2:00PM Water Cooler 3/24/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

American Woodcock week at Naked Capitalism. Note: “In flight, then calling from the ground.”

* * *


“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

“Biden menu of options to lower gasoline prices is not appetizing” [The Hill]. “Publicly, White House officials have said all options are on the table. They have not detailed all of them, but they include a gasoline tax holiday or gas cards that would provide rebates to consumers; possible relaxation of the Jones Act, a law requiring domestic cargo to be carried on American-made tankers using union labor; and lifting of sanctions on oil-producing nations. Privately, officials say all these options are politically complicated and few of them may actually lower gas prices much, according to two sources familiar with the administration’s thinking. ‘They are perusing the menu and can’t find anything they want to eat,’ said Stephen Brown, a veteran oil lobbyist who consults energy companies.”

“Biden Doubles Down On Defending DeVos’ For-Profit College Giveaway” [The Lever]. “During the Trump years, one of the most consequential of DeVos’s many gifts to the for-profit college industry was the repeal of an Obama-era rule that required schools that wanted to participate in federal student loan programs to prove that their graduates could find good enough jobs to pay off their student debt…. Ahead of a hearing in the case next month, the Biden administration argued in a recent brief that reverting to the Obama rule would be “disruptive” to the Education Department, students, and vocational programs…. Instead of reinstating the Obama rule, which had gone through a lengthy rulemaking process and survived multiple legal challenges, the Biden Education Department has pushed to leave the DeVos repeal in place while crafting an entirely new rule. That rulemaking process has been slow, so a new rule wouldn’t come into effect until July 2023 at the earliest, and more likely not until the following year.”

“Court remains silent on Thomas’ condition after he entered the hospital last week” [SCOTUSblog]. “Five days after Justice Clarence Thomas was admitted to Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., with “flu-like symptoms,” the Supreme Court is providing no updates on his condition. For the third consecutive day, the 73-year-old justice was not on the bench when the justices heard oral argument…. The court announced on Sunday evening that Thomas had been hospitalized on Friday night and had been diagnosed with ‘an infection’ for which he was receiving intravenous antibiotics. Thomas was ‘resting comfortably,’ the court’s public information office indicated, and ‘expects to be released from the hospital in a day or two.’ However, by Wednesday evening, there was no indication that Thomas had in fact been released. The dearth of information about Thomas’ condition is not unusual.”

“Hunter Biden Laptop Scandal Is the Ultimate American Information Operation” [Newsweek]. “Why did The New York Times feel compelled to admit it only now, after reporters for mainstream publications like the aforementioned Politico had confirmed the authenticity of much of the laptop’s contents months back? Is it simply because the case against Hunter Biden, billed as a tax matter, but which the Times reports has evolved into one centering on money laundering and potential Foreign Agents Registration Acts charges, is built so heavily on the substance of the laptop, making it impossible to report on the case while outright ignoring it? Or is there something bigger at play concerning the president, and his troubled son?”

“Reality bytes: Hunter Biden’s laptop repairman harassed, nearly bankrupt” [New York Post]. “When [Mac Isaac] applied for unemployment in December 2020, Isaac ran into complications with government officials. ‘I would open up a case, wouldn’t hear anything, then open another case, then open another case and then I was told to stop opening up cases. And they would keep closing these cases,’ he said. As bills piled up, Mac Isaac dipped into his 401K, but the checks never came. In December 2021, the computer man sent a pointed letter to Delaware Sen. Chris Coons. ‘I would hate to think that I was singled out in a politically motivated attack. If a state agency was weaponized to punish a perceived political enemy, the country has a right to know,’ he warned the Democratic colleague of Joe Biden. The unemployment cash came swiftly after that, though Mac Isaac insists he still ended up getting short-changed by several thousand dollars.” • Hmm.

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.

* * *

“Cory Booker Aside, Democrats Stranded Ketanji Brown Jackson” [Dahlia Lithwick, Slate]. “Chairman Dick Durbin’s inability to control some of the most shocking bullying and abuse from Cruz, Graham, Tom Cotton, and Hawley left observers speechless. At some point, you need to just start gaveling. But there was also a pervasive sense of Democratic senators’ almost chilling unwillingness to go to the mat for their nominee, who was being savaged by Cotton, who called her “not credible,” and Graham, who berated her with the claim that he was sparing her from being bullied like Justice Amy Coney Barrett.” • Stoller comments:

“Democrats Are Making Life Too Easy for Republicans” [Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times]. “The historical pattern of midterm contests suggests that a rejection of the party in power is the customary order of business. But the consequences of a Republican takeover of the House or of both branches of Congress are unlikely to be routine. What we can be sure of is that the Democrats can’t go on forever with this much of a gulf between what the majority of progressive party activists think the party should stand for and what the majority of Americans think it should.” • Edsall empties his Rolodex.

Republican Funhouse

“Column: Is Trump losing his mojo? Several of his candidates are struggling in primaries” [Los Angeles Times]. “A January survey by NBC News found that more than half — 56% — of Republicans interviewed described themselves as more supportive of the GOP than Trump personally, while 36% saw themselves as more supportive of Trump than the Republican Party. That’s a near-total reversal from 2020, when 54% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they considered themselves more supportive of Trump than the party and 38% were more supportive of the GOP than Trump. In a separate measure, a Quinnipiac Poll last month showed, by a 52%-36% margin, Republicans sided with Mike Pence over Trump on the question of whether the former vice president could have overturned the 2020 presidential election, as Trump urged.”

“Trump withdraws endorsement of ‘woke’ Mo Brooks” [The Hill]. “Former President Trump has pulled his endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks in this year’s Alabama Senate primary, slamming the Republican as ‘woke’ and disloyal to him for doubting his claims about the 2020 presidential election. ‘When I endorsed Mo Brooks, he took a 44-point lead and was unstoppable. He then hired a new campaign staff who ‘brilliantly’ convinced him to ‘stop talking about the 2020 Election,” Trump said in a statement issued on Wednesday morning. ‘Very sad but, since he decided to go in another direction, so have I, and I am hereby withdrawing my Endorsement of Mo Brooks for the Senate. I don’t think the great people of Alabama will disagree with me. Election Fraud must be captured and stopped, or we won’t have a Country anymore.'”

Trump Legacy

“Trump Is Guilty of ‘Numerous’ Felonies, Prosecutor Who Resigned Says” [New York Times]. “Mr. Pomerantz, 70, a prominent former federal prosecutor and white-collar defense lawyer who came out of retirement to work on the Trump investigation, resigned on the same day as Carey R. Dunne, another senior prosecutor leading the inquiry….. Mr. Pomerantz and Mr. Dunne planned to charge Mr. Trump with falsifying business records, specifically his annual financial statements — a felony in New York State.” • Doesn’t sound very exciting. Moreover, the values Trump is said to have inflated are “golf clubs, hotels and office buildings.” Real estate. Good luck valuing it…..

Our Famously Free Press

“The puzzling pandemic pundit problem” [Politico]. “A now-familiar cast of pandemic pundits has spent the past two years on our television screens and social media feeds, guiding us on how to navigate Covid. We look to them for impartial, science-backed answers about what’s safe and what isn’t during a pandemic that has killed nearly 1 million Americans. One of these pundits, Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, is joining the Biden administration in April as the White House Covid-19 response coordinator. His elevation has raised questions among some of his fellow public health experts about how these pandemic pundits straddle the line between neutral expert and official government representative, Walid F. Gellad, a health policy professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told Nightly…. ‘Everybody has looked to Ashish as the calm wisdom about what we should be doing. OK, but do they also know that he’s getting memos from the administration about what their plans are? Now he’s going to work for the administration,’ he said in an interview. ‘When you push certain points of view in the media and on TV, that’s obviously going to influence what the public feels. There are deep divisions in society about what the administration has done, and so it matters greatly what independent public experts say about it.’ When Gellad says ‘memos,’ he’s referring to a list of people, including public health experts, who regularly receive updates and announcements from the White House communications team. This list, which includes Jha, was confirmed by a White House official, who also said Jha never coordinated his statements with the Biden administration.” • Just like the generals and intelligence officials on CNN….

Could the Los Angeles Times social media team actually be worse than the New York Times media team?

“[T]he vein of anti-Blackness latent in all Latinos.” Really?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“A High-Speed Scientific Hive Mind Emerged from the COVID Pandemic” [Scientific American]. “Rapid and unorthodox channels of communication also could not solve all the problems scientists encountered. We took too long to recognize the importance of airborne transmission of the virus. We spent early 2020 washing our groceries but not wearing masks. Most critically, we have been largely unsuccessful at anticipating and managing the human element of the pandemic. By not accounting for ways that behavior would change in response to information—and misinformation—we have struggled to predict the size and timing of successive disease waves and virus variants. A collective failure to stop misinformation from spreading on social and traditional media platforms has left large segments of the population unvaccinated, vulnerable and unwilling to embrace measures such as masks and social distancing.” • One wonders what other purposes such a “hive mind” could serve.

“Billionaire-Backed Group Enlists Trump-Supporting Citizens to Hunt for Voter Fraud Using Discredited Techniques” [Pro Publica]. “Calling its work unprecedented, the Voter Reference Foundation is analyzing state voter rolls in search of discrepancies between the number of ballots cast and the number of voters credited by the rolls as having participated in the Nov. 3, 2020 election. The foundation, led by a former Trump campaign official and founded less than a year ago, has dismissed objections from election officials that its methodology is flawed and its actions may be illegal, ProPublica found. But with its inquiries and insinuations, VoteRef, as it is known, has added to the volume in the echo chamber. Its instrument is the voter rolls, released line by line, for all to see…. ProPublica contacted election officials in a dozen of the states where VoteRef has examined voter rolls, and in every case the officials said that the methodology used to identify the discrepancies was flawed, the data incomplete or the math wrong. The officials, a mix of Democrats and Republicans, were in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin…. VoteRef, records show, is an initiative of the conservative nonprofit group Restoration Action and its related political action committee, both led by Doug Truax, an Illinois insurance broker and podcaster who ran unsuccessfully in the state’s GOP primary for the U.S. Senate in 2014. A ProPublica review found that VoteRef’s origins and funders are closely linked to a super PAC predominantly funded by billionaire Richard Uihlein, founder of the mammoth Wisconsin-based packaging supply company Uline. A descendant of one of the founders of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, Uihlein is a major Trump supporter and a key player in Wisconsin and Illinois politics.” • VoterRef assumes that voter rolls are static, not dynamic….


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 out. 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.

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?

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.

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

The MRWA is divided into two sections, North and South. North is rising, South is falling. 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 Colorado or 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 CDC site is once again hosed. Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission from yesterday:

Continuing slow improvement, assuming the numbers aren’t jiggered.

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

I don’t like the sudden effloresence of yellow and orange. I don’t care that the baseline is low. 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: 1,001,175 999,792. We did it. Break out the Victory Gin. Fortunately, the numbers are headed downward. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 28 thousand to 187 thousand in the week ended March 19th, from a revised 215 thousand in the previous period and compared with market expectations of 212 thousand. It was the lowest level for initial claims since September 6, 1969, as demand for workers is much higher than supply and employees try to hold on to their workers. ”

Manufacturing: “United States Durable Goods Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US manufactured durable goods fell 2.2 percent month-over-month in February of 2022, the most since April of 2020, following a 1.6 percent gain in January and surpassing market expectations of a 0.5 percent decline.”

Manufacturing: “United States Kansas Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Kansas City Fed’s Manufacturing Production Index rose to 46 in March of 2022, the highest on record, Increased activity was driven by growth in printing and paper, plastics, electrical equipment, furniture and related product manufacturing, and especially transportation equipment. On the other hand, the pace of growth for food and machinery manufacturing declined. Indexes for production, shipments, new orders, backlog of orders, and supplier delivery time increased at a faster rate in March. However, the pace of growth for number of employees and new orders for exports moved down.”

* * *

Retail: “How Upselling Is Saving Restaurants” [Grub Street]. “If it seems like restaurants all over the city are adding luxury-ingredient supplements to their menus, that’s because they are. They run the gamut, from a $20 “bump” of caviar beside a martini to the classic $75-plus shaving of seasonal white truffles. Wagyu is the lavish-beef signifier of choice — be it for burgers, tartare, or straight-up steaks — and you’d be hard-pressed to find a bowl of spaghetti that can’t be topped, for a price, with a few precious lobes of orange urchin. At a certain tier of New York restaurants, once rare luxuries have become everyday ingredients, as much because of their pedigree as their ability to consistently improve restaurants’ bottom lines at a time when operators are working every available angle to remain profitable. Luxury goods are, by definition, inessential and difficult to obtain. As a result, luxury means expensive. …. When done right, supplements can be a mutually beneficial model: A customer has a good experience, a restaurant has more cash to pay the bills, and the front of house stands to benefit as well: ‘It allows the service staff to wow the guest,’ says the former server. “Bringing the truffle to the table and making it rain, people love that.” And then there’s the more obvious upside: “Anytime you raise the cost of the bill, you’re most likely going to make more in tips.'”

The Bezzle: “Bored Ape’s New ApeCoin Puts NFTs’ Power Problem on Display” [Bloomberg]. “Bored Apes are already the third-most valuable collection of NFTs, with $1.5 billion in all-time sales, according to blockchain data tracker CryptoSlam. They also unlocked early access to a new digital currency — ApeCoin. ApeCoin launched Thursday in a type of release known as an “airdrop,” in which certain groups of crypto holders automatically receive tokens as a reward. In this case, 1 billion ApeCoins dropped, with owners of Bored Ape NFTs in line to receive some of the haul. The coin grants holders influence over another crypto-native entity known as a decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO. The idea was to give the Bored Ape community a hand in shaping the decentralized, blockchain-powered vision of the internet that venture capitalists often describe as web3. The Bored Ape DAO will use the blockchain to enable and record votes on decisions related to how the community is managed. Together, though, the ApeCoin and DAO have provided yet more grist for some of the harshest criticisms about venture capitalists’ influence and power in this evolving space. Typically, the more tokens a participant has in a DAO, the more say they have over the group’s governance. And venture capital investors that helped with the launch, including Andreessen Horowitz and Animoca Brands, were some of the biggest recipients of ApeCoins.”

Tech: “Lessons From 19 Years in the Metaverse” (interview) [The Atlantic]. “[Wagner James Au] is, in short, one of the few people with a real historical perspective on, and lived experience in, metaverse communities. Since Facebook rebranded as Meta, the idea of the metaverse has been consumed by a kind of ahistorical hype cycle.” And: “Warzel: When the idea of an immersive virtual internet is bandied about, people tend to make huge assumptions. What did you learn walking the Second Life beat as a reporter? Au: Two big things. First, if you give a user community powerful enough creator tools, what they create in these worlds will be far more interesting than anything a major company can officially create. In terms of the culture of a metaverse environment and the community’s experiences in a place like Second Life, that’s remained true since 2003. Second, I’ve learned that, as humans, we take all of the big challenges of real life and the complex social structures of the physical world and they get re-created in weird ways in a digital, social space. Racism, for example, is an enduring issue and an interesting one in these worlds. There are very basic questions: If you can change your avatar to anything at all, what race would you choose? And are there any rules governing representation? Then there are issues of discrimination and harassment. In Second Life these issues create ongoing controversy, and Meta will have to deal with it in whatever they’re building. Racism doesn’t go away, no matter the avatars people choose. People talk a lot about how these worlds allow you to be freer than in the physical world but there’s a flipside where people can sometimes be worse in these spaces because people feel freer to be assholes. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing necessarily—these are simply just challenges that exist in these virtual worlds.” • Hmm.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 45 Neutral (previous close: 43 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 26 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 23 at 1:27pm. Not sure what’s in Mr. Market’s mind, here. Settling in for the long haul in Ukraine? Weapons stocks?

Guillotine Watch

“Harvesting the Blood of America’s Poor: The Latest Stage of Capitalism” [Mint Press]. “Teenager blood is in high demand in, of all places, Silicon Valley, where anti-aging technologies are the latest trend. One company, Ambrosia, charges $8,000 per treatment to aging tech executives, infusing them with the blood of the young, turning these individuals into bloodsuckers in more ways than one. Despite the fact that there is no clinical evidence that the practice has any beneficial effects, business is booming. One committed customer is PayPal co-founder turned Trump surrogate Peter Thiel, who is reportedly spending vast sums of money on funding anti-aging startups. Thiel claims that we have been conned by “the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual” and believes that his own immortality may be just around the corner, a notion that has deeply concerned academics and commentators alike.” • From 2019, still germane.

Class Warfare

“Bessemer Alabama Amazon Workers Continue Struggle to Unionize” [Black Agenda Report]. “The second Bessemer Alabama Amazon workers and Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) labor board union vote will be counted starting on March 28th. It comes as a result of the National Labor Relations Board ruling that Amazon’s anti-union actions in the 2021 union campaign, was in violation of laws in the National Labor Relations Act…. Self-organized rank-n-file committees in Amazon warehouses and delivery centers, organizing groups like Amazonians United and some labor union interests in organizing in Amazon, became more visible, as the breath of national solidarity for Bessemer began to show itself. The Queens and Staten Island New York Amazon workers’ independent union initiatives and the Starbucks union campaigns are part of this growing and expanding rank-n-file social movement. They are engaging in concerted actions, fighting around issues and winning improvements in working conditions. A recent first multistate walkout took place involving night shift Amazon workers in two delivery stations in New York and one in Maryland, demanding a $3-dollar an hour wage increase. Several estimates of high Bessemer Amazon worker turnover since the 2021 union vote, indicate that nearly half of the 6000 workers eligible to participate in this 2022 union vote, are new employees. This makes a mainly union card signing and mobilizing for labor board votes organizing approach more difficult, especially when it is a single workplace campaign and against a behemoth corporation like Amazon, the 2nd largest corporation in the US with 1.1 million employees.”

“Subsidized By Taxpayers, Stealing From Workers” [Boondoggle]. “The U.S. Department of Labor earlier this month found that Seaboard Triumph Foods, a pork processor in Sioux City, Iowa, illegally stole wages from workers by not paying them for work done before and after their official shifts, including time for “set up, clean up and knife sharpening.” Seaboard was ordered to pay more than $331,000 in back pay to the affected workers…. But in the case of Seaboard Triumph Foods, the issue is compounded by the fact that taxpayers were subsidizing the company, meaning the public put money into one of Seaboard’s hands as it was stealing from workers with the other…. Seaboard received a few tax break packages from the Iowa Economic Development Agency (IEDA) for this particular plant, including one last year for more than $6 million, and received local subsidies too, taking its total to somewhere between $20 million and $30 million. (And an executive vice president for Seaboard admitted that the incentives weren’t what drove the location decision for the plant, but be that as it may. The IEDA said it won’t try to recoup any of that money following the wage theft case, saying its not an enforcement or regulatory agency.”

News of the Wired

Harrison Salisbury (!) interviews Hunter S. Thompson:

The Kansas City Fed’s Manufacturing Production Index rose to 46 in March of 2022, the highest on record, Increased activity was driven by growth in printing and paper, plastics, electrical equipment, furniture and related product manufacturing, and especially transportation equipment. On the other hand, the pace of growth for food and machinery manufacturing declined. Indexes for production, shipments, new orders, backlog of orders, and supplier delivery time increased at a faster rate in March. However, the pace of growth for number of employees and new orders for exports moved down.

* * *

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 Angie Neer:

Angie Neer writes: “This tree gave its life for trail maintenance, as a youngster of 35 rings. As usual for the Pacific northwest, it hosted a variety of other plants, fungi and lichen. I note its asymmetry: the rings are about 20 thinner on the right side than on the left, and the branches seem thinner and more numerous on the right side as well. I don’t really know much about trees, but I speculate that that was the more shaded side of its home on a hillside.”

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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. jsn

    Maybe the wrong tweet is embedded over this line:

    ““[T]he vein of anti-Blackness latent in all Latinos.” Really?” ?

    1. Val

      I read your father’s book many years ago. It is one essential and durable text for those dedicated to the love and conservation of timberdoodles and the places where they live.

      Maybe grouse week next? We have apparently survived another dark winter and some serious drumming and subtle clucking would be appropriate.

      1. Charlie Sheldon

        Grouse sound great. I have fond memories of many nights out on Quabbin Reservation in Massachusetts with my father live trapping the woodcock as they spiralled in to a field (using Japanese nets strung in tall poles) so we could band them. He did this for 5-6 years to gather his data. He was a true old school biological scientist, having learned from his father before him. We mount those nets and then slap mosquitos as dark fell. Some nights we’d be skunked, my dad’s term for no birds. I’d bring my friends along for company and we’d always stop for soft ice cream on the way home. When I grew up I was surrounded by my dad’s UMass grad students, who were studying beaver and bobcats and coyotes. It was endlessly fascinating.

  2. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Trump Is Guilty of ‘Numerous’ Felonies, Prosecutor Who Resigned Says

    At this point the proper response to anyone credulous enough to think Trump is going to jail is” Stormy Daniels owes Trump 300 large”.

    I bet a buddy a steak dinner that Trump will never see the inside of a cell. Considering recent events, I think I might insist on some lobster with my medium rare beef tenderloin. Normally I prefer a flame grilled steak but it may be more appropriate to have it lightly seared in a teflon pan.

    1. Mildred Montana

      Trump ain’t goin’ anywhere, except maybe to the White House in 2024. As I’ve said several times on this site, big fish don’t get indicted. For confirmation of this opinion, please refer to the tenure of Obama’s AG Eric Holder.

        1. super extra

          I heard ‘the walls are closing in on Putin in Ukraine’ the other night on one of the national news and couldn’t resist a little eye roll

    2. molon labe

      lyman alpha blob–please don’t sear on teflon. Yes, I get the reference, but searing requires a high temperature that teflon doesn’t tolerate. Use cast iron. Not as good a reference , but not bad.

  3. IM Doc

    Harvesting the blood of America’s Poor – as linked above.

    As wild as this sounds, I will attest to the fact that this is a very real phenomenon. I have one young athletic and healthy college student who is at a major coastal university. His entire tuition, lodging and food as well as a generous monthly stipend is provided by the billionaire. His only job is to show up every 2-3 weeks to remove a pint of blood. A pint of blood is then removed from the billionaire and the young jock’s blood is transfused. I do think the blood is appropriately tested on every transfusion as well – just as it would from the American Red Cross.

    The young man is thrilled that his college is being covered this way – but is also concerned about long-term health issues for him. The whole situation is very sad….. And the issue is that this is not really a recognized process – so I am literally winging it with my monitoring of this patient.

    There is not a shred of medical evidence I have found that shows this to be anti-aging at all. Furthermore, there is not really any medical guidance about the care of patients who are getting their blood removed like this over this long a term. Furthermore, there are many states that do not allow this type of thing to happen – and it may be a Medical Board issue for the responsible physician. Of course, in this instance, we are talking about California – which has in the past few decades become an “anything allowed – the crazier the better” state with regard to its biomedical ethics. But other states like Massachusetts and New York and New Jersey are not that far behind.

    As I asked my ethics colleagues a few months back – Can anyone explain to me how this is any different than vampirism? Just as Bram Stoker satirized the mores of Victorian England with Dracula – there has got to be a clever writer/observer out there who could throw a haymaker with this practice.

    What a commentary of a profoundly disturbed culture.

    The moral decadence at times is just overwhelming.

    1. Paleobotanist

      It could be worse: parents selling their kids’ blood. I’m sure that’s happening out there somewhere…
      Sorry, IM Doc, but there’s lots of foul stuff out there if you are brave enough to look.

      1. Larry Carlson

        Maybe there’s money to be made here! Instead of just marketing cord blood to neurotic, wealthy parents, market it to creepy billionaires who seek immortality. Much better than blood from comparatively ancient teenagers!

        1. John

          While he may no have been first, I believe the emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (221-206 BCE) is the first known for his avid pursuit of life extension if not immortality. He was the emperor who according to Sima Qian buried alive three hundred scholars who did not agree with his “editing” of Chinese philosophy. The Shiji also details his other rather extreme views.

          1. Carolinian

            HBO Silicon Valley–the blood boy.

            Not to mention Mad Max Thunder Road. Clearly it’s a real thing if featured in these serious dramas.

            1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

              That scene in Silicon Valley is fn hilarious.

              And it’s Fury Road ?

              We are all BLOOD BAGS ? now lol

              Hopefully, I won’t have to get a Blood type tattoo Ala Mad Max when the Jackpot hits…

            2. Guild Navigator

              Don’t forget Freejack: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/freejack

              “Early in the 21st century, technological advances have made it possible for aging, wealthy people to pay crooks like Vacendak (Mick Jagger) to go back in time, kidnap young victims like race car driver Alex Furlong (Emilio Estevez) and deliver them to the elderly clients, who then have their brains transplanted into the healthy bodies. Furlong manages to break free from his captors, but as a fugitive, he finds that the world of the future is a bleak, dangerous place.”

            3. none

              Cue the crappy old vampire jokes.

              “Bartender! A Bloody Mary!”

              “Hallo, blood bank? I vant to make a vithdrawal!”

      1. Guild Navigator

        Young kidneys are HK’s secret sauce, to remark obliquely on the relative longevity of war criminals both recently deceased and still above ground.

      1. digi_owl

        Effectively making it seem like they were on to something back in the day with bloodletting…

    2. Revenant

      There is evidence, just not in humans. There have been experiments where the circulatory systems of old mice and young mice are joined and the old ones are rejuvenated. See various papers on parabiosis.

      There is a summary here in a rather fringe source but the underlying papers were from reputable places (e.g. Stanford), for certain values of reputation.

    3. griffen

      Since seemingly all movies are in need of a refresh, they (anyone can be a screenwriter, apparently) can twist the tale being portrayed on The Island into something fresh for the young audience. But instead of genetic clones as depicted in the film, released in 2005, the update would perhaps adhere to reality.

      I also see someone above already dropped a mention of the latest Mad Max entry.

    4. The Rev Kev

      Next step is to use the blood of young children as their blood is fresher and may have more antibodies.

    5. Mikel

      “There is not a shred of medical evidence I have found that shows this to be anti-aging at all…”

      It won’t stop them. It’s also a power trip. I wouldn’t be surprised at a host of mental issues at play.
      Expect the youth they choose to get YOUNGER. They won’t stop.

    6. Anthony G Stegman

      Young women at universities such as Stanford sell their eggs for big money. Wealthy people eagerly pay for these eggs with the hopes of creating a beautiful, smart, and talented child. Just like ordering on Amazon Prime.

    7. jonhoops

      IM Doc, This is based on research at Stanford by Irina & Mike Conboy. The evidence is pretty convincing that there is some anti-aging effect that can be had due to factors in the blood. The more recent Conboy research has shown that nearly the same effect can be achieved by just diluting the old blood with a plasma solution. They are currently doing trials on human patients using plasma apheresis in conjunction with Dr. Dobry Kiprov in San Fransisco. The Conboys are now convinced that the young blood is not needed, just dilution of the old blood. From what I understand of the dilution procedure it needs to be done every 3 months after the initial dilution as the effect is not permanent..

      Here is an interview with them from a couple months ago

      On the other hand Harold Katcher claims to have isolated the youth factors and will be coming out with a treatment soon which purportedly sets the epigenetic clock back to a youthful state. It works in rats and they are currently testing in dogs.

    8. drumlin woodchuckles

      Since its the digital oligarchs like Thiel and etc. who are pioneering this approach, perhaps the villain of such a story could be called ” Count Hackula”.

  4. Mildred Montana

    >Column: Is Trump losing his mojo?

    Thanks Los Angeles Times for the easy question. Betteridge’s Law. No.

    For every poll that suggests otherwise (including the LAT’s and other MSM’s) I can easily find one that says he’s got more mojo than ever. Here’s one:


    And just for good measure, here’s another one:


    Polls are funny that way. Ask a (usually leading) question and if you don’t get the results you want change the question and try again until you do. That’s how the MSM operates. They don’t want Trump, so they only print poll results that support their preferences.

    Trump 2024! (not an endorsement)

    1. ChrisPacific

      I think the question is not so much whether he might lose the nomination, but whether he would try to sabotage the winner if it wasn’t him, and whether said winner could prevail if Trump decided to undermine him* at every turn. I don’t think anybody is under any illusions regarding the answers to those two questions.

      Also, a key reason for his loss in 2020 was his Covid response strategy of sticking his head in the sand and pretending it didn’t exist. That’s national policy now, so one of the main objections has been removed.

      * I was going to write “or her” but it’s the Republicans. Let’s be real.

      1. Let them eat boosters

        Kind of like how Obama made GWB look not as bad in comparison (GWB mailed checks to the entire country when there was a recession on his watch, twice, while Obama presided over 11 million foreclosures and the greatest drop in Black wealth in history), Biden’s Covid response makes Trump’s look almost spectacular.

        Biden has been coasting on vaccines developed during Trump’s watch, and Biden is now in the process of rolling back every pandemic measure that was launched during the previous administration. In April, funding for Covid treatment and vaccinations for uninsured Americans will be ended. They’re also ending federal funding for monoclonal antibodies and other treatments, which affects everybody. Maybe I have some details wrong, but that’s what was said on the 3/17 Death Panel podcast. Can you imagine wrestling with your insurance company for Regeneron when your pulse ox is 85?

        They’re rolling back all protections against Covid while at the same time ending all funding for treatments and vaccinations. They really do want to kill us.

        Trump’s superior pandemic response probably only happened because he faced so much opposition from the media. That opposition ended the instant Biden became president, and now the media yawns whenever Covid is mentioned. I know people who think this is evidence that Covid is hype, that it’s really truly just like the flu, but I’m a bit more cynical. Nobody in power cares how many peasants die or are disabled from this virus. They used Covid like a stick to beat a dog. Whatever the reason for Trump’s pandemic response, at least it was a response. I don’t think the media would be so happy to condemn 350k Americans to an early death every year if Trump were still around.

        Also, temporarily ending the federal gas tax is a no-brainer. Trump would have done this instantly and slammed anyone in Congress who dared to oppose it. (Not that it necessarily would have happened. Trump wasn’t all that effective.) if Biden doesn’t like anything “on the menu” to reduce gas prices, he deserves to be thrown out of office.

  5. lyman alpha blob

    Stoller tweet is posted twice. I think the 2nd one is supposed to be something else?

  6. Harmon

    “We look to them for impartial, science-backed answers about what’s safe and what isn’t during a pandemic that has killed nearly 1 million Americans.”
    You can listen to the interpretive “experts” at the CDC cheerleading for profits, or here’s 850+ footnotes to the original CDC and European studies. Do your own research, especially before treating your children like little lab rats:


    1. North Star

      Thanks for the link. Trust the Russians to uncover ‘Russian disinformation’. Lets see if any or all of this information and analysis is refuted, with proof, by the US or anyone else.

      1. Martin Oline

        The media is continually saying stories are “debunked” or “misinformation” with no denials, investigations, without proof, by the US or anyone else. When you are servants of a criminal ruling class you don’t need proof.

    2. molon labe

      “Safari can’t find the server ‘sputniknews.com'”. Is there a problem with the link or do I need a VPN?

      1. Carolinian

        I can get it. If you are on public wifi there’s probably a filter that blocks it. But then they’ve always blocked Pat Lang for some reason and sometimes NC.

        However I can no longer get Tass whereas I could a couple of weeks ago.

        Probably the only reason we can get saker is that his server is in Iceland.

      2. jo6pac

        I’m using firefox also

        North Star I’ll try and find the paper trail the Russians found when they entered the labs.

    3. The Rev Kev

      The Biden family is a very strange one. ‘Inappropriate’ does not seem to be in the vocabulary of either old Joe or Hunter-


      Old Joe is just as bad, When there were women on his Secret Service detail, he use to go swimming in his pool naked. I think that he got a kick out of the fact that they just had to stand there and take it.

      1. JBird4049

        >>> When there were women on his Secret Service detail, he use to go swimming in his pool naked. I think that he got a kick out of the fact that they just had to stand there and take it.

        Oh nice. Be a jackass to the people who are supposed to lay down their lives for yours. Rude and stupid.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > When there were women on his Secret Service detail, he use to go swimming in his pool naked. I think that he got a kick out of the fact that they just had to stand there and take it.

        The nice thing about that, tactically, is that the evidence is rock solid. And it speaks to character just as strongly as the Tara Reade episode.

  7. Mikel

    “A High-Speed Scientific Hive Mind Emerged from the COVID Pandemic” [Scientific American)

    “We took too long to recognize the importance of airborne transmission of the virus…”

    It’s ok for people in countries in Asia to roll their eyes. Well deserved.

  8. aleph_0

    As a follow-up from a couple of days ago, I still don’t really understand what happened to the NV covid data. So they went to reporting once a week, and I suspected last week’s data was a fat finger. They just released this week’s data, and it looks like something was wrong with last week’s data point, after all.

    Chart here.

    Maybe it was a backlog of tests? Not sure. Still, the virus is still here. The nice part is that we haven’t seen new case numbers this low since the first of the pandemic, but I have no idea what the test positivity is currently.

  9. rowlf

    I keep thinking Andrei Martyanov can do a really good Harlan Ellison impression. Harlan may not have been huggable but he kept it real.

        1. Guild Navigator

          That’s just what they were sayin’. Didn’t happen.

          Masks mandate is lifting at large public university next Monday. My blood pressure is through the roof.

  10. lance ringquist

    its easier to prove in a civil court. hope he gets somewhere.


    Donald Trump sues Hillary Clinton and allies over Russia claims

    Sprawling lawsuit accuses a large cast of racketeering conspiracy over allegations that Trump was in Putin’s pocket in 2016.
    Former President Donald Trump arrives at a rally.

    Former President Donald Trump arrives at a rally on Saturday, March 12, 2022, in Florence, S.C. | Meg Kinnard/AP Photo

    By Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney

    03/24/2022 02:11 PM EDT

    Updated: 03/24/2022 04:08 PM EDT

    Former President Donald Trump is suing 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in a sprawling case that accuses her of conspiring with dozens of other actors — frequent targets of Trump’s conspiracy theories and rage — to topple his presidency.

  11. Tom Stone

    It’s been more than a year since the bad orange man was banished and “The adults in the room” took over!
    It’s kind of a shame about the senile dementia.

  12. Mikel

    “Or is there something bigger at play concerning the president, and his troubled son?”

    If by some miracle they are ever convicted, need to come up with special harsh sentencing for them. Biden loves harsh sentencing so much for other people’s kids.

  13. The Rev Kev

    Finally caught up with those Gonzalo Lira’s videos. Holy hell. He really does lay it out. And he is right. Washington knows only how to double down just like they did at that NATO conference. This is going to get real ugly real fast.

  14. Martin Oline

    Yes, he is right about many things, but I really have to spend an awful amount of time listening to his political and social views to hear what insights he has about the war and US policy. It may be an accident that he is there but no one else is right up close to the front lines and reporting about life in Ukraine. I can forgive his intemperance because he is laying his life on the line in Kharkov. Most of the Western media is safely in the western cities like Lviv or reporting from other countries.
    He claims he left one apartment because the ‘authorities’ were looking for him. It is possible each broadcast could be his last. He didn’t speak the same language as his former landlord but came to understand that while he was out ‘gangsters’ came to the building looking for him. Ukraine has been labeled one of the most corrupt countries in Europe if not the world before they became heroes on 2/24, so I assume the gangsters were in fact government employees or one of the militias. He moved.

    1. Martin Oline

      Related to the about comment about Gonzalo Lira is this AP news article I saw this morning:
      “About half the population of the eastern city of Kharkiv has left, and food and other essentials are dwindling for those who stay behind. A line formed Thursday at an apartment block as neighbors waited for aid from the Red Cross.” I assume he will stay there as long as the internet works.

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