2:00PM Water Cooler 3/24/2021 | naked capitalism


By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Most popular bird song audio at eBird today.

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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. If we are in “in the eye of the storm” , we are still in the eye of the storm.

Vaccination by region:

Looks like yesterday’s stumble was a data artificact. • Early in February, I said a simple way to compare Biden’s performance to Trump’s on vaccination would be to compare the curves. If Biden accelerated vaccine administration, the rate of vaccination post-Inaugural would kink upward, as the policies of a more effective administration took hold. They have not. The fragmented, Federalized, and profit-driven lumbering monstrosity that we laughingly call our “health care” “system” has not responded to “energy in the executive,” but has continued on its inertial path.

AL: “Alabama school district, once home to infamous Tuskegee study, nears full COVID vaccination level” [AL.com]. “Just as soon as the COVID-19 vaccine was offered, Jacqueline Brooks rolled up her sleeve and got her shot. The scene is now familiar across the country. But what sets Brooks apart from the more than 1 million Alabamians who also have gotten shots is her family history – two great-grandfathers were part of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment – and her position of authority in her hometown in Alabama’s Black Belt, as the superintendent of Macon County School District. … Again, she said, seeing elderly church members get vaccinated with no side effects – as well as seeing COVID-19 ravage community members who fell ill – reminded her that, as a friend told her, ” ‘I personally know a lot of people who have been extremely ill and some now buried from a COVID-19 death. But I don’t know anyone who’s has been buried from taking the vaccine.’” Wariness in Macon and Tuskegee is real, experts agree, but individual attention from local government and health officials and trusted leaders, as well as coordinated public health messaging, goes a long way.” • Another way of saying this is that a nationalized effort at the Federal level would only have taken us so far (and in the extreme case, might have been merely singing to the choir).

UPDATE CA: “Gavin Newsom feared a vaccine nightmare. So he outsourced California’s rollout.” [Politico]. “California’s vaccination rollout was sputtering this year when Gov. Gavin Newsom embraced a solution long favored by Republicans: outsourcing. Barely a month after the first doses arrived, the Democrat — who wrote a book on government innovation and has bemoaned California’s outdated technology — inked a no-bid deal with insurance giant Blue Shield of California to manage vaccine distribution throughout the state. Newsom, facing a recall threat and under immense pressure to get the doses out quickly, turned to Blue Shield soon after vaccination problems surfaced, suggesting he deemed the task of rapidly vaccinating tens of millions too complex for government to handle. But the deal has raised an array of data privacy and equity questions, and the company’s sizable contributions to Newsom’s reelection and the governor’s causes have fueled speculation about how money may have influenced the decision. The rollout continues to face challenges with getting doses into people’s arms.” • Can California readers comment?

GA: “Georgia allows all adults to receive vaccine starting Thursday” [The Hill]. “Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) said Tuesday that he will expand access to the COVID-19 vaccine to all people over the age of 16 living in the state, a policy that will go into effect Thursday and comes just a week after he eliminated special COVID-19 capacity limits for Georgia’s bars and nightclubs.”

NY: “What we learned registering thousands of our neighbors for vaccines” [Epicenter NYC]. “Every day, we hear from so many eligible people who haven’t gotten their vaccines because of concerns over access, fear, time or language issues. To be clear, many of them have been eligible for months. It is almost impossible even for those devoting their days to this effort to keep on top of all the twists and turns. Announcing changes and availability on social media (such as this tweet from an Assemblywoman saying people over the age of 85 could now just walk in; something we did not see in news stories or press releases elsewhere) means you have to be constantly plugged in to stay current. Those meant to be at the front of the proverbial line are the very populations that are not on the internet all day long, often unable to check email, let alone be on Twitter. …. The current system is about drawing different categories of people into vaccination centers; more effort needs to go into pushing vaccines out to communities. … People are looking to us for help getting a vaccine so hesitancy is not going to be well measured here. However, there is a definite chain effect based on one person in a family, on a shift, in a restaurant, in a building getting a vaccine appointment through us–and then we suddenly hear from MANY.” • This is very good, worth reading in full. (Funny how there’s a network effect for vaccination exactly as there is for transmission.)

UPDATE TX: “Texas to open COVID-19 vaccinations to all adults. Here’s what you need to know.” [Star-Telegram]. “All adults will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Texas beginning Monday, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Tuesday. Thus far, the vaccine has been prioritized for health care workers, nursing home residents, school workers, those 50 and older and people with medical conditions. But with an increased vaccine supply expected in the coming week, the state is expanding who is qualified for shots. ‘We are closing in on 10 million doses administered in Texas, and we want to keep up the momentum as the vaccine supply increases,’ Imelda Garcia, DSHS associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services and the chairperson of the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, said in a statement. ‘As eligibility opens up, we are asking providers to continue to prioritize people who are the most at risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death — such as older adults.’ The department has told providers to prioritize people 80 or older and to accommodate anyone in that age group who shows up for a vaccination — even if they don’t have an appointment — by moving them to the front of the line.”

Case count by United States regions:

I helpfully added a black line to show how horrific the new normal we are all so triumphal about just now really is. The curve has definitely been flattening for the last three weeks, and in the last two days seems to have flattered entirely (remember I use one-week averages to smooth out data artifacts). That’s not good, and when we look at the Northeast, it’s flattened entirely. Since these are averaged weekly, there’s some momentum in the train, too. So there’s really no reason to break out the champers.

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

New York still leads, although with a recent drop. I’m also loathe to give Florida’s DeSantis permission for a happy dance, but there’s no question that in the enormous natural experiment that is our Federalized response to Covid, Florida didn’t do badly, and its case curve looks pretty much like that corrupt crook Cuomo’s, just with a later peak.

UPDATE NY: “COVID-19 cases have stopped declining in New York City. Experts are trying to find out why.” [ABC]. “Specifically, the New York City metropolitan area had a rate of nearly 260.6 cases per 100,000 people for the week ending March 21, the second highest case rate in the nation, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although cases are not as high as they were during the spring and winter surges, the city has “reached a plateau, which simply means that cases are no longer declining,” said Dr. David D. Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University. In New York, the percent of intensive care unit beds occupied by COVID-19 patients also remains high, at 18%. Experts say it’s still unclear what may be driving this plateau, particularly because of declining testing numbers and state delays in receiving and processing data. While some suggest that relaxed mitigation measures could be to blame, others are pointing to the emergence of more contagious variants.”

Test positivity:

Big jump in the South and the Midwest.


Hospitalization data is the best data we have, because hospital billing is a highly functional data acquisition system (ka-ching). That said, hospitalization is discretionary; they may also be reducing their admissions rate — relative to cases we cannot see in this data! — to preserve future capacity; or because hospitals have figured out how to send people home.

Case fatality rate (plus deaths):

Good to see those deaths dropping. The fatality rate in the West is where it was last May.

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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

“Kamala Harris, Bill Clinton to hold talk on pandemic’s impact on women” [The Hill]. • Why does the phrase “casting couch” come to mind?

But the babies! In cages!!


UPDATE “The GOP’s Political Nightmare: Running Against a Recovery” [Politico]. “It may be an overstated political cliché that if you’re explaining, you’re losing. But you’re almost certainly losing if you’re explaining, ahead of time, why the economic boom you’re expecting on your opponent’s watch shouldn’t be attributed to your opponent. One lesson of the volatility of the past dozen years is that fairly or not, the president’s party tends to get the credit or blame for the economy—or at least for the way people perceive the economy. Biden is visiting swing states this week to sell American Rescue Plan’s focus on giving Americans vaccines and money, but with economists across the ideological spectrum forecasting explosive growth, many veterans of the 2009 stimulus wars believe the economy will be all the sales pitch the bill needs. ‘We’re going to see some fairly amazing economic numbers, and I imagine for the next few years, people will look around and say: ‘This is pretty darn good!’ says American Enterprise Institute fellow James Pethokoukis, a conservative economist who believes the Biden stimulus is somewhat excessive. ‘I’m sure Republicans will try to spin this, and I have long-term concerns myself, but the reality of a crazy strong expansion will be tough to spin away.’” • Those vaccines had better work against the variants, and re-opening, especially school re-opening, had better work. I think Democrat triumphalism and Republican doominess are equally misplaced. Perhaps that’s why the Greed and Fear meter has been neutral, lately.

Democrats en Deshabille

“Illinois governor signs off on law that caps consumer loan rates at 36%” [CNBC]. • That decimal point’s not in the wrong place?

Republican Funhouse

“A ‘nuclear winter’ foretold” [Axios]. “A Senate operating in the ‘nuclear winter‘ Minority Leader Mitch McConnell promises if the filibuster is eliminated is one in which lawmakers face incessant roll calls and other inconveniences turning their comfortable lives into a living hell. Why it matters: In employing apocalyptic language to warn about a ‘scorched-earth’ response, the Kentucky Republican is trying to scare Democrats away from the tool they’re considering to break through the GOP’s own political obstinance.” • I say go for it, especially if the outcome is liberal Democrats cornering themselves into delivering concrete material benefits to the working class, in a crass attempt to win the midterms.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Luxury’s Silence Amid Anti-Asian Violence Runs Deep” [The Popular Times]. “Even in conversations surrounding fashion’s response to the current crimes, one of the sticking points is the hypocrisy of the industry’s continued silence, despite it doubling down on its dependence on mainland China. This argument simplifies the cultural complexities within the Asian diaspora, mainland China, and other Asian communities. The ‘fashion’ issue at hand runs much deeper and is rooted in the industry’s reluctance to truly build brands or marketing campaigns that honor minorities. The industry’s ‘one size fits all’ approach to understanding Asia, China, and its associated diaspora no longer works. Below, we look into the factors that continue to block the industry from progress and aim to shed light on the dynamics of the Asian diaspora.” • Could it be inventing and imposing a category and a name (Latinx, “Asian”), sorting individuals and communities into it based on crude approximations of their ascriptive identities (skin color; hair; eyes), and then bleaching it of all history, class, conflict, and nuance (except for that which can be commoditized, like food, music, fashion, and the careerist “voice” “representing” said invented category) is just about — hear me out — the “whitest” thing of all? A long rhetorical question, I know.

“My Asian American awakening echoes America’s. Now it’s time for an AAPI movement.” [NBC]. “Today, as we observe the ongoing consequences of anti-Asian hate, we are also seeing AAPI journalists conspicuously like never before. Their reporting is tinged with something specific. What you are seeing is conflict; conflict between their job and the expectations society has long held for many in the AAPI community. We are done being your “model” minority. And we want you to listen to us, about the discrimination and xenophobia and fear and pain that has colored the experiences of AAPI Americans in this country for decades. For centuries.” * But in this telling, it is the hate that creates the “us,” not the “we.” “To see ourselves as others see us” is not always a good thing.

“Duckworth Backs Off Vow To Block Biden Nominees Over Lack Of AAPI Cabinet Members” [NPR]. “Sen. Tammy Duckworth and the White House broke an impasse over the Illinois Democrat’s pledge to block President Biden’s nominees who aren’t diverse candidates as a protest over a lack of Asian American representation in the new administration. Under their deal announced late Tuesday, the White House will add a senior liaison to the community and, in exchange, Duckworth will support Biden’s nominees.” More: “‘There’s no AAPI in the Cabinet,’ Duckworth told Capitol Hill reporters Tuesday afternoon. ‘There’s not a single AAPI in a Cabinet position. That’s unacceptable.’” • This is certainly an odd notion of “representation.” For a democracy, I mean.

“Coverage of Bay Area Anti-Asian Violence Is Missing a Key Element” (interview) [Claire Jean Kim, Slate]. From the introduction: “Some (not all) of the video evidence of anti-Asian attacks in the Bay Area has featured Black perpetrators.” If Robert Aaron Long had been Black, would the Atlanta massage parlor shootings have been seen as an opportunity for an identity politics-driven moral panic in a Swing state? I’m guessing no. From Kim: “if you use that frame, you make it an Asian-Black thing, you’re focusing on the two groups and taking attention away from the larger structures of power in which they’re embedded—not just racial structures, but also capitalism. Think about the relationship between Korean merchants buying a liquor store in Compton, and their Black customers. . What we see in the United States are these periodic attacks on Asian Americans, always related to something else going on in the world. In this case it’s COVID. In the 1980s, it was U.S.-Japan trade relations. In the 1870s, it was a regional depression in the West and Southwest, and white workers turned against Chinese American workers. So there’s always been some kind of larger economic, political cause for these upsurges in anti-Asian violence. I think that’s different from what we see with anti-Black violence. Violence against Black people in this country is continuous, structural; violence against Asians is more periodic, contingent on events.” • So much history, much of it horrid, and nuance. Well worth a read.

“How the Atlanta spa shootings forced me to confront my biracial identity” [NBC]. “No matter how white I felt in Westchester County, this world has always seen me as an Asian American woman.”

This is why I think of conservative politics a “funhouse” mirror:

Opportunists fabricate, as it were, “emergent conspiracies.”

Stats Watch

“Headline Durable Goods New Orders Declined In February 2021” [Econintersect]. “The headlines say the durable goods new orders declined and broke a nine-month improvement streak. Our analysis shows the rolling averages declined…. In the adjusted data, the decline was widespread except for civilian aircraft which significantly improved.”

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Shipping: “Container ship stranded in Suez Canal still stuck, says marine agent GAC” [Reuters]. ”

The container ship stranded in the Suez Canal is still grounded and canal authorities are working to refloat it, an official at marine agent GAC said on Wednesday. Ahmed Mekawy, an assistant manager at GAC’s Egypt office, said the Dubai-based agent had earlier received inaccurate information that the Ever Given had been partially refloated.” • Whoops.

Shipping: “Suez Canal blocked by massive container ship Ever Given: Live” [Al Jazeera]. “Evergreen Marine Corp., a major Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship, said in a statement that the Ever Given had been as it entered the Suez Canal. Such an incident, [Gerry Northwood, Chairman of the risk and security management company MAST] explained [is] ‘a bit of a warning .. of a reminder’ of the vulnerability of the canal and its potential for global disruption.” • Strong winds off the Sahara? Chance in a million. Good live coverage from Al Jazeera. Here’s a photo:

Look on my works, ye mighty…

Tech: “Amazon, the Crappy Monopolist” [James Kwak]. “Amazon isn’t even using its magic to improve the consumer experience. For many product categories, buying something requires scrolling through dozens of similar, poorly written listings, many offering the same product. When I worked at Ariba twenty years ago, this was known as the “content problem”: when many different sellers offer overlapping goods in the same marketplace, it’s difficult to clean up all the data so that buyers can see which products are actually the same and compare relevant information about them. Despite all its geniuses, Amazon hasn’t solved this problem.” • This is also true of Google’s News Feed, where you see the same wire service story presented over and over again from different venues (and if it didn’t, the news desert we live in might be more visible). Well worth a read.

The Bezzle: “Tesla’s Autopilot Technology Faces Fresh Scrutiny” [New York Times]. “Federal officials are looking into a series of recent accidents involving Teslas that either were using Autopilot or might have been using it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed last week that it was investigating 23 such crashes…. Bryant Walker Smith, a professor at the University of South Carolina who has advised the federal government on automated driving, said it was important to develop advanced technologies to reduce traffic fatalities, which now number about 40,000 a year. But he said he had concerns about Autopilot, and how the name and Tesla’s marketing imply drivers can safely turn their attention away from the road. ‘,’ he said. Tesla, which disbanded its public relations department and generally does not respond to inquiries from reporters, did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment.”

The Bezzle: “Why it will be years before robot butlers take over your household chores” [WaPo]. “companies are having a hard time commercializing anything more complex than a Roomba — which has been vacuuming houses for 20 years…. It’s not that the safety issues at home can’t be solved. It’s that they haven’t been solved yet, robotics companies say.” •  [nods vigorously]. More: “In 2020, Walmart pulled its inventory robots from the floor after reportedly finding that humans can scan products more simply and more efficiently than bulky six-foot-tall machines.” • Sensing a pattern…

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 45 Neutral (previous close: 49 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 58 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 24 at 12:24pm. One year ago, just after the Before Times: 13 (Extreme Fear).

Health Care

It’s been on my mental list to look at Ivermectin again:

“Use of Ivermectin Is Associated With Lower Mortality in Hospitalized Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019” [Chest Journal]. “Ivermectin treatment was associated with lower mortality during treatment of COVID-19, especially in patients with severe pulmonary involvement. Randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm these findings.”

“The broad spectrum host-directed agent ivermectin as an antiviral for SARS-CoV-2?” [Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications]. This is a very useful review of the literature, from January. “Although these early results are consistent with efficacy, it is clear that only the results from large rigorous randomized clinical trials (Table 3) will definitively establish ivermectin’s utility to treat or prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection. It is to be hoped that the results from these trials will emerge in the next few months to document ivermectin’s credentials or otherwise as a viable therapeutic for COVID-19 infection, and potentially infection by many other viruses.”

“Sharp Reductions in COVID-19 Case Fatalities and Excess Deaths in Peru in Close Time Conjunction, State-By-State, with Ivermectin Treatments” [SSRN]. “For the 24 states with early IVM treatment (and Lima), excess deaths dropped 59% (25%) at +30 days and 75% (25%) at +45 days after day of peak deaths. Case fatalities likewise dropped sharply in all states but Lima, yet six indices of Google-tracked community mobility rose over the same period. For nine states having mass distributions of IVM in a short timeframe through a national program, Mega-Operación Tayta (MOT), excess deaths at +30 days dropped by a population-weighted mean of 74%, each drop beginning within 11 day after MOT start. Extraneous causes of mortality reductions were ruled out. These sharp major reductions in COVID-19 mortality following IVM treatment thus occurred in each of Peru’s states, with such especially sharp reductions in close time conjunction with IVM treatments in each of the nine states of operation MOT. Its safety well established even at high doses, IVM is a compelling option for immediate, large scale national deployments as an interim measure and complement to pandemic control through vaccinations.”

“Ivermectin: Game changer vs Covid-19? What’s the controversy?” [Manila Times]. “Who has taken the jump to use it on mass scale? Slovakia became the first country in the European Union to officially adopt Ivermectin as a treatment for Covid-19, followed by Mexico City, which makes it standard care for the largest city in the Western hemisphere. Haiti is another. The Critical Care Alliance cites the country of Haiti having far lower, almost negligible infection rates than the US (https://bit.ly/2Qo8ViJ), possibly from mass use. In Brazil, India, Turkey, Poland and Dominican Republic, data are being studied. Peru also jumped in. The Critical Care Alliance and Chamie, Hibberd, Scheim studies show that in 24 Peruvian states, over 30 million population, case fatality and infections dropped drastically for all except Lima, despite large increase in population physical interaction shown by Google tracked mobility.

“Top Yale Doctor/Researcher: ‘Ivermectin works,’ including for long-haul COVID” [Trial Site News]. “. Alessandro Santin, a practicing oncologist and scientist who runs a large laboratory at Yale, believes firmly that ivermectin could vastly cut suffering from COVID-19. Santin joins a growing group of doctors committed to using the safe, generic drug both as an early home treatment to prevent hospitalization and alongside inpatient treatments like steroids and oxygen. ‘The bottom line is that ivermectin works. I’ve seen that in my patients as well as treating my own family in Italy,’ Santin said in an interview, referring to his father, 88, who recently suffered a serious bout of COVID. ‘We must find a way to administer it on a large scale to a lot of people.’”

“Censorship Kills: The Shunning of a COVID Therapeutic” [Pierre Kory, RealClearPolitics]. “Early in the pandemic, my research led me to testify in the Senate that corticosteroids were life-saving against COVID-19, when all national and international health care agencies recommended against them. My recommendations were criticized, ignored and resisted such that I felt forced to resign my faculty position. Only later did a large study from Oxford University find they were indeed life-saving. Overnight, they became the standard of care worldwide. More recently, we identified through dozens of trials that the drug ivermectin leads to large reductions in transmission, mortality, and time to clinical recovery. After testifying to this fact in a second Senate appearance — the video of which was removed by YouTube after garnering over 8 million views — I was forced to leave another position. I was delighted when our paper on ivermectin passed a rigorous peer review and was accepted by Frontiers in Pharmacology. The abstract was viewed over 102,000 times by people hungry for answers. Six weeks later, the journal suddenly rejected the paper, based on an unnamed ‘external expert‘ who stated that “our conclusions were unsupported,” contradicting the four senior, expert peer reviewers who had earlier accepted them. I can’t help but interpret this in context as censorship. The science shows that ivermectin works. Over 40 randomized trials and observational studies from around the world attest to its efficacy against the novel coronavirus. Meta-analyses by four separate research groups, including ours, found an average reduction in mortality of between 68%-75%. And 10 of 13 randomized controlled trials found statistically significant reductions in time to viral clearance, an effect not associated with any other COVID-19 therapeutic. Furthermore, ivermectin has an unparalleled safety record and low cost, which should negate any fears or resistance to immediate adoption. Our manuscript conclusions were further supported by the British Ivermectin Recommendation Development (BIRD) Panel.”

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“SARS-CoV-2 Infection after Vaccination in Health Care Workers in California” [NEJM (IM)]. “From December 16, 2020, through February 9, 2021, a total of 36,659 health care workers received the first dose of vaccine, and 28,184 of these persons (77%) received the second dose. Among the vaccinated health care workers, 379 unique persons tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 at least 1 day after vaccination, and the majority (71%) of these persons tested positive within the first 2 weeks after the first dose. After receiving both vaccinations, 37 health care workers tested positive; of these workers, 22 had positive test results 1 to 7 days after the second dose. Only 8 health care workers tested positive 8 to 14 days after the second vaccination, and 7 tested positive 15 or more days after the second vaccination (Table 1). As of February 9, a total of 5455 health care workers at UCSD and 9535 at UCLA had received the second dose 2 or more weeks previously; these findings correspond to a positivity rate of 0.05%. In our cohort, the absolute risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 after vaccination was 1.19% among health care workers at UCSD and 0.97% among those at UCLA; these rates are higher than the risks reported in the trials of mRNA-1273 vaccine1 and BNT162b2 vaccine.2 Possible explanations for this elevated risk include the availability of regular testing for asymptomatic and symptomatic persons at our institutions, a regional surge in infections in Southern California during our vaccination campaigns,5 and differences in demographic characteristics between the trial participants and the health care workers in our cohort.”

“The Hellfire Preacher Who Promoted Inoculation” [JSTOR Daily]. “[When smallpox] arrived on a ship in April 1721, it spread too quickly for the standard measures of quarantining the sick and cleaning the streets to stop it….. [The Rev. Cotton] Mather [yes, that Cotton Mather] had learned about inoculation more than a decade earlier, from an African man named Onesimus, whom he enslaved. When he asked if Onesimus had ever had smallpox, the man showed him a scar on his arm and explained that his community in Africa used infected material from one person to inoculate others against the disease. A few years later, Mather read a report from Turkey describing a similar procedure…. Mather then sent a personal letter to Zabdiel Boylston, a physician, surgeon, and apothecary known for his willingness to undertake risky surgeries. Boylston was impressed with the evidence Mather offered and tried the procedure out on three patients, including his own six-year-old son. They suffered from fever and other symptoms but recovered well… The epidemic petered out over the winter, with more than 800 people dead. Of 287 inoculation patients, only six died. Yet despite this apparent success, many people remained unconvinced that Mather and Boylston’s method worked.” • Plus ça change….

Class Warfare

“Younger Amazon Workers in Bessemer, New to Unions, Are Still Undecided” [The Intercept]. ““Everyone’s been confused,” said Jason, who like many of the 10 Bessemer warehouse workers interviewed for this story did not provide his surname for fear of repercussions. ‘In my opinion, no one around my age in the building has a clear-cut answer of how they’re going to decide.’ The 20-year-old stower — responsible for lifting boxes and scanning them for processing over a grueling 10-hour shift — is part of a sizable group of younger, noncommittal BHM1 workers. Their votes or abstentions could determine the outcome of the most closely watched American union election in decades. In a sign of the push to engage young workers in the union drive, groundwork is being laid to bring Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to Alabama this weekend, according to two sources with knowledge of the planning. The trip, being put together by Sanders’s office and a constellation of activist groups, along with the union organizing Amazon workers, would bring one of Congress’s most ardent supporters of the labor push to the front line. More than 80 percent of the 5,805 Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer are Black. While Sanders underperformed among Black voters in Southern Democratic primaries during the 2020 presidential race, younger Black Americans were more likely to support him. Jason, who is Black, is sympathetic to the union effort but admits his unfamiliarity with unions has delayed his decision. His story resembles that of other younger workers in the warehouse — something an older generation of local workers, many of whom have led the union drive, has come to recognize. ‘Some of the young people don’t realize what the union’s all about because they haven’t been taught the history,’ said Mona Darby, a local poultry processing plant worker who has been a union member for 33 years. Darby was one of two dozen poultry and warehouse workers who showed up last October outside the Amazon warehouse to effectively launch the RWDSU’s on-the-ground organizing campaign.” • ”The death wind has etched away their past.” –Frank Herbert, Children of Dune.

News of the Wired

“Quantum Mischief Rewrites the Laws of Cause and Effect” [Quanta]. “What we normally think of as causal relationships — such as photons traveling from one region of the sky to another, correlating measurements made in the first region with measurements made later in the second region — act, in Hardy’s formalism, like data compression. There’s a reduction in the amount of information needed to describe the whole system, since one set of probabilities determines another. Hardy called his new formalism the ‘causaloid’ framework, where the causaloid is the mathematical object used to calculate the probabilities of outcomes of any measurement in any region.” • Causality as a form of data compression. I’ll have to think about that one, maybe call in my theory checker.

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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 (AM):

AM writes: “The mighty oak tree in Roger Williams Park, Providence RI. 4:22 on February 21 – the days are getting longer!!!! And brighter!” I’m still running winter pictures when for many of you spring has sprung; I suppose the upside is that I run lovely fall foliage when the snow is flying.

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