2:00PM Water Cooler 3/3/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

* * *


“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

“4 takeaways from Biden’s State of the Union address” [WaPo]. “There were a few words notably missing from Biden’s speech: ‘Build Back Better.’ It has been pretty clear for a while now that the signature package is going nowhere in Congress — particularly as we turn to an election year in which passing legislation is much more difficult. But the White House and Democrats have been slow to concede that. Tuesday marked a significant shift away from it. Biden cited others bills he wanted passed, including the Bipartisan Innovation Act, the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Disclose Act, along with some more technical changes, but not Build Back Better, a multitrillion-dollar proposal to revamp or bolster child care, education, health care and climate change programs. When it came to large-scale legislation, he focused much more on the benefits of what has already passed, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the American Rescue Plan. Biden still spoke to the priorities contained in Build Back Better, including energy, housing, child care and cutting prescription drug costs. But it seemed this was now more of a messaging exercise than a true legislative effort.” • I guess we’ll have to wait until President Manchin delivers his own SOTU.

“Tlaib diverges from Biden’s State of the Union address” [Politico]. “Speaking on behalf of the progressive Working Families Party, the “Squad” member mirrored many of the issues mentioned in Biden’s remarks, commending the administration for boosting the struggling economy and for quickly tackling the coronavirus pandemic through health care and financial relief. But the Michigan lawmaker quickly pivoted, homing in on talking points that the president either avoided, or had a differing opinion on…. Tlaib also dinged both the Republican Party and “corporate-backed Democratic obstructionists” for blocking the party’s $1.7 trillion social spending plan, formerly known as “Build Back Better.” The bill, which would increase climate provisions, lower drug costs, and offer universal pre-K, was shot down by Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), although Tlaib did not call out the detractors of the bill by name…. It’s quite unusual for members of the president’s party to respond with their own remarks ― it’s a role usually reserved for the opposing party’s. But it’s a growing trend in recent years.”

“Joe Biden’s State of the Union Didn’t Offer Much for the Working Class” [Jacobin]. “There was a blink-and-you-miss-it reference to the PRO Act, the proposed reform that would work to fix America’s incredibly broken, pro-boss labor law and make it easier for workers to form unions, but anyone who’s memory extends all the way back to 2021 knows that Biden put very little political capital into trying to pass it then; as an active agenda item, it’s barely a memory now. As journalist Ana Kasparian pointed out last night, in some ways the most important omission from the speech was any mention of “labor and the gains they’ve made for themselves without help from Congress or the Executive branch.” Kasparian mentioned the successful strikes at John Deere and Nabisco. We could add the shockingly large wave of unionizations at Starbucks locations around the country. The truth is that, apart from refraining from turning them into radioactive ash by escalating the war in Ukraine to World War III, it’s unlikely that the Biden administration is going to do much for the working class. Some of the exact promises that Joe Biden made in 2020, like ‘card check’ for union elections (a process for union recognition that would help avoid the onslaught of union-busting that workers currently face when they organize unions which is a key component of the PRO Act) and a health care ‘public option,’ were made by Obama in 2008. And they were heading down the memory hole by about this point in the Obama administration. Without any significant change in the political landscape, that cycle of promising desperately needed policies for the working class only to let them quietly slip away will likely play out during the next Democratic administration too. If that landscape is going to change for the better, it’s going to have to be changed by workers organizing.” • They’re just trolling us, aren’t they?

“Biden’s State of the Union Comments on Defunding Police Were Wrong” [Teen Vogue]. “The State of the Union’s bipartisan moment of joy over funding police and emphasis of the perspective of police over those killed by police comes less than two years after the so-called racial reckoning of 2020. That summer, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders knelt in kente cloth in Emancipation Hall, in a show of ‘support’ for Black lives. But that’s the Democrats for you: all optics, no substance.”

“Biden speech draws 38.2 million U.S. TV viewers” [Reuters]. “An estimated 38.2 million people watched live U.S. television coverage of President Joe Biden’s Tuesday night State of the Union speech, according to ratings data from Nielsen, a42% jump from his 2021 address to Congress…. Biden’s audience came in below the total for former President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech in 2018, which attracted close to 46 million people.”

“Dems agonize over Manchin’s wish list: Taxes, prescription drugs, climate cash” [Politico]. “Hours after President Joe Biden laid out what he hoped to salvage from Democrats’ defunct ‘Build Back Better’ social spending plan, Joe Manchin quickly assembled a counteroffer. It might amount to deja vu for Democrats, many of whom still feel burned from last year’s debacle, yet many in the party are willing to entertain any shot they have to unify while they still have control of Congress. ‘Here’s the thing. I’ve always been open to talking to people okay? But they just don’t want to hear,’ Manchin said in a Wednesday interview. The West Virginia centrist laid out a basic party-line package that could win his vote in the interview, to lower the deficit and enact some new programs — provided they are permanently funded. It may be Democrats’ best and last chance to get at least some of their major domestic priorities done before the midterm election, even as some leading liberals acknowledged any potential deal would not come close to the $1.7 trillion package Manchin spurned in December…. Progressives might take a while to warm to it. Asked about Manchin’s hopes of diverting new revenues to deficit reduction and inflation, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) griped: ‘I don’t care what he wants. We’re talking about what the American people want. He doesn’t like it, he can vote against it, that’s his business.'”

On the CDC’s depraved “community level” metric, and the role of strategists like Impact Reserch in justifying it:

The whole thread is worth reading; “endemicity,” for example, is a bullshit tell.

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.

* * *

“Hochul Proposes Bringing Back Private Prison Labor” [New York Focus]. “As part of her executive budget, Governor Kathy Hochul included a proposal that takes aim at low prison wages—not by paying them more in their current jobs, where they’re employed by the state, but by passing a constitutional amendment to overturn New York’s century-old ban on private employment of incarcerated people. Hochul argues that private employers would pay higher wages—the same wages that would be offered for comparable work outside prison—and offer more job training. The measure is part of a broad agenda she has proposed, dubbed ‘Jails to Jobs,’ to reform the state’s reentry system and help people secure jobs and housing after they’re released from prison or jail. Many advocates for incarcerated people—including Guzman, who since his release in 2014 has worked on a campaign to raise the minimum prison wage to $3 an hour—are skeptical. They acknowledge that private employers could pay higher wages, but they say lax oversight of parallel programs in other states has enabled illegal exploitation. They also object to Hochul’s proposal to allow the state to garnish up to 50 percent of incarcerated people’s wages under the program.”


* * *

“Foreign Policy Unlikely To Save Democrats in the Fall” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “While we don’t know the trajectory that the Russia/Ukraine crisis will take, and there are many factors that can impact on midterm elections, we do know that in the absence of a large number of U.S. military deaths, Americans rarely vote on foreign-policy issues, particularly in midterms. The state and direction of the economy, particularly change in real disposable personal income, is far more determinative. Turnout and the relative levels of enthusiasm between the two parties’ bases is key. There was a big gap heading into the 2018 midterm elections with, as usual, the party out of power much more motivated going into the fall of that year—though the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination did a lot to close the gap in predominantly rural areas, which helped Republicans actually score a net gain in the Senate while getting hosed (a political science term) in the House. Right now, Democrats are the party suffering from a lack of motivation among their base. If someone wanting a read on a midterm is only going to watch two things, it should be a president’s approval rating and the generic congressional ballot test, both pretty good barometers of which way the wind is blowing and whether it’s light, moderate, or heavy. In my view, Biden and his team are handling this incredibly challenging crisis far better than many other things over the last year. But this is unlikely to save Democrats from what is increasingly looking to be a pretty horrible midterm election.”

“Texas primary signals tough path for Democrats heading into US midterms” [Financial Times]. “Progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros has forced incumbent Democratic congressman Henry Cuellar into a run-off in a closely watched congressional primary election in Texas that signals a tough path for Democrats heading into November’s US midterm elections…. Cuellar, 66, is a rare example of a conservative member of Biden’s party who favours abortion restrictions, laws that encourage gun ownership and stricter immigration policies. But he has enjoyed widespread popularity in the majority Hispanic area that he has represented since 2005, earning him the nickname ‘King of Laredo,’ a reference to the large city on the US-Mexico border where he was born and raised. This year’s contest is a rematch: Cisneros came within 3,000 votes of ousting Cuellar in a Democratic primary in 2020…. Democrats are not the only ones keeping a close eye on the 28th congressional district. Republicans have identified the seat as a key target for November’s midterms, after several counties in the congressional district swung aggressively towards Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential elections.”

“Rio Grande Valley Voters Face Stark Choices in May Runoffs” [Texas Observer]. “On the Democratic side in Congressional District 15—a McAllen-based seat that Republicans will be competing hard for this year—two candidates emerged from a sprawling field. Ruben Ramirez, leading with about 28 percent of the vote, is an Army veteran who actively grabbed the race’s right lane. In a recent forum, he opposed legalizing marijuana and said: ‘I’m a South Texas Democrat. … We tend to be more moderate and more conservative in our view.’ The other CD-15 hopeful headed for Texas’ May runoff appears to be Michelle Vallejo, the co-owner of a local pulga who was recruited by the progressive group LUPE Votes. Vallejo has adopted LUPE’s platform, which includes Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, and an anti-war foreign policy. Vallejo narrowly edged out another moderate Democrat for second place Tuesday night.”


“Walters: Feinstein must decide whether it’s time to retire” [Mercury-News]. “California’s senior U.S. senator, a California political fixture for more than a half-century, was facing a turning point even before her husband, financier and philanthropist Richard Blum, died on Sunday of cancer. The Senate’s oldest member at 88 and the state’s longest serving senator has clearly fallen out of favor with voters, even her fellow Democrats. A new poll by UC-Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found that after years of steadily eroding popularity, just 30% of the state’s registered voters now approve of her, including just 45% of Democrats. Meanwhile, 49% said they disapproved. ‘The five-term senator now receives more negative than positive job ratings from strong liberals, women, voters of color, younger voters, as well as voters in Los Angeles County or the San Francisco Bay Area,’ the poll noted…. Newsom is certainly not the only California politician who might want to succeed Feinstein. There are probably several dozen Democratic members of Congress who see a senator staring back when they look in the mirror, plus some other statewide officials and big city mayors. It all hinges on whether Feinstein is ready for a well-earned political retirement.” • Feinstein filed in January 2021

Trump Legacy

Trump’s not the only self-believer:

Realignment and Legitimacy

Return to normalcy (1):

Return to normalcy (2):


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.

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 was “Covid is behind us,” and that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), and “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) was completely exploded. What a surprise! This time, it may be different. But who knows?

* * *

“Masks Work, Period.” [Peter Daou, Direct Left]. “As I wrote recently, it would be awful enough if Republican politicians were the only ones treating vulnerable people as throwaways. That’s to be expected from a callous, extremist, anti-science party. But disgustingly, Democratic leaders are following Republicans down the anti-mask and anti-mitigation path.” • The Death Panel Podcast, in “Lying Like a State,” makes the argument that what elites have learned from Covid is that they can kill a million people in two years and nobody will riot. A valuable lesson, indeed. The podcasters also recall Hobbes, who urged that without society, our lives would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” The Trump and Biden administrations, together, have gotten the State out of the business of making our lives not Hobbesian, good job,

When that kid on the left runs for office, I’m voting for him:

But tell me DeSantis is worse than Walensky:

Obviously, they’re both equally bad.

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

Flattened out, continues encouraging (and independent from the CDC).

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:

Idaho back up again. Vermont? 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:

“Health update: Vermont’s COVID-19 outlook improves” [Vermont Public Radio]. “COVID-19 case rates, hospitalizations and deaths are declining in Vermont, and health officials say they expect the numbers to keep falling. As the state enters into the endemic phase of COVID-19, there are still questions about how to keep older Vermonters and those with compromised immune systems safe.” • Amazing how “the endemic phase” because conventional wisdom without, so far as I can tell, any scientific justification at all. Is it wishful thinking? Is it MBAs thinking their spreadsheets rule the world, instead of the other way round? It’s bizarre. Like so much else.

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

Continuing slow improvement.

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Sea of green once more, including the Northern Marianas. 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: 979,725 977,402. An uptick. But it looks like we won’t break a million for Biden’s SOTU. I was hoping for a ribbon cutting ceremony of some kind. Maybe the West Wing staff could have staged a photo op with funny hats and noisemakers. Walensky’s staff could have joined in by Zoom. Ah well, nevertheless.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Challenger Job Cuts” [Trading Economics]. “Job cuts announced by US-based companies fell to 15,245 in February of 2022 from 19,064 in January with 5,558 positions eliminated due to market conditions. Another 4,671 cuts were due to store, unit, or plant closing, while 1,430 cuts were due to workers refusing to get vaccinated against employer policy. In the first two months of the year, employers announced 34,309 cuts, down 70% year-on-year and the lowest January-February total since records began in 1993. Meanwhile, employers announced plans to hire 215,127 workers, the highest February total on record.”

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits decreased by 18 thousand to 215 thousand in the week ended February 26th, from a revised 233 thousand in the previous period and compared with market expectations of 225. It was the lowest number since the start of the year amid strong demand for labor as Omicron restrictions eased.”

Manufacturing: “United States Factory Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US manufactured goods went up 1.4 percent from a month earlier in January of 2022, quickening from a revised 0.7 percent increase in December and above market expectations of 0.7 percent. Orders rose faster in industries producing both durables (1.6 percent vs 1.2 percent in December) and nondurable goods (1.2 percent vs 0.1 percent). Among durable goods, main upward pressure came from transportation equipment (3.4 percent vs 1.7 percent), mainly driven by orders for nondefense aircraft and parts; followed by machinery (2.6 percent vs 1.3 percent), boosted by material handling equipment and ventilation, heating, air conditioning & refrigeration equipment.”

Services: “United States Services PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The IHS Markit US Services PMI was revised slightly lower to 56.5 in February of 2021 from a preliminary of 56.7, but sill pointed to a strong growth in the services sector, following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. The faster rise in output was supported by the steepest upturn in new sales for seven months.”

Services: “United States ISM Non Manufacturing PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The ISM Services PMI for the US fell for a third month to 56.5 in February of 2022 from 59.9 in January, below market forecasts of 61. The reading pointed to the slowest growth in the services sector in a year, although a robust and above long-run average.”

* * *

Commodities: “Wheat Prices Shoot to 14-Year High on Concerns over Conflict Between Russia and Ukraine” [Farm Journal]. “So, why are wheat prices seeing such momentum? Both Ukraine and Russia account for nearly 30% of the world’s wheat exports. It’s not just uncertainty about the crisis causing wheat prices to climb, but there’s also worries about infrastructure damage in Ukraine and whether it will hinder the country’s ability to export in the near future.”

Commodities: “Grain Markets Set for Supply Shock of a Lifetime, Economist Says” [Bloomberg]. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could devastate global grain markets so deeply that it’s likely to be the biggest supply shock in living memory. That’s according to Scott Irwin, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois. Tens of millions of acres of grain production are at stake, he said Wednesday on Twitter. ‘I am convinced it is going to be the biggest supply shock to global grain markets in my lifetime,’ Irwin said. The world ‘desperately’ needs farmers to plant more acres in 2022, he said, but ‘basically nothing can be done in the short-run except to run up the price of grain high enough to ration demand.’ Ukraine and Russia together account for more than a quarter of the global trade in wheat, as well as a fifth of corn sales. Prices for those staple crops are soaring on concerns over supply disruptions at a time when global food prices had already reached record highs.”

The Bezzle: “Brown-Forman ‘underlying’ numbers more spirited than actuals” [Francine McKenna, MarketWatch]. “Brown-Forman Corp., a leading U.S. spirits and wine company, put out a first-quarter earnings report on Wednesday that’s arguably a dog’s breakfast of made-up metrics and mixed-up year-over-year comparisons. The Securities and Exchange Commission issued updated guidance to companies in May, reminding them that numbers prepared according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, the accounting standard, must be shown first and emphasized equally with the adjusted, or non-GAAP figures, that often make results look better.”

Concentration: “Ice Cream Machine Hackers Sue McDonald’s for $900 Million” [Wired]. “For years, the tiny startup Kytch worked to invent and sell a device designed to fix McDonald’s notoriously broken ice cream machines, only to watch the fast food Goliath crush their business like the hopes of so many would-be McFlurry customers. Now Kytch is instead seeking to serve out cold revenge—nearly a billion dollars worth of it. Late Tuesday night, Kytch filed a long-expected legal complaint against McDonald’s, accusing the company of false advertising and tortious interference in its contracts with customers. Kytch’s cofounders, Melissa Nelson and Jeremy O’Sullivan, are asking for no less than $900 million in damages. Since 2019, Kytch has sold a phone-sized gadget designed to be installed inside McDonald’s ice cream machines. Those Kytch devices would intercept the ice cream machines’ internal communications and send them out to a web or smartphone interface to help owners remotely monitor and troubleshoot the machines’ many foibles, which are so widely acknowledged that they’ve become a full-blown meme among McDonald’s customers.”

Mr. Market:

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 23 Extreme Fear (previous close: 24 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 25 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 3 at 1:21pm. Looks like Putin still has Mr. Market’s attention.

L’Affaire Joffrey Epstein

“Maxwell juror to plead the Fifth” [The Hill]. “Both prosecutors and defense raised concerns after [Juror 50, Scotty] David, who identified himself using his first and middle name to the press, spoke to several different media outlets, saying he had informed fellow jurors that he had suffered sexual abuse but had not mentioned that while filling out a questionnaire as a prospective juror. The questionnaire asks if they or a family member has experienced sexual abuse, and a judge involved in the trial would address a juror’s response if a prospective juror responded ‘yes’ to it. David had told Reuters that he ‘flew through’ the questionnaire but said he would have been honest about it had he been asked. The Maxwell juror explained he did not remember being asked about the matter. Those interviews prompted a motion for a retrial from Maxwell’s attorneys. Maxwell, an associate of the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was previously found guilty of sex trafficking charges in December.”

The 420

“Dr. Bronner’s Offering Its Workers Psychedelic Therapy Coverage” []. “Dr. Bronner’s is touting itself as being among the first U.S. employers to offer psychedelic-assisted therapy (PAT) to its employees via a health benefit plan. The soap manufacturer started offering ketamine-assisted therapy (KAT) as a benefit in January. The program is being operated by Enthea, a nonprofit startup aiming to extend PAT to several more employers’ plans by the end of the year and make the trend widespread by 2025. ‘High-performing and forward-thinking companies know the importance of employee mental health. We also see the best talent attracted to companies MedPage Todaywith next-generation benefits,’ Enthea CEO Lia Mix said in a press release issued by Bronner’s on Monday. ‘We anticipate both human and financial return on these organizations’ investment in covering psychedelic healthcare.'”

The Agony Column

“‘Hard-partying bands are the outliers now’: how rock’n’roll broke up with booze and drugs” [Guardian]. “Musicians and their crew used to be notorious for their booze and drug consumption on tour. Now, however – partly thanks to the pandemic – there’s support for those who would rather try to stay sober…. While the artist has to deal with the highs and lows of attention, it’s important to remember those not in the spotlight. ‘There are a lot of people on crews, in management companies and record labels, who have died,’ says Thomas. ‘It wouldn’t even be known that this is what they died from because there’s so much shame and stigma around it. It’s covered up.’… ‘It’s gone full circle: the reason I started playing is because I love it. Now I’m back to where I started – where people can come to watch me just lose myself in the music.'”

Class Warfare

“COVID-19 Pandemic Continues To Reshape Work in America” [Pew Research Center]. “Most U.S. workers (60%) don’t have jobs that can be done from home, and others who do have these types of jobs are going into their workplace at least sometimes. For a large majority of these workers, their jobs continue to involve at least some in-person interaction with others at their workplace. About half of those who ever interact with other people at their workplace say they’re very (19%) or somewhat (32%) concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus. This is virtually unchanged from October 2020. Roughly one-in-four (26%) say they are more concerned about this now than they were before the omicron variant started to spread, and the same share say they are less concerned now. A plurality (47%) say they are about as concerned now as they were before omicron.”

News of the Wired

Living with Covid:

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (TH):

TH writes: “A friend of mine has a pass to the Huntington Library Gardens and invited me to accompany her on her visit. While Winter isn’t abundant in blooms, we still found some beautiful plants. The majority of plants there are not identified, so I only know the obvious, that this is a rose.”

* * *

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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. AlRossi

    “Hochul Proposes Bringing Back Private Prison Labor”

    There’s precedent for that:

    Sen. Kamala Harris repeatedly and openly defied U.S. Supreme Court orders to reduce overcrowding in California prisons while serving as the state’s attorney general, according to legal documents reviewed by the Prospect. Working in tandem with Gov. Jerry Brown, Harris and her legal team filed motions that were condemned by judges and legal experts as obstructionist, bad-faith, and nonsensical, at one point even suggesting that the Supreme Court lacked the jurisdiction to order a reduction in California’s prison population. The intransigence of this legal work resulted in the presiding judges in the case giving serious consideration to holding the state in contempt of court.


    1. Michael Ismoe

      Now that the “liberal” Democrats are willing to change the New York State constitution to bring back workhouses, I expect the Republicans to move the Overton Window a bit more to the right by proposing we get rid of the 13th Amendment and bring back slavery.

      This stops the “Great Resignation” in its tracks and solves all those Amazon/Starbucks unionization “problems.” And Uber should be on board too.

      1. GramSci

        Alas, the 13th amendment is a cash cow for corporations: “Section 1 Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” [emphasis added].

        Wage slavery is more modern and more efficient than ancient slavery, but penal colonies are even more profitable when they are run by a compliant and sadistic state.

  2. antidlc

    RE: Impact Research

    I noticed on their website that they have a CONTACT US form.

    Seriously thinking about filling it out and politely asking them, “So how many people will die? Did you perform an analysis?”

  3. Samuel Conner

    “COVID conscious company”

    glad to see that. It’s the 21st century CCC – ‘civilian conservation corps’ — in the sense that keeping civilians alive and healthy is a form of ‘conservation’.

  4. fresno dan

    Obviously, they’re both equally bad.
    I would argue against that opinion regarding DeSantis and Walensky. Walensky is a bureacrat who is appointed. DeSantis can appoint a believer in the science, or a disbeliever in science. But just not to Walensky’s job, but to dozens (if not hundreds of knock off jobs). If Biden favored masking to continue, Walensky would favor masking to continue…
    Would DeSantis just favor not wearing masks, but favor laws and policies that are actively hostile to masking? e.g., no masking in Federal buildings? No masking while in the present of law enforcement or a federal official? etcetera…

    1. The Rev Kev

      That Ron DeSantis to USF students about masks seemed to be theater. Imagine if he did that for real and a student said in a loud baritone voice that he is wearing it to protect his immune-compromised mother. Politicians do not like surprises like that.

      1. britzklieg

        DeSantis, one of the nastiest politicos around and a genuine danger even to the democracy we already don’t have, would shut that down w/o batting an eyelid and anything short of the “n” word would be available to his repulsive pugnaciousness.

        If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be voting for Charlie Crist I’d have laughed. Yet apparently he is the one most Florida Democrats believe can beat Ron the impaler.

        Shoot me now.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Obviously, they’re both equally bad.

      I was trying to be nice. Walensky and the CDC are perceived as the voices of public health, which they are in the process of destroying, costing many lives, now and in the future. By that metric, Walensky is far worse.

  5. fresno dan

    “Maxwell juror to plead the Fifth” [The Hill]. “Both prosecutors and defense raised concerns after [Juror 50, Scotty] David, who identified himself using his first and middle name to the press, spoke to several different media outlets, saying he had informed fellow jurors that he had suffered sexual abuse but had not mentioned that while filling out a questionnaire as a prospective juror. The questionnaire asks if they or a family member has experienced sexual abuse, and a judge involved in the trial would address a juror’s response if a prospective juror responded ‘yes’ to it. David had told Reuters that he ‘flew through’ the questionnaire but said he would have been honest about it had he been asked.
    I doubt the veracity of the juror in question. But I do believe it says something about the decline of “civic virture” that is corroding this country. I have served on eight or nine or ten juries (I was a Federal employee so time off for serving on a jury was never an issue, and than plenty of time since I have retired).
    I read every question, I answered every question, and I was quite the pain the a$$ with my own questions. Which got me dismissed from a few juries – being a cynic, I get the impression they don’t really want anybody thinking too hard in a jury box.

    1. Wukchumni

      I’ve managed to get myself disqualified as a potential juror many times, only takes the wrong answer and mission accomplished.

      That said, I really wanted to be a juror the last time I went, as it was grand theft pistachio and the perp had stolen (supposedly) an 18 wheeler full of them.

      No such luck though, as the case was equally popular with the early jurors picked and a jury was assembled toot suite.

      1. rowlf

        Dayum. That’s better heist than the 18 wheeler full of ramen that was stolen in a nearby town a few years ago.

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        i always wanted to serve on a jury…out of curiosity as much as a sense of duty.
        but my record sez “THEFT!”…because i missed that one hot check out of 30 when my paycheck bounced and i was evicted immediately and living in my car.
        in texas, being “a Thief!” disqualifies one from so serving.
        and texas also regards a $19 hot check, however accidental, as “Theft!”.

        local district judge is a friend, and he acknowledged the problem(i’m quite popular with such people, somehow)…but said it would cost $ i don’t have to undo this.

        all that aside…if you really want to be disqualified, merely utter the words “Jury Nullification”, and they’ll toss ya right out.

        1. Acacia

          The line that worked for me was: “I’m sorry, your honor, but serving on this jury would pose a severe hardship.”

          In fact, I really wanted to be a juror, perform my civic duty and all that, especially after a co-worker told me about a case he served on in which a Taco Bell employee filed a personal injury lawsuit against two customers — a pair of women from New Jersey — who mowed him down in the Bell’s back parking lot. Apparently, the defense attorney would ask them questions like: “you never saw this man before and therefore held no grudges against him, right?” to which one of the women replied: “yeah, but he was really SLOW to make our burritos”.

          I had no such luck, and either got bounced off the jury when the lawyers saw I wasn’t favorable to their spin, or assigned to cases that were projected to last for months. Trying to pay rent on the compensation for jury duty wasn’t going to fly.

    2. herman_sampson

      I was told that lawyers on both sides look for jurors who are “on med[ication]s, no ed[ucation].”

      1. herman_sampson

        I have been called for duty three times – had also been told if you have a book or newspaper that will get you out of a trial – didn’t work the last time.

        1. jr

          Got picked for duty once. I was interviewed by the lawyers and I told them I was studying philosophy and that I loved to argue all sides of a problem. Also, I read hours of news a week. They laughed and thanked me for my time, good day and goodbye…

          1. anon y'mouse

            the one time i was questioned to sit on a jury, they spent more time trying to find out the job positions and education level of the people they were questioning and their social standing than anything else, even though i had included in responses that i would never vote guilty for anyone under threat of the death penalty.

            i would have not even questioned me at all, given that kind of answer. one can only surmise that the case they were picking for was highly technical in nature and/or had potential for media/political fallout.

    3. Nikkikat

      I worked for the County and also ended up on a lot of jury trials. I have to say most people will do anything to not serve. Mainly the wealthy. Their behavior was notable. One lady told the judge that she had no intention of being on a jury. She had several dinner parties planned and this was a huge imposition. Another told the judge that she had only 6 months to pick a dress for her daughters wedding and she would just be too busy! It was hard not to laugh. I also find the jurors story questionable. He had an agenda.

    4. Aleric

      True Anon covered this, apparently the defense issued a large and intrusive questionnaire, 10 pages of highly personal questions. The judge thought this violated the jurors rights and filtered defense access to the raw questionnaires. They did question female jurors about their experiences with sexual assault during voir dire, but apparently not male jurors.

    5. Angie Neer

      I served on a jury only once, and am very grateful for the experience. It was an ugly case with a trial that lasted about 3 weeks, but no sequestration, and frequent half- or off-days while the pro se defendant showered the court with motions. Before it started, acquaintances said “oh don’t worry, they’ll never pick an engineer to be on a jury.” Ha. But the bottom line is I learned a ton about the system and legal procedures that I’ve never seen on a fictional courtroom drama. And it does bother me a bit how many people I encounter who are gleeful about their ability to avoid ever participating in the process. (I mean people who could if they wanted to, not those who can’t afford a day off work.)

  6. Toshiro_Mifune

    From my spot in the IT world it looks like we’re preparing for a shut off of communications to Russia. At the least we’re certainly preparing for all RU based circuits/VPNs to be shut off. Not sure if this is just data or more.

    *I should clarify* Spent a fun morning de-permissioning Russian financial institutions from exchange data. That order came from on-high within a London based exchange that now owns a large player in the market data world.
    Within the past 30 mins or so started to get a lot of questions about who owns the equipment for the dedicated circuits/vpns for the RU based clients.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Guess that this is why the Russians made sure to set up their own internet so that they could not be strangled if they got cut off. It was only a year or two ago they tested it in a general exercise. As for who owns the equipment for the dedicated circuits/vpns for the RU based clients – if it turned out that they were owned by the Russians, would there be legal trouble for de-permissioning them?

    1. steve

      I was interested in the rose too so looked up Huntington Library Garden, which I’m thinking is this.

      They have a Rose Garden and this guy is the curator of the Rose Garden. On his Twitter feed he has this photo

      Close don’t you think?

      1. Harold

        It could be that one. It’s a floribunda (several blooms to a stemZ), so that rules out Peace. Also Peace has huge flowers, and judging by the size of the leaves versus the flowers, this one had smallish flowers.

        I would so like to visit the Huntington Rose Garden.

        Because of the name, I was considering ‘Huntington’s 100th’ aka ‘Life of the Party’ also by Carruth. But the leaves seem somewhat different (amaller) and the flowers more pastel. But I would dearly like to see it, because it is described as very fragrant.

        On the other hand there is this: https://www.helpmefind.com/rose/l.php?l=21.370430
        But it’s a hybrid tea (one flower to a stem).

        The thing is, roses are so variable according to season and growing conditions. One needs a systematic method for identifying them: comparative size shape and appearance of leaves, prickles, hips, and the like.
        Since Carruth is on twitter (thanks for the heads up!) one could ask him.

    2. albrt

      I have a bush that looks just like this in the front yard. After poking around a little bit, I think it might be Desert Peace.

  7. Andrew Watts

    Russo-Ukraine War: What the West Doesn’t Understand – Task & Purpose

    People were asking for sources of good information yesterday and this is the best explainer that I’ve seen so far. I’m not going to reiterate what is said in the video, but I will include some timestamps of the video to cut down on the time needed to watch.

    @4:00 – The 40 mile convoy
    The waging of war is both an art and a science. Logistics is where the fundamental logic of math plays a role in the forming of timetables. If you know the operational range of a battle group then prediction isn’t a matter of clairvoyance. When the Germans were about to launch Operation Barbarossa they gave their battle plans to Japan. The Imperial Japanese strategists took out a map and calculated that they would fall short of Moscow. They drew a line on a map that represented the furthest extent that German supply lines could support the operation. Needless to say it was remarkably accurate.

    That said, that’s how I got my estimate of a 2-3 week war after spending some time on Google maps. Russian High Command would probably agree with it as their own plans allegedly call for a 15 day campaign.

    @12:10 – Those leaked battle plans (that are probably real)
    Looking at the date on the plans answers several questions assuming that the Ukrainian government had these plans prior to the invasion and only now just leaked them. Such as why did the Ukrainians play down the risk of a war in February. Zelensky said in a speech that if anybody had any reliable intelligence about an invasion that they should share them. When several milestones expired they probably began to discount the possibility of war. The Biden administration and the Pentagon in the meantime wasn’t seeing anything to dissuade them from the idea that Moscow was going to launch an invasion.

    Completely option section of the video @ 11:46 (Jokermode)
    It’s always possible for soldiers to be uncool in a warzone, but doing your best impression of Heath Ledger’s Joker under a flag of truce that might not be respected?

    Just plain awesome.

    1. Jason Boxman

      The waging of war is both an art and a science. Logistics is where the fundamental logic of math plays a role in the forming of timetables. If you know the operational range of a battle group then prediction isn’t a matter of clairvoyance. When the Germans were about to launch Operation Barbarossa they gave their battle plans to Japan. The Imperial Japanese strategists took out a map and calculated that they would fall short of Moscow. They drew a line on a map that represented the furthest extent that German supply lines could support the operation. Needless to say it was remarkably accurate.

      The German industrial and logistical capacity is covered in great detail (and other belligerents) in Brute Force, an excellent and huge read.

    2. Petter

      Watched the video and really sat up when it got to the Belarusian President and plans for Moldova. Our home grocery delivery person today is from Moldova as my wife learned after mentioning how horrible or sad the situation is in Ukraine. He broke down sobbing, told her he was from Moldova and that he can’t get in touch with his family back there. He has talked to his family before but hasn’t been able to the last couple of days and fears that Moldova is next.

    3. anon y'mouse

      i had to stop watching when he started moralizing that stealing the food was “scorched earth tactics”.

      it is an age old practice to eat from the fields of your enemy’s lands as you try to take them over. this didn’t cease just because we developed dehydration.

      scorched earth would have been the soldiers blowing up the store after stealing everything inside of it, not looting some semi-perishables.

    4. Dave in Austin

      “task and purpose”, cited above turns out to be an interesting site run by a fast-talking Iraq War veteran. I believe he is trying to get at the truth, and he does find a lot of interesting videos. But many of the details he cites are wrong, sometimes hilariously wrong.

      At 59 seconds he catches a line of Russian tanks from an upper window. They are firing at something in the foreground as they drive by. He thinks this is “recon by fire”, an American doctrine of just shooting up everything that might be dangerous as you move by. But look closely. Like many ex-Soviet towns, this one has a monument to the Soviet army in WWII. Like the Soviet vistory memorial still found 800 yards from the Reichstag in Berlin, it is a Soviet WW II tank. The Russians driving by suddenly see a tank off to the side of the road pointing a gun at them and they shoot it up. I’ll bet the tank gunners that didn’t fire are still kidding the ones who did unmercifully.

      He did find one gem; a set of Russian plans from a captured Russian Marine officer. The Russian plan goes out two weeks.

      1. skippy

        Concur Dave …

        The whole thing is presented in an almost in-game twitch podcast format with the narrator in some OD-Green military style gamer merch t-shirt and lol moment screen shots [Ivan hand break comment et al] . I lmmao at this constant repetition of objectivity albeit in hopes the Ukraine wins – like its proof of unbiased objectivity because he put it out there.

        Pretty much the only thing that gave any of it gravitas was unpacking the dynamics behind the convoy contra the huge media campaign to paint it as a baked in communist failure – we told you so gotcha moment.

        Per you’re first paragraph I would suggest the fast talking Iraq vet is more interested in gaining FB eyeballs and how that translates to income and possibly ascending to a more profitable platform.

        The problem is the vast majority of people out there watching this are more than just ignorant, because they have been indoctrinated one way or another and can be played like a piano with the right key strokes. This is made way more dynamic by the passive generations that increasing grew up up with high strength psychological media blasted at their eyeballs 24/7/365. I mean the idea the average person has the knowledge and experience to evaluate such an event is just nuts and the more they want to know – right now – the more susceptible they are to being used one way or another.

        Just off the cuff I would offer that the one thing I’ve not heard from the western pundits is how bloody minded the Russians can be when they decide to act, yet that does not mean inflexibility, it just means they don’t run away. Seriously what do they have to lose after the machinations of the Harvard boys and then endless sanctions for having the cheek to say no.

      2. Skippy

        I should have added the whole commie thing is just a riff on the old saw “we’re all going to starve” because commies can’t supply consumers[tm] needs. Not that the dust bowl thingy happened under the neoclassical economic period or anything … but yeah freedoms …

      3. Soredemos

        He talks fast so you have trouble focusing on the fact that much of what he’s saying is gibberish. He just seems to blindly accept the Ukrainian claims about heavy Russian casualties, and he’s relying on the Live UA map, which is consistently days out of date, and clearly biased in favor of Ukraine (the Kagan maps that Lambert has been posting are actually better, hilariously).

    5. PlutoniumKun

      Task & Purpose is a fun gun and war fetishist site. I agree that the guy who does it is very honest and quite knowledgable. He is open about his sympathies, but doesn’t try to avoid the truth about the situation as he sees it. But it only seems good in the context of the overwhelming wave of propaganda and historically illiterate commentary were are been deluged with. The number of supposedly expert commentators who opine that the Russians have failed because they didn’t get a surrender in 2 days is mind boggling. I honestly don’t know if they are genuinely stupid, or whether they are just churning out what the media and others want to hear, and are privately giggling about this in private.

      So far, I’ve found @bazaarofwar to be the best source of coldly analytical information on whats going on. He is very careful not to overspeculate, and very good at shooting down the nonsense spread by ‘experts’ like Edward Luttwak. I don’t have time to chase down every source and rabbit hole, so its useful to have someone like this providing relatively clean analysis.

      Today, @bazaar has been good on the economic aspects of Russias strategy. They are focusing on Black Sea ports because without those ports Ukraine can’t export grain. This is an excellent way of concentrating the worlds attention on things that matter – like food.

      He also raises the interesting question – one in which our finance people here could possibly answer – whether Russia may be secretly playing futures markets as a means of financing the war. It would be somewhat amusing if the Russians have managed to make Wall Street finance the war. I’ll leave it to others to comment on whether this is feasible.

    1. Wukchumni

      I’m a slav to fashion and have a quite common Russian middle name, I wonder when they come after me?

      The reasoning was that I born in the white heat of the cold war and my parents were playing both sides, ha ha

      1. jr

        I still think tossing out Polish vodka is the pinnacle of hysteria. People are looking for something to hate and the establishment served ‘em up a war. Same old fu(king tune…

    2. The Rev Kev

      They also decided to throw out the Russian disabled athletes from the Beijing 2022 Paralympics as well and I think those too from Belarus. Kicking disabled people always plays well with our elite.

  8. Wukchumni

    Commodities: “Grain Markets Set for Supply Shock of a Lifetime, Economist Says” [Bloomberg]. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could devastate global grain markets so deeply that it’s likely to be the biggest supply shock in living memory. That’s according to Scott Irwin, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois. Tens of millions of acres of grain production are at stake, he said Wednesday on Twitter. ‘I am convinced it is going to be the biggest supply shock to global grain markets in my lifetime,’ Irwin said. The world ‘desperately’ needs farmers to plant more acres in 2022, he said, but ‘basically nothing can be done in the short-run except to run up the price of grain high enough to ration demand.’ Ukraine and Russia together account for more than a quarter of the global trade in wheat, as well as a fifth of corn sales. Prices for those staple crops are soaring on concerns over supply disruptions at a time when global food prices had already reached record highs.”
    Turnabout being fair play, we might be looking at a repeat of ‘The Great Grain Robbery’ of 50 years ago, albeit in reverse.

    In July 1973, the Soviet Union purchased 10 million short tons (9.1×106 t) of grain (mainly wheat and corn) from the United States at subsidized prices, which caused global grain prices to soar. Crop shortfalls in 1971 and 1972 forced the Soviet Union to look abroad for grain, hoping to prevent famine or other crisis. Soviet negotiators worked out a deal to buy grain on credit, but quickly exceeded their credit limit. American negotiators did not realize that both the Soviets and the world grain market had suffered shortfalls, and thus subsidized the purchase, leading it to be dubbed the “Great Grain Robbery”. The strategy backfired and intensified the crisis: global food prices rose at least 30 percent, and grain stockpiles were decimated.

    The U.S. government spent $300 million subsidizing the grain purchases, still unaware that the Soviets had suffered massive crop shortfalls in 1971 and 1972. American ignorance of the situation was due in part that many officials, such as Earl Butz, were convinced that the Soviets were only purchasing the grain to feed their animals. By not realizing that global wheat stocks were low, and discounting reports of Soviet crop failure, the United States inadvertently contributed to domestic food prices rising, and lost significant revenue by choosing to subsidize the purchase instead of offering it at market price.


    1. Dave in Austin

      Maybe e really good suggestion from yours truly.

      We now have a humanitarian corridor for evacuating Ukrainian city civilians, a very good idea from both sides. Maybe we should next hope for a Fuel Corridor to provide gas for the fields that need to planted now… in the middle of a low-grade war where fuel may not be being delivered. I’ll bet the sides can agree on that too.

  9. Jason Boxman

    makes the argument that what elites have learned from Covid is that they can kill a million people in two years and nobody will riot. A valuable lesson, indeed.

    I just had that same thought this morning, in fact. Of course liberal Democrats are lifting restrictions! Look how many people they’ve murdered since Biden took office, and neoliberal capitalism marches on, with people compliant, either through discipline or propaganda.


  10. Reader_In_Cali

    Re: Feinstein, the political rumor mill in The Bay has Feinstein not running again, which is allegedly what triggered the exhausting musical chairs that’s currently happening in SF. Breed and Newsom are very close and word on the street is that he’s still taking heat for not appointing a Black woman to fill Kamala’s seat. It is said that Breed is first in line to be appointed. Kill me now.

    1. Tom Stone

      Just be nice to London, and she will be nice to you.
      There’s a rumor she likes gift cards, send a few with a very generous floral arrangement and I’m sure she’d be happy to join you for a meal somewhere nice.
      At your expense.

    2. SteveD

      London Breed as US Senator? So that’s where we are now? That would be a sign that the Jackpot is imminent.

      I was half-expecting Newsom to appoint himself to Feinstein’s seat.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Sorry guys but Feinstein actually died about two years ago of Coronavirus at the young age of 86 years old. Whenever you see her now, it is all part of an elaborate “Weekend at Bernies” act

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvITkVaOpUs (2:41 mins)

      Myself, I thought it charming to have a politician in power who was born when FDR became President.

    4. Calverton

      Breed appointed senator? Oh please. She grew up in the projects and is part of the San Francisco Family, a group of affirmative action public works contractors and administrators who have been prosecuted by the FBI and the head of which, Mohammed Nuru, is in federal prison.

      She actively shielded her felon brother when he was on the run after he murdered a woman . She’s also not that bright.

      “The Ethics Commission fined Breed for several violations, including asking then-California Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2018 to release her brother Napoleon Brown from prison, where he was serving a 44-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter and armed robbery, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Breed and family members sent the letter to Brown in October 2018, asking for the release of her brother for crimes for which she said he had faced excessive punishment.”


      “She also let the former head of San Francisco Public Works Mohammed Nuru pay for her car repairs, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The commission said Breed violated laws that prohibits accepting gifts from subordinates.”

  11. Jim

    “Wheat Prices Shoot to 14-Year High on Concerns over Conflict Between Russia and Ukraine”

    I’m sure Billionairess, by marriage Kamala, centamillionaire after 52 years in politics Biden and decca millionaire Pelosi feel our pain.

    5.25 a gallon for regular this morning.

    1. jo6pac

      I paid $4.36 this morning at safeway in Tracy, Calif. The potus, vp, and nancy p. have plan. It’s to end buying from Russia. It account for 20% of oil used in Amerika. Gas will now be auctioned sales only;-)

    2. petal

      Was told tonight by my UMC friend(lives in a huge house on 11 acres, has one of those huge tow-behind trailers and all the toys) tonight that I, who dwells on the lower rungs and is debating whether to pay for either gas or food, should be happy to pay more for gas because the Ukrainians have it so much harder and we need to support them.

    3. BobW

      $3.33 / gallon for regular in NW Arkansas now, about the lowest in the US, and that is up a little from yesterday. I haven’t been inside a grocery store lately so I don’t know if there are any shortages here now.

  12. Wukchumni

    “Walters: Feinstein must decide whether it’s time to retire” [Mercury-News].

    It all hinges on whether Feinstein is ready for a well-earned political retirement.” • Feinstein filed in January 2021…
    Feinstein’s theory of relativity notwithstanding, hasn’t she done enough damage already?

  13. Martin Oline

    I see the rapid riser county map shows a rise in Nebraska that runs pretty much along I-80. It is largest in the Omaha – Lincoln “metropolitan” area. It looks as though the truckers’ protest convoy can’t be blamed as they are hundreds of miles to the south and east.
    The author Jim Thompson moved to Lincoln in 1929 to get his degree and lived there again when times were difficult for him in the ’60’s (biography). Of the 30 or more novels he wrote I am not sure which of them could be used to describe this red streak – should it be The Kill Off, Pop. 1,208, or The Killer Inside Of Me?

  14. Henry Moon Pie

    “The Death Panel Podcast, in “Lying Like a State,” makes the argument that what elites have learned from Covid is that they can kill a million people in two years and nobody will riot. A valuable lesson, indeed. The podcasters also recall Hobbes, who urged that without society, our lives would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” The Trump and Biden administrations, together, have gotten the State out of the business of making our lives not Hobbesian, good job,”

    Is there a better mythic parallel to the behavior of our elites in these last days than the hoary tale of YHWH, Moses, Aaron and Pharaoh. In our current version, the role of YHWH is taken by the Cosmos, the Tao, Gaia, whatever your flavor. Pharaoh is embodied in our billionaires whose control of all of Oceania’s government is now more apparent than ever. And the brothers, Moses and Aaron, are those few remaining sane voices speaking to save the Earth and humanity.

    So Moses and Aaron come to Pharaoh and announce that they bring a message from a king more powerful than Pharaoh. Pharaoh laughs. He’s sure there is no such king. So Moses and Aaron proceed to announce a series of plagues that are sounding more and more familiar to us: filthy rivers; ecological balance destroyed with plagues of frogs and locusts and flies; and crazy weather. But what does Pharaoh care? His palace is sturdy enough to handle the hail and keep out the flies. Even if the locusts eat this year’s harvest, Pharaoh isn’t going to starve.

    Then Moses and Aaron offer Pharaoh his last chance. This time, the threat is that the next generation will be destroyed, including Pharaoh’s own son. Even that is not enough. Pharaoh’s heart is too hard, his head too deluded by his own hubris. The Angel of Death walks even in Pharaoh’s palace.

  15. t

    Rio Grand valley? Bernie killed it in the primary and then Dem turnout in the general was depressed. Border people may be more conservative because they are often Catholic but they don’t seem sold on blue no matter who.

    We saw the same thing in 2016 Appalachia.

  16. jsn

    Henry Moon Pie
    March 3, 2022 at 3:36 pm

    What Freud, who I think of more as a Victorian performance artist than scientists, called “the death drive” is that human trait for dominance the atlatl had held in check for a 150,000 years which somehow overcame the human impulse for solidarity in mutually freeing societies when warrior societies overpowered proto-civilization.

    I’m on my second pass through “The Dawn of Everything” and this seems to be one of the arguments the authors are making without Freud’s term. They set it up pretty clearly in the chapters I’m hitting again now that warrior aristocracy developed in parallel to and self conscious distinction from urbane equality in early self governing cities with the former preying on the latter and eventually overtaking it.

    The profound narcissism of the few, after almost 200,000 years then proceeded to overcome the hyper sociability of the many, setting us on our current path to self extermination. Would that we had some mechanism to engage nature against this narcissism other than our own extinction.

  17. ambrit

    Sorry to say so, but that Eric Lach fellow plainly failed World History Twentieth Century. The Spanish Flu happened at the end of WW-1, and continued on after the war ended. So, how does he come to his conclusion?
    Facts Free OpEds. It’s what’s for political discourse today.
    Epic Fail. This cat is on track to be a contender for this year’s Judith Miller Award.

    1. Sailor Bud

      I was confused by it too. If I give him the benefit of the doubt, I suspect he means that some tons of normies probably are even peripherally aware that there was a WWI (there must have been, because there was definitely a WWII, dude!) but have no clue about the influenza at all. He’s saying it from some knowing 2021 prof’s perspective as if it is a funny thing…”funny how WWI erased this other big thing (in the public consciousness)”

      And then 2022. A war, a media blitz, and bye bye COVID, and that’s how the influenza got disappeared. Hence….his conclusion.

      Or is that out to lunch?

      1. ambrit

        Sounds reasonable the way you tell it.
        My ‘beef’ with the premise is that WW-1 was already a going concern when the Spanish Flu Pandemic began. Today’s example is the other way around. An ultra-cynic, which I suspect the tweeter is, would say that this war was “engineered” specifically to obscure the Pandemic. Either way, it gives too much ‘agency’ to our Machiavellian Political Class.
        The two ‘events’ might be related in that both are ways of “culling the herd.” As the CDC and NIH fail to understand, no herd is immune to viruses, nor exploding ordinance. For instance, even with anti-masking demonstrations back then, the Public Health Authority of the time stuck to their guns in enforcing public hygiene measures. Today?

      1. Sailor Bud

        Invalid, though! Rachmaninov was never an artist of the USSR. Definitely boogied for the sweet, sweet loot, the tours, the recording contracts, and his Blüthner and Steinway and mansions.

        Anyway, forgive me. His songs are truly amazing.

        If Wuk’s choices are to represent *Russia*, he’d best get his Armenian out tho. And then there’s the commie angle, but that’s a can of worms with both Prokofiev and Shostakovich, especially with the apparently bogus “Testament,” tho the truthiness status of that was for a while like Ripperology or lobster prices, so I still don’t know what’s up.

  18. Michael Ismoe

    “Biden speech draws 38.2 million U.S. TV viewers” [Reuters].

    Just how many Live Blogs of this disaster were there?

  19. The Rev Kev

    “Masks Work, Period.”

    Here in my State in Oz, they are lifting the requirement for wearing masks indoors. Well (family-blog) them and (family-blog) their advice. On the news last night they were quite cheery that daily deaths here in Oz were only about 35. Kitchen maths tells me that this would work out to be nearly 13,000 dead each and every year but what kitchen maths does not tell me is the sheer number of Long-Covid cases that will be resulting from abandoning all safety measures so yeah, (family-blog) them.

  20. Left in Wisconsin

    Adam Tooze’s latest on Russia and MMT:

    It was commonly observed that Putin’s regime manifests a striking tension between its aggressive sovereignty and its immersion in the world economy. What is less frequently commented on is the tension between Putin regime’s “state capitalism”, which might be taken to imply freedom of action, and its rigid adherence to conservative fiscal and monetary norms. Putin is no Erdogan. …
    … in the current situation of open confrontation with the West should we expect Russia’s conservative economic policy regime to survive? If it does not, if Moscow puts its war economy on a Keynesian footing, what are the implications for the effectiveness of sanctions?

    1. britzklieg

      The most fundamental part of Putin’s persona that has been most effectively erased, and for obvious reasons: he’s a die-hard capitalist.

      1. Skippy

        As he said … we did the Bolsheviks.

        BTW basically all capitalism is state driven because the state is the well spring of all laws … who is driving the state and what are their agenda/s is the pertinent question.

  21. geoff

    (Jacobin) “Without any significant change in the political landscape, that cycle of [the Democrats’] promising desperately needed policies for the working class only to let them quietly slip away will likely play out during the next Democratic administration too.”

    Take off your rose-colored glasses, Jacobin! There’s not going to BE a next Democratic administration.

  22. LawnDart

    Re; the 420, and War.

    This goes with the theme of the month, a blast from the past: though I doubt Rus can partake, you gotta feel for their Ukie brothers (conscripts, not Naz) who are probably all seeds and stems by now…

    The Importance of Being Stoned in Vietnam


    On my search [for weed] I spent weeks babbling and making smoking gestures at the people in the countryside, rolling my eyes to overstate my quest. At first they would seem confused, but then slowly, very slowly an idea would crystalize and they would run off with unbounded insight in their hearts. Invariably they came back with American cigarettes stolen from the PX.

    I had just spent weeks going all over Qui Nhon, and here stood Papa-san, the main distributor of processed marijuana for practically the entire province. He thought we liked beer.

    Wondering if VietnamVet will toss in a few anecdotes…

    1. Wukchumni

      I have a couple of Vietnam Vet neighbors, one told me he was on some hilltop listening post far from the action stoned all the time, he never fired his rifle on his tour of duty, to give you an idea…

      The other one arrived in South Vietnam a few days before the Tet Offensive and was a USMC machine gunner in a tank in Hue. It was one of the few times the Viet Cong made themselves visible and he reckoned he killed between 150 to 200 people. He used to kill a 12 pack of beer every night in trying to forget what went down, but gave that up about 6 years ago-not a toker.

      Last time we talked he told me of the 6 villagers and 6 water buffalo about 100 yards away, and the tank commander (who was sporting a necklace of 17 human ears) told him ‘Waste them!’ and he protested, but being the FNG, relented and did as he was told…. BBBBBBBBRRRRRRRRRPPPPPPP

      1. Skippy

        Wait till you hear the stories about Marine mortar platoons being administered like a slave galley with a whip … row faster …

    2. DavE

      Thanks for the link to the Steinbeck article. It rings true.

      The first time I decided to try weed I knew I would be going to Vietnam. I’d been in the Army over a year, had a year of college behind me. It was spring 1969. The second time I tried it I was at Phuoc Vinh, in a company attached to the First Cav, summer of ’69. The third time I tried it was soon after. I began to get the feel of it, and decided I liked it a lot. We smoked a lot.

      The arrangement with the Army was tacit: it was overlooked or ignored, but we had to be able to become fully functional in a few seconds if necessary. That was mentioned in the story. Steinbeck made the point that opium was unsuitable because you couldn’t get fully functional quickly.

      Steinbeck said he had a difficult time communicating with the local people about what he was seeking. Maybe it was because I was trained as a Vietnamese linguist, but my impression was that everybody knew the word for weed was “cần sa”. We only had to say the word as a question, and everyone understood, and would say yes or no.

      For me, weed was one of the character-builders provided by the war. If not for weed and the war, I am quite certain I would be a different person today.

      I had hoped that the Vice President would follow through on her campaign rhetoric and would work to de-list it from Schedule 1. I suppose that would be too much of a distraction from whatever it is they are doing.

      1. LawnDart

        Glad you enjoyed the article.

        A generation later, some would roll the dice on coke or acid, but anything that stays in your system… …weed would have better than booze, or booze alone– booze fog no good.

        It’d be nice to get the Legion and/or the VFW to push for the de-scheduling, or to at least press harder for the VA to recognize medical-use.

  23. sd

    There used to be an obscure news agency – (MISNA) Missionary International Service News Agency – that filed field reports from Catholic missionaries working around the world. The reports were sometimes transcribed from phone calls. I always found their news to be fascinating – simple, one sided points of view of what people were seeing and experiencing from an earthquake to a war. From what I can see online, it looks like they closed up shop in 2015.

    Mentioning it in case someone is aware of another such service out there for example, a Merchant Marine News Agency or something.

  24. OliverN

    That tweet about “if an idea crosses the right substack and gets retweeted by the right people, it goes up the chain and becomes ideology and the policy” threw me a bit. I mean, I always thought substack was more for people with views that didn’t fit the mainstream narrative (eg Greenwald getting pushed out of the intercept and having to open a substack).

    So cdc/govt generally ignores the nyt or politico and just checks a couple substacks? So what are the “right” substacks to read if I want to see who’s shaping ideology?

    1. albrt

      “Substack” is now used as a pure pejorative to discredit the mostly non-mainstream writers who publish there.

      So it doesn’t matter whether you are talking about mainstream ideas or oppositional ideas, if you say “substack” that means the idea is bad.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I always thought substack was more for people with views that didn’t fit the mainstream narrative

      That’s how it started. Now, Emily Oster has a Substack. I need say no more.

  25. John Beech

    Long day at work, only now getting home and unwinding with some NC and while I don’t expect anyone to see this comment because it’s so late, here goes anyway. I’m in FL and voted for DeSantis but won’t do it again because I think he’s an idiot. That said, he was set up. Everybody was unmasked except the kids arrayed behind him. He let them know it was kabuki theater and the cameras were recording for a breaking news moment. I hate dirty tricks and that’s what this was about.

    1. Janie

      Late comments get read, especially by west coasters, and sometimes I start my day by skimming yesterday’s comments. Bet I’m not the only one. Too many fine comments to keep up with. Thanks to all.

      1. .human

        I’m just finishing up yesterday’s comments now before I head to the new posts and links!

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > it was kabuki theater and the cameras were recording for a breaking news moment. I hate dirty tricks and that’s what this was about.

      If that’s true, it means that (a) DeSantis is thin-skinned and (b) not ready for the rigors of a national campaign. Still, he has a year to prepare.

  26. lance ringquist

    he just keeps making history: In June 1997, 50 prominent foreign policy experts signed an open letter to Clinton, “We believe that the current U.S. led effort to expand NATO … is a policy error of historic proportions” that would “unsettle European stability.”


  27. VietnamVet

    The Biden Administration is no doubt glad to put COVID behind and get Dr. Anthony Fauci off the airwaves but it is horrifying to see Victoria Nuland and Samantha Powers pop up now on PBS NewsHour. No wonder Antony Blinken looks distraught. He apparently is the only one that realizes the catastrophe that they instigated in 2014.

    They are connected, making money, but the Russia Ukraine War is out of their control. The Russians are shelling the largest nuclear plant in Europe and it is on fire.

    World War III has started and they are resupplying it.

    Above, I was asked above about drugs in Vietnam. I was in the fourth cycle of yearly replacements in 1969. The Silent Revolt was underway. Weed and brown heroin were available. Drafted but I signed up for extra year to be a supply specialist/armorer. The atropine auto-injectors in Charlie Company’s gas masks had all been stolen to get high when nothing else was available. I used beer. I recommend “The Deer Hunter” as the best movie of that long ago era. Like the Covid-19 pandemic, Russian Roulette is the best description of one’s survival in Vietnam or the world war that is now engulfing us.

    We are on our own with a dysfunctional government that is not protecting or serving us. All one can do is increase the number of chambers in the revolver and hope you are lucky for a little while longer.

    1. LawnDart

      The atropine auto-injectors in Charlie Company’s gas masks had all been stolen to get high when nothing else was available.

      I still have at least two sets of those tucked-away, but I think I’ll just take your word for it (and wouldn’t Atropine just result in a galloping pulse-rate, and maybe a head-rush?).

      This war will be prolonged for as long as possible, I think– no money to be made in a flash. MIC, Oil/Gas, and finance are addicted to their juice, though the rest of us will certainly feel the squeeze.

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