2:00PM Water Cooler 11/30/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

The other species in the Darwin finch genus. Not a lot of chatter, though.

“Tanager of the Year” [Indignity]. • The author describes how they discovered a new species, in Peru.

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Because what we laughingly call our government does not deem a pandemic sufficient cause to collect or process data over a long holiday weekend, all these charts are really screwed up, and some haven’t been updated at all. It will take a few days to return to form, such as it is. –lambert

“Thanksgiving impeded detection of Omicron, warns genomics giant” [Financial Times]. “The race to confirm the first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the US was dealt a setback by laboratory closures over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to the chief executive of the world’s largest gene sequencing company. Francis deSouza, chief executive of Illumina, told the Financial Times: ‘As labs come back after Thanksgiving, we are likely to see the presence of Omicron in the US, but ideally there should be a 24/7 sequencing operation.’ The holiday slowdown was the latest sign that the US is lagging several developed nations in its ability to use genomic sequencing to identify and track variants of the disease.”

Vaccination by region:

Rebounding from Thanksgiving data problems.

59.3% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, as of November 29. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Estonia, and just above Thailand in the Financial Times league tables as of this Monday). Big jump as we catch up with the long weekend data. No change from last week, but I assume that’s a holiday data issue.

Case count by United States regions:

Reboudning after an enormous drop, just like the enormous drop and rebound starting 368 days ago 26 November 2020, a Thursday.

At a minimum, the official narrative that “Covid is behind us,” or that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), or “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) is clearly problematic. (This chart is a seven-day average, so changes in direction only show up when a train is really rolling.)

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One of the sources of the idea that Covid is on the way out, I would speculate, is the CDC’s modeling hub (whose projections also seem to have been used to justify school re-opening). Here is the current version of the chart from the CDC modeling hub, which aggregates the results of eight models in four scenarios, with the last run (“Round 9”) having taken place on 2021-08-30, and plots current case data (black dotted line) against the aggregated model predictions (grey area), including the average of the aggregated model predictions (black line). I have helpfully highlighted the case data discussed above. Still not updated:

(Note that the highlighted case data is running behind the Johns Hopkins data presented first.) Now, it’s fair to say that the upward trend in case data (black dotted line) is still within the tolerance of the models; it does not conform to the models’ average (black line), but it stays within the grey area (aggregated predictions) It’s also true that where we see an upward trend in the predicted case data (lower right quadrant) it’s much later than where we are now. It’s too early to say “Dammit, CDC, your models were broken”; but it’s not too soon to consider the possibility that they might be. The case data still looks like it’s trying to break out of the grey area. We shall see.

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection, still not updated:

Looks like all the students left for Thanksgiving. Bringing their viral load with them?

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.

From CDC: “Community Profile Report” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties. Updated November 29:

This would be remarkably good news, if true. I think it’s a reporting artifact.

The previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile), also November 29:

This is too would be remarkably good news, if true. I have helpfully highlighted the states where the “trend” arrow points up in yellow, and where it is vertical, in orange. Note that Massachusetts is vertical. We detected a rise first in wastewater data, then in case data, now in hospitalizations. So there are times when the data is good. Just not all the time!

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 801,326 799,414. At this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s.

Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid), still not updated:

Hard to believe we have no excess deaths now, but very fortunate if so. (CDC explains there are data lags).

(Adding: I know the data is bad. This is the United States. Needless to see, this is a public health debacle. It’s the public health establishment’s duty to take care of public health, not the health of certain favored political factions. Also adding: I like a death rate because it gives me a rough indication of my risk should I, heaven forfend, end up in a hospital.)

Covid cases in historic variant sources, with additions from the Brain Trust:

Adding South Africa. Remember this is a log scale. Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away.

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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 Mice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Biden Administration

“Harris, Buttigieg to promote infrastructure law in Charlotte” [The Hill]. • Somebody has to say it: The Bimbo and the Himbo.

“Biden’s Big Bet on Family Care Risks Payoff Long After Elections” [Bloomberg].

“Dems want Biden to start swinging at Republicans. Allies aren’t sure he can.” [Politico]. “During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden had a mantra: He could create consensus across the two parties. And he’s held tight to that idea during his 10 months in office. ‘He doesn’t have to get down in the ditches or throw red meat,’ said Robert Wolf, the former chief executive of UBS Americas and an Obama economic adviser. ‘He can talk about what he’s done for everyone in America from vaccinations, to the Cares Act to the infrastructure bill.’ Over the summer, Biden’s counselor, Steve Ricchetti, told Hill Democrats that Biden and the party would benefit politically by securing a bipartisan deal. And recently, Mike Donilon, a senior adviser to Biden, said in an interview with POLITICO that the infrastructure bill, which garnered support from 32 Republicans, ‘was important partly just to have a bipartisan agreement that in and of itself had meaning.'” • It does? To whom?

Democrats en Deshabille

Lambert here: Obviously, the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself. Why is that? First, the Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“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 that voters do not appear within this structure. That’s because, unlike say UK Labour or DSA, the Democrat Party is not a membership organization. Dull normals may “identify” with the Democrat Party, but they cannot join it, except as apparatchiks at whatever level.) Whatever, if anything, that is to replace the Democrat Party needs to demonstrate the operational capability to contend with all this. Sadly, I see nothing of the requisite scale and scope on the horizon, though I would love to be wrong. (If Sanders had leaped nimbly from the electoral train to the strike wave train after losing in 2020, instead of that weak charity sh*t he went with, things might be different today. I am not sure that was in him to do, and I’m not sure he had the staff to do it, although I believe such a pivot to a “war of movement” would have been very popular with his small donors. What a shame the app wasn’t two-way.) Ah well, nevertheless.

For an example of the class power that the PMC can wield, look no further than RussiaGate. All the working parts of the Democrat Party fired on all cylinders to cripple an elected President; it was very effective, and went on for years. Now imagine that the same Party had worked, during Covid, to create an alternative narrative — see Ferguson et al., supra, to see what such a narrative might have looked like, and with the unions (especially teachers) involved. At the very least, the Biden Administration would have had a plan, and the ground prepared for it. At the best, a “parallel government” (Gene Sharp #198) would have emerged, ready to take power in 2020. Instead, all we got was [genuflects] Tony Fauci. And Cuomo and Newsom butchering their respective Blue States, of course. The difference? With RussiaGate, Democrats were preventing governance. In my alternative scenario, they would have been preparing for it.

And while we’re at it: Think of the left’s programs, and lay them against the PMC’s interests. (1) Free College, even community college. Could devalue PMC credentials. Na ga happen. (2) MedicareForAll. Ends jobs guarantee for means-testing gatekeepers in government, profit-through-denial-of-care gatekeepers in the health insurance business, not to mention opposition from some medical guilds. Na ga happen. (3) Ending the empire (and reining in the national security state). The lights would go out all over Fairfax and Loudon counties. Na ga happen. These are all excellent policy goals. But let’s be clear that it’s not only billionaires who oppose them.

NEW Weirdly, however, the PMC seems unable to expand its scope of operations. Consider the possibilities of the “Swiss Cheese Model.” Layered defenses include extensive testing, contact tracing, ventilation systems (not merely blue collar HVAC work, but design and evaluation), and quarantines. If we look at each layer as a jobs guarantee for credentialed professionals and managers, like ObamaCare, the opportunities are tremendous (and that’s before we get to all the training and consulting). And yet the PMC hasn’t advocated for this model at all. Instead, we get authoritarian followership (Fauci) and a totalizing and tribalizing faith in an extremely risky vax-only solution. Why? It’s almost as if they’re “acting against their own self-interest,” and I don’t pretend to understand it.

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“Omicron is a reminder of how little we’re doing on pandemic prevention” [Matt Yglesias, Slow Boring]. “In January of 2021, the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense issued a proposal for an ambitious Apollo Program for Biodefense. The Biden administration largely embraced this vision and released a call for a $65 billion pandemic prevention initiative, but that turned into a $30 billion budget request as part of the original White House version of the Build Back Better proposal, which dwindled to a mere $2.7 billion in funding as BBB made its way through Congress.

He’s right:

Republican Funhouse

“Trump’s Capacity to Steal the 2024 Election Is Only Growing” [Vanity Fair]. “American democracy narrowly passed the stress test Trump put it through in 2020. But his relentless, multi-pronged pressure campaign also underscored major vulnerabilities in the system. Among them: That system is highly dependent on officials up and down the line performing their jobs in good faith…. Trump, who is making louder and louder noises about a 2024 bid, seems to be supporting challengers who have no such limits. ‘This is a great big flashing red warning sign,’ as former Michigan Republican Party chair Jeff Timmer, a critic of the former president, put it to the Post. ‘The officials who fulfilled their legal duty after the election are now being replaced by people who are pledging to throw a wrench in the gears of the next election. It tells you that they are planning nothing but chaos and that they have a strategy to disrupt the certification of the next election.'”

“GOP courts anti-vaxxers with jobless aid” [Axios]. “Republican officials around the country are testing a creative mechanism to build loyalty with unvaccinated Americans while undermining Biden administration mandates: unemployment benefits. Driving the news: Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee have changed their unemployment insurance rules to allow workers who are fired or quit over vaccine mandates to receive benefits. Extending unemployment benefits to the unvaccinated is just the latest in a series of proposals aligning the GOP with people who won’t get a COVID shot.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The inside story of the Pfizer vaccine: ‘a once-in-an-epoch windfall'” [Financial Times]. • This is riveting, a must-read. What I notice is how neatly the vax-only policy of the Administration — shared by the Democrat base — aligns with Pfizer’s corporate interests. The other thing I notice is that credit goes to Pfizer, the business entity, not to Pfizer scientists and (apparently brilliant) logistics and manufacturing people. The real assets of the company, that is, could be nationalized…..

Stats Watch

Housing: “United States Case Shiller Home Price Index YoY” [Trading Economics]. “The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index in the US rose 19.1% year-on-year in September, below a 19.6% growth in August, missing market expectations of 19.3% but still remaining near records.”

Manufacturing: “United States Chicago PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago Business Barometer fell to 61.8 in November 2021, from 68.4 in the previous month and below market expectations of 67.0. It was the lowest reading since February, suggesting there was a slowdown in activity in the Chicago region.”

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Real Estate: “For sale: God, guns and separatism in the American Redoubt” [Montana Free Press]. “But even in Montana’s more remote corners, property is selling quickly. Gail Enger, a longtime broker in Thompson Falls, said that a few years ago Sanders County — a remote community with about 11,400 residents pinned against the Idaho border — would have dozens of properties for sale at any given time. Now there might be fewer than 12. And when a property is listed, it goes quickly…. For years, Enger said, many of the people who moved to Sanders County were retirees looking for a quieter place to enjoy their golden years. But another type of buyer has emerged from California, Washington and elsewhere looking to live in a more conservative community that matches their political values. Enger said that type of buyer has increased considerably since the election of President Joe Biden. ‘They want to be among like-minded people,’ she said. The firm Enger works for doesn’t specifically market to buyers motivated by political considerations — its website highlights the scenic wonders, recreational opportunities and quietude on offer in that part of the state more than anything. But other real estate agents are catering to precisely the conservative demographic — specifically, people looking to relocate to what’s been dubbed ‘the American Redoubt.'” • Because freedom, of course.

The Bezzle: “Dead-End SF Street Plagued With Confused Waymo Cars Trying To Turn Around ‘Every 5 Minutes’” [CBS SF Bay Area]. “A normally quiet neighborhood in San Francisco is buzzing about a sudden explosion of traffic. Neighbors say their Richmond District dead-end street has suddenly become crowded with Waymo vehicles…. They come all day, right to the end of 15th Avenue, where there’s nothing else to do but make some kind of multi-point turn and head out the way they came in. Not long after that car is gone, there will be another, which will make the same turn and leave, before another car shows up and does the exact same thing. And while there are some pauses, it never really stops…. At several points this Tuesday, they showed up on top of each other. The cars, packed with technology, stop in a queue as if they are completely baffled by the dead end.” • They’re trapped! Can we kill them with fire?

The Bezzle: “PwC between a rock and a hard place with JPMorgan-Tesla dispute” [Francine McKenna, The Dig]. “JPMorgan Chase filed a federal lawsuit for breach of contract against its client Tesla on November 15, seeking to recover over $162 million dollars JPM says is ‘immediately due and payable by Tesla’ for a deal the two companies entered into back in 2014. The lawsuit recounts the transactions Tesla entered into with several banks including JPM, which required Tesla to deliver either shares of its stock or cash to JPMorgan if, at the time the warrants expired, Tesla’s share price was above the contractual ‘strike price.’ The warrants expired in June and July 2021, when Tesla’s stock price was well above both the original and adjusted strike prices. JPM demanded the shares or cash due, but Tesla has ignored what JPM says is a clear contractual obligation to pay the bank in full.” • Can’t they both lose?

The Bezzle: “A Normie’s Guide to Becoming a Crypto Person” [New York Magazine]. • When the shoeshine boy starts giving you stock tips….

Tech: “Will Twitter Become an Ocean of Suck?” (excerpt) [Matt Taibbi, TK News]. “Twitter under Dorsey suffered from working too well. Specifically, society responded to Donald Trump’s Tweet-driven 2016 presidential campaign as if it revealed a defect in the platform that needed fixing when actually Trump’s election was proof that Twitter was working much as intended. Our political establishment just wasn’t looking for that sort of functionality. The original concept of Twitter was egalitarian, flattening, and iconoclastic: “To give everyone the power to create and share ideas, instantly, without barriers.” That mantra fit with then-CEO Dick Costolo’s 2010 claim that ‘We’re the free speech wing of the free speech party.’ Prior to 2016, elite mouthpieces bragged about acting as gatekeepers to political power. Someone like then-ABC writer Mark Halperin could write boastful pieces about how a ‘Gang of 500’ in Washington really decided the presidency. These were ‘campaign consultants, strategists, pollsters, pundits, and journalists who make up the modern-day political establishment,’ as the New Yorker put it. When political debates were held, a handful of analysts on television told you who won. We, reporters, told you who was ‘electable’ and who wasn’t, and people mostly listened, even if ‘electability’ was a crock that mostly measured levels of corporate donor approval. Then came 2016…. Trump didn’t need the news media to amplify his message. He was expressing himself in a way that defied contextualization, on a Twitter account that essentially became the country’s most-followed media network.”

Tech: “Dorsey’s Twitter Resignation Sparks Fears Of More Internet Censorship” [Caitlin Johnstone]. “Still, Twitter has been a free speech paradise compared to other major platforms like Facebook or YouTube, largely because unlike those outlets it doesn’t tend to participate in the large-scale algorithmic suppression of unauthorized perspectives and the artificial uplifting of authorized ones. And we are seeing some indication that that may be one of the changes we’ll see in the platform going forward…. . [Former CTO, new CEO Parag] Agrawal’s notion that it is Twitter’s place to ‘recommend content’ and implement ‘recommendation systems’ sounds far too similar to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s comments earlier this year when she admitted at a World Economic Forum summit that the platform had been elevating mainstream news sources on important political issues and hiding ‘borderline’ content.” “• Yech. Please. All I ask is a timeline composed of Tweets from accounts I follow, in reverse chronological order. Why don’t you all the programmers writing recommendation engines, and give me that?

Tech: “Google: Former employees sue tech giant for allegedly breaching ‘don’t be evil’ pledge” [Sky News]. “Three former Google software engineers have sued the tech giant, alleging it breached employee contracts by not honouring its “don’t be evil” pledge…. Google, whose parent company is Alphabet Inc, has promoted the pledge ‘don’t be evil’ as a core value for more than 20 years, and it remains a part of the firm’s official employee code of conduct…. The trio had raised concerns at town halls and other forums inside Google about the company potentially selling cloud technology to immigration authorities in the United States, which at the time were engaging in detention tactics considered inhumane by activists.” • And nobody even talks about open borders anymore…

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 28 Greed (previous close: 40 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 64 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 30 at 12:44pm.

The Biosphere

“Oil-Guzzling Shipping Still Falls Short on Decarbonization After Climate Talks” [Bloomberg]. “The main outcome from talks hosted by the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization was agreement to revise, in 2023, its decarbonization strategy — and that wasn’t really new. A non-binding proposal on zero emissions didn’t get official approval. And a plan for a small charge on fuel to raise money for research and development into cleaner shipping was deferred to a future meeting. sShipping’s current 2050 target falls well short of what’s required to align the sector with the Paris Agreement’s ambitions on limiting temperature rises. Yet the IMO has yet to set solid rules — or even a target — that would get the industry on track.” • In a year of record profits…

Health Care

“Another Way to Protect against COVID beyond Masking and Social Distancing” [Scientific American]. “It is obvious that in winter, indoor heating causes a difference between indoor and outdoor temperature. But what we are increasingly coming to understand is that by heating our buildings we are causing a reduction in the level of indoor relative humidity (RH), which has a significant impact on disease spread…. [W]hen cold outdoor air with little moisture to start with is brought indoors and warmed to a temperature range of 20 to 24 degrees Celsius (68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) indoor relative humidity plummets. This comparatively moisture-free air provides a clear path for dispersal of airborne particles of viruses such as SARS-CoV2, the pathogen that causes COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 virus survives better at low temperatures and low humidity…. Our own research indicates that dry air also reduces the ability of our body’s cilia—hairlike projections on cells lining airways—to remove viral particles and prevent them from reaching the lungs. Finally, the immune system’s ability to respond to pathogens is suppressed in drier environments.” • Here is a long thread on Covid and humidity:

Including measurement devices and tips.

“COVID-19: stigmatising the unvaccinated is not justified” [The Lancet]. “In the USA and Germany, high-level officials have used the term pandemic of the unvaccinated, suggesting that people who have been vaccinated are not relevant in the epidemiology of COVID-19. Officials’ use of this phrase might have encouraged one scientist to claim that ‘the unvaccinated threaten the vaccinated for COVID-19.” But this view is far too simple. There is increasing evidence that vaccinated individuals continue to have a relevant role in transmission. In Massachusetts, USA, a total of 469 new COVID-19 cases were detected during various events in July, 2021, and 346 (74%) of these cases were in people who were fully or partly vaccinated, 274 (79%) of whom were symptomatic. Cycle threshold values were similarly low between people who were fully vaccinated (median 22·8) and people who were unvaccinated, not fully vaccinated, or whose vaccination status was unknown (median 21·5), indicating a high viral load even among people who were fully vaccinated…. Historically, both the USA and Germany have engendered negative experiences by stigmatising parts of the population for their skin colour or religion. I call on high-level officials and scientists to stop the inappropriate stigmatisation of unvaccinated people, who include our patients, colleagues, and other fellow citizens, and to put extra effort into bringing society together.” • The mechanical explanation:

Perhaps when we have nasal vaccines, mucosal immunity will stop transmission as well. And speaking of which–

“Protective mucosal immunity against SARS-CoV-2 after heterologous systemic prime-mucosal boost immunization” [Nature]. From the Abstract: “Here we report that intranasal vaccinations with adenovirus 5 and 19a vectored vaccines following a systemic plasmid DNA or mRNA priming result in systemic and mucosal immunity in mice. In contrast to two intramuscular applications of an mRNA vaccine, intranasal boosts with adenoviral vectors induce high levels of mucosal IgA and lung-resident memory T cells (TRM); mucosal neutralization of virus variants of concern is also enhanced. The mRNA prime provokes a comprehensive T cell response consisting of circulating and lung TRM after the boost, while the plasmid DNA prime induces mostly mucosal T cells. Concomitantly, the intranasal boost strategies lead to complete protection against a SARS-CoV-2 infection in mice. Our data thus suggest that mucosal booster immunizations after mRNA priming is a promising approach to establish mucosal immunity in addition to systemic responses.” • OK, a mouse study. Nevertheless!

The Gallery

“Ways of Seeing” [John Berger]. “If we accept that we can see that hill over there, we propose that from that hill we can be seen.”

The Agony Column

“You Can Make Any Day the Best Day of the Year” [Lindsay Crouse, New York Times]. “When I think about it, it’s clear that there will be experiences from this pandemic that I will miss or feel nostalgic for as well: a blissfully vacant calendar; meandering walking catch-ups with friends; smiling at neighbors after months of waving from across the street. Not the tedium or the dread, of course, but the beauty we found in the quiet. And lately I’ve realized that a lot of what made me unhappy during the pandemic made me unhappy beforehand, too. The loneliness that I worried at times might become a permanent feature of adulthood, for example, or the way the days and years can stretch together. The excuses I made as I waited for something to change. We can’t wait anymore. The stress we feel now isn’t going to magically disappear, just as it never would have before the pandemic. The world has always been a shambles. There’s only one thing we can control: How are we going to live in it?” • My teeth are grinding as hard now as they did when I read that Atlantic article yesterday. The conclusion: “So I’m going to go back to my practice of declaring a best day in advance. I’ll start by declaring today or tomorrow or next Monday one of the best days of 2021. Then I’ll tell someone its new designation, because a best day is often better with company. I’ll put down my phone. I’ll decide to do something I enjoy — it could be as simple as having some friends over or going for a walk.”

Zeitgeist Watch

“In Good Spirits” [New York Times]. “In late 2019, just as the world was on the precipice of a plague of biblical proportions, [Carissa] Schumacher said she began channeling Yeshua, as she refers to Jesus Christ. Transcribed recordings of some of those sessions appear in a new book, ‘The Freedom Transmissions,’ out Nov. 30.” • I’m really starting to hate the word “freedom,” even if it’s very important to the inhabitants of Assholistan. Anyhow, commentary:

Photo caption: “Carissa Schumacher walks through the Elfin Forest in California.” The Elfin Forest. I shouldn’t make fun of it, it’s a real place. But…. are there hobbits, too? Dwarves?

“Report: Majority Of Psychological Experiments Conducted In 1970s Just Crimes” [The Onion]. • Thought I had a sneaky Toots and the Maytals reference, but no.

“What May Have Been” [space+light]. “The recreation of crackling in some of today’s pop music, the pre-aging of select Nike retros, synthwave, and the production of a replica vintage shirt are all aesthetic and technical manifestations of hauntology. I will admit right away that at the moment of this writing, I have not read Specters of Marx by Jacques Derrida, in which he coined the word. My most cogent understanding of hauntology comes from Fisher’s application to explore culture and consumer society under late capitalism, or capitalist realism — a term used by Fisher to describe the near ubiquitous resignation that there is no alternative. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, globalization, finance capital, mass consumerism, and mass media have asserted dominance over not just every sector of the world but of our social relations, our behavior and minds, our hopes and dreams. But this economic and cultural hegemony doesn’t exist purely in recognition of itself; its power and very presence is “haunted not by the apparition of the spectre of communism, but by its disappearance.” A recent example that is seared into my memory forever, and maybe yours too, is the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders in 2020. For many Millennials like me, the Occupy movement in 2011 was formative, a test run, the first time many of us had cut our teeth in the world of left-wing politics. Sanders’ run for the presidency twice was when we actually got to flex our muscles, buoyed by a once-in-a-lifetime candidate. And during his second run in 2019-2020, specifically, we all learned a harsh but valuable lesson: that the Democratic Party, haunted by the dead New Deal coalition and the civil rights movement and which believed that it had finally and entirely exorcised the progressive Left from the party in the early 90s under Clinton, would stop at nothing to prevent a man who identifies as a democratic socialist from becoming their leader and president of the United States. Hauntology, then, is ‘about the figure of the specter . . . that it cannot be fully present: it has no being in itself but marks a relation to what is no longer or not yet.”

Class Warfare

“Capitalism Is Making Us All Miserable — Even the Superrich” [Jacobin]. “[It’s nearly impossible to reconcile] the possession of extreme wealth with basic moral or ethical impulses or other human traits. Some ultrawealthy people, of course, are simply incapable of empathy or compassion to begin with, and as such, feel zero remorse about exploiting and manipulating the world around them. In one estimate by journalist Jon Ronson, instances of psychopathy are four times higher among CEOs than among the general population — giving us plenty of reason to believe that the cloistered world of the elite boasts a disproportionate number of Patrick Batemans. Nevertheless, even on the basis of this somewhat jaw-dropping estimate, we’re still talking about a rate of psychopathy that’s less than 5 percent. The vast majority of ultrarich people, then, aren’t literally psychopaths — even if many regularly do things that cause immense harm, stress, and suffering to other people…. Unless you’re a psychopath, being exorbitantly wealthy often necessarily involves painful contortions of the soul. Insofar as it’s possible to generalize about a vague and contested concept like “human nature,” there is something profoundly unnatural about exploiting and dominating other people, just as it’s deeply inhuman and antisocial to have the majority of your relationships be defined by proximity to money.”

“Policy Response Instrumental in Shaping the Pandemic’s Impact on Inequality” [Morning Consult]. “From the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, minority groups across the United States were more likely to suffer job losses than their white compatriots, and they were also less likely to have sufficient savings or wealth to cope. In the nearly two years since, a “K-shaped” recovery has seen employment outcomes for high-income and white adults improve faster than those of lower-income workers or minority groups. In addition to concerns regarding equity and sustainability, economic inequality across races has also been shown to reduce economic activity. While the policies of the U.S. government have helped blunt the impact of the pandemic on inequality, further COVID-19 surges and the conclusion of pandemic programs have once again widened the gap in recent months — a divide that policymakers within the Biden administration and the Federal Reserve will be keen to narrow.” • They will?

“Digging for Utopia” (excerpt) [Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Review of Books]. “he Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, by the anthropologist David Graeber and the archaeologist David Wengrow, assails the proposition that there’s some cereals-to-states arrow of history. A mode of production, they insist, doesn’t come with a predetermined politics. Societies of hunter-gatherers could be miserably hierarchical; some indigenous American groups, fattened on foraging and fishing, had vainglorious aristocrats, patronage relationships, and slavery. Agriculturalist communities could be marvelously democratic. Societies could have big public works without farming. And cities—this is a critical point for Graeber and Wengrow—could function perfectly well without bosses and administrators.” • Paywalled, sadly.

News of the Wired

“We Live By a Unit of Time That Doesn’t Make Sense” [The Atlantic]. “The week is this bizarre unit of time—it’s the only one that doesn’t fit neatly into the fraction of any larger unit, like everything else does, from seconds to centuries. One issue is that, for businesses, it causes bookkeeping irregularities when you have a different number of weeks in a month, a quarter, or a year…..”

“Record number of first-time observers get Hubble telescope time” [Nature]. “In 2018, NASA changed the way it evaluates requests for observing time on Hubble by introducing a ‘double-blind’ system, in which neither the applicants nor the reviewers assessing their proposals know each other’s identities. All the agency’s other telescopes followed suit the next year. The move was intended to reduce gender and other biases, including discrimination against scientists who are at small research institutions, or who haven’t received NASA grants before. ‘The goal of submitting an anonymized proposal isn’t to completely eradicate any evidence of who’s submitting, but rather to have that not be the focus of discussion,’ says Lou Strolger, an observatory scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, which manages Hubble. Data from [the Space Telescope Science Institute] newsletters show that since the change was introduced, more first-time principal investigators have been securing viewing time on Hubble. In 2018, a record-breaking 15% of successful proposals came from applicants who hadn’t been awarded observation time before. That proportion rose to just under 32% in 2021 (see ‘First-time observers’). In 2020, 10% of successful applicants were graduate students, says Strolger.” • Good!

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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 (JM):

Pleasing bokeh! JM doesn’t say what kind of plant this is. I think I should know, but I don’t. Readers?

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If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!2:00PM Water Cooler 6/8/2021

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Samuel Conner

    A crazy but perhaps not crazy thought occurs.

    What would happen if NpPIs (“Non-prescribed Pharmaceutical Interventions”) — I don’t have any specific agent in mind; readers can imagine their own candidates for the sake of the thought experiment — were to be widely implemented by a population without the knowledge, indeed against the advice, of the medical system or the public health authorities?

    Suppose further that the NpPIs were actually effective.

    The course of the pandemic would decouple from the known public health policies.

    The policy makers would not learn any lessons, though perhaps the population would.

    Just thinking out loud; probably a foolish exercise.

    1. ambrit

      Those adopting this process must prepare for severe demonization by the “Official” Authorities and outright police harassment. This is the lesson to be learned from the “Crushing of the Occupy Movement” for those who attempt to build parrallel institutions.
      This is not just crazy paranoia. The ongoing fracaso that is the ‘Vaccine Mandate Program’ is one aspect of this process.
      It’s all about Power.

  2. CuriosityConcern

    Re: COVID indoor measures, am I wrong in thinking that exposing air system intake to UV light could also be an inexpensive but potentially effective intervention?

    1. Samuel Conner

      Not familiar with HVAC standards, but I would imagine that air throughput is pretty high. You might need very intense UV irradiation to reliably kill pathogens during their brief period of passage through the ‘sterilization compartment’

    2. Huey Long

      I used to work at a major REIT that deals exclusively in hi-rise office buildings. We took measurements of our air handling units for possible UV light installation and ultimately corporate decided against it, not sure of the reason why, probably due to cost but that’s pure speculation.

      Some buildings, such as the one I worked in, just don’t make sense for that kind of installation because of how the HVAC is configured. In that particular building, all the return air went to one central air handling plant where the air from all 1MM sqft. over 42 floors mixed together in one plenum before passing through the filters, through the fan, over the cooling/heating coils, and then back out the the building.

      Other competing firms have spent the money and installed U/V systems, so there are property owners that are upgrading their HVAC equipment.

      Every major office building owner I know has upgraded the MERV rating on their air filters and has very conspicuously doubled down on hygiene theatre.

    3. Kurtismayfield

      They already sell UV sterilization for HVAC systems. Our union argued that we install the systems in our building and Administration shrugged it off and just changed the filters, however they changed it to like MERS 9 or something lower than recommended.

    4. Raymond Sim

      Somewhere on this guy’s Twitter is a reference to experiments in some Philadelphia schools testing measures that included UV irradiation of air. They found marked reductions in rates of a variety common diseases. This was back in the late 1940’s I think. He might have included a link to the paper. Those experiments should have been the engraved name plate on the very finally nailed shut coffin of Droplet:


    5. chris

      Not wrong at all. It is an option right now. But it’s on the expensive side.

      I think there’s a German manufacturer of these as light units but they cost around $2300 US$ each.

    6. sharron

      I know a person working with a company that is trying to get the FDA to approve their UV light system for HVAC. She says system works, but is very difficult to do correctly and not for high volume flow through. The owner is trying to get a patent for a peroxide system included that is not workable. He is a crazy guy that only wants to sell to Red states. His board is now keeping him from being on the conference calls with the FDA as he is undermining his credibility.

  3. Di Modica's Dumb Steer

    Report: Majority Of Psychological Experiments Conducted In 1970s Just Crimes” [The Onion]. • Thought I had a sneaky Toots and the Maytals reference, but no.

    I know this was a jokey Onion thing, but it reminded me of a semi-recent book that is very much NOT a joke. Tom O’Neill’s Chaos [Goodreads link here] makes a pretty compelling case that Manson and his crew were experimented on by the CIA using copious amounts of drugs for the purpose of mind control, and also talks about how the seminal Bugliosi true crime book ‘Helter Skelter’ is basically bullshit.

    I couldn’t help but be reminded of Fincher’s excellent ‘Zodiac’, and how a little research thing can turn into a decades-spanning obsession that eats your life. Despite the topic, Chaos was a super breezy read, and I’d recommend it to anyone with interest in the area. Lots of speculation, given the topic (understandable, really, when you read the book), but it seems pretty solidly grounded. Has it been discussed here?

  4. Hepativore

    I realize that as an older millennial, I am younger than a lot of people here, but that article called “What May Have Been” reminds me a lot of the current fascination that Millennial and Gen Z people have with 80’s culture and music.

    I will admit, that while the 1980’s brought us Reaganomics and cemented neoliberalism as the dominant paradigm for the rest of our country’s existence, there is a certain flavor to New Wave music as well as 80’s science fiction and its related aesthetic that is very enigmatic and nostalgic for people like me…I think that was because there was still the sense of technological optimism underneath it all, in the sense that while things may get grim or complicated, a better technology future was possible provided that you stop the corporatists from getting their way.

    Plus, if you look at the rise of the Vaporwave aesthetic in popular culture a lot of it is rooted in nostalgia for 80’s-era New Wave/Synthwave at the time, particularly the color palette of magenta, yellow, and cyan.

    Not everything about the 1980’s was bad in terms of music, movies, or culture for people like me and many millenials feel the same way I do.

    1. curlydan

      There were some special things about the 80s–mainly for me, the bits of the 80s that popped up against the wave of Reaganomics and related rightward shift. They were certainly bits and not big chunks.

      For example, movies like Blue Velvet or River’s Edge kind of smacked a lot of people in the face because it was so different, relatively low budget, and a welcome change from the big budget fluff in the 80s.

      Or albums like Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation or other indie rock gems. New Wave also was a pleasant surprise in those 81-83 years before MTV moved to pure pop or hard rock.

    2. Di Modica's Dumb Steer

      Same here. Synthwave, synthpop, dreamwave, vaporwave (as mentioned) and all kinds of crazy variants seem to be sprouting like mushrooms (you can see a bunch of them on Bandcamp and Soundcloud; witch house is a bit darker, but absolutely wild). Some of these kids are aping the originals so well I have to check the year of release just to be certain.

      It’s not just the synth scene, either. Metal is having a bit of a renaissance, too, and so much of it is great, to the point where I can’t even keep up. Plus, there’s all kinds of cross-pollination from those scenes, where metalheads jump into synth and run with it. Perturbator is a prime example, but Carpenter Brut, while not having a metal genesis, has that metal feel. I love it, even if my wallet complains.

      1. JohnH

        Frank Zappa foresaw

        “DEATH BY NOSTALGIA: It isn’t necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice — there are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia. When you compute the length of time between ‘The Event’ and ‘Nostalgia For The Event,’ the span seems to be about ‘a year less in each cycle.’ Eventually, within the next quarter of a century the nostalgia cycles will be so close together that people will not be able to take a step without being nostalgic for the one they just took. At that point, everything stops. Death by Nostalgia.” (FZ 1989) — The Real Frank Zappa Book

    3. Sawdust

      In addition to that, it may be that the 80s offer an optimum amount of recorded/replayable culture (music, movies, etc) to create a commodifiable aesthetic. Before then, there isn’t enough accumulated media for everyone to choose from. From the 90s on, there’s too much for a commonality of taste.

    4. NotThePilot

      Another older-millennial here, and I’m not that into Vaporwave, though I get the appeal. There was definitely good 80s music though, even some of the more stereotypically 80s stuff that’s usually pretty dated.

      I do think that in retrospect the 80s were actually a really strong decade for good movies, especially comedies.

      I’m not really that nostalgic for the 80s as a whole though, partly because the older I get, the more aware I am of the choices we collectively made. But honestly, it’s mainly because even though I was young, I just remember there being something deep and alive in the air during the 90s (especially the early half).

    5. PHLDenizen

      I’m at the tail end of Generation X and remember the early 80s: threat of mutually assured nuclear annihilation, paranoia, fear, HIV (my partner is 10 years my senior, was part of the LGBT scene in ATL and still cries at the memory of people close to her dropping dead left and right — I still remember when it was called GRID).

      Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, crack epidemic, Republican race-baiting, the continuation of urban cities decaying, moral panic about satanism and things like the PMRC, phone books, landlines with dial phones and squabbles in the house over their monopolization (“get off the phone”), malls as a center of teenage socialization, waiting in line for movie tickets, rampant smoking — even on planes, printed maps for navigating roads.

      New coke, waiting for songs you like on the radio, VHS tapes that sucked, cassette tapes that kept getting mangled. Wooden punnets for produce. Much less crappy plastic waste for groceries.

      To me, the movie War Games and Rush’s Grace Under Pressure captured the spirit of the early 80s. Darkness and bleakness. Most of the synthwave stuff felt like an eerie soundtrack. Especially the synthesizers and drum machines. Like humanity was being extinguished and synths just had this weird, disorienting timbre.

      One thing about 80s music was the use of more complex chord voicings. Particularly with pads. Lots of suspended chords and a lot of 7ths. Harmonically more interesting than most of the dull, homogenized stuff falling out of today’s nostalgia.

      I don’t particularly miss it. Some great movies and tunes that have aged well. And a lot of it that hasn’t. I always have a soft spot for cock rock aka hair metal: Def Leppard, etc, though. Although bands like Poison were just not good.

      1. Kevin Carhart

        > threat of mutually assured nuclear annihilation

        Yes, you’re right.
        I remembered this a while later. hepativore, I think your optimism idea is not undermined but is in a …. uhh…… dialectic? With nuclear dread consisting of things like:
        Culture Club “The War Song” (GBd5W9IA7n0)
        The eighties incarnation of the Hollies, covering “Stop! In the Name of Love” (NUb5br1Pkjo) –
        Both featuring prominent mushroom clouds. The Hollies’ use of a childrens’ choir could be considered mawkish but at the age of 11 it scared the crap out of me..

        It’s a Mistake (I0AxrOUJ62E)
        99 Red Balloons (hiwgOWo7mDc)

        All potentially rendered banal by later appearances on V/A compilations and 20/20 hindsight but at the time, WHOA, this is getting to be a lot of dread to digest…

        And then follow this by turning to Nickelodeon’s talkshow for kids, which had an episode with a nuclear blast expert showing a diagram of concentric circles and good dispassionate detail on who would be instantly vaporized, who would be close enough for the shockwave, fires, fallout, etc.

        Then go pick up a copy of Superman #408, the topical, dreadmongering “they actually went through with it and I didn’t stop it in time!” issue…

  5. t

    “All I ask is a timeline composed of Tweets from accounts I follow, in reverse chronological order.” I would sign up for this, but toggle to chronological.

        1. John Anthony La Pietra

          Well, if they can do the one, they must be able to do the other — and offering the choice shouldn’t be too much added difficulty.

  6. John

    “We Live By a Unit of Time That Doesn’t Make Sense” Yes the week is irrational ,but it has been aound ao long that doing away with it would be akin to replacing the QWERTY kkeyboard. BUt just for fun, how abou13 months of 28 days each and one day, two in leap year, as an end of year holiday. Think of the fun, and possibly mayhem, surrounding the naming of the 13th month and the non-calendrical days. That way each year and month could begin on a Monday easing the “burden” on the overburdened business man. Think of it 260 week days, 52 Saturdays and 52 Sundays, and a day or two that are outside time.

      1. Trogg

        I vote for French Revolutionary calendar with 5 day weeks instead of 10, so that the workweek is 3 days long with the traditional 2 day weekend.

    1. NotThePilot

      The one thing I didn’t get about this article at all is that they just plainly state multiple times that the week doesn’t coincide with any natural cycle… when it kind-of does?

      A lunar cycle is a bit under 30 days, and if you divide it into the four (easy-to-observe) phases, you get a bit under 7.5 days. And don’t forget the menstrual cycle has a median length of… 28 days (this Atlantic article is sexist).

      That there are 7 astronomical bodies in our solar system observable by the naked eye is a pretty cool coincidence too. The woo factor alone beats a month of 3 ten-day weeks.

    2. farragut

      I can’t be the only member of the NC commentariat who switched to a Dvorak layout. It took 10-12 months to master, but well worth it. Anyone else?

      1. Geof

        I learned Dvorak over Christmas on a bet a quarter century ago. It didn’t take me long – I was young; with Mavis Beacon and my knowledge of English letter frequencies (ETAONISRH) from fooling with ciphers it just felt right. I never collected on the bet, but my fingers thank me. A friend who laughed at me at the time followed suit when he got carpal tunnel.

        More recently, looking for a free open-source editor, I switched to vim. With simple commands for working on whole words, sentences and paragraphs, I think it’s got to be the best prose writing software ever.

        I think we make a terrible mistake putting novice ease-of-use ahead of a long-term relationship with our technology. We lose expertise and depth, and eventually we get left behind. Commercial software UIs change as often as hair styles. I expect my fingers will remember Dvorak, vim and Unix commands even when I am old and senile.

      2. Basil Pesto

        I’d like to try it actually, now that you mention it. Incidentally, I was thinking of getting a new mechanical keyboard this past week but just ended up spending hours down the intensely nerdy keyboard subculture rabbit hole.

  7. Pelham

    Re the PMC’s baffling refusal to tackle Covid in any meaningful way: Perhaps they ARE acting in their own interest. Just as with the many years of the unaddressed opioid crisis and deaths of despair, the PMC perceives Covid as yet another way to sideline and dispose of Trump-loving Bubba and his troubling voting patterns. Bubba isn’t the worst vax resister, but that’s not how it’s seen. So “let ‘er rip” makes sense in this mapping of the situation, as does all the purposely counterproductive shaming and scolding.

    1. Screwball

      I don’t think this idea is far fetched.

      I used to go to a site where they talked sports and politics. The political site has now dwindled to nothing but the PMC types. They hate everybody but themselves and those who share the same bubble they live in, especially “Trumpers,” who are blamed for just about everything.

      They believe in vax mandates at any cost, even by force. The un-vaxxed should be denied medical care, fired for not getting the jab, denied any sniff of normal life, including letting them die – because they deserve it. The anti-vaxxers are stupid hicks and dumb rednecks who don’t believe in science or St. Fauci – so screw them.

      It’s quite enlightening to be honest. Moreover, they despise anyone that even questions their stance. If you mention the vaccines are not working like they should be, or promised, and we don’t really know about long term side effects – how dare you! You are automatically a Trump loving idiot – how can you question the science.

      It is mind boggling to me how these people can consider themselves to be so intelligent, righteous, and pure – but believe St. Fauci is savior, Russia is still controlling the GOP thru Trump, and the democrats are going to fix everything if people would just keep voting them in.

      This country is in a bad place and they are no help. They are also scared shitless Trump is going to run again. I expect the threat of Trump running in 2024, and the upcoming circus by the Jan 6th investigation will be the democrats grand plan to incentivize their base. Unfortunately, it might just work.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        i may have mentioned the Kill Them All Thread i saved from alternet, some years ago…before i found NC.
        ongoing teabilly madness, and Hillary was already the de fecto appointed one(so…2015?)
        i tangled with a pmc type who was pretty nasty, in spite of his virtuous shell(gay white well off dude in upstate ny, who was one of the later instars of what would soon become Woke.
        i toyed with him…socratically…asking questions, interrogating his rabid one off’s..and finally drew him out into the open(paraphrased from memory):” so the teabillies are irredeemable, and unreformable…and we should therefore just kill them all?”
        “yes…definitely…there’s no other way”

        and he had numerous other non-trolls right there defending him.
        since then, i’ve encountered this sentiment…all but indistinguishable from the world ending insanity of the more rabid right…in lots of places…if i go looking.
        it’s usually stated in euphemisms and coded language…just like the right’s used to be.
        the point is, it’s been there bubbling away for some time, at least since Obama’s first inaugural and the rise of total resistance on the right.

        sadly, part of the growth of this nihilism is the increasingly frantic smoking of their own stash…shoring up the membrane of the bubbleuniverse…removing or driving off any impurities…and the light/dark sensing organs where their eyes used to be think that the bright splashes are the true history of them, and it is glorious…anyone who would question that is immediately assumed to be of the darkness…for how could anyone deny them their due?

        again, it’s entirely analogous to what happened to the gop base…at least the non-working class portion of it…under clinton.

        i sometimes revisit the idea of a teaparty of the Left(actual Left, with Bernie at the right wing of it(!))…but as many of the links hereabout have indicated, the demparty is unreformable, unrepresentive and is not a membership organisation.
        the gop at least had more democracy within it’s structure…which is how we got Tea and then trump, after all(yes…lots of $$$ paid for all that, but still.

        i don’t see any way forward in that way in the demparty.
        better to abandon them, and begin working on something to replace them, for when they eventually dry up and blow away.
        if folks like us, here, fail to do this…it seems inevitable that the right will pick up all those new dealish birdsnests and run with them…and, for lack of an alternative, much of the bottom half of the country will go along with it.

      2. Sawdust

        I agree with everything you said. And I’ll bet that, like me, you grew up listening to NPR. So, what gives? Are we just projecting or what?

      3. chris

        Yep, the PMC who don’t know how to do anything real, believe that all these dirty dying deplorables are the surplus population Scrooge talked about. Self defeating, stupid, and wrong.

        But it also occurs to me that they may honestly not know how any of this stuff works so they may not be able to do much. In which case, they’re not actually worth what they’re being paid, right? Like, I was stunned by the Pfizer exec saying that Omicron could evade the spike specific antibodies but would not evade the resistance from the T cells. I was hoping he’d cite a paper or a study or something pointing to prior work that such a thing had been observed in coronavirus before. But he might not know. Or he might not be allowed to say. Or he might not want to say because he’s financially conflicted. He’s a great example of the PMC we’re talking about. Stupid, or conflicted, or lying – or some combination of the three. We can’t tell until we see whether he dumps Pfizer stock.

    2. marym

      “Let ‘er rip” and “shaming and scolding” has also been an approach favored by several segments of the anti-every-precaution Trump-aligned population, some of whom are explicitly committed to “sideline and dispose of [others they consider to have] troubling voting patterns.”

    3. Alphonse

      There is a lot of thought along these lines going around. The work of Rene Girard comes up repeatedly. Here (on Twitter) is perhaps the best expression of that I’ve seen. A snippet:

      The real danger the bureaucratic lynch mob is responding to is not a virus, but the disintegration of culture via digitalization & globalization. The mob is, unconsciously, trying to establish a new global/digital cultural order via scapegoating. A classic example of solving a crisis through escalation. But for this work, they must believe their hands are clean and everything they do is necessitated by the virus. In other words, the explicit goal of “corona containment ideology” may be medical, the eradication of a virus, but its underlying purpose is social. This is where it gets such energy, and why a minor threat feels so significant. The cultural threat it disguises is real.

      I take “mob” to mean especially PMC. I don’t see this as incompatible with taking the virus and health precautions seriously. Regardless of the scientific or policy merits of any particular Covid strategy, I think this explains the aggression of private citizens enforcing the official line.

  8. Samuel Conner

    > The Elfin Forest. I shouldn’t make fun of it, it’s a real place. But…. are there hobbits, too? Dwarves?

    No. IIRC, JRRT eschewed use of the letter “f” in converting singular noun species names into adjectives (or into plural nouns); he insisted on “v”.

    Now, if it were the “Elven Forest”, all bets would be off.

    1. Leftcoastindie

      I’ve been through there several times. Most of the trees are scrub oak and don’t get very tall 15′ – 20′ maybe. The place does have an enchanting feel to it because of the short trees. The name fits.

    2. Martin Oline

      There is also the Pygmy Forest up in Mendocino County close to Casper, CA. It has “Bishop pine forest and pygmy forest, on podzolized (nutrient-poor, highly acidic) soils. Underlying this relatively inhospitable soil is a clay hardpan. As a result, much of the vegetation is stunted, and there are dwarf trees; some mature trees are barely waist-high with trunks a few centimeters in diameter.”.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        my vote, such as it is, is for adhering to Tolkien’s spelling in such things…but i’m definitely biased.
        first non-english language i learned was a mishmash of Quendi and Sindarin…so me and my best buddy from 3rd grade on could talk about the rubes/bullies…so a sort of battle language, like Chakobsa.
        (of course, this had the effect of making us even more inviting targets…at least until high school, when i learned to be mysterious and scary, and to put on the Glamour of some kind of Beat Hippie Wizard(Quendi is excellent for spells, delivered in resonant and authoritative tones)

      2. Samuel Conner

        In an earlier stage of my life, decades pre-pandemic (a long time ago in a galaxy far away), I devoured all things Tolkien, including ‘behind the scenes’ snippets. JRRT’s son Christopher put together a large multivolume compilation of incomplete or earlier forms of stories with copious notes (along with the two books he completed, The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin, both wonderful but IMO deeply depressing stories). I think it was in one of these that I read that an editor advised JRRT to conform to conventional spelling when converting “dwarf” to an adjective, “dwarfish”. Thankfully, JRRT’s aesthetic sense prevailed. “Dwarvish”, “elvish”, sound, to my ear, more majestic or menacing, or … something .. than “dwarfish” and “elfish”. Perhaps there were phonetic or phonological considerations in view in terms of the languages he had invented for this world.

        Wonderful stories that I hope outlast the civilization that produced them.

    3. Acacia

      Elfin forest web site exhorts the unvaccinated to wear a mask if they visit. Sounds like a wonderful crew in charge of the place, keeping the forest pure ‘n all that.

  9. Ranger Rick

    Had to suppress a laugh when I saw the Atlantic article. Revolutionary France was the last time anyone really cared what the calendar looked like.

      1. Basil Pesto

        This writer? (the one interviewed in The Atlantic). Besides literally writing a book on the history of the week, dude’s a practicing Jew. I feel like he’s probably on top this factoid

    1. The Rev Kev

      The French Revolutionary calendar had three ten-day weeks in it per month but it was found that working about that many days before getting to a weekend was just too much a serious grind and so the whole thing was dropped-


      I’m surprised that someone like Jeff Bezos has not wanted it resurrected again as he would love that feature for his Amazon warehouses.

  10. Lena

    I wonder it would be possible to photograph the painful contortions of the souls of the exorbitantly wealthy?

    I see a potential coffee table book in the works. Not in time for this Christmas, but definitely next year.

    1. Paradan

      Could be a cool art exhibit, get a bunch of artist to do portrayals of the wealthy soul. Probably have to set guidelines for the medium though or else you’ll end up with Gallery of Poop.

    2. LifelongLib

      Dunno. Gore Vidal once said IIRC that if the rest of us knew how much fun the rich are having, we would rise up and eat them. Having anything you want and never having to worry about the cost must in some ways be very pleasant.

  11. Angie Neer

    JM: bravo! I love the fact that you made the small, pale flower the crisp subject, and consigned the gaudy colors to serve as the hazy background.

  12. petal

    Sorry if this has been posted elsewhere:
    Omicron Covid variant is unlikely to cause severe illness in people who have received the Pfizer vaccine, BioNTech chief says

    Snip:”The co-founder of BioNTech – Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing partner – believes their shot is still effective at preventing severe complications from the Omicron variant.

    Dr Ugur Sahin, co-founder of the Mainz, Germany-based company, told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that the variant can cause breakthrough infections at a higher rate.

    However, once in the body, the variant would likely be destroyed.

    Sahin believes that a vaccinated person will have the immune system capacity necessary to defeat the mutated virus, and encourages people to get their booster shots when they can.

    Many experts have feared that the Covid vaccines would not effective against the variant because of how many mutations is has of the spike protein that the vaccines target.’Don’t freak out, the plan remains the same: Speed up the administration of a third booster shot,’ Sahin told the WSJ on Tuesday.”
    More at the link.

    1. marku52

      Would be nice to believe this, but Pfizer is not the most honest and credible source. We’ll have to wait and see as more population is exposed.

      The guy from Moderna was a lot less hopeful.

      1. petal

        I know I know, same, was just being the messenger on this one, as we’d already heard from Moderna. Interesting to see all their reactions to this.

    2. Sardonia

      The word “believe” is doing a lot of work there.

      I “believe” that if you send me $1,000 something good will happen to you today!

  13. Jason Boxman

    As in Afghanistan, liberal Democrats seem to think democracy is just elections (oh, and norms, as long as they are convenient for liberal Democrats to follow and they agree with them). But if you look at 2020, I’d say American “democracy”, at least as understood in high school text books rather than the “our democracy” that liberal Democrats hold so dear, did not survive 2020. (Or 2000 for that matter.) We had unprecedented surveillance of a president campaign, a concerted effort to overturn the results of the election through faithless electors (but, norms!) and two failed impeachment attempts over issues that weren’t even the initial subjects of surveillance, namely that Trump was a Russian agent.

    I wouldn’t exactly call that a near miss. Although the liberal Democrat “their democracy” seems intact.

  14. Geo

    “…bipartisan agreement that in and of itself had meaning.’” • It does? To whom?

    The most important people of all: donors and lobbyists.

  15. Carl

    Bimbo and Himbo have just taken responsibility for the supply chain nationwide. Spread the word.

    They’re going to Buttarris the economy.

  16. ChiGal

    Downstream from the tweet about why some vaccines prevent transmission and others don’t is a tweet suggesting an apology is in order and passing on this info (attributed to CBS):

    JUST IN: Omicron COVID variant was in Europe before South African scientists detected and flagged it to the world

    1. NotThePilot

      I’m no public health expert, but I see where the WHO’s coming from on this one; only banning travel from parts of Africa just seems like a counterproductive d*** move.

      I could see relying on strict testing to permit travel from anywhere, and I can see banning travel from everywhere. But approaching the 3rd year of this pandemic, knowing that this isn’t ebola and it can spread asymptomatically for days or weeks, is there any reason to assume the first detected cluster necessarily indicates a single, infected population?

      It seems like a great way to shoot yourself in the foot, and tick off a lot of other countries in the process. Didn’t they find, after all that brouhaha about banning travel from East Asia, that Italy was by far the primary pathway the first strain took into the US?

      1. JBird4049

        It about appearances, NotThePilot, all about maintaining the appearance to your citizens that you are not the Klown Krew driving the Klown Kar, but someone who has some clue and is doing it. And now the official propaganda news reports can be fluffed up with the latest government actions.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I could see relying on strict testing to permit travel from anywhere, and I can see banning travel from everywhere.

        Plus 14-day quarantine (as I’ve been screaming for some time).

        And if that means people need to take ocean liners or the train instead of flying, is that so bad, really? If the boat or train has solid connectivity?

  17. Zephyrum

    One advantage of weekdays that don’t line up with days of the month is that it enables useful error detection. If someone tells you an event is on Wednesday the 16th and the 16th is a Tuesday then you have an obvious mismatch of day, week or month. If the 16th of every month is a Monday and they tell you the 16th then you have no way to verify it.

    If efficiency matters more than anything else, why not get rid of double-entry accounting? It would save all kinds of overhead.

      1. ambrit

        Pair that with “The Nightmare Assange Spent in Jail” and we have a ‘counter culture’ movement on our hands. [Watch out for those “fusion” centres!]

  18. fresno dan

    This is astonishing; it puts into stark context how the bottom wage quartile has lagged for decades; (no real gains for mope than half a century? No wonder so many people are angry). One possible, simple explanation of what is occurring right now is that those wages are belatedly catching up.

    Said differently, we are experiencing a generational reset of the minimum wage across most of the United States.
    This is a “Great Reset.” In many ways, the economy is running parallel to another reset in the U.S. economy – the period that followed World War Two. There are many parallels but the most radical difference between now and then is the worker shortage. The factors driving this include:

    – Decreased immigration (2m)
    – New Business launches (1m)
    – Lack of Child Care (1m)
    – Covid Deaths (500k)
    – Early retirement (1m)
    – Not in Labor Force (1M)

    But those spitballed numbers only get us part way to explaining those 10 million job openings. What I suspect is occurring is simply a massive unwind of wages that were way too low for way too long at the bottom of the pay scale.

    1. ambrit

      Why do you think so many “Official” ‘economic actors’ are agitating for open borders? A flood of super low wage immigrants, legal or otherwise, will quash this redistributive “commie” plot. [The prop-agit memes just flow like spice; eternal and immutable.]

    2. eg

      Regarding the 10 million job openings — I heard on the Bloomberg Odd Lots podcast that the increasingly lower cost of posting jobs may have influenced their number.

      Any chance that there is some non-trivial number of “spoofing” posts a la the Wall Street shenanigans of cancelled bids as part of a price “misdiscovery” game?

      Not that I’m foily …

      1. Objective Ace

        The job openings are part of the BLS JOLTS survey to employers. They are not counts of advertised jobs (a job opening in many cases would be expected to have many advertisings). So spoofed posts would not be an issue.

        It is certainly possible that the reduced price and effort of marketing a job makes companies more willing to do so. I believe this also effects why unemployment rates are now so much lower. Its super easy to apply for jobs now that you can do it from your computer

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          weird sort of natural law i’ve observed for 30 years: the job listings in whatever newspaper tended to be perennial…and put there by employers who had difficulty retaining employees…because they were bad bosses, and loathsome, and thus included high turnover in their modelling.
          (that is if they weren’t outright scams)

          this part of Ritholtz’ post:”“Real Median Wages were unchanged from 1979 to 2014; Real Minimum wages were the same in 2015 as they were in 1949.””
          …really twists the knife.
          in the late 80’s, when i began working above the table, i entered the working world with a bunch of assumptions from my grandparents…transmitted as eternal truths by my parents: that one could get ahead and even thrive if one took pride in one’s work, and did a good job.
          that this simply wasn’t true, even by then, was a shock….and is the first time i actually applied Socratic Perplexity to ordinary life(by examining such assumptions, which quickly became habit)

          of course, the data on this defacto General Strike(does Robert Reich lurk here?) is rather spotty…since BLS, et alia doesn’t have a good lens into the “informal economy”, whether grey or black.
          (which could be considered yet another example of the Bubble….the inner facing part of the membrane being mirror-like…)

    3. JBird4049

      IIRC, if the minimum wage had maintained the same rate of increase due to inflation and productivity, that it had to about 1970-72, it would be about $25 per an hour or about 49,000 per year gross. One can almost afford to live in California at that amount. It would not be fantastic, but still.

      Just think of all that wealth destroyed for most of it was vacuumed up, laundered, stored, or used to buy another yacht. Then think of all the factories and know how sent overseas to help suppress income.

      Thing think of the fact that Social Security and disability payments are calculated using a person yearly income. The more you make, the bigger the Social Security checks. Suppressing the incomes of the very people who need Social Security for retirement, means suppressing the amount that the federal government has to pay out. Since a person could be living on Social Security for 10, 20, even 30 years of larger payments, which is real money if you include the millions of people using it.

  19. Martin Oline

    Oh good, a multi-media link to John Berger’s Ways Of Seeing. I will ‘look’ at it early tomorrow morning. In the meantime, here is a link I found to a sample of John’s Pig Earth, which is one third of his book Into Their Labors. Pig Earth

      1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

        It’s a shame that he had to leave us although he lived to a good old age while filling that life very well in many ways & subjects. I remember first listening to his audio essay Fellow Prisoners & thinking he was being OTT, but due to the handling of Covid & much else learnt since I now fully agree with him. His theory of demonstrations did make sense to me at the time but I will give it a re-run seeing as Europe is now full of them.

        It’s been a long time since I watched Ways of Seeing & am grateful for the link so I can add it to the list to mainly listen to while working as due to eye strain I don’t read very much, although after reading Aldous Huxley’s The Art of Seeing & using the Bate’s method described within I have managed much better since.

        1. Judith

          John Berger – such an open mind and open heart, with all human imperfections. His essay Krakow always moves me to tears. I long wanted a conversation between Berger and Gary Snyder to happen.

  20. The Rev Kev

    “If we look at each layer as a jobs guarantee for credentialed professionals and managers, like ObamaCare, the opportunities are tremendous”

    That’s quite a thought that. After 9/11 the hot topic to study was any course on security and terrorism and I would imagine that by now some of those first wave students are now professors teaching it. So with a word-wide pandemic, why is there no upwind of courses to deal with such medical events. You know, ones to do with public health. Oh, I just think that I answered my own question.

  21. Left in Wisconsin

    From the Jacobin piece: Unless you’re a psychopath, being exorbitantly wealthy often necessarily involves painful contortions of the soul. Insofar as it’s possible to generalize about a vague and contested concept like “human nature,” there is something profoundly unnatural about exploiting and dominating other people, just as it’s deeply inhuman and antisocial to have the majority of your relationships be defined by proximity to money.”

    I don’t think this is true.
    1. Finance is different: People who are in finance generally don’t interact at work with many people outside that world, so it is much easier to compartmentalize. For example, I learned a long time ago that factory owners were often conflicted about paying low wages but PE people weren’t conflicted in the slightest: it was all “numbers on a page,” not anyone they knew personally.
    2. Virtually all of the very wealthy people I have come across in my life are “active in the church,” which seems to be a common way for them to “compensate” for their “success.”
    3. Most importantly, the Jacobin writer (Luke Savage, who I generally like) completely ignores the social complications that arise for the wealthy when they socialize with the non-wealthy. Everything is so awkward. The normal wealthy don’t want to treat their friends all the time; they want to split the check or take turns picking up the check like normal people do. They don’t always want to host the parties, they like to go to other people’s parties. But not trashy ones. They want to talk real estate, but obviously not to people who rent or who own in neighborhoods with different valuations. Etc. Etc. I think it is way less stressful for the wealthy to hang around primarily with other wealthy people.

    Mostly the article is a riff on that Guardian op-ed the other day from the therapist to the rich on how unhappy they are. Also, there is a long quote from Vivek Chibber, which is kind of a tell that it is not based on real-world observation. Chibber is smart in an academic Marxist way but he knows absolutely nothing about how real business capitalism works. (This is academic inside baseball not relevant to most readers.)

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      the System selects for psychopathy, because it was made by psychopaths.
      to get by in it, one must put on the wolfskin of psychopathy.

      and i agree , regarding the rich folks i have known and bumped into in my life.
      the closer to the tippy top they were, the more amoral and cold on the inside.
      and your observation about how moderately rich folks are made uncomfortable by less than rich folks is spot on…as evidenced, for me, by my stepmom and the people she collects around her(as well as my brother and his bunch).
      they live in bubbles…at least brother still remains aware of it.
      stepmom definitely doesn’t remember that she’s in a bubble, and her assumptions prove it whenever she speaks….consistently mistaking her privileged yet narrow existence as the whole of reality.
      so when i worried about our vehicles not making it all the way to houston, in years past , she was bewildered.” just call triple a…”…and the like.

      and decades as The Help offered a great and comprehensive education as to the attitudes of the more or less comfortable….and even a few of the very rich , from time to time.(shudder)
      when the balloon goes up, the latter should be eaten first…and quickly…as they are the greatest danger.
      the former should be given the opportunity to adjust to the new realities of post imperial america, as well as a post abundance world….for they are as the people in the Cave, staring at the bubblewall, and liking what they see there.

      1. HotFlash

        the former should be given the opportunity to adjust to the new realities of post imperial america, as well as a post abundance world…

        Well of course. But not too long.

  22. Wukchumni

    Real Estate: “For sale: God, guns and separatism in the American Redoubt”
    I prefer our little 404,000 acre redoubt with not many roads, no God or guns and a veritable shitlode of separatism as nobody lives there.

    You can only go a little way into Sequoia NP on road because of the KNP Fire burning up so much of the frontcountry, and we took a drive the other day and weaved through Potwisha* car campground which was untouched despite the higher climes being thoroughly torched all around it, they obviously made an effort to save it. First come-first served camping now.

    The end of the line is at Hospital Rock where interestingly not 20 feet from grinding holes (bedrock mortars) was a member of the Wukchumni tribe with display of artifacts, photos & books on a table, and talking about his heritage to a most captive audience with no particular place to go.

    A nice touch by NPS having him on hand forty feet from their most impressive pictograph in the park.

    * a stoner’s whet dream of a name

  23. The Rev Kev

    “Dorsey’s Twitter Resignation Sparks Fears Of More Internet Censorship”

    Started the censorship, it has-

    ‘Twitter has updated its policy on personal information to cover videos and photos of private individuals shared without their consent, unless that is done by legacy media, in “public interest,” or other context they approve of.’

    So it can be a blank check to, for example, take down memes criticizing democrats, forcing offline videos of cops doing bad stuff, etc. Pretty soon Twitter will be as bad as YouTube-


      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > twitter is a sewer of human waste

        Nonsense, except in the sense that humans, in general and biologically, produce waste (but cf. Matt 15:11).

        As I said, I participate several nice quiet Twitter neighborhoods, and they’re important to me.

        There is also no other place on the Intertubes where so many verticals — scientists, the press, dull normals — interact on the same plane. In that regard, Twitter would be difficult to replace.x

  24. MK

    “it is way less stressful for the wealthy to hang around primarily with other wealthy people.”

    This! And I’d break it down between 1st generation rich and the subsequent offspring. Those that went from not wealthy to wealthy (and possibly their kids) can still connect with their less wealthy counterparts, but those removed from any ‘normal’ non rich situations can’t relate. At all.

    The generational disconnect grows by leaps and bounds as time goes by until you get a let them eat cake moment.

    1. MK

      And I’d add I knew a woman that worked as a concierge for AMEX black back in the day.

      One of her best stories is when a customer called from a Ferrari dealer to authorize a new car purchase for his son. They were approved with little hassle.

  25. allan

    Wisconsin Supreme Court says it would minimize changes to current election maps,
    handing Republicans an initial redistricting victory
    [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

    A narrowly divided state Supreme Court announced Tuesday it would minimize changes it would make to Wisconsin’s election maps, effectively guaranteeing Republicans will continue to maintain control of the Legislature for the next decade. …

    Tuesday’s decision broke along ideological lines, with the four conservatives in the majority and the three liberals in the minority.

    In the most significant part of their ruling, the justices wrote that they would limit the changes they would make to maps that were drawn 10 years ago, when Republicans controlled all of state government and established district lines that favor their party.

    Writing for the majority, Justice Rebecca Bradley contended the justices must make as few changes to the maps as possible as a way to respect the past choices lawmakers have made. They cannot attempt to right what opponents perceive as past wrongs, she wrote.

    “Claims of political unfairness in the maps present political questions, not legal ones,” she wrote. “Such claims have no basis in the constitution or any other law and therefore must be resolved through the political process and not by the judiciary.” …

    Game over.

  26. The Rev Kev

    The latest episode of the Civil War Podcast features the Confederate artillery barrage which precedes Pickett’s Charge-


    Spoiler alert. The Union artillery decides to bait the Confederates by reducing their counter battery fire to make them think that the artillery barrage has worked and that they can now send Pickett in. From the 1993 film “Gettysburg”-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGsecMHmWwo (4:26 mins)

    Side Note – that young officer that is pleading with General Scott Hancock to take cover was played by Ken Burns, creator of the Civil War series.

  27. Even keel

    I’d be interested in adding some African countries to the COVID metrics. My understanding is Africa generally (excluding South Africa?) is doing spectacularly well in terms of deaths and cases.

    Nigeria, e.g., has had 214k cases and only 3k deaths?? A 200M population? Is this just undercounting, or what? I suppose a number to number comparison is out, due to the spectacularly different conditions. But what are these different conditions? The FT article about Pfizer power claims that Pfizer has power of life or death over economies world wide, and quotes an African minister as being particularly desperate for vaccine. Doesn’t seem Tom match the reported facts on case incidence.

  28. Robert Hahl

    Speaking of google’s slogan I had a visor made last year that said “Don’t be lesser evil,” to support Bernie’s presidential primary run, but it didn’t seem to help.

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