2:00PM Water Cooler 2/14/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Happy Valentine’s Day, patient readers!

Bird Song of the Day

More wintry 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

Biden Adminstration

“Inside Schumer’s frayed relationship with Manchin” [Axios]. “Schumer-world views Manchin as a slippery-on-detail attention addict who’s impossible to pin down, will change his mind numerous times and negotiate in public, Axios is told.” Karma: “In 2018, Schumer all but begged Manchin to run for re-election, knowing his victory in West Virginia could one day make him leader. During the Obama era, Schumer was the protector of the so-called Big Five, a group of centrist Democrats from red states. He also leaned on Manchin for his advice on hot-button cultural issues, including gun control.” • Lie down with Blue Dogs….

“Senior Biden communications adviser to depart the White House” [CNN]. “Mariel Saez, the White House director of broadcast media, will leave government for the private sector after serving as the administration’s point person on a critical component of its wide-ranging messaging strategy: television. Saez, who was well known on Capitol Hill as a constant presence by the side of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer during her 10 years working for the Maryland Democrat, had roles on Biden’s presidential campaign and in the Presidential Inaugural Committee before taking over the broadcast role on Inauguration Day in 2021….. The Biden administration is now firmly in the window when senior officials in past administrations have started to depart or shift to other jobs within the administration. It’s a reality driven by the fast-paced, high-stress environment of the West Wing — one only exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been central to Biden’s first year in office. Several White House officials have told CNN there’s an expectation there will be more departures in the weeks ahead, likely after Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1. Still, with key agenda items still hanging in the balance and officials keen on securing more progress on Covid-19 and the economy, there’s no indication members of Biden’s senior team are on their way out…. The staff turnover in Biden’s first year marked “one of the lowest of the past six administrations,” wrote Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.”

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.

* * *


* * *

“Inside McConnell’s Campaign to Take Back the Senate and Thwart Trump” [New York Times]. “As Mr. Trump works to retain his hold on the Republican Party, elevating a slate of friendly candidates in midterm elections, Mr. McConnell and his allies are quietly, desperately maneuvering to try to thwart him. The loose alliance, which was once thought of as the G.O.P. establishment, for months has been engaged in a high-stakes candidate recruitment campaign, full of phone calls, meetings, polling memos and promises of millions of dollars. It’s all aimed at recapturing the Senate majority, but the election also represents what could be Republicans’ last chance to reverse the spread of Trumpism before it fully consumes their party. Mr. McConnell for years pushed Mr. Trump’s agenda and only rarely opposed him in public. But the message that he delivers privately now is unsparing, if debatable: Mr. Trump is losing political altitude and need not be feared in a primary…. History doesn’t bode well for such behind-the-scene efforts to challenge Mr. Trump, and Mr. McConnell’s hard sell is so far yielding mixed results….. Mr. Trump is backing primary opponents to incumbent governors in Georgia and Idaho, encouraged an ally to take on the Alabama governor and helped drive Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts into retirement by supporting a rival.”


“How Trump’s Vaccine Support Is Splitting His Base” [Time]. “Trump’s vocal backing of COVID-19 vaccines puts the former President in a new, and possibly vulnerable, political position. While his support for the vaccine puts him in line with a majority of conservatives—57% have been willing to get at least one shot, according to a December Monmouth University poll—it also lands him squarely in the crosshairs of his most ardent base, many of whom see the federal government’s vaccination campaign as overreach. Thirty percent of Republicans say they ‘likely will never get’ a COVID-19 vaccine shot, according to the Monmouth poll. According to data analysis by the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor, Republicans also make up an increasingly large share of the unvaccinated, comprising 60% of the unvaccinated in October, up from 51% in July. ‘He’s out of touch on the vaccine,’ one user wrote on a pro-Trump forum that was a staging ground for the Jan. 6 insurrection after Trump appeared on OAN. Another asked ‘Why lose half your base over a faulty vaccine actively being used to take away rights?’ Someone else responded, ‘I love Trump but this shit is getting intolerable.’ At a rally in Cullman, Alabama in August, Trump was booed when he told the crowd he recommended getting vaccinated. As he angles for a possible run for the White House in 2024, Trump finds himself in a tight spot, caught between highlighting his Administration’s significant achievement of working with pharmaceutical companies to jumpstart vaccine development and production and an evermore outspoken anti-vax Republican base.” • Hmm.

“From Playmakers: NFL general counsel Jeff Pash ordered expungement of 2015 air-pressure measurements” [Pro Football Talk]. “So there’s the last word on Deflategate, as harvested in the process of drafting Playmakers. The effort to test the operation of air pressure in footballs in the season played after the game in question (an effort the NFL had never before undertaken) resulted in numbers that were inconveniently similar to the numbers haphazardly collected in a game of “gotcha” that was instigated against the Patriots. Thus, those numbers never saw — and never will see — the light of day. The NFL made sure of that.” • Laying down a marker on potential oppo for Tom Brady’s 2024 Senate run against Elizabeth Warren (an idea so brilliant I’ve got to track it).

“The Spectacle of Eric Adams” [Ross Barkan, Political Currents]. “Has Adams had a good or bad first month as mayor? It depends on your metric. Adams has been embroiled in a mix of perplexing scandals. He badly wanted to pay his own brother more than $200,000 to oversee his police security, inevitably failing to win approval from the Conflicts of Interest Board. He hired a deputy mayor for public safety—someone who may actually call the shots at the NYPD—who was an unindicted co-conspirator in a corruption scandal. He tried to hire an actual bigot to oversee a mental health initiative. He has extolled the virtue of his plant-based, vegan-like diet—so central to his identity—while apparently dining out, fairly often, on fish. I am most sympathetic to Adams here, in that it’s mostly a non-story and he is an adult in excellent physical condition who can eat what he wants. The scandal has only persisted because he long refused to say, outright, he’s eaten fish. Fishgate, or whatever you want to call it, dominated the Monday event at the hospital. Adams, though, has not had what you would call a bad month as mayor if your metric is performance. He understands, innately, the aesthetic demands of the office, that the media and certain voters want something of an urban caretaker or superhero, a man to watch over them and promise better days. He rushes to the scenes of fires and murders and has made containing crime, something largely beyond his power, a top priority—sometimes, it seems it’s the only priority—of his administration. It’s inarguable that the rise in shootings and murders—national in scope—is a pressing concern and Adams is correct that his working-class base cares about the issue greatly. Progressives sometimes make the mistake of being too blithe about murder. What this all will add up to remains to be seen. Already clear, though, is that Adams evinces energy not seen in the last mayor and it’s something that will take him far with the media and even public. He loves a good spectacle.” • Plus that million-watt smile, so different from the doughy Deblasio.


“Clinton’s campaign paid tech firm to ‘infiltrate’ Trump servers” [Daily Mail]. Sorry, but this is the best exposition. “Durham’s filings revealed how Hillary Clinton’s election campaign paid money to a tech firm to ‘infiltrate’ servers that were at Trump Tower, and later the White House. According to a filing from Special Counsel John Durham, the aim was to try and smear Trump by linking him to Russia, which had been accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.” The executive of the tech from is said to be Rodney Joffe, ‘founder of UltraDNS, the first cloud-based company to market ‘domain name services…. The filing also reveals how [Joffe] worked with Sussman at the instruction of the Clinton campaign to ‘assemble the purported data and white papers’ – essentially to gather information that would tie Trump to Russia. Durham tells how [Joffe] said he was trying to please certain ‘VIPs,’ which is said to have been a reference to the Clinton campaign.” • Trump was to be tied to Russia, apparently, through Internet traffic with Russia’s Alfa Bank (a dry hole, IIRC). Joffe accumulated the data, and then had connections at Georgia Tech analyze it. Here is Durham’s filing.

“Biden Security Adviser Jake Sullivan Tied to Alleged 2016 Clinton Scheme to Co-Opt the CIA and FBI to Tar Trump” [RealClearInvestigations]. From September 2021. “As a senior foreign policy adviser to Clinton, Sullivan spearheaded what was known inside her campaign as a “confidential project” to link Trump to the Kremlin through dubious email-server records provided to the agencies, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.” • This project, although some details differ and Joffee is not named, sounds a lot like the project Durham is describing, including the university involvement.

“Rep. Jordan: Durham filing shows Trump was right about being spied on” [New York Post]. “Rep. Michael Turner ​(R-Ohio) ​said Sunday that Durham’s investigation uncovered a ‘whole new level of corruption and is of grave concern. I mean, this is a threat to our democracy itself,’ Turner said on Fox News’ ‘Sunday Morning Futures.’​ ‘It doesn’t matter really which political campaign this is or which political party this is. This is so wrong and allegations of such ​a ​level of illegal activity that goes directly to our faith in our own government that the truth must be found​.'”

“Trump Suggests Clinton Operatives Deserve Death for ‘Spying Operation'” [Newsweek]. • This isn’t news, but Trump just can’t keep his big yap shut and has to be the story (although he’s correct that death is the penalty for treason, assuming the operation was in fact treason).

Lambert here: The Washington Post and the New York Times have maintained complete radio silence on this story for 48 hours. This could simply signal a new and yet more impermeable degree of embubblement; however, Special Prosecutor John Durham, after all, previously buried investigations into the CIA destroying tapes and torturing detainees, so liberal Democrats should think of him as one of their own. Biden allowed him to remain. Or it could signal factional infighting among the Democrats, as they attempt to figure out who to heave over the side. Seems to me that if a private firm is sniffing the Internet traffic of the Executive Office of the President, that’s newsworthy, whether the Democrats hired them or not.

Clinton Legacy

“Hillary Clinton Debuts New Hat To Mock Donald Trump’s Document Shredding” [HuffPo]. “The recent reports that Donald Trump ‘never stopped ripping’ up documents while he was president, flushed some down the toilet, and absconded with at least 15 boxes of White House papers (including pages marked as classified) when he left office, made Hillary Clinton tip her new, hilarious hat while trolling her old rival. Clinton highlighted the latest merchandise being offered by her nonprofit Onward Together — a cap sporting the phrase ‘But Her Emails’ — in an Instagram post and tweet on Friday. They’re described as ‘black unstructured dad hats’ that are union-made in America.” • Hillary would never, ever nuke all those emails about Chelsea’s wedding. She’d have her lawyers do it.

“The Hillary Clinton Master Class Part 1 w/special guests Amber A’Lee Frost and Catherine Liu” (podcast) [The West Wing Thing]. • Starts out with a good discussion of Biden and Covid (and Rogan).

Realignment and Legitimacy

Seeing Like a State: An Autobiography. This is very, very painful:

The original source, James C. Scott: Agrarian Studies and Over 50 Years of Pioneering Work in the Social Sciences (Oral History Center University of California The Bancroft Library, Berkeley):

So I had also, not knowing what to do, I applied to join the CIA. I had applied to Harvard Law School and had been accepted, and on a kind of flash of Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley daring, I applied for a Rotary Fellowship to Burma, and I got the Rotary Fellowship to Burma. I thought to myself, I can postpone Harvard Law School, I can always go to law school, but when am I going to get a chance to go to Burma? And so, I decided to go to Burma and spent a year there, and in the meantime—this is not in a lot of my stuff—the CIA people asked me to write reports on Burmese student politics and so on, which I did.

And further on:

So, it’s an experience that many people didn’t have. And then, I actually went to Jakarta to interview students for a fellowship program that the National Student Association had. I went to Jakarta and Bandung, so I had a little Indonesian experience, and then I went to what was then East Pakistan, Dhaka, and I went to Singapore. In Singapore, I got to know the Socialist student union people, the sort of so-called Dunham Road Hostel, many of whom became very important politicians later on, and personal friends in some cases. So at the end of my Burma year, I saw, if you like, student politics in three or four different places, and including—we’re talking ’60, and so I met the sort of Communist leaders of the CGMI, which was the Communist student union in Indonesia, most of whom were killed after ’65, and so on.

Oy. Maybe everybody knew this but me?

* * *


Case count by United States regions:

I have again added a “Fauci Line” to congratulate Biden and his team — Klain, Zeints, Fauci, Walensky — for finally falling below their own second-highest peak. (Rise like a rocket, and fall like a stick; the slope of the downward curve is more or less the same as the upward curve. 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 unprecedented.) I wonder if there will be plateau when BA.2 takes hold. Since the Northeast has form, that is probably the region to watch for this behavior first.

The official narrative was “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) was completely exploded. What a surprise! This time, it may be different. But who knows?

I’m not the only tapewatcher!

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

Continues encouraging. No jump from the return of the students yet, which is even more encouraging, especially if you’re in “Waiting for BA.2” mode.

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 Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:

Continued improvement. Tennesse reports weekly, and has cleared up. (Remember that these are rapid riser counties. A county that moves from red to green is not covid-free; the case count just isnt, well, rising rapidly.)

The previous release:

Not to pour cold water on this improvement, but to underline that “a county that moves from red to green is not covid-free,” here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Sea of green! From the point of view of our hospital-centric health care system, green everywhere means the emergency is over (and to be fair, this is reinforced by case count and wastewater). However, community transmission is still pervasive, which means that long Covid, plus continuing vascular damage, are not over. (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.)

Just a reminder:

As with everything else, because the United States is not a serious country, our hospitalization data is bad. Here the baseilne is off:

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 943,411 939,427. A dip, fortunately. I sure hope we break a million before Biden’s State of the Union speech. There’s still time.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Good news here too.

Stats Watch

There are no officials statistics of note today.

* * *

Commodities: “Not a Rare to Spare” [Doomberg]. Starts with a discussion of the periodic table. Then: “Lanthanides are mission critical to the global economy. Without getting too technical, lanthanides have unpaired electrons in their ground state configurations making them excellent candidates for use as magnets in anything with an electric motor. As efforts are made to move away from fossil fuels and to decarbonize our energy sector, the efficiency of electric motors in converting electricity to useful work becomes supremely attractive. Magnets are at the core of electric motor technology. There aren’t many scenarios in which our future work won’t be strongly dependent on motors, and therefore magnets, and therefore lanthanides. There are few viable alternatives. And therein lies the rub: everybody wants them but getting them is tough. Lanthanides form the bulk of what are colloquially known as the rare earth elements, although they aren’t all that rare. Rather, they are assigned that descriptor because economically feasible deposits of lanthanides are difficult to come by – when the elements are discovered in high enough concentrations to be mined, they are found together in complex mixtures that require substantial effort to further purify.” And: “In a story arc that will be all too familiar to Doomberg readers, for decades the US had a near monopoly on the mining and refining of rare earth elements, only to cede control over most of the value chain to China.” • Imagine that!

Commodities: “Coal Is Still Raising Trillions of Dollars Despite Green Shift” [Bloomberg]. “The dirtiest fossil fuel is still raising trillions of dollars of funding, despite finance industry pledges to back net zero carbon targets by the middle of the century. Commercial banks have channeled more than $1.5 trillion across the coal supply chain since the start of 2019, according to a report from German researcher Urgewald and its partners. The findings come just over three months after dozens of banks joined Mark Carney’s global alliance to achieve net-zero emissions from finance. Most agree it’s necessary to fight rising temperatures, yet few major global banks are willing to shun profitable fossil-fuel clients. The biggest coal lenders included Mizuho Financial Group Inc., Barclays Plc, Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the study showed. Chinese banks dominated underwriting of capital raised by the coal industry. ‘What we’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg,’ said Heffa Schuecking, founder of Urgewald, in an interview. ‘This is a clear sign that companies aren’t transitioning.'”

Transportation: “‘It’s Going to End Up Like Boeing’: How Freight Rail Is Courting Catastrophe” [Vice]. About precision railroading, which readers have mentioned, so still germane though from 2021. Starts with a discussion of a derailment: “To be sure, even on well-run freight railways or rigorously regulated airlines, accidents still happen. And at first glance, the derailment in Hyndman appeared to be just another accident. NTSB investigators found the train derailed largely because of a combination of improper braking procedures and the empty cars being in the front of the train. Long trains have an accordion effect where they expand and contract as they brake and accelerate.” The recent derailment at Sante Fe junction (which got me watching their live webcam religiously) looks like it was caused by empty cars too. More: “According to interviews with current and former rail workers, union officials, and independent experts, the Hyndman derailment and others like it are the all-too-predictable result of nearly all the major freight rail companies adopting a business approach called Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). Proponents of PSR say it is about leveraging modern technology to improve efficiency. But those who work on the railroads every day say it is little more than a euphemism for draconian cost-cutting in order to achieve an arbitrary metric that pleases shareholders. That metric, called an “operating ratio,” must get below 60 percent, which means only 60 percent of every dollar earned goes towards actually running the railroads. The rest can go towards executive pay and shareholder dividends.” • Can readers comment further on Precision Scheduled Railroading? This sounds like something we should keep an eye on.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 31 Fear (previous close: 34 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 34 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 14 at 1:29pm. No longer flirting with Neutral.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Gog (Russia). “Putin is getting closer to invading Ukraine” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 186. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so higher is better.)

The Gallery

I had Blake mentally filed with the Romantics… but that seems to be correct:

Blake scholars, please stage an intervention if necessary.

The Conservatory

“Songs for a South underwater” [Scalawag]. “Almost 100 years ago, the United States saw one of the worst flood events in its history. In spring of 1927, unprecedented rains fed a swollen Mississippi River, causing widespread levee failure from Indiana all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Some 27,000 square miles were flooded. Hundreds died, and 700,000 people were displaced from their homes. The impact of the disaster fell disproportionately among the poorest Black Americans of the Delta region. Stranded in flood zones, they were left to fend for themselves without food, exposed to the bitter elements. In the wake of callous and indifferent government response to the devastation facing them, Black musicians from the Delta produced their own deluge: An outpouring of songs testifying to the destruction wrought up and down the Mississippi. Some songs were eyewitness accounts, some secondhand, but nearly all were connected to the pain they described. Blues singers, capturing not just the events but the emotion behind them, penned perhaps the truest record of that era’s deadly flood.” • Worth reading in full.

Sports Desk

Congratulations to Los Angeles, but:

The Agony Column

“How Covid-19 Has Affected Dating, Marriages and Relationships” [Wall Street Journal]. “Most relationships thrived during the pandemic, providing all sorts of material and emotional support, and reminding us of the healing power of love. According to research we did at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, some 74% of married couples surveyed in late 2020 felt the pandemic strengthened their marriage, and 82% said it made them feel more committed. That shouldn’t be surprising. In my research, I’ve argued that one of the main reasons humans evolved the tendency to form such intense romantic bonds was to allow us to master uncertainty, to respond to an unknown, complex, dangerous and opportunity-filled world. For romantic partners, this past year became a time to lean into our relationships. It was the ultimate test. Of course, we always have some interpersonal struggles, and many of us have seen increased tensions and need for compromise and communication during the pandemic. But that wasn’t a death blow to our relationships. Rather, it was a little bit of ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.’ In fact, a study from researchers at York University in Canada, found that the top three things that couples said promoted growth in their relationships during the pandemic were ‘disclosure,’ ‘being outdoors/in nature’ and ‘discussing/planning for the future.'”

Class Warfare

Speaking of railroading:

Are any readers familiar with this gag order?

About time:

“The committee behind a Massachusetts app-based driver initiative reported over $17.8 million in contributions” [Ballotpedia]. “Massachusetts voters could decide on an initiative in November to classify app-based drivers as independent contractors similar to California’s 2020 Proposition 22. Flexibility and Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers, the committee registered to support the app-based driver initiative, reported receiving $17.8 million in 2021. The committee’s largest donor was Lyft, which contributed nearly $14.4 million in cash and in-kind contributions. Other contributors included Instacart ($1.2 million), Door Dash ($1.2 million), and Uber ($1 million). The campaign submitted over 200,000 signatures for two versions of the initiative in early December and was certified to the legislature by the secretary of state late last month. Both versions of the Massachusetts initiative would classify app-based drivers as independent contractors and enact several labor policies. The versions are identical except Version A would require paid occupational safety training before drivers could access a company’s platform or mobile application. On Jan. 18, opponents of the Massachusetts initiative filed a lawsuit with the Massachusetts ​​Supreme Judicial Court arguing that the initiative violates the state’s constitutional requirement that subjects of an initiative are “mutually dependent,” and therefore it should not appear on the 2022 ballot. The initiative is modeled after California Proposition 22, which was approved by ​​58.63% of voters in 2020. However, it was ruled unconstitutional by an Alameda County Superior Court judge in 2021. The judge ruled that Proposition 22 unconstitutionally limited the power of the legislature and that it violated the state’s single-subject rule.”

News of the Wired

“Why Scientists Are Sticking Microphones Underground” [The Atlantic]. “We humans might be among the last to discover this underground soundtrack. Birds can often be seen hopping across lawns with their heads cocked. Researchers believe that they do this because they’re listening for worms below. Often, they peck at the soil at just the right moment to pull up their unsuspecting quarry. The North American wood turtle, for its part, capitalizes on the attention that worms pay to vibrations from the patter of rain. The turtle stomps its feet on the ground to mimic that patter so the worms come to the surface, providing a juicy snack. Subterranean vibrations can also be key for what appear to be intended signals. Mole rats, living in underground burrows, are thought to communicate with other mole rats in the vicinity by banging their heads or feet against the walls of their tunnels. Leafcutter ants have been observed to create noises when they get buried during nest cave-ins. Other worker ants rush to the spot and start to dig to rescue their nestmate. Some of these underground sounds are audible to the human ear, but many are too high or too low in frequency (as well as in volume).”

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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 (Hepativore):

Hepativore writes: “Attached is a picture of a floribunda rose I used to have called Oranges N’ Lemons. It is a bright orange and yellow bicolored rose, and orange and yellow happen to be my favorite colors. They are very hardy and can grow in zones 4-9. Here in Minnesota, you can plant and ignore them most of the time as they do not need winter protection and are not bothered by many diseases. As it is a floribunda, it blooms repeatedly all summer long. Sadly, I cannot grow anything anymore where I live now as my landlord forbids tenants from digging up his lot for gardening plots.”

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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. Calvin

    CNN’s Jake Tapper interviews National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on his program, State of The Union

    Jake Tapper, (All serious and scowling and grimfaced) 3 Minute mark-
    “You’ve been putting forth allegations of a Russian false flag operation to justify invading Ukraine, that’s a strong claim to make without presenting a shred of evidence. Is there anything more you can tell the public, a public that might be skeptical about these claims?”

    Jake Sullivan,
    (Resembles cross between Keith Carradine and an oily condom)
    “We’re not putting forth this intelligence to start a war, which has happened in the past, {Oops} we’re putting forth this intelligence to stop a war, that fundamentally gives it at the outset gives it a different level of credibility.”…
    “This is consistent with the Russian playbook, we have seen them do this before. You ask any Russia ‘expert’ they will point to examples of where Russia has used false flag operations as pretext to start military action. If you look at the Russian media, they are laying the groundwork for a potential pretext by raising the possibility of attacks by Ukrainian forces, on either Russians themselves, or Russia’s proxy forces in the Donbass.”

    Who says a Russian language major with a minor in astrology can’t find a government job these days?

    False flags, another of yesterday’s right wing conspiracy tropes, now part of today’s reality and the State Department Playbook?

    Old feeble man in the White House, trying to act tough and distract the American people from his ongoing domestic disasters. If no invasion, it’s because he flexed his muscles, see?

      1. Librarian Guy

        And there’s more!! On this morning’s “Useful Idiots”, Aaron Mate showed Katie Halper a Jake Tapper CNN piece wherein our good Ukraine “allies” were training civilians to kill “invading” Russkies . . . in part, a trooper was wrestling a pal to the ground, and CNN neglected to edit out the prone man’s Azov Brigade insignia!! The Azov Brigade are of course openly Nazi-loving, wearing the “Wolfsangel” Nazi insignia to demonstrate their high (Jew- & non-white killing) ideals, & includes grandchildren of collaborators who fought on the German side in WW II.
        Cheery, eh? At least the Empire need not hide the kind of people it supports, CNN can’t be bothered, knowing how stupid and passive the public evidently is. At least the Nazi aspirants have fighting spirit, huh?

        1. Del

          Remember the Holodomor. The Ukrainians were delighted when the Nazis moved in and they got a chance to collaborate and take vengeance on the people that led the Communist takeover of their country and who inflicted hideous tortures and barbarities on them for decades.
          Now the grandchildren of the survivors of that often inflict barbarities on the Palestinians. When does it end?

    1. scarnoc

      >You ask any Russia ‘expert’ they will point to examples of where Russia has used false flag operations as pretext to start military action.

      Expert is correctly in quotes here, because they ain’t.

    2. Daniil Adamov

      The groundwork for a potential pretext for a possibility… is a minor masterpiece of deniable prognosis. There is no way to refute it. Although it seems to me that the Americans may be described as possibly potentially doing the same thing.

  2. archnj

    PSR – lots to say here.

    The stated goal is to make better use of the railroad’s existing infrastructure and rolling stock, and to improve delivery time by reducing the amount of time cars spend idle on sidings or in yards. In theory, by improving the loaded tons per day moving over the railroad, it would reduce the amount of rolling stock and yard space needed, yielding savings (i.e., reduced operating ratio). Doing everything possible to lengthen trains and move more tons per crew hour would reduce the need for crews and save on employee expense, as well.

    To a certain degree, these ideas have been floating around railroading for a long time. The Pennsylvania Railroad launched its “Don’t Stand Me Still” slogan campaign as long ago as the 1950’s in an effort to reduce its yard throughput time, which was some of the slowest in the business.

    What is new about PSR, in part, is the change in service relationship between railroad and customer, and a big reduction in flexibility. Customers generally get 24 hours to load or unload their delivered railroad car, after which they pay a charge (demurrage). They would release the cars when they were ready for the pickup. In PSR, the pickup is at a set time and the customer either meets it or waits until the next day, which means potential demurrage that might not have to be incurred in a call-and-come-get-it arrangement. So it is definitely a hassle for customers in favor of the railroad. At the yard side, trains leaving on a set schedule frequently means that arranging of cars in the train is done hurriedly or improperly in order to reduce dwell time stats. Some of the rash of derailments over the last few years have resulted from putting cars that were too light (such as empty centerbeam flats) too far forward in the train where they are vulnerable to stringlining – especially in these monster 2+ mile consists. Beyond that, cars are sometimes slapped into trains just to get them out of the yard, regardless of destination, which is part of what roiled CSX a few years back and attracted the attention of the STB due to poor service.

    Some of this might be excusable if the changes were made slowly with an eye to accurately tracking results and maintaining buffers for peak traffic times. Instead, at least from an outsiders perspective, it appears that locomotives are idled, yards closed, cars sold off and leased back, and crews laid off in a quick and arbitrary fashion disconnected from the actual service process, just to get that magical operating ratio number. Then, when the inevitable fluctuations in traffic happen, there is not enough capacity left to get the job done. Just the crew layoffs are eliminating vast amounts of institutional experience that can’t be recovered easily.

    This on top of more generalized crapification, such as locomotives that regularly catch on fire, constant Big Brother camera monitoring of crews, etc., etc., and you have the current overstretching of our rail infrastructure as an inevitable result.

    1. marku52

      Visiting Tucson about 5 years ago, I was astonished to see a line of locomotives about 5 miles long along the freeway south of town.

      What a massive amount of capital to be sitting idle. It made no sense.

      1. Aumua

        They seem to park them there from all over during times when they’re not needed or otherwise not in use. There aren’t any parked there now though, that’s for sure.

    2. The Rev Kev

      ‘Customers generally get 24 hours to load or unload their delivered railroad car, after which they pay a charge (demurrage)’

      How does that work in the middle of a pandemic when so many drivers are getting sick?

    3. Duffy

      But think of the savings from efficiently having only ONE engineer, no brakeman, no caboose.

      The Lac-Mégantic rail disaster occurred in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, on 6 July 2013, at approximately 01:15 EDT,[1][2] when an unattended 73-car Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) freight train carrying Bakken Formation crude oil rolled down a 1.2% grade from Nantes and derailed downtown, resulting in the fire and explosion of multiple tank cars. Forty-seven people were killed.[3] More than thirty buildings in Lac-Mégantic’s town centre, roughly half of the downtown area, were destroyed,[2][4] and all but three of the thirty-nine remaining buildings had to be demolished due to petroleum contamination of the townsite.[5] Initial newspaper reports described a 1 km (0.6-mile) blast radius.[6]


    4. upstater

      PSR is late stage capitalism. Carter deregulated all transportation modes and the slide into shareholder capitalism was greased. The 1980s saw huge abandonments of physical plant and more than halving of the unionized workforce. M&A took off with massive consolidation and spinning off feeders and branches. Once the 2000s came there were effective monopolies without meaningful regulation. Carload freight largely vanished, coincidental with deindustrialization. In the US freight is now mostly 2 or 3 mile long trains of containers of imports and commodities.

      PSR is the logical extension of hedge fund activism dictating privatized centralized planning of public goods. All the 7 Class 1 railroads practice PSR in some form. It involves basically stripping a third or more of physical and human assets, reducing service options accordingly and trying to maintain a high fraction of captive customers. All the Class 1s have under invested in capacity or technology when compared to places like RUSSIA! CHINA!

      All railroads were chartered to serve the public. What we have now is monopolistic “public be damned ” of the guilded age. The public and environment suffers…

      Tomorrow the Surface Transportation Board is holding a hearing tomorrow on Amtrak’s request to operate 2 round trips between New Orleans and Mobile. PSR figures highly in this precedent setting matter. CSX has effectively blocked this since hurricane Katrina. They want $400M in public money to fix their run down plant. The freight railroads have monopoly power and behavethat way. Some commentary and analysis:


    5. Bill Carson

      I coincidental that the subject of railroads should come up today, as I was watching a bunch of railroad videos last night. The thing that struck me was just how long these trains are today. Here’s a video of a train that apparently travels right through the middle of town in LaGrange, Kentucky. The second train, which starts at about the 10minute, 30second-mark consists of 192 (!!) cars and it takes 11 minutes for it to pass through town. And they want 1 or 2 guys to run these things??? Crazy.


  3. Jessica

    The massive 1927 flood also triggered a Katrina-like disaster in New Orleans: the good leaders of New Orleans had a levy broken in order to avoid flooding to their neighborhoods. The water pouring through the broken levy destroyed Black and poor White neighborhoods. As it turned out, the flood waters were not quite as high as expected so the rich neighborhoods would have been safe even without throwing the poor neighborhoods under the bus (streetcar?). The resulting anger was what gave an upstart Louisiana politician his chance to rise to high office: Huey Long.

      1. bassmule

        Louisiana 1927 — Randy Newman

        “What has happened down here is the winds have changed
        Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
        Rained real hard and it rained for a real long time
        Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

        Louisiana, Louisiana
        They’re tryin’ to wash us away”

    1. ambrit

      What is even better is that the group of “civic minded community leaders” had been trying to get rid of the riff raff downstream from N’Awlins for some time before this opportunity manifested itself. The actual dynamiting qwas carried out at the behest of a cabal of New Orleans City bankers. How quaint!
      Read: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/neworleans-james-butler-and-flood-1927/
      That entire Randy newman album, “Good Ol Boys,” 1974 is worth a listen.

        1. ambrit

          Even back then, the album garnered some “pushback.” Newman, to his credit, didn’t give a d— about what proto-Woke critics complained about.
          Imagine playing the song “Rednecks” from that album on the air today. Heads would explode! I won’t link to it here because I am old enough to value a little peace and quiet.

            1. ambrit

              Agreed. The entire album is a primer on the Southern Ethos. Nothing held back.
              Having known a few graduates of Louisiana State University (LSU) I can attest to the truth of Newman’s comments concerning that group. (Went in dumb, come out dumb too.) I can well see the same situation affecting graduates of any University in America today.

    1. VietnamVet

      An interesting overview. Basically, industry consolidation and deregulation has led to unregulated monopolies/duopolies that intentional only increase shareholder value and managerial bonuses. The public good be damned. Fossilized, North American railroad companies are unable to do their basic job of transporting goods, commodities, and people safely and efficiently to the customer’s satisfaction. When faced with an external crisis like the coronavirus virus pandemic, Amtrak has collapsed.

      The USA is now simply incapable of dealing with any crisis that requires good government. It is a failed state. One response to Climate Change is reverting to clean modernized 1900’s type infrastructure of renewable electric powered railroads to carry most everything that is now carried by fossil fuel powered vehicles. This simply won’t happen in the current economic/political system.

  4. fresno dan

    Our illustrious medical billing system chapter 873
    Background posting from me on 1/11/12:22@12:22; 1/25/2022@10:27; 1/29/2022@12:54

    So, to correct the record, in which I thought I was the victim of scam medical billing, the medical billing company is a real company (even though the different names on the envelopes, the name on the bill, and the claimant name were all different which certainly confused me). Being charged by a physician who is doing admitting separately is customery (I knew that, for example, I was billed separately by radiologists, anesthesiologists, etcetera, etcetera who worked on me at the hospital, and that their bills were separate from the hospital billing). So the physician is a real physician, and he preformed the real service of admitting me to the hospital.

    So after finally learning who the admitting physician (and the separate group that he was associated with when he was working at the hospital) was when I was admitted to the hospital, and getting in touch with his billing manager who was invaluable in understanding what is really going on, I finally understand what is going on. As well as calling Medicare.

    So it appears the problem may be that although I have Medicare Part A, I do not have medicare Part B (I am extremely fortunate as a retiree to have secondary insurance provided by my former employer).
    Apparently, EITHER medicare made an error in communicating the denial to the billing company (very, very unlikey according to the admitting physcian’s medical billing manager) OR the billing company, which handles the billing for the admitting physician’s group (the admitting physican at the hospital when I was admitted works in a separate group when he is working as an admissions physican at the hospital) did not understand why medicare refused payment for the claim when I was admitted to the hospital.
    NOTE – being admitted to a hospital USING Hospital services is covered under Part A. The physician who makes the determination to admit you is covered under Part B (I actually knew that from being a HICAP volunteer)
    So apparently this billing company did not understand that I did not have Medicare Part B, or was so incompetant that they did not understand that I have secondary insurance that should have been billed for physician services related to admission to the hospital. Upon being denied by Medicare Part A, I was simply sent a bill months after the admission to the hospital with no explanation whatsoever for the bill.

    What I did learn from this experience (I knew about Medicare assignment) is that my secondary insurance, and apparently most secondary medical insurances, have deals with hospitals, about reimbursement rates (it seems analogous to Medicare assignment, but I don’t really know) and that the patient can’t be charged above these rates – the patient can still be charged for deductables realted to the insurer, and so on, but the hospital can’t charge above the rate set with the insurance company.
    So for example (from my EOB explanation of benefits): I was charged 11,378$ for a surgery. The plan allowance was 437.38$ (is the 38 cents really necessary???). The plan paid 371.66 and I had a copay of 65.62$. According to the contract between the hospital and my secondary insurance company, the hospital can’t charge me the difference of 10,940.52$ (list price versus paying wholesale. Should there really be that much of a difference???)
    And of course, there may be situations that a hospital could do something that is neither covered by medicare or secondary insurance.
    So I have to say, I am NOW looking at every MSN (Medicare Summary Notice) and EOB (explanations of benefits from my secondary insurance) much, much more studiously than I have before. In a way, I am lucky I thought it was a scam – otherwise I would have paid the bill forthwith.

    So, the good news is, I wasn’t the victim of a scam – Whoo Hoo!!!
    The bad news is that apparently some of the people who are billing me don’t know what they are doing…
    I am not sure why I should spend hours and hours researching medical billing when the medical billing company is are being paid to know that stuff.

    1. Dave in Asutin

      I’ve been a Mensa member for 40 years and I can’t understand either my or my brother’s Medicare bills. I somehow don’t think I’m the problem.

  5. Carolinian

    Re News You Can Use–i saw an article somewhere (maybe on NC?) about the govt free mask program and it linked up this CDC list of where you can get them.


    So today went to my fave grocery store and their pharmacy gave me three. They are Honeywell brand N95 of the molded type with straps around the back of the head for tight fit. I could tell that it was sealing because if you inhale hard you feel resistance. This should work a lot better than my cloth or paper masks.

    So check out the above link. Seems almost every pharmacy including those in grocery stores are giving them out. The one where I went seemed to have plenty. Supposedly 3 is the limit they are supposed to give out at one time and the CDC site says they are reusable until the straps wear out.

    1. Skip Intro

      It looks like these are vaccination pharmacies. If they also have masks, there is no indication on that website, and if the CDC is giving out masks, their website keeps it well hidden. Not surprising I suppose given their aversion to communication and health.

      1. Carolinian

        Here’s the link from which I extracted the above list. It was indeed in this morning’s Links (I lose track of these things)


        And here’s the excerpt about the masks. My above link is the one on the list, “other retailers.” Probably they decided to distribute the masks to vaccine sites. This afternoon I went to a grocery store pharmacy and was given three as described above. N95–they seem to work well.

        Where Can You Find Free N95 Masks?

        Unlike the free at-home Covid-19 rapid tests, you cannot order free N95 masks online. You’ll have to pick them up in person at a local pharmacy or community health center.

        Up to three N95 masks will be available per person. Most locations will be distributing masks as stock comes in. They’ll be available on a first-come-first-serve basis. You also won’t be required to show proof of identification to receive your set of masks.

        The program officially started at the end of January, but many locations should receive masks in February. Regardless, you may want to call your local retailer before making the trip. You should also ask a sales associate in-store since some locations may keep stock behind the register. Some locations may also have signage on the status of mask availability.

        These retailers and pharmacies have free N95 masks (check your US state):

        Walgreens (including Duane Reade)
        Rite Aid
        Sam’s Club
        Health Mart
        Shop Rite
        Stop & Shop
        Fred Meyer
        More retailers on the list

        1. Skip Intro

          Thanks, much appreciated. I guess the next step is the article examining how much CVS, etc. make on each of the ‘free’ masks, when and at what price the US sourced them, etc…

  6. Ranger Rick

    Did a double-take after reading that line: “Progressives sometimes make the mistake of being too blithe about murder.” Good thing I wasn’t drinking any coffee.

    Excuse me, what?

    1. clarky90

      Re; Blithering…………

      In Wellington NZ………. the tents of the Anti-Mandate Protest were drenched by the torrential rain of Cyclone Devi. Then, the NZ government (of the same protesters) turned on the sprinkler system. The protesters’ tents were pitched on these public lawns. The protesters were being drenched from above, (rain) and below (sprinklers). All night long.

      “The sprinklers on NZ Parliament’s grounds were turned on late on Friday at Speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard’s instruction, and will be running “all night” in a bid to get the anti-vaccine mandate protesters who are camping there to leave.

      But protesters are fighting back, digging up trenches on Parliament’s lawn …..”


      And then two days later, this.

      Sanitation and ‘squalor’ causing emerging health issues at Parliament protest, concerns for children

      Our Government willfully turned the lawn into a mudpit, and then, they are incredibly “Concerned about the Children”, whose lives they just tried to make miserable. (?)

      Wellington Protests: Anti-mandate protesters perform a haka outside parliament


      …….celebrating NZ culture, and a way of life.

      1. clarky90

        New Zealand Protest vehicle towing to begin ‘shortly’ (ha ha) but could have started days ago – police


        “A mass towing operation to unblock Wellington streets could have begun days ago, police say, but tow truck operators have been reluctant to help.

        “Speaking publicly for the first time about the protest since it began, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said on Tuesday police have some capabilities to tow but needed support from towing companies and the Defence Force.

        A request for assistance from police to the Defence Force had not yet been responded to this afternoon.

        Earlier, police said tow companies had faced threats from protesters. Coster said he was happy to discuss safety concerns with tow companies (you couldn’t make this up). Towing companies didn’t want to be named but said they had experienced harassment and abuse.

        This is a wonderful example of a “Grammarly-AI-Generated” news release.

        (1) The tow truck drivers are standing in solidarity with the protesters!
        (2) No one on earth is more immune to “harassment and abuse” than tow truck drivers.
        (3) The military does not want anything to do with tyranny against it’s own people.

        In the same vein
        Groundswell NZ critical of Government protest action, while they postpone their own Wellington protest


        ““Like increasing numbers of New Zealanders, farmers have felt badly maligned by this current government and its policies. Like the protestors in Wellington, we also have been ignored by the Government and called denigrating names. We can empathise with their frustration,’’ he said.”

        The Canadian Truckers have shown the workers, middle-class, peasants, kulaks and the downtrodden of the World, how to crack this tyrannical nut. It is quite simple, scalable (big or little), inexpensive, mobile, transnational and multicultural….

        roads, bridges, ports, downtowns, intersections….. blocked

        with trucks, or cars, or horses, or crowds, or farm machinery….

        The tow truck guys are with the people….

  7. XXYY

    Maybe everybody knew this but me?

    I believe it’s pretty well-known that the US and the CIA were deeply involved in the gigantic massacres of popular movements in Indonesia around 1965. At least, I have heard Noam Chomsky tell this story many times.

    I had never heard that US academics were helpfully compiling lists of people and sending them back to the people who are organizing the massacres. But I (sadly!) don’t find it terribly surprising.

    1. Tim

      The Asian Foundation (HQ in SF) had recent UC Berkeley grads stationed in all SE Asian capitals starting in the’50s whose jobs were to weekly file reports of what was going on, and to get the info socialize with the locals of all stripes and standing. On receipt the reports were expedited to the CIA in DC. The reports contained names, address, biography, and all who associated with them.

    2. David

      There’s a tendency to forget the this kind of thing was normal in the Cold War, when sources of information were a lot more rudimentary than they are now. I knew several people who had studied in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and were asked on return to come to see someone from the “Foreign Office” to talk about their experiences and the people they had met. Student organisations were especially interesting to intelligence services as sources of future leaders and future sources: the Cambridge Spies were recruited as undergraduates, and indeed the Soviet intelligence services put a massive effort into infiltrating student organisations all over the world. This still goes on: the Chinese are notorious for expecting students they send abroad to act as auxiliaries for their intelligence services.

      What Scott (whom I greatly admire by the way) actually says is that he “met the sort of Communist leaders of the CGMI, which was the Communist student union in Indonesia, most of whom were killed after ’65, and so on.”
      If you read the full transcript of the interview, he says that he was interviewing the students in Jakarta for a fellowship programme in the US. There’s no suggestion that he was supplying lists of names to the CIA. It would have been pretty hard in those days in most recently independent states to meet student leaders who would not be involved in politics, and some of whom would be imprisoned or even murdered. As to which, I doubt that the Indonesians needed any help from the CIA, via a young academic, to identify radical student leaders. They knew perfectly well who they were. Not all non-westerners are stupid.

      1. upstater

        The Jakarta Method states otherwise. Harvesting of names by Americans and the US diplomats turning them over to the military during the bloodletting was documented. The role of training thousands of Indonesian military at Ft Leavenworth paid dividends, too. One million dead… When you look at that county today compared to Vietnam or China, we can be proud Americans.

        1. Daniil Adamov

          Still, Scott (whose books I really should get back to one of these days – I strongly disagree with his outlook but have found the materials and perspective invaluable) does not seem to confess to collecting the names of Indonesians for the CIA. Or even the Burmese, necessarily. All he says there is that he provided his analysis on the student movement in Burma. Granted, that, too, could have found some sort of malevolent use. Not quite the same as personally contributing to the proscription lists.

    3. The Rev Kev

      I read once that when Indonesia commenced their massacres back in 1965, that the US handed them a long list of people to kill courtesy of the CIA. I guess that this guy’s reports had the effect of adding a lot of names to that kill list whether he realized it or not – or wanted to realize it.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        That is assuming he sent reports on the people he met there to the CIA, which is possible but not stated in the excerpt? Unless I’m missing something.

        1. Late Introvert

          Weird you are defending a person who admitted to joining the CIA as a student, as a lark. That seems to be the relevant matter here. No doubt he did harm after that, whether intending to or not. No doubt whatsoever, especially when you hear about all the “exotic” locations they sent him for free on their dime. Sigh.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        I quoted the material at length in order to make the points that people are, in fact, making: Indonesia is not Myanmar, “reports” don’t equal lists of names, “and so on.”

        I think there’s a lot of special pleading here in behalf of Scott. “Prominent anarchist theorist who started out writing reports for the CIA on student politics in Myanmar” is just a little sketchy, to me (in the same way that Gloria Steinem was sketchy. Or Obama’s family.) I mean, the reports on student politics might not have contained names. But surely the Scott’s client, the CIA, would have wanted them?

        I say this as somebody who has liked Scott’s work. I just didn’t expect the backstory to be a John LeCarré novel….

  8. zagonostra

    >Canadian Truckers.

    This is somewhat related to an earlier link posted in NC on the failure of the “Left” from Unherd. Meanwhile as emergency measures go into effect, CBC blithely stream the Olympics.

    Dr Jordan B Peterson: “Here’s a great surprise. The leader of the socialist party calling for the use of emergency force against working class protestors. @theJagmeetSingh if anything you’re a bigger fool than our PM.


    1. Roland

      NDP is going to support Emergencies Act invocation, even though the protests have been non-violent, and the border blockades have been cleared with little incident.

      NDP support is essential, since Trudeau only has a minority government.

      Under the Act, the government can summarily seize any funds and accounts which it deems suspicious. The implications for any sort of non-mainstream social movement should be pretty clear.

      So much for Canada’s once-respectable social democratic party.

      This pains me, because Singh actually is a very decent politician, as third-wayers go. A friend of mine lives in his riding, and a couple of times he has managed to have long conversations with Singh, just by phoning his office.

  9. zagonostra

    >Mask wearing and Super bowl 2022

    If something doesn’t click in your brain when looking at the 70K people packed in the stadium to attend the Super Bowl, almost totally without masks, then there is no point in having a rational discussion on whether mask mandates should be mandatory.

    1. AndrewJ

      Do you mean that they absolutely need to be mandatory, otherwise I, as a worker with no control over who enters my establishment, have no choice but to endure massively increased risk of exposure because some idiots embrace tribal shibboleths and can’t be bothered to ask their own questions?
      Because that is what a stadium full of maskless people inspires in me.

  10. griffen

    SOFI stadium and naming rights for the football stadium. I think the article about naming rights states the company signed a 20 year contract. The stadium will also be a feature of the 2028 Olympics.

    Back to naming rights, can’t help but think of the video clip below from Fight Club. Some 22 or 23 years after the film was released, still applicable.


    1. Swamp Yankee

      Yeah, I don’t see how Blake is really anything but that 1st wave of English Romanticism that really takes off in the last couple decades of the 18th century, and continues in the first decades of the 19th…. Wordsworth, Shelley, Coleridge, later Byron, Keats, Tennyson by mid-century, etc.

      1. blake fan

        Blake fan, not scholar here. I think Blake earns his place in the “Romantic” genre with Songs of Innocence and of Experience, but his later work falls between categories. As time passed, he identified more as a prophet* than a poet. Unlike the other Romantics, Blake was blue collar and completely uneducated (beyond his mother teaching him to read the Bible). The other Romantic poets were the rock stars of their time; Blake was almost completely unknown. I believe his work wasn’t really in print till 30 or 40 years years after his death.

        Maurice Sendak was a big Blake fan. He did some dreamy illustrations of the Songs: https://www.themarginalian.org/2014/06/10/maurice-sendak-william-blake-songs-of-innocence-1967/

        *This is my favorite passage from Blake’s prophetic poems: “The Wail of Enion” https://www.bartleby.com/235/269.html

        What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song,
        Or Wisdom for a dance in the street? No! it is bought with the price
        Of all that a man hath—his house, his wife, his children.
        Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,
        And in the wither’d field where the farmer ploughs for bread in vain. 15

        It is an easy thing to triumph in the summer’s sun,
        And in the vintage, and to sing on the waggon loaded with corn:
        It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted,
        To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer,
        To listen to the hungry raven’s cry in wintry season, 20
        When the red blood is fill’d with wine and with the marrow of lambs:

        It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements;
        To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughterhouse moan;
        To see a God on every wind and a blessing on every blast;
        To hear sounds of Love in the thunderstorm that destroys our enemy’s house; 25
        To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, and the sickness that cuts off his children,
        While our olive and vine sing and laugh round our door, and our children bring fruits and flowers.

        Then the groan and the dolour are quite forgotten, and the slave grinding at the mill,
        And the captive in chains, and the poor in the prison, and the soldier in the field
        When the shatter’d bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead: 30
        It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity—
        Thus would I sing and thus rejoice; but it is not so with me.
        (Four Zoas, Night II, ll. 595–626.)

      1. Eustachedesaintpierre


        I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
        Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
        And mark in every face I meet
        Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

        In every cry of every Man,
        In every Infants cry of fear,
        In every voice: in every ban,
        The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

        How the Chimney-sweepers cry
        Every blackning Church appalls,
        And the hapless Soldiers sigh
        Runs in blood down Palace walls

        But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
        How the youthful Harlots curse
        Blasts the new-born Infants tear
        And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

        The chimney sweep boys are at least long gone, not that they hung around for long with an estimated average life span of 11 – often sold into slavery by their parents – but Blake dreamed a paradise for them,

    2. eg

      When I did my undergrad and Masters in English back in the 80s Blake was included on the syllabus though he is older than most of the others by 10 years or more.

  11. Matthew G. Saroff

    None of the actions are treason. Because abuse of the charge in England, the founders explicitly and narrowly, defined the crime, the only crime so specified in the constitution.

        1. witters

          Well, rules are normative (so presuppose that there may be violations), but one can surely imagine a rule uniformly and universally applied.

  12. Lee

    Lawyers for BNSF gloat that the unions have “never prevailed” in court in 33 years. WSWS

    Their position on the union in this instance both echoes and rhymes with Lambert’s critique of the Democratic Party.

    “To that extent, these court papers also expose the union bureaucracies themselves, which have collected dues from their members for decades while constantly telling their members to place their hopes in a legal framework within which the union cannot realistically expect to win….

    ” In fact, for all their theatrical posturing in court, the union bureaucracies welcome and thrive on this oppressive “labor relations” framework, which provides them an excuse for their failure to secure any gains for workers for decades as well as a legal pretext for their relentless suppression of strikes. This is exemplified by the union response to the January 25 order, which was to dutifully enforce it and instruct BNSF workers that they were not allowed to talk to the press.

    “It is true that the judge’s order did prohibit the union from striking and from directly agitating for a strike and required the union to instruct its members not to engage in “self-help,” meaning wildcat pickets or other physical efforts to take matters into their own hands. But nothing in the judge’s order could or does prevent rank-and-file workers from verbally expressing their opinions to whomever they please, from informing the press regarding the facts of their situation, or from assembling in meetings for the purposes of discussing their strategy. These rights are all protected in the US by the First Amendment.” [Emphasis added.]

    1. Lost in OR

      We need to find a name for this pattern.


      I believe that is called “retrograde motion”.

  13. Jason Boxman

    What we need for this. In every industry, in fact. Two words. Criminal. Referrals.

    This is not a new problem. How to properly and safely space empty rail cars amid long freight trains and how to brake so as to minimize derailments are some of the oldest and most basic safety protocols in rail operation. And those protocols, along with other rules and practices meant to ensure as safe a rail network as possible, are now being ignored for the sake of profit.

    (bold mine)

    We know from Stoller’s book that just the threat of personal liability for executives of monopolies changed behavior. So why not go all in, and ensure that every industry has laws on the books — that are used, and often — to take antisocial executives to task for bad behavior.


  14. ChrisPacific

    It’s interesting to run restricted searches to find out which news outlets are running the Clinton story (the indictment relating to infiltration of Trump’s servers) and which ones are not.

    If you throw in ‘Durham’ (who filed the indictment) then it’s mostly UK sites plus the New York Post, and right wing sites like Fox News. If you lock it down to domains like CNN or NY Times, the only hits are from months ago. Some of the hits on Fox News are opinion pieces describing this phenomenon.

    1. Screwball

      I noticed this as well, and I’m not one bit surprised. Yet I have PMC friends who claimed that there is media bias for the Republicans.

      As much as I would love to see handcuffs for anyone who has done anything wrong, by either party, nothing’s going to happen in my opinion.

      They are all above the law, which at this point is plainly obvious. Laws are only for us serfs.

      1. t

        I’m looking forward to the cowboy gear celebrating the frequent Clinton stays at the Epstein ranch. Maybe dog bandanas!

  15. Watt4Bob

    Regarding SoFi;

    If a person refinances their student loans with SoFi, are they still “Student Loans” and can they be canceled by Biden?

    I could easily see our government saying “Your student loans were paid off, your SoFi loans are not eligible.”

    Anyone know what the case is?

    1. Jason Boxman

      So having had one of these before, I can tell you. They still count as student loans in terms of a basic inability to discharge, however with SoFi (or any other private lender) you’re surrendering your ability to defer your loans due to unemployment. (And any other federal protections you might have had with your Stafford or Parent PLUS loan.) SoFi has its own program, which at my time was available in 3 months increments for a total of 12 months, but at the end of the deferral, you owed all outstanding payments, so not much of a deferral if you’re unemployed, is it?

      (Meanwhile for Stafford loans, it just pushed out the repayment date, you owed any interest due, and that was that.)

      On the other than, at the time, thanks to Barack Obama and machinations in Congress, the interest rate on Stafford loans was north of 6%, so I decided to take the risk and cut my loan costs in half. I survived, even through bouts of unemployment. If I had been unable to pay, I would have gotten seriously whacked.

      So beware.

      Since then, SoFi has expanded into mortgage loans, savings and investing accounts, and so on. I don’t know if any of these products are actually that competitive, however, it seems to be a “part of the brand” thing, where if you had loans refinanced with them, you stay “in the club”. Go team, I guess!

      1. AndrewJ

        The plus side of privately held student debt is that, if there is no legal judgement sought or made to compel repayment, there is a statute of limitations for collection, rendering it uncollectable. Supposedly, it will eventually disappear from a credit report as well.
        Federally backed education debt, however, can never be discharged. They’ll get it from my social security, in theory.

  16. .human

    One warm summer day at a family gathering decades ago, I was sitting on the ground with my young children while turning a hand-cranked ice cream churn. Earthworms gathered at the surface much to my amazement. A new-found, very basic, knowledge.

  17. Gulag

    On James C. Scott:

    “Oy. Maybe everybody knew this but me?”

    It also comes as a complete shock to me. His writings/ideas have had a profound influence on me over the years.
    I happen to have his “The Art of Not Being Governed,” sitting on a table right next to me at this very moment.

    The apparently universal desire for status and prestige among all of us and what each of us is willing to do to achieve such goals, is a discussion that can no longer be ignored, especially as traditional ideologies of both the left and right seem more and more inadequate to solving anything.

    1. Daniil Adamov

      This apparently universal desire is hardly something that has gone unnoticed before. Although perhaps it has been more readily acknowledged in premodern or early modern writing, before “scientific” approaches to politics crowded out the older “wisdom literature”. I do think that it is inextinguishable and that any ideology that fails to account for it, among other human universals, is doomed to suffer a self-inflicted failure at some stage.

  18. fjallstrom

    “The turtle stomps its feet on the ground to mimic that patter so the worms come to the surface”

    So feet stomping brings the Worm? Best keep the movement random then, if on a dune.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Now let’s imagine Canada in another time-line who had abolished cash and it was all digital Canadian cash.

    2. LawnDart

      The Emergencies Act, passed in 1988, requires a high legal bar to be invoked. It may only be used in an “urgent and critical situation” that “seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians”. Lawful protests do not qualify.

      Speaking on Monday, Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti argued these conditions had been met.

      So call it an “unlawful protest” and anything goes? How does one protest an unlawful government?

    3. Roland

      In come the Canadian secret police (CSIS)…

      Those are words I would not have thought would go together.

      Now, if the government says you’re involved in the protests, they can summarily freeze your accounts, cancel your licences and insurance, and seize your vehicle and other properly.

      Hope I don’t have neighbours or colleagues who dislike me. I guess I had better not talk to any anthropologists, either!

  19. Glen

    Looking at what the Senate is considering for sanctions on Russia, and whooh boy, this could really blow up in America’s face. They are basically going to force a pretty large part of the world off the dollar.

    Do we even understand what would happen?

    1. Louis Fyne

      no. honestly, getting rid of the USD as the reserve currency will make Americans, and the entire world better off.

      At the cost of lots of intermediate-term economic misfortune in the US as you implied.

  20. No Party

    Lambert here: The Washington Post and the New York Times have maintained complete radio silence on this story for 48 hours.

    Just noticed this counterpoint in the Washington Post.


    Essentially claims that the Durham team filed the accusation 2 days past the 5-year statute of limitations on Sussman’s meeting with the CIA, so accusations don’t matter. But then also proceeds to rebut the finer points of Durham’s argument, as well as the media’s portrayal of those arguments.

    Main rebuttal this article provides is that monitoring of Executive Office of President internet traffic was under government contract and occurred in 2016 (during Obama’s term, no Trump’s).

    Hard to parse fact from fiction here. Reading about the Durham investigation (and Mueller’s RussiaGate investigation) makes me realize how slippery and rogue most of our elites operate within the power structures of our country. It’s hard to get a good read of any situation, everyone has plausible deniability, but I always come away convinced I wouldn’t trust any of these people as far as I could throw them.

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