Links 12/9/2021

The Soap Bubble Trope JSTOR Daily

Apple wins Epic court ruling: Devs will pay up for now as legal case churns on The Register

Apple CEO Tim Cook ‘Secretly’ Signed $275 Billion Deal With China in 2016 MacRumors

Why U.S. Infrastructure Costs So Much Bloomberg


Brazil is in water crisis — it needs a drought plan Nature

Renewable Energy Is Great—but the Grid Can Slow It Down Wired

The World’s Coldest Inhabited Place Is Burning Because of ‘Zombie Fires’ Vice


Omicron VOC-21NOV-01 (B.1.1.529) update on cases, S gene target failure and risk assessment (PDF) UK Health Security Agency. Excerpt:

Note the distinction between “Growth Advantage” and “Transmissibility.” Shameful we have to rely on the UK’s NHS for data (a system the Tories are trying to privatize, partly to the advantage of US consulting firms, even more shamefully).

Omicron: the global response is making it worse Nature

Ethics Grand Rounds: The Ethics of Vaccine Mandates (video) NIH (dd). Worth a listen.

The Pandemic That Capitalism Made Umair Haque


Evergrande rated ‘restricted default’ by Fitch after missed payment FT

Evergrande Restructuring Puts Bondholders at Beijing’s Mercy Bloomberg

China’s PBOC showdown will force Xi to pick sides Reuters. PBOC = People’s Bank of China

Is it appropriate to hand in my mobile phone to the university for class? What China Reads


Hidden in Plain Sight: How Nalehmu is Disrupting Conventional Power Structures in Myanmar (podcast) Southeast Asian Studies. The flip side to armed conflict.

Myanmar’s annus horribilis Lowy Institute

Blinken headed for Southeast Asia with China, Myanmar on agenda Channel News Asia. Oh, good.


Half of India is so poor it owns almost nothing Quartz (Re SIlc).

The West Asian Polycrisis – From Afghanistan to Lebanon Adam Tooze, Chartbook


Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants Axios (dk).


Boris Johnson bets on a ‘dead cat’ strategy to get him out of trouble FT and Boris Johnson deploys England’s coronavirus ‘Plan B’ to curb Omicron spread Politico

Behind the chaos and scandal of Boris Johnson’s government lies stasis (not paywalled) The Economist

British housing boom created £3tn ‘unearned’ and ‘unequal’ windfall FT

Ofgem ‘inaction on unfit energy suppliers leaves households with £2.6bn bill’ Sky News

Grenfell survivors slam ‘disingenuous’ and ‘deeply offensive’ government inquiry statement Inside Housing

New Cold War

US small arms and ammo set to arrive in Ukraine as Pentagon details troops to train country’s military CNN. Small arms.

New Clothes, Old Threads: The Dangerous Right-Wing Offensive in Latin America Tricontinental

Biden Administration

Senate votes to nix Biden’s vaccine mandate for businesses The Hill

Let’s get real: the American Rescue Plan was the best economic policy in forty years Stay-At-Home Macro

Conservative justices scoff at Maine’s exclusion of religious schools from tuition-assistance program SCOTUSblog

Supply Chain

Convoy Economist Says Trucker Shortage Is Overblown Forbes (Re Silc).

Maersk unveils revolutionary new boxship design Splash 247

China is imposing quarantines of up to 7 weeks for cargo ship crew, and it’s bad news for the supply chain Business Insider

Health Care

Health Care Access Is Hampered By Administrative Hurdles Teen Vogue. No kidding. And the most un-Teen Vogue headline ever.

Insulin’s deadly cost: Ultrahigh prices in the U.S. mean many diabetics can’t afford the medication they need to survive Fortune

Biogen’s reckoning: How the Aduhelm debacle pushed a troubled company and its fractured leadership to the brink STAT

L’Affaire Joffrey Epstein

The Prosecution Is Fumbling Its Case Against Ghislaine Maxwell Vanity Fair

Clinton Legacy

Hillary Clinton Announces MasterClass in Losing to Donald Trump New York Magazine. Wowsers.

Groves of Academe

Harvard-educated attorney shares ‘unhinged’ email she received from an entitled undergrad slamming her for declining to mentor him for FREE on how to get into a top law school Daily Mail

Guillotine Watch

Want to be a criminal in America? Stealing billions is your best bet to go scot-free Guardian. Wage theft.

Class Warfare

Starbucks faces union test as worker votes are counted AP

Where Are the Workers? Millions Are Sick With ‘Long Covid.’ Barron’s

The Dark Side Of Meritocracy NOEMA

Jogging is only good for you if the air is clean: Exercising in polluted areas could have adverse effect on the brain, research suggests Daily Mail

Groups Never Admit Failure Naval. Hmm.

Antidote du Jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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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. Robert Hahl

    Re: Groups Never Admit Failure

    The army admitted its failure to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan every time the old general left and the new general signed on. (See, The Operators, Michael Hastings, RIP). “Mistakes were made” is said all the time.

  2. griffen

    Wage theft article is about Walgreens suit, but more comprehensive on how it actively policed (as it were) in the US. It’s a practice that one suspects is fairly common, hard to enforce and hits the lowest wage earners. Counter that nugget against the Walgreen’s compensation level for their CEO between 2015 to 2020.

    But let’s be sure to shower praise on corporate leadership! \sarc

    1. fresno dan

      December 9, 2021 at 8:19 am

      FROM the ARTICLE: A wave of shoplifting crimes is attracting front-page news, while the $15bn stolen by corporations from workers receives no coverage at all

      Previous comment – if you haven’t seen it, its new to you
      fresno dan
      December 6, 2021 at 10:30 am
      December 6, 2021 at 8:54 am
      I agree with your points, but as this issue of smash and grab has come up, I just want to remind viewers that news is not some objective analysis with disspasionate criteria broadcast (or printed) to inform people of important events.
      For example, on June 14, 2021, a reporter for KGO-TV in San Francisco tweeted a cellphone video of a man in Walgreens filling a garbage bag with stolen items and riding his bicycle out of the store. According to San Francisco’s crime database, the value of the merchandise stolen in the incident was between $200 and $950.

      According to an analysis by FAIR, a media watchdog, this single incident generated 309 stories between June 14 and July 12. A search by Popular Information reveals that, since July 12, there have been dozens of additional stories mentioning the incident. The theft has been covered in a slew of major publications including the New York Times, USA Today and CNN.
      Just a few months earlier, in November 2020, Walgreens paid a $4.5 million settlement to resolve a class-action lawsuit alleging that it stole wages from thousands of its employees in California between 2010 and 2017.
      So this is a story of a corporation that stole millions of dollars from its own employees. How much news coverage did it generate? There was a single 221-word story in Bloomberg Law, an industry publication. And that’s it. There has been no coverage in the New York Times, USA Today, CNN, or the dozens of other publications that covered the story of a man stealing a few hundred dollars of merchandise.
      Most, if not all “news” is totally subjective – there really is no objective criteria for what is “news worthy.” *Indeed, what gets reported is what makes money….
      Blonde woman disappears and it is a daily story with hourly updates. To paraphrase Stalin, the disappearance of one blonde is a tragedy, the disappearance of a million brown women is a statistic…
      *ADDENDUM: I was wrong – it strikes me that there is criteria for what is “news worthy” – poor people committing crimes of very small economic impact. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, what is not newsworthy and is never, ever covered – economic crimes of very, very, VERY large economic impact. Of course, rich media companies not covering rich criminals is merely coincidence /sarc

  3. The Rev Kev

    “China is imposing quarantines of up to 7 weeks for cargo ship crew, and it’s bad news for the supply chain”

    It’s almost as if China does not trust most countries to do proper quarantining technique and could care less if this virus starts to run rampant through their country. Bloomberg is having a whinge that “Any restrictions to ship operations have an accumulative impact on the supply chain and cause real disruptions” but neglect the fact that if the pandemic overran China, then that would have a spectacular effect on the supply chain and would cause disruptions big time. Bloomberg seems to have a horizon limited to the present financial quarter and no further.

    1. Pat

      I realize it is my own humble opinion, but there is not one business news entity that does not also suffer from MBAitism. After decades of MBA programs teaching that only short term high profits for ME matter, it is the rare observer who not only recognizes the long view but realizes that short term thinking can be detrimental for everyone.

      ( It is the same disease/delusion that makes it hard for many to understand that most of what people think of as investing is not investment but financial manipulation.)

    2. Robert Hahl

      From the beginning I have been annoyed that “quarantine” was being dumbed down from 40 days to 14 days solely for business reasons. The Chinese seem willing to bend to reality. A potential weakness, under current doctrine.

    3. Randy

      …if the pandemic overran China, then that would have a spectacular effect on the supply chain and would cause disruptions big time.”

      I seriously haven’t seen any article whining about the impact on the global economy of China’s COVID-19’s restrictions take this into account. It’s an insane blind spot. The subtext is pretty clear: China is showing that COVID-19 can actually be contained and the decision of certain countries to throw their hands up and just let COVID-19 go ham on their citizens was wrong. Therefore we have to attack their measures.

      1. lance ringquist

        i guess a universal basic income will not over come shortages, hunger and a lack of just about anything that nafta billy clinton free traded away.

        someday someone might say perhaps what nafta billy did was criminal, and perhaps we should regain democratic control of our economy?

        that question will be asked and answered here, but not on CNN or the NYT’S. they will be pushing hard for the next clintonite nit wit pushing free trade.

    4. lordkoos

      Chinese leadership has always thought long term — the ruling has 5 year goals, 10 year goals, 25 year goals. This is the opposite of the United States — the American business community seemingly cares little about the effect of present day decisions on the future (especially when it comes to the health and prosperity of their own citizens). It’s quite peculiar really.

      No matter how cynical I get, I can’t keep up, etc.

  4. Steve H.

    > Groups Never Admit Failure
    >> You can sustain it because it’s a mission and it’s not just about the money—because there are diminishing returns to making money.

    A couple of nuggets from ‘Why Class Formation Occurs in Humans but Not among Other Primates’:

    > To extend these ideas to humans we introduce a new parameter, the exploitability (or equivalently, tradability or normalized price) of the contested resources, E, which is 0 if the resources are not exploitable or tradable and 1 if they are fully exploitable or equivalent to the currency used by the group.
    > Importantly, provided classes are formed, the higher the exploitability, the higher the skew in payoffs.

    The implication is that currency skews to elites, and the money flows up. Fattest crocodile wins.

    What’s the counter? Naval touches on this. A couple more:
    > Your money’s no good here.
    > Can’t Buy Me Love.

    Any others? Asking for a friend.

  5. Nikkikat

    Hillary Clinton master class. Reads speech she would have given if she had won. Good Grief! Can’t this woman please go away! No one cares what she would have said had she won. She didn’t win for Gods sake. Next Master Class will feature Bill Clinton on leadership and after that George W. Bush on decision making! Lol lol! I would propose they follow this with Obama on negotiating! Lol

    1. Basil Pesto

      oh dear. From Werni Herzog to Hillary Clinton. That is one precipitous decline in Masterclass teacher calibre, although Aaron Sorkin did come somewhere in between. Surely the barrel can’t be that shallow.

        1. Geo

          Judging by the comments the readership is still “with her.” Kinda funny reading the outrage that a NYer writer would dare speak ill of her majesty.

      1. Nikkikat

        Yes, Hillary as Ms Havisham is perfect! Settling among her party balloons wearing that red pantsuit. Covered in cobwebs.

    2. Questa Nota

      Think of her presentation as a cathartic event to bring some closure on a phase of life, like when a judge allows someone to speak out in court about some devastating event. Now she can prepare brace for revelations from the ongoing investigations and trials.

      More kayfabe? Or to help her PMC audience realize that they dodged one of the most PMCiest Neo-Libiest sociopaths?

    3. fresno dan

      December 9, 2021 at 9:22 am
      And this person (Hillary) was going to get the 3am call, and decide if the world would be plunged into nuclear armageddon??? The US political party process has devolved into guarateeing that the screwiest candidate possible wins the nomination…
      Seriously, I see the only solution being an amendment that allows animals (e.g., dogs, cats, goldfish) to be the parties presidential nominees. Can anyone argue that a dog would NOT have done a better job than the last 4 presidents?

      1. Pat

        Pretty much the same job, too much depends on the handlers. I will say that I would be happier at seeing their appearances and “speeches”. I do not see any dog causing me the same anxiety, anger, rage, despair and/or disgust that Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Trump and Biden have all caused me when they appeared on my television or news feed.

        1. Carolinian

          Some of us solve that problem by not watching TV news. Blogworld is more sane.

          Side note–tonight is Brian Williams’ last night in MSNBC and perhaps television. Or so my brother tells me.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        To be fair to Mrs Clinton (I think it’s time to relegate her as she isn’t a political force and won’t be remembered), she was married to Bill at least in name. Being the world’s most famous cuckold is resilience.

        Clinton on leadership is crazy. What the hell is he going to talk about? Picking up then GOP causes. Then…being there for a while.

      3. Skip Intro

        “Hi, I am unable to come to the phone right now. Please call back during normal bankers’ hours. If you are calling for an emergency authorization for acts of war up to and including nuclear strike, the authorization is granted. For other concerns, or to report on Bill, please wait for the tone.”

      4. Nikkikat

        I agree Dan, we dodged a bullet on Clinton and the 3AM phone call! No telling what she might have done. And we now have a you know, kinda dead guy in charge. Lol

    4. Pat

      Resilience, her class is on resilience. I admit that she has kept her devil’s bargain with Bill, but similar to Harris, I find any woman whose resume is largely dependent on who her sexual partner was to be a somewhat questionable expert on self reliance and resilience. In truth I have more respect for ex prostitutes on the subject. They recognize the choice they made, and usually for much more difficult and troubling reasons than Clinton (and Harris) ever faced. That the rest of her career was so twisted up with trampling the rules and manipulation is just added detail.

      1. Dan

        Except for the Whitewater scandal, when she was a private attorney, not an attorney general of the sixth largest economy in the world, HiClinton holds no incompetency candle to a pedestalized mediocrity like Kamala.

        “OneWest bank now holds the fate of over 30 thousand homeowners in their hands. Even after receiving over 26 billion in assets at a discount of 4.7 billion, OneWest still preyed on those who had single-family mortgage loans. OneWest instantly profited in over 22 billion in assets and kicked innocent families out of their homes anyways.

        Documents prove OneWest did far worse than that. OneWest refused to re-finance mortgage loans knowing these loans were designed to force homeowners into debt and eventually would foreclose on their homes when they could no longer pay.

        They lied, misled, and deceived homeowners into predatory mortgage loans knowing the loanee couldn’t afford the payments. The Office of the Inspector General wrote in 2011 that:
        “OneWest executives had instructed employees to reject as many loan modification applications as possible and created an environment that encouraged loan modification staff to misinform borrowers about their eligibility status, routinely shred loan modification applications, and inappropriately deny loan modifications. The letter also stated that the terms of the FDIC’s agreement with OneWest created a financial incentive for OneWest to foreclose rather than modify loans.”

        Attorney general harris knew about and refused, in spite of her staff begging her to and handing her the evidence, prosecute this for the people of the State of California. Like a dimewhore, Harris got a payoff for her services from Mnuchin in the form of a campaign donation.

        Later Clueless Hillary Clinton Gave Kamala Harris The “Kiss of Death” Political Endorsement in Craziest Tweet Ever. October 8, 2020

        1. Pat

          You might want to check with the people of Haiti who experienced the Clinton Foundation “help”. Then there is Libya, where the biggest industry is now slave trading after she convinced and ran point on taking out Gaddafi. At least according to version one of “Hard Choices”, not the paperback version she scrubbed when the disaster of that invasion on Libya and on Europe with refugees became so obvious.

          Both of these women are deeply incompetent and corrupt. And they both have the blood and despair of many humans on their hands.

        2. Duke of Prunes

          Speaking of Kamala… the latest tin foil idea from the web about the strange convergence of the rats jumping from the Kamala ship while Hillary is, once again, getting MSM coverage: Kamala is going to resign. Hillary will take her place. Brandon gets 25th amendmented. Hillary assumes her rightful place in the west wing. The pieces are all coming together (except for the slim to no chance that Hillary would get approved as vice, or that Kamala will resign). Oh well, foilies got to foil.

    5. Michael Fiorillo

      Kind of nice to see #McResistance media finally go after the Clinton’s, until I recall that it’s just part of their “At your feet or at your throat” reflex, whereby they ratchet from sycophancy and obsequiousness to snarls, once their antennae tell them a subject is sufficiently weak… and while there are no more deserving more deserving subjects contempt than Hillary and Bill, and satisfies the desire for schadenfreude, there’s still nothing worthwhile about it.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The New Democrats are 50 years old as a brand 40 years old. My guess is their successors who represented by the ilk of Harris are ticked because the nostalgia Mrs. Clinton enjoyed isn’t being transferred. They likely feel she isn’t working hard enough on their behalf. Then their thugs like Carville are out ranting about things being different isn’t helping either.

        The New Democrats suck. All they have is nostalgia. Their younger people don’t have any popular support.

    6. Wukchumni

      Is this a nomination which I see before me,
      The votes cast toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
      I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
      Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
      To feeling as to slight? or art thou but
      A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
      Proceeding from the beat-oppressed brain?
      I see thee yet, in form as palpable
      As this which now I draw a forlorn conclusion.

      1. Pat

        Nicely done.

        Sadly to get to that HRC would have to have enough self recognition to be driven mad enough to question her actions and their possible unexpected consequences. (Horrific as the original is, he was never as banal and blind as this latter day incarnation.)

        1. Wukchumni

          Glad you liked it…

          Consequences are for commoners, not Hillary!

          And i’m probably the only one that has noticed it, but HRC’s doppelgänger presently is late in life Martha Washington~

    7. DJG, Reality Czar


      Spoiler alert, dear groundlings.

      The Wowserslicious paragraph from the New York Magazine assessment of Hillary Clinton’s teaching abilities:

      “My fellow Americans, today you sent a message to the whole world,” she read. “Our values endure. Our democracy stands strong. And our motto remains: e pluribus unum. Out of many, one.” Our values are garbage fit for the rats, a fact that put Trump in the White House for four long years. Look, my firm conviction that this country is a horror probably bars me from any kind of public office. Nevertheless, I maintain that Clinton’s inability to account for America’s basic nastiness is partly what cost her the presidency. What is she going to do now, teach a MasterClass in losing?

      Isn’t MasterClass the even more boring version of TedTalks, just with fewer goofy-ass back projections and jokes that are more self-absorbed?

      And yet you scoff.

      How many of you tore yourselves from your scoffing to read the latest opus of the Novice Secretary of State (Sancta Hillary, virgin and martyr, ora pro nobis), eh?

      Here it is:

      A novice Secretary of State joins the administration of her rival, a president inaugurated after four years of American leadership that shrank from the world stage. A series of terrorist attacks throws the global order into disarray, and the Secretary is tasked with assembling a team to unravel the deadly conspiracy, a scheme carefully designed to take advantage of an American government dangerously out of touch and out of power in the places where it counts the most.

      — Synopsis of “State of Terror”


      “out of touch and out of power”

      “in places where it counts the most”

      You mean like Wisconsin?

      I can hardly wait for Hill to start beating the drums for war with her arch-enemy the ultra-evil-ish Vlad the Impaler Putin. She does things like that. Without remorse or regret.

  6. The Rev Kev

    “Why U.S. Infrastructure Costs So Much”

    Bloomberg seems to put a lot of the blame on citizen input but if that were true, then the Obama Monolith in Chicago would never have gotten any clearance. I would put a lot of these cost blowout to all the groups and individuals who seek to put their snout in the government’s money trough leading to all these cost blow-outs and a lot of the times it is not Joe Six-pack. But as the following clip shows, there has always been this problem with unexpected expenses arising with any construction- (3:13 mins)

    1. Laughingsong

      As well as not writing in expectations, penalties, and procedures about cost overruns, or policing and enforcing these. Such things used to be a part of most government contracts, if I understand correctly….. now most are open-ended and sweetheart.

      1. Edgar, not Edmund

        I haven’t looked up the details, but I do remember, here in New York City, street repairs used to feel endless. Back in the 90s, City Hall put in incentives for finishing early. Sliding scale, increasing the earlier they finished, up to two weeks before the scheduled end date. Lo and behold, the contractors immediately figured out how to finish exactly two weeks early.

        1. flawedimind

          Not always nefarious. That early completion bonus typically pays for additional labor (construction workers) and/or their overtime to accelerate the schedule. Granted, they wouldn’t do it if they weren’t making money but at least some of that money is spent up front to get done early. I’ve seen contractors forgo acceleration bonuses because the math just wasn’t there.

    2. curlydan

      I’ve often wondered about the crazy costs in the U.S. too. Here’s the part of the article that resonated with me the most: “MBTA’s dearth of staff capacity and project management expertise was a thornier issue. Despite GLX being Boston’s costliest rail project in history, only a handful of dedicated staff members were working on managing it at any given time, the researchers found. Stretched thin and lacking institutional knowledge about the nuances of rail construction in metropolitan Boston, the agency struggled to maintain budget oversight with contractors and to resolve issues and requests in a timely manner. Meanwhile, the number of consultants ballooned, with plans calling for more than twice the number of supervisors normally required for construction crews.” Sounds like we need some dedicated, ball-busting project managers.

      1. juno mas

        The problem is that municipal & state governments do not keep experienced project managers on staff. Most of the engineers in my towns’ Public Works are traffic engineers and have little knowledge of managing a construction project. And as presented in some of the comments, construction administration is an adversarial process. The project manager needs to have an encyclopedic understanding of the projects General provisions, Specifications, contract law, and the skill to enforce them every time (s)he sees violations, or “shortcuts” get covered up. (See: the Seaside condo collapse.)

        1. juno mas

          Addendum: And when the project manager role is outsourced you get the self-dealing that is the prime cause of cost overrun. (See: California high speed rail project.)

    3. lyman alpha blob

      That article was a joke. Evidently corruption and incompetence don’t exist in Bloomberg land, where all the corporate execs and billionaires are blameless humanitarians just trying to help their fellow citizens out of the goodness of their hearts.

      Since the article starts with the MBTA I will point out this – – and I’m pretty sure the corruption didn’t stop in 1981. Next up was the Big Dig, one of the most colossal boondoggles in the history of grifting. The corruption and incompetence there even managed to kill someone –

      Moving over to my state, a quick search comes up with this recent corruption –

      And I can’t put my finger on it immediately, but I do seem to remember a Maine DOT official getting caught embezzling a lot more than $91,000.00 from highway tolls several years back.

      I’m quite sure anyone with access to a search engine (ie everyone, except apparently if you work for Bloomberg) could find any number of other stories about corruption in various DOTs nationwide.

      The fact that corruption is endemic to this industry is why I was so surprised that Trump didn’t push for a yuge infrastructure plan himself. Seemed like that would be right up his alley – the guy must know all kinds of developers who would have loved to have their pockets lined.

      1. Another Scott

        Here’s a story from a few years ago.The individual charged was the president of the union.

        The MBTA has massive, massive problems. At the same time as the organization is budget crunched, they are installing additional elevators and massively expanding the station at Oak Grove I don’t know anyone who actually complained about the station. The new fare system is overbudget and late, as well as being worse than the previous one. That’s before we get into all of the poor service, lack of maintenance, rude staff, and poor communication.

    4. flawedmind

      Engineer here, I work on exactly these types of projects. Started back when we still used typewriters, carbon copy paper and email wasn’t official.

      Though the article does touch on the general themes that are commonly cited, I’ll add just a few more points to ponder.

      One thing that’s missing in cost escalation over time is the design process itself. Because of the litigious nature of everything these days, there is very little to no incentive to a design engineer (also called responsible engineer or engineer of record) to provide a practical and common sense design. For example, on the types of projects in the article, the geotechnical evaluations precedes the structural designs. Geotechnical engineering is complex and inexact (I only know what came out of the small holes I dug, not the entire subsurface) which typically leads to very conservative assumptions. That gets then sent to the structural engineer, who also has no incentive to provide for a practical design and rounds it up some more. So you end up with a multilayered conservative approach. I’ve challenged many a design calculation that showed double, triple or more the necessary requirement but computer programs can create literally thousands of pages of calculations. Gold plated design, gold plated specifications get gold plated pricing. There’s not much of a leash on this process.

      I’ll make my next point quick. Technology in many forms has enabled a lot of this too. Data management systems that can now track every detail (which requires a lot more resource input), CAD drafting that makes creating 1200 plan sheet projects much more efficient than it used to be (you paid much more attention when you had to pencil draft), and the quick and easy ability to copy and paste from a previous project and just add a little on top.

      There are, of course, many other causes, however I thought I’d share these points for consideration.

    5. Mike

      There’s a lot of reasons as the article suggests. What I can tell you from personal experience as a commercial general contractor is that the game is this: bid low (like 1% margin to get the job) and then change order the heck out of the job for any discrepancy no matter how tiny. By the time its done you could be at 10% profit. Subcontractors are in on that too, so the agency gets hit with a lot extra. For design/build that is a little more nuanced but those jobs have even more escalation from my experience just because the government agency can’t figure out what they want from a napkin sketch, which is about where those jobs go to contract.

      1. Duke of Prunes

        The “Suburban Chicago Way” as explained to me by a small asphalt contractor over beers one summer afternoon: You win the project, you inevitably run into an issue as there’s always issues, you talk to the city manager about the changes required and the additional cost, say your estimate is a 5% increase. City manager says “no, make it 15%, but you give me 5%”. If you say “no”, you’ll never win another contract for that city… at least while that city manager is in charge, and most city managers don’t change very often (the elected officials come and go, but the administrators are there long term). Multiply this by all the contractors and projects, and there you go.

  7. Ghost in the Machine

    Renewable Energy Is Great—but the Grid Can Slow It Down Wired

    The Energy Transition Show by Chris Nelder had a good podcast on this recently.

    You can listen to the first 30 minutes free. Each show is about 1.5 hours. I pay for the yearly subscription and you can listen to all the previous interviews. It is like a course in energy transition. I recommend it highly.

  8. Gumnut

    Re: Maersk unveils revolutionary new boxship design Splash 247

    Case study in degrowth argument:
    Saw Maersk’s SVP give a talk about these ships & Maersk’s decarbonisation plans.

    Shows graph with X-axis year 2010-2050, Y-axis CO2e/container unit & straight line down to 0 emissions in 2050, past 2010-20 in bold, future 2020-2050 continued straight dotted line. So far, so good, emissions per unit container going down (I recall something like -20% vs. 2010)& on this trajectory to 0 in 2050. Great.

    Then side-comment: Ah, yes, due to the growth in Maersk’s shipping business (ok, partially higher market share, but mostly total market growth), the increase in volume has exactly offset this efficiency gain, so that total emissions for its container shipping are now – wait for it – exactly the same as in 2010.

    Levenson’s paradox in there at least partially.

    And note that all this hinges on the fuel being completely zero carbon = the electricity to run the methanol or ammonia/power-to-x is zero carbon. Apart from questions how 0 solar, wind or nuclear actually are, that’s a lot of electricity production capacity one of those ships will eat = a lot of competition and hence increased electricity prices that will make electric cars & heat-pumps pay-back time economics yet more challenging.

    Less stuff, slower.

    1. Return of the Bride of Joe Biden

      “Less stuff, slower.”

      Try telling that to a culture of bacteria in a petri plate.

      Explain it slowly. Use diagrams and tables. Employ celebrity spokespeople. Have the children tell a sad story. Raise your voice. Scream at the top of your lungs.

      Try all of that, and then report back on the growth rate of that culture.

  9. fresno dan
    Saudi authorities have conducted their biggest-ever crackdown on camel beauty contestants that received Botox injections and other artificial touch-ups, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Wednesday, with over 40 camels disqualified from the annual pageant.
    Ever seen a camel and thought, what a pair of humps. Hate to dissilusion you, but hump implants…

  10. Cocomaan

    Let’s get real: the American Rescue Plan was the best economic policy in forty years Stay-At-Home Macro

    I agree with some of what she’s saying. And the shots fired at Summers. But there’s still a lot of hurt.

    Americans hate inflation, despise it. And inflation is going to hit the needy classes much harder than the upper classes. It’s easy to discount the inflation because of jawb and wage growth but that’s hard to quantify when you talk to, say, the printing company near me that can’t get paper and anticipate not getting it for months

    1. NotThePilot

      I saw this as a Twitter thread, and who doesn’t appreciate a diss-track against Larry Summers? I also agree with her main thesis that the ARP is a lot better than the response to the Great Recession.

      But the overall article strikes me as completely out-of-touch. Has it still not dawned on any of these economists that everything they refer to as “the economy” is just a bunch of metrics? And that there’s no quicker way to commit suicide by metrics than to dismiss interpretation and assume they’re reality.

      The price inflation is real, but ignoring the think-tank types with ulterior motives, I suspect the average person’s concern isn’t about just the inflation. It’s a more general sense that there’s a huge mismatch between what we’re being told the economy is and the reality.

      The cultural dominance of neoliberalism has robbed a lot of people of the language to get to the bottom of it though. So everyone’s frustration just gets expressed through “this inflation sucks”. Because unfortunately that’s still the only criticism that’s permitted within the bounds of mainstream discourse.

    1. Wukchumni

      There will be 6 feet of snow in the higher climes of the Sierra Nevada by the middle of next week and those from Cali are notorious for not knowing how to drive in such conditions, so i’m calling a halt on the exodus for now.

      1. Raymond Sim

        And the Valley’s soaked in fog. They don’t slow down for that, but it clearly stresses them out.

      2. Lee

        A lot of driver new to 4 wheel driving don’t seem to realize that traction while driving forward on snow and ice takes place in whole other universe from traction when taking turns and braking.

  11. David H.

    Regarding the article “The Pandemic that Capitalism Made” now makes perfect sense. Pfizer and Big Pharma never want the pandemic to end as the end would mean an end to their massive profits. So when I hear military industrial complex, I just think “Big Pharma “ industrial complex. Big donations to politicians who push vaccine mandates, just keeps the profits rolling in. Why would the drug manufacturers ever want the pandemic to end?

    1. David

      It’s a dangerously misleading article, based on a number of serious misunderstandings. I stopped reading Haque some time ago because I didn’t like the feeling of somebody grabbing me by the lapels and screaming at me, and I don’t think I’ll start again soon.

      Haque clearly believes, and implies several times, that vaccines are sterilising. He’s got hold of a figure of $10Bn to “end Covid” by vaccinating either 3 billion people, or 70% of the populations of all countries or the whole world, depending on which paragraph you are reading. In other words, he believes that once everybody (or nearly everybody, or most people) in the world is vaccinated once, the virus will have been conquered. How he can believe such a thing, I have no idea (he’s obviously not a NC reader), and you could say that such a belief destroys any interest anyone might have in his article.

      But there are a couple of other points worth making. The article is part of an increasing tendency to push “vaccine equity” ™ as the next miracle cure for the virus. Others have gone so far as to see the Omicron variant as some kind of punishment on the developed world for being “selfish.” A moment’s thought shows that this is nonsense. If the vaccines can’t stop retransmission in Europe or the US, they can’t stop it in Africa. It wouldn’t have mattered if all the travellers who came from South Africa were vaccinated (and many probably were) and it wouldn’t matter whether the people they came into contact with down there were vaccinated or not. It’s striking that nowhere in the article is the word “mask” mentioned, when, as we here know, masks are the most effective way of stopping transmission. But it’s hard to make an emotional argument about profiteering from masks. Yes, it’s sensible and right to send vaccines to other countries so that fewer people there will die or be hospitalised than would otherwise be the case. But believing that that will stop the virus dead is just delusional.

      To be fair, Haque does seem to understand that there are costs and complexities involved beyond just buying the vaccines, which, after all, don’t transport and inject themselves. But when he says you’d need “armies” of people to do the work, he’s right, but he probably doesn’t realise how right. (I don’t know if he’s ever organised anything more demanding than a brunch party.) OK, let’s take a real example. Take South Sudan: it’s a small country (250,000 sq miles) with a population of only 12 million. It’s between civil wars at the moment, so there’s nothing more than the usual background level of violence. The first thing you have to do is get the vaccines, the medical staff and others there. There’s one major international(ish) airport at Juba, but it can only handle 737-sized aircraft. So you’d probably bring them in via Addis Ababa. Oh, wait, there’s a war in Ethiopia. So maybe Nairobi. You’d need to set up a regional hub there for specially-equipped aircraft coming in, and have a fleet of shorter distance, specially equipped, aircraft capable of landing at Juba. I don’t know how many flights would be needed to transport (say) 10 million doses under secure conditions, but let’s say you could. But most of the population doesn’t live in Juba, and you’d have to go to them. Which is tough, because transport is a nightmare. When I was last there, there were no proper roads at all, although I now hear there are a few kilometres of tarmac in Juba. You move around by light aircraft, helicopter, and 4×4 vehicle, so that’s the way that the vaccines and the medical personnel (of whom South Sudan has very few) would have to go. In practice, you’d need to distribute the vaccines in helicopters with (I imagine) large enough fridges. You’d almost certainly have to set up regional centres from which teams would deploy each day with vaccines. Juba airport would become a major operations centre, receiving and sending out vaccines and personnel. Taking aircrew, logistics, maintenance, air movements, medical teams and, of course, security, you’re talking about several hundred people, at least, with other units scattered around the country. Security is especially important, not only because of the general level of violence, but because in that part of the world, medical and humanitarian centres are regularly robbed at gunpoint and drugs taken away to be sold. All medical teams will need armed escorts, who themselves will have to be paid enough to discourage them from stealing the vehicles and drugs and making off. Finally, administration in South Sudan was never up to much, but after ten years of intermittent civil war there are no proper records, in a country with widespread illiteracy and sixty recognised languages. You’ll need a small army of interpreters and in practice it will be impossible to keep records of who’s been vaccinated.

      In real life of course, it will be much more complicated than that. And many parts of the world will be much tougher to work in, with terrain less promising than South Sudan’s swamps and mountains. Let’s by all means do the right thing from a humanitarian perspective , but less, please, of the science fiction of “ending Covid” this way.

      1. Raymond Sim

        Thank you for this. I was thinking I should read it, by way of reconnaissance, but I really didn’t want to.

        I think you’re right, bogus ‘equity’ arguments are going to be an important propaganda theme for the nominally pro-vaccination wing of our objectively pro-covid political and media classes in coming efforts to distract from the catastrophe they’ve wrought.

        Right now I’m pessimistic enough about the coming months to doubt it’s going to work for them, which is, I guess, a kind of hopefulness.

    2. Eclair

      Big Pharma raking in $36 billion a year in profit from making the vaccines, reportedly because they can manufacture them for pennies per dose, then sell them to governments (the ‘rich’ governments: leave the poor nations in a state of vaccine scarcity, to flourish as reservoirs for the breeding of more CoVid variants) that can pay dollars per dose is simply an extension of Pharma’s obscenely profitable business plan that has been rolling on for years. That plan, of course, is based on keeping a death grip on the vaccine patents, handed to them from a grateful US government, that, BTW, funded the vaccine development.

      Spend a couple of days watching TV, especially daytime TV. The advertisements are for drugs that will cure any disease/discomfort that afflicts humankind, from psoriasis, to heartburn, to arthritis, to obesity, to COPD.

      The remaining ads are for processed foods, mostly high in sugar, and for automobiles so that no one has to walk anywhere. (Well, maybe I exaggerate a bit.) But, first get the population hooked on sugar/corn syrup (made from Big Ag’s corn,) leading to ‘metabolic syndrome,’ deadly conditions ranging from diabetes to heart disease to high cholesterol, to morbid obesity, then discourage body movement that would help alleviate weight gain and joint aches. These are all chronic diseases, that rumble on for decades, decades that will generate sales, and profits, from pills and drugs, remedies to alleviate conditions, the majority of which should not exist in the first place.

      We, in our wisdom, banned TV advertisements for tobacco and alcohol. And guns. The vacuum was filled by advertisements for prescription drugs.

      And, yeah, the former CDC head’s labelling of Big Pharma’s looting as ‘war profiteering’ is correct. His mistake: believing that most of the capitalist economies still regard ‘war profiteering’ as a social evil rather than as an optimal business model.

      1. Nikkikat

        I would also hazard a guess eclair, our extremely high covid death rate was due to many of the things you bring up. People in this country have had no medical care most of their lives and big AG has poisoned us with cheap corn based over processed garbage. Meanwhile, big Pharma has conditioned people through advertising that every single problem should be solved with their pills and potions.

        1. Mark Gisleson

          Tripped over a Twitter meme today from people who’ve learned to eat properly (but are not part of a fitness cult). They’re claiming no one they know who eats like they do has gotten COVID with few exceptions and they had mild cases.

          I’ve been amazed at how rarely I get sick since cleaning up my diet years ago. There’s more to health than taking pills/shots and we seemed to be on the cusp of learning this decades ago but then “experts” seized the Wellness concept and successorized it for corporate use.

          1. JBird4049

            The more high fructose corn syrup is put into anything that is ostensibly “food,” the fatter Americans become; it is not just food portions that have increased, but the total amount of calories per a given amount that has increased. Eating or drinking the same amount as fifty years ago would not necessarily make you skinnier.

            It does take more time, skill, kitchen space, and often money to buy and prepare food that does not have globs of corn syrup. However, it is all the fault of the little people for having to buy addictive, cheap, over processed, pre-prepared stuff masquerading as food because they lack the time, energy, and money to cook. This being the partial result of fifty years of neoliberal crappification of the food system.

            It is amazing that from the first decades of the 20th century, through the Great Depression, into the 1960s, the government created a system that delivered affordable, quality, healthy (well, as they understood it) to the masses. That about fifty years, but then for fifty years the food industry has distorted the system and the actual food for maximum profit and poor health.

            It is true that we no longer have chalk and sawdust in our bread, flour, and milk or turpentine(!) as a food preservative, but I wonder just how much safer our food is compared to the Victorian or Edwardian eras.

            1. Irrational

              Excellet comment. Not so sure about the sawdust though – the grated parmesan sold in some grocery stores lists cellulose as an ingredient.

      2. drsteve0

        Big Pharma’s business plan is to cure nothing but treat everything, even made up ailments. A cure (e.g. a course of antibiotics) may require drug administration for days or weeks, but treatments/therapies and their sweet sweet cash flow can last a lifetime. Shirley that has nothing to do with the relatively low bucks going into new antibiotic R&D vs. therapies for lifestyle diseases. Just ask Barry Marshall.

    3. Maritimer

      “So when I hear military industrial complex, I just think “Big Pharma “ industrial complex.”
      The thought occurred to me years ago that other sectors of the American economy would be looking over at the War Racket (See USMC General Smedley Butler, among many others) and think: “Hey, why don’t we do that too? A never ending and always increasing demand for our product.” And how do you do that, well, same as the War Racket: Regulatory Capture and Propaganda. Cue the Behavioural Scientists!

      No, well with Variant after Variant, Vax after Vax as the Kovid Kat chases its infected tail, the Loot piles up. See latest from Phauci and Ardern for example. Even the War Racketeers may become worried as these other US Predators cut into their once exclusive pie.

  12. Wukchumni

    99 bottled up cargo ships off the coast
    99 bottled up cargo ships
    You take one down pass the contents around
    And then another cargo ship shows up
    99 bottled up cargo ships off the coast

    1. Andrew

      While reading about all the backlogs at the container ports I was stricken with a brilliant solution: Make the container ships amphibious. They could drive right up any old beach head right onto the highways for delivery. Instead of those crews sitting idle in their bunks waiting they could be kicking off containers as they go along. I am still working on the empty container retrieval system.

      1. Wukchumni

        Sort of like one of those WW2 ships that would come in on the beach and the front would open up and it would disgorge it’s goodies?

        And to make it fun have the cargo ship look like a giant Pez dispenser popping out rectangular candy, er 40 foot TEU’s.

  13. michael hudson

    Re the seemingly interesting FT article on London/British real estate prices, here’s a report that I got to put it in perspective:
    Hi Michael (H),

    [I and my colleague] attended a Resolution Foundation event on this today. But I found it rather disappointing, with participants mostly talking about how we could tweak this or that aspect of taxes a bit. I anonymously raised the issue of land taxation, but the way they dealt with it was flippant and unimpressive, like “ah, isn’t that what we all want, isn’t it funny, ha ha”. I found the head of the Resolution Foundation to be especially unimpressive, so I don’t think they will be helpful. Charles, do you see it differently?

  14. allan

    SUNY chancellor steps down after several calls for his resignation [WXXI]

    … Calls for Malatras to resign began earlier this week after Attorney General Tish James released documents that showed he was helping to plan retaliation against a woman who accused former Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment.

    James in August issued a report that found Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women. Cuomo resigned a few weeks after the report was released.

    Recently released transcripts show Malatras suggested that the governor’s office release the private emails of one accuser, Lindsey Boylan, to try to discredit and embarrass her.

    On Wednesday, the Albany Times Union released audio of Malatras shouting and swearing at a state university employee in a 2017 incident. That led to more calls for him to step down. …

    Like DJT, Cuomo hired only the best people.

    1. bob

      Everyone he hired was only judged on how well they would abide Andy. SUNY was the last bit that was left before he installed that jerk. I bookmarked this story the other day-

      The UNIONS were defending this prick-

      But the president of United University Professions, Frederick Kowal, said the apology was appropriate and the union hopes to continue its working relationship with Malatras, noting specifically the SUNY budget. Public Employees Federation President Wayne Spence sent a statement to the SUNY trustees that said in part: “(Malatras’) commitment to SUNY hospitals and all 64 SUNY campuses, many of which educate the nurses and other staff that constitute the union I lead, has been unwavering … Malatras has our full faith and confidence.”

      I don’t think Cuomo went anywhere. Every indication I see is that he is still in control of everything. James isn’t running against Hochul? I’m sure Andy picked her because she was a republican in democrats clothing, not because she wouldn’t challenge him in any way. Even his staff are still heckling people on twitter-

      The story of Andy is still being written. Like a vampire, he just won’t die

      1. Pat

        Which is why I am making offerings to the gods that he faces a criminal indictment for any reason although I might prefer some version of negligent homicide, multiple counts. I want him kneecapped long enough to burn out his overwhelming continuing influence in NY.

  15. Ignacio

    RE: Ethics Grand Rounds: The Ethics of Vaccine Mandates (video) NIH (dd). Worth a listen

    This is not worth a listen, it is a must! At least for policymakers piling mistakes layer after layer. They should also slow down and stop behaving as beheaded chicken, meditate and start making better decisions with the assessment of people like those speaking in that video.

    Also, on a personal basis, for each of us, like boosting like crazy, ignoring risks etc.

    1. Eustachedesaintpierre

      Hi Ignacio – just a question that you might be able to answer.

      In relation to long Covid & it’s many sufferers – if omicron as appears to be the case can cause re-infection, would the condition in effect become the equivalent of a comorbidity ? perhaps due to their immune systems already being suppressed leaving them vulnerable to the variant even if it does turn out to be relatively mild.

      I am pretty sure that if I had the condition I would be worrying about that possibility – hopefully for no good reason.

      1. Ignacio

        Have no good answer for that Eustache. I just think that reinfections are not welcome. My son was re-infected this summer. Not severe but worse than first. Lost smell and taste of some flavours. I don’t want him to be reinfected again, whatever the variant.

        1. Eustachedesaintpierre

          Thanks & all the best family wise – also reports of some of those who survived a ventilator not lasting for long afterwards due to the damage inflicted as we wait to react to yet another swing of the scythe.

    2. Lee

      That was indeed worth listening to. Two medical professionals coming to much different conclusions regarding vaccines and mandates based on available evidence. The ethicist mentions “backlash” as one of various factors in decision making regarding mandates, which given the mood of the country, is wise. I also liked her position on religious exemptions: there shouldn’t be any in part because experience has shown that it forces many people to lie about their beliefs who don’t want the vaccine for other than religious reasons.

    3. SteveD

      I’m actually surprised NIH leadership let the first presenter publish his analysis – he makes a strong case that there isn’t even a common sense justification for broad based mandates. As a side benefit, he presents a more precise framing of the data than is typically available. And that precision undermines much of what we are told.

      The second presentation might as well just be called “The Consensus(tm)”

      1. Michael McK

        And the 2nd presenter states that she has “no conflicts of interest to disclose” while the powerpoint below it says she has none but that “The VRC/NIAID has a research collaboration agreement with Moderna to study COVID vaccines.” So she has none but her organization does.
        She then lists all the effectiveness percentages presented at the beginning of the vax roll out and claims the real world effectiveness remains in the 90% range (while the powerpoint cites a Texas Southwestern Medical center study claiming only .05% of double vaxxed staff caught COVID). There was no attempt to reconcile her numbers with the much lower real world numbers given just before her (which seem more like what I have read elsewhere and observed). When she got into how few side effects there were she says about half of the reports are real as judged by her authorities (and most were minor which they area) but does not address the earlier speakers claim of gross under-reporting.

  16. molon labe

    “The Prosecution Is Fumbling Its Case Against Ghislaine Maxwell”–can’t risk embarrassing information coming out.

  17. Pelham

    The Barron’s item on long Covid as a factor in the dwindling workforce cites two studies that conclude more than half of all those who suffer Covid — including mild cases — end up with long Covid, a good deal of which is so severe that it keeps victims from working.

    More than half. And the symptoms could last months, years or a lifetime. Maybe the two studies cited are off. But maybe they’re not, and this is “the science,” isn’t it? Given the evidence, I’d say there’s some sort of gross malfeasance at play either in officialdom, the media or both for refusing to headline the threat every day and take every possible preventive measure.

  18. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Groups Never Admit Failure

    Based on this –

    If you want to change the world to a better place, the best way to do it is a for-profit because for-profits have to take feedback from reality. Ironically, for-profit entities are more sustainable than non-profit entities. They’re self-sustainable. You’re not out there with a begging bowl all the time.

    – I’m guessing the author is still in middle school or younger and missed the global financial meltdown a while back.

  19. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Conservative justices scoff at Maine’s exclusion of religious schools from tuition-assistance program

    We’ll see if they continue to scoff when Maine’s burgeoning immigrant population wants to start sending their kids to Muslim schools. That might sharpen the old church/state separation a little for them.

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