By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
Another migratory bird. Busy busy busy!
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.
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):
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
UPDATE Something seems to have concentrated Biden’s mind wonderfully:
Today, I announced my Administration is extending the pause on federal student loan repayments for an additional 90 days. pic.twitter.com/mxveCTe7bH
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 22, 2021
(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!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community. (Note that voters do not appear within this structure. That’s because, unlike say UK Labour or DSA, the Democrat Party is not a membership organization. Dull normals may “identify” with the Democrat Party, but they cannot join it, except as apparatchiks at whatever level.) Whatever, if anything, that is to replace the Democrat Party needs to demonstrate the operational capability to contend with all this. Sadly, I see nothing of the requisite scale and scope on the horizon, though I would love to be wrong. (If Sanders had leaped nimbly from the electoral train to the strike wave train after losing in 2020, instead of that weak charity sh*t he went with, things might be different today. I am not sure that was in him to do, and I’m not sure he had the staff to do it, although I believe such a pivot to a “war of movement” would have been very popular with his small donors. What a shame the app wasn’t two-way.) Ah well, nevertheless.
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…
already did suspend the filibuster for specific reasons in the past and would now for SC nominees. It has razor-thin margins yet can still pass massive spending bills. Invoking Manchin or Sinema doesn't really explain the puzzle; it just re-describes it.
— corey robin (@CoreyRobin) December 2, 2021
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”:
Democrats will solve the problem of minoritarian tyranny by losing the popular vote. https://t.co/hdw4IxTu2b
— Alice in Winter (@AliceFromQueens) November 18, 2021
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’.
* * *
“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
buryinginvestigating everything he did!
“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?
— Thomas Zeitzoff (@zeitzoff) December 21, 2021
“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.
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.
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…
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.
Apel-les Mestres , 'The Trees Fleeing from Man, Destructor of the Forests' pic.twitter.com/6YPXLYy2JJ
— @_rt* (@literatura_rte) December 19, 2021
“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!
“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?
— Aaron Collins (@masknerd) December 19, 2021
More evidence for the Hague prosecutor….
“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.
“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!
This strikes me as photo-style framing:
Newyork Street Corner, 1913
Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967) pic.twitter.com/EZ2j9uZ1cA
— Olga Tuleninova 🦋 (@olgatuleninova) December 22, 2021
(Manet often gives me the same feeling.) This, on the other hand, doesn’t strike me that away:
Jean Augustin Franquelin (1798-1839)-
-The Mariner’s Wife [c.1825] pic.twitter.com/jTU9ZoCyy4
— Olga Tuleninova 🦋 (@olgatuleninova) December 22, 2021
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
diane arbus – xmas tree in a living room in levittown, 1963 pic.twitter.com/CJx7V86Kxx
— paul bloemers (@paul_bloemers) December 20, 2021
No it’s not:
This is the gingerbread you're looking for… pic.twitter.com/zMgfIi7vwt
— Book of Boba Fett News (@BobaFettNews) December 20, 2021
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….
Just had a great idea: build monuments to the “Victims of the University of Chicago Economics Department.” https://t.co/c0A45Awz4T
— Marshall Steinbaum 🔥 (@Econ_Marshall) December 21, 2021
“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:
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) December 22, 2021
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.
MASINT #11888 from NROL-82 (ACCM)
1. Pain Factory
2. Twisted Dreams of Emperors pic.twitter.com/B0VXatCnQm
— Weird Spy Satellite (@WeirdSatellite) December 22, 2021
“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.
V – VOTIVE OFFERINGS
I leave actual spells and prayers where I find them on the foreshore and only remove plastic offerings for the good of the river. Over the years I’ve found Hindu, Islamic, West African and Wiccan offerings.#Mudlarking #Mudlark #Larking pic.twitter.com/Oty9ekbaV4
— Lara Maiklem Mudlarking (London Mudlark) (@LondonMudlark) December 22, 2021
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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