John Guttman 1st drive-in theater in California, Los Angeles 1935
On the COVID front, the numbers get uglier, but the Russian vaccine works, so how many have we ordered, did you say? Can we get the billions in development funds back from Big Pharma?
On the election front, it’s getting harder to find news, because the polarization is getting so extreme. The Atlantic piece about Trump badmouthing soldiers is on the level of eating babies stories, but people eat it up. What else do they have in store? And why isn’t anyone calling for calm?
The US will surpass Sweden today in per capita Covid deaths, and will top Italy in a few days. In two weeks we will pass Spain and the UK. But hey, there’s always Belgium!
— Ben Hunt (@EpsilonTheory) September 4, 2020
It seems to work. What are we waiting for?
Russia’s “Sputnik-V” COVID-19 vaccine produced an antibody response in all participants in early-stage trials, according to results published on Friday by The Lancet medical journal that were hailed by Moscow as an answer to its critics. The results of the two trials, conducted in June-July this year and involving 76 participants, showed 100% of participants developing antibodies to the new coronavirus and no serious side effects, The Lancet said. Russia licensed the two-shot jab for domestic use in August, the first country to do so and before any data had been published or a large-scale trial begun.
“The two 42-day trials – including 38 healthy adults each – did not find any serious adverse effects among participants, and confirmed that the vaccine candidates elicit an antibody response,” The Lancet said. “Large, long-term trials including a placebo comparison, and further monitoring are needed to establish the long-term safety and effectiveness of the vaccine for preventing COVID-19 infection,” it said. The vaccine is named Sputnik-V in homage to the world’s first satellite, launched by the Soviet Union. Some Western experts have warned against its use until all internationally approved testing and regulatory steps have been taken.
But with the results now published for the first time in an international peer-reviewed journal, and with a 40,000-strong later-stage trial launched last week, a senior Russian official said Moscow had faced down its critics abroad. “With this (publication) we answer all of the questions of the West that were diligently asked over the past three weeks, frankly with the clear goal of tarnishing the Russian vaccine,” said Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which has backed the vaccine. “All of the boxes are checked,” he told Reuters. “Now… we will start asking questions of some of the Western vaccines.”
More freak stuff.
Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), believed to be linked to COVID-19, damages the heart to such an extent that some children will need lifelong monitoring and interventions, said the senior author of a medical literature review published Sept. 4 in EClinicalMedicine, a journal of The Lancet. Case studies also show MIS-C can strike seemingly healthy children without warning three or four weeks after asymptomatic infections, said Alvaro Moreira, MD, MSc, of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Dr. Moreira, a neonatologist, is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the university’s Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine.
“According to the literature, children did not need to exhibit the classic upper respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 to develop MIS-C, which is frightening,” Dr. Moreira said. “Children might have no symptoms, no one knew they had the disease, and a few weeks later, they may develop this exaggerated inflammation in the body.” The team reviewed 662 MIS-C cases reported worldwide between Jan. 1 and July 25.
Among the findings:
• 71% of the children were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).
• 60% presented with shock.
• Average length of stay in the hospital was 7.9 days.
• 100% had fever, 73.7% had abdominal pain or diarrhea, and 68.3% suffered vomiting.
• 90% had an echocardiogram (EKG) test and 54% of the results were abnormal.
• 2.2% of the children required mechanical ventilation.
• 4.4% required extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).
• 11 children died.
“This is a new childhood disease that is believed to be associated with SARS-CoV-2,” Dr. Moreira said. “It can be lethal because it affects multiple organ systems. Whether it be the heart and the lungs, the gastrointestinal system or the neurologic system, it has so many different faces that initially it was challenging for clinicians to understand.” The amount of inflammation in MIS-C surpasses two similar pediatric conditions, Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome. “The saving grace is that treating these patients with therapies commonly used for Kawasaki—immunoglobulin and glucocorticosteroids—has been effective,” Dr. Moreira said.
“Covid has initiated the death of public ed in America..”
“…Covid has initiated the death of public ed in America…. The state cannot decide whether we should start full remote or whether we should try some weird hybrid schedule. Nobody can make a decision. The union is pissed. They know most of the classrooms are poorly ventilated and too small and they see nothing but a ‘cruise ship’ scenario unfolding. Remote is terrible, but it is better than nothing….” Before we go further, remember the first principle of the long emergency: anything organized at the giant scale is liable to fail. During the post-war growth spurt, we consolidated all the nation’s schools into giant districts serviced by the yellow bus fleets bringing thousands of kids together in buildings designed to look like insecticide factories.
And when that project was complete, what did we get? Two decades of mass shootings in schools. I don’t think we got the correct message from this — which is that this manner of schooling produces so much ennui and anomie that some kids turn homicidal by the time they hit their teens. The fact that this condition remains unrecognized, and certainly absent from public discussion, says a lot about our disastrous collective psychology of previous investment: having set up this miserable system at titanic expense, we can’t even think about changing it. Now, as is usual in human history, the process will happen emergently, on its own, whether we like it or not, because circumstances demand it.
Another matter absent from news media is what happens when falling tax revenues start to bite the giant consolidated school districts. My physics teacher correspondent in New England writes: “School finances are in full reverse mode. Whispered in the hallways before every school committee and in every town council chamber is the awesome reality that sales tax and property tax collections are down 25 – 30 percent. The fear is palpable…. It seems to me that Public Ed as we currently know it will be history in about four years. It is a big edifice. It will take a few years to fully implode, but not a decade. There’s no money left to keep it going as it is.”
This was just too funny.
Joe Biden engaged in a giant softball game with the press today – perhaps best described by Newsbusters’ Curtis Houck as not “even putting the ball on the tee. This is hitting the ball over the stands and letting Biden run the bases.” But before we get the choreographed Q&A, you should know that Biden went full Ron Burgundy today – reading “end of quote” off the teleprompter. The Friday flub comes just one day after Biden read ‘topline message’ off another teleprompter. In short, Biden is now having issues with ‘behind the curtain’ media cues.
Biden just pulled another Ron Burgundy moment by reading the words “end of quote” out loud from the teleprompter
— Courtney Holland – Text COURTNEY to 88022 (@hollandcourtney) September 4, 2020
“Since 2017, Bezos’ net worth has grown by about $4 million per hour..”
If you listen carefully, you can hear Jeff Bezos getting richer. There’s the sound again. Another billion in Bezos’ coffers. Let’s put some numbers to this sound of money. Since 2017, Bezos’ net worth has grown by about $4 million per hour — roughly 500,000 times the US minimum wage.1 This accumulation of wealth would be absurd during normal times. Today, as many workers lose their jobs to a brutal pandemic, it’s obscene. While Bezos is the pinnacle of capitalist excess, his wealth is part of a larger story. Over the last 40 years, stock prices have surged while wages have stagnated. What does this trend mean? In this post, I take a deep dive into the stock market. I’ll first tell you what the stock market is not. It’s not an indicator of ‘productive capacity’. Nor is it ‘fictitious capital’. So what is it?
The stock market, argue Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler, is how capitalists quantify their power. To understand what Nitzan and Bichler are talking about, we’ll unmask the ritual that defines our social order — the ritual of capitalization. Read on to take the red pill and lift the veil of capitalist ideology. When it comes to the stock market, many people believe they have original insight. Often, however, they’re parroting old ideas. Noting this tendency, economist John Maynard Keynes wrote: “[T]he ideas of economists and political philosophers … are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” (Keynes in The General Theory)
When it comes to interpreting the stock market, there are two big ideas. Both come from ‘defunct economists’. The first big idea is that rising stocks are good for everybody. I’ll call this the ‘good-for-GM’ worldview (for reasons explained below). This big idea owes not to any single economist, but to an entire defunct school: neoclassical economics. The second big idea is that the stock market is disconnected from the rest of the economy. I’ll call this the ‘fictitious-capital’ worldview. It’s an idea that dates back to Karl Marx (who had a defunct view of capital). Let’s unpack these ideas.
He doubles as a doctor?
Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell said Friday that Americans should wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines to ensure an economic recovery. “There’s actually enormous economic gains to be had nationwide from people wearing masks and keeping their distance,” Powell told NPR. Powell added that short of a vaccine, such measures enable people to “go back to work and not get sick.” Powell also spoke about the August jobs report, describing the addition of 1.371 million payrolls in August as “a good one.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the new numbers on Friday morning, which also showed the unemployment rate falling to 8.4% — below the street’s expectations.
Powell pointed out that the August gains were not as large as those in May and June. “I guess I would just say, the recovery is continuing,” Powell said Friday in a clip aired on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” “We do think it will get harder from here because of those areas of the economy that are so directly affected by the pandemic still.” Powell’s remarks on Friday mark his third media interview since the COVID-19 crisis began. On March 26, Powell appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” and in mid-May, CBS’s “60 Minutes” interviewed Powell. The Fed Chairman’s remarks to NPR will be the last from Fed officials as policymakers head into a media blackout ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee’s meeting on September 15 and 16.
“We think that the economy’s going to need low interest rates, which support economic activity, for an extended period of time,” he told NPR. “It will be measured in years. The Fed chief also emphasized that more fiscal support is needed from lawmakers at the White House and Capitol Hill, for example on eviction moratoriums. “We shouldn’t let those people lose everything they have and have to move out or be evicted and move in with family. That’s also not going to be good for containing the COVID spread,” he said.
Eat at home.
New York restaurants are taking the hit from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s extended coronavirus shutdowns, with almost two-thirds of owners saying they could be out of business by year’s end, according to a survey released Thursday. The survey by the New York State Restaurant Association is based on responses from over 1,000 restaurant owners in the state and provides a window into the future of the previously booming industry, as the pandemic nears six months. Roughly 63% of respondents said they could likely close by the end of the year without some form of financial relief and 36% said they expect to still be in business in January. “It is painfully clear that without financial assistance, the restaurant industry in New York State could collapse,” said Melissa Fleischut, the NYSRA’s president and CEO.
“These recent survey results illustrate just how dire the financial situation has become for most restaurants, and it shows how critical it is that elected officials understand the urgency of the situation.” Restaurant owners need financial support but ultimately want increased indoor dining capacity and in NYC the ability to open for indoor dining. New York city officials said earlier this week that roughly 1,300 of the city’s 25,000 restaurants and bars have shut down amid the pandemic. “We are now asking the governor, the state Legislature and those at the federal level to simply help us survive. Without further assistance, the restaurant industry as we know it could be gone in a New York minute,” Fleischut also said.
Why am I thinking the judge will let it go to the Supreme Court? What does he have to lose?
The Justice Department and Michael Flynn’s defense team jointly asked a federal judge Friday to move “with dispatch” to complete a ruling on whether to dismiss the former Trump adviser’s guilty plea and related criminal charge from the Russia probe. The two sides, which agree the case should now be dismissed based on exculpatory evidence of innocence made public earlier this year, laid out a schedule in a joint status report to complete briefs, reports and hearings in September. “The United States and General Flynn agree that this Court should resolve the pending motion to dismiss with dispatch,” their report argued. “Any delay would harm both the government, which must expend resources on a case that it has determined should be dismissed, and General Flynn, who faces impairments on his liberty and the cloud of a pending prosecution that the Executive Branch seeks to end.”
The filing came just days after the full DC Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a three-judge panel’s decision and refused to grant a writ of mandamus that would have dismissed the charge against Flynn. The appeals court sent the case back to U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan and asked him to move quickly to resolve the matter. Flynn withdrew his guilty plea nearly a year ago and the Trump DOJ concluded earlier this year that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecution of the former Trump national security adviser for lying to the FBI was unwarranted.
“..there is no reason for any delay.”
Former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn and the Department of Justice filed a motion late Friday to expedite his case after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied his petition for a writ of mandamus against Judge Emmet Sullivan, who is overseeing the case. Flynn’s case has been a roller coaster ride since the former Special Counsel Robert Mueller targeted the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who went on to be a loyal and trusted member of Trump’s team in 2016. Moreover, Flynn has been up against a behemoth of opposition from former Obama officials and Sullivan, who has acted more like a prosecutor than a judge. The circumstances surrounding Flynn’s case have led Trump, along with many others, to call for his exoneration.
Evidence discovered over the past year by the DOJ’s Inspector General, Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell, and an appointed counsel put in place by Attorney General William Barr reveal extensive malfeasance in the FBI’s handling of its investigation into the Trump campaign and Flynn. The litany of evidence collected during the investigations led the Justice Department to request a dismissal Flynn’s case. Unfortunately, the request to dismiss the case was politicized by Judge Sullivan, who is overseeing Flynn’s case. He has been fighting the request and accusing Barr of intervening on behalf of Trump. Because of this, Sullivan appointed an amicus curiae, a friend of the court, to argue on his behalf as to why the case should not be dismissed until he reviews it further.
Powell fought back against Sullivan’s unusual actions but could not persuade the appellate court last week to order Sullivan to dismiss the case against Flynn based on the Justice Department’s motion to have his case dismissed. In effect, Flynn and his family have faced an extraordinary ordeal over the past three years that has left the three-star general and war hero depleted of funds and emotionally strained. “We look forward to getting a ruling on the government’s motion to dismiss as soon as possible,” Powell told SaraACarter.com. “Between the issues fully briefed for the Court of Appeals in which Judge Sullivan fully participated as if he were a party and the briefing already filed in his court, there is no reason for any delay.” In the motion Powell and the Justice Department argue that it “is not necessary, however, for this Court to wait until September 21 to proceed with this case. The Court instead may, and should, set a schedule to resolve this case as soon as possible.”
4 years ago.
In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that technology would have advanced sufficiently by century’s end that countries like Great Britain or the United States would achieve a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.
Why did Keynes’ promised utopia – still being eagerly awaited in the ‘60s – never materialise? The standard line today is that he didn’t figure in the massive increase in consumerism. Given the choice between less hours and more toys and pleasures, we’ve collectively chosen the latter. This presents a nice morality tale, but even a moment’s reflection shows it can’t really be true. Yes, we have witnessed the creation of an endless variety of new jobs and industries since the ‘20s, but very few have anything to do with the production and distribution of sushi, iPhones, or fancy sneakers.
So what are these new jobs, precisely? A recent report comparing employment in the US between 1910 and 2000 gives us a clear picture (and I note, one pretty much exactly echoed in the UK). Over the course of the last century, the number of workers employed as domestic servants, in industry, and in the farm sector has collapsed dramatically. At the same time, “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers” tripled, growing “from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment.” In other words, productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be).
But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the “service” sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza deliverymen) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.
These are what I propose to call “bullshit jobs.”
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