2:00PM Water Cooler 12/23/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I will be running open threads from tomorrow (Christmas Eve) to the first business day of the New Year, January 3. I’ll still run Bird Song of the Day, the plant, a Covid chart (probably US cases), and possibly a conversation started or too. If my brain were a Corsi box, I would definitely need to change the grey and gunked-up filters that processing the zeitgeist has given me. I need a breather.

I also plan to do a little refocusing on structure. In production, I always do the Politics section last, exactly because it’s my favorite, but that means in practice I give it short shrift. So I plan to beef that up, and triage some other stuff. This is important because I expect 2022 to be a doozy. If you have comments on refocusing you can mail me at the address given in contact information near the plant. Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, Io, Saturnalia, etc. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Another migratory bird. From the Media Notes: “Flight calls from 10 pairs, engaging in chasing behavior and feet-clutching/spiralling; some nests were noted in the southern field.” From Behaviors: “Courtship, Display, or Copulation, Flight Song, Flying.” Very Lurtsema-like!

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Vaccination by region:

Either exhortations aren’t working, or there are data problems. Or both.

61.7% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, such as it is, as of December 22. The stately 0.1% rise per day returns. We have broken the important 61% psychological barrier! Mediocre by world standards, being just below Hungary, and just above Turkey in the Financial Times league tables as of this Monday).

Case count by United States regions:

Hearing toward vertical. I have added an anti-triumphalist “Fauci Line.” I wrote: “As happened in 2020, I would expect a second, higher peak, from Omicron if for no other reason.” Here we are.

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:

Case data (black dotted line) has been within the tolerance of the models; it does not conform to the models’ average (black line), but has stayed 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:

I wrote: “We’ll see if gets choppy again, or not.” Yes, we’ve got some choppiness (!).

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:

Ventura and Los Angeles now red. Boston to New York bad. More flecks of red in the South. Maine better Weird flare-ups, like flying coals in a forest fire. They land, catch, but — one hopes — sputter out.

The previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

This is the part of the tsunami where the water moves far away from the beach. 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: 833,029 830,990. At this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s. NOT UPDATED:

Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid):

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:

Gauteng goes to the beach or up-country; the UK goes to the pub. This is a log scale. Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away.


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

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

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

Biden Administration

“Sanders and the Squad Knew Manchin Couldn’t Be Trusted” [John Nichols, The Nation]. “Manchin couldn’t be trusted. The right strategy was to build a grassroots movement in West Virginia to pressure him to do the right thing, as the Rev. William Barber II and the Poor People’s Campaign proposed. Barber—like Sanders and the Squad—recognized, even if top Democrats did not, that it was going to take more than backroom negotiations to move Manchin.” • Really? First, who would build the movement? The NGOs, so it’s doomed. Second, any such movement needs to be organic to West Virginia. Third, the timetable is off. The legislative calendar is slow, but building a movement is even slower.

“The Democrats Are Trying To Lose” [David Sirota, The Daily Poster]. “On the one hand, we see congressional Democrats casting themselves as the heroes of a West Wing episode, rightly screaming about all the web of connections between the January 6th rioters, right-wing news outlets, and top Trump officials, who appear to have been entertaining plans for an actual coup. On the other hand, we see Democrats fully leaning into a likely 2022 disaster. They are going far beyond merely refusing to give Americans an affirmative reason to vote for them; in sabotaging their own purported agenda, they seem to be deliberately trying to lose to the very fascists they claim to oppose, going out of their way to insult and harm as many voters as possible before their likely collapse.” • It’s hard to think of a historical parallel for this level of idiocy.

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”:

It is said, I believe by Thomas Frank, that the Democrats are the Party of Betrayal. Certainly the “Build Back Better” debacle provides many examples of combinatorial betrayal. Manchin betrayed Biden (by lying to Biden at his house). Biden betrayed everybody (by believing, I am persuaded, and acting as if he had Manchin’s vote in his pocket*). Schumer betrayed everybody (by keeping Manchin’s written request a secret). Pelosi betrayed Jayapal (by splitting BIF and BBB into two bills and by relying on Republican votes). The Democrat leadership betrayed the Progressive Caucus (by explicitly and verbally making the face-to-face promise that BBB would be passed, and then not delivering). And, though this is harsh, Sanders betrayed his voters with his 2020 turn toward electoralism (by personally liking Biden, and relying on his deal-making ability, now shown to be a sham). I don’t think the Squad betrayed anybody, unless you regard participating in the process as a betrayal, so there’s that. NOTE * I believe Biden’s top line was Manchin’s from the beginning, and nowhere near Sanders’.

* * *

“Let’s Go Manchin” [Eoin Higgins, The Flashpoint]. “Democrats could deal with this problem by enforcing party discipline, but they appear unwilling to use their power. It’s past time they start fighting back.” • The notion of “party discipline” is alien to theDemocrat Party institutionally; see above. It’s comprised of “funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.” You don’t “discipline” a structure like that; “herding cats” is indeed an appropriate metaphor. The Democrat Party hive mind* may in fact come to a collective decision — as it did when declaring a state of exception during RussiaGate — but that’s not at all the same thing as party discipline as a whip among the electeds might conceive it (and not even then, really; look at Sinema). Recall that the Democrat Party is not a membership organization; you can’t pay yearly dues of twenty bucks and get a party card, as you could with the Labour Party in the UK. There, it’s theoretically possible to enforce party discipline by revoking membership. But not in the United States. Higgins’ article is an enormous category error. NOTE * “Hive mind” is a sloppy concept that I should replace.

Who doesn’t love a cop?

Republican Funhouse

“McConnell to Manchin: We’d Love to Have You, Joe” [New York Times]. • Worth a shot!

“Virginia Governor-Elect Taps Former MUFG Americas CEO as Finance Chief” [Bloomberg]. “Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin named Stephen Cummings a former president and CEO of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group in the Americas as the state’s secretary of finance. In February, Cummings announced that he was retiring from the company. MUFG has the biggest overseas operations among Japanese banks, with offices and subsidiaries in more than 50 countries. Cummings oversaw the bank’s sprawling businesses in the Americas, including MUFG Union Bank and MUFG Securities Americas. ‘Lowering taxes and restoring fiscal responsibility in Richmond is a primary focus of our Day One Game Plan, and Steve’s experience and expertise will help make sure we deliver real results for Virginians, ‘Youngkin said in an emailed statement Wednesday.” • Presidential timber?

I think if Youngkin were really Presidential material — as opposed to heavyweights like Abbott or DeSantis or Romney — the photographer would have managed to get a halo effect round Youngkin’s head (or Youngkin’s staff would have carefully created the opportunity).

“Former MUFG Americas head tapped as next Va. finance sec [Virginia Business]. “Cummings has a long resume in the area of investment banking, having also served as managing director and chairman of UBS’ American investment banking branch, Wachovia Corp.’s global head of corporate and investment banking, and chairman and CEO of Bowles Hollowell Conner & Co. A graduate of Columbia Business School and Maine’s Colby College, Cummings was the first non-Japanese CEO for Mitsubishi’s American market upon his hiring in 2015, and he oversaw the U.S. businesses held by the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, as well as serving as a member of MUFG Union Bank’s board of directors. He has been based in New York.”

Trump Legacy


This doesn’t look good. On the other hand, as the cases chart shows, the Biden administration has done a pretty good job on “Let ‘er rip,” albeit with a different set of people in charge. So I fail to get all huffy and excited. Am I jaded?

NSFW! “Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump” [Philosopher’s Magazine]. From 2016, still germane. “James begins the work by recapping the definition of the asshole he developed in his first book. On this view, the asshole has three essential features: First, he – James notes that assholes are mostly men – “allows himself special advantages in social relationships in a systematic way”; second, he is “motivated by an entrenched (and mistaken) sense of entitlement”; and third, he is “immunized against the complaints of other people”. Although James presents these as three separate yet equal features of the asshole, the entrenched sense of entitlement seems to be the causal mechanism behind the asshole’s systematic privileging of himself as well as his immunity to the criticisms of others. So understood, an asshole might simply be someone with an entrenched sense of entitlement. Although there are good reasons for thinking that Trump is an asshole so defined, two aspects of James’ analysis seem to conflict with this generally agreed upon premise. First, despite the common term “ass”, ass-clowns and assholes appear to be distinct and mutually exclusive types. Whereas the asshole’s immunity to criticism implies that he has little concern for the opinion of others, the ass-clown seeks the affection of others and so seems to lack the asshole’s innate sense that he is something special. Second, James eventually backpedals on his promise – implicit in the title – to offer “a theory of Donald Trump”. Because Trump is so many things – showman, bullshitter, racist, sexist, civically oblivious, authoritarian, demagogue – James concludes that there is no “real” Trump. But if there is no “real” Trump, Trump cannot really be an asshole. In contrast, the various aspects of Trump’s person that James identifies seem to be explained by a single fact: he really is an asshole!”

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits remained unchanged from last week’s upwardly revised level at 205 thousand in the week that ended December 18th, in line with market expectations and remaining below pre-pandemic levels.”

Personal Income: “United States Personal Income” [Trading Economics]. “Personal income in the United States increased 0.4 percent from a month earlier in November 2021, following a 0.5 percent growth in October and matching market expectations as most companies increased wages to attract and keep workers and in spite of waning federal stimulus. Wages and salaries rose 0.5 percent, slowing from a 0.8 percent gain in October while personal income receipts on assets grew 0.3 percent also slowing from 0.8 percent a month earlier.”

Personal Consumption: “United States Personal Consumption Expenditure Price Index” [Trading Economics]. “The personal consumption expenditure price index in the US increased 5.7 percent from a year earlier in November, the most in 39 years, reflecting increases in both goods and services. Energy prices were up 34 percent while food prices increased 5.6 percent. Excluding food and energy, the index was up 4.7 percent.”

Consumer Sentiment: “United States Michigan Consumer Sentiment” [Trading Economics]. “The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment for the US rose to 70.6 in December of 2021, from 67.4 last month and above preliminary estimates of 70.4 points.”

Durable Goods: “United States Durable Goods Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US manufactured durable goods rose 2.5 percent month-over-month in November of 2021, extending gains from a revised 0.1 percent increase in October and compared to market expectations of a 1.6 percent increase.”

* * *

Manufacturing: “U.S. FAA backs inspections, strengthening key part for Boeing 777-200 engines” [Reuters]. “The FAA issued three proposed airworthiness directives, a move that will allow Boeing 777-200 airplanes equipped with PW4000 engines to return to service as soon as early 2022. A fan blade failure prompted an engine to fail on a United Airlines (UAL.O) 777-200 bound for Honolulu after takeoff from Denver on Feb. 20. The incident showered debris over nearby cities, but no one was injured and the plane safely returned to the airport. The FAA said it was calling for strengthening engine cowlings, enhanced engine fan-blade inspection and inspection of other systems and components. The directives will require corrective action based on inspection results.” •

The Bezzle: “The Purdue Bankruptcy Didn’t Work” [Bloomberg]. “The value of Purdue/Knoa is perhaps a couple of billion dollars, several orders of magnitude less than the claims against it. As a general matter, this is sometimes a thing that happens: Sometimes there is a company, and it makes a product, and people like the product and buy it and it generates profits, and then the product turns out to do some huge harm, and the harm is many times greater than the profits, and someone else bears the loss. The company’s existence was a net negative: It generated some good and much more bad, and handing the good parts of the company over to the victims of the bad stuff cannot come close to compensating them. But there is also a more specific problem here, which is that the Sackler family extracted many billions of dollars of profits from Purdue over the years in the form of dividends, and if they hand over Purdue to its creditors (1) the creditors will not get very much out of it but (2) the Sacklers will remain very rich.” • So what’s the issue?

The Bezzle: “NHTSA probing Tesla after reports that drivers can play video games in motion” [ABC]. “U.S. traffic safety regulators have launched a formal probe into certain Tesla vehicles after reports emerged that drivers can play video games on the car’s touchscreen while in motion. A spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed to ABC News on Wednesday that the agency has opened a preliminary evaluation into certain Tesla vehicles, including the Model 3, S, X and Y, that were produced between 2017 and 2022. The investigation seeks to ‘evaluate the driver distraction potential of Tesla ‘Passenger Play,” the spokesperson told ABC News in a statement.” • Tesla’s just incorrigible.

Tech: “Tasty TV: Japanese professor creates flavourful screen” [Reuters]. • No.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 42 Fear (previous close: 35 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 31 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 23 at 12:45pm.

The Biosphere

“Could crushed rocks absorb enough carbon to curb global warming?” [National Geographic]. “The goal of ocean alkalinity enhancement is to accelerate the carbon-absorbing weathering of rock, which naturally occurs as rainfall washes over land into waterways and eventually the ocean. Similar action happens through the gradual erosion of coastlines through wave action. ‘It’s continuously happening,’ says Ulf Riebesell, a marine biologist at GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, who is leading the EU-funded team of 35 researchers. ‘The rock reacts with water, and during that reaction takes up CO2 from the atmosphere. The question is, can we significantly speed up that natural process? That’s what we’re simulating.’ ‘It’s a voyage into the unknown,’ says Riebesell. ‘There’s so much we don’t yet know. But what’s certain is that alkalinity enhancement has enormous potential. And we need to test it now, because we’re running out of time to save the planet.'”

“Seaweed discovery could help slow methane emissions” [Al Mayadeen]. “A Canadian farmer by the name of Joe Dorgan, who produces and distributes seaweed, stumbled upon a fresh discovery that may help reduce the impact of methane on global warming around the world. The seaweeds he harvested were previously used for livestock feed and as a fertilizer. According to CBS, Dorgan sent samples to Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia to test for organic certification. Through that, it was discovered that the high uptake of natural vitamins and minerals in seaweed drove up reproduction and milk production in cows. Dorgan then knew that seaweed would be healthy for cows, but research revealed an unintended consequence: seaweed made cows less gassy.”

“Beaver Dams Mean No Love Lost for Canada’s Emblematic Animal” [New York Times]. “Some communities in Alberta offer bounties on beavers’ tails. A mayor in Quebec has called for them to be “eradicated.” Fingers of blame frequently point their way, rightly or wrongly, for highway washouts, including some with fatal consequences. Farmers look on with despair as their land vanishes beneath a beaver pond. For the second time in the past 15 years, Colleen Watson watched this summer as beavers flooded a 100-acre woodlot in the Atlantic province of New Brunswick that her grandfather, a blacksmith, took as payment from a customer during the Great Depression. ‘I love to see the nature, right? You can watch it do its thing,’ Mrs. Watson said in a tone more of exasperation than anger with the animal. ‘The hate is what it’s done to my property.’” • I think we should give priority to the beavers and compensate humans as needed.

“Species richness stabilizes productivity via asynchrony and drought-tolerance diversity in a large-scale tree biodiversity experiment” [Science]. “Tree species richness improved community stability by increasing asynchrony. That is, at higher species richness, interannual variation in productivity among tree species buffered the community against stress-related productivity declines. This effect was positively related to variation in stomatal control and resistance-acquisition strategies among species, but not to the community-weighted means of these trait syndromes. The identified mechanisms by which tree species richness stabilizes forest productivity emphasize the importance of diverse, mixed-species forests to adapt to climate change.”

“Two Red Hill spills could be linked with one much larger than reported” [Hawaii News]. “‘The fuel should not sit on top of our aquifer while the Navy tries to figure out what is going wrong and what it can do to fix it,’ said Wade Hargrove, Deputy Attorney General.” • Wowsers, good thinking, US Navy.

Health Care

“US population growth at lowest rate in pandemic’s 1st year” [Associated Press]. • Good job!

“Beneath a Covid Vaccine Debacle, 30 Years of Government Culpability” [New York Times]. • Until…. Operation Warp Speed.

Class Warfare

“State efforts to curb porch theft has another potential victim: delivery workers” [Fast Company]. “Through interviews with 17 delivery drivers on various delivery platforms including Amazon Flex, Uber Eats, Instacart, Shipt, and DoorDash as part of a project on worker surveillance, we found that fear of being blamed for stolen or lost packages is universal. Drivers believe that, if a customer accuses them of stealing, the company will take the customer’s word over their own. As one Amazon Flex driver told us, ‘No matter what, it’s the driver’s fault. That’s Amazon’s philosophy, it’s the driver’s fault [and] the driver will get in trouble for it.’ This concern is not unfounded as retail companies have long treated employees with almost presumptive suspicion of theft, to the extent that they maintain a database of workers who have been suspected (but not convicted) of theft. This database is a permanent record that follows workers and can lock them out of future employment.” • Has anyone ever seen a good study on “porch theft”? Or is it just a marketing ploy for Amazon Ring?

“No, Large-Scale Societies Don’t Need Massive Inequalities” (interview) [Jacobin]. On The Dawn of Everything by the late David Graeber and David Wengrow. Wengrow: “There was an important paper published last year in the Journal of Human Evolution that went back and looked at the demographic realities of modern hunter-gatherer societies in Australia, Africa, and elsewhere. It found that their families were a bit like our families, where your blood relatives are often people you cannot get along with at all. And you’ll go to extraordinary lengths to move away and distance yourself from them. Their families were a bit like our families, where your blood relatives are often people you cannot get along with at all. [Merry Xmas!] But hunter-gatherers had sophisticated ways of doing this. They set up hospitality systems spanning continents so that, far from living in small-scale societies, they had a social world where you could potentially interact with many thousands of people. In reality, you wouldn’t do that. But those relationships existed in the same way that you’ll never meet most Americans but all of you still call yourselves American. They’re what Ben Anderson termed ‘imaginary communities.'” • One more goddamned book to read…

News of the Wired

Mr. Hi Hat:

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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 (SC):

SC writes:

The attached photo is a shipment of six young Camellia sinesis — Tea — that arrived yesterday from a nursery called ‘Camellia Forest. The plants are not fully unpacked in this photo, which shows the careful attention of the shipper. I am impressed with the good condition of the plants in spite of the primitive and inexpensive means employed to protect them in transit.

The variety, ‘Korea’, is claimed to tolerate Winter outdoors to Zone 7a. In colder climes, there are some limitations on where they can be planted with respect to local shade; apparently morning sun exposure is not good for them.

I tried to grow tea at home about 20 years ago and all the plants were eaten by grazers, probably rabbits. My thumbs have changed from a deep brown to a pale green hue over that interval and I’m trying again this year. Containers on benches may preserve these plants until they are large and tough enough to survive the rabbits.

My original thought back then was that I could simply, at need, take mature leaves from the shrubs and brew up hot tea, a neat form of edible landscaping. I’m less ignorant these days and I’ve learned that ‘that’s not how tea works.’ One is supposed to harvest from new growth and then process the leaves for storage. That sounds like a bit of a headache, but the plants are still neat landscape features and if I am still here when they are large enough for harvest, a few years from now, we’ll see whether my enthusiasm has waned. And if tea brewed from fresh mature leaves is not too harsh or otherwise undesirable, I may revert to the original low-effort harvest concept.

A wonderful project!

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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. curlydan

    “the first business day of the New Year, January 23″… uh, do you know about a lockdown that we don’t? Hey, I’m all for it.

    That CDC county map is a bit scary. There’s some red or orange surrounding nearly every top 10 city in the U.S. which are also like most likely vaccinated spots. Only Detroit seems spared although they already got hit in November.

    1. ambrit

      I can tell you that the two red areas in Mississippi correspond to, up north, Oxford, where the University of Mississippi has it’s main campus, (big college town,) and, middle of the state, Jackson, the Capitol and biggest city of the State. The red areas lower down in adjacent Louisiana are St Tammany parish, the big exurb of New Orleans, then New Orleans itself, and then Baton Rouge, itself a Capitol, a City, and a College Town.
      So, Down South, College Towns and Big Urban regions rock and roll with the Co-V. Logical enough.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > That CDC county map is a bit scary. There’s some red or orange surrounding nearly every top 10 city in the U.S. which are also like most likely vaccinated spots.

      Well spotted. Glad to see the regular material is read. I’m going to be very interested to see what the hospital map looks like in a week or so. “Mild,” or not?

  2. Wukchumni

    I’ve mentioned before about the only thing those in Congress can agree on is the renaming of post offices, there is broad agreement in this regard.

    My Kevin has been on a tear lately, co-sponsoring the renaming of 4 post offices across the land…


    Let’s dissect one of those renaming efforts:

    H.R.5949 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 615 North Bush Street, in Santa Ana, California, as the “Judge James Perez Post Office”


    The co-sponsors include: McCarthy, Pelosi, Nunes, Porter, McClintock, Khanna, Issa, Swallwell et al.

    These are politicians who adamantly dislike one another and really get nothing done otherwise, but give em’ a chance to rename a post office and they’re all over it, no party lines to cross, bay-bee!

  3. Mark Gisleson

    “The Democrats Are Trying To Lose”

    I’m not sure it’s on purpose. I sincerely believe that the Democrats are so immersed in the culture of business they’ve come to think that they’re entitled the run their party like Jeff Bezos runs Amazon.

    Almost every lousy D leader I can think of has dipped their beaks in the corporate trough, served on corporate boards or is married/related/hangs out with those who do. They are oblivious to the grassroots who surely will do whatever they are told to do because that’s how it works in the corporate world. And, like the corporatistas, if a problem can’t be solved with the usual BS, they bring in consultants who are hired based on how well networked they are.

    The top>down authoritarianism is not unlike the era of political bosses, but every political boss knew they had to deliver something to the voters, and that it had to be something voters really wanted and not a pat on the head and a free Successories calendar.

    1. lambert strether

      The electeds are only one component of the Party. Perhaps if they lose, other components can win (thinking especially of the intelligence community, here).

    2. John

      In our one dollar one vote democracy I am under the impression that they deliver everything their voters want. All those dollars speak and thus vote louder than the muffled murmurings from those tied and gagged in the trunk of our democracy.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > they deliver everything their voters want.

        And then there are the non-voters:

        More Americans voted in 2020 than in any other presidential election in 120 years. About 67% of eligible voters cast ballots this year, but that still means a third did not.

        That amounts to about 80 million people who stayed home.

        To better understand what motivates these nonvoters, NPR and the Medill School of Journalism commissioned Ipsos to conduct a survey of U.S. adults who didn’t vote this year. The Medill school’s graduate students did deep dives into various aspects of the survey here.

        Nonvoters’ reasons for not voting include:

        • not being registered to vote (29%)
        • not being interested in politics (23%)
        • not liking the candidates (20%)
        • a feeling their vote wouldn’t have made a difference (16%)
        • being undecided on whom to vote for (10%)

        They are disengaged, disaffected and don’t believe politics can make a difference in their lives. They are also more likely to be Latino, younger, make less money and have lower levels of education than voters.

        Another way of looking at this is that non-voters have, on the whole, a more accurate perception of the party system than voters (see the “industrial model” of Ferguson et al.).

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      If the “voters” are prepared to endure the pain of Republican rule, they can at least vote against the current Democrats until they are all retired to private life, and all their consultants and strategists can go unemployed and go hungry, because why would any Republicans ever hire them or contract with them?

      So that is one thing “voters” can still vote for. They can vote to burn the DemParty down.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Hell of a choice — since there are damn few viable (in the closed-box structure of electoral America) other-party candidates, voting out the Dem establishment fills the law-stamping seats with pure-evil “Republicans.” Who will then use their supermajorities to the maximum advantage of their owners/bribers, leading to complete f**king of all the one-person “voters” and the other powerless fractions of the political economy.

        So us mopes are presented with the “right” to play Russian roulette with bullets in all six chambers. And the clamps and screws of control of the minds, materiel and options of us mopes are cranked down so tight that the chances of any significant “progressive” change.

        Just how it seems to me. So nice that we have been left a few web sites like NC where we can point out to each other all the different ways in which we are screwed… and paint targets on each other for the eventual final lockdown, a la Hong Kong.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          If what you describe is the case, then “lesser-evilism” is still a viable survival strategy, and we should still vote for Democrats in order to escape the greater evil Republicans.

          And as long as horror without end is still better than an end with horror, we should keep voting Democrats in order to escape Republicans.

          But if one thinks the Democrats are part of the conspiracy to deliver America unto Republicans in the fullness of time while making money all the way down, at some point people may start voting to abolish the DemParty sooner to at least deprive them of some of their pleasure and money.

      2. fjallstrom

        I don’t get this logic. As long as the democrats are the other party in a duopoly, they can always run on not being the republicans, and vice versa. Parties in duopolies go extinct when they get replaced, so voting for the party you would like to replace the democrats makes more sense.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          But if the DemParty is immune to being replaced, then extermination or submission is the only choice it has left us.

    4. flora

      If the Dem elites change directions toward representing the economic interest of their voters they lose all that lovely donor money and grift.
      If they don’t change and lose they keep all that money coming in and can relax in the luxury of spending the next 2-4 years complaining about russiarussiarussia or whatever excuse du jour they invent. What a deal!

      That doesn’t mean the GOP is any better. Although, B still owes me $600. So there’s that.

      1. Hepativore

        I never got my $600 as well, despite claiming it on my tax return in March.

        The problem is that if the Democratic Party eventually does crumble and disappear like the Whig party did, would that just not leave us all under Republican uniparty rule for the foreseeable future? I doubt the Republicans would allow any future budding new parties to arise to challenge them as they will gerrymander new parties out of existence and then write the laws to effectively make it impossible for new parties to arise like it already is for third parties.

        It is hard to start a new party when the very institutions that you are trying to challenge are also in charge of setting the terms of elections themselves and sitting politicians can change said rules at any time, and often do, even mid-election.

        1. flora

          Start local, local elections, school board, county commission, etc for what works for you in the local area. National tags are unhelpful, and might even be counter productive. My 2 cents. Wishful thinking? Maybe.

        2. MK

          CA has worked hard to rub out Republicans and apparently races can have just democrats running against other democrats without a republican even on the ballot

        3. NotThePilot

          I’ve been tempted to comment several times when the current elephant-and-donkey show comes up, but I think this gets to the heart of the issue. I can speak from first-hand experience that living under Republican dominance usually sucks, and the Democrats cynically count on anxiety about that.

          In honor of us finally getting the Dune remake this year though, when I say the litany against fear and turn my mind’s eye to that path, the Republicans are mistaken if they think a massive win by default is good for them. It very well could wind up being more like the proverbial dog catching a semi. In short, I’m getting major Fugitive Slave Act vibes from the soon-to-be “winners” of our elections (and the losers / compromisers for that matter).

          Like someone mentioned previously in the comments (maybe Lambert?), beneath all the partisan craziness, there’s a pervasive sense that “nothing works anymore.” That’s not how people talk when they just think the wrong party is in charge, even if they’ll technically support the idea of a 3rd party when a pollster asks. That’s a criticism of the system itself.

          I could go into more details, but let’s say the Republicans start ramming through a bunch of laws, like the recent abortion laws. What makes them so sure the average, relatively apolitical American today will obey them? I’m sure militant conservatives think they can teach their morals to the kiddos and will harder state enforcement into existence. Well, joke’s on them because they’ve made sure there is no more real community for a morality to inhere in and there is no real state capacity.

        4. Lambert Strether Post author

          > I doubt the Republicans would allow any future budding new parties to arise to challenge them

          Any new party would need to be as serious about its politics as Republicans are (and I don’t mean the RINOs, either).

    5. dcblogger

      nobody is that stupid. why did Pelosi reappoint Steve as head of the DCCC again and again even after he lost spectacularly. why did Schumer back the Amy McGrath trainwreck. Nobody is that stupid.

      above all, why was Howard Dean’s 50 state program dismantled, never to be brought back? the donor community pays them to lose, so they lose. it is the Chicago White Socks 1919.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > above all, why was Howard Dean’s 50 state program dismantled, never to be brought back?

        I don’t think it’s quite as stark as “paid to lose.” I think the 1% funds and operates portfolios of alternatives — timelines, you might say. (Yes, there are the ideologues like the Kochs and Soros, but not every 1%-er is like that. Some are like angel investors, some are like VCs, some run family offices, others have foundations, others deliver money in paper bags….). The key thing is that some timelines are acceptable, and some are not. The ones that are not are culled from the portfolio,* i.e. money does not flow through the Party network to support them, and opposed entities and ideas are supported. I think that’s what happened to Dean; you can’t have a genuinely “popular” party base in an oligarchy, even if it would have made the Democrats healthier institutionally. Instead, we got, and still have, Pelosi and Schumer plus Obama). It’s the same with Sanders. Sanders, too, and his policies, were ruthlessly removed from the elite portfolio (I think because the lesson that the very, very wealthy took from the New Deal was “Never Again”). We’re seeing that play out with Build Back Better now….

        In a crisis, things correlate, and so all these portfolios could simultaneously end up looking very bad. But it would take a mammoth crisis. After all, the 1% came out of the Great Financial Crisis and the Covid Crisis richer and more powerful than ever. Capitalism, it seems, is antifragile.

        NOTE * For example, “paying people to say home” was not part of any portfolio, because that would have interfered with the wage relation. Shoveling money out the door through existing means like UI was fine. Fundamentally, nothing changed.

    6. WhoaMolly

      I think It’s much more important for members of PMC to demonstrate ‘class identification’ than to ‘win votes’.

      When it comes time for a PMC member to get a future PMC gig, I believe that a history of advocating and implementing “woke” policies will be much more important than delivering material benefits to deplorables. (Another word for delivering benefits would be governance.)

      If this theory is correct, then winning elections would not be very important.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > demonstrate ‘class identification’

        Unless class identification is sufficient to win elections (as it sometimes is) — an enormous number of voters having been suppressed. Makes me wonder how effective HR1 will really be, or effective at what.

  4. Joe Well

    Amazon Flex drivers will literally just toss a package onto the steps, whereas the post office will put it in the mailbox, behind storm door, etc., so it might just blow away.

    1. albrt

      People in my neighborhood in downtown Phoenix complain about packages disappearing all the time, so I think the phenomenon is at least somewhat real where I live. Given how much stuff people order from Amazon though, I’m not sure the disappeared packages are comparable to the percentage you would lose to shoplifting in a brick and mortar store.

      I would have thought that drivers would be the least likely suspects. It just doesn’t seem like a paying proposition given the allegedly intense tracking of packages and the fact that the driver will be the first one questioned. But then I hear about the Fedex driver in Alabama dumping whole truckloads of packages in a ravine and not getting caught until somebody unrelated to Fedex found the pile of packages, and I think maybe the tracking systems are not as great as they are supposed to be.

      1. GF

        Where we live in North Centralish AZ the problem is mail persons who can’t read addresses that leave packages at neighbors. Had one this morning delivered about 1/2 mile up the road.

    2. John Zelnicker

      Joe Well and others above – In Mobile there seems to be a rash of porch thefts. There was a thread two days ago on Next Door several hundred comments long about porch pirates, with pictures.

      Most mail boxes aren’t big enough for any but the smallest packages. In addition, USPS regs say nothing is supposed to go in a mailbox except US Mail.

      Of course, it’s only anecdata we’ve seen so far, but it looks like a real problem.

    3. Yves Smith

      We had a Fedex river leave a package right at the street….when the front porch is a very long walk up and the USPS and UPS and most Fedex drivers leave it at the driveway door.

      It sat there 2 weeks before we realized it was there.

      The driver also lied and said it had been delivered two weeks before (as in two weeks before he dumped it).

  5. Wukchumni

    Ensconced in a tacky rental mansion* in SoCal with a dozen family for the holidays, and found out that my brother in law’s kid is unvaccinated, the lone infidel in our midst.

    I tried to convince my sisters that going wine tasting was probably not the best idea, but off they went to mingle with more strangers. I offered to gladly open the many bottles of wine on hand here, but it isn’t the same thing, they claim.

    This is how I imagine conversation will go down:

    ‘…this vintage has an Ro of 3.67 and pairs well with illness’

    In for a penny, in for a pounding rules do apply, and if we all come down with the virus it wouldn’t surprise me all that much, but to lose it over an event that means bubkis to me in the guise of xmas, makes it even worse.

    * It’s a combination of mock Venetian and Mexican decor, and you just have to know that Bath, Bed and Beyond made a fortune selling the owners the furnishings, so completely overdone it is

    1. Samuel Conner

      how does that saying go? … something like ‘the difference between “enemies” and “family” is that you can pick your enemies’ ?

      1. Wukchumni

        I genuinely like our family with the feelings being mutual and i’ve always thought myself quite lucky to have such a cool mom and we all get along despite my brother in law being so far to the right politically that I saw him tip over last night, and it’s lucky he landed softly on his shoulder and not his temple, that might’ve been dangerous and how do you explain what went down to the ambulance driver?

      1. Wukchumni

        Venice Beach was recently overrun with homeless, think of a Coleman tent festooned with ceramic cherubs…

        Took a walk around the place and it’s an incompetent interior decorator’s whet dream and it’s raining, so appropriate.

    2. albrt

      We are in our summer home in Ohio, hanging around and visiting family. One group already cancelled due to a positive Covid test, allegedly acquired from a vaccination-apostate brother in law at a gathering of the other side of the family last week.

      Everybody is vaxxed and boosted, and we are taking some rapid tests before group events. These precautions are having the predictable effect of causing most of the folks to compensate by taking risks elsewhere, such as not masking in public and going to bars to meet friends before the family events.

      Like Wuk, I’m applying the penny-pound rule here. On the larger scale, I think it’s best to just assume the human population will be much smaller in 20 years, and to be glad I don’t have kids.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If the human population gets much smaller that fast, then the “kill 7 billion people and make it look like an accident” plan will have failed. Because a much smaller population in only 20 years will be too fast to look like an accident.

        Everyday people will start snarling around looking for ” whomever engineered this”.

    3. John Beech

      Wukchummi, I’ll pray for your well being.

      We’re blessed in that the only family we’ll see are those living with us, 100% vaccinated (and boostered) except for the 5 and 8 y/o who are home schooled and thus, don’t get out.

      We do all we can to minimize risk going so far as to pay for delivery of groceries refusing to take even the seemingly small risk of waiting for someone to load the car in a parking lot (SUVs, so open air between employee and driver). Over the top precautions? Maybe, but dead is forever. No, not afraid of dying but doing zero to hasten its arrival.

      So how old is the unvaccinated child? If they’re attending school in person, then that’s too much risk for us and they’d be asked to leave – post haste!

  6. Tom Stone

    I tuned in KGO radio while out and about earlier today and heard a Medical Eckspurt state that prior infection with Covid provides no protection from the Omicron Variant.
    “Omicron walks all over Natural immunity”
    He then went onto urge the unvaxxed to get vaxxed and the vaxxed to get boosters because “The Vaccines will protect you”.
    No qualifications.
    “The Vaccines will protect you”.
    “Trust me, I’m a Doctor”
    Meanwhile various professional sports leagues are cancelling and rescheduling games due to breakthrough infections among their fully vaxxed players..

  7. drumlin woodchuckles

    If “hive mind” is a sloppy formulation worth replacing, what could replace it? Something like ” Vulcan Mass Mind Meld”? Or ” spooky consensus at a distance”?

      1. Jessica

        Colluption Kind of ugly but it is a combination of corruption and collusion.
        Corrusion is an alterative combination. Hmm, that one’s better.

  8. ChrisFromGeorgia

    Looking at that heat map of the rapid riser counties, assuming it is omicron cases, the correlation with major urban centers is unmistakable. Miami, Atlanta, Houston, LA, etc. All red zones.

    Makes sense as those places all have major international airports and more mobility. This looks bad, like omicron is going to infect virtually everyone in a top 20 urban area by New Year’s Eve.

    Great job on the travel bans … sarcasm implied, obviously.

    Let’s hope the story on it being milder than the Delta variant verifies. Or else we will be in for a grim January.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      By “red zones” I assume you mean “hot zones”. Because politically, most of those cities are “blue” or “blueish” in their voting. Its another demonstration of the fact that big cities are potential deathtraps, and the big city future ends in multiple megadeath plagues.

      Which will only make suburbanites and semiburbanites even more determined to stay in their suburbs and semiburbs even as these places become semi-rural slum villages and settlements, as being preferable to moving into the urban death traps.

      1. ChrisFromGeorgia

        Yes I meant hot zones, they just happened to be colored red in the CDC areas of concern graphic.

        I would say it is in the suburbs already, only rural areas look to have escaped (yet.)

      1. polar donkey

        Omicron in Shelby County (Memphis) more than doubling every 2days. Around 350 cases Tuesday. Today 776. This doesn’t include all the home tests. I thought it wouldn’t be till January before omicron went supernova.

      2. John Zelnicker

        Heard from my daughter who works in Cleveland for Amazon (yes, I know, but she’s making a decent living) a few hours ago.

        In the past few days, her facility has reinstituted masking requirements and they are so paranoid that when someone heard her cough once(!) today, she was sent home until she could get medical clearance that she isn’t symptomatic. BTW, she’s a lifetime smoker and had just been vaping while on break.

        Apparently, Omicron is sweeping through Cleveland, also. Looking at the map above, it appears to be red.

    2. Lee

      It would be a delectable irony if Omicron turned out to be a more effective vaccine than the once, twice, thrice, frice and potentially many more future jabs. Hmm, Pfizer and Moderna stock prices are down today while the major indices are currently up a bit. Alas, the Omicron variant has yet to figure out how to launch an IPO.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            If large numbers of the omicron-infected begin developing cancers more than 20 years out, the lay public would probably not make the connection in their mind, and the slow rolling democide plan would still meet the “make it look like an accident” requirement.

    3. Laura in So Cal

      I can confirm lots of covid clusters here in LA County. The beauty salon my Mom uses basically has closed down because everyone has covid…all double vaxxed.
      However, my extended family Christmas dinner has now been reorganized because the original hosts have the flu. It started with their 2 kids and now my cousin has it. They are all covid negative, but have standard flu symptoms. Apparently the current flu vaccine isn’t a good match this year.

  9. drumlin woodchuckles

    However much McConnell would love to have Manchin, the DemParty leaders like Pelosi and Schumer and Biden and all those others would like to keep Manchin even more. Whatever McConnell offers Manchin to leave the Democrats, the Democrats will offer Manchin even more to stay with the Democrats.

    That’s a prediction.

    1. Geo

      Manchin would lose all power as a Republican. As a Dem he controls the party but in the GOP he’d be at Romney or Cheney – lots of media attention but otherwise impotent.

      As for Dem leadership: why does Manchin still head the energy committee? They punished AOC for being mean to Pelosi once. Apparently lying to the president and derailing the Dem platform isn’t as bad as calling out Mama Bear or claiming AIPAC is all about the Benjamins? Seriously, if the party was actually upset with Manchin he’d be removed from any position of authority but they won’t do that. The lack of consequences speaks volumes.

      1. marku52

        Manchin as a pub would be doomed at the first primary. He voted to impeach Trump twice. Threatening to throw him out of the Dem party is a very credible threat.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          But the Clintobama Dems love their Manchin. He is their cover, their “beard” , for preventing the passage of BBB, which neither Biden nor the ConservaDems ( which is all of them) ever wanted in actual point of fact.

          It is too bad the ProgDem caucus in the House threw away their one and only chance to achieve credibility by destroying both bills together. I still wonder why they did that. I gather Pelosi wanted them to throw their one chance away. But why did they agree to do what Pelosi wanted?

          They could have hurt Pelosi worse than Pelosi could have hurt them. They could have destroyed her whole Political Party. But they didn’t do it. Now they will live out their days in fading irrelevancy.

  10. Etrigan

    Haven’t seen relatives whom I actually like in more than a year. Day before flight, came down with something awful. Cancelled flight out of caution, test back negative for rona, but sick in bed right before Christmas with something that is certainly mimicking its symptoms. I cannot describe my rage at this moment. I somehow feel responsible despite taking every precaution known to mankind over 18 months. What a shit start to the holiday.

    1. Duke of Prunes

      I’m hearing of quite a few people whose early tests came back negative, but eventually turned positive.

      There’s also a theory that this year’s flu mimics the latest covid to explain all the people with symptoms, but negative tests. Neighbor’s doctor said this after testing for covid, strep and flu, but only hit on flu… then again, I suppose one could have both flu and covid.

    2. Lost in OR

      My son was supposed to fly with his mother to visit severely immunocompromised grandma. He was briefly exposed to housemate who tested positive Tuesday. So now he’ll be spending Christmas with me. He is very disappointed.

  11. fresno dan

    (CNN) Former President Donald Trump pushed back on a questioner’s skepticism about the effectiveness and safety of the Covid-19 vaccine in a new interview, saying that the “vaccine works” and “people aren’t dying when they take the vaccine.”

    “Look, the results of the vaccine are very good, and if you do get (Covid), it’s a very minor form. People aren’t dying when they take the vaccine,” he said in an interview with The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens that was released Tuesday.
    When Owens began raising doubt about the vaccine efficacy, Trump interjected, saying, “Well, no, the vaccine works.”
    Trump said Tuesday it was “tough” to criticize Biden because he complimented Operation Warp Speed.
    It’s “tough to be overly critical now because he (Biden) just thanked us for the vaccine and thanked me for what I did,” Trump said
    Fox Corporation, the owner of Fox News, told employees on Friday that those working in New York City would have to show proof they’d had at least one dose of the Covid vaccine by Dec. 27, removing the option to get tested weekly instead.
    The new policy was in keeping with New York City’s vaccine rule, which Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in early December and which is more stringent than a contested Biden administration rule requiring vaccine mandates or weekly testing at larger employers.
    The New York City mandate, which requires on-site workers at all businesses to be vaccinated, is the country’s most sweeping local vaccine mandate and affects some 184,000 businesses.
    “Our policy reflects the guidelines of the mandate,” a spokesman for Fox Corporation said in an email on Monday. More than 90 percent of Fox’s employees are vaccinated, the company said.
    “Our policy reflects the guidelines of the mandate,” a spokesman for Fox Corporation said. Well, no it doesn’t.
    Fox News went beyond testing to an actual vaccine mandate. And that is despite the New York Supreme Court putting a hold on the requirement.
    And the Fox News howls?
    CNN says Trump supports vaccines???????????????????????????????????????????????
    Biden isn’t churlish toward Trump????????????????????????????????????????????????????
    Trump isn’t churlish toward Biden?????????????????????????????????????????????????????
    FOX goes BEYOND the mandate of a left wing, communist, liberal, socialist major???????????????????
    Its like the world has gone bananas!!!! This is very peculiar and worrying…. People being circumspect, decorum in public statements, a tolerance and understanding of one’s declared enemies. Its almost like people coming to realize that peace and goodwill are more important than political posturing. Nah
    At first, I was thinking someone had given out free pot brownies – turns out, no free pot brownies are being given out. Then I thought that a tanker truck hauling valium had crashed into the local water supply, but that doesn’t explain the nationwide phenomenon. Of course, winter solstice was yesterday. Light makes people grumpy???? But on the other hand, there are so many colored lights flashing all around….
    Its almost like its the season…or somethin’….. Who knows why its happending – but I wager its short lived….

    1. Lee

      Conversely, after 13 years of participation, and having obtained through community member support by the gaggle of progressives who can still stomach the site, the highest possible favorable rating for a non-staffer, I got banned from Daily Kos yesterday with no statement as to the reason.

      But I’m pretty sure I know what it is. While generally I’ve been a bit of a thorn in the side of the centrist party faithful there, I’ve recently made a point of posting contrarian comments on Markos Moulitsas’s despicable, daily, bloody minded Bubba bashing rants: “Anti-Vax Chronicles”.

      My most recent offending rejoinder to him started like this:

      “Yes, dancing on the graves of one’s political enemies and bashing Bubba all the live long day is certainly fun, but at the same time unseemly. And as for the misinformation that is so rightly and often criticized here, it’s not as if we don’t live in glass houses.” My comment then included a video montage of misinformation and retractions over the months from Biden, Fauci, Wallensky, and Gates garnered from a tweet posted here at NC.


      To be fair to the sensitive centrist natures at Daily Kos, I have been for years now doing verbal bombings, strafings, and dropping of turds in their punch bowls, using materials gleaned from Naked Capitalism as my arsenal of progressivism. The good news is that I’ll be spending more time here. Good for me anyway.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        You may have gotten the banhammer because they noticed you’d been hanging out here with all the other previously whacked deplorables. Anyway, congratulations – getting banned means you must have been doing something right.

    2. Joe Renter

      Thanks for that Fresno. Any omicron in your city yet. In Santa Cruz county we had 2 confirmed cases on Tuesday. So now it’s how many now?

    3. ChiGal

      No worries, Fox joins the rest of the PTB in implementing mandates once they have become stringently useless.

      Michael Osterholm on his latest podcast said what I have been thinking for a long time: why focus on how many have gotten one jab when it doesn’t prevent either transmission or illness? CDC does this, JHU doesn’t; seems a perfect metric for the MSM of which Fox is a part.

    4. Jen

      Wake me up when CNN, Biden, Trump and Fox go all in for ventilation and masking.

      Whistling past the graveyard IMO

    5. drumlin woodchuckles

      I brought a couple of videos here very recently by Beau of the Fifth Column. It would be obtrusive to bring them here again.

      So I will just mention that the gist of one of them, the one about Trump’s base-members booing Trump when he said get the vaccine, is that Trump realizes that Republican voters are dying from covid faster enough than Democratic voters, and especially in narrowly Republican-maybe states, that the building lack of Republican voters in certain key states may make the election in those states too hard to overthrow and set aside, even with all the Republicans’ state-by-state electoral system engineering. And Trump wants to save the lives of these voters long enough for them to vote for him in 2024.

      But he worked so hard to turn them into a hardened mass of mask-rejection, social-distance rejection, public health rejection that their mass-mind is now change-proof and Trump is afraid he is seeing his Jonestown Trumpanon base-of-the-faithful melt away before his eyes, and with it his dreamed-of victory in 2024.

      Beau then tried convincing any Trumpanon who might be watching his video to get vaccinated, boosterised, and wear a mask at all appropriate times. Because Beau is nice and caring that way.

  12. none

    It’s hard to think of a historical parallel for this level of idiocy.

    The Ministry of Magic in the Harry Potter series.

    1. The Rev Kev

      How about the eruption of Mount Pelée volcano back in 1902? The authorities refused to listen to all the blatant signs that it was going to blow. In fact, it was only with reluctance that they cancelled a town picnic that was planned for the mountainside. When it went, about 29,000 people died when they could have been long evacuated but the city mangers were too concerned about the economy-


  13. Carolinian

    Re Trump as asshole–since he probably only ran in the first place to spite Obama that probably qualifies as asshole–ego plus peevishness. Some of us suspect what happened four years later was to spite Hillary and the press (who certainly deserved it) but not good for the country or his fellow Repubs.

    But even if true he has lots and lots of company among the movers and shakers. Here’s hoping he doesn’t once again provide the Dems with just the foil they are looking for.

  14. fresno dan

    Did anybody else get a “captcha” thing to prove one isn’t a machine before posting?
    It presented multiple pictures and asked me to identify the boats. Taking so many drugs medicines, or being old, I inadvertently selected a train. No idea of how to unselect the train. I really don’t think one pot brownie would cause me to mix up a train and a boat….hmmmm, I did lose track of the total number of brownies consumed…nevermind. Or maybe I was just halleucinating…from all the drugs….uh, I mean medicines

    1. Wukchumni

      We had a family discussion about somebody living near Stockton (the most dangerous bigger city in Cali on a par with Oakland, except there’s no there there in terms of beautiful views which comes with the city by the bay) and my brother in law works for a big trucking firm and related that 18 wheeler drivers are hesitant to park overnight as of late in both Stockton and Fresno, because there has been a rash of tire thefts on their rigs in both locales, as said drivers were sleeping.

      To not make things so bleak, my sister loves, loves, loves Fresno airport, put it on a par with the Santa Barbara airport.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      I sometimes get those. I just answer them till the system is happy and lets me through.

      I have heard that they serve the other purpose of gathering data for upgrading visual recognition systems.

  15. Matt Alfalfafield

    re: one more damned book to read – The Dawn of Everything is one of the most original and interesting books I’ve read in years. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

      1. Boomheist

        I ordered the Theory of Everything and read it. Nearly seven hundred pages of meticulously noted paragraphs reminding me of a statement once made about New Yorker articles – “Everything about a subject you never thought to ask…” I did over three year’s research into human origins and hunter gatherer societies some years ago and confess that I just don’t see the there there with this book everyone is raving about. Very very short on documented evidence. For example they claim that because they don;t see evidence of great structures on some early cities this must mean an egalitarian society. Really? The chapters about some societies having a cycle during the year made sense, but except for those my impression was this book is a highly annotated word salad, well written, saying little. Sorry, I know this will piss off the trolls and woke human revisionists, but this seemed to me another in a long line of books desperately seeking peaceful and egalitarian lessons from our earlier selves – anything to counter the raw brutal history of most of humanity. The book also goes to great length to discuss how the Iroquois people and leaders contributed to the US government system in the mid to late 1700s, as if this is a discovery, yet when I took U.S. and American history in 1964-1965 we spent over a week discussing exactly this contribution. So, unlike other reviewers, and commenters, I found the book very disappointing, windy, and prone to mixing speculation with evidence.

  16. Geo

    “At this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s.”

    Can’t say they didn’t try though. Thanks to all our elected leaders, their experts, big pharma, and the media for all your hard work and better luck in 2022.

    1. Lee

      I figure it’ll be around May Day. Maybe a bit sooner if we get big post-holiday surge. Maybe later if Omicron is indeed as wonderfully contagious and less lethal as it’s billed. Then again, if it further clogs up the healthcare system, there will be more excess deaths due to other causes. Well, at least they won’t count as Covid deaths, so there’s that.

        1. Lee

          UK TV news just now: Omicron infection 50% to 70% less likely than Delta of resulting in hospitalization. But with so many people getting infected in a short period of time….yeah, pretty damned bad. 140K cases reported today. Also, too early for indications regarding long Covid yet.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            If 50-70% more people get omicron than got Delta, then we’ll have just as many hospital grade infections anyway.

  17. in brief

    There are many assholes among us. In fact they litter the roads I drive on. Because the word is already right at the tip of so many tongues it really is the concurrent adjective that carries the weight. Just yesterday I was called out as an asshole. Though innocent, my concern was not knowing which sort of asshole I was presumed to be. One size does not fit all.

  18. Sailor Bud

    Max Roach was so very, very great. He was an early universalist, too. He studied for a good while with the Haitian drummer Ti Roro in the 1940s, and subsequently slid little bits of Latin into his bop, and that was just the beginning.

    My absolute favorite example is the Bud Powell tune Un Poco Loco, a piano trio mamba suprema. There are four takes, and the evolution of the drumming over them is particularly interesting, because the fourth and last has this infectious ostinato cowbell pattern that wasn’t there on the first, and Roach becomes as much the star of the tune as Bud. I would YouTube link them, but I’m not used to tablets and address pasting on them.

    That was a big tune. Yale lit crit Harold Bloom put it in his list of “most sublime works of art in the twentieth century,” which is maybe overdoing it a bit, but considering it was an impromptu construction after the pianist disappeared for an hour, it is definitely cool.

      1. Sailor Bud

        Hell yeah, it is! Thanks so much for posting the link. I love that recording, and that crazy composition.

  19. Pat

    I realize it is Lambert being fair, but since the CDC model has obviously been broken by Omicron can we just put a big ‘WRONG!’ on it now. Or even Bull Feces.
    Just consider it the well deserved Coal in their holiday stocking.

    (Although I really want a lot more coal including some burning embers for them…)

  20. flora

    re: Gloria Pazmino

    Now reprising the roll of Col. Jessup (Jack Nicholson) in “A Few Good Men.”

    ‘You can’t handle the truth’! / heh

  21. Mason

    Chris Martenson is wrapping it up and saying Omicron is the beginning of the end. I’d be very disappointed if he gets this wrong because I want this to be over with and his track record has been pretty good so far.

    He’s gotten multiple things right since the beginning so here’s hopin’. He’s still better than the entirety of the CDC. If the data shows a milder variant and the vaccines are still pushed, especially for children, I’ll join the January rally in Washington.

    I’ll keep my head down a good week and half more to see if the wave peters out. One thing worries me. Even if it’s milder, if it’s virulent enough, could it keep up deaths through pure numbers of infected?

    1. WhoaMolly

      Chris Martensen predictions have been consistently accurate for the past two years. I started listening to him at the very beginning of the pandemic. He was sharing information that was useful and accurate.

      He’s here talking about the surprising number of Omicron deaths:

  22. dcblogger

    time for another edition of dcblogger’s fantasy of workers mounting hostile takeovers of their place of employment, incremental edition. Suppose that instead of taking over an entire business, worker offer to buy a unit of it as part of an outsourcing deal. Unit by unit workers could take over the entire company. Of course, this has the same problem, who would lend workers the $? Amalgamated Bank? Industrial Bank of DC? It would not have to been proposed as a hostile take over, workers might just offer an outsourcing deal.

    so yeah, this is a fantasy, but one I cannot let go of.

    1. Duke of Prunes

      United Airlines was majority owned (55%) by employees before it merged with Continental. It might still be, but I think it worked for a while, and then not so much. I think as long as a company is public so investors demand their cut, there’s going to be friction between employees and management.

      Not affiliated with UAL, but used to fly a lot and remember them promoting “employee owned”.

      1. WhoaMolly

        Just flew cross country and back with United. They’ve really upped their game since before the pandemic. I recommend them.

        Good customer service, with both arrival, and departure on schedule, Cabin crew very professional and competent.

  23. ChrisPacific

    The ‘New Variant’ graphs from the CDC definitely look sus. The uncertainty window for them is barely larger than for the no variant graph. Surely there would be a lot more unknowns in that scenario and therefore a vastly wider range of possibilities? This looks awfully like the illusion of certainty to me.

  24. Jason Boxman

    So over the holiday expect the numbers to perversely get better as data collection and reporting falter; get ready for an explosion next week, when it catches up with reality. Not guaranteed, but a prediction.

    Stay safe out there.

  25. Michael Ismoe

    It’s hard to think of a historical parallel for this level of idiocy.

    May not repeat but it sure does rhyme.

    They even had their January 6th on February 6th

    6 February 1934 crisis
    The 6 February 1934 crisis was an anti-parliamentarist street demonstration in Paris organized by multiple far-right leagues that culminated in a riot on the Place de la Concorde, near the seat of the French National Assembly. The police shot and killed 15 demonstrators. It was one of the major political crises during the Third Republic (1870–1940).[92] Frenchmen on the left feared it was an attempt to organize a fascist coup d’état. As a result of the actions of that day, several anti-fascist organisations were created, such as the Comité de vigilance des intellectuels antifascistes, in an attempt to thwart the rise of fascism in France. According to historian Joel Colton, “The consensus among scholars is that there was no concerted or unified design to seize power and that the leagues lacked the coherence, unity, or leadership to accomplish such an end.”[93]

  26. Sandgroper

    Hi Lambert,
    There is often some good material in Water Cooler but TBH, I rarely read it. I read the Links section fairly religiously though. The biggest reason is that it is too hard to see what is new vs template stuff you always have there.
    I think a “bullet point” type of landing links would be more useful. I wonder if others feel the same way?

  27. The Rev Kev

    Meanwhile, here in Oz. For vaccinations, the booster was supposed to be about six months after your first two shots. Then, probably based on solid Israeli data, they reduced it to five months. Now they are hitting the panic button over Omicron and are reducing it to four months and there has even been talk of reducing it to three in several weeks time. So my kitchen maths tells me that you may be eventually talking about three or four booster shots per year from now until – when exactly?


  28. Jason Boxman

    The wheels are already starting to come off, regardless of what the Biden administration might want or say:

    United Airlines canceled at least 131 flights scheduled to leave dozens of airports on Friday — along with another 28 that were supposed to take off on Saturday, according to Flight Aware. Other airlines, including Delta, JetBlue and Allegiant, did the same, adding up to 1,404 cancellations as of Thursday evening, the website said.

    It’s the latest blow to the holiday season caused by the new and highly transmissible Omicron variant, which now accounts for more than 70 percent of new coronavirus cases. Nearly 170,000 people are testing positive everyday, a 38 percent increase over the last two weeks, according to The New York Times’s coronavirus tracker.

    They don’t have enough healthy people:

    Crew members had been calling in sick, according to spokesman Joshua Freed, who said that United alerted customers as soon as it could. And while Mr. Freed doesn’t expect the airline will cancel more flights, it remained a possibility.

    The rapid spread of this variant is truly horrific. And foreseen. If only what happened in other countries had any bearing on policy in this country. But American Exceptionalism. (And the rules of neoliberalism.)

    Increasingly, I question whether I’ll live through the next year. Stay safe out there!

  29. Carolinian

    This is interesting. New German foreign minister waffles on Nordstream 2 certification. Result:

    The data from German network Cascade shows that all Russian natural gas shipments to Germany through a major transit pipeline known as the Yamal-Europe transnational gas pipeline reversed direction today.

    The Yamal-Europe transnational gas pipeline runs from northwest Siberia to Frankfurt-an-der-Oder in eastern Germany via Belarus and Poland. Last year, around one-fifth of all natural gas sent to Western Europe went via Belarus.

    The flows through the Yamal-Europe pipeline dropped to 6% of its capacity on Saturday, 5% on Sunday, and fell to zero by today morning.

    Plainly put, Russia has halted its gas exports to Germany and it also transpires that Gazprom, the system’s operator in Russia and Belarus, has booked no capacity for transiting natural gas to Germany for the near future, either.

    Will the Germans crush their own economy in the name of poodle-dom? Or are they the ones bluffing rather than the Russians?


  30. Joe Well

    I have been reading the late Dr Graeber’s “Dawn of Everything” in small pieces and every chapter has some big surprises backed up by evidence.

    I had no idea that Enlightenment thinkers like Rousseau were heavily engaged in discussions of freedom based on critiques made by indigenous North Americans. Apparently some books espousing indigenous social ideas were mega-best sellers in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and played a big part in shaping the modern idea of freedom.

  31. Noone from Nowheresville

    I’ve been bandying about a few thoughts re: politics.

    1. I think the PMC does hate the nostalgic formerly powerful New Deal coalition. But I think the DNC social club’s actual base is the PMC and that the DNC social club does hate the PMC.

    2. I think the DNC social club governs with its political representatives just fine. In fact. I think they are a highly disciplined and honed force. They don’t govern as I would like. But they are extremely effective at attaining their goals directly or seeding the field for the long term victory.

    Two examples of discipline:

    Five years and counting of RussiaGate storycraft with nary a deserter even at the end of 2021. Even Sanders bent the knee at the RussiaGate altar mid-Spring 2019.

    Holding the line and solidarity on legislation in 2020 without a hiccup during the initial phase of the pandemic. 2021 is nothing more than a continuation of last year’s Federal government successes. They are so confident of what happens next that they didn’t even bother putting on the ever popular Christmas government funding shutdown show.

    Never let a crisis go to waste. Throwing the last remnants of the New Deal social contract into history’s dustbin is a priority. We also have neoliberalism on steriods: further monopolization, the always popular tactic: blaming inflation on Democrats for the 2021 checks & safety net services to the plebs (a reduction with mean-testing & clawbacks compared to 2020’s version), price gouging for profits, regulation gutting by virtue of open positions and vaccine mandates (outsourcing potential & union destruction), destruction of public health, a reorg / consolidation of the medical industrial complex, continued dismantling of the post office with privatization and reallocation of the pre-funding fund within the decade, accelerated time-line for the privatization of public transportation, limiting freedom of movement (digital passports, electric cars, etc.) to specific favored groups, and slow-but-steady seemingly organic downsizing of the PMC and their counterparts in the Republican social club ranks.

    Had to stop because the list was getting too long. If current DNC social club governance can accomplish, or help facilitate the final nails in the near term, then why do we say they don’t want to or can’t govern?

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Social Security is one of those last remnants of the New Deal. That’s part of why Clinton and Obama and the other New Democrats want to give it to Wall Street to suck dry and then take its withered husk and throw it in the dustbin.

      So are the Wages and Hours laws. How long till the ClintoBama Democrats seek to repeal the Wages and Hours laws?

  32. drumlin woodchuckles

    When the New York Mayor said this: ” “I wore a bullet proof vest for 22 years and protected the people of this city. When you do that, then you have the right to question me…” ” . . . it took me a while to think of what to say. And then the perfect reply came to me . . . . ” That’s what Pantaleone said . . . ”

    Maybe this mayor will earn the nickname of ” Blackface Giuliani”. Or maybe ” Blackface Rizzo”.

    Does Mr. Mayor really have the power to set the policy on solitary confinement anywhere? If he does, then he will.

    Since the incoming council people already know the new Mayor doesn’t like them anyway, maybe they should just sabotage his every effort as ruthlessly as they can.

  33. drumlin woodchuckles

    I don’t know why ordinary seaweed would make cows burp less methane, but I will take a guess. (It seems different than that certain special seaweed which could be added to cow diets and suppress their methane production by some kind of direct action.)

    As I remember, the methane is generated by whatever microbes the cow harbors in its fermentation stomach chamber. They ferment and break down the tough and somewhat refractory polymer known as cellulose. From it they get enough energy to grow their own body mass and numbers. Methane is a byproduct of their cellulose breakdown.

    So why would ordinary seaweed cause less methane production in cows? My guess is that, the more seaweed cows eat, the less cellulosic grass they have to eat to get nutritious microbial mass from the cellulose digesters. The seaweed is partially pre-empting the place of grass in the diet and causing cows to need less grass and eat less grass and so release less methane.

    But I could be totally wrong. It could well be that this ordinary seaweed has the same methanogenesis-suppression chemical as that special seaweed from Hawaii or wherever has.

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