2:00PM Water Cooler 1/26/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Call and response?

* * *

“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

“Breyer retirement hands Biden open Supreme Court seat” [Politico]. “The Supreme Court’s oldest member — Justice Stephen Breyer — plans to retire, a person familiar with the process said Wednesday, giving President Joe Biden his first, highly coveted opportunity to nominate a member of the nation’s top court. Breyer, 83, informed the president last week of his intention to retire and indicated he would follow up with an official letter, the person briefed on the justice’s plans said. Breyer’s move comes after more than a year of pressure from liberal legal activists who urged the appointee of President Bill Clinton to step aside to give Biden a chance to name a jurist who could shape the country’s legal landscape for decades. Biden has pledged to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. While Breyer’s resignation is welcome news for many Democrats and left-leaning attorneys, it is unlikely to have a dramatic impact on the court’s decidedly conservative bent. Since late 2020, the high court’s bench has been split, 6-3, with Republican appointees holding the clear majority.” • RBG, good job.,

“Opinion: Biden has failed to defeat covid-19 as promised. Here’s how he must shift his strategy.” [Michelle A. Williams, WaPo]. “In his first full day in office, President Biden promised to defeat covid-19. He has not succeeded… [F]lip through the goals the president laid out one year ago, and it’s clear he has fallen short. We must learn from this year of missteps.” You had one job. More: “In 2002, just 3.1 percent of total health spending was devoted to public health. Astoundingly, it has only gotten worse. Public health’s share of health-care spending is expected to be just 2.4 percent next year.” • Money doesn’t talk, it swears….

“As Biden meets with CEOs on stalled Build Back Better plan, analysts ‘believe a $1T+ package is probable'” [MarketWatch]. “As President Joe Biden keeps beating the drum for his Build Back Better package, analysts are saying parts of it still have a good chance of becoming reality even after last month’s big setback. Biden is slated to meet at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday with 10 private-sector executives who are expected to ‘highlight what they see as the key benefits of BBB for the American economy and American business,’ a White House official said. General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Ford CEO Jim Farley, Microsoft President Brad Smith, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett are due to be among the participants in the meeting. Corning CEO Wendell Weeks, HP CEO Enrique Lores, Cummins CEO Tom Linebarger, Etsy CEO Josh Silverman and Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton are expected to take part as well.” • Clout like that and all we get is a lousy trillion….

“‘She was Zoom’d out:’ Veep mulls escape from D.C. bubble” [Politico]. Well, if you can’t make it in The Show, it’s perfectly OK to return to the minors. “Inside Harris’ office and among her advisers, confidants and close allies, there’s a near universal belief that she is mired by a contradiction: While she’s among the most powerful people in the world, owing to her swift rise in national politics, people still don’t know her at the levels they need to.” • Perhaps “people” might for once be allowed to define their own needs? That “need to” from fingerwagging liberal Democrats is one their most annoying locutions. Anyhow, the dogs won’t eat the dog food.

“Warren, Schumer, Jayapal, Pressley, Omar, Porter urge President Biden to deliver on promise to cancel student debt” [Indian Country]. “United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y), and United States Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) led more than 80 Senate and House colleagues calling on the Biden administration to release the Department of Education’s (ED) memo outlining the administration’s legal authority to cancel federal student loan debt and immediately cancel up to $50,000 of debt for Federal student loan borrowers. ‘Canceling $50,000 of student debt would give 36 million Americans permanent relief and aid the millions more who will eventually resume payments their best chance at thriving in our recovering economy. In light of high COVID-19 case counts and corresponding economic disruptions, restarting student loan payments without this broad cancellation would be disastrous for millions of borrowers and their families,’ wrote the lawmakers. While the lawmakers applauded President Biden’s decision to extend the federal student loan payment pause as the Omicron variant spreads, they are urging the President to do more to provide permanent relief for millions of borrowers and help families avoid financial hardship as the economy recovers.” • Why stop at $50,000?

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.

I’m very pleased to discover Bourdieu stans in the readership. Don’t be shy about sharing insights.

* * *
“Nancy Pelosi announces she’ll seek re-election” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “Pelosi’s announcement wasn’t the no-brainer some might have thought. In 2019, as part of a deal she cut with Democrats who threatened to oppose her for speaker, Pelosi promised not to serve in the role beyond this term, absent consent to do so from the Democrats in the House. In November 2020, Pelosi said, ‘I will abide by those limits.’ That doesn’t rule out her running for re-election.” • Pelosi’s announcement:


Lot of sled dogs tired of the same old view… But not tired enough, it seems.

“Nancy Pelosi Is One of America’s Most Dangerous Politicians” [Direct Left]. “Pelosi is revered by her fans and has an unmatched press operation that churns out regular puff pieces painting her as a champion of ‘democracy’ and a thorn in the GOP’s side. Nothing could be further from the truth. With Pelosi at the helm of the House, Republicans (and Democrats) have gotten away with murder, literally. She stubbornly refused to impeach George W. Bush for war crimes, and gave Trump ‘everything he wanted,’ in the words of Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna…. Not only has Pelosi presided over major military budget increases, but she made sure to give Trump expanded surveillance powers: ‘By tucking the measure into a must-pass bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi forced many members who oppose the Patriot Act to vote in favor of its extension.’ She called the Green New Deal ‘the green dream or whatever,’ but used the climate emergency to defend increasing the military budget…. She and her husband have amassed a fortune of tens of millions of dollars; she is credibly accused of insider trading, and currently stands in the way of a bill to curb stock trading by members of Congress.”

* * *
“Joe Biden Needs a Sister Souljah Moment” [Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch]. “But as president, Biden has steadfastly refused to triangulate. There have been countless potential Sister Souljah moments. Amid surging crime rates in New York City, the new Manhattan district attorney vowed not to seek prison sentences, even for some violent criminals, whenever possible. Biden says schools should stay open, but he’s never criticized teachers’ unions, even when they refused to work in Chicago. And countless Democratic members of Congress say inflammatory things on a daily basis. Why not pick a fight?” • Wowsers, just listened to a West Wing Thing episode where the West Wing Brains recommended just that.

Republican Funhouse

“Youngkin Creates Tip Line to Report Mask Concerns, ‘Divisive Practices’ in Schools” [NBC Washington]. “Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin promoted an email address Tuesday where parents can send concerns and complaints about violations of students’ ‘fundamental rights’ and any ‘divisive practices’ in schools. Critics questioned whether the tip line was set up for anyone but the new Republican governor’s supporters…. ‘… [It’s] for parents to send us any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated, where their children are not being respected, where there are inherently divisive practices in their schools,’ Youngkin said.” • “Divisive.” You know, like creationism.


“Mayor’s anti-violence ‘blueprint’ could shape Democratic messaging: The Note” [ABC]. “If successful, New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to combat crime, dubbed the ‘blueprint to end gun violence,’ could become the blueprint to reorient Democratic messaging on public safety. Adams, a former NYPD captain, unveiled his strategy Monday in the wake of a shooting that left one NYPD officer dead and another critically injured. Echoing the tough-on-crime posture that arguably helped put him in office, Adams announced plans to increase police presence all over the nation’s largest city. ‘New Yorkers feel as if a sea of violence is engulfing our city,’ Adams said. ‘But as your mayor, I promise you I will not let this happen. We will not surrender our city to the violent feud [few –lambert]. We won’t go back to the bad old days.'” • Harris would kill for this kind of press coverage.

“Is Trump’s Hold On The GOP Still Strong?” [FiveThirtyEight]. “To quote from that article: “By a 67 percent to 29 percent margin, Republican registered voters told Morning Consult/Politico that Trump should run again, including 51 percent who said he should ‘definitely’ run. A HarrisX/The Hill poll from Oct. 13-14 similarly found that Republican registered voters supported a third consecutive Trump candidacy 77 percent to 23 percent, including 52 percent who ‘strongly’ supported it. And Quinnipiac found that 78 percent of Republicans would like to see Trump run again, and only 16 percent would not.” So, again, I really think it’s missing the forest for the trees to say that Trump is getting weaker within the GOP. Maybe slightly, but he is still ridiculously strong.” • Interesting roundtable discussionl.

“GOP Voters Still Like Trump, But Many Ambivalent About 2024 Run” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “Yet, for a few weeks now, I’ve picked up signs of ambivalence from some GOP voters about the thought of Trump running again in 2024. These aren’t anti-Trump types. They like Trump. They’d support a candidate for a down-ballot contest like Senate or House who had Trump’s backing. But, they are not sure they want a re-run. Some think he’s worn out his welcome with too many voters and won’t be able to win a general election. Others are simply worn out at the thought of another four years of the ‘Trump show.’ … Other GOP strategists I’ve spoken with say they are hearing the same level of hesitancy in focus groups of Republican voters that they are conducting. These voters aren’t against Trump, but they are open to the idea of a fresh face, one without all the drama and baggage that Trump will bring to the table. It’s also hard for anyone, even someone as good at commanding the spotlight as Trump, to be able to hold voters’ attention and support for four years. Out of office and off social media, Trump no longer gets the wall-to-wall coverage he once enjoyed… Bottom line: Trump is the most powerful figure in GOP today, but that doesn’t make him invincible in a 2024 primary for president.”


* * *
“Democrats face double-digit enthusiasm deficit ahead of midterms” [NBC]. “While Democrats hold a narrow 1-point lead in congressional preference, Republicans enjoy a double-digit enthusiasm advantage, with 61 percent of Republicans saying they are very interested in the upcoming midterms — registering their interest either as a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. That’s compared with 47 percent of Democrats who have the same high level of interest. In previous midterm cycles — whether 2006, 2010, 2014 or 2018 — the party that held a double-digit advantage in enthusiasm (or close to it) ended up making substantial gains, our pollsters say…. And some of the biggest drops have come from key segments of the Democratic base, including Black voters, young voters and urban voters.” • It’s not a messaging problem. It’s a delivery problem, or more precisely, a betrayal problem. And Joe Biden owes me six hundred bucks.

2020 Post Mortem

On the Georgia grand jury investigating Trump’s post-election day shenanigains:


Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Making of a Coronavirus-Criminal Presidency” [John Nichols, The Nation]. “‘How does that happen in the richest country in the history of the world?’ Bernie Sanders asked when we first spoke about the pandemic in April 2020. Why does it always go this way? The answer is summed up in a word: impunity. The United Nations defines ‘impunity’ as ‘the impossibility, de jure or de facto, of bringing the perpetrators of violations to account—whether in criminal, civil, administrative, or disciplinary proceedings—since they are not subject to any inquiry that might lead to their being accused, arrested, tried and, if found guilty, sentenced to appropriate penalties, and to making reparations to their victims.’… Trump and his Republican associates should face all the legal and constitutional penalties that their crimes demand. So, too, should the Democrats who transgressed. And so, too, should the reckless billionaires and pharmaceutical extortionists. But we dare not stop there. The pandemic profiteers must be banished—forever ejected from the political and economic future of the nation they have so crudely used and abused.” • A heavy lift. Who does it?


Case count by United States regions:

Peak behavior; I think we can expect more bounces on the way down, if we go by past behavior. If you look at the two previous peaks, you’ll see we’ve had declines, followed by rises, followed by final declines. That said, it would sure be nice if “rise like a rocket, and fall like a stick” applied, but we can’t know that yet. 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 unprecedented. Should be interesting to see what happens when B.2 takes hold.

Note that “up like a rocket, down like a stick” seems to be the case in South Africa (with a very different population from our own):


(I am but a simple tape-watcher, and say nothing of clinical effects, long Covid, stress on the health care system, co-morbidities, etc.)

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!

* * *
“The kids are not alright: Data suggests 10% of children with COVID-19 become ‘long-haulers'” [Salon]. “Because the data is preliminary, estimates thus far vary wildly on the prevalence of what is now known as “long Covid” in children and adolescents. …. While there is no official definition of pediatric long Covid at this time, the parameters typically include the persistence (or return) of symptoms 12 weeks following the initial infection. Some criteria look for new or persistent symptoms 30 days out from the acute infection. Another key is ruling out of alternative medical explanations — making the process of diagnosis lengthy and requiring a multi-disciplinary team. … However, there is now growing consensus that somewhere around 10 percent of COVID-19 cases in kids turn into long Covid — at least according to the data collected for primarily pre-omicron and pre-vaccine cases.” • Trump came for your parents. Then Biden came for your kids….

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

Continues encouraging. No jump from the return of the students yet.

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:

Not as spectacular as yesterday, but still good news, especially in the Midwest. (Remember that these are rapid riser counties. A county that moves from red to green is not covid-free; the case count just isnt, well, rising rapidly.

The previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Moving fast, and for once in a good direction (reinforced my MWRA data and case data). (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.)

Just a reminder:

As with everything else, because the United States is not a serious country, our hospitalization data is bad. Here the baseilne is off:


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 894,880 891,595. I have added an anti-triumphalist black “Fauci Line.” As we know, deaths are a lagging indicator. I assume the absurdity of the “Omicron is mild” talking point is, at this point, self-evident. If you know somebody who’s in “lead my life” mode, you might consider telling them the odds of dying from Covid are tied for second worst with the first wave in New York.

“Omicron Deaths in U.S. Exceed Delta’s Peak as Covid-19 Optimism Rises in Europe” [Wall Street Journal]. “U.S. data showed daily average deaths from the disease exceeding the peak reached during the surge driven by the previously dominant Delta variant. In the U.S., the seven-day average for newly reported Covid-19 deaths reached 2,258 a day on Tuesday, up about 1,000 from daily death counts two months ago, data from Johns Hopkins University show. That is the highest since February 2021 as the country was emerging from the worst of last winter’s wave. While there is a large body of evidence suggesting that Omicron is less likely to kill the people it infects, it spreads much more quickly and therefore infects many more people than earlier variants, epidemiologists say. Case counts in the U.S. have dwarfed previous records.” • Remember that death data is not only bad, it’s gamed. So the real numbers were higher, then and now.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Good news here too. For the time being.

Stats Watch

Inventories: “United States Wholesale Inventories” [Trading Econmics]. “Wholesale inventories in the US advanced 2.1 percent month-over-month to $789.4 billion in December of 2021, up from a 1.7 percent increase in November and above market forecasts of 1.3 percent rise, a preliminary estimate showed. It was the 17th consecutive month of gains, amid increases in inventories of both durable goods (2.4 percent vs 2.5 percent in November) and nondurable ones (1.6 percent vs 0.6 percent). On a yearly basis, wholesale inventories advanced 18.3 percent in December.”

Housing: “United States New Home Sales” [Trading Economics]. “New home sales in the United States rose by 11.9 percent from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 811 thousand in December 2021, following a similar increase in November and easily beating market expectations of 760 thousand.”

* * *
The Bezzle: “Your new crypto BFFs are Gwyneth Paltrow, Brit Morin, Jaime Schmidt and Rebecca Minkoff” [Protocol]. “[Brit Morin] signed up Tyra Banks, Gwyneth Paltrow and a bunch of top tech investors and artists like Jessica Hische for her project. They are all founding members of BFF, which Morin co-founded with Jaime Schmidt to build an on-ramp for women and nonbinary people into crypto. The group unveiled more than 50 founding members last week, and is officially kicking off with an event on Jan. 26 that 15,000 people have already signed up for. From the VC world, founding members include investors like Katie Stanton, Sarah Guo, Rebecca Kaden, Kara Nortman, Deena Shakir, Maaria Bajwa and Haley Barna.

But BFF isn’t just a bunch of VCs looking for investment opportunities. The goal was to bring in women and nonbinary people from across industries, meaning Hollywood A-listers like Mila Kunis and fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff are also taking part.” • So awesome.

The Bezzle: “Bitcoin operation ignites debate around the waste from coal mining in Pennsylvania” [ABC]. “Jeff Campbell, who oversees the bitcoin mining operation at the Scrubgrass Power Plant in Kennerdell, Pennsylvania, said each of their computers generates an average of $30 a day mining bitcoin…. Under fire for their emissions and reliance on fuels like coal and natural gas, some bitcoin mining companies in the U.S. are transitioning to more renewable types of power like solar or wind. Stronghold Digital Mining, which owns the Scrubgrass plant, has found its power source in the form of coal waste, which is abundant at this 221-acre pit just outside of Pittsburgh. Coal waste is a combination of rock, coal, and other materials that were deemed unsuitable for burning and left abandoned since the 1970s when coal mines in the area were closed.” • Hilariously, selling coal waste is the Manchin family business. So all things work together for good.

The Bezzle: “Facebook’s embattled cryptocurrency project is likely coming to an end” [The Verge]. “More than two years after it was first announced, the Facebook-sponsored cryptocurrency formerly known as Libra appears to be coming to an end. The Diem Association set up by Facebook to manage the digital token is exploring a sale of its assets after meeting resistance by regulators who opposed the initiative… If Diem is indeed selling its assets, that may be an indication that the cryptocurrency can’t find a way forward. Originally, Libra was meant to be a digital token backed by a basket of currencies from around the world, but regulators quickly halted that idea. So a simplified design was created, pegging a rebranded Diem token to the US dollar. Apparently that wasn’t good enough.” • That’s a damn shame.

The Bezzle: “IMF urges El Salvador to ditch bitcoin as legal tender” [Financial Times]. “In September El Salvador became the first nation in the world to make bitcoin legal tender under a plan spearheaded by Nayib Bukele, the country’s 40-year-old president and self-styled “CEO”. That meant the digital asset could be used to buy goods, send remittances and even pay taxes in the country…. Bukele, a bitcoin evangelist, has since spent tens of millions of public dollars buying the cryptocurrency — and losing money. … Despite the attention Bukele’s bitcoin experiment has drawn, there is little evidence of widespread use of the cryptocurrency for day-to-day transactions in the country and its implementation was one of the less popular moves made by the widely admired president.” • Another damn shame.

The Bezzle: “Jimmy Fallon hyped his Bored Ape NFTs on ‘The Tonight Show.’ Conflict of interest?” [Los Angeles Times]. “From actors to athletes to influencers, celebrities can’t seem to stop talking about their enthusiasm for all things crypto. Never one to sit out a trend, on Monday, ‘The Tonight Show’ host Jimmy Fallon was eager to show off his acquisition of a pricey digital collectible — even if it meant flouting an ethics policy that governs most NBCUniversal employees…. ‘This is my ape,’ the late-night comedian told his audience during an interview with Paris Hilton, flashing a picture of a sailor cap-wearing cartoon monkey. ‘It reminded me of me.’ The monkey is one of 10,000 from the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection of nonfungible tokens, or NFTs. Hilton showed her own Bored Ape, and later gave audience members free NFTs from her own collection. ‘We’re part of the same community,’ Fallon told her.” • Community? Really? More: “If Fallon’s use of show time to flex his ape were to boost its resale value, it would seemingly be a case of using company resources for personal benefit.”

Mr. Market: “Stocks Move Higher Ahead of Fed Meeting Today” [Wall Street Journal]. “U.S. stocks posted strong gains ahead of a Federal Reserve announcement that is expected to provide more clarity on coming interest-rate increases—the prospect of which has spooked markets this year. The S&P 500 added 1.6% Wednesday. The broad index fell Tuesday and has declined in five of the past six trading days. The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite Index rose 2.6%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.94%, or about 324 points. Stocks have been whipsawed in recent days by expectations that the Fed will embark on a series of rate increases this year to temper heightened inflation.” • Still not clear to me how a rate increase fixes energy and autos. What’s the mechanism? Crashing the economy?

Mr. Market: “These 11 arguments will decide ‘titanic’ stock-market battle as Fed begins hiking rates” [MarketWatch]. “[Deutsche Bank’s Alan Ruskin] offered up a list of 11 arguments ‘that bulls and bear can use to counterpunch each other.” • Here they are:

So now you know everything your broker knows. Kidding!

* * *
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 39 Fear (previous close: 37 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 26 at 1:16pm.

Our Famously Free Press


“Monetary Sovereignty: The key to understanding economics” [MythFighter]. “[T]he federal government creates money by paying its bills. The U.S. has created many trillions of dollars, simply by pressing computer keys, and it will continue to do so. It does not ‘owe’ anyone for creating these dollars. The U.S. government cannot live beyond its means; it has no means to live beyond…. Everything you believe about your personal finances — debts, deficits, spending, affordability, saving, and budgeting — are inappropriate to U.S. federal finances. For this reason, your personal intuition about U.S. financing likely is wrong. Because the U.S. cannot be forced into insolvency, none of this nation’s agencies can be forced into insolvency. The U.S Supreme Court, the Department of Defense, Congress, Social Security, Medicare, and any of the other 1,300 federal agencies cannot become insolvent unless the federal government wishes it. (All the talk about Social Security or Medicare running short of dollars is misguided. Even if FICA were eliminated, Social Security and Medicare would not need to default on their obligations, unless Congress wished it. They could pay benefits, forever.) The unlimited ability to create money is an uncontested fact for Monetarily Sovereign nations although, at any given time, economic growth, inflation, deflation, recession, depression, and social factors may influence a nation’s decision to create money.” • Just to review…

Class Warfare

“Cash Aid to Poor Mothers Increases Brain Activity in Babies, Study Finds” [New York Times]. “A study that provided poor mothers with cash stipends for the first year of their children’s lives appears to have changed the babies’ brain activity in ways associated with stronger cognitive development, a finding with potential implications for safety net policy. The differences were modest — researchers likened them in statistical magnitude to moving to the 75th position in a line of 100 from the 81st — and it remains to be seen if changes in brain patterns will translate to higher skills, as other research offers reason to expect. Still, evidence that a single year of subsidies could alter something as profound as brain functioning highlights the role that money may play in child development and comes as President Biden is pushing for a much larger program of subsidies for families with children.” • Silicon Valley, in unison: “Why not electrodes?”

News of the Wired

“Did a mega drought topple empires 4,200 years ago?” [Nature]. “[Archaeologist Harvey Weiss] has compiled records from around the world, published over the past few decades, that he argues show drying around 4,200 years ago. In his view, the event was not confined to western Asia but was truly global, reaching even the Americas. The evidence extends ‘from Colorado to Massachusetts and down the western spine of South America and even to Brazil’, he says. Most other climatologists are deeply sceptical about this. ‘There’s really not great evidence that it had great impacts in North America,” says Kathleen Johnson, a palaeoclimatologist at the University of California, Irvine. She adds that, in general, the Southern Hemisphere is under-sampled, so researchers don’t have a clear picture of how the climate there changed. Climatologists and archaeologists also object, saying that there is, as yet, no solid explanation for why the global climate would have changed so drastically at that time. ‘There’s no trigger for this type of event,’ says Carolin. She uses an earlier climatic shift, the 8.2 ka BP event, when global temperatures abruptly cooled, as a comparison. This change has been linked to the collapse of part of an ice sheet in North America, causing two glacial lakes to drain into the sea and disrupting the transport of heat from the Equator to the poles. ‘We know when water rushed into the North Atlantic,” says Carolin. Without such a mechanism, the evidence for [Weiss’s] global 4.2 ka BP event relies solely on the disputed coincidence of the palaeoclimate records.” • So, we’re in Jackpot 2.0? Or not?

* * *
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 (DGL):

DGL writes: “Ring Park, Gainesville, FL. Alfred A. Ring donated 12 acres along Hogtown Creek for a park. This is from December 2. It is 71 degrees F.”

* * *
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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. tegnost

    Clout like that and all we get is a lousy trillion….
    “we” won’t get anything.
    They’ve gotten rid of all the social spending and now these pigs are lining up for their slop.
    Note to Bidenistas…
    We already have one republican party and we didn’t ask for and don’t want another one.

    1. Michael Ismoe

      We get a trillion minus the $600 billion set aside for SALT deduction limits being removed.

      Biden owes me a helluva lot more than $600.

  2. Frank

    Harris: “people still don’t know her at the levels they need to”

    Having watched her adulterous ascension from servicing a local power broker to loudly capitalizing on her wise choice of parents and shape shifting, accent changing routine, we definitely know her and the disastrous effect she had on the rights of the people she was charged with protecting, but laughed at, ignored and left behind as she never finished one job and climbed the ladder.

    From crime victims she mocked when D.A., to jailed mothers of truants, to radiologically poisoned victims of corrupt land development schemes, to hundreds of thousands of residents illegally foreclosed upon that she did nothing for, but which earned her a big political donation tip to launch her senate career, we definitely know her.

    One of the most nauseating examples of the Peter Principle in politics.

    1. greenfire

      Don’t forget having her staff write up recommendations to keep low-risk California inmates incarcerated to fight fires for the State, rather than freeing them per court-directed order to reduce the State’s inmate population.

      1. Guild Navigator

        And covering for the hijinx of Steve Minuchin & Co. (who donated $ to Harris’ presidential campaign, if memory serves).

    2. JBird4049

      I’m not sure the Peter Principle is the key here unless she has been incompetent from the beginning. Rather, it is emptiness hiding Professional Managerial Class façade of competence combined with a desperate attempt to filled it with something using ambition, greed, and cruelty. A walking chameleon in a suit.

      She is not necessarily stupid or incompetent as much as she is refusing to acknowledge her vulnerabilities and need for help, but that would mean accepting just how hollow she is, which she cannot do because of her fear of it.

      Maybe after a few decades of intense therapy she could be that competent person.

      1. jsn

        I agree, it’s not the Peter Principle.

        She’s no Albert Speer, but she would be if she could.

        It’s that kind of amoral prestige whoring that will do whatever it takes, she’s just not that good, or hasn’t found her Fuhrer.

        1. JBird4049

          >>>It’s that kind of amoral prestige whoring that will do whatever it takes, she’s just not that good, or hasn’t found her Fuhrer.

          Well, the Republicans already have an Il Duce, JR (Benito Mussolini was more of a opportunist like Donald Trump albeit more intelligent)

          One thing worries me. The truly evil and effective rulers of the 20th century, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot, built their “success” on the foundation of the original and contemporary leadership, people outside the party including the designated Bad People, and finally the followers.

          They were not ambitious opportunist like Mussolini or the ruthless, often murderous, but visionary and pragmatic leaders like Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Anwar Sadat, or Ho Chi Minh; they became obsessed with power, control, and eventually paranoid willing to use people as things and to destroy anything that thought threatened their power. To be clear, I am not talking about their ideologies or methods, but more of their humanity and goals. The ones who kept a bit of their souls and those who didn’t.

          I do not see anyone at this moment who has the intelligence, ambition, and ruthlessness to become a dictator in fact, if not in name. No Sulla or Marius. Truly, everyone I have mentioned including Mussolini would make a meal of our leaders.

          However, it is a big nation. We almost certainly have a Huey Long, a more ruthless Mike Pence, even a Lenin. If they have the cadre like Lenin’s they advantage of the ramshackle or rundown apparatus of either party, and take control. They might be able to create their own. Then the hollow and rootless people like Harris will have a home.

          So, does anyone see a capable, ruthless, and ambitious individual ready to use Kamala Harris or Donald Trump as a foundation stone? Or considering the past, put them in the foundation once they are no longer useful like with Ernst Rohm and his Brownshirts?

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > So, does anyone see a capable, ruthless, and ambitious individual ready to use Kamala Harris or Donald Trump as a foundation stone?

            I don’t see one, and I do try to keep track. The one thing that keeps me awake nights, is that one might emerge from a culture/generation I don’t track, like gaming or entertainment*, a person with a large fan base; an influencer; like Paffrath in California, except competent at scale. Of course, for all these fields, sheer profit must motivate them to stay where they are — that’s why I don’t add Rogan as an example — but that’s double-edged: A breakthrough case would be motivated by power more than money, for good or ill. (Or perhaps a second-tier influencer might make the leap to a first-tier candidacy. I just don’t know.)

            NOTE * Schwarzenegger and Ventura seem to be sports, unique; but perhaps they were just early.

            1. Yves Smith

              Neither could be a foundation for anything more than their egos.

              You need to be a Napoleon-level leader and organization builder to leave that sort of foundation, not at best celebrities.

              1. JBird4049

                I agree that they are slaves to their egos, but to the right person they could be useful. After all it was Anton Drexler who created what would become the Nazi party after Hitler became a member; a Napoleon uses what he has to the best advantage. Since our country is now a celebrity driven one, using celebrities by feeding their egos and gaining control over their followers could be useful to a charismatic Svengali.

    3. Nikkikat

      You betcha Frank, Harris is a disaster and the idea that it’s “people getting to know her” that will change that fact is laughable. I lived in California and well remember all that you said above. Along with keeping people in jail so we had enough fire fighters (slaves). But most of all I hate that smirk and idiotic laugh

  3. Pat

    There has been a coordinated push on the rise in violence and coverage of it that it might cause a cynic to wonder how much smoke and mirrors we are seeing.

    It will be interesting if the people who voted for Adams really find his plan to be acceptable once it is enacted.
    Many of those who voted for him already have reason to be wary of a police state, and those that aren’t might be after finding this version is more diverse in who they are policing.

    Adams is probably going to face a conundrum. The people with the most reason to be wary of the policies he is “updating’ and instating are those that voted for him. The people who most like those type of policies are the people who came to vote for him after everyone else was out. He may be able to actually control the NYPD’s worst instincts but that is not a given. Time will tell who he makes happy and who he disappoints.

  4. farragut

    She and her husband have amassed a fortune of tens of millions of dollars; she is credibly accused of insider trading, and currently stands in the way of a bill to curb stock trading by members of Congress

    Trump and his Republican associates should face all the legal and constitutional penalties that their crimes demand. So, too, should the Democrats who transgressed. And so, too, should the reckless billionaires and pharmaceutical extortionists. But we dare not stop there. The pandemic profiteers must be banished—forever ejected from the political and economic future of the nation they have so crudely used and abused

    As with everything else, because the United States is not a serious country, our hospitalization data is bad.

    Hilariously, selling coal waste is the Manchin family business. So all things work together for good.

    If Fallon’s use of show time to flex his ape were to boost its resale value, it would seemingly be a case of using company resources for personal benefit.

    I’m beginning to think the US’ corruption score should’ve been a wee bit lower….

    1. GF

      “Jimmy Fallon hyped his Bored Ape NFTs on ‘The Tonight Show.’

      Maybe he paid NBC for the time so it was a paid commercial?

      1. Wukchumni

        Where Fallon screwed up, is he should have hyped an NFT of an NFT of an NFT (this could go on forever but i’ll spare you…)

      1. Gaianne


        This is very long as you say, but very good. And very tight. The runtime is packed with information–not stretched out with filler.

        Also: Coherent.

        All crypto is fraud based on top of fraud underpinned by deception. Ponzi schemes, multilevel marketing, flipping between sock puppets, pump and dump, hype to generate fear of missing out, cult behavior, it’s all there–and all interwoven into a seemingly bottomless web of deceit. The blockchain is at the heart–a solution in search of a problem, which has found its problem to solve: How do you get people to invest in your Dutch tulips when you have no tulips to sell. Crypto is worse than the South Sea bubble and is trying to become the model for internet life, while taking control of real life.



  5. Tom Stone

    Breyer’s resignation is very well timed, something needed to be done with K Harris as she is simply not popular enough with donors to be a worthy successor to the new FDR.
    Joining the Supremes also opens thing up for THE MOST QUALIFIED CANDIDATE EVER!!!
    A quiet word whispered in her ear would be enough for Harris if it were delivered by the right person.
    Erik Prince comes to mind…

    1. WhoaMolly

      Re: Joining the Supremes also opens thing up for THE MOST QUALIFIED CANDIDATE EVER!!!

      that move has been my suspicion all along. It would look like this (while wearing my tinfoil hat):

      Harris to Supremes
      Clinton to VP
      Joe resigns for “health reasons”
      Clinton to P
      Abrams to VP

      2024 = Clinton/Abrams vs R/R

      The weird thing about this is it allows the D to put in an unelected P/VP — completely legally…

      1. Wyatt Austin Powell

        I can think of few things more destructive and guaranteed to lead to an American insurgency…

        As I’ve mentioned with Harris before (others have brought up similar before, I’m by no means an intellectual heavyweight); is this the win the “woke” frauds want? The first woman president doesn’t earn the presidency in an election, she gets it handed to her? That’s really what we all want to write in the history books?

        Now as a realist, I could give less of a damn what Gonads are touching the chair in the oval office, they both sweat and stink the same. I care about having someone competent ( at this point id settle for semi-competent)to occupy that chair. But how do the elites not see this for the moral, historical, political black eye this would be?

      2. Michael Ismoe

        It worked for Ford/Rockefeller.

        I’m pretty sure Clyburn pulls in a favor. Stacey Abrams is a lawyer. She’s young enough. She brought in two US senators. She was vetted for VP. Voting rights are going nowhere. Neera Tanden’s buddy. It’s a mortal lock.

        1. Jen

          Unless, having already delivered on the first Black woman VP, Biden decides to go with what was probably his preferred choice: Klobuchar.

          1. TBellT

            And risk a special election in a Midwest state (even if it’s Minnesota), I doubt it. Then again they’ve made worse strategic blunders.

            1. Jen

              If a democrat wins the special election, their majority is preserved until November. If the democrat loses, team D can go back to blaming the republicans when no legislation passes. Win-win.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > [Abrams] brought in two US senators.

          She did not. The Georgia voter registration effort was a genuine grassroots effort. For example, some strippers ran a Public Service Announcement, something an effort masterminded by Democrat regulars wouldn’t have allowed in a million years.

          Abrams, to her credit, blushingly says it was a group effort, but the political class is as usual anxious to personalize the narrative, so they go ahead and give her credit anyhow.

          So a losing candidate for governor swans off to Washington, DC and gets on Neera Tanden’s payroll. It makes complete sense the next step for them on the ladder would be getting on the national ticket. Idea: Biden could put Abrams on the Supreme Court.

      3. Robert Gray

        That’s scary, all right, and I too have been having nightmares about such scenarios. But … you haven’t taken account of Senate confirmation. If the Dems can’t even get BBB through, there is no way in hell they’re going to get Hillary confirmed.

        1. Wukchumni

          Not sure the Pachyderm Party cares all that much if Hillary were to be made a supreme, it gets her out of the way and for the rest of her life, she’s just a minority opposition figure in SC cases that all end up going hard right.

          1. Robert Gray

            Sorry, perhaps I should have quoted from WhoaMolly’s comment. I was referencing the suggestion there of Clinton > VP > P

          1. Wukchumni

            No, not in the Neera future.

            I have heard that as of today, Hillary is wearing a multi-hue pantsuit, so as to be considered to be a woman of color.

      4. Boomheist

        I have seen this speculation before. Couple complicating issues: to get Harris on the Supremes she will need 51 votes. As VP she is President of the Senate and the tie breaker (assuming Manchin and Sinema are in on this, which is a big assumption). So Harris will be the tie breaking vote to place herself on the SCOTUS? Politically that cannot ever happen, just imagine the howls. But maybe just maybe this can be done. Then I expect it would be more likely for Biden to make Abrams his VP, unless by then she is Governor of Georgia. Or, if Biden were really smart, maybe pick Julian Castro as his VP. Hilary is too old and if you think Harris voting herself to the SCOTUS will bring forth hysteria, Biden making Hilary VP will cause chaos.

        1. Michael Ismoe

          I want to see Bernie cast the deciding vote to elevate Madame Secretary to the Naval Observatory. It will confirm my every suspicion.

      5. Big River Bandido

        That scenario would require approval from the full Senate, and that nomination will never get through.

      6. ChrisRUEcon

        Ha! See this comment (via 1/25/22 2PM Water Cooler) … ;-)

        Maybe this is “the blob’s” way of “letting her win one”. Maybe once she’s been “the first woman president of the United States”, we can finally bury #RussiaGate; maybe when she and Bubba leave the White House next time, they’ll remain happily sequestered in rustic Chappaqua!

        Great fan-fic! Sell on a Clinton/Abrams ticket, tho’ … ;-) but there are other permutations; I’m also a fan of Lambert’s early dark horse Eric Adams (currently NYC’s “BitCoin” Mayor) somehow working his way into the 2024 discussion.

    2. Wukchumni

      Loves me a good ‘gonespiracy theory’, others please chime in on dirty deals done dirt cheap.

    3. lyman alpha blob

      The Democrat party didn’t put up much of a fight to get Obama’s nominee confirmed. With their success last time, what makes anybody think Biden will have his nominee approved, unless of course he appoints a de facto Republican like himself?

      Prediction: it’s an 8 member court for the next three years until Trump wins again in 2024 and appoints has his own woke nominee, Judge Judy. I’m relatively sure she’s still fogging a mirror…

      1. Dr. John Carpenter

        Anyone who thinks Biden will seat a justice hasn’t been paying attention to the last year. He’ll get sandbagged and he’ll huff and puff a little and everyone will fundraise off of it. Then, when the next republican is elected, we get our 9th.

        1. Kurtismayfield

          No they can’t let their one drum to beat when the election comes to evaporate.

          “But what about the SC” is the one thing the liberal Dems beat people over the head with around elections

        2. Hepativore

          I am sure that Manchin and Sinema will also do their part to shoot down any potential supreme court justice put up by Biden. Then the Republicans will gleefully stall Biden when they regain control of Congress in 2022. Three years later, Biden will simply shrug in response to not having a Justice appointed and then we will have a 7/2 conservative court for when the Republicans gain control of the presidency in 2024. This ushers in a super-Lockner era for decades and then the Democrats dutifully play the part of the Washington Generals as they fundraise off of reinstating Roe vs. Wade while not intending to do anything of the sort on the rare occasions they hold office again in the future.

          It is amazing how profitable the strategy of doing nothing is for the Democratic Party. While in the near-future, they might go extinct, their leadership can make a whole mess of cash on their way out. It is especially telling that Nancy Pelosi has decided to seek reelection after renenging on her previous statement that she will not. The problem is that Democratic party will sandbag anybody who tries to challenge Pelosi, so we can look forward to another round of Pelosi’s braindead neoliberalism.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Judge Judy may be still fogging a mirror but I’m pretty sure that she can’t see her own reflection in one.

        1. JBird4049

          Does that mean she doesn’t plan on retiring anymore? Vampirism would explain the longevity and paleness of our beloved leaders. The Vampire Peter Thiel is already doing his bit

  6. griffen

    Maybe I am jumping to a conclusion here, but does the state of Georgia jurisdiction extend beyond the physical state line? I would find it difficult to understand how a RICO style approach, investigating the Trump campaign and so forth, would accomplish it’s far reaching goals. If I were a lawyer retained by Trump not named Rudy, I set my sights on dismantling how much power the grand jury might wield thereabouts.

    I’ll peruse the interwebs for this information. It is the Fulton County DA, for the record. By no stretch am I a lawyer, other than following cases that were securities fraud related stretching backwards to early 90s.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think the issue is Trump’s phone calls to Georgia officials. Particularly the one where he said “find the votes.”

      Trump was, as usual, saying the unsaid out loud. LBJ “found the votes” in Texas. Daley “found the votes” for JFK. “Votes were found” for Bush in Florida 2000 and Bush in Ohio 2024.

      The arts of “finding votes” are even darker then the arts of oppo, but artists exist on both sides of the aisle…

    1. lance ringquist

      and till the world dumps free trade, they can never be bottled up and dismantled.

      offshore tax havens are a direct result of free trade: the pathology of free trade is being exposed

      Today’s global rich are increasingly stateless, detaching their money from nation states and conventional representations of ownership to hide and preserve it. A global oligarchy is growing — and it does not bode well for everyone else and the planet.

      free trade enables the plundering of the wealth of nations, especially hurting the world’s most poor and vulnerable populations. It allows wealthy individuals and corporations to dodge and evade their tax responsibilities, shifting obligations onto those with fewer resources. It empowers criminals, deadbeats, and kleptocrats

      in 1983 there were only 15 billionaires in the u.s.a., under nafta billy clintons free trade, billionaires have ballooned into more than 615, and under free trade, this is happening globally


  7. upstater

    These quarterly earnings reports about railroads are really quite amazing… Record profits, while pervasive labor shortages. rapidly increasing dwell times at terminals, slower average train velocity:

    The number of transportation employees fell 8% during the last three months of 2021, as attrition increased faster than NS could hire and train conductors in an extremely tight job market. NS became congested as train speed fell 17% in the fourth quarter compared to a year ago, while terminal dwell increased 24%. The number of trains held for crews also spiked.

    … from the second TRAINS Magazine article link below..
    Norfolk Southern on Wednesday reported record fourth-quarter and full-year operating income as well as a record low operating ratio.

    For 2021, operating income surged 48%, to $4.4 billion, as revenue increased 11%, to $11.1 billion. Earnings per share increased 31%, to $12.11. The operating ratio, compared to the adjusted figure for 2020, improved 4.3 points to 60.1%.

    Volume was up 5% in 2021, led by double-digit increases in coal, metals and construction, and chemicals traffic. All of NS’s business segments grew during the year as volume bounced back from 2020 pandemic-related lows.

    For the fourth quarter, operating income rose 15%, to $1.1 billion, as revenue grew 11%, to $2.8 billion. Earnings per share increased 18%, to $3.12. The operating ratio was 60.4%, down from 61.8% a year ago.

    Fourth-quarter volume declined 4% due to lower levels of intermodal, automotive, and agriculture, forest, and consumer products. Intermodal volume was affected by terminal and port congestion, chassis shortages, and warehouse throughput, while auto production remained muted due to the ongoing global computer chip shortage.



    The reports for the other Class 1 railroads (an oligopoly of 7 in the US and Canada, all with large geographic areas as monopolies) are all very similar. All of them have crapified service and abandoned entire business segments, fired tens of thousands of workers, ripped out switching yards, parked or scrapped locomotives, etc, etc. Instead of a public asset or a highly regulated industry, we have a financialized enterprise that is not investing in the mode of land transportation that has the least impact on climate and the environment. Outrageous…

      1. upstater

        All the Class 1s, with B the exception of Berkshire owned BNSF have adopted Precision Scheduled Railroading. And BNSF applies many of its strategies, particularly the 3 mile long train thing that is far too long to use passing sidings.

        Railroads have a long tradition of furloughing workers in down turns. But when employment was in the 500K range, even if some didn’t return, there was almost always enough to return or hire. The workforce is aging, with reduced crew sizes and even more draconian work conditions, the dogs are no longer eating the dog food. For example,

        The union says the so-called “Hi-Viz” policy penalizes employees almost any time they take a day off for almost any reason. BNSF, in a document sent to employees, said it will improve crew availability “by incentivizing consistent and reliable attendance.”


        Trains has review of earnings calls and they’re all the same mantra, record profits while service deteriorates partly for lack of crews and also PSR hiccups.

  8. Wukchumni

    “Did a mega drought topple empires 4,200 years ago?” [Nature]. “[Archaeologist Harvey Weiss] has compiled records from around the world, published over the past few decades, that he argues show drying around 4,200 years ago. In his view, the event was not confined to western Asia but was truly global, reaching even the Americas. The evidence extends ‘from Colorado to Massachusetts and down the western spine of South America and even to Brazil’, he says.

    Interesting take, usually droughts are somewhat localized affairs, the idea of a worldwide one, wow.

    It has been non-existent in the past for societies and empires et al to collapse all at once, but we do have that chance with our ongoing unsolved dilemma of when climate change runs into elite misbehavior with more than a dash of supply chain issues, not to mention a myriad of other factors.

    If the Thwaites Glacier were to give way tomorrow, pretty much every one of the world’s ports would be out of business the day after. That event alone would rip the world apart in that those countries dependent on exports would be in as much deep kimchi as those dependent on imports.

    How would more or less the entire world collapsing at once look to a historian 4,200 year from now?

  9. Blanche

    Justice Kamala???Remember the all the way back grilling Kavanaugh faced before his Supreme Court confirmation?
    Imagine the retrospective examination of The Kamaleon’s career, the local environment in which she artificially flourished via appointments and especially that of her mentor, Willie Brown.

    As speaker of the California State Assembly from 1980 to 1995, Willie Brown was by far the Golden State’s most powerful shot-caller. In 1994 Brown, 60, met Kamala Harris, a full 30 years his junior, and she became “the Speaker’s new steady,” and “frequent companion.” The two-year relationship worked out well for Harris. (In spite of his being married.)

    Willie Brown appointed Harris to the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, (In spite of no insurance or medical expertise) which paid $97,088 a year. She served six months and Brown then appointed her to the California Medical Assistance Commission, (In spite of no insurance or medical expertise) which met only once a month but paid Harris $72,000.

    Here’s the environment which set her up to run for district attorney in 2002:

    “Following a year-long investigation by the FBI into corruption of San Francisco’s racial set-aside program, Mayor Willie Brown is attempting to save a little face by proposing some cosmetic changes to the program.

    Mayor Brown has determined that San Francisco’s minority set-aside program has been suffering from a perception of inappropriate influence, i.e., he’s saying it only looks like the program is a corrupt system of political and racial favoritism. Therefore, in the manner of all good politicians, Brown has appointed a task force in the hope that this palliative will insulate him from voter backlash over his blatant use of the racial set-aside program as his own personal political payoff program.

    Brown’s panel is supposed to come up with recommendations to “insulate” his racial quota program from political influence.

    According to the San Francisco Examiner, “The panel, called the San Francisco Independent Task Force on Affirmative Action, issued a report Monday calling for the San Francisco Human Rights Commission to be stripped of responsibility for running the minority contracting program.” Mayor Brown’s spokesperson, P.J. Johnston, said “First of all, he will have to get the findings and recommendations himself before responding. He will be happy to take that report in hand and see what the task force has to say.”

    “The task force said crucial decisions for certifying which companies were eligible to participate in the minority contracting program should shift to the controller’s office, a relatively autonomous branch of municipal government that already tracks contracting dollars.

    “Several cities with affirmative action in contracting programs have faced allegations of manipulation of the contract awards process,” the report added. “The value of insulation of the everyday operation of a program concerning high dollar amounts cannot reasonably be disputed.”

    “San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission is run by a director and overseen by commissioners who are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the mayor. The controller, though appointed by the mayor, serves a fixed, 10-year term, and can be removed only for cause.

    “San Francisco’s minority contracting program came under intense scrutiny early last year in an FBI-led public corruption investigation.

    “Brown, who was running for re-election, formed the task force in August 1999 after The Examiner revealed that a company with more than $50 million in airport construction jobs meant for minority firms was managed and controlled by a large, white-owned firm from Alameda County.

    “In April, the construction company, Scott-Norman Mechanical Inc., the firm that controls it, the Scott Co. of San Leandro, four executives connected to the two companies, and a top Human Rights Commission official were all indicted by a U.S. grand jury on multiple felony charges for allegedly defrauding the minority contracting program.

    “All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty and face trial in U.S. District Court.”

    San Francisco Examiner, Sept. 12, 2000, by Chuck Finnie

    Mr. Biden, please, pretty please, nominate Kamala Harris to the High Court. Let the historical inquiries begin!

  10. Wukchumni

    The Bezzle: “IMF urges El Salvador to ditch bitcoin as legal tender” [Financial Times]. “In September El Salvador became the first nation in the world to make bitcoin legal tender under a plan spearheaded by Nayib Bukele, the country’s 40-year-old president and self-styled “CEO”. That meant the digital asset could be used to buy goods, send remittances and even pay taxes in the country…. Bukele, a bitcoin evangelist, has since spent tens of millions of public dollars buying the cryptocurrency — and losing money. …
    The real ‘bitcoin’ revolution hit both Ecuador and El Salvador long ago when they dumped their currencies and adopted the Yanqui $…

    Remember those Sacagawea and Presidential Dollar Coins that really nobody in the USA ever used unless forced upon you by a USPS vending machine?

    They all ended up in Ecuador and El Salvador and somebody made bank along the way as each buck costs about 15 Cents to make, and seigniorage left one hell of a profit.

    While preparing for our trip to El Salvador, we learned that the country uses the US dollar as their currency. This made things a bit easier for us since we wouldn’t have to convert prices when buying things.

    Our first touristy stop of the trip was to a very interesting church in San Salvador. I paid the entry fee with a $20 bill and was a bit confused at first when I got my change.

    I received a $10 bill and a handful of gold coins. I initially thought that the coins were local currency which were still being used. After a closer look, I saw a familiar coin that I hadn’t seen in quite some time.


    1. The Rev Kev

      Bitcoin investors in 2020: ‘Buy! Buy! Buy!’

      Bitcoin investors in 2023: ‘Would you like fries with that?’

      1. juanholio

        Nothing as good as the kleptocurrencys going to zero ever happens on this timeline. Things only ever get worse, never better.

        Look for the US government to embrace them, after all the members of Congress get $10-50m each in anonymous crypto donations.

  11. griffen

    BFF, a new investing and cryptocurrency platform deemed only for the worthy. Conspicuous timing, no doubt. I wish them well in their fate ahead, as opposed to say a captain and his ship in April some 110 years ago.

    And speaking of bitcoin, there have been announcements in 2021 that professional, high visibility athletes have begun receiving some of the compensation in bitcoin. One athlete, Odell Beckham Jr, received his salary upon joining the LA Rams (via NFL mid season trade or waiver) in bitcoin or via an app; notably at a time when bitcoin pricing was higher. And last year’s #1 draft pick, chosen one Trevor Lawrence received a portion of his signing bonus in bitcoin. More info below.


  12. Nikkikat

    Lol! As per conversation above on Kamala Harris: the mug that Biden bought while shopping is sold out online!
    The Week
    I guess they are getting right on that request to pump up her profile!

  13. Josef K

    Nancy Two Scoops represents just about everything wrong with the US political class, which is why she’ll remain speaker/minority leader until the end of time.

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      LOL … Nancy Two Scoops with the ball fake to leave The Squad’s ankles broken (via USNews, Nov. 18, 2020)

      “When asked if the upcoming term in the 117th Congress would be her last as speaker, Pelosi acknowledged a statement she made in 2018 about limiting herself to two more terms that would continue through the end of 2022. The California Democrat struck a deal two years ago that helped her secure the votes needed from Democrats who were on the fence about giving her the gavel, but term limits for the top three Democratic leaders were never adopted.”

  14. Wukchumni

    In repositioning herself as the first VP rap star, Ala ‘Mak has a new ditty out today…

    I’m supposed to be a lady
    They say I’m going crazy
    Guess it messed my head up when people were calling me Miss Shady
    Just shut your mouth embrace me

    You want a Supreme with all the toppings
    Call Pizza Hut yo, otherwise i’m your law moll

  15. MT_Wild

    I checked with our central Montana hospital (Benefis) this week when they reported covid numbers. They confirmed the covid accounting trick NC has reported.

    Being hospitalized for covid complications post-covid does not make you a covid patient. Sigh. I’m assuming if you die of covid complications you are a covid death, even though you weren’t a covid patient. Makes about as much sense as every other part of the response so far.

  16. Gulag

    “It turns out that defining the Democratic Party is, in fact, a hard problem.”

    Michael Lind has recently made a valiant attempt in his essay entitled “America’s Asymmetric Civil War.”

    He states ” The Democratic coalition is an hourglass, top-heavy and bottom-heavy, with a narrow middle.
    In addition to hovering up the votes of college-educated Americans, the Democrats are the party of the Big Rich–tech billionairies and CEOs, investment banking houses and the managerial class that spans large corporate enterprises and aligned prestige federal agencies like the Justice Department and the National Security Agencies. This mostly white and Asian American group cannot win elections without the overwhelming support of Black Americans and smaller majorities of Hispanic and Asian American voters, clustered in the downtowns and inner suburbs. The high cost of living in Democratic Hub cities forces out the multiracial middle, the exceptions tend to be civil servants like police and first responders and teachers who can (sometimes) afford to live in or near their downtown jobs.

    “The social base of the Democrats is neither a few liberal billionaires nor the more numerous cohorts of high-school educated minority voters; it is the disproportionately white college-educaded professionals and managers. These affluent but not rich overclass households dominate the Democratic Party and largely determine its messaging, not by virtue of campaign contributions or voting numbers, but because they very nearly monopolize the staffing of the institutions that support the party–K-12 schools and universities, city and state and federal bureaucracies, public sector unions, foundations, foundation-funded nonprofit organizations and the mass media. By osmosis, professional and managerial values and material interests and fads and fashions permeate the Democratic party and shape its identity.

    He also adds, “The only time that the working class-majority had any real influence in American politics, as well as in their workplaces was between the 1940s and the 1980s, when private sector unions were a force that both parties had to reckon with. Private sector unions have been annihilated in the last half-century in the United States because hatred of organized labor is one of only two ares of agreement between socially liberal Democratic Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs, CEOs who donate millions to Black Lives Matter, and small-town Republican sweatshop owners and overseers who think Social Security and Medicare constitute “socialism.”

  17. Tim

    I’m of the mind that doing anything the IMF tells you will be bad for you is probably good for you, because they want you to stay under their boot. If it is making Bitcoin legal tender as a way to gain autonomy from the global financial hegemony, then so be it.

    Mining Gold ain’t good for the environment either, and nobody complains about that.

  18. Alex Morfesis

    Cancelling Student loans…how exactly do we zero out/close out all the long term derivative positions and trades on those “cancelled” loans ??

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Cancelling Student loans…how exactly do we zero out/close out all the long term derivative positions and trades on those “cancelled” loans ??

      Are there in fact such positions?

  19. Ed S.

    Notwithstanding the possibility of the “rise like a rocket, and fall like a stick” case counts, the cumulative case count from November 29 to January 19 (very roughly the start to the peak) is over 20 million cases from the DIVOC-91 data that Lambert uses in his daily chart.

    20 million confirmed cases (and who knows how many tested at home but not reported cases). That’s the “rise like a rocket” part. If the “fall like a stick” counts are symmetrical, there will be another 20 million confirmed cases until this particular wave fades away.

    40 million cases in roughly 4 months. Stunning.

    1. ambrit

      When NPR says, “…Liz Cheney on the left..” you know that we have left Rational World behind in an all out dive into Bizarro World.
      I also noticed the framing of the piece as dealing with “…Biden’s military actions against Russia…” as if it has already happened.
      Nothing says Adventurism like describing a potential future occurrence as being in the present or past tense.
      This is like the story about William Randolph Hearst and Frederick Remington.
      See: https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/173692#:~:text=William%20Randolph%20Hearst's%20journalistic%20credo,’ll%20furnish%20the%20war.%E2%80%9D

        1. Adam Eran

          Just a reminder: Ralph Abernathy and Eugene McCarthy endorsed Reagan. Reagan was pretty slick. And Carter was no help. He showed Reagan how to deregulate by doing that to trucking and airlines. That threw those unions under the bus. Teamsters also endorsed Reagan.

          Interesting financial factoid: Before 1980, American manufacturers made 20% of their profits from things financial (stock trading, interest on savings, etc.). After: 60%.

  20. dcblogger

    The Democratic establishment only cares about maintaining control part #441019985733
    Nicole Sandler speaks with Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Judith Whitmer.
    From the petition posted at pdpr.org/nevada
    DNC Chair Harrison is not respecting the will of Nevada Democrats and the leaders they elected to their state party.Specifically, the five elected officials submitted incorrect information to Chair Harrison in their complaint against the Nevada State Democratic Party leadership. Then, instead of using the DNC rules for processing complaints, Chair Harrison illegally recognized a Nevada county central committee to replace the Nevada State Democratic Party to run the “coordinated campaign” and for receiving DNC resources. Chair Harrison had agreed to hold off on allowing the county to usurp the authority of the Nevada State Democrats, but then proceeded to grant them resources anyway.Nevada losses in 2022 will be directly attributable to his failure to support state party leadership.Democrats must stand for democracy.

  21. Rob Urie

    Pierre Bourdieu wrote a book about Martin Heidegger, I believe called Political Ontology, where it was evident within twenty or so pages that he, like Noam Chomsky, either never read the man’s work or didn’t understand what he was reading.

    Informed critiques of Heidegger, like Jacques Derrida’s 1967 essay The Ends of Man, have been written.

    The difference is that Derrida put the work in.

  22. MichaelSF

    I think that Condi Rice is the obvious bipartisan choice for SCOTUS. Black, female, Republican, credentialed, that ticks all the boxes for the current D administration.

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