2:00PM Water Cooler 10/22/2021 | naked capitalism

by nyljaouadi1
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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, the Assumption of Neera Tanden happened just as I was preparing the post, so I had to focus on it. More coming shortly. –lambert UPDATE All done!

Bird Song of the Day

It does bark!

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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.

“Tackling the pandemic with (biased) data” [Science]. “The most up-to-date indicator of the state of the epidemic is typically the number of confirmed cases, as ascertained through testing of both symptomatic individuals and those tested frequently regardless of symptoms. Symptom-based testing is likely to pick up more adults and fewer younger individuals (4). Infections in children are harder to detect: children are more likely to be asymptomatic than adults, are harder to administer tests to (particularly young children), are often exposed to other viruses with similar symptoms, and can present with symptoms that are atypical in adults (e.g., abdominal pain or nausea). Children under 12 are not routinely offered the COVID-19 vaccination, and their mixing in schools provides ongoing opportunities for the virus to circulate, so it will be important for countries to track infections in children as accurately as possible. Other testing biases include accessibility, reporting lags, and the ability to act lawfully upon receiving a positive result. Substantial changes in the number of people seeking tests may further confound case figures (5). Case positivity rates may provide a more accurate reflection of the state of the epidemic (6) but are dependent on the mix of symptomatic and asymptomatic people being tested…. With multiple variants circulating, there are, effectively, multiple epidemics occurring in parallel, and they must be tracked separately. This typically requires the availability of sequencing data, which is unfortunately limited in most countries. Sequencing takes time and so is typically a few weeks out of date…. Hospital admissions or occupancy data do not suffer the same biases associated with testing behaviors and provide unequivocal evidence of widespread transmission, its geography, and demographics. However, hospital admissions lag infections more than reported cases do, rendering these data less useful for proactive decision-making. Hospital data are also biased toward older people, who are more likely to suffer severe COVID-19, and now, unvaccinated populations….. Deaths are the most lagged indicator, typically occurring 3 or more weeks after infection and with an additional lag in registration and reporting. Death data should never be used to inform real-time policy decisions. Instead, death figures can act as an eventual measure of the success of a country’s epidemic strategy and implementation…. It is vital to disaggregate vaccine data by age, gender, and ethnicity as well as location so that it is possible, for example, to understand the impact of deprivation on vaccine coverage or vaccine hesitancy in particular demographics…. Data on reinfection and post-vaccination (breakthrough) infection are also important to determine the relative benefits of infection-mediated and vaccine-mediated immunity and the length of protection offered.” • But this is America! We don’t need no steenkin’ data!

Vaccination by region:

Coercion works? Or boosters? (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.)

57.2% of the US is fully vaccinated (CDC data. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Czech Republic, and just above Turkey, 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:

Downward trend resumes, although last week’s fiddling and diddling is now clearly evident.

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). Speculating freely: There is the possibility that natural immunity is much, much greater than we have thought, although because this is America, our data is so bad we don’t know. 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. 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 October 21, 2021” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties:

Wierd flare-ups, like flying coals in a forest fire. They land, catch, but — one hopes — sputter out. Look at the New Mexico-Arizona border, for example.

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 a hub. 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.)

I guess I have to go back to showing the previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Finally some relief for the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 753,845 751,834. The upward trend in death rate begins anew. We had approached the same death rate as our first peak last year. Which I found more than a little disturbing.

Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid):

So how long does it take before 10% “excess” deaths becomes the new normal?

(Adding: I know the data is bad. This is the United States. But according to The Narrative, deaths shouldn’t have been going up at all. Directionally, this is quite concerning. 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, Peru, and Brazil rising. Chile especially not looking good. Plus the clownishly bad UK. Remember this is a log scale. Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away.

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“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

I’m wondering if I should replace the Dune quote above — too obvious? — with this one: “It is said in the desert that possession of water in great amount can inflict a man with fatal carelessness.”

Capitol Seizure

“Capitol Rioters in Jail’s ‘Patriot Wing’ Have Their Own Rituals and a Growing Fan Base” [Vice]. “At 9 p.m. every night, inmates in the so-called Patriot Wing of the D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility reportedly stand at attention and sing The Star-Spangled Banner. You can even listen, if you want, to an alleged recording of it on the website called The Patriot Freedom Project. Inmates had also started their own handwritten newsletter and passed it from cell to cell, one detainee told NBC 4. Part of a letter from one inmate, Guy Reffitt, and signed “The 1/6 -ers,” was published by ProPublica earlier this year and entered into evidence in the court. It reads like a manifesto on behalf of the Capitol rioters. ‘We have been labeled the enemy, yet clearly we see tyranny as the enemy,’ they wrote. ‘While our lawyers do our bidding and the judges do their duties, we remain resolute, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the National Anthem all in unison, loud and proud most every day. All because we are us, we are you, we are all Americans and in here, we have no labels.’ The ‘Patriot Wing’ houses the most hardcore perpetrators of the January 6 riot, roughly 40 men in all.” • Who could have predicted incarceration would have such an effect. I just nope none of ’em are writing a book.

UPDATE I hold no brief for Massie:

But I don’t hold a brief for the ectoplasmic Garland, either, especially when he invokes the Norms Fairy. Massie is asking an important question: Were there FBI agents involved, either as informers or as agent provocateurs, in 1/6? This is an obvious question to ask, because the FBI has form in this regard. Garland could have answered it with a generic statement: “I can assure you that our investigations show no FBI personnel were on-site,” for example, without disclosing anything about cases. Garland didn’t. That, to me, means that there were.

UPDATE “John Eastman vs. the Eastman Memo” [National Review]. “Eastman now tells National Review in an interview that the first of the two strategies Giuliani highlighted on stage — having Pence reject electoral votes — was not ‘viable’ and would have been ‘crazy’ to pursue. What makes that admission remarkable is that Eastman was the author of the now-infamous legal memo making the case that Pence had that very power — that the vice president was the ‘ultimate arbiter’ of deciding whether to count Electoral College votes. The two-page memo written by Eastman proposed that Pence reject certified Electoral College votes and then either declare Trump the winner or invalidate enough votes to send the election to the House of Representatives, where Republicans controlled a majority of delegations. That memo was first published in September in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s book Peril. The issue here is that Eastman says the Eastman memo does not accurately represent Eastman’s own views or legal advice to Pence or Trump, claiming that the two-page version published in Peril was preliminary and a final version presented various scenarios intended for internal discussion.” • Who would be crazy enough to get up on a stage next to Guiliani?

Biden Administration

“Neera Tanden named staff secretary for President Biden” [WaPo]. She’s b-a-a-a-c-k! “Neera Tanden was named the next White House staff secretary on Friday morning, putting her in the nerve center of the building charged with overseeing the paper flow for President Biden, according to a White House official briefed on the move…. The staff secretary, who reports to the chief of staff, traditionally plays the role of both traffic cop and honest broker in the White House, with control over the documents that make it to the president, whether they be briefing books or decision memos laying out the arguments on major decisions…. The White House staff secretary has often served as a steppingstone for other roles in government. Former White House counsel Harriet Miers, Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and former White House chief of staff John D. Podesta, a mentor for Tanden, have all previously held the job.” • She will report to White House chief of staff Ron Klain (says Politico), and is no doubt already measuring him for the drop. Perhaps Neera will end up on the Supreme Court, like Kavanaugh! For those who’ve forgotten:

The real idiocy is Tanden saying “we live in deficit politics,” which of course she has done nothing to change. Remember this diagram from yesterday?

I would imagine Tanden, from her CAP days, knows the programs in the top box as well as anyone, and is very well-equipped to fit them into the Procrustean bed of the bottom box. Deficit politics!

Oh, and Tanden has the worst sock puppet on Twitter:

I went through some Tanden threads, and they were already a cesspit of Sanders hatred, among other things. Good choice, Joe!

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UPDATE “Biden’s radical Treasury nominee in her own words” [The Hill]. “In an incomprehensible act, President Biden has nominated as comptroller of the currency Saule Omarova — a law school professor who thinks that banks should have their deposit business taken away and transferred to the government, the Federal Reserve should be the monopoly provider of retail and commercial deposits, the Fed should perform national credit allocation, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York should intervene in investment markets whenever it thinks prices are too high or too low (shorting or buying a wide range of investments accordingly), the government should sit on boards of directors of private banks with special powers and disproportionate voting power, new federal bureaucracies should be set up to regulate financial regulators and carry out national investment policy and in general, it seems, has never thought of a vast government bureaucracy or a statist power that she doesn’t like.” • Conservative aghastitude!

Trump Legacy

“Donald Trump’s new social media SPAC, explained” [The Verge (Re Silc)]. “Trump announced Wednesday night that he has a new company called Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) and that he would be merging this new company with a SPAC called Digital World Acquisition Company (DWAC). If completed, the deal would turn Trump’s new media company into one that’s publicly traded on the Nasdaq. And it would give TMTG enough money to get a new Twitter clone off the ground called ‘Truth.’ The surprise deal is already turning DWAC into a meme stock, and it raises a fair number of questions. Briefly, SPACs are shell companies that get listed on exchanges like the Nasdaq and exist for the sole purpose of eventually merging with companies that want to go public. Trump has very big ambitions for TMTG, according to the truly ludicrous 22-page investor presentation that was published on its website.” • Again, if Trump hires somebody good to run the Twitter clone and confines his activity to posting, all will be well (including whatever goals Trump hopes to achieve by posting). Otherwise, Shambolic City.

“Hedge funds score unprecedented gains on Trump’s SPAC deal” [Reuters]. Hedge funds that invested in the blank-check acquisition company that made a $875 million deal to merge with former U.S. President Donald Trump’s new social media venture are set to make five times their investment, regulatory filings show. It is the biggest gain investors in so-called special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) have ever recorded on the first day after a deal was announced, according to SPAC Research…. The rally in Digital World shares is also a boon to Trump because most stock market investors who buy the shares for much more than their $10 IPO price will not seek to redeem them at that price, ensuring that Trump Media and Technology Group will receive most if not all of the $293 million it is entitled to under the merger.” • Well, that solves the legal fees problem. Trump really is a Houdini.

UPDATE “Donald Trump Does a SPAC Deal” [Matt Levine, Bloomberg]. “Donald Trump is a very famous person who likes to talk and who has a lot of enthusiastic fans. If he started a television channel that consisted of him talking about whatever for two hours every afternoon, surrounded by 22 hours of other people talking about how great he is, it would probably get a lot of viewers and could carry a lot of ads for pillows or whatever. But this would probably involve a certain amount of work and competence — you’d have to hire people to point the cameras at him and negotiate cable carriage and ad deals — and television is expensive; there would be some real financial risk to it. Or he could start a social media company for his fans, where he could send out his thoughts without being banned. I am not going to pretend to make a business case for that one — there is a long history of hilarious failure in the ‘social media for Trump’ category — but maybe you can. It is not a sure thing, in any case. Maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn’t. When Twitter Inc. went public it had never been profitable and it was, you know, a real social network that people used. Maybe Twitter But Trump would immediately be profitable but boy I have some doubts.” • This is very funny, but it actually does take competence to run a social media company. So a lot depends on Trump’s hires, as I’ve said.

UPDATE “Hedge funds make millions as shares in Trump media Spac jump” [Financial Times]. “David Puritz of Shaolin Capital Management, a $1.1bn fund that owns just less than 10 per cent of Digital World’s shares, told the Financial Times that “there’s a lot of embedded convexity in the Spac product”, which means that his upside was almost unlimited but the trade held minimal potential for a loss…. A large investor among the Spac’s IPO consortium called it one of the best trades in their career and said they were selling down their position. Hedge funds will typically sell their Spac units if, after a deal is announced, the stock skyrockets. DE Shaw declined to comment, while other hedge funds listed as investors did not respond to messages seeking comment. One hedge fund investor who owned nearly 10 per cent of Digital World said he sold every share he could early Thursday morning, before the stock price really got moving. ‘The idea that I would help [Trump] build out a fake news business called Truth makes me want to throw up,’ he said.” ‘• Better have a bucket by the side of your desk, champ.

UPDATE “Shares in Trump-linked media venture surge again” [Agence France Presse]. “A new investment vehicle linked to former US president Donald Trump’s fledgling social media venture surged early Friday before trading was temporarily halted due to the volatility. Shares of Digital World Acquisition Corp, which is set to merge with Trump’s ‘TRUTH Social’ media startup, surged more than 200 percent before being suspended for several minutes on the Nasdaq…. A joint press release from the Trump Media and Technology Group and Digital World described the venture as ‘a rival to the liberal media consortium and fight against the ‘Big Tech’ companies of Silicon Valley, which have used their unilateral power to silence opposing voices in America.’” • And they’re not wrong, are they?

Democrats en Deshabille

UPDATE “Indicted Clinton lawyer hired CrowdStrike, firm behind dubious Russian hacking claim” [Aaron Maté]. This excellent article appeared already in Links, and presumably readers are up-to-speed on CrowdStrike (and if not, read the article). However, I want to pull out this one sentence: “As I revealed in 2020, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband Paul Pelosi have invested up to $1 million in Crowdstrike. As of September, the Pelosis’ stake in the firm had yielded a reported $717,000 profit.” • So what’s wrong with Powell trading, then? He didn’t spend his gains on ice cream and freezers? Anyhow, you can follow Nancy’s moves and cash in:

Democracy in action!

UPDATE Memories:

Joe Biden owes me six hundred bucks. Cf. Luke 16:10.

“The New York State Democratic Party Really Is a Joke” [Ross Barkan, Political Currents]. “Unlike a lot of other states, New York does not have a functioning, centralized Democratic Party apparatus that recruits and trains candidates, funding them against Republican opponents. It has its various fiefdoms, along with elected officials who cultivate their own followings; the actual Democratic Party of the state doesn’t really exist at all. This has been mostly by design. For decades, the Democratic Party in New York has been a self-dealing, incompetent mess, often propping up Republicans to damage the progressive left. Cuomo, of course, was the exemplar of this…. New York could’ve used an organized, active, and decent Democratic Party in the last 50 years. Such a machine could’ve sped up the passage of many bills that only made it through the legislature in 2019, when Democrats, with no assistance from Cuomo, rode the blue wave to a clear majority. But the truth is Democrats are dominant enough now in New York that the atrophied infrastructure of the party means relatively little. There are NGO machines like the Working Families Party, the socialist DSA machine, and enough candidates who fundraise to build their own functioning operations. Congressional candidates who are serious can raise millions with no assistance from Jay Jacobs. This is not better or worse; it’s simply the world we live in now. … Yet we should take a moment to contemplate what has been lost. Local organizations used to matter a lot. The old municipal Democratic machines, so faded from their 20th century heyday, were both hotbeds of corruption and genuine organizers of working-class votes. With control of patronage, these machines could deliver the goods for voters. There was a tangible feel to democracy that no longer exists. The consultant class was also a minor feature of the process in this period. Parties themselves did the messaging, the organizing, and strategized around voter contact.” • I think Barkan is a little wide-eyed about Democrat parties in other states, but well worth a read.

Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE “Oath Keepers in the State House: How a Militia Movement Took Root in the Republican Mainstream” [ProPublica]. “Dozens of Oath Keepers have been arrested in connection to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, some of them looking like a paramilitary group, wearing camo helmets and flak vests. But a list of more than 35,000 members of the Oath Keepers — obtained by an anonymous hacker and shared with ProPublica by the whistleblower group Distributed Denial of Secrets — underscores how the organization is evolving into a force within the Republican Party. ProPublica [48] state and local government officials on the list, all Republicans: 10 sitting state lawmakers; two former state representatives; one current state assembly candidate; a state legislative aide; a city council assistant; county commissioners in Indiana, Arizona and North Carolina; two town aldermen; sheriffs or constables in Montana, Texas and Kentucky; state investigators in Texas and Louisiana; and a New Jersey town’s public works director. ProPublica’s analysis also found more than 400 people who signed up for membership or newsletters using government, military or political campaign email addresses, including candidates for Congress and sheriff, a retired assistant school superintendent in Alabama, and an award-winning elementary school teacher in California. Three of the state lawmakers on the list had already been publicly identified with the Oath Keepers. Other outlets have also scoured the list, finding police officers and military veterans. People with law enforcement and military backgrounds — like Clampitt, a retired fire captain in Charlotte, North Carolina — have been the focus of the Oath Keepers’ recruiting efforts since the group started in 2009. According to researchers who monitor the group’s activities, Oath Keepers pledge to resist if the federal government imposes martial law, invades a state or takes people’s guns, ideas that show up in a dark swirl of right-wing conspiracy theories. The group is loosely organized and its leaders do not centrally issue commands.”

UPDATE “Far-right Christians think they’re living in a Bible story, and that you are as well” [Flux]. “SHEFFIELD: And I think also that you could say that many moderate or liberal Christians, they’re not aware that this alternative tradition has developed, and really grown as big as it is. And they’re also not aware that that tradition is coming for them. And that it has a power that is very compelling to a lot of people because it’s totalizing. It’s a worldview that encompasses politics, that encompasses religion, that encompasses schooling, that encompasses family. It literally can run your life for you. It can make the decisions. It can make your identity. You can finally be a part of something bigger than yourself. DOUGLAS: They may also lack understanding about what this is because a lot of it is as a kind of craziness that’s outside of their specific church or cultural traditions, but some of it is shame. I think for lots of progressive and thoughtful and intellectual [01:00:00] Christians, to engage with fundamentalist theology and politics is to experience shame. Because it’s not like yours. It’s simplistic and binary and into this sort of Manichean binary of good and evil. It’s not as sophisticated as your own religious tradition. So I think that can oftentimes mean for the moderates and liberal/progressive Christians, there’s an experience of shame. And an attempt to, I think sometimes on the other hand argue that they’re not really Christian at all. Those people are not really Christian, they’re Christian nationalists, who aren’t really in the proper Christian tradition, like we’re practicing it. But that’s a different conversation.”

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of note today.

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The Bezzle: “Why the ‘Big Short’ Guys Think Bitcoin Is a Bubble” [New York Magazine]. (Michael Lewis’s book is wrong in important respects, but the movie, as a movie, is terrific. That said–) “‘What’s the value, what’s the purpose of bitcoin? To take away the Fed?’ asks one outspoken short seller, who wanted to remain anonymous, because ‘I don’t need the bitcoin guys after me.’ ‘I kind of like to have the Fed run by Ph.D.’s who went to work for the government being the people deciding fiscal policy more than a bunch of kids,’ he says, referring to the generation of extremely online young people who have figured prominently among the early adopters of bitcoin. ‘And the U.S. dollar is backed by the full faith of the United States. Does bitcoin have an army?’ ‘It’s just a big scheme,’ he says, ‘and so intellectually wrong.’” • For “Does bitcoin have an army,” see “How to turn litter into money,” by Warren Mosler.

Manufacturing: “Bjorn’s Corner: The challenges of airliner development. Part 26. Maintenance planning” [Leeham News and Analysis]. “An important part of the Instructions for Continued Airworthiness, ICA, is how to maintain the aircraft in a continued airworthy state during its operational life. The aircraft is airworthy when it rolls out of the factory but it needs to keep this condition for its 25 years or longer productive life. How this is done is contained in the maintenance documents, but there is more to it than just producing a maintenance manual.” • Calling all tech doc fans and aircraft maintenance nerds!

Labor Market: “Restaurants prep for long-term labor crunch by turning to robots to man the fryer, shuttle food to tables” [CNBC]. “[Flippy] robot can cost up to $3,000 a month.”

The Fed: “Focus of Fed trading furore shifts to Powell’s activities” [Financial Times]. “Jay Powell sought on Thursday to quash the trading scandal that has rippled through the US central bank in recent weeks by adopting a string of new restrictions on investments by the Federal Reserve’s top officials. But Fed watchers said the furore has already hit too close to the central bank’s inner circle — including scrutiny of Powell’s own financial activities — to avoid a substantial blow to the institution’s standing. Worse still, the turmoil comes just weeks ahead a big policy shift and with the chair’s bid for a second term on the line. ‘This was a black mark on the Fed and I’m sure they’ll recover from it, but it doesn’t help Jay,” said David Wessel, director of the Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank.” • Again, if Congress can play the ponies, why not the Fed?

The Fed: “A Heroic Powell Restores Public Faith In The Fed” [Heisenberg Report]. Really? No, not really. “Nothing in the new rules changes the numbers that count. 10% of Americans control nearly all of the stocks.” Yep.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 67 Greed (previous close: 69 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 50 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 22 at 1:10pm.

The 420

“Home cultivation rules for medical cannabis move forward” [Times-Union]. “Seven years after New York passed its law permitting medical cannabis, certified patients will soon be allowed to grow plants at home, following regulations announced in the second-ever Cannabis Control Board meeting Thursday afternoon. The state’s 150,695 patients have, up until now, been required to purchase their product from one of ten suppliers that obtained licenses from the state Department of Health in a competitive bidding process. Now, New Yorkers have 60 days to comment on the home-grow regulations before they take effect. Sen. Diane Savino, who sponsored the initial medical cannabis bill and has been a key proponent of its therapeutic uses, said the lack of legal home-grow options has been a ‘long-standing issue for certified patients and their caregivers.’ ‘The draft regulations clearly lay out a program that will allow limited home cultivation in a safe manner, preventing diversion and abuse and allowing patients and caregivers who may be far from existing dispensaries the ability to manage their use,’ Savino said in a statement.” • Seven years, ffs. I wonder if Cuomo, may his name be accursed, was holding this up?

Our Famously Free Press

“Twitter’s own research shows that it’s a megaphone for the right. But it’s complicated.” [Protocol]. “Twitter is publicly sharing research findings today that show that the platform’s algorithms amplify tweets from right-wing politicians and content from right-leaning news outlets more than people and content from the political left…. ‘We can see that it is happening. We are not entirely sure why it is happening. To be clear, some of it could be user-driven, people’s actions on the platform, we are not sure what it is. It’s just important that we share this information,’ [Rumman Chowdhury, the head of Twitter’s machine learning, ethics, transparency and accountability team] said. The META team plans to conduct what she called a ‘root-cause analysis’ to try to discover the ‘why,’ and that analysis will likely include creating testable hypotheses about how people use the platform that could help show whether it’s the way users interact with Twitter or the algorithm itself that is causing this uneven amplification…. Chowdhury emphasized that Twitter doesn’t already know what causes certain content to be amplified. ‘When algorithms get put out into the world, what happens when people interact with it, we can’t model for that. We can’t model for how individuals or groups of people will use Twitter, what will happen in the world in a way that will impact how people use Twitter,’ she said. Twitter algorithms cannot just be opened up and examined for biases, and the home feed isn’t run by just one algorithm. It’s a system that works together, creating ‘system-level complexity.’” • Which is why a Twitter timeline is so, so much better than the Facebook news feed, but also, perhaps, why Facebook does better with advertisers; how Twitter sells attention is not so clear to them (which is not to say that Facebook’s advertising numbers are… anything other than what one might expect from Facebook).

“Breaking Right” [Columbia Journalism Review]. “The Journal holds a peculiar position in the American press. Murdoch, who acquired the paper along with Dow Jones in 2007 for five billion dollars, is perhaps the most hated executive in media, yet the Journal has managed to maintain a serious news operation, providing a training ground for excellent journalists for decades. The Journal has a distinctly conservative, finance-focused sensibility; it also belongs squarely among the New York media elite. It is not where many reporters aspire to land, however, in large part because its reputation is so tainted by incendiary op-eds. For decades, the Journal newsroom has grumbled about leaps of logic and reckless ideology on the opinion side. During Trump’s presidency, the grumbling grew into a roar…. The editorial board’s response to the letters was consistent, and they shared it with readers: ‘We are not the New York Times,’ they wrote, under the headline ‘These pages won’t wilt under cancel-culture pressure.’ The piece declared, ‘Our opinion pages offer an alternative to the uniform progressive views that dominate nearly all of today’s media.’” • Obviously the WSJ should be more like the Times. If they were, they could have Thomas Friedman on the editorial page, and publish (and repackage and sell to school children) historical fiction like the 1619 Project. What I like about the WSJ is that as a venue, it’s stable and I can discount for its bias. With the Times (or the Washington Post), the inconsistency is so bad I have to discount at the reporter or even the story level.

“Opinion: CNN defends Joe Rogan treatment in fiery statement” [WaPo]. “Yet CNN’s statement sounds more like the work of an advocacy group than a journalism outfit. The ‘issue,’ actually, begins and ends with the integrity of CNN’s content. If we take Rogan’s prescription claim at face value — and CNN hasn’t challenged it — then the network’s coverage was slanted in some cases and straight-up incorrect in others.” I’m not sure why “issue” is shrouded in shudder quotes; if CNN is lying, that’s a real issue. That aside, this sentence: “Given that a prominent CNN personality agreed with a strong critique of his own colleagues, we placed the matter before the network’s PR department.” • Oh. Not the editor or the publisher?

“Museums are posting erotic art on OnlyFans to evade social media censors” [The Hill]. “As traditional social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, monitor users and channels to censor obscene or pornographic material, museums are taking an untraditional step to showcase erotic art: creating OnlyFans pages. OnlyFans is an online subscription content service. While it is not explicity surrounding sex work and eroticism, it has become a safe haven for sex workers to produce and monetize content. Though the platform did briefly state in August that it would be banning explicit videos by October, it quickly changed course and walked back the announcement. [In] Vienna, Austria’s board for tourism took the unusual step to highlight some of its museums’ more risque works by creating an account called ‘Vienna Strips on OnlyFans.’” • In a related story, I won’t provide a link, since this is a family blog, but here is some astonishing (homo)erotic art by Duncan Grant, of the Bloomsbury ménage. I have always had Grant filed as second rate. This material (“Hi, sailor!) is first rate. You’ll like this, if this is sort of think you like.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“The Many Crimes of Colin Powell” [Black Agenda Report]. “[Colin Powell] said this about his life and work, ‘All I want to do is judge myself as a successful soldier who served his best.’… Simply put, a good soldier follows orders, makes operations run smoothly, and makes his bosses look good. Powell did all of those things and that is why his legacy is so dubious…. When Major Colin Powell was stationed in Vietnam in 1968 he and his superiors received a letter written by a soldier whose tour of duty was ending. Tom Glen stated [before My Lai] that U.S. soldiers were carrying out atrocities against civilians. Major Powell was tasked with investigating, which should have included an interview of the soldier himself. Neither he nor anyone else spoke to Glen and when Powell responded he blamed the whistle blower for not reporting the crimes to people who had chosen to do nothing about them. He then wrote a classic yes-man response which concluded, ‘In direct refutation of this portrayal, is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese are excellent.’… If Powell would run interference for army brass in Vietnam, he would do no less for his boss, president George W. Bush. In early 2001, Powell said of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein , ‘He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.’ Two years later Powell made a great show at the United Nations saying just the opposite. Bush decided to invade Iraq and good soldier Powell was tasked with making the public case for a war of aggression. He famously held up a vial which he said represented the weapons of mass destruction which he knew did not exist. Those who remembered his assurances that Hussein posed no threat were few in number and the corporate media were ready to help the Bush administration get support for the invasion. Powell’s past statements magically disappeared as were any narratives that might contradict the Bush administration. Powell was the public face of the case for a war crime which eventually killed some 1 million people in Iraq.” • If only Condi Rice had been in Colin Powell’s place. Then the war crime would have been committed by a Person of Color and a woman.

Public Enemy on Colin Powell:

Covering up and facilitating war crimes is an odd definition of strength. Ah well, nevertheless:

Welcome to a world where Donald Trump gets Colin Powell right and Public Enemy gets him wrong [pounds head on desk]. Suckers, liars get me a shovel….

Class Warfare

News of the Wired

“This Simple Experiment Could Challenge Standard Quantum Theory” [Scientific American]. “A deceptively simple experiment that involves making precise measurements of the time it takes for a particle to go from point A to point B could spark a breakthrough in quantum physics. The findings could focus attention on an alternative to standard quantum theory called Bohmian mechanics, which posits an underworld of unseen waves that guide particles from place to place. A new study, by a team at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) in Germany, makes precise predictions for such an experiment using Bohmian mechanics, a theory formulated by theoretical physicist David Bohm in the 1950s and augmented by modern-day theorists. Standard quantum theory fails in this regard, and physicists have to resort to assumptions and approximations to calculate particle transit times. ‘If people knew that a theory that they love so much—standard quantum mechanics—cannot make [precise] predictions in such a simple case, that should at least make them wonder,’ says theorist and LMU team member Serj Aristarhov.” • After that, even a layperson’s article like this rises rapidly above my paygrade, but maybe we have some physicists in the readership who can interpret. But I can see that standard quantum theory failing would be a big deal.

“How Memphis Created the Nation’s Most Innovative Public Library” [Smithsonian]. “It’s difficult to summarize the myriad changes taking place in American public libraries, but one thing is certain. Libraries are no longer hushed repositories of books. Here at the Central branch in Memphis, ukulele flash mobs materialize and seniors dance the fox trot in upstairs rooms. The library hosts U.S. naturalization ceremonies, job fairs, financial literacy seminars, jazz concerts, cooking classes, film screenings and many other events—more than 7,000 at last count. You can check out books and movies, to be sure, but also sewing machines, bicycle repair kits and laptop computers. And late fees? A thing of the past. The hip-hop beats and power tool noise are coming from an 8,300-square-foot teenage learning facility called Cloud901 (the numerals are the Memphis area code). Two stories high, it contains a state-of-the-art recording studio staffed by a professional audio engineer, a robotics lab that fields a highly competitive team in regional and national championships, and a video lab where local teens have made award-winning films. Cloud901 also features a fully equipped maker space (a kind of DIY technology innovation workshop), a performance stage, a hang-out area and an art studio.” • This is all good, though I do hope they have a quiet room, like Amtrak has a Quiet Car. Let us not forget, however, that books are Jackpot-complaint. Reading a book does not require electrical power, or anything digital. Please don’t throw books away! Please order more of them! (I believe, just as there are college administrators who hate educators, there are library administrators who hate books. I hope your library does not have one such!

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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 (JU):

JU writes: “Burn zones of the KNP Fire along Mineral King Road.” I’m including (most of) JU’s portfolio, because the photos are so evocative of the California hills.

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.

If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!2:00PM Water Cooler 6/8/2021

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