Latest Biden Covid Speech Sinks Without a Trace

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

President Biden gave another speech on Covid on January 13: “Remarks by President Biden at Virtual Meeting on Military Deployments Supporting Hospitals for the COVID-⁠19 Response.” I promised I’d pull on my yellow waders and go through it; and here you are!

The speech is 12 minutes long; I have helpfully numbered each of the very short paragraphs, and annotated them. There are clearly places in the speech where Biden is stuttering; I have not marked them. But there are also places where Biden has clearly lost his train of thought; I have highlighted the false starts and the flubs in yellow, thus.

If I occasionally betray a little irritation, please forgive me. It’s been a long pandemic. I have added some commentary at the end.

* * *

(0) [Introductory material omitted.]

(1) But before we begin, I want to provide an update on our fight against COVID-19 and announce new steps[1].

[1] One would have expected new steps to generate some coverage, or, more precisely, to be calibrated to generate some coverage. These steps were and did not. Anybody who’s been paying attention — which, however fitfully, does include the press — can see that there is nothing here that couldn’t have been done a year ago, and should have been. That is the story, although it has not yet congealed into conventional wisdom beyond “mistakes were made.”

(2) First, the update. I know we’re[1] all frustrated[2] as we enter this new year. The Omicron variant is causing[3] millions of cases and record hospitalizations.

[1] Who’s we? Because–

[2] Many are angry rather than frustrated, though reasons for anger different over the field of play.

[3] No, it isn’t. The policy response to previous variants is “causing” the deaths and hospitalizations. Decisions taken and not taken a year ago are playing out now.

(3) I’ve been — I’ve been saying that, as we remain in this pandemic, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated[1]. And I mean by this[2]: Right now, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are testing positive, but what happens after that could not be more different.

[1] Not without parsing of words: “CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.”

[2] Cometh the parsing–

(4) If vaccinated people test positive, they overwhelmingly have either no symptoms at all or they have mild symptoms.

(5) And if they’re — if you’re unvaccinated — if they test positive — there are — you are 17 times more likely[1] to get hospitalized.

[1] True.

(6) As a result, they’re crowding[1] our hospitals, leaving little room for anyone else who might have a heart attack or an injury in an automobile accident or any injury at all.

[1] Which wouldn’t be so bad if capacity hadn’t been optimized away, often by private equity.

(8) But here’s the deal: Because we’ve fully vaccinated nearly 210 million Americans, the majority[1] of the country is safe from severe COVID-19 consequences.

[1] Mediocre by world standards; in fact, the United States is well on its way to become a variant sink for the forseeable future.

(9) That’s why, even as the number of cases among the vaccinated Americans go up, deaths are down dramatically[1] from last winter.

[1] Biden is directionally correct compared to our biggest peak, but “dramatically” is doing a lot of work. It would be more correct to say that we have successfully normalized a death rate that would have been — and was — considered horrific when the pandemic began.

(10) For example, before its vaccination requirement, the United States — excuse me — United Airlines was averaging one employee dying a week from COVID-19. After implementing its requirement, it has led to 99 percent of its employees being vaccinated. United had 3,600 employees test positive, but zero hospitalizations, zero deaths in over 8 weeks.

[1] True, if you accept the word of the CEO.

(11) But as long as we have tens of millions of people who will not get vaccinated, we’re going to have full hospitals and needless deaths.

[1] As we saw in (3)-(6) completely reframing the issue and, giving credit, the new frame is better than the old one. However, here again, the Biden administration is pitifully slow. After all, the argument that the vaccines don’t prevent transmission, but they do prevent hospitalization and death has been around ever since Biden and Walenksy had to back track on “You are protected.”

(12) So, the single most important thing to determine your[1] outcome in this pandemic is getting vaccinated[2]. If you’re not vaccinated, join[3] the nearly 210 million American people who are vaccinated.

[1] Back to individualism.1

[2] FWIW, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the vaccines were never tested for effects on the reproductive system, that the vaccines are known to have vascular effects, and that many workers who have refused to get vaccinated in both health care and education are women (to whom, I am reminded, we should “listen”). What Biden’s Vax-only strategy prevents him from saying is “If you cannot or will not get vaccinated, here is what you can do to help,” at which point he could list non-pharmaceutical interventions.

[3] At least “join” sounds collective.

(13) And if you are vaccinated, join the nearly 80 million Americans who have gotten the booster shot, with the strongest protection possible[1].

[1] “Possible” is doing a lot of work; Omicron came on so fast there’s been no time for RCTs or anything like that. This Imperial College modeling paper concludes: “Our analyses demonstrate the importance of delivering booster doses as part of the wider public health response to restore vaccine efficacy against the Omicron variant.” But from the Abstract, for later: “In all scenarios it is likely that health systems will be stretched. It may be essential, therefore, to maintain and/or reintroduce NPIs to mitigate the worst impacts of the Omicron variant as it replaces the Delta variant.”

(14) Vaccines are safe, they’re free[1], and they’re widely available. So, do it today, please, for your sake, the sake of your kids, and the sake of the country[2].

[1] Only if you can afford time off from work to get them, and more time off if there are ill effects.

[2] Here Biden abandons decreased hospitalization and death justification so carefully developed in (3)-(6) and (10) (unless you identify “the country” with “hospitals”). Who gave this thing the final read-through?

(15) Now, I don’t like to, you know, outline the next steps we’re taking against — I’d like to outline the next steps we’re taking against Omi- — the Omicron variant.

(16) Vaccinations are obviously the most important thing we are doing, but they are not the only important thing[1].

[1] After a whole year, Biden shifts to a layered strategy. Kinda.

(17) First, masking. Masking. Masking is an important tool to control the spread of COVID-19. And when you’re indoors in public places, you should wear the mask. And you’re — there are a lot — you know, there are lots of different kinds of masks out there. And the Center for — the Center for Disease Control and Prevention — the CDC — says that wearing a well-fitting mask of — any of them is certainly better than not wearing a mask, if it’s well-fitting — well-fit- — over your nose.[2],[3]

[1] Terrible guidance from CDC. They should be recommending the most protective mask, and then teaching people to wear them. Go on GMA, ffs. How hard is this?

[2]Yeah, sheesh, cover your nose, it drives me nuts. –lambert

[3] Clearly, Biden is not well-versed in these talking points; he’d been fluent before, and now he copme

(18) And — but it’s about one third — one third of Americans report they don’t wear a mask at all.[1]

[1] If one third don’t, two-thirds do. So how about giving the great majority of Americans a pat on the back for acting like they live in a society and are doing the right thing to protect themselves and their neighbors?

(19) As I’ve said in the last two years: Please wear a mask. If you’re in a — you know, I think it is part of your patriotic duty[1]. It’s not that comfortable. It’s a pain in the neck[1]. But I’ve taken every action I can as President to require people to wear masks in federal buildings and on airplanes and trains, because they’re inter- — they cross state lines.

[1] A good speechwriter would have expanded on this, and woven it together with not overloading hospitals.

[2] What a weak-ass, pissant sales job. Can’t Biden at least try to fake it? “It’s not that comfortable” sounds like it’s what he really believes.

(20) I’ve made sure that our doctors and nurses and first responders have the masks they need[1]. Never again are we going to have our nurses using homemade masks and garbage bags[2] over their clothing for hospitals because they don’t have the gowns.

[1] All N95s? Apparently not.

[2] Subtext: Unlike with the former guy.

(21) We’ve more than tripled our stockpile of the most protective, specialized N95 masks since coming into office. This is going to[1] make sure that there will be an ample supply of [for] healthcare workers and first responders.

[1] If this were done in 2021, it wouldn’t be “going to” be done in 2022.

(22) We have also helped make sure that high-quality masks are widely available, in ample supply, at affordable prices, sold online and in stores. But I know that for some Americans, a mask is not always affordable or convenient to get[1].

[1] The first sentence was purely aspirational, then?

(23) So, next week[1] we’ll announce — we’ll announce how we are making high-quality masks available to American people — the American people for free.

[1] Snould have been “next week” on Inauguration Day, 2021.

[1] I think that Psaki sneering at the idea of mailing out masks to every American for free was a turning point with the press; whatever else the press may be, they’re cosmopolitan, and they know the material reality is that other countries can do this.

(24) I — you know, I know we all wish that we could finally be done with wearing masks[1]. I get it[2]. But there is — they’re a really important tool to stop the spread, especially of a highly transmittable Omicron variant.

[1] I’m happy and proud to wear the goddamned mask as long as need be. It’s not a big deal. Billions of Asians do it. Stop whinging. “I get” that you don’t like them. Suck it up and be a President ffs.

[2] Why, again, cater to the 33% — most of whom are not going to vote for you — and never give props to the 66%? “For those of you who have been doing your patriotic duty and masking up, I thank you. Your family thanks you. Your neighbors thank you. The nation thanks you.” There. How hard is this?

(25) So, please, please wear the[1] mask.

[1] “The.” How about “your”?

(26) Second: testing. We’re seeing real improvement in testing. When I got here, we were doing fewer than 2 million tests a day.

(27) Now — and it’s changed. None of these tests were at-home or rapid tests. This month, it’s estimated that we will hit approximately 15 million tests a day and we’ll have over 375 million at-home rapid tests in January alone. That’s a huge leap.

[1] Biden is correct there’s been a large increase. Of course, with the at-home and rapid tests we have no data, but then with the rest of our data so bad, maybe that doesn’t matter. (Better data collection is another thing that should have been initiated on Inauguration Day, 2021.

(28) We’ve taken a number of steps, including invoking the Defense Production Act as early as last February[1] to ramp up production.

[1] True.

(29) You know — and we’re on track. We’re on track to roll out a website next week[1] where you can order free tests shipped to your home[2].

[1] One more thing that should have been initiated on Inauguration Day.

[2] To launch this Wednesday. Let’s just hope it goes better than the ObamaCare launch.

(30) And, in addition to the 500 million — half a billion tests that are in the process of being acquired to ship to you — homes for free, today I’m directing my team to procure an additional half a billion — an additional 500 million more tests to distribute for free[1].

[1] Maybe — hear me out — we could generalize this idea somehow.

(31) That will mean a billion tests in total to meet future demand. And we’ll continue to work with the retailers and online ru- — and online retailers to increase availability.[1]

[1] One more thing that should have been initiated on Inauguration Day.

(32) And for those who want an immediate test, we continue to add FEMA testing sites so that there are more than — more free, in-person testing sites.[1]

[1] One more thing that should have been initiated on Inauguration Day.

(33) For those of you with insurance, you can get reimbursed for eight tests a month[1].

[1] Why add the complexity? Do liberal Democrats like filling out forms?

(34) For those without insurance, we have over 20,000 free testing sites all around the country.[1]

[1] One more thing that should have been initiated on Inauguration Day.

(35) You can find the nearest testing sites for you by Googling “COVID test near me.” Google “COVID test near me.”

[1] Oh, come on. I am sure this gentleman’s experience is not out of the ordinary:

Leaving aside the question of why Biden didn’t say this: “Type ‘COVID test near me’ into your favorite search engine,” so he wasn’t treating a ginormous crooked monopoly as if it were a benign public utility.

(36) And to help lead our federal testing program, I’ve talked — I’ve ta- — excuse me, I’ve tapped Dr. Tom In- — I hope I’m pronouncing Ings- — Ingles- — Inglesby.

(37) Correct? Is that right, Jeff?

(38) (Jeff Zients[1] makes a thumbs-up gesture.)

[1] I didn’t know lizards had thumbs. MR SUBLIMINAL Bad Lambert! Bad! Bad!

(39) And he is one of the world’s leading infectious disease experts, and I’m grateful for his willingness to help tackle this challenge[1].

[1] Backgound on Inglesby. He’s the Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, and came up through biodefense and bioweaponry, a field I regard as murky.

(40) Third thing: Today, we’ll discuss our hospital response efforts.

(41) Just Thanks[1]- — just since — just since Thanksgiving, over 800[2] military and other federal emergency personnel have been deployed to 24 states, Tribes, and territories, including over 350 military doctors, nurses, and medics helping staff the hospitals who are in short supply.

[1] Not to the 66% of the population helping out with non-pharmaceutical interventions!

[2] That’s a large number?

(42) This is on top of the more than 14,000 National Guard members that are active — activated in 49 states[1].

[1] Again, one must question why there’s no slack in the system.

(43) These deployments, at my direction and thanks to the American Rescue Plan, are fully paid for by the federal government.

(44) We’ve shipped over 5.5 million pieces of protect- — of personal protective equipment — gloves, gowns, masks[1] — to protect frontline healthcare workers.

[1] What kind?

(45) We’re shipping more treatments of COVID-19, which includes antiviral pills, than at any point during this pandemic[1].

[1] Good, but “at any point” is doing a lot of work. And why not an Operation Warp Speed for treatments on Inauguration Day? The business model was there.

(46) In addition, I’ve directed FEMA to work with every state, territory, and the District of Columbia to make sure they have enough hospital bed capacity[1].

[1] One more thing that should have been initiated on Inauguration Day.

(47) Today, I’m announcing our next deployment of six additional federal medical teams, a total of more than 120[1] military medical personnel, to six hard-hit states: Michigan, [New Mexico], New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island.

[1] This is a large number?

(48) Now let me close with this: It’s been a long road, but what’s clear is that we get through this when everybody does their part[1]. No matter where you live, no matter your political party, we’ve got to fight this together[2].

[1] The beauty of the layered approach (“Swiss Cheese” model) is that everybody really could do their part, because there are so many parts to play. But Vax-only destroyed that.

[2] Naturally, no mention whatever of ventilation.

(49) Unfortunately, while our military is stepping up, as they always do, there are others sitting on the sidelines and, worse, standing in the way[1].

[1] I thought the blame cannons had fallen silent. How wrong I was!

(50) If you’ve haven’t gotten vaccinated, do it.

(51) Personal choice impacts us all — our hospitals, our country.[1]

[1] Biden is right. Why then, never thank or even mention the two-thirds of the country who made the right personal choice?

(52) I make a special appeal to social media companies and media outlets: Please deal with the misinformation and disinformation that’s on your shows. It has to stop.

[1] I think social media is filling a vacuum left by the complete collapse of CDC’s ability to message or even perform science, and the larger collapse of the PMC’s desire or even ability to govern. And maybe start with CDC and WHO? Their misinformation on masking and aerosols cost many lives, presumably accidentally.

(53) COVID-19 is one of the most formidable enemies America has ever faced. We’ve got to work together, not against each other[1].

[1] One of the best examples of people literally working together is people volunteering to build Corsi boxes in the schools. But that would imply that ventilation is a concern, so Biden can’t go there. Oh well.

(54) We’re America. We can do this.

[1] Of course, if Biden had started all this on Inauguration Day, he could be saying “We did this.” Oh well.

(55) To the military medical teams on the ground: Thank you[1] for all and everything you’re doing.

[1] Again, no thanks at all to the 66% of the American people who did the right thing and masked up. Why can’t Biden say this? It’s bizarre.

(56) And I’ll stop here so we can get to — the briefing started. But thank you for taking the time.


Three comments at a high level:

First, the Administration remains without a theory of transmission. For whatever reason, Biden cannot or will not say “Covid is airbornel.” but nor can he say “Covid is spread by coughing and spitting” but nor can he fuzz over the issue with “Covid is spread by close contact” (note that close contact is not a method of transmission; there’s no mechanism). Hence Biden is reduced to making requests (“Please wear a mask”) without giving people an overarching framework to fit the request into. Here at NC we’re pretty active in working out transmission issues and figuring out strategies to deal with them; this is a function the administration should be performing, but is not, preferring exhortations and blaming.

Second, the Administration remains without a theory of politics. Biden proffers various justifications for getting vaccinated: Not to overload hospitals; to protect yourself; to perform your patriotic duty. These justifications are all very well, but again, they do not give people an over-arching framework (for example, civic republicanism). Rather, Biden’s justifications feel very much like “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks,” “run it up the flagpole and see if anybody salutes.” Very West Wing brain.

Third, Biden presented his “Winter Plan” on December 2 (yellow wader version here). There’s nothing in this speech, a mere 46 days later, that could not have been initiated in that speech (or, as I keep saying, on Inauguration day). Some plan!

In any case, the speech got virtually no coverage; tweet after tweet after tweet of this Daily Mail story is all that I saw, immediately following the speech:

As far as the politics of the speech go, here is a handy chart:

If for the sake of the argument we admit that today we’re seeing a peak — highlighted — there are 47 days from December 1, the date the first case of Omicron was reported. 47 days from today is March 5, dovetailing neatly with Biden’s (rawther delayed) State of the Union speech on March 1, where presumably he will declare victory. I have my doubts. The political class may be “done” with Covid, but I am not sure Covid is done with us.

1 “Freedom” is how a libertarian says “[family blog] you!”

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About Lambert Strether

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


          1. Charger01

            Lambert, you are truly doing God’s work to untangle the mess that was dumped on to us. Thanks!

  1. HotFlash

    Hi Lambert, thanks for your heroic effort. Perhaps Pres B’s speechwriters (plural — the thing seems to have been written by a committee, or maybe AI) should use Grammarly. BTW, you typed “President Biden gave another speech on Covid on December 13”, s/b Jan 13?

    Here’s a virtual cup of cocoa while your waders dry.

  2. Skip Intro

    Bragging about reduced deaths is well timed to avoid the deaths resulting from the omicron spike, especially if they stop reporting them!

    1. Samuel Conner

      I’m waiting for the exchanges to stop reporting share prices.

      Somehow, I think that change would not be tolerated.

      1. albrt

        I think Americans would be fine with a stock exchange that didn’t report prices. “I know you’re tired of stock prices that sometimes go down. It’s not that comfortable. It’s a pain in the neck” says Joe Biden. “Let’s just have stocks that don’t go down in price.”

        This administration has basically adopted Donald Trump’s approach to Covid – if you don’t test so much, you won’t have the cases. It seems to be pretty popular. Why not adopt the same approach to stock markets?

        1. ambrit

          A similar strategy is used with elections now. The electronic voting machines with secret proprietary programming running them guarantee it.

        2. fajensen

          This administration has basically adopted Donald Trump’s approach to Covid

          That’s because it is more or less the same administration. What happened with Donald Trump was that the masking curtains dropped and the stage workers and scaffolding became visible, which embarrassed everyone in the theater. Now they are sort-of back up and everyone are doing their best to un-see what they just saw and get back into the performance.

  3. griffen

    Politics is hard! And I’m not a politician, just a mere cog in the giant wheel.

    Vaccinate! Wear a mask (now they tell us). Plan B. Wait for it. That being said, thank you for the pulling on of the effervescent yellow waders and diving into the muck.

  4. CG

    A quick technical question. It was mentioned in the breakdown that as a result of the poor rate of vaccination in the U.S. that the country is at risk of becoming a “variant sink”. Yet the vaccines we have are, at best as I understand it, highly limited in their ability to prevent an individual who has been vaccinated from transmitting Covid to others.

    Ultimately, in terms of being a source for future variants, shouldn’t the issue be the lack of various non-pharmaceutical interventions far greater effectiveness at reducing transmission (i.e. high quality masking, improved ventilation, paid sick leave, etc.) rather than vaccines that are capable of protecting against acute symptoms and are not capable of providing a high level of protection agains transmitting the disease to others? Is there something that I’m missing here?

    1. Yves Smith

      Um, this is factually challenged. Omicron came from South Africa which had a pretty high level of presumed immunity between prior infection and vaccinations (over 70%). Informed conventional wisdom is that Omicron originated in RSA in an immunocompromised AIDS patient.

      Today Israel started retreating from the idea of a fourth shot. The EU health ministry this week recommended against reliance on boosters this week:

      European Union regulators warned that frequent Covid-19 booster shots could adversely affect the immune response and may not be feasible. . . . . Repeat booster doses every four months could eventually weaken the immune response and tire out people, according to the European Medicines Agency.

      1. drsteve0

        ‘Informed conventional wisdom’, if ever there was an oxymoron. Wasn’t ‘maskin’ don’t work and may even make one more susceptible’ informed conventional wisdom at one time, even on this site. I think CG is asking a question not making a statement. If a microbe for which one is vaccinated can still percolate along and replicate within and be spread by that vaccinated individual, then yes that is a source for potential new variants, perhaps not a primary source, but a definite possibility. As this site has to it’s credit noted, trying to use vaccination alone to overcome the spread of a shape shifting microbe is a fool’s errand. The fact that the Weasley EMA is admitting that serial boosting can weaken the immune response is a tell. Yes, there should be far more emphasis on proper masking, ventilation, filtration, contact tracing, quarantining, etc., like, you know, them Chinese folk and others successfully demonstrated. Yeah, yeah, I know, I can find happiness elsewhere.

      2. CG

        My apologies for the late response and the lack of clarity in my initial post, but the poster below gets at what I was trying to ask. If you have a vaccine that is limited in it’s ability to prevent transmission among a population, shouldn’t it be expected that variants will continue to evolve within that population in much the same way that they would among an unvaccinated population? And that in order to avoid becoming a variant sink, wouldn’t you need to take measures like universal N95 masking which would at least significantly reduce transmission of the disease in order to avoid becoming breeding ground for future variants?

  5. Elizabeth

    Lambert, did you mean to say January 13 instead of December 13 for the day of the speech? I didn’t even know he gave one – thanks for parsing it out. That was pretty pathetic.

  6. ChrisRUEcon

    What’s that sports-ball expression again?!!

    Oh yeah … “garbage time” … in their minds, they’re up by 50 with with under two minutes to go. Looking ahead to the next game … #Ukraine.

  7. drumlin woodchuckles

    This might be a fine time for someone(s) to create and see if they can propel a single issue party to be called the Stop Covid Now Party . . . or some such thing.

    Who would join it? Perhaps health care workers at all levels. Perhaps those layfolk who have decided that the WHO, CDC, etc. are based on junk science and give out fake advice, and have tried finding or developing their own better science and real advice. If a Stop Covid Now Party could conquer a meaningful number of meaningful elective offices, perhaps a Stop Covid Now Party could force better science and real advice onto the Public Policy Battlefield of Mortal Combat to the Death.

    (One other thing the Stop Covid Party could do is to remind everyone within earshot/eyeshot that Biden-Harris was the Democrat Party’s choice. Biden-Harris is the ticket which had the Clintobama Seal of Approval. And that Candidate Trump also won the Clintobama seal of approval, if such a party feels like being mischevious).

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I would like such a party to have a real non-silly non-satirical name. I would like such a party to have a real hope, however slender.

        1. ambrit

          The hopes of this hypothetical reformist party will have to reside in it’s armed militia, er, Party Faithful Peacekeepers. The present system has been optimized for the suppression of non-approved domestic political movements.

    1. PHLDenizen

      “The cost of groceries is too damn high” party, despite the length of its name, would likely get more traction.

  8. drumlin woodchuckles

    I don’t know what is in Biden’s so-called “mind” at this point.

    The broader government dare not say anything more specific than what Biden has said because the broader government’s goal is to infect every single person with covid, as many times as possible, over and over again; without being publicly fingered as deliberately seeking to do so.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      To be fair, Biden’s rambling is really not that different than Obama gibberish. Its just the presentation is worse and the internet is older and more people receive text based news as opposed to cable infotainment.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Obama knew it was gibberish. Obama’s gibberish was well crafted to lure in the seekers of hope.
        ” I am a screen onto which people project their own hopes and beliefs” or however he said that.

        ” Truth there was, well laced with lies, to baffle the fools and fool the wise.”

        Obama is a very careful gibberish design engineer.

        And a good actor, too. He played Black very convincingly on TV. Black America still loves Obama and worships the toilet on which he sits. That’s how good Obama is at what he does.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          Yes, he was very good at playing Black, despite scolding and gaslighting Black audiences when he addressed them.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            They loved him for it, just as they loved Bill Cosby for it.

            Large parts of the Black community might well be some of the most doggedly anti-progressive people in America today. The millions of people who have freely decided that their elected representatives in the Congressional Clyburn Caucus are the very best possible leaders they could ever have, thank you very much.

            1. Anthony G Stegman

              Black Americans are often their own worst enemies. They repeatedly fall for the Flimflam Man. As precarious as their positions in life often are they are deathly afraid of real change because it is too risky. To many in the Black community the devil they know (Obama for example) is far better than the devil they don’t know (Sanders, for example).

          1. lordkoos

            I see lots of black folks on my twitter feed who definitely are not pro-Obama, mostly they are people under 50 years old.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Black America still loves Obama and worships the toilet on which he sits. That’s how good Obama is at what he does.

          That’s a highly monolithic statement and certainly not true. Black “voices” still love Obama, and claim to “represent,” but do not…

      2. Hana M

        Biden’s ramblings are less audible than Obama.. Biden is a mumbling [and mean-spirited] fool well past the onset of senescence. Without closed captions I can’t hear a word he says (which is probably a blessing). So thanks to Lambert for this appropriately snarky play-by-play.

        I know Lambert is a fan of functional protective masking and I get it. I just have to add that as someone with severe (80-90%) hearing loss who depends on lip-reading and facial expressions to catch meaning, the last two years in heavily masked Boston has been a nightmare of loneliness, near total isolation and embarrassment..I’ve heard from many parents of kids with hearing loss, learning disabilities and emotional issues like autism that the mask mandates have been utterly crippling..

          1. Hana M

            Lovely idea but the problem is getting the other people to use them, not the deaf people. Oh. Wait. Maybe we could have had a national PPE Warp Speed, with a special effort at helping the disabled, plus a parallel national free distribution system starting…say on Brandon’s inauguration day, And a coordinated sensitivity training program from the CDC….No for sure that would never work….

            1. chris

              I’d be happy if we could focus on creating one option for a visually impaired rapid antigen test. Must be a special kind of hell to be told you must isolate due to a close contact and then have no option without exposing another individual to see whether you’re infectious or not :/

              You’d think we’d have a braille option by now, but nooooo….

            2. marym

              Maybe it was your comment once before, or someone else making a similar comment, but it’s been a reminder, when I do grocery shopping or other limited outings, that this is a particular problem for people with hearing loss. I try to do a thumbs up or a wave or some such gesture to a cashier, or other worker, or sometimes just passing by on the street to add a bit of neighborliness in these quiet times. I have some hearing loss too, and if I encounter a masked neighbor or checkout person who tries to say a few words in greeting, I do a little clownish pointing at my ear, hoping they at least get some amusement out of it!

              If we had a government working for the people, even some awareness-raising about special needs would help build a sense of mutual support and help bring out the better side of people.

            3. drumlin woodchuckles

              Well, that’s what I hopefully meant. That maybe the “other” people would wear them. I don’t know how to make that happen, even a little.

  9. Anonymous

    [1] I’m happy and proud to wear the goddamned mask as long as need be. It’s not a big deal. Billions of Asians do it. Stop whinging. “I get” that you don’t like them. Suck it up and be a President ffs. lambert

    And you’ve worn a well-fitted n95 8 hours straight how many times, lambert?

    Besides early treatment may be the missing panacea that’ll free us from dangerous vaccines and suffocating masks that probably don’t work anyway for long without good ventilation.

    And it’s not “mediocre” to avoid a dangerous vaccine if one’s relative Covid risk does not warrant it.

    1. Yves Smith

      You’d never know that in WWII this country had the draft and sent millions to be maimed and die, and at home, had rationing and government forcing private enterprises to engage in war production, based on how people whine about masks.

      I’ve worn a well-fitted N95 for seven hours when traveling (as in significant portion of the time with low air pressure = more difficult conditions), as well at once or twice a week 1 1/2 hours at a stretch while doing heavy weight lifting, light cardio, and stretching at a well ventilated and very underpopulated gym where everyone wears masks but too many are cloth masks, so I am still not willing to take chances.

      So get over yourself. The 3M Aura is a very easy mask to wear, far more comfortable than the other setup I was using, a different N95 with a procedure mask underneath to plug the leak under my chin.

      And on my last flight, I saw several other travelers wearing an N95 + a procedure mask.

      1. chris

        Yves, you clearly don’t understand that masks are for the servant class, which Mr. Biden obviously does not belong to! How could we possibly expect him to suffer this indignity?

      2. Fiery Hunt

        In WWII, everyone was subject to the same rules, everyone shared the sacrifice.

        In this pandemic, the well-off, the wealthy can avoid the sacrifice by STAYING HOME.

        The rest of us have to don our packs every frickin’ day.

        When was the last time you spent 3 hours in a laundromat on your day of?

        This site is an amazing place.
        Yves, you’ve built an amazing community.

        But sometimes, albeit rarely, you’ve got a blind spot.

        Life for working class is different. Harder. With no end in sight.
        And when told to do what are betters don’t do, we sometimes react with defiance.

        A call to shared sacrifice might have worked 2 years ago. But how many politicians, how many “but I’m double-vaxxed and boosted!” twits undermined that sense of shared sacrifice?

        1. Yves Smith

          Sorry, the idea that masks are a hardship is bullshit. You could make a case for having to pay for high quality masks.

          The laundromat issue has zero to do with making sure you and others are safe. In fact, given the aversion of some low income workers to getting vaccinated (due to time costs/possible access deserts + risk of lost wages due to having to stay home with side effects), and the lack of income support if they get a “mild” case and have to stay home, masking is one of the most important policies to benefit the welfare of the working class.

          Masks do not reduce blood oxygen levels:

        2. Noone from Nowheresville

          I’m fully in the wear masks position but doing laundry at a laundromat… I have to concur about the environment itself. Even with the front door open (and the back door if they have one viewable to the public), the ventilation is poor at best of times even during the quiet times. Hot, oppressive as the dryers do their duty. Can be hard to breath in general depending on the building. Frequently have to walk inside and out on a regular basis while trying to keep an eye on the machines with my clothes. When outside one gets the air from all the traffic unless you are there at 5 am.

          But on an entirely different level, outside of the pandemic itself, masks are a big step up. Which unfortunately says a lot about our society.

      3. Elliot Wahl

        The same tough-guy stance could be used to argue:

        1/ Sequester the immune compromised
        2/ Everybody else go out and get the Covid

        Sixty days max to herd immunity and back to work.

        Israeli study showing natural immunity 13x more effective than vaccination.

        It’s truly surreal to watch a hypochondriac lecture someone about mental toughness. You’re afraid of an in silico protein!

        1. Yves Smith

          Wearing a mask is the antithesis of tough guy. Children all over Asia do it.

          And you can’t separate out the “immune compromised”. The elderly and infirm need younger care-givers and often live with family.

          None other than the staunchly neoliberal Megan McArdle trashed this idea as counterproductive during the less contagious “wild type” phase”. And she had data on living arrangements:

          Moreover, it’s not even possible to quarantine the vulnerable. Some 24 percent of adults between the ages of 55 and 64, and 21 percent of those over age 65, live in a multigenerational household. So, of course, do millions of younger immunocompromised or otherwise medically vulnerable adults and children.

          And I have no interest in getting Covid. There’s big a huge spike in cancers, including oddball ones. IM Doc says he can write the names of eight people who were diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2021, when in his entire prior career (~ 30 years) he knew of only two cases. Early on, getting Covid was predicted to cause T cell derangement and exhaustion. T cells are the first line of defense against cancer. You are growing cancers all the time, but T cells normally zap them before they get big enough to do damage. Impaired T cells = more cancer. And you don’t make new ones as an adult.

          If you want to die an early death, have at it but I am not interested in your self-destructive tendencies.

        2. Basil Pesto

          Sixty days max to herd immunity

          It’s been two years now, how anyone is still claiming stuff like this with a straight face is just wild.

    2. albrt

      Masks are really not that much of a burden. My theory is that alpha male types suffer the most from widespread masking, because it deprives them of the monkey submission signaling (aka fake smiling) from others all around them.

      1. Antagonist Muscles

        My slightly facetious theory is attractive women suffer the most from mask wearing.

        Those superficial women out there who put in great effort to appear attractive must surely be very unhappy with mask wearing. How can these bimbos – sorry, that’s the best word I can think of – gain power over others when masked up? What’s the point of fancy makeup and lipstick if nobody can see it?

        I don’t use Facebook, but I do know users upload photos and write posts in order to gather “likes”. Apparently, the desire for likes is so strong that some users become upset when not receiving enough likes. For the bimbo, is insufficient ogles and compliments about attractiveness analogous to the lack of Facebook likes?

        I didn’t mean to be condescending in the last two paragraphs. Judging others by appearances is utterly foreign to me. Since I have been studiously masked up during the pandemic, I have received zero compliments about my appearance. (By the way, why do plural nouns follow “zero”? Shouldn’t it be “zero compliment” à la “one compliment?) I am not particularly perturbed by this, but the occasional compliment is a nice gesture.

        I estimate that a typical attractive woman receives a thousand positive remarks about her appearance per year. A typical attractive man might receive five or ten, which is what I usually got pre-pandemic. When I was living in Los Angeles – which is infamous for its superficiality – I received twenty. So my number dropped from twenty to zero, and the hypothetical attractive woman dropped from a thousand to ~twenty. Did the latter cause emotional distress? Are my estimates way off base?

        I am a strong proponent of gender equality. Women (and men too) should be encouraged to ogle at me. ;) This, of course, has little meaning in our online community, which is heavily biased towards words and not appearances.

        1. chris

          Teenagers suffer the most from masking. “Mask-ne” is real and it’s painful. Wearing a mask also makes orchestra, band, theater, and a lot of other really important activities for teens just about impossible.

          Toddlers are suffering too. We have some people around here that insist 4 year olds in daycare or preschool should wear masks even when they’re napping at school. Because they’d rather the kids risk choking themselves than use a HEPA filter I guess? And most high quality masks don’t fit little kids well, so they’re stuck with something that either isn’t great or isn’t comfortable.

            1. Yves Smith

              I don’t mean to sound dismissive, but attributing Covid stress (not being able to see friend much, regular activities cancelled, remote schooling, worry if they or their parents will get sick and what might happen) to masks is really a stretch.

          1. Basil Pesto

            Because they’d rather the kids risk choking themselves

            The mask goes over your mouth, not scrunched up and stuffed inside it.

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            > Because they’d rather the kids risk choking themselves than use a HEPA filter I guess?

            The straw man here, at least at NC, is that the day care should be adopting a layered strategy. Masking and HEPA filters (and Corsi boxes (and open windows)) are complimentary, not mutually exclusive.

            There seems to be a consistent thread among the ideologically committed anti-maskers to do (a) as little as possible (b) especially when it would help others.

            In a pandemic!!!

        2. Anthony G Stegman

          I have a different viewpoint. During the pandemic I have found women wearing masks to be more attractive than those without masks. The eyes can be very expressive, and in fact can be seductive in ways that the rest of the face can’t. A woman with a nice figure and wearing a well fitting mask can be totally hot. I am not alone in this as a recent news article I read said basically the same thing.

        3. GramSci

          For most of their lives, humans seem dopamine-driven in anticipation of hot [family-blog]. What you hypothesize seems half-reasonable.

          For the other half, the weaker sex seems to feel vulnerable, and for these [attractive women], the mask could be a shield, perhaps not unlike the burqa.

          Covid has caused everyone to revise their game plan.

        4. Lambert Strether Post author

          > My slightly facetious theory is attractive women suffer the most from mask wearing.

          As a guy, I can say that’s not so. Any…. person can do all they need to do with their eyes.

        5. CoryP

          Masks allow me to pretend the men I’m ogling are clean-shaven which is, alas, currently out of fashion.

          Eyes are pretty darn expressive.

          In a non romantic context, It occurs to me that I think I have some coworkers whose full faces I’ve rarely if ever seen… it is kind of jarring when the veil is removed.

      2. anonymous

        I’m going to put forth a minority opinion on this site, in loquacious upper-middle-class-ish English, because someone has to I guess.

        This pandemic has been an absolutely spectacular example of a society punching down its own class ladder, as vigorously and viciously as it can.

        To our hosts’ credit, they have extensively chronicled how the rich have punched down upon the upper middle class (and the rest) – mostly in the following form: the rich own the government, the government has failed in almost every conceivable way to protect the rest of the people from this pandemic, and the government has instigated (or not counteracted) several societal restrictions which have led to spectacular economic and social harms. Overall, the rich have profited handsomely from the chaos and despair, while the upper middle and middle class (and the rest) have spiraled into a gyre of fear and insecurity.

        But this masking thread, alas, is a perfect example of the upper middle and middle class – rather well represented by this commentariat – punching down upon the working thread in its turn.

        It is nice that none of you have any issue with wearing KN95 masks all day long, indefinitely. It’s lovely – and enlightening! – how many of you are, effectively, waxing romantic about the equivalent of the burka face covering on attractive women. Good news guys – there are countries out there you could move to that would meet your every desire!

        But honestly? The fact that you are so furiously defending how easy and how pleasant and how societally beneficial it is for everyone to cover the lower half of their face in every last social setting for as long as possibly the rest of time? And really, only bad people wouldn’t do it, and let’s all circle-jerk comfortably amongst ourselves about how self-evidently true that is? Is a signal that all of you–like the rest of this poor, broken country–are not really firing on full cylinders anymore.

        My husband is recovering with family right now from a mental breakdown, including constant panic attacks, because he worked completely alone in his apartment (other than dinner with the family) for 6 straight months and couldn’t find a single refuge where he could just relax and talk in a friendly way with others. Because everyone in this deep blue region was either wearing your goddamn precious masks, or furtively hiding away where they didn’t have to wear them, and on their guard against every potential finger-wagger and there was nowhere for him to go to feel like a whole human being again. Now I am working full time, watching our son, and arranging a move to a larger and better apartment for our upcoming expanding family all by myself for a little while. Hopefully soon, he will recover… and then he will go straight to a coworking space where no one is masked, and social interaction is relaxed and normal, so that his recovery will stick. If the state shuts that legal space down? He will go to an illegal one. For our family, this pandemic is now over, and whatever the rest of you think about that doesn’t matter.

        There are no words for what I feel about all of you right now. All of you.

        Oh one more thing – has our very public virtue caused us to have less cases here during this Omicron surge, or kept our hospitals more empty? LOL! Of course not–if we got in a car crash this week we’d likely die in the queue behind all the COVID victims, exactly the same as all the places that stopped wearing masks long ago–but my family’s fate doesn’t concern any of you nearly as much as the chance to signal your virtue.

        Perhaps one day soon, we will have a proper social credit system a la China, as most of you clearly pine for in your heart of hearts. One warning. Perhaps it will be people like me and my husband who will be punished harshly under that system, as you enact your “breathing is a social contract” tyranny upon everyone and every space you can lash out at. Or perhaps the worm will turn, and your casual dismissal of the extraordinary pain that’s been caused by this hideously unnatural society you have created for us all will be thrown back in your faces, and marked down upon your permanent record as “socially unbecoming”. Awfully hard to make predictions, especially about the future! We shall see.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > “breathing is a social contract”

          I don’t much like being misquoted (“Yes, Maggie, There Is Such a Thing as “Society””). And if you don’t think breathing is “a social relation,”* try being in the same room with other people, sharing their air, and then bringing whatever you breathed home to your son.

          And then:

          My husband is recovering with family right now from a mental breakdown, including constant panic attacks, because he worked completely alone in his apartment (other than dinner with the family) for 6 straight months and couldn’t find a single refuge where he could just relax and talk in a friendly way with others.

          I, personally, have always considered the family dinner table a place where I can “just relax and talk in a friendly way with others.” Perhaps the difficulty with masking is a displacement from some other issue? Don’t thank me…

          NOTE * To be crystal clear, not all social relations are contractual, and arguably not the most important ones (though some might disagree).

          1. Yves Smith

            No smoking laws demonstrate that breathing is not just a social contract but recognized as such when breathing is a harm to others’ health (second hand smoke). The parallel here is pretty exact except here we have spotty voluntary action to benefit third parties.

        2. RalphR

          Let’s see….you start preening over your English to tell us we should take a ludicrous and overlong argument seriously.

          You then launch into a Big Lie , that masking is the upper class oppressing everyone else. As Yves pointed out, masking benefits low wage workers most of all because they are the ones in essential or other close contact jobs, serving people like you who want to be served while they are unmasked.

          You then make clear what the real issue is: you have a highly neurotic husband who is falling apart due to him and you having blue district friends, who unlike many in that class, actually are pretty good about masking and/or prudently reducing their social interactions, as opposed to the prevalent tendency to run around unmasked as a sign of virtue of being among the vaccinated.

          What a self important piece of work. I hope you enjoy your victimhood.

          1. anonymous

            You wouldn’t have taken the time to reply if I hadn’t hit a bullseye somewhere in my comment, so I’ll accept the compliment.

            I have and will continue to follow all masking requirements in public spaces. I won’t be making anyone’s low-paid service job even shittier. But I will no longer hesitate to seek out spaces and people who don’t mask, because our family needs this now. We’ll invite them to our home if there’s nowhere else we can be. We will make a parallel society.

            Yes, we need to get different friends, thanks for pointing that out, I definitely do. You’ll probably notice your own friend circle shrinking in the months ahead, if you haven’t already. Isn’t that great news? You’re getting so much safer!

            Don’t mistake a person finally – finally – hitting the absolute wall with claiming victimhood. I have plenty of options I can take to help my family and fix our situation, and believe me, I will be actively taking them. My husband’s breakdown means that now he is aligned with me, and ready to prioritize what’s important. (He’s already feeling much better, thanks for asking!) This is the beginning of hope.

        3. Hazel Down

          Hi there, longtime lurker. First time caller. (Okay I’ve commented once or twice over the years). I’m a 52 year old white male high school dropout living in Virginia. Trade work and retail constitute my work history. Currently I am an “operations manager” at a small retail store that is part of a small chain. My job consists of unoading trucks and trying not to upset a customer base of college students and PMC types who are “exploring themelves”. I have been masked from the beginning of this Jackpot. 5-6 days a week 8-11 hours a day.
          It does suck. That is the nature of our system. The problem isn’t the mask that you’re forced to wear, it’s the job you’re forced to do. It’s always been thus.

          1. anonymous

            I hear you. I’m sorry your job is wretched, and more sorry that your customers are so horrible. They’ll learn in time – it’s coming for them too. Personally, I am going to make a real effort going forward not to be one of “that type” anymore. I will cross my fingers that you find a way to either get a better job or get a raise somewhere among the chaos. Good luck.

    3. petal

      I’ve been wearing a tight-fitting N95 for the whole workday, so 40 hours a week and then some. Not difficult, not uncomfortable, not a burden. So do most of the people in my lab. And our jobs are not desk jobs, we are up and active.

      1. Fiery Hunt

        So does my wife.

        But truth be told, it IS a pain in the ass if you are talking to patients and ON THE PHONE all day every day for 2 years , 5 days a week, 40+ hours each, straight.

    4. upstater

      We traveled twice in autumn and wore KN95s for 12+ hours, plus goggles in the airports. Yes, we gratefully pulled the masks off when the risks ended.

      Our daughter and son in law came from France for Christmas. On their arrival, everyone wore masks all day until the 3rd morning, except meal times. They tested negative. They also tested negative on their return after new years.

      We’re glad we don’t have to wear masks all day at a full time job. But the masks seem to have protected us. I don’t get the ideological resistance nor the Fauci/Walensky clique seeming to ignore NPI. The costs of this stupidity are horrendous.

    5. drumlin woodchuckles

      Suffocating masks? The masks have not suffocated me yet. Today I am wearing an O & M Halyard Duckbill N95 style.

      On the Trumpanon side, Trump ridiculed mask wearing and made Real Men Don’t Wear Masks an article of faith on the Trumpanon side.

      On the Clintanon side, Fauci, CDC, Biden, etc. promised that getting mRNA para-vaccinoided protected you, including protecting you from having to wear a mask anymore. So millions of Clintanon Karenons also boycott the mask now . . . . ” because Fauci said so!”

      I guess “wear the mask” or not is going to be a behavioral mass Darwin filter going forward

    6. c_heale

      Every time I leave the house I wear one. As do a lot of other Koreans. Sometimes for 10-12 hours. It’s only uncomfortable if you wear it while doing strenuous aerobic exercise. I have a damaged lung too, due to another illness.Tbh I’m tired from hearing from weak assed people who have no consideration for others.

    7. HotFlash

      Look, Anonymous-kun, I have worn a lot of uncomfortable things in my life. Even the comfortable ones would be, in many cases, unnecessary if society were indeed civilized. Do you really, really need to wear a shirt and tie? Pants? But my decades of wearing high heels, garter belts (yes, I am older than panty hose), straight skirts, yada, yada, and yada, did not protect me or my family, friends, co-workers or anyone else from a serious, possibly fatal, disease. Never could figure out about nylons, and high heels? WTF!!! None of that stuff had any real reason, but we had to wear them. Masks, the good ones, protect both ways. What’s your beef?

    8. Lambert Strether Post author

      > one’s relative Covid risk does not warrant it

      More sociopathic libertarianism. You’re sending a signal that masking isn’t important, since your Covid status isn’t visible to others.

    9. SB

      Just traveled for approx. 25 hours from Santa Barbara to Leipzig wearing a 3M 1860 N95 mask, except for some brief breaks to eat. Wife was wearing a KN95. Yes, we were both happy to take them off at the end of the trip but it’s certainly doable. There’s lots of different brands/styles of N95/KN95 out there and it’s a matter of trial and error to find one that fits comfortably and doesn’t leak.

  10. David

    As someone who’s written speeches for politicians in the past, and heard and read more than I can remember, this just seems …. amateurish. I mean, Biden presumably has about a million speech-writers, media advisors, technical people and so forth to help him. The problem is that speeches of this kind, unless there is a strong central grip by someone who has a clear message and wants it expressed, tend to be fought over by lobbies, who each want to put their own pet ideas in, and won’t accept others, and the result (to continue the metaphor) is often a dog’s breakfast. It’s only really explicable if Biden himself had no idea what he wanted to say, and nobody else in the White House did either. But making a speech for the sake of making a speech is seldom a good idea.

    1. Return of the Bride of Joe Biden

      In general I just dont think Americans of all classes and educations dont worry about talking good no more. More important things. In life like money.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > As someone who’s written speeches for politicians in the past, and heard and read more than I can remember, this just seems …. amateurish.

      I can’t believe they let Biden read this. It’s not awful, just… a lethal pudding.

  11. Carolinian

    Thanks Lambert. Hope you used the extra heavy duty yellow waders.

    Just re that Politifact

    In October, unvaccinated people had 10 times the risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and 20 times the risk of dying from COVID-19 compared with people who were fully vaccinated with additional or booster doses, according to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker.

    On COVID-19 hospitalizations, CDC data from the end of November 2021 indicated that unvaccinated adults ages 18 years and older were hospitalized with COVID-19 at a rate of about 67.8 per 100,000. By comparison, the rate for fully vaccinated individuals was about 3.9 per 100,000, meaning unvaccinated people were about 17 times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19.

    So statistics from last fall are being used to make assertions about now. However the situation has dramatically changed with a new variant taking charge and more months of wearing off for the vaccines that were administered last spring. I would say this offers no backing at all. Could be true. Maybe not.

    1. Lee

      I just looked at the CDC Covid Data Tracker and their most recent data are from way back on Nov. 20, when the daily new cases were ~43K as opposed to the current ~338K. Although they say they update monthly, there won’t be an update until January 18. I guess they take December off even during a pandemic.

    2. Objective Ace

      This is also born out in that Politifact article as Psaki obfuscates vaccinations with boosters:

      “I had been triple vaxxed,” she said. “I had minor symptoms. There is a huge difference between that and being unvaccinated.”

      I’m happy you are okay Jennifer, but President Biden is talking about vaccinations when he says “Pandemic of the unvaccinated”. Your experience with boosters is not relevent to this discussion

    1. lordkoos

      I’d much rather have either Mel Tillis or Bill Withers (RIP) as president, I don’t see how they could possibly do more harm than Biden.

    2. chris

      It’s not a stutter. And he didn’t have it for decades in office. It used to be part of his shtick on the stump. Biden used to specifically brag about how he fought to overcome his stutter and be a good public speaker.

      I do wish this talking point would die a horrible death. It’s cognitive decline due to putting an old man through what amounts to elder abuse.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Take note Lambert, he stuttered as a child.

      I am aware of the stuttering talking point (and the previous post in this series has a note on it).

      If you read the post carefully, you will note that I did not mark every flub; the obvious stutters and teleprompter gaffes I left alone. I marked only those places where Biden completely loses the thread. Since Biden’s mental acuity is a concern, rightly, I think that’s important to do.

  12. Rick

    Hey, thanks for the link to civic republicanism. I’m always on the lookout for ways to convey ideas of the common good to my fellow American friends. The concept doing something as a society is nearly extinct here after forty plus years of neoliberal capitalism.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I don’t know if we can climb back to that value system; hyteresis works in politics too. A way forward from the current celebration of absolute sociopathy I don’t know.

  13. aletheia33

    thank you so much.
    the only way i ever learn what these people have actually said at their personal appearances and what what they said probably means is when i read your expedition reports on them.
    your labors make the experience bearable, and better than just that, as you provide laughter AND a truly informative analysis.
    please preen modestly.

    1. cnchal

      Nicky could add a book about MMT to his stack of reading and realize that the Federal government does not have to collect taxes to spend.

      By building a new economy based totally on freelance subsistence labor and voluntary grey market exchanges we can simultaneously starve both the Federal Government of our tax revenue and their friends in the Fortune 500 of our wage slave labor, killing the incestuous tag-team of big business and big government with one stone without so much as firing a single bullet.

      Starving the Fortune 500 of labor misses the other half, sales. Don’t sell your labor to them and don’t buy from them. That could be a movement with hairy legs.

      Amazon shopper = whip cracking sadist

  14. Tom Stone

    Biden has been reading teleprompters for half a century,he is carefully rested, juiced up and coached before every speech.
    This is not a long speech,it doesn’t contain words that are difficult to pronounce and this is the best he can do.
    I can only hope that DR Jill has a better astrologer than Nancy Reagan did.

  15. Angie Neer

    Thanks for pulling on the waders, Lambert. I saved a screen shot from a time I was reading NC and all the ads on the page are for waders from Cabela’s sporting goods. Regarding testing, in my affluent, covid-cautious area near Seattle there is pretty good testing infrastructure, except that it was set up with delta-variant capacity that is very inflexible. Formerly I could walk in for a PCR test, pay nothing, and get results the next morning. Now, reservations are required and are 100% booked. The reservation system only books 3 days in advance, because, of course, if you need a covid test, waiting 3 days is absurd. But even if you manage to get one of those appointment, the processing takes 3-4 days. So if you’re lucky enough to get an appointment, you may not get a result until 7 days later. What’s the point?

    1. Jason Boxman

      I’d say that the point is, if you’re positive, you might be able to use that later on as evidence of infection when fighting for a Social Security Disability claim or a private disability insurer if you are unfortunate enough to have long-COVID.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I saved a screen shot from a time I was reading NC and all the ads on the page are for waders from Cabela’s sporting goods.

      I am happy to be doing my little bit to clog up the supply chain help consumer spending. I’m just glad the economy’s doing ok.

  16. The Rev Kev

    In another time-line, hero Joe Biden made it a priority last year to actually get together a Pandemic Task Force along with the other ones that he had, instead of waiting until he was in power and just accepting the advice of Fauci and the CDC. Then on Inauguration Day, he would have declared a fight-back against the pandemic recommending a layered defence of masks, vaccinations and anything else that could be thought of. He might have still experienced the same problems that Omicron threw up but people would have said that at least he and the Democrats were trying. But now? Recommending masks when only a few months ago he was saying that you could get rid of them? Fobbing off the critical question of how this virus is spread? And I think that Lambert picked it out that the media changed their full support for him after Psaki dumped on a reporter’s questions about supplying masks. Soon, nobody will remember this speech of Bidens but they will remember Psaki’s snide reply about masks.

  17. Dave in Austin

    NCers should immediately Google “Biden’s speech 1/13/2022” and watch the original from C-Span. This is the saddest speech by a sitting President I’ve seen since… Lyndon. Biden looks and speaks like a broken man. The actual speech is much more devastating than Lambert’s line-by-line analysis.

    First, the setting. Four people including Biden on the stage looking at a screen with the pictures of three armed service medical people dressed in camouflage fatigues not scrubs on it. The three other live participants come in first from stage rear-right led by a fourth person. All are masked. Biden enters with short tentative steps, unmasked, and as soon as he gets to his little school desk, he puts out his hand to steady himself as he goes around the desk to sit. The four desks are facing the wall of pictures, not the audience or each other. Why this un-Presidential setup? As soon as Biden begins to speak the answer was obvious. Normally the President would use a podium but Biden is too unsteady. The Oval Office is intimate and small, too small for the three other people, the big screens plus the camera crew.

    So the use of the Old Executive Building auditorium. Biden’s desk faces toward the flag in the back right of the stage and he begins to speak. The camera is hidden behind the flag. And based on the one white dot in each of Biden’s eyes, the camera is also the only light source. His eyes never move up or down, left or right- the camera and a brightly lit screen with the text he is repeating are one. This is not a standard teleprompter which is very close to the speaker and betrayed by the speaker’s eye motion as the speaker follows the text near at hand.

    Biden speaks as if he were speaking to children; no analysis, no taking ownership of the past year, no path forward. He holds up what appears to be an N 95 mask. He skips from one point to another, one “you should do this please” to another with no plan. No admission that the unmasked are reasonable people making a dangerous decision for themselves and their loved ones, a decision he understand but thinks is the wrong decision. No professional speech writer would have written this.

    And not knowing how to pronounce Jeff Zeints’ name was an extraordinary indication of how poorly the speech was prepared- any pro would have the phonetic version of the name on the teleprompter.

    Then when Biden ends and the next speakers don’t cue-up immediately, a reasonable and not hostile question comes from the press. Biden looks like a trapped animal, dispirited, alone. More questions follow, no baying from the press, no hostility and an odd sense of respect for the moment. Biden bows his head and says nothing; an old man, over his head and out of his element, silent, waiting. I’ve never felt more sympathy for Joe Biden as a man than I did at that moment.

    But I’ve seen that performance once before. During the week of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and the USS Liberty President Johnson was carrying in his pocket a letter from a man of his social class from Oklahoma. The man had helped map Vietnam in the 50s and now his 18 year-old son was a Marine on the DMZ. So he did what a lot of fathers wanted to do. He got a ticket to Saigon and flew there. When he arrived he asked “How do I get to Da Nang?” got a ticket and went. When he landed in Da Nang he just walked up to the nearest Marine and said “My son is with the following regiment, battalion and company; how do I get out there? God love the Marines. Two helicopter rides later he was with his son in a bunker. All the Marines said the same thing: “This war is a loser”. The father went back to his home in Oklahoma and prayed. His prayers were not answered. So he wrote a letter to the President explaining who he was, who his son had been and simply asking “Why?” That was the month Johnson collapsed morally. From then on he spoke, looked and acted like Biden did on the 13th.

    I’ll put money down that Biden will announce that will not run again within the next 12 months. Biden’s a pro after all. And he knows that the people waiting in the wings need the nod to move forward.

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      > I’ll put money down that Biden will announce that will not run again within the next 12 months.

      Odds are good … the re-emergence of #HRC is a harbinger of sorts.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > the re-emergence of #HRC is a harbinger of sorts

        She’s still got the best resumé. And she’s a warmonger, a point in her favor.

        Clinton is fine example of what I believe Mark Fisher calls “hauntology.” No wonder Democrats are so nervous these days. They should be.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks, this is very helpful. I just don’t want to watch any speech, ever. That way, I avoid techniques of manipulation that are harder to decode than rhetorical forms.

    3. Samuel Conner

      Who was it who said, “Joe, you don’t have to do this”?

      O yes, … it was the same guy who pulled the strings behind the ‘night of long knives’ back in early 2020.

      Hubris usually encounters Nemesis.

      1. Samuel Conner

        Could one argue that ‘the man who gave us DJT also gave us JRB’?

        And, arguably, gave us the inadequate pandemic policies of both?

        What a legacy!

    4. Joe Well

      I saw Biden speak on stage in person during the primaries. Devastating. Seeing him struggle to express himself after following all those polished politicians, and knowing what he had sounded like while VP just 5 years before…

      If everyone had seen him in person there is no way he could have won. A master class in MSM propaganda.

    5. Dr. John Carpenter

      “And not knowing how to pronounce Jeff Zeints’ name was an extraordinary indication of how poorly the speech was prepared- any pro would have the phonetic version of the name on the teleprompter.”

      This was the part that really got me. AP copy we’d get to read at my high school radio station had phonetic spellings of names and uncommon words. Why wouldn’t the president’s teleprompter? Are they trying to sink any hopes he has of a second term?

    6. Lambert Strether Post author

      > And not knowing how to pronounce Jeff Zeints’ name was an extraordinary indication of how poorly the speech was prepared- any pro would have the phonetic version of the name on the teleprompter.

      It’s Ingelsby, not Zeints, that Biden can’t pronounce:

      (36) And to help lead our federal testing program, I’ve talked — I’ve ta- — excuse me, I’ve tapped Dr. Tom In- — I hope I’m pronouncing Ings- — Ingles- — Inglesby.

      (37) Correct? Is that right, Jeff?

      I don’t know how to pronounce “Zeints.” And I can hardly spell it!

  18. MichaelC

    Thanks Lambert for gearing up and wading through that muck and mire so I didn’t have to.

    I agree most with your conclusion #3. Had this team not been magically thinking they’d be out of the woods by 4 of July year one, thanks to the rapid vax ( not really a vax) development they inherited, perhaps they would have, because they could have, implemented all of your suggestions as a first step in a long term epidemic preparedness program.

    But having lived through the AIDS crisis (I’m looking at you Dr Fauci),his advisors who had done that (and mismanaged) that horiffic experience) should have been setting Biden’s teams hair on fire to focus on mitigation first, while the scientists set to work developing therapeutics with prevention as priority one.

    In my view, Fauci should have been ( or now start) shouting at the top of their lungs:

    ‘Masks = Condoms

    If you want to toy with this new virus with zero protection, play on.
    But know this, We don’t have a cure, nor will we have a prophylactic anytime soon ( despite what we’ve been selling you, re the ‘vaccines’
    are no longer prophylactic as breakthrough cases since the summer and Omicron have shown)

    We’ve been to this dance before and we know how it drags on.’

    The White House , or any sane leader should follow up with a message to Americans something like this:

    You’ve seen and experienced the horrible deaths that happened before the first Covid ‘vaccines’ became available, just as the frontline activists in the AIDs crisis saw before Fauci and his cronies acknowledged that existing meds at the time could save lives, but not stop the spread. It was a relief that Fauci eventually conceded that existing meds could spare the afflicted from the horrifying deaths and bought time and support to treat this as a global pandemic, not just as a gay pandemic, which it was , and that this is.

    Forty years later, we still haven’t developed anything that eliminates the spread of AIDS (ex decent condoms). We do have better prophylactics and therapeutics, 10 years later, but we likely won’t have them for this virus in the coming months, once the Omicron tsunami crashes’

    I think Fauci should support the message that ‘Masks =Condoms’ because

    AIDS is transmitted through exchanges of bodily fluids.
    COVID is transmitted through exchanges of virals via sharing air (aerosols)
    Both exchanges occur in normal human intercourse

    Would that Fauci, in his dotage, leave the politics to his progeny, stop lying, step aside, and let those younger than himself adopt the lessons he learned in his prime.

    My lips to gods ears

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Did Fauci really ever learn anything to begin with, or was he hammered into giving way while pretending to learn by the in-his-face activism of ACT UP? Didn’t Fauci obstruct the use of lifesaving/extending drugs as long as he could hold out?

      1. MichaelC

        Did Fauci Learn anything ? No
        Did Fauci obstruct, Yes

        Are we f%-# Ed while he’s the Covid Czar?


        Do I care that our long term health is reduced/ held hostage to a political debate about Biden’s ineptitude/ ability to hold onto the WH or a majority in the Senate?

        Hell yes!!

        F the political calculus. Neither party will care about or save us so let’s move the discussion to a place where the grownups can have room to breath and explore best next steps.

        Yet all the incessant political framing, w apologies to Lambert’s adept political analysis, diverts from the reality that we’re f’d absent a plan to stay healthy till a non political public health policy emerges.

        Who the f cares about the political balance of power other than the PMC, while the hoi polio (me and you icluded) live w the rational terror that this virus may kill us all?

        I suspect no one, outside the PMC cares about the balance of power now that Omicron is infecting everyone.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Masks = Condoms

      Good analogy, or perhaps precedent. The complaints of anti-maskers remind me a lot of the tops, back in the days of the AIDS crisis, who refused to wear condoms because they felt angry and sad about losing their sensation…. An analogy that might cause cases of intracranial splatterfest if not carefully deployed….

      Adding: There, I said it.

  19. MonkeyBusiness

    Till now it’s still hard to get Google to cough up some info on where to get a walk in PCR test for travel in my area. I eventually found one thanks to the kind people over at Reddit.

    1. WhoaMolly

      Still hard to find via Google. We had to call a family member who works at a local hospital to figure out where to go.

  20. Objective Ace

    And if they’re — if you’re unvaccinated — if they test positive — there are — you are 17 times more likely[1] to get hospitalized.

    [1] True.

    Are we sure about that? From the brownstone (linked to earlier by NC): Even more concerning is the fact that 96% of the vaccinated were hospitalized during the summer months of June to August, while 69% of the Covid recovered were hospitalized in the winter and spring months from January to May. Such unbalanced covariates are usually best adjusted for using matching as in the Israeli study.

    Unfortunately, I think believing CDC data without thouroughly diving into it is well past its time

    1. Noone from Nowheresville

      Delta started hitting Nowheresville pretty hard the last 10 days or so in November.

  21. VietnamVet

    The emphasis on the individual is innate to this neoliberal reborn ultimate Gilded Age. There is no government by and for the people. The USA is a failed state. If it was functional, more Americans dying the last two years than in all of America’s 20th century wars would be significant. But it isn’t. So, the USA is not doing all the things it should do; building hospital intensive care wards, drafting nurses and doctors, finding off-patent therapeutics, contact tracing, quarantine international travelers, free daily antigen tests for all Americans, forming school and work bubbles, and ventilating/filtering indoor air. After two years it could have restored the public health. It could have copied what China, Taiwan and Japan are doing. But it can’t.

    Instead, the Republican Party denies there is a pandemic and the Democrats scapegoat the unvaccinated when the vaccinated are just as likely to transmit coronavirus. Washington DC and Ottawa have mandated that all truckers crossing the Canadian border be vaccinated. It is now in effect. Shortages will get worse with no public health benefit. The rich get richer.

    1. Noone from Nowheresville

      The rich get richer and they don’t even need the economy to do it. Now that’s something special. I wish I was special but I’m just a low level creep. I’m a loser. da da da

      And we don’t even see the wealthy (as opposed to the merely rich) unless they are in the public’s eye. We can see SOME of the shape of what their broad-outline plans for the lower tiers because there are information leaks. (I’m with GM from previous posts on this.) But what are they actually planning with their new found (or here take it, take it all – and don’t worry even if they figure out how to tax y’all we’ll just shovel more your way) wealth. e.g., if we dug into the Repo crisis before we even looked at the CARES package, what would we see? How long would it take us to unravel all the pieces? Be some accounts we are talking $10 trillion dollars just with the two event markers.

      Which is a long round way of saying there is no urgency in the pandemic response. Look how quickly they acted with Repo and CARES. For those weirdos below, only forced reactions when pr can’t cover up the lack of urgency. Lambert is being far too kind. Biden and his administration should be treated as hostile witnesses. Press them hard enough and they will tell you the truth because they want someone to know how very clever they are.

  22. WhoaMolly

    (Duck duck go) for “Covid test near me “ (in northern CA) I see a raft of confusing results. Best I can tell the stack of search results are saying:
    – test $89
    – Covered by Medicare

    In all fairness when we needed tests before traveling last month we got them free of charge within 24 hours by calling VA (for me) and checking California state Covid website.

  23. chris_gee

    Can you substantiate the claim that the unvaccinated are 20x more likely to be hospitalised? Are you relying on data from before vaccination was widespread or the latest figures if any for omicron?

  24. Wukchumni

    Joe the teetotaler is the polar opposite of Yeltsin, but very much the complete failure that the latter was, the last President after the devastating disaster that was Gorbachev’s polar opposite in that Trump was all about secrecy-not openness.

  25. Bart Hansen

    People here and elsewhere have asked, “Where’s my $600 check?”.

    Wait until they start mailing out masks and test kits, which packing will doubtless be identifiable as such, and thereby subject to theft.

    But, hey, there will be an 800 number to call, right?

  26. Robert Gray

    > (17) … And the Center [sic] for — the Center [sic] for Disease Control and Prevention — the CDC — says …

    In fact, the name is the Centers etc. Centers, plural. Of course, why should Brandon know that? I mean, he’s only the President of the United States.

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