2:00PM Water Cooler 11/24/2021 | naked capitalism


By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Three minutes long, so prepare coffee if you have not already done so.

* * *

#COVID19

Vaccination by region:

Still chugging along. (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.)

59% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, as of November 22. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Czech Republic, and just above Panama in the Financial Times league tables as of this Monday). Oddly, a 0.2% drop; I can’t remember seeing one before.

Case count by United States regions:

Looks like an upward blip to me, so I have added a black “Fauci Line” to avoid triumphalism.

At a minimum, the official narrative that “Covid is behind us,” or that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), or “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) is clearly problematic. (This chart is a seven-day average, so changes in direction only show up when a train is really rolling.)

* * *

One of the sources of the idea that Covid is on the way out, I would speculate, is the CDC’s modeling hub (whose projections also seem to have been used to justify school re-opening). Here is the current version of the chart from the CDC modeling hub, which aggregates the results of eight models in four scenarios, with the last run (“Round 9”) having taken place on 2021-08-30, and plots current case data (black dotted line) against the aggregated model predictions (grey area), including the average of the aggregated model predictions (black line). I have helpfully highlighted the case data discussed above:

(Note that the highlighted case data is running behind the Johns Hopkins data presented first.) Now, it’s fair to say that the upward trend in case data (black dotted line) is still within the tolerance of the models; it does not conform to the models’ average (black line), but it stays within the grey area (aggregated predictions) It’s also true that where we see an upward trend in the predicted case data (lower right quadrant) it’s much later than where we are now. It’s too early to say “Dammit, CDC, your models were broken”; but it’s not too soon to consider the possibility that they might be. The case data still looks like it’s trying to break out of the grey area. We shall see.

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection, not updated since 11/19, oddly after the big jump:

Now the data is down. I certainly hope that’s not because all the students have left for Thanksgiving, bringing the virus with them. That would be bad. Fortunately, our robust contact tracing system will be able to track that [hollow laughter].

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 12, 2021” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties:

Minnesota and Indiana worse. Michigan and Massachusetts better. Missouri same. Maine worse. (Let’s hope those cases up in the County aren’t coming in from Quebec.) Fewer red specks in Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Weird flare-ups, like flying coals in a forest fire. They land, catch, but — one hopes — sputter out.

The previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

I have helpfully highlighted the states where the “trend” arrow points up in yellow, and where it is vertical, in orange. Note that Massachusetts is vertical. We detected a rise first in wastewater data, then in case data, now in hospitalizations. So there are times when the data is good. Just not all the time!

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 796,420 794,952. Fiddling and diddling. But at this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s.

Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid):

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

(Adding: I know the data is bad. This is the United States. Needless to see, this is a public health debacle. It’s the public health establishment’s duty 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.)

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

Brazil and Portugal rising, Chile and Peru slowing. 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

Biden Administration

“The Knife Edge Election of 2020: American Politics Between Washington, Kabul, and Weimar” (PDF) [Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen, Institute for New Economic Thinking]. From the magisterial full paper, teased here. “[E]very passing day suggests that the administration is failing to keep up with COVID’s mutations. Though it is spending a lot of money, when it assumed power, it failed to prioritize cheap, accessible tests open to anyone who needs them, left too much basic data gathering to scholars or the media, and made at best half-hearted pushes in favor of improved ventilation, air filters, and other obvious steps that would minimize indoor COVID problems, especially in schools. It also did essentially nothing to put reliable face masks in the hands of the population and failed even to set standards for advertising and sales of facemasks, leaving a vast market to charlatans. It still has no program in place for large scale random testing that can swiftly identify new variants and it has failed to create an effective national set of statistics with public dashboards anyone can access. Essentially it has staked everything on vaccines that will need regular, costly updates in a country with no national healthcare system. It is obvious that the administration’s hopes for an end to the COVID nightmare are premature.” • I’ve spent some time with the paper with a view toward posting on its detailed findings on 2020, but that paragraph leaped out. Worth contrasting performance — “Despite vaccines, the U.S. has lost more lives to Covid this year than last” — and promises. Biden, in debate: “And so folks, , I will make sure we have a plan.” Ah well, nevertheless.

“The Ronald Reagan Guide to Joe Biden’s Political Future” [Jamelle Bouie, New York Times]. “As his first year in office comes to a close, an ambitious new president is on the decline. His legislative agenda has stalled in a fractious Congress. Voters are angry over inflation and other economic concerns, and he is struggling to find his footing on the world stage. Allies and critics say the president and his party have made a major misstep, mistaking their successful defeat of an incumbent president for a decisive mandate in favor of their program. The results have been a flagging approval rating, a disenchanted public and an opposition party with the wind at its back. If elections for Congress were held today, there’s no question that the president would lose out to the mounting backlash against his administration. What year is this? Not 2021, but 1981, and the president is Ronald Reagan, who at the end of his first year in office was described in exactly these terms.” More: “It is well known, among political scientists at least, that public opinion functions like a thermostat, in which voters try to adjust the temperature of policy when it moves too far in either direction…. The more ambitious a president is or appears to be, the stronger the thermostatic reaction against him.” • Maybe, though some might argue the idea that voters drive elections assumes facts not in evidence.

Democrats en Deshabille

Lambert here: Obviously, the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself. Why is that? First, the Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community. (Note that voters do not appear within this structure. That’s because, unlike say UK Labour or DSA, the Democrat Party is not a membership organization. Dull normals may “identify” with the Democrat Party, but they cannot join it, except as apparatchiks at whatever level.) Whatever, if anything, that is to replace the Democrat Party needs to demonstrate the operational capability to contend with all this. Sadly, I see nothing of the requisite scale and scope on the horizon, though I would love to be wrong. (If Sanders had leaped nimbly from the electoral train to the strike wave train after losing in 2020, instead of that weak charity sh*t he went with, things might be different today. I am not sure that was in him to do, and I’m not sure he had the staff to do it, although I believe such a pivot to a “war of movement” would have been very popular with his small donors. What a shame the app wasn’t two-way.) Ah well, nevertheless.

For an example of the class power that the PMC can wield, look no further than RussiaGate. All the working parts of the Democrat Party (“funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community”) fired on all cylinders to cripple an elected President; it was very effective, and went on for years. Now imagine that the same Party had worked, during Covid, to create an alternative narrative — see Ferguson et al., supra, to see what such a narrative might have looked like — and with the unions (especially teachers) involved, as they were not in RussiaGate. Who knows, they might even have held hearings or introduced legislation! At the very least, the Biden Administration would have had a “plan,” with the ground prepared for operationalizing it. At the best, a “parallel government” (Gene Sharp #198) would have emerged, ready to take power in 2020. Instead, all we got was [genuflects] Tony Fauci. And Cuomo and Newsom butchering their respective Blue States, of course. The difference? With RussiaGate, Democrats were preventing a President from governing. In my alternative scenario, they would have been preparing to govern themselves. Which they clearly do not want to do.

And while we’re at it: Think of the left’s programs, and lay them against the PMC’s interests. (1) Free College, even community college. Could devalue PMC credentials. Na ga happen. (2) MedicareForAll. Ends jobs guarantee for means-testing gatekeepers in government, profit-through-denial-of-care gatekeepers in the health insurance business, not to mention opposition from some medical guilds. Na ga happen. (3) Ending the empire (and reining in the national security state). The lights would go out all over Fairfax and Loudon counties. Na ga happen. These are all excellent policy goals. But let’s be clear that it’s not only billionaires who oppose them.

* * *

“The Problem of Political Despair” [Michelle Goldberg, New York Times]. “I look at the future and I see rule without recourse by people who either approve of terrorizing liberals or welcome those who do. Such an outcome isn’t inevitable; unforeseen events can reshape political coalitions. Something could happen to forestall the catastrophe bearing down on us. How much comfort you take from this depends on your disposition. Given the bleak trajectory of American politics, I worry about progressives retreating into private life to preserve their sanity, a retreat that will only hasten democracy’s decay. In order to get people to throw themselves into the fight to save this broken country, we need leaders who can convince them that they haven’t already lost.” • Maybe Hillary could get the band back on the road?

“Democrats are in denial about what they’re up against” [Ryan Cooper, The Week]. “The developing strategy seems to go something like this: First, the Wisconsin legislature districts are gerrymandered so it’s nearly impossible for Democrats to win. Next, Republicans seize control of the state electoral process, as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) has already suggested doing, even over Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ veto. Then, either they rig the voting process such that Democrats can’t win, or just award the state’s electoral votes to the Republican candidate directly. The basic idea here — handing out electoral votes through the legislature rather than after a vote — arguably wouldn’t even be ‘illegal,’ since the Electoral College clauses in the Constitution stipulate that electors are chosen “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” Doing it over Evers’ veto, though, would definitely violate state law and Supreme Court precedent. More to the point, the tactic would be a grotesque violation of the very political principles of a democratic republic, as outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution.” • Not that I’m one to hold grudges, but I well remember the union-driven Wisconsin Capitol Occupation against Scott Walker in 2011 (well before Zucotti Park, too). Not a national Democrat lifted a finger to help. Nor did the national Democrats lift a finger to help during the 2012 recall election. And here we are! Cf. Gal 6:7. NOTE Not that a recall election was necessarily good strategy. But isn’t the Democrat Party supposed to be a big tent style-o-thing?

“The Pete Buttigieg Documentary Is an Empty Portrait of an Empty Politician” [Jacobin]. “Even by the usual standards of political hagiography, it’s a remarkably fluffy and inconsequential viewing experience — though, in Moss’s defense, it could hardly have been otherwise given the subject. The almost comical absence of program or ideology in a documentary about a man running for president has far more to do with Buttigieg himself than it does with quality of the filmmaking, and, albeit accidentally, Mayor Pete does tell us something very real about the way centrist liberalism increasingly seeks to cloak its pro-corporate vision with the politics of personality.” • Also describes Pete’s husband Chasten as “much more likable and human-seeming.” Seeming. Ouch. This episode of Chapo Trap House also covers the Buttigieg documentary (and Kamala Harris): Brutal, funny, and correct.

“Doctor Who Swabbed Cuomo Describes a Health Department in Shambles” [New York Times]. “For a stretch at the beginning of the pandemic, as cases skyrocketed, the governor’s office sent in an official [to the New York state Health Department] ‘who was very up front with us that he did not have public health experience’ to lead the department’s pandemic response. ‘He was a close individual to the governor who fixes situations,’ she said. The official, whose name is redacted in the report, insisted that the main state laboratory that was analyzing Covid tests in the pandemic’s early days, Wadsworth, report its results to the governor’s office before the test results were released to local health departments. This was inappropriate, Dr. Dufort said, both because she worried that it violated strict privacy provisions, and because it could delay getting the results to New York City and other counties. The senior health official in charge of data ran into the hall crying after getting the directive and was told she could quit if she disagreed, Dr. Dufort recalled.” •

2022

“Dems are probably toast in 22” [Chris Arnade, Intellectual Int]. “How we highly education news obsessed Front row types think about politics is almost entirely divorced from how most people think about politics. Which is rarely. Most people in the Back row treat elections like most Front row people treat the NFL. As something in the background that doesn’t impact them. Sure they might tune into the Super Bowl, because everyone else does, but they don’t have a huge stake in it. Sure they might have a team they root for, but they are just watching, not playing. So why care too much. National politics rarely touches them, not in a dramatic way at least, beyond screwing them over. Like the roads still being all messed up, factories still closing, drugs still filling their town, and taxes still going up. Doesn’t matter who is in power. Bush, Clinton, Bush again, Obama. Their life keeps going on, mostly as a series of obstacles and dramas to overcome. So both parties are equally corrupt, equally indifferent to them, and largely inter-changeable. Same shit, different asshole. That is why the largest voting block in the country is non-voters.” • I think I prefer Arnade the pointillist to Arnade the generalist. There’s a lot that’s fresh and new in his photography and his walks. There is little that is new here. Front row/back row is an interesting heuristic, but no more. For one thing, it ignores the role of money, and those who deploy it.

2024

“Trump poll tests his 2024 comeback map” [Politico]. “As Donald Trump builds out a presidential-campaign-in-waiting, his team is focusing on an electoral strategy that relies on recapturing the five states that flipped to Joe Biden in 2020. The five states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — delivered a total of 73 electoral votes in 2020, enough to produce a decisive Electoral College victory for Biden. Since then, Trump has held four rallies, endorsed dozens of candidates and played a key role in shaping contests that could put his allies in top offices in those states in 2024. Trump’s shadow campaign also recently polled Trump-Biden matchups in the five states, all of which were decided in 2020 by fewer than 3 percentage points. According to the poll, a memo of which was obtained by POLITICO, the former president led Biden in Arizona by 8 percentage points, Georgia by 3 points, Michigan by 12 points, Pennsylvania by 6 points and Wisconsin by 10 points. The poll numbers send a message to those who think Trump’s grip on the Republican Party is loosening, said Tony Fabrizio, a top GOP pollster who conducted the surveys for Trump’s super PAC, ‘Make America Great Again, Again!’”

Rittenhouse

“Kyle Rittenhouse says he’s ‘not a racist person,’ supports Black Lives Matter” [Associated Press]. Not on my Bingo card, I must say. More: “‘I thought they came to the correct verdict because it wasn’t Kyle Rittenhouse on trial in Wisconsin — it was the right to self defense on trial,’ Rittenhouse said in the interview. ‘And if I was convicted… no one would ever be privileged to defend their life against attackers.’” • Rittenhouse has already learned to speak of himself in the third person. That young man will go far.

“Kyle Rittenhouse says fired lawyer John Pierce ‘set him up’ to pose with Proud Boys in Wisconsin bar and he had ‘no idea’ okay sign is associated with white supremacy, in latest acquittal interview with NewsNation” [Daily Mail]. “Rittenhouse insists he didn’t know the meaning of the ‘okay’ hand gesture, which he made as he was photographed standing alongside members of the Proud Boys at a bar in Wisconsin on January 5. ‘I didn’t know that the “okay” hand sign was a symbol for white supremacy – just as I didn’t know those people in the bar were Proud Boys,’ Rittenhouse says. The Illinois teen who was acquitted in the fatal shootings of two men and the wounding of a third during the Kenosha riots in August of last year says it was Pierce who set up the picture. The meetings ‘were set up by my former attorney who was fired because of that, for putting me in situations like that with people I don’t agree with,’ Rittenhouse told Ashleigh Banfield of NewsNation.” • Hilariously, Rittenhouse turns out to be — or adopts the protective coloration of — a RINO. (It may be that working with cray cray Lin Wood, as opposed to the real lawyer he eventually selected — or was hooked up with — concentrated Rittenhouse’s mind wonderfully. On the “OK sign”: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Symbol manipulators gotta symbol manipulate.

Our Famously Free Press

“CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC ignore NYT bombshell report on Hunter Biden’s business deal with Chinese company” [FOX News]. • Maybe Hunter wanted the cobalt for his paintings?

RussiaGate

“Five Trump-Russia ‘Collusion’ Corrections We Need From the Media Now — Just for Starters” [Real Clear Investigations]. For example: “The Post and its sources fueled innuendo that Flynn had floated a payback for Russia’s alleged 2016 election help and lied to cover it up. Facing a barrage of anonymous officials contradicting him, Flynn walked back an initial denial and told the Post that ‘while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.’ Four days later, he was forced to resign. The following December, Special Counsel Mueller seemingly vindicated the Post’s narrative when Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI, including about his discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. Flynn would later backtrack and reverse that guilty plea, sparking a multi-year legal saga. When the transcripts of his calls with Kislyak were finally released in May 2020, they showed that Flynn had grounds to fight: It wasn’t Flynn who made a false statement about discussing sanctions with Kislyak; it was all nine of the Post’s sources — and, later, the Mueller team — who had misled the public. In all of Flynn’s multiple conversations with Kislyak in December 2016 and January 2017, the issue of sanctions only gets one fleeting mention – by Kislyak.” • Flynn’s firing was the opening gun.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Democrat NGOs:

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to 199 thousand in the week ending November 20th, from a revised 270 thousand in the previous period and well below market expectations of 260 thousand. It was the lowest number since November 1969, amid strong demand for labor and ongoing economic rebound.”

Manufacturing: “United States Durable Goods Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US manufactured durable goods fell 0.5 percent month-over-month in October of 2021, after a 0.4 percent decrease in September and compared to market expectations of a 0.2 percent increase. Orders declined for transportation equipment (-2.6 percent), namely nondefense aircraft and parts (-14.5 percent) and defense aircraft and parts (-21.8 percent). Other declines were also seen in orders for computers and related products (-2.2 percent), nondefense capital goods (-1.2 percent) and machinery (-0.9 percent). Excluding defense, new orders climbed 0.8 percent and excluding transportation went up 0.5 percent, in line with forecasts. Meanwhile, orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, rose 0.6 percent, above forecasts of 0.5 percent.”

GDP: “United States GDP Growth Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The US economy expanded an annualized 2.1% on quarter in Q3 2021, slightly higher than 2% in the advance estimate, but below forecasts of 2.2%. Personal consumption increased more than initially expected (1.7% vs 1.6% in the advance estimate), mainly boosted by international travel, transportation services, and healthcare while spending on motor vehicles and parts declined. Private inventories added 2.13 percentage points to the growth (vs 2.07 percentage points in the advance estimate), led by wholesale trade (namely nondurable goods industries) and retail trade (namely motor vehicles and parts dealers). On the other hand, nonresidential investment rose less than in the advance estimate (1.5% vs 1.8%) and residential one shrank faster (-8.3% vs -7.7%). Meanwhile, net exports subtracted 1.16 percentage points from the growth (vs -1.14 percentage points in the advance estimate) as exports declined 3% (vs -2.5%) and imports surged 5.8% (vs 6.1%).”

Housing: “United States New Home Sales” [Trading Economics]. “New home sales in the US edged up 0.4% month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 745K in October of 2021, following a downwardly revised 742K in September, and below market forecasts of 800K.”

Inflation: “United States Core Personal Consumption Expenditure Price Index” [Trading Economics]. “Core PCE prices in the US which exclude food and energy increased 0.4% mom in October of 2021, in line with forecasts and higher than 0.2% in the previous month. The annual rate accelerated to 4.1% also in line with expectations.”

Consumer Sentiment: “United States Michigan Consumer Sentiment” [Trading Economics]. “The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment for the US was revised higher to 67.4 in November of 2021 from a preliminary of 66.8 and above market expectations of 66.9. It was still the lowest reading since November 2011. ….Consumers expressed less optimism in the November 2021 survey than any other time in the past decade about prospects for their own finances as well as for the overall economy. The decline was due to a combination of rapidly escalating inflation combined with the absence of federal policies that would effectively redress the inflationary damage to household budgets.” • That six hundred bucks Joe Biden owes me would come in handly just about now.

* * *

Commodities: “Fertilizer shortage may lead to spring scramble on North America’s farms” [Reuters]. “A global shortage of nitrogen fertilizer is driving prices to record levels, prompting North America’s farmers to delay purchases and raising the risk of a spring scramble to apply the crop nutrient before planting season…. In the United States, nitrogen fertilizer supplies are adequate for applications before winter, said Daren Coppock, CEO at U.S.-based Agricultural Retailers Association. Applying fertilizer before winter reduces farmers’ spring workload. But with prices so high, some farmers are delaying purchases, risking a scramble for supplies during their busiest time of year, Coppock said.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 Greed (previous close: 64 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 82 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 23 at 1:05pm. Mere greed now.

Health Care

“A Breath of Virus-Free Air” [MedPage Today]. “In a hospital setting, however, most infection control protocols focus on contact transmission…. n March 2018, we embarked on a 3-year journey to test a theory: that mitigating the airborne transmission of viruses and bacteria is just as important as, or more important than, measures to reduce contact transmission. St. Mary’s Hospital for Children was the laboratory for this experiment. We had no idea at the time that we would soon find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic. Three years later, the results are in: the deployment of advanced air purification measures significantly contributed to a 45% reduction in healthcare-associated infections, according to the study recently published in the Journal of Hospital Infection. If we extrapolate those results nationally, it could mean 765,000 fewer hospital infections each year. This study is novel. To our knowledge, it is one of the few studies — perhaps the only study — of an engineering solution to airborne disease transmission conducted in a real-world hospital setting with over 100,000 patient days. Many studies of indoor air quality are conducted in labs or rooms fabricated to mimic the real world. More real-world studies can only advance our knowledge of the most effective tools for air purification. As promising as these results are for hospitals, they also provide a blueprint for reducing the airborne transmission of diseases in other indoor settings such as schools, restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, nursing homes, and more.” • Important, because members of the (hidebound) hospital infection control often serve as gatekeepers for policy, and to this point have worked hard to prevent a paradigm shift to aerosol transmission.

The Biosphere

“Airbus A340 plane lands on Antarctica for first time” [CNN]. • Next, a Starbucks.

Sports Desk

“Former Pro Calls For “Investigation” After Another Football Player Suddenly Collapses” [Summit News]. • Quite a list from Berliner Zeitung.

Thanksgiving Prep

For that Uncle who’s into Crytpo:

A nation of snitches:

Class Warfare

Sympathy strike by the other unions at the Times?

News of the Wired

“What does an actor lose when their prosthetics become the star?” [New York Magazine]. “There’s an innate absurdity to acting. Prosthetics can bring that out — but they can also be a buffer, a protective veil between actor and audience. Olivier, who often sought out what he referred to as “the protective shelter of nose-putty,” recounted in his 1982 autobiography that when he was 16, a drama-and-voice teacher slid her finger down the center of his forehead until it rested on the top of his schnoz, where she informed him he had “weakness.” Whether she was diagnosing a deficiency in spirit or nasal contours, Olivier would spend the rest of his legendary career feeling relieved whenever a role allowed him to make additions to his face, so as to “avoid anything so embarrassing as self-representation.” Maybe that’s the real benefit to making yourself unrecognizable: It’s less an act of artistic devotion than one of self-protection — a way to go unseen even when you’re onscreen.”

“Science Fiction Is a Luddite Literature” [Cory Doctorow, OneZero]. “From 1811–1816, a secret society styling themselves “the Luddites” smashed textile machinery in the mills of England. Today, we use “Luddite” as a pejorative referring to backwards, anti-technology reactionaries. Proving that history really is written by the winners. In truth, the Luddites’ cause wasn’t the destruction of technology — no more than the Boston Tea Party’s cause was the elimination of tea, or Al Qaeda’s cause was the end of civilian aviation. Smashing looms and stocking frames was the Luddites’ tactic, not their goal. In truth, their goal was something closely related to science fiction: to challenge not the technology itself, but rather the social relations that governed its use.” • Hmm.

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