2:00PM Water Cooler 2/18/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Imagine having a back yard with such a variety of birdcalls!

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

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

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

Capitol Seizure

“Revisiting Pennsylvanians’ roles in the Jan. 6 insurrection” [Axios]. “Pennsylvania had the second-highest number of individuals charged in the insurrection, trailing just Florida (76) and tying with Texas…. Philadelphia has the most cases in the state, at seven. It narrowly beats nearby Bucks County’s six cases.” • Handy map:

“A Virginia Man Reviewed ‘Civics’ And ‘American Government’ Online For His Jan. 6 Community Service” [Buzzfeed]. • Perhaps because that’s that the offense warranted?

Biden Adminstration

“The Empathy Factor” [Amy Cook, Cook Political Report]. “There’s evidence that despite the drop in his job approval ratings, Biden still gets credit for being, well, a likable guy. He has lost a lot of ground since 2021 on issues of competency, but his empathetic credibility is mostly intact. In the most recent Quinnipiac poll, 34 percent said they liked Biden as a person and they liked his policies, while another 21 percent said they liked him personally but weren’t always happy with his policies. In other words, 55 percent of Americans like Biden personally, even if just 34 percent like his policies too. In fact, according to the cross-tabs Quinnipiac ran for me, almost a third (27 percent) of those who said they disapproved of the job the president was doing said they liked him personally. …[M]any Democrats want to see Biden mimic at least one of Trump’s traits; his relentless focus on selling himself, his brand, and his accomplishments. But Biden can’t pull that off as well as Trump did. Before he ran for president, Trump had spent years building his brand as a successful business mogul. And, as Democrats learned the hard way in 2016, no amount of advertising about Trump’s bankruptcies or questionable financial dealings was able to dislodge the perception of Trump’s superior business acumen. Instead of trying to imitate his predecessor’s ‘salesman-in-chief’ persona, Biden would be better off leaning into his brand of the authentic empath. Doing so isn’t going to magically turn perceptions of the economy around. But, it will be a more believable and credible approach.” • Empathy is what a lot of pundits thought was Biden’s strength in 2020 (probably because in the small circle that is the political class in the Beltway, they had experienced it at first or second hand, and Biden is good at it). I’m not so sure that Biden has a lot of empathy-based good will left on the balance sheet, though; cf. James 2:14-17.

“The White House Is Going After One of Climate Change’s Thorniest Problems” [The Atlantic]. “A set of recent announcements shows that Biden’s biggest ambitions for the climate and the economy are not quite dead yet. Yesterday, the White House unveiled a slew of policies aimed at overhauling the U.S. industrial sector in order to reduce its planet-warming carbon pollution. Many of the policies have bipartisan backing—they were authorized in last year’s infrastructure bill. These policies are a big deal because they could help solve one of decarbonization’s thorniest problems: how to make steel, concrete, chemicals, and other major industrial products in a zero-carbon way. These products typically rely on fossil fuels to generate intense heat or provide a raw-material input, which is part of why the industrial sector is responsible for more than 20 percent of global emissions. However crucial these policies are for the planet, they are arguably even more important as a matter of political economy. They signal a profound and bipartisan change in how the federal government presides over the economy: In order to bring new technologies to market, Washington is willing to act as an investor, matchmaker, and consumer for fledgling innovations. It will design markets to serve public needs, cut loans that banks won’t write, and ensure competition among linchpin firms. The government, in short, is ready to care about stuff again, the real-world economy of flesh and steel. That it is furthering its climate and China goals at the same time is exactly the point.” Hydrogen production. Hydrogen electrolysis. “A ‘Buy Clean’ task force that will use the government’s power to help bring low-carbon steel, concrete, and asphalt to the market.” • Interestingly, the Biden adminsitration contemplates not just plans or [gag] tax incentives, but the construction of actual factories. Not uninteresting;

“Joe Biden Is Quietly Pursuing the Creeping Privatization of Medicare” [Jacobin (Carla)]. “Over the past year, seniors around the country have been getting letters from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) informing them that they needn’t worry, but their doctor was now part of something called a direct contracting entity (DCE). “Your Medicare Benefits have not changed,” the letters stress no less than twice. ‘NO ACTION NEEDED,’ they blare. If you take it from CMS, DCEs are simply a collection of different health care providers ‘who agree to work together to keep you healthy’ — an innovative new payment model to keep health care costs down and raise the quality of care up. For its critics, the initiative is something far less benign. ‘What direct contracting does is turn the public side of Medicare into a corporate goldmine,’ says Diane Archer, president of Just Care USA. Under traditional Medicare, when a beneficiary gets care from a doctor, a hospital or any other health care provider, the program reimburses that provider directly at a set rate. Direct contracting adds a third party into the mix: Medicare makes a monthly payment to a DCE, which then decides what care a beneficiary will get, and uses that money to cover a specified part of their medical expenses — pocketing whatever they don’t spend as profit. While making cost-saving efficiencies usually means cutting out the middleman, direct contracting adds one in. While making cost-saving efficiencies usually means cutting out the middleman, direct contracting adds one in. Critics like PNHP warn that the program comes with the same kinds of pitfalls as Medicare Advantage, the program that for the first time carved out a role of private insurers in the public Medicare system, when it was passed as part of a Reagan-era deficit reduction bill forty years ago. One is ‘upcoding,’ the notorious practice where Medicare Advantage insurers make their patients appear less healthy than they really are, the better to drive up the payments they get from Medicare.” • On DIrect Contracting Entities, see NC here. On upcoding, see NC here.

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.


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Profound lassitude:

At last, another Grant fan:

So go do something about it:

AOC is a very talented politician. Does she really want people saying those sad words “She was blessed with unlimited potential”?

Republican Funhouse

“The latest conservative to join the resistance? Ted Cruz’s mentor” [Los Angeles Times]. “Two days before Jan. 6, 2021, then-Vice President Mike Pence sought Luttig’s counsel to counter Trump’s demands that Pence, in presiding over Congress’ count of Biden’s electoral votes, reject the votes of six states. Pence, in his letter to Congress ahead of the proceedings, name-checked Luttig to argue that a vice president has no such power. For Pence, the opinion of a jurist so revered on the right was “armor” against the inevitable slings and arrows from the MAGA army, as conservative lawyer George Conway put it to me. Luttig told me he’s testified behind closed doors about his role to investigators for the House committee probing the Jan. 6 insurrection. Lately, however, events have provoked him to go public about his concerns about ‘the existential threat‘ to the Republican Party, and by extension our democracy. … The final straws for Luttig were the Republican National Committee’s recent resolution that censured Republican Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for participating on the Jan. 6 committee and called the insurrection ‘legitimate political discourse,’ and Trump’s attacks on Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for criticizing the RNC and of Pence for publicly stating ‘Trump is wrong’ to say Pence could overturn the election. Luttig elaborated by email: ‘This feels like a seminal moment in America when all of what the country has witnessed and endured for these years seems to be building to volcanic crescendo…. We are in political war to the death — with each other,’ and ‘American democracy hangs in the balance.’ That more Republicans aren’t standing up to ‘this nonsense, this utter madness,’ he said, is ‘the definition of failed leadership.’ That brings us back to [Senator Ted] Cruz and [Trump lawyer John C. ] Eastman. They not only haven’t stood up to the madness, but they also exemplify it — Cruz by leading a cabal of Republicans who opposed certification of Biden votes on Jan. 6, and by his general Trump toadyism, and Eastman by his authorship of the memo giving a false constitutional gloss to Trump’s coup strategy…. Luttig is now working with members of Congress and their aides to rewrite the flawed 1887 Electoral Count Act to prevent demagogues like Cruz and Eastman from potentially using it again to threaten democracy after the 2024 election.”


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“White House chief of staff tries to pump up worried Senate Democrats” [The Hill]. “White House chief of staff Ron Klain promised Senate Democrats that President Biden will deliver an uplifting and inspiring State of the Union address that will highlight his efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and respond to rising costs. Klain’s goal in addressing the Senate Democratic Caucus in person on Capitol Hill appeared to be to give lawmakers something positive to focus on instead of the president’s sagging poll numbers….. Klain told senators that Biden’s speech to a joint session of Congress next month will tout the president’s accomplishments from last year, which many Democrats believe are being undersold, and set a clear agenda for the rest of the year. But the conversation, while very positive, was also very general and seemed designed not to make any big news before Biden’s moment in the national spotlight on March 1.” • Always fighting, never winning.

“Governors’ races in ‘blue wall’ states carry high stakes for voting rights” [Reuters]. “Republican victories in the three states could have profound implications for the 2024 presidential election. Nicknamed the “blue wall” after helping President Joe Biden defeat Donald Trump in 2020, they also were home to challenges from Republican officials trying to overturn the election’s results…. A Democratic super PAC, American Bridge, said on Wednesday it would spend $10 million in a new effort to target Republican candidates in races for governor, secretary of state and other local offices who it believes will undermine the fair administration of elections. The ‘blue wall’ states will be part of the push.”


“Black Protestants’ approval of Biden is plummeting: Pew poll” [Christian Post]. “African American Protestant approval of President Joe Biden’s job performance has plummeted by nearly 30 percentage points since March 2021, according to a recent report by the Pew Research Center. According to a Pew survey conducted in January, 65% of black Protestants approve of the job that Biden has done, marking a sharp decline from the 92% reported in March 2021. Pew research assistant Justin Nortey wrote in an analysis last week that “there have been sizable declines in positive ratings from black Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated — two groups that are among the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituencies.””

Trump Legacy

“Judge orders Trump to sit for deposition in New York investigation” [Politico]. “A state judge has ordered Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and his daughter Ivanka Trump to sit for depositions within three weeks in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ ongoing investigation of alleged financial improprieties at the Trump Organization. In a ruling Thursday, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron roundly rejected bids by the Trumps to dodge giving testimony on grounds of James’ alleged bias and that her office is conducting parallel criminal and civil investigations. Engoron said all three Trumps have the option of showing up for the depositions and refusing to answer the questions based on their constitutional right not to testify against themselves. ‘They have an absolute right to refuse to answer questions that they claim may incriminate them,’ the judge wrote in an eight-page order. ‘Indeed, respondent Eric Trump invoked his right against self-incrimination in response to more than 500 questions during his one-day deposition arising out of the instant proceeding.’ The former president reacted angrily to the judge’s decision.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“There’s No Such Thing as ‘the Latino Vote’’ [The Atlantic]. The Deck: “Why can’t America see that?” America didn’t see or not see. The PMC, who often confuse themselves with America, saw, because Ruy Teixeira’s “coalition of the ascendant” — transmogrified in our time by the Republicans’ funhouse mirror of reaction into “replacement theory” — was their theory of change (until it wasn’t, and they decided to appeal to wealthy suburbanites). From the text: “The conventional wisdom that Latinos are reliable members of a liberal coalition of people of color has never been exactly right: Between a quarter and a third of Latinos have voted Republican in almost every presidential election for the past half century. Donald Trump grew his share of the Latino vote in 2020 compared with 2016, and he may be growing his share still. A November Wall Street Journal poll found that Hispanic voters would be evenly split if Trump ran against Joe Biden in 2024. They were also evenly split when asked whether they would vote for Democrats or Republicans if the midterm elections were held that day. The survey pool was admittedly a small one, but the possibility of a continued rightward shift is shaking Democrats’ confidence.” • And rightly, given 2020 results.

“The number of LGBTQ-identifying adults is soaring” [Axios]. “One in five Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ — and that number is only expected to go up, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday. The percentage of U.S. adults who identify as LGBTQ has doubled over the past decade, from 3.5% in 2012 to 7.1% in 2021. Gen Z adults who identify as LGBTQ has increased from 10.5% in 2017 to 20.8% in 2021.” • ”Identity as.”

“Election officials are on the frontlines of defending democracy. They didn’t sign up for this.” [Politico]. “In interviews with 10 state chief election officials — along with conversations with staffers, current and former local officials and other election experts — many described how they have had to refocus their positions to battle a constant rolling boil of mis- and disinformation about election processes…. Election officials said they have increasingly been leaning on national partnerships — both with other secretaries and federal agencies like the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security — to help prepare local election workers.” • I warned back in 2016 of the dangers of “making intelligence agencies the guarantors of “the institutional order of the Republic.” We seem to be insensibly slipping toward that point.

The slow death of the Christian right?

This is what I get for not having a television:

Readers, is this true? Are “History Channel” (!) viewers really on a steady diet of CT?


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, although still comfortably above the first peak achieved by the former guy. (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?

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“BA.2 Lineage Report” [Outbreak.info]. Data from GISAID Initiative. Handy chart:

So far, BA.2 is not prevalent (though this could change fast, especially under the “Let ‘er rip” policy the Biden Administration has adopted, as Yves points out). However, readers will recall that in the Hospitalization section, Guam remained stubbornly and exceptionally high. And here we see that Guam is #1 for BA.2 prevalence in the United States. Coincidence?

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.

* * *

“Wastewater network infrastructure in public health: Applications and learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic” [PLOS Global Public Health]. “Wastewater based epidemiology (WBE) leverages sewer infrastructure to provide insights on rates of infection by measuring viral concentrations in wastewater. By accessing the sewer network at various junctures, important insights regarding COVID-19 disease activity can be gained. The analysis of sewage at the wastewater treatment plant level enables population-level surveillance of disease trends and virus mutations. At the neighborhood level, WBE can be used to describe trends in infection rates in the community thereby facilitating local efforts at targeted disease mitigation. Finally, at the building level, WBE can suggest the presence of infections and prompt individual testing. In this critical review, we describe the types of data that can be obtained through varying levels of WBE analysis, concrete plans for implementation, and public health actions that can be taken based on WBE surveillance data of infectious diseases, using recent and successful applications of WBE during the COVID-19 pandemic for illustration.” • Useful round-up.

From CDC Community Profile Reports (PDFs), “Rapid Riser” counties:

Looking good, though what’s that little cluster around DC doing? Maine is a data problem. (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:

Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Sea of green once more. 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: 955,497 949,269. A dip, fortunately. 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.

The excess deaths chart appears weekly, on Friday.

Look at the qualifications in that drop-down. And the enormous typo, helpfully highlighted, has been there for weeks. I know the CDC copy editing process is slow, but this is ridiculous. Is nobody checking the outputs?

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of note today.

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The Bezzle: “Audible Royalties Ain’t Royalties – by Colleen Cross” [#Audiblegate (dblogger)]. “What, exactly, does Audible do to earn near 50% right off the top, before even calculating the split between you and them? Audible didn’t produce the audiobook. They didn’t pay the narrator. They certainly didn’t write the book. One could even argue there has been no investment in the ACX interface since the launch of the ACX platform back in 2011. So, no author tech investment, either. No explanation has been given on the necessity to deduct almost half the retail price to arrive at this ‘Net Sales’ amount.” • This is from 2021, so Audible could possibly have changed its ways….

The Bezzle: “I Found The Tech Angle On The Vibe Shift” [The Atlantic]. “The difference I’ve personally experienced with many Web3 projects is that, while I have experienced vague pangs of FOMO, I haven’t yet experienced that sensation of anything (digital or physical) futuristic dropping into my hands. I know boosters will vehemently disagree with me, but I feel that much of the crypto conversation and hype is a reversal of the usual cycle. Instead of a technology achieving mass adoption and creating a culture in its wake, much of the crypto movement is a durable culture that is waiting for its mass-adoption product and trying to spin up technologies that augment the culture. Now, I realize that one can make a compelling and true argument that the wealth generated by and the popularity of bitcoin and Ethereum can be classified as mass adoption** of a technology (blockchains) and that the culture surrounding crypto is proof of the cycle behaving normally. But once again, the language coming from Web3 boosters suggests that the digital currencies are just the building blocks for something even more revolutionary that will upend our lives and economies. Here’s where I see Web3 as a culture in search of its killer technological application.” • I wonder if there’s a science fiction novel about an entire planet organized around Ponzi schemes.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 35 Fear (previous close: 38 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 34 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 18 at 1:22pm. Back to flirting with Neutral!

Zeitgeist Watch

Because freedom (1):

Because freedom (2):

I don’t dare to check Amazon:

Groves of Academe

The destruction of public education:

More on Carson v. Makin (from Maine. You can bet that if the Roberts Court were presented a case where Lewiston Somalis wanted to find a way to use state funding for madrassas, they’d find a way to rule against them).

Our Famously Free Press

“The Mainstream Media Is Getting Academia Wrong. Still.” [Esquire]. “First, the media routinely favors voices of Ivy League and other elite university faculty as representative of academia at large. The experiences of faculty and graduates of wealthy institutions are regularly presented and promoted as the norm in academia instead of the exceptions that they are. Second, because no academic speaks for all of academia—as the writer of the Atlantic piece was presuming to do—the conclusions of such pieces can be misleading or, in the case of discussions about Covid, dangerous…. Just this week, the Atlantic published another op-ed, this one called “Open Everything: The time to end pandemic restrictions is now,” by Yascha Mounk, a Harvard graduate who teaches at the elite Johns Hopkins University. Normal course loads at elite schools can be as low as two courses per year. … I enjoy teaching. What I don’t enjoy is people assuming I only teach a course or two, like those luxurious course loads at elite schools. In recent years my teaching load has been 3/3, which means I teach three courses in the fall and three in the spring. And while at many universities 3/3 is standard for full-time tenured and tenure track faculty, my six courses a year are actually less than normal, because I’ve been awarded course reduction to work on research and publications. The standard teaching load at my university is 4/4. At community colleges it’s common for full-time faculty to teach 5/5.” • So, a lot more contacts with students, hence a much greater risk of infection under Let ‘er rip> “Open Everything.”

Guillotine Watch

“The Education of a Libertarian” [Peter Thiel, Cato Institute]. From 2009, still germane: “The 1920s were the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics. Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron. In the face of these realities, one would despair if one limited one’s horizon to the world of politics. I do not despair because I no longer believe that politics encompasses all possible futures of our world. In our time, the great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms — from the totalitarian and fundamentalist catastrophes to the unthinking demos that guides so-called ‘social democracy.’ The critical question then becomes one of means, of how to escape not via politics but beyond it. Because there are no truly free places left in our world, I suspect that the mode for escape must involve some sort of new and hitherto untried process that leads us to some undiscovered country; and for this reason I have focused my efforts on new technologies that may create a new space for freedom. Let me briefly speak to three such technological frontiers: (1) Cyberspace…. (2) Outer space… (3) Seasteading….” • They actually believe this stuff….

AM writes: “We just came back from Paris. I saw the guillotine earrings in the Musee Carnavalet. Impossible to photograph due to reflections. But I totally agree that they are very stylish!!! The museum has a big section dedicated to the Revolution.” Photos:

Class Warfare

“Starbucks union vote count in Arizona postponed, ballots impounded” [The Counter]. “Starbucks employees at a Mesa, Arizona, location were awaiting the tally of their votes on whether to unionize Wednesday—instead, the count was delayed and the ballots impounded by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the result of an ongoing request for review from the Starbucks corporation. The votes will be held for an unspecified future vote, an NLRB spokesman told The Counter via email. The news was a minor setback for workers at the store, who had started casting their ballots in January on whether to organize with Starbucks Workers United (SWU), a branch of the Service Employees International Union affiliate Workers United. The hold was the result of a procedural delay: In early January, a regional NLRB director in Phoenix, Arizona, ruled that Starbucks workers at the Mesa location could vote to unionize as a store, rather than being required to vote as part of a larger regional unit. Starbucks subsequently requested a review of this ruling. Because the NLRB hadn’t issued a decision on that request for review by Wednesday, the scheduled vote count was postponed.”

Meanwhile, Starbucks is hiring:

* * *

Servant trouble:

“Erik Prince and an Army of Spies Keep Meddling in US Politics” [Jacobin]. “his is what happens when a political economy allows people to endlessly and unproductively hoard wealth. Project Veritas, like the entire galaxy of right-wing think tanks, organizations, media outlets, and advocacy groups out there, largely exists by the grace of piles and piles of oligarchic cash sitting around, as the Times’ reporting makes clear. It’s hard to conceptualize, but when so many people have quantities of money so far in excess of what they need to meet their basic needs and lead a comfortable, carefree life, they’ll find other outlets to throw all this idle cash into — organizations like Project Vertitas being one of them. Note, too, that political corruption is also part of the reason why Project Veritas was able to succeed with this scheme. In a separate report last year, the Times detailed how the group’s operatives were able to infiltrate Democratic Party circles and work to sabotage what they considered threats to Trump’s agenda by using campaign donations as a lever. The undercover operatives gave hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to candidates, state parties, and other Democratic entities, and as a result gained access to exclusive party events, the candidates themselves, as well as a pro-Democratic initiative run by wealthy liberal donors meant to back moderate Republicans in Wyoming, gathering valuable information all the while. The parties’ reliance on big donors directly opens them up to such shenanigans.”

News of the Wired

“Assessment of a Smartphone-Based Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification Assay for Detection of SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza Viruses” [Nature]. “For centuries, writers have mused on the heart as the core of humanity’s passion, its morals, its valour. The head, by contrast, was the seat of cold, hard rationality. In 1898, US poet John Godfrey Saxe wrote of such differences, but concluded his verses arguing that the heart and head are interdependent. ‘Each is best when both unite,’ he wrote. ‘What were the heat without the light?’ At that time, however, Saxe could not have known that the head and the heart share a deep biological connection. n the past 15 years, scientists have uncovered a developmental link between the two. In 2010, for example, researchers revealed that the same small pool of cells that divides and differentiates to form the heart in mouse embryos also gives way to muscles in their throats and lower heads1. Key components of the two are cut from the same cloth. Even more surprising is that the embryonic head–heart connection pre-dates the evolutionary origin of vertebrates, and perhaps even of the head itself. Researchers stumbled on the link while studying sea squirts, blobby, sedentary marine creatures, found affixed to the sea floor, that have two openings — one for sucking water in and the other for squirting it out — hence the name.” • I should have run this on Valentine’s Day, but oh well….

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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 (RH):

RH writes: “You published another picture of this hoop house a few months ago.” So if you want to build a hoop house in the coming year, now is the time to plan for one, in between perusals of the seed catalogs.

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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. flora

    Both the GOP and the Dem parties seem divided. Wonder if the intra-party divisions come down to difference between the globalists vs the nation-centered pols in each party. Sort of a : ‘what’s good for General BullRock isn’t necessarily good for the USA’, (to misquote Pogo). The GOP is as good at kafab as the Dems. The way the kayfab resolves in DC for both parties’ estabs seems to favor the globalists aspirations, imo.

  2. ambrit

    File this under ‘There Is Hope For Us Yet.’
    I was downtown, on my bicycle, bundled up with kakhi backpack on. I had just been in the Post Office mailing some packages off. Unlocking the bike in front of the Post Office when a Twenty-something comes up and presses a couple of dollars into my hands.
    They: “Here. Get something warm.”
    Me: “Uh, I appreciate the gesture, but I’m not homeless. One of them could use it better.”
    They: “Don’t be proud. I try to help someone every day. I can afford it.”
    Me: “That speaks well of you. How about I don’t spoil your intention and pay this along to someone else?”
    They: “Wow. What a positive attitude.”
    Me: “Thank you. I feel better about our town now.”
    The person walked up the block, got in behind the wheel of a new BMW, and drove off.
    Talk about confounded expectations.
    Be safe all.

    1. Carolinian

      Sorry to hear about your homelessness although you do obviously own a computer not to mention a PT Cruiser. I’ve just been reading a new book about Greta Garbo who used to take long walks around New York in downscale clothing and if offered a couple of bucks might have taken it because she grew up a poor Swede in a cold water flat and watched every penny all her life (at that stage net worth $55 million).

      Cary Grant was like that too with similar upbringing back in Bristol, UK.

      1. ambrit

        Yes. Next thing we know, this half-horse town will outlaw sleeping in your own car in the Convention Centre parking lot. (Yes. We have a Convention Centre. Nicely landscaped with a small lake and all.)
        My favourite Cheap Movie Star story is about Clark Gable charging $.25 for his signature to fans. (I tried to find corroboration on Google and all that came up were ads for ‘signature’ sales houses and Hollywood nostalgia books. With browsers like Google, who needs random chance?)

        1. Carolinian

          Gable also supposedly had dentures all his life due to early gum disease. May be a rumor.

          Still he was “the king” of MGM while Garbo was the queen. It says something about the changes in good ole USA that rags to riches was once a real thing, perhaps because there were a lot more rags. But also upward mobility was real.

          1. ambrit

            I’ve read the same rumour about Gable’s teeth.
            Old Hollywood was a libertarian paradise. As long as you had money, and some influence helps, you could get away with almost anything. The true story about Loretta Young’s child by Gable, hushed up for decades, is the touchstone for the intersection of Hollywood and Main.
            That doesn’t even begin to include the question of how much about the Black Dalhia murder Marcel Duchamp knew.

            1. The Rev Kev

              You should read the autobiographies of David Niven for his stories on how Hollywood really rolled back in the day. Makes the present lot sound like a bunch of preening prudes – which they are. Niven was once room mates with Errol Flynn who was mischievous to say the least. The sample stories in this article are the most mildest of them as Vanity Fair has also gone prudish about this era-


              1. Carolinian

                I don’t believe some of that stuff Niven claimed. The problem with Hollywood Babylon type gossip is that it’s hard to disprove and readers lap it up, sells books. So it’s not just Niven.

    2. DJG, Reality Czar

      ambrit: Please spend your ill-gotten alms on wine, and if Phyllis can’t have wine, then chocolates.

      1. ambrit

        I met Phyl when she was cooking in a Health Food restaurant down on Magazine Street in New Orleans. So, as much as my unsophisticated palate likes the “Fruit of the Vine,” it will have to be zucchini and brown rice pasta. (I’ll emulate Aunt Agatha and slip in an occasional nip when no one is looking.)
        Stay safe! Stay lubricated, er, hydrated!

      1. ambrit

        This being the Modern ‘Fluid’ Pronoun Era, why not ‘fluid’ acronyms too? I wonder what the BMW would turn into?
        Would we have here an example of a LGBTP BMW? (Lez Gai Bix Trains Porsche)

  3. jo6pac

    I’m sure dnc and dncc loves this. I wonder if they’re work together? I wonder also if the is any out of country funds involved?

    “Erik Prince and an Army of Spies Keep Meddling in US Politics”

    Russia is not the enemy

  4. diptherio

    The History Channel long ago became the “Maybe Aliens Did It” channel, which may or may not be more entertaining than their previous “All WWII All The Time” format, depending on your tastes.

    1. ambrit

      I’m still waiting for their “Zeta Reticulans in Washington: Behind the Scenes. An Exclusive Investigation.”
      I’m sure that all the ‘Unusual Suspects’ will be featured.
      “Eyes to the Sky!”

    2. Wukchumni

      My favorite of all the dubious tv history channels is American Heroes Channel, which has a rather steady diet of shows on der fuhrer… confusing many into thinking it’s the Adolf Hitler Channel, but they make up for it by having lots of shows on American Mafioso.

      The goods are odd, but odds are good said ‘heroes’ will be featured at some point, every day.

      1. John Beech

        Went a few years with antenna (greater Orlando metroplex, so good selection of over the air channels).

        AT&T hooks me with the promise of improved DSL . . . U-verse.Not so improved after all. Seems I am beyond some limit from the ‘box’. But it’s been three or four years and they continue to have their IV into my wallet.

        Been thinking of quitting the satellite again. Just don’t watch much television ‘although’ I recently snagged the first season of Law & Order on the DVR and we’re enjoying those.

        As soon as I find time, I’ll install the hardware for the satellite Internet we purchased from Musk. That will give us a back up to the U-Verse. Will it be as good? Better? Worse? Dunno.

        Meanwhile, my sweetheart just mentioned we’ve paid the third monthly installment of $100 (they too have an IV into my wallet). Honestly, I’ve been busy so I’ve been lollygagging regarding the installation. Possible I’ve developed a healthy respect for ladders (fear?). Who knows, maybe next week.

    3. Mildred Montana

      >Readers, is this true? Are “History Channel” (!) viewers really on a steady diet of CT?

      Betteridge’s Law. No. Actually, it’s one of the few channels I watch with any regularity and does occasionally have some interesting programs. Albeit I’m in Canada so the programming might be adjusted for us intelligent Canadians. ;)

      That being said, ??????? ?????? (the show referenced) is a bunch of crap, as is all the Roswell stuff. Viewers are advised to press the “info” button on their remotes if they don’t want to be ambushed by CT.

    4. Beyond the rubicoN

      Come to think of it… all the Qanon/conspiracy theory people I know were/are avid fans of Ancient Aliens. I’ve never seen it. But when they talk about it I usually stop listening because even then it sounded like unproven conspiracy theories.

      Perhaps there is a connection? I will say that they come from all levels of educational attainment and intellectual capacities. It could just be that they presented this conspiracy theory stuff as entertainment and it is was conflated as factual because of its broadcast on an “educational” channel.


      1. juanholio

        David Wilcock is one of the preeminent Gaia Liars on Amazon Prime’s new age / yoga channel.

        He does shows about the Secret Space Program with cult leader Corey Goode.

        He has a 90s “curtains” hairdo, and looks a bit like an aging Chesney Hawkes.

      2. jr

        That conflation is real. Years back, I had a student who was convinced dragons were real. He had seen it on Discovery. Sure enough, when I checked there was a mockumentary about dragons. I hated to break his heart.

      3. John Beech

        Discovered today one of the machinists is into Ancient Aliens stuff. Buttonholed me for an interminable 5-minutes with nonsense about ‘they’.

        Good grief!

        1. ambrit

          Give him a break. He was just trying to warn you against the upcoming “hostile takeover” program.
          Preppers like to call it the “Grey Man” strategy. Hide in plain sight. Who do you think we learned it from?

    5. NotTimothyGeithner

      The South Park episode on the History Channel and aliens at the first Thanksgiving aired in November 2011, and my memory is it struck me as fairly outdated by then. I think the South Park episode was made in reference to the aliens in the back ground of their show, not so much a response to a then recent shift of the history channel.

    6. hunkerdown

      The History Channel looks just like its parents: all the scrupulous honesty we expect from Hearst reporting plus all the subtle complexity we expect from Disney storytelling.

  5. nycTerrierist

    coveting those guillotine earrings!

    the museum gift shop (or a savvy copycat) would make a killing with replicas

  6. EGrise

    Laying down a marker now: at some point this year, one or more states will attempt to outlaw the wearing of protective masks in public.

    My bet is Texas goes first, since Greg Abbott is in “throw stuff against the wall to see what sticks” mode for his upcoming re-election bid because he feels like he needs a big Red turnout to beat Beto(!).

    But I wouldn’t rule out a Blue state: being able to see your waiter’s smile (or lack thereof) is critically important to certain constituencies.

    1. Joe Renter

      Which reminds me of a gas station convince store I was in last year while going through AZ.
      It had a sign on the door saying do not wear a mask if you enter this store, you can pump gas with your mask on outside, if you so wish.
      Strange but it’s different down there.

    2. albrt

      Fake smiling (aka most smiling) is basically a monkey troupe submission signal. No wonder so many powerful people hate masks.

  7. Wukchumni

    An estimated 1,000 semi-truck drivers are expected on Feb. 23 to descend on Barstow, the official starting point of the coast-to-coast “People’s Convoy” to protest government COVID-19 mandates.

    The message the truckers intend to deliver from California to Washington, D.C., is that “government has forgotten its place” and that its mask and vaccination mandates are unconstitutional.

    Organizers say the convoy, which follows similar Ottawa, Canada protests, will call on lawmakers to lift the declaration of a national emergency concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and to stop depriving U.S. citizens of their “fundamental rights” by enforcing mask and vaccine mandates.


    Why Barstow?

    It’s full of meth-odd actors, and not exactly coast-to-coast.

      1. JBird4049

        When I was last there twenty years ago that was about all it had being a wide open pit stop, which does make it a good place to organize a large number of big rigs.

        1. hdude

          I think Barstow has the distinction of their McDonalds having the largest number of sales of any of their franchises. They are at the junction of I-15 and I-40

    1. Carolinian

      My brother has a semi-truck owner living nearby–has a Trump sign in the yard and likes to fire off his AR-15 in the evenings to blow off steam. On the other hand bro has a friend with a graduate degree who also drove a truck for awhile although now a well paid PMC. He can tell you all about double clutching.

      Having spent a bit of time in cross country truck stops I’d say the former description more common than the latter. But there have been articles here about the struggles and raw deal that many truck drivers get. Perhaps they have reason to resent the Justin Trudeaus of the world.

      1. Michael Ismoe

        It’s OK if they resent their government; the problem is if they show it.

        Pressure cookers need stream release valves or they explode.

    2. griffen

      Maximum Overdrive reboot? Although one founder of the group has since passed, AC/DC is still in the game for a remastered accompaniment on vinyl, CD, et al.

      From the above named film in the 1980s, I think one actor went onto better things as the voice of Lisa Simpson.

  8. Caroline

    Another broken Biden promise. No more offshore oil drilling.


    While this discusses county level decisions, here’s the tarry legacy of previous administrations broken promises:

    ‘Beyond ridiculous’: Offshore drilling could return to Santa Barbara


  9. Lee

    Covid vaccines discussed on Science Friday:

    Could Protein-Based Vaccines Help Close The Global Vaccination Gap? (10 minutes)

    “So why, two years into the pandemic, have they just started gaining traction? And can recombinant-protein vaccines help close the global coronavirus vaccination gap?

    Ira discusses these developments with Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, the co-creator of Corbevax, a patent-free protein-based vaccine, for which she was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She’s also the co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, and a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine, based in Houston, Texas.”

    How Cuba Developed Five COVID-19 Vaccines (7 minutes)

    “Cuba was able to quickly produce five coronavirus vaccines, thanks to the island’s robust biotech industry. For decades, Cuba has produced its own home-grown vaccines and distributed them to neighboring countries.

    But sanctions and political dynamics have complicated Cuba’s ability to distribute their COVID-19 vaccines with the world.

    Ira talks with Helen Yaffe, senior lecturer of economic and social history at Glasgow University, and author of We Are Cuba! How a Revolutionary People Have Survived in a Post-Soviet World.”

  10. Expat2uruguay


    At last, another Grant fan:

    the tweet that follows is a repeat of the one before, which then fails to provide the context for the next tweet that you quote. Unfortunately there’s not enough information to figure out what you meant about Grant or what you’re referring to in the next-mentioned tweet.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Grant

      I swear, that Twitter Copy button has a demon in its JavaScript. Fixed. It’s a long quotation from Grant’s autobiography, here in text so I can find it again. With more context because Grant is such a beautiful writer about terrain:

      I received orders to move against Colonel Thomas Harris, who was said to be encamped at the little town of Florida, some twenty-five miles south of where we then were.

      At the time of which I now write we had no transportation and the country about Salt River was sparsely settled, so that it took some days to collect teams and drivers enough to move the camp and garrison equipage of a regiment nearly a thousand strong, together with a week’s supply of provision and some ammunition. While preparations for the move were going on I felt quite comfortable; but when we got on the road and found every house deserted I was anything but easy. In the twenty-five miles we had to march we did not see a person, old or young, male or female, except two horsemen who were on a road that crossed ours. As soon as they saw us they decamped as fast as their horses could carry them. I kept my men in the ranks and forbade their entering any of the deserted houses or taking anything from them. We halted at night on the road and proceeded the next morning at an early hour. Harris had been encamped in a creek bottom for the sake of being near water. The hills on either side of the creek extend to a considerable height, possibly more than a hundred feet. As we approached the brow of the hill from which it was expected we could see Harris’ camp, and possibly find his men ready formed to meet us, my heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as though it was in my throat. I would have given anything then to have been back in Illinois, but I had not the moral courage to halt and consider what to do; I kept right on. When we reached a point from which the valley below was in full view I halted. The place where Harris had been encamped a few days before was still there and the marks of a recent encampment were plainly visible, but the troops were gone. My heart resumed its place. It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him. This was a view of the question I had never taken before; but it was one I never forgot afterwards. From that event to the close of the war, I never experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy, though I always felt more or less anxiety. I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his. The lesson was valuable.

  11. marcyincny

    “Imagine having a back yard with such a variety of birdcalls!”

    Well as for the bluebirds, we have them in the area but to date they just tease us with an occasional appearance. I bought a bluebird feeder early on and every time I see a bluebird I clean and refill it.

    Then I never see one again for the rest of the season.

    One morning last spring as I worked in the vegetable garden, there was a male singing nearby. I knew it was too late for the first brood but I bought a nest box in case he was looking for new digs for a second brood.

    I put the nest box on the back stoop but before I could put it out in the yard, a pair of chickadees moved in. They followed the box to a post nearby and ended up fledging two broods. We left it up for the winter and at least one downy woodpecker used it as a winter roosting box.

    Almost two weeks ago we heard bluebirds out back and then saw a pair at the next box. They’ve been in and out of the box every warm day since, sometimes with a second female nearby.

    I now have two more boxes for better sites further away from the back stoop and I’ll probably not see bluebirds in the backyard again anytime soon…

    1. Bart Hansen

      Our male cardinal this year is a real jerk. Whenever the poor female lands on the feeder he chases her away.

      In previous years I have witnessed the male feeding his mate, beak to beak.

  12. DJG, Reality Czar

    Lambert Strether knows the bible well, and I enjoy that he knows a verse from the scandalous Saint James (yes, the J is for James):

    James 2:14-17
    New King James Version
    Faith Without Works Is Dead
    14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

    Once one applies this Jamesian standard to decadent U.S. religion, one finds that U.S. religion is a wet match, long since burned over.

    On the the Metta Sutra, which, not so coincidentally, teaches us the same ethic…

    1. FriarTuck

      I’ll be the first to say that I’m not very knowledgeable about the bible, but doesn’t this almost directly oppose Calvinist theology?

      1. Howard

        I believe the Calvinists were able to re-define “works” as “making a lot of money”. So if you didn’t make a lot of money it was a sign you were not saved. So it’s all good.

        1. dcblogger

          no, I won’t go into it all, but no. At least not in the first 200 years after the Reformation. Researching the Reformation is my hobby.

          I am too lazy to look it up, but Calvin has an entire essay as to why Gold allows evil people to have worldly success, and you can be sure all those Dutch merchants knew that essay. The classic reform teaching on this, put forth by Luther, Zwingli, and Tyndale is that works flow naturally from faith. As in good tree bringeth forth good fruit and all that.

      2. Henry Moon Pie

        It was Luther, with his claim of sola fides, who called James the “straw epistle.” The Roman Catholic forces used this verse relentlessly against Luther’s theology of salvation by grace alone through faith alone.

  13. DJG, Reality Czar

    The wild growth in LGBTQ.

    Well, first there is the issue of attempting to make “queer,” which has all the charm of the n-word, into a neutral cultural signifier, banner, and gender-something-y.

    What we are seeing is that it is easy to be culturally LGBTQ but not so easy to be sexually L or G or even B, now that sexuality has been defined as a form of gender oppression.

    It is more than obvious that Americans define gender in such a way as to take it too seriously. Really, one is being oppressed by pronouns?

    Conversely, it is more than obvious that Americans think that liberation is easy. All one must do is wear pink sweatshirt on Tuesdays and one is a gender revolutionary.

    No wonder people think that Camille Paglia is a reactionary.

    For a number of years, I marched in the Pride Parade in Chicago with GLN, carrying large signs in support of Bradley Manning. (Yep, it has been a minute.) And from the people lining the sidewalks, I’d hear the occasional shout of Traitor. That’s about all I needed to know. One can be “queer” all day long, but the puritanism sure takes a long time to wash out.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I put this article next to the one that said ‘New: The share of Americans who say they “know God really exists” and have “no doubts about it” has fallen below 50 percent for the first time in General Social Survey polling.’ and wondered if it was a matter of a lot of Christians coming out of the proverbial closet.

  14. Tom Stone

    I had errands to run this morning and decided to pick up some free N95 masks, I used Google to search for
    “Free N95 masks in Santa Rosa CA”.
    257 Roberts Av or 1026 4th ST.
    4th St is around the corner from the Central Library, so I went there.
    No masks and no idea why they were listed as a source for free masks.

    I was not surprised.

    1. Janie

      Our Kroger chain store has so many that the service clerk gave me a bag of about forty 3M auras and said there were plenty more in their stock area.

      1. Tom Stone

        Only the unvaxxed are now required to wear masks indoors whilst in Sonoma County.
        The virtuos vaxxed are demonstrating their moral superiority at every indoor venue in the County.

        The long term consequences may well be positive.

        1. Rainlover

          I was just over at Safeway and they had a basket full of 3M auras just sitting in front of the pharmacy. Take all you want; nobody watching.

          Just think how helpful these would have been in March 2020. Now nobody even wants them. Except moi!

          1. albrt

            Interesting, because you can’t get the auras at Home Depot anymore. That was their main dust mask for a while.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > 3M auras

        That’s the mask I use. It has good fit because of the foam nosepiece, and the elastic bands (not loops). The breathing chamber keeps the mask away from my face, so it’s relatively comfortable.

        If I had to order a few boxes again, I’d consider the O & M Halyard Duckbill, as recommended by Drumlin Woodchucks.

        The 3M Aura is well made, but the elastic bands are stapled, and the Halyard Duckbill bands are bonded, which I think is stronger. The Duckbill breathing chamber is also even larger. Also, the 3M bands — yes, I re-use the mask — eventually snap or become flaccid, like rubber bands stretched too many times; I’d be interested if Halyard Duckbill users have a different experience.

        Don’t get me wrong, I like the 3M Aura a lot, but it’s always possible to improve!

    2. kareninca

      I live in Silicon Valley. When I ordered the govt. covid test kits they took two days to arrive. However, there are still no free govt. masks in the local Walgreens. They do, however, have a lot of signs that say that they don’t have free govt. masks, and that they do have masks for sale.

  15. Swamp Yankee

    Yes, I was teaching 5 courses both Fall and Spring semesters at my community college before Covid killed my job. Pretty much impossible to do so at the level of real collegiate teaching, ie, you’ve got to skimp somewhere, and the stress of doing 10 courses a year, more if I taught in the summer, was killing me.

    Of course, I have a colleague who teaches 8 classes a semester…. what does he do? Just shows random videos. Higher ed, that ain’t, but he is okay with it. The students have mixed views.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I have a colleague who teaches 8 classes a semester…. what does he do? Just shows random videos.

      So, collapse within a generation? Perhaps “reading” and “writing” will become lost arts, in the way prayer is for me.

  16. Sailor Bud

    Destruction of Education: Totally agree that we don’t need licensed teachers, sorry. Competence should be the requirement, not your neoliberal crony credentials, where your “proof” of competence is the star chamber judgment of a degree factory. Or perhaps we have to think the only geniuses in pedagogic history had such degrees? And ignore the incredible incompetence of so many of our degree’d ones?

    Better look at Frank Liszt, greatest piano teacher and pianist of the 19th: no degree in sight, other than a thing that allowed him to wear a frock. He’d be prevented from teaching music at any school in the US today. And your tweeter would think it’s just right.

    Someone who could teach rings around anyone here in music theory and other related topics, but can never do so for a high school because I only have a bachelors, and not enough money for the rest. They don’t roll out the red carpets for us like they do the mathsters and basketball players.

    1. Sailor Bud

      Damn you, autocorrect: Franz, not Frank. Also, “anyone here” meant anyone in my tiny crap town, not anyone of the millions of NC readership that I don’t know. Sorry if that sounded more arrogant than it was. And also apologies to Deppe, Leschtiszky, Kullak, Czerny, and the others for calling Liszt “best.” Co-best at best, but they were nearly all undegree’d.

    2. Sailor Bud

      I cannot be the only person on this entire website who has met a genius that had no credentials? Have none of you met someone who rejected the formalism of academic institutions, or felt antagonized by them? Someone who played with their twenties instead of gunned into college, jobs, and marriage, and yet still read and learned and autodidactically worked and worked?

      My alma mater (SUNY Buffalo Amherst) has the most dystopian modernist architecture. It is an environment of depression, not mental cultivation, meant for machine minds and engineers. I only went there because an internationally famous pianist – of the Boulanger atelier, in fact -chose that factory as his grounds in the early 1970s and stayed there til his death in 1993. I quit that place because the practice rooms were all Steinway Ms and Ls in a small white cell. Disgusting.

      I despise Good Will Hunting, but not the idea beneath it. My most incredible teachers have included the little old Polish lady down the street, a nobody, a woman who played piano like a creature created for that purpose, who told me things about pedaling and phrasing well beyond what some other credentialed people did. I also had a teacher who was the very copy of Nicholson’s character in Five Easy Pieces. He was an intellectual bully, but he whipped me into shape like a drill sergeant. No creds at all; boogied out of the US long ago.

      Anyway, I’m not getting grandiose about my abilities, but the numerous freaks I know who are better than me but can never get an official teaching job. What I will say about myself in this country is that this tweet feels spooky, because my sole desire in the world is to teach masses of children incredible things, and my own state prohibits it, in a time when there are complaints of teacher shortages. I come to this wonderful website, full of some of the most intelligent and sensitive people online, and a genuine hero of mine – Lambert – supports the denial of an uncredentialed teacher of talent. Please tell me I’m misreading that, because it’s the kind of thing that makes me want to die.

      I’m about to run out of money, and my property assessment went up to $109K. My roof is leaking. The only jobs I see are local hardware stores and such. I can play piano like a monster – jazz and classical – coach chess after school (over 100 books, and I know all the history from Morphy to this very day), I can teach to my degree (history), and I can draw like Leonardo.

      This country absolutely sucks.

      I’m a vagabond, non-ambitious, cyclocamping, adventuresome sailor who loves truth, beauty, and humanity, and boy am I about to be punished for choosing that life. My bachelor status would guarantee far more time to devote outside the class into the craft of teaching than family teachers. I’m unqualified.

      Do we teach so that the student can get the diploma, or do we teach so the kid can learn, and enjoy it, from a passionate and articulate creature who cares about their future? [YIKINMU]

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I come to this wonderful website, full of some of the most intelligent and sensitive people online, and a genuine hero of mine – Lambert – supports the denial of an uncredentialed teacher of talent.

        Thanks for the kind words, but I’m a blogger, not a hero. I try to stick to what I’m good at.

        That said, my concern about credentialing stems from ALEC; I think the outcome they want is the destruction of the public school system in favor of Christianist madrassas, which I do not favor.

        But you make good points, in that the process of obtaining credentials has been almost completely divorced from a humane education in favor of nauseating toadyism and the regurgitation of fixed ideas (see under the Ivy Leagues, though I imagine it starts early).

        I have the picture in my mind that universities began in the 1200 because students banded together to hire teachers/lecturers of their choice (I suppose rather like a “Great Books” course of study). That seems to be oversimplified:

        Hastings Rashdall set out the modern understanding[13] of the medieval origins of the universities, noting that the earliest universities emerged spontaneously as “a scholastic Guild, whether of Masters or Students… without any express authorization of King, Pope, Prince or Prelate.”[14]….

        In many cases universities petitioned secular power for privileges and this became a model. Emperor Frederick I in Authentica Habita (1158) gave the first privileges to students in Bologna. Another step was when Pope Alexander III in 1179 “forbidding masters of the church schools to take fees for granting the license to teach (licentia docendi), and obliging them to give license to properly qualified teachers”.[17] Hastings Rashdall considered that the integrity of a university was only preserved in such an internally regulated corporation, which protected the scholars from external intervention. This independently evolving organization was absent in the universities of southern Italy and Spain, which served the bureaucratic needs of monarchs—and were, according to Rashdall, their artificial creations.[18]

        That sort of “guild structure” might be possible to reproduce, even now. Surely there are some parents who actually want their children to be educated? And some young adults who want the same?

        1. Skunk

          The university has fallen prey to the same types of forces and just about every other sector. It has become yet another casualty of professional management. The once-lofty idea of education for its own sake has almost disappeared in favor of preparing students for gainful employment. Day-to-day university administration usually revolves around maximizing the number of enrollments. Professors and even administrators often have little control over the educational process, which sometimes seems to be driven by higher-level shifts toward corporate ideology. For example, textbook publishers drive the choice of educational materials to a much greater degree than most people realize. Possibly certain public goods (education, infrastructure, health care, etc.) can’t be treated solely as businesses without gravely distorting the actual value of the public good.

        2. Sailor Bud

          Thanks for your reply. Unfortunately for you, I get to choose my heroes, though you can still unchoose yourself like you have and call yourself whatever you like, so I figure it evens out in the end. I use that word in very directed ways, like saying someone is a guitar hero (remember those?). You’ve got a bunch of hero medals for wordsmithing, scrupulousness about truth, humanity, humor, inherent Gandalf qualities, etc.

          Anyway, yes. My knowledge of university history is limited, but both art guilds and master-seeking I’m well acquainted with in several disciplines and through all sorts of books, like Cellini’s fabulist memoir and Amy Fay’s Music Study in Germany, which gives first-hand accounts of the teaching methods of all the above piano teachers save for Czerny and Leschetiszky, but including those of Tausig, Rubinstein, and I think von Bulow. Pretty neat, hearing her describe Liszt playing, too. What a phenomenon he was.

          I agree about the destruction through privatization. My biggest fear in the future is that teaching will degenerate into a large screen or each student wearing VR goggles, and a voice that says, “Hi, I’m Jenny, your virtual teacher. I’m hooked into Google and I can answer any question you have in plain language.” And the only adult in the classroom will be a cop. And its answers will periodically include ads for Snickers, which satisfies, etc.

  17. allan

    Parents at Riverdale and Horace Mann are at war with their $60,000-a-year private schools
    over ‘out of control’ COVID rules
    [Business Insider]

    … have long catered to the wealthy with a steady hand, indulging requests for a biology teacher to reconsider a project grade, or for the umpteenth coaching session for a student’s coming Stanford interview. In return, parents paid a tuition north of the median American salary — and they got used to getting their way. If you’re shelling out nearly $60,000 a year plus annual donations, the thinking goes, you’re entitled to a certain level of influence.

    Now, the pain point for a small but vocal cohort of parents at New York’s most exclusive schools has become COVID-era rules. After two years, many are fed up with masking, social distancing, and testing and quarantine requirements, and they’re making their displeasure known. “The rules are just out of control,” said the mother of a fully vaccinated Riverdale kindergartner who until Monday was required to wear a KN95 mask outside. “They don’t make any sense.”

    But these parents are meeting unexpected resistance from school administrators, who in some cases have their hands tied by the state. The result? A simmering COVID-era showdown. Amanda Uhry, the owner of Manhattan Private School Advisors, a firm that coaches families through the private-school admissions process, is used to dealing with New York’s upper class. The problem, she says, is simple: “They’ve never heard the word ‘no.'”  …

    Kudos to the school administrators for standing up to the Do You Know Who I Am? crowd.
    How long before they cave or lose their jobs, who knows?

    1. Synoia

      Which us why the UK has exams, marked (graded) by people who hove no connection with the Student.

      Such a system is not reliant on Kissing a teacher’s posterior.

  18. MsJenkins

    Witness the bilingual teaching disaster pushed by California Superintendent of Schools, Bill Honig. A reading teaching test called the R.I.C.A., a babble of garbage, for example, how to teach a Quechua / Maya speaker, with a speech defect, how to learn to read English, destroyed the motivation and potential careers of thousands of education students who could not pass it. Now there’s a shortage of teachers.

    Read this and envision to time wasted in an educational student’s life.


    Private schools do not require a state teaching license. That plus political correctness is another reason why public schools are dying and private schools are oversubscribed.

    1. anon y'mouse

      my mother-in-law was an english teacher in CA for many years. she told me that she firmly believed they designed the ESL program to sideline those students permanently into educational irrelevancy by never getting them up-to-speed thus able to survive in “normal” classrooms.

      which is a plan she had great delight in thwarting by making sure her ESL students not only got phased out of the program, but went on to the highest levels of English education (even Paideia, which my best friend in HS attained after being in her class) after their time with her. she would even do additional drilling for those students whom she didn’t want to fall through the cracks of a system intentionally designed with giant cracks everywhere.

      i’m sure they (Administration) hated her.

  19. Rainlover

    FWIW, it’s my opinion, backed by experience with long-term illness, that the Coronavirus has been out there in the wild for some time. In 2016, I visited Australia and came down with a virus that laid me out for 5 days with accompanying fever. I developed pneumonia in both lungs and eventually spent 17 days total in two different hospitals. After liters of intravenous antibiotics with no effect, a lung biopsy was necessary to identify the cause as COP (Cryptogenic Organizing Pneumonia). This is an autoimmune response to attack. The doc said when I was admitted, both lungs were 75% occluded by tissue. In other words, after testing for every known bacteria and virus, they didn’t know what the cause was. Steroids were prescribed and improvement began. I was on oxygen almost the whole time I was in hospital and had to get my O2 up to 90 before I could go home. Thank goodness I didn’t need a ventilator.

    Covid’s attack on the lungs sounds exactly like what happened to me, except Covid is much more damaging than what I had. I was on steroids for a year and a half and have never recovered to my original level of well-being. Additionally, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in Jan of 2021. T-cell damage? Very suspicious. The more I read about Covid’s effects, the more I am convinced I had an earlier version of it.

  20. ChrisRUEcon


    ” … Biden would be better off leaning into his brand of the authentic empath.”

    Jésus. Francisco. Cabral.

    Only in the eyes of “pundits” like Axelrod, could this ever be a perceived “reality”.

    Meanwhile, on the left … “I Don’t Have Any Empathy For Joe Biden” (via YouTube) … from 2019 but still germane, as Lambert says.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The whole “empathy” thing is just something to relieve the choir. The polls are disasters, and the Mittens approved highway bill is just a bunch of smaller highway bills rolled into one that will be changed every two years.

      They are asking what the plan is. “Empathy” is what they came up with.

    2. jr

      “brand of the authentic empath”

      Only a “symbol-manipulating” dolt could think this statement is coherent. Literally, the signifier is the signified for the writer. The advertisement is the product.

      See where materialism gets us? This is the natural reaction to the reduction of the world to the physical, to declare it’s all mental, for the soft-skulls like Butler and her word-slaws of obsfucation and solipsism. Both are a kind of polarization of our experiential world.

      Under an idealist paradigm, both the “physical” and the “mental”are handily accounted for. Knowing nothing for certain but conscious states, to avoid inflationary ontologies and their absurdities we must assume all is within consciousness. Those states paint a picture of a world external to the extrinsic manifestation of our being but at no point have we exited consciousness. Despite the hard logic of solipsism, we can rely on the steady stream of anecdotal evidence that the world extends beyond us. It defies reason for us to think the stars are in our skulls, therefore we
      must propose a consciousness-at-large.

      Put another way, we are the lucid dreams of God, wandering It’s dreamscape. Or, just as humans experience multiple personalities, consciousness-at-large splintered into a multiplicity of sub-consciousnesses. The first has more poetry in it.

      1. Dave in Austin

        Old salesmans’ joke: “Sincerity is really important; once you learn to fake that”, everything else comes easy.

      2. witters

        I kind of agree, but I’m still a ‘realist’ because I think the world may be such that there are things we can simply never know – and so things beyond the range of ‘idealisms’ reach.

  21. marym

    “Rejecting decades of precedent, Trump [US District Court] Judge Lee Rudofsky holds Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act has NO private right of action—meaning nobody except the U.S. Attorney General can bring a VRA lawsuit.

    If SCOTUS agrees with Rudofsky, then ONLY the attorney general can bring lawsuits against racial gerrymanders and voter suppression under the Voting Rights Act.

    The AG has limited resources, and for decades private plaintiffs have filed VRA lawsuits.

    Rudofsky’s claim would weaken the Voting Rights Act under Democratic presidents and basically suspend it under Republican presidents. (Trump’s Justice Department filed zero VRA suits.)”

    Slate reporter: https://twitter.com/mjs_DC/status/1494469724272574464
    More detail: https://www.vox.com/22940875/voting-rights-act-supreme-court-trump-judge-lee-rudofsky-section-2-private-right-of-action

    Not to worry. We have Democrats to “fight for” Our Democracy…

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Judge Lee Rudofsky holds Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act has NO private right of action—meaning nobody except the U.S. Attorney General can bring a VRA lawsuit

      Maybe if we amended the VRA to include bonuses for vigilantes?

  22. The Rev Kev

    ‘I wonder if there’s a science fiction novel about an entire planet organized around Ponzi schemes.’

    Well, maybe not a sci fi novel but there is always the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.

    1. Hepativore

      The master-caste moties from a Mote in God’s Eye sort operated like this…they basically used the castes below them as political leverage as they tried to make deals with the mediator-class moties from rival clans. Inevitably, as the motie population skyrocketed, the fabric of motie society broke down as resource wars between the factions of rival masters consumed the planet of Mote Prime which led to a population collapse. The cycle then started all over again, and the moties built special “museums” containing technological artifacts to speed up the rebuilding process.

      Moties were well aware of how dysfunctional these growth/expand/war/collapse cycles were, but had a fatalistic outlook on doing anything about it as moties felt that this was the “way things were” as motie biology forced them to reproduce or die, much like how prolonged heat in female ferrets is eventually fatal.

    2. paintedjaguar

      Dunno, but there is an SF novel about a planet organized around social media which is invaded by warring factions of male/female supremacists. It’s called “A World Between” (1979) by Norman Spinrad. Haven’t read it since it was first published, but it sure seems relevant to the moment. Then there’s Frederik Pohl’s prescient “The Age of the Pussyfoot” (1965) which might have been called ‘Slaves to the Smartphone’.

  23. jr

    CNN doing it like only CNN can:

    This article says Omicron Jr. evades vaccines and prior immunity and may be as severe as Delta:


    This linked article expresses “cautious optimism” and notes that Omicron is waning and we have immunity anyway:


    I’d call it cognitive dissonance if I thought someone at CNN was capable of holding two thoughts at the same time.

    1. John

      But if you say it often enough and loudly enough and often enough and loudly enough, you may convince those in the echo chamber with you.

  24. Michael Ismoe

    Forget about the Ukraine, there’s a really, really important contest that needs some attention. Arizona and Ohio lawmakers are in a race to be the first state to declare June 14th as “Donald J. Trump Day”. (Wait until Obama finds out). I really have no problem with this – after all, we did steal the election from him. It’s the least we could do.


  25. Skippy

    You’ll love this Lambert … I only bring you the best mate …

    In June 2020, at its 50th annual meeting, the WEF announced the Great Reset’s official launch, and a month later Schwab and Malleret published their book on COVID and the Great Reset. The book declared that COVID represents an “opportunity [that] can be seized”; that “we should take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to reimagine our world”; that “the moment must be seized to take advantage of this unique window of opportunity”; and that “[f]or those fortunate enough to find themselves in industries ‘naturally’ resilient to the pandemic”—think here of Big Tech companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon—“the crisis was not only more bearable, but even a source of profitable opportunities at a time of distress for the majority.”

    The Great Reset aims to usher in a bewildering economic amalgam—Schwab’s stakeholder capitalism—which I have called “corporate socialism” and Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has called “communist capitalism.”


    PS Brags he penetrates Canada’s national cabinet

  26. Lambert Strether Post author

    > The Great Reset aims to usher in a bewildering economic amalgam

    “The Great Reset” does look exceptionally nasty. Open Democracy:

    The plan from which the Great Reset originated was called the Global Redesign Initiative. Drafted by the WEF after the 2008 economic crisis, the initiative contains a 600-page report on transforming global governance. In the WEF’s vision, “the government voice would be one among many, without always being the final arbiter.” Governments would be just one stakeholder in a multi-stakeholder model of global governance. Harris Gleckman, senior fellow at the University of Massachusetts, describes the report as “the most comprehensive proposal for re-designing global governance since the formulation of the United Nations during World War II.”

    Hoover Institution v. Soros, I know.

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