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Capo di tutti i Capi

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 6:30am in



Traditional mafia trash talk from the Republicans’ favorite Governor:

Ross Douthat thinks he’s the bees knees:

DeSantis’s career has been a distillation of this Florida-Republican adaptability. Born in Jacksonville, he went from being a double-Ivy Leaguer (Yale and Harvard Law) to a Tea Party congressman to a zealous Trump defender who won the president’s endorsement for his gubernatorial campaign. A steady march rightward, it would seem — except that after winning an extremely narrow victory over Andrew Gillum in 2018, DeSantis then swung back to the center, with educational and environmental initiatives and African-American outreach that earned him 60 percent approval ratings in his first year in office.

Combine that moderate swing with the combative persona DeSantis has developed during the pandemic, and you can see a model for post-Trump Republicanism that might — might — be able to hold the party’s base while broadening the G.O.P.’s appeal. You can think of it as a series of careful two-steps. Raise teacher’s salaries while denouncing critical race theory and left-wing indoctrination. Spend money on conservation and climate change mitigation through a program that carefully doesn’t mention climate change itself. Choose a Latina running mate while backing E-Verify laws. Welcome conflict with the press, but try to make sure you’re on favorable ground.

This is not exactly the kind of Republicanism that the party’s donor class wanted back in 2012: DeSantis is to their right on immigration and social issues, and arguably to their left on spending. But the trauma of Trumpism has taught the G.O.P. elite that some compromise with base politics is inevitable, and right now DeSantis seems like the safest version of that compromise — Trump-y when necessary, but not Trump-y all the time.

Of course all of this means that he may soon attract the ire of a certain former president, who has zero interest in someone besides himself being the party front-runner for 2024. And the idea that a non-Trump front-runner could be anointed early and actually win seems at odds with everything we’ve seen from the G.O.P. recently.

Then, too, having the press as your constant foil and enemy isn’t necessarily a plus if they manage to come up with something genuinely damaging. There is a resemblance between DeSantis and Chris Christie, who looked like a 2016 front-runner before certain difficulties involving a bridge intervened.

Still, if you were betting on someone who could theoretically run against Trump, mano a mano, and not simply get squashed, I would put DeSantis ahead of both the defeated Trump rivals (meaning Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz) and the loyal Trump subordinates (meaning Mike Pence or Nikki Haley). Not least because in a party that values performative masculinity, the Florida governor’s odd jock-nerd energy and prickly aggression are qualities Trump hasn’t faced before.

The donor-class hope that Trump will simply fade away still seems naïve. But the donors circling DeSantis at least seem to have learned one important lesson from 2016: If you want voters to say no to Donald Trump, you need to figure out, in a clear and early way, the candidate to whom you want them to say yes.

Apparently donors want a t hug for president who will bend them to his will. Very impressive. And being a total asshole while making some small unnoticed gestures to human decency is abound to appeal to all those suburban women who apparently are going to think he’s just dreamy.

Douthat pushes the increasingly insupportable myth that he has performed super well during the pandemic, particularly compared to those awful blue state Governors.

It’s not true.

Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, must have magic at his fingertips.

We’re not talking about his purported skill at fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re talking about his ability to snow the press into taking at face value the claim that his refusal to impose stringent anti-virus rules and regulations has been an unalloyed success.

The latest publication to fall into line is Politico, which on Thursday posted an article headlined, “How Ron DeSantis won the pandemic.” A companion piece observed that he has “survived the pandemic,” and that “Florida has fared no worse, and in some ways better, than many other states — including its big-state peers.”

We’ve succeeded, and I think that people just don’t want to recognize it because it challenges their narrative.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, last May

Leaving aside that this sort of coverage treats the coronavirus battle as if it’s a sporting contest deserving of up-to-the-minute color commentary, the best that could be said about these judgments is that they’re premature.

The struggle against the pandemic is still going on — in Florida and globally — so why the rush to declare DeSantis the “winner” of a war that could yet be lost?

Politico isn’t alone in anointing DeSantis the victor. So too has the Associated Press, which on March 13 posted an article stating, inadequately, that “despite their differing approaches, California and Florida have experienced almost identical outcomes in COVID-19 case rates.”

CNN came to a similar conclusion. “DeSantis’ gamble to take a laissez faire approach appears to be paying off,” it reported — though it was careful enough to qualify that its judgment applied “at least politically, at least for now.”

Indeed, DeSantis’ record on COVID-19 is attracting attention strictly because of politics. He’s being touted as a leading candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, as silly as it is to speculate today on such a distant a horse race. DeSantis’ COVID record is presented as Exhibit 1 for his front-runner status.

Yet it’s important to recognize that a state’s success or failure in combating COVID-19 depends on a multitude of factors, many of which are outside a governor’s control. Those who claim credit for good-looking statistics may be setting themselves up for a boatload of blame if the numbers turn ugly.

As we’ve remarked before, one thing that sets DeSantis apart from most other governors, red or blue, is his tendency to present himself as the victim of anti-conservative coverage.

He grouses unceasingly about being overlooked by the unsympathetic news media: “We’ve succeeded,” he said truculently on May 20, “and I think that people just don’t want to recognize it because it challenges their narrative.”

Assertions about DeSantis’ success rest on several pillars. One is the claim that Florida hasn’t done quite as badly as experts predicted last year, when DeSantis refused to shut down his state and enforce social hygiene measures such as mask wearing. Another is that the differences in outcomes between Florida and other states, particularly in COVID-related deaths, are supposedly minimal.

The judgment also depends on treating every state as a homogeneous entity, eliding variations of urban vs. rural, rich neighborhoods vs. poor, Black vs. white, and so on. And on treating every state as a hermetically sealed fortress unto itself, as though policies in one state have no impact beyond its borders.

All those factors demand close scrutiny. Since that seldom happens, it falls to us to dive into the details. We’ll match Florida’s experience against California’s, since California is among the more frequent punching bags for DeSantis and his fan base.

Florida’s per-capita death rate has exceeded California’s throughout the pandemic.Florida’s per-capita death rate has exceeded California’s throughout the pandemic.

Let’s take it from the top. It’s arguably true that Florida’s record on the pandemic hasn’t been as bad as was forecast. That’s not the same as saying it’s good. Florida’s COVID death rate is about 155 per 100,000 population, according to data from Johns Hopkins University reported by the Washington Post. California’s is about 141.

The difference isn’t trivial. As my colleagues Soumya Karlamangla and Rong-Gong Lin II observed earlier this month, “If California had Florida’s death rate, roughly 6,000 more Californians would be dead from COVID-19 …. And if Florida had California’s death rate, roughly 3,000 fewer Floridians would be dead from COVID-19.”

As of Friday, Johns Hopkins counts 33,219 COVID deaths in Florida, which has a population of about 21.5 million, compared with 55,795 in California, which has a population of about 40 million. Those figures are a reproach to anyone who tries to assert that the war on COVID-19 has been “won,” in either state.

Yet statewide statistics tell a partial story at best. It’s especially misleading to apply a broad brush to California, one of the most geographically and demographically diverse states in the union. So let’s break the numbers down by county.

By far the worst death rate among large California counties is Los Angeles, at a total of 224.5 deaths per 100,000 residents through the pandemic thus far. As Karlamangla and Lin have explained, L.A. County was uniquely vulnerable to the pandemic, given its high levels of poverty and homelessness and its preponderance of densely packed neighborhoods and multigenerational housing.

L.A. also has a large population of immigrants, many of whom may have been discouraged from seeking COVID testing or treatment during 2020 by the Trump administration’s “public charge” policy, which threatened immigrants with deportation if they sought public services.

The county also has a large population of essential workers — those with little choice but to travel outside their homes to work, heightening their potential for exposure and for passing infection to others.

At the other end of the scale from Los Angeles, however, is San Francisco, which has one of the lowest COVID death rates among major metropolitan areas in the country — 51.4 per 100,000 population.

The Bay Area’s record testifies to the efficacy of stringent anti-pandemic measures: Its counties locked down early and firmly, observe mask wearing and social distancing rules fairly well, and have been cautious about reopening.

No major county in Florida has a death rate anywhere as low as San Francisco’s. The lowest rate is that of Monroe County (the Florida Keys) at 65 per 100,000 population. County authorities shut down tourist businesses on the Keys at the end of March, even erecting roadblocks on U.S. 1, the only highway into or out of the Keys, to prevent non-residents from coming in; the roadblocks came down June 1 but a stringent mask requirement remains in effect in Key West.

The death rates in most of Florida’s major population centers resemble that of Los Angeles: Miami-Dade, the largest, has a rate of 210 deaths per 100,000, Palm Beach 173, Pinellas County (St. Petersburg) 156.

In granular terms, in other words, Florida hasn’t done better than California. Both states are mosaics of rules and regulations, and in both states local conditions and local measures trump those of state governments.

Miami and the Tampa Bay metroplex both have tried to encourage mask wearing and social distancing because their leaders recognize that they face different conditions from rural and less dense regions that have followed DeSantis’ policies; California also has placed pandemic policies in the hands of county officials, with uneven effects.

Florida hasn’t done better than California despite different policies — in the parts of each state that resemble each other demographically, the challenge is similar, and so is the weaponry. And when you put it all together, Florida still does worse overall than California.

Some of DeSantis’ defenders argue that Florida has done better than should have been expected, given that its population is among the oldest, on average, in the country and therefore its residents are especially susceptible to COVID-19.

This is a curious argument, since DeSantis and his sycophants have asserted that the key to his success in combating the pandemic has been taking special care of his state’s seniors. But he can’t have things both ways—either the state’s record has suffered because of its demographics, or he has triumphed over the demographics. Which is it?

One issue that gets consistently glossed over in reporting on DeSantis’ “win” is the degree to which Florida may be exporting its pandemic problem. The state’s beaches and coastal entertainment zones were wide open during last year’s college spring break, and are again this year.

DeSantis loves to boast about the tourism boom in South Florida, but his braggadocio should be a warning for other states. That’s because there are signs that the spring break carousers simply brought their infections and their consequences home with them last year.

Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Ball State University found that COVID case rates in counties with universities that scheduled breaks early in the spring last year rose within a week of students returning to campus, compared to rates in counties with few college students. Mortality rates began to rise in those locations three to five weeks after students returned, suggesting that students transmitted their infections to higher-risk (that is, older) people.

They also found that universities with students more likely to travel by air, to New York City and to Florida “contribute[d] more to COVID-19 spread than … universities with less of this travel.”

To put it another way, Florida may welcome spring tourists with open arms, knowing they’ll be someone else’s problem when they become sick and spread their illness far and wide. The virus knows no geographic boundaries, and it’s perfectly content to hitch a ride.

Finally, what about Florida’s economic “boom”? Here’s DeSantis, in full gloat, courtesy of CNN: “If you look at what’s happening in South Florida right now, I mean this place is booming. It would not be booming if it was shut down. Los Angeles isn’t booming. New York City’s not booming. It’s booming here because you can live like a human being.”

The breadth of this boom is open to question. The news articles painting DeSantis as a political winner often feature quotes from contented business owners, but they tend to be bar and restaurant owners and other petty merchants happy that their establishments have remained open.

Politico observed that California’s Disneyland has remained closed while Orlando’s Walt Disney World is open, but fails to mention that Disney World imposes strict social hygiene measures, including mask wearing and social distancing that aren’t part of the DeSantis playbook.

Economic booms are relative. Compared to California, Florida’s economy is a popgun. Its per capita gross domestic product is about $51,200; California’s is $77,500. Florida’s median household income was about $59,200 in 2019; California’s was about $80,440.

Of more pressing significance, Florida’s state budget faced a shortfall of more than $2 billion (at least before Congress enacted a pandemic relief bill with billions of dollars in help for states”). California has recorded a windfall of some $15.5 billion.

The discrepancy isn’t due to differences in civic virtue, but to the states’ divergent tax structures. Florida has no income tax, but California depends heavily on its income tax, which is sensitive to the sort of investment gains seen during 2020. California’s windfall isn’t expected to last beyond this year.

The media’s rush to crown Ron DeSantis as having vanquished COVID-19 looks more like a rush to get in front of a parade every day. But it’s a mug’s game. A lot can happen between now and the next presidential election, and as we’ve seen, the coronavirus is ready and willing to prove everybody wrong.

But I’m afraid “DeSantis the contrarian hero” starting to take on the whiff of received wisdom and he will benefit from it no matter what the statistics say. The media just wants to believe it. It’s fun.

Trump must be starting to get a little bit grumpy about this. Will he be willing to fade into obscurity as his top Florida henchman becomes the star of the party? Stay tuned.


Econometrics — formal modelling that has failed miserably

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 6:14am in



from Lars Syll An ongoing concern is that excessive focus on formal modeling and statistics can lead to neglect of practical issues and to overconfidence in formal results … Analysis interpretation depends on contextual judgments about how reality is to be mapped onto the model, and how the formal analysis results are to be mapped […]

History Is Now, and Global Warming

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 5:49am in



Every April since I first read it, in 2004, I take down and re-read some portions of my copy of The Discovery of Global Warming (Harvard), by Spence Weart. (The author revised and expanded his book in 2008.) I never fail to be moved by the details of the story: not so much his identification of various major players among the scientists – Arrhenius, Milankovitch, Keeling, Bryson, Bolin – but by the account of the countless ways in which the hypothesis that greenhouse gas emissions might lead to climate change was broached, investigated, turned back on itself (more than once), debated and, eventually, confirmed.

In the Sixties, Weart trained as an astrophysicist. After teaching for three years at Caltech, he re-tooled as a historian of science at the University of California at Berkeley. Retired since 2009, he was for thirty-five years director of the Center for the History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics, in College Park, Maryland.

This year, too, I looked at the hypertext site with which Weart supports his much shorter book, updating it annually in February, incorporating all matter of new material. It includes recent scientific findings, policy developments, material from other histories that are beginning to appear. The enormous amount of material is daunting. Several dozen new references were added this year, ranging from 1956 to 2021, bringing the total to more than 3,000 references in all. Then again, all that is also reassuring, exemplifying in one place the warp and woof of discussion taking pace among scientists, of all sorts, that produces the current consensus on all manner of questions, whatever it happens to be. Check out the essay on rapid climate change, for example.

Mainly I was struck by the entirely rewritten Conclusions-Personal Note, reflecting what he describes as “the widely-shared understanding that we have reached the crisis years.”

 Global warming is upon us. It is too late to avoid damage — the annual cost is already many billions of dollars and countless human lives, with worse to come. It is not too late to avoid catastrophe. But we have delayed so long that it will take a great effort, comparable to the effort of fighting a world war— only without the cost in lives and treasure. On the contrary, reducing greenhouse gas pollution will bring gains in prosperity and health. At present the world actually subsidizes fossil fuel and other emissions, costing taxpayers some half a trillion dollars a year in direct payments and perhaps five trillion in indirect expenses. Ending these payments would more than cover the cost of protecting our civilization.

Plenty else is going on in climate policy. President Biden is hosting a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate on Thursday (Earth Day) and Friday. Nobel laureate William Nordhaus pushes next month The Spirit of Green: The Economics of Collisions and Contagions in a Crowded World (Princeton), reinforcing Weart’s conviction that it actually costs GDP not to impose a carbon tax on polluters.  Public Broadcasting will roll out later this month a three-part series in which the BBC follows around climate activist Greta Thunberg in “A Year to Change the World.” And Stewart Brand, who in 1967 published the first Whole Earth Catalog, with its cover photo of Earth seen from space, is the subject of a new documentary, We Are as Gods, about to enter distribution. There is other turmoil as well. But if you are looking for a way to observe Earth Day, reading Spencer Weart’s summing-up is an economical solution.

The post History Is Now, and Global Warming appeared first on Economic Principals.

Maxims to think about on a Sunday afternoon

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 5:00am in



James Fallows passed along this list of useful unsolicited advice from @kevin2kelly. I’m not quite at his age, but I can certainly endorse a good part of it — and now that I think about it, much of the rest. (I’m still learning, obviously.)

Fallows added his own maxim” “Never miss a chance to give a *deserved* compliment.” Absolutely.

Kelly wrote:

It’s my birthday. I’m 68. I feel like pulling up a rocking chair and dispensing advice to the young ‘uns. Here are 68 pithy bits of unsolicited advice which I offer as my birthday present to all of you.

• Learn how to learn from those you disagree with, or even offend you. See if you can find the truth in what they believe.

• Being enthusiastic is worth 25 IQ points.

• Always demand a deadline. A deadline weeds out the extraneous and the ordinary. It prevents you from trying to make it perfect, so you have to make it different. Different is better.

• Don’t be afraid to ask a question that may sound stupid because 99% of the time everyone else is thinking of the same question and is too embarrassed to ask it.

• Being able to listen well is a superpower. While listening to someone you love keep asking them “Is there more?”, until there is no more.

• A worthy goal for a year is to learn enough about a subject so that you can’t believe how ignorant you were a year earlier.

• Gratitude will unlock all other virtues and is something you can get better at.

• Treating a person to a meal never fails, and is so easy to do. It’s powerful with old friends and a great way to make new friends.

• Don’t trust all-purpose glue.

• Reading to your children regularly will bond you together and kickstart their imaginations.

• Never use a credit card for credit. The only kind of credit, or debt, that is acceptable is debt to acquire something whose exchange value is extremely likely to increase, like in a home. The exchange value of most things diminishes or vanishes the moment you purchase them. Don’t be in debt to losers.

• Pros are just amateurs who know how to gracefully recover from their mistakes.

• Extraordinary claims should require extraordinary evidence to be believed.

• Don’t be the smartest person in the room. Hangout with, and learn from, people smarter than yourself. Even better, find smart people who will disagree with you.

• Rule of 3 in conversation. To get to the real reason, ask a person to go deeper than what they just said. Then again, and once more. The third time’s answer is close to the truth.

• Don’t be the best. Be the only.

• Everyone is shy. Other people are waiting for you to introduce yourself to them, they are waiting for you to send them an email, they are waiting for you to ask them on a date. Go ahead.

• Don’t take it personally when someone turns you down. Assume they are like you: busy, occupied, distracted. Try again later. It’s amazing how often a second try works. [Don’t be a pest though or you will turn yourself into a stalker. Learn how to take no for an answer, too. — digby]

• The purpose of a habit is to remove that action from self-negotiation. You no longer expend energy deciding whether to do it. You just do it. Good habits can range from telling the truth, to flossing.

• Promptness is a sign of respect.

• When you are young spend at least 6 months to one year living as poor as you can, owning as little as you possibly can, eating beans and rice in a tiny room or tent, to experience what your “worst” lifestyle might be. That way any time you have to risk something in the future you won’t be afraid of the worst case scenario.

• Trust me: There is no “them”.

• The more you are interested in others, the more interesting they find you. To be interesting, be interested.

• Optimize your generosity. No one on their deathbed has ever regretted giving too much away.

• To make something good, just do it. To make something great, just re-do it, re-do it, re-do it. The secret to making fine things is in remaking them.

• The Golden Rule will never fail you. It is the foundation of all other virtues.

• If you are looking for something in your house, and you finally find it, when you’re done with it, don’t put it back where you found it. Put it back where you first looked for it.

• Saving money and investing money are both good habits. Small amounts of money invested regularly for many decades without deliberation is one path to wealth.

• To make mistakes is human. To own your mistakes is divine. Nothing elevates a person higher than quickly admitting and taking personal responsibility for the mistakes you make and then fixing them fairly. If you mess up, fess up. It’s astounding how powerful this ownership is.

• Never get involved in a land war in Asia.

• You can obsess about serving your customers/audience/clients, or you can obsess about beating the competition. Both work, but of the two, obsessing about your customers will take you further.

• Show up. Keep showing up. Somebody successful said: 99% of success is just showing up.

• Separate the processes of creation from improving. You can’t write and edit, or sculpt and polish, or make and analyze at the same time. If you do, the editor stops the creator. While you invent, don’t select. While you sketch, don’t inspect. While you write the first draft, don’t reflect. At the start, the creator mind must be unleashed from judgement.

• If you are not falling down occasionally, you are just coasting.

• Perhaps the most counter-intuitive truth of the universe is that the more you give to others, the more you’ll get. Understanding this is the beginning of wisdom.

• Friends are better than money. Almost anything money can do, friends can do better. In so many ways a friend with a boat is better than owning a boat.

• This is true: It’s hard to cheat an honest man.

• When an object is lost, 95% of the time it is hiding within arm’s reach of where it was last seen. Search in all possible locations in that radius and you’ll find it.

• You are what you do. Not what you say, not what you believe, not how you vote, but what you spend your time on.

• If you lose or forget to bring a cable, adapter or charger, check with your hotel. Most hotels now have a drawer full of cables, adapters and chargers others have left behind, and probably have the one you are missing. You can often claim it after borrowing it.

• Hatred is a curse that does not affect the hated. It only poisons the hater. Release a grudge as if it was a poison.

• There is no limit on better. Talent is distributed unfairly, but there is no limit on how much we can improve what we start with.

• Be prepared: When you are 90% done any large project (a house, a film, an event, an app) the rest of the myriad details will take a second 90% to complete.

• When you die you take absolutely nothing with you except your reputation.

• Before you are old, attend as many funerals as you can bear, and listen. Nobody talks about the departed’s achievements. The only thing people will remember is what kind of person you were while you were achieving.

• For every dollar you spend purchasing something substantial, expect to pay a dollar in repairs, maintenance, or disposal by the end of its life.

•Anything real begins with the fiction of what could be. Imagination is therefore the most potent force in the universe, and a skill you can get better at. It’s the one skill in life that benefits from ignoring what everyone else knows.

• When crisis and disaster strike, don’t waste them. No problems, no progress.

• On vacation go to the most remote place on your itinerary first, bypassing the cities. You’ll maximize the shock of otherness in the remote, and then later you’ll welcome the familiar comforts of a city on the way back.

• When you get an invitation to do something in the future, ask yourself: would you accept this if it was scheduled for tomorrow? Not too many promises will pass that immediacy filter.

• Don’t say anything about someone in email you would not be comfortable saying to them directly, because eventually they will read it.

• If you desperately need a job, you are just another problem for a boss; if you can solve many of the problems the boss has right now, you are hired. To be hired, think like your boss.

• Art is in what you leave out.

• Acquiring things will rarely bring you deep satisfaction. But acquiring experiences will.

• Rule of 7 in research. You can find out anything if you are willing to go seven levels. If the first source you ask doesn’t know, ask them who you should ask next, and so on down the line. If you are willing to go to the 7th source, you’ll almost always get your answer.

• How to apologize: Quickly, specifically, sincerely.

• Don’t ever respond to a solicitation or a proposal on the phone. The urgency is a disguise.

• When someone is nasty, rude, hateful, or mean with you, pretend they have a disease. That makes it easier to have empathy toward them which can soften the conflict.

• Eliminating clutter makes room for your true treasures.

• You really don’t want to be famous. Read the biography of any famous person.

• Experience is overrated. When hiring, hire for aptitude, train for skills. Most really amazing or great things are done by people doing them for the first time.

• A vacation + a disaster = an adventure.

• Buying tools: Start by buying the absolute cheapest tools you can find. Upgrade the ones you use a lot. If you wind up using some tool for a job, buy the very best you can afford.

• Learn how to take a 20-minute power nap without embarrassment.

• Following your bliss is a recipe for paralysis if you don’t know what you are passionate about. A better motto for most youth is “master something, anything”. Through mastery of one thing, you can drift towards extensions of that mastery that bring you more joy, and eventually discover where your bliss is.

• I’m positive that in 100 years much of what I take to be true today will be proved to be wrong, maybe even embarrassingly wrong, and I try really hard to identify what it is that I am wrong about today.

• Over the long term, the future is decided by optimists. To be an optimist you don’t have to ignore all the many problems we create; you just have to imagine improving our capacity to solve problems.

• The universe is conspiring behind your back to make you a success. This will be much easier to do if you embrace this pronoia.

There’s a lot of good stuff in there well worth pondering.


The Gatekeeper: Adam Tooze On Paul Krugman’s Evolution

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 4:46am in

The Gatekeeper: Adam Tooze On Paul Krugman’s Evolution

Snip from a Paul Krugman article from the 90s.

Adam Tooze has a nice essay on evolution on Paul Krugman’s views. It’s decent although I would critique much more if I were to write it.

There was one part which was quite amusing to me:

The hour and a half Krugman spent laying out his new trade theory at the National Bureau of Economic Research in July 1979 was, he later wrote, ‘the best ninety minutes of my life. There’s a corny scene in the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter in which the young Loretta Lynn performs for the first time in a noisy bar, and little by little everyone gets quiet and starts to listen to her singing. Well, that’s what it felt like: I had, all at once, made it.’

Imagine being so wrong but feeling this way.

Paul Krugman has shifted his views but it’s not as if he has changed for the better to benefit mankind. He is still doing whatever as an establishment hack, trying to preserve power for top corporations.

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 18, 2021

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 4:04am in



by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Michael Hudson: America’s Neoliberal Financialization Policy vs. China’s Industrial Socialism
Michael Hudson, April 15, 2021 [Naked Capitalism]

US West prepares for possible 1st water shortage declaration

[Associated Press, via Mike Norman Economics, April 17, 2021]

The Pandemic

India’s health system has collapsed
[Hindustani Times, via Mike Norman Economics, April 16, 2021]

The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

Shifting Balance of Power?
Barry Ritholtz, April 16, 2021 [The Big Picture]

A massive shift is occurring in the labor market today, one that has been misinterpreted by economists of all stripes…. fear of the virus is a valid reason keeping people from low paying jobs requiring interaction with potentially deadly, infectious members of the public. “Who the hell wants to risk their lives for $8 an hour before taxes?

….I suspect it is something broader, more than merely the economic recovery being impacted by Covid. Maybe more of a significant change, perhaps even a secular reversal of the longstanding power dynamic between capital and labor.

“Investors lament being frozen out of Biden infrastructure plan” [Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-13-21] “President Joe Biden’s ‘American jobs plan’, unveiled last month, calls for $2tn of investment in highways, electrical grids and other basic infrastructure. At the same time, the White House put forward corporate tax reforms that it said would generate enough money to pay for the investment spree within 15 years. That has disappointed some investors and asset managers who once expected public-private partnerships would be a lucrative financing opportunity.”


…By the late 1960s/early 70s, the economy began shifting. Rising inflation and the collapse of unions were but two factors impacting this once idyllic economy. The next the next half century saw an ongoing increase in corporate power, both politically and economically. There is a longer discussion to be had about how the Supreme Court of the United States made some truly boneheaded WTF?!? decisions – Corporations are peoplemoney is speech– as part of that ideologically driven shift. You can debate the jurisprudence or ideology behind these, but the results were a widespread decrease in the standard of living for many Americans. Political donations and lobbying that were once seen as corrupt graft became the norm. Thanks, SCOTUS!

Biden infrastructure plan upsets investors 

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-13-21]

Lambert Strether: “The sucking mandibles are helpfully shaded red.”

Joe Biden Wants to Put the World’s Corporate Tax Havens Out of Business

[Slate, via The Big Picture 4-12-2021]

The administration is vowing to fund a historically ambitious infrastructure and economic modernization plan in part by solving one of the thorniest problems created by global capitalism. “If implemented, such an international agreement would lead to a collapse of the development model of tax havens. A high global minimum tax can change the face of globalization.”

Health Care Crisis

Medicaid Estate Claims: Perpetuating Poverty & Inequality for a Minimal Return

[Justice in Aging, via Naked Capitalism 4-11-2021]

See NC here and here, in 2014, which would be 2021 – 2014 = seven years ago.

Federal law requires state Medicaid programs to seek repayment of specified Medicaid benefits, even if the state would prefer not to seek such recovery. The Medicaid program’s claim is enforced against the heirs of now deceased persons who relied on Medicaid, forcing the heirs in many cases to sell a family home that otherwise would have been passed down.

The burden of estate claims falls disproportionately on economically oppressed families and communities of color, preventing families from building wealth through home ownership, which has been historically denied to communities of color through discriminatory public policy. The burden also falls inequitably on families due to medical unpredictability – for example, because their family member developed Alzheimer’s Disease, needing months or years of nursing home care or equivalent home and community-based services.

This unpredictability is exacerbated by inequities in our health care system that particularly harm lower-income and older adults of color. All these factors contribute to estate claim collections being unfair and societally counterproductive.

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-12-21]

“Long-Term Unemployment Is Headed The Wrong Way”

[Econintersect, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-16-21]

“We are witnessing a dramatic increase in the duration of unemployment spells. Part of this is due to the impact of Covid19 pandemic concentrated in specific sectors. Part of this is down to the generosity of unemployment benefits supplements and direct subsidies during the pandemic. Part of it is also down to the longer term changes in the U.S. labor markets and changes in households’ composition and investment/consumption patterns. Irrespective of the causes, the problem is obvious: the longer the person remains unemployed, the sharper is the depreciation of skills and their employability. If this (post-2008) experience is the ‘new normal’, America is developing a massive class of disillusioned and human capital poor workers.” Handy chart:

McKinsey & Co. Stealing Puerto Rico Government Funds

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 4-13-2021]

The Crisis of Venture Capital: Fixing America’s Broken Start-Up System

[American Affairs, via The Big Picture 4-17-2021]

Despite all the attention and investment that Silicon Valley’s re­cent start-ups have received, they have done little but lose mon­ey: Uber, Lyft, WeWork, Pinterest, and Snapchat have consistently failed to turn profits, with Uber’s cumulative losses exceeding $25 billion. Even more notorious are bankrupt and discredited start-ups such as Theranos, Luckin Coffee, and Wirecard, which were plagued with management failures, technical problems, or even out­right fraud that auditors failed to notice.

719 Billionaires Own Four Times More Wealth Than Bottom 165 Million Americans

[Common Dreams, April 15, 2021, via DailyPoster]

Big Corporations Now Deploying Woke Ideology the Way Intelligence Agencies Do: As a Disguise

Glenn Greenwald [via Naked Capitalism 4-14-2021]

The Death of Neoliberalism Is Greatly Exaggerated

James Galbraith [Foreign Policy, via Naked Capitalism 4-14-2021]

But the ideology remained. It was what mathematicians called an attractor and astronomers a black hole: a massive blob of thought around which economic policy views revolved. The financial crisis of 2007 to 2009 shook the blob. The complete failure of mainstream economists to foresee the crisis—indeed their denial that it could have been foreseen—was embarrassing. The fact that so many were on the payroll of the perpetrators was even worse. But in the end, the blob survived. In the end, not a single senior economist retired in disgrace nor was a single dissenter or pre-crisis prophet hired to any senior post—and quite possibly not to any junior one—at any of the self-described “top” academic economics departments.

Last year though, the COVID-19 pandemic blew the post-financial crisis world apart….

In this emergency, actions outpaced ideas and created unmistakable facts. Direct federal income supports and unemployment insurance totaling 10 percent of previous national income were enacted. Even larger sums were placed in support of bond markets and by extension of the stock market. Both continued to function. Manufacturing and residential home construction revived even in the teeth of the pandemic. In a seeming vindication of heterodox Modern Monetary Theory, there was no revival of inflation. Neoliberal economists fell in line or fell silent.

The pandemic year combined with other factors—a left turn in the Democratic Party led by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the unexpected deliverance of a narrow Senate majority, and the new president’s own political instincts and experience—gave the United States the rare gift of a progressive political moment. This has already produced the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, bringing financial relief to households, businesses, and state and local government budgets—a prospect that presages a surge of local infrastructure, transportation, and urban projects long blocked by fiscal constraints. A new federal infrastructure, energy, and climate initiative, totaling $2 trillion, is on the horizon….

It is impossible to sensibly treat the United States’ economic problems without having a grip on the global setting and specifically (though not exclusively) on the role of China—a country that only 50 years ago was utterly irrelevant to the economic welfare of the United States. But it is equally impossible to treat the global economy in neoliberal terms and make any sense at all of what is going on.

That’s because China refused to conform to neoliberal ideas. What grew up in China was instead a curious hybrid of what Westerners might recognize as—and, in important cases, actually were—the teachings of economists Adam Smith, Henry George, John Maynard Keynes, and my father John Kenneth Galbraith, flavored by Marxism and adorned with Chinese characteristics. The focus was on continuity, growth, improvement of productive practices, acquisition of new technologies and engineering skills, construction of new cities and transportation systems, social stability, and the elimination of mass poverty—and therefore, the drag of impoverished people on national economic and social life….

In short, the United States has an entirely new set of problems—rooted in the decay of core economic functions, the fragility of its recovery from the last crisis, and its unstable position at the top of the world’s economic pyramid—in the face of a new, hybrid, competing, and non-neoliberal model that shows every sign of lasting success. These structural facts are among those that policymakers must now address with no help from mainstream orthodoxies—and no possibility of returning to the equally deficient orthodoxies of an earlier era either.

But here is the way forward the United States needs for academic economics, for economics education, and for the training of future economic policymakers. That way is to replace the defunct neoliberal dogma and the people who diffuse it with scholars who have practical and historical knowledge of the economic problems, policies, and institutions of the world—and of the United States with all its complexities and details.

Unemployed workers defect and debate their next moves, leaving restaurant owners to contend with a labor shortage The Counter, via Naked Capitalism 4-14-2021]

As Lambert Strether notes: “If only there were some mechanism to match demand and supply.” The neoliberal hatred of the working class remains so strong and is now so ingrained, raising wages to a level at which a worker can actually raise a family — $35 an hour — remains outside the cranial capacity of the PMC. Most of America’s corporate management needs to be forcibly retired. 

Creating new economic potential – science and technology

Solar-to-Hydrogen Tech Sees “Remarkable” Efficiency Jump

[IEEE Spectrum, via Naked Capitalism 4-17-2021]

Restoring Balance

The Grassroots Battle To Change America’s Labor Laws

[DailyPoster April 12, 2021]

For the first time ever, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is joining forces with major unions on a national campaign. On March 7, DSA, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Union of Painters and Associated Trades (IUPAT) launched an effort with an ambitious goal: getting Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. If signed into law, the legislation would be the most significant labor rights bill since the New Deal era.

Over the past month, thousands of volunteers and organizers representing both DSA and the unions have made over 500,000 phone calls to voters in key legislators’ home states, asking voters to tell their representatives to support the PRO Act. This month, DSA and the unions plan on escalating the campaign with in-person rallies and town halls.

NEW: The Citizens’ Guide To Holding The Powerful Accountable

[DailyPoster April 12, 2021]

Disrupting mainstream politics

The End of the Insider Party Network

David Dayen, April 15, 2021 [The American Prospect]

The pipeline from corporate America and Democratic insider circles into government is being challenged.

[Naked Capitalism 4-13-2021]

TBH, the reason why I think left/right labels are now wrong is actually simple.

The left, as it’s now, cares more about believing it’s right than power.
The right, as it is now, care more about getting and retaining power than any “right or wrong”.

“Why Should We Vote for a Party that Holds Us in Contempt?” – A Viewer Comment

Paul Jay [via Naked Capitalism 4-13-2021]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 4-13-2021]

“Sen. Mark Kelly Is Emerging As An Obstacle To The Pro Act”

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-13-21]

“SEN. MARK KELLY has resisted co-sponsoring a major piece of labor law reform legislation known as the PRO Act, citing a policy of not endorsing measures that don’t also have Republican support, according to sources familiar with the reasoning provided to advocates of the bill. Winning Kelly’s support for the legislation is crucial, as it is hoped that if he comes on board he could bring his Arizona colleague, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, with him, leaving backers just three cosponsors short of the 50 that would bring the bill to the floor. Kelly has told advocates that he doesn’t want to be the only Arizona senator to cosponsor the bill, so backers of the bill are hoping to win the two in tandem. The PRO Act, short for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, has already passed the House of Representatives. The legislation would make it easier to form a union and win a contract, harder for companies to union-bust, and easier for the National Labor Relations Board to crack down on rule-breaking companies. It would also make more workers eligible to unionize, including independent contractors. It would arguably be the most transformative piece of legislation enacted since the 1970s.” • Kelly is, of course, a Democrat.

Chris Hedges: We Must Build A New Party

[YouTube, via Naked Capitalism 4-13-2021]

“1619 Project lead writer Nikole Hannah-Jones paid $25,000 for virtual lecture” [WSWS, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-15-21]

Just three weeks ago, Samaria Rice and Lisa Simpson, respective mothers of Tamir Rice and Richard Rishner, accused Cullors of profiting from the deaths of their children and other black people murdered by police. The pair criticized BLM for raising over $90 million in 2020 but doing little to help families impacted by police violence.

Khan and Cullors created the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Since then, BLM has promoted racialist politics and raised substantial sums of money from large corporations like Google, Amazon, and Facebook. After BLM’s 2020 financial report was released, Cullors was accused of misappropriating funds by grassroots members of her organization.

In response to the allegations, she claimed that there were misunderstandings about BLM’s finances and that the organization was “scraping for money” in the past few years. If BLM truly was low on funds, Cullors purchasing luxury properties certainly did not help.

The wealth and privilege of the leading proponents of racialism demonstrate the reactionary character of identity politics. It is entirely divorced from the real concerns and experiences of the working class. Fearful of a unified workers’ movement, the ruling class seeks to sow artificial racial divisions among workers through the promotion of identity politics. Additionally, middle class layers seeking a bigger slice of the pie see identity as a means of advancing their own wealth and social position..

The Search for the Real Joe Biden

“Welcome to the New Progressive Era”

[Anand Giridharadas, The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-14-21]

“The conversations I’ve had in recent weeks have painted a portrait of an improbable coming-together of people and forces: a moderate president, with an ascendant progressive movement at his back and at his throat, facing a once-in-a-generation window of opportunity. It’s still early. It remains to be seen if this momentum will continue, if the infrastructure plan musters the votes, if the ungainly Sanders-to-Manchin coalition holds. But for now, a capital that has been defined in recent years by the absence of useful action bubbles with generative possibility. And many of us who thought we knew what a Biden presidency would look like, and didn’t expect much from it, are suddenly asking ourselves: How did we get him so wrong? Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat and member of the so-called Squad, endorsed Sanders in the primary and didn’t anticipate a whole lot from Biden. Nevertheless, during the winter transition, she and her colleagues in the Congressional Progressive Caucus shared their ideas and priorities with the incoming administration—and were taken aback when many of them were adopted. ‘The $1.9 trillion package that they put forth was a surprise,” she told me. “A lot of us made recommendations when the administration was in their transition space, and I don’t think a lot of us expected many of those things would make it in.’”

If Biden wants to avoid the mistakes of Obama — and they were BIG mistakes that led, as many people, including myself, warned, led to a populist revolt that veered right because Obama opposed options for change from the left — then the better part of wisdom is not to get in Biden’s way. Which, of course, still leaves the problem of what to do about Democratic Party centrists still clinging to centrism. 

Is It Time to Cancel FDR?

Michael Lind [via Naked Capitalism 4-13-2021]

The Two Faces of Joe Biden

Matt Taibbi, April 9, 2021

The press is building an image of a “radical” progressive hero, while reality looks a lot like the same corporate Democrat

Why Joe Biden Does Not Remind Me of FDR
Lambert Strether, April 12, 2021 [Naked Capitalism]

On Unions, A Gap Between Biden’s Words And Actions

[Daily Poster, April 14, 2021]

The Dark Side

The Corporate Good Guys Who Are Really Bad Guys (Just About All of Them)

Harold Meyerson, April 15, 2021 [The American Prospect]

Florida Is Latest Hot Spot for Anti-Protest Legislation

Amelia Pollard, April 14, 2021 [The American Prospect]

Tear down a Confederate flag in Florida and a protester could be headed to prison. It’s all part of the same national movement to silence dissent in the wake of the George Floyd uprising.

‘A gaslighting chamber of insanity’: Moderate Republicans seethe at Biden” [Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-14-21]

Politico refuses to admit that the Republicans did this to themselves by their virulent opposition to the first black President. 

“What Will Trump Loyalists’ Sensed Powerlessness Mean For Politics?”

[Democracy Corps, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-14-21]

From March 26, still germane. “We conducted focus groups in March with Trump Loyalists in Georgia and Wisconsin and Trump-aligned, non-Trump conservatives and moderates in suburban and rural Georgia, Ohio, and Wisconsin. It took a long time to recruit these groups because Trump voters seemed particularly distrustful of outsiders right now, wary of being victimized, and avoided revealing their true position until in a Zoom room with all Trump voters — then, they let it all out.” .

Bartlett on Robert Mundell & Supply-Side Economics
Bruce Bartlett, April 11, 2021 [The Big Picture]

An insider’s history of one of the most destructive policy ideas of the past century.

Neoliberalism requires a police state

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-13-21]


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

“Trump’s Power Won’t Peak for Another 20 Years”

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-15-21]

“Measured solely by the number of judges he appointed, Donald Trump’s impact is staggering: 234 judges, including 54 powerful appellate judges, almost one out of every three. By comparison, President Barack Obama appointed 172 judges (30 of them appellate) in his first term, while George W. Bush managed 204 (35 appellate). But Trump will have an even greater influence than this measurement suggests. That is because his judges won’t reach the apogee of their power until the early 2040s, when Trump-appointed chief judges are on track to simultaneously sit atop nearly every appeals court in the country.”

The Supreme Court Is Making New Law in the Shadows

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 4-17-2021]

In secret Facebook groups, America’s best warriors share racist jabs, lies about 2020, even QAnon theories NBC, via Naked Capitalism 4-17-2021]

Prince Philip & the communist ideal — Chris Dillow

., via Mike Norman Economics April 14, 2021]

A Theory of Thorstein Veblen The Baffler L 4-14

Corsi box L 4-17



Variant update

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 3:30am in



As far as I can tell in my neighborhood, the pandemic is officially over. Sure some of us oldsters are still following the guidelines but the number of younger people just going completely back to normal is huge. Big change from even a couple of weeks ago.

Sadly, some of them are going to get this thing. And a few oldies who haven’t been fully vaccinated will too. And that’s not good for anyone.

Here’s the latest:

What used to be a mysterious new variant first detected in the UK is now the most dominant coronavirus strain in the US.And unlike the original strain of the novel coronavirus, the more contagious B.1.1.7 strain is hitting young people particularly hard.”(Covid-19) cases and emergency room visits are up,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

We are seeing these increases in younger adults, most of whom have not yet been vaccinated.”Now doctors say many young people are suffering Covid-19 complications they didn’t expect.

And it’s time to ditch the belief that only older adults or people with pre-existing conditions are at risk of severe Covid-19.

Viruses mutate all the time, and most mutations aren’t very important. But if the mutations are significant, they can lead to dangerous new variants of a virus.”

The B.1.1.7 variant has mutations that allow it to bind more” to cells, said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a CNN medical analyst and professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University.”

Think of this mutation as making the virus stickier.”

Coronavirus latches onto cells with its spike proteins — the spikes surrounding the surface of the virus.”There is a little difference in the way the (B.1.1.7) spike protein holds that makes it stick to your cells a little more easily,” said emergency physician Dr. Megan Ranney, director of the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health.

With the original strain of the novel coronavirus, “you need a certain inoculum — a certain amount of virus — in order for the infection to basically stick,” Reiner said.”Is one viral particle enough to make you sick? No, probably not. On the other hand … sometimes a massive inoculum can kill an otherwise healthy person. And we’ve seen that in health care workers,” he said.”

So these new variants, particularly the UK variant, seem to be stickier. So the notion is that it’s more contagious, so to speak, because potentially you don’t need as much of an inoculum to get sick.”

What this means in real life: “You can be in a place and maybe have a briefer exposure or have a smaller exposure — more casual exposure — and then get infected,” Reiner said.And because B.1.1.7 is stickier, “you may indeed have a higher viral load.”

“If you have a higher number of viral particles in your respiratory tract, then it’s going to be easier to spread it to other people,” Ranney said.

That’s another reason why it’s so important for young adults to get vaccinated.B.1.1.7 cases have now been reported in all 50 states, the CDC said.

“What we’re seeing in a bunch of places now is sick, young people — hospitalized young people. Whereas earlier on in the pandemic, it was primarily older people,” Reiner said.

“The reason for this might be as simple as the older population in this country has either been exposed to this virus, killed by the virus, or now vaccinated against the virus.”

As of Saturday, more than 78% of people age 65 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 60% have been fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

“The unvaccinated — those are the people who are getting infected — we’re seeing a large number of young people, and they’re the ones we’re seeing in hospitals now.”

In March, New Jersey saw a 31% jump in Covid-19 hospitalizations among young adults ages 20 to 29, the state health commissioner said. And the 40-49 age group saw a 48% increase in Covid-19 hospitalizations.Ranney said she’s also noticed a stark change in who’s getting hospitalized.

“This has been kind of a gradual increase in the proportion of folks who are younger over the last couple of months,” she said, citing data from COVID-NET — which tracks cases from more than 250 hospitals in 14 states.

“Looking at the week of December 26 or January 2, age 65-plus would be, say, 3,000 (hospitalizations). And then everything else together is 3,000. More than 50% were age 65-plus.”But by March 27, “it was about one-third (ages) 18 to 49 … about one-third ages 50 to 64, and then about one-third 65-plus,” Ranney said.

As an emergency room doctor, Ranney said she regularly sees young, previously healthy patients struggling with coronavirus.”I see at least a few people on every ER shift that I work who are there because they are having persistent trouble breathing or other side effects as a result of Covid-19,” she said.

Ranney said she generally defines “young people” as those under 50. But “no matter which age cutoff you use, right now, we’re seeing more B.1.1.7 than the older variants.”

“We’re certainly seeing it more in 20s and 30s as well,” she said. “And people in their 20s and 30s are less likely to be vaccinated and more likely to be out and about.”

The vast majority of positive coronavirus tests don’t go through genomic sequencing to figure out whether it’s B.1.1.7 or another strain. But as genomic sequencing increases nationwide, health experts say there’s no doubt B.1.1.7 is fueling more hospitalizations among young people.Dr. Justin Skrzynski is a Covid hospitalist — or specialist in the care of Covid-19 patients — at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak in Michigan. He said the facility sends a portion of its coronavirus samples to the state for DNA analysis.

“Right now, the regular Covid test we do — that’s still just showing Covid (or) no Covid,” Skrzynski said.

“But we do send a lot of those out to the state, and we are seeing something like 40% of our patients now (with) B.1.1.7.”Reiner said he thinks both human behavior and the “stickiness” of B.1.1.7 are leading to more Covid-19 hospitalizations among young people.”It may be simply because of just (more young people) getting infected … and perhaps the inoculum (viral load) is higher,” he said.

Sometimes, young people can be victims of their own strong immune systems.Throughout the pandemic, doctors have noticed some young, previously healthy patients suffer from Covid-19 cytokine storms. That’s basically when someone’s immune system overreacts — potentially causing severe inflammation or other serious symptoms.

As B.1.1.7 keeps spreading, it’s possible the number of young people with cytokine storms will increase, Reiner said.”We’ve certainly seen people come into our hospital, very young people (in their early 20s) … need to be put on ECMO, which is basically a heart-lung machine for days or even weeks because they come in with cardiomyopathy — which is a response to a cytokine storm,” he said.

As more young people get infected, doctors are worried they’ll see more of a disturbing trend they’ve noticed for months — long-term complications.

“I cannot tell you how many people I’ve taken care of in the ER who are in their 20s, 30s and 40s, who are never sick enough to end up in the ER with Covid, but who now have long-lasting respiratory difficulties,” Ranney said

.”Or they have persistent loss of taste and smell, and they’re losing weight because there’s no joy from eating. Or they have that kind of brain fog that we hear about with long Covid. And it’s not universal. It’s not every person who gets Covid who’s going to get that. But there is the reality that this disease is not benign — regardless of whether they get hospitalized or in the ICU,” she said.

“So I think there’s this false sense of both ‘I’m immune to it just because I’m young,’ and ‘Even if I catch it, I’ll be fine.’ You may be lucky. And that may be true, that if you catch it, you’ll be fine. But there’s also a chance that you won’t.”

Reiner said some long-haul symptoms in young people have lasted roughly a year now — “debilitating symptoms that have come in the aftermath of their coronavirus infection,” he said.”So what I would say to young people is that Covid-19 doesn’t have to kill you to wreck your life.

“Health experts say it’s critical to keep practicing Covid-19 safety precautions until many more people get vaccinated. Yet some states have ditched mask mandates or reopened bars to full capacity just as B.1.1.7 was spreading rapidly.

And that’s likely fueling the spread of B.1.1.7 among young people, Reiner said.

“They’re the people going out to the bars. They’re the people meeting for brunch. The older people in this country have been hunkered down for a year because they’ve been worried about dying from this virus. Young people in this country haven’t worried so much about dying from this virus.

And there’s a lot of pandemic fatigue.

“Reiner said he understands many businesses have been devastated and need to fully reopen once it’s safe to.

“But easing the mask mandate makes zero sense,” he said. “There is no economic hardship, and there’s no personal hardship to require a person to wear a mask when they’re out in public.”

Ranney said young people may misinterpret the lifting of safety mandates.”When you hear that … as a regular person who’s not following the day-to-day (data), you think, ‘Well, my governor wouldn’t open it if it’s not safe,'” she said. “So I think there is that mixed message.”

It’s not just young adults who are getting infected with this variant. More cases of B.1.1.7 are showing up among children, too.

“Absolutely, we are seeing a higher number of kids test positive for B.1.1.7 than we have seen for the other virus types,” Ranney said.”It’s not necessarily that kids are more susceptible to B.1.1.7. But it’s just that they’re more likely to be exposed to it both because they’re out and about, and because this version is more transmissible.

“While classroom learning is relatively safe when the right safety precautions are taken, health officials say after-school activities — such as youth sports and other extracurriculars — are causing more children to get Covid-19.

And while Covid-19 deaths among children are extremely rare, they have happened.

Some children who contracted coronavirus have experienced MIS-C, or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, which is rare but can sometimes cause severe illness or death.

The good news about B.1.1.7: We don’t need a new playbook to fight it. But we do have to follow the existing playbook closely to snuff out this highly contagious variant.

“Even though it is more transmissible, every piece of data that we have supports that we can still stop it using the same techniques that we have used for other variants,” Ranney said.

“So it’s still about masks and physical distancing and ventilation and vaccines. And our current vaccines — and this is really critical — the current vaccines work really well against B.1.1.7.”

But here’s the catch: The longer a virus circulates, the more opportunities it has to develop new mutations. And if the mutations are significant, they can lead to more problematic variants — including some that might evade vaccine protection.

“To me, this is a warning sign. This is a shot across the bow of what could happen,” Ranney said.B.1.1.7 “does spread more easily. It is increasing the number of cases. We’re seeing some increases in hospitalizations, probably due to the B.1.1.7 spread. But the vaccines work against it,” she said.”There may be future variants for which we are not so lucky.”

California plans to completely re-open on June 15th. And if everyone can keep their wits about them until then there should be no problem in doing that. But if a bunch of young people and right wingers don’t get vaccinated and this variant does to us what it’s doing to Michigan I don’t think it will happen.

The good news here is that there seems to be a willingness to get vaccinated here and the program is working pretty well. If they can get to the hard to reach populations, especially with the one-shot J&J, we might just beat the odds. But I do wish people would be a little bit more careful. Big, maskless, indoor parties are still a bad idea.


Behind every algorithm, there be politics.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 3:07am in

In my first class in computer science, I was taught that an algorithm is simply a way of expressing formal rules given to a computer. Computers like rules. They follow them. Turns out that bureaucracy and legal systems like rules too. The big difference is that, in the world of computing, we call those who are trying to find ways to circumvent the rules “hackers” but in the world of government, this is simply the mundane work of politicking and lawyering. 

When Dan Bouk (and I, as an earnest student of his) embarked on a journey to understand the history of the 1920 census, we both expected to encounter all sorts of politicking and lawyering. As scholars fascinated by the census, we’d heard the basics of the story: Congress failed to reapportion itself after receiving data from the Census Bureau because of racist and xenophobic attitudes mixed with political self-interest. In other words, politics. 

As we dove into this history, the first thing we realized was that one justification for non-apportionment centered on a fight about math. Politicians seemed to be arguing with each other over which algorithm was the right algorithm with which to apportion the House. In the end, they basically said that apportionment should wait until mathematicians could figure out what the “right” algorithm was. (Ha!) The House didn’t manage to pass an apportionment bill until 1929 when political negotiations had made this possible. (This story anchors our essay on “Democracy’s Data Infrastructure.”)

Dan kept going, starting what seemed like a simple question: what makes Congress need an algorithm in the first place? I bet you can’t guess what the answer is! Wait for it… wait for it… Politics! Yes, that’s right, Congress wanted to cement an algorithm into its processes in a feint attempt to de-politicize the reapportionment process. With a century of extra experience with algorithms, this is patently hysterical. Algorithms as a tool to de-politicize something!?!? Hahahah. But, that’s where they had gotten to. And now the real question was: why? 

In Dan’s newest piece – “House Arrest: How an Automated Algorithm Constrained Congress for a Century” – Dan peels back the layers of history with beautiful storytelling and skilled analysis to reveal why our contemporary debates about algorithmic systems aren’t so very new. Turns out that there were a variety of political actors deeply invested in ensuring that the People’s House stopped growing. Some of their logics were rooted in ideas about efficiency, but some were rooted in much older ideas of power and control. (Don’t forget that the electoral college is tethered to the size of the House too!) I like to imagine power-players sitting around playing with their hands and saying mwah-ha-ha-ha as they strategize over constraining the growth of the size of the House. They wanted to do this long before 1920, but it didn’t get locked in then because they couldn’t agree, which is why they fought over the algorithm. By 1929, everyone was fed up and just wanted Congress to properly apportion and so they passed a law, a law that did two things: it stabilized the size of the House at 435 and it automated the apportionment process. Those two things – the size of the House and the algorithm – were totally entangled. After all, an automated apportionment couldn’t happen without the key variables being defined. 

Of course, that’s not the whole story. That 1929 bill was just a law. Up until then, Congress had passed a new law every decade to determine how apportionment would work for that decade. But when the 1940 census came around, they were focused on other things. And then, in effect, Congress forgot. They forgot that they have the power to determine the size of the House. They forgot that they have control over that one critical variable. The algorithm became infrastructure and the variable was summarily ignored.

Every decade, when the Census data are delivered, there are people who speak out about the need to increase the size of the House. After all, George Washington only spoke once during the Constitutional Convention. He spoke up to say that we couldn’t possibly have Congresspeople represent 40,000 people because then they wouldn’t trust government! The constitutional writers listened to him and set the minimum at 30,000; today, our representatives each represent more than 720,000 of us. 

After the 1790 census, there were 105 representatives in Congress. Every decade, that would increase. Even though it wasn’t exact, there was an implicit algorithm in that size increase. In short, increase the size of the House so that no sitting member would lose his seat. After all, Congress had to pass that bill and this was the best way to get everyone to vote on it. The House didn’t increase at the same ratio as the size of the population, but it did increase every decade until 1910. And then it stopped (with extra seats given to new states before being brought back to the zero-sum game at the next census). 

One of the recommendations of the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship (for which I was a commissioner) was to increase the size of the House. When we were discussing this as a commission, everyone spoke of how radical this proposition was, how completely impossible it would be politically. This wasn’t one of my proposals – I wasn’t even on that subcommittee – so I listened with rapt curiosity. Why was it so radical? Dan taught me the answer to that. The key to political power is to turn politicking into infrastructure. After all, those who try to break a technical system, to work around an algorithm, they’re called hackers. And hackers are radical. 

Want more like this?

  1. Read “House Arrest: How an Automated Algorithm Constrained Congress for a Century” by Dan Bouk. There’s drama! And intrigue! And algorithms!
  2. Read “Democracy’s Data Infrastructure” by Dan Bouk and me. It might shape your view about public fights over math.
  3. Sign up for my newsletter. More will be coming, I promise!

Midnight crazytrain to Georgia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 2:54am in



Remember that “Health and Freedom Conference” starring Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell and other right wing crazies? Here’s a taste of Trump lawyer Lin Wood:

Lin Wood is a Georgia man, and the Trumpers down there are still hopping mad:

The grassroots anger at Gov. Brian Kemp and other top state officials who refused to overturn former President Donald Trump’s election defeat bubbled up on Saturday at several county GOP meetings across the state as activists gathered to censure or rebuke the GOP leaders for their stances.

Republican delegates in more than a half-dozen counties passed resolutions over the past week assailing Kemp for not doing more to help Trump’s false claims of voting fraud. And several more also punished Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who have also drawn Trump’s wrath.

The governor’s forceful defense of a new election rewrite that includes new restrictions to voting pushed by pro-Trump forces has put him on more solid footing with his party’s base, but the fallout of the weekend showed he’s still not in the clear.

Though he has so far escaped a top-tier Republican primary opponent, former Democrat Vernon Jones launched a challenge against him on Friday, vowing to win over anti-Kemp conservatives despite only switching to the GOP earlier this year.

And while most local GOP groups refused to rebuke Kemp, the mostly rural counties that did offered evidence that the governor must still shore up his base in an expected rematch against Democrat Stacey Abrams, the nationally known voting rights advocate and former House leader who narrowly lost to him in 2018.

Even a fraction of Republicans who remain skeptical of Kemp could pose problems to Kemp in November 2022, much like a sharp turnout drop in conservative rural areas hampered U.S. Senate incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in the January runoff defeats to Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

“Many of the Trump supporters that did not return and vote in the January runoff will not return to vote for Kemp in 2022,” said Brian Pritchard, a North Georgia GOP activist and commentator. “The only way to get a Trump supporter to vote for Kemp is to get Trump to endorse Kemp. And we don’t see that happening.”

You never know. Trump likes to hold grudges but he also likes to make his enemies grovel for his favor. We’ll have to see.


Made-in-America propaganda

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 12:38am in



Photo by Jim Lanthier via Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

“That’s what happens when people listen to us.” — One America News producer Marty Golingan upon seeing Capitol insurrectionist holding a flag emblazoned with his network’s logo.

One America News Network continues to promote conspiracy that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen.” At least a few staffers are uneasy about that. Sixteen of 18 staffers the New York Times interviewed “said the channel had broadcast reports that they considered misleading, inaccurate or untrue.”

“The real question is to what extent.”

New York Times:

To go by much of OAN’s reporting, it is almost as if a transfer of power had never taken place. The channel did not broadcast live coverage of Mr. Biden’s swearing-in ceremony and Inaugural Address. Into April, news articles on the OAN website consistently referred to Donald J. Trump as “President Trump” and to President Biden as just “Joe Biden” or “Biden.” That practice is not followed by other news organizations, including the OAN competitor Newsmax, a conservative cable channel and news site.

OAN has also promoted the debunked theory that the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 were left-wing agitators. Toward the end of a March 4 news segment that described the attack as the work of “antifa” and “anti-Trump extremists” — and referred to the president as “Beijing Biden” — Mr. Sharp said, “History will show it was the Democrats, and not the Republicans, who called for this violence.” Investigations have found no evidence that people who identify with antifa, a loose collective of antifascist activists, were involved in the Capitol riot.

Charles Herring, the president of Herring Networks, the company that owns OAN, defended the reports casting doubt on the election. “Based on our investigations, voter irregularities clearly took place in the November 2020 election,” he said. “The real question is to what extent.”

Spoken as if the answer to that question is none of his concern.

Charles Herring defended OAN’s coverage. “A review process with multiple checks is in place to ensure that news reporting meets the company’s journalist standards,” he said. “And, yes, we’ve had our fair share of mistakes, but we do our best to keep them to a minimum and learn from our missteps.”

Mr. Golingan added that, since Inauguration Day, OAN’s news director, Lindsay Oakley, had reprimanded him for referring to Mr. Biden as “President Biden” in news copy. Ms. Oakley did not reply to requests for comment.

More than a dozen employees have resigned since the Capitol riot.

“And the thing is, when people speak up about anything, you will get in trouble,” said Allysia Britton, a former OAN news producer.

Dominion Voting Systems has sued Fox News, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell over alleged defamatory claims about its voting machines in the wake of Trump’s 2020 loss, something OAN has done as well. One of its most popular YouTube videos is hosted by OAN White House correspondent, Chanel Rion, features a man claiming to have heard “company executives say they would ‘make sure’ Mr. Trump lost.”

Mr. Golingan, the producer, said some OAN employees had hoped Dominion would sue the channel. “A lot of people said, ‘This is insane, and maybe if they sue us, we’ll stop putting stories like this out,’” he said.

Not as long as there are Trump cultists ready to believe.