2:00PM Water Cooler 3/18/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

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

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

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

Biden Adminstration

I’ve gotta take apart Biden’s ventilation policy when I get a chance. It’s pathetically weak:

“Adopt key strategies.” As opposed to what kind of strategies? Irrelevant strategies? Frivolous strategies? Wrong strategies? Lox strategies? Fiegl-Ding is far, far too kind:

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.

* * *


“The latest supply chain concern: Ballot paper” [Politico]. “Supply chain snags are making it harder for election officials to secure the raw materials they need to put on this year’s primaries: paper and envelopes. Local governments are placing orders months in advance for the supplies they need to print and mail ballots and other materials to make sure they don’t get caught without voting materials. The strain, caused by the same global issues holding up everything from garage doors to computer chips, is stretching already-thin election budgets and making long-term planning more challenging. So far, there hasn’t yet been a repeat of the situation in Texas, which had to limit the number of voter registration forms it gave to organizations ahead of the March primaries — but the 2022 midterms are just getting started, with a slew of statewide primaries approaching in May. Local officials are calling for more funding from Congress to make sure they can meet their needs, and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the ranking member of the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over voting issues, convened a roundtable on the ‘ballot paper supply shortage’ on Friday with vendors, election officials and others.'” • Lots of trees in Maine. I know we can’t print Bibles, but ballots? What’s next? Toilet paper? Go long bidets, I suppose…

“Democrats link Ukraine’s democracy struggle to one closer to home” [NBC News]. • “Our democracy.” Perceiving one’s self as cosmopolitan while in fact being a member of the most blinkered and provincial governing class in the world….

Democrats en Déshabillé

“At least NINE House Democrats test positive for COVID after party held maskless retreat in Philadelphia” [Daily Mail]. • Closed, close-contact, crowded, lots of talking, probably shouting and singing, no masks. What did they think was going to happen? The outcome they all worked so hard to create; that’s what happened. It’s hard not to suppress the tiniest twinge of schadenfreude. I wonder if there was a superspreader?

Hero Cop Saves Governor:

Please do personalize. It’s the best, indeed the only, way to analyze power relations between states:

Stephen King is a — well, a much-improved writer and a good man who’s done a lot for the state of Maine. So what turned his brain to mush? It’s tragic.


“The New York Times Suddenly Discovers Hunter Biden Laptop and Corruption Investigations Are Real” [Andrew McCarthy, National Review].

Next time President Biden speaks about . . . well, about anything really, remember that he knowingly lied to your face about the Hunter Biden laptop story — which the New York Times confirmed today, and which Joe Biden must have known was entirely true when it was first published in 2020 by the New York Post.

In 2020, Joe Biden responded to Donald Trump bringing up the Post‘s story by saying on live television:.

There are 50 former national intelligence folks who said that what he’s accusing me of is a Russian plant. Five former heads of the CIA, both parties, say what he’s saying is a bunch of garbage. Nobody believes it except his good friend Rudy Giuliani.

This was a lie. Joe Biden is Hunter Biden’s father. He must have known full well that the story wasn’t “a bunch of garbage.” He must have known full well that it wasn’t “a Russian plant.” He must have known full well that Rudy Giuliani wasn’t the only one who believed it. Hell, he knew full well that Hunter Biden himself hadn’t denied the account, and instead had said that the laptop “absolutely” may have been his.

And yet, when pressed, Biden said otherwise, because he assumed that the press and Silicon Valley would back him up in the lie. Which, of course, they did.

Lot of “must haves” there. Still, it’s hard to believe Hunter — dear Hunter — didn’t come clean with Dad before uttering that “absolutely,” isn’t it? And am I the only one who’s wondering what’s on that laptop, and whether any of it is in Ukrainian?

Our Famously Free Press

“What I’ve learned from Mike Allen and Mister Rogers” [Axios]. Logrolling in our time. The ending: “Fred Rogers had this cheesy if wonderful ritual he would encourage others to do: Close your eyes for one minute and picture all the people who helped you get where you are today.” • On the one hand, Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen are at the pinnacle of the Washington press corps. Mr. Rogers is not the first character to come to mind when considering that context. On the other hand, the sentiment is rather beautiful, and could be a good exercise. On the third hand, I think a sociologist like Bourdieu would get a lot of satisfaction from teasing out the class formation derived from that chronological list of influencers.

“The media’s reckless “no-fly zone” coverage” [Eric Boehlert, Press Run]. “The media inquiries are usually framed as President Joe Biden not doing enough to help Ukrainians; that he represents ‘restraint’ in the face of human suffering. After piling on Biden following the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Beltway media — echoing GOP talking points — seem anxious to put the White House on the defensive, again…. A subsequent CBS poll found that ‘Support for a no-fly zone … drops off considerably when people are asked if it meant U.S. forces might have to engage Russian aircraft, and be considered an act of war by Russia.’ U.S support for the move dropped from 59 percent to 38 percent, once people were given proper context. We don’t know how big the drop would be if CBS had specifically spelled out that a no-fly zone could lead to nuclear annihilation. The no-fly zone isn’t going to happen, and for valid reasons. The press needs to stop playing gotcha with the White House.” • So, the Beltway press is dumber and lazier than the average American? Since they have every opportunity to learn what an NFZ is, and have not? That’s the charitable interpretation.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Some GOP states seek new police units for election probes” [Associated Press]. “The efforts to establish law enforcement units dedicated to investigating election crimes come as Republican lawmakers and governors move to satisfy the millions of voters in their party who believe former President Donald Trump’s false claims that widespread voter fraud cost him reelection in 2020. In Florida, Republican lawmakers passed an election police bill pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate, who justified its need by citing unspecified cases of fraud. Similar legislation in Georgia would allow the state Bureau of Investigation to examine election fraud claims without invitations from other officials. Republicans say the special police powers are needed to restore confidence in elections and uncover instances of fraud. Democrats and voting rights groups say the new layer of law enforcement would be redundant, given that local and state authorities already identify and prosecute potential fraud cases, and could be leveraged for partisan purposes.” • Combine these with hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in pubilc, and you’d have a system where the police could actually detect any crimes. Anybody remember the old Maytag repairman ads (“the loneliest man in town”), a lifetime ago? Like that.


Case count by United States regions:

Fellow tapewatchers will note that “up like a rocket, down like a stick” phase is done with, and the case count is now leveling down. At a level that, a year ago, was considered a crisis, but we’re “over” Covid now, so I suppose not. I have added a Fauci Line.

NOTE I shall most certainly not be using the CDC’s new “Community Level” metric. Because CDC has combined a leading indicator (cases) with a lagging one (hospitalization) their new metric is a poor warning sign of a surge, and a poor way to assess personal risk. In addition, Covid is a disease you don’t want to get. Even if you are not hospitalized, you can suffer from Long Covid, vascular issues, and neurological issues. For these reasons, case counts — known to be underestimated, due to home test kits — deserve to stand alone as a number to be tracked, no matter how much the political operatives in CDC leadership would like to obfuscate it.

The official narrative is “Covid is Over.” In the fall, 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). That narrative was completely exploded. What a surprise! This time, it may be different. But who knows?

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

The MRWA is divided into two sections, North and South. Both have started rising, and now the rise has visibly affected this chart, which aggregates them. The aggregate of the enormous Omicron spike conceals change, but change there is. Of course, it’s a very small rise. Maybe this time the movie will end differently.

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.

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

Every so often I think of doing away with this chart. Then something like Nevada happens. Remember that these are rapid riser counties. A county that moves from red to green is not covid-free; the case count just isnt, well, rising rapidly.

The previous release:

NOT UPDATED The site is hosed. Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission from yesterday:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Farewell, sea of green! It’s curious how peripheral islands like Guam, the Northern Marianas, or the Virgin Islands keep having outbreaks. 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.)

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 996,072 994,739. Heading slowly downward. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

The excess deaths chart appears weekly, on Friday:

Look at the qualifications in that drop-down. And the ginormous typo, helpfully highlighted, has been there for weeks. CDC, if you’re reading this, please send a signal by getting this fixed. And then throw some documents over the transom. In complete confidentiality! Obviously, nobody at CDC is checking the excess deaths chart. One can only wonder why.

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest.

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Tech: “BIG sabotage: Famous npm package deletes files to protest Ukraine war” [Bleeping Computer]. “Select versions (10.1.1 and 10.1.2) of the massively popular ‘node-ipc’ package were caught containing malicious code that would overwrite or delete arbitrary files on a system for users based in Russia and Belarus. These versions are tracked under CVE-2022-23812. On March 8th, developer Brandon Nozaki Miller, aka RIAEvangelist released open source software packages called peacenotwar and oneday-test on both npm and GitHub. The packages appear to have been originally created by the developer as a means of peaceful protest, as they mainly add a ‘message of peace’ on the Desktop of any user installing the packages. ‘This code serves as a non-destructive example of why controlling your node modules is important,’ explains RIAEvangelist. ‘It also serves as a non-violent protest against Russia’s aggression that threatens the world right now.’ But, chaos unfolded when select npm versions of the famous ‘node-ipc’ library—also maintained by RIAEvangelist, were seen launching a destructive payload to delete all data by overwriting files of users installing the package. Interestingly, the malicious code, committed as early as March 7th by the dev, would read the system’s external IP address and only delete data by overwriting files for users based in Russia and Belarus.” • Well, so much for the open source ecosystem, as soon as other developers start following this developers lead on other issues. Once again, it turns out that American IP is pure power projection, nothing or less.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 35 Fear (previous close: 26 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 15 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 18 at 1:20pm. Hmm.


One game developer’s imagery over time:

Amazing to me that there’s this art form exising out there — to me — inaccessible, in a medium I know nothing of, on platforms I do not use, and to which there are significant barriers to entry. Millions enjoy and appreciate it; I know nothing of it. I don’t know if there’s ever been a cultural phenomenon like this. At some point it must emerge into politics, but how and when?

Photo Book

“Photography is not Objective, Art is a Set of Choices” [Aaron Hertzmann]. “Photography is not objective truth. Photography and painting both result from deliberate choices of depiction, and there is no dividing line between them. In two previous posts, I wrote about perspective and tonal choices in representational pictures, whether in photography or painting. These choices determine what a picture looks like, and, largely, how people interpret it. Even though photography arises from mechanically recording light, artistic and technical choices determine how recorded of light gets displayed. Different choices lead to different photographs or paintings, which give a viewer different perceptions, and none is objectively “correct.” These same kinds of choices are made in each, even though the process for making these choices are different. Pictures are like stories, told with light rather than words. Perception is interpretation, and visual art is a construction made for perception.” And: “It’s worth appreciating just how impossible it is to try to capture real visual experience with a photograph. For those of us with mostly-normal (corrected) vision, our two eyes receive light from a wide horizontal and visual field that doesn’t map onto a flat plane. Each eye sees a different part of the world, which our brains use to get a sense of shape. Different parts of the world are blurry or sharp as our eyes refocus. We can interpret light in a broad range of intensities, from dim nighttime indoors, to bright sunlight. At any instant, we perceive extremely fine details in one direction (the foveal direction), with much coarser information in peripheral vision. Projecting all this information onto a low-resolution, flat, static, planar array of pixels or pigments naturally throws most of the information away. It only captures one tiny slice of the light in the world. No conventional photograph or painting can capture the full richness of what we experience at any given instantaneous moment of real life. And this is to say nothing of directly conveying concepts or emotions visually. Hence, pictures cannot fully convey real experience. At most they can only represent aspects of it.” • So perhaps my very poor eyesight makes me a better photographer? (I just processed a photo where a sleeping cat ended up exactly on a Rule of Thirds node — and I hadn’t even seen the cat when I took the photo, even though I work from an iPad Pro, not a tiny viewfinder. Or perhaps my unconscious mind was helping me with the composition?)

The Gallery

“Magritte’s Prophetic Surrealism” [Boston Review]. “Studying Magritte’s life and work forces you to stop and notice. Contemporary U.S. life is surreal, but, at least to me, it doesn’t look like a Salvador Dalí painting or even the work of latter-day descendants such as David Lynch and Haruki Murakami. It looks like Magritte, with its weightless, endlessly reproduced photographs and logos that make everywhere feel like everywhere else (i.e., nowhere). It puzzles in the same placid, teasing way that Magritte puzzles; it seems utterly random and utterly repetitive, at once too obscure and too obvious, creating the illusion that everything will make sense if only you stay and puzzle a little longer. Contemporary U.S. life—like an apple in a café, like many of the figures in Magritte’s paintings, like Magritte himself—is hiding in plain sight….” • Well worth a read, if only to situate Magritte in your mind. Magritte’s painting is better than it looks?

But where are the dogs:

(I believe — time presses — from one of the Nabis.) How on earth did the painter compress space that way?

Good kitty:

Manet’s Olympia was in 1863….

News of the Wired

“Living with cholera”:

Take personal responsibility! Boil your water!

Turns out the Sumerian dog joke is NSFW, but can somebody clue me in on the cultural reference here? If indeed there is one?

Fascinating thread. I have lived in foreign countries for extended periods, and I always like not being able to understand people around me; it means their voices aren’t in my head. Reading this thread is like that, except apparently the language is MIllennial memage?

* * *

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. Via (SC):

Above: the plug trays.

Above: DIY humidity dome.

SC writes a lovely long report:

Spring is coming and I’m in the midst of starting things indoors. Space is at a premium and I’m relying on high density plug trays this year; will pot up to conventional 36-per-flat inserts later in March when it starts to get warm enough overnight to contemplate hardening off the starts. I apologize for the darkness of the first photo; my point and shoot mis-focused when the grow lights were on, and the flash is too dim for the wide angle shot, but it gives an idea. There are four 1020 watering flats pictured, two with 200-plug trays and one with mini-6-packs. There is a pathetic- looking tomato vine cutting barely hanging on in the 4th flat. The two upper trays are Thyme starts, about 4 and a half weeks old. The lower left tray is Dutch White Clover (seed pre-inoculated with species-appropriate Rhizobium). It’s a bit silly to start a broadcastable plant like Clover in growing medium, but doing this indoors presumably will give me bigger plants earlier which I can place among my veggie plantings. This setup is underneath my potting bench, which shades the trays from the south windows; there are two shop lights and two LED grow lights arranged to illuminate the trays. The shop lights are supported by concrete blocks and the LED lights are clipped to the potting bench top. The 3 flats with cells have about 400 plants in them. This is a compact way of getting a lot started in a small space, but at the cost of significant later effort to pot up into larger packs or pots.

The Thyme will mostly be given away; a local community garden will have a public “Scarborough Fair” event to distribute herbs to neighbors and volunteers; this will be the Thyme component. Thyme can serve as an edible ground cover and bees like it when in bloom. I have a good bit of “Mother of Thyme” creeping thyme already in the backyard nursery area; when treading on that, one gets the sensation of poking one’s head into an Italian kitchen.

The 2nd photo is of sunflower seeds germinating in a DIY mini humidity dome. These seeds have been in the dome less than 96 hours; I think they are germinating quite quickly. I find this method of germination helpful for conserving seed, growing medium and starter tray space, since it allows one to ensure that there is a viable plant in every starting cell. It has a significant time cost in that it adds repotting steps that would be avoided if one simply started the seeds in growing medium.

The elements of the mini-greenhouse are apparent: a sealable flat container with transparent or translucent lid, folded paper towel for water reservoir, and coffee filter for damp germination substrate.

I’ll let the emerging radicles on these get a bit longer before repotting. but not too much longer; I’ve been warned that this species does not like the disturbance of transplantation. (A couple of years ago, I lost hundreds of Echinacea purpurea when transplanting from a humidome to growing medium. The radicles all died. So from now on those are started in growing medium; it appears that after the roots are established, Echinacea can tolerate the handling of transplantation.) These sunflowers will go into growing medium in peat pots so that they can later be set in soil without root disturbance.

I hope this is useful. I am quite excited about this year’s gardening. I have 200 purple milkweed seeds cold treating and I hope to find a way to get them to consistently bloom in the first year so I can weed out the ones that have hybridized with Common MW. I think my back yard will be overrun with butterflies this year. If I can get a colony of genetically pure Purple MW established, and a way of evaluating new grown-from-seed plants, I could start distributing plants to local people who want to ‘curate’ this threatened species. Purple MW is kind of hard to find, and expensive when one does find it, so I think it will not be hard to recruit people to adopt these plants gratis.

These are dark times. That’s why we need grow lamps. I heartily encourage readers to consider gardening, even if not on SC’s scale — a seedling in a dixie cup on a windowsill will do — as an antidote. It’s always good to have a living entity about that’s driving relentlessly toward to the light. And here’s hoping on the butterflies!

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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. Donald

    On the subject of media propaganda ( kinda big these days) I dug this up

    Ben Hubbard told us about Russian propaganda in a NYT article a few days ago. One thing he mentioned was that Russia would falsely claim that Syrian activists were Al Qaeda. Now keep in mind that Al Nusra was Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch and read this NYT article from 2013.


    Summarizing, Ben Rhodes and other interventionists opposed Obama’s decision to label Al Nusra a terrorist group because they were effective in fighting Assad and the decision was unpopular with many Syrians ( the ones we were supporting).

    The NYT really does think its readers are idiots.

    1. digi_owl

      As the saying goes, one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.

      It has been true since at least the cold war, if not before. And it really do seem like the last decade or so have been the on ramp to another cold war.

    2. OnceWereVirologist


      Propaganda Chechen-style : They shoot the ever-loving hell out of a building in Mariupol but take the time to rescue a baby from the basement.

      Warning : No blood in this video but the channel has some unpleasant images, so don’t scroll up or down if that’s a problem.

      1. Andy

        It’s interesting that the background tune is a nasheed that the Islamist rebels in Syria often used in their videos. The allahu akbaring is also reminiscent of the Syrian rebels.

        I wonder if this is coincidence or if these choices were made to give these guys extra street cred among Muslims.

          1. Andy

            Uh, yeah I know that. It’s just that in the Syria conflict the dudes who set their videos to nasheeds and interspersed their speech with the Takbir were the Sunni Muslim “rebels” (including ISIS) that the Russians were fighting.

            In their propaganda videos ISIS and the Syrian “rebels” regularly denounced Russia as a land of apostates and infidels. That’s why I’m wondering if maybe the Chechens fighting alongside Russian forces in Ukraine styled their videos like this deliberately to appeal to Muslims who might expect observant Sunni Muslims to be fighting against Russia. A kind of reverse psychology if you will.

  2. Don Midwest

    If another wave of covid hits the US, might force the use of early treatment.

    A couple of doctors in Imperial county, CA, on border with Mexico and Arizona, in their book describe the treatment of 7,000 covid patients which if treated within the first 7 days, none went to the hospital.

    Their book.

    “Overcoming the COVID-19 Darkness: How Two Doctors Successfully Treated 7000 Patients Paperback – January 7, 2022”

    They now have treated 10,000 successfully.

    1. TBellT

      If another wave of covid hits the US, might force the use of early treatment.

      Why should this wave be any different than the ones that came before?

    2. fajensen

      If another wave of covid hits the US, might force the use of early treatment.

      I think that is the most important difference between USA and Denmark: People will go to the doctor early here, Americans try to “tough it out” (or save thousands of dollars in medical bills) and then when they finally get into the hospital there is just too little left for the doctors to work with.

  3. E.L.

    > At some point [videogames] must emerge into politics, but hw and when?

    There was the time an anonymous figure turned massive hordes of parents against loot boxes (a generic game mechanic) by accusing it of ‘addicting kids to gambling’ — the theory at the time was it was a gamer annoyed by the mechanic harnessing politics to emerge into games. There’s the old song and dance about violent videogames, not so useful to politicians now that they have nastier fodder to evoke anger and fear, but memorable. There was GameStop powering the beginning of reddit daytrading chaos, with an assist from people’s actual fondness for buying games (Although GameStop is pretty terrible, it’s accessible and nostalgic. We didn’t always buy games on the internet.) There’s bigtech’s competition to own the space — stadia, xbox, microsoft buying minecraft and bidding on activision-blizzard. facebook’s massive impact on casual gaming with farmville and the like. There’s Game Dev from a worker’s rights perspective, it being the most likely place for programmers to unionize in a meaningful way to combat some viciously bad working conditions and for-the-love-of-it pay and equally terrible job security. Not sure if any of these are what you’re thinking of when you say emerge into politics, especially if you aren’t even doing a shout-back to gamergate, but it’s certainly around.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      For what it’s worth, Missile Command from 1980 was intended as a commentary on the futility of nuclear war (sadly relevant again today.) I highly recommend the book “8-Bit Apocalypse: The Untold Story of Atari’s Missile Command” which goes into the creative process and the game creator’s thoughts.

      1. Screwball

        Thanks for this. Added to my reading list. I used to play that game for hours back in…Never mind. :-) I was fun though.

        1. Dr. John Carpenter

          Full disclosure, I love the game so much, I have a full sized machine in my kitchen. Still works great after all these years too!

        2. howard nyc

          Missile Command is my all-time favorite video game. I was a pinball kid, this grabbed me in college and I was pretty good. If I had a house instead of being an NYC apartment dweller, I’d have one in my kitchen too. Thank for the book title.

          1. lance ringquist

            when atari put missile command into their XE game system as a freebie, it should have been updated as a light gun game.

            1. Dr. John Carpenter

              Sega made a game for the Master System that is not only that exactly but it uses their 3d goggles as well! It did terrible because the system didn’t sell and it required the use of two extra accessories but it is a lot of fun.

      2. Andy

        Quite a contrast to the Call of Duty franchise which may as well have been designed by the CIA, the US military and MI6. Also, all of the evil masterminds in those games are…yup, you guessed it, Russians (and a few Arabs although they mostly play the “terrorists” the player is supposed to kill).

        In the original CoD: Modern Warfare game even the “good” Russians are portrayed as stinky (as in bad BO) ultimately untrustworthy thugs. The Russians, among other things, set off a nuclear holocaust and slaughter civilians ISIS style. One level is even set in Ukraine (Chernobyl).

        It’s pretty vile stuff but millions of young men played these games over the years and internalized the propaganda and shockingly crude ethnic/cultural stereotypes.

        1. Dr. John Carpenter

          Aside from the fact that the army did have its own similar game until recently, I’ve always been convinced the US military is some kind of “consultant” on the Call of Duty series, and probably others as well. They have a hand in Hollywood. You can’t tell me they’re ignoring video games.

    2. aj

      The gambling-esc nature of loot boxes and gatcha-type games is real, not some manufactured theory to piss off soccer moms. There’s a reason why Aristocrat Gaming owns a controlling stake in the makers of Raid: Shadow Legends. Regardless of if you find them fun or not, their core mechanics are essentially the same as a slot machine and their pay to win nature encourages people to spend money for a chance at a reward. Several thousands of dollars in some cases all from a crappy mobile game that noone would pay $60 for retail. In most countries gambling is illegal for minors, so preventing these companies from skirting around gambling laws is worth it.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > their core mechanics are essentially the same as a slot machine and their pay to win nature encourages people to spend money for a chance at a reward.

        Makes you wonder if these games laid the foundation for crypto

        1. Dr. John Carpemter

          Keep an eye on which companies that have been criticized for loot boxes and are now moving into nfts.

    3. Durans

      “Loot Boxes” aren’t just a generic game mechanic. While technically loot boxes can be any type of random rewards in a game, that is not what is generally referred to as a loot box. If the rewards can only be earned in game through game play most people don’t have a problem with them. They are referred to as gambling when they can be purchased for real money. In many of these they have the rewards separated into varying rarities, in which the most rare rewards are only given out at a fraction of one percent. To get even one of these extremely rare rewards you can throw hundreds to thousands of dollars at the game.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > To get even one of these extremely rare rewards you can throw hundreds to thousands of dollars at the game.

        That sounds uncomfortably like the real world.

        1. ambrit

          Um, I’m convinced that someones are trying to make “gaming” part of “the ‘real’ world.” How better to manipulate people than to contro0l how they interact with the surrounding “reality.” Call it a stealth version of the Wachowski brother’s “Matrix.” When both the Red Pill and the Blue Pill are virtual……

    4. Andrew Watts

      I don’t think the medium will ever emerge into politics outside of a young politician streaming her gameplay. It has already provided invaluable commentary on current affairs being an art form. Although the world of Fallout takes place in the aftermath of a nuclear war it clearly demonstrated the forces we see at work in our own society. The archaic role nostalgia would play in a declining world due to people yearning for a previous bygone golden age for instance.

      In Fallout New Vegas you meet a character rationalizing his crimes against humanity. In the course of his speech he provides a short explainer on Hegelian Dialectics and provides an indictment of modern America.

      “The [New California Republic] is a loose conglomerate of individuals looking out for themselves. It’s lost virtue. No one cares about the collective, the greater good.”

      The only thing I can add is that a society dedicated to individual hedonism is incapable of collective action which will solve any challenges it faces. The pandemic only reinforced this notion.

      (edited) Here it is… Caesar’s speech on Hegelian Dialectics

    5. Lambert Strether Post author

      > especially if you aren’t even doing a shout-back to gamergate

      Well, that one was about ethics in journalism, not really political at all…

      I should clarify my muddy thoughts on this: I think what I mean is gaming as a place, a field, where politics is practiced, either as in games built by candidates, or as candidates entering games as avatars. Do either of those ideas make sense?

    1. lambert strether

      I don’t see a four-pael design or similar pattern.

      Is this meta? A loss of a loss?

        1. Mimi

          I stared at the original for so long trying to understand how it represented “characters” … this link makes so much more sense, the quadrants of the comic strip with each character either standing or prone represented in each square….suddenly it makes sense!

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > the quadrants of the comic strip with each character either standing or prone represented in each square

            Almost like a miniature alphabet. I wonder if game designers use a similar sort of notation at very early stage narrative development

  4. PHLDenizen

    RE: node-ipc

    This has been a major PITA at work. Even with the software supply chain firewall we run in front of public NPM repositories, the latency between new releases being published and InfoSec identifying the packages as malicious or dumb presents a small window for this nonsense to end up in our build pipelines.

    NodeJS is especially awful. That community, in large part, is particularly teeming with “activist” neoliberals. Our leadership decided to publicly state we “support Ukraine”, which legitimizes this whole mess.

    Open source software becoming Twitter is going to kill it.

    1. digi_owl

      And the companies benefiting the most would not mind at all, expect they lose out on their ability to externalize all that cost.

      Frankly it has been a decade in the making, ever since companies figure out they could use certain social causes as the means for alienating the principled old guard of FOSS and thus take over control by proxy and code churn.

      What in part FOSS is going through right now is perhaps a variant of the old issue of differing interpretations of freedom (or liberty). Early on they could band together because they were up against a common foe, that was against any notion of freedom in computing. But now that foe has been largely defeated (or may be playing possum while it infiltrates one faction), and thus the differing factions have turned on each other.

    2. Glen

      No kidding, I’m running a rolling release distro at home and am pretty sure this must be on my machine.

      Makes one wonder just how deep the three letter agencies are in open source.

    3. hunkerdown

      They hope so!

      He claims to have been SWATted, but neoliberals are ambitious and mendacious so he’s probably just mugging for the cameras.

      Is there a programming language ecosystem that isn’t full of ambitious authoritarian followers, or did Contributor Covenants and HR practices drive them out of the industry entirely?

      1. PHLDenizen

        My heuristic is any language that requires you manage your own memory is pretty resilient against the Coraline Ada Ehmkes of the world: https://github.com/opal/opal/issues/941

        I’m indifferent to CoC’s until they become a cudgel for purging ideologically divergent contributors based on irrelevant tweets and whatever else. I see them hijacked left and right, weaponized in the same fashion neoliberalism hijacks identity politics — toward different ends, but the virtue signaling and obsession with symbol wars is identical. Neoliberalism uses identities to legitimize capitalism and neuter class based criticism. I still haven’t figured out what the GitHub activists actually want.

        Back to my original point, if knowing concepts like heap and stack allocation is important, then you generally run in the C and C++ world. And the social turmoil seems orders of magnitude less awful there.

        1. clarky90

          “Abraham Lincoln once asked an audience how many legs a dog has if you count the tail as a leg. When they answered ‘five,’ Lincoln told them that the answer was four. The fact that you called the tail a leg did not make it a leg.” – Thomas Sowell.

    4. BrianC - PDX

      Ok – I have been doing build systems for ~25 years.

      Why are your builders allowed access to the public internet? All npm modules you need should be cached on your own internal servers. You should be able to pull the internet connection to your build system and bulid everything. No excuses. For air gapped builders it’s even more strict. You download into a DMZ do your security vet and then physically transfer into your secure build environment.

      No product builder should ever be reaching outside of your corporate network. If builders are hitting anything outside your firewall, there is a big problem and it needs to be fixed. Yesterday.

      Also to be open source compliant you need to have physical copies of everything. You can’t point upstream to a provider and refer your customers to them. It may go away, and when your customer comes after you for the source, it’s gonna be bad for you if you can’t cough it up.

  5. Green

    Sumerian dog tweet – the image is a reference to “Loss”, a strip from the webcomic Ctrl-Alt-Del (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_(comic)). Upon its original release, it was widely mocked for the sudden bathetic introduction of miscarriage into a comic whose regular content was entirely unfunny jokes about video games. People soon began referencing the position of the characters in each panel of the strip, and it turned into a game of how oblique you could make the reference. So the symbol pictured is the ultimate expression of that.

  6. Screwball

    On the Hunter Laptop story. Couple of dumb questions:

    1) Why is this now treated as true because the NYT reported it? From a personal standpoint, I don’t believe anything the NYT says about war or the democrats. Not that I don’t believe this story, because I do, but it was reported long ago and anyone that claimed it was true, was a Russian agent or worse. What makes the Times the end all arbiter of truth?

    2) Why now?

      1. super extra

        could it possibly be Kamala to replace him though? or will a changed congressional makeup following the midterms change the replacement calculus?

        1. Michaell Ismoe

          Do you really think a Republican-led Congress will approve a Harris replacement once she graduates if their guy is one heartbeat away from the prize?

          See Supreme Court nominations for a clue.

      2. WhoaMolly

        Someone is moving to have Biden replaced and setting the groundwork

        That was my read on it too.

          1. jo6pac

            Nope nancy p. throws joe b. & harris under the wheels of the bus. Free ice cream for all that believe in nancy p. but not her vineyard.

        1. Pat

          The impeachment investigation follows the newly elected House of Representatives being sworn in next year in 5…4…3

          The real question is who has decided Biden must go sooner rather than later.

            1. Pat

              Who says Harris will be a factor in any decision after November?
              The lack of war boost and inflation says that Kevin and Mitch will probably be driving the car after January. They may not have enough of a majority to vote him out even with blue dog help, but the barrage may be enough to trigger a resignation for “health reasons”. And though a Harris pardon would be nice, the final decision will probably really be if he can be guaranteed to get through being bombarded day after day without the stress destroying the illusion he isn’t battling dementia.

              Look I don’t know why now. Maybe they game played it out like above, and/or they figured this was the time they could clean up their record and nobody will notice until they need to remind people they corrected the record. Or Hillary’s friends are sending out a warning to the Bidens to plan on being a one term President and get out of the way of the rightful office holder. We’ll have a better idea why as things play out over time.

          1. rowlf

            Alexander Vindman’s replacement? Is Biden riding the brakes on the neocon’s big Ukrainian adventure?

      1. Carolinian

        I got The Bidens (book talks about the laptop) out of the library. Never seems to be checked out. Shoulda called it The Laptop. Who wants to read about the Bidens?

          1. Martin Oline

            If Carolinian refers to The Bidens by Ben Schreckinger then I have read it. He is very careful to put the laptops into Rudy Giuliani fantasy land, saying he doesn’t trust Rudy so the claim is doubtful. This follows many pages of laying out the sale of influence by the Biden family for over 40 years. If you look at the authors past work and the publishing date (September 21, 2021 – eight months after Biden is sworn in) it is obvious that he writes this with his future career in mind.

      2. Dr. John Carpenter

        If it even enters the public mind at all. This feels to me like running a “corrections” note long after the fact and on an obscure page of the paper.

        Alternatively, this could be a preemptive bit of CYA for the NYT in case the guano really hits the fan in Ukraine and this does become a story again. They might not want to make it too obvious they were covering for the Bidens.

        1. WhoaMolly

          It’s called “limited hangout” in the psyops world. You know the guano is about to hit the fan so you release as little as possible. Preferably on a Friday pm.

          These people *really* know their business. “Joe Biden” is in power. And Not one of the State media outlets has retracted the lie.

          As Bill Clinton famously said, “Look ‘em in the eye, and deny, deny, deny.”

      1. Arizona Slim

        In my snarkier moments, I’ve been thinking that the US response has something to do with making the world safe for Hunter Biden’s laptop.

        1. ambrit

          More like making the world ‘safe’ for those who’s names are on Hunter Biden’s laptop. If the rumours that specific references to payoffs to Daddy Biden are true…..
          (I cannot recall the source now, but something about Daddy demanding a “piece of the action” from Sonny Jim comes to mind.)

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      Jen Psaki had some uncomfortable moments dealing with Hunter’s Ukrainian, Russian and Chinese business deals today.

      What was I doing watching a Jen Psaki news conference? I wanted to see what the Biden administration was saying about today’s meeting with Xi. Biden has not addressed it. Blinken has not addressed it. Sullivan has not addressed it. So it was left up to Psaki.

      I’d invite others to watch it. The first third is about the Xi meeting. Psaki has been left the task to tell Americans what happened on that call. Watch what she says and how she acts. Now compare it to the way American spokespersons usually act when talking about such things. Someone has been disciplined and is acting just a bit chastened. And it’s not just Jen Psaki.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Jen Psaki had some uncomfortable moments dealing with Hunter’s Ukrainian, Russian and Chinese business deals today.

        I’m watching the video. What shoddy decor.

    2. Tom Doak

      I was amazed to read this and had to read it twice:
      “There are 50 former national intelligence folks who said that what he’s accusing me of is a Russian plant. Five former heads of the CIA, both parties, say what he’s saying is a bunch of garbage. Nobody believes it except his good friend Rudy Giuliani.“
      That is a PERFECTLY SCULPTED denial because Joe B himself never denies the story at all. He relies on the Intelligence Services to lie on his behalf, and then quotes them. Even the last sentence was probably true, for Democrats’ definition of “nobody,” i.e. nobody important to us.
      But I agree 100% with the posters who have compared it to a Friday news dump. Might as well confirm it as a non-issue now that Republicans are fully behind the Ukraine operation and can’t possibly suggest that any previous dealings with Ukraine were nefarious. That would be downright unpatriotic! Even treasonous!

  7. Mark Gisleson

    “Millions enjoy and appreciate it; I know nothing of [online gaming]. I don’t know if there’s ever been a cultural phenomenon like this. At some point it must emerge into politics, but how and when?”

    Cultural phenomena are very difficult to incorporate into politics. Buzzwords, catchphrases and images can become dated very quickly, putting earlier ads (which live forever in oppo research) at risk of being subverted. Slang is constantly evolving and late night comedians are quick to use dated slang ironically. When I was growing up in the ’60s, once you heard slang on TV, it meant it was passé (no clue how that works now that slang originates online).

    The problem with gaming is which games? Gamers are big on trash talk and if you reference one game, other gamers may react adversely. It’s like Ford vs Chevy, it’s not a debate a smart politician wants any part of. And unlike Ford vs Chevy, the world of gamers is layered and even within a gaming community there is considerable diversity of thought.

    But the real bottom line is: how big is the audience? We saw this with Handmaid’s Tale red outfits at protests. Who were they speaking to? I’d say mostly themselves as the vast majority of voters had never seen the show. Politicians try to connect with voters and the second they make a visible effort to reach out to one group, other groups are made to feel ignored.

    There’s a reason why politicians learn to talk a lot without saying anything: it’s safer (and the time you spend talking isn’t time spent taking questions).

  8. North Star

    Apologies for another Not So Cold War comment. It was excruciatingly difficult to listen to Biden a few days ago rattle off the list of weaponry the US will be sending to Mr. Z, rather than, say, promote a peaceful solution. Truly a sports ‘Wow’ moment.

    It would be morbidly fascinating to be able to track in real time those weapon shipments in the attempt to get them to the Ukrainian forces, foreign volunteers, the 18-60 yo Ukrainian draftees, or those besieged Azov fighters in Mariupol.

  9. drumlin woodchuckles

    ” House Democrats” as in “Congressional Representatives” are probably too dumm to understand how covid spreads and how spreadable it is. And they are too naive and too invested in West Wing fantasies of a benign government which really truly cares about people to be able to believe that the CDC, WHO, etc. were working to advance the Global Overclass agenda of spreading covid everywhere and to everyone, including “House Democrats”, deliberately and on purpose.

    Mankind is making its Long Death March through the Valley Of Selection. Covid avoidance and covid repellence behavior may increase the chances of the people who practice it of avoiding death by covid, especially long-delayed slow-death by covid.

  10. Ignacio

    Today’s bird song is too Russian. Cirilic letters can be distinguished… some sanctions should apply against that bird.

    1. John

      And why not, as anything and everything has been, is being, or will be sanctioned. As time goes on and those targeted find ways to live with if not evade the effect of sanctions, sanctions, sanctions, they will become less and less effective. As the world divides into two economic blocs and as those blocs become increasingly separate, US sanctions will lose their meaning devolving into empty words for home consumption. Should the initial Saudi-China oil deal in Yuan expand, the separation will happen sooner. That will not be a good day for the USA and the dollar bloc.

    1. LawnDart

      He’s not alone in thinking that Russia would not invade Ukraine, but two of the factors that he mentions could have tipped the scales otherwise had they time to become more widely known and mentally processed.

      1. Ukraine was planning on offensive operations against Donbas in March. IIRC, some news began filtering out about a planned Ukrainian offensive (without specific timeframe) in late January.

      2. Ze’s atom bomb statement, made days before the invasion.

      The third factor he cites, the biolabs, doesn’t hold water for me, yet. But factor number one seems pretty obvious, at least in retrospect, and more than enough justification for a pre-emptive action by Russia.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Another factor might be that if the Donbass Republics fell, then the next thing you know you would have the Ukrainian Army with it’s western missiles lined up behind the Crimea to get ready for a future invasion plus neutralizing the Russian naval base there.

  11. Tom Stone

    Kamala Harris seems like an appropriate successor to Joe Biden.
    Amoral, totally corrupt, ambitious and not very bright.

    1. voteforno6

      I don’t know, I’m actually thankful that Biden is President right now, and not Trump (or Harris). Biden did actually follow through on withdrawing from Afghanistan, and by all accounts he’s resisting the calls to attempt to impose a No Fly Zone over Ukraine. Trump is such a weak coward that he would’ve been bullied into doing the opposite, and Harris just seems like she’ll do whatever she thinks is advantageous to her at that exact instant.

      1. JohnnyGL

        Politics is hard, sometimes the least bad option really is worth it….you know, if you’re goal is to avoid nuclear annihilation and all that.

      2. Jonathan Holland Becnel

        Trump wanted to withdrawal from Afghanistan. The deep state lied to him and obfuscated the truth.

        Ye gads. This invasion happened under Biden and the Neolib establishment in charge!!! Not Trump.

        Let’s not forget Pfizer held back the good vaccine news until Trump was out of office.

        Trump, the faux populist, BEATS Biden, the Oligarchs Pawn, EVERY DAY of the week.

        1. Dr. John Carpenter

          Let’s also not forget Biden’s role in the 2014 coup in Ukraine that got this whole ball rolling. That factor alone makes it hard for me to rest easier that he’s in charge.

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      That’s what you call maintaining continuity of leadership, Tom. It’s our specialty as a nation.

  12. Tom Stone

    I think that members of both Houses of Congress and the Executive staff in DC should set an example for the American People by refusing to wear masks on all occasions.
    After all, the Pandemic IS over, right?.

        1. Pat

          No no no. It is just a new form of access for them. Having the same “access” as regular Americans means the closure of the perk of an in house medical office at Congress and the very late realization that Walter Reade is not in the network of their ACA policies. So that means that like many others they need to find an in network doctor that is accepting new patients and then wait the four weeks for the first available appointment.

          They will really have a hard time understanding that they will need to call their insurance company before ER or ambulance calls and they may have to beg the ambulance to take them to the only hospital that takes their insurance. They have never had that problem before.

          But they have access they just have to find that narrow corridor everyone else needs to find. But they’ll have it a little easier despite really having the same insurance for the first time. They will just put pages on having to find them a doctor and get them an appointment…

  13. Librarian Guy

    What turned Stephen King’s brain to mush? I’m gonna guess past alcoholism? Drinking cleaning fluids may lead to long-term damage? . . . It calls to mind back in the 80s when Rolling Stone had a cover story about Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac being broke after Fleetwood Mac had made million$– How did that happen? I suppose snorting mountains of coke could’ve been a factor? . . . & not to be a moral scold about having fun, I still drink, I enjoy cannabis from time to time and must’ve tried cocaine about 3 x in my early 20s . . . not everyone can handle the line between substance use and abuse, obviously.

    1. lambert strether

      No, I don’t believe so. Kimg had a terrible auto accident, and afterwards became a much more interesting writer. About suffering they were never wrong, the old masters….

      1. Adam

        You must have been fortunate enough to avoid the Dark Tower books. I could come up with a very long list of sins that only arose post accident, but the worst is that in the middle of a 7 book fantasy series, King fully inserted both himself and the accident (and also made it that he was effectively the background savior of the series and therefore arguably every book he ever wrote because he made them into a metaverse).

        1. ambrit

          From what I remember reading, lo, these many years ago, King “wrote” the outlines of the Dark Tower series back when he was first getting started trying to be a “serious” writer. Sometimes, early starts at ‘creation’ have to be jettisoned in support of later, more polished works.

  14. Pelham

    Re Mister Rogers’ advice: Picturing who got you where you are today could be either gratitude-inspiring or hellishly infuriating — depending on where you are today.

  15. PKMKII

    If you want to get an appreciation for video games as art but aren’t so great at fiddling with joysticks and buttons, most video games have play-through videos on YouTube. No exactly the same as the tactile feedback experience, but it’s better than just screenshots.

    1. JohnnyGL

      A lot of today’s kids watch Minecraft and Roblox play-throughs at a rate that rivals the way kids in the 1960s-1990s watched sit-coms or talk shows or court dramas.

      1. PKMKII

        I’ve noticed those videos tend to be less about the play through and more about the YouTubers talking out a scenario or skit. Under that wide umbrella of parasocial YouTube.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > play-throughs

        There’s a word for it. Amazing.

        Adding, this would be a great trope/format for presenting a sequence of events in time because it would present decision points instead of mere points on a line.

        Is there software that would make such a thing easy to create? Like imagine a playthrough for Ukraine 2014 – 2021. That might be illuminating.

        1. eg

          And before there were “play-throughs” there were “walk-throughs” — written explanations of how to navigate a game or scenario in a game

  16. Pat

    And in black humor amusing but pointless news (as seen on local NYC news following reports of increasing Covid numbers and percentage of BA.2, and more Ukrainian war porn) apparently there is a backlash to the name and a movement to change the name of the new bridge, the Gov. Mario Cuomo Bridge, back to the name of the bridge it replaced, the Tappan Zee.

    Followed by commercials including one of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s follow ups to his “I was a victim of a political witch hunt“ ads the “As Governor I worked my hardest for you everyday!” ad which signals his run to return to the job.

    Everyday is some new version of Hades.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > one of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s follow ups to his “I was a victim of a political witch hunt“ ads the “As Governor I worked my hardest for you everyday!” ad

      Please tell me this is not really happening now. I hate this timeline and I wish the showrunners would fix it.

      1. ambrit

        Alas, the ‘showrunners,’ “the angels of our better nature,” have gone out on strike. We’re right now having to make do with the backups, the “demons of eternal night.”
        Stay safe. Keep the potassium iodide tablets handy.

  17. JohnnyGL

    “I have lived in foreign countries for extended periods, and I always like not being able to understand people around me; it means their voices aren’t in my head.”

    — I’ve got a bunch of Brazilian in-laws who mostly speak in Portuguese in my presence. There’s long periods where I tune them out, but there’s other times where I try to follow, but can only get every 4th or 5th word. I can usually say what the general subject matter is, but not what each person is saying specifically. I’ve found it forces me to tune in far more closely to non-verbal (or at least non-word) communication signals. People’s body language, expressions, reactions, etc. You can often pick up interesting bits from those and it’s easier to concentrate on them when relieved of having to pay attention to the words.

    1. John

      I particularly like the musical quality of a language as undifferentiated sound. Same for visual graphics,especially with non Roman alphabets.
      Trashy garbage advertising or mundane communication can become wonderful abstract pattern.
      India and east Asia are great for this.

      1. Hepativore

        Serbian is a nice language to listen to, even if I could only understand bits and pieces of what my grandparents said as they spoke Serbian among each other even if they spoke English very well. The cadence is quite difference from Russian, and while it tends to involve a lot of gutteral consanants, the many vowels such as the “a” sounds balance it out nicely.

        I could never pick up on the Cyrillic alphabet, although from what my grandparents said, most serbs actually prefer to use the Roman alphabet in daily life, even if the Cyrillic alphabet is the “official” one for government buisiness, and there are frequent talks about switching to the Roman alphabet entirely at the government level, simply to make Serbian easier to learn as well as not having to have two seperate alphabets.

        My grandparents agreed with this sentiment, as while they saw Serbian langugage as an important part of their culture, they felt that the symbols you used to represent the sounds did not matter nearly as much and would help preserve it in the long run from an international standpoint if the Roman alphabet was adopted entirely.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        The term (which I only recently learned) is prosody.

        There is a lot of interest now in teaching languages via prosody rather than words and grammar. The theory is that by ingraining the prosody into our language learning brains it will greatly improve the learners ability to ‘hear’ the language as naturally spoken. The brain will take care of working out the words and grammar over time, once it has enough data to form a framework for understanding. The linguist Stephen Krashen has done a lifetimes research on how our brains acquire (as opposed to ‘learn’) languages.

        It often surprised me how powerful this effect can be. I’ve an Irish friend who worked for 2 years as a barman in Tokyo. He made no attempt to learn Japanese and can’t speak a word, but he regularly surprises Japanese people when he can tell them with reasonable accuracy what they were talking about in front of him. He told me he just has a ‘feel’ for what they are saying, without knowing any words.

  18. Pat

    And in another atrocity, the flagship NYC PBS station, WNET, has scheduled “Zelensky: The Man Who Took on Putin” tonight. Supposedly a half hour documentary.

    The assault on reason and truth continues unabated. Although I suppose it is likely they have a few accurate things, probably his date of birth, marital status and entertainment resume. I suppose I should watch to see if they have his documented status as a money laundering tax evader, although the hyperbole in the title makes that highly unlikely.

      1. Pat

        Even some mindless mystery would be a far better use of my time. But I will aim higher, I have an assignment!

        1. Martin Oline

          “I have an assignment!” That’s funny and reminds me of when I owned a book store. An old teacher of mine came in to sell me some of his books. After I paid him he assigned me to read them. I later mentioned this incident to his daughter and son-in-law and they laughed, saying that’s what he always did.

    1. flora

      When PBS shows have the same effect on me now as listening to Robert McNamara (Johnson admin) and later Kissinger (Nixon admin) talk about winning in Vietnam back then … someone or has jumped the shark. (Hope it’s not me. / heh )

      1. ambrit

        I’ll modify what you said just a little bit and say that when a “news outlet” has the effect on one of listening to McNamara or Kissinger about ‘Victory in Vietnam,’ I’d say that they haven’t “jumped the shark,” but that they have become the shark.
        I basically gave up on PBS after the effects of Mz Kroc’s bequest became obvious.
        I still have fond memories of watching the MacNeil Lehrer News Hour back when the World was young and Mammoths roamed the plains.

    2. britzklieg

      I hope PBS will include this part, about his buddies: https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/mappingmilitants/profiles/azov-battalion#highlight_text_33841

      In 2019, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission granted the National Militia permission to officially monitor the presidential election. Although the c specified the group was not permitted to use force, members openly stated they were willing to take matters into their own hands to stop election fraud.[51] Members of the Azov Battalion, the National Corps, and the National Militia appear to flow between the three branches.[52] Since the creation of all three groups – the Azov Battalion, the National Corps, and the National Militia – collectively they are often referred to as the “Azov Movement”.

      In February 2022, the group came to prominence again during the Russian military build-up on the border with Ukraine. When Vladimir Putin announced the invasion of Ukraine, calling it a “special military operation… to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine”, the Azov Battalion was thought to be one of the organizations he referred to.[53] In response to the Russian invasion though, far right militia leaders across Europe are posting declarations to join the fight against Russia.[54] Members of the Azov Battalion see the invasion as an opportunity to raise their profile, and gain increased political influence.[55] Olena Semenyaka, spokeswoman for Azov, referenced Azov’s role in Ukraine as an opportunity to play a bigger role in Ukraine’s future politics.[56

        1. ambrit

          As you like to say; “them” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence.
          Ambiguity, Man’s Friend!

    3. JM

      Just watched this, it was what you’d expect. I was a little surprised they even mentioned in passing that he talked about attempting a peace process for Donbass. No mention of the backing he’s received, the internal politics, what happened in 2014, etc. Not as over the top a hagiography as I expected but still it was one.

  19. flora

    Cholera? I remember back when the US had a public health department that aimed for Public Health.

    an aside:

    The Vindication of D.A. Henderson

    “We should remember the man who called out this crazed ideology back in 2006. He is Donald A. Henderson, the world’s most important epidemiologist at the time. He had worked with the World Health Organization and is given primary credit for the eradication of smallpox. His book on the topic is a tour de force and a model of how a genuine public health official goes about his work. ”


    1. IM Doc


      My father, a public health officer himself, was in the same generation as Dr. Henderson, and this piece took me back to many aspects of my childhood, listening to my father collaborate with genuine public health officials.

      My father has now gone on, just like Dr. Henderson. But I really wonder at times what those two and so many others would say right now. I can guarantee you they would not be very happy.

      Thank you for sharing this piece. The enclosed pdf at the end from 2006 is pretty much an encapsulation of what has been taught for generations regarding strategies in a respiratory viral pandemic. It is like the accumulated wisdom of centuries was just thrown out the window. And to our eternal shame, my profession just zipped their mouths as the few “heretics” out and around were burned at the stake. The day of reckoning will come soon enough.

      I have had the feeling since the beginning that no one with any knowledge, wisdom, or experience was in charge – or even in the conference room seated at the table. Our national response reminds me of young interns I have attended to in my life – all kinds of ideas to throw at the wall in a critical situation, but no ability to learn from mistakes. And absolutely no ability to change course suddenly when conditions change. And certainly no one in charge to exhibit wisdom and to be the calm in the storm.

      The most profoundly disturbing was the fact that anyone and everyone who just slightly deviated from the accepted narrative was tarnished, censored, bullied and threatened with their livelihood. WHETHER YOU AGREE WITH WHAT THEY ARE SAYING OR NOT, THE BEAUTY OF THIS COUNTRY IS WE ARE ALL FREE TO EXPRESS OUR OPINIONS. But that is not what happened. Painfully enough we have documentary evidence from Fauci and Collins of the plans to undermine anyone and everyone in their way. And God only knows what is in the redacted part. The word “redacted” alone is scary in this situation. That word should be used only in national security. Allowing redactions in public health is anathema to everything medicine should be standing for. The years that Fauci has been in charge will one day be remembered as some of the least edifying in my profession’s history – both now and during AIDS.

      And just like days past, in the fullness of time, these actions taken will be revealed, and instead of detestable heretics, many of these silenced people will be remembered as heroes.

      The invocation in the piece of Poe’s Masque of the Red Death was very sentimental for me – as this exact story was presented to me as a young medical student decades ago in Public Health 101 by an 82 year old professor. I will never forget his admonition in a very heavy German accent – “Always remember students, just like the prince in the castle, we think we can hide, but the contagion and more importantly the truth will always find us – and it will often find us right in the middle of our victory party.”

      1. skippy

        IM Doc …

        Back in the early days of this blog a study on how taking an orthodox economics class had a significant effect on students minds wrt altruism negatively. Whack on everyone being told that getting a MBA was how one makes the big monies as a young gun and teaches you how the real world works[tm] and then they tell the people that have actual scientific knowledge and life experience to back it all up what too do and better yet fill out this form so they can evaluate ones productivity and efficiency.

        Hence why its said around here that Jackpot is here but its not evenly distributed.

        I saw the writing on the wall in the early 80s and have been back peddling since.

      2. seenopandemichearnopandemic

        Hi IM Doc,

        Thanks so much for your insightful and real-life contributions here.

        To clarify : are you saying that lockdowns (a la China) are not the solution ?

        Also, this is a not a religion : if the words of ancient wisdom no longer apply (8 billion people, amount of travel and contact), what’s wrong with throwing them out the window and finding new rules (like complete shutdowns) ?

        1. Yves Smith

          I don’t see how you begin to get that from what IM Doc said. He is talking only about the dereliction of duty in the US.

          And smallpox is not comparable to coronavirus. Vaccine-induced immunity prevents contagion, lasts longer, and gets better upon revaccination, while Covid boosters produce much less durable immunity than the original shots.

          1. seenopandemichearnopandemic

            Hi Yves,

            I apologize if I am mis-reading IM Doc, but he says (emph. mine) :

            “The enclosed pdf at the end from 2006 is pretty much an encapsulation of what has been taught for generations regarding strategies in a respiratory viral pandemic. It is like the accumulated wisdom of centuries was just thrown out the window.”

            Now if you read the pdf (about influenza, not smallpox), it states many things which do not simpy apply to our current pandemic :

            -“There are no historical observations or scientific studies that support the confinement by quarantine of groups of possibly infected people for extended periods in order to slow the spread of influenza.”

            -“The authors have concluded in a previous analysis 47 that screening individuals on domestic interstate flights for symptoms of flu, as has been proposed in revisions to the Federal Quarantine Rule (42 CFR Parts 70 and 71), 48 would not be effective and would have serious adverse consequences.”

            -“During seasonal influenza epidemics, public events with an expected large attendance have sometimes been cancelled or postponed, the rationale being to decrease the number of contacts with those who might be contagious. There are, however, no certain indications that these actions have had any definitive effect on the severity or duration of an epidemic.”

            And so on. In fact, the entire article is quite *opposite* to what should be done for this current pandemic (see, e.g., user GM’s *incredible* insightful writings).

            So I’m just confused about IM Doc’s strong recommendation of that article – especially as it is anti-thetical to our current situation.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Brownstone Institute

      From their About Page:

      … The mission of the Brownstone Institute – which is, in many ways, the spiritual child of the Great Barrington Declaration….”

      The Brownstone Institute is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded May 2021. Its vision is of a society that places the highest value on the voluntary interaction of individuals and groups while minimizing the use of violence and force including that which is exercised by public or private authorities. This vision is that of the Enlightenment which elevated learning, science, progress, and universal rights to the forefront of public life. It is constantly threatened by ideologies and systems that would take the world back to before the triumph of the ideal of freedom.

      “Freedom” is libertarian for “f*ck you.” The article may or may not represent Henderson’s views, and the history of lockdowns, accurately. Or it may be that they’re simply trying to hijack Henderson for their own purposes, not unknown with this crowd.

      1. Skippy

        Imagine buying the past of others to burnish your ideological brand image post facto and providing a ethical stance pose for the media because now – you – own it and granted all its rights by law[tm].

        Sorta like that Mormon thingy with dead people that was talked about here at NC, upon a time, retro active baptism, after setting up Ancestry to glean the information to facilitate non voluntary religious rituals.

        Don’t know about you mate but I have this nuts 60k straight back long coat German Shepard and half size Belgian Malinois cross runt to keep me level, then again my work mate recovering Rothbardian/ A.Jones Canadian of Ukrainian descent is a pickle too … said the other day in jest he always wanted to be in the most victimized group on the planet …

  20. Raymond Sim

    The SCAN Bay Area wastewater monitoring data was updated to 3/15 or 3/16 for most municipalities when I checked a few minutes ago:


    It appears to me that the BA.2 takeover is on track to show up as rising cases (assuming anybody’s counting cases anymore) for the whole Bay Area starting next week. Sacramento and Davis are currently a little ways behind the towns from the bay counties.

    The San Francisco representative in the project, “Oceanside”, displayed anomalous data recently, leaving a long brown skidmark of a confidence interval to mark their shame. They’re also the fastest riser. The fastest rising towns have exhibited sudden, improbable declines a couple times in the past, but nobody ever came so close to just zeroing it out.

  21. Art_DogCT

    What wonderful plantidoting! I got a nostalgia.

    In The Far Ago & Long Away I was a seed germination geek. I don’t recall exactly, but somewhere along the line in the various hort specialty groups I was in c. 1993-1994 I learned of the work Seed Germination Theory and Practice by Professor Norman C. Deno, PhD Chem. Back then, you had to write a letter to order the book directly from Dr. Deno, and include check or money order. Self-published, a pure labor of love, and I think he sold it at cost or barely above it. Truly remarkable contribution. I consulted it constantly. I believe my copies (2nd Ed, 1993, and First Supplement, 1996) are around here somewhere still.

    SGT&P is written as much for the casual gardener as a pro horticulturist or botanist, very useful for anyone who had basic biology in high school, an undergrad botany credit, or best of all, gardened/farmed growing up. The good Doctor presents his methods and results with rigor, such that anyone could seek to replicate his results. His method is as inexpensive as it could possibly be, save the cost of the seed varieties you want to play with. It begs to be implemented in citizen science projects for very nearly all ages.

    Norman C. Deno was an American chemist and plant scientist. He was a professor of Chemistry at Penn State University and is known as one of the foremost researchers in seed germination theory. He researched the biochemical reactions that underlie the germination of all seeds and self-published a number of books that combined his scientific results. (Wikipedia)

    I found it available on scribd


    1. Samuel Conner

      Thank you both! I will consult these.

      Mostly by luck, I think, the first tray of outdoor-cold-treated milkweeds has 26 of 29 seeds sown germinated in the past week, and 23 of these have successfully shucked off their seed coats. The 2nd tray, with 72 seeds, came indoors yesterday for warming to accelerate germination. This tray is of saved seeds — I’m anxious to see if these will produce plants with evidence of hybrid parentage. The “mother” plant was probably a true Purple MW, but I don’t know where the pollen came from — MWs are reputed to not self-pollinate readily, but there weren’t other blossoms in my yard when that seed pod set.

      1. upstater

        NC commentariat is the best…

        I’ve had reasonable luck with butterfly weed, but hadn’t tried the cold stratification. Last fall we had quite a bit of clearing dead ash. We have a lot of disturbed ground where we planned to seed plenty of milkweed and butterfly weed. We have a shopping bag of pods of each. Knowing about the cold stratification will boost our success. Thanks for the comment.

        We also planted buckets of black walnuts and a lot of acorns and hickory nuts to begin reforestation.

      1. Art_DogCT

        Thank you! I did not dive deep enough.

        In a great many welcome ways, USDA remains semi-functional. I’m involved in organizing a food co-op in an area the USDA considers ‘rural’. There’s a lot on offer in the way of rural economic development information and support, include grant and loan programs unavailable to communities deemed disqualifyingly suburban/urban. If your rural location also meets certain levels of poverty, hunger, lack of housing, and other demographic markers, yet other programs are available. There are seemingly 6 bazillion different programs under a hydra-like proliferation of sub-agencies and sub-sub-agencies. In the last few years the Feds instituted a common portal for all non-defense grant applications across all Departments. War and its classified attendants gets its own special portal, suitably vetted I’m sure, if you want to dine at the DoD trough. It’s not the worst government interface I’ve ever dealt with, but finding what you need can be time consuming and frustrating. Helping give rise to professional grant writing as a PMC job creation scheme.

  22. Michael Ismoe

    “The latest supply chain concern: Ballot paper”

    You are so old fashioned. Who needs ballot paper – the party will tell you who you are allowed to vote for


    When they say they are trying to save “our democracy” they don’t mean “your” democracy.

  23. The Rev Kev

    “BIG sabotage: Famous npm package deletes files to protest Ukraine war”

    That developer – Brandon Nozaki Miller – probably thought that he was being a hero by using open-source architecture to launch a war protest and discovered too late what happens when you abuse trust in that his package was used to launch malicious code to anybody living in Russia or Belarus. The open-source community was rightly unhappy with this abuse and Brandon tried to cover his tracks but that did not work either. It does not matter what field of human activity that you are talking about when you abuse trust, that is when turns to crap for everybody. And I am pretty sure that this Brandon guy will never be allowed to forget what he did by others in his community.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Strange that. Why would they not have a backup of that data? As well as another copy off-site?

  24. Amfortas the hippie

    lovely narrative about your hothouse setup.

    i’m much more ad hoc with my seeds…save a bunch: plant a bunch.
    get about 30-50% germination….much more than i can use, but limited pots.
    practically all of my so far unused pots are currently filled with city mulch and awaiting the prolly 500 rooted cuttings of blackberry vines soaking in metal trashcans. what i don’t have pots enough for will go along the north fence of the back pasture. finally have enough black pipe to water the fencerow, at least.
    i’ll sell most of them, give away the rest.
    3 plants turns into 500 plants.

  25. Lunker Walleye

    Vallatton Poker Game

    After looking at this lovely brown and ochre painting for awhile I found some interesting features. There’s clearly more than one perspective — with the table tipping towards us and separate perspective at the card table. The first emphasis is on the table and the lamp in the foreground with the card players secondary. The table is quite large and the reflective metal with illuminated lamp shade is painted with a couple walking along a line of planted trees. There are two women at the table and the likenesses of the men’s faces are portraits of individuals. The mens’ shirts are the whitest things in the painting and the whole thing is framed in brown. The Manet painting – j’aime bien le chat! Thanks for posting such wonderful works.

  26. Lambert Strether Post author

    One of the reasons I put the maps up is to help readers with travel decisions; it’s a reader service thing.

    Here is why I will never propagate the CDC “Community Level” Metric:

    So, I’m thinking of flying to Vegas. By “Community Level,” Covid is “moderate” (yellow) for Vegas, so why not?

    Well, look at Rapid Riser counties in the post, which I do use. Vegas and other Nevada counties just turned red — cases are accelerating, and we know how fast Covid accelerates. So, no way should I go.

    So, here, right here, you see the effect of the lags built into CDC’s “Community Level” metric, which prevent us from recognizing danger until it’s too late to do anything about it. And you can also see the effect that CDC’s jiggered numbers will have on people, as CDC benignly encourages people to endanger themselves. Let ‘er rip!

    1. flora

      It’s now Spring Break time on US college campuses – the mid-March, mid-semester spring week of traveling far and wide to ski in the mountains or tan in the sunshine on the southern coasts or just road trip for fun. Let’s see what that CDC map looks like in, oh say, 2 or 3 weeks from now. (to your point about the CDC lag.) / ;)

      Sort of like after the Winter Olympics in China a few weeks ago, with strict testing and all that, China is now experiencing an upsurge that was “unforseeable.” / ;)

  27. undescribigible

    Okay, I cannot detect the typo in CDC drop down and it is driving me up the wall. Please someone elucidate this apparently not so sharp primate…

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