2:00PM Water Cooler 1/11/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

More winter birds.

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

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

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” –Hunter Thompson

Capitol Seizure

Biden Adminstration

“Biden administration lays out rules for reimbursing at-home Covid tests” [Politico]. “The Biden administration on Monday issued guidance that will require private health insurers to reimburse people for up to eight over-the-counter Covid-19 tests every month beginning Jan. 15. Under the plan, private insurers can set up programs at preferred pharmacies or retailers where the upfront cost of home tests is covered for beneficiaries. A family of four would be able to have 32 home tests covered by their health plan each month. If a physician orders an at-home test for an individual, it does not count toward the eight test-a-month limit. The new regulations governing reimbursement for at-home tests do not apply to people on Medicare or those without health insurance. State Medicaid programs and the Children’s Health Insurance Program already must cover at-home tests, according to HHS.” • I love it! It’s so complicated!

“We know [schools] can be open safely.”

Who’s “we”? The chateau generals in the West Wing? Not the people on the front lines: Teachers and students. For example:

“Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster” [The Hill]. “Senate Republicans are threatening they will attempt a takeover of the Senate agenda by forcing votes on issues ranging from the Keystone XL pipeline to abortion rules to a U.S-Mexico border wall if Democrats weaken the filibuster. Republicans are also looking at smaller bills such as a proposal to prohibit the administration from imposing a fracking ban by executive order, a prohibition on the IRS implementing new reporting on banks to disclose individuals’ banking activity and mandatory detention for illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes.” • I can’t believe that bank reporting thing is still alive…

“Manchin’s Choice on Build Back Better: Mine Workers or Mine Owners” [New York Times]. Thicker seams in the owners, I would say. “So when the miners’ union and the West Virginia A.F.L.-C.I.O. came out last month with statements pleading for passage of President Biden’s Build Back Better Act — just hours after Mr. Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, said he was a ‘no’ — the Capitol took notice. With the miners now officially on the opposite side of the mine owners, it signaled the escalation of a behind-the-scenes struggle centered in Mr. Manchin’s home state to sway the balking senator, whose skepticism about his party’s marquee domestic policy measure has emerged as a potentially fatal impediment to its enactment. While most of the attention to the fate of the social safety net and climate change bill has fixed on ideological divisions among Democrats over its largest provisions and overall cost, the battle underway over parochial issues in Mr. Manchin’s state could ultimately matter more than the public pleas of liberal groups and relentless bargaining by Democratic leaders.”

Democrats en Déshabillé

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). 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, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

* * *

“A year in, how has Biden done on pandemic response?” [Justin Feldman]. We’ve already linked to this, but it’s worth repeating this passage:

There has been a failure of various social institutions — the media, the political left, scientists, and unions, to pressure the Biden administration into a course of action that would better prevent mass death. In some other countries, scientists banded together to form organizations like the UK’s Independent SAGE that counters government policy with its own, more precautionary policy recommendations. This has not happened in any substantial way in the US, where scientists have made statements only as individuals or in informal, ad-hoc groups. To the extent they have weighed in, American unions have been narrow in their demands for the pandemic response and have not called major strikes over it. Progressive members of the Democratic Party have not put pressure on Biden over pandemic measures except in narrow ways, such as Bernie Sanders calling for an extension to unemployment programs or Cori Bush demanding the Biden administration fight for an extension of the eviction moratorium. Leftist groups like the Democratic Socialists of America have not developed a pandemic response platform, and to the extent they have politicized the pandemic, it has been to talk about long-standing policy goals like Medicare For All.

Instead, the loudest voices in civil society have largely supported Biden’s approach to the pandemic or pushed him to reject non-pharmaceutical interventions more fervently. This select group of media pundits, public health scientists, and economists has been in direct dialogue with White House officials. The administration has cited their opinion pieces in speeches, coordinated messaging on regular phone calls, and promoted these views on social media (one need only look at the Twitter timelines of Ron Klain, or communication staffers like Ian Sams or Ben Wakana).

In other words, we’re looking at a complete collapse of the PMC that has formed the Democrat base since the Clinton era. They don’t want to govern.


“What Role Will January 6 Play in The 2022 Midterms?” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “The 2022 midterms will be a referendum on the current president, not the former one. This is something on which Democratic and Republican strategists I’ve spoken with agree. At the same time, Republicans from swing states or districts who spend their time trying to re-litigate the 2020 election or defend those who attacked the Capitol are putting themselves in political peril. For as horrible as the events of January 6 were, the fact that our constitutional guardrails held is a remarkable and impressive accomplishment. The system bent, but it did not break. But it is this very fact that makes it harder for Democrats to argue that these guardrails are faulty and fragile. Adding to this challenge for Democrats is the fact that many of the voters Biden appealed to in 2020, don’t see this same risk to democracy as he and many Democrats do. Earlier this year, I wrote about two focus groups of white swing voters. One group was more conservative-leaning (all had voted for Trump but were defined as not particularly enthusiastic about him, i.e., these are not Trump superfans ). The other group included those who voted for Biden in 2020 after voting for Trump in 2016. In other words, these are the kinds of voters that would be open to more nuanced arguments about issues. They aren’t simply knee-jerk Trump or Biden voters. My takeaway from listening to them was that both groups of voters believed that fights over voter laws were more about political gamesmanship than an attack on democracy itself. Said one of the Trump voters, ‘everybody just wants to win.’ One of the Trump-Biden voters said, ‘I don’t trust one party more than the other on voter rules.’ In other words, instead of seeing a threat to the very foundation of our political system, these voters saw crass political calculations. This cynicism isn’t confined to just swing voters. When asked about the January 6th commission, one person in a focus group of ‘surge’ (read: infrequent voting) Democrats said: ‘It’s going to be a nice report that no one will read. And by then no one will care anymore.'” Concluding: “For all the arguments about what will ‘resonate’ in 2022 and what won’t, the only way for things to get better for Democrats in 2022, is for things like COVID and the economy to get better.” • And if they don’t, what do Democrats have besides 1/6 and “our democracy”?

“January 5, 2022: National Poll with USA TODAY marginals” (PDF) [Suffok University]. (Marginals appears to refer to a margin of error, rather than those surveyed, who are registed voters.)

Of course, 311 days is a long time in politics.

“One Big Thing Dem Candidates Are Avoiding: Biden’s Agenda” [Daily Beast]. “Salas is far from the only Democratic challenger with a Build Back Better-sized hole in his campaign message: at least seven other Democrats who are running in the most competitive GOP-held House districts—from New York to Iowa to Maryland—have said nothing or vanishingly little about Build Back Better. Most of those candidates have not so much as mentioned the name of the bill in their social media posts and campaign materials. And though these Democrats frequently tout their commitment to advancing the goals set out in the bill—like lowering prescription drug costs, fighting climate change, and improving child care—many don’t explicitly acknowledge that there is, currently, a bill that would achieve those goals. Meanwhile, some Democrats running to break the 50-50 partisan deadlock in the Senate have avoided talking much about the legislation currently languishing in that chamber.” • A big, beautiful tent…


“Kamala Harris channels Jimmy Carter, blames American ‘malaise’ for Biden’s woes” [New York Post]. She actually used the word “malaise.” What staffer let her do that? And: “Harris’s comment aired just hours after she provoked outrage for a speech at the US Capitol equating the Jan. 6 riot there to some of the most harrowing and deadly days in American history, including the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.” • Amy Walter makes a good case on 1/6 (above) but apparently Harris and her entourage do not agree (or nobody in the Democrat leadership bothered to tell them the score).

Realignment and Legitimacy

Corruption is bipartisan:

* * *

I’m putting Covid-related commentary here, because realignment and legitimacy are exactly the stakes.

“Active epidemiological investigation on SARS-CoV-2 infection caused by Omicron variant (Pango lineage B.1.1.529) in Japan: preliminary report on infectious period” [National Institute for Infectious Diseases]. Japan. “. A total of 83 respiratory specimens from 21 cases (19 vaccinees and 2 unvaccinated cases; 4 asymptomatic and 17 mild cases) were subjected to SARS-CoV-2 RNA quantification using quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction and virus isolation tests. The date of specimen collection for diagnosis or symptom onset was defined as day 0. The amount of viral RNA was highest on 3-6 days after diagnosis or 3-6 days after symptom onset, and then gradually decreased over time, with a marked decrease after 10 days since diagnosis or symptom onset (Figure). The positive virus isolation results showed a similar trend as the viral RNA amount, and no infectious virus in the respiratory samples was detected after 10 days since diagnosis or symptom onset (Table). These findings suggest that vaccinated Omicron cases are unlikely to shed infectious virus 10 days after diagnosis or symptom onset.” • Remember when Walensky said that shortening the isolation period to five days was based on science, but then couldn’t rightly put her hand on what the science was? Well, here it is, and it looks like Walensky is sending kids, teachers, and workers back out to save the “economy” when they are most infectious. They really do want to kill us, don’t they?

“Axios-Ipsos poll: America retrenches on COVID” [Axios]. “Social distancing and self-quarantining have spiked in recent weeks as Omicron puts the nation in a crouch like last spring before vaccines became widely available, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index. We all know or have heard stories about people saying they’d like to just get it over with and get Omicron because it sounds milder than earlier strains. But the survey results suggest most Americans are worried about Omicron and modifying their behavior to try to minimize exposure and spread. They also suggest a possible reason for that fear: vaccines aren’t as effective in stopping infections as they used to be before Omicron.” • Just possibly — hear me out — we’ve all “heard these stories” because the press keeps amplifying them, out of class interest. LIttle Madison is so tiring, especially now that Maria can’t come to take care of her. And how to we get her into Yale if she’s not in school? For example–

“Two Years Is Long Enough” [Helen Lewis, The Atlantic]. “Helen Lewis is a London-based staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights.” Let the whinging and bleating begin! “Yet to publicly question the current level of restrictions is to invite accusations from your more COVID-averse friends, or even strangers on social media, that you hate doctors, reject science, and actively want people to die.” “Actively is doing a lot of work, there: “There will be trade-offs, and there will be casualties, but you can’t remove all risk from human existence.” Casualties are OK, as long as they happen in the passive voice! And the cherry on top: “For any country without the discipline, collectivism, and surveillance technology of China, the zero-COVID dream is over. Two years is long enough to put our lives on hold.” Personally, I’d be in favor of putting Lewis’s life on hold for several more years, along with her war criminal editor at The Atlantic. But that’s just me. More important is the admission — it’s not even reluctant — that China’s political system is better at saving lives than the West’s. Oopsie.

“Column: Mocking anti-vaxxers’ COVID deaths is ghoulish, yes — but may be necessary” [Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times]. Leaving the inflammatory headline aside, this: “Vaccine mandates themselves have been part of the educational system for longer than anyone can remember in every state in the Union: California requires K-12 pupils to have as many as 20 doses of immunizations against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, diphtheria, hepatitis and chicken pox.” Those vaccines are well-tested and sterilizing. The mRNA vaccines, at least, are not. And then there’s this: “By the way, no one has ever claimed that the COVID vaccines are a ‘cure’ — another smidgen of misinformation Ernby purveyed. The COVID vaccines, however, have been spectacularly effective in reducing the severity of the infection, a result that appears to hold true for the extremely transmissible Omicron variant.” Both Biden and Walensky claimed, in so many words, that with the vaccines, “You are protectedk,” period. The later “reduce the severity” argument was retconned onto the original claims. Finally: “But mockery is not necessarily the wrong reaction to those who publicly mocked anti-COVID measures and encouraged others to follow suit, before they perished of the disease the dangers of which they belittled. Nor is it wrong to deny them our sympathy and solicitude, or to make sure it’s known when their deaths are marked that they had stood fast against measures that might have protected themselves and others from the fate they succumbed to. There may be no other way to make sure that the lessons of these teachable moments are heard.” • So how’s the mocking and shaming strategy been workin’ out for ya?

“This Is NOT a Pandemic of the Unvaccinated” [Peter Daou]. “Let’s look at two interconnected myths being disseminated by liberal pundits and corporate media outlets… Falsely claiming Omicron is mild has led to one of the most egregious and reckless public policies in recent memory: forcing workers and children into the flames of a raging virus that has unknown long-term effects…. [And,] while it is true that resistance to vaccines and masks has made things worse, the phrase “pandemic of the unvaccinated” is demonstrably false in several ways. First, Biden and Democratic leaders have been abject failures at containing the spread of the virus because of their own actions and decisions. From day one, their approach has been vaccine-only…. “Pandemic of the unvaccinated” lulls people by reassuring them that there’s a vast swath of Americans who are unvaccinated and only those people will feel the effects of the virus. Which is flatly untrue.”


Case count by United States regions:

Giant steps return. (I wrote: “As happened in 2020, I would expect a second, higher peak, from Omicron if for no other reason.” Here we very are. This chart is a seven-day average, so changes in direction only show up when a train is really rolling.) It would sure be nice if “rise like a rocket, and fall like a stick” applied, but we can’t know that yet. To be fair, previous peaks — how small the early ones look now — have been roughly symmetrical on either side. But the scale of this peak, and the penetration into the population, is unprecendented.

The official narrative that “Covid is behind us,” and that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), and “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 completely exploded. What a surprise!

NOT UPDATED MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

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:

Oof. That’s not looking good (though congratulations, Maine. Makes me wonder if General Winter is protecting Maine and the Great Plains, not because “Covid is seasonal,” but because everybody’s hunkered down because of the snow. Ski resorts the exception, I suppose; they’ve been hot spots before). It also looks like CDC got its spreadsheet fixed — the one where they’d dropped data from the first seven states in alpha order. Brilliancy prize to alert reader johnherbiehancock for catching this.

The previous release:

I had helpfully marked states where no data is being reported in gray.

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Makes you wonder when the entire map will be orange, especially since hospitalizations lag cases (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: 861,336 859,356.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Might as well check out where we go, in case we bring something back (as from Italy to New York in 2020). This is a log scale. (Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away. (The data is from 2019, and so subject to subsequent events, but this is the best I can find.)

The excess deaths charts will appear weekly, on Friday.

Stats Watch

Small Business Optimism: “United States Nfib Business Optimism Index” [Trading Economics]. “The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index in the United States increased to a 3-month high of 98.9 in December of 2021 from 98.4 in November, beating market forecasts of 98.6. More firms are planning to increase employment and capital outlays, improving earnings. There was also a slight recovery in expectations of business conditions over the next six months. Also, the share of owners raising average selling prices decreased two points to 57% and 49% of owners reported job openings that could not be filled, up a point from November.”

* * *

The Bezzle: “Why We’re Still Waiting For the iCar” [Bloomberg]. “My wife and I absolutely love our Subaru Outback, but since Google Maps started freezing recently (and dangerously) on Apple CarPlay, we found ourselves blaming Subaru—not Google or Apple—for the glitches. After searching online, it seems increasingly likely that my Outback is not at fault (sorry, Subie!). Until the problem is fixed, I’ll be driving my car the old-fashioned way, without any plugged-in Apple, Amazon or Google apps. So far, I haven’t notice a difference.”

The Bezzle: “Web3 had better not be Transaction Cost Hell” [Noah Smith, Noahpinion]. “So far, the main difference between web3 and webs 1 & 2 seems to be that web3 allows you to pay for stuff in cryptocurrency…. This suggests that the main attraction of web3 might not be decentralization, but rather what economists call excludability — it will be stuff people pay for, rather than free stuff… Imagine if everything you do online required you to decide whether to make a tiny payment. Send an email? Pay a few cents. Read one more paragraph of an article? Pay a few cents. And so on. It would be an utter nightmare. The psychic cost of having to decide whether to pay a tiny amount for a tiny piece of product, dozens or hundreds of times a day, would be enormous. Some people would just choose not to deal with the hassle, and instead to simply use a ton of paid services and see their bill at the end of the month, like they do when using electricity in their house; but this carefree attitude would naturally lead them to buy far more than they really wanted, and when they saw a few of those monthly bills, they would reconsider. In the end, most of these users would likely migrate back to either free ad-supported services or to subscription services that only make you think about payments once in a while. This is why the people trying to build web3 should probably steer away from making it just ‘micropayments, but in crypto’. I know this might sound crazy, but having to pay for stuff is not a feature.” • Using the blockchain for micropayments seems…. ill-advised. So that’s probably what they’ll try.

Tech: “On Releasing Annotator-Level Labels and Information in Datasets” [Vinodkumar Prabhakaran, Aida Mostafazadeh Davani, Mark Díaz]. “A common practice in building NLP datasets, especially using crowd-sourced annotations, involves obtaining multiple annotator judgements on the same data instances, which are then flattened to produce a single “ground truth” label or score, through majority voting, averaging, or adjudication. While these approaches may be appropriate in certain annotation tasks, such aggregations overlook the socially constructed nature of human perceptions that annotations for relatively more subjective tasks are meant to capture. In particular, systematic disagreements between annotators owing to their socio-cultural backgrounds and/or lived experiences are often obfuscated through such aggregations. In this paper, we empirically demonstrate that label aggregation may introduce representational biases of individual and group perspectives.” • So, a lot of those training sets the AI crowd uses are really, really bad.

Mr. Market: This is fine:

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 59 Greed (previous close: 50 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 67 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 11 at 1:59pm

L’Affaire Joffrey Epstein

“Ghislaine Maxwell Juror Who Could Upend Conviction Works for Carlyle Group” [Bloomberg]. Plot twist: “The juror in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial whose press comments may result in a new trial for the convicted socialite works as an executive assistant at private-equity giant Carlyle Group Inc. In video and newspaper interviews since the Dec. 29 verdict, the juror said he was a victim of sex abuse as a child and that his story helped sway other members of the panel who questioned the credibility of some of Maxwell’s accusers…. Following his interviews, prosecutors asked the judge for an inquiry into Scotty David’s comments. Maxwell’s lawyers said the judge should skip straight to ordering a new trial.”

The Agony Column

“The Wisdom of Trauma” [Gabor Maté]. “Trauma is the invisible force that shapes our lives. It shapes the way we live, the way we love and the way we make sense of the world. It is the root of our deepest wounds. Dr. Maté gives us a new vision: a trauma-informed society in which parents, teachers, physicians, policy-makers and legal personnel are not concerned with fixing behaviors, making diagnoses, suppressing symptoms and judging, but seek instead to understand the sources from which troubling behaviors and diseases spring in the wounded human soul.

Groves of Academe

“Yale, Georgetown, Other Top Schools Illegally Collude to Limit Student Financial Aid, Lawsuit Alleges” [Wall Street Journal]. [faints]. “Sixteen major U.S. universities, including Yale University, Georgetown University and Northwestern University, are being sued for alleged antitrust violations because of the way they work together to determine financial-aid awards for students. According to a lawsuit filed in Illinois federal court late Sunday by law firms representing five former students who attended some of the schools, the universities engaged in price fixing and unfairly limited aid by using a shared methodology to calculate applicants’ financial need. Schools are allowed under federal law to collaborate on their formulas, but only if they don’t consider applicants’ financial need in admissions decisions. The suit alleges these schools do weigh candidates’ ability to pay in certain circumstances, and therefore shouldn’t be eligible for the antitrust exemption. The suit seeks damages and a permanent end to the schools’ collaboration in calculating financial need and awarding aid.” • Sortition!

Class Warfare

“The Dawn of Antitrust and the Egalitarian Roots of the Sherman Act” [Pro Market]. “The conventional interpretation of American antitrust law’s origins has under-emphasized their pro-democratic and egalitarian tenor. This has come to pass, in part, by reading them through the analytical prism of the self-coordinating market—a theoretical construct that tends to naturalize some legal and social allocations of economic coordination rights, while casting others as deviant. While I do not claim that antitrust’s legal and political origins were homogenous, the legislative history of the first and foundational federal antitrust statute, the Sherman Act, indicates a legal purpose whose primary target was the concentration of economic coordination rights—as embodied, for instance, in the late nineteenth-century business trusts, which left the coordination of markets “to a few men sitting at their council board,” as Senator Sherman put it at one point—rather than economic coordination as such. While the self-coordinating market ideal can obscure this fact, the legislative history does not indicate disfavor of other, more democratic forms of economic coordination—for instance, coordination between farmers, small producers, and workers. The legislation was essentially aimed at dispersing economic coordination rights, a conclusion reinforced by earlier precedents.”

News of the Wired

“Landmark Webb observatory is now officially a telescope” [Nature]. “After several tense days of unfurling and clicking its various parts into place, the biggest and most sophisticated space telescope ever launched is now complete. On 8 January, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope slowly swung the last 3 of its 18 hexagonal mirror segments into position, locking them together into one 6.5-metre-wide, gold-coated cosmic eye. The move capped an essentially flawless two weeks of engineering manoeuvres — the most complex astronomical deployments ever attempted in space — since the telescope’s Christmas Day launch…. Photons are now bouncing between Webb’s mirrors, making it an operational observatory. ‘This is unbelievable,’ said Bill Ochs, NASA’s project manager for Webb, in a 5 January webcast from mission control at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. ‘We actually have a telescope.’… Next up, Webb will begin tweaking the positions of the primary mirror’s 18 segments to align them to properly focus light that they collect. The telescope also continues to cool down towards its operating temperature of around 40 °C above absolute zero, or –233 °C. It is currently nearly –200 °C on its cold side, behind the sunshield. After Webb reaches L2 in about two weeks, it will have around five more months of set-up before it can start returning science results. ‘I cannot wait to see the first data,’ Nota says.” • I’m very pleased this hasn’t screwed up. Encouraging!

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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 (JC):

JC writes: “For some reason whenever I see this photo (taken a few years ago on Makinac Island, MI) I think of the Water Cooler. Perhaps you can make this tree famous. Carry on with your good works.”

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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. Darva

    Kamala Harris channels Jimmy Carter, blames American ‘malaise’ for Biden’s woes.

    Mirror meet Kamalaise, Kamalaise, meet mirror.

    1. Screwball

      If there were such a thing as fingers on chalkboard gauge, I’m not sure who is worse, Kamala or Hillary.

    2. Tom Stone

      She’s right, and that malaise is caused by the “Nattering Nabobs of Negativism” who question the wisdom of our glorious leaders.

    3. Dougk

      Interesting tidbit: I’ve never reread the speech (I do remember it vaguely) but supposedly Carter never used the word malaise. It’s how commentators described it afterwards.

      1. John

        Ms. Harris is roundly criticized and seldom if ever supported. At least that is my take on her situation. What was the political calculation that put her on the ticket with Biden? He was going to carry California if he had had Wiley Coyote as a VP candidate. Did she make positive material difference in the votes of women or any other segment of the population? Was her nomination an olé in the direction of Hillary Land? I was and am puzzled.

        1. Paradan

          With Harris as President, the Dems can take advantage of her unpopularity by claiming America is overrun by racist misogynists. It de-legitimizes any dissent.

          1. Late Introvert

            Thank you Paradan, I said as much in a previous comment. She is the get out of jail card, each turn. Every critic is canceled.

        2. albrt

          What have you got against Wile E. Coyote? I might have voted for Biden if Wile E. had been in the VP slot.

        3. Lambert Strether Post author

          > What was the political calculation that put her on the ticket with Biden?

          Clintonite funders loved her in the Hamptons + “Listen to Black women” (or women who are Black for the purposes of any given election (AP)*).

          NOTE * I know we’re retconning Harris on this, but AP would never have written the story as it did, had it not gotten the line on Harris’s identity from the campaign. I should have filed away that old yellowed newspaper page that had her Indian identity listed as a bullet point, but oh well….

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            I remember predicting ahead-of-time that Harris would be the VP pick. My intuition went like this: Wall Street already knew how pro-Financial-crime she was from her good work immunizing and impunifying Steve Mnuchin for his financial crime spree. Wall Street knew she would protect them from the consequences of their next nationwide crime spree the way Obama protected them from the consequences of their last crime spree.

            So Wall Street wanted her to be President for them when they triggered off their next financial post-crime-spree collapse. They are hoping to delay the next crash till she is President, so she can do the Obama thing in order to collect the Big Obama Tubmans.

            Maybe her Clintonite associations and her Identy Wokeness badges helped make the sale.

  2. Jason Boxman

    More important is the admission — it’s not even reluctant — that China’s political system is better at saving lives than the West’s. Oopsie.

    So I had the thought earlier today, that this pandemic, looking back, will probably be seen as the precipitating event that ultimately lead to the collapse of the American empire. This will be so, simply because the United States, and nearly all nations outside of China and a few other countries, will be so thoroughly depleted of healthy, long-COVID free citizens that can actively participate in the economy.

    So this probably will very much be seen as the Chinese century, by the end of it.

    (Someone else commented that it’s challenging to do real research and development completely remotely, and in China research, development, education, manufacturing, and so on are proceeding apace. Not so much here.)

    My N95s ought to be here later today. Duck-bills. I hope they fit tight.

    1. Ranger Rick

      Someone repeated a headline quote in a meeting this morning after remarking about how hard it was to find an open Apple Store to get a laptop repaired: “The EU expects 50% of the population to get Omicron.”

      I replied with a comment I read here a while back: “If this was a serious plague we’d all be dead by now.”

    2. marku52

      The military already has problems finding cannon fodder, er, troops, that aren’t over weight or diabetic. The myocarditis from long covid ought to finally put an end to the Insane Empire.

    3. Grant

      You should read about the environmental crisis within China, then think about that in connection to the global environmental crisis. Minqi Li is a good source for this. I lived in China, love the people, but the environmental crisis within China is hard to put into words. For starters, research the per capita water availability and then research the water pollution in southern China, where most of the water is. I see no reason to assume functioning human societies will be the norm by the end of the century. The countries like the US that have an aversion to economic planning will not make it in their current form.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > The countries like the US that have an aversion to economic planning will not make it in their current form.

        Given China’s ecological crisis, I would go long Southeast Asian real estate, especially when located near railroads.

        That said, my point that China has had better governance than we have remains — certainly better than the US/UK. Heading toward a million deaths and nobody bats an eye. “Life is cheap in the Occident.”

  3. JohnnyGL


    Once you stop looking at team dem as a functional governing apparatus for the country and just sort of view things from a power-politics sort of angle, the idea that Manchin is completely bossing this party around gets downright funny.

    Imagine having former presidents, so thoroughly humbled as to beg you for your vote. Manchin must be absolutely giddy with the massive amount power he’s been able to grab for himself while barely even having to fight or risk anything to get it.

    The leadership of team dem is so bad, this guy just walked in and grabbed control of things.

    Compare the scene to where Obama was two years ago when he was still playing king maker in the Democratic primary race. All he had to do was pick up the phone to get Biden locked in as the candidate!

    Now he’s stuck begging Manchin for crumbs! It’s great theatre.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?

        The worst fall he might take is a dive into satin pillows full of money. That’s not much of a fall.

        Maybe he’ll get paid enough after leaving office to where he can afford a mansion next to the Obama mansion on Martha’s Vineyard.

        1. dcblogger

          you may be correct, but I sense that this is going to take a very bad turn for him. I can’t pretend to know how, I just think that being such a visible ogre will turn out badly.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            My working theory has been that Manchin’s top line was Biden’s top line all along (i.e., that Biden knew about Manchin’s letter to Schumer).

            From Biden’s perspective, that would have (a) guaranteed passage (i.e., Klain can count), (b) given him something to run on in 2022 and 2024, and (c) screwed the left (as the last change for something major dwindles to a nubbin of nothingness, just like ObamaCare v. single payer).

            Then Manchin, for whatever reason — probably the increased attention meant more money, plus genuine if bad ideological commitment — betrayed Biden. It’s hard to know, they’re all as twisty as corkscrews.

            So yes, I think Biden would be happy to arrange for Manchin to slip on a very big banana peel in 2024, when Manchin runs again, if the DSCC can work out how to hold the seat (major sports figure?). Or perhaps they could prosecute Manchin’s price-gouging murderous daughter.

            NOTE The cleanest solution would be for Manchin to run as a Republican, and lose. I don’t think Manchin would cross the aisle, because then he’d be just another Republican, and my impression is that Republicans have more party discipline, too.

    1. upstater

      If nothing substantive is going to get done by CON-gress, kick Manchin and Sinema out of the Dimocrat Party and then go full AOC. But that ain’t gonna happen.

      1. John

        You must remember: Nothing is to fundamentally change and goes for the shambling zombie that was once the democratic party. At least the Whigs had the grace to fall apart quickly.

    1. jo6pac

      I just read that and I’m sure this is the only time we’ll see an story on it. It will never see daylight on lame stream news.

      1. Gabor the Viking

        To say Project Veritas has zero credibility is giving them credit for at least 10 times more credibility than they have.

    2. marku52

      I saw that too. Very damning, if true. Covid was an attempted aerosol bat vaccine that got loose. Also that HCQ and IVM are effective treatments.

      Maj Joseph Murphy should be called to testify under oath.

      1. Sardonia

        “Wake me when somebody other than Project Veritas authenticates them.”

        And who, in DC or the Military would have the gonads to do so, knowing it could well be their death sentence?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > And who, in DC or the Military would have the gonads to do so, knowing it could well be their death sentence?

          So, claims are true because they’re not provable? Interesting….

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        For those who came in late, Project Veritas founder O’Keefe made his bones with, er, “selectively edited” videos of ACORN (suit settled against O’Keefe for a mere $50,000).* I wouldn’t trust Project Veritas as far as I could throw a concert grand piano.

        NOTE * Adding, ACORN was a Democrat-affiliated voter registration operation. Democrats don’t want that, hence, I would speculate, the relatively easy treatment meted out to O’Keefe, who actually did their work for them. I mean, it’s not like O’Keefe stole Ashley Biden’s diary, or something.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          I remain impressed by how quickly ACORN went out of existence. It is almost as if ACORN was never an actual group to begin with. Only a projected hologram can disappear that quickly when a switch is flipped off.

          I remain surprised that none of the human survivors of ACORN never tried reaching out to eachother and forming a real analog ACORNiform group in the analog meatspace reality-sphere.
          Maybe the actual people inside ACORN were never anything more that fiber-optic cable-elements transmitting the holographic image of ACORN.

  4. NotTimothyGeithner

    She actually used the word “malaise.” What staffer let her do that?

    Alright, if this was a Mayor Pete plant, my opinion on the man would rapidly change.

    Re: Schools

    My sister teaches in her old high school. Yesterday, they were prepping kids for virtual and offering guidance on events like prom and graduation. The school system administration has been garbage through all this, so if they are there, it must be bad.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      “Alright, if this was a Mayor Pete plant, my opinion on the man would rapidly change.”

      Haha, yeah. Me too. It does seem like the use of the word was intentional. I can’t believe malaise is a regular part of Harris’ vocabulary. But even though I was a youngin’ when Carter gave his speech, I’m enough a student of US politics to know that’s about the last word I’d want in a speech about how things are going.

      Pete is definitely that slippery. I just doubt he’s aware of the connotation either.

      1. DWashbern

        It’s her subconscious speaking, a Jungian or Freudian slip, since all that she has to offer as her political identity is her loudly touted choice of parents, and that unusual first name.

        Mayonn-aise Pete and Kamal-aise could make a great team.

      2. ObjectiveFunction

        Funny how everybody – friend or foe – calls him “Mayor Pete” or variants thereof, simply to avoid the sheer awkwardness of looking at his last name in print.

        … And for a short, boyish looking gay man seeking the highest office, ‘Mayor Pete’ isn’t exactly an honorific; rather the reverse, underscoring his underqualification. And ‘Secretary Pete’ is really no better at inflating his image.

        So can you just imagine PMC suburban lawns at primary time plastered with hundreds of signs proudly proclaiming:

        PETE 2024
        PETE 2024
        PETE 2024
        PETE 2024

        ….Maybe he can score ‘Climate Czar’ or something like that to pad the ol’ resume a bit, and shoving aside John Kerry (himself the last dying gasp of the Kennedy / Boston patrician legacy that was once such a force in DNC politics).

    2. Mark Gisleson

      Jimmy Carter is a neoliberal saint. I’m sure that the crowd Harris runs in thinks Carter was treated unfairly and by gosh by now EVERYONE realizes “malaise” was exactly the right word to use and hey why don’t we use it in the speech tomorrow?!

      1. Pelham

        Quite possible.

        Another possibility is that Harris is politically stupid. I’m not what anyone would call a political junkie but I’ve known since at least a few days after Carter’s (initially well received) speech that “malaise” was an absolutely career-death-dealing word for anyone with aspirations. It’s been a constant for decades. Somehow, this appears to have just zipped past Harris.

    3. albrt

      I don’t believe the “malaise” staffer was planted by Mayo Pete, but I could perhaps be persuaded that the staffer was planted by the same intelligence operatives who planted Mayo Pete.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If Harris is being measured for her political coffin, who will be Wall Street’s next President Obama to keep Wall Street safe from the consequences of its next big crash?

  5. Jason Boxman

    On “This Is NOT a Pandemic of the Unvaccinated”, it’s worth noting that we don’t live in different universes. By letting it ride, everyone suffers from broken hospitals, closed schools, supply chain delays, overall misery and degradation of mental health, and so on.

    Cheering on illness and death in a not insignificant part of the population is hardly a recipe for maintaining a functioning society. Nor is a society that relishes shaming and othering healthy.

    1. steve

      There is a significant slice of the everyone that doesn’t realize the sorry state of affairs all around them, suffer they do but they don’t realize it yet. As the Rot eats more and more it’s soon gonna be in their faces at scale and the bleating and squealing will begin, but will anyone care? Scapegoats are in abundance as is the propensity of the PMC to use them in utter denial of any responsibility, so the othering will pick up steam aided by the levers of power and the proles will suffer even more. There’s gotta be a tipping point here somewhere.

    2. Jen

      I mentioned the lack of inventory at the grocery store this morning. This is at our “upscale” coop. Sure to get attention of our PMC types.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          How might individuals and groups of individuals do this and that to shift the plot towards being a lived in semitopia science fiction novel or a mehtopia science fiction novel or something other than a dystopian science fiction novel?

    1. Screwball

      You are so right – there is nothing there. Kinda reminds me of an old saying, which would be apt for so many things today, including the administrations response to the pandemic (among other things team D); The lights on, but nobody’s home.

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      “…there’s no “here” there yet….”

      they’re having trouble getting the flaming hoops to light because Nancy won’t give them any dry powder(tm).
      perhaps coal dust would do…

        1. Pelham

          Good question. My answer: They’re thinking that if they state a program with big numbers for the tests but endless hoops for anyone to actually obtain them, it’s a win-win for the administration. It will sound as if they’ve done something big and responsive without actually having to do anything big and responsive, while also creating PMC jobs that ensure nothing big and responsive accidentally happens.

        2. enoughisenough

          They are trying to get people on Medicare to self-deport, and to get us Gen Xers to be ok with never getting Medicare.

          No mistake, they are killing any hope of national health care when we need it most.

          I’m trying to adjust to the reality that even though healthy, I will probably die before my time, with this as our situation.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        well, that’s pretty infuriating.

        FTA:”The new measure doesn’t include the estimated 31.1 million uninsured people living in the US, nor most of the 61.5 million (pdf) Americans enrolled in Medicare, the federal health insurance plan for seniors and people with disabilities. For now, they will have to rely on other types of covid testing covered by the government. Some Medicare Advantage plans, which are more comprehensive, may cover the cost of at-home tests.”

        (adjusts tinfoil)
        as it happens, those are exactly the portions of the herd most likely to be thinned.
        neglect, incompetence or malice.
        i can’t tell any more…and i guess it doesn’t matter.
        i’ve known that i was in the useless eater category for a while, now.
        one learns to compensate.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            had to look that up:
            wiki:”In psychology, the term refers to an individual’s loss of healthy defense mechanisms in response to stress, resulting in personality disturbance or psychological imbalance.[2][3] Some who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder may decompensate into persecutory delusions to defend against a troubling reality.”

            i try to control for such things…but who can tell anymore?
            we’re well into the Ontological Crises, hence all the competing and contradictory reality tunnels.

            while i was waiting for the funeral crowd to arrive from the church, i was idly flipping through the radio(very, very limited out here).
            landed on Glenn Beck earnestly rambling with a “health expert” about the vaccines and mandates and such.
            they kept talking about “bodily autonomy”….even advocating a Constitutional Amendment to make one’s body one’s own. I wanted to take him by the ear and yell about abortion and potsmoking and such, but whatever.
            they were also hyperventilating about the vaccines being a crime against humanity…perpetrated by biden et alia, as the “Far Left”,lol…thus linking genocide with “Left”, further poisoning any New New Deal efforts that may come….reinforcing the by now commonplace trope that dem=commie=ussr= baby eating satanist.

            “Raphèl mai amècche zabì almi!”

            …and the two headed leviathan wins again.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > “Hmmm, there’s no “here” there yet.

      The “here” link works now. For grins, I thought I would try out Maine:

      The first link, “Find a health center,” is useless; lots of homeless shelters and substance abuse centers, and a “call first” disclaimer, so, no.

      The next two links are — unsurprisingly! — to ginormous monopolies.

      The final link, to the Maine health department, is in fact very good and informative: Lists actual health clinics, with phone numbers, plus the type of test offered (e.g., Helen Hunt center in Old Town offers PCR only).

      So, the web designers plus whoever signed off on this produced listings that are, in rank order:

      1) Work product of an HHS contractor*

      2) Giant monopolies

      3) State public health agencies.

      These listings are also in reverse rank order for usefulness (and since #3 includes listings for #2, #2 could be eliminated entirely). So, as we know from how people click on Google search results, the most useless link is first, and the most useful link is last. Good job, HHS.

      NOTE * The contractor is Leidos: “Our key lines of business — civil, defense, health, and intelligence.” Oh, good. Great. For any given rock, after lifting, something slithers out.

  6. Hepativore

    I have heard rumors that some progressives might mount a primary challenge from the left in the 2024 presidential race. The latest rumor is that it is going to be Marianne Williamson. Putting aside the chances of winning against an incumbent president, provided that Biden makes it to 2024 and is in any shape to run, can the DNC legally outright cancel primaries as it seems like they can set their own rules and break them whenever they wish?

    What is to stop the Democratic Party from saying at the very beginning that they have already chosen the candidate such as Biden, Harris, or Buttigieg, so primaries are unnecessary and everybody shut up and go home?

    If Biden and the rest of his corporate-dem ilk could even be said to have an agenda, it seems like it is to sit back and pretend that everything’s fine and if anybody says otherwise it is to instruct everybody to clap louder in response. They have no real goal other than to maintain the status quo as long as possible so their donors can continue to extract what remains from the American economic and political system. Now, they might have to hand off the baton to the Republicans for awhile in these next elections, but then the Democrats will not have to pretend to govern while they fundraise.

    1. albrt

      That’s basically what the Republicans did in 2020. So you are right, there is nothing to stop the Biden Democrats from doing what they usually do, which is to continue doing whatever Trump did while claiming they are doing something different.

    2. JohnnyGL

      I find this sort of thing immensely frustrating. Marianne Williamson is a perfectly fine person, and had some interesting things to say on the debate stage and I’m happy she was there (as much as team dem let her on).

      However, she isn’t a credible primary challenger at the presidential level. If there’s going to be any hope for the left they need to find and groom and elect candidates who’ve actually been in leadership roles and shown administrative competence. A key part of Trump’s credibility when he ran for president was that he was a top executive of a large business (yes, I know, they were scam businesses and trump did a bad job at nearly all of them). We need governors and mayors and agency heads, and yes, even business leaders if they are credible.

      If we’re going to grab control the the team dem party apparatus, we’re going to have to beat them on ‘competence’. You need a candidate who can say, “this party is run by idiots who’ve failed. I’ll turn this ship around. I’ve turned around an organization before and I can fix this dysfunctional one, too”.

      That candidate is also going to have to reject previous leaders too. Much like Trump rejected the Bush family as failures, if we’re going to over turn the leadership of team dem, someone needs to get honest and say “Clinton, Obama, Biden all did a bad job”. Once you admit what everyone knows is true, you get people’s attention that you’re serious about changing things.

        1. CarlH

          Bernie has proven over and over to me that he is certainly not the man for the moment and never was. Just ask his good friend Joe.

        2. JohnnyGL

          Bernie was less serious about the fight than we wanted him to be. He folded up incredibly fast after he fell behind biden. Has barely had an impact since he folded.

        3. albrt

          I loved Sanders in 2016, but I think Johnny has hit the nail on the head with the requirement that a candidate must say “this party is run by idiots who’ve failed. I’ll turn this ship around.”

          That is exactly what Sanders refused to say, and he got even worse about it in 2020.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        I’m not so sure, Johnny. While it will surprise no one to learn that the idea of a woo-woo candidate is pretty attractive to me, I do believe that most rational among us can admit that by the time the primaries roll around, the truth of the Hunter Thompson quote Lambert so helpfully lists above may become evident in a way never seen before. Marianne could be the candidate to send a big FU to our worthless elites just as Trump was in 2016.

        And without all the anger!

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Marianne could be the candidate to send a big FU to our worthless elites just as Trump was in 2016. And without all the anger!

          I don’t think you can have an FU candidate without anger.

          My dark horse candidate is Sara Nelson. Union leader, does righteous outrage well, executive experience, comes across as compassionate, no woo woo. If she could crank up the class warfare rhetoric she might strike a chord. Importantly, she was not selected for anything in the Biden Administration (though she served on the window-dressing transition team). I mean, can anybody argue that Buttigieg is a better Secretary of Transportation than Nelson would have been? Or Department of Labor, if it comes to that.

          She would need a good VP candidate. I just hope she doesn’t listen to anything the NGO Industrial Complex has to say, if it comes to that. Cross anybody they recommend off the list….

          1. ObjectiveFunction

            ….Problem is, Angry Women tend to be quickly pigeonholed as either:

            a. shrewish and shrill (i.e. that eternal bugaboo ‘hysterical’) — Warren or Rosa Klebs(uchar), Pelosi when she gets challenged. The male version is ‘whiny’ or in the case of Perot, cranky….

            b. haughty (‘frigid’) and judgy — Hillary and pretty much all women of color in authority, including Kamala and Michelle. AOC enjoys talking down, but then quickly slips back into shrill when challenged. Thing is, people will only accept ‘judginess’ from someone (of either gender) known for impeccable judgment. Thatcher got away with it for a decade, but then the TINA shtick wore thin on the voters.

            …Gabbard is a rare bird: she can be direct and stinging, but always keeps it under control. A ‘cool’ kind of angry which she modulates to the tone of the debate, going back to a positive message once the need for anger has passed. She ‘invites’ us to accept her authority (layered with a fair amount of self promotion about her military service etc.), she doesn’t insist on it as her due.

            People here may barf but there are (or were) a few woman news anchors like Judy Woodruff who — sincerely or not — can express outrage or at least skepticism in that ‘cool’ way, without coming across as either shrill or haughty. But I haven’t watched PBS in almost 20 years, so no idea if she’s still like that. It seems like they are all just managing their own celebrity brands now and pandering to their echo chambers.

      2. Mo's Bike Shop

        credible primary challenger at the presidential level

        I just wanna point out that Trump wasn’t a credible primary challenger at the presidential level. Are we picturing the 2024 primaries and ‘Conventions’ as not being influenced by living with covid?

        1. Michael Ismoe

          We’d have to have had The Rapture and the Second Coming for Marianne Williamson to be considered a credible presidential candidate.

          1. jonhoops

            Why? Her bona-fides are just as good as hacks like Klobuchar or Mayo Pete. Or do you just lack imagination.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > I just wanna point out that Trump wasn’t a credible primary challenger at the presidential level.

          No, but Trump had been on TV for what, fifteen years? He redeployed his already existing social capital, is all. I can’t think of a left equivalent in the entertainment industry. I mean, Bruce Springsteen is out.

          1. SteveB

            Springsteen may be out but his consigliere Steve Van Zandt could be in….

            His progressive views are apparent in his musical work: Voice of America, Freedom no Compromise, Revolution…. Sun City, Check Point Charlie and I am a patriot just to mention a few……
            He is an actor with cred. Sopranos, Lillihammer………….

            And he has strong opinions and is not afraid to voice them……. read his new book.

            His wife Maureen would make a lovely First Lady….

            I’d get behind him !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      3. ObjectiveFunction

        Well, we had Mike Bloomberg, but….. where do I even start with that shmuck?

        Oh, wait, I think I said it all right there. Yiddish is such a great vocabulary.

      4. Tangled up in Texas

        Willimson took a thriving church of 2,500+ congregants in Warren, Michigan, the Church of Today, and set it on a path of ruin. The congregation, who once gathered in a multi-million dollar building, now gather in the gymnasium of a local high school.

        She was ill-equipped to run a thriving church…I don’t understand how anyone can believe she could run a divided nation.

      5. jonhoops

        What is your idea of a credible primary challenger at the Presidential level? Marianne Williamson has more celebrity cred and name recognition than most of the usual Democratic Party hopefuls. She did at least as well as all the party hacks like Harris, Klobuchar, Kaine and Mayo Pete the last time round.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > What is your idea of a credible primary challenger at the Presidential level?



          Michelle + Oprah?

          Jay Inslee was IIRC OK (though I don’t know his state record at all). So that is where we are for serious candidates. Inslee does not seem equal to the times.

          How about a gaming star? IIRC, there was a bit of a test case for such a candidate in the California recall. Maybe somebody smarter, better, better funded? Known to millions, but not visible to the press?

          NOTE Of course, Joe Rogan. Rogan running as a Democrat would be a hilarious and useful purgative, that’s for sure.

    3. Amfortas the hippie

      insert DNC lawyer quote.
      nothing stopping them at all, aside from appearances, and the need(maybe) to prolong the illusion of “democracy” within the Democratic Party(tm).
      but if they don’t want to win anyway….and the gop’s ongoing shenanigans provide a welcome scapegoat for losing…then why the hell not?
      I mean, they got away with bigfotting their way to weak tea corpse identi-symbols in the primaries twice in a row…and also bigfooting in a bunch of blue dogs downballot, too, in between and simultaneously.

      Let ‘er rip! is applicable for more than pandemics, it seems.

      way back in the early 90’s in South Austin, there was often a lot of speculation around the bong about offshoring among the people who hung out at my place: who’s gonna buy their plastic pumpkins if everybody works at walmart?
      and the like.
      one recurring consensus was that, eventually, the chinese peasants would imbibe just enough Baywatch to demand to not be peasants anymore…and by that time, we amurkins would be sufficiently peasantised ourselves that it wouldn’t matter…and the jobs would come back, because we would be desperate enough to accept peasant wages…and global labor arbitrage could continue happily along.
      the former chinese peasants could wail about “sending all our physical plant to that backwater amerika”, and the chinese premier would look a lot like billary.
      how does one say “Bubba” in Pinyin?

    4. dcblogger

      Marianne Williamson? that is not a primary challenge, that is a book tour under color of a political campaign.

      1. Dr. John Carpenter

        Yep. I’d really hope progressives (whoever that means in this case) could do better than Williamson. But, I’d really hope progressives would finally stop trying to beat their heads against the reforming/taking over the Democrats wall too…

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Progressives who have decided to abandon the Democrat Party could start a new single issue party called the Stop Covid Now Party. That could be their one issue.

        2. JohnnyGL

          I was hoping they’d actually START trying to reform/take over the party. What we’ve seen so far doesn’t look like anyone trying to do much of anything.

    5. Ranger Rick

      The Republican Party did that in Colorado in 2016 (they gave all their delegates to Ted Cruz without holding a vote) and enraged the electorate. The state quickly passed a law mandating public primaries. It’s been a battle to keep them ever since.

    6. Big River Bandido

      I find all of this just thoroughly laughable. These so-called “leftists” aren’t the least bit serious about power, as evidenced by their never-ending search for a “President” and their belief that then, somehow everything will just be fixed and “we” can all go back to brunch.

      In any case, it hardly matters who gets chosen in 2024; the Democrat nomination won’t be worth a puppy piddle pad.

  7. Mantid

    Google knows! This quote from the high school student in NY reflecting on the state of Covd at their school “I arrived at school and promptly went to Study Hall. I knew that some of my teachers would be absent because they had announced it on Google Classroom earlier in the day” Another example of Public/Private Partnership in action….. Since gaggle knows which teachers (and students and staff) are sick, everyone knows – well at least those that will pay to discover who’s been sick. In a short amount of time, large insurance corporations will buy this information from gaggle and use it to decide what your healthcare costs will be. Imagine having long covid and trying to get insurance to cover some specific treatment. They’ll say “but back in Jan. 2022, you returned to school after only 5 days – you must have been well at that point”. “So, Mr. Smyth we’ve determined that you can’t have long Covid because you were back at work within 6 days”. “Claim denied”. “Have a nice day”.

  8. BillS

    Covid propaganda machine in Italy is shifting gears. Repubblica came out with a headline that the covid numbers are too high and they number of positive test results should no longer be reported. They also say that hospitalizations do not reflect true covid cases. I presume the high hospitalization numbers uncomfortably contradict the vaccine-will-save-us narrative..and they need to come down by hook or crook!


    1. The Rev Kev

      Here in Oz there is an attempt to downplay case numbers and to think about people actually hospitalized instead That is, there was but those numbers are starting to skyrocket as well. People are being forced back to work after only a few days, sick or not, which is going to make more workers and customers sick as well. So the plan to spread this virus to as many people as possible to achieve herd immunity and call this pandemic over is gathering pace.

      1. ambrit

        Eventually, the elusive “herd immunity” will be made manifest as a medical NFT. It won’t be a case of “appearance becoming reality,” so much as “reality” becoming a manipulable symbol.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > as a medical NFT

          Turning one’s horrific surprise bill — by which, at this point, we mean any bill — into an NFT might be workable idea? For as long as the idea lasts?

    1. Objective Ace

      Sadly I think you’re right–but this actually ends up being a giant benefit for those unvaccinated. How many employees out there would love to have their employer “required to pay for the cost of testing employees in the screening program, either by paying directly for testing or by reimbursing employees, and the time spent getting tested should be treated as duty time—not administrative leave—for payroll purpose”?

      1. rowlf

        The company I work for actually does provide the testing on the company property on the clock. This balances with an additional monthly health insurance payment for being unvaccinated and supposed risk of higher treatment cost if infected. I also have state that unions are always trying to organize the workforce.

        I had actually anticipated a Lucy-and-the-football situation with testing.

  9. Judith

    A thoughtful column by Patrick Lawrence on the anniversary of the January 6 riots.


    We come to the validity of protest qua protest. “There was nothing virtuous about the 1/6 riot”: I must disagree again. I am not a man of Trump and do not know what was in the minds of the Capitol Hill protesters other than to question the election results. But are we making believe here that the general idea of a stolen election is so preposterous as that? I can’t sign on.

    Setting aside what the protesters were for or against, I see considerable virtue in the act of protest itself. Is street protest in the name of whatever stripe — street protest that genuinely confront power — now off the table in America? All politics is now institutional politics and everyone must simply vote and stay home? Is the antiwar movement of the 1960s and ’70s among the things we have all forgotten? The great protests marking the true history of this country, not least those that changed it in the 1930s, are lost to us? These were authentic challenges to power.

    Very, very few of us care to face the reality of our circumstances as they have come to us over the past couple of decades or so. In our time, our political process is broken, thoroughly broken. Those in office to represent us are corrupted absolutely and do not do so. Is there somehow some question of where our responsibilities — to ourselves and each other — lie?

    This is not convenient. Nobody wants to live in a time that requires them to resort to the street, the village green, bridges in Alabama, the Washington Mall, the steps of the Capitol — all of which are public spaces, the spaces of citizens. But sooner or later we will have to face the fact that we live in such a time, and that if we want to make things better in America it is in protest that our voices will be heard. In this the Jan. 6 protesters are a step ahead of most of us.

    1. marym

      By the time of the riot there was already ample public information that the election wasn’t stolen. The riot wasn’t a “challenge to power.” It was one segment of non-elites attempting to disempower another.

      There was no reason even then to consider the riot as some righteous uprising of the oppressed. The protesters went to the Capitol to participate in an effort to nullify the presidential votes of tens of millions of their fellow citizens so that Trump would continue to be president even though he lost the election. They chose to act as if they and not Biden voters were the Real America whose voices should be heard and votes counted.

      They weren’t “a step ahead of most of us.” They’re part of a reactionary movement that promotes an exclusionary vision of who gets to be “us.”

      1. lyman alpha blob

        I’d say there was ample public information that Trump did not present any legitimate proof that the election was stolen before the riot. Proving a negative is tough though, and as long as we are using electronic machines whose source code remains the proprietary information of private companies and which have been shown on numerous occasions to be very vulnerable to hacking, there is no way that anyone should consider the vote count to be accurate. That doesn’t mean Trump won or that anybody stole anything in 2020, it means the machines don’t count votes accurately and a stolen election in general is definitely possible, and if possible then an eventuality. As I’ve mentioned previously I’ve participated in a hand recount of votes originally counted by the paper scanner machines that do have a paper trial and we found discrepancies in the two totals and also that the machines had failed to count about 1.5% of the ballots at all. And that was from the supposedly good kind of machines.

        Until we have hand marked paper ballots counted by hand in public, nobody should trust the results of our elections, and I believe it is something people should be mad as hell and out protesting about.

        1. marym

          By the time of the riot there had been ~30 of an eventual ~60 court cases already dismissed or withdrawn. In some cases there wasn’t even an allegation of fraud – just a lawsuit to disqualify ballots due to an administrative procedural issue. There were unsubstantiated claims about boxes of ballots delivered in the night or ballots fed to tabulation machines more than once – basically just anti-working class slurs agains election workers. The credentials, data, and methodology of pro-Trump “experts” promoting various theories about voting patterns, ballot-count dumps, and vote-switching had been debunked in court documents and press reports. In addition to the states’ documented routine certification procedures, which included partial hand recounts, there had been investigations, recounts (including a full hand recount in GA), and detailed explanations of things like “ballot dumps” by Republicans and Democrats to address specific issues. No one – from Trump to the rioters – questioned the legitimacy of other races on the same ballots as the presidential vote.

          So even though tabulation software manipulation is a valid general matter of concern, it seems illogical to justify the rioters on the basis of a concern that was at best marginal to allegations at the time, and in some cases shown to be unlikely/non-existent based on recounts.

          1. marym

            Adding: As far as general concern about the vulnerability of machine tabulation to fraud or error, I can’t speak knowledgeably about the technology, the audit procedures that supposedly check the hardware and software, or the statistical validity of audits of machine results against manual results. I would like to read some not-too-obscurely-techy discussions.

            Given that we don’t have full hand counts and who knows if we ever will, is it this a reasonable approach to confirm machine results?

            “Pennsylvania’s statewide risk-limiting audit of the November 2020 presidential election was completed in February 2021. Sixty-three participating counties reviewed a statistical sample of over 45,000 randomly selected ballots from the November 3, 2020, General Election. The results of the sample mirrored the reported presidential election results across the participating counties within a fraction of a percentage point, providing confirmation of the accuracy of the vote count.”

            As far as counting all the ballots, states have procedures to balance the number of ballots counted against the numbers of in-person voters and absentee ballots returned – it’s at least theoretically part of the post-election review.

            I’ve only seen one study of the error rate in hand counting.

      2. Swamp Yankee

        I agree, Marym. The 1/6 rioters are overwhelmingly not the working class rustbelt swing voters who made the difference between Trump and HRC in PA, OH, MI, WI, and so on. Rather, they are the Tea Party 3.0, violent reactionaries, typically drawn from strata of the traditional petit bourgeoisie (shopowners, contractors, etc.), who believe any rule but their own is inherently illegitimate.

        I confess to being puzzled that many left and/or opposition media figures seem to having a hard time distinguishing between the former and the latter (Greenwald, whose work I generally admire, I think is seriously in error on this one). Based on my own interaction with the local (SE Mass.) far right, I feel confident that many 1/6 sympathizers view those of us with Bernie Sanders-style policy preference and politics as literal Soviet Communists, something to be hated and possibly destroyed (eliminationist rhetoric is not just the preserve of the Daily Kos when talking about coal miners).

        This does not mean that Russiagate was anything but bullshit, that the Dems have governed well or really at all, that MSNBC and “Our Democracy” (hi, Mika!) is anything but the DNC’s propaganda ministry, etc. Two things can be true at once.

        It does mean, though, that far right mobs who fly the Stars and Bars while seizing the federal legislature to overturn the will of electoral majorities are the enemy of all of us, especially those of us on the Left.

        I do think Bernie and our own Amfortas The Hippie remain correct — a New Deal on steroids is the only way to drain this particular swamp.

        1. JacobiteInTraining

          “…In this the Jan. 6 protesters are a step ahead of most of us…”

          This is the part I had to chuckle about. I mean, they aren’t one step ahead of the folks in Minneapolis. Or those that created CHOP in Seattle, and certainly not ahead of the people who were gathered constantly around the Federal Building in Portland during the protests.

          I mean, I guess you could say they *were* a step ahead of them in actually being able to get inside the Capitol, roam around randomly beating cops and all that. The peeps I mentioned were beaten, gassed, pulped, kidnapped, noise cannoned, kettled, assaulted, tased, and in some cases pretty well maimed before they could ever get inside.

          Amazing how ‘street protests’ of the rich and ‘right’ just don’t seem to attract the same vehement violence from the cops and feds….bloodied broken bones & cracked skulls as those of the left and poor. Odd, i cannot really explain that. (sarc)

          Still a fan of this: https://vimeo.com/441192014

        2. Big River Bandido

          I was completely with you until you went off the rails with

          “seizing the federal legislature”.

          “Seizing” is doing some serious heavy lifting there.

          1. Swamp Yankee

            Okay, what is your preferred verb, Big River Bandido? Honest question. Why does “seizing” strike you as having gone off the rails?

            If changed to “invading,” would that answer your objections?

            1. ambrit

              Considering the cultural background of those people, ‘punking’ might be the better term to use.

              1. Amfortas the hippie

                i watched the whole thing, on tv and online.
                the british term “wilding” came to mind.
                the east texas translation might be “sowing their oats”.
                as politics has devolved into a sporting event, this “protest” devolved into a post-game riot.

                even if they had managed to kidnap or even kill a number of congresspeople, it would not have amounted to a coup.
                then, it would be a massacre…and a rather shameful one, at that.

                the actual coup, is ongoing, and has been going on for as long as i’ve been paying attention.
                “government is the problem”…”taxes are theft”…”democrats are commies”…and the widely held belief in a great many people that only they are “real americans”.
                if i had to pick a point in time, I’d say the Powell Memo was the Ft Sumpter Moment.
                the nebulous class of The Owners decided to fight back against the more perfected, but not yet Perfect, union of the New Deal, and reassert their feudal privilege…enlisting an army of ill informed, confused and small-r reactionary people who were afraid of a changing world…using the most sophisticated machinery of mindfuckery ever constructed.

                but that’s not what the performative hamilton singalong was all about…nancy, et alia aren’t worried about That coup.
                because they are a part of it…and have been , more or less, since at least Carter.

                the idiocy of 1-6-2021…as ugly as some of it was…confirmed one thing that i already knew…having lived around those sorts of pseudorevolutionary lumpenfascists all my life…they, themselves, couldn’t “take over” or “overthrow” any damned thing….an east texas suburban beer joint spilling out into the street.
                but the chaos they bring in their larping enables the further entrenchment of the actual revolutionaries…sitting safe in the boardrooms and walnut paneled studies of the obscene rich.

                team blue is getting all worked up about the wrong thing, as usual.
                doesn’t appear to be anything that can penetrate their bubble that i have to hand…so i’ll be out here in the hills, shoring up this ark, this Imladris, this Laraulindorinand..this galt’s gulch as it should have been…and perhaps, creating a functioning, if rudimentary, backup drive for civilisation, for when the Owners eventually screw it all up and reveal themselves as mere mortals, standing naked in the ruins with the rest of us.

                1. Swamp Yankee

                  I’m of much the same viewpoint, Amfortas — though my ark is considerably colder and swampier than your own! I don’t wish to be mistaken, it was not a coup like Myanmar or Latin America — I think we are going through something that will rhyme much more with Italy’s “Years of Lead” from the late 60s-80s than a Thai or Peruvian coup d’etat — the comparisons with Italy I believe are manifold: we are talking developed, 1st world economies, the maintenance of at least the forms of parliamentary government, but all the while with a kaleidescope of factions, including some far right elements that received heavy support from Establishment forces (google Golpo Borghese).

                  The other point you bring up that I agree with is the essential lack of ability of the lumpenfascists to really organize themselves — “wilding” does seem appropriate, though I think it’s a bit unfair to the actually wild! Reinhold Niebuhr once wrote that fascists were attempting what he called “synthetic barbarism,” imitating Atilla in the heart of a civilized country in the 20th c., and I think there is that element here as well, including literally dressing up with the Viking horns. If anything, they were more leaderless than the barbarians of late antiquity, who had their Alarics and so on.

                  With that said, they can still act as shock troops of the obscene rich, as you rightly call them. The way to defeat them, too, is not wokeist hectoring or the weird appeals to authority that constitute the bread-and-butter of contemporary liberalism, but the kind of universalist democratic humanism we see in the Declaration of Independence, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, and the UN Charter. And, of course, the New Deal.

                2. Even keel

                  That’s right. That.
                  Everything has Been shit since 1971.
                  I was looking through my memory box the other day, looking for pics of my recently deceased mother in law for her celebration of life, and I saw that I had kept a single newspaper clipping: the front page when Obama was inaugurated in 2009.

                  I remembered the feeling. I kept it because it had been so momentous. We had all become so fed up with all the fascist shit that bush threw at us. The torture, the drones, the foreign invasions, rendition, routine spying on domestic Americans. Taking your belt off to go into public buildings.

                  He was going to change all that. He was going to undo the hate and the law enforcement and the corporate profiteering. I even thought he’d stop deregulation and it’s debacles like enron.

                  None of it changed. We are now 20 years after 9/11. All of our civil liberties were taken away. They never came back.

                  We are now a people who can’t habitually carry pocket knives with them, lest they go somewhere routinely and have it seized.

                  And we are reduced to squabbling about the right word to describe the excuse for the next round of deprivation.

                  I can see the attraction of withdrawal.

                3. Amfortas the hippie

                  and see:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Liberty_League

                  for the continuity.
                  it took that bunch 2 generations to finally get their shit together and begin their counterrevolution.
                  all the things the Machine learned in places like guatemala, el salvador, chile, argentina, iran, iraq, and just on and on….went into the field manual for how to “take back america” from the proles.
                  “Jakarta is Coming”.

                  and instead of a Business Coup, quick and dirty…it’s slow and methodical.
                  in my time, i’ve accidentally bumped into the lower edges of that world…been the help…or the kid of a fancier help(grandad had a small sheet metal shop in houston, and did a lot of work for the tippy top moguls)…and observed them just like i observed the rednecks and bullies starting in junior high.
                  “Entitled” doesn’t even begin to cover it…such is the poison of too much wealth.
                  They maybe could have been curtailed 50 years ago…but not any more.
                  now , we get to watch them run amok from afar…and their orcs run amok nearer to home…until their Machine crumbles from it’s own weighty absurdity(“infinite growth”,lol).

                  as for Withdrawal…well, i bumped into people like this, too, in my time(met Wulf outside of Bastrop, Texas, circa 1992?):

                  I’ve already long ago withdrawn my consent, my cooperation…as much as humanly possible.
                  but the most potent weapon i have is that i withdrew my Belief.
                  I don’t Believe in them, or their works, any more.
                  Their “Values” are not my values.
                  and their high and mighty airs are, to me , merely further evidence of pathology.
                  their wall to wall advertising barrage doesn’t work on me.
                  their mouthpieces’ pontifications on morality and worth are transparently ludicrous.
                  I don’t want a new car or a fancy house….my swimming pool is a big galvanised water trough….i don’t do their debt, or their banks, and i don’t cotton to their idea of “success”.
                  if they vanished tomorrow…give me a year, and i’ll have forgotten about them altogether.
                  spread THAT among the masses sufficiently and the Masters will wither away into the smallmen that they really are, at root.
                  the only power they really have is that which we all allow them, unconsciously and by rote.
                  so stop.

                  1. Swamp Yankee

                    Yeah, I think we are thinking along very similar lines, Amfortas! Wendell Berry talked a little bit about personal secession, and I try to keep that in sight.

                    I have also had a similar experience with the uber-rich, as the scholarship working class kid at an elite college here in New England. My mind was blown, and not in a good way — everything about that world is contrary to humane values.

                    So it sounds as though we’ve had some similar experiences; if you were fifteen hundred miles closer I’d treat you to a (legal!) joint by the campfire down in the woods by the saltmarsh!

              2. Swamp Yankee

                I think ‘punking’ implies something more light-hearted than 1/6 (wasn’t it an Ashton Kucher show back in the Aughts? “Punk’d” or some such?), but your mileage may vary.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > It was one segment of non-elites attempting to disempower another.

        Petty bourgeois infghting, as it remains today.

        That said, considered solely as political theatre, the Capitol seizure was genius, and shows the demoralization of the left that they didn’t have the idea first, under the Trump administration (who, unlike Biden, could not possibly be seen as their friend even by the most delusional). All the more disspiriting because labor/the left did in fact occupy at least two state capitols in 2011 (Wisconsin and Ohio; there may have been more) — and this before Occupy proper in Zucotti Park!

        1. marym

          Petty bourgeois infghting

          I was thinking of it as petit bourgeois rioters vs working class Biden voters and election workers in swing counties/states. That’s where the votes were most visibly “contested” in the courts, right-wing media, tabulation site protests, and state legislatures.

  10. Pat

    At the rate they are going Hochul and Adams may finally be called on their superspreader school program just about the time that 90% of the school and staff have caught Covid gotten well and come back. There is so much stupid in this, it almost boggles the mind. And no, there is no learning happening.

    My friends in the system are just waiting for the positive test.

  11. jsn

    “Remember when Walensky said that shortening the isolation period to five days was based on science, but then couldn’t rightly put her hand on what the science was? Well, here it is, and it looks like Walensky is sending kids, teachers, and workers back out to save the “economy” when they are most infectious. They really do want to kill us, don’t they?”

    And how on earth do they think this will save the “economy”? China did an expensively short, total lock down, meaning “locked down”, not the metaphorical lockdown we indulge in where the rich agree to not do so much of what they like to do until they get bored. Guess what, the Chinese economy seems to be so strong Europe can’t get fuel anymore (that and EU buying on the spot market like Hayekian idealists).

    So, policy is for everyone who can get infected to get infected to get six months immunity while some un-profitable pool of immunocompromised somewhere in the world perfects the next variant that will be more or less lethal and certainly more infectious, or it won’t beat out a recirculating Omicron when immunity wears off as it certainly will. We get the cyclical work stoppages, the cyclical die offs AND the bonus of every growing Long COVID. Again, how is this saving the economy? This isn’t making wealth, this is boning the goose that lays the golden egg while it’s still alive.

    1. Jen

      The only economy they care about is the stock market, and they still haven’t grocked that if you disable and/or kill off a substantial portion of the work force, you won’t have enough workers. And then they’ll run around whining that no one wants to work anymore. Just like they do now.

    2. dcblogger

      all the blame cannons are aimed at MAGA anti-vaxxers. There is no mention of all the hospitals that have been closed since March 2020, all the doctors and nurses laid off. Maybe opening those hospitals and rehiring those doctors and nurses would relieve over crowding.

      reading the reports from hospitals is reminiscent of reports of the Russian army from World War One, or maybe that is just my listening to Mike Duncan’s Russian Revolution podcast, but it is the same story of heroic individuals on the front lines dealing with a completely corrupt and dysfunctional system. One critical difference is that covid is not Kaiser Wilhelm II. It is not like we can sign a treaty and end this. But is mystifies me that people who are a product of an electoral system and be so oblivious.

      1. jsn

        They do what they need to do to get money, both in the short term and long term.

        Then, they say what they need to say to get elected.

        If they did the first part right, it doesn’t matter if they get reelected or not. They work for who pays them, not for who votes for them. Team D couldn’t be any clearer about this. Team R just punches you in the face if you say this, but then they just punch you in the face anyway.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > all the blame cannons are aimed at MAGA anti-vaxxers. There is no mention of all the hospitals that have been closed since March 2020, all the doctors and nurses laid off.

        There’s no mention of the neoliberal policies and private equity owners that systematically reduced “excess” capacity in the hospitals, either, such that when the pandemic arrived, there was no slack to absorb the wave of patients.

        > mystifies me that people who are a product of an electoral system and be so oblivious.

        Well, the system is electoral. Not particularly democratic. Not even having the most rudimentary notion of nobless oblige….

    3. dcblogger

      It is going to get far worse. Gov. Newsome has ordered that healthcare workers who test positive for covid, but who are asymptomatic return to work. I mean even the Romanovs didn’t pull stunts like this. Nurses National are calling on Newsome to rescind his order
      CA Nurses Call on Elected Leader to Reverse Dangerous New Covid Policies

      Gov. Newsom, Rescind This Dangerous New Covid Policy

      1. Michael Ismoe

        Wait a minute. They just fired a shitload of nurses who wouldn’t vaccinate because they could “potentially spread the virus.” Now covid-infected medical staff must report to work to ensure that happens?

        Are we not dying fast enough for these people?

  12. Tom Collins' Moscow Mule

    1. “Fear that rattles in men’s ears and rears its hideous head. Dread … Death … in the wind .. Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends. We’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside.”

    2. “The term “Whac-a-mole” (or “Whack-a-mole”) is used colloquially to depict a situation characterized by a series of repetitious and futile tasks, where the successful completion of one just yields another popping up elsewhere.”

    3. “Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Monday said two doses of the company’s vaccine may not provide strong protection against infection from the Covid omicron variant, and the original shots have also lost some of their efficacy at preventing hospitalization.”

    “Pfizer CEO says two Covid vaccine doses aren’t ‘enough for omicron’”


    1. foghorn longhorn

      “Fear that rattles in men’s ears and rears its hideous head. Dread … Death … in the wind .. Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends. We’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside.”

      Wore the grooves off that effin album.
      Who knew it was gonna be so prescient 40 something years later.
      Strange times indeed.

      1. Tom Collins' Moscow Mule

        Along with youth, what once was is gone forever and will never be again (discounting the possibility of ‘block time’ [eternalism], or existence as some form of ‘eternal return’). In any case, the ‘Harbormaster’ comes calling for everyone, eventually.

        “Lands and towns are left astern, even so, on this journey where time flies with the greatest speed, we put below the horizon first our boyhood and then our youth, and then the space which lies between young manhood and middle age and borders on both, and next, the best years of old age itself. Last of all, we begin to sight the general bourne of the race of man. Fools that we are, we believe this bourne to be a dangerous reef; but it is the harbor, where we must some day put in, which we may never refuse to enter; and if a man has reached this harbor in his early years, he has no more right to complain than a sailor who has made a quick voyage. For some sailors, as you know, are tricked and held back by sluggish winds, and grow weary and sick of the slow-moving calm; while others are carried quickly home by steady gales.”

      1. jsn

        Whoever they want.

        Trump never had the discipline to actually direct the agencies he nominally headed.

        No reason to believe he’s improved.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Four years as President and he never changed. He was still the same person in 2021 as he was when he entered office having learned very little and having never grown into the job.

          1. jsn

            Well of course!

            He was a Democrat for all those years before running as a Republican.

            Of course, without COVID, he probably would have been reelected despite his incompetence because he did produce wage gains at the voter level for the fist time in a generation.

            1. John

              I cannot see that Trump has changed in any way since he first insinuated himself into the public eye.

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            > Four years as President and he never changed. He was still the same person in 2021 as he was when he entered office having learned very little and having never grown into the job.

            From 2017:

            I think it’s useful to think of Trump, and I suppose the Trump family as a whole, as a catalyst. That is, although they facilitate and intensify reactions/processes, they themselves remain unchanged.

            So, yes, they will learn nothing. And, yes, volatility will continue.

            [lambert preens]

    1. Lee

      “Two doses very limited protection, if any. Three doses offer reasonable protection against hospitalization and death.” But not to worry, they’ll have a fourth, Omicron specific “vaccine” in March. If I get the next one, that’ll be a fourth shot within a year. May as well just fix us all up with injection ports.

    2. HotFlash

      But but, didn’t Pfizer say 95%? Didn’t Walensky and Fauci and Trump and Biden all say, “If you are vaccinated, you are protected.”?

      I want to see every one of their stock portfolios, going back 50 years.

        1. Yves Smith

          Do not Make Shit Up. This is absolutely what they said.

          “If you are vaccinated, you will be protected and can enjoy your memorial day,” said the CDC director, dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, said during a White House news conference.


          Biden: “You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.”


  13. Synoia

    I have been musing about the and its apparent control of the Dim Party, and came to an observational ..

    Middle management is largely populated by the Putative PMC Class whose primary skill is telling the Lord of all, typically a millionaire or Billionaire what they want to hear.

    Which then raises the question: If kissing up is the PMC’s primary skill, where is management practiced?

    Or can the PMC actually walk and chew gum simultaneously?

    I pose this because once upon a time I gave a presentation to a Senior VP in a large computer company, and asserted there was two form of switching information in a network, packet and circuit switching. She turned to her director of technology, and asked him if this were true.

    He could not answer the question. These were very intelligent people, Unknowingly out of their depth.

    Some months later I quit. One year later thy posted their first loss ever.

    I don’t expect the PMC class to be able to provide any partially good Governance of the US. Their skills are climbing the promotion ladder.

    1. anon y'mouse

      If kissing up is the PMC’s primary skill, where is management practiced?

      in kicking down and forcing the workers to get done whatever it is they promised in all of those meetings.

    2. Jen

      I feel like what you are describing is one of the major consequences of the rise of ubiquitous MBAs and participation in the consultant class among the PMCs. I work among these folks and they’ve been indoctrinated to believe that as generalists, their “general” knowledge is vastly more important than subject matter expertise. And among the younger cohort, they’ve gone from doing consulting gigs right out of college, rather than going from jobs that provide real world experience and then doing consulting.

      They don’t know what they don’t know, and they don’t seem to think that lack of specific knowledge relevant to the subject matter at hand (like, say, public health or infectious disease) is a problem.

    3. jsn

      The glass ceiling for competence will be the minimum level the collapse needs to reach before recovery becomes possible.

      Each of those layers your anecdote reveals of “upper management” who has no clue what really happens, their primary skill being climbing ladders and stepping on the fingers of those below them, will have to be discredited and discarded before actual competence can re-enter government.

      On the USSR model, it took all the Yeltsen years, including shelling the Duma, looting the economy, collapsing life expectancy and impoverishing the population to so discredit all the climbers, posers and psychophants who constituted “leadership” before effective government could be rebuilt. We have a ways to go still.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > On the USSR model, it took all the Yeltsen years, including shelling the Duma, looting the economy, collapsing life expectancy and impoverishing the population to so discredit all the climbers, posers and psychophants who constituted “leadership” before effective government could be rebuilt. We have a ways to go still.

        Something to look forward to, I guess. (I wonder if there is a school of thought in China, that compares the US under Biden to the USSR under Breshnev. Or in Russia.)

    4. griffen

      It is a mind blowing thought for me, or others like me, but as long as these individuals are in places of leadership I will almost always, have a place or a role that needs my skill set. As in, I’ll be the one delegated to take a deep dive into the data or IT systems or whatever.

      Fine by me. If they don’t truly know what they don’t, then someone who works in the details will certainly have a role to play in such circumstances. Since about 2012, I have figured I won’t be the one sending stones downhill but I’ll be the one catching those stones* while they roll downhill.

      Stones can be exchanged for piles of shiny turds, naturally.

    5. LifelongLib

      OK, but by the most common definition of “PMC” (4+ years of college) you and I and most commenters here on NC are probably PMC too. The definition is too broad to be of any real political use. If I could wave a magic wand I’d either get rid of the term altogether, or restrict it to people with credentials or stock options that make them difficult to fire or less dependent on paychecks. If you can be fired with ease and live off paychecks, you’re a “worker”.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > The definition is too broad to be of any real political use.

        It’s accurate but casts too broad a net; there’s a lot of “bycatch” those who use the term — including me! — don’t really want.*

        That said, as a PMC expatriate, I would prefer not to abandon it all together. The process of PMC formation is certainly one that I underwent, though the outcome was perhaps not all that could have been wished,

        NOTE * One of the reasons I am reading Bourdieu.

      2. griffen

        I think the terminology works, but who it is applied onto can be varied based on personal experiences and views. I’ve been part of reductions or downsized twice, which to a novice recruiter makes it appear that I was doing a job hopping bit. Circumstances and the economy changed a lot for many people after the GFC, and not all who worked in financial services or banking and so forth had their butts saved by the TARP and varied bailout schemes.

        For my perspective, PMC intones that most people in management just don’t endure such an experience. Maybe a small window of precarity, but typically not in a timeline where they lose 2 jobs in about 3 years. I don’t think my peers from 20 years have these experiences.

        Feels like a dead horse or a drum I’m beating here. We’ve discussed the varied aspects on quite a few occasions.

  14. sd

    Covid loses 90% of ability to infect within minutes in air – study

    The key takeaway though is almost at the end of the article:
    Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor of virology at the University of Leeds, emphasised the importance of ventilation, saying: “Aerosols will fill up indoor spaces rapidly in the absence of proper ventilation, so assuming the infected individual remains within the room, the levels of virus will be replenished.”

    1. Lee

      And there’s also this correction at the end:

      “This article was amended on 11 January 2022. In an earlier version, we said Covid loses 90% of ability to infect within five minutes. It is actually within the first 20 minutes – with most of the loss occurring within the first 5 minutes. This has been corrected for clarity.”

    2. Basil Pesto

      an unpublished pre-print that is contradicted by extensive real-world epidemiological evidence. Embarrassing that the graun ran this.

      1. sd

        Did journalists completely lose the ability for critical thinking? The article is unbelievably shoddy work about a really important subject.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > an unpublished pre-print that is contradicted by extensive real-world epidemiological evidence. Embarrassing that the graun ran this.

        I can’t add to that. I would add that it’s an encouraging sign that propaganda starting to be cranked out; it’s a sign that #CovidIsAirborne people are getting some traction. (We also have the well-known phenomenon of propaganda being introduced in the UK and then hopping the Atlantic.)

  15. Shady Freud

    “So how’s the mocking and shaming strategy been workin’ out for ya?”

    The mocking and shaming isn’t useful, that does seem clear. Which doesn’t disqualify it from being entertaining in the same way watching someone stepping on a rake and getting whacked in the head, while loudly proclaiming that the rake is fake or that not stepping on the rake is more dangerous, is entertaining.

  16. Chelly

    This will be a real winner for the DemoWhigs in white working class polling places:

    “A waitlist depending on skin color. The Food and Drug Administration, as well as multiple states, will prioritize race and ethnicity in determining who receives hard-to-get COVID-19 therapeutics. In some cases, even those with dangerous health conditions could be passed over for someone who is “non-white.”

    “GlaxoSmithKline’s sotrovimab is reportedly the only monoclonal antibody treatment that is effective against the Omicron variant — however, it is in very short supply. The FDA’s “fact sheet” for sotrovimab presents health care providers with a guidance on the emergency use authorization of the treatment. There is a “patient selection” section that outlines who should receive the sotrovimab treatment, especially since it is in limited availability at this time.”


  17. ChrisRUEcon


    “Two Years Is Long Enough”

    ErrrrMaGerrrd, Helen

    You nailed it, Lambert:

    > More important is the admission — it’s not even reluctant — that China’s political system is better at saving lives than the West’s. Oopsie.

    This, this, this … how does anyone not absolutely understand that the entire west has failed, and failed catastrophically? Western leadership has no leg to stand on; no position of moral or governance superiority from which to lecture, chide or pontificate. Perhaps, change will come from without … perhaps it is China’s absolute superiority during the pandemic that will finally shift the polar alignments sufficiently. The links posted over the last week have been – to borrow a phrase from DJ Shadow – building steam from a grain of salt. Belt & Road is not limited to the Asian continent. Belt & Road will extend to Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. Leaders of countries long treated as fodder for bond vultures and unequal-exchange-resource-exfiltrators are going to wake up and realize that “the US ain’t it bruh”. And yet, we’re still waiting for people in this country to wake up to the reality that the US Govt – as constituted by the current duopoly – needs to be tossed in the bin, once and for all. May the steam to rise quickly …

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      How will the subjects of the Western Governments feel when they finally mass-realize that the entire west has succeeded, and succeeded brilliantly? At spreading covid on purpose in order to kill millions or hundreds of millions of people in the west over the next few decades?

      On purpose. Think about that.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I am deeply ashamed that the country of which I am a citizen has been deliberately turned, by its governing and ruling classes, into a Covid reservoir that will continue to infect the rest of the world, indefinitely. Better break out my Canadian flag lapel pin, I suppose.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Shouldn’t be too hard on this woman wanting her social life back again because that is a major part of her identity but I would be interested to know what she would think if she could be flown to that Chicago school in today’s Water Cooler and told that this is our lives going forward and that this is what “living with the virus” looks like. It may be a case that she may read about such things but seeing and experiencing it is two different things. maybe she does not want to know which would be worse.

      1. ChrisRUEcon

        FWIW, I don’t think folks like Helen are particularly moved by the misfortune of others. If they were, they would have greater understanding of how their own ostensible predicaments – toddler in mah room, while ah’m on the Zoom! – pale in comparison to the real struggles and pain of those far less fortunate.

    3. ChrisRUEcon


      (via #Twitter)

      Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants. Raise your hand if you had “weed to the rescue” on your 2022 pandemic bingo card.? — Sanho Tree (@SanhoTree) January 11, 2022

      1. ChrisRUEcon

        #2024 #AintUTiredMsHilly

        … apparently not.

        Hillary Clinton’s 2024 Election Comeback (via WSJ)

        The sub-lede: “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have become unpopular. It may be time for a change candidate.”

        LOL … “change candidate” … Mercy.

        So … trial balloon?! Or nails in the coffins of #IceCreamManBad & #Copmala?

        Special treat: check out the URL … LOL

        So I guess this means there is still a “Clinton Wing” of the party?


        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Well, I will again suggest that Tulsi Gabbard will have an opportunity to run as some kind of Independent in a few carefully chosen states . . . . carefully chosen to deny either Big Two candidates a victory.

          Or to make the fakery plain upon being denied those states after clearly winning them.

  18. lyman alpha blob

    RE: the Adam J Calhoun tweet

    The student mentions there is no learning going on in their school, and although remote learning was a complete bust as well, students should go back to it temporarily.

    The in-person school there sounds like a disaster, but how about this idea instead? Declare it summer vacation now and send everyone home with a reading list or whatever would normally be assigned over the summer. Then start up school in person again later once things have subsided which they hopefully will, even if it means school during the summer. Summer vacation is a complete anachronism at this point anyway, and then kids might actually learn something that way. I’m sure it would be much easier for working parents to adjust to having kids in school in the summer than it would be having them home for weeks now.

    1. CanCyn

      Lyman AB – Changing the school year is exactly the kind of thing we should be considering. They held outdoor classes, even in winter during the Spanish flu. I have hosted a few cold weather outdoor gatherings since the start of the pandemic and been seen as so very creative!!?? So many just want ‘normal’ (brunch, the gym, etc.), they don’t want to do or try new or different things. I fear that WEIRD life is as inflexible as the supply chains it depends on. Summer camp, resorts, cottage rentals, etc – all those businesses would cry foul if summer school meant no business for them. We are on a treadmill, mostly seemingly unaware of the structure of our lives – and even a pandemic hasn’t woken very many to the lack of freedom many of us have.

  19. jr

    Your PMC moment of the day:

    I overheard a phone conversation today that convinced me that as harsh and cynical as we get here, reality is always a bit worse. A woman stormed by me on the sidewalk as I walked my shivering pup and she was apparently making some kind of a pitch over her headset. The bit that stuck out:

    “So, you know, we need new video, American people doing things. Not, like, Red America, we need people who make things, architects, designers, you know. People who really represent what the US is.”

    Oh, and she can’t take it anymore and since she has just got over COVID, she’s off to LA to relax.

    For a moment, I felt as if I was living an NC comment!

    1. juanholio

      It must really stick in their craw, that after all those generations of propaganda about Exceptional America, the rest of The Civilized World sees The American People as selfish, greedy, dumbasses.

      That “red cap wearing, gun toting, dimwit” is the avatar of America in the world, must be excruciatingly embarrassing for them, when they are on their travels.

      No wonder some if them are in denial about it!

      1. albrt

        The only thing worse than the red cap-wearing, gun-toting dimwit is the asymmetrical haircut-wearing, cellphone-toting Karen. So I guess that pretty much has the US covered.

  20. jr

    Talked to Sis briefly and asked her about the conditions at her NYC middle school. In a word:
    “Heinous.” There is no communication from above and no support. She indicated it’s untenable and her colleagues are fed up. I said they should strike and she said she thought they should have a while back.

  21. Mark Sanders

    You refer to a “war criminal editor at The Atlantic.” I tried to do an internet search to see who you’re referring to, but I tired out before I could find anything juicy. Could you tell us who this is?

    1. Gareth

      Read the Wikipedia articles for the editors. If you do, you’ll be able to find the person pretty easily.

    2. Jen G.

      I think he may be referring to David Frum, former speechwriter for Bush the Younger, coiner of the term “Axis of Evil,” and fervent supporter of the Iraq War.

  22. none

    LIttle Madison is so tiring, especially now that Maria can’t come to take care of her. And how to we get her into Yale if she’s not in school?

    Getting infected might permanently lower Madison’s IQ enough to keep her out of Yale all by itself:


    This possibility terrifies me of getting infected. I’m ridiculously stupid to start with. I can’t afford to get any stupider than I already am.

    1. Jason Boxman

      Being honest about your strengths and weaknesses disqualifies you from serving in public office…

      But in seriousness, my goal is to try to keep my lifetime SARS-COV-2 infections as close to zero as possible for this reason. While zero is preferable, the Establishment in the US is making it as difficult for me as possible.

      So my new duckbill N95s fog my glasses; I’ll try with the badger tomorrow, and hopefully that fixes the issue. And these are certified for TB exposure as well. Strange times we live in.

      1. allan

        Try using four strips of two sided tape on the inside edge – one on each side of the bridge of the nose,
        and two on the bottom, meeting at the chin.
        Awkward to apply, and should be done on a flat, well-lit work space,
        since the straps often get stuck to the tape, but once it’s on
        and you conform it to your face, it works wonders. Less fog and less air leakage in general.

        It goes by the name of fashion or toupee tape, and
        they sell both large rolls of the stuff (messy to work with) or precut strips (more expensive).

  23. Ed Miller

    Ghislaine Maxwell Juror

    Why didn’t he just say nothing? He couldn’t be a plant to overturn the conviction! Nah.
    No sarcasm here. ;p

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