2:00PM Water Cooler 1/12/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

More winter birds. “Songs and various calls from one of several male birds on open, fairly wet tundra. The songs were a mixture of perched and flight songs.” I wonder if the dinosaurs had perched and flight songs (for those dinosaurs that flew).

* * *


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

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

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” –Hunter Thompson

Biden Adminstration

“Biden administration announces additional purchase of 500,000 AstraZeneca Covid-19 treatment courses” [CNN]. Reading to the end: “Therapeutics aren’t just being hampered by small supply. Some doctors are warning CNN they are also hampered by lack of testing to get test results in a timely enough fashion to actually administer doses in the proper window. Pfizer’s Paxlovid treatment needs to be administered within five days of symptoms, and GlaxoSmithKline’s Sotrovimab monoclonal antibody treatment needs to be administered within seven days. Additionally, some hospitals also say there is simply not enough hospital staff to administer enough monoclonal antibody infusions because of staffing shortages.” • Since all of these measures are being rushed into action after the molasses-brained Biden administration dithered for a year, no wonder there are concerns.

“Biden administration announces major new initiatives to clean up the electric grid” [The Verge]. “The Department of Energy is rolling out a ‘Building a Better Grid’ initiative, which will put federal dollars to work after the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure law allocated $65 billion for grid improvements. Notably, there’s $2.5 billion earmarked for new and improved transmission lines that will be crucial for zipping renewable energy from far-flung solar and wind farms to communities. Another $3 billion will go towards smart grid technologies that aim to make homes more energy efficient and reduce pressure on the grid while balancing the flow of intermittent sources of renewable energy like wind and solar. There’s also more than $10 billion in grants to states, tribes, and utilities for efforts to harden the grid and help prevent power outages. As the grid ages and extreme weather events are worsened by climate change, blackouts have grown longer in the US, with the average American going more than eight hours without power in 2020 — twice as long as was typical when the federal government started keeping track in 2013. Things could get worse without efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. The administration is also commissioning new national studies to inform its deployment of thousands of miles of additional transmission lines.” • Does this seem like very much money?

“Massive unanswered questions remain as Navy begins process to defuel Red Hill” [Federal News Network]. “The Navy is dealing with multiple unanswered questions about the severity and long-term impacts of a spill at one of its largest strategic fuel centers in the Pacific that impacted drinking water in Hawaii, as multiple Defense Department and service components in charge of different aspects try to synchronize to deal with the issue… The 80 year-old, 250 million gallon storage facility sits just 100 feet above the island of Oahu’s main aquifer, which provides 77% of the potable water in the area. In late November, jet fuel spilled at the location in what the Navy is calling an operator error…. Complicating matters even more is the Navy’s mission. Red Hill is an important asset for the United States, especially as it pivots to counter China and Russia. To date, the Navy says it spent $250 million on the water crisis. If Red Hill were to defuel its tanks, Navy officials said they did not have predictors of what readiness impacts would be in the long term.” • Interesting….

“Buttigieg vows to fight container-rate inflation” [American Shipper]. “[Buttigieg] was eager to talk about recent progress he sees in working through those backlogs. ‘One of reasons why Christmas was not in fact canceled is that ports like LA and Long Beach moved record levels of goods, allowing an all-time record high in terms of retail sales this holiday season,’ he said. ‘Considering the pressures this country and these communities have been under, that is an extraordinary achievement.’ Buttigieg pointed out that the port complex processed 14% more container volume in 2021 than the previous record, and that the nation’s consumers received almost 99% of packages on time or with minimal delays. ‘Not only is this about presents under the tree, but essential goods like medical goods needed in this moment of continued public health challenges. The other side of the coin is that as long as the pandemic persists, as long as we are making up for decades of past disinvestment, we are going to see impacts on shipping times and shipping costs.'” And: “‘And that was with the funds that we had from last year,’ Buttigieg said. ‘I cannot wait to put to work the funds from that $17 billion being committed to ports thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law,’ also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed by President Joe Biden in November.” • Translation: I am the man with the goodies. Do you want to bring any home?

“fauci-email: a json digest of Anthony Fauci’s released emails” (PDF) [arXiv]. • This is super-technical and geeky and describes analyzing the mails. For example: “We now consider the email data as a hypergraph where each email is a hyperedge among the senders and recipients (excluding the CC entries) – excluding Fauci.” Very like social relations as described by Bourdieu (if I have this right): Relations between relations (as opposed to the atomized rational actors beloved of mainstream macro. If I have this right! Well worth skimming if you’re technical.

Democrats en Déshabillé

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

* * *

“Stacey Abrams and Voting-Rights Allies Spurn Biden’s Atlanta Events” [Bloomberg]. “Stacey Abrams, the voting-rights activist and Georgia governor candidate, isn’t joining President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Atlanta for a Tuesday speech and appearances devoted to legislation that would guarantee access to the polls. Abrams, who led get-out-the-vote efforts that swung the state to Biden and sent two Democrats to the U.S. Senate, has a scheduling conflict, according to spokesperson Seth Bringman. Biden had a ‘warm conversation’ with Abrams and they remain united on the issue, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said. Many voting-rights organizers who worked closely with Abrams won’t join the delegation, which includes most of the state’s party leaders. Some issued an open letter, dismissing Tuesday’s visit as ‘an empty gesture, without concrete action.’… Fallon McClure, an organizing director for the Working Families Party, which was part of the grassroots network mobilized by Abrams last year, said the president owes it to the state not to come. ‘Georgia showed up and saved the country,’ McClure said. ‘Promises were made and they haven’t been kept. He doesn’t need to be talking to us. He needs to be talking to the holdouts and getting these things passed.'” • Plus, Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock all owe me six hundred bucks.

“Chicago schools, teachers reach tentative deal to end classroom shutdown” [Politico]. “In dueling nighttime press conferences, both the mayor and Chicago Teachers Union officials held their ground even as both sides made accommodations that allow for remote learning on a school-by-school basis. The district also agreed to supply more KN95 masks for staff and students, something the union had been calling for…. “This mayor is unfit to lead our city. She’s on a one-woman kamikaze mission to destroy our public schools,” CTU vice president Stacy Davis Gates said in a separate Monday night press conference. ‘This should have never gotten this far. We had to go on a remote action for face covering in the middle of a pandemic. We had to go on a remote action to get more testing in the middle of a pandemic. She fought us every step of the way.'” • Seventeen hours after the presser, Lightfoot came down with Covid: “Lightfoot wore a mask in public Monday but spoke that night at a podium without a face covering. Union officials held their own press conference virtually.”

And we wonder why the Democrat bench is weak:

Sara Nelson is my dark horse candidate for President. Porter could be her Vice President….


After trial balloons in the Times and the Wall Street Journal, she’s ready for her close-up:

“Deconstructing the case for a 2024 Hillary Clinton bid” [Chris Cilizza, CNN]. On the Wall Street Journal trial balloon authors: “Before we go any further, it’s worth noting that neither Schoen nor Stein have sterling credentials as Democrats. Schoen worked for former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg while Stein endorsed none other than Donald Trump in the 2016 election against, wait for it, Hillary Clinton.” More: ” Here’s the Schoen/Stein argument: ‘If Democrats lose control of Congress in 2022, Mrs. Clinton can use the party’s loss as a basis to run for president again, enabling her to claim the title of ‘change candidate.” Uh, what? Republicans winning the House (and maybe the Senate) will allow Clinton — who spent three-plus decades as a pillar of the Washington establishment — to position herself as the change candidate? How, exactly? There’s absolutely no scenario I can imagine in which Clinton would be able to be the change candidate. Her background is simply too Washington (and politics) heavy. Plus, Schoen and Stein just got done arguing that Clinton has the right experience for the job. So, how could she run as the experience candidate and the change agent? I simply do not think that Republicans winning control of Congress in 2022 suddenly transforms Clinton into a change candidate along the lines of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. (Worth noting again: Clinton lost that primary to Obama.)” • Well, a little self-contradiction never bothered Clinton.

“Hillary v Trump – the REMATCH: Two Democrat operatives say Clinton is the ‘best option’ to win in 2024 with Biden and Kamala’s dire polls – paving the way for another showdown after 2016” [Daily Mail]. Continuing the extremely organic press campaign, one detail: “Also that month Clinton revealed the speech she would have given at her presidential inauguration, had she beaten Trump to become the first woman elected commander-in-chief. Clips of an emotional Clinton reading the speech were shown on NBC’s Today Show as a promotion for her MasterClass video lecture.” • So the MasterClass gig wasn’t only a grift? She was testing the water? Dear Lord, is it possible that she’s never given up? Persistence is one of Clinton’s admirable characteristics, but only up to a point. A point long past. I wonder if a horrified Barack Obama will parachute another candidate in once again….

“Hillary Clinton 5.0?” [National Review]. “Schoen and Stein [Wall Street Journa[ conclude their piece by arguing that ‘if Democrats want a fighting chance at winning the presidency in 2024, Mrs. Clinton is likely their best option.’ If that is true, the Democratic party is in more trouble than we thought.” • The Democrat Party has had a bench of .200 hitters for some time, as election 2020 showed. Harris? Buttigieg? Klobuchar? And Beto, perhaps the best of the farm team as long as he’s not standing on something, hasn’t made it to The Show. Or, more precisely, he was sent back to the minors for more seasoning.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Hochul firm on returning to offices as union urges telecommuting” [Syracuse.com (Bob)]. “The governor reiterated during a Covid-19 briefing on Tuesday that while employers should continue to use their own discretion, the state workforce will not go back to widespread telecommuting because of the potential economic damage of keeping people at home, especially for the restaurant and hotel industries.” • Bob comments: “Because markets.” Speculating freely, it has occurred to me that a sufficient amount of “economic damage” would amount in practice to a general strike, albeit involuntary, and that the ruling class is determined to prevent that at all costs, in case the next general strike would be voluntary. There is quite enough labor agitation it is, thank you.

Can’t anybody here play this game?

Study, from medRxiv, is not peer-reviewed. Further, deaths lag cases, and death reports lag deaths. Surely it’s extremely early to opine on the “reduction of the risk of death”? If the administration wishes to rebuild trust, this is not the way to go about it.

“‘Rules need to be clear’: Dems call for Covid strategy reset as cases spike” [Politico]. “The party’s resurgent pandemic fears were at the forefront Tuesday as the White House’s top health officials appeared on Capitol Hill for the first time since the Omicron variant became the dominant strain in the U.S. last month. At the hearing, Senate HELP Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) called the recent changes in CDC guidance ‘confusing and frustrating’ and criticized the administration for ongoing supply shortages and other headaches plaguing her home state and the nation. ‘I’m frustrated we are still behind on issues as important to families as testing, and supporting schools,’ she said. ‘That’s not to say we haven’t made progress — it’s just clear we haven’t made enough.’ Anthony Fauci, Biden’s most visible health adviser, called it a ‘very wily virus’ at the same Senate hearing Tuesday, adding: ‘We’re doing the best we possibly can.'” • Begging the question of who “we” are and whether they can be replaced. I like the concept replacing 80% of existing elected in both parties. Anyhow, the rules are clear enough; we’re looking at Rule #2.

“Biden health team weighs new mask distribution plan” [Politico]. “A senior administration official argued an effort to send N95 or KN95 masks to Americans would make little difference because ‘half the country won’t wear any mask.’ ‘It may be popular in certain corners of Twitter, but for masking to work as a public health tool, people need to actually wear them,’ the official said. ‘To prevent spread, the focus should be maximizing the number of people simply wearing a mask in the first place, not shifting the goal posts to urge everyone to go above and beyond to use high filtration masks to make it less likely they themselves will inhale particles.'” • As above; the mind reels.

So I guess when Biden said “I will end this,” the referent was unclear? He was joking? The statement is inoperative?

* * *

“The Law of Unintended Political Consequences Strikes Again” [New York Times]. “Before Floyd’s death, Candid found that philanthropies provided ‘$3.3 billion in racial equity funding’ for the nine years from 2011 to 2019. Since then, Candid calculations revealed much higher totals for both 2020 and 2021: ‘50,887 grants valued at $12.7 billion’ and ‘177 pledges valued at $11.6 billion.’ Among the top funders, according to Candid’s calculations, are the Ford Foundation, at $3 billion; Mackenzie Scott, at $2.9 billion; JPMorgan Chase & Co. Contributions Program, at $2.1 billion; W.K. Kellogg Foundation, $1.2 billion; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, $1.1 billion; Silicon Valley Community Foundation, $1 billion; Walton Family Foundation, $689 million; The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, $438 million; and the Foundation to Promote Open Society, $350.5 million.” • That’s not chump change. Commentary:

Who knew, the Empire isn’t all that popular:

Recall that in 2020, counties with casualtiews skewed toward Trump.


Case count by United States regions:

Small steps return. It would sure be nice if “rise like a rocket, and fall like a stick” applied, but we can’t know that yet. To be fair, previous peaks — how small the early ones look now — have been roughly symmetrical on either side. But the scale of this peak, and the penetration into the population, is unprecendented.

It looks like there was a decrease in the South, so here is the South:

I thought the drop might be a data issue, since Tennessee went over to weekly reporting (see the CDC “rapid riser” report below).

The official narrative that “Covid is behind us,” and that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), and “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) was completely exploded. What a surprise!

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

First good news in a long time!

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.

From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:

I see a few spots of improvement (San Diego, Vermont) but otherwise status quo. (Tennessee is green, as the note in red at the bottom says, because they went over to weekly reporting. Nice.)

The previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Still brutal. (Note trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 863,896 861,336.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Might as well check out where we go, in case we bring something back (as from Italy to New York in 2020). This is a log scale. (Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away. (The data is from 2019, and so subject to subsequent events, but this is the best I can find.)

The excess deaths charts will appear weekly, on Friday.

Stats Watch

Inflation: “United States Inflation Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The annual inflation rate in the US accelerated to 7% in the last month of 2021, a fresh high since June of 1982, in line with market expectations and compared to 6.8% in November. Energy was the biggest contributor to the gain but the rise was smaller than in November (29.3% vs 33.3%), with gasoline prices surging 49.6% vs 58.1%. Inflation accelerated however for shelter (4.1% vs 3.8%); food (6.3% vs 6.1%), namely food at home (6.5% vs 6.4%); new vehicles (11.8% vs 11.1%); used cars and trucks (37.3% vs 31.4%); apparel (5.8% vs 5%); and medical care services (2.5% vs 2.1%). Inflation spiked in 2021 due to pandemic-induced supply constraints, soaring energy costs, labour shortages, increasing demand and a low base effect from 2020. Inflationary pressures are likely to last well into the middle of 2022 and Fed Chair Powell recently pledged to do what’s necessary to contain an inflation surge including increasing interest rates.” • Not clear to me how raising interest rates solves “pandemic-induced supply constraints” — other than by tanking the economy, of course — but the Fed’s gotta Fed.

* * *

Big Pharma: “How China Is Getting Drug Companies to Slash Prices” [Bloomberg]. “It has a two-pronged campaign. The first approach is to add top-of-the-line new treatments to its so-called National Reimbursement Drug List only if drugmakers agree to drop their prices…. [Second is] basically bulk buying of generic drugs, which can be made by low-cost manufacturers as well as the original developer, and medical supplies…. [Multinationals] are seeing some of their off-patent drugs being replaced by ultra-cheap domestic generics one by one, but they are also seeing many of their top-of-the-line therapies being launched in China faster and getting state medical insurance coverage sooner. Some see lower prices of their new drugs being offset by an explosion in demand.”

The Bezzle: I follow some actual (living) artists on the Twitter:

The Bezzle: Seems a little frothy:

Readers, have you spotted anything similar?

Supply Chain: “The ‘Mother of All’ Supply Shocks Lurks in China’s Covid Crackdowns” [Bloomberg]. “The world economy could be headed for the “mother of all” supply chain stumbles. That’s the warning from HSBC economists who caution that if the highly infectious omicron variant which is already swamping much of the global economy spreads across Asia, especially China, then disruption to manufacturing will be inevitable. “Temporary, one would hope, but hugely disruptive all the same” in the next few months, they wrote in a research note this week. China is the world’s biggest trading nation and its ability to keep its factories humming through the pandemic has been crucial for global supply chains. While the outbreak of omicron in China is small compared with its Western peers, authorities are taking no chances. In recent weeks scattered infections of both the delta and omicron variants have already triggered shutdowns to clothing factories and gas deliveries around one of China’s biggest seaports in Ningbo, disruptions at computer chip manufacturers in the locked-down city of Xi’an, and a second city-wide lockdown in Henan province Tuesday.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 63 Greed (previous close: 59 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 52 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 12 at 12:26pm.

The 420

“Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants” [Journal of Natural Products]. Peer-reviewed, at NLM. The Abstract: “As a complement to vaccines, small-molecule therapeutic agents are needed to treat or prevent infections by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) and its variants, which cause COVID-19. Affinity selection-mass spectrometry was used for the discovery of botanical ligands to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Cannabinoid acids from hemp (Cannabis sativa) were found to be allosteric as well as orthosteric ligands with micromolar affinity for the spike protein. In follow-up virus neutralization assays, cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiolic acid prevented infection of human epithelial cells by a pseudovirus expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and prevented entry of live SARS-CoV-2 into cells. Importantly, cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiolic acid were equally effective against the SARS-CoV-2 alpha variant B.1.1.7 and the beta variant B.1.351. Orally bioavailable [no kidding!] and with a long history of safe human use [yep!], these cannabinoids, isolated or in hemp extracts, have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2.” • In vitro. Commentary:

‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished!

“Inside Germany’s Legal Weed Gold Rush” [Vice]. “Protected by barbed-wire fences and 24cm-thick concrete walls, Aphria RX’s high security cannabis-growing facility is currently producing 1.1 tonnes of weed for medicinal use each year under a contract with Germany’s Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices.” • I always thought legalization would mean that people could grow marijuana in their back yards, and maybe set up seed exchanges. Silly me.


A project here for an economist with an anthropolitical bent:

Why did the Moravians introduce money? To collect tithes?


“Exclusive: Smart guns finally arriving in U.S., seeking to shake up firearms market:” [Reuters]. “Personalized smart guns, which can be fired only by verified users, may finally become available to U.S. consumers after two decades of questions about reliability and concerns they will usher in a new wave of government regulation…. LodeStar co-founder Gareth Glaser said he was inspired after hearing one too many stories about children shot while playing with an unattended gun. Smart guns could stop such tragedies by using technology to authenticate a user’s identity and disable the gun should anyone else try to fire it. They could also reduce suicides, render lost or stolen guns useless, and offer safety for police officers and jail guards who fear gun grabs. But attempts to develop smart guns have stalled: Smith & Wesson (SWBI.O) got hit with a boycott, a German company’s product was hacked, and a New Jersey law aimed at promoting smart guns has raised the wrath of defenders of the Second Amendment.” • It’s true I avoid products billed as “smart”….

Under the Influence

“Kim Kardashian and Floyd Mayweather sued by investors over alleged crypto scam” [CNBC]. “Kim Kardashian and Floyd Mayweather are being sued over allegations they misled investors when promoting a little-known cryptocurrency called EthereumMax to their millions of social media followers. Kardashian caused a stir last year when she made an Instagram post promoting the EthereumMax token. ‘Are you guys into crypto????’ Kardashian wrote. ‘This is not financial advice but sharing what my friends just told me about the Ethereum Max token!” • Oh, right.

Zeitgeist Watch

“American Airlines Passenger Charges Cockpit, Breaks Flight Controls And Tries To Jump Out Window” [View from the Wing]. “American Airlines flight 488 from San Pedro Sula, Honduras to Miami is delayed 7 hours this evening after a passenger ran down the jetway and onto the aircraft, charged into the cockpit damaging flight controls, and tried to jump out the window…. It’s not clear what the man wanted to accomplish, or what may have motivated him. It’s also not clear what was to be gained by preventing him from jumping out the window – probably many delayed passengers would have been in favor! – though that might have delayed other aircraft as well.”

Class Warfare

“Records of former labor leader and close Biden ally subpoenaed” [Politico]. “Though Schaitberger has long been accused of abusing union funds to underwrite his lavish spending, including expensive restaurant outings and chauffeured cars, he faced a long list of additional allegations in recent years. Among them, he and a former union general secretary-treasurer were accused of receiving excessive early retirement benefits while still working for the union, which resulted in over a million dollars of improper pension payments, according to a report from the union’s then-general secretary-treasurer Edward A. Kelly, who is now the general president, reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal. The report also found that Schaitberger and the associate accrued millions of dollars in benefits under a non-tax-qualified retirement program— money that should have been reported to the Internal Revenue Service. The internal documents also reveal millions in financial misreporting and non-discretionary funds that were misused. The union suspended his pension benefits, but a committee later reinstated them, saying that the overpayments ‘resulted from an error in plan administration.’” • Oh.

News of the Wired

“To avert a climate catastrophe, we have to save the world’s big trees” [Miami Herald]. “Although we both advocate for planting trees, first and foremost, we want to make a clarion call to save big trees and mature forests. This distinction is critical. Yes, we absolutely need to plant more trees. Such efforts will benefit our grandchildren. But for today’s generation and in the immediate wake of accelerating climate change, we need to conserve native, mature forests, whose trees are the senior citizens of the planet. An estimated 50% of our planet’s land-based biodiversity lives in the treetops. It will take decades — more likely centuries — before koalas can survive in the canopies of newly planted gum seedlings or birds return to nest in their uppermost boughs. Big trees provide essential ecosystem services, both economic and cultural, even as we sleep: fresh water; climate control; medicines; timber; carbon storage; energy production; food; soil conservation; a genetic library for millions of species; and essential spiritual sanctuary for more than 2 billion people. Primary, or old-growth forests, are precious. They are the stalwart sentries that stand between life and life’s extinction.” • And yet, there it is: “Ecosystem services,” the concept that will end up commodifying everything. It snuck in….

* * *

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 (AM):

AM writes: “The day after Thanksgiving 2021 near WFC in NYC about 10 minutes before sunset. Sun highlights on bare trees with One World Trade in the background.” This really does give the feeling of a snowless Manhattan winter on a day above freezing but wet. I can almost smell the leaves.

* * *

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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. Samuel Conner

    > when Biden said “I will end this,”

    The President is notorious for verbal gaffes, large and small. Perhaps this was a minor “pronounco”, intended to have been

    “I will end thus”

    1. Silent Bob

      No kidding. Still waiting with bated breath for my promised “winter of severe illness and death.” What next? Perhaps Brandon will issue a dire warning that my unvaxxed status will, shudder, prevent me from being asked to the dance. Dumb all over, a little ugly on the side. . .

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Still waiting with bated breath for my promised “winter of severe illness and death.”

        Check out the CDC maps, in particular hospitalization. Unless you think nosocomial infections aren’t a thing. Getting Covid is bad, especially long Covid. Going to the hospital is worse, never mind the expense. I don’t see why this is so hard to understand. Dumb all over, as you said.

  2. NotTimothyGeithner

    Re: Biden’s let er rip strategy

    I think this is the end result of not bringing Manchin to heal. Biden won’t even act in an emergency because he can’t bring the caucus to the legislative anymore. Biden then naturally betrayed everyone who is at least nominally for BBB. Anything will start a fight that Biden clearly isn’t willing to engage in. He has Senators trying to make “reasonable arguments” about reforming the filibuster which is just a left over of Jim Crow. There is no reasonable argument to make at this point.

    Any suggestion will just result in Manchin going, “I don’t know…nope…maybe if they were terrible masks and you didn’t have to wear them…and you gave me money.”

    1. Maxine

      “Confusion, Disinformation, Corruption”

      How can CDC appointees even show their face in public?

      1. Dirk

        And the FDA?

        Failure – Distractions – Abound

        Is it just me, or does Walensky look like a turtle, or lizard person?

        1. Nikkikat

          Didn’t note anything but stupidity on the face of the always sad looking Walensky as she tries to fake like she gives two hoots.

        2. flora

          old feminist here: interesting that as the old narrative starts to come apart the female with standing is catching the flack, even though she may be saying what’s relevant now. No flack for the guys like Fauci, etc. Sacrificial lamb foisted onto the female as the narrative comes apart. dunno. Wouldn’t surprise me.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Maybe it was why Walensky was really brought in about a year or so ago. To take the rap for Fauci and to protect his, ahem, reputation. The only way that Fauci intends to leave his position is feet first.

      2. Bob White

        Or, we can call it “Centers for Disease Complacency”

        Dictionary definition neatly fits:

        1 : self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies
        // When it comes to safety, complacency can be dangerous.
        2 : an instance of usually unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction

    2. Darthbobber

      Well, it isn’t clear to me how interested Biden was in bringing Manchin (or Sinema) to heel. While their stances might be at odds with the stated public positions of the version of Biden rolled out in 2020, they are not particularly at odds with those of the Joe Biden I saw on the public stage for the previous 40 years. Maybe Biden didn’t really have a Road to Damascus moment.

  3. Randy

    “Exclusive: Smart guns finally arriving in U.S., seeking to shake up firearms market:”

    If you ever look for a gun safe on Amazon you’ll inevitably find a review by a user I think is called “Locksmith Lawyer”. This guy shows how most of these safes are giant scams and can be opened with things like credit cards or random pieces of metal he found in the street outside his house. Fancy biometric safes proved no better at warding him off than “dumb” safes. So if if “smart” guns are going to become a thing I hope it’s more than a buzzword to sell a normal gun with an expensive dongle attached.

    1. Di Modica's Dumb Steer

      Re: Gunz

      Most gun safes are pure garbage, even moreso the ‘smart’ ones or ones with biometrics built in; just easily hacked trash. Guns should be kept in safes, ESPECIALLY if there are kids around, but you’ll have a hell of a time finding one that isn’t littered with a bunch of electronic components. For anything that has to be easier access, get a separate box with a pin and key override and don’t leave the damn key attached. Also, drill firearm safety into the kids from the very beginning, which is basically as soon as they’re old enough to ask questions about it. That’s what a responsible gun owner should be doing, and what they teach at courses, though people who know better don’t always practice.

      LodeStar co-founder Gareth Glaser said he was inspired after hearing one too many stories about children shot while playing with an unattended gun. [>Incredibly sad. If your gun isn’t a pain in the ass to get to, it’s probably not secure enough. If it’s not on you, it should be secured.]

      Smart guns could stop such tragedies by using technology to authenticate a user’s identity and disable the gun should anyone else try to fire it. [>Citation needed. Seems like they just watched the Dredd movie from a few years back and thought it would be that easy.]

      They could also reduce suicides,[>Probably not by a noticeable amount]

      render lost or stolen guns useless [>and probably the ones that aren’t lost or stolen]

      and offer safety for police officers and jail guards who fear gun grabs. [>eyeroll]

      Guns need to be treated as the dangerous tools they are, without looking for some technological ‘fix’ to absolve responsibility.

      Maybe this would be fine, but only for police guns. They seem to be pretty trigger happy.

      1. TimH

        “only for police guns. They seem to be pretty trigger happy.”

        So we don’t need “personalized smart guns, which can be fired only by verified users” but “personalized smart guns, which can be fired at targets in a genuine self-defence scenario” which is NOT when an unarmed target is moving AWAY from the smart gun.

    2. cgregory

      80% of gun homicides are committed with guns obtained second-hand– stolen, given, pawned, what have you. Make the original purchaser responsible for its lifetime use– THAT’s ‘responsible ownership.”

      Sales and deaths will go down. The NRA will have to change its slogan to, ‘You can have my gun when you unglue it from my cold, dead hands.’

      King Arthur never let anybody else get hold of Excalibur. We should expect such responsible behavior from those who own the modern equivalent.

      1. rowlf

        If you pawn a firearm, the pawn shop is responsible under their Federal Firearms Licence for who they sell it to. Even though some states allow face-to-face sales of firearms selling through a FFL is a good idea to show the sale and new owner.

        The ATF has good guidance on firearms transfers: ATF Firearms Q&As

        Imagine if all the firearms left behind in Afghanistan were Smart Guns.

      2. John Beech

        The UK is often cited as a model for the removal of guns from the hands of citizenry. Stats like a HUGE reduction in gun deaths – HOWEVER – are not accompanied stats regarding the HUGE increase in deaths by knives, and other blade weapons. Put another way, people kill people with what they have at hand. When guns are handy, they use guns. But rocks, hammers, knives, machete’s etc. can also be handy. Granted, stabbing 20 people to death is more problematic than shooting 20 people to death, but then there’s that pesky 2nd Amendment to consider.

        1. skippy

          Killing with a gun has manifold range, multiple targets in a short time, and propensity to hit non combatants. A knife has none of those attributes and at the end of the day you have to use physical force to viscerally cut or plunge it into someone else. Its a completely different psychological event which carries with it a completely different set of thinking in using either.

          That said myself I rather take a gun off someone than a knife, having done both. Guns only have one direction of attack where a knife has multiple modes of attack and defense in skilled hands. Guns are a force multiplier with range and knifes are close range attack and defense tools.

          On the other hand black jacks are superior to knifes in close quarters when not wanting to kill or maim others.

  4. Mikerw0

    Hillary 2024 stories only mean we are officially in silly season and the media need to cook something up (at least until the NFL playoffs start now that Georgia-Alabama is decided).

    One thing for her to preen for attention. Entirely another for her to get beaten again.

    1. Lemmy Caution

      The well-coordinated media blitz teasing Hillary’s farewell tour is giving me flashbacks — and not the good kind.

      1. Dr. John Carpenter

        Farewell tour would imply she’s going away. Unless you mean it like The Who doing a farewell tour, insert “Won’t Get Fooled Again” joke here.

        1. John

          She could run as the youth candidate. On election day 2024 she will be only 77; Trump will be 78.

          Is it part of the “rules based order” that all presidential candidates are now required to be a minimum of 70 years old?

          1. rowlf

            Government by old men

            In the final years of the Brezhnev period, the majority of high-level government officials were, to put it mildly, extremely experienced. The average age of a Politburo member was 70, which gave rise to jokes such as:

            -What has four legs and forty teeth?

            -An alligator.

            -And forty legs and four teeth?

            -Brezhnev’s Politburo.

    2. Carolinian

      Hillary…can’t we just drone her? Kidding!!! Only, oh say, Hillary would say something like that.

      The real question is why the press insist on turning politics into the movie Groundhog Day. Fresh candidates might have fresh ideas.

  5. Louis Fyne

    —I don’t believe the people who posit a conscious conspiracy of the powerful to destroy any possibility of cross-racial alliance in pursuit of redistributionist aims; but you have to admit it sure looks like one—

    I’m in the “malice and stupidity, naivety, ignorance, or useful idiots look the same” camp.


  6. ScoFri

    “Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants”

    My wife was fuming about this the other day. It impacts her field in a tangental way. Basically Omega 3’s are turned into endocannibiniods in the body. Ha! She just yelled; “No one talks about diet! It’s always some drug!”


    The health benefits of ω-3 fatty acids are mediated, in part, through metabolic conversion to bioactive epoxides. Here we detail the discovery and initial characterization of naturally occurring ω-3–derived endocannabinoid epoxides that are formed via enzymatic oxidation of ω-3 endocannabinoids by cytochrome P450s.

    1. Sardonia

      I ate a whole bottle of Omega-3 capsules, and 2 hours later, Stephen Colbert STILL isn’t funny.

    2. K.k

      yes, yes, but when can i get my prophylactic cannabis covered by medicare?

      Now if you are eating the plant extract in its raw acid form, i.e , thcA, cbdA, cbgA, its just a plant extract. It seems closer to food or vitamin supplement than a “drug”. There are communities from India to Cambodia to Thailand that add cannabis, hemp flowers to soups and other dishes. Usually they are closer to hemp with cbd being dominant and practically no thc. Its typically not going to get you intoxicated. I think a cup of a coffee has a stronger mind altering effect than ingesting raw cannabinoids for most people? The obvious thing to point is that this study draws its conclusions from lab , in vitro, and may not play out in the real world in regard to preventing or mitigating worst outcome from Covid.

      Generally i agree with you and your wife on the matter. Many of us driven to wreck our bodies with junk “foods” and eventually turn to drugs to get by. Sad state of affairs.

  7. Toshiro_Mifune

    Plus, Schoen and Stein just got done arguing that Clinton has the right experience for the job

    If that job is losing an election, then yes… she does.

      1. Altandmain

        She lost twice already. First the primary in 2008 to what was then a relatively junior Senator, Barack Obama. Then in 2016 to Trump when she was widely considered the favourite to win.

    1. Nikkikat

      Take comfort in the fact that Schoen has never been right about anything ever. Hadn’t heard anything from that corporate dummy in a while. Thought he had finally stopped trolling for money.

  8. Lou anton

    Thanks as always, Lambert! I gotta say, that Boston wastewater data is cofounding. We hear how ridiculously contagious omicron is, but then its presence in the water drops like a stone after Christmas. The implication is that holiday gathering is/was the superspreader, but now people are doing better about keeping their distance?

    Do we think NYC wastewater would look similar or different? NYC might have larger class sizes and a larger, poorer population that is less able to stay home…so even if the absolutes are different, would their lines line up?

    1. MichaelC

      NYC tests its wastewater for Covid.
      They don’t publish the results

      Makes me crazy that they don’t. We would have had at least a two week warning before O exploded.

      NYC and NYS health officials have that info at their fingertips, yet it seemed to have no impact on public health measures.

      1. Pat

        Other than mask mandates with no enforcement mechanism, has there been any response that was best for public health?

        1. John

          Two years in and what to do is being discussed, clarified, studied, but never decided. I have a couple of questions: Is the goal keeping the economy humming? If so, I think the China model has worked quite well. Is the goal keeping people alive and Covid free? If so, I think the China model has worked quite well. Ditto for New Zealand. Now I realize that Americans have their rights and, at least in New Hampshire, Live Free or Die, but there is a real need to decide what the goal is so we can all do whatever we must as individuals. Heaven forbid it should further the greater good.

  9. Socal Rhino

    Re: “We’re Doing Our Best”

    Recalls an exchange on the TV show Supernatural. Lieutenant of the big monsters says he’s doing his best. Big monster replies: Do the best of someone who is better.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      These idiots weren’t elected to “do their best.” They were elected to be the adults in the room and solve the problem (“end this,” as Biden said). Then Biden, as we see in retrospect, ignored all the recommendations of his vaunted transition team — remember them? — and went vax only (supported vociferously, indeed hysterically, by the entire Democrat PMC base, from a combination of authoritarian followership, technofetishism, unwillingness to do the work of governing, with a later admixture of class hatred).

      And the administration didn’t change course even after Delta. And they may have changed course now, with Omicron, in a half-assed way, with more masks, more treatments, and more testing, but all of that should have been put in place a year ago, along with ventilation.

      A clear choice was made, and the motives for that choice can’t be anything other than, well, whiffy. (And the same for those covering for Biden’s choice: Jodl, Krebs… Klain, Zeints, Fauci, Walensky). Democidal elites is a parsimonious explanation….

        1. Samuel Conner

          That’s too generous IMO; “decimation” is the … um… ‘removal’ of only 10% of the target population.

      1. Pat

        Not cutting Biden any breaks, but for him the smartest guys in the room have been bankers, industrialists, insurance honchos, and financialists. If the FIRE sector wants something that’s the thing to do. The quickest and the easiest way to do what they wanted was to go all in on the vaccines and declare the economy open. That so many of our top scientific and health experts were on that train is more worrisome to me, but together they took the red pill and bought dross. And while those health officials testifying today were cringe inducing, most of the others are floundering because SOP is so disastrous it isn’t being ignored. I fully expect Hochul and Adams’ positions with the public and media to make Harris look good by the end of next week. (The media here are slowly getting that their willful incompetence has not been missed by the public and will take them down if not acknowledged.)

      2. socal rhino

        The comments I was referring to was Fauci’s (should have noted that explicitly) not Biden’s. We need people whose best is better than that guy.

  10. griffen

    Funding for the national grid. Seems like a reasonable start; I’ve read enough both here and elsewhere, that wind farms onshore and offshore face an uphill climb. There is NIMBY, and then for the offshore farms what is the impact of all the infrastructure to complete and build out a decently significant wind farm. I sorta recall that Martha’s Vineyard had a stink several years back. That could have been different, as in can’t you block what the proles and poors look out from(?)

    It’ll be curious if funding for the grid portion within Texas proper receives a little different, slanted even, share of funding for improvements. I defer to the more expert energy analyst or expert engineers amongst us for how that might go.

    1. upstater

      I am not at all clear on how much actual funding is being allocated for construction of electric transmission in the Verge article… but the $2B referenced is a pittance.

      NYS under Cuomo’s “green” energy plan, we have two mega projects, both well in excess of $2B. From IHS Markit:

      Clean Path NY is a 1.3-GW, 174-mile underground line that will deliver power from 20 wind and solar projects. It is being developed by Forward Power, a joint venture of Invenergy and energyRe, and the state-owned New York Power Authority.

      CHPE is a 1.25-GW, 339-mile underground and underwater trans­mission project that will deliver wind energy and hydropower from Quebec to Queens, New York, and locations along the way. It is being developed by Blackstone-backed Transmission Developers and Hydro-Québec, and it will run under Lake Champlain and part of the Hud­son River on its route downstate.

      Despite the major investments ($11 billion for Clean Path NY and $2.2 billion for CHPE), one of the projects received some criticism from environmental groups.

      The Texas Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) built 3500 miles of overhead transmission for $7B, but that is cheap and easy, as the sources are in the panhandles, where NIMBY is not a thing.

      The NYS projects are technically quite complicated and expensive; both have underground high voltage cables and DC inverters for the CHPE project. I am very skeptical of the quoted costs and bringing these on line in 3 to 5 years. And when Blackstone is involved, hold on to your wallet, the tollbooth rents will be huge.

      Nothing about conservation. Gotta keep Times Square illuminated.

    2. curlydan

      While they’re updating the grid, I would love to see them standardize electric car port/recharging stations. It seems like $1B and getting a few car execs and engineers together could accomplish this, right?

      Instead I fear a web of non-interchangeable ports with Tesla muscling all the good spaces.

      I think there was a Wired story a half year ago about why standardized ports should happen, but who is going to lead the charge? I would not expect any large EV maker to do so.

          1. John Beech

            Three phase would be lovely . . . . reduced current, lighter gauge wire (less material). What’s not to like?

  11. lyman alpha blob

    Here’s a fun one from CNN on Ray Epps’ Congressional testimony – https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/11/politics/january-6-ray-epps-fbi-false-flag/index.html

    According to CNN, he double pinky swore that he was not a government employee or informant of any kind which must be true because, as CNN noted, his testimony “carries some heft because it came in an interview with congressional investigators, where lying would be a federal crime.”

    There’s lots to shred in that article, including the speculation without concrete evidence (which is bad when Trumpers do it, but not when CNN does apparently) that he wasn’t charged with anything despite voluminous video evidence of his instigation because he didn’t beat up any cops or go into the Capitol building. Apparently it is OK now to yell “Fire” in a crowded building, as long as it fits the story CNN wants to tell.

    Of course CNN knows all about the consequences of lying to Congress – professional Congressional liar James Clapper did not suffer any for doing so. Not only is Clapper not in the slammer, he is has been employed as a national security analyst since 2017 – by CN[family blog]ingN.

    Perhaps Mr. Epps has a bright future as a media personality too.

  12. griffen

    Airline passenger story. It is early yet, but can we start the list for Darwin Award candidates for 2022? I’d suggest he is near the top; he’d be on the list if he successfully jumped out the window.

    I have to wonder though, did he overdose on watching the Die Hard films? Screaming yippee ki yay only works on film.

  13. Lambert Strether Post author

    > According to CNN, he double pinky swore that he was not a government employee or informant of any kind which must be true because, as CNN noted, his testimony “carries some heft because it came in an interview with congressional investigators, where lying would be a federal crime.”

    “For he himself has said it, and it’s greatly to his credit.” –Gilbert and Sullivan, HMS Pinafore [nods vigorously].

  14. polar donkey

    Either covid is dropping here in Memphis quickly or people don’t care about getting tested anymore. A little over a week ago at a testing center, there was a line down the street of cars with people waiting to get tested. 6 hour wait. Today, 4 cars in line. Health Department says the past couple days have been down 50% from last week. Are people not sick or not getting tested? I guess we will know in another week.

    1. curlydan

      I’m expecting a fairly sizable drop off in the next few weeks as the wave crests, but I fear that only will lead to complacency and “back to normal” BS.

      I’m reminded of the Three Little Pigs. We (well the Trump/Biden administrations) keep building these houses of straw and sticks, but the wolf keeps returning.

      1. John

        Does no one understand? The “normal” they long for is over, done for, toast. And make no bets on what the fabled “new normal” might be.

    1. rowlf

      Yesterday I quickly checked all of the Links and 2:00pm Water Coolers for five days after that CNN interview and there was no mention of Walensky here at NC, so maybe it flew under the radar when it came out, or maybe I should have used a different search term for the NC pages, or maybe CNN parked it in a far back corner of their website. Setting Duckduckgo to about a two week window for the interview the people who noticed it at the time tended to be the people regarded as kooks by the goodthink crowd.

  15. hemeantwell

    Re balking over sending KN95s to everyone in the US because some won’t wear them, I’d suggest calculating potential wastage in terms of, for instance, the fetish aircraft of our gluttonous military like the F-35. Suppose they send out 500 million masks that cost $1 apiece. Suppose 50% are burned in sacrifice to Freedom as Some Know It. $250 million gone.

    A single Air Force F-35A costs a whopping $148 million. One Marine Corps F-35B costs an unbelievable $251 million. A lone Navy F-35C costs a mind-boggling $337 million.

    Rough average = one plane. From which would we derive more security, not to mention an enhanced sense of national purpose and solidarity?

    1. griffen

      But, but what will drive profits at the Raytheon and Lockheed companies in the MIC? An entire sector could be put at risk of the manufacturing economy! \sarc

      They (meaning Congress, White House) can find the money from “thin air” for anything the military industrial wishes to conjure or obtain. But the public good? Not so much, I’m afraid.

    2. Nikkikat

      Also noticed the snarky attitude, if 50% aren’t going to wear them. Then screw you to the other 50%?! That person really is an elitist creep.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        The hidden ( but not for long now) agenda is to spread covid to every single person, deliberately on purpose.

    3. Even keel

      A buck a pop is the price when you buy 50. I think if you order 500 million you could negotiate a discount . . .

      Well, Someone with a real estate background could . . . :)

  16. mistah charley, ph.d.

    About the Moravians and money in Labrador:


    They ran trading posts at their missions. The article says

    From the beginning, the trade aspect of the missions was difficult and not always profitable. Missions relied heavily on goods purchased from the Inuit and the once-a-year visit of their supply ship Harmony. Labrador products exported to Europe included oil, sealskins, furs, dried fish and handicrafts.

    Moravians were careful to sell goods to the Inuit at moderate prices. They would also offer credit during the harsh winter months and relief to widows and poorer families. By the mid-1800s, the missions were in serious financial trouble, but new stations were nevertheless opened. At the height of its power, the Moravians’ trade monopoly extended 800km, from Groswater Bay to Killiniq Island…. Finally, in 1926, the decision was made to hand over trade operations to the Hudson’s Bay Company.

    …In 2005, after a 234-year presence, the Moravian Church recalled its last missionary in Labrador, Reverend Sam Propsom. However, the Moravian Church is still very much alive in Labrador. Almost 80 per cent of the people living in Nunatsiavut are of Moravian faith. Today, they administer their own churches.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Money is used as a form of control. So the British in South Africa in the 19th century noted how the Bantu had all their needs fulfilled and had no real need to work for the British. They might for awhile but as soon as they had what they needed to buy something, they would leave. So the British imposed a Hut Tax. Now the people were forced to go to work to pay that tax annually. Those private companies now had a labour force and the administration had a revenue stream for themselves so everybody was happy. Well, except for the Bantu who now had to work for the British.

      1. ChrisRUEcon

        Yep. MMT economists always point this out. Mosler says it quite bluntly – state money causes unemployment. One you impose any type of state/community money obligation, it’s just like you said – you now have a pool of the unemployed (those without the “money thing”) who need to work to meet the obligation.

  17. jr

    Medieval music with a chess twist!


    This is a video of medieval music accompanied by really great images of period art depicting musicians and people playing games. I count chess, nine-men’s morris, a table top sized Parcheesi at 4 minutes, and backgammon. There are a number of games that I cannot even guess, check out 10:41, 19:41, 21:15, 21:46, and 31:04.

    Here is the description:

    “This 2021 is the anniversary of the 800 years from the birth of Alfonso X El Sabio. To celebrate him, this year I’ll share many versions of his Cantigas! This is the fourth video about it, you can find the others easily on the channel. ?

    Alfonso X was born in 1221, he was King of the Romans, of Castile and León. His father was Ferdinand III, a liberal man called “the Saint” and the “King of religions” as during his reign he managed to make Christians, Muslims and Jews coexist in peace. His mother was Elisabetta Hohenstaufen, nephew of Frederick Barbarossa. From the sources that speak of his life we ​​know that in his youth Alfonso was surrounded by numerous paramours and politically helped his father in many military campaigns, but it was his love for Art that made him immortal with the nickname “El Sabio”. In 1254 Alfonso endowed with many privileges the school of Salamanca, founded by his grandfather, and thanks to Pope Alexander IV, he obtained permission to make the school an international university allowing its graduates to teach anywhere, except Paris and Bologna. Alfonso tried to bring together all the knowledge of his time in the language spoken by his subjects by founding the School of Translators of Toledo; the Muslim and Jewish sages of his court translated ancient Arabic and Hebrew works into Castilian. His scientific, historical and literary work was fundamental; promoted the drafting and publication of a series of authoritative texts in various fields of artistic and scientific culture such as the Alfonsine Tables: astronomical tables capable of providing the positions of the Sun, planets, stars and the dates of eclipses. He was also an excellent poet and even the author of one of the first treatises on chess. However, it was Music that handed it over to legend thanks to the collection of the famous Cantigas de Santa Maria, monophonic songs of the XIII cent. now preserved in Madrid and Florence, containing an enormous number of compositions and representations of musical instruments and players. The outset of these compositions can be traced back to the troubadour art, which were so successful as to induce Alfonso X to use both the language and the form. Marian devotion was particularly in vogue in this century, the collection sees the participation of aristocrats and courtiers, bourgeois, friars, clerics and jesters of humble origins, but protected in the courts. King Alfonso himself composed cántigas, some of which incite poets and jesters to dedicate their efforts and inspiration to the “Santa Dama”. In addition to the Cantigas de Santa Maria, the Cantigas de Amigo, popular, melodious and melancholic, also spread in that period, showing some contact with the Mozarabic kharge in Arabic-Hebrew composed in the XI cent.. The work has great importance from a triple point of view: literary, musical and pictorial. Alfonso X inherited from his father Fernando III his musical chapel which brought together interpreters and composers of various cultures and who formed part of the alphonsine court, similar to his School of translators or scriptorium regio.”

  18. Jen

    Re: half the country won’t wear N95s if provided.

    Okay, so why are we providing vaccines then?
    Stop using assumptions about how people might react as an excuse to do nothing.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Trump started the vaccines. Biden didn’t. This is a big deal. Biden will have to work for legislation to fund this. He doesn’t want to work at all.

      In the mean time, the people who have worked the hardest to make Biden a successful President, the progressive caucus, were betrayed by Biden and the “moderates” are the ones most likely to pay the electoral price for inaction. Biden attacked all his allies to stroke Joe Manchin’s ego. Now Biden is unpopular.

      1. Nikkikat

        Most likely Fauci brought the vaccines, Biden mandated that we all take one or lose our lively hood. Chances are those vaccines cost us a lot more than the price of a mask.

  19. drumlin woodchuckles

    I was listening to NPR’s ” Here and Now” program for a while and heard something about the students at an Oakland High School announcing they will walk out of school starting next Monday if they don’t have all the physical counter-covid protections they demand to have fully in place by next Monday.

    The report described the District’s ” the check is in the mail” type excuses for why none of this had been actually done yet.

    The report noted that the students also say they want Remote Learning until the school is physically Covid-safe for them to return to.

    The report noted that the District is adamantly against that because they get money for every physical student physically in the school and remote learning for even a week or two would cost millions of dollars of non-paid student-body subsidies.

    Maybe the students have hit upon what John Robb has called a “schwerpunkt” . . . the nerve-center of gravity which absolute torture directed against can force an institution to surrender or die. maybe other students will learn the same thing.

  20. bob

    More because markets out of yokel-


    NY to end eviction ban, reopen rent relief site

    The state Office of Temporary Disability Assistance said the application portal will open at 10 p.m. Tuesday — even though the state doesn’t have enough money to provide any more rent relief, absent a deluge of federal funding. Applicants get protection from eviction while the state reviews their application.

  21. Bushwood

    $2.5B for transmission lines is peanuts. I live in the Midwest and a new 345kv transmission line built in 2018 that only goes 180 miles cost $580M. In order to get to all the wind and solar farms thousands upon thousands of miles will need to be built across the country.

  22. ambrit

    I was wondering, could someone run a class action suit against Biden et. al. for “Breach of Contract” over the “missing” $600 USD?
    The negative of this would establish an interesting precedent: Political promises are not binding contracts. If so, could voters retroactively nullify their votes? What else is a ‘vote’ but a political promise of support into the future, for some limited period of time?

      1. ambrit

        So, if I get this right, it would have to be a classless action.
        I have also heard of the retail concept of “puffery.” (We’re getting very close to H. R. Pufnstuf territory.)
        [I can do declasse. It’s closely aligned with today’s medical scam of decouphage. Basically, one papers over the ‘cranks.’]

  23. Henry Moon Pie

    Hochul: the state workforce will not go back to widespread telecommuting because of the potential economic damage of keeping people at home, especially for the restaurant and hotel industries

    Our economy is about 50% “churn.” While many if not most state workers could work remotely and thereby save a nice bit of carbon emissions since they’re not commuting, that’s a bad thing. It’s not bad because working remotely would be less effective. It’s bad because those people are supposed to drive into work so they can eat lunch at a restaurant. Otherwise, the restaurants would close.

    Now if your society was pouring carbon into the air at a rate that would exacerbate climate change to the point of agricultural and general societal failure, you would think we would sit down together and make a list of essential activities like growing and distributing food, keeping utilities going so nobody freezes or burns up, providing medical care, etc. But no, we believe that the Invisible Hand has commanded us to keep everybody busy, to make sure everybody is reporting to a Jaawwb at least five days a week regardless of whether they’d doing anything socially useful. Hell, we want them going to work even if their occupation is socially harmful like a fry cook at McDonald’s.

    If there is anyone around to write the history of this period in 20 or 30 years, I can imagine what they’ll say about us:

    This society decided keeping the bars and restaurants open was more important than preserving itself.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      No it didn’t. The rulers made that decision all on their own.

      As commenter GM said in a different context, the only solution for this problem would for society to somehow rise up as one and succeed in physically exterminating every member of the ruling class which made this decision for society to suffer by. But society in general is not able to do that.

      So what anyone who is around in 20 to 30 years will say, if they are honest, is that society was not able to round up and physically exterminate the social class enemies of life on earth in time to save life on earth.

      1. JBird4049

        So the solution is another Great Terror with modern day tumbrels? Sometimes, I dream about Madam Guillotine and her very fine shaves, but civil wars are horrible things; the two American civil wars were unusually constrained, but the cost was still heavy with broken families, destroyed cities, and guerrilla warfare.

        Violence is probably unavoidable with the ruling American elite being determined to remain in power and using the various methods it has used in the past four centuries. Assassination, illegal arrests and prosecutions, beatings, lynchings, planting evidence, whisper campaigns, propaganda… even on peaceful protests. However, let’s be careful about calling for violent revolution. I mean JFK was right, but sometimes Gandhi’s methods do work.

  24. Jen

    I’d really like to know who came up with this headline: “United Cancels Flights After Thousands Test Positive for COVID Despite Zero Staff Deaths”

    The lede: “United Airlines canceled thousands of flights over the holidays due to an excessive surge in coronavirus cases among staff and crew but proudly reported that there have been zero employee deaths or hospitalizations in the last eight months.”


    1. Lou Anton

      “excessive surge” – alright Covid, a bit too much. A little (a lot, literally!) in the nose wouldn’t you say?

      You’re right, makes no sense that headline. Maybe this is one of those articles written by bots.

      1. Jen

        I interpreted the headline as “get back to work you slackers! None of you have died, so why are our flights being cancelled?”

          1. jimmy cc

            and if your dead, you will have to have your shift covered or unfortunately we will have to decrease your accrued sick time or dock your pay.

  25. Bill Carson

    I spoke to my 78yo stepdad this morning and he was upset because Biden took $800m that should have gone to COVID medicines and treatments that work, and he sent the money to the border. So that’s why there isn’t enough COVID medicines and treatments.

    Those are the ramblings of a crazy person. What the heck is that about? I fear he has started watching OANN or something.

    1. bob

      “treatments that work”

      heard from that same guy that same phase

      OANN or newsmax is what he watches

  26. Big River Bandido

    It embarrasses me to defend the WSJ, but when they say HRC is the strongest candidate the Democrats can offer, they’re probably right…which tells you about the party’s chances.

      1. Big River Bandido

        A most pernicious and persistent nuisance, to be sure. Are you saying you think she’ll win?

  27. The Rev Kev

    “Stacey Abrams and Voting-Rights Allies Spurn Biden’s Atlanta Events”

    There could be payback going on here. So last year Biden was casting around for a Vice-President who would ideally be both a woman and black. This was before the Hampton’s imposed Kamala Harris on him.So Stacey Adams’s name came up and she and Biden were on TV – live I think. He was talking to her and then he dropped the boom on her and said in so many words that it’s not going to be you, babe. Her face was a study as this could have been done off-camera previously but he chose to do it now on camera in front of the nation. Guess what? Payback is a b*****.

    1. Big River Bandido

      If that’s all the kerfluffle is about, it’s a sad commentary on Abrams, the Democrats, and the voting rights movement. I don’t think very highly of her, but I really hope it’s not about some trivial slight like the one you mentioned. There are plenty of good substantive reasons for Abrams, voting rights advocates in general — and for that matter, most people on the left, both within and without the Democrat Party — to be angry with Joe Biden and his Democrats.

    2. Dr. John Carpenter

      It pains me to do this, but to be fair to Biden, the subject at hand was something else (I think voting rights) and the news head put Biden on the spot, iirc. Maybe they thought he was going to announce and that’s why he had Adams along. Clearly Adams thought so when the question came up.

      I don’t think Biden, cruel as he can be, drug her out to embarrass her on purpose. I think the guy is clueless and despite how aggressively thirsty Adams was for the job, it didn’t occur to him what that interview looked like or that he handled it like an ass.

      On the other hand, I could be totally wrong about that. I’ve come around to the idea that the old goat is intentionally tossing Harris boat anchors. And I could see him humiliating someone on live tv like that on purpose for no reason other than just to show everyone who is in charge. It does seem pretty clear Adams snub is a payback though, toothless as it is.

    3. Pat

      Ummm. Could a simpler explanation be that Biden and Harris are deadly in GA right now?

      Think about it. This isn’t entirely political fluff to Abrams and these groups. Unlike those in DC, the Georgia contingent has been working hard on this for years. In point of fact, Biden wouldn’t have his job without Abrams and Allies. They aren’t going to gain any new support from any Biden appearance, but it it is possible to alienate possible supporters with him.

      While I am sure Abrams might be enjoying Harris drowning, she isn’t going to kneecap voting rights activism to get some revenge. There is 2024 for that, you know when Biden and Harris might really really need her.

      (Seriously, with friends like Biden most causes don’t need enemies…)

  28. Jason Boxman

    So from this morning (“Why Coronavirus Testing Is Falling Short in Many Schools Across the U.S.”), another innocuous looking failure of data collection, a core function of the state.

    Data from Burbio, a company that audits how schools have operated through the pandemic, shows that more than 5,400 schools have reverted to virtual learning since Jan. 3.

    And who are they?

    Burbio.com is the industry leader in aggregating school, government, library and community event information for delivery over mobile, web, video, email and voice. Burbio’s technology organizes and streams millions of hyper-local events and keeps them automatically updated. Burbio’s relevant and critical content is engaging for consumers and important for business decision making.

    And why does the Department of Education not know this? All these states take federal money for schools. What a broken country.

  29. Wukchumni

    “To avert a climate catastrophe, we have to save the world’s big trees” [Miami Herald].
    1 in 5 Giant Sequoias 4 feet wide in diameter or larger have perished in the past 2 years…

    Five to one, baby
    One in five
    No one here gets out alive, now


    1. JBird4049

      twenty percent of adult Giant Sequoias? That is horrible. What was the most direct cause of death? Fire or drought?

      1. Wukchumni

        All victims of the Castle & KNP Wildfires…

        A 4 foot wide Giant Sequoia is around 500 years old and the bigger ones 1,500 to 2,000 years old.

        Lightning strike fires are a given in the Sierra Nevada in the late summer, but none of the earlier conflagrations killed them off, until now.

        1. Greg

          General rules for slow life histories would say the bigger ones are doing more of everything in the ecosystem than an equal diameter of smaller trees. That’s gonna hit like a truck a few years from now.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        I wonder if drought and fire force-multiplied eachother.

        I also wonder whether fire-suppressionism over the last hundred years has allowed doghair forests of fire-ladder trees to grow up all around the sequoias to lead the fire right to them. I think I have also read that the deliberate fostering of doghair fire-ladder trees casts enough shade under themselves so as to prevent any sequoia seeds from being able to sprout and grow.

    1. JBird4049

      I think that the map might be understate the red for California because (with nothing but my gut). For instance, Del Norte county, which is the very tiny spot between Mendocino, Siskiyou counties and the Oregon border should go red. Really, the only reason for some of the counties to stay blue is because of the housing refugees from metro San Francisco and Los Angeles.

      If the Democrats do anything else than remain their normal incompetent selves, I would be really be surprised if more counties do not shift; I do not expect the state government to get an attack of competence. Incompetence if there is a forest fire or some new Covid variant, sure, which means more defectors from the middle and less enthusiasm from the true believers.

      The Democrats might just get the largest electoral (not the popular vote) defeat since Presidents James Monroe or FDR. If the Republicans could get someone other than former President Trump, I think it could go even higer, say a popular vote margin of Monroe, or President Thomas Jefferson, which would be hard to do.

    2. Carolinian

      Latest Quinnipiac Biden 33 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove according to ZH.

      Myself I worry more about Blinken than Fauci.

      1. Carolinian

        Speaking of foreign policy this is an interesting interview (apologies for the long quotes)

        AARON MATÉ: Trump was even impeached after he briefly paused some weapons sales to Ukraine, and all this came after. On the campaign trail he talked about cooperation with Russia, getting along with Russia. I’m wondering, if he hadn’t faced four years of being called a Russian puppet, hadn’t been impeached after he briefly paused these weapon sales—although the allegation was that he was doing it for political gain to taint Joe Biden—if he hadn’t faced all that, do you think that his policy towards Russia would have been different?

        DOUGLAS MACGREGOR: Yes. But he had an enormous problem with the people that he selected for key positions in his administration. The people that populated his National Security Council, the individual Mr. [Mike] Pompeo that he selected to be Secretary of State, Bob Gates, who was in as Secretary of Defense, was sending him nominees for various positions—Bob Gates, a card-carrying neocon is probably the last person I would have listened to.

        But I think we have to keep in mind that President Trump came to office with, frankly, unrealistic views of what Washington was like and certainly unrealistic views of the American military and its leadership. He was stuck in the 50s and the early 60s, when we lived in a very different environment in Washington. And by the time he figured it out and discovered what had happened, he was in a position to do very little, frankly, because he got almost no cooperation out of his own party in the Senate, let alone the left..


        So, we should have gotten out in the winter, and we could have driven or flown most of the equipment out, I think, and at the same time avoided the kind of the debacle that you saw later on in the year, in the beginning of the summer or during the summer. But, again, once it became clear what he wanted to do, the original end date that I gave him for getting out of Afghanistan was 31 December; he advanced that, I think, until 15 January. Doesn’t make any difference, it’s fine. We still could have gotten out within that timeframe safely, all the Americans and most of the equipment.[…]

        AARON MATÉ: So, there’s a point you made there that I hadn’t heard before that I found interesting. Do I hear you right, that had the US withdrawal gone ahead in the wintertime instead of the summertime, as Biden ultimately did it, that in your opinion that would have resulted in less bloodshed?

        DOUGLAS MACGREGOR: Oh, absolutely. Everybody knows that. The mountain passes fill up with snow, the weather is very unaccommodating to everybody. It would have been a much easier process. You certainly wouldn’t have had people hanging off airplanes and all this kind of nonsense. And I think the Taliban, to be perfectly blunt, truly feared Donald Trump. He made it very clear to them what he would do to them if they interfered or failed to live up to the bargain. I don’t think the Taliban was remotely concerned about the Biden administration. So, I do think that the Trump intimidation factor was also in play there. But getting out in the dead of winter was always the right thing to do. Anybody with experience on the ground in that country will tell you that you don’t want to come out during the fighting season, and that’s exactly what we did.

        Much more here. Of course Trump’s inadequacy is still on him–perhaps for having the hubris (and bad motives) to run in the first place. But even when he wanted to do the right thing he was blocked.


  30. Old Sarum


    There has to be some point when testing in a pandemic/endemic is no longer useful.
    Exactly what criteria indicate that situation?

    I imagine it is sometime after early infections, when contacts can be traced and their activities curtailed (but compensated for). What do the experts say?

    Pip pip!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > There has to be some point when testing in a pandemic/endemic is no longer useful.

      I think the current situation is that omicron moves so fast it has outrun our (creaky, sclerotic, patchy) testing infrastructure.

      To your larger question: I don’t know! Not soon.

    1. JBird4049

      IIRC, Captain Hazlewood had some some excuse since he was an alcoholic. Maybe it wasn’t a good excuse, but still, and just what is the excuse for Director Walensky? Our supposedly competent, sober director? Handpicked by President Biden.

  31. JBird4049

    I don’t believe the people who posit a conscious conspiracy of the powerful to destroy any possibility of cross-racial alliance in pursuit of redistributionist aims; but you have to admit it sure looks like one

    — Wesley Yang (@wesyang) January 12, 2022

    Hey, just thinking quickly from my head, if anyone is curious, I could point out examples as far back as Bacon’s Rebellion in 1675, then there are the various lynchings, framings, murders, social ostracizing, and general beat downs by the courts, the police, militias, and the armed individuals before, during and after the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Grangers, the Socialists, the Suffragist Movement, Progressive Movement, the entire Union Movement(s), the Civil Rights Movement, the Modern Women’s Movement, and who knows how many small movements from the bikers and gangs (really poor whites and blacks) places like Chicago and Detroit, or the political organizing attempts of same in the rest of the country especially on the West Coast back in the 1960s and 1970s.

    Anyone can find this stuff if the dig, but that is the point isn’t? Destroy, kill, or bury anyone trying to unite across class, religious, and racial lines and then hid the history. It has only worked since at least since Jamestown. Then there is what the Spanish and Portuguese did in the rest of the Americas.

    I do not believe anyone who does not posit a conscious conspiracy of the power to destroy any possibility of cross-racial alliances (or across class lines).

  32. Trogg

    “Sara Nelson for president”

    What do you think about her role boosting the airline bailouts, Lambert?

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Which is why at least some of the eco-survivalist wanna hava future young people will come to hate the Union Movement and Union Leaders as the mortal enemies of themselves along with all other biological life-forms on earth.

        The :Union Movement will create that hatred by fighting to the death to create more and more good union fossil fuel jobs.

      2. Trogg

        You make deal that keeps the checks flowing, sure, but do you talk it up like it’s thee model for future bailouts? The provision against executive bonuses and stock buybacks has already expired, right?

  33. JBird4049

    As someone who is trying to register for the spring semester, I am getting confused and changing information about whether classes are online or in person. First, it is in person. No, there’s a change as it’s only till the end of this month or for a week…. Or something?

    I sent an email asking if they were going to be online, in person, or something else, which I need to know for both health and transportation reasons (and whether to upgrade my internet). I’m in my fifties, have already had Covid once, having difficulties getting the Drug That Cannot Be Named and already have other health issues. Should I risk it or will it be all online?

    Two different campuses. One of which is easy enough for me to get to and the other is not. Unless it remains online which expands my opportunities to take the courses needed to transfer to another college. Different decisions based on how they are going to teach, but the head of Admissions polite and honest response was they just don’t know. Because it depends what the virus does (and state/county governments decide)

    Car, internet, laptop perhaps, gas/bus ticket, class schedule, and more all depends on what they decide and they really don’t know. The college administration really, really wants in person classes and demands that everyone be vaccinated (even for online classes) but they have and they might change their minds again at anytime. I have to make my decision on what to do with out knowing what the college or the county or the state are all going to decide from month to month.

    I am going to have to roll some dice.

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