2:00PM Water Cooler 11/8/2021 | naked capitalism


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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

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

Bird Song of the Day

Not exactly mellifluous!

* * *

#COVID19

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

Vaccination by region:

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

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

Case count by United States regions:

Fiddling and diddling (but not going down, and not going up, thanks to Bubba coming through). 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?

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

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

California recovering fast, as San Bernardino Country returns from Orange to Yellow, and Inyo goes green. Arizona not out of the woods. Alabama, lots of green. Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota more red. 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: 775,218 772,421. A little blip up. 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.

* * *

Politics

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

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

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

Capitol Seizure

Biden Administration

“Infrastructure Bill Gives Biden Administration Greater Say Over Projects” [Wall Street Journal]. “Typically, transportation funds are allocated via a traditional formula to states based on their populations, gas-tax revenue and other factors. But pthe BIF] includes dozens of competitive grant programs—many of them new—in which the Transportation Department will pick recipients from applications by state and local governments. That means Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other top officials will have a greater say in which projects get selected for funding than their predecessors…. All told, about $120 billion of the $550 billion in new spending in the legislation would come in the form of competitive transportation grants. The rest of the new transportation money would largely be allocated via the traditional formula system.” • Should be useful for 2022 and 2025, as long as the Biden Administration puts big BIF signs on the projects (Obama didn’t, so nobody could knew what his stimulus money was spent on, not that it wasn’t miserably inadequate.)

“Biden seeks course out of doldrums after US legislative victory” [Financial Times]. Hopefully not by invading Nicaragua. More: “Abigail Spanberger, a moderate Democratic congresswoman from Virginia, made headlines this week when she blamed the president for misjudging what the public put him in office to do. ‘Nobody elected him to be FDR, they elected him to be normal and stop the chaos,’ Spanberger told the New York Times, in a reference to Franklin D Roosevelt, the transformative Democratic president of the 1930s and 1940s whose big domestic reforms reshaped the US economy. Asked about the congresswoman’s comments, Biden told reporters on Saturday: ‘I don’t intend to be anybody but Joe Biden. That’s who I am.’” • Spanberger, although a CIA Democrat, is correct on this; if the Democrat Party had wanted a second FDR, they would have picked Sanders, not the “nothing fundamental will change” guy. The FDR hagiography was always bizarre, and seemed to have been generated by liberal pundits from wishful thinking (a lot like the months-long discussion in early 2009 about whether Obama’s heart was in the right place). Leaving open the question of what Spanberger thinks will stop the chaos — more clandestine agents? domestic operations? — or what exactly “normal” might be.

Democrats en Deshabille

“New York Democrats Keep Losing Ground with Hispanic and Asian Voters” [Vulgar Marxism]. “Eric Adams cruised to victory in New York City’s mayoral election, besting Republican nominee Curtis Sliwa by nearly 40 points – a commanding performance by any standard. But Adams’ margin wasn’t uniform throughout the city. In Queens, for example, he prevailed by only 22 points – five points fewer than Bill De Blasio’s margin here in 2017. Though Adams still made an impressive showing, New York Democrats shouldn’t pop the vegan wine just yet. . In August, I reported that Hispanic and Asian areas of Queens swung heavily toward Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election, powering the best performance by a Republican nominee in the World’s Borough since 2004. Precincts that are more than 75% Asian swung toward Trump by 16 points in 2020. Precincts that are more than 75% Hispanic saw an even more dramatic pro-Trump swing of 25 points. Now, an analysis of Tuesday night’s returns in combination with demographic data from the 2020 census reveals that these patterns are trickling down to local elections too. In 2017, Bill De Blasio won Queens precincts that are over 75% Asian by 34 points against Republican nominee Nicole Malliotakis. This week, Adams won them by just 20 points over Sliwa: a 14-point swing toward Republicans. De Blasio won Queens precincts that are over 75% Hispanic by a whopping 70 points over Malliotakis. Adams won them by 40 points over Sliwa: a 30-point swing toward Republicans.”

“A very important Dune explainer” [Matt Yglesias, Slow Boring]. “See, this is the difference between a Mentat’s calculations and a Kwisatz Haderach’s prescient visions…. [P]ersonally, I get bad vibes from the current state of the party. Not because I can see the future, but because I can see in the present a kind of paralysis about the fact that based on the way electoral politics works, you need to cater to existing public opinion. Instead, you get a lot of this kind of take that basically begs everyone to call the electorate racist and say there’s nothing to be done…. There’s no way to tell the future, but I think this is a widespread attitude in the present that makes it really hard for Democrats to be tactically or strategically adept. Everyone talks about how Trump and the GOP are a threat to ‘our democracy’ but when push comes to shove, there’s very little patience for things like Barack Obama’s habit of targeted pandering to culturally conservative voters. If you don’t try really hard to win, it’s going to be hard to win.” • If the Democrats really believed that “our democracy” was under threat — or that they could not take advantage of whatever threats there might be — then Obama would be going on Oprah to get H.R. 1 passed. Of course, he’s not, and the bill seems to be dead anyhow…

Stoller:

Why should they? Would you want to be “in touch” with people you hate? And, at some level, know that you’ve injured? More:

And Stoller:

Lambert here: Obviously, the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself. But nobody else has. Why is that? First, the Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC itself is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, the Democrat Party has more working parts than Stoller suggests, and they all reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party for now (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network of roles — a Flex Net? — for funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, and NGOs, with assets in the press and the intelligence community, with individuals moving freely between roles. Whatever, if anything, that is to replace the Democrat Party needs to demonstrate the operational capability to contend with the Democrat base and the Party network. Sadly, I see nothing of the requisite scale and scope on the horizon, though I would love to be wrong. (As I said at the time: If Sanders had leaped nimbly from the electoral train to the strike wave train after conceding in 2020, instead of that weak charity sh*t he went with, things might be different today. I am not sure that was in him to do, and I’m not sure he had the staff to do it, although I believe such a pivot to a “war of movement” would have been very popular with his small donors. What a shame the app wasn’t two-way.) Ah well, nevertheless.

Stats Watch

Inflation: “United States Consumer Inflation Expectations” [Trading Economics]. “US inflation expectations for the year ahead increased by 0.4 percentage point to a new record high of 5.7% in October of 2021. Consumers expect inflation to rise for houses (5.6% vs 5.5% in September); gas (9.4% vs 5.9%); college education (7.4% 5.9%); food (9.1% vs 7%); and rent (10.1% vs 9.7%, a new series high). On the other hand, inflation expectations at the three-year horizon remained unchanged at 4.2%, after increasing for three consecutive months.”

* * *

Finance: “The natural rate of interest through a hall of mirrors” [Bank of International Settlements]. “We show that the natural interest rate can decline persistently even if there is no change in saving preferences or potential growth. The driving force is a positive learning feedback. The private sector interprets monetary policy easing as a signal from the central bank that the natural rate has fallen, leading to a lower aggregate demand than otherwise. The central bank interprets lower demand as a sign of falling r-star and cuts the policy interest rate, perpetuating the misperception. Both sides stare into a “hall of mirrors” and confuse the effects of their own actions with useful information. We calibrate the model and show that the hall of mirrors effect can explain most of the fall in real interest rates since the Great Financial Crisis.” • Perhaps a knowledgeable reader can explain what “r-star” is. Meanwhile, speaking of “confus[ing] the effects of their own actions with useful information:

Shipping: “New Photos Show the Full Extent of the Damage to the Ever Given” [Maritime Executive]. “Shipping scholar Sal Mercogliano, associate professor of history at Campbell University, has obtained photos from the Ever Given’s yard period showing the damage to the vessel in detail. The images show that the impact pushed the bottom of the bulbous bow upwards, inside the hull, folding the shell plating inwards. The repair plan is a full ‘nose job,’ cutting out and replacing the bulbous bow with newly-built steel sections – all the way back past the bow thrusters. The sections have already been pre-built in anticipation of the ship’s arrival. ”

Shipping: “Maersk is making an e-commerce play” [Freight Waves]. “A.P. Moller – Maersk further bolstered its position in the e-commerce space on Friday when it announced the acquisition of Visible Supply Chain Management (Visible SCM), a U.S.-based business-to-consumer, e-commerce logistics and parcel delivery company. Denmark-headquartered Maersk said the acquisition will allow its B2C segment to reach three-quarters of the U.S. direct-to-consumer market within 24 hours and 95% within 48 hours. ‘We have?set out to build strong e-commerce logistics capabilities that complement our existing end-to-end supply chain offering,’ said Vincent Clerc, CEO of Maersk?Ocean & Logistics. ‘Visible SCM’s operating model?and value proposition?will strengthen our customers’ e-commerce logistics, enabling them to sell through any sales channel, deliver in any way and manage their supply chains seamlessly.’”

Shipping: “A Simple Piece of Steel and Wheels Is Holding Up the Global Supply Chain” [Wall Street Journal]. “A decline in the supply of new frames is exacerbating the shortage, according to trucking and chassis executives. In May, the U.S. International Trade Commission imposed countervailing and antidumping duties totaling more than 200% on Chinese chassis producers that supplied the majority of frames to the U.S…. A coalition of U.S. chassis manufacturers that argued in favor of the ITC actions says duties haven’t contributed to the supply-chain congestion. Frank Katz, CEO of Cheetah Chassis, one of the largest domestic manufacturers, based in Berwick, Pa., said companies such as his are trying to ramp up production. Mr. Katz said the real issue is that the import surge has overwhelmed the domestic supply chain. ‘If we could double output, it wouldn’t make any difference at all,’ Mr. Katz said.” •

The Bezzle: “Facebook discovers there’s already a company named Meta” [The Hill]. “Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company would be changing its name to Meta as part of a rebrand effort, but another company was one step ahead. An Arizona-based company that sells computers, laptops, tablets and tech software called Meta PC launched a little over a year ago, according to documents obtained by TMZ. In August, the company filed to trademark “Meta” in relation to any technological use — right within Facebook’s sphere. Meta PC’s trademark hasn’t yet been granted; however, co-founders Zack Shutt and Joe Darger told TMZ they won’t sell the name to Zuckerberg, if he pursues it, for less than $20 million.” • Twenty million seems…. unambitious. But isn’t this the sort of silly mistake a company of Facebook’s size isn’t supposed to make?

Health Care: “Investors are betting that Pfizer’s ‘game-changing’ antiviral pill will reduce demand for COVID vaccines” [Fortune].

On Monday, stocks of vaccine makers in Asia fell in the wake of U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s announcement that its new antiviral pill called Paxlovid is 89% effective in reducing risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19.” • See under “Health Care” for the actual study; but IMNSHO this is directionally correct; prophylaxis and treatment will reduce the value of vaccines over time.

Supply Chain: “S&P Global Market Intelligence estimates that goods-focused companies on the S&P 500, held 15% more inventory in the second quarter over the same period in 2019” [Wall Street Journal]. “Many companies are loathe to stray far from longheld just-in-time manufacturing strategies. They point to the costs of inventories and say they expect to return to pre-pandemic levels once supply-chain bottlenecks dissipate and pandemic imperatives fade.” • That should read “this pandemic’s imperatives fade.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 86 Extreme Greed (previous close: 85 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 77 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 8 at 11:46am.

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

The Biosphere

“Prescribed burns are key to reducing wildfire risk, but federal agencies are lagging” [Los Angeles Times]. “When wildfire burned through a federal research area in Klamath National Forest this summer, scientists were dismayed to see more than 20 years of work go up in smoke. But when they returned to the charred study area near California’s northern border, they realized they’d been given a unique opportunity. Although the scientists had set out to understand how the thinning and controlled burning of vegetation could help regrow large trees more quickly, they now had a chance to study another urgent question: Could these same treatments make forests more resilient to wildfire? Or more specifically, could they moderate fire behavior so that flames were less intense and firefighters would have a better chance of snuffing a blaze before it barreled into a populated area? The answer appeared to be a resounding yes.”

“Decarbonizing the U.S. Health Sector — A Call to Action” [NEJM]. “The U.S. health sector is responsible for an estimated 8.5% of national carbon emissions. These emissions stem directly from the operations of health care facilities…. and indirectly from both purchased sources of energy, heating, and cooling…. and the supply chain of health care services and goods…. Between 2010 and 2018, our sector’s greenhouse-gas emissions increased by 6%, reaching 1692 kg per capita — the highest rate among industrialized countries. Indeed, the U.S. health sector accounts for 25% of global health sector emissions — the highest proportion attributable to any individual country’s health sector.” •

Health Care

“Pfizer oral antiviral safe and effective against SARS-CoV-2” [Medical News Today]. “Pfizer has published a paper demonstrating that its candidate drug PAXLOVID is safe and has antiviral effects on SARS-CoV-2…. Now, Pfizer has published details of a phase 1 clinical and preclinical trial. The results show that its candidate drug PAXLOVID is safe in humans at concentrations that are effective against SARS-CoV-2 in laboratory tests. This is true both when the drug is used on its own and when it is used alongside ritonavir…. In a small trial of 18 healthy adults, researchers from Pfizer then tested the safety of 150 milligrams (mg) and 250 mg of PF-07321332 taken twice per day both with and without 100 mg of ritonavir. They found that the drug was safe and well-tolerated with and without ritonavir. The company is now carrying out phase 2 and 3 trials to determine whether or not PAXLOVID is effective in COVID-19 patients at risk of standard and severe illness. They also want to understand whether or not it prevents transmission of the disease in close contacts of people with COVID-19.” • N=18. Are you [family blogging] me? Here is a link to the original paper in Science, with lots and lots of Pfizer employees as authors. Needless to say, Pfizer has form (see NC here and here). So at some point when there’s real data, we’ll have to look at it carefully.

Groves of Academe

The publishing tournament:

Is a tournament really the best way to organize and distribute knowledge?

Zeitgeist Watch

The Man of Many Worlds” (podcast) [Hi-Phi]. Slate’s podcast on Philosophy (!). A four-part broadcast on David Lewis, metaphysician. If you want a philospher’s take on the Many Worlds Hypothesis — see William Gibson’s “stubs” in the soon-to-be trilogy beginning with the wonderful The Peripheral and continuing with the horrid Agency — this is the podcast for you. It’s actually very interesting!

Sports Desk

“A Progressive Perspective: What is going on with Rutgers Football?” [The Trentonian]. “[T]he athletic program (primarily football) has been bleeding scarlet ink since Rutgers joined the Big Ten Conference in July 2014. According to an extensive and detailed analysis of Rutgers Athletics’ finances conducted by The Record and NorthJersey.com, ‘ Rutgers Athletics currently faces approximately $265 million in outstanding debt, with nearly half being associated with operating costs from the Big Ten Conference.’ In an effort to cover some of these operating losses, Rutgers loaned the athletic department $84 million over a six-year period. That was reported as revenue, which at the time, was against University and NCAA guidelines. Loans were only permitted for capital projects. In addition, according to the aforementioned in-depth analysis, the athletic department also took out $48 million in loans from the Big Ten Conference. These practices were labeled ‘unsustainable’ by Rutgers’ new President Jonathan Holloway. Every indication is that the deficits have worsened this year as a result in no small part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the terms of the agreement that Rutgers entered into with the Big Ten back in 2014, they will receive their first full Big Ten distribution of $65.2 million in 2027. Suffice to say, it appears that the football deficits will continue to grow ad infinitum and could ultimately do irreparable harm to the university and its academic priorities unless something dramatic is done. In a column I wrote on September 28th, I naively suggested that Rutgers should quickly hold a series of fully-transparent public hearings around the state to secure input from a broad range of sources regarding the deficit, the hidden loans and what should be done about it. I say naively because Rutgers has a long history of being anything but forthcoming regarding the financing of athletics at the university. There is nothing to suggest that they will voluntarily shed the light of day on what occurred.” • Rutgers in the Big Ten? Really? What brain genius administrator thought this was a good idea?

Our Famously Free Press

“Some heroes sit at a keyboard” [Pharyngula]. “Did you know that social media has a Nazi problem? Of course it does. But often it is subtle and requires expert scrutiny…. So [Ksenia Coffman] sat down and got to work, and started pointing out the lack of skepticism in so many Wiki articles…. Turn on the History Channel sometime: it’s the same thing. There’s a reason it’s called the Hitler channel, and it’s because it’s cheap and easy to grab WWII footage — often nothing but propaganda films which launder and present credulous versions of the story — and splice it into a story. Aren’t those Nazi uniforms stylish? Wow, those soldiers had to be brave and stalwart to stand up to a Russian winter. Gosh, so many tanks! Cool! Let’s not think about what those soldiers were trying to do. You can also see it on YouTube and in video games and the newspapers, always focusing on drama and spectacle without questioning what the hell those [glass bowls] were hoping to accomplish. It just takes a little effort to peel away the gosh-wow veneer to expose the rot beneath, but someone has to make the effort.”

“The Signpost” [Andreas Kolbe, Wikipedia]. (I didn’t know Wikipedia has a blog section. Apparently it does.) “For more than two years this Wikipedia article [on the Wikipedia biography of New York serial killer Nathaniel White] had as its lead image a police photograph of a quite different Nathaniel White, an African-American man resident in Florida whose picture has also, equally erroneously, been used in a Discovery Channel broadcast on the New York serial killer of the same name… Yet here we have a case where a very real black life was severely harmed, with Wikipedia playing a secondary, but still highly significant part in the sorry tale. The Wikimedia blog post contains no acknowledgement of this fact. Instead it is jubilant – jubilant that the Wikimedia Foundation was absolved of all responsibility for the fact that Mr. White was for over two years misrepresented as a serial killer on its flagship site, the result of a pseudonymous Wikimedian trusting a source that proved unreliable. Now we can shrug our shoulders and say, ‘This sort of thing will happen once in a while.’ Would we have accepted this sort of response from the police force in George Floyd’s case?…. There is also a deeper moral question here. What kind of bright new world is this we are building, in which it is presented to us as a cause for celebration that it was possible for a black man – a man, perhaps, not unlike George Floyd – to be defamed on our global top-20 website with absolute impunity, without his having any realistic hope of redress for what happened to him here?” • Publishing is hard. Content moderation is hard. That’s life on the content farm. WikiMedia as the Big House for the plantation workers of Wikipedia is not a good look. The story that triggered this post: “Man confused with ‘Robocop’ killer on national TV sues Discovery Channel for defamation” [Tallahassee Democrat].

The Gallery

This painting is so exactly true:

The way the sunlight strikes the road, and the slope of the road… This spot could only be in America, I think; not even Canada.

Book Nook

“Book Club: Get to know Nikole Hannah-Jones and ‘The 1619 Project’” (interview) [Los Angeles Times]. “Next project: All “1619 Project” all the time.” And: “The 1619 Project” arrives in bookstores on Nov. 16.” And: “What questions do you have for Nikole Hannah-Jones? Send questions and comments in advance of the Book Club/Ideas Exchange event in an email to [email protected]” • Perhaps ;….

Guillotine Watch

Class Warfare

“Food Choice Test” [IDRLabs] “Food has always been tied to class. Silvia Bellezza and Jonah Berger at the University of Pennsylvania now believe they have a way to identify a person’s social class based on how they feel about certain foods. The results are not always what you would expect. What do your food choices say about your social class? For each of the following dishes, indicate your feelings toward it below.” • I dunno about lobster and grits. Really? In any case, here are my results:

I reject the entire “middle class” construct, because class is about social relations, not a scale from Upper to Lower. That said, I certainly hope I’m a class traitor, although I’ve been thinking that term is a little harsh (and in any case, class, being a social relationship, is dynamic, and a traitor one day might be a hero the next). Perhaps “class expatriate” might be better.

“Capitalism-Loving Dad Doesn’t Get Why Things Aren’t Built to Last Anymore” [Reductress]. “‘At least as an American I’m free to make my own choices,’ [62-year-old, capitalism-loving dad Robert Schorn] says, ordering a replacement screen on Amazon after the frame of his last one broke after three weeks. ‘I used to get these at that little hardware store down the street, but, you know, they closed.’”

News of the Wired

For fans of the Romanovs:


* * *

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 (RH):

RH writes: “Mushroom uprooted lichens.”

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