By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
House Sparrow, Loulé, Faro, Portugal. “Chamamento de alarme.” Lots going on, including a rooster and, I think, a sheep! So perhaps the sparrow has a lot to be alarmed about!
“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles
“Mike Pence ‘gives evidence to grand jury for seven hours’ about Donald Trump and the 2021 US Capitol riots” [Sky News]. “Mr Pence was inside the US District Court in Washington for more than seven hours on Thursday, NBC News reported…. Mr Pence’s testimony on Thursday is a significant development in the Justice Department’s investigation and is likely to give prosecutors a key first-person account of certain conversations and events in the weeks preceding the deadly attack on the US Capitol.” “Deadly attack” because a cop whacked Ashli Babbitt? More: “[Pence] has previously defended his actions on that day, after Mr Trump had claimed that a vice president had the authority to overturn the election results. ‘President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election,’ Mr Pence, who has often shied away from confronting his former boss, said in March. ‘And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.’” • Strong stuff, actually. Plus Pence didn’t get in the car.
“Abortion Bans Fail in South Carolina and Nebraska” [New York Times]. “South Carolina and Nebraska, two conservative states that have been pushing to ban abortion, on Thursday both failed to pass new bills prohibiting the procedure, preserving wide access to abortion in those states and handing surprise victories to abortion rights advocates.” • Too bad the Democrats never codified Roe v. Wade. Ah well, nevertheless.
“All 9 Supreme Court justices push back on oversight: ‘Raises more questions,’ Senate chair says” [NBC]. “There’s no conservative-liberal divide on the U.S. Supreme Court when it comes to calls for a new, enforceable ethics code. All nine justices, in a rare step, on Tuesday released a joint statement reaffirming their voluntary adherence to a general code of conduct but rebutting proposals for independent oversight, mandatory compliance with ethics rules and greater transparency in cases of recusal. The implication, though not expressly stated, is that the court unanimously rejects legislation proposed by Democrats seeking to impose on the justices the same ethics obligations applied to all other federal judges.”
“Biden and Democrats Betting Again on Anti-Trump Coalition” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “There’s a reason that President Joe Biden’s video announcing his re-election campaign begins with the chaotic scene outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021: the best tool Democrats have to mobilize their voters isn’t the sitting president, but the former president. The anti-Trump coalition has beaten the pro-Trump coalition in key swing states and districts in 2018, 2020 and 2022. Team Biden is convinced it will work again in 2024…. If you give Biden all the blue-leaning states, he starts the contest with 241 Electoral Votes. If we give the Republican nominee all the red-leaning states, they start with 235 electoral votes. Under this scenario, there are five different paths for a Republican to win the Electoral College. Four of them go through Pennsylvania. For Biden and Democrats, there are six different paths to 270, with four going through Georgia and three via Pennsylvania. Or, another way to say it: as Pennsylvania and Georgia go, so goes the Electoral College.” And as for Biden: “Biden’s appeal remains similar today to what it was in 2020: it’s less about who he is than who he isn’t. In 2020, Trump won voters who said they voted ‘mainly for their candidate’ by seven points, while Biden carried the 24% of voters who said their vote was mainly a vote against Trump by 38 points. The 2022 midterms gave us another proof point, as voters who said they ‘somewhat disapproved’ of Biden voting overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates. A recent Wall Street poll found Biden leading Trump 54% to 15% among voters who disapprove of how both men have handled the office of the presidency. Biden’s also older than he was in 2020. The risks involved with being in your 80s, where even a minor fall or illness can have devastating consequences, are significant. ”
Democrats en Déshabillé
Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert
I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:
The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.
Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.
* * *
Realignment and Legitimacy
“What’s Our Problem?” [Andrew Yang]. “Why do our politics feel so backwards? For a compelling perspective, I sat with Tim Urban, who runs the very popular blog Wait But Why and came out with a new e-book on the topic, ‘What’s Our Problem? A self-help book for societies.’ Tim proposes that our usual left-right politics misses an important dimension – whether we are using our higher mind or primitive mind. He cites 4 levels of thinking: Scientist (seeking facts), Sports Fan (values the contest), Attorney (arguing a side), and Zealot (defeat the enemy). The two higher levels are rational and constructive. The lower two levels are more concerned with being proven right and arguing for their tribe than having any positive outcome…. The problem in Tim’s view is that our politics have been overcome by the lower levels, where polarization has turned things into a good vs. evil struggle as opposed to the higher levels that are genuinely interested in policies and solutions. ‘Polarizing people is a good way to win an election, and also a good way to wreck a country.’ Tim catalogs how low-rung politics have become more pronounced on both sides, where every day is an ideological battle instead of a conversation, and details how social media supercharges this dynamic. If this sounds familiar, the Forward Party is doing all we can to reward higher-rung politics via Ranked Choice Voting and other reforms while discouraging lower-rung extremism.”• Handy chart:
“What does Tim think is our way out? Tim recommends that we stop saying things we don’t believe, start saying what we really think with people we know well, and eventually work ourselves up to saying what we really think in public. These acts would help break up the enforced tribalism that degrades many of our conversations.” • Hmm.
“There Is No A.I.” [Jaron Lanier, The New Yorker]. I read all the way to the end: “Consider what might happen if A.I.-driven tree-trimming robots are introduced. Human tree trimmers might find themselves devalued or even out of work. But the robots could eventually allow for a new type of indirect landscaping artistry. Some former workers, or others, might create inventive approaches—holographic topiary, say, that looks different from different angles—that find their way into the tree-trimming models. With data dignity, the models might create new sources of income, distributed through collective organizations. Tree trimming would become more multifunctional and interesting over time; there would be a community motivated to remain valuable. Each new successful introduction of an A.I. or robotic application could involve the inauguration of a new kind of creative work…. .” • I don’t think the math works. And I also remember when “creative class” (hat tip, RIchard Florida) was a thing, back in 2008, when that class was said, by Matt Yglesias among others, to be the driver behind the putative Obama coalition. That didn’t work out well, the “creative class” being a tranche of what we know recognize as the PMC. So I don’t think the Lanier’s class analysis works either. Why are A.I.-driven tree-trimming robots important? Or robot
roachesdogs, for that matter?
“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison
Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot; includes many counties); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data).
Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort. We are now up to 50/50 states (100%). This is really great! (It occurs to me that there are uses to which this data might be put, beyond helping people with “personal risk assessments” appropriate to their state. For example, thinking pessimistically, we might maintain the list and see which states go dark and when. We might also tabulate the properties of each site and look for differences and commonalities, for example the use of GIS (an exercise in Federalism). I do not that CA remains a little sketchy; it feels a little odd that there’s no statewide site, but I’ve never been able to find one. Also, my working assumption was that each state would have one site. That’s turned out not to be true; see e.g. ID. Trivially, it means I need to punctuate this list properly. Less trivially, there may be more local sites that should be added. NY city in NY state springs to mind, but I’m sure there are others. FL also springs to mind as a special case, because DeSantis will most probably be a Presidental candidate, and IIRC there was some foofra about their state dashboard. Thanks again!
Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin); CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); FL (wastewater); GA (wastewater); HI (dashboard); IA (wastewater reports); ID (dashboard, Boise; dashboard, wastewater, Central Idaho; wastewater, Coeur d’Alene; dashboard, Spokane County); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); KS (dashboard; wastewater, Lawrence); KY (dashboard, Louisville); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MO (wastewater); MS (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); ND (dashboard; wastewater); NE (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (dashboard; wastewater, Southern NV); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (
wastewater); WY ( wastewater).
Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).
Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).
Hat tips to helpful readers: Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (9), JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, otisyves, Petal (5), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3).
“Biological rhythms in COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness in an observational cohort study of 1.5 million patients” [Journal of Clinical Investigation]. “Breakthrough infections differed based on vaccination time, with lowest rates associated with late morning to early afternoon, and highest rates with evening vaccination. Vaccination timing remained significant after adjustment for patient age, sex, and co-morbidities. Results were consistent in patients who received the basic two-dose series and who received booster doses. The relationship between COVID-19 immunization time and breakthrough infections was sinusoidal, consistent with a biological rhythm that modifies vaccine effectiveness by 8.6-25%. The benefits of daytime vaccination were concentrated in younger (<20 years old) and older patients (>50 years old). COVID-19 related hospitalizations varied significantly with the timing of the second booster dose, an intervention reserved for older and immunosuppressed patients (HR=0.64 morning vs. evening, 0.43-0.97 95% CI, p=0.038). We report a significant association between the time of COVID-19 vaccination and its effectiveness. This has implications for mass vaccination programs.” • Yves has speculated that the method of vaccine administration has downstream effects. This study would appear to support that. Not sure I buy “circadian rhythms” as a cause, rather than an effect.
“Brits urged to wear face masks again as new Arcturus Covid strain spreads across UK” [Mirror]. • If you make masking a cultural norm, you don’t have to twiddle the mask knobs all the time. Of course, professional knob twiddlers are well-ensconced in the public health establishment…
“EXCLUSIVE: Scientists launch manhunt for ‘longest ever’ Covid patient in Ohio who has been infected for two YEARS — as they warn patient’s virus is so mutated it could spark ‘concerning’ outbreak” [Daily Mail]. An example of the Mail actually doing good science reporting, remarkably enough. “Scientists are trying to track down an Ohio resident who they believe is the longest-standing Covid patient ever, DailyMail.com can reveal. The patient – thought to live in the Columbus area – is carrying a highly mutated version of the virus that is ‘unlike anything’ experts have seen. The virus has been detected through wastewater sampling and traced back to early 2021. It is being repeatedly picked up along a 40-mile area, signaling that one person is carrying and shedding it through their stool…. [Dr Marc Johnson, a microbiologist at the University of Missouri] believes the strain is being shed by the same person who regularly commutes between Columbus and Washington Court House. The scientist is unsure whether the person is contagious or how they have managed to stay infected so long. Patients who harbor viruses for exceptionally long periods of time often have weakened immune systems, which means their body struggles to clear the virus. Many scientists believe the Alpha, Delta and Omicron variants all emerged this way. Dr Johnson is, however, convinced the patient is healthy and may travel for work or school, but he could not rule out a chronically ill person who commutes for hospital care. His team cannot say for certain that it is just one patient, either…. [T]he virus has likely mutated within this person to the extent that it is not fit to spread. Instead, the virus has managed to adjust itself in a way that it can live within its host for a long period of time while going relatively undetected.” • Fascinating. Worth reading in full.
“Resurgence of Omicron BA.2 in SARS-CoV-2 infection-naive Hong Kong” [Nature]. “Hong Kong experienced a surge of Omicron BA.2 infections in early 2022, resulting in one of the highest per-capita death rates of COVID-19. The outbreak occurred in a dense population with low immunity towards natural SARS-CoV-2 infection, high vaccine hesitancy in vulnerable populations, comprehensive disease surveillance and the capacity for stringent public health and social measures (PHSMs). By analyzing genome sequences and epidemiological data, we reconstructed the epidemic trajectory of BA.2 wave and found that the initial BA.2 community transmission emerged from cross-infection within hotel quarantine. The rapid implementation of PHSMs suppressed early epidemic growth but the effective reproduction number (Re) increased again during the Spring festival in early February and remained around 1 until early April. Independent estimates of point prevalence and incidence using phylodynamics also showed extensive superspreading at this time, which likely contributed to the rapid expansion of the epidemic.” • We don’t talk about superspreading any more, I suppose because if we don’t talk about superspreading, we don’t have to talk about airborne transmission.
“Serological response to vaccination in post-acute sequelae of COVID” [BMC Infectious Diseases]. “We found evidence of aberrant immune response distinguishing PASC [“Long Covid”] from recovered COVID. This aberrancy is marked by excess IgG-S activation and ACE2 binding along with findings consistent with a delayed or dysfunctional immunoglobulin class switching, all of which is unmasked by vaccine provocation. These results suggest that measures of aberrant immune response may offer promise as tools for diagnosing and distinguishing PASC from non-PASC phenotypes, in addition to serving as potential targets for intervention.” • Commentary:
One In Ten Covid Infections Causing Long Covid May Sound Like A Lot, But, Honestly, As Long As It’s Someone Else, Who Cares? pic.twitter.com/xLdphbnTsK
— The Vertlartnic (@TheVertlartnic) April 28, 2023
Portrait of A Man So Missing It By That Much:
My Uber driver just explained to me that driving has become far more dangerous post-Covid. Road rage became habitual. There is no more empathy or deference. Everyone drives madly and selfishness, as if driving is the only way people have to assert self mastery.
— Jeffrey A Tucker (@jeffreyatucker) April 28, 2023
Tucker is, of course, the head of the Brownnose Institute….
Read all the way to the end:
NEW: The #COVID19 #PHE ends in less than two weeks. Here’s a timeline of what ends with it, and what’s coming down the pike. https://t.co/KLNrdDocWs pic.twitter.com/Wgc7CsDpXs
— Jen Kates (@jenkatesdc) April 28, 2023
Why on earth would you end hospital reporting requirements?
Looks like “leveling off to a high plateau” across the board. (I still think “Something Awful” is coming, however. I mean, besides what we already know about.) Stay safe out there!
Lambert here: I’m getting the feeling that the “something awful” might be a sawtooth pattern — variant after variant — that averages out to a permanently high plateau (with, of course, deeper knowledge of the sequelae “we” have already decided to accept or, rather, to profit from). That will be the operational definition of “living with Covid.” More as I think on this. In addition, I recurated my Twitter feed for my new account, and it may be I’m creating a echo chamber. That said, it seems to me that the knobs on Covid had gone up to 13, partly because science is popping, which demands more gaslighting, and partly because that “Covid is over” bubble maintenance is, I believe, more pundit-intensive than our betters believed it would be.
BioBot wastewater data from April 27:
Lambert here: Unless the United States is completely, er, exceptional, we should be seeing an increase here soon.
For now, I’m going to use this national wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical case data portion of this chart, which in my view “goes bad” after March 2022, for reasons as yet unexplained). At least we can spot trends, and compare current levels to equivalent past levels.
From CDC, April 29, 2023. Here we go again:
Lambert here: Looks like XBB.1.16 is rolling right along. Though XBB 1.9.1 is in the race as well.
Covid Emergency Room Visits
NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from April 22:
NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Anyhow, I added a grey “Fauci line” just to show that Covid wasn’t “over” when they started saying it was, and it’s not over now. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections.
A kind reader discovered that Walgreens had reduced its frequency to once a week. No updates, however, since April 11.
NOT UPDATED Death rate (Our World in Data):
Lambert here: WHO turned off the feed? Odd that Walgreen’s positivity shut down on April 11, and the WHO death count on April 12. Was there a memo I didn’t get?
Total: 1,159,697 –
1,159,662 = 35 (35 * 365 = 12,775 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).
NOT UPDATED Excess deaths (The Economist), published April 23:
Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model. (The CDC has an excess estimate too, but since it ran forever with a massive typo in the Legend, I figured nobody was really looking at it, so I got rid it. )
Personal Income: “United States Personal Income” [Trading Economics]. “Personal income in the United States rose by 0.3 percent from a month earlier in March 2023, maintaining the same growth pace as in February and slightly exceeding market expectations of a 0.2 percent rise. The growth was driven by a 0.3 percent increase in compensation, led by private wages and salaries.”
Manufacturing: “United States Chicago PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago Business Barometer, also known as the Chicago PMI, increased further to 48.6 points in April 2023 from 43.8 in the prior month and well above market forecasts of 43.5. The reading pointed to the eighth consecutive contraction in business activity in the Chicago region but the softest one in the sequence.” • Above 50 is expansion, below, contraction.
Finance: “Review of the Federal Reserve’s Supervision and Regulation of Silicon Valley Bank” (PDF) [Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System]:
The four key takeaways of the report are:
1. Silicon Valley Bank’s board of directors and management failed to manage their risks.
2. Supervisors did not fully appreciate the extent of the vulnerabilities as Silicon Valley Bank grew in size and complexity.
3. When supervisors did identify vulnerabilities, they did not take sufficient steps to ensure that Silicon Valley Bank fixed those problems quickly enough.
4. The Board’s tailoring approach in response to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (EGRRCPA) and a shift in the stance of supervisory policy impeded effective supervision by reducing standards, increasing complexity, and promoting a less assertive supervisory approach.
The Bezzle: “Chinese EV giant BYD says self-driving tech is more valuable for factories than cars” [CNBC]. “Fully autonomous driving is ‘basically impossible’ and the technology would be better applied to manufacturing, according to Chinese battery and electric car company BYD. ‘There may be many industries and businesses that invest a lot of money on this [tech], and after investing for many years it will prove it leads nowhere,’ Li Yunfei, a spokesperson for BYD, said in Mandarin, translated by CNBC.” • Atrios, who has a side hustle as a transportation maven and got the autonomous vehicle scam right from the start, comments: “BYD is probably the actual tech leader on this stuff and they’re throwing in the towel…. Lots of issues, but the basic one is that the gap between ‘works well 99% of the time’ and ‘works well 100% of the time’ is the gap between ‘really annoying’ and ‘useful’ and there’s no way to bridge that gap…. Congrats to all the very smart people (the world’s easiest marks) for not seeing this 10 years ago.”
Tech: “A research team airs the messy truth about AI in medicine — and gives hospitals a guide to fix it” [STAT]. “In public, hospitals [that is, hospital executives and administrators] rave about artificial intelligence. They trumpet the technology in press releases, plaster its use on billboards, and sprinkle AI into speeches touting its ability to detect diseases earlier and make health care faster, better, and cheaper. But on the front lines, the hype is smashing into a starkly different reality. Caregivers complain AI models are unreliable and of limited value. Tools designed to warn of impending illnesses are inconsistent and sometimes difficult to interpret. Even evaluating them for accuracy, and susceptibility to bias, is still an unsettled science.” • Worth reading in full. Maybe the AI profiteers should stick to denying people care, instead of trying to deliver it. That’s a far more well-understood process.
Tech: “Mark Zuckerberg says AI boosts monetization by 30% on Instagram, 40% on Facebook” [Yahoo Finance]. “‘[Generative AI] is going to also help create more engaging experiences, which should create more engagement,’ Meta Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on the company’s earnings call Wednesday evening. ‘And that by itself creates more opportunities for advertisers.’” • Great.
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 60 Greed (previous close: 59 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 28 at 1:17 PM ET.
I hate this tactic. I just hate it:
Two climate activists from the US Climate group Declare Emergency smeared red and black paint over a sculpture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington pic.twitter.com/6QJvipLTqt
— Sky News (@SkyNews) April 28, 2023
Why not a bank lobby, or a major corporation? Or an absurdly expensive restaurant frequented by criminals and arms dealers?
“Chaos Ensues After The ‘LeBron James Of Incels’ Gets Laid” [Kotaku]. “In case you feel a twinge of sympathy for Komesarj, it bears repeating that incels are, at their core, misogynists who want the world to revolve around their false belief that women are only sexual objects, not people. This fact isn’t lost on the r/IncelTear subreddit, a community of 125,000 Redditors who spend their time sharing screenshots of the hateful, racist, violent, and often just bizarre shit incels say. As you’d guess, they were having a field day with the incel community’s ‘nuclear meltdown’ over Komesarj getting laid. ‘Nothing like admitting that their celibacy is voluntary,’ Petite_Bait wrote…. Incel civil war and the subsequent relinquishment of his moderator title aside, Komesarj appears to be taking his new life in stride. Komesarj even shared the surprising revelation that his new partner is aware that he was a former leader in the incel community and is chill with it(?).” • Apparently, Komesarj’s board had only 20,000 members. Not many.
News of the Wired
“The best brain foods have the ‘6 tastes of life,’ says Deepak Chopra—from sweet and sour to bitter and ‘astringent’” [CNBC]. “To get the most health benefits for your brain from what you eat, you should focus on diversifying the foods on your plate, which includes the ‘six tastes of life,’ [Deepak] Chopra says. This guidance is based in Ayurvedic medicine… The six tastes of life include: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. While you’re probably most familiar with sweet, sour and bitter tastes, astringent is harder to identify. Foods with an astringent taste ‘have drying and cooling qualities,’ according to Healthline. Some of these include parsley, beans, turmeric and vanilla.” • Hmm.
“The economics and politics of Thomas the Tank Engine” [Duncan Weldon, Bull Market]. “Before proceeding, I should be clear that the Thomas I am considering is the modern, CGI edition — in particular seasons 13 and 14 (currently on Netflix in the UK). Not the Ringo Starr voiced Thomas of my own youth. … The place to start is with the railway company itself. For many days I couldn’t fathom its ownership structure…. The only explanation that really works for me is as follows. Sir Topham, or perhaps his ancestors, were once rich but minor members of Sodor’s gentry. They build the railway and have been expanding it ever since. The Duke may rule in name but not in deed. The Mayor is but a democratic fig leaf that camouflages the real Sodor. Sir Topham’s industrial and political powers are closely linked. The railway survives by virtue of its monopoly. Any profits are continually reinvested in expanding the track network of what is frankly an already ludicrously over-serviced island. Real competition would kill the railway. There is of course Bertie the Bus providing one competing service, but some evidence suggests this is but a charade. Whether there is formal collusion or not, Bertie and the railway avoid direct competition… The fact that labour and capital (in the form of anthropomorphised engines) are one on Sodor complicates any analysis.” • Hmm.
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