2:00PM Water Cooler 2/4/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Notes: “I love two things about this HOWA: 1.) How he starts his song with a chip, and 2.) how he changes songs at 1:55 after a false start! Singing and foraging from a hickory on a steep slope (approx 4 meters up, but at my level due to the slope). Windy!”

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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

“Trump’s Long Campaign to Steal the Presidency: A Timeline” [Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine]. The deck: “The insurrection was a complex, yearslong plot, not a one-day event. And it isn’t over.” From the text: “There’s been a lot of media derision about Trump’s postpresidential efforts to wave the bloody shirt of the stolen election. It’s easy to assume the 45th president is just trying to stay in the news or stay relevant or give vent to his natural mood of narcissistic grievance and vengeance. However, the damage he is doing to the credibility of democratic institutions among Republican rank-and-file voters and conservative activists is not fading but is being compounded daily.” • This is the most useful article I’ve read on this story. There are a few problems with it. First is the framing. I can buy an effort to “undermine the credibility of democratic institutions,” especially since that effort is clearly bipartisan (RussiaGate; Iowa 2020; redistricting; etc.). But that’s not the same as trying to “steal the Presidency” let alone an insurrection. Second is its treatment of what we might call Donald Trump Thought: It seems to me that Kilgore imputes a lot more coherence and careful planning to Trump’s thinking than seems consistent with what we know from his public words and actions. Third, in many, many cases, ideas were proposed, but never carried through. Fourth, “conservatives” and even “activists” are clearly not monolithic, since in the article’s own narrative, many stood in Trump’s way (Pence, to pick the most obvious example). Finally, “compounded”? Really? What’s the doubling period? Still, this is the best treatment I’ve read, well worth reading, and congratulations to Kilgore for at least constructing a coherent narrative (which the Republicans were unable to do with, say, Benghazi.) The whole article reads as if Trump is Lenin at the Finland Station, and that I don’t buy.

Biden Adminstration

“Russia and China hail ‘no limits’ partnership to stand up to U.S.” [Reuters]. • Allow me to be the first to congratulate The Blob for this flawless victory.

New sequelae for West Wing Brain:

They really believe it….

“After review, U.S. maintains border policy of expelling migrants, citing Omicron” [CBS]. “After a recent internal review, the Biden administration decided to maintain a pandemic-era order put in place under former President Donald Trump that authorizes the rapid deportation of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told CBS News Thursday. Since March 2020, the Trump and Biden administrations have expelled migrants over 1.5 million times without affording them the opportunity to request U.S. asylum, citing a series of CDC orders that argue the expulsions are needed to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in border processing facilities.” • But the babies. What about the babies?!?!?!

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.

If this is working, why would it work?

For example, in universities, I think emotional blackmail by idpol-driven students would be a lot less effective if administrators didn’t also want to give tenured professors the ol’ heave-ho in favor of adjuncts; or didn’t want to discipline the occasional adjunct pour encourager les autres.

* * *

The party of betrayal:

So, “electing more Democrats” doesn’t work, does it?

“The Democrats Are Choosing to Rely on Corporate Donors” [Jacobin]. “New reporting shows the Democratic Party outpacing the GOP in the dark money arms race…. The lesson in all this is that embracing America’s depraved campaign finance regime is less an ambivalent surrender to political reality than it is a conscious ideological choice. Were they actually serious about pursuing much of what they officially want, establishment Democrats could probably decide to be something other than a party aligned with corporate America and content to filter its agenda through special interests in perpetuity. As things stand, however, the liberal marriage of progressive posturing and corporate cash instead guarantees a repeat of the same old pattern: Democrats decrying the influence of big money while insisting (as they did in 2020) that they must regrettably rely on it in order to save democracy.”

“Beatty and Gottheimer Funnel Private Equity Donations Through Pop-up Committee” [ReadSludge]. “House Financial Services Committee members Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) set up a special fundraising committee last year to raise money from the private equity donors. The pair formed the Beatty Gottheimer Victory Fund on Nov. 10 and over the next month they used it to collect $150,000 in campaign donations, eighty-eight percent of which came from executives and employees of New York City-based Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), one of the largest private equity firms in the world. The remaining money came from employees of investment firms Gingerbread Capital and Tiger Global Management. On Dec. 29, Beatty and Gottheimer split up the money 50/50 and deposited it in their campaign accounts, and then on Dec. 31 they terminated the committee.” • Fast work! And it’s good to see Beatty following in former CBC chair Clyburn’s trail of slime footsteps.

“‘I am doing the devils work’ — Staff at Dem firm revolt over work for Sinema” [Politico]. “Faced with pushback from employees, management at Authentic, one of the Democratic Party’s more prominent firms, defended itself by saying their work for Sinema was important for maintaining a Democratic Senate majority, according to those messages. But the situation grew dire enough that employees, who are unionized, were told they could be removed from the Sinema account if they felt uncomfortable with it, per the union’s contract…. Internal union correspondences obtained by POLITICO reveal a base of workers at Authentic sparring with its management over its business with Sinema. Employees broached the topic of the firm’s contract after the senator’s vote against raising the minimum wage to $15-an-hour, during which she offered an infamous thumbs down with an accompanying curtsy, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions. Leadership at Authentic responded by making it clear that the firm did not have plans to end the contract, the person said.”


* * *

“Jayapal’s early leadership maneuvers raise House Dem eyebrows” [Politico]. “As House Democrats’ top trio seeks reelection, their looming leadership battle is essentially frozen in place — with one big exception. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) is stepping up calls to her colleagues about seeking a caucus-wide position next year, according to more than 15 lawmakers and aides. Her approach is a stark contrast with the other dozen or so Democrats privately eyeing leadership posts after the midterms, all of whom have avoided overt campaigning of any kind that might risk being seen as overstepping their longtime leaders. The Congressional Progressive Caucus chief has leveraged the power of her liberal bloc in highly public ways this year, which several of her colleagues speculated could be laying the groundwork for a caucus-wide run. But some of those tactics — such as progressives’ effort to hold up a bipartisan infrastructure law in a bid to lock down a separate party-line social spending bill — have made her a target for intra-party griping. And most in the caucus view open jostling over an undefined leadership spot as counterproductive with the House majority at stake. House Democrats know that this fall could be the first time in 19 years that they elect someone other than Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lead them. But Pelosi and her two lieutenants, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, have steadfastly stayed in the moment and left little room for the public jockeying that’s typical even months ahead of a leadership race.” • Aghastitude!

As effective as they want to be:

“Democrats snag redistricting wins” [Axios]. This is a very good wrap-up, well worth a read: “We’ve been, for years, running this comprehensive plan and really pushing to think about redistricting in this holistic way. And what you are seeing are the receipts of that strategy,” Kelly Ward Burton, president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, told Axios.”

“Pennsylvania Supreme Court takes control of redrawing state’s congressional map” [Spotlight PA]. “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court took control of the high-stakes selection of the state’s next congressional map, preempting a lower court ruling at the last minute in a move that will likely fuel continued partisan scrutiny from Republicans. Commonwealth Court had been set to rule on a map after soliciting proposals from interested parties. Instead, the high court will now receive a report from the lower court, additional briefs, and hold a hearing Feb. 18, three days after the date candidates can begin circulating nominating petitions. Two groups of Pennsylvania residents originally filed suit in Commonwealth Court to ensure the May primary occurs on schedule. The court set a Jan. 30 deadline for Gov. Tom Wolf and the General Assembly to agree upon a map, and it solicited map submissions and held hearings. This is the second time the high court, where Democrats hold the majority, has been asked to take the case. It originally declined, opting instead to give the lower court the chance to review the case and issue a ruling.”


“Trump says Facebook losing users because of his site ‘Truth Social’, which will welcome banned ‘Freedom Convoy’ truckers” [Independent]. “‘It could also be that people are waiting for TRUTH – the highly sophisticated platform that we look forward to opening in the not too distant future. Time to straighten out what is happening in our country!'” [Trump] said in a statement.” • Some significant qualifications there….

Our Famously Free Press

“CNN staffers grill WarnerMedia boss over Jeff Zucker resignation” [Los Angeles Times]. “[Washington correspondent Jamie Gangel] said she received calls from four members of the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol ‘who felt devastated for our democracy’ now that Zucker has exited CNN. ‘I do not think you have any appreciation for what you’ve done to this organization,’ she said.” • Oh.

Clinton Legacy

“The Truth About Hillary Clinton” [Russell Brand, YouTube]. Fun stuff:

Realignment and Legitimacy


“This is 2032, SARS-CoV-3 has nothing to do with SARS-CoV-2,” even though everybody who was in charge — and personally profited from — the first debacle was still in charge — and personally profiting from — for the second, a decade later. I’m probably being generous with 2032.


Case count by United States regions:

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!

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

Continues encouraging. No jump from the return of the students yet, which is even more encouraging.

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.

“Detection of prevalent SARS-CoV-2 variant lineages in wastewater and clinical sequences from cities in Québec, Canada” (preprint) [medRxiv]. From the Abstract: “Here we report sequencing and inference of SARS-CoV-2 mutations and variant lineages (including variants of concern) in 936 wastewater samples and thousands of matched clinical sequences collected between March 2020 and July 2021 in the cities of Montreal, Quebec City, and Laval, representing almost half the population of the Canadian province of Quebec. We benchmarked our sequencing and variant-calling methods on known viral genome sequences to establish thresholds for inferring variants in wastewater with confidence. We found that variant frequency estimates in wastewater and clinical samples are correlated over time in each city, with similar dates of first detection. Across all variant lineages, wastewater detection is more concordant with targeted outbreak sequencing than with semi-random clinical swab sampling. Most variants were first observed in clinical and outbreak data due to higher sequencing rate. However, wastewater sequencing is highly efficient, detecting more variants for a given sampling effort. This shows the potential for wastewater sequencing to provide useful public health data, especially at places or times when sufficient clinical sampling is infrequent or infeasible.”

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

Continued improvement. Tennessee’s numbers come in (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:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

C’mon, Guam! (Note trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 920,829 917,600. As we know, deaths are a lagging indicator. I assume the absurdity of the “Omicron is mild” talking point is, at this point, self-evident. If you know somebody who’s in “lead my life” mode, you might consider telling them their odds of dying from Covid are now worse than with the first wave in New York.

“What have we become?” (1):

“What have we become?” (2):

Put aside that Furman can’t possibly know that the virus “ceased to be boss” last month. After all, the chess-playing virus has beaten checkers-playing meritocrats like Furman every time. Focus on Furman cheering loudly that we’ve beaten essential workers back into workplaces that can and will kill them.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Good news here too. For the time being.

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.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Non Farm Payrolls” [Trading Economics]. “The US economy unexpectedly added 467K payrolls in January of 2022, much better than market forecasts of 150K. Employment growth continued in leisure and hospitality (151K), specially food services and drinking places (108K) and in the accommodation industry (23K). Other increases were also seen in professional and business services (86K); retail trade (61K); transportation and warehousing (54K). Employment in local government education rose by 29K but was little changed in in mining, construction, manufacturing, information, financial activities, and other services. January figures were a big surprise as the omicron coronavirus variant left many Americans out of work due to illness or family care during the month and specially after the ADP report showed private companies cut 301K jobs, while the White House warned the data could be very weak as the peak of omicron cases coincided with when the payroll data was being collected. ” • About those seasonal adjustments:

Employment Situation: “United States Unemployment Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The US unemployment rate edged up to 4.0 percent in January of 2022, little changed from December’s new pandemic low but slightly above market expectations of 3.9 percent. Over the year, the unemployment rate is down by 2.4 percentage points, and the number of unemployed persons declined by 3.7 million.”

* * *

The Bezzle: “Meta: Peak Facebook” [Seeking Alpha]. “Meta’s fear of TikTok is leading it down a road much like that of Google one decade ago. Instead of focusing on improving its cash cow (digital advertising via Facebook), Meta’s new goal seems to be trend-chasing. MAU has peaked, and the portion of valuation in the stock price that can be attributed to expected growth is rightfully shrinking.”

The Bezzle: “Mark Zuckerberg loses another $2 billion in net worth and drops out of top 10 wealthiest list as Facebook stock continues to slide – while Jeff Bezos GAINS $13 billion after Amazon shares soared on blockbuster earnings” [Daily Mail]. “Zuckerberg’s one-day wealth decline of $29 billion on Thursday is among the biggest ever, and comes after Tesla Inc top boss Elon Musk’s $35 billion single-day paper loss in November.”

The Bezzle: “Miami’s tech ‘concierge’ says he’s leaving CIO role” [State Scoop]. “Miami Chief Information Officer Mike Sarasti said Wednesday that he’s planning to leave his current role over the next few weeks, and encouraged people to apply to fill the position…. [Mayor Francis Suarez] and Sarasti have both spent much of the past year encouraging emerging technology companies, particularly those in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries, to settle in Miami, leading Sarasti to dub himself a “concierge” for startup firms.” • Getting out while the getting is good?

Tech: “Amazon’s profit engines are humming, cushioning the blow from the retail slowdown” [CNBC]. “Amazon just reported its slowest revenue growth in more than four years, while its retail business in the U.S. and internationally lost money…. But investors found plenty of relief elsewhere. That’s because cloud computing and advertising, the areas where Amazon generates the heftiest profits, showed rapid expansion…. Amazon also surprised investors by breaking out advertising as a separate business for the first time. Ad revenue jumped 32% to $9.7 billion, almost equaling Google’s ad growth rate for the quarter. Until now, Amazon has grouped ads into its ‘other’ business segment, leaving analysts and investors guessing about its size.” • Hmm, ads. Getting ready to move on Facebook?

Tech: “You Know What’s Not Cool? Facebook” [Bloomberg]. “America’s Strategic Schadenfreude Reserve was replenished today as Facebook Meta lost $230 billion in market value, or 1.3 Bezoses, on signs its grip on our psyches is loosening just the tiniest bit — even if the new iron fist belongs to TikTok. Facebook still has billions of users and many fans, but the Venn diagram of the two groups is far from a perfect circle. Many use it grudgingly, because it’s still the best way to yell at local parents, swap vaccine misinformation, or seethe over hurtful photos of high school enemies living their best lives. But its overpowering capacity to poison the body politic has long inspired calls for it to be cut down to size somehow, through regulation or ritual dismemberment. But maybe all we had to do was wait for universal laws — of evolution, thermodynamics or goofy dances — to bring Facebook low on their own.”

Tech: “Twitter begins a global test of a new feature: a downvote button” [NBC]. “Twitter took a step Thursday toward adding a prominent new feature: a downvote button. The social media company said it was expanding a test to a worldwide selection of people who use the app after it got what it said was positive feedback from a limited experiment announced in July. The feature could eventually affect what tweets get shown in which order on the site and its app, although Twitter said that for now, the downvotes are private and don’t affect how replies are ordered.” • Well, don’t make them public. Twitter is challenging enough without turning into a cesspit like the Daily Kos comment section (which does allow downvotes).

Tech: “Satya Nadella: ‘Being great at game building gives us permission to build the next internet'” [Financial Times]. • Oh.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 34 Fear (previous close: 33 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 36 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 4 at 1:18pm.

Department of Feline Felicity

Larry the Cat’s predecessor:

Our Famously Free Press

“Here why that’s bad news for ____” is a hardly perennial:

Health Care

“Is precision public health the future — or a contradiction?” [Nature]. “The definition of precision public health is sprawling and variable: for most researchers in the field it includes a sweep of data-driven techniques, such as sequencing pathogens to detect outbreaks and turbo-charging data collection to monitor harmful environmental exposures. It also encompasses an ambition to target interventions to specific people who need them. For Caitlin Allen, an epidemiologist at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, who organized a meeting on precision public health in October last year, the kernel of the idea is simple. “You’re doing all the things you normally do in public health, but the unique aspect is that we’re using big data and predictive analytics to be more targeted and tailored in these efforts,” she says. The concept promises to save money and lives by targeting interventions to the right people.” Ah. “The right people.” More: “The debate over the merits of precision public health has typically taken place in the pages of academic journals. But funders are putting hundreds of millions of dollars behind precision-public-health initiatives, and some researchers worry about the implications for conventional public health. Spending on public health is already sliding: although national health expenditure in the United States grew by 4.3% from 2008 to 2018, researchers found no change in public-health spending. [Sandro Galea, an epidemiologist and dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, Massachusetts] is concerned that the precision approach is diverting attention away from regular public health. ‘I worry that this is becoming the great sucking sound where we focus all our energy on technological approaches and we don’t focus on more foundational issues that will make a difference in the lives of millions,’ Galea says…. The core of public health, says David Taylor-Robinson, a health-equities scientist at the University of Liverpool, UK, is to improve the health of populations. The ‘precision’ in precision public health, notes Taylor-Robinson, refers to individuals, not populations. Improving the health of individuals is clinical medicine, not public health. In that sense, he says, ‘precision public health is an oxymoron.'” • Reminds me of “precision railroading”….

Groves of Academe

“Inside Mississippi’s only class on critical race theory” [Mississippi Today]. “‘I’m either gonna completely agree with this, or I’m gonna be able to say, ‘No, this class is terrible,” [Brittany Murphree] told her friends. ‘The best way to have an opinion about this class is literally to take it.’…. She found her other readings just as surprising. Lawmakers were wrong to call critical race theory “Marxist,” she learned, because the framework was actually a rejection of legal theories that had centered class and sidelined race.” No duh. More: “‘Why are they so fearful of people just theorizing and just thinking,’ she thought. ‘We’re not going to turn into, like, communists. Y’all chill out.'” • Not knowing what she said, she said it.

“America Is Facing a Great Talent Recession” [Bloomberg]. “The deeper problem is that the talent model that has served America so well, especially since World War II, is breaking down. Korn Ferry, a human resources consultancy, warns that “the United States faces one of the most alarming talent crunches of any country” in its 20-country study. The institutions, practices and mind-set that enabled the U.S. to create a workforce capable of powering the world’s biggest and most dynamic economy are threatened by decay, disarray and disruption. And that is happening while China, a rival hostile power that poses an even greater challenge than the USSR once did, pulls ahead of it in world-defining technology. Once galvanized to action by the USSR’s launch of Sputnik, the U.S. now witnesses the equivalent of the launch of a dozen Sputniks from Beijing every year, with no corresponding response. In that respect, the Covid pandemic provides both a timely warning and a spur: a warning of what happens to a historically rumbustious economy when workers become scarce, and a spur to fixing America’s long-term talent and labor-supply problems while there is still time…. The country needs to add a new strand to educational reform: not just giving a helping hand to the poor or average performers but also identifying and nurturing the superstars who will help the U.S. beat back the challenge from Xi Jinping’s China.” • Yeah, that’s the trouble: Too much of a helping hand to the poor….

Class Warfare

“Nurses Who Faced Lawsuits for Quitting Are Fighting Back” [Bloomberg]. “A couple of years ago, Novie Dale Carmen paid $20,000 to quit her nursing job. She was less than halfway to fulfilling the three-year commitment she’d made to Health Carousel LLC, the health-care staffing agency that had helped get her from the Philippines to a hospital in Muncy, a town about three hours northwest of Philadelphia…. She’s filed a proposed class action in Health Carousel’s home state of Ohio, accusing the company of human trafficking. Although “trafficking” evokes images of people brutally beaten or chained in captivity, the legal definition is much broader and includes trying to coerce someone to do something by threatening serious harm or abuse of the legal process. In June a U.S. district judge rejected Health Carousel’s motion to dismiss the case. At the end of last year, Carmen added claims of wage theft and racketeering, and two more plaintiffs…. Carmen’s lawsuit has started off humbly, but it could redefine the terms of one of the biggest trends reshaping U.S. health care: the replacement of burnt-out American caregivers with cheaper foreign workers who can’t simply quit. More than 1 in 6 U.S. health-care workers has quit their job since the start of the pandemic, and almost 1 in 3 front-line health-care workers has been thinking about leaving the profession, according to a 2021 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post. For the companies that bring people like Carmen to America, the Great Resignation has been a central talking point. Last year a staffing agency released a survey of U.S. nurses who said things like: ‘Every shift is the worst shift I’ve ever worked.’ More than 500,000 workers in health care and related fields quit in December alone, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and that number might have been significantly higher if not for the legions of employees contractually restricted from resigning. Americans have gotten used to calling health-care workers essential. If Carmen’s right, a lot of them could also be called captive.”

“Scientists deliberately gave people COVID — here’s what they learnt” [Nature]. “Volunteers received £4,565 (US$6,200) for their participation, which involved at least two weeks of quarantine in a high-level isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London.” • $6,200 seems low.

News of the Wired

The days are getting longer! Really!

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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: “Farm hoop house in Maine.” This may seem out of season,, but it’s not: You can be planning your garden right now!

* * *

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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

    re: Tech: “Twitter begins a global test of a new feature: a downvote button” [NBC].

    This is hilarious. Twitter is now little more than a digital back-in-the-day junior high and high school ‘slam book’ ? (People old enough know what I’m talking about.)

    1. Randy

      I’m pretty old, born in the fifties and I haven’t heard of a thing called a “slam book”. Could you educate me on what a “slam book” is?

      Edit: OK, did the DDG. Popular in the ’30’s, before my time. Basically a forerunner of FB.

  2. diptherio

    Lambert asked about leverage in the crypto-sphere yesterday. I did some digging, because I’ve definitely heard people talking about it, and yeah, there is definitely plenty of leverage in crypto “investing,” although I failed to find any good sources on exactly how much.

    Bitfinex is one of the bigger players in this space, so looking at their 100x leveraged product, it’s a perpetual contract. Essentially, an investor can put up 1/100th of the capital that they would want to on a trade to try to catch the upside, for example, on a particular token. If they put up $100 let’s say, and the given token went up 1%, they would make $100 on that trade so you double your money on a 1% move.
    You think about 100:1 leverage. I know you just put it into perspective but it’s truly an incredible amount of leverage. Even on the stodgiest financial products in the world, you can hardly imagine 100:1 leverage, let alone a place like crypto, so it’s almost hard to conceptualize this amount of leverage being offered, right?


    1. Grebo

      Sounds like spread betting in which you can bet as much as you like that a share price will go up (or down). You choose how much leverage you want. No shares are bought or sold. The bookie hedges by moving the spread.

  3. Carolinian

    Re Zucker defenestrated–thought he already was leaving due to crashing ratings and new ownership. As for Trump and Zucker being former NBC colleagues rather than enemies, you could say Zucker zealously continued the relationship on a “no such thing as bad publicity” basis. Maybe CNN can now offer the promised switch from opinion to straight news.

    1. griffen

      Something about the timing seems a little odd, fishy even. Reading a related article about the abrupt firing, it apparently was an open well known secret the couple were an item. I have no particular pony in this race to wager on, and barely if ever tune into CNN.

      As long as they keep Don Lemon on the channel ( ha ha ).

      1. Pat

        One of the new owners is determined to go back to hard news. There are some indications that Zucker was an impediment to that.
        Zucker not disclosing the relationship in a timely fashion is a clear contract violation. He could resign or be fired.

        OTOH there are many rumors that Zucker, and the girlfriend, were far more involved with the Cuomo Brothers then has even been disclosed so far. And what has come out already is pretty damning. If Chris continues the move to sue, it could get even dicier for Zucker and for Warner Media. Leaving now may be a way of not crashing and burning spectacularly and in a manner that costs so much he won’t be able to land on his feet. Lots of whispering…

        (Although personally any media company that would hire him after his record at NBC and CNN obviously has no interest in competence much less integrity.)

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          that would hire him after his record at NBC

          Yeah, but he only took NBC from 1st to 5th place. ABC, Fox, CBS, and Telemundo have millions of viewers. Its not like he was behind the second SEC stream channel.

          I just figure CNN was embracing being a joke when they hired him.

          1. clarky90

            I am sooooooo old, that I remember when Ted Turner and, his then wonderful, CNN would be covering this story 24/7……..

            Today, with Neo-CNN, it is crickets. shush,…..shush… be very very quiet! You might wake people up!

            Oh well, The January 6 Insurection is infinitely more interesting (indubitably more!). Oh, and Putin………

            Royal Canadian Mounted Police (The Mounties!) “negotiating” with truckers


            Tow Truck Companies Refuse to Remove Convoy Trucks – Freedom Convoy 2022


  4. Lee

    The World According To Sound: How Do Songbirds Sing Two Notes At Once? Science Friday

    “The syrinx is a complex and powerful voice-box. Unlike the larynx, it allows birds to do things like sing two different notes at the same time. That’s how some song birds can sing an ascending line and descending line simultaneously.

    Even with all the possibilities of their syrinx, some birds have adapted other ways to “sing.” The Ruffed Grouse, for instance, uses its wings. The Wilson’s Snipe makes a song with its wings and tail. The Palm Cockatoo holds a stick in its beak and bangs it on a tree. The Magnificent Frigatebird inflates its throat sacs and beats them with its long beak. The Sage Grouse makes its song with special chest sacs.”

  5. Boomheist

    Re: The election theft and growing reports this was a years long effort: The behavior norm has been that once the states vote for electors December 14 and certify, the actions of Congress and the Vice President January 6th are purely ceremonial. This has been the accepted norm since forever. Enfolded in this norm is the idea that any legal challenges need to be resolved by December 14th. It has also been the norm that the loser concedes, usually the next day. Within this or these norms a whole range of behaviors that move outside the norms are considered by many to be illegal, but in truth they have not yet been determined to be illegal by courts.

    Now we have a new behavior norm, which is two-fold: first the election loser refuses to concede, claiming without evidence there has been fraud, and, second, that the window of “fighting” the results has shifted in some minds beyond December 14th to January 6th. In that window, all efforts to change the outcome are fair, until Congress votes. In that window, the Vice President can refuse electors, or take in hand alternate electors. There is no case law that makes this illegal.

    Peter Navarro has said several times that everything they did was totally legal, and in the context of many of the actions taken not yet tested in court, he is correct. The argument will be that Trump’s people were merely availing themselves of every route to contest what they believed to be a crooked election. The only response will be, this was treason, or sedition, but this, too, is a political decision. Even the filing of alternate electors, which the MSM is crowing about as proof of crime, can be and will be claimed as merely a precautionary step in case the December 14 electors are somehow refused.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      I don’t know how new it is. I seem to remember the loser of the 2000 election not conceding and becoming president. I know it wasn’t quite the same claims of fraud, but there was ll the hanging chad nonsense. Maybe if Trump had been nicer to the Dems, he’d still be president.

      1. Pat

        Gore wasn’t inevitable AND is much less vindictive than the Clintons.

        Other than finding a way to give up the Presidency that made it look like Hillary It’s her Turn Clinton won, there was no way Trump could have been nice enough. And he had no interest in doing anything like that. Not to mention how bad the loss made the DNC regulars look, considering they were stupid enough to nominate her…

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The behavior norm has been that once the states vote for electors December 14 and certify, the actions of Congress and the Vice President January 6th are purely ceremonial. This has been the accepted norm since forever.

      This implies that the Democrats did not try to get electors to switch their votes in 2016. That’s not true.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The argument will be that Trump’s people were merely availing themselves of every route to contest what they believed to be a crooked election.

      As I keep saying, Republicans are more serious about their politics than Democrats.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The Democratic courtier class is just the kinds of kids who repeated what the professor said to brown nose. They often have a big safety net so they are never under scrutiny, but you just are seeing those kids under scrutiny. They are good at making sure to type “latinx”, but terrible at everything else.

      Uncompetitive elections for the most part lead to turds floating. You see it with the Terry McAuliffe election. All the money in the world and the minds behind Buttigieg lost to a guy who started his governorship with a snitch on your neighbor hotline.

  6. griffen

    Article about talent and the “Great Talent Recession”, I am reading this so you can choose not having to read the management speak about the supposed depths of despair.

    Here is one choice paragraph worth quoting verbatim. “Younger Americans are opting to not have children, whether because the cost of raising children is so prohibitive or because they are worried about climate change.” No it can’t be student debt, or co-operating with parents upon graduation to move back in. Certainly is not that.

    It does bring up the point about labor force participation. Corporate recruiters excluding talent because all boxes are not ticked off is another highlighted discussion item.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      As an old programmer, my biggest annoyance were the ads braying about “heads down development environment”, which I interpret, correctly I believe, to mean the employer wants obedient little slaves. Trying to explain that such an environment is the worst possible way to build a good product always fell on deaf ears.

      1. griffen

        I worked with an older programmer at my latest job, and she was a hoot to talk to. She always or typically referred to her bits of SQL coding as “chicken wire and duct tape.” She also introduced me to the phrase “goat rodeo”, when we were all working on a company merger in late 2019. And then 2020 didn’t really improve the rodeo experience (pandemic or not)! Goat rodeo was an incredibly accurate depiction.

        To your above point, I would contend there will exist a market for programmers who choose continuing to work precisely for that reason. But I would blame no one if the timing was good to just walk.

      2. anon

        I take head down environment to mean not too many distracting meetings, managers bothering you over bullshit, etc. It is great to be able to work that way at least part of the time.

  7. Louis Fyne

    anyone who has a diesel engine that needs DEF….IMO, no harm in getting a stockpile in the event of inflation and/or shortage later this year.

    Best Worst case scenario: you overpay for your stash just as prices go back down. Worst Worst case scenario: there is scarcity and/or inflation due to sanctions against Russia (and the West can’t make up the shortfall). No DEF, (modern) diesel engines don’t crank due to an emissions kill-switch in the ECM.

    Just saying.

    1. Lost in OR

      Thanks for the tip. I just happen to have a 100gal tank certified to hold DEF. I do know that this a cranky material and that you better know WTF you are doing.

      Doing the research now.

  8. Wukchumni

    Greetings from Beijing…

    Slipped in using tiplomatic immunity in that i’ve had all my shots, and i’m here to serve man.

    The Olympic motto is: “Citius, Altius, Fortius” but forget about getting Altius in the People’s Republic, as you’ll find no dispensaries, and your best bet would be to do a lot of interviews with snowboarders in determining which ones have a hollowed out board with high THC content and decent CBD numbers within.

    They can’t partake until after they’ve finished their event, which is definitely in your favor if they have a pack of fancy pre-rolleds awaiting their opening ceremony.

  9. Larry Carlson

    “The country needs to add a new strand to educational reform: not just giving a helping hand to the poor or average performers but also identifying and nurturing the superstars who will help the U.S. beat back the challenge from Xi Jinping’s China.”

    It is interesting that science and engineering in the United States and Western Europe no longer produces life-changing scientific discoveries at the pace it once did (there are attempts to quantify this by looking at dates when Nobel prize-winning research was conducted, by looking at technology’s contribution to GDP growth, etc.). I’ve seen multiple reasons advanced for this:
    1) Higher education has become bureaucratic and ossified, with a proliferation of administrators and career academics who have learned that the route to a tenured position is to quickly produce lots of research that has only incremental improvements over prior work.
    2) Higher education has become less meritocratic, with students chosen to advance equity or based on family wealth, coursework remorselessly dumbed down, grades inflated, and success in an academic career tied to professions of wokeness.
    3) All the low-hanging fruit is gone. Each round of discoveries and inventions mean that the bar has been raised for things that will meaningfully impact human life.
    4) The financialization of America’s private sector has reduced corporate interest in basic research and has attracted many talented individuals to the FIRE sector. Similarly, the end of the Cold War has reduced government interest in supporting basic research.

    All of these reasons seem to have at least some truth to them, so I’m skeptical that a simple strategy like the one initially quoted will make much of a difference.

    1. C.O.

      That and encouraging people who got their post-secondary training and research chops in other countries to move to the States isn’t working very well anymore. Brain draining other countries works until it doesn’t, as Canada is also rediscovering on a much smaller scale.

    2. The Rev Kev

      That’s a good list that. I would also add how research is done only when there are immediate profits to be made by the results at the cost to long term research that would have less immediate benefits. Fictionalization has also encouraged Big Pharma corporations to ignore research into drugs that actually cure people and more into drugs that alleviate conditions because it is more profitable that way. So right now there might be very little research into a sterilizing vaccine for the present pandemic because the present generation of vaccines are so profitable.

    3. Mo's Bike Shop

      In the 80s you could pursue a degree at a minimum wage.

      I worked that out for myself while riding a little too far to a summer job at a Wendy’s one time.

      I ended up at a wine and cheese shop with more than minimum wage and amazing and tasty dunnage.

    1. marym

      There was a twitter thread about this when the website was first started. It was also happening to people living at other types of multi-unit addresses. I don’t think I have the link, but as I recall people need to put in their unit number, and it has to match the format that the USPS has on file. People were reporting examples like “#3B” was rejected but “APT 3” was ok. The answer was to use the USPS Zip Code look-up to determine the format on file. I didn’t see a reference in your link to trying that approach.

    2. LaRuse

      I’ve been wondering how many people have gotten their tests. We ordered ours the first day the site opened at the USPS, and that’s been what, 3-4 weeks? No tests yet. We aren’t in flyover country – just 100 miles south of Washington, DC.

      1. petal

        I ordered mine that first day, and just received notice today via email that they should arrive Feb 7th. Am in northern NH. Family in western NY haven’t received theirs yet, either.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        We aren’t in flyover country – just 100 miles south of Washington, DC.

        To denizens of DC (congressional types), you might as well be dueling banjo country.

  10. NotTimothyGeithner

    “It’s an action that you say they have taken, but you have shown no evidence to confirm that. […] This is like – crisis actors? Really? This is like Alex Jones territory you’re getting into now.”

    Bleep me. This from a US reporter. Yikes. The skepticism of Biden must be strong.

  11. Ranger Rick

    Every talent shortage piece ends as a pitch for more indentured-servitude immigrant labor, without fail.

  12. shinola

    “America’s Strategic Schadenfreude Reserve…” (from the Bloomberg article about the FB stock decline). Now that’s a clever turn-of-a-phrase; I’ll have to remember that one.

    Re. the (Bloomberg again) article about the nurse suing over the terms of her employment contract. Isn’t that sort of thing the very basis of what used to be called “indentured servitude”? IIRC, in 5th or 6th grade history I was taught that was a bad thing…

  13. Seth Miller

    Re: Donald Trump Thought

    It’s actually pretty simple. Trump thought, and said, that his chance to “really” be president was stolen from him by Russiagate, which was “so unfair.” So in his mind stealing it back, which he knew damn well he was doing, was justified. Some people maintain that two wrongs don’t make a right, and that spite and vengefulness are bad things. Trump is not among them.

    1. djrichard

      I’m not sure Trump himself even really believes it. I I figure at first it was a boondoggle to see if they could get away with it. Then afterwards it became a way for people to signal that they were on team Trump. And I’m not even sure if they believe it. But as long as it annoys the dems, it’s good enough for them.

      No different than Russia, Russia, Russia had value for the dems.

      Does it matter if it’s real or not if it does the job it’s intended to do?

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > . I I figure at first it was a boondoggle to see if they could get away with it. Then afterwards it became a way for people to signal that they were on team Trump.

        RussiaGate was no boondoggle. The Steele Dossier was funded by the Clinton campaign through a cut-out, Perkins Coie, and laundered through the FISA court to get the FBI to spy on a Trump operative, Carter Page. Then Comey and Clapper showed Trump the dossier in January 2017 and promptly leaked it to Buzzfeed, which published it. In my view, Trump, being from New York Real Estate, knew when he was being shown a horse’s head in the bed, and worked through the implications in short order, which were — as we saw throughout his term — that he would encounter “massive resistance” from The Blob. Say what you will about Trump, his policy was not to go to war in either Ukraine or Syria, both of which The Blob desired at the time, and in the case of Ukraine, still desires. If Trump had been a more disciplined politician, or a wiser man, he would have gutted them (although granted, a professional services strike by the PMC made it hard for him to find good people). The pain would have been temporary and the screeching tremendous, but the long-term benefits would have been great, as we see from the current ridiculous and dangerous posturing in Ukraine.

        I don’t know if one would classify that extremely tangled series of events as a coup or not. What it does show is that The Blob, allied with/intermingled with/networked with the Democrat Party was acting as an autonomous entity to delegitimize an elected President.

        Apparently, they never considered there would be blowback (and to be fair, they never do). There was, and here we are.

  14. griffen

    The link to the Russell Brand clip is one for the books. He adds in enough a qualifier to his comments where it’s clear, he’s not judging or condemning Hills but stating known facts. Clearly after being in the public eye for what, 30 to 35 years we sorta have proof of who the Clintons really are.

    At the end he encourages the circulation of his clip, which I’ll probably do so. It clocks in at a solid 15 minutes, but worth the investment of your time.

    1. Wukchumni

      Loved, loved, loved… Hillary crying over spilt milk that had soured some 5 years ago, there’s big money if she were to get in a cry-off with Kyle Rittenhouse, and please make sure each contestant has a bucket underneath them so as to stop a potential flash flood from happening.

      1. Randy

        If there was a thing called poetic justice it would consist of Hillary and Donald in a single cell with an open shared toilet (no seat cover) for life. For however long one or the other lives. My money would be on Hillary outlasting Donald.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Clearly after being in the public eye for what, 30 to 35 years we sorta have proof of who the Clintons really are.

      The constant reinventions of her campaign in light of her high profile always portended doom for her, even with her preferred opponent.

    3. Librarian Guy

      Brand’s interesting. I think he can mostly be respected because he is consistent with his own beliefs & has real talent in communicating, with enough humility that despite the fact that his platform is based on being a celebrity, if you watch him I personally think he can’t be dismissed out of hand. (In this video, all the caveats that he’s not making “personal” judgments of HRC, it’s about the content of her actions over years.) . . . Of course, no one’s perfect and he does lack judgment in certain areas– he had Ben Shapiro, someone who’s just a troll-the-left guy (& racist and misogynist, who openly advocates for Bronze Age standards of sexual morality), and the interchange was “respectful” and not ugly, which I think only promotes Shapiro’s trolling among the less savvy part of Brand’s audience. That said, I’ll probably start watching Brand again more often, that was a really good piece of Media criticism for a mass audience who might not read Chomsky or Herman, and while discrediting the likes of the Clintons has to be shooting fish in a barrel for anyone whose reasonably sentient, the fact that he got to larger issues like Media “laundering” does show he’s thought it through, & is probably performing a valuable public service for many of his viewers on YTube.

      1. Aumua

        He is definitely pandering to the right these days, like some others who shall remain nameless. But I still get a strange impression that Russel has a secret attitude of infiltration and subversion when it comes to his right wing interactions. He may be pandering but I don’t think he’s actually drinking their cool-aid, unlike some others who shall remain nameless.

          1. Aumua

            It’s a good question, which I may not be able to answer that well. But I can say I have followed Russel Brand since 2014 or so, when he was doing the Trews, and I think I have seen enough to know that his basic sensibilities are pretty left of center. And especially since covid I’ve seen a major shift in his focus toward themes that are resonating more with the (libertarian) right these days: mainly anti-authoritarian, anti-government reaction about covid mitigation measures. I mean he was on Ben Shapiro’s show, who is one of the most ultra right commentators out there, and he’s also interviewed Jordan Peterson and not in any kind of adversarial way. Is that pandering? I don’t know. Maybe that’s not the best word, I’m not sure. Perhaps courting the right?

    4. clarky90

      I say to Hillary; “You are of, your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies………”

      Most of us have experienced betrayal, by someone we love. The narcissist sibling, partner, parent…..

      IMO, we (everybody!) are experiencing a simultaneous realization, that it was not only our ratbag husband/wife/partner who had been “two timing” us.

      But also, the politicians, media, scientists, movie stars…… They were not, “tied up at work”, or “compelled” to be away for the weekend for an important business conference.

      They were cheating on us! .. from the very beginning.

      lying, unfaithful bastards!

      1. anon y'mouse

        i say to the Hills—“get back the crypt, foul creature, whence you came!” and then i take out my Peter Cushing Approved cross (and stake, but i am not advocating violence. just that you’d better come packing with a killer like ANY Clintoon).

        when will this lady get the idea that NO ONE LIKES HER and no one wants her, and no one cares what she thinks? even better, when will the press learn these things and stop promoting every fart that comes out of the wrong orifice of this cthulu tentacle being?

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Never. Never Ever. That’s when.

          Anyway, millions of pink pussy hat clintanons still love her. So do her numerous gladios, embeds and left-behinds sprinkled around government, the DemParty, and the MSM.

      1. anon y'mouse

        also failed to “invest” in stonks or crypto.

        guess she just didn’t want to be rich, right?

  15. Arizona Slim

    Well, fellow NC-ers, today is the day. And what day would that be?

    It’s the day that my Facebook account goes up in a big puff of smoke!

    Thanks to an article that was linked from good ole NC, I learned how to delete that family blogging account. I hadn’t logged into the Borg since March 2018, but I’d never gotten around to doing the deletion. On January 5, I finally did.

    The Borg told me that the deletion would be official in 30 days. That’s today! Hooray!

    Thank you, NC, for news I did indeed use!

  16. KD

    The country needs to add a new strand to educational reform: not just giving a helping hand to the poor or average performers but also identifying and nurturing the superstars who will help the U.S. beat back the challenge from Xi Jinping’s China.” • Yeah, that’s the trouble: Too much of a helping hand to the poor….”

    Okay, I’ll take the bait. The federal government mandates that states provide special education to children who are disabled and performing below grade level. Some of this is federal matching, but nationally we pay a vast amount of money for special education, which is disproportionately geared toward poor performers. [. . . and the evidence does not show fantastic outcomes, so not exactly empirical confirmation of a blank slate.] You can add on free and reduced cost lunches which is income tested.

    On the other hand, many districts do not have gifted programs, many that do are abolishing those programs and there is zero federal money to promote gifted students, at the same time we are trying to abolish testing and AP classes and turn high school diplomas into participation trophies, so smart kids who’s parents can’t afford to put them in private schools stare at the walls and watch paint dry or turn to more socially undesirable behaviors when they aren’t getting mugged by their fellow students. They certainly are not challenged and forced to develop good habits that will serve them well in the future.

    The reality is that people have different talent levels. A metaphor would be iron ore. If you put all your capital into mining for iron in rocks that are low in ore, you would get a lower return on your investment than if you put the money into rocks high in ore. However, this would leave the lower quality rocks behind so it would crash into the egalitarian outcome politics.

    It is a political conundrum, because supposedly all people are the same, and LeBron James is the same as everyone else except that he worked harder at learning to dunk basketballs. . . except that everyone that is honest knows that is complete nonsense.

    1. ambrit

      I was one of those who benefitted from AP classes. However, I also built up a quite distorted view of how society worked, and my place in it.
      Then “full contact” student ‘integration’ happened. Kids from literally the worst neighborhood were bussed into our school. Hilarity ensued. I learned then to become sckeptical about the basic assumptions of meritocracy. I also learned to carry a short length of heavy chain in my briefcase for “self defense.” Technically, the “smart” kid in me saw it as my “flail.” Realistically, I was adapting.
      See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flail_(weapon)
      I learned hard lessons from that experience. One was that, even if a person understands another’s point of view and empathizes, he or she is usually punished individually for the failings of the generality.
      I have heard the downright evil situation in the public schools blamed primarily on the “Teach to the Test” strategy. The focus on STEM cirricula is rather a bit of a smokescreen. No amount of coaching and ‘teaching to the test’ will help if the student does not know how to think. Rote learning is for preprogrammed tasks. Problem solving takes thought, analysis, and synthesis.
      Rant off.

      1. newcatty

        My daughter would have been deprived of a challenging and effective education in elementary school, if not placed in gifted programs. The available schools were small and medium sized ones. Class sizes were always large and teachers taught to the lower performing kids. No fault of their own. 35 to 40 students. Often no aides. 1 My daughter has been considered “shy or quiet “. She would have been lost among so many kids. An A student, but bored often. I took the initiative and reached out to her classroom teacher starting in first grade. Then I talked to the school psychologist ( district ) . My daughter, bright and thoughtful, froze at the first evaluation. I insisted on a second “chance” to the testing. She blew their minds. Oh! She is gifted! She enjoyed the program’s classes. Thank Goodness that it was funded. BTW, the parochial schools had no special ed, so not a choice for her. She went on to AP classes in high school. Agree. Kids are individuals. All kids should have great public education. The move to not realize their needs is one of the travesties of the sell out of this country’s public education institutions.

        1. ambrit

          I have heard the refrain, “bored to tears by ‘regular’ classes” a few times when speaking with friends and acquaintances about their or their children’s experiences in school.
          The explosion in Administration positions in schools has been a constant source of wonder and anger to me. There is plenty of money to support adequately compensated PMC careers in ‘School Management,’ but a shortage of funds for actual teaching. My surmise is that public schools slowly morphed from places of primarily education into places of primarily social programming.
          Good to see that you actually cared about your child. We hope that she realizes this and fully appreciates it later in her life.
          Be safe!

        2. The Rev Kev

          I’m glad that your daughter got the education that she deserved and needed but the biggest travesty is the sheer waste of kid’s potential nowadays and not just in America. You may of heard of the Scottish economist Mark Blyth who works now at Brown University. He is upfront and says that without the educational opportunities that he had as a kid (now gone) that he would otherwise have been just some guy hanging around the streets of Dundee. If you have not seen him before mentioned on NC, here is a sample of him talking about Brexit, Trump and why things are the way they are-

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwK0jeJ8wxg (4:17 mins)

          1. Rolf

            I’ve followed Blyth for a couple of years now, read his Austerity book, but hadn’t seen this clip. Thank you for posting it! I’m always impressed by his skills at seat-of-the-pants synthesis —

    2. Ana in Sacramento

      I am one of those “special kids”. Disabled from birth, mobility issues, dyslexia and dyscalcula. I was excluded outright in elementary school and the first of “those kids” allowed into high school.

      I was also expelled from UCLA School of Law by the Dean of Students in person because “you might want something”. Um.. something like an education perhaps?

      I have a very high IQ and became a very successful attorney who did not graduate from UCLA.

      Don’t assume those of us who are different are too expensive to teach. The alternate is welfare level living at cost to tax payers rather than becoming tax payers.

      Ana in Sacramento

    3. eg

      In my experience “gifted” isn’t too terribly far from “cursed.” There be pathologies in them thar hills, many of them parental …

  17. flora

    an aside, apropos of nothing in particular: I like country people very much. I’ve always found country people to be both smart wrt the economics of the larger world’s financial forces and generous towards those who don’t see what they themselves see in economic terms. The ‘urban legends’ about country people are simply that – urban legends.

    1. Screwball

      Thanks from a country people (I think). Not sure what you consider country people, other than people who live in the country. :-)

      This strikes a nerve with me. I live in a small town (15,000) in NW Ohio. We are farm country. Our dirt is our life, and it’s good dirt too. I have lived around here for 65 years, some of which was out in the country – or the “sticks” as we are known to call it.

      I don’t know when exactly it started, or when I noticed it, but in the last few years the contempt for us country bumpkins has really caught my attention. Maybe it was Trump – and all those stupid hicks and dumb red necks from the country that voted for him. Which sits heavily in the craw of the PMC class. We, us country bumpkins, are just too stupid to vote for Hillary, or Joe, or ANYONE from team D – and they got Trump – so they hate us. Of course COVID didn’t help, because we, once again, are blamed because of all the stupid red neck anti-vaxxers live in the country. Everything seems to be our fault. But I digress…

      I agree with you – country people are fine people – and they are not dumb or stupid either. And like you say, need help, they will be there for you. Over the years I have watched people do so many special things to help each other – out here in the country. They are just different. They think different. They act different. They vote different. So what?

      I’m fine living here among the country people – actually I prefer them to the ones who turn their nose up at us stupid red neck hicks. When they call us names, I just laugh. Who grows your food, dude? Got milk? Got meat?

      Don’t piss off the country people. :-)

      1. Carolinian

        Hey it’s as old as H.L. Mencken or Tobacco Road. I leave off The Beverly Hillbillies which was a sly satire of city folk.

        My parents were farm people. I hear ya….

      2. rowlf

        I interact (and have interacted) with people from around the world. If you try to get into their heads and see what they see and respect them all is well and workable.

        Screw that up and they will put you in a big pot, shrink your head and stick a bone through your nose.

        Respect the natives where ever you find them if you want to work with them. Is your goal to make a team or a clique?

        1. JBird4049

          The PMC seem to have a poor opinion of: Country people, poor people, retail workers, those in the trades, socialist anything, conservative anything, anyone really who is not WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic), ostensibly liberal, and woke.

          This excludes just about everyone throughout history excepting a very small subset of humanity from the last fifty years. Interesting.

          If you ever take introductory cultural anthropology, you will learn that it started out as learned, upper class twits who wanted to preserve the memory of all these primitive, backward people before they disappeared. It got better with new researchers not quite as convinced of their own god given superiority; however, the attitude of the original, often colonial, researchers of the various European empires towards everyone else remind me of our current ascendant elites.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Can you say that the PMC are by definition an urban group? Doesn’t matter if they live in some place in rural Virginia where they commute from Their work and their aspirations all lie within an urban setting.

          2. rowlf

            I’m a mil brat like Pat Lang. He wrote a good paper: How to Work With Tribesmen Works in NYC, the Upper Peninsula, Texas, California, anywhere.

            Most people don’t think of themselves as tribal, but they can’t see themselves. Fish, water, etc.

            Sun Ra, please come and pick me up.

            1. JBird4049

              I’m thinking it’s more of a state of mind akin to cultists or maybe of a group of people living in a small isolated who don’t see how isolated they are. It is more the isolation of their mind than of physical isolation.

              Almost eight billion people, thousands of languages, religions, cultures, even forms of economies, plus email, snail mail, telephone, and whatever other kinds of long distance communication. Yet, I see them locked into seeing what they are expected to see and nothing else. Even the United States is in its fifth century of history just using the European colonies with fifty states, in many ways independent could, with their own unique, well everything; a vast, complex society is the United States, and yet too many insist on this extremely simple blue state, red state narrative.

              I think that someone like Senator Mitch McConnell and his people is just as provincial narrow as anyone else in the PMC; they all stupid by design, having gone to the right schools, sucked up to the right people, doing and saying only the correct things approved by their side. The PMC seems to be the Stepford Class. They can not see it because they don’t the experience needed to see, maybe because some people don’t want them to have that experience needed to see.

  18. marym

    Biden Withdrawing Student Debt Appeal After Outcry

    “The Biden administration is abruptly withdrawing its attempt to block a major court ruling that could protect student borrowers, according to a new statement provided to The Daily Poster. The announcement comes 48 hours after The Daily Poster broke the news that the administration had moved to appeal the ruling, which could help the poorest borrowers who are being bankrupted by education debt.

    Following the statement to The Daily Poster, Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal tweeted Friday morning: “We will withdraw the appeal in the Wolfson bankruptcy case & review how we handle future claims.”

    If the administration had won on appeal, it could have fortified a legal precedent precluding many borrowers from having their student loans reduced or eliminated through bankruptcy courts.”

  19. Val

    “Authentic, one of the Democratic Party’s more prominent firms,” is right next to Competent Hospital, and down the road from Critical Thinking University, where we learned all about the Free Market in Our Democracy.

    Let’s meet for dinner at a place called Mom’s, where we can discuss the “Great Talent Recession”.

    The very sincere handwringing of the falling behind/Great Talent Recession/Peasants Not Sciencing Fast Enough narrative…apparently coordinated with fast tracking of H.R. 4521 – Bioeconomy Research and Development Act of 2021 [America COMPETES Act of 2022].

    I suspect the core issue is that we no longer have any institutions that are even minimally fit for purpose.

  20. Swamp Yankee

    Re: emotional blackmail within academia. This is long, but bear with it, I pray you.

    In my experience in Haute Academe, which was mainly grad school (less applicable to my teaching life at a community college, which is far less cloistered) though also a bit of undergrad, though both are increasingly distant — my sense was that the Administrators were secondary to the dynamics of emotional blackmail and threats of social exclusion and ostracism. These, in the fashion of Gramscian hegemony, were well-established in the interior lives of many of the grad students, and some, but far from all at that time, sectors of the professoriate. The Administrators if anything had to keep up with these fast-running undercurrents of social intra-politics.

    This was all before the term Woke existed as such, or at least was in common knowledge (entered PhD school Autumn, 2007, finish coursework in 2010, begin writing dissertation in 2011, defend it in 2016, much teaching thrown in there). Yet its antecedent, what Mark Fisher called the Vampire Castle, was well and powerfully established.

    For instance, somewhere around 2010, a number of women in my department began to refer to themselves as the “Lady Historians.” For the most part, these were either members of, or aspirational to, the professional managerial class. They would have drinks and scarf-tying workshops (not kidding). All well and good, I’m a pluralist, do what you please so long as you’re not harming others.

    But aye, here’s the rub — around 2011, some of the Lady Historians turn into kinds of social enforcers. There is a voluntary, extracurricular “workshop” (not an actual workshop, says this child of the working class) at this time for American Historians, to have your papers read and feedback offered. Usually some kind of food is ordered. A fine idea.

    Well, the problem is that they choose to do it at Friday at 5 pm. So huge numbers of people cannot, practically speaking, make it. If you have kids or a second job or a spouse with a job or whatever it may be (lots of Jewish students kept seriously observant Shabbat, and didn’t do stuff after sunset on Friday), it is a hard time. So the numbers are low for that reason.

    Also they’re low for the reason that not everyone wants to do extra work (read and critique a paper, often on something you aren’t interested in) for no pay, esp. when we are being paid $14,000/year to already do huge amounts of teaching, course work, research, writing. Again, was one of the few working class people there.

    So, rather than address the real issues with the logistics, the doyenne/enforcer of the Lady Historians goes on Zuckopticon/Facebook, accusing the “Gentleman Historians” — her term — of not respecting the Lady Historians’ work.

    First of all, the Malcolm Tucker in me thinks, “Gentleman historians? What is this, a Jane effing Austen novel?”

    Secondly, people have the right to be left alone, to not have to do extra unpaid work to satisfy your sense of professional vanity. And this is when I observed that there is this authoritarian ethos to the Vampire’s Castle/Wokeismo, it is not enough that you let them do their thing, you also have to do it, too. Very Un-Sixties. I have also seen this in the MAGA Huns on their own topics du jour. So we have Inquisitors and Huns now, and little place for amity and friendly conversation, of disagreeing without being disagreeable. And who wins? Exclusively them! Not the vast majority who just want to live their lives and have a good sandwich.

    The imbroglio blew over, more or less, but it was the first warning, beyond a red flag, like a towering inferno, that High Academia wasn’t for me. Much prefer community college teaching, where people have real concerns beyond flattery (those of us without affluent parents did in grad school, of course).

    My friends in Haute Academe say it has gotten so much worse, likening our grad school days a decade ago to pre-1914, Wilhelmine Germany. Things are much worse now, and many are leaving the profession.

    Ironically, academia is among the most conformist and least intellectually curious fields I have encountered, especially in the last decade. Social media has ruined many people’s ability to think. But I do sense a rumbling of pushback, of exhaustion at constant performative symbolism, linguistic auto-policing, and zero material impact vs. doing actual scholarly work, research, writing, teaching.

    We shall see.

    1. anon y'mouse

      my mother-in-law was teaching Masters of Ed. students (future administrators—gahh!!!)as a semi-retirement job that she’d been conned into by a former colleague that had made the jump from teaching public k-12 to being some kind of professor.

      her experience appeared to be that they would hold out the offer of potential tenure or more permanent employment if she took on all kinds of extra work that professors used to have to do in the course of their jobs–chairing things, advisory on student theses, and a million other things. i personally think that she paid more in commuting gas and for “extras” for her students than she was paid, but it did keep her busy and with the all-essential stature of “college instructor” so that she wasn’t simply “former school teacher/acting principle, but now sitting on azz and doing a bit of gardening”.

      she was happy until i made the mistake of wondering why the tenured people weren’t doing all of that extra stuff themselves, and then she told me that they made sure that she worked constantly so that she couldn’t publish anything to get tenured, and that she realized that on some level they were using her and jollying her along pretending that she was their equal.

      she left that behind to become fully retired and said that those people were shameful disappointments who shirked out, behaved mercenarily self-interested and said they literally would steal the ideas of their pupils to write their own research. she was thoroughly disgusted, which surprised me since she worked in one of the state’s worse k-12 school districts full of people too demoralized by systemic issues to demand anything good for themselves or their students. the uni-professors sounded like something out of Pratchett’s Unseen University, with a bit less splattering perhaps.

      all news to me as a lumpenprole from people who barely got GEDs, lemme tell you.

      1. Swamp Yankee

        Yes, anon y’mouse, I was a scholarship kid, from quite humble circumstances, and it was as though I had moved to a foreign country, still one called “America,” but radically different than “America” as I knew it. It was also truly bizarre to hear people denounce the State of Michigan — which was hosting us, and I as a New Englander actually found quite congenial and relatively similar in world terms — who had never left the few square miles around Ann Arbor and the Detroit Airport.

        This was perhaps more extreme at my undergrad, where there were literal Vanderbilts (she was actually pretty nice, the CEO of Deutsche Bank’s daughter, not so much!).

        But yeah, I have been in jails, for reasons having to do with John Barleycorn (am doing better and no longer touch the stuff), and the people there were much nicer and more intelligent and more capable than the Academics I met — on the whole. I had a good cadre of close friends, but they were exceptions, not the rule.

        Probably something like the draftee Army.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          Swamp Yankee,

          I’ve felt for a while and also heard Thomas Chatterton Williams say that Wokeism is a toxic refinement of professional one-upmanship and backstabbing, especially prevalent in professions facing precarity and job loss… academia and media, tar pits of Wokeism, come immediately to mind.

          Does that ring true for you?

          1. Swamp Yankee

            Oh yes, absolutely! I think that very accurately gets the dynamics of the situation. You also have, it seems to me, less clear cut ways to posture regarding success (whatever that means) than you do, say, in finance or business, where you are able to measure monetary outcomes.

            To some extent that is possible in academia, in terms of tenure, awards, etc. BUT, academics pride themselves on being oh so much more evolved than all that, so require a system of moral, rather than material, [redacted] measuring.

            They’re very much reminiscent of Dickens’ character Mr. Bounderby, “the bully of humility.”

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Malcolm Tucker

      For those who came in late:

      Thanks for the portrait of academia. Woke-ism looks rather like doubling down….

      Adding, “scarf-tying workshops (not kidding)”? Really not kidding? Were there consultants?

      1. Swamp Yankee

        Thanks, Lambert!

        There was a senior faculty member, a woman, who was always very kind to me, for the record, who was known for her stylish scarves. She led the workshop. Not a joke!

        Nothing like this occurred in my community college experience, FWIW.

  21. Dr. John Carpenter

    Team USA winning might be bad news for Joe Biden, but it’s great news for John McCain!

  22. Pelham

    Plaudits for the AP reporter who held the State Dept. spokesman’s feet to the fire over his non-answer to a simple question. Absurdly, when pinned down, the spokesman insists his evidence-free non-answer is a “declassified” response!

    Lambert says they really do believe this stuff. I’m not quite so sure, but it certainly looks like it, as I judge from the growing look of contempt evident on the spokesman’s face. This video footage should be archived to illustrate — I don’t know exactly what, but by golly, it’s notable.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Lambert says they really do believe this stuff. I’m not quite so sure, but it certainly looks like it, as I judge from the growing look of contempt evident on the spokesman’s face.

      I would be happier if they were being Machiavellian.

      “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.” ― Frederich Schiller

  23. The Rev Kev

    “Russia and China proclaim ‘no limits’ partnership to stand up to U.S.”

    I am given to understand that historians digging through the archives of the US State Department from the Nixon era discovered a note that was supposed to be handed to each incoming President and SecState. It reads as follows-

    ‘Three simple rules to always follow so that we don’t get into a mess.
    1) Don’t invade Russia in winter time.
    2) Don’t get into a land war in Asia.
    3) And for god’s sake, never let Russia and China get together into a rock-solid alliance.’

    I guess that that paper got misfiled. Still, two out of three is not bad.

  24. rowlf

    I am surprised some Russian wags haven’t made a cheesy “Team America: World Police” Ukraine invasion video to make fun of the US efforts. There used to be a Lebanese video group making fun of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh being friends with Israel, but I can’t find a link anymore.

    I often think actual humor and satire is the only way to drive out of this mess.

  25. Mikel

    “Is precision public health the future — or a contradiction?” [Nature].
    “Reminds me of “precision railroading”….

    Very diplomatic of you. Allow me….
    It reminds me of precision culling.

  26. Pelham

    Re AP reporter Matt Lee’s exchange with the State Dept.’s Ned Price: It troubled me as I watched the video because I knew I’d seen Price’s face before, though I hadn’t had any occasion to. Now, finally, the mental gears have meshed: Zeppo Marx! Price is practically a double.

  27. Jessica

    About Twitter’s downfeed button. On my Twitter feed, it only shows up for a few percent of the tweets and only for tweets that say an MSNBC viewer or Maddow fan might dislike.
    So far it is a open invitation for mainstreamers to request censorship. They are not even trying to mask it by mixing in apolitical tweets.
    I hope that Panquake works.

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