2:00PM Water Cooler 11/9/2021 | naked capitalism


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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, there will be no UPDATEs today. It is what it is. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

From the media notes: “Pair of adult [Emperor Penguins] “ecstatic display” call and associated head bowing recorded in video (audio extracted from video), other grunts and shuffling of feet in snow sounds from [Adélie penguins].” Amazingly, there are only two (2) sound recordings of Emperor Penguins!

* * *

#COVID19

Patient readers, I have started to revise this section, partly to reduce my workload, but partly to focus more as an early warning, if that is possible. Hopefully I will have a variant tracker map soon. In the meantime, I added excess deaths.

Vaccination by region:

The numbers bounce back. (I have also not said, because it’s too obvious, that if by Bubba we mean The South, then Bubba has done pretty well on vax.)

58.4% of the US is fully vaccinated (CDC data. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Estonia, and just above Turkey in the Financial Times league tables as of this Monday). We are back to the stately 0.1% rise per day. I would bet that the stately rise = word of mouth from actual cases. However, as readers point out, every day those vaccinated become less protected, especially the earliest. So we are trying to outrun the virus…

Case count by United States regions:

Still fiddling and diddling. I have drawn an anti-triumphalist black line to show the level we are fiddling and diddling at. And a good thing Bubba came through, or we’d really be in the soup! This chart is a seven-day average, so changes in direction only show up when a train is really rolling. That said, I don’t think the past rise is the surge some of us Bears have been waiting for (see the “tape watching” remarks below). It’s driven by cases widely distributed through inland California (see last Friday for maps).

Simply tape-watching, this descent is as steep as any of the three peaks in November–January. It’s also longer than the descent from any previous peak. We could get lucky, as we did with the steep drop after the second week in January, which nobody knows the reasons for, then or now. Today’s populations are different, though. This population is more vaccinated, and I would bet — I’ve never seen a study — that many small habits developed over the last year (not just masking). Also, if the dosage from aerosols drops off by something like the inverse square law, not linearly, even an extra foot of social distance could be significant if adopted habitually by a large number of people. And if you believe in fomites, there’s a lot more hand-washing being done. Speculating freely: There is the possibility that acquired immunity is much, much greater than we have thought, although because this is America, our data is so bad we don’t know. On the other hand, Delta is much more transmissible. And although readers will recall that I have cautioned against cross-country comparisons, I’m still not understanding why we’re not seeing the same aggregates in schools that we’ve see in Canada and especially the UK, although we have plenty of anecdotes. Nothing I’ve read suggests that the schools, nation-wide, have handled Covid restrictions with any consistency at all. So what’s up with that?

Even if hospitalizations and the death rate are going down, that says nothing about Long Covid, the effect on children, etc. So the numbers, in my mind, are still “terrifying”, even if that most-favored word is not in the headlines any more, and one may be, at this point, inured.

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

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

From CDC: “Community Profile Report November 8, 2021” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties:

California going green as fast as it went yellow. Arizona not out of the woods. New Mexico worse. Minnesota worryingly worse. Maine better, New Hampshire worse. (That’s concerning, because Southern New Hampshire is in essence a bedroom suburb for Boston.) Weird flare-ups, like flying coals in a forest fire. They land, catch, but — one hopes — sputter out. We just saw that dynamic in California, amazingly enough.

Speculating freely: One thing to consider is where the red is. If air travel hubs like New York City or Los Angeles (or Houston or Miami) go red that could mean (a) international travel and (b) the rest of the country goes red, as in April 2020 and following. But — for example — Minnesota is not an international hub on the scale of LAX or JFK/EWR. If Minnesota goes red, who else does? Well, Wisconsin. As we see. Remember, however, that this chart is about acceleration, not absolute numbers. This map, too, blows the “Blame Bubba” narrative out of the water. Not a (Deliverance-style) banjo to be heard. (Red means getting worse, green means bad but getting better.)

The previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 776,389 775,218. At this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s.

Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid):

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

(Adding: I know the data is bad. This is the United States. Needless to see, this is a public health debacle. It’s the public health establishment to take care of public health, not the health of certain favored political factions. Also adding: I like a death rate because it gives me a rough indication of my risk should I, heaven forfend, end up in a hospital. I should dig out the absolute numbers, too, now roughly 660,000, which is rather a lot.)

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

Chile slows down a bit. Also Portugal, which lifted restrictions about a month ago. Remember this is a log scale. Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away.

* * *

Politics

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

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

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

Capitol Seizure

“Six Degrees From Brookings: How a Liberal Think Tank Keeps Coming Up in the Russian Collusion Investigation” [Jonathan Turley]. Well, well:

Brookings played a large role in pushing the Russian collusion narrative, hiring a variety of experts who then populated media outlets like MSNBC and CNN stating confidently that Trump was clearly incriminated in a series of dubious criminal acts. While no such crimes were ever charged, let alone prosecuted, Brookings maintained a deep bench of enabling experts like Susan Hennessey (now a national security adviser in the Biden Administration), Ben Wittes (who defended James Comey in his leaking of FBI memos) and Norm Eisen (who then become counsel in the Trump impeachment effort). This included the Brookings site, LawFare, which ran a steady stream of columns on how Trump could be charged for crimes ranging from obstruction to bribery.

However, that type of media cross-pollination is common. What is most surprising is how the indictment seems to map out roads that keep leading back to Brookings.

The latest indicted figure, Danchenko, worked at Brookings. He proved to be the key unnamed source for Christopher Steele and later admitted to the FBI that the information attributed to him was not just “unsubstantiated” but, after being reworked by Steele, was unrecognizable from the original gossip or speculation.

It appears that Danchenko was introduced to former British spy Christopher Steele by Brookings employee Fiona Hill. If that name seems familiar, Hill secured a position on President Trump’s National Security Council and later became a key witness against him in the first Trump impeachment over the Ukraine scandal.

Steele also testified in London that his friend and then Brookings President Strobe Talbott was involved in briefings and inquiries on the development of the dossier. Talbott is also a former Clinton administration diplomat and Clinton friend who served in a high-ranking position under Hillary Clinton. (Another figure, Cody Shearer, who has been mentioned in accounts developing and spreading his own collusion claims, was the brother of Talbott’s late wife).

When Steele was called to the State Department for a briefing on his dossier, Talbot sat next to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who is currently at Brookings. The role of figures at Brookings in the dossier is still developing but all roads seem to lead back to the think tank.

Even when it became clear that false statements made in the secret FISA applications targeted Trump associate Carter Page, the secret court selected David Kris, who wrote for Brookings’ LawFare despite his prior denial that the FBI misled the court and criticism of Trump).

Brookings has long been viewed as effectively the research arm for Democratic figures and liberal causes. Yet, even in the Baconesque world of Washington insiders, it is rare to see a think tank connected on so many levels to a criminal investigation. Like much in our politics, these connections will mean different things to different people. For conservatives, Brookings looks like the mothership for this scandal with associates coordinating meetings and roles in the metastasization of the scandal. For liberals, the connections simply show the influence of the liberal think tank and any highlighting of the think tank is gaslighting a new “Trilateral Commission” narrative.

Links and everything….

Biden Administration

“CBO’s Schedule for Releasing a Cost Estimate for H.R. 5376, the Build Back Better Act” [Congressional Budget Office]. “We anticipate releasing estimates for individual titles of the bill as we complete them, some of which will be released this week. Other estimates will take longer, particularly for provisions in some titles that interact with those in other titles. When we determine a release date for the cost estimate for the entire bill, we will provide advance notice.” • This is the text of the agreement the moderates and progressives came to: “We commit to voting for the Build Back Better Act, in its current form other than technical changes, as expeditiously as we receive fiscal information from the Congressional Budget Office ― .” • Of what year? Goodness, I’d hate to think the moderates were acting in bad faith, but you just never know.

“Kamala Harris Courts Bigger Role on Global Stage With Visit to France” [Bloomberg]. • Let me know how that works out. What I don’t get: If the Democrat Party leadership can’t juice Biden up to run again, and Harris can’t even, where’s the alternative? Klobuchar? Buttigieg? Tim Kaine? Who, exactly? Who has the stature? Some squillionaire?

Democrats en Deshabille

Lambert here: Obviously, the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself. Why is that? First, the Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, the Democrat Party has more working parts than Stoller suggests, and they all 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. Whatever, if anything, that is to replace the Democrat Party needs to demonstrate the operational capability to contend with all that. Sadly, I see nothing of the requisite scale and scope on the horizon, though I would love to be wrong. (If Sanders had leaped nimbly from the electoral train to the strike wave train after losing in 2020, instead of that weak charity sh*t he went with, things might be different today. I am not sure that was in him to do, and I’m not sure he had the staff to do it, although I believe such a pivot to a “war of movement” would have been very popular with his small donors. What a shame the app wasn’t two-way.) Ah well, nevertheless.

“Sinema’s raking in cash from MLMs. They want to kill her party’s labor bill.” [Politico]. “They’ve been derided as spruced up pyramid schemes: Companies that incentivize their own customers to become salespeople for products. Now, these so-called multilevel marketing businesses are flexing their political muscle. And they’re turning to one lawmaker in particular to protect their agenda: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema…. Sinema does have a personal connection to the industry: Her own mother was a direct seller. But the bigger incentive for multilevel marketers to give to Sinema appears to be her position on labor organizing. The companies face an existential threat from the pro-union Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would make it more difficult to classify workers as independent contractors…. ‘An industry that is literally built on contract employees — which is what the MLM is — would never want to be considered to be, to entertain the notion of having those independent representatives as employees,’ [William Keep, a professor at the College of New Jersey who has written about multilevel marketing and pyramid schemes] said. Of the industry’s support for Sinema, he added: ‘I think that she’s demonstrated a flexibility that they think they can capitalize on.’” • Flexibility.

Trump Legacy

“Trump Hints at Biden Rematch: ‘You Think I Kid, But I’m … Not’” [RealClearPolitics]. “The former president made a gaffe, realized his mistake, and then made a joke sure to make the Republican establishment nervous. It was Friday night, and Donald Trump was telling a crowd at Mar-a-Largo about his last campaign, about how ‘we were going to go in with a fourth term.’ Of course, he was talking about his unsuccessful bid for a second stint in the White House. So, pivoting with a quick quip, Trump said, ‘It could be; you know we should be entitled to a fourth term too, after what we had to put up with!’ The audience — including some former Cabinet members and sympathetic members of Congress — laughed and cheered. They laughed and cheered again when Trump said he couldn’t use ‘Keep America Great’ as a slogan because, as he explained it, ‘with all of the things that are happening in this country, I’ll say it, America, right now, is not great; America is under siege.’ The slogan needed an update: ‘It’s ‘Make America Great Again, Again.’’ More laughing and more cheering from the crowd. But Trump was serious. ‘You think I kid,’ he warned, ‘but I’m actually not. I’m actually not.’ The private remarks, shared with RealClearPolitics, are the clearest sign yet that Trump is considering a return to politics. Some close to him believe he’s already decided. Last month, his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, told a radio host to lend him “all your money” so he could “bet that [Trump] is running again.” • Maybe. I wait in gleeful anticipation for the first commentator to announce that “Today, Donald Trump became President” — at his second inaugural. I do wonder how much personal factors would enter in. Although Trump is only three years younger than Biden, and clearly in better shape — he survived Covid! — that doesn’t mean he’s actually in good shape. Melania would hate a second run, too. On the other hand, maybe if Trump ran again, and won, he could finally get Fred Trump off his back. That might be worth anything in the world to him.

“The question isn’t when Trump will start campaigning. It’s whether he’ll stop” [NBC]. “Trump has held rallies in key states, including an October gathering in Iowa, home of the first presidential nominating contest, where he told voters. ‘We’re going to take America back.’ He is endorsing candidates for federal and statewide office — sometimes in primaries — and claiming credit when they succeed, as he did last week after Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin and newly elected Rep. Mike Carey, R-Ohio, won races. Trump continues to flood inboxes with near-daily fundraising appeals for his political action committee, ‘Save America,’ which was sitting on $90 million — a veritable fortune in national politics — when it last made a disclosure to the Federal Election Commission in June. And he remains on a quest to discredit GOP officials who might stand in the way of a third bid for the presidency, calling them “Republicans in name only” and worse. ‘Very sad that the RINOs in the House and Senate gave Biden and Democrats a victory on the ‘Non-Infrastructure’ Bill,’ Trump said in a statement after the House sent a $1.2 trillion infrastructure measure to President Joe Biden’s desk Friday. ‘All Republicans who voted for Democrat longevity should be ashamed of themselves.’ There’s no question that the former president maintains his grip on the Republican electoral base, and, with it, the ability to influence most of the party’s candidates and elected officials. What remains in some doubt is what, exactly, Trump wants to do with that power. But he is sending strong signals that he plans to run.” • “Democrat longevity.” Sounds like Trump thinks the Democrat Party is unreformable, too.

Republican Funhouse

“In Front of Republican Crowd, Nikki Haley Launches Attack on AIPAC” [Haaretz]. “Nikki Haley, among the most popular likely 2024 presidential contenders in the pro-Israel community, sharply criticized AIPAC for what she said was its overemphasis on bipartisanship in its outreach to Democrats…. ‘But there’s one thing I don’t get, and I’m not saying anything to you that I have not said to their leaders,’ she said. ‘Why do they invite politicians to their conference who strongly support the Iran nuclear deal?’”

2022

“2021 shows Republicans shouldn’t fear high voter turnout” [CNN]. “Voter turnout in New Jersey and Virginia blasted past what these states saw four years ago. With more votes to be counted, more than 2.5 million New Jersey voters cast a ballot this year compared to 2.1 million in 2017. In Virginia, about 3.3 million votes were cast, compared with 2.6 million in 2017. Both states had the highest numbers of votes cast in a gubernatorial election in those states on record. New Jersey did so despite what many thought would be an uncompetitive affair. Virginia, meanwhile, crushed a record that was just set in 2017…. In Virginia, Republican Glenn Youngkin earned nearly 500,000 more votes than Ed Gillespie did four years ago. By comparison, Democrat Terry McAuliffe won nearly 200,000 votes more than Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam did in 2017. When you break it down by county, turnout rose by about 32% in the counties Youngkin won. It was up half that (16%) in the counties McAuliffe took. Likewise, in New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has already earned many more votes this year than he did in 2017. The reason the race was tight was because Republican Jack Ciattarelli has over 300,000 more votes than Republican Kim Guadagno got in 2017.”

“Who Will Show Up To Vote Next Year?” [Cook Political Report]. “One significant piece of conventional wisdom that got turned on its head in 2020 was that higher turnout — especially among voters of color in states like Texas, Floria and Nevada — would solely benefit Democrats. Instead, many of these new voters, often younger and not typically engaged in politics, voted for Donald Trump and/or the GOP in down-ballot races. A prime example of this phenomenon took place in Nevada. A new deep-dive demographic analysis of the 2020 results in the state by the Democratic political data firm Catalist, found that the Silver State “stands out as having the highest portion of first-time voters (21%) and new presidential voters (17%) of any battleground state.” In this state that has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 2008, turnout increased 30 percent from 2016. On its face, that would seem to be a good thing for Democrats. Even so, Biden’s margin of victory was exactly the same as Clinton’s. “In many ways, Nevada encapsulates some of the most conventional-wisdom-defying aspects of the 2020 election cycle,” writes Catalist’s Jonathan Robinson, “with dramatic increases in turnout and a fast diversifying electorate resulting in a similarly narrow victory in the state.” In fact, Biden carried the state by a similar margin as Clinton, even as his margin of victory among Latino voters was nine points lower than that of Clinton four years earlier (60 percent compared to Clinton’s 69 percent).”

Realignment and Legitimacy

Keep watching:

Stats Watch

Inflation: “United States Producer Prices” [Trading Economics]. “Producer prices for final demand in the US increased 0.6% mom in October of 2021, in line with forecasts and following a 0.5% rise in September. Over 60% of the increase is due to a 1.2% surge in prices for goods, namely gasoline (6.7%) while prices of food edged down 0.1%. Cost of services moved up 0.2%, mainly due to margins for automobiles and automobile parts retailing (8.9%). In contrast, prices for securities brokerage, dealing, investment advice, and related services fell 6.6%.”

Small Business Optimism: “United States NFIB Business Optimism Index” [Trading Economics]. “The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index in the United States fell for the second consecutive month to 98.2 points in October of 2021, the lowest in 7 months, from 99.1 points in September. Expectations for business conditions over the next six months deteriorated, with the subindex falling four points. Also, the number of firms reporting positive profit trends decreased three points, mainly due to rising cost of materials and around 49% of firms reported job openings that couldn’t be filled. “Small business owners are attempting to take advantage of current economic growth but remain pessimistic about business conditions in the near future. One of the biggest problems for small businesses is the lack of workers for unfilled positions and inventory shortages, which will continue to be a problem during the holiday season.”

* * *

Shipping: “Freight Operators’ Profits Are Surging in Strained Supply-Chain Markets” [Wall Street Journal]. “U.S. transport companies are logging record profits in a tight domestic transportation market while ocean shipping lines are reaping similar gains on soaring rates to move containers from Asia to the U.S. and Europe. Schneider National Inc., a large trucking company based in Green Bay, Wis., boosted its net income by 147% to $110 million in the third quarter from the year-ago period and surpassed a quarterly record for earnings per share that the company had set just one quarter before…. The earnings growth at domestic U.S. carriers comes as profits are soaring at container lines, the ship operators at the heart of global supply-chain congestion…. C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., the largest freight broker in North America, said its third-quarter net income rose 81% from a year ago, to $247 million, boosted in part by strong gains in its international freight-forwarding business. Conversations about “transportation budgets are pretty much out the window at this point and it’s about supply-chain reliability, and how are we actually going to get product in and on our shelves?” said C.H. Robinson Chief Executive Bob Biesterfeld.” • So everybody’s doing OK, then?

Shipping: “U.S. manufacturers expect the new $1 trillion infrastructure bill to both stoke demand for construction equipment and help speed the supplies to markets” [Wall Street Journal]. “Investment firm Cowen writes that early transport beneficiaries will be flatbed-truck operators like Daseke that will carry the heavy loads for new projects.” • And flatbed (and chassis?) manufacturers, too, even if domestic?

The Bezzle: “What the Hell Is ‘Right-Clicker Mentality’?” [Vice]. “The blockchain scene is full of crypto-heads spouting phrases like WAGMI (we are going to make it), cope, and GM (good morning). Sometimes a subculture will produce a new phrase or buzzword so beautiful it gets adopted by the wider culture. So it is with ‘right-clicker mentality.’… NFTs only hold value because everyone owning them and trading them agrees they hold value. To right-clickers, the blockchain ledger where their receipt resides is a comforting technological myth that NFT owners point to to legitimate their claims of ownership of a JPEG. It’s a kind of slacktivism, a way to address the problem without risking anything. Right-clicking a JPEG, saving it, and displaying it back to the NFT owner is a way to point out the Emperor has no clothes. Meanwhile, the NFT fans make millions off their naked Emperor. Round and round. The phrase ‘right-clicker mentality’ elevates this practical distinction to the realm of philosophy, though. To right-click is one thing, but to have a right-clicker mentality implies an ontological break between crypto-fans and critics. Indeed, it implies the person saving the JPEG to their hard drive isn’t just wrong, they’re broken in some way.”

The Bezzle: “Carsten Höller Booed at New York’s NFT-Themed Dreamverse Event” [ARTNews]. “Thankfully, there was Beeple to save the day. The artist was on hand to display his NFT Everydays: The First 5000 Days, which memorably sold at Christie’s earlier this year for $69.3 million. In that work, there are 5,000 images—one for each day that the artist worked on the piece—that are arranged in rows. Taken all together, the piece is a neon-colored mishmash of barely identifiable pictures, but at Dreamverse, where the work was displayed on a big screen for the first time, audience members were able to see the individual works within the larger composite. It’s not a stretch to say that the crowd that attended Dreamverse—if not the whole industry—owes something to Beeple for putting NFTs on the map to the Everydays sale at Christie’s. In fact, throughout the night, multiple people said that it was the Beeple auction that had convinced them to get into the NFT game in the first place. As might be expected given that reaction, a loud round of applauses erupted began as the screen zoomed around the giant composite work, focusing on a few select tiles, many of them depicting Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story.” • “many of them depicting Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story.” That’s so meta. Or perhaps it’s meta2.

Tech: “Semiconductor Industry Isn’t Spending Big on Scarce Old-Tech Chips” [Wall Street Journal].

Marketing: “How to Build a Film-Photography Business in the Age of Instagram” [Bloomberg]. “Fast-forward one year, and the pair have turned their analog dream into Take It Easy Film Lab, a company that processes more than 200 rolls a day for a devout following, unexpectedly built almost entirely on Instagram. Take It Easy employs eight people and—like any aspiring cult brand—sells merchandise. The most popular option is a service in which the film is developed and transferred to a digital file that’s emailed back to customers, giving them the film experience without the usual pile of out-of-focus prints.” • I agree that the analog-to-digital transition in music made the sound worse. I’m not sure about images. I know I could never go back to film, so I have found digital very freeing.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 85 Extreme Greed (previous close: 86 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 78 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 9 at 12:30pm.

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged, with Earthquakes up down (“The lack of activity has downgraded this category”) and Famine up one (“Three years of drought have triggered a famine in Madagascar”) [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 186 (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so higher is better.)

Health Care

From ChiGal, “Thanks, Joe”:

Fortunately, I’m clairvoyant, so I can cut back on my coverage because I know I won’t need it!

* * *

“Current Insights Into Respiratory Virus Transmission and Potential Implications for Infection Control Programs” [Annals of Internal Medicine]. “People routinely emit respiratory particles in a range of sizes, but most are aerosols, and most procedures do not generate meaningfully more aerosols than ordinary breathing, and far fewer than coughing, exercise, or labored breathing. Most transmission nonetheless occurs at close range because virus-laden aerosols are most concentrated at the source; they then diffuse and dilute with distance, making long-distance transmission rare in well-ventilated spaces. The primary risk factors for nosocomial transmission are community incidence rates, viral load, symptoms, proximity, duration of exposure, and poor ventilation. Failure to appreciate these factors may lead to underappreciation of some risks (for example, overestimation of the protection provided by medical masks, insufficient attention to ventilation) or misallocation of limited resources (for example, reserving N95 respirators and negative-pressure rooms only for aerosol-generating procedures or requiring negative-pressure rooms for all patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection regardless of stage of illness).” • The tone is measured but the message is a harsh indictment. It’s stunning that aerosol transmission, despite verbal gestures, is clearly not accepted by the so-called scientists at the so-called Center for Disease Control, let alone the Biden Administration. On every level, including ethically, we see complete dysfunction. Well, except at the level of people making Corsi boxes to protect their children. Of course, we know the reason: fixing ventilation could mean capital investment in public schools, and fundamentally, nothing must change.

“A need of COVID19 vaccination for children aged medRxix]. • Commentary:

Note the superspreaders.

This gym looks pretty typical, to me:

A thread on HEPA filters:

“SARS-CoV-2 vaccine protection and deaths among US veterans during 2021” [Science]. From the Abstract: “We report SARS-CoV-2 vaccine effectiveness against infection (VE-I) and death (VE-D) by vaccine type (n = 780,225) in the Veterans Health Administration, covering 2.7% of the U.S. population. From February to October 2021, VE-I declined from 87.9% to 48.1%, and the decline was greatest for the Janssen vaccine resulting in a VE-I of 13.1%. Although breakthrough infection increased risk of death, vaccination remained protective against death in persons who became infected during the Delta surge. From July to October 2021, VE-D for age 65 years was 73.0% for Janssen, 81.5% for Moderna, and 84.3% for Pfizer-BioNTech; VE-D for age ≥65 years was 52.2% for Janssen, 75.5% for Moderna, and 70.1% for Pfizer-BioNTech. Findings support continued efforts to increase vaccination, booster campaigns, and .” • Finally, an admission, that vax, vax, vax by itself is at best insufficient (and at worst a recipe for disaster, if we breed a new and worse variant and have taken no other measures to prevent its transmission, especially non-pharmaceutical interventions).

Zeitgeist Watch

“On the death of my maternal grandmother: an anti-obituary” [Al Jazeera]. “[A]s with [Colin] Powell, I felt no need for eulogies. My grandmother, of course, had wielded considerably less power during her time on earth than had the late statesman. She had not helped fuel the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq, or presided over the 1989 pulverisation of the impoverished Panamanian neighbourhood of El Chorillo – to the extent that local ambulance drivers had begun referring to the area as ‘Little Hiroshima.’ She had, however, managed to inflict significant psychological, as well as bodily, injury on the persons inhabiting her own little world. During my mother’s youth, for example, a perceived transgression by her or any of her four siblings could result in all five being made to march in a circle as Anne flayed them with a dog leash…. Why not dispense with the persistent notion that the dead must be respected at all cost – even if they did nothing to respect the living when they were alive? An honest reckoning with individual legacies – which necessarily entails an appraisal of the societal contexts in which they occur – is not only more ethically coherent than hagiography, it may indeed provide better and sounder closure than the summoning of disingenuous and embellished emotions.” • Perhaps we might mourn the person they might have been (the “many worlds” hypothesis in another guise).

Groves of Academe

“Why I’m co-founding a new university dedicated to freedom of thought and study” [New York Post]. Frustrated with how modern universities stifle free thought and academic diversity, a group of writers and entrepreneurs announced Monday that they are launching their own institute of higher learning: The University of Austin. Joe Lonsdale, a partner at 8VC and a founder of Palantir, Addepar, Resilience Bio, and other multi-billion dollar technology companies, is one of the founders. Here, in an exclusive for The Post, he outlines the school’s mission.. More: “It’s time to build America’s next great university. I am lucky to be joined in this herculean task by dozens of courageous men and women, not least my fellow founders Pano Kanelos, Bari Weiss, Heather Heying, and Niall Ferguson; faculty fellows including Peter Boghossian, Kathleen Stock, Ayaan Hirsi Ali; and advisors including Robert Zimmer, Steven Pinker, Jonathan Haidt, Glenn Loury, Tyler Cowen, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Deirdre McCloskey, David Mamet, Sohrab Ahmari, Caitlin Flanagan and many more.” • Will there be Deans? Athletic Directors? An endowment? Commentary:

Universities, IIRC, started when students banded together to pay lecturers. That might be a more fruitful approach than this one.

Guillotine Watch

California oligarchs at play:

You can bet the help was masked….

Class Warfare

“The weekslong strike at Deere & Co. is starting to ripple across Farm Belt supply chains. Dealers are bracing for delayed deliveries of new equipment and farmers fear higher prices ahead… as the sector copes with new turbulence following shortages of components and raw materials that have stretched out supplies of new tractors and combines” [Wall Street Journal]. “The disruption threatens to undercut a rebound in the agricultural economy driven by commodities price gains. U.S. forecasters project net farm income may surge 20% this year, growth that is rippling across agricultural supply chains and reviving demand for new equipment. Deere says it will operate its U.S. plants with supervisors and other nonunion employees, and the company is considering sourcing parts from its overseas plants. That’s likely to stretch out plant production schedules, and farmers say that would cut into their own production next year.”

“Deere executive says increased overseas production possible as UAW strike continues” [Des Moines Register]. “A Deere & Co. executive said Monday that the manufacturer will be able to shift some production to its overseas sites as the 10,100-employee strike affecting plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas continues. Cory Reed, president of the company’s Worldwide Agriculture & Turf Division, told the Des Moines Register that Deere executives still want to reach an agreement with the striking United Auto Workers members, but that company leaders have pulled levers to keep some products flowing since the strike began Oct. 14. The striking workers represent about 13% of all Deere employees, including workers at plants in Brazil, China, France, Germany, India and Mexico. Reed said executives routinely consider whether to increase production at foreign factories as part of their ‘normal, continuous operations.’ ‘Sometimes that means bringing parts in from one of those operations from around the world,’ he said. ‘And by the way, (Deere’s international factories) employ thousands of employees in each of those places, too, that continue to deliver the parts and components that we need.’” Ugh. More: “A Barclays report based on cell phone location tracking found that Deere actually increased the number of workers at parts fulfillment centers by 60% in the weeks after the strike began, compared to the same period in 2019 and 2020. Meanwhile, the number of workers at Deere’s agricultural equipment factories was down 34%, while the number of workers at the construction and forestry plants in Davenport and Dubuque was down 62%, Barclays reported. The drop in workforce at the factories could explain why dealerships are waiting longer for parts.” • I assume Deere will airfreight the parts. If air cargo isn’t gridlocked, too, of course.

News of the Wired

“Gardening Artists” [Susan Abbott]. “I remind myself what the great Pablo Casals said: ‘I am a human being first, a musician second, a cellist third.’ A human being first, an artist second, a painter third. For me, part of being a human being means growing some of my own food, partnering with nature, doing physical as well as mental work. For gardening artists like me, designing with plants is much like designing a painting. We select our varieties of flowers and even vegetables with an eye towards how their colors, sizes, and textures will interact, how the parts will become a whole.” • Another Susan Abbott painting, which I hope she doesn’t mind my reproducing:

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) 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 (TH):

TH writes: “My husband and I stopped at a canyon overlook in Newport Beach to do a wee bit of walking. We usually end up doing more picture-taking than walking but our hearts are in the right place. We noticed these laurel-sumac trees were quite the attraction to the local bee community.” What a shot!

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