2:00PM Water Cooler 1/26/2022 | naked capitalism
By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Bird Song of the Day
Call and response?
“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51
“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” –Hunter Thompson
“Breyer retirement hands Biden open Supreme Court seat” [Politico]. “The Supreme Court’s oldest member — Justice Stephen Breyer — plans to retire, a person familiar with the process said Wednesday, giving President Joe Biden his first, highly coveted opportunity to nominate a member of the nation’s top court. Breyer, 83, informed the president last week of his intention to retire and indicated he would follow up with an official letter, the person briefed on the justice’s plans said. Breyer’s move comes after more than a year of pressure from liberal legal activists who urged the appointee of President Bill Clinton to step aside to give Biden a chance to name a jurist who could shape the country’s legal landscape for decades. Biden has pledged to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. While Breyer’s resignation is welcome news for many Democrats and left-leaning attorneys, it is unlikely to have a dramatic impact on the court’s decidedly conservative bent. Since late 2020, the high court’s bench has been split, 6-3, with Republican appointees holding the clear majority.” • RBG, good job.,
“Opinion: Biden has failed to defeat covid-19 as promised. Here’s how he must shift his strategy.” [Michelle A. Williams, WaPo]. “In his first full day in office, President Biden promised to defeat covid-19. He has not succeeded… [F]lip through the goals the president laid out one year ago, and it’s clear he has fallen short. We must learn from this year of missteps.” You had one job. More: “In 2002, just 3.1 percent of total health spending was devoted to public health. Astoundingly, it has only gotten worse. Public health’s share of health-care spending is expected to be just 2.4 percent next year.” • Money doesn’t talk, it swears….
“As Biden meets with CEOs on stalled Build Back Better plan, analysts ‘believe a $1T+ package is probable’” [MarketWatch]. “As President Joe Biden keeps beating the drum for his Build Back Better package, analysts are saying parts of it still have a good chance of becoming reality even after last month’s big setback. Biden is slated to meet at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday with 10 private-sector executives who are expected to ‘highlight what they see as the key benefits of BBB for the American economy and American business,’ a White House official said. General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Ford CEO Jim Farley, Microsoft President Brad Smith, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett are due to be among the participants in the meeting. Corning CEO Wendell Weeks, HP CEO Enrique Lores, Cummins CEO Tom Linebarger, Etsy CEO Josh Silverman and Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton are expected to take part as well.” • Clout like that and all we get is a lousy trillion….
“‘She was Zoom’d out:’ Veep mulls escape from D.C. bubble” [Politico]. Well, if you can’t make it in The Show, it’s perfectly OK to return to the minors. “Inside Harris’ office and among her advisers, confidants and close allies, there’s a near universal belief that she is mired by a contradiction: While she’s among the most powerful people in the world, owing to her swift rise in national politics, people still don’t know her at the levels they need to.” • Perhaps “people” might for once be allowed to define their own needs? That “need to” from fingerwagging liberal Democrats is one their most annoying locutions. Anyhow, the dogs won’t eat the dog food.
“Warren, Schumer, Jayapal, Pressley, Omar, Porter urge President Biden to deliver on promise to cancel student debt” [Indian Country]. “United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y), and United States Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) led more than 80 Senate and House colleagues calling on the Biden administration to release the Department of Education’s (ED) memo outlining the administration’s legal authority to cancel federal student loan debt and immediately cancel up to $50,000 of debt for Federal student loan borrowers. ‘Canceling $50,000 of student debt would give 36 million Americans permanent relief and aid the millions more who will eventually resume payments their best chance at thriving in our recovering economy. In light of high COVID-19 case counts and corresponding economic disruptions, restarting student loan payments without this broad cancellation would be disastrous for millions of borrowers and their families,’ wrote the lawmakers. While the lawmakers applauded President Biden’s decision to extend the federal student loan payment pause as the Omicron variant spreads, they are urging the President to do more to provide permanent relief for millions of borrowers and help families avoid financial hardship as the economy recovers.” • Why stop at $50,000?
Democrats en Déshabillé
I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:
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, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.
I’m very pleased to discover Bourdieu stans in the readership. Don’t be shy about sharing insights.
* * *
“Nancy Pelosi announces she’ll seek re-election” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “Pelosi’s announcement wasn’t the no-brainer some might have thought. In 2019, as part of a deal she cut with Democrats who threatened to oppose her for speaker, Pelosi promised not to serve in the role beyond this term, absent consent to do so from the Democrats in the House. In November 2020, Pelosi said, ‘I will abide by those limits.’ That doesn’t rule out her running for re-election.” • Pelosi’s announcement:
While we have made progress much more needs to be done to improve people’s lives. This election is crucial: nothing less is at stake than our Democracy.
But we don’t agonize-we organize. I am running for re-election to Congress to deliver For The People and defend Democracy. -NP pic.twitter.com/ojwFPOdRs3
— Nancy Pelosi (@TeamPelosi) January 25, 2022
Lot of sled dogs tired of the same old view… But not tired enough, it seems.
“Nancy Pelosi Is One of America’s Most Dangerous Politicians” [Direct Left]. “Pelosi is revered by her fans and has an unmatched press operation that churns out regular puff pieces painting her as a champion of ‘democracy’ and a thorn in the GOP’s side. Nothing could be further from the truth. With Pelosi at the helm of the House, Republicans (and Democrats) have gotten away with murder, literally. She stubbornly refused to impeach George W. Bush for war crimes, and gave Trump ‘everything he wanted,’ in the words of Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna…. Not only has Pelosi presided over major military budget increases, but she made sure to give Trump expanded surveillance powers: ‘By tucking the measure into a must-pass bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi forced many members who oppose the Patriot Act to vote in favor of its extension.’ She called the Green New Deal ‘the green dream or whatever,’ but used the climate emergency to defend increasing the military budget…. She and her husband have amassed a fortune of tens of millions of dollars; she is credibly accused of insider trading, and currently stands in the way of a bill to curb stock trading by members of Congress.”
* * *
“Joe Biden Needs a Sister Souljah Moment” [Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch]. “But as president, Biden has steadfastly refused to triangulate. There have been countless potential Sister Souljah moments. Amid surging crime rates in New York City, the new Manhattan district attorney vowed not to seek prison sentences, even for some violent criminals, whenever possible. Biden says schools should stay open, but he’s never criticized teachers’ unions, even when they refused to work in Chicago. And countless Democratic members of Congress say inflammatory things on a daily basis. Why not pick a fight?” • Wowsers, just listened to a West Wing Thing episode where the West Wing Brains recommended just that.
“Youngkin Creates Tip Line to Report Mask Concerns, ‘Divisive Practices’ in Schools” [NBC Washington]. “Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin promoted an email address Tuesday where parents can send concerns and complaints about violations of students’ ‘fundamental rights’ and any ‘divisive practices’ in schools. Critics questioned whether the tip line was set up for anyone but the new Republican governor’s supporters…. ‘… [It’s] for parents to send us any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated, where their children are not being respected, where there are inherently divisive practices in their schools,’ Youngkin said.” • “Divisive.” You know, like creationism.
“Mayor’s anti-violence ‘blueprint’ could shape Democratic messaging: The Note” [ABC]. “If successful, New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to combat crime, dubbed the ‘blueprint to end gun violence,’ could become the blueprint to reorient Democratic messaging on public safety. Adams, a former NYPD captain, unveiled his strategy Monday in the wake of a shooting that left one NYPD officer dead and another critically injured. Echoing the tough-on-crime posture that arguably helped put him in office, Adams announced plans to increase police presence all over the nation’s largest city. ‘New Yorkers feel as if a sea of violence is engulfing our city,’ Adams said. ‘But as your mayor, I promise you I will not let this happen. We will not surrender our city to the violent feud [few –lambert]. We won’t go back to the bad old days.’” • Harris would kill for this kind of press coverage.
“Is Trump’s Hold On The GOP Still Strong?” [FiveThirtyEight]. “To quote from that article: “By a 67 percent to 29 percent margin, Republican registered voters told Morning Consult/Politico that Trump should run again, including 51 percent who said he should ‘definitely’ run. A HarrisX/The Hill poll from Oct. 13-14 similarly found that Republican registered voters supported a third consecutive Trump candidacy 77 percent to 23 percent, including 52 percent who ‘strongly’ supported it. And Quinnipiac found that 78 percent of Republicans would like to see Trump run again, and only 16 percent would not.” So, again, I really think it’s missing the forest for the trees to say that Trump is getting weaker within the GOP. Maybe slightly, but he is still ridiculously strong.” • Interesting roundtable discussionl.
“GOP Voters Still Like Trump, But Many Ambivalent About 2024 Run” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “Yet, for a few weeks now, I’ve picked up signs of ambivalence from some GOP voters about the thought of Trump running again in 2024. These aren’t anti-Trump types. They like Trump. They’d support a candidate for a down-ballot contest like Senate or House who had Trump’s backing. But, they are not sure they want a re-run. Some think he’s worn out his welcome with too many voters and won’t be able to win a general election. Others are simply worn out at the thought of another four years of the ‘Trump show.’ … Other GOP strategists I’ve spoken with say they are hearing the same level of hesitancy in focus groups of Republican voters that they are conducting. These voters aren’t against Trump, but they are open to the idea of a fresh face, one without all the drama and baggage that Trump will bring to the table. It’s also hard for anyone, even someone as good at commanding the spotlight as Trump, to be able to hold voters’ attention and support for four years. Out of office and off social media, Trump no longer gets the wall-to-wall coverage he once enjoyed… Bottom line: Trump is the most powerful figure in GOP today, but that doesn’t make him invincible in a 2024 primary for president.”
* * *
“Democrats face double-digit enthusiasm deficit ahead of midterms” [NBC]. “While Democrats hold a narrow 1-point lead in congressional preference, Republicans enjoy a double-digit enthusiasm advantage, with 61 percent of Republicans saying they are very interested in the upcoming midterms — registering their interest either as a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. That’s compared with 47 percent of Democrats who have the same high level of interest. In previous midterm cycles — whether 2006, 2010, 2014 or 2018 — the party that held a double-digit advantage in enthusiasm (or close to it) ended up making substantial gains, our pollsters say…. And some of the biggest drops have come from key segments of the Democratic base, including Black voters, young voters and urban voters.” • It’s not a messaging problem. It’s a delivery problem, or more precisely, a betrayal problem. And Joe Biden owes me six hundred bucks.
2020 Post Mortem
On the Georgia grand jury investigating Trump’s post-election day shenanigains:
Buried in this GA GJ order is a big-deal sentence: “This authorization shall include the investigation of any … predicate acts….” This authorizes a RICO racketeering investigation that reaches Trump’s illegal actions everywhere! GA has a nuclear weapon! https://t.co/nSztsZ6w4W
— John W. Dean (@JohnWDean) January 25, 2022
Realignment and Legitimacy
“The Making of a Coronavirus-Criminal Presidency” [John Nichols, The Nation]. “‘How does that happen in the richest country in the history of the world?’ Bernie Sanders asked when we first spoke about the pandemic in April 2020. Why does it always go this way? The answer is summed up in a word: impunity. The United Nations defines ‘impunity’ as ‘the impossibility, de jure or de facto, of bringing the perpetrators of violations to account—whether in criminal, civil, administrative, or disciplinary proceedings—since they are not subject to any inquiry that might lead to their being accused, arrested, tried and, if found guilty, sentenced to appropriate penalties, and to making reparations to their victims.’… Trump and his Republican associates should face all the legal and constitutional penalties that their crimes demand. So, too, should the Democrats who transgressed. And so, too, should the reckless billionaires and pharmaceutical extortionists. But we dare not stop there. The pandemic profiteers must be banished—forever ejected from the political and economic future of the nation they have so crudely used and abused.” • A heavy lift. Who does it?
Case count by United States regions:
Peak behavior; I think we can expect more bounces on the way down, if we go by past behavior. If you look at the two previous peaks, you’ll see we’ve had declines, followed by rises, followed by final declines. That said, it would sure be nice if “rise like a rocket, and fall like a stick” applied, but we can’t know that yet. Previous peaks — how small the early ones look now — have been roughly symmetrical on either side. But the scale of this peak, and the penetration into the population, is unprecedented. Should be interesting to see what happens when B.2 takes hold.
Note that “up like a rocket, down like a stick” seems to be the case in South Africa (with a very different population from our own):
The steepness of Omicron’s rise and fall in South Africa really is something to behold.
Here’s Gauteng first, where it all began.
Cases, test positivity, admissions, deaths and excess deaths too all down almost as steeply as they rose, and in much less time than past waves. pic.twitter.com/GGGZxzG5gr
— John Burn-Murdoch (@jburnmurdoch) January 20, 2022
(I am but a simple tape-watcher, and say nothing of clinical effects, long Covid, stress on the health care system, co-morbidities, etc.)
The official narrative that “Covid is behind us,” and that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), and “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) was completely exploded. What a surprise!
“The kids are not alright: Data suggests 10% of children with COVID-19 become ‘long-haulers’” [Salon]. “Because the data is preliminary, estimates thus far vary wildly on the prevalence of what is now known as “long Covid” in children and adolescents. …. While there is no official definition of pediatric long Covid at this time, the parameters typically include the persistence (or return) of symptoms 12 weeks following the initial infection. Some criteria look for new or persistent symptoms 30 days out from the acute infection. Another key is ruling out of alternative medical explanations — making the process of diagnosis lengthy and requiring a multi-disciplinary team. … However, there is now growing consensus that somewhere around 10 percent of COVID-19 cases in kids turn into long Covid — at least according to the data collected for primarily pre-omicron and pre-vaccine cases.” • Trump came for your parents. Then Biden came for your kids….
Continues encouraging. No jump from the return of the students yet.
The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.
From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:
Not as spectacular as yesterday, but still good news, especially in the Midwest. (Remember that these are rapid riser counties. A county that moves from red to green is not covid-free; the case count just isnt, well, rising rapidly.
The previous release:
Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):
Moving fast, and for once in a good direction (reinforced my MWRA data and case data). (Note trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)
Just a reminder:
As with everything else, because the United States is not a serious country, our hospitalization data is bad. Here the baseilne is off:
Hospital trick: patients admitted with covid in 10-12 days become post-covid & no longer counted as hospitalized covid patients. ICU is full of post-covid patients that are here for 30, 40, 50 & more days. Not counted in the official stats.
— Dr. Natalia ?? (@SolNataMD) January 24, 2022
Death rate (Our World in Data):
891,595. I have added an anti-triumphalist black “Fauci Line.” As we know, deaths are a lagging indicator. I assume the absurdity of the “Omicron is mild” talking point is, at this point, self-evident. If you know somebody who’s in “lead my life” mode, you might consider telling them the odds of dying from Covid are tied for second worst with the first wave in New York.
“Omicron Deaths in U.S. Exceed Delta’s Peak as Covid-19 Optimism Rises in Europe” [Wall Street Journal]. “U.S. data showed daily average deaths from the disease exceeding the peak reached during the surge driven by the previously dominant Delta variant. In the U.S., the seven-day average for newly reported Covid-19 deaths reached 2,258 a day on Tuesday, up about 1,000 from daily death counts two months ago, data from Johns Hopkins University show. That is the highest since February 2021 as the country was emerging from the worst of last winter’s wave. While there is a large body of evidence suggesting that Omicron is less likely to kill the people it infects, it spreads much more quickly and therefore infects many more people than earlier variants, epidemiologists say. Case counts in the U.S. have dwarfed previous records.” • Remember that death data is not only bad, it’s gamed. So the real numbers were higher, then and now.
Good news here too. For the time being.
Inventories: “United States Wholesale Inventories” [Trading Econmics]. “Wholesale inventories in the US advanced 2.1 percent month-over-month to $789.4 billion in December of 2021, up from a 1.7 percent increase in November and above market forecasts of 1.3 percent rise, a preliminary estimate showed. It was the 17th consecutive month of gains, amid increases in inventories of both durable goods (2.4 percent vs 2.5 percent in November) and nondurable ones (1.6 percent vs 0.6 percent). On a yearly basis, wholesale inventories advanced 18.3 percent in December.”
Housing: “United States New Home Sales” [Trading Economics]. “New home sales in the United States rose by 11.9 percent from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 811 thousand in December 2021, following a similar increase in November and easily beating market expectations of 760 thousand.”
The Bezzle: “Your new crypto BFFs are Gwyneth Paltrow, Brit Morin, Jaime Schmidt and Rebecca Minkoff” [Protocol]. “[Brit Morin] signed up Tyra Banks, Gwyneth Paltrow and a bunch of top tech investors and artists like Jessica Hische for her project. They are all founding members of BFF, which Morin co-founded with Jaime Schmidt to build an on-ramp for women and nonbinary people into crypto. The group unveiled more than 50 founding members last week, and is officially kicking off with an event on Jan. 26 that 15,000 people have already signed up for. From the VC world, founding members include investors like Katie Stanton, Sarah Guo, Rebecca Kaden, Kara Nortman, Deena Shakir, Maaria Bajwa and Haley Barna.
But BFF isn’t just a bunch of VCs looking for investment opportunities. The goal was to bring in women and nonbinary people from across industries, meaning Hollywood A-listers like Mila Kunis and fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff are also taking part.” • So awesome.
The Bezzle: “Bitcoin operation ignites debate around the waste from coal mining in Pennsylvania” [ABC]. “Jeff Campbell, who oversees the bitcoin mining operation at the Scrubgrass Power Plant in Kennerdell, Pennsylvania, said each of their computers generates an average of $30 a day mining bitcoin…. Under fire for their emissions and reliance on fuels like coal and natural gas, some bitcoin mining companies in the U.S. are transitioning to more renewable types of power like solar or wind. Stronghold Digital Mining, which owns the Scrubgrass plant, has found its power source in the form of coal waste, which is abundant at this 221-acre pit just outside of Pittsburgh. Coal waste is a combination of rock, coal, and other materials that were deemed unsuitable for burning and left abandoned since the 1970s when coal mines in the area were closed.” • Hilariously, selling coal waste is the Manchin family business. So all things work together for good.
The Bezzle: “Facebook’s embattled cryptocurrency project is likely coming to an end” [The Verge]. “More than two years after it was first announced, the Facebook-sponsored cryptocurrency formerly known as Libra appears to be coming to an end. The Diem Association set up by Facebook to manage the digital token is exploring a sale of its assets after meeting resistance by regulators who opposed the initiative… If Diem is indeed selling its assets, that may be an indication that the cryptocurrency can’t find a way forward. Originally, Libra was meant to be a digital token backed by a basket of currencies from around the world, but regulators quickly halted that idea. So a simplified design was created, pegging a rebranded Diem token to the US dollar. Apparently that wasn’t good enough.” • That’s a damn shame.
The Bezzle: “IMF urges El Salvador to ditch bitcoin as legal tender” [Financial Times]. “In September El Salvador became the first nation in the world to make bitcoin legal tender under a plan spearheaded by Nayib Bukele, the country’s 40-year-old president and self-styled “CEO”. That meant the digital asset could be used to buy goods, send remittances and even pay taxes in the country…. Bukele, a bitcoin evangelist, has since spent tens of millions of public dollars buying the cryptocurrency — and losing money. … Despite the attention Bukele’s bitcoin experiment has drawn, there is little evidence of widespread use of the cryptocurrency for day-to-day transactions in the country and its implementation was one of the less popular moves made by the widely admired president.” • Another damn shame.
The Bezzle: “Jimmy Fallon hyped his Bored Ape NFTs on ‘The Tonight Show.’ Conflict of interest?” [Los Angeles Times]. “From actors to athletes to influencers, celebrities can’t seem to stop talking about their enthusiasm for all things crypto. Never one to sit out a trend, on Monday, ‘The Tonight Show’ host Jimmy Fallon was eager to show off his acquisition of a pricey digital collectible — even if it meant flouting an ethics policy that governs most NBCUniversal employees…. ‘This is my ape,’ the late-night comedian told his audience during an interview with Paris Hilton, flashing a picture of a sailor cap-wearing cartoon monkey. ‘It reminded me of me.’ The monkey is one of 10,000 from the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection of nonfungible tokens, or NFTs. Hilton showed her own Bored Ape, and later gave audience members free NFTs from her own collection. ‘We’re part of the same community,’ Fallon told her.” • Community? Really? More: “If Fallon’s use of show time to flex his ape were to boost its resale value, it would seemingly be a case of using company resources for personal benefit.”
Mr. Market: “Stocks Move Higher Ahead of Fed Meeting Today” [Wall Street Journal]. “U.S. stocks posted strong gains ahead of a Federal Reserve announcement that is expected to provide more clarity on coming interest-rate increases—the prospect of which has spooked markets this year. The S&P 500 added 1.6% Wednesday. The broad index fell Tuesday and has declined in five of the past six trading days. The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite Index rose 2.6%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.94%, or about 324 points. Stocks have been whipsawed in recent days by expectations that the Fed will embark on a series of rate increases this year to temper heightened inflation.” • Still not clear to me how a rate increase fixes energy and autos. What’s the mechanism? Crashing the economy?
Mr. Market: “These 11 arguments will decide ‘titanic’ stock-market battle as Fed begins hiking rates” [MarketWatch]. “[Deutsche Bank’s Alan Ruskin] offered up a list of 11 arguments ‘that bulls and bear can use to counterpunch each other.” • Here they are:
So now you know everything your broker knows. Kidding!
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 39 Fear (previous close: 37 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 26 at 1:16pm.
Our Famously Free Press
“Monetary Sovereignty: The key to understanding economics” [MythFighter]. “[T]he federal government creates money by paying its bills. The U.S. has created many trillions of dollars, simply by pressing computer keys, and it will continue to do so. It does not ‘owe’ anyone for creating these dollars. The U.S. government cannot live beyond its means; it has no means to live beyond…. Everything you believe about your personal finances — debts, deficits, spending, affordability, saving, and budgeting — are inappropriate to U.S. federal finances. For this reason, your personal intuition about U.S. financing likely is wrong. Because the U.S. cannot be forced into insolvency, none of this nation’s agencies can be forced into insolvency. The U.S Supreme Court, the Department of Defense, Congress, Social Security, Medicare, and any of the other 1,300 federal agencies cannot become insolvent unless the federal government wishes it. (All the talk about Social Security or Medicare running short of dollars is misguided. Even if FICA were eliminated, Social Security and Medicare would not need to default on their obligations, unless Congress wished it. They could pay benefits, forever.) The unlimited ability to create money is an uncontested fact for Monetarily Sovereign nations although, at any given time, economic growth, inflation, deflation, recession, depression, and social factors may influence a nation’s decision to create money.” • Just to review…
“Cash Aid to Poor Mothers Increases Brain Activity in Babies, Study Finds” [New York Times]. “A study that provided poor mothers with cash stipends for the first year of their children’s lives appears to have changed the babies’ brain activity in ways associated with stronger cognitive development, a finding with potential implications for safety net policy. The differences were modest — researchers likened them in statistical magnitude to moving to the 75th position in a line of 100 from the 81st — and it remains to be seen if changes in brain patterns will translate to higher skills, as other research offers reason to expect. Still, evidence that a single year of subsidies could alter something as profound as brain functioning highlights the role that money may play in child development and comes as President Biden is pushing for a much larger program of subsidies for families with children.” • Silicon Valley, in unison: “Why not electrodes?”
News of the Wired
“Did a mega drought topple empires 4,200 years ago?” [Nature]. “[Archaeologist Harvey Weiss] has compiled records from around the world, published over the past few decades, that he argues show drying around 4,200?years ago. In his view, the event was not confined to western Asia but was truly global, reaching even the Americas. The evidence extends ‘from Colorado to Massachusetts and down the western spine of South America and even to Brazil’, he says. Most other climatologists are deeply sceptical about this. ‘There’s really not great evidence that it had great impacts in North America,” says Kathleen Johnson, a palaeoclimatologist at the University of California, Irvine. She adds that, in general, the Southern Hemisphere is under-sampled, so researchers don’t have a clear picture of how the climate there changed. Climatologists and archaeologists also object, saying that there is, as yet, no solid explanation for why the global climate would have changed so drastically at that time. ‘There’s no trigger for this type of event,’ says Carolin. She uses an earlier climatic shift, the 8.2?ka BP event, when global temperatures abruptly cooled, as a comparison. This change has been linked to the collapse of part of an ice sheet in North America, causing two glacial lakes to drain into the sea and disrupting the transport of heat from the Equator to the poles. ‘We know when water rushed into the North Atlantic,” says Carolin. Without such a mechanism, the evidence for [Weiss’s] global 4.2?ka BP event relies solely on the disputed coincidence of the palaeoclimate records.” • So, we’re in Jackpot 2.0? Or not?
Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) 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 (DGL):
DGL writes: “Ring Park, Gainesville, FL. Alfred A. Ring donated 12 acres along Hogtown Creek for a park. This is from December 2. It is 71 degrees F.”
Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:
Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.
If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!