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2:00PM Water Cooler 4/30/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente. Bird Song of the Day The Resplendant Quetzal! * * * #COVID19 At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching. Vaccination by region: I know that these are daily vaccinations. But the pandemic is a multiplicative process. To me, the best curves of all would be rising continuously until there’s a sudden drop, because there’s nobody left to vaccinate. It’s too soon to see these numbers dropping. This should worry people. (The Northeast jump was an enormous reporting error, now rectified, though I still have not been able to find it mentioned anywhere. Readers?) “U.S. vaccination pace slides further from peak levels as Covid case

Lambert Strether considers the following as important: ,

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Lambert Strether writes 2:00PM Water Cooler 5/5/2021

Yves Smith writes California Bill Seeks to Prevent Hospital Administrators from Practicing Medicine Without a License

Yves Smith writes Jared Holst: Getting Kinky for the Sake of Data

Yves Smith writes When Big Green Meets Big Money: The Nature Conservancy Caught Greenwashing Corporate Pollution

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

The Resplendant Quetzal!

* * *


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site.

I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching.

Vaccination by region:

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/30/2021

I know that these are daily vaccinations. But the pandemic is a multiplicative process. To me, the best curves of all would be rising continuously until there’s a sudden drop, because there’s nobody left to vaccinate. It’s too soon to see these numbers dropping. This should worry people. (The Northeast jump was an enormous reporting error, now rectified, though I still have not been able to find it mentioned anywhere. Readers?)

“U.S. vaccination pace slides further from peak levels as Covid case counts decline in most states” [CBNC]. “The combination of [the Pfizer and Moderna] vaccines peaked at an average of 3 million reported daily shots on April 16 and has declined 12% since…, More than 40% of Americans have received at least one shot and three in 10 are fully vaccinated, CDC data shows… Of those age 65 and older, 82% are at least partially vaccinated and 68% are fully vaccinated.”

“Vaccinations are plateauing. Don’t blame it on ‘resistance’” [STAT]. “[A]s fewer people sign up to get their shots, a dominant narrative is emerging: It’s because of hesitancy — too many people don’t want to get the vaccine. Some even call this vaccine resistance. Those are convenient narratives. But they are false, and can have harmful consequences. Let’s start here: If you didn’t get your flu shot last year, are you ‘vaccine hesitant’? If you haven’t been vaccinated yet and aren’t actively seeking an appointment to do that, are you ‘resisting’? If you skipped your vaccination appointment because the Food and Drug Administration’s pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine raised questions you wanted answered first, are you a ‘vaccine skeptic’? Few people would answer any of these questions with ‘yes,’ yet experts and commentators are quick to use hesitancy to explain the recent dip in vaccinations…. For most Americans — and that includes conservatives — who are given the chance to discuss vaccination on their own terms and timelines and for whom vaccination is easy, nearby, and supported by employers, the question shifts from if they will get vaccinated to when and how.” • Note that “easy, nearby, and supported by employers” are all material conditions. But I think we should try more scolding and shaming. It’s what we’re good at!

“Household COVID-19 risk and in-person schooling” [Science]. ” Data from a massive online survey in the United States indicates an increased risk of COVID-19-related outcomes among respondents living with a child attending school in-person. School-based mitigation measures are associated with significant reductions in risk, particularly daily symptoms screens, teacher masking, and closure of extra-curricular activities. A positive association between in-person schooling and COVID-19 outcomes persists at low levels of mitigation, but when seven or more mitigation measures are reported, a significant relationship is no longer observed…. While in-person schooling is associated with household COVID-19 risk, this risk can likely be controlled with properly implemented school-based mitigation measures.”

Case count by United States regions:

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/30/2021

Continued good news. I’m not used to this at all. The spin:

The Midwest in detail:

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/30/2021

Continued good news. The Michigan curve is nice, but still at level only exceeded to last Fall’s peak, 154 days ago. Michigan and Minnesota heading down, along with their neighbors (Could be that people actually do listen when Governors ask them do so stuff, but enough, and enough of them?)

Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California):

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/30/2021

Florida, by a nose, now dropping nicely. New York to drop below Texas, which is flat. California also dropping.

Test positivity:

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/30/2021

Down, except for the West, now flat.


2:00PM Water Cooler 4/30/2021

Still heading down, except for a slight rise in the Northeast.

Case fatality rate (plus deaths):

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/30/2021

Good to see those deaths dropping. The fatality rate in the West has fallen again, for reasons as mysterious as those that caused its rise.

* * *


“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 Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Biden Administration

“Biden’s Workmanlike Love Song to the Middle Class” [Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine]. “[H]is entire speech was one long, implied contrast with his predecessor, short on thunder and lightning but very clear on policy priorities and relatively light on exaggerations, much less the smorgasbord of lies offered in Trump utterances long and short. Like Biden himself, it was solid and workmanlike, and he managed to make you forget now and then the unusual setting and the bitterness of the last election. I’m sure it was an effort he’s glad to get behind him, so that he can return to the task of quietly turning the federal government 180 degrees.” • 180°? Surely not.

UPDATE “Joe Biden is proving progressives wrong. And they’re loving it.” [NBC]. “Liberals are pleased with Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill and his swift rejection of Republican attempts to cut it. They like his $2.25 trillion infrastructure and jobs proposal. They’re pleasantly surprised with his personnel decisions, particularly the hiring of Klain and the shunning of moderate Democratic White House veterans like Larry Summers and Rahm Emanuel. ‘I don’t think they would have been better if Bernie Sanders was the president,’ Larry Cohen, a former union leader who chairs the Sanders-aligned group Our Revolution, said of Biden’s staffing decisions. ‘The question will be the tenacity,’ he said. ‘These are the best proposals you could ever expect, but the question will be fighting for those things.'” • With friends like these…. (Now, it is fair to say that Sanders would have faced a professional services strike from the PMC and ferocious assault from national security goons, just as Trump did. But that’s not what Cohen is saying.

UPDATE “Biden should have addressed anti-democratic, fantasy-land Trumpism in his speech to Congress” [Matthew Dowd, USA Today]. “And until we fundamentally address the flaws of one legacy party and within our democracy, moving forward to a better future for all Americans is a hope with no relation to reality.” • One legacy party? One word: RussiaGate.

UPDATE “Democrats face big headaches on Biden’s $4T spending plan” [The Hill]. “Biden unveiled a $2.3 trillion infrastructure package late last month and a $1.8 trillion families package Wednesday night during his first address to Congress — presenting congressional Democrats with the herculean task of unifying their razor-thin majorities behind historically eye-popping figures. The two proposals are supposed to be Biden’s next big legislative achievement, but there are deep divisions among Senate Democrats about the scope and strategy: Centrists want at least part of the proposals to be bipartisan, while progressives want Biden to go even bigger. ‘We’re probably going to have some work to do in our own caucus,’ said Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.). ‘I think we’re still a ways away from that. I don’t think there’s a 50-vote consensus yet.’ Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), asked about how to move the two packages, said it’s ‘predicated on my whip,’ referencing how senators count the votes for a bill.” More: “[A] growing number of Democrats are skeptical of GOP outreach efforts, predicting that Republicans will never get on board in a meaningful way.” Oh, noes. Really?

Democrats en Deshabille

“Why Some Black Democrats Haven’t Embraced a Voting Rights Push” [New York Times]. “In Congress, the party is pushing a colossal elections system overhaul that would take redistricting out of the hands of politicians, introduce automatic voter registration and restore voting rights for the formerly incarcerated. For some Black Democrats in the South, the fact that this fight is happening at all — in 2021 — is a profound failure of the Democratic Party’s politics and policies. In interviews, more than 20 Southern Democrats and civil rights activists described a party that has been slow to combat Republican gerrymandering and voting limits, overconfident about the speed of progress, and too willing to accept that voter suppression was a thing of the Jim Crow past. But Black leaders are also facing some unexpected resistance from lawmakers who fear that the sweeping bill in Congress, known as the For the People Act, would endanger their own seats in predominantly Black districts. Republicans have often used the redistricting method to pack Black Democrats into one House district. The practice has diluted Democrats’ influence regionally, but it also ensures that almost all Southern states have at least one predominantly Black district, offering a guarantee of Black representation amid a sea of mostly white and conservative House districts. Some Black Democratic lawmakers in the South have so far remained relatively muted about these concerns of self-preservation, worried that it places their own interests above the party’s agenda or activists’ priorities. Still, the doubts flared up last month when Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, a Democrat whose district includes Jackson and who serves as Mr. Figgers’s congressman, surprisingly voted ‘no’ on the House’s federal elections bill. Recently, other Congressional Black Caucus members have urged Democratic leadership to focus more narrowly on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act — which aims to restore key parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, including the requirement that some states get federal approval before changing election laws — rather than pushing for the sweeping provisions of the For the People Act, officially known as H.R. 1.” •

“Former NY attorney general Schneiderman loses law license for a year over abuse” [The Hill]. “Schneiderman admitted to slapping several women and ‘on a number of occasions’ put his hands on their necks and applied pressure without getting consent, according to the filing released Tuesday. The filing stated that ‘at times’ he was also ‘verbally and emotionally abusive.’ According to the filing, Schneiderman and the committee agreed to the one-year suspension on the condition that he continues treatment with a mental health professional and reports to the New York Lawyers Assistance Program, which helps legal professionals struggling with various issues. The filing also notes that Schneiderman had not previously been disciplined and that he has ‘accepted full responsibility for his misconduct and is remorseful therefor.'”

UPDATE “Cuomo aide steps down from role as New York’s vaccine czar” [The Hill]. “Larry Schwartz, a top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), has stepped down from his role as the state’s COVID-19 vaccine czar, according to multiple reports…. Schwartz recently came under fire after The Washington Post reported that he called county officials to gauge their loyalty to Cuomo as multiple women accused him of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, oftentimes in the workplace.”

Republican Funhouse

“Vote-by-Mail Favored by Older, Affluent Voters, Census Finds” [Bloomberg]. “Those most likely to vote by mail in 2020 included some demographic groups that voted heavily for Donald Trump, new Census data show, undermining his claim that voting by mail only helps Democrats. Older and more affluent voters were especially likely to vote by mail in 2020. Almost 54% of voters age 65 and older — who supported Trump by 5 percentage points, according to exit polls — cast votes by mail. Less than 40% of voters under 65 did so.” • So against interest, perhaps Trump even believed it?!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Another Hillsong East Coast Pastor Resigns, This Time Over Revealing Instagram Selfies” [Julie Roys]. “A pastor for Hillsong East Coast has resigned after sharing revealing photos of himself on Instagram stories. His resignation comes at a time when the global megachurch has been rocked by multiple scandals, including last fall’s firing of ‘celebrity pastor’ Carl Lentz from Hillsong New York City after revelations of an extramarital affair.” • Reinforces my priors, I admit, as does this–

“Former Members of Manipulative Churches Say These Campus Ministries Aren’t the Faith Community They Hoped For” [Teen Vogue]. “Ross recommends new college students to think twice about the conversations they have with people that approach them on campus. ‘Always to remember, it’s not about what the group believes so much it is about how they behave,’ he adds. ‘Ask yourself to what extent do the demands of the organization impede or disable me from pursuing the other areas of my life.'” • As does this–

“’19 Kids and Counting’ star Josh Duggar arrested, indicted on child pornography charges” [USA Today]. “Duggar’s arrest comes less than a week after his wife Anna announced on Instagram that she is pregnant with their seventh child, a baby girl. In a video posted to Instagram Saturday, the couple stand in a field with their six children running in the background. Duggar opens an umbrella over himself and his wife, dropping pink confetti over them.” • So, a gender reveal that wasn’t lethal,…

Stats Watch

Personal Income and Expenditures: “March 2021 Real Income And Expenditures Significantly Improve” [Econintersect]. “The data continues to be affected by the pandemic and the stimulus payments. Expenditures improved month-over-month (and is in expansion year-over-year) whilst income also improved month-over-month and is in expansion year-over-year…. The note from the BEA says it all: ‘The estimate for March personal income and outlays was impacted by the continued government response to COVID-19. Economic impact payments associated with the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (which was enacted on March 11, 2021) were distributed in March. The full economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be quantified in the personal income and outlays estimate because the impacts are generally embedded in source data and cannot be separately identified.;'”

Leading Indicators: “April 2021 Chemical Activity Barometer Index Continues To Improve” [Econintersect]. “The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC),rose 0.7% in April on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis following a 1.1% increase in March and a 0.9% gain in February. On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer rose 12.0% in April (3MMA).”

* * *

Commodities: “Why Dead Trees Are ‘the Hottest Commodity on the Planet’” [The Atlantic]. “Since 2018, a one-two punch of environmental harms worsened by climate change has devastated the lumber industry in Canada, the largest lumber exporter to the United States. A catastrophic and multi-decade outbreak of bark-eating beetles, followed by a series of historic wildfire seasons, have led to lasting economic damage in British Columbia, a crucial lumber-providing province. Americans have, in effect, made a mad dash for lumber at the exact moment Canada is least able to supply it. Climate change, which has long threatened to overturn dependable facts about the world, is now starting to make itself known in commodities markets, the exchanges that keep staple goods flowing to companies and their customers. For years, scientists and agricultural forecasters have warned that climate change could result in devastating failures among luxury goods, such as fine chocolate and wine. Others have speculated about several grain-producing regions slipping into a simultaneous drought, a phenomenon dubbed ‘multiple breadbasket failures.’ But for now, a climate-change-induced shortage is showing up more subtly, dampening supply during a historic demand crunch.”

Tech: “Can We Do Better Than Deplatforming?” [Galaxy Brain]. “In the next few days or weeks, Facebook’s independent Oversight Board will offer its ruling on whether the company ought to continue its ban (deplatforming) of Donald Trump. As you might expect, quite a few people have thoughts as to what the social network ought to do — so much so that the Oversight Board received over 9,000 public comments on the case and had to delay its decision in order to read them. Elected officials around the world are weighing in, perhaps because they’re worried that the decision might add a little friction to being a powerful person online.” • I hate the helpfully underlined verbiage, because it implies that Facebook’s so-called Oversight Board is a Court, or even like a Court, when it is no such thing. It’s just reinforcing Zuckerberg’s PR.

Tech: “Disney’s writer wage-theft is far worse than reported” [Cory Doctorow, Pluralistic]. “Disney argued that when they bought out Lucas, Fox, etc, they acquired their assets, but not their liabilities. In other words, they’d acquired the right to sell Foster’s work, but not the obligation to pay him when they did. This is not how copyright contracts work, period. If it were, then any publisher with a runaway bestseller novel could incorporate a new company, sell its assets – but not its liabilities – to that company, and stiff the writer. Both Foster’s agent and the Science Fiction Writers of America tried to negotiate with Disney quietly on this, but they were stonewalled and insulted (Disney insisted that they wouldn’t even discuss a deal without first getting nondisclosure agreements from Foster, another unheard-of tactic). After failing to make progress with private negotiations, they went loudly public, launching the #DisneyMustPay campaign. The good news is, the campaign was successful, and Foster has been paid. The bad news is that the campaign flushed out many writers who are also having their wages stolen by Disney. The company is stalling them, too – refusing to search its records or volunteer info unless the authors can name the specific instances in which they’ve been robbed.” And: “They have a form where writers who suspect that Disney has stolen their wages can report it, anonymously: https://airtable.com/shrE1hJbqMHsjP9Ll.”

Tech: “How to make online arguments productive” [Science Daily]. “The team developed 12 potential technological design interventions that could support users when having hard conversations. The researchers created storyboards that illustrated each intervention and asked 98 new participants, ranging from 22 to 65 years old, to evaluate the interventions.” • Worth a read, particularly pulling conversations temporarily offline, which is how people handle these things in real life.

Tech: “Show me your playlist and I’ll tell you who you are” [EurekAlert]. “According to the researchers, three songs from a playlist are enough to identify the person who chose the songs. Hence, companies like YouTube and Spotify can accumulate a great deal of information about their users based only on their musical preferences…. The findings surprised even the researchers. The analysis of the data showed that the group members were able to identify the study participants according to their musical taste at a very high level of between 80 and 100%, even though the group members did not know each other well and had no prior knowledge of each other’s musical preferences.”

Tech: “The New iOS Update Lets You Stop Ads From Tracking You—So Do It” [Wired]. “IF YOU’RE SICK of opaque ad tracking and don’t feel like you have a handle on it, a new iOS feature promises to give you back some control. With the release of Apple’s iOS 14.5 on Monday, all of your apps will have to ask in a pop-up: Do you want to allow this app to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites? For once, your answer can be no…. Though the tracking changes in iOS 14.5 are significant, they don’t extend beyond the walled garden that is iOS. Kint likens the immediate impact to squeezing one part of a water balloon: The liquid just expands to the other side. Platforms like Android and the web on most browsers will still allow tracking, and marketers may focus even more strongly there.”

The Economy: “What’s behind the growth slump? Takeaways from census data” [Associated Press]. “The U.S. population grew to 331 million, a 7.4% growth rate from the last time the Census Bureau counted every person in the country, in 2010. Those may sound like big numbers, but it’s actually the second slowest rate of population growth the census has ever recorded, just behind the 7.3% growth in the 1930s. That decade’s slowed growth was rooted in the Great Depression. Our past decade’s sluggish rate had similar beginnings in the long shadow of the Great Recession. The drawn-out recovery saw many young adults struggling to enter the job market, delaying marriage and starting a family. That dealt a blow to the nation’s birthrate. Then the pandemic hit last year and made matters worse. But while U.S. population growth recovered after the Great Depression, demographers are not optimistic it will pick up anytime soon. Most forecast even slower population growth in the decades to come. Americans are getting older — the median age in the U.S. is 38, up one year from 37 in 2010. Immigration had been dropping even before the pandemic effectively shut it down. And many Republicans have largely turned against the idea of immigration, legal or illegal, a new political barrier to the country adding more population quickly. ‘Unlike the Great Depression, it’s part of a process where we’re likely to keep having slow growth,’ said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. That has potentially grim consequences for the nation’s future.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 Greed (previous close: 66 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 61 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 30 at 12:10pm.

The Biosphere

“PM2.5 polluters disproportionately and systemically affect people of color in the United States” [Science]. “Racial-ethnic minorities in the United States are exposed to disproportionately high levels of ambient fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5), the largest environmental cause of human mortality. However, it is unknown which emission sources drive this disparity and whether differences exist by emission sector, geography, or demographics. Quantifying the PM2.5 exposure caused by each emitter type, we show that nearly all major emission categories—consistently across states, urban and rural areas, income levels, and exposure levels—contribute to the systemic PM2.5 exposure disparity experienced by people of color. We identify the most inequitable emission source types by state and city, thereby highlighting potential opportunities for addressing this persistent environmental inequity.”

“Melting glaciers have been shifting the Earth’s poles since 1995, new study suggests” [Physics World]. “The rotation of the Earth has been affected over the past 25 years by the rapid melting of glaciers caused by climate change, according to a study done by scientists in China and Denmark. Using satellite data and modelling, the team has shown that the melting of glaciers has caused an eastward shift in the position of the true North Pole and South Pole that began in 1995…. fter accounting for known influences on polar drift, the team concluded that the main cause of the polar drift that started in 1995 is the melting of glaciers in the polar regions. However, the size of the drift cannot be explained by glacier melting alone and the team believe that there is also a contribution from the extraction of groundwater at middle latitudes – in places like California, Texas, the region around Beijing and northern India.”

“Household aerosols now release more harmful smog chemicals than cars, study finds” [Sky News]. “Household aerosols such as air fresheners, deodorants and furniture polish have overtaken cars as a source of smog polluting chemicals in the UK, a new study has found…. While vehicles were responsible for most [Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)] emissions into the 2000s, scientists found that the use of catalytic converters on vehicles and fuel vapour recovery at filling stations has led to a rapid decline. In contrast, the global amount of VOCs emitted from aerosols every year is rising as lower and middle-income economies grow and people in these countries increase their consumption. Currently, VOCs are used in around 93% of all aerosols, the study said.”

“‘We Need to Hear These Poor Trees Scream’: Unchecked Global Warming Means Big Trouble for Forests” [Inside Climate News]. “Trees and forests can be compared with corals and reefs, he said. Both are slow-growing and long-lived systems that can’t easily move or adapt in a short time to rapid warming and both have relatively inflexible damage thresholds. For corals, a global tipping point was reached from 2014 to 2016. In record-warm oceans, reefs around the world bleached and died. The detailed new information and modeling on how water stress kills trees suggests there is a similar drought threshold for tree mortality, beyond which forests could also perish on a global scale.”

“Daisugi, the 600-Year-Old Japanese Technique of Growing Trees Out of Other Trees, Creating Perfectly Straight Lumber” [Open Culture]. “We’ve all admired the elegance of Japan’s traditional styles of architecture. Their development required the kind of dedicated craftsmanship that takes generations to cultivate — but also, more practically speaking, no small amount of wood. By the 15th century, Japan already faced a shortage of seedlings, as well as land on which to properly cultivate the trees in the first place. Necessity being the mother of invention, this led to the creation of an ingenious solution: daisugi, the growing of additional trees, in effect, out of existing trees — creating, in other words, a kind of giant bonsai. ‘Written as 台杉 and literally meaning platform cedar, the technique resulted in a tree that resembled an open palm with multiple trees growing out if it, perfectly vertical,’ writes Spoon and Tamago’s Johnny Waldman. ‘Done right, the technique can prevent deforestation and result in perfectly round and straight timber known as taruki, which are used in the roofs of Japanese teahouses.'”

Health Care

“Epidemics That Didn’t Happen” [Prevent Epidemics]. The funding.

“Variant Proportions” [CDC (JK)]. Handy chart:

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/30/2021

B.1.1.7 seems not have been the disaster that was feared (at least at the national level). Of course, past results are no guarantee of future performance:


Come on, man:

“As the Caspian Sea Disappears, Life Goes on for Those Living by Its Shores” [The Moscow Times]. “According to a series of recent studies, the Caspian — the world’s largest inland body of water — is rapidly drying up as climate change sends temperatures in the region soaring. Having already fallen by several meters since its mid-1990s peak, the Caspian’s retreat represents a major threat to fragile ecosystems with hundreds of endemic species, and to huge areas of arid inner Asia where human life has always depended on the sea…. In 1996, however, the tide turned. That year, a sustained and rapid decline in the Caspian Sea level began, continuing up to the present day… While previous Caspian fluctuations were driven by unpredictable combinations of human and environmental factors, this decline — which has been accompanied by record high temperatures in landlocked inner Asia — has a more straightforward cause, say scientists. ‘This time, it’s about climate change,’ said Eldar Eldarov, a geography professor at Dagestan State University.”

Police State Watch

“Op-Ed: End the City’s ShotSpotter Contract” [Southside Weekly]. “Less than five minutes elapsed between the time a ShotSpotter alert summoned police officers to 24th and Sawyer and the moment officer Eric Stillman shot and killed thirteen-year-old Adam Toledo. The automated alert was part of the Chicago Police Department’s sprawling surveillance network of cameras, microphones, social media monitoring, facial recognition software, and a growing constellation of carceral technologies. In August, Chicago’s contract with ShotSpotter is set to expire, and the City should decline to renew it before the technology leads to another fatal encounter with police. Despite being pitched as tools for public safety, many of these technologies increase criminalization and lead to more interactions with police, which are always dangerous for Black and brown communities. The police killings of young people confirm that CPD’s surveillance system poses a present and growing threat to the safety and lives of Black, brown, and Indigenous Chicagoans. We must work to abolish the use of surveillance technologies to bring justice for Adam Toledo and others like him. ShotSpotter is a gunshot detection system which uses microphones, algorithms, and human analysts and alerts to send officers to respond to what the system thinks are gunshots. Tellingly, there are no ShotSpotter microphones deployed in majority-white neighborhoods in Chicago. Instead, they blanket the South and West Sides.”

“Autopsy shows ‘kill shot’ to Brown, attorney says. Ministers declare ‘moral emergency.’” [News & Observer]. “Attorneys for the family of Andrew Brown Jr., at an emotional Tuesday news conference in Elizabeth City, said a private autopsy showed that he died when Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies fired a ‘kill shot to the back of the head.’ Brown, 42, was killed in his car outside his home in Elizabeth City last Wednesday as deputies were serving search and arrest warrants related to felony drug charges. After hearing the autopsy results, Brown’s son Khalil Ferebee discouraged violence Tuesday as he addressed the crowd of about 100 people that stood outside the public safety building downtown. ‘To my pops … yesterday, I said he was executed,’ Ferebee said. ‘This autopsy report showed me that was correct.’ The autopsy also showed an additional four gunshot wounds to Brown’s arm. ‘That wasn’t enough?’ Ferebee said. ‘They’re going to shoot him in the back of the head? … That’s not right at all. Man, stuff gotta change. It’s really gotta change for real.'” • Meanwhile:

“Overland Park officer says he shot teen in van after he ‘didn’t listen’ to commands” [Kansas City Star]. “Police had been called for a welfare check on the teenager, who was believed to be suicidal.” • Bad idea…

The Agony Column

“People are ready to have sex again: Condom sales are surging” [CNN]. “Male condom sales in the United States increased 23.4% to $37 million during the four weeks ending April 18 compared with the same stretch a year ago, according to the latest figures from IRI, a market research firm that tracks point-of-sale data at big box retailers, grocery stores, drug stores and other retail channels. That’s after a 4.4% drop in all of 2020, according to IRI.”

Guillotine Watch

“$325,0002 bd3 ba2,500 sqft 1204 S 18th St, Saint Louis, MO 63104” [Zillow]. “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise, what is, it wouldn’t be and what it wouldn’t be, it would, you see. This is entirely bonkers but I’ll tell you a secret, all the best houses are. Sunken conversations rise to incredible heights. Tables that clearly show the wonders of the deep. Waterfalls and rooftop gardens. Outside/inside and angles of peculiar destinations. Mirrors that reflect upside down. Bridges that lead to spaces with no faces. Closed windows with light from unexpected places. Somethings real, somethings created – all things coming together to form an unexpected adventure through the mind of a visionary man. This could be your dream and you could decide where it goes from here. Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” • My eyes!!!!!

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/30/2021

It’s very hard for me to think that whoever commissioned this interior was entirely sane. And this not some King Ludwig-style confection erected by some acid-dropping Silicon Valley squillionaire; this is St Louis, and the price point is $325,000. So even the American gentry are losing their minds.

Class Warfare

“How Austerity Destroyed the Public Good” [Adolph Reed, The New Republic]. “The cycle of strategic pillaging of public goods that produced the Katrina disaster is by now well documented: Free-market ideologues neglect the public welfare for decades; they then privatize and starve out funding for public goods and services; and finally point to the resulting shortfalls in public-sector performance created by their handiwork as a rationale for cutting funding and neglecting these critical services and infrastructures even more…. The yearlong-and-counting Covid catastrophe bears similarly painful witness to the entirely predictable results of four decades’ worth of leaders blatantly and cynically discrediting government while also hollowing out the country’s social and physical infrastructure—very much including the anemic public health systems that prolonged and worsened the pandemic’s course…. The orchestrated mass forgetting of the idea of the public good reinforces the broader suspicion of government as a knee-jerk principle. And this distrust in turn ratchets up rampant vulnerability to the frighteningly solipsistic—if not nihilistic—notion of “rights” as unqualified individual entitlement expressed in anti-masking propaganda and gun rights absolutism. The long-running atrophy of the public good as a framework for governance also creates an enormous opening for malevolent conspiracy theories that at least offer internally consistent accounts of the sources of people’s anxieties and concerns and promise to resolve them—even if through a mass purge of the political opposition or an apocalyptic reckoning. That, indeed, is the big punch line here. The neoliberal regime of intensifying economic inequality may be exhausting its capacities—in this country and elsewhere—for delivering sufficient benefits to enough of the population to sustain a nominally democratic order.” • As di Lampedusa did not quite say, “‘If we want things to stay as they are, things will have not fundamentally change.”

“How the middle class became downwardly mobile” [Financial Times]. “The economist Thomas Piketty points out in Capital in the Twenty-First Century that what we’re seeing is a reversion to the historical norm: in most epochs, the vast bulk of wealth comes from inheritance, not work. Piketty says the exception was the postwar era: once the Great Depression and the second world war had decimated family wealth, there was little left to inherit.” • And on the same theme–

Interesting thread from Doctorow:

News of the Wired

“Naming the fungal universe” [Nature]. “Nearly 150,000 species of fungi have been described up to this day1 and a third of those have had a DNA sequence published. Many of them have been named more than once or have been moved around in the fungal classification system, as taxonomic knowledge improves. As a result, the very same fungus may bear more than one and often multiple names. Most of these cases are of relevance only to taxonomic specialists, but when an ecologically or economically fungus has more than one name, complications arise. One example is the rice blast fungus, an important disease agent of rice. After corn and wheat, rice is the third most important staple food crop globally. It is essential to have a consistent label for the species that destroys the amount of rice that could feed an entire country in a year. When searching online for “rice blast fungus”, the scientific name Magnaporthe grisea likely comes up first. Next on the list would be Magnaporthe oryzae. Yet, the correct name is Pyricularia oryzae! The reasons for this lie in the often surprising discoveries of DNA-based research and the intricate rules of scientific nomenclature, explained in our paper linked below. But that’s not all of it. While the currently known 150,000 fungi have more names than they actually need, a large chunk of the global fungal diversity has no name at all.” • Same problem with Covid variants….

“State of consciousness may involve quantum effects, University of Calgary scientists show” (press release) [University of Calgary]. “A new study by University of Calgary researchers shows that quantum effects could be involved in how an anaesthetic called xenon affects consciousness. Xenon has been shown experimentally to produce a state of general anaesthesia in several species. While the anaesthetic properties of xenon were discovered in 1939, the exact underlying mechanism by which it produces anaesthetic effects remains unclear even after decades of research. The research team has developed the first-ever computational and mathematical model which shows — at the molecular level — that ‘quantum entanglement’ of electrons could play an important role. ‘We show that with this theoretical model we can explain how xenon works, through the quantum entanglement of the electrons in a pair of radicals (molecules with single, unpaired electrons). This suggests these entangled electrons are somehow important to consciousness,’ says Dr. Christoph Simon, PhD, professor of physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Faculty of Science. Radical pairs occur when the chemical bond between two paired electrons is broken. Even though they’re physically separated, the two electrons are still linked at the quantum level and affect each other — a state known as quantum entanglement. ‘Based on our model, it is possible that quantum effects at least contribute to the production of conscious experience,’ says study lead author Jordan Smith, a master’s student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.” • [!!!!!] Here is the original study in Science.

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (LL):

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/30/2021

LL writes: “We’re having a bit of Chinook Spring. Fawn lilies from my walk on Saturday.”

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2:00PM Water Cooler 4/30/2021

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