story about a Steller’s Sea Eagle in Massachusetts. That’s a long way from its home in eastern-most Russia and Kamchatka. And it can be used to illustrate the difference between a birder and a birdwatcher.

    A birder ( many birders in fact) will try their hardest to get to Massachusetts to see this bird in Massachusetts. They’ll come in from Florida, Texas, California and etc. A birdwatcher just won’t do that.
    He/she would go see it if it was in herm’s own town and not too hard to get to. But to go all the way to Massachusetts just to see a spectacular and spectacularly rare bird? No.


    1. Judith

      I met Pete Dunne a few years ago and he made a distinction between birding and bird watching, but not in a critical way, as he has spent his life doing both. Birding does involve trying to see lots of birds and can be fun and useful (data), but of course some humans can get carried away. He defines birdwatching in almost a meditative sense. Immersing oneself in the birds where one is, appreciating the wonder of each bird.
      (Living in MA, I did think about going to Fall River to see the Stellars Sea Eagle, but I was feeling lazy. I do walk everyday and enjoy the birds in my neighborhood. Most winters, a Merlin takes residence.)

    2. jonboinAR

      Oh, I said up-thread that I was a “birder”. I guess I’m really more of just a sort-of birdwatcher, although, again, lifetime!

  27. Redlife2017

    In England today, the doctors have said that you are 25% less likely to go to the hospital (and 40% less likely to stay overnight) with Omicron than if you had Delta. Which led me to two thoughts:

    1) That sounds suspiciously like we have returned to the hospitalisation and death rate of the Wuhan wild type. Of course, there is no comparison to other waves in the article…say even like Kent / Alpha which almost collapsed the healthcare system last year.

    2) Wouldn’t the fact that Omicron is more infections and evades booster shots make this not a good thing either??

    Well, half-way through the article they manage to mention point 2:
    “While the analysis shows evidence of “a moderate reduction” in the risk of hospitalisation associated with Omicron compared with Delta, Ferguson said, “this appears to be offset by the reduced efficacy of vaccines against infection with the Omicron variant”.”

    So the happy clappy headline is maybe per chance not really all that great? Because the total optimistic scenario is the only one allowed in the media right now, BoJo has cover to not do a damn thing. He’s stated (can’t find the link this morning) that no post-Christmas lockdown will be announced before Christmas.

    I guess we’re going to find out how that works out.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      This is the disturbing thing – when you read the details of the Imperial study there is some good news (compared to the worst fears of 2 weeks ago), but its mostly not very good news. But it was written in a way thats allowed ridiculous cherry picking by the UK media. Check out the Daily Mails headline.

      The summary of the Imperial study has a pretty clear last line:

      In broad terms, our estimates suggest that individuals who have received at least 2 vaccine doses remain substantially protected against hospitalisation, even if protection against infection has been largely lost against the Omicron variant

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