2:00PM Water Cooler 5/20/2021 | naked capitalism


By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I got a late start again. I will add more shortly. –lambert UPDATE All done!

Bird Song of the Day

The Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle.

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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. All the charts are becoming dull — approaching nominal, if you accept the “new normal” of cases, for example.

Vaccination by region:

Upward movement.

Case count by United States regions:

Continued good news. Since this is a weekly average, the Biden/CDC masking kerfuffle will not show up for awhile, if indeed it does show up. (As promised, I killed the Midwest map, now that Michigan has fallen back into the pack, and replaced it with a World map, below.)

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

Continued good news. (This chart may seem redundant but I’m trying to think through where the next wave, if God forbid there is a next wave, would show up. Florida and Texas are both entrepots to Latin America, and New York and California to Europe and Asia, respectively. (Now that I think of it, a map of counties near resort towns would be helpful, too; the historical correlation between skiing and superspreading is pretty clear, in Europe and the US. Maybe I can dig one up.)

Test positivity:

The West is flat. The South is rising.

DIVOC-91 no longer updates hospitalization and death so I went and found some substitutes; neither provide regional data.

Hospitalization (CDC):

More good news.

Deaths (Our World in Data):

More good news.

NEW Covid cases worldwide:

I think it makes more sense to look at all regions rather than individual countries (even if we know, for example, that WHO’s Southeast Asia is mostly India by sheer weight of numbers, even though many individual countries are having issues). And why is Africa such an enormous outlier? Readers?

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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

“Fauci: Americans ‘misinterpreting’ mask rules” [The Hill] • Deploy the blame cannons!

UPDATE “Joe Biden’s Drilling Moratorium Is Not a Moratorium” [Jacobin]. “During the 2020 campaign, President Joe Biden promised to combat climate change by ‘banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters’ — and the week he took office in January, Biden issued an executive order pausing oil and gas leases on federal land as part of the administration’s effort to ‘combat the climate crisis by example.’ But experts and environmental advocates say that the moratorium is likely to have little effect. Moreover, even as a new International Energy Agency (IEA) report said governments must immediately end fossil fuel development, Biden has yet to use his executive authority to take steps that could more quickly do that.” • A by-now familiar pattern. More: “The ramifications of Biden’s initial moves will likely be limited because fossil fuel companies, fearing such a ban under a potential Democratic administration, sought and received approval for thousands of drilling permits on millions of acres of federal land during the Trump years, which they can develop at any time.”

UPDATE “Biden proposes doubling IRS workforce as part of plan to snag tax cheats” [Politico]. “President Joe Biden is proposing to double the size of the IRS, by hiring nearly 87,000 new workers over the next decade, as part of a sweeping plan to chase down tax cheats. The hiring spree, part of a bid to increase IRS funding by $80 billion, would be phased in to give the department time to absorb the additional resources, the Treasury Department said in a report Thursday. The agency’s workforce would never grow by more than a “manageable” 15 percent each year. And its total budget would increase by about 10 percent annually. xAt the same time, the administration wants to require financial institutions and other businesses to report a lot more information about the money coursing through their customers’ accounts — a proposal designed to put the fear of the IRS in the hearts of tax scofflaws. It’s part of a concerted effort by the administration to go after uncollected taxes owed by large corporations, partnerships and wealthy individuals — money Democrats want to use to finance their big-ticket spending plans.” • I doubt very much that wealth individuals will be the ultimate taxes. And Federal taxes, as readers know, do not fund Federal spending.

Democrats en Deshabille

“Criminal Probe of Cuomo Admin’s COVID Handling Expands to Include VIP Testing Scheme” [New York Magazine]. “The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York’s criminal inquiry into the Cuomo administration’s coronavirus handling has expanded to the governor’s unequal distribution of COVID-19 tests in the early days of the pandemic, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Federal investigators will now examine reports from March detailing how Cuomo’s office gave VIPs, including the governor’s brother, access to tests and state-lab resources in March of 2020, when New York City was inundated with cases and tests were all but impossible to come by…. The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York’s criminal inquiry into the Cuomo administration’s coronavirus handling has expanded to the governor’s unequal distribution of COVID-19 tests in the early days of the pandemic, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Federal investigators will now examine reports from March detailing how Cuomo’s office gave VIPs, including the governor’s brother, access to tests and state-lab resources in March of 2020, when New York City was inundated with cases and tests were all but impossible to come by.” • Nice peopl, the Cuomo’s..

Republican Funhouse

“Top Southern Baptist official who criticized Trump resigns” [The Hill]. “Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) for the [Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)], announced his resignation on his website and said he would be joining Christianity Today magazine to be the director of its Public Theology Project…. Many Southern Baptist pastors withdrew their funding from the SBC in protest of Moore’s criticisms, leading to Moore apologizing ‘for failing to distinguish’ between those who voted for Trump and ‘those who put politics’ over the Gospel, the [WSJ] reports. The outlet notes that in February of this year some churches were found to still be withholding donations.” • This seems to me to be the most consequential of the “It’s Trump’s Party now” stories. Whether it means Trump will run again is a separate question.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“More Oregon counties vote to consider joining Idaho, part of rural effort to ‘gain political refuge from blue states’” [The Oregonian]. “Five eastern Oregon counties voted Tuesday in favor of considering becoming part of Idaho. Baker, Grant, Lake, Malheur and Sherman counties join Union and Jefferson, which voted last year to require county officials to study or promote joining Idaho… The grassroots group Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho wants to flip Oregon’s mostly rural eastern and southern counties — plus a few northern counties in California — into Idaho, believing they’d be better off in Idaho’s more conservative political environment. It’s hoping that political pressure from county initiative votes will lead to negotiations between Oregon and Idaho to move the border between the two states, putting up to 22 of Oregon’s 36 counties in Idaho.” • Handy map:

“Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner Trounces Police-Backed Primary Challenger” [The Intercept]. “Four years into his experiment with reforming Philadelphia’s criminal justice system, Larry Krasner overwhelmingly won his primary race for reelection to the office of district attorney on Tuesday. With 74 percent of votes counted, Krasner led his Democratic primary challenger Carlos Vega 65 percent to 35 percent, according to the Associated Press. Vega conceded the race shortly before midnight on Tuesday, and Krasner is all but assured victory in the November general election. ‘We in this movement for criminal justice reform just won a big one,’ Krasner said in a victory speech. ‘Four years ago, we promised reform, and a focus on serious crime. People believed what were, at that point, ideas. Promises. And they voted us into office with a mandate. We kept those promises. They saw what we did. And they put us back in office because of what we’ve done.’ Vega, a former homicide prosecutor who was one of 31 staffers Krasner fired during his first week as district attorney, had run a campaign attacking Krasner’s policies as soft on crime and was boosted by one of the largest expenditures from the city’s police union in more than a decade.”

“Chicago mayor sparks backlash after limiting media interviews to people of color” [The Hill]. “Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) is drawing scrutiny and pushback from local journalists after deciding to grant one-on-one media interviews only to people of color to cover her two-year anniversary in office. The restrictions on who could interview the mayor garnered national attention after Mary Ann Ahern, a political reporter for NBC 5 Chicago, tweeted about the move on Tuesday. ‘Absolutely, they told me only Black and brown journalists are getting one-on-one interviews,’ Ahern, who is white and has served as a political reporter at the NBC station since 2006, told The Hill. In a public statement on Wednesday, Lightfoot confirmed she was ‘exclusively providing one-on-one interviews with journalists of color.’ ‘I have been struck since my first day on the campaign trail in 2018 by the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of Chicago media outlets, editorial boards, the political press corps, and yes, the City Hall press corps specifically,’ Lightfoot wrote. The mayor defended her move earlier Wednesday on Twitter, saying she was ‘being intentional about prioritizing media requests from POC reporters on the occasion of the two-year anniversary.’”

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “May 2021 Philly Fed Manufacturing Survey Index Declined” [Econintersect]. “Overall, this report was worse than last month and key elements improvements were mixed. This is a very noisy index which readers should be reminded is sentiment-based…..”

Employment Situation: “15 May 2021 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Improvement Continues” [Econintersect]. “Market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Econoday) were 450 K to 493 K (consensus 460 K), and the Department of Labor reported 444,000 new claims. The more important (because of the volatility in the weekly reported claims and seasonality errors in adjusting the data) 4 week moving average moved from 535,250 (reported last week as 534,000) to 504,750.”

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Commodities: “Colonial Pipeline’s Computer Network Temporarily Goes Dark” [Bloomberg]. “‘The latest server disruptions stemmed from efforts to harden its systems and “were not related to the ransomware or any type of reinfection,’ Colonial said. The communications outage meant fuel distributors found it more difficult to funnel shipments to supply-choked locations, said Andy Milton, senior vice president of supply at Mansfield Energy Corp., a closely held firm that handles more than 3 billion gallons of fuel a year.’” • Awesome! The consultants took down the system!

Commodities: “The Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack and the Perils of Privately Owned Infrastructure” [The New Yorker]. “[W]e are a country that has seen nearly a thousand reported ransomware attacks on our critical infrastructure since 2013. This includes transportation services, wastewater facilities, communications systems, and hospitals. The average recovery cost of a ransomware attack for businesses is around two million dollars. And the damage is not just financial. A case in point was last fall’s cyberattack on the University of Vermont Medical Center. Not only was it estimated to have cost a million and a half dollars a day in lost revenues and remediation expenses but it also caused the hospital to temporarily furlough or reassign three hundred employees, halt most surgeries, and cancel or postpone some treatments, including those for cancer. The hospital’s vice-president of network I.T., Doug Gentile, said that his team didn’t open a link that presumably contained a ransom note because they had no intention of giving in to the hackers. (Instead, they contacted the F.B.I.) This was not unusual. Last year, about three-quarters of ransomware victims did not pay their attackers. Those that did found that the hackers restored, on average, only sixty-five per cent of the data that they’d hijacked.”

Retail: “Consumer Spending ‘On Fast Forward’ as Covid Hibernation Ends” [Bloomberg]. “Americans are leaving the house, ditching the masks and spending again. At Walmart Inc., sales of teeth whitening kits doubled last month while luggage soared 400% and gum and mints flew off the shelves. Sales in Target Corp. stores jumped as shoppers grabbed dresses, cosmetics, sunscreen and sporting goods. Macy’s Inc. saw increased demand for prom dresses, stylish sandals and even tailored clothing for men as offices reopen. Add it up, and you’ve got a consumer that’s quickly emerging from last year’s pandemic hibernation, a time when spending focused mainly on critical everyday items: toilet paper, canned veggies and flour. Now, flush with government stimulus checks, higher wages and record savings, they’re shopping for things that make them look and feel good. They’re also preparing to take vacations and reengage with a world outside their home.”

Retail: “COVID-19 pandemic: Apparel sales are surging post-lockdown” [Yahoo Finance]. “It’s becoming quite clear that U.S. consumers want a new outfit — or five — for their first dinner at a restaurant or now that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19…. Apparel sales have come on quick since the winter month as confidence in the vaccine rollout has increased. Sales at clothing and accessories stores rose 16.4% in April from February, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales at department stores have risen 10% over that same stretch.”

Shipping: “Port in a storm: No end in sight to global shipping chaos” [Nikkei Asian Review]. “Seafarers, the floating workforce of 1.6 million women and men that operate the world’s fleet of 50,000 commercial cargo vessels, have been thrown into turmoil by the pandemic. Theirs is a crisis that has played out almost invisibly, far out to sea or onboard ship. Their numbers are large enough to populate a city — albeit one where social distancing is impossible and there is no way out. There is a reason for the paranoia. The number of COVID-19 infections and deaths on ships over the past year is a closely guarded secret which shipping companies are not required to disclose. But early outbreaks on cruise ships like the Diamond Princess, where 700 people were rapidly infected by the virus, graphically demonstrated the danger. For ships’ crews, as for millions of others, the price of safety is monotony and isolation. But instead of being marooned at home, they are stuck permanently at work. They spend their days pacing their ships, surrounded by nothing but metal and the vast ocean.” • Excellent article, worth reading in full.

The Bezzle: “Self-Driving Cars Pose Crucial Question: Who to Blame in a Crash” [Bloomberg]. “he issues have held up legislation that would allow carmakers to test and sell tens of thousands of autonomous vehicles, something the industry says it needs to fully develop and eventually market the technology to consumers. A bill to do that sailed through the House several years ago but has been bogged down in the Senate over the liability question. A move to merge the bill with must-pass legislation earlier this month faltered over an initiative by some manufacturers to include language that would prevent consumers from suing or forming class-action cases. Instead, the consumers would have to submit disputes to binding arbitration, something that is common with technology products but not automobiles.” And: “Many automakers have quietly backed off pronouncements made in the middle of the last decade that would have resulted in many more self-driving cars being on the road, [Missy Cummings, director of Duke University’s Humans and Autonomy Lab], said. ‘Without explicitly saying it, a lot of companies are realizing that self-driving cars are much further off than we initially realized,’ she said.”

M & A: “Capital Calls: A tale of two break fees” [Reuters]. “When mergers get going, those merging look for certainty. One form of insurance is a break fee payable if one partner jumps, say, for a better deal…. In Canadian National Railway’s bid for U.S. railroad Kansas City Southern, there might be two fees. Canadian National looks to have wooed Kansas City away from an agreed merger with Canadian Pacific Railway. If it stays that way, the Montreal-based operator will have to pay the $700 million penalty built into Kansas City’s original deal. But if regulators won’t bless the revised union in the promised form, Canadian National might end up paying another $1 billion break fee…. Two break fees are definitely not better than one.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 36 Fear (previous close: 35 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 40 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 20 at 12:31pm.

Health Care

UPDATE “Dogs Sniffing Covid From Sweat Fare Almost as Well as PCR Tests” [Bloomberg]. “The trial, which was conducted at France’s National Veterinary School in Maisons Alfort near Paris, collected sweat samples from the armpits of the participants with cotton pads that were locked into jars and gave them to at least two different dogs for sniffing. None of the dogs had prior contact with the volunteers. There were 335 people tested, of which 109 were positive in a PCR test that served as a control. Nine dogs participated, and the researchers didn’t know which samples were positive…. The dogs’ detection reached 97% sensitivity in the French study, meaning that’s how well the canines could identify positive samples. The sniffing was also 91% specific, which rates the dogs’ ability to identify negatives. The sensitivity rating beats that of many 15-minute antigen tests, which tend to be better at ruling out infection than at finding it.”

UPDATE “The “noble lie” on masks probably wasn’t a lie” [Lessons from the Crisis]. “We can’t see what the US experts were saying to each other at the time, but the UK government has published the internal minutes of deliberations by expert science teams who would have had very similar information to their American counterparts. Those documents don’t reveal a coherent plot to pretend they thought masks wouldn’t work, unless months of fraudulent minutes and other kayfabe were also part of the conspiracy- it just seems more likely that most of them just really believed masks were ineffective, or at least weren’t confident enough about what they thought to fight about it…. Based on the expert view that regular people just wouldn’t make good use of them, the UK standing stockpile was reduced to keeping masks for healthcare workers only. The CDC had similar longstanding guidelines in place prior to the pandemic, so it’s not plausible to believe that the anti-mask stance came about because of shortages- rather the shortages were (in part) caused by the belief.” • Hmm.

UPDATE “What Really Happened With that Weird Yankees COVID Outbreak” [David Wallace-Wells, The Atlantic]. “One of my core philosophies in public health is we absolutely need to bring the public along. You need to keep them up to speed. You need to keep them informed. If you don’t have the public buy-in for everything you’re doing, you will never defeat a pandemic. Throughout this pandemic, we’ve generally considered the public to be the problem. But this is public health. The public isn’t the problem – that’s on the virus – instead, the public is the solution. As we are seeing with vaccines, the public is the solution and unless we want to vaccinate people based on some forceful military state requirements (which we do not and I hope never would) then we must see the public as the solution, always.” • (The snippet is not representative of a very good article mainly on testing, well worth a read.) This is Michael Mina. Now read the next—

“A key to the next pandemic: An early-warning system” [Michael Mina, The Harvard Gazette]. “One lesson that we should learn from this pandemic and from the Trump presidency is that though we assume that scientists with the best interests of humanity would be leading efforts, that did not happen in this presidency. We should have an independent crisis group that doesn’t include political appointees.” • Philosopher Kings, the goto PMC solution.

“Deadly Fungi Are the Newest Emerging Microbe Threat All Over the World” [Scientific American]. “from the start of the pandemic, [Tom Chiller, and epidemiologist and CDC branch chief] had felt uneasy about its possible intersection with fungal infections. The first COVID case reports, published by Chinese scientists in international journals, described patients as catastrophically ill and consigned to intensive care: pharmaceutically paralyzed, plugged into ventilators, threaded with I.V. lines, loaded with drugs to suppress infection and inflammation. Those frantic interventions might save them from the virus—but immune-damping drugs would disable their innate defenses, and broad-spectrum antibiotics would kill off beneficial bacteria that keep invading microbes in check. Patients would be left extraordinarily vulnerable to any other pathogen that might be lurking nearby. Chiller and his colleagues began quietly reaching out to colleagues in the U.S. and Europe, asking for any warning signs that COVID was allowing deadly fungi a foothold. Accounts of infections trickled back from India, Italy, Colombia, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands and France. Now the same deadly fungi were surfacing in American patients as well: the first signs of a second epidemic, layered on top of the viral pandemic. And it wasn’t just C. auris. Another deadly fungus called Aspergillus was starting to take a toll as well. ‘This is going to be widespread everywhere,’ Chiller says. ‘We don’t think we’re going to be able to contain this.’” • More trouble.

The Biosphere

“Want More Birds in Your Yard? Try Adding a Birdhouse Or Two” [The Buzz]. “Spring is a good time to add a nesting box or birdhouse because birds are scouting nest sites at this time of year, the National Wildlife Federation reports. However, not all birds will move in and take up residence in your provided shelter. Typically only cavity nesting birds use birdhouses and nesting boxes, and not all cavity nesters will. In all, between two dozen and three dozen bird species will take up residence in provided shelter. Some of the most common birds to use provided nesting boxes and birdhouses are bluebirds, chickadees, titmice and wrens, according to the wildlife federation. However, even among easy-to-attract birds, their preferences vary.” • The best advice I ever got on birds was “birds love a mess.” And sure enough, when I left plenty of piled up twigs and leaves around, and added some bushes and nut trees, I got more birds. (Of course, I have a taste for returning vegetation to the ground it came from.)

“It’s California wildfire season. But firefighters say federal hotshot crews are understaffed” [Los Angeles Times]. “As another wildfire season looms over California, the U.S. Forest Service is running short of the most experienced and elite firefighters in the country — the forestry crews known as hotshots, who travel the nation putting out wildfires, according to interviews with union officials and agency employees. A combination of low pay, competition from state and local fire departments and exhaustion from fire seasons that are longer and more devastating than in the past has eroded the federal government’s ability to hire new firefighters and retain the most skilled. Nowhere is this more true than in California, where entry-level Forest Service firefighters in certain parts of the state earn less than the minimum wage of $14 an hour, and staffing levels have plummeted ahead of a fire season that scientists say could be especially active. Roughly 30% of the federal hotshot crews that work on the front lines of wildfires in California are understaffed, according to the union that represents most Forest Service employees. Some of these typically 20-person crews have lost so many veteran firefighters that the remaining workers have been assigned to lower-ranking Type 2 crews, which don’t require as much experience, union officials said.” • If only there were some market mechanism to address this issue.


“Idaho teacher disarmed school shooter and hugged her until help arrived” [Guardian]. “[teacher Krista Gneiting], meanwhile, said she hopes people can forgive the girl and help her get the support she needs. ‘She is just barely starting in life and she just needs some help. Everybody makes mistakes,’ she told ABC News. ‘I think we need to make sure we get her help and get her back into where she loves herself so that she can function in society.’”

Groves of Academe

“1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones loses UNC tenure offer amid backlash over her ‘un-factual and biased’ work” [Daily Mail]. • This is ridiculous. Since when does a journalist, no matter how brilliant, get a tenure offer as her very first academic job? Quite a slap in the face for those climbing the (increasingly shaky) academic ladder with theses, dissertations, etc. What next? UNC ended up offering Hannah-Jones a contract in the journalism school, which would be legitimate, were Hannah-Jones not the Judy Miller of race science (and no scholar. The Daily Mail naturally doesn’t mention WSWS, but their demolition of the 1619 Project is quite thorough. See here, here, and especially here).

Class Warfare

UPDATE “The PRO Act: What’s in It and Why Is It a Labor Movement Priority?” [Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue]. “Enter the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021. Better known as the PRO Act, this bill would be the first major worker-friendly labor law reform since the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, would significantly expand workers’ ability to join and organize unions, and level heavy penalties on employers who stand in their way. There are a number of exciting reforms in the bill, including a federal override of so-called right-to-work laws that weaken unions by allowing members to opt out of paying dues; an end to the hated 1947 Taft-Hartley Act’s ban on secondary strikes (also known as solidarity strikes, these are collective actions that employees in different workplaces can undertake to support another group of workers on strike); an update to the union election process to allow workers to vote online or by phone; enhanced protections for whistleblowers; and a response to the issue of worker misclassification that would give independent contractors — a group left out of the original NLRA that is still denied basic labor rights (especially those who are part of the so-called gig economy) — the right to organize collectively. (As an independent contractor myself, I am especially thrilled about that one.) The PRO Act would also outlaw captive-audience meetings, a particularly egregious but currently legal union-busting tactic favored by anti-union companies.” • More good work from Kim Kelly.

UPDATE “UI Generosity and Job Acceptance: Effects of the 2020 CARES Act” (PDF) [Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco]. “Direct empirical analysis of labor force transitions using matched Current Population Survey (CPS) data, linked to annual earning records from the CPS income supplement to form UI replacement rates, shows moderate disincentive effects of the $600 supplemental payments on job finding rates; this empirical framework also suggests small effects of the $300 weekly UI supplement available during 2021.” • Then we need to make the benefits larger….

UPDATE “Why This McDonald’s Worker Is Going Out on Strike Today” (interview) [Precious Cole, Discourse Blog]. Precious Cole is one of those striking workers. Cole has been working in fast-food joints since she was 15 years old; she’s now 34. During the pandemic, she has worked at three different restaurants in Durham, North Carolina: Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, Wendy’s, and since last month, a McDonald’s franchise, after she got recruited out of the Wendy’s drive-thru window. Cole: “So in my experience, it has been a lot harder. Like I said, I’ve been in fast food half my life, so I’ve seen and dealt with everything imaginable. But now, you know, they just seem so angry. You get one or two that say, ‘Thank you for being here, for helping us out, for working during COVID.’ But then you have the other customers where—it’s store policy that you have to wear a mask. ‘Well, it’s my right not to wear a mask.’ And I’m like, They get ignorant and rude and throw stuff on us. It’s a whole lot worse now, because I believe people are angered. Half of these people don’t have jobs, or they do have jobs that are paying them little to nothing. People try to feed their families and have gas in their cars, they’re trying to make it to work.” • ”I can’t serve you” summarizes the class angle with exactitude. And I do think there’s something to the idea that anti-masking anger is displaced anger.

UPDATE “New automated dumpling shop in NYC reimagines restaurant experience” [ABC]. “Upon entering the space, guests get a full look behing the glass enclosed Dumpling Lab — a savory spin on Willy Wonka’s confectionery — where two chefs assess each batch of perfectly plump and pinched dumplings as they roll off a conveyor belt and place them into a steamer or griddle cooked to order. Customers can choose to scan a QR code to order directly from their phone for completely touchless ordering or tap through the touchscreen menu on the kiosk and receive a printed ticket with a special barcode. When it’s ready they get a text notification to pick it up from one of the temperature controlled ONDO food lockers — lit blue for chilled drink orders and red for hot dumpling dishes — along the the wall and scan their barcode to activate the locker door to automatically lift open. As if each of those features are not futuristic enough, the Brooklyn Dumpling Shop will also feature a Bitcoin Trading Machine so customers can pay via cryptocurrency rather than cash or credit. The innovative 24-hour quick service and Zero Human Interaction restaurant is the latest development from New York hospitality veteran Stratis Morfogen….” • This dude innovated the Automat.

News of the Wired

“Why the Apple Store Will Fail…” [Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture]. “A big part of finance seems to involve making forecasts about what will happen in the future. Most people are really bad at this, for a variety of reasons: We have little awareness of our expertise or lack thereof; we do not truly understand the present, let alone the future; we often predict what we want to be true, rather than what is. And of course, the Dunning Kruger effect explains why we over-estimate our own skillsets about all of the above. The sooner we learn what we know and work within our capabilities, the better off we will all be.”

“Indo-Europeans and the Yamnaya Culture” [Patrick Wyman, Perspectives]. “The Yamnaya migration is one of the most straightforward examples we find in the distant human past. Artifacts, genes, and even a reconstructed language – Proto-Indo-European – all seem to match up. … the language ancestral to the entire Proto-Indo-European family. That family includes English, Latin and its descendants, Russian, Sanskrit, Hindi, Persian, and dozens of others, spoken by billions of people around the world today. This was a world of mobile herders who took their cattle and sheep from place to place, using horses to do so. They were hierarchical and extremely patriarchal, organized around bonds of male kinship, and far from averse to a bit of raiding and fighting. All of that seems to match the Yamnaya both on the steppe and in their new home in the Hungarian Plain.” • And today!

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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 (MP):

MP writes: “In the neighboring meadow, a tree is already in full bloom. The bees love it.”

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