HomeEconomy2:00PM Water Cooler 11/5/2021 | naked capitalism

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/5/2021 | naked capitalism

em>By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

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

Bird Song of the Day

“[N]atural vocalization; songs from the male of a pair of birds in cholla and yucca covered grassland surrounded by canyon and rimrock country. While singing the male bird would bow its head down and raise its tail while puffing its neck. Both of the birds were on the ground during the whole event, and immediately after this cut the male picked up insects twice and fed them to the female bird. Distance to the bird was approximately 12-15 meters.”

Not all that different from the real Roadrunner!

* * *


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.)

58.2% of the US is fully vaccinated (CDC data. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Turkey, and just above Argentina 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:

A blip downward, 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). The local economy is heavily driven by outdoors-y tourism, but there are no major airports, so possibly cases are being spread by drivers. Beyond these speculations I cannot go.

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:

Seems like a sine-wave pattern on the right. Why? And nothing like California 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 Report October 25, 2021” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties:

Here we see Covid spreading in California (newly yellow), which I flagged last Friday [lambert blushes modestly] as the cause of the rise in the national case count. This week, however, we have not only inland, but coastal spread (orange). Today, San Bernardino County turns from yellow to orange. Causes suggested by readers range from tourist to the harvest season. New Hampshire and Maine in trouble again. Arizona improving. Alabama seems finally to be cooling off. Weird flare-ups, like flying coals in a forest fire. They land, catch, but — one hopes — sputter out.

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. 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):

Finally some relief for the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, although I don’t understand why they they have the bad luck to be so stubbornly still red.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 772,421 770,868. Going down again, mercifully. 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):

My (incorrect) interpretation of a 0.0 – 0.0 excess death rate meant that the real numbers had not actually been calculated (CDC explains there are data lags). Hard to believe we have no excess deaths now, but very fortunate if so.

(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.

* * *


“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

“2 federal judges are poised to quietly begin unlocking reams of Jan. 6 secrets for Congress” [Politico]. “In recent days, [Beryl] Howell, the chief of U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., and a 2010 Obama appointee, has implicitly encouraged Jan. 6 defendants to cooperate with congressional investigators. Last week, she praised a convicted rioter, Leonard Gruppo, for his decision to be interviewed by the select committee last month. Howell sentenced the military veteran to home confinement and probation, saying he demonstrated genuine remorse, ‘particularly by talking to members of Congress on the select committee to help deter other people with the specialized training you [received] in the military, not to turn it against fellow Americans.’ Several other rioters who have pleaded guilty are preparing to testify, and more may take cues from Howell’s decision.” • Well, so much for judicial independence. And so much for the separation of powers, too, unless you think enforcing the law is a matter for the legislative branch. I’ve heard it said that after 2016, liberal Democrats declared “a state of exception.” I don’t think that’s a metaphor.

“Ten Months Later” [American Greatness]. I have to put on my rubber gloves here, exactly as with the Daily Wire, but assuming they’re quoting WaPo accurately: “On the eve of January 6, a shadowy figure caught on video allegedly planted two pipe bombs outside the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee, both located close to the U.S. Capitol building…. Karlin Younger, an emergency management specialist at the Department of Commerce working remotely that day, said she had noticed the device, wedged between a garbage can and a fence, on her way to do laundry that afternoon. ‘It’s just by chance I did laundry when I did. I don’t think anyone else would have walked by unless they were taking out the garbage.’ Younger, a Wisconsin native, told a Madison magazine a few days later…. Younger also has a background in counterterrorism and worked for a ‘political risk consulting firm’ in London a few years ago.” • Oh. Call me foily, but remember when “It emerged this week that the first person to give first aid to the Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia—poisoned in still unexplained events in Salisbury last March—was the most senior nurse in the British Army, Alison McCourt”? Same deal. “Just by chance.” I love amazing coincidences in George Smiley novels. Not perhaps, in real life. Or in Washington DC, where I’m sure everything is wired to the gills.

Biden Administration

“Democrats plead with Biden to get more assertive” [Politico]. “That Biden needed to take a more aggressive role in pushing through his economic agenda was a sentiment reiterated again and again in interviews with nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers, operatives and pollsters — the majority of whom declined to go on record for fear of further complicating Democrats’ legislative efforts. Some said they wanted Biden to execute easy policy victories that would quickly alleviate voter struggles, such as forgiving student loan debt, a move the president has pushed off since taking office to the chagrin of party members. ‘I’m a loyal Democrat, but if I have to start paying my student loans again come January I’ll be ready to throw up my hands and chant ‘Let’s go, Brandon,’’ said a Democratic campaign aide, using the now popular euphemism on the right for ‘f— Joe Biden.’ Other Democrats second-guessed Biden’s decision to spend months entertaining the whims of different members of Congress over how to sequence and organize his two main bills. But others were more sympathetic, arguing that Biden was correct to be patient and deferential to the Hill on his social spending plan, which would boost aid to families and make historic investments in combating climate change. The president, they say, can’t fully sell his proposals until Democrats in both chambers actually agree on the legislative language around them. Biden himself has acknowledged the unease around his performance. In the wake of Tuesday’s elections, he argued that Democrats must move swiftly with his legislation. But asked whether swifter passage would have improved national conditions for Democrats, he said he was unsure. Some party veterans said more contrition would have been helpful.” • Oh, man. “Contrition.” Can you imagine?

As of this morning:

Also as of this morning:

As of this afternoon:

The BBB is still a fifteen-foot ladder when we’re in a thirty-foot hole. But looking purely at the party politics, the “progressives,” with a strategy of embracing Biden, have emerged in better shape than ever. The moderates look like the corrupt shills they are. (Huddling over CBO scoring? Really?) And the horrid gerontocratic leadership is weaker. (Notice that the leadership responded to Tuesday’s debacle with family leave, not with “pay for” foo-frah.) And Biden, though not stronger in the party, seems to me no weaker. Who, exactly, would take him down? (Again, I think Biden always wanted Manchin’s $1.75 figure, give or take. It’s a neat trick to give Manchin what his donors want while also weakening him, and his allies, as national figures. If I could follow Biden’s slowly firing synapses as he gamed this all out, he thinks — as a Party man — the future of the Party is with the “progressives.” That’s why Jayapal has a strong back channel to Klain, for example. Call me a foolish optimist! (I have to confess that I don’t hate Biden, because a father with a lovable scamp like Hunter for a son must have some p*ss and vinegar in him, unlike so many of our bloodless technocrats ***cough*** Obama ***cough***)).

“Backdoor, mega-Roth provisions added back to Democrats’ Build Back Better Act” [Pensions & Investments]. “The bill under consideration in the House would close so-called backdoor Roth IRA strategies by prohibiting all employee after-tax contributions in qualified plans and after-tax individual retirement account contributions from being converted to Roth regardless of income level. It would also eliminate Roth conversions for both IRAs and employer-sponsored plans for single taxpayers (or taxpayers married but filing separately) with taxable income over $400,000, married taxpayers filing jointly with taxable income over $450,000 and heads of households with taxable income over $425,000. Moreover…. ” • There’s more detail after “Moreover.”

Democrats en Deshabille

“Truck Driver Edward Durr Unseats New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney” [CBS New York]. “‘I want this job. I don’t want all the fame, but I want this job,’ Durr said. ‘I want to be the voice. I want to be somebody who can speak for the people. Because, one, I got a big mouth, so I like to make myself heard.’ Durr describes himself as Christian and blue collar with strong conservative beliefs. He’s a member of the National Rifle Association and a truck driver for Raymour & Flanigan. He barely campaigned, and his campaign video was shot from a smartphone. He defeated Sweeney by a little more than 2,200 votes. ‘It didn’t happen because of me. I’m nobody. I’m just a simple guy,’ Durr said. ‘It was a repudiation of the policies that have been forced down our throat, people told they can’t go to school, can’t go shopping. You cannot continue to tell people they can’t do things when we live in the freest country in the world.’ As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reports, Durr channeled voter outrage over government dysfunction, taxes and coronavirus shutdowns.” • The PMC’s public health debacle continues to play out.

“Phil Rocco on the Democrats’ trick handcuffs” [Sick Note]. “Members of Congress aren’t handcuffed to the current [CBO] scorekeeping regime, or even to the results of a single commissioned study. These institutions are, at best, trick handcuffs: congressional coalitions create them and can alter them when they want to. Or, more appropriately, when they receive intense, cross-cutting pressure to do so. And when these institutions hobble the thriving of large majorities of Americans, we have a responsibility to scrutinize how they work, to question their assumptions, and demand change.” • My metaphor has been “auto-kinbaku-bi” (self-administered Japanese rope bondage), but perhaps “trick handcuffs” is simpler and better.

I said Eric Adams would go far, but I wasn’t sure in which direction:


“A Year Ahead of the Midterms, Suburban Erosion Has Driven Biden’s State-by-State Decline” [Morning Consult]. “When it comes to The Cook Political Report’s nine most competitive Senate battlegrounds, Biden’s net approval rating has fallen underwater in the suburbs of all states except New Hampshire since the first quarter of the year, tugging on his popularity in states that feature open-seat contests such as North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Biden’s suburban stumbles haven’t weighed down the most vulnerable Democratic senators to the same extent — apart from Mark Kelly of Arizona.” • Possibly. I’m not sure I accept “the suburbs” as a category; it seems a bit of a catchall. As with Covid, I want whatever the political equivalent of epidemiology is, plus mechanisms. Of course, with our press in rubble outside the Beltway, that can can be hard to come by.

Realignment and Legitimacy

He’s got a point:

On the question of whether “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) so-called, is being taught in the Virginia Schools, I went to the Virginia Department of Education site and searched on “critical”. From Superintendent’s Memo #050-19, under “Dr. Lane’s February Reading List,” we find:

As far as the State goes, that’s basically it. However, the public school teachers I have known are extremely time-conscious. Don’t put a book in front of them if you don’t expect them to read it, which they will certainly do if they feel it will help them in the classroom. So, I would speculate CRT propagated at the School Board level via consultants and curricula, and at the teacher level via lesson planning, rather in the manner of the educational equivalent of The Blob, as opposed to the Bolshevik Party (I wish!), which seems to be the sort of agent that conservatives have in mind.

“There Are No Refs” [Freddie DeBoer]. “This is something liberals do relentlessly, appealing to some shadowy and vague arbiter of what’s fair. Hey, Republicans are pulling dirty tricks!, they complain again and again. But who is listening? What tribunal of wise judges does Scocca think is reading his tweets? What arbiter is ready to dispense justice? Too many in the left-of-center intelligentsia in this country grew up in contexts where fairness matters, where you could always count on mom or the teacher or the HR department to mete out justice. But life doesn’t work that way. There are no refs. “Republicans only won because of racism.” Yes, it’s impossible to imagine voters rejecting the party of Andrew Cuomo and Kyrsten Sinema and Gavin Newsome for any reason other than racism, agreed. So what? Who do you think is going to come and correct that injustice for you? The only opinion that matters is that of the voters, and they think your whining about unfairness makes you look weak…. They get more out of being a sighing chorus of other liberals than they do from winning, so winning doesn’t concern them much…. [They] don’t do introspection, they don’t do self-criticism, they never look within. They appeal to nonexistent refs and ask the universe, ‘why?’” • Unpacking Thomas Frank’s “aghastitude” very neatly.

“Progressives bare teeth after election debacle” [Politico]. “Progressive candidates also looked to quickly shape the narrative in the wake of the election. In a memo to his surrogates and allies, which was obtained by POLITICO, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s campaign for Senate wrote that ‘if we learned anything last night, it’s that Democrats can’t continue to completely cede rural counties to Republicans” and made the case that he is the candidate who can cut into Republicans’ margins of victory in those areas. Democrats cannot afford to run the same old playbook or the same old Washington candidate’ in the Pennsylvania Senate race, it read. Some progressive leaders, meanwhile, sought to lower the temperature among Democrats. ‘I am not in the blame game here. I’m about trying to get things done, and we’re going to pass both these bills through the House,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told POLITICO. ‘That’s what I took from last night’s election, is that families across the country are hurting and they want us to help them, and that’s what we’re going to do with the Build Back Better agenda.’” In other words, Jayapal took the high road. And Ilhan Omar took the low road: “Rep. Ilhan Omar retweeted a progressive commentator who chirped, ‘Can’t wait for the left to be blamed for a not at all left democrat losing a D+10 state.’” • Ouch! Nice to see “progressives” managing to dodge the blame cannons and control the narrative, if only for one night.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Unemployment Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The US unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent in October 2021, the lowest since March 2020 and slightly below market expectations of 4.7 percent. The labor market continued to gradually recover from the pandemic hit, helped by a surge in demand for labor, record levels of job openings, the expiration of enhanced jobless benefits and the subsiding summer wave of COVID-19 infections. The number of unemployed people declined by 255 thousand to 7.4 million in October, while employment levels rose by 359 thousand to 154.0 million. Still, the unemployment rate remained well above the pre-crisis level of about 3.5 percent, amid reports of persistent worker shortages.” Comment:

As usual.

Employment Situation: “United States Non Farm Payrolls” [Trading Economics]. “The US economy added 531K jobs in October of 2021, the most in 3 months and above market forecasts of 450K as Covid-19 cases dropped and employers offered higher wages and more flexible hours. The biggest job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality (164K), in professional and business services (100K), in manufacturing (60K), and in transportation and warehousing (54K) while employment in public education declined (-65K).”

Employment Situation: “United States Average Hourly Earnings YoY” [Trading Economics]. “Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 4.9 year-on-year in October of 2021, in line with market expectations, following a 4.6 percent gain in the previous month.”

Employment Situation: “United States Labor Force Participation Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 61.6 percent in October 2021 and has remained within a narrow range of 61.4 percent to 61.7 percent since June 2020. The participation rate is 1.7 percentage points lower than in February 2020.”

Logistics: “United States LMI Logistics Managers Index Current” [Trading Economics]. “The Logistics Manager’s Index edged up to 72.6 in October of 2021 from 72.2 in September, pointing to a continuing expansion in the logistics sector, fueled primarily by involving capacity, cost and upstream inventories. The transportation crunch remains particularly pronounced, with the Transportation Prices subindex above 90 for the 7th time in the last 8 months while the Warehousing Prices gauge reached a record high of 89.3, a 4th consecutive record. Also, the Warehousing Space was down slightly to 47.6, marking the 13th consecutive month of contraction, and leading to a continue increase in Warehousing Utilization (up to 71.4), mainly because there is nowhere else for inventory to go.”

* * *

The Bezzle: “Nike applies for trademarks to make and sell VIRTUAL shoes and clothes in the metaverse: Apparel maker is also looking to hire someone to ‘usher us into the virtual world” [Daily Mail]. • What metaverse?

Tech: “35 Internal Code Words Facebook Uses to Talk About Its Users and Tools” [Gizomodo]. It’s a glossary. “[FUSS] for “Facebook Unified Signal Sharing/Feed Unified Scoring System. Internally, the Integrity team would classify posts on people’s newsfeeds under different FUSS categories depending on the ‘quality’ of that given entity. Low-quality posts were labeled ‘FUSS Red,’ “borderline” content was labeled ‘FUSS Yellow,’ and regular, high-quality posts were ‘FUSS Green.’ The research team also ran an experiment known as ‘FUSS Black,’ which was their attempt to filter out as much Red and Yellow content from a given feed as possible.”• Come on. There are no “regular, high-quality” Facebook posts. (The moral I drew from this article is that moderation at scale is not possible, no matter how many algos are involved.)

Tech: “Waterfox: A Firefox fork that could teach Mozilla a lesson” [The Register]. “The problem with Firefox Quantum is that it also dropped a very significant feature: Netscape’s XUL-based extension engine, added way back in 1997. To quote the Classic Addons Archive, dropping XUL meant losing “19,450 Firefox add-ons created by 14,274 developers over the past 15 years.” At a stroke this crippled one of Firefox’s killer features: how users could extensively customise it – unlike, say, Google Chrome…. Mozilla was the power users’ browser, even in the early days of Mozilla 0.6 and 0.7, when it became the default browser for almost all Linux distributions. Products based on Mozilla’s technologies, including Rust and KaiOS, are used by hundreds of millions of people, even if they have no idea of it. Firefox doesn’t need to be No. 1, but the Mozilla Foundation should stop trying to copy Chrome and try learning from its many forks and spinoffs.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 82 Extreme Greed (previous close: 82 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 72 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 4 at 12:31pm.

Health Care

“Single-dose intranasal vaccination elicits systemic and mucosal immunity against SARS-CoV-2” [Cell]. “The current intramuscular vaccines are designed to elicit systemic immunity without conferring mucosal immunity in the nasal compartment, which is the first barrier that SARS-CoV-2 virus breaches before dissemination to the lung. We report the development of an intranasal subunit vaccine that uses lyophilized spike protein and liposomal STING agonist as an adjuvant. This vaccine induces systemic neutralizing antibodies, IgA in the lung and nasal compartments, and T-cell responses in the lung of mice. Single-cell RNA sequencing confirmed the coordinated activation of T/B-cell responses in a germinal center-like manner within the nasal-associated lymphoid tissues, confirming its role as an inductive site to enable durable immunity. The ability to elicit immunity in the respiratory tract can prevent the establishment of infection in individuals and prevent disease transmission.” • Woot!

“COVID-19 Vaccines May Not Prevent Nasal SARS-CoV-2 Infection and Asymptomatic Transmission” [Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery]. From the Abtract: “Current COVID-19 vaccine candidates are administered by injection and designed to produce an IgG response, preventing viremia and the COVID-19 syndrome. However, systemic respiratory vaccines generally provide limited protection against viral replication and shedding within the airway, as this requires a local mucosal secretory IgA response. Indeed, preclinical studies of adenovirus and mRNA candidate vaccines demonstrated persistent virus in nasal swabs despite preventing COVID-19. This suggests that systemically vaccinated patients, while asymptomatic, may still be become infected and transmit live virus from the upper airway. COVID-19 is known to spread through respiratory droplets and aerosols.” From February 2021, still germane.

“Diet-related diseases pose a major risk for Covid-19. But the U.S. overlooks them.” [Politico]. Of all places. “Other countries, too, have ramped up action as officials begin to recognize diet-related diseases such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes have made their citizens much more vulnerable during the pandemic. Some states in Mexico recently went as far as banning junk food sales to children — on top of the country’s existing taxes on sugary drinks and fast food. Chile was already deep in its own crackdown on unhealthy products, having imposed the first mandatory, national warning labels for foods with high levels of salt, sugar and fat along with a ban on marketing such foods to kids. In Washington, there has been no such wake-up call about the link between diet-related diseases and the pandemic. There is no national strategy. There is no systemswide approach, even as researchers increasingly recognize that obesity is a disease that is driven not by lack of willpower, but a modern society and food system that’s almost perfectly designed to encourage the overeating of empty calories, along with more stress, less sleep and less daily exercise, setting millions on a path to poor health outcomes that is extremely difficult to break from. ‘Nobody is doing anything about this. Nobody is saying this has to stop,’ said Marion Nestle, a longtime New York University professor and author of numerous books about food policy. ‘And how do we stop it? With great difficulty and political will.’ ‘If you’re going to do anything about it, you have to take on the food industry, which no one wants to do,’ she added.”

“Summary of CO2 Limits Worldwide” (Google Doc). Aireamos-International. Draft. A listing.


“Study Suggests Coronavirus Infections Rampant in Iowa Deer” [MedScape]. “A study of coronavirus infections among white-tailed deer in Iowa found that about 80% of deer sampled across the state between April 2020 and January 2021 were infected with the virus. Between November and January, the prevalence of infection in the deer was about 50 times greater than that among Iowa’s human residents, according to Suresh Kuchipudi, PhD, a veterinary microbiologist and one of the lead researchers on the study. Genomic sequencing found that the virus lineages circulating among deer at different times correlated with those circulating among humans, suggesting that the virus is spreading to the deer from humans. There is currently no evidence of the deer transmitting the virus back to people, but scientists are concerned that, if this does happen, the deer could spread mutated versions that are potentially more virulent and resistant to the current COVID vaccines. While the study results have not yet been published, deer hunters in several states have been warned to take precautions, such as by wearing rubber gloves and a mask when handling white-tailed deer.”


“Want To Know What’s In Your Water?” [The Brockovich Report]. Yes, that Brockovich. “We can’t solve all these issues overnight, but we can help spread awareness and give more people tools and information to fight back. The first step is knowing what chemicals have been detected in your tap water. That’s why I’m so excited for Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) newly released update to the Tap Water Database, adding two more years of test results from nearly 50,000 water utilities across all 50 states and cataloging more than 320 contaminants.”

Sports Desk

“Dues Paid in Full, the Braves Are World Champions” [Sports Illustrated]. “And then there is Brian Snitker, the Atlanta manager who doubles as the patron saint of dues paying. Snitker has devoted 45 years of his life to the Braves, most of it ingloriously, such as thrice getting demoted from a big league coaching job—once so shockingly undeserved that he nearly quit the game he loves—before finally reaching the World Series this year. When you ride buses as much as Snitker did, you learn important lessons, such as not to drink the beer on those buses. ‘I learned, because then you have to go to the bathroom,’ he says. ‘And on minor league bus rides guys are sleeping everywhere. They are sprawled across seats. They’re sleeping in the aisle. They’re sleeping in the luggage racks. My goodness, you are stepping on people in the dark to get to the bathroom in the back. So I stopped drinking on the bus.’ Such are the lessons of an earthy, humbled soul. Forty-five years sometimes seemed like a longer version of the 10-hour bus ride from Savannah to Memphis when Snitker was playing in the Southern League in the 1970s. Snitker and the Savannah Braves traveled on a yellow school bus with no air conditioning. There was no professional driver. The team trainer drove the bus, though sometimes a roving instructor such as Cito Gaston would get behind the big wheel to give the poor trainer a break. Snitker can still feel the rivets in the metal, unpadded armrests pushing mockingly into his skin, as beads of sweat gathered and dripped in ceaseless protest to the hot, thick Southern evening air found intolerable by all life forms but gnats and mosquitoes. ‘Oh, no, there’s nothing fair about it,’ says Ronnie Snitker, Brian’s wife, about this great game of baseball. ‘But you just have to keep taking your lumps and go through it. And look what we did.’” • I checked The New Yorker, but the last article from Roger Angell is from 2020…

Groves of Academe

I assume “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion”:

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“‘Complicated jury selection’ ends with ‘intentional discrimination’ at Ahmaud Arbery death trial: Only 1 Black person to hear case” [USA Today]. “Prosecutors had asked Walmsley to reinstate eight Black potential jurors, arguing that defense lawyers struck them from the final jury because of their race. The U.S. Supreme Court has held it’s unconstitutional for attorneys during jury selection to strike potential jurors solely based on race or ethnicity…. While Walmsley agreed that there “appears to be intentional discrimination,” the judge declined to change the racial makeup, saying he was limited in his ability to take action because defense attorneys were able to give nonracial reasons for their decisions to strike the potential Black jurors from the panel.”

“Nikole Hannah-Jones Keeps Her Eyes on the Prize” [Vanity Fair]. “As the creator and public face of the project, which includes contributions from acclaimed reporters and essayists, Hannah-Jones has received—along with the praise—the brunt of the hate. Her name has become a cultural signifier of the power of investigative journalism, or a dog whistle to the politicians and commentators who use her life’s work as evidence of a conspiracy to take the country away from white people.” • No. Her “life’s work” is bad scholarship that she used to move to the front row in the chorus of professional “voices.”

Guillotine Watch


When archeologists dig this up, they’re going to think it’s the ugliest, crassest object they’ve ever seen. Why do today’s squillionaires have such wretched taster?

Class Warfare

“#PizzaIsNotWorking: Inside the Pharmacist Rebellion at CVS and Walgreens” [Matt Stoller, BIG]. “many pharmacists are now employees of big chains. And yet working as a pharmacist for a giant chain has also become increasingly difficult. Work loads have doubled over the last ten years, pay is down, and student debt loads are up (to nearly $200,000 for a recent graduate), even as the profits of Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart skyrocket. And that was before Covid, which put extra strain on pharmacists and technicians. The worker stories coming out of the chain pharmacy world are awful. No bathroom breaks. No time for meals. Unforgiving corporate metrics like demerits for taking too long to answer the phone or fill prescriptions, requirements to ask a certain number of people per week to get a flu shot, and always a relentless push for more items to do than time to do them. And these sweatshop conditions for medical professionals don’t just mean an unpleasant day for a pharmacist or technician, it means more mistakes, and accidental deaths. In fact, before the pandemic, the third leading cause of death in America was medical errors, at between 250,000 and 440,000 people a year, roughly the the size of Reno, Nevada dying annually. And of course, when there are safety issues caused by understaffing, the chains don’t stand by their pharmacists in front of state boards of pharmacy. If a pharmacist loses his or her license, they can’t practice. All of this has caused deep concern within the profession. ‘I am a danger to the public working for CVS,’ one pharmacist wrote in an anonymous letter to the Texas State Board of Pharmacy in April. Public officials and corporate executives have been hearing the complaints for years. But when things get really bad, the typical response from higher-ups for flagging morale is to… buy their pharmacists pizza. And that condescension from corporate executives and human resources officials is what finally lit the spark.” • And, as is becoming more usual, the workers have leverage. (Just wait ’til the pharmacies start developing supply chain issues.)

News of the Wired

“The deconstructed Standard Model equation” [symmetry]. “The Standard Model of particle physics is often visualized as a table, similar to the periodic table of elements, and used to describe particle properties, such as mass, charge and spin. The table is also organized to represent how these teeny, tiny bits of matter interact with the fundamental forces of nature.But it didn’t begin as a table. The grand theory of almost everything actually represents a collection of several mathematical models that proved to be timeless interpretations of the laws of physics. … This version of the Standard Model is written in the Lagrangian form. The Lagrangian is a fancy way of writing an equation to determine the state of a changing system and explain the maximum possible energy the system can maintain. Technically, the Standard Model can be written in several different formulations, but, despite appearances, the Lagrangian is one of the easiest and most compact ways of presenting the theory.”

“Easy,” they said. “Compact,” they said.

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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:

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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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