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2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente. More soon. –lambert UPDATE All done! Bird Song of the Day * * * #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…. We already start to an instant rebound from Labor Day, I assume because reporting is returning to normal. Nevertheless, Labor Day, as the end of summer, also signals life changes for Americans, so those changes will affect the numbers too. We shall see! Vaccination by region: Flat everywhere but the South. Anecdotes aside, we ought to be seeing some pop soon from measures taken after Biden’s speech, which was given September 9. 55% of the US is fully vaccinated (mediocre by world standards, being just below

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

More soon. –lambert UPDATE All done!

Bird Song of the Day

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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….

We already start to an instant rebound from Labor Day, I assume because reporting is returning to normal. Nevertheless, Labor Day, as the end of summer, also signals life changes for Americans, so those changes will affect the numbers too. We shall see!

Vaccination by region:

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

Flat everywhere but the South. Anecdotes aside, we ought to be seeing some pop soon from measures taken after Biden’s speech, which was given September 9.

55% of the US is fully vaccinated (mediocre by world standards, being just below Czech Republic, and just above Switzerland and Malaysia). We are back to the 0.1% stately rise per day. This is the number that should change if Biden’s mandates “work.” However, as readers point out, every day those vaccinated become less protected, especially the earliest. So we are trying to outrun the virus… (I have also not said, because it’s too obvious, that if by Bubba we mean The South, then Bubba has done pretty well.)

“New York hospitals brace for mass staff shortages as vaccine deadline looms” [The Hill]. “Maxine Carrington, the personnel chief for Northwell Health, said she has had personal conversations with each staff member who is not vaccinated in order to try to increase vaccinations. “I’ve had personal conversations with team members, and I was asked by one: ‘Are you really going to fire us on the 27th?’ And I said, ‘let’s put that aside for a minute and let’s talk about saving your life. Why don’t you want to get vaccinated?'” Carrington said.” • Did Carrington’s approach work? I assume not, since she doesn’t say.

Case count by United States regions:

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

Simply tape-watching, this descent is as steep as any of the three peaks in November–January. The question is whether we will ascend to a second (or third) peak, as in last December-January, or not, as in last August. Note also that the regions diverge: The South, which drove the peak, is finally dropping. The West was choppy too, and is now falling. However, all this drama has masked the steady rise in the Northeast and Midwest.

We could get lucky, as we did with the steep drop after the second week in January, which nobody knows the reasons for, then or now. Today’s populations are different, though. This population is more vaccinated, and I would bet — I’ve never seen a study — that many small habits developed over the last year (not just masking). Speculating freely: If the dosage from aerosols drops off by something like the inverse square law, not linearly, even an extra foot of distance could be significant if adopted habitually by a large number of people. And if you believe in fomites, there’s a lot more hand-washing being done. On the other hand, Delta is much more transmissible.

NEW From CDC: “Community Profile Report September 23, 2021” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties, this release:

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

Status quo. Speculating freely: One thing the consider is where the red is. If air travel hubs like New York City or Los Angeles (or Houston or Miami) go red that could mean (a) international travel and (b) the rest of the country goes red, as in April 2020 and following. But Minnesota is not a hub. If Minnesota goes red, who else does? Well, Wisconsin. As we see. Remember, however, that this chart is about acceleration, not absolute numbers. This map, too, blows the “Blame Bubba” narrative out of the water. Not a (Deliverance-style) banjo to be heard. Previous release:

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

(Red means getting worse, green means bad but getting better.)

Test positivity:

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

The South, the leader, steadily dropping.

Hospitalization (CDC). Everything works again today, CDC, good job:

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

Here the CDC’s hospitalization visualization, from the “Community Profile” report above:

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

Alabama now headed down, fortunately. Things are picking up in the Northern latitudes (note the up arrows in Wisconsin and Minnesota). From this chart, pediatric hospitalization, in the aggregate, is down. I should dig out some regional or better yet county data.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

Total: 703,043 699,853. Passing the 700,000 mark, a special day. A little blip down, mercifully. We are approaching the same death rate as our first peak last year. Which I am finding more than a little disturbing. (Adding: I know the data is bad. This is the United States. But according to The Narrative, deaths shouldn’t have been going up at all. Directionally, this is quite concerning. Needless to see, this is a public health debacle. It’s the public health establishment to take care of public health, not the health of certain favored political factions.) (Also adding: I like a death rate because it gives me a rough indication of my risk should I, heaven forfend, end up in a hospital. I should dig out the absolute numbers, too, now roughly 660,000, which is rather a lot.)

From the Financial Times, this handy map of all-cause (not just Covid) deaths:

Covid cases worldwide:

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

European exceptionalism?

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“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: Negotiations over economic agenda at a ‘stalemate'” [The Hill]. “Biden said the negotiations over his agenda are at a ‘stalemate,’ conveying less optimism than the White House conveyed earlier this week following Wednesday’s meetings. ‘Now we’re at this stalemate at the moment and we’re going to have to get these two pieces of legislation passed, both need to be passed,’ Biden said. The president said on Friday that his meetings with lawmakers involved him trying to get them to focus on what provisions they want in the reconciliation package, as opposed to the top-line revenue number. ‘Forget a number, what do you think we should be doing?’ he said. ‘Some of them, when they go through their priorities, it adds up to a number higher than they said they were for.'” • Biden, in other words, is asking the old question: “What do you want?” (A road, a post office, a defense contract, something for the district. Now that we have earmarks back, this is an easy question to ask, and to answer.) However, the grudge match between the “moderates” and the “progressives” is focused on the top line (which, given that it’s spread out over ten years, is important symbolically, but not so much pragmatically). And the “progressives,” correctly, see the existing $3.5 trillion top line as already a compromise. And the grudge match is the point of the exercise. It would be nice if, for once, the “progressives” didn’t cave. We’ll see!

UPDATE “Biden Can Transfer mRNA Technology and Leave the Legal Burdens with Moderna and Pfizer” [CEPR]. “‘Biden administration officials say that forcing the companies to act is not as simple as it sounds, and that an effort to compel them to share their technology would invariably lead to a drawn-out legal battle, which would be counterproductive.’ Actually, it should be possible to reverse the legal burden. Biden could offer to cover the legal expenses, and any subsequent damages, resulting from lawsuits by Moderna and Pfizer against former engineers for sharing their expertise with companies in the developing world or in other wealthy countries. These engineers have all signed nondisclosure agreements, which they would likely be violating by sharing this information. However, if they shared the information first, knowing that they would be protected, Moderna and Pfizer could do nothing to prevent the technology transfer. (If they were sharing the technology with another manufacturer in the United States, these companies could probably get an injunction requiring that they stop, which would expose them to criminal sanctions if they continued. But, US courts would have difficulty imposing an injunction against actions taken in another country.) In short, the Biden administration could find ways around the legal weapons that Moderna and Pfizer might use to block the transfer of the technology they use to produce mRNA vaccines.” • Interesting! International solidarity by engineers. I wonder how many it would take…

UPDATE “1st Florida school district gets US cash for virus mask vote” [Associated Press]. ” Florida school district has received cash from President Joe Biden’s administration to make up for state pay cuts imposed over a board’s vote for a student anti-coronavirus mask mandate. Alachua County school Superintendent Carlee Simon said in a news release Thursday the district has received $148,000 through a U.S. Department of Education program. Simon says Alachua, where Gainesville and the University of Florida are located, is the first district in the nation to receive such a grant. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials have begun cutting salaries paid to school board members in Florida who voted to require masks for students. DeSantis favors allowing parents to decide whether their children wear face coverings and is in the midst of court battles over this broader issue.” • That was fast!

Republican Funhouse

“Hand count in Arizona (again) affirms Biden won 2020 election, draft version of audit report says” [USA Today]. • Amazing outcome, especially from a faction that is said to be staging a coup. Apparently the story was broken by a blog. This one?

“We got the Senate audit report” [Arizona Agenda]. “The Arizona Senate is set to release its report on the Maricopa County 2020 election audit tomorrow, but we got our hands on a copy early…. There are allegedly multiple draft copies floating around among the local and national press corps, including, we hear, separate drafts with different verbiage. (The copies we have are clearly drafts, as they include wrong page numbers, missing pages and watermarks declaring them draft copies.) But the different drafts we’ve heard about all come to the same conclusion: Joe Biden won Arizona. Except the report doesn’t explicitly say he won. Instead, it claims the hand recount shows Biden got more votes than Donald Trump (what is democracy if not the person with the most votes won?), while continuing to throw out unfounded accusations of various nefarious acts. In fact, the audit claims Biden actually won with a larger margin than the county had previously tallied.”

UPDATE “Two new reports of Trump cheating attempts show why the ‘Electoral Count Act’ needs an overhaul” [Washington Examiner]. A very level-headed summary. “Before explaining why the ECA needs a complete overhaul, consider the two new stories. First, the New York Times reported the Trump campaign already knew it was hogwash when it held a press conference alleging a voting machine company worked with radical financier George Soros and communist Venezuela to steal the presidential contest. The campaign pushed the conspiracy theory anyway. The obvious goal was to create confusion and distrust widespread enough that former President Donald Trump could convince state legislatures, or eventually the vice president, to somehow overturn the election results. When legislatures didn’t comply, Trump turned his fire on his own vice president, Mike Pence. The second new story shows the lengths to which the president and a heretofore respected attorney went to convince Pence, on his own authority, to reject the outcome determined by 158,383,403 voters. Lawyer John Eastman wrote a six-point memo outlining a procedure whereby, he argued, Pence could unilaterally declare that because seven different states had presented two competing slates of presidential electors (itself a highly misleading claim), he would declare the states had submitted no ‘valid’ slates at all — meaning Biden lacked an electoral majority.” And: “This leads us back to the Electoral Count Act . The reason those remote possibilities existed even in Eastman’s convoluted, theoretical form is that the ECA is so cumbersome and poorly written. One top modern legal scholar wrote that ‘the law invites misrepresentation’ and ‘is turgid and repetitious. Its central provisions seem contradictory.’ A top scholar near the time it was written called it ‘very confused, almost unintelligible.’ It is the ECA whose so-called ‘safe harbor’ terms determined the disputed 2000 Bush-Gore presidential election, and it is the ECA that sets up a highly elaborate procedure describing how Congress should react if a dispute exists about the validity of each state’s electoral slate. The Rube Goldberg-like interplay between the ECA and the 12th Amendment, and questions about the ECA’s own constitutionality, are what create the muddle Eastman wanted to exploit. Congress should revisit the ECA. Because there is no way to know which party in the future might benefit, or suffer, from the ECA’s confusion, it is in both parties’ interest to pare down its processes and to describe them in plainer English.” • Important!

Democrats en Deshabille

But the fundraising:

Realignment and Legitimacy


The audience sitting, all embarrassed at the norms violation:

Bush makes Trump look like a piker. But he gave Michelle candy!

Stats Watch

Housing: “United States New Home Sales” [Trading Economics]. “New home sales in the US jumped 1.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 740K in August of 2021, following a big upward revision to 729K in July, and beating market forecasts of 714K. It is the highest reading in four months with sales jumping the most in the Northeast (26.1%), the South (6%) and the West (1.4%) while falling in the Midwest (-31.1%). ”

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Capital: “Supply Chain Delays Drag Cutting-Tool Orders” [American Machinist]. “Because cutting tools are required in the production of a wide variety of parts and components supplied to a range of industrial sectors, cutting-tool consumption is taken as an index of current manufacturing activity, comparable to shipments of durable goods…. New orders for cutting tools remain strong versus the pandemic period, but demand is stalling due to manufacturing outages linked to supply disruptions, labor shortages, and more.” • Handy chart:

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

Shipping: “LOIs – worth more than the paper they’re printed on?” [Hellenic Shipping News]. “Skuld recognizes a noticeable rise in the use of Letters of Indemnity in day-to-day operations in the industry, and, consequently, a great rise in the number of queries from our mutual members and assureds seeking Skuld advice or assurances on the drafted language. Skuld is always prepared to address these queries on a case-by-case basis, but in the meantime wishes to provide some reminders hopefully far in advance of parties needing to resolve a commercial dispute at a final hour. An LOI provides the very practical function of allowing one party on an ad hoc basis to take on specified risk(s) in performing a particular operation or set of operations involving risks that he or she may not otherwise be legally obligated to bear. The parties in the most ideal circumstances can continue to enjoy a cooperative commercial relationship with this promise of indemnity memorialized in a legally enforceable writing.” •This seems like a leading indicator of some sort. Shipping mavens?

The Bezzle: “China Bans Crypto Transactions, Vows to Stop Illegal Mining” [Bloomberg]. • That’s a damn shame.

The Bezzle: “Crypto Exchange Lawyer Braces for Wall Street-Style Regulation” [Bloomberg]. • As opposed to CCP-style regulation?

Tech: “A decade of the Tim Cook machine” [Benedict Evans]. “Every year, with metronomic precision, [Apple] delivers another new set of hardware and software, and another set of technology building blocks that fit into a decade-long strategic plan. Never mind Apple in the 1990s — Microsoft in the 1990s could never manage this. Every year a whole new phone arrives, exactly on schedule, keeping or leading the pace for the entire industry, and then ships in the hundreds of millions of units, machined out of aluminium and stainless steel, at a 40 per cent gross margin. This is very hard… But where’s the next Jesusphone? One answer is that Apple now has two very big projects — glasses and cars. A pair of glasses that become a display, and add things to the world that look real, seems worth trying — it might be the next universal device after smartphones, and Apple’s skills should put it at the forefront. But people have been trying for a long time: there are basic, unsolved optics problems, and we don’t know if Apple has the answer, or when it might. Apple Glasses might launch next week, or next summer, or never. Cars are a puzzle as well. Apple might design a better Tesla (and build one, with its $207bn of cash), but what problem would that solve? The iPhone wasn’t a better BlackBerry. Autonomous driving is a big problem, but is it an Apple kind of problem? Why would Apple solve a primary machine learning problem when Alphabet can’t?”

Labor Market: Hilton to make room cleaning optional:

That’s disgusting in so many ways. And a tip of the hat to AirBnB, for inventing the unregulated hotel business!

The Fed: “Have Consumers’ Long-Run Inflation Expectations Become Un-Anchored?” [Liberty Street Economics]. “With the recent surge in inflation since the spring there has been an increase in consumers’ short-run (one-year ahead) and, to a lesser extent, medium-run (three-year ahead) inflation expectations (see Survey of Consumer Expectations). Although this rise in short- and medium-run inflation expectations is relevant for policymakers, it does not provide direct evidence about “un-anchoring” of long-run inflation expectations. Roughly speaking, inflation expectations are considered un-anchored when long-run inflation expectations change significantly in response to developments in inflation or other economic variables, and begin to move away from levels consistent with the central bank’s (implicit or explicit) inflation objective. In that case, actual inflation can become unmoored and risks drifting persistently away from the central bank’s objective. Well-anchored long-run inflation expectations therefore represent an important measure of the success of monetary policy. In this post, we look at the current anchoring of consumers’ long-run inflation expectations using novel data from the Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE). Our results suggest that in August 2021 consumers’ five-year ahead inflation expectations were as well anchored as they were two years ago, before the start of the pandemic.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 32 Fear (previous close: 31 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 34 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 23 at 12:30pm.

Health Care

“Breaking: CDC endorses boosters for majority of Americans.” [Inside Medicine]. “Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend boosters for Pfizer recipients ages 65 and older, echoing the FDA panel vote last week. But CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on that and more this evening. Based on Dr. Walensky’s decision, the CDC has now expanded booster recommendations well beyond the initial recommendations of both the FDA and even the CDC’s own advisory committee’s votes. Per the decision memo, people ages 50-64 with underlying medical conditions should (not “may”) receive a Pfizer booster at least 6 months after the primary series. Walensky also rubber-stamped boosters for people ages 18-49 with underlying medical conditions, but that recommendation was less emphatic; such persons may receive a booster based on their individual risks and benefits. Most newsworthy is that it appears that Dr. Walensky has overridden one of the ACIP votes. The committee voted 9 to 6 against a proposal to allow boosters for adults ages 18-64 with ‘increased risk for Covid-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting’ after 6 months. But the CDC announcement went the other way, stating that individuals in this group ‘may receive a booster shot…based on their individual benefits and risks.” • Since in a pandemic we risk ruin as the contagion multiplies exponentially, I believe that Taleb would approve of going beyond “the science,” as Walensky has done. (The ethics of coercion are another matter, and neither “should” or “must” are the same as “shall.”) However, I think Taleb would not look with favor on our fundamental strategy of putting all our chips on vaccines. I think Taleb, facing ruin, would hedge, which is the exact opposite of what we have done. Vax vax vax! Taleb mavens please correct.

“Ivermectin Advocates Push Online for Using Unproven Covid Drug” [Bloomberg]. “When asked why the FDA and CDC warned against ivermectin, Moring said it comes down to money. She pointed to the $3.2 billion the administration is devoting to developing new antivirals. ‘But we already have one. It’s just that there’s no money in it,’ Moring said, echoing a common conspiracy theory that the government is working with big pharma companies to maximize profits. ‘Ivermectin is about as cheap as it comes.'”” • Wowsers, cray cray. (Read the whole piece for Moring’s views on public health, which I vehemently oppose.) Do note, however, that immediately above we have Walensky going beyond the science just as much as the most fervent Ivermectin advocate would. So it’s really, as Lenin said long ago, a question of “Who, Whom.” Who will control the science for whom?

“Male life expectancy in UK drops for first time in 40 years as Covid takes toll” [Guardian]. “Life expectancy for men in the UK has fallen for the first time since current records began 40 years ago because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show…. Estimates for females are broadly unchanged, with a girl born in 2018-20 likely to live for 82.9 years, the same as in 2015-17.” • Everything’s going according to plan!

“An appeal for an objective, open, and transparent scientific debate about the origin of SARS-CoV-2” [The Lancet]. “The fact that the causative agent of COVID-19 descends from a natural virus is widely accepted, but this does not explain how it came to infect humans. The question of the proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2—ie, the final virus and host before passage to humans—was expressly addressed in only one highly cited opinion piece, which supports the natural origin hypothesis.” • I don’t think that’s a question that can be answered, starting with geopolitics. Absent such proof, lab theorists must argue from characteristics of the virus itself, which come down to the argument that “a design must have a designer” (recognizable in other contexts as the Watchmaker Hypothesis beloved of anti-evolution loons). So in my view, the burden of proof lies with the lab theorists; it took us decades to trace the origin of HIV, for example (also originally thought to have a lab origin).

“USA Risk Estimates By County” [COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool]. “Funding: Ongoing support for the project is via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” • Interesting tool. But:

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

A risk assessment tool for events that does not take ventilation into account is both conceptually flawed and morally vacuous, in that it may encourage people to enter venues without assessing ventilation risk. (It treats two venues in the same county as equivalent based on floor space (!!)). It’s not impossible that CDC’s funding influenced this design decision.

UPDATE “Biosimilar Drugs Are Cheaper Than Biologics. Are They Similar Enough to Switch?” [Kaiser Health News]. “Many medical professionals look to biosimilar drugs [definition] as a way to increase competition and give consumers cheaper options, much as generic drugs do, and they point to the more robust use of these products in Europe to cut costs. Yet the U.S. has been slower to adopt biosimilar drugs since the first such medicine was approved in 2015. That’s partly because of concerns raised by patients like Moxley and their doctors, but also because brand-name biologics have kept biosimilars from entering the market. The companies behind the brand-name drugs have used legal actions to extend the life of their patents and incentives that make offering the brand biologic more attractive than offering a biosimilar on a formulary, listing which drugs are covered on an insurance plan. ‘It distorts the market and makes it so that patients can’t get access,’ said Dr. Jinoos Yazdany, a professor of medicine and chief of the rheumatology division at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.”

Household Tips

“How to navigate FEMA aid: Advice from a former employee” [Southerly]. “Patricia Stukes worked for FEMA for over a decade, from late 1995 through 2006 – a year after Hurricane Katrina made landfall. She took registrations, answered the helpline, and administered appeals. A native of New Orleans, she is now an assistant professor at Texas Women’s University in Denton, where she teaches women’s studies and sociology often through the lens of disasters. Following Hurricanes Laura and Delta last year, she provided volunteer casework for people navigating FEMA assistance in southwest Louisiana through the Disaster Justice Network. Since Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana over three weeks ago, Southerly has been gathering readers’ questions about FEMA, and posing them to Stukes for guidance. Here is what we’ve learned.” • If you are, or think you may one day be, in a situation where you’re dealing with FEMA, this looks like an excellent guide.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Why the Term ‘JEDI’ Is Problematic for Describing Programs That Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” [Scientific American]. “The acronym “JEDI” has become a popular term for branding academic committees and labeling STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) initiatives focused on social justice issues. Used in this context, JEDI stands for “justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.” In recent years, this acronym has been employed by a growing number of prominent institutions and organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. At first glance, JEDI may simply appear to be an elegant way to explicitly build “justice” into the more common formula of “DEI” (an abbreviation for “diversity, equity and inclusion”), productively shifting our ethical focus in the process. JEDI has these important affordances but also inherits another notable set of meanings: It shares a name with the superheroic protagonists of the science fiction Star Wars franchise, the “Jedi.” Within the narrative world of Star Wars, to be a member of the Jedi is seemingly to be a paragon of goodness, a principled guardian of order and protector of the innocent. This set of pop cultural associations is one that some JEDI initiatives and advocates explicitly allude to. Whether intentionally or not, the labels we choose for our justice-oriented initiatives open them up to a broader universe of associations, branding them with meaning—and, in the case of JEDI, binding them to consumer brands. Through its connections to Star Wars, the name JEDI can inadvertently associate our justice work with stories and stereotypes that are a galaxy far, far away from the values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. The question we must ask is whether the conversations started by these connections are the ones that we want to have.” • Help me. (Interesting use of “affordance,” however. I have previously seen it used only for user interface features in GUIs. Perhaps that’s how we are to think of language now. (A very bad idea, since irony, say, is not within the purview of the affordance model.)

Groves of Academe

“Why College Professors Have Had Enough” [Slate]. “Lindsay Ellis, a reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education, put out a call a little while ago for university employees who were looking to quit their jobs. She couldn’t believe the response. “There was a lot of anger, there was a lot of fear, and there was a lot of sadness. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my inbox like that,” Ellis says. “The last 18 months have left a lot of college employees feeling, frankly, disillusioned with the work that they do and unsure of whether the leaders of these institutions are going to sufficiently have their backs in in a pandemic.” • Allowing university administrators to think of themselves as leaders (which sounds better, as the old joke goes, in the original German) has been fantastically destructive to the ideal of the university.

Police State Watch

“Other than prison, electronic monitoring is ‘the most restrictive form’ of control, research finds” [NBC]. “In the past 18 months, as the judicial system has increasingly used electronic monitoring instead of prisons to monitor inmates through the coronavirus pandemic, newly released data confirm what activists and advocates have long argued: Ankle monitors are onerous, and they often subject wearers to vague rules, like avoiding people of ‘disreputable character.’ The ankle monitoring business, the research found, is also dominated by four profit-seeking companies, and it ultimately could drive more people back to prison.” • So ankle monitors are perfect in every way? I’d go long. Oh, and: “Crucially, wearers must pay both one-time and ongoing fees for the monitors, which can be $25 to over $8,000 a year.” Rents, wherever you work. Say, why don’t we just make everybody wear an ankle monitor? The default setting would, naturally, be off, but the monitor could be selectively turned on, remotely.

“Government seizes billions in cash from air travelers without ever filing a criminal charge” [FOX46]. ” Records obtained from the Department of Homeland Security’s Freedom of Information Act library show 30,670 cash seizures happened inside the nation’s airports between 2000 and 2016. The data was made public after the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm based in Washington DC, sued the government for the records in 2016…. Between 2000 and 2016, the government’s seized at least $1.8 billion from people in airports across the country. That total does not include the past five years of forfeiture data DHS has not yet produced in response to a FOX 46 FOIA request.” • You should read the story for the appalling detail. Civil asset forfeiture is very suitable for, say, the Tatmadaw. More:

See at 1:19. Paraphrasing: “Let us keep the money and you’re free to go.” This is what happens to some backpacker at a customs check somewhere in the Third World.

Our Famously Free Press

UPDATE “Federal arrest warrant issued for Brian Laundrie in Gabby Petito investigation” [NBC]. “A federal court in Wyoming has issued an arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie in relation to a grand jury indictment for his ‘activities following the death of Gabrielle Petito,’ the FBI announced Thursday. ‘We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie’s role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI,’ Special Agent Michael Schneider wrote in a statement. The FBI alleges that Laundrie ‘knowingly and with intent to defraud, used one or more unauthorized access devices, namely a Capitol One Bank debit card’ and personal identification numbers for two accounts.” • What puzzles me about this story, from the media critique perspective, is that “missing white woman” stories are for the mid-summer silly season. Is that really where we are, the silly season? Surely not.

Class Warfare

“Labor Dept. unveils rule rolling back Trump-era tip regulations” [Reuters]. “he U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday finalized a rule restoring the agency’s ability to levy monetary penalties on employers who pocket workers’ tips, even when the violations are not willful. The rule published in the Federal Register withdraws a Trump-era regulation that permitted DOL to issue penalties of $1,100 per violation only when employers were found to have purposely or repeatedly not paid workers the full tips they earned. DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) said the Fair Labor Standards Act does not limit penalties in that way, and it was inappropriate for the agency to circumscribe its own powers in the Trump administration rule. The new rule also clarifies that, under the FLSA, managers and supervisors may contribute to tip pools but cannot receive a share of the tips paid to rank-and-file workers. Managers can only keep tips they receive directly from customers for services they solely provide, DOL said.” • Good. Every little bit helps.

News of the Wired

I am not feeling especially wired this Friday, alas.

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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 (jsn):

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

jsn writes: “Bee luxuriating on Queen Annes Lace.”

Bonus plant, or perhaps anti-plant (JU):

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

JU writes: “The KNP Fire in the hills north of Ash Mountain Sequoia NP headquarters.” It has been decades since I’ve seen the California hills; I can practically taste the dryness in this photo.

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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.

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/24/2021

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!2:00PM Water Cooler 6/8/2021

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