2:00PM Water Cooler 12/17/2021

strong>By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Another migratory bird. This is really gorgeous. I don’t know their habits, but I imagine a great congregation of Lesser Redpolls gathered, in the dusk, before sleep.

* * *


Vaccination by region:

A roller coaster. (If by Bubba we mean The South, then Bubba has done pretty well on vax, despite all the sturm und drang in the press.

61.2% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, such as it is, as of December 16. The stately 0.1% rise per day returns. We have broken the important 61% psychological barrier! Mediocre by world standards, being just below Estonia, and just above Peru in the Financial Times league tables as of this Monday).

Case count by United States regions:

Still fiddling and diddling. Also, as happened in 2020, I would expect a second, higher peak, from Omicron if for no other reason.

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. Not updated:

Case data (black dotted line) has been within the tolerance of the models; it does not conform to the models’ average (black line), but it stays within aggregated predictions (the grey area).

I wrote: “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.” The case data has now broken out of the grey area (see at “Oopsie!”). Since the models are aggregated conventional wisdom, it’s not fair to call them propaganda, exactly. Nevertheless. conventional wisdom is looking a little shaky, and anybody who relied on them to predict that we would be “back to normal” by early next year should be taking another look at their assumptions. And this is — I assume — before Omicron!

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

Still a steep drop in the average, like the last peak. We’ll see if gets choppy again, or not.

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:

Maine improved. Upper Midwest improved. Acela corridor sketchy. More flecks of red, especially in Texas. Weird flare-ups, like flying coals in a forest fire. They land, catch, but — one hopes — sputter out. The fleck of red in the middle of New York near the Pennsylvania border is, I think, Ithaca (i.e., Cornell).

The previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

I have helpfully highlighted the states where the “trend” arrow points up in yellow, and where it is vertical, in orange. (Note trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 824,520 823,390. At this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s.

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

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

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

South Africa’s rise looks linear, even though this is a log scale. Look at the UK, too. 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

Capitol Seizure

“A theory: How Trump’s Jan. 6 coup plan worked, how close it came, why it failed | Will Bunch” [Will Bunch, The Inquirer]. “We now know that Trump’s top aide, chief of staff Mark Meadows, had written in an email on January 5 — the same day as Trump’s tweet and memo about “Antifa” — that the National Guard was on standby “to protect pro-Trump people” the next day. His words only make sense in the context of expected clashes with leftists…. But here’s the thing: There were no anti-Trump protesters in Washington that day — thanks to savvy messaging by activists who sensed a trap. Their absence clearly flummoxed Team Trump, and even the president’s allies at the Fox News Channel, who throughout the day blamed violence on ‘antifa’ who clearly weren’t there. Critically, the lack of expected street clashes might explain the stunning three-hour failure by the National Guard to respond to officials pleading for troops to help stop the insurrection.”

“House panel subpoenas author of Jan. 6 PowerPoint” [The Hill]. “The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has subpoenaed the man who dispersed a PowerPoint laying out the Trump campaign’s plans for contesting the 2020 election and who briefed several lawmakers on the strategy. The subpoena to Phil Waldron, a retired Army colonel, comes after his 38-page PowerPoint titled ‘Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN’ was included in a trove of emails to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.'”

Biden Administration

“Senate expert to brief Democrats on potential rules changes” [The Hill]. “A former leadership staffer will brief Senate Democrats during a closed-door caucus lunch Friday about how they could potentially change the upper chamber’s rules as they renew their focus on passing voting rights legislation. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Marty Paone, a former secretary of the Democratic conference and parliamentary expert, briefed a group of Senate Democrats Thursday night and will speak during their caucus lunch Friday. ‘Last night a number of my colleagues and I met with Marty Paone, a Senate rules expert who worked under past leadership, including Robert C. Byrd, about how we can restore the Senate so it can work the way our founders intended,’ Schumer said.” • Well, that should do it.

“The Memo: Failure on big bill would spark cascade of trouble for Biden” [The Hill]. “In terms of the bigger picture, there is deepening pessimism in Democratic circles about the fate of the [Build Back Better] huge social spending bill [and it’s not all that huge[. Talks between Biden and Manchin this week failed to make meaningful progress, instead exposing the breadth of the gulf that remained. Manchin has never committed to supporting the Build Back Better plan, even though it has been scaled down significantly, largely at his behest. Amid the impasse, both the White House and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have backed off earlier pledges to try to move the legislation before Christmas. And Biden himself appears to be turning his attention to voting rights rather than the social spending plan that has been the keystone of his domestic agenda. On Wednesday, Biden said there was ‘nothing domestically more important than voting rights.’ The outlook for voting rights is even bleaker than it ever was for Build Back Better, however. Thanks to unified Republican opposition, movement on the topic will be impossible without reform of the Senate filibuster — something Manchin also opposes.” • Again, this is the party the Democrat leadership built, over many years, with a lot of hard work (and specifically on Manchin and Sinema’s behalf). It is broken by design.

“Democrats rev up voting rights push to end 2021. But Senate path remains elusive.” [NBC]. “Senate Democrats, eager to salvage a victory as they lose hope of finishing the Build Back Better Act before Christmas, have turned their attention to voting rights legislation. Still, two key obstacles remain: Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. And it’s not clear Democrats have a path to win over their two colleagues to force a vote on the bill, despite significant shifts from other moderates and a frustrated voting base clamoring loudly for Congress to act. Long-simmering frustrations among prominent Black leaders appeared to be boiling over as they pressure President Joe Biden to do more to encourage the Senate to act. Progressive advocacy groups have revved up their pressure campaigns, fearing that time is running out to avert what they see as an existential threat to democracy. Leaders of the effort in the Senate, notably Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, have held meetings with colleagues to find a path forward. And moderates like Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and John Hickenlooper of Colorado, said this week they’re ready to change the Senate rules to allow a vote on an election overhaul. But despite this movement, it may not be enough.” • Doing the same thing and expecting a different result?

“US Ends Settlement Talks With Families Separated By Trump Border Policy” [HuffPo]. “The U.S. government withdrew Thursday from settlement negotiations to end lawsuits filed on behalf of parents and children who were forcibly separated under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance border policy. Justice Department officials informed lawyers for the plaintiffs in a conference call that the government would not offer a global settlement in family separation cases and will defend each one in court, said Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed one of the suits. The decision comes after eight months of negotiations and weeks after reports of a proposed settlement that would include payments of several hundred thousand dollars to each family sparked outrage among Biden administration critics in Congress and elsewhere.” • But the babies!!!!!

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.

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.

And I’m not the only one who’s puzzled. “Even if you…

A second example of the PMC’s inability to govern comes under the rubric of “our democracy.” Of the various components of the Democrat party, NGOs, miscellaneous mercenaries, assets in the press, and the intelligence community all believe — or at least repeat vociferously — that “our democracy” is under threat, whether from election integrity issues, or from fascism. But other components — funders, vendors, apparatchiks, and electeds — don’t believe this at all. On election integrity, HR 1 has not passed. Gerrymandering continues apace (also a sign that Republicans take their politics much more seriously than Democrats do). On fascism, I suppose we have Pelosi’s January 6 Commission. But nothing unlawful took place, or we would have Merrick Garland’s January Investigation. The combination of hysterical yammering from some Democrats and blithe indifference from others is extremely unsettling. (This leaves aside the question of whether Democrats, as a party, have the standing to whinge about either the erosion of democracy or the imminence of fascism. I say no.) Of course, there is a solution to the problems with “our democracy”:

* * *

“Political suicide” [White Hot Harlots]. “One of my most offensive (or maybe fatalistic) beliefs is that the Biden administration, as it is constituted and how it governs, is a form of reparations…. Here’s what Actual Reparations entail: the token diversification of the elite castes in Democratic politics and other liberal-dominated arenas along with a few thousand sinecures for the race stooges who worked dutifully in 2016-2020 to ensure that banks and pharmaceutical companies shall never feel unsafe. … This is the end result of the Stan-Culture-as-Politics paradigm that’s ruled liberalism since Obama’s ascent. The success of a small handful of individuals from historically marginalized groups is proffered as a substitute for systemic reforms. You don’t fight racism by rebuilding the infrastructure of black communities that have been left to rot. Instead, you fight racism by making Beyonce richer. Her success is your success. Ignore the fact that your tap water has chunks in it and celebrate how many books Amanda Gorman just sold. This is progress. This is liberalism. This, I’m sorry to say, is your reparations. Now, such an approach to politics was enough to beat a demented game show host on the second try, but I’m afraid it’s already sputtering out. The generic ballot now favors Republicans by a greater margin than has ever been recorded, Biden’s already polling below 40% and is set to repeal most of the COVID-era’s financial relief policies in a few weeks, and–oh, wow, fuck–hispanic voters are now split evenly between the two parties, and upper-class Asian Americans appear to have been the decisive factor in the GOP’s shocking upset in the Virginia gubernatorial race.” • And a similar story:

“Democrats should worry about what’s happening in Biden country” [Financial Times]. Cobb County. “Some of this might sound familiar to Biden. At a similar stage in his vice-presidency, the Obama administration had pulled the global financial system back from the brink of the 2008 crisis and passed a major domestic stimulus. But the White House’s ineffectiveness touting these achievements ultimately led to a drubbing in the 2010 midterms, with Republicans ending unified Democratic control of Congress. Now, as president, Biden faces a similar problem. ‘I think that there’s a messaging vacuum,’ adds [Jon Epstein, a 53-year-old teacher}. ‘And if the Democrats don’t fill it, the Republicans are more than happy to.'” • Sourcing very much oriented toward the Democrat base.

Joe Biden owes me six hundred bucks:

[Pounds head on desk]:

Product placement? Brain fart? Where was the Clinton Vice-Presidential choice’s staff on this?

Pothole Sandy:

And a good thing, too!

“A classical machine learning technique for easier segmentation of mummified remains” [Phys.org]. • Wait. This is science. How’d it get in this section?

Clinton Legacy

Please stop:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“What Is Pelosi’s Endgame?” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. Cook has been writing on American politics for years. So I read it all. Here is Cook’s extraordinary final sentence: “We are living in a very odd world now. There is no telling what we will be thinking and talking about a week from now, let alone a year.” • Cook is correct. And it’s not merely a matter of thinking and talking. I think it’s becoming a matter of our political arrangements. I did not occur to me — and did not, I think, occur to many — that Biden’s performance on Covid would actually be worse than Trump’s, if your metric is the death count (and I think that’s a good metric). For all his fumbling and malice, Trump gave us Operation Warp Speed and the vaccines. And what did Biden do? Bet the country on a Vax-only strategy that has now demonstrably failed. At some point, accountability arrives. The body count, the organic damage, is simply too high.

“The force of historical decline.” [Haydar Khan, The Scrum]. Galbraith v. Thiel. I’m pulling out this quote from Galbraith: “The institutional, infrastructure, resource basis, and psychological foundations for a Keynesian revival no longer exist.” Makes me think of Medicare for All. Does the country have the operational capability to deliver it? Based on our response of Covid, no.

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of note.

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The Bezzle: “Melania Trump announces new line of NFTs” [The Hill]. “Melania Trump is entering the world of NFTs, selling ‘breathtaking watercolor art’ featuring an image of her eyes to collectors. The former first lady made the announcement on Thursday, saying the nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, will be released in regular intervals. The first one, titled ‘Melania’s Vision,” includes the painting of Trump’s eyes by artist Marc-Antoine Coulon and an audio message. ‘My vision is: look forward with inspiration, strength, and courage,’ Trump says in the clip. The sales site for the NFT, priced at $186 as of Thursday morning, says it will provide the collector ‘with strength and hope’ and ‘an amulet to inspire.'” • So this is where we are: Amulets. Here it is:

Better than Hunter Biden’s art? You decide:

The Bezzle: “Car Companies Want You to Keep Paying For Features You Already Have” [Vice]. “Back in the day, car companies made money by selling cars and financing those car purchases. Now, automakers plan to make even more money by selling subscriptions and software updates to cars that have already been sold, perhaps even for features people expect cars to have. Brace yourselves now for this nickel-and-diming future. Automakers have been fairly explicit that they see “Software as a Service,” as it is known in business speak, as a significant earner to make back some of the billions of dollars they invest in electric and autonomous vehicle development…. the big play here is not going to be the $80-a-year stuff for marginal features like remote start. Instead, it will be performance, range, and perhaps even safety upgrades to electric vehicles that make the actual car better at being a car. These were upgrades that were difficult or impossible to engineer with gas cars, but are relatively trivial for electric ones. The goal, from the automakers’ perspective, will be getting people to pay for the same thing multiple times as often as possible. This strategy is taking its cue from Tesla, which calls over-the-air upgrades ‘an essential part of the Tesla ownership experience.'”

The Bezzle: “Elizabeth Holmes ‘chose fraud over business failure,’ prosecutors say in Theranos closing arguments” [NBC]. “Bringing up documents on monitors in front of the jury box, [Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Schenk] reviewed how Holmes had affixed pharmaceutical company logos to Theranos lab reports to imply endorsement. The companies, Pfizer and Schering-Plough among them, had neither endorsed the results nor authorized the use of their logos, witnesses testified. Holmes also altered, enhanced or doctored the conclusions to make the reports appear even rosier, Schenk argued….. The defense argued that Holmes had acted in good faith and that the government had failed to prove that she acted with intent to deceive.” And gives five reasons, one of which is: ” Holmes had the company’s technology validated by Johns Hopkins University, at the request of Walgreens, and was not afraid of outside review.” • It’s an ugly thought, but this may say more about Johns Hopkins than Holmes? Granted, I don’t know the detail on this. Readers?

Manufacturing: “Qantas switches domestic fleet to Airbus in blow to Boeing” [Reuters]. “For Boeing, the loss of the coveted Qantas contract is a further blow to its 737 MAX…. It interrupts a strong run of sales since the jet was cleared for flight late last year following a safety ban and means a further loss of narrowbody market share to Airbus. Qantas has operated Boeing jets since 1959 and was once the world’s only airline with an all 747 fleet. The U.S. planemaker will now supply only its long-haul 787 Dreamliners.”

Manufacturing: “Boeing wants to build its next airplane in the ‘metaverse'” [Reuters]. “In Boeing Co’s (BA.N) factory of the future, immersive 3-D engineering designs will be twinned with robots that speak to each other, while mechanics around the world will be linked by $3,500 HoloLens headsets made by Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O). It is a snapshot of an ambitious new Boeing strategy to unify sprawling design, production and airline services operations under a single digital ecosystem – in as little as two years. Critics say Boeing has repeatedly made similar bold pledges on a digital revolution, with mixed results. But insiders say the overarching goals of improving quality and safety have taken on greater urgency and significance as the company tackles multiple threats. The planemaker is entering 2022 fighting to reassert its engineering dominance after the 737 MAX crisis, while laying the foundation for a future aircraft program over the next decade.” • Give an MBA a VR headset, and this is what you get. Short them.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 29 Fear (previous close: 31 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 32 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 17 at 11:37am. The dial is back! Perhaps writing CNN actually helped!

The Biosphere

“Insurance Companies Are Profiting Big Off of Climate Change” [Jacobin]. “‘Without insurance, new coal fired power plants wouldn’t get built. Without insurance, oil refineries wouldn’t refine,’ said Douglas Heller, insurance expert at the research and advocacy group Consumer Federation of America. ‘That doesn’t mean that the insurance industry is solely responsible for fossil fuels. But it’s a part of the equation.’ The problem is not just that insurance companies offer coverage to fossil fuel projects, but they also use millions of people’s premiums to invest in — and provide capital to — the fossil fuel industry’s expansion. State insurance commissioners have the power to expose and curtail these activities. But because the fossil fuel industry has pumped tens of millions of dollars into state politics, most states other than California have refused to do so. Meanwhile, the Republican stronghold of North Dakota — one of America’s largest producers of coal — is now exploring providing government-supported insurance to the fossil fuel industry. But now there’s some good news: insurance regulators and legislators in New York and Connecticut, both of which are key states for the insurance industry, have taken steps to fight back — suggesting a new front could be emerging in the war on global polluters.”

“Air pollution from a Virginia landfill is making residents sick. Officials won’t call it an emergency” [Southerly]. “Since January 2020, engineering firm SCS Engineers has been under contract with the city to monitor and report temperatures and other key data from the gas wells. Multiple times that year, starting in July, temperatures in several wells exceeded the maximum allowed limit. But in a violation notice obtained through a public records request, state environmental regulators said the city falsely reported having no excessive temperatures during 2020—and it did nothing to expand the dump’s gas collection system, a step the site’s permit required for two of the violations…. The gas wells that began overheating last year have since become the location of a chemical reaction that’s continued heating the trash—in one well, to temperatures close to 200 degrees—while belching harmful gases and chemicals. Ernie Hoch, a consultant for Richmond-based firm Draper Aden who is leading the repairs, said that the issue is happening more than 100 feet under the surface, and it’s unclear how large it could be.” • Yikes. Worth reading in full, especially if you live near a landfill. This landfill sounds exceptionally nasty, but all landfills are nasty.

“Millipedes Have Been Living a Lie” [The Atlantic]. “Eumillipes persephone, discovered deep underground in Australia, is the first millipede ever identified with more than 1,000 legs. The count actually comes to a whopping 1,306, a number that absolutely demolishes the previous record holder (750 legs, you tried!) and wins E. persephone the title of most-legged animal on Earth. All hail!…The creature, which looks like a pointy-headed spaghetti noodle wearing full-body cleats, is extraordinarily small—not even four inches—and lives far from most other known millipedes, nearly 200 feet below the surface. That pointed head, Marek explained, is key for navigation at such depths. As they burrow and look for fungal spores to eat, the front of a millipede’s body expands into crevices, stretching in width to “provide an anchor,” Marek says. The back portions then catch up in a sort of Slinky motion, coiling up until the animal decides to move forward once more. Somehow, they don’t get tangled…. The critters can’t control each leg individually (imagine that traffic jam), but instead use a single nerve cord that travels the length of their body to coordinate the movement. They’re slow and graceful, even at 1,306 legs strong. Some can even use their next-level limb control to jump, though most stick to burrowing and scuttling around in the dirt.” • Neat! The article has a video of a millipede in motion. It looks rather like a high-speed train. (They have high speed trains in Europe and Asia, for our American readers.)

“DNA in Air Can Catalog Hidden Insects All around Us” [Scientific American]. “A new poster, presented this week at the Ecology Across Borders conference, reports on a proof-of-concept effort to show how it works. While employed as a postdoctoral fellow at Lund University in Sweden, Fabian Roger collected airborne samples using a commercially available liquid cyclone contraption, which swirls air into a liquid-filled tube, thereby trapping DNA fragments previously borne in the air. He collected air samples at three locations in southern Sweden, where he also used traditional methods to survey insects for comparison… The team found traces of DNA from 85 species, including butterflies, beetles, ants, flies and their close relatives…. Several eDNA and air issues remain hazy, says Elizabeth Clare, a molecular ecologist at York University in Canada, who has worked on similar air-sampling studies. For one, it’s unclear how long an individual insect’s DNA persists in the air after it has flitted away. Are researchers sensing a recent visit or one made months ago? Studies have found intact DNA in permafrost up to 10,000 years after organisms perished. But in other conditions, such as exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, DNA may degrade quickly.”

“These astronauts will be able to unlock Mars’ secrets by looking at rocks on Earth” [Euronews]. “As part of the Pangaea project, organised by the European Space Agency (ESA), the astronaut candidates are getting basic training in geology and rock sampling – all to equip them with the scientific skills required for Mars and Lunar missions…. The three-week programme takes them to the Dolomites in Italy, a mountain range in the northeast of the country, the 15-million-year-old Rise crater in Germany, and to the volcanic landscapes of the Canary islands. Likely we would land near, for example, a crater or perhaps a lava outflow channel, or if it’s on Mars, perhaps what we believe to be an ancient riverbed or lakebed where there potentially could have been flowing water in the past. There they learn how to use rock hammers and magnifying glasses, take samples without contaminating them and relay data back to scientists via specialised tablets.” • It would seem more sensible to train a geologist to be an astronaut, rather an an astronaut to be a geologist. Can that be done?

Health Care

Not such a bad idea:

Strategy? Huh? We have a strategy. It’s Vax Vax Vax. What’s wrong with you? And speaking of things we squandered a year not doing–


Your house (if you have one) is a chimney. A good visualization:

Think of all the virus going up the chimney. That’s what you want. The same effect, though not as powerful, can be achieved by opening an upstairs window or a vent on the roof. You can test the resulting draft with a candle or an incense stick. You might be surprised at how much draft there is.

Another take on Guateng:

I tend to think we don’t know very much about anything. We don’t understand the immune system, for example. (This is probably good, because if we could, viruses and other micro-organisms would, too, since they work at a scale we cannot.)

And on Omicron:

Lead your life:

Class Warfare

“The Death Toll Says It All” [The Atlantic]. “About 75 percent of COVID deaths in the U.S.—600,000 lost lives—have been among people ages 65 and older.” • I guess if you think Social Security can go bankrupt, this is a good thing. Everybody must do their part, after all.

News of the Wired

I remain unwired, so here is a Spring painting from one of the many artbots I follow (and I really recommend this practice as a mental palate cleanser):

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) 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 (petal):


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Readers, thank you for all the plant pictures!

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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

    Re: the Fear/Greed index, I don’t recall ever seeing a reading that wasn’t some kind of Fear or Greed.

    Shouldn’t dial indications around 50 be something more like “Complacency”?

    1. griffen

      That’s a good idea. Maybe 50 is the Mr Market equivalent to “happy wife happy life”?!?

      I think the markets in general, is trying to tell something about the tone of things, moving into year end and the calendar turn. Lots of red arrows and red %% this week.

      1. Terry Flynn

        I’m often a fan of arrangements/choir sizes etc that reflect those of the composer’s time but I am afraid that whilst nuances of the “smaller forces” approach can be more apparent, I generally go with “what Handel was well known to demand” – MORE! Plenty of historical accounts of him moaning that he didn’t get big enough choirs (legit – his employer was the British monarch for large period so plenty of verified accounts).

        OK the Victorians took it too far but Mackerass IMHO got right compromise, particularly when you hear the version of Messiah that Mozart rearranged. I love Bach’s Brandenburg concertos done by Academy of Ancient Music but give me the Huddersfield recording of Messiah as arranged by Mozart any day! :-)

            1. flora

              Thanks. Note how Handel often ends the choral on a minor key but moves to the major key at the final coda. See “All Power and Glory.” / :) cheers.

                1. Terry Flynn

                  Funnily enough the Tierce de Picardie came to be seen as “naff” by the time of Mozart and a signifier of a “hack”.

                  Musicologists who tried to strip out the bits of Mozart’s requiem that were “purely Sussmayr completion” (Mozart did NOT rate his pupil) used this as a criterion. Mozart would never have used it himself in important later works. It’s still contentious – mainly because unfortunately the two had virtually identical handwriting.

                  1. urblintz

                    “naff” indeed, the changing “professional” tastes thru music’s history are a fascinating study. that the device translates into the puerile sounding, hence somewhat dismissive, “Picardy third” is curiously appropriate!

          1. Antagonist Muscles

            Why, oh why, would you listen to a St. Martins of the Fields through YouTube audio compression?

            Music on YouTube tires me out and literally hurts my ears. (And I’m not misusing literally here.) It is puzzling to me that there are not more people who can hear the poor audio fidelity on YouTube. Even if you use Spotify to stream music, the quality will be plenty good.

            I have a 24 bit 96 kHz flac of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue (which I freely downloaded from dubious sources). Because I am an audiophile, I took that flac and converted it to mp3 and ogg at different bit rates. I discovered that I need to use very low mp3 bit rates for me to hear the poor audio quality. Flac, ogg, mp3 at almost all bit rates all sound pretty good to me.

            So YouTube is doing some serious butchering of audio fidelity. Can somebody enlighten me how YouTube processes audio?

            The speakers and amplifier matter too. Kind of Blue sounds horrible on my phone, irrespective of audio file source. It won’t hurt like YouTube audio, but it is pretty tiring.

            1. The Rev Kev

              Simple reason why. You listen to such music and if you find that you like it, then you can go ahead and order it as a CD or download it in a solid format. It is because of this policy that I have a very good collection of Baroque music now.

              1. Antagonist Muscles

                My second favorite music during breakfast is Vivaldi (behind Mozart). The teen-aged version of myself would have flipped out with disbelief if he realized I enjoy listening to Vivaldi in the early morning.

                So that’s a lesson for you kids out there to have a good day. Vivaldi in the morning. Kind of Blue right before bed. As for the appropriate music for reading this website? Try Pink Floyd. Don’t become Comfortably Numb when the Covid-19 situation turned out worse than GM’s pessimistic prediction.

                1. The Rev Kev

                  Absolutely Vivaldi. His music is great. Add in the guitar music of John Williams, the music of the Beatles plus, like you said, Pink Floyd. Of course if you were going to read the NYT or Washington Post or maybe Daily Kos, you might want to read them while listening to another Pink Floyd song. I think that you can guess which one- :)

                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lt-udg9zQSE (7:29 mins)

              2. Terry Flynn

                Yeah I’m big on trying something out via a legal cheap medium….. Then if I can tell I like it I’m happy to seek out and pay for my own PHYSICAL uncompressed version.

                Moves away from physical media are very very misguided IMHO. Buy don’t rent.

  2. chris

    Fascinating Board of Education meeting last night with respect to evaluating options for school operation in the county where I live. According to the Maryland Department of Health, the statistics we have are that no children in our roughly 60,000 student body have been hospitalized due to COVID. That seems odd to me because we have lines for testing wrapping around buildings and thousands of people in quarantine. There are apparently 3 high schools in the district where approximately 50% of the kids are in isolation due to COVID exposure and testing PCR positive. They said during the meeting that roughly 3700 kids are out of school right now because of COVID related issues (either quarantine or close contact).

    Our local stats say that roughly 27% of children ages 5-11 are fully vaccinated. About 80% of all county residents are fully vaccinated. But the same stats say our hospitals are doing OK and both general hospital utilization and # of ICU patients are down.

    Our district leadership had recently decided to cancel all extra-curricular activities and even co-curricular activities that were high risk. The intention was to provide a circuit breaker of sorts. In a move that surprised everyone the leading voices of our local woke brigade lead the charge to resume all activities, pending testing and continued mask wearing. They cited mental health and equity in their decisions to support such an action. They also talked about the need to not use blanket policies like shutting down in person school for the time being. Which is interesting because last year these same people insisted thay equity meant everyone suffering equally and living with the same poor outcomes.

    Several parents and some students from the more heavily affected schools gave testimony begging people to shut down in person classes and return to virtual learning now. One complaint that was addressed was the requirement for midterms, which have been canceled since so many kids are out of class right now.

    The response from everyone in leadership about these covid issues was that with the ventilation improvements, the availability of HEPA for every classroom and practice space, and all students and staff wearing masks while in school, there was no need to tell every school to shut down in person learning. Thay may be necessary on a school by school basis but they weren’t going to require that every school do it. It was directly mentioned that we must not be concerned about vaccinated people being infected unless they go to the hospital, and that because our data says no students are going to the hospital there is no reason to shut down schools.

    A number of teachers have complained that they don’t want to risk being in school and having to quarantine during the holiday. Their complaints were ignored. I would never have thought I’d see this state of affairs, because our district was shut down for a really long period of time, but I don’t think we’ll be shutting down again unless the pandemic gets to the point where there are no teachers to teach.

    I think everyone is hoping for a good cooling off period over winter break. I will be shocked if there isn’t a local teacher revolt or some kind of push to not return as scheduled after the holiday.

    What are other NC-commentariat parents seeing at their local school board meetings?

    1. ObjectiveAce

      Probably won’t surprise you–although maybe the magnitude will–your neighbor DC is smashing Covid records. More than double the prior peak, and almost doubled yesterdays counts which itself was a record. https://dcist.com/story/21/12/17/dc-covid-spike-what-to-know/

      I feel confident the school’s hands will be forced when a significant proportion of their teachers are sick, or maybe they’ll wake up over the Christmas break and act beforehand. In that sense the timing of christmas break might be useful: gives schools a chance to observe the carnage and regroup

      1. chris

        Yeah, I do a lot of work in DC. That checks with what I’ve seen. I think there are a lot of Administrations making Christmas wishes related to COVID this year. We’ll see what happens.

        I will say that my kids do attend really good schools and a lot of in person learning does take place. Phones aren’t allowed in the classrooms. The labs are good, etc. That’s one of the reasons why being locked out of school last year was so hard. We sincerely want them to be in school.

        But a few other details from the meeting have me seriously doubting the data we have. The super intendant said that they had no staff to support contact tracing and that the Maryland Department of Health relied on teachers and administrators to tell them who needed to be considered a close contact when a positive PCR test result occurred. So the schools are all very behind in getting the information to the health department to do the contact tracing. It appears that the assistant principals have been taking on the brunt of the work load for contact tracing but since they also have schools to help manage it isn’t going well.

        As has been said on NC many times, the data we’re dealing with is bad. The means to get better data don’t exist. But that’s all we have. I think the “let’r rip!” approach is more because we have no practical options in this country to do better right now. So all the decisions for schools are being pushed to others because the people in charge have neither the desire nor the ability to make better policy with the tools we have at the county level.

    2. Medbh

      I contacted our school via email and was referred to the director of curriculum and instruction. She said “Our superintendent and student services director attend weekly meetings with public health so that we remain current in our understanding of what’s happening in and around [our] County. The latest information we have is that vaccines are protecting people from the virus, even Omicron, in terms of serious illness and hospitalization.”

      Our district states the decision to shut down or offer remote classes rests with public health. I asked if I could keep my kids home but have them continue to submit homework and tests, and they said no because “so much of the learning that takes place is due to the classroom experience and interactions between teachers and students. The learning loss would be too great.”

      I wasn’t surprised by the answer, but it still burns because my kids spend most of their class periods watching netflix or texting friends. They both have cell phones and the school allows students to use them once they’ve completed their assignments.

      We were hoping to let the two older ones graduate at their existing high school, but our two youngest will likely never return to public schools (they’re homeschooled now). I know too much about covid and the quality of in-person education to find any of the district’s answers legitimate or reassuring.

  3. jr

    Those Masterclass videos are a heck of a grift. Ostensibly informative, they sell on the star-power of the featured idiot and at the same time reinforce that star power. You tell yourself it’s educational but it’s just celebrity advertising.

    “Antsy-Pants” Bill looks as if he lost weight. Maybe he quit the sauce. Maybe he quit eating the dozens of boxes of Girl Scout cookies he must buy annually.

    1. ambrit

      There is a NSFW joke involving Bill Clinton and Girl Scouts lurking in there.
      Bill Clinton mastered in grifting growing up. (There are differences of opinion concerning Bill Clinton and growing up, but none concerning Bill Clinton and grifting.)

    2. Culp Creek Curmudgeon

      What happened? Was someone else already signed up to teach How to Pick Up Teenage Girls?

  4. Geo

    “House Democrats introduce bill to bar Trump from burial at Arlington National Cemetery”

    They Dems are mocking us now, aren’t they? Like, this is a joke and they’re openly laughing at their voters for thinking they’d do anything beneficial while holding majorities? Or, are they just making extra-sure they are annihilated in 2022, 2024, and for decades to come?

    I hope when they pass this bill they remember to do it in a wine cave wearing their kente cloth.

    1. hamstak

      The dems have been mocking us for some time — Hillary’s nomination comes to mind.

      IIRC, Lambert has said before that one real (as opposed to the manifold false) difference between the repub and the dem “leadership” is that the former fear their base while the latter hate theirs. I might characterize the dems slightly differently — it is not necessarily hatred they harbor, but contempt.

  5. fresno dan

    The Bezzle: “Elizabeth Holmes ‘chose fraud over business failure,’ prosecutors say in Theranos closing arguments” [NBC]. “Bringing up documents on monitors in front of the jury box, [Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Schenk] reviewed how Holmes had affixed pharmaceutical company logos to Theranos lab reports to imply endorsement. The companies, Pfizer and Schering-Plough among them, had neither endorsed the results nor authorized the use of their logos, witnesses testified. Holmes also altered, enhanced or doctored the conclusions to make the reports appear even rosier, Schenk argued….. The defense argued that Holmes had acted in good faith and that the government had failed to prove that she acted with intent to deceive.” And gives five reasons, one of which is: ” Holmes had the company’s technology validated by Johns Hopkins University, at the request of Walgreens, and was not afraid of outside review.” • It’s an ugly thought, but this may say more about Johns Hopkins than Holmes? Granted, I don’t know the detail on this. Readers?
    It was a bait and switch for investors that kept the money rolling in. Theranos raised nearly $900 million from those investors who now say they were swindled by Elizabeth Holmes and company president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani. The pair claimed in investor documents obtained by 60 Minutes that Theranos technology was validated by the FDA, pharmaceutical companies, and was deployed on the battlefield by the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Those claims were fabricated.
    And in one public appearance after another, Holmes’ pitch became even more fantastic and reckless.
    Elizabeth Holmes on PBS Revolutionaries: We’ve done some work with people at Hopkins who have developed and demonstrated that in blood you can see the onset of pancreatic cancer 17 years before a tumor forms.

    We called Johns Hopkins Medicine. They told us they never collaborated with Theranos. And Doug Matje says, test data he compiled for the Food and Drug Administration was falsified.
    You can write ANYTHING you want, on paper or in a computer….and call it a record…
    Liars figure and figures lie

    1. Petter

      I read Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup this summer and it’s as you report. Holmes lied, lied, lied.
      The work environment at Theranos was so toxic, it should have qualified for the EPA’s Superfund!

  6. curlydan

    Whoa, whoa, whoa Bill Clinton. Just in time for Christmas, don’t forget the Curly Dan Master Class.

    Learn from a master how to do and accomplish the following:
    *Eat unseemly amounts of Costco hummus with tortilla chips and sliced jalepenos
    *Save hundreds of dollars experiencing the Ultimate Socialist Shopping Experience (USSE ™) at Aldi
    *Stay calm when your favorite NFL team does not make the Super Bowl
    *Maintain a veneer of sanity after working in the corporate world for 25+ years straight
    *Walk the neighborhood–without talking to anyone!

    Space is limited! Grab your spot now.

    1. griffen

      Don’t sell yourself short. Be ready to expand when the class oversells!

      Open the class with a reading of Kipling, it will add the perfect tone to start.

    2. Arizona Slim

      Gee, curlydan, your neighborhood sounds a lot like mine. I’m a regular walker and let me tell you, we have sidewalks along every street.

      Are they heavily used when I go out for my walks? Nope.

      It’s as if an order goes out: “Clear the sidewalks! Get back inside! Here comes Slim!”

  7. fresno dan

    “DNA in Air Can Catalog Hidden Insects All around Us” [Scientific American].

    Tosh! How about the hidden insects on and in us – how about all those mites living in your ebrows? Or your pores? But I don’t want to be churlish and distract from the airborne dna stuff…

  8. Pelham

    I ask myself if I were president and I weren’t corrupt or senile, what would be my top priority at this point? Covid is the answer. So what would I do? First off, I’d launch a moon-shot, pedal-to-the-metal campaign to develop a STERILIZING vaccine. Then I’d step on the gas again and do what Abraar Karan suggests with masks and tests, plus ventilation initiatives.

    These are all glaringly obvious. And yet there’s no action.

    1. Geo

      Speaks volumes that Trump’s admin oversaw the rapid development of numerous vaccines in six months. Nothing new in Biden’s time.

      Trump’s admin oversaw new protections and cash influx for regular people. Biden got out a one-time reduced check and is cancelling all the protections.

      Trump did daily Covid press conferences with experts on TV. Biden is absent.

      Thanks Democrats! We wanted Bernie Sanders and instead we got Weekend At Bernies.

      1. Michael Ismoe

        There was no $2000 check until Trump proposed it.

        Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi set up a vote on a bill that had zero direct checks in it. Bennett of Colorado was the guy who pushed for $600 checks. Once publicized, the idea caught fire and they added a one-time $600 check to individuals. When they sent it over to Trump, he said that he’d sign it but he thought the amount should be two large, not $600. Mitch McConnell immediately shit his pants and wouldn’t here of it. The two GA Democrats won their elections on teh promise to get you the additional $1600.

        McConnell lost those two seats because he thought the GOP would come out and vote against Biden but Trump screwed that up too. If McConnell had passed the additional $1400 before the runoffs, no one would know who Jon Ossoff is.

    2. Screwball

      There won’t be any; except get the vax.

      Just today on CNBC, Fauci and Sorkin (cut and paste from a tweet – I listened and this is what Fauci did say);

      “’Mandates,’ that’s a radioactive word. ‘Requirements,’ people seem to respond better to that…We are never going to get out of this outbreak if we still have 50 Million people…who refuse to get vaccinated.”

      You are going to get vaccinated rather you like it or not. That’s the plan, and the only plan.

      That said, was it here, by GM or IM Doc or maybe an article or two that stated you CANNOT vaccinate your way out of a pandemic?

      Also, someone help me here. Once we knew about Omicon, didn’t some of our science experts immediately come out and say the best protection to that variant was to get boosted? Do we really have data to support that it works against the Omni variant? It’s hard to keep up to be honest.

    3. jo6pac

      demodogs can’t even get rid of the post office general so to do something like your suggesting is even possible.

    4. steve

      I don’t think they have the incentive or desire to do proper public health, it would work against their interest. The fact that we are institutionally incapable of such an effort is just the fallback position.

    5. The Rev Kev

      A coupla days ago I saw a tweet saying that more Americans have died now since Biden became President than when Trump was in office. Maybe Biden thought that the pandemic would just burn itslef out but then Omicron came along which is on a tear.

      1. Lois

        I have voted 3rd party for President since 2012, and I had very low hopes for Biden as a creature of the neoliberal system. I am still flabbergasted at how bad a job he is doing on COVID. He’s pretty much doing the same let it rip thing Trump did! All the while getting back to austerity. The incompetence of our elites is thoroughly bipartisan.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        I think people especially at the elite level really internalized the idea Trump was an aberration and all would return to “normal”. You see it in anything he does. “America is back”. Its stupid. American strength came through industry and so forth, not positive vibes.

        I don’t think Biden thought the pandemic would burn itself out as much as godly people had returned and the pandemic would go away.

  9. Tom Doak

    “It would seem more sensible to train a geologist to be an astronaut, rather an an astronaut to be a geologist. Can that be done?”

    It can be done. Harrison Schmitt, the last man to walk on the moon [Apollo 17], was a geologist who started at NASA to train the astronauts on collecting rock samples, until they decided it would be even better just to send him up there as part of the crew.

    But maybe it’s not so easy finding a geologist today who wants to go to Mars without such a great guarantee of getting back in one piece?

    1. Stosh

      Sorry, but this reminded me of an anecdote, probably apochryphal, pertaining to a big-time showbiz impresario (I don’t remember who, exactly). I offer it with apologies to any astronauts or geologists in the crowd.

      Seems this promoter was trying to put together a big ice-skating extravaganza so he sent his talent scouts across the length and breadth of the land looking for young, champion, female ice skaters. The reports come back that they found suitable young ladies … but they were all, unfortunately, rather plain looking. The boss said ‘Forget that. Bring me the prettiest girls you can find and we’ll teach them how to skate.’

    2. The Rev Kev

      Before Harrison Schmitt went on Apollo 17, other crews had been trained by geology professor Lee Silver and lunar geologist Farouk El-Baz. This was depicted in the “Galileo was right” episode of the brilliant series “From the Earth to the Moon” and I can thoroughly recommend this episode. The crew of Apollo 15 went to the Moon with a more professional attitude and by being taught which rocks to look for, they spotted and collected a piece of anorthosite which came to be know as the “Genesis rock” due to its extreme age. The title of this episode refers to a quick, unofficial experiment that the crew performed as they were readying to leave the Moon-

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bm63PvsqWfA (59 secs)

    3. MarqueJaune

      Well, to be exact, the last man to walk on the moon was Gene Cernan, Apollo 17 commander…
      Jack Schmitt was second to last
      Btw he’s the last surviving member of the Apollo 17 crew
      December 2022 will mark the 50th anniversary of that wonderfull mission. Schmitt and Cernan called the moon their home for three days
      I was strolling on the moon one day…

      1. Rabdy

        Back when I was a kid I liked Tony The Tiger’s Sugar Frosted Flakes.

        I checked to see if I was buying any Kellog’s products. Other than Frosted Flakes I didn’t see anything I recognized as food or that I buy, so I can’t boycott Kellogs, unfortunately.

  10. Di Modica's Dumb Steer


    I actually did a site search to see if this was covered previously, and I don’t think it was. It probably wouldn’t be, given the general audience is young children, but this investigation into Roblox, which to me appeared to be a harmless Minecraft clone (and thus ignored), is actually much more sinister and exploitative. And they’re a public company, currently worth more than Nintendo. WTF? Lengthy, but absolutely worth it. It’s especially shocking because it shows a level of greed and predation aimed at children that seems to have just slipped in under a lot of people’s noses. Certainly mine.


    And the excellent, if depressing follow-up:


    It’s narrated by Quentin Smith, who does excellent board game reviews under Shut Up & Sit Down on YouTube. Kudos to him for not shilling, but not once has he mentioned this side venture in his review videos.

    File somewhere between Wall Street Shenanigans and Tech Schemes.

    1. MK

      With a 7 & 9 year old and their friends – it’s 50/50 Roblox v. Minecraft. Both require real money to get upgrades and special stuff. I’ve probably spent at least $100 on each platform per kid this year.

      You can see the Roblox gift cards in the checkout lines.

      1. Terry Flynn

        £40 for each of my two nephews roblox vouchers for Xmas.

        Mind you I probably harmed them more 7 years ago when I was called “Uncle TimTam” for giving them white chocolate Tim-Tams when I came back to UK from Sydney….. With a supposed FTA in the works those will probably soon be on British supermarket shelves despite being full of additives that are allegedly awful.

        Yummy? Yes. But truly dreadful. Allegedly

      2. Di Modica's Dumb Steer

        I’d recommend giving those videos a watch, then. Minecraft seems to be generally harmless, though it’s been some years since I actually played. Roblox SEEMED to be just a clone, but the video (and followup) describe this setup where the kids are enticed into doing a whole lot of work for a possible payout, with the least amount of responsibility or accountability by the company. That, and the INSANE cuts the company gets for primary and secondary transactions, which feels beyond abusive.

        The second video, however, goes into this whole marketplace that they missed in the first, which seems like a siloed clone of the NFT ridiculousness going on right now, completely invisible to anyone who isn’t actively involved in the scene. It’s both fascinating and horrifying.

        1. juanholio

          My son bought a Sparkle Time Fedora “limited item” many years ago for a few robux. Now they are selling for 750,000 robux. 1 robuck is 1¢

          I don’t think you can sell for real money though.

          1. Di Modica's Dumb Steer

            That’s covered in the second video in a bit of detail, but in short, like with most platforms where real money is used to buy fake money, there are many grey market sites where transactions are facilitated, cutting out the middleman.

            One of the examples the video gave was with ‘getting paid’ for your ‘game’ in Roblox – one gets paid in Robux, which you generally need to buy outside the game. In order to withdraw Robux to USD, you need to have at least 100,000 Robux, equivalent to $1,000 USD, if purchased outside. But if you withdraw 100,000 Robux to USD, you will receive $350.

            The video is much more elegant, but it’s a huge skim off the top.

  11. cocomaan

    Gotta say, I’m sensing a super pissed off populace going into omicron. Seeing that list of social benefit programs that are turning off is staggering.

    Are the Democrats ready to own this going into 2022? They seem to be, because they appear to not care.

    Giving a good 40 million people a taste of freedom from student debts, and many more the freedom from other financial debts like rent, etc, and then letting the other political party be the one to do away with that freedom, might be the most enduring piece of the Trump presidency, and one we haven’t really understood yet.

    January is going to be a shitshow!

    1. Carolinian

      Berenson says his new mini book on the pandemic is number one among Kindle books. Apparently Robert Kennedy Jr’s book is also doing well.

      1. Arizona Slim

        I am reading RFK Junior’s book right now. And let me tell you, it is one tough read. I can only read a few pages at a time, and then I have to stop and digest the material.

        1. petal

          Hey Slim, by “one tough read” do you mean hard/difficult, or upsetting-like you read a few pages and need to let it roll around the brain and give yourself time to decompress and let the upset/p-edoffedness wear off?

          1. Arizona Slim

            Slim here!

            In answer to petal’s question, let me say this about RFK Junior’s book. It isn’t hard to read, but the material that’s being covered? Holy family blog!

            I can only read a few pages before I’m ready to blow my stack. Heck, if you were at my place, you’d see the smoke pouring out of my ears.

            This book is making me mad, all right. But it also is showing me how to see right through all of the BS that’s being shoveled our way.

            1. petal

              Morning, Slim! That is great, thank you! Much appreciated. Exactly what I was wondering. It was like that for me whilst reading The Devil’s Chessboard about Dulles, and The Whiskey Rebellion by Hogeland. I’ll put it on my get list. Take care.

  12. Carolinian

    Re Cobb County, GA–I used to live there and at the time it was considered the state’s most Republican leaning. Not only is there Dobbins AFB but also a huge Lockheed plant that during WW2 made B-29s. But hey the military is woke now so maybe Cobb too? I haven’t been there in years but somehow I doubt it.

  13. Bill Smith

    “The Death Toll Says It All”, remark on Social Security.

    Covid has been bad for the Social Security Trust Fund.

    “The new projections in the annual Social Security and Medicare trustees reports indicate that Social Security’s massive trust fund will be unable to pay full benefits in 2034 instead of last year’s estimated exhaustion date of 2035.”


  14. Lee

    Covid Testing:

    This isn’t quite, I take two tests before I take two test then I take more, but I’m getting there.

    I’m taking a required Covid PCR test two days before an upcoming medical procedure and then, on my own initiative, quarantining away from fellow household members prior to taking a second PCR test a few days after the procedure in spite of being assured by my primary care provider, K., that both the second test and quarantining are probably unnecessary because,

    “The preventative measures that the healthcare facilities are taking including universal masking, vaccinations of employees and pre procedure testing of patients have been very successful. [Vax, vax, vax, but no mention of ventilation at the facility, which I have specifically asked about and received disturbingly vague answers.]

    “To date, there do not appear to be any nosocomial Covid 19 infections….[“Appear”? Really? Would we be told if there had been? I can find no pertinent data or reporting.] You have also received your 3 vaccines as well as I assume are practicing all the precautions (masking, social distancing, hand washing, etc) [I assume ventilation is included under “etc”] to also layer on protection against contracting the disease. As long as your household has also been vaccinated and are also practicing the same precautions, your risk is much improved. [Yeah, well I’m improving on those improvements].

    “Taking a post procedure covid 19 test is another layer of reassurance [Which you, K., initially advised was unnecessary], but as stated, there is no need for quarantine as your level of any exposure during your procedure remains extremely low. [low > 0 where I come from. ]”

    I’m getting the feeling that my PCP doesn’t like assertive patients, or is it just me she doesn’t like?

    1. Terry Flynn

      Dislike patients? No never. Sorry, that’s totally wrong. My General Practice loathes me. I am forbidden from looking up my own record but I can predict it very very well.

      “Too clever by half” – he’s either wrong and a malingerer or right and shows us up. Whaddya expect? You missed my congenital heart condition. ED consultant did tell me “you have a family blogging PhD in the area – start using it”. So I did. Now my doctors hate me. I was a whistle blower. BAD CAREER MOVE. Got 2nd chance in academia – called out awful person. Quit on the spot and didn’t do my notice period. Charged my plane fare from Sweden back to UK to my boss and he paid up because he knew I was right and he was honourable.

      GP back here in UK hated me because she had to fire incompetent junior (this actually blew up because the HOSPITAL said this practice is dangerous and so I had to testify). So medical doctors generally hate me…… Until a global pandemic means “employ Terry to do admin or chemo schedules don’t happen on time and patients can die”. Funny how life works eh? Just glad I have really nice oncologists to work with now.

      1. Michael Ismoe

        It’s better to lose a patient than an argument with a patient. It’s in the Hippocratic Oath.

  15. Terry Flynn

    Bit of a random comment but does illustrate there are some corners of the world who’ve recognised airborne nature of covid from the get-go. I work in a hospital that could be regarded as pretty “old fashioned and confusing” ….. Being built into a hill where south side entrances are “lower ground floor” and North side ones are “ground floor – one floor up”.

    Lots of exterior doors. Open most of the time but lots of staff watching. Bad point? We staff all work with layered clothing to account for where we need to be. Good point? Most of the hospital is full of wind tunnels blowing covid outside. So given NC’s earlier article about heart issues (not good for a guy whose heart is probably twice as old as his physiological age) I don’t feel so exposed.

    Of course I could be safer by not working. But that’s not me. I like the job. Plus I’ve “achieved my first career” before my heart went seriously wrong. So I’ll do what I can. I DO overhear stuff that’s interesting but can’t post since I don’t use a pseudonym. We live in interesting times.

    1. Lee

      I may know the facility of which you speak. It is a remarkable feat of labyrinthine architectural engineering on an impressive scale where I’ve gotten totally lost whenever I’ve gone there.

      1. Terry Flynn

        Sometimes even a pathogen, when faced with a labyrinth with weird blasts of air like in an Indiana Jones movie, just goes “sod it I’m off to the nearest Wetherspoons Pub – much easier pickings”

          1. Andrew

            Most of the patrons of Wetherspoons pubs look like prime suspects for Covid i.e middle aged, smokers, heavy drinkers, overweight.

      2. R

        Digression: the chemistry department in Cambridge was built with an odd number of floors on one side and an even number on the other. Entirely gratuitously, there are no hills in Cambridge and the whole building was built at once, not extended! The teaching labs were sesqui/double height to exacerbate the confusion. I think there was a weird mezzanine floor to absorb the differences at the east end. The result was a nagging uncertainty as to where anything was. Only the basement was certain!

  16. Carolinian

    File under Faceplant–Pelosi may break her vow to step down after next year’s election.


    a portrait emerges of a leader who still commands respect, and no small measure of fear, within her caucus. (Many of those members requested anonymity to speak frankly with CNN and did not want to anger Pelosi or be seen feeding a narrative about Democratic infighting).

    So a vote for Congressional Dems is a vote for two more years (why stop there..Strom Thurmond lived to be 100) of Nancy or even worse guessing whether she’ll be merciful and spare us. That’ll turn em out at the hustings.

    1. Lee

      The old gal has a gavel in one hand and a fist full of dollars in the other, both of which will have to pried from her cold, dead talons.

      1. newcatty

        An image of a coin minted in her honor came to mind. One side would have Pelosi holding the gavel in one hand and a bunch of green leaves ( sylized to look like dollars) in the other. The flip side would be an image of the peoples’ House on the other.

      2. chris

        I see Pelosi and I think that the Other Mother from Coraline stopped scaring kids because she could eat their parents instead.

    2. Screwball

      I just saw on Twitter she is Time Magazines Trader of the Year. Might be too much to give up. :-)

      a portrait emerges of a leader who still commands respect, and no small measure of fear, within her caucus. (Many of those members requested anonymity to speak frankly with CNN and did not want to anger Pelosi or be seen feeding a narrative about Democratic infighting).

      This is why I would never be good in congress. I would not have one iota of a problem telling Nancy where to stick it and how fast. I’ll stop there as it only gets worse.

  17. lakecabs

    It’s an ugly thought, but this may say more about Johns Hopkins than Holmes? Granted, I don’t know the detail on this. Readers?

    In real estate scams you need appraisers.

    In stock market scams you need accountants.

    In reseach scams you must need John Hopkins or Dr Fauci.

    1. Robert Gray

      > In reseach [sic] scams you must need John [sic] Hopkins or Dr Fauci.

      One of the most closely-followed (including here at Water Cooler) compiler/analysts of global corona data is a lab at Johns Hopkins. Are you suggesting that they are corrupt or unreliable?

  18. Andrew Watts

    RE: The force of historical decline.”What causes national and civilizational decline?”

    The people. It’s always the people.

    There is nothing more conducive to the destruction of a nation, whether it be a republic or monarchy,
    than the lack of men of wisdom or intellect. When a republic has many citizens, or a monarchy many
    ministers, of high quality it quickly recovers from losses that are brought about by misfortune. When
    such men are lacking, it falls into the very depths of disgrace. That is why I deplore the present state
    of the Empire which, having produced so many excellent men in the past, has now been reduced to
    such a level of sterility that today’s governors possess nothing to elevate them above whom they
    govern. -Emperor John VI Cantacuzenus

    The Comte de Paris, the pretender to the French throne, in his histories of the Civil War in America stresses the importance of mimesis. He uses the examples of the battle of Fort Necessity and Braddock’s defeat. In the former case it inspired the American rebels to victory at Bunker Hill. In the latter the lessons learned led to the defeat of an advancing enemy through the cutting off of their supplies and neutralizing their superiority at Saratoga.

    Hmm, sounds familiar. Anyway, when an US Army Lt. Colonel by the name of Yingling loudly complained that America’s military leadership was making the same mistakes in Iraq that it had in Vietnam you begin to see how mimesis has broken down. Which led to the result everybody saw in Afghanistan and Iraq. Oh, and this Lt. Col. Yingling? You’ll never guess what he was calling for in an open letter before the presidential election.

    Which is to say I agree with Galbraith’s conclusion that the necessary factors for another New Deal don’t exist. Even if they did who would really want to replicate it? I’m being completely serious. This country is filled with a bunch of petty tyrants that think their crap doesn’t smell even though they’re three generations removed from trash. That’s the legacy of the New Deal in the present. As for Thiel’s plan, if it even works, and the far right takes power in America… somebody is going to stick him in an oven for his “degeneracy”.

    Not a man of wisdom, or vision, in my humble estimation.

  19. Mikel

    The Bezzle: “Car Companies Want You to Keep Paying For Features You Already Have”

    Possibly the reason for such a long delay with the electric car roll out. Electric cars could have already been on the streets in much greater numbers. They never had to be self-driving.
    The carbon emission and certain requirements can be made for the electric car, but software updates wouldn’t be required to have a functioning and approved car.
    Howevery, by waiting and putting out masses of electric cars that only includes software that has to be updated…bingo.

      1. Late Introvert

        Reminds me of an old joke a friend sprung on my dad. They were looking over his recently purchased Fiesta (gawd what a terrible car) and Ken said “brakes were extra”. My dad howled.

    1. Altandmain

      The battery costs are the main bottleneck more so than anything else.

      After years of falling, they are now rising again.


      That’s coming from someone who worked in the industry at a company that made parts for batteries. There are a lot of unethical practices in the car industry, but making stuff up is totally counterproductive.

      There are serious barriers such as whether or not there is enough lithium in the world and if not, what alternative battery chemistry should be used or hydrogen fuel cells.

      I should also mention that I don’t like the subscription model either. It seems to be hitting gas and EV cars however, so it’s not really a barrier to EV adoption.

    2. cnchal

      . . . But there is another type of over-the-air upgrade that makes a lot less sense for the consumer. These are upgrades that make the car better at being a car. For example, a long range Model 3 with dual motors is capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds. But when you buy the car, it has a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds. Owners must pay another $2,000 to unlock that extra half a second. . .

      Too bad it doesn’t go the other way. If I could add three seconds to my zero to sixty time and get $12,000 off I might be tempted to suspend my car buying rule of nothing newer than 2006.

  20. marym

    From PEN America:
    Educational Gag Orders: Legislative Restrictions on the Freedom to Read, Learn, and Teach

    This report reflects 54 educational gag orders that state legislators introduced in the first nine months of 2021.

    …Taken together, these efforts amount to a sweeping crusade for content- and viewpoint-based state censorship.

    This report offers an in-depth analysis of these state legislative efforts from January to September, 2021. We document the origins and extensive spread of various proposals and describe the many legal, constitutional, and civic concerns they raise.

  21. Matthew G. Saroff

    The reason that, “The institutional, infrastructure, resource basis, and psychological foundations for a Keynesian revival no longer exist,” is Bill Clinton’s “Reinventing Government” initiative, which outsourced core government functions, as well as the management of these core government functions to the private sector.

    1. lance ringquist

      BINGO! we cannot recover till bill clintons disastrous policies have been reversed. and it looks like they cannot.

  22. Joe Well

    Re: empty train to New York

    I have been visiting a few WeWorks in Boston because stir crazy.

    A scene of desolation. One empty office after another (WeWork offices all have glass walls). The plush common areas that can hold up to 500 people have maybe twenty or thirty in total at peak time.

    They are open 24/7. Last night I stayed til 8 and realized I was the only one there with Muzak playing eerily down empty hallways.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Wolf Street recently covered the current state of WeWork, and it isn’t good. Note the company-wide occupancy rate of 56%, which means a vacancy rate of 44% in this article:


      As mentioned here previously, I was part of a coworking space in Downtown Tucson. It went out of business in 2019, and before it did, I noticed the vacancy rate sinking down to around 20%. Since this place didn’t have access to investor capital the way WeWork does, it shut down.

      1. Joe Well

        There is no way on earth the vacancy rate in Boston is only 44%. I would more likely guess 90% and especially if you include the shuttered locations (were they really able to get out of those long term leases?).

        Wework is a cash bonfire on a par with he national security/defense world.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      It may seem hard to believe, but Terry McAuliffe is better than at least three current state wide office holders in Virginia.

  23. NotTimothyGeithner

    Where was the Clinton Vice-Presidential choice’s staff on this?

    Most running mates are there to make the top of the ticket look good. Hillary had a very short list.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I know Biden is a terrible human being, but watching his recent performance, I’m starting to think the Clintonistas are so loyal to Mother they are actively sabotaging Biden in hopes of a Hillary 2024 campaign, even their own jobs.

      1. Pat

        NTG, I bow to no one in my certainty of the Clintonistas perfidy, but I think you may be attributing a level of competence to them they just do not have. Similar to Mother, they have been faking it for decades. The difference between now and the Bush years is that decades of bipartisan neoliberal destruction of the bureaucracy have left no one who can do the actual drudge work, usually by ignoring the idiots of the day.

  24. Wukchumni

    Our oak trees here still are loaded with green leaves that should have succumbed to gravity a few months ago, that is after many of them had shed some leaves in July & August which I can’t remember happening before. In the age old pattern we used to know, the trees would be bare now and leaf out in March

    I’ve been reading accounts of unusual tree behavior all over the world, fruit trees about to bloom in the winter and new growth on trees that would normally have nothing on them, along with odd leaf behavior as mentioned above.

    What to make of this out of character activity?

  25. ambrit

    You can’t make this s*it up department.
    We get to gaze adoringly at Hunter Biden’s canvas, “Portrait of Shakespeare,” while Pissarro is forbidden to us. Oh how I yearn for one of Pissarro’s plein air studies of a rural village.

    1. Coldhearted Liberal

      Am I the only one who sees a person putting their fist in their mouth in the above painting? Seems emblematic.

  26. The Rev Kev

    “Boeing wants to build its next airplane in the ‘metaverse’ ”

    Gets better and better. Boeing are now pushing aside actual aircraft engineers for what? Code jockeys? So what happens when they have their digital plane finished and an actual engineer has to explain to them that it is not possible to build some parts of the design as they stand? I suspect that when a new plane starts to be first built, that those on the floor have to learn how to build it and what parts of the design may be flawed. This promises to be worse. I would bet that Boeing would back up the code jockeys rather than the actual aircraft engineers in a dispute and say ‘I don’t care what you think – just build it!’.

    1. gc54

      The idea is to fly the plane only in the Metaverse. Lowers the carbon output.

      Novel idea: run 10,000 copies in parallel and see which slightly tweaked design doesn’t crash. You have your answer, off the the 3D printer then autoclave!

  27. VietnamVet

    Dr. Michael Mina again makes sense. He keeps popping up thanks to his Harvard connections.

    Even before the pandemic hit, nothing much happens in the week between Christmas and New Year’s except travel, gifts, and parties. This is the perfect time to eradicate coronavirus. But this requires coordination and the nation working together. Can’t have that! Public health is heresy to the ruling elite. Only a new reformation, a return to reality, will save the West. A fifth U.S. Omicron wave or at best a plateau seems inevitable as the last surviving un-vaxxed are picked off to allow the profiteering to continue.

  28. rowlf

    Not sure where to share this bit of regulatory ball dropping. Who could’ve known?

    FAA Issues 5G ADs

    The FAA has issued two airworthiness directives (ADs) requiring flight manual revisions “to incorporate limitations prohibiting certain operations requiring radio [also called radar] altimeter data when in the presence of 5G C-Band interference.”

    Radio altimeter data is used for low visibility and no visibilty autoland landings.

  29. NotTimothyGeithner

    Vice President Kamala Harris is supposed to be a guest on Charlamagne Tha God’s comedy central show (yeah, I’ve been watching South Park). His radio show was where Biden’s “you ain’t black” came from. I can’t imagine a Colbert produced tv show would dare be edgy, but it might be mildly interesting to see what kind of effort the Harris campaign is going to put forth.

    She’s so awful, even soft ball questions could be a disaster.

    Update: I was snotty too soon. Charlamagne asked if Joe Manchin was the real President, and Harris said not to sound like a Republican. Hahahaha. She really is beyond belief. No wonder little Pete thinks he has a shot in 2024.

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      LOL … someone’s running the numbers in Team-Blue-Consultancy-Grift-Land … and it don’t look good for Kamala.

  30. ChrisRUEcon

    “Democrats should worry about what’s happening in Biden country”




    ” … the Obama administration had pulled the global financial system back from the brink of the 2008 crisis and passed a major domestic stimulus. But the White House’s ineffectiveness touting these achievements ultimately led to a drubbing in the 2010 midterms, with Republicans ending unified Democratic control of Congress.”


    “… the Obama administration rescued the criminal global financial system which caused the 2008 crisis, but failed to pass a meaningful domestic stimulus for “Main Street” (instead choosing to give in to Larry Summers’ tepid version). Subsequently, the Obama White House’s willful ineffectiveness ultimately led to a drubbing in the 2010 midterms, with Republicans ending unified Democratic control of Congress.”


  31. Tom Stone

    The Trump Administration did a better job of dealing with Covid than the Biden administration and also displayed more empathy for the populace by providing concrete material benefits than the Biden administration has.

    Biden is less competent and less empathetic than Trump…

    Words fail me.

  32. Boomheist

    This weekend I’m thinking about Watergate, the scandal that began when some operatives burgled a Democratic office and got caught. That happened in the run-up to the 1972 election, which Nixon won hugely, in June I believe. I was fishing then, off New England, chasing offshore lobster in Lydonia Canyon out on the edge of the shelf, maybe 120 miles from Nantucket. My skipper, Sten, who passed away in 2000, was an avid reader of Doonesbury. He had a close friend, David Martin, also long gone, who had worked on Elliot Richardson’s staff back when Richardson was instrumental in establishing the Cape Cod National Seashore. Sten followed politics, sort of, which we learned in the coming two years as you will see.
    I have a very vague and dim memory of reading about the break-in. The “Plumbers,” I think they were called.
    We had a very tough summer, that summer, because we had switched from long lining for cod and haddock to the lobster fishery and we were making every mistake you could make, plus fighting for bottom with other lobster boats in the deep canyons off Massachusetts. However, by the fall we started to make some money, land some big trips. We had 600 traps, in 50 trap strings, out there and we would fish those traps for a week or ten days before coming in. We had a flooded lobster hold with refrigeration. In the late fall, November, we chased the lobsters up into shoal water, 30-50 fathoms, on the slope of Georges Bank, and on December 7th a Russian fleet of four boats came upon us and our gear and nearly wiped us out, towing through the traps such that we lost 500 of the 600 traps despite our best efforts to wave them away. A little 65 foot wooden longliner against 300-foot  Russian stern trawlers is no match at all.
    That winter, 1972-1973, I was living in a drafty cottage in Dennis, Mass, with the remaining 100 traps stacked alongside the driveway, and while Sten chased funding for more traps I spent the winter with piles of five-eighths inch polypropylene line splicing and rigging the 50-trap “trawls” in the living room. This was a lot of splicing – splicing sections of groundline together with long splices, splicing into the line loops for the brummel hooks to attach the trawl to, splicing in the brummel hooks, and splicing the collars and loop[s and hooks for the 500 new 48 inch long lobster traps, made of plastic coated stiff wire. I’d sit in the living room with gear all over, a sharp knife, bent over, splicing.  It was a long winter, cold. This was the start of the Energy Crisis, embargoes, lines at gas stations, and pundits spoke of a coming ice age.
    I watched a lot of TV, the one station I could see, a black and white flickering screen, long before cable TV let alone the web, and consequently I ended up watching all the televised Watergate hearings that winter, Sam Ervin, Butterfield, John Dean, Howard Baker, endless hours of testimony about the break in. I was watching when Butterfield (I think it was Butterfield) announced that all the meetings in the Oval Office were taped. It was a sensation, pandemonium.
    That spring we went back out there with the new gear and tried to recoup our losses. The Watergate thing moved along, with stories about tapes and fights for tapes, and John Dean was accused of being a traitor to the Republican cause, and all the Republicans, to a man (they were nearly all men then) howled that the entire Watergate thing was a political witch hunt. Still, a special prosecutor was appointed in the early summer of 1973, Archibald Cox, and thus began a bitter fight over tapes and their release.
    Meanwhile we fished, hard, barely hanging on. Lydionia Canyon became too crowded and we heard there were a lot of lobsters being caught up on Brown’s Bank, Canadian waters off Nova Scotia, at the same time as Sten arranged with his Nova Scotian friends (half our crew were boys from Clark’s Harbor, Nova Scotia) to rig out a longliner to harpoon swordfish, which we would take aboard at sea and bring back to the US for sale, splitting the money. Swordfish was illegal then due to a mercury scare. We ended up loading all our gear on the boat, three total round trips, and moved it to the southwest tail of Brown’s Bank. The tides were awful up there and we hid in the fog and sank the buoy lines, grappling them up to haul gear using the Loran A to find it.
    Big mistake, all the way around. In the end we moved the gear back to a little unnamed canyon east of Lydonia and did OK, and through the fall made a year of it.
    Labor Day weekend that summer, 1973, we were between trips to our gear (which was a 16 hour steam from the boat’s base in Hyannis, Mass) and Sten asked me and Gary, another member of the crew, if we’d help him because he had agreed that weekend to take his boat to Chatham to pick up some people and then go out to Monomoy Island to the outer beach – his friend, David Martin, the wife and grown kids of Francis Sargent, former governor of Massachusetts, and Elliot Richardson and his wife. Richardson, from Massachusetts, was the Attorney General of the United States at this time, and Gary and I knew he had been under intense pressure all summer concerning Archibald Cox, Watergate, and what to do.
    We picked everyone up at Stage Harbor, Chatham – I brought the boat with Gary up from Hyannis and we met Sten there –  and motored about fifteen miles out to the end of Monomoy Island, where we anchored just offshore and rowed everyone in to the beach. It was more than a little intimidating to be right next to the Attorney General, and a former governor’s family, especially because Gary and I looked like long haired hippies, especially after the summer we’d had, and when we got to the beach everyone ate from the picnic basket and then Gary and I took off over the dunes because we both felt out of place and awkward. Elliot Richardson had brought fishing gear and he was setting up to surf cast. He’d be standing at the most eastern end of the Cape Cod mainland, miles from any houses or people, facing the Atlantic, Washington and the political fever far to the south.
    Gary and I, over the dune and across the point that ended the island, hung around and then, because it was a hot sunny day and what the hell, went swimming, bare ass naked. The water was nice, even warm, and we were in the water a while. When we came out, though, a current had carried us one way and Elliot had come the other way, casting, and when we emerged there we were, streaming water and without clothes, ten feet from the Attorney General. Elliot was totally unfazed by us, polite. In fact I think he was delighted to be in such a contrast to the fevers back in DC.
    “How was the swimming?” he asked us.
“Nice. How was the fishing? Catch anything?”
“That isn’t the point.” He smiled at us. We smiled back.
    That fall the Watergate events heated up. Sten would, while hauling gear way offshore, tune in an AM radio so he could hear the headlines. He ran the boat out on deck on the starboard side and he could hear the radio through an open pilothouse window. I was working aft of him, emptying traps as they came from the water. Sten would yell aft to the rest of us when things happened.
    “Nixon’s trying to fire Cox!”
“Richardson resigned! Ruckelshous resigned!”
“They’re calling it the Saturday night massacre!”
    The following spring and summer, now two years since that 1972 break in, evidence mounted as some tapes were released, yet still the Republicans stood as a bloc against anything changing, stood as a bloc claiming this must be a witch hunt. However, once Alexander Butterfield said there were tapes, the witch hunt argument weakened.
    That summer Nixon resigned, and he resigned because, eventually, the Republican Senators came to see the battle must be lost, the evidence was too overwhelming, and once the Senators turned, it was over, and Nixon was gone.
    I am thinking of Watergate these days because, while the Watergate scandal was very different than the issues surrounding the January 6th attack on the Capitol, there has been one great similarity – months and months of solid Republican unity, unity in favor of their President or former President.
    But, when Butterfield made the announcement there are tapes, and I sensed then that the character of the situation had changed materially, so now with the release of phone records and text messages, speculation must now shift to awareness and reality. It is hard to claim a political witch hunt in the face of evidence, visible to all.
    It feels, right now, very much the way it felt at the end of July, 1974, when evidence became a torrent and it was abundantly clear laws had been broken. I have said to myself throughout this latest January 6th event that unless and until members of the former Presidents party accept evidence as true and significant, little can and will change. This has been especially the case even though Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger have shown great courage to pursue the truth, but them alone.
    It feels, right now, based on Mitch McConnell’s statements about seeing where the investigation leads, something might be shifting.
    Back in the late summer of 1974 I had no idea, standing embarrassed and naked before the U.S. Attorney General, surely facing the decision of his lifetime, that I was standing before a true and real American hero. But I was. I am lucky for that. We are all lucky for that. Now, a half century later, will more heroes emerge?

    1. caucus99percenter

      In my view it’s Russiagate that cries out for Watergate-scale investigation and prosecution — not Jan. 6.

    2. howseth

      Spring-Summer of 74′ I sublet an apt in Arlington from a sailor gone out at sea (Navy, actually).

      I had come to the Capital to volunteer at the Folk Music archives of the Library of Congress – and hitchhiked into D.C every day. Therefore, I was strolling around The Congress building dab in the middle of the budding Watergate investigations – Yet – frankly it was not at the fore of my mind – I was into the music – and more concerned about the draft – (though I had the handy college deferment) I was not hearing insider Watergate gossip in the Folk Archives..

      I did have a little B&W TV to watch the news – so somewhat aware of Watergate – and the growing cast of characters – some soon to be in jail… Names – many – still remembered.

      Will heads roll this time around? Seems like they should – but these are different times – with this vast social media – and its closed information silos and it’s Fox ‘News’, Breitbart, One America News Network, etc…

      As for now – the big boys are acting like they will walk – hope I’m wrong.

  33. YetAnotherChris

    Vax anecdata from Minneapolis: I heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend that one could get a booster shot on a walk-in basis at a downtown facility known as the Red Door Clinic. I wore four masks and waited longer than I would have liked, but the technician was agreeable to the mix-n-match strategy (2x Pfizer plus Moderna). I asked about aspirating the needle and they said, “That’s not recommended” and then stressed that it is an intramuscular injection. Fond hope, I thought. “But, good question!” Then I got a $50 gift card for my troubles. It’s insane that I heard about this by happenstance. People in Upstate NY are waiting weeks and driving for hours to get boosters, and this program in Minnesota is not even publicized.

  34. NorD94

    on the questions about Antifa at Jan 6, from thehill.com

    Jan 2, 2021: Proud Boys to attend Jan. 6 DC rallies ‘incognito’

    Members of the far-right group the Proud Boys will attend Washington, D.C., rallies for President Trump on Jan. 6 “incognito,” with leaders of the group saying they will dress in “all BLACK” to mimic the attire of anti-fascist groups and counterprotesters.

    The group is known for its signature black and yellow clothing during rallies and protests, where they typically appear in large groups. The group’s chairman, Enrique Tarrio, announced on social media that group members “might dress in all BLACK for the occasion.”

    even foxnews

    Jan 2, 2021 Proud Boys flock to Washington ‘incognito’ for Jan. 6 protests – Metropolitan Police brace for massive pro-Trump protests

    ProPublica has a screen capture of the Enrique Parler post

    Jan 9, 2021: Members of Several Well-Known Hate Groups Identified at Capitol Riot – A ProPublica-FRONTLINE review of the insurrection found several noted hardcore nativists and white nationalists who also participated in the 2017 white power rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    Were the Jan 6 people dressed like Antifa really Antifa? or Proud-Boys cross dressers? Not sure if this would have complicated plans for the National Guard to protect Trump supporters.

  35. Soredemos

    “At some point, accountability arrives. The body count, the organic damage, is simply too high.”

    Is it though? We’re pushing a million corpses and there are still a huge number of people who don’t take it seriously (“AIN’T NOBODY GONNA TELL ME HOW TO LIIII-III-IIIVE!”).

    Maybe the damage is just stacking up below the surface and will eventually burst out, but so far it seems it may be possible that our society really can just absorb all this death and move on. Which says nothing good about our society.

    If there is a breaking point, what is it? Because it’s clearly not a million dead. Two million? Five?

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