2:00PM Water Cooler 12/1/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

More Darwin’s finches, foraging and eating on the Galápagos islands.

NOTE Alert reader MP writes: “As far as I can tell, the ‘Birds Aren’t Real’ campaign is basically merchandising imitating conspiracy theory.” Creative! But I won’t dignify the campaign with a link.

* * *


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

Vaccination by region:

Rebounding from Thanksgiving data problems.

59.4% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, as of November 30. 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:

Rebounding after the Thanksgiving drop.

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.)

* * *

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. Back in action, but showing Thanksgiving data problems like everything else:

(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:

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: 803,186 801,326. At this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s.

Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid), now 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.

* * *


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Biden Administration

“7 policies in Biden’s spending plan aimed at health equity” [STAT]. “Embedded in the nearly $2 trillion plan are billions of dollars to help make health care services more accessible and affordable for Americans who slipped through the cracks of existing safety-net policies. … The health equity programs span the beginning of life, aiming to make birth safer for Black mothers, to the end, offering incentives to boost pay for home care services disproportionately provided by Black and Hispanic women. The package would also provide cheaper coverage options for low-income adults in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act — a population that is 60% people of color — and provide stable funding for coverage programs for children and people in the U.S. territories.” • “More accessible and affordable.” Translation: Bandaids. Note also the assumption that the only form of “equity” is race-based.

“Dems’ paid leave push faces last stand” [Politico]. “The Senate is on the precipice of tossing a national paid family and medical leave program from President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion climate and social spending bill at the behest of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Manchin says he supports enacting paid leave, but wants to do it separately to allow for Republican input…. ‘I’ve urged Sen. Manchin that there are many things that we can do on a bipartisan basis. But they do not include a universal earned benefit. It does not include something that’s mandatory,’ said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who’s doggedly trying to sway Manchin. Gillibrand maintains the only way to cover West Virginians with low incomes is ‘a universal mandatory benefit. And the only chance of ever covering them would be something we would do now during reconciliation.'” • “Universal mandatory benefit.” Wait. What about complex eligibility requirements? What about means-testing? And when and how did Gillibrand see the light on this?

Yves ran this in Links this morning, but I want to add the point that ending a drone war is, like ending the war in Afghanistan, a reason for the warmongering political class to keep open season on Biden going forever:

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 Showing the PMC’s inability to govern, as a class they seem unable to expand their scope of operations into new fields. 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.

* * *

“CNN’s Chris Cuomo suspended over role in ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sex scandal” [Reuters]. “Cuomo, who hosts CNN’s most-watched prime time news show, had admitted in May he breached some of the network’s rules in advising his brother how to handle the allegations from a public relations perspective. He also pledged not to report on the case on air. CNN said on Tuesday that at the time it ‘appreciated the unique position he was in and understood his need to put family first and job second‘, but said the new documents ‘raise serious questions.'” • Well, I’m sure any Walmart worker with a family will appreciate the new baseline CNN has set. What happened? A Democrat press asset got disciplined…. for making it too obvious. Meanwhile, there’s an outpouring of support for Cuomo from political and media figures, presumably because they want to be guests on Cuomo’s next show when he is, inevitably, rehabilitated.

Trump Legacy

“CIA book on Trump briefings more interesting for what it omits” [Washington Examiner]. “Unmentioned in the new chapter is the fact that the FBI’s first intelligence briefing of candidate Trump in August 2016 was used as a ‘pretext’ to investigate him and his then-foreign policy adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn. It also fails to mention that then-FBI Director James Comey’s briefing of Trump on the dossier in January 2017 was used as an opportunity to try to advance the Crossfire Hurricane inquiry.” • On January 6, 2017, Comey met with Trump, opened up his briefcase, and showed Trump a horses head. Trump, being from New York real estate, knows a shakedown when he sees one. So that is how the intelligence community introduced itself to him, good job.

Clinton Legacy

“Clinton Foundation donations plummet 75%” [Axios]. “Donations to the Clinton Foundation plummeted to $16 million last year, down nearly 75% from the organization’s peak when former secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was running for president, records reviewed by Axios show. The foundation was a financial juggernaut in the years after Bill Clinton served as president and while his wife led her own political career.” • It’s almost like the Clinton Foundation lost an important product line. I wonder what they could have been selling?

Realignment and Legitimacy

Throwing declining life expectancy, Covid deaths, death threats, and wishing death on one’s political opponents into one bucket. I’m not making any causal argument, and I’m not sure what to label the bucket. I’d file these under Zeitgeist Watch, were there the slightest flavor or irony or frivolity:

“One thing Americans can’t deny: The nation’s low life expectancy” [The Hill]. “Some Americans may deny climate change, a presidential election outcome, a vaccine’s efficacy, war crimes, a domestic insurrection, a mass shooting of children, the nation’s racial history, etc. However, one thing that Americans can’t deny is the low U.S. life expectancy at birth compared to other advanced countries. Among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, U.S. life expectancy does not even appear on the list of the top 20 countries. Countries such as Iceland, Israel, Japan, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland had life expectancies in 2020 that were no less than five years greater than America’s figure — i.e., 83 to 85 years of age versus 77 years. Other countries with significantly higher life expectancies than America include Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Making U.S. mortality worse, COVID-19 caused about 375,000 deaths during 2020, contributing to a 16 percent increase in the death rate.” • Musical interlude, a familiar one…

Profiles in courage:

I’m sure this is not the only such call.

“On Mocking Dying Working Class White People” [Matt Stoller, Medium]. From 2017, still germane: “I’m just going to cut and paste comments from this story at the Huffington Post on white working class people dying of despair.” • Ugh.

* * *

“Wisconsin Supreme Court says it would minimize changes to current election maps, handing Republicans an initial redistricting victory” [Journal-Sentinel (Allan)]. “The majority also determined Wisconsin’s courts cannot throw out election maps because they are politically lopsided. The U.S. Supreme Court reached the same conclusion in 2019 for federal courts. That ruling means voters around the country cannot challenge maps in federal court if they believe they are drawn to entrench the power of one political party. Tuesday’s decision means such arguments are also barred in Wisconsin’s state courts.”

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States ADP Employment Change” [Trading Economics]. “Private businesses in the United States hired 534 thousand workers in November 2021, compared with a downwardly revised 570 thousand increase in October and beating market expectations of a 525 thousand rise, as the labor market continued to show signs of a solid recovery amid the ongoing economic rebound.”

Manufacturing: “United States Manufacturing PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The IHS Markit US Manufacturing PMI was revised lower to 58.3 in November 2021, from a preliminary estimate of 59.1 and slightly below the previous month’s final reading of 58.4. The latest figure pointed to the weakest pace of expansion in the manufacturing sector since December 2020 amid reports of near-record supply delays and slowing demand. Output growth was the second-slowest since September 2020 and new orders rose the least in 11 months. In addition, the rate of job creation slowed to only a modest pace, however, as labor shortages stymied efforts to fill current vacancies.”

Manufacturing: “United States ISM Purchasing Managers Index (PMI)” [Trading Economics]. “The ISM Manufacturing PMI in the United States edged up to 61.1 in November 2021, from 60.8 in the previous month and broadly in line with market consensus of 61.0. The latest reading indicated expansion in the manufacturing sector for the 18th month in a row after a contraction in April 2020, even as factories continued to struggle with pandemic-related shortages of raw materials.”

* * *

Shipping: “Walmart rents space for pop-up container yards near major ports” [Freight Waves]. “Walmart executives say a new pop-up yard near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has helped the retailer improve import cargo flow and make more goods available for customers. The good news about having few shortages was delivered to President Biden Monday during a White House meeting to learn how major retailers, grocers, toymakers and other companies have overcome supply bottlenecks and are preparing for the holiday shopping season. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the retailer improved its ability to clear goods through ports by rerouting cargo to other ports, extending lead times and developing other creative solutions. He also credited the Biden administration this fall for pressing ocean shipping stakeholders to collaborate on fixing gridlock created by record import volumes. Marine terminals squeezed by an overflow of shipping boxes have slowed down this year because there is little room for cargo-handling equipment and trucks to maneuver, or for incoming cargo to be stored. ‘We have seen an increase in throughput over the last four weeks of about 26% nationally in terms of getting containers through ports,’ McMillon said, according to a White House transcript of the meeting. ‘And in the Southern California ports, in particular, where you’ve been really focused, we’ve seen a 51% improvement in that flow. And that’s helped a lot as it relates to categories like toys, which are so important for Christmas.’ Also contributing to the reduced cargo friction, and unmentioned by McMillon, are Walmart’s new overflow yards for staging containers and private chartering of small vessels to get around ocean shipping delays. The temporary lots prevent import boxes from becoming trapped under piles of cargo in major ports and give the retailer a place to store merchandise until there is room to accept it at crowded import centers for redistribution around the country.” • Walmart didn’t tell Biden about the pop-up container yards? Why?

The Bezzle: “Meta’s Cryptocurrency Leader Announces Departure” [Al Mayadeen]. “The leader of cryptocurrency efforts at Meta, David Marcus, announced Tuesday that he will leave his position at the end of the year. His departure comes after the company, formerly known as Facebook, failed to launch a cryptocurrency project to transfer money online through Facebook products. Initially called Libra, the project was later renamed Diem and is currently managed by an independent association and is still inaccessible to the public. Marcus joined Meta in August 2014 after heading PayPal for two years. The entrepreneur was the vice president of Facebook’s Messenger application before running Facebook’s financial projects in 2018.” • I hate calling Facebook Meta, because it supports whatever scam Zuckerberg is coming up with now. But there’s no choice…..

Supply Chain: “U.S. Labor Secretary Visits Top West Coast Ports as Union Talks Loom” [Maritime Logistics Professional]. “The U.S. labor secretary on Tuesday met with unions and employers at the nation’s busiest port complex in Southern California as anxiety builds ahead of next year’s contract negotiations covering roughly 22,000 West Coast dockworkers. The contract expires in July, and the stakes are particularly high at the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex that handles some 40% of U.S. imports. Docks at the side-by-side ports are crowded with cargo boxes and more than four dozen container ships are waiting to unload as retailers like Walmart scramble to stock shelves with holiday gifts. The last round of talks in 2014 and 2015 was contentious, leading to temporary port shutdowns. A repeat of that could harm a U.S. economy already grappling with inflation fueled by soaring shipping costs and product shortages. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said interested parties are talking and that he is available, should the two sides reach an impasse. ‘If need be and I’m asked, I would definitely step in anytime to offer my support to try and get to resolution,’ Walsh said. The International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) that represents workers at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington recently rejected a one-year contract extension offer from the 70 ocean carriers and terminal operators represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).” • Now they talk to the unions….

Infrastructure: “A cascading catastrophe: The drone threat to critical infrastructure” [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists]. “The risk of cascading consequences—that is, when damage to one area of critical infrastructure cascades to others—is particularly concerning. In 2019, during a five-day blackout in Venezuela, hospitals lost power, patients died of treatable conditions, food spoiled, residents went to rivers to drink, and transport stalled. The Venezuelan government has blamed sabotage and terrorists for blackouts, but others say the outages in that oil-rich country simply reflect its poor track record of investment in energy infrastructure.” • Not seeing a link to “others say.” I wonder who they mean?

Concentration: “New Report: Amazon’s Toll Road” [Institute for Local Self-Reliance]. Yikes:

One of the most striking measures of Amazon’s monopoly power is the extraordinary amount of money that it’s able to extract from the independent businesses that rely on its site to reach customers. In this report, we find that, over the last two years, Amazon’s revenue from the fees it levies on third-party sellers has more than doubled. In 2019, Amazon pocketed $60 billion in seller fees.This year, its take will soar to $121 billion, our new research finds.

To put that in perspective, had Amazon’s third-party marketplace been a stand-alone company in 2020, when it took in $90 billion in seller fees, it would have ranked 31st on the Fortune 500 list of the world’s largest corporations — bigger than Citigroup, Facebook, and General Electric. This year, with its revenue from seller fees expected to swell by an additional $31 billion, Amazon Marketplace may end up large enough to qualify for a spot in the top 25 (if it were a stand-alone company).

The staggering scale of these fees provide evidence of Amazon’s monopolization of the online market and the high costs that come with it. Businesses that make or sell consumer goods and want to reach shoppers online have little choice but to sell on Amazon’s site. That’s because more than 60 percent of Americans looking to buy something online start their product search on Amazon, rather than a search engine.[1] In 15 of 23 major product categories, the tech giant captures more than 70 percent of online transactions.[2] Companies large and small must either sell on Amazon or forfeit access to much of the market.

As we detail in this report, Amazon is exploiting its position as a gatekeeper to impose increasingly steep tolls on these businesses. Using a variety of fees, Amazon now pockets a 34 percent cut of the revenue earned by independent sellers on its site, our analysis found. That’s up from 30 percent in 2018, and 19 percent in 2014.

The Fed: “Hawkish Powell Is a Force Markets Haven’t Faced in Three Years” [Bloomberg]. “Jerome Powell’s appetite for a faster tapering of Federal Reserve stimulus is casting him in a role financial markets haven’t seen since 2018: hawk. Stocks slid, short-term interest rates rose and measures of equity volatility surged Tuesday after the central bank chairman warned that elevated inflation could justify ending asset purchases sooner than planned. Buffeted also by anxiety around the coronavirus, the S&P 500 just endured its worst stretch of turbulence in more than a year. For investors, an urgent question becomes whether Tuesday’s congressional testimony was a watershed moment for the monetary policies that have helped the S&P 500 effectively to double since Christmas 2018. That’s when Powell’s last big pivot occurred — the dismantling of interest-rate hikes that made the fourth quarter of that year one of the worst for equities ever.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 30 Fear (previous close: 26 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 64 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 1 at 12:43pm.

Health Care

Walensky on aerosol transmission and ventilation:

See, “etc.” is doing more work than a poor little adverb should ever have to do. At this point, one must conclude that the Administration is not merely forgetting to mention aerosol transmission and ventilation: They are actively hostile to them. (This attitude is prevalent in the hospital infection control community, a citadel of reaction where handwashing droplet dogmatists serve as gatekeepers for transmission models. These mossbacks seem to believe that methods which work in well-ventilated hospital environments will also work in the home and the workplace. Walensky comes from Mass General, so infection control probably damaged her brain.) I would be surprised if Biden did not express similar views in his speech on Covid tomorrow.

“Why It Could Take ‘Two Weeks’ To Learn If Omicron Impacts COVID-19 Vaccines” [Gothamist]. “Why two weeks? A fortnight is a weirdly specific timeframe? The main reason behind the wait is that a legion of virologists need this time to tease apart omicron’s attack patterns. This new variant’s large amount of mutations has made this work harder than it typically is. Omicron has about 50 mutations — twice as many mutations overall as delta. Also contributing to the delay is the lag time between catching the virus and being hospitalized. It typically takes about seven to 12 days. Most of the early omicron cases were spotted in college students who developed mild disease, according to their doctors. But younger adults are way less likely to experience severe COVID, and wave after wave has taught us that these youths also tend to be on the leading edge of surges. So, these early cases do not offer much clarity on omicron’s severity.”

Another professional conference:

Reminds me of the Biogen superspreader conference….

“Businesses fear they will miss out on billions because of Covid curbs” [Daily Mail]. “And Steve Brine, a former Tory health minister, said the Government’s decision to make all contacts of those testing positive for the Omicron variant self-isolate would have a ‘chilling effect’. He added: ‘There’s everything in the language and the narrative that’s coming out of government right now that is causing Christmas parties to be cancelled.'” • That’s a damn shame.

“Postmodern Medicine with Dr Benway and Pseud Dionysius, MPH” (podcast) [Outsider Theory]. “My pseudonymous native informants from the illustrious realms of Science make the provocative case that medicine has become a quintessentially postmodern field. They attribute this development to the rise of Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) in the 1990s in Canada, which has occasioned (as its pioneers intended) a Kuhnian paradigm shift in the field. After surveying the spread and impact of the EBM revolution, we explore its after-effects in the Covid era.” • I have the feeling that IM Doc would enjoy this. It’s also important, because — I found this inconceivable, but it seems to be true — that RCTs are purely statistical, in that they do not require the description of a biological substrate for whatever effects they deem significant; in other words, clinicians and clinical experience are irrelevant. EBM, then, is extremely ugly. And as we have seen, EBM, if rigorously adhered to, would always prevent us from dealing with an exponentially growing infectious disease; it’s too slow. So you can forget all this yammering about a gold standard. EBM is more like the banker’s umbrella: Taken away when it rains. (Dr. Benway is a Naked Lunch reference, by the way. Kudos.)

Sports Desk

“Tiger Woods says he will ‘never’ play golf again full time” [NBC]. “Tiger Woods said Tuesday he’s ‘lucky to be alive’ following a serious car crash earlier this year that will prevent him from ever playing the game full-time again…. In his first press conference since suffering severe injuries from the Southern California wreck in February, Woods also revealed that he nearly lost a leg and that amputation ‘was on the table.’ In an interview published Monday in Golf Digest, Woods said he’ll ‘never’ be a full-time player on the PGA tour again but still hopes to ‘click off a tournament here or there.'”

Xmas Gift Ideas

Our Famously Free Press

New worlds to conquer:

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“The population prevalence of solitary confinement” [Science]. The Abstract: “Solitary confinement is a severe form of incarceration closely associated with long-lasting psychological harm and poor post-release outcomes. Estimating the population prevalence, we find that 11% of all black men in Pennsylvania, born 1986 to 1989, were incarcerated in solitary confinement by age 32. Reflecting large racial disparities, the population prevalence is only 3.4% for Latinos and 1.4% for white men. About 9% of black men in the state cohort were held in solitary for more than 15 consecutive days, violating the United Nations standards for minimum treatment of incarcerated people. Nearly 1 in 100 black men experienced solitary for a year or longer by age 32. Racial disparities are similar for women, but rates are lower. A decomposition shows that black men’s high risk of solitary confinement stems primarily from their high imprisonment rate. Findings suggest that harsh conditions of U.S. incarceration have population-level effects on black men’s well-being.”

Class Warfare

“Making sense of the Great Resignation” [Financial Times]. “As has been shown by an FT series published throughout this week, asking ‘where have all the workers gone?’, there is no one single experience of labour markets after the pandemic. The term Great Resignation was coined in the US, where thousands have handed in their notice in search of better remunerated or more rewarding work. Much of this has been so-called job-to-job moves, where workers leave their job to find something else. That, generally, represents a policy success as in-demand workers improved their lot and perhaps businesses too profited from getting workers that are a better ‘fit’. Not all is well, however. Many others have dropped out of the labour market altogether. There are roughly 4m fewer workers in the US than there were before the pandemic. Some of this could be the lingering effects of the Covid crisis, with workers in many face-to-face industries still worrying about the risks of infection. There have been more than 2.4m ‘excess retirements’ since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis. Similar trends have been seen in the UK, where the most common reason for leaving work was either long-term illness or retirement.”

News of the Wired

“When civilisation ends, a Xenix box will be running a long-forgotten job somewhere” [The Register]. “Just for a few weeks, mind. Until the new system was in place.”

“Making Sense of Recipes for Amulets and Natural Magic, Kabbalistic Style (Marginalia Included)” [Hypotheses]. “The secrets gathered by Zacuto in Poland belong thus to two separate subcategories, sodot and segulot [i.e., secrets and qualities]. The first category, in Zacuto’s parlance, refers to the applications of divine names in either recited adjurations or written amulets. These types of applications would be useful, for instance, to fend off evil by means of summoning and controlling guardian angels, to shield oneself from being harmed by weaponry, to reduce fevers, to bring good fortune, to save from badmouthing, to receive answers to questions posed in dreams, to open doors without keys, to urge love, to win when gambling, or to support women during difficult childbirth…. The second subcategory of Zacuto’s secrets comprises ‘properties’ [segulot], that is, those qualities of things which belong to the physical world and can be manipulated without resorting to the influence of divine names, and which reveal their hidden power in the process of elemental inter-reactions and transformations. Among those ‘properties’ learned by Zacuto in Poland, one can find recipes for domesticating pigeons, on confirming pregnancy, on preparing ink visible only under water, on healing toothaches, on concocting wondrous candles, or instructions for tricks and dice games.”

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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 (RH):

RH has “earth tongues” in the subject line, but I’m not sure whether that’s a metaphor, or their local, colloquial name.

Readers, I am running short of plants, so if you could send some photos to the address below, that would be great! I’d really like to see photos of harvests or completed projects, to inspire people to plan for spring over the winter. Also fall foliage? Thank you!

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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. AndrewJ

      I’m hopeful that we’ll see the breakup of the United States in my lifetime. That’s all I’m hopeful for, honestly.

        1. AndrewJ

          It would be a boon to the world if our military machine was broken into a dozen or more pieces. Things will be bad here under breakup, but they’re going to be bad anyway. Might as well spare the rest of the world the constant threat of American “intervention”.

          1. Alex Morfesis

            Because no one was intervening anywhere until Teddy Roosevelt threw some white paint on some rust buckets and hoped they made it back home…cough hack cough…othmans, Dutch, conquistadors, the sun never sets, the central African franc, the iron curtain, Belgium, the middle ish kingdom, those dudes in black who needed some additional land starting with Poland…yup…the world was always a peaceful place until those Damned amerikanskeez decided to spread out their wings…no famines in India…no missing Armenians…lies…lies…ALL LIES….

            1. drsteve0

              Help me out here. I may be reading too much into your observations, my apologies, but are you suggesting the murderous $hittiness of ‘murica’s empire is somehow excused by the murderous $hittiness of empires preceding ours? Or are you simply opining on the generic murderous $hittiness of human nature? That I can’t argue with.

              1. AndrewJ

                It certainly doesn’t seem that the US military budget exceeding the military budgets of the next twelve most armed countries combined registers with him.

              2. flora

                Can’t speak for A.M., but I think the point is refuting what looks like a naif assumption that a worldwide hearts-and-flowers would follow in a US vaccum in the current great powers arrangement. Said vaccum might be much worse for USians and the USian alliance. The real world, as most of know, is not an uplifting Cola commercial. Not that the Usian setup can’t use adjustments. Too bad the civil service in most western countries now think the world is a gumball machine – put the nickel in and get a treat. No thought required.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        That’s a horrific statistic.

        One of the difficulties of being no longer young is that it’s hard to empathize with the young, absent daily contact (school, family). The (male) Trillbillies have made comments about their various medications, and I find that the pervasiveness of legal drugging very hard to imagine, just as I find “resource officers” and school shootings, along with the various control measures post-911 hard to imagine.

        Since we can’t necessarily rely on empathy and imagination induced by direct experience, we have to open and strengthen those capacities through reason, which seems in short supply.

  1. Eduardo

    Official CDC statement on first Omicron case in the U.S.
    tweet BNO Newsroom

    The first case of infection with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been reported in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Wednesday.

    The patient, a traveler who returned to California from South Africa on Nov. 22, is in isolation and aggressive contact tracing is underway. The individual was fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms that are improving.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > aggressive contact tracing is underway

      By which we mean contact tracing performed in an aggressive manner, I suppose. Since we don’t have the operational capability for real contact tracing. The story doesn’t say who is doing the contact tracing.

      From the Associated Press story:

      The person agreed to remain in quarantine, and all the individual’s close contacts have been reached and have tested negative.

      Note lack of agency in “have been reached” and “have tested.” (Possibly authorities in California did the tracing, but the San Francisco Chronicle doesn’t quite say that.) And I love the voluntary quarantine concept.

      All the coverage is pushing “mild,” and indeed we would expect this; most Covid cases are “mild.” That wouldn’t prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed again.

      1. JBird4049

        Oh goody, where ever I am in the Bay, it’s effectively just down the road from me.

        And close contacts have been reached? Really? So what?

        The person probably entered from San Francisco International after a multi hour flight. The plane passengers and crew, then SFO, and finally the City. How did he get back from the airport? Did he take BART in or did he drive, use the Taxi/Uber or use a commuter van/bus service?

        I could be wrong, but there is just no way to trace everyone he could have infected.

        The last paragraph in the Chron’s story reads as parody:

        Chin-Hong is also encouraged: “You are likely going to be splendidly protected from the variant Omicron if you are vaccinated,” he wrote. “If there may be a small hit in antibody protection theoretically, it is very likely that our T cells and other parts of the immune system that kills infected cells will continue to give us amazing protection from serious disease, Omicron or not.”

        Since the quoted is a Doctor Peter Chin-Hong from UCSF (University of California, San Francisco) a world class research hospital and university, which I have used and visited. Saved my Mom’s life.

        But I guess The Official Narrative is all important, which makes me wonder, if anyone should go there, if they do get sick. Would they let a person die just to keep to The Narrative? Do I have to ask this? It is where all the OMG cases tend go to.

        I already knew that the Chronicle is propaganda on certain issues, but that article with the last quote is a doozy. I just have to laugh, else I cry, or shout in anger.

      1. Lee

        Boost and boost often! I’ve had three jabs and I’m thinking next time I’ll ask to be hooked up to a portable smart phone controlled time released vaccine drip feed.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > a portable smart phone controlled time released vaccine drip feed

          The app will provide a “Buy” button (never a more appropriate use of the phrase “topping up”). You’ll be fine as long as you keep making your payments.

      2. Pat

        Not for nothing, but if they had been boosted, God this is disrupting language, I am quite sure it would have been the wrong booster or the not as good vaccine.

        They cannot admit that the vaccines level of protection is limited AND do not prevent anyone from being infectious if infected.
        That destroys the only measure they are willing to take.

  2. dcblogger

    The American Prison System’s War on Reading
    This April, the Iowa Department of Corrections issued a ban on charities, family members, and other outside parties donating books to prisoners. Under the state’s new guidelines, incarcerated people can get books only from a handful of “approved vendors.” Used books are prohibited altogether, and any new reading material is subject to a laundry list of restrictions.

    The policy is harsh, but far from unique. In fact, it’s only the latest in a wave of similar bans.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      sounds like a clear violation of the First Amendment, to me…if only we had a functioning ACLU, these days.
      and, adding this to the story above about Solitary Confinement…whenever i think about prison…people i’ve known, news stories, further research into it(went to college in Huntsville, Texas, which is the heart of the “Corrections” apparatus, here.)….it amazes me that the status quo continues, and that the only change is for the worse.
      anyone who goes to prison…unless, perhaps, the so called club fed…1. expects to be raped, 2. will likely be compelled to join one gang or another. and 3. will experience all these niggling and kafkaesque indignities up to and including official extortion(see fone charges).
      it’s outrageous, really…and should be splashed before us much more often than it is.

      i’ll add…i’ve known lots of folks who’ve been to prison in my time…and aside from the horror stories, listed above, a feature of incarceration and the Must Join Gang Imperative, is that folks who weren’t all that racist going in, dern tootin are when they come out.
      one might think that this aspect of it might get the attention of Team Blue…but i suspise that actually lessening the incidence of overt racism isn’t really in their class interests….

      1. Laughingsong

        I support an inmate, a son of a lifelong family friend of my mom’s who did us a HUGE solid during my mom’s final months. I can’t even send him a handmade card, the reason given being that drugs and razor blades can be secreted between the layers of paper (or on the paper itself in the case of LSD). I suspect that this is likely the excuse about the books as well.

        Even if the prison policies of a given installation seem nominally fair, I can tell you from my experience that the devil is in the implementation details. Bottom line: the whole experience is humiliation and provocation by 1000 passive-aggressive paper cuts.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Back in 415 BC the Athenians sent an expedition to take Sicily as part of the Peloponnesian War but the whole thing proved a disaster and the entire force was eventually captured and enslaved. The survivors were kept imprisoned in a quarry so to pass the time, the prisoners set up a sort of university where they taught each other their own fields of expertise. I wonder if something like this might eventually arise in prison yards where prisoners, without books, will maybe form their own schools on something other than criminal techniques.

      1. Sailor Bud

        The Stalingrad of Ancient Greece. I read Thucydides, and I remember the death of Nikias there was a moment where the veil was lifted a bit. His usual clean and objective narrative was interrupted by a little eulogy, something like “this excellent statesman did not deserve such a fate,” and I remember getting a little wave of emotion from the way he wrote it, like “hi, Thucydides, I see you there.” The Melos tragedy was a little like that too.

        1. The Rev Kev

          The Stalingrad of Ancient Greece. Yeah, I think that you nailed it Sailor Bud. It was really downhill for Athens from then on.

          1. Anonymous2

            Yes. The Athenians were conned into attacking Syracuse, thinking their allies in Sicily were stronger than was the case. A charismatic, highly unreliable man, Alkibiades, played an important role. Little changes in politics really.

    1. Jen

      Yikes. Good thing ours are gone until after the first of the year. Our college just put the kibosh on any college sponsored holiday gatherings. Here’s hoping people take the hint and don’t just decide to migrate to someone’s home for the official office party.

  3. Laughingsong

    “ • I hate calling Facebook Meta, because it supports whatever scam Zuckerberg is coming up with now. But there’s no choice”

    As the normal usage for “Mr. Weird Symbol” became “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince”, I think we have a precedence on how to avoid giving solace to Mr. *uckerberg.

    1. Eduardo

      And didn’t he change his name back? Meaning he can now be described as
      “The artist formerly known as ‘The artist formerly known as Prince.'”

    2. Mikel


      “Jack Dorsey started the week by stepping down as CEO of Twitter. On Wednesday, he announced that Square, where he remains CEO, has changed its name to Block….”

      “Block (formerly Square)* is Square, Cash App, Spiral, TIDAL, TBD54566975, and our foundational teams such as Counsel, Finance, and People that provide guidance at the corporate level. These are our building blocks, united by our shared purpose of economic empowerment. We’re creating tools to help expand access to the economy….”

      I think it’s more of a sign of style (if brain death has set in and groupthink is “style”) over substance everywhere we turn.

      The Artist formerly known as Prince was protesting the fact that he did not own his own name. He also shaved “slave” into his cheek at the time of the name change. Really quite the story of an artist’s awakening.

      1. Late Introvert

        Dweezil Zappa had a lawsuit filed against him for using the band name “Zappa Plays Zappa”, by his own brother.

    3. Robert Hahl

      The same was done with the company formerly known as Blackwater. I think they had to change names three times before people forgot about that.

  4. David

    Lambert, if I may, I was struck by the fact that you attribute the famous (if apocryphal) statement that “they (the Bourbons) had learnt nothing and forgotten nothing” not to Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Priogord, (1754-1838) but to his distant kinsman Charles-Mice, whose dates are uncertain, and whom history has, sadly, largely ignored.

  5. Socal Rhino

    Re Supply Chain

    Maybe I’ve missed it but nothing I’ve seen citing improvements has mentioned the current count of cargo ships waiting to unload. I suspect leaders are continuing to “hold a conversation with” cargo and are “fighting” to clear things up. Latest I found on a freight industry site, from mid-November, said that holistic solutions are needed and improvement won’t be seen until some time in 2022.

    Regarding my own lying eyes, cargo line appears to be further offshore (as has been reported) but lights are visible at night.

    1. Louis Fyne

      allegedly, the definition of waiting to unload cargo changed. beyond my pay grade. i am just the messenger sharing hearsay

      1. Socal Rhino

        Take your point in general and particular in marketing speak. Shorthand in this case for saying there are many interconnected issues that need to be addressed in parallel rather than sequentially.

        1. j

          Don’t like the “optics?” Simple. Change the definition. Problem solved. Nothing did, has, or will fundamentally change.

  6. Bart Hansen

    Very impressive that you know that etc. is an adverb. If someone were to ask me what part of speech it is, I would make up a word. Agrative or Inclusaverb, for example.

        1. Janie

          To me it would be the same part of speech that it follows – cats, dogs, etc or bicycling, walking etc or wretched, tired, miserable etc ad infinitum ad nauseam.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        never thought about it before, but now that i do, i think of it as a noun.
        appended at the end of an indefinite list of things, etc.
        literally, it’s “and also”…but i’ve never cared much for the particularities of grammar(obviously).
        if it gets the job done, and flows, it’s good.

        1. Fiery Hunt

          Never thought about it either, but since we’re parsing…

          I’d say it’s a verb since the list is comprised of “actions” (hand washing, physical distancing) and not things.

          But what the heck do I know?

      2. Steve from CT

        Some on line dictionaries do define et cetera as an adverb. Others disagree. Obviously it is not universally agreed. Noting the various conclusions, I don’t think it was wrong for Lambert to call it an adverb. He is almost always on top if his comments

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I looked it up in my OED app:

      et cetera
      /ɛtˈsɛt(ə)rə, ɪt-/
      adverb, noun, & verb. Also etcetera, et caetera. Abbrev. etc., (now rare) &c. me.
      [ORIGIN: Latin, from et and + cetera the rest, neut. pl. of ceterus remaining over.]
      A. adverb. And the rest; and similar things; and so on; and the customary continuation. Also redupl. me.
      J. Grenfell A long line of intellectuals—father, grandfather, etcetera. F. W. Crofts Yours, etc., Leon Felix. Shetland Times Industries including agriculture, tourism, etc.

  7. Jason Boxman

    What shocks me most about Amazon is it is simply garbage. I tried looking for a piece of electronics recently, a KVM switch, and it’s just endless lists of mostly garbage quality items to pick through. You can’t sort by most reviews anymore — Amazon killed that ages ago — so I’m left with highest rating, which might be from 1 person, or high or low prices. There’s no way to change the list view. It’ll return results that don’t include all my search keywords. You can’t filter on critical product details, so you’re stuck looking at every product page, for similar products with vastly different capabilities, when capability is crucial.

    Ebay nailed this decades ago, and for the same thing I can easily filter by dozens of critical product attributes that actually matter in my search. (But now Ebay forces every product page in a new tab, which you never ever do, ever, without user consent. Ugh.)

    The only useful thing about Amazon has been the reviews, but we’ve probably all heard about paid-for reviews, so that limits the value of such things, although my go-to is usually scathing negative reviews, because those I tend to believe, rightly or wrongly.

    1. PHLDenizen

      Amazon’s marketplace is a high-throughput brothel where contact tracing, testing, and French letters are completely absent. I’m never, ever buying anything electronics related from that shit heap again. And it is just a pile of Made in China trash.

      “Amazon Essentials” USB power blocks burning out or torching my devices. Cables with reasonably solid jackets but piss poor soldering and minimal strain relief — I get 6 months if I’m lucky. Counterfeit network devices. Counterfeit SSDs. LED bulbs that fail to work beyond the 5th month. Earbuds that last about a month. Some just a day. DIMMs that fail basic memory tests upon arrival. Lamps that start smelling like an electrical fire.

      Amazon is frequently not the lowest price, either.

      1. cnchal

        > Amazon is frequently not the lowest price, either.

        It is a criminal enterprise. Not only can it never be the lowest price, it is forcing up the price everywhere on the web. It extracts massive fees from it’s tollbooth forcing Amazon third party sellers to raise prices in an effort at bare survival while contractually preventing those sellers from selling at a lower price elsewhere.

        A clear case of customer harm.

        The crushing weight of these fees is capsizing many businesses. When his startup began selling its unique sports apparel on Amazon in 2016, it was a viable business, says Steve, who asked not to be identified for fear that Amazon would retaliate against his company. But then Amazon increased its referral fee for clothing, from 15 percent to 17 percent, and devoted a growing share of the space on its search results pages to sponsored product ads. To sell $10,000 worth of clothing today, Steve explains, he must pay Amazon $1,700 in referral fees and spend another $1,500 to $2,000 on ads, not to mention a host of smaller fees. “Amazon is now taking more of the pie than I am. And you cannot run a sustainable business like that,” he says.

        Steve has tried to escape Amazon’s grip by selling on other platforms. But he’s had no luck generating more than a trickle of orders on these sites. It would help if he could lower his prices on these sites, he says, but Amazon effectively blocks him from doing so under its “fair pricing policy.” Even though some competing platforms charge much lower fees, if Steve lowers his prices on another shopping site, Amazon’s algorithms punish him by demoting his products in its search results or making them ineligible for the buy-box, which causes his sales to plummet.[9] He can’t afford that, and so he inflates his prices on other sites to match those on Amazon.

        Many other sellers do the same. As we noted in our 2020 report, this means that Americans are paying higher prices across the web because of Amazon’s steep tolls and its power to compel sellers to inflate their prices elsewhere.

        It is a race. Will Amazon run the world before the world wakes up to the threat? It needs to smashed into smithereens before it smashes us into smithereens.

        The conditions now look to be worse that what the populists of the late 1800’s faced with the railroad barons extracting every ounce of value from farmers sending their crops to the city. This is what life looks like with Bezos’ boots eternally stomping humanity in the face.

  8. Jason Boxman

    Mr. Armbrust said he had given up trying to prod Amazon or government regulators, and instead his company began producing its own KN95s in October.

    The masks are nearly the same as his N95s, but consumers, he said, have been misleadingly programmed to favor the KN95. “You can’t unring a bell,” he said.

    Last month, he began selling the masks, and within a week, he said, they were already outselling the more protective N95s. “If you can’t beat ’em,” he said, “join ’em.”

    Race to the bottom. It’s almost as if we don’t have a functioning state, in the United States:

    Counterfeit Covid Masks Are Still Sold Everywhere, Despite Misleading Claims

    1. Samuel Conner

      Oddly, 3M N95s (Aura 9210+) in 240ea cases, priced dropped about 20% at A’zon in the days after the big Omicron announcement.

      I interpreted this as a good sign, evidence of ‘abundant supply’. Could it be ‘deficient demand’?

      1. Basil Pesto

        Maybe it’s an exact repeat of 2020, and they’re minimising it to avoid a run on respirators/supply crisis, especially for healthcare workers. In which case the failure is on both recent US governments for not taking any steps to guarantee respirator autarky.

        (I confess to being ignorant of the totality of the raw materials situation when it comes to making such respirators. presumably oil is required. If we are going to take it out of the ground, could we at least use it for something useful)

  9. Carolinian

    Re Biden being liked by the press–I wasn’t aware that they do dislike him but I found this morning’s Counterpunch explanation (the press thinks he’s bad for ratings and they want Trump back) somewhat unconvincing. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t like them according to the reports I read. But then the press loved Reagan who didn’t have much use for them.

    Some of us are so old we remember the Carter administration. Now that’s being being disliked by the press. Undoubtedly they are power junkies and expect the top kick to deliver. Counterpunch talks about their current career insecurity but Biden’s hostility could could be a sign he is as insecure as they are.

    1. John

      I have noticed a gradual increase in mentions of Trump. He garnered clicks and isn’t it all about the clicks?
      Biden inherited a mess of monumental proportions. Like him or dislike him, how do you succeed in satisfying even a large minority when the goals are disjoint and contradictory. The political opposition would oppose him if the clouds opened and a sepulchral voice intoned its pleasure with him. Wall Street and business in general just wants this inconvenience to go away so money making can continue at full speed. The overly rich may want the current situation to continue because they are moving from overly to disgustingly wealthy thus, according to William Gibson in one of his novels, “no longer even remotely human.” The “deplorables” who must go to work despite the risk to health and life … well they don’t matter, do they and besides who would provide the services we demand? But, my cynicism may be exceeding permissible limits and you got the drift early on.

      1. urblintz

        Of any active Democrat, Biden is perhaps most responsible for the “mess of monumental proportions” which he vigorously helped to create during 40 years of malign political hackery. He “inherited” nothing and more than deserves being hoisted on his own petard.

        1. Jen

          Plus his administration did go all in on the vaccines, tossing masking and ventilation by the wayside. That failure is on him.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Biden inherited a mess of monumental proportions

        No one inherits the Presidency, not even VPs. He ran for it. Given past crises and some of the ongoing ones Biden should know about, he didn’t inherit anything. His whole pitch was to trust him.

    2. the last D

      I ‘m so old, I still kill time by kicking Nixon around. And when I’m tired, I always wallow in Watergate.

  10. William Hunter Duncan

    “See, “etc.” is doing more work than a poor little adverb should ever have to do. At this point, one must conclude that the Administration is not merely forgetting to mention aerosol transmission and ventilation: They are actively hostile to them. (This attitude is prevalent in the hospital infection control community, a citadel of reaction where handwashing droplet dogmatists serve as gatekeepers for transmission models. These mossbacks seem to believe that methods which work in well-ventilated hospital environments will also work in the home and the workplace. Walensky comes from Mass General, so infection control probably damaged her brain.) I would be surprised if Biden did not express similar views in his speech on Covid tomorrow.”

    It is not just aerosols. If you read the websites of the CDC, Mayo Clinic, MN Health Dept, as example, it is clear there is a great deal of concern about people catching Covid, but a profound lack of interest in how or why or in what capacity people spread it, particularly the vaccinated. It is like the bureaucratic embodiment of selfishness, all about me, and not what I might do to another. This then contributes among certain kinds of liberals, the idea that they cannot spread it (because we are the good people), and by contrast, the unvaccinated being the only ones who can spread it, are the embodiment of evil.

  11. MP

    Nearly 9000 cases in South Africa today; looking forward to our leaders just saying “Good luck! Wash your hands or something!” as we hit that rollercoaster in the coming weeks.

    1. Fiery Hunt

      Should have seen the crowds of unmasked people hanging out at all the INDOOR cafes around the corner from my shop today. That’s in the SF Bay Area where the first US case was recognized….

      It’s not going to be interesting right around last minute Xmas shopping, no, not at all.


  12. Reader_In_Cali

    At the outset, I would like to state that the following observation and speculation is me being tinfoily, but something to toss around –

    I live in CA and usually fly back to the east coast (mid-Atlantic region) for the Christmas holiday. I typically end up buying my ticket shortly after Thanksgiving. This year is no different. I can usually expect to spend ~$600 – $700 absolute MAX, if I dilly dally and wait until about the 2nd week of December to purchase.

    I began looking up ticket prices yesterday, and it would cost me more than $1,200 to get a ticket to fly round trip! In coach! These prices are absurd, and of course I am choosing to not fly back on account of said pricing. Bear in mind that I’m not strapped for cash and could afford to buy, but on principle I will pass.

    Tin foil time Of course there’s no way to prove or disprove this, but: could it be that the administration is trying to decrease holiday travel, and hide its hand in doing so, through “the market” which they obviously have no control over? *wink* Because they are desperately trying to avoid last year’s catastrophic infection numbers around the December holidays? Not that the run up in numbers isn’t already inevitable, of course.

    Just a thought I had. Because if I, person with money, ended up changing my behavior, I have to believe that quite a few people will take a look and decide to stay home as well.

    Are other readers seeing wild ass, anomalous air travel prices too? Or is it just me?

    1. Pat

      Just wondering are you seeing the usual number of flights to choose among. There was a point recently when it looked like staffing was an issue and that was even before the Southwest vaccine mandate fiasco…

      1. Reader_In_Cali

        Yup, plenty of flights to choose from, from all carriers. All of them, except for a couple of flights with Frontier where I wouldn’t be able to bring a checked bag and would have a total flight time of 20+ hours because of extremely long ass layovers (even these aren’t cheap! They’re ~$700 on the low end), astronomically priced. Even Southwest!

    2. Jen

      Had to go down to DC for my Uncle’s memorial service in June. While my cousins were sorting out the arrangements I started checking flights. In pre covid times a r/t flight from NH to BWI or DCA could be had for $200 or less. I was looking at $800 to fly cattle class on SW. I took the train instead. Longer, yes, but much less stressful and $300 less r/t to go first class.

      A couple of days before I left I checked flights again – and prices were back down around $200 r/t.

      I’m supposed to go back down to DC at the end of December for his burial at Arlington. Booked the flight in September for $300 r/t. Now it’s $800 r/t. If they aren’t able to fill seats, my guess is prices come back down as travel dates get closer.

      I can remember times in the past where airlines used to play this game. Maybe it’s come back.

    3. Yves Smith

      One year I bought my normally then $400 to $500 RT Christmas ticket (then LGA-BHM) at around this time which was late for me, and it was $900.

      The cheapest prices are generally 50-60 days out. I would never buy a Christmas ticket as late as you did. People start buying them right after Labor Day.

      I bought an early Dec RT to NYC, in fancy coach ~ 50 days out because doctors. It was $404.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Are other readers seeing wild ass, anomalous air travel prices too? Or is it just me?

      I don’t buy a lot of plane tickets now. When I did — leaving outright manipulation by the cartel out of the picture, which you see in mysteriously similar prices — I thought I was seeing a sawtooth pattern, where prices would drop when new capacity was brought on-line, and then go up again.

  13. Pat

    There was a memorial presentation of Broadway artists performing “Sunday” in Times Square to honor Sondheim. That those singing weren’t masked is not so surprising (although there was little masking to be seen in the b roll scenes)

    But there were few fully masked people to be seen in the shots of those watching either. And this happened on the weekend when the news were shouting of the dangers of Omicron.

    We are a very gullible and largely uninformed people AND we are led by psychopaths. (Currently the madness that is New Years Eve in Times Square is still happening…)

  14. Pat

    Cuomo will be back on CNN by the New Year.
    Zucker will figure that is enough. They won’t have to give it the same time as for Brian Williams, it is cable not network.

    (I have always believed that Lauer would still be at NBC if Zucker had still been in charge.

    1. Carolinian

      CNN is shortly to be under new management with the announced plan to switch to a straight news format and ditch the high priced stars. CNN’s ratings have declined significantly.

      Here’s guessing he won’t be back.

      1. Pat

        I knew they had been sold. But the last I heard it looked like they were going to be stupid and keep Zucker. My bet is his plan is that the straight news will be anchored by known faces with who can draw ratings. More Anderson Cooper all prime time than BBC International or France 24. Cuomo might have to work on a couple of things but he still could do that.

        1. Carolinian

          I’ve lost the link and can’t offer any details. Worth remembering that Zucker was at NBC and worked with Trump on The Apprentice. By 2016 he was at CNN but allegedly still referred to Trump as “the boss.”

          1. Pat

            Zucker had said he would leave before the sale was a done deal. At one event Zaslav indicated he was going into talks with Zucker. They previously worked together when Zaslav was helping to start MSNBC.

            Since it is December and no announcement of his staying has been made, Zucker may be out. OTOH the MSNBC thing does not bode well for a successful return to its roots, all about the news and reporting redo with or without Zucker.

    2. Carolinian

      Oh and for those who haven’t heard Maddow is allegedly going to step down come May and do more infrequent special projects.

  15. griffen

    The accomplishments by professional golfer Tiger Woods are pretty mind-blowing. So, no, you have nothing left to prove except for that pesky 18 major championships won by Nicklaus. Otherwise hands down Woods is the best in a generation, and many have him at # 1 all time. My personal ranking has Nicklaus at # 1.

    Playing golf on a busted but reformulated leg is doable. Competing at the tour or major championship level is quite the other. Given that he turns 46 in a few weeks ( and is a fellow December-born spring chicken like me ), my hope is Woods focuses on his future and being available for his kids.

  16. Swamp Yankee

    I have been in solitary confinement in a prison setting, and it is absolute and brutal torture. This was for public health, quote unquote, measures during the height of Covid. (It took me two weeks ad writing grievances to get soap refilled.) I was civilly committed but nevertheless in a jail. Even with books and notebooks, solitary is horrific. A total of 12 or 13 days for me in 3 different shifts. Everyone was locked in their cells. Some guys did 17 days, 23.5 hrs per day. Some really began to lose it. Not pleasant.

    And of course the 1812 mug takes its shot at Jackson, because the PMC are US Whigs and hate democracy (doing things not that different from Jackson to Natives, as well… ahem William Henry Harrison!).

    1. Swamp Yankee

      Let me clarify: the entire prison was put on lockdown because of a Covid outbreak. I was in a single cell at this point; guys in doubles had it much worse. There were zero public health measures, I had to constantly press to get enough soap and so forth. A guy killed himself and there was a hunger strike, too.

      Also had a correctional officer de facto deny me a mail-in ballot for the General Election (2020) because he didn’t like my choice of candidate. (Eventually had a family member get my Town Clerk to mail one).

      Took careful notes (I have a PhD) and intend to publish it all someday soon.

      1. HotFlash

        Please do. Some of my friends are ’rounders’, as we say here in Canada, and even here, no private prisons (I think), the punishment does not suit the crime. I would never have know but for them. Like being a combat soldier, prison changes you.

  17. Glen

    News from the Big Warm Wet (formally known as the PNW):

    It’s somewhat warm. (We actually had frosty mornings in October but none in the last month or so.)
    It’s very wet. (That life time you lived where the creek stayed three feet below your house seems to be gone.)

    But I’m also sure we’re going to have drought conditions before the end of summer. No snow pack means drought on all the western states.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > How exactly did Sara Gideon manage to lose against this shameless grifter?

      Because moderate Maine Democrats backed by networks of professional women (sorry), can’t carry the state. Sara Gideon is another Emily Cain, who lost two House races in 2014 and 2016, and failed upward to become executive director of Emily’s List. (Both also had trivial corruption issues, minor in themselves, but enough to get their ability to moralize dinged, for people who were looking for a reason to do that.) Naturally, the Maine Democrats, being Democrats, tried the same thing in 2020 and expected a different result.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I’ve always felt Obama’s recruitment of King over say a Democrat was party building disaster.

  18. chris

    Sharing this Science article because it had informed my understanding of the relative immune benefits of vaccination, post infection recovery, and a combination of the two. Perhaps it had been covered on NC and Water Cooler before, if so, I apologize.

    The portion of the paper that I found compelling was: “Moreover, neutralizing antibodies against B.1.351 after vaccination of individuals previously infected with non-B.1.351 SARS-CoV-2 were ~100 times higher than after infection alone and 25 times higher than after vaccination alone—even though neither the vaccine nor infection involved the B.1.351 spike. This enhanced neutralizing breadth was first reported by Stamatatos et al. and then confirmed by multiple groups (4, 12).”

    When Dr. Crotty was on TWIV further discussing the work, he stated that due to a variety of factors, the immune benefit from recovering from a COVID-19 infection varied from person to person greatly. He said that the effect could vary in a person as much as by a factor of 100x depending on the severity of the infection and co-morbidities. Continuing the conversation he said that a benefit from vaccination as opposed to recovery from COVID was that the immune benefit from vaccination was much more dependable and homogenous.

    What I took from this paper and the discussion on TWIV was that the effect you get from recovering from COVID can vary greatly and that vaccination was a more reliable way to get an immune benefit.

    Sincere apologies if my interpretation of that data is incorrect. If so, please delete this post.

    Respectfully, Chris

    1. Yves Smith

      That was true with B.1.351, which is Beta, but the vaccines are much less effective in preventing transmission with Delta (as in not very effective) and Omincron looks set to evade it largely or entirely, as Moderna’s CEO effectively said.

      So that article is accurate but now largely irrelevant.

  19. The Rev Kev

    “Clinton Foundation donations plummet 75%”

    Not really surprising this. The Clintons are both now has-beens that have served their purposes. One time they were so powerful that governments opened up their wallets to the Clinton Foundation. Those that wanted to be able to even talk to the US government in a Clinton regime that is. You want to talk to the American government? You have to pay the Clintons first. Even the Australian government sent them $88 million to everybody’s surprise here after it came out. Now? They still have some power and influence but Bill’s name has already come up in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial case and I doubt that most people in power will expend the political capital to save him. And Hillary? I rarely see her on the news these days. One day people will ask themselves – ‘Whatever happened to the Clintons? Are they, like, still alive or something?’ One can hope.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The Clintons are both now has-beens that have served their purposes

      Hard to peddle influence when you don’t have it, though there are always marks and rubes. Such a shame. I feel for them.

      1. Robert Hahl

        I’m a has been too now, but nobody is giving me $16,000,000. I think Billary still have some juice.

  20. chris

    Sharing this web comic link because I think the art and writing are great. I’ve enjoyed Atomic Robo and his action science adventures for years now. That link takes you to the first comics published about 15 years ago.

    All of the comics are freely available online. They’re almost done with the latest volume in which there was a vampire invasion of the earth, the governments of the world bungled their response despite spending billions to protect against it, and then tried to annihilatethe people who told them there was a problem… No idea where they got that idea from. Hopefully the story gives others on NC with amusement in this challenging time.


  21. Pat

    Speaking of CNN, here is their latest
    Omicron – Get vaccinated or boosted to be safe, rah rah rah!

    I particularly enjoy their throwing truncated statement of Moderna’s Burton together with Pfizer’s about developing an Omicron vaccine just in case but it probably won’t be necessary to indicate the exact opposite of what he really said which was that the current vaccines Do Not protect against Omicron.

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