2:00PM Water Cooler 3/7/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

More strange sounds from Oz!!!

* * *


“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

Trucker Convoys

“Trucker convoy laps Washington, DC, beltway to protest Covid-19 measures” [CNN]. “A convoy of vehicles lapped the Washington, DC, beltway Sunday morning to demand an end to Covid-19 mandates and restrictions…. The group — which included dozens of vehicles, including some eighteen-wheelers, according to footage from CNN affiliate WUSA — planned to drive at least two loops around the beltway before returning to Hagerstown, Maryland, Maureen Steele, an organizer with the ‘People’s Convoy’ told CNN. They did not plan to enter the city proper.

Sunday’s protest may mark the beginning of several days of disruptions, according to District of Columbia emergency management officials.

On Sunday, Christopher Rodriguez, director of the District of Columbia’s Homeland and Emergency Management Agency, estimated that there were 1,000 vehicles at the time up in Hagerstown, Maryland, and that the ultimate number of vehicles could reach 2,000 over the next several days.”

One report:

Another report:

Another report:

Biden Adminstration

“Biden urges return to office” [Yahoo News]. “‘Because of the progress we’ve made fighting COVID, Americans can not only get back to work, but they can go to the office and safely fill our great downtown cities again,’ Biden said during remarks from the White House that touched on February’s encouraging job numbers, which saw the unemployment rate fall to 3.8 percent. ‘Most Americans can remove their masks, return to work and move forward safely.'” • Totally. What’s the risk of a few bloodclots compared to a return to our beloved cubes? Commentary:

“White House transparency disputes imperil funds to buy Covid therapeutics” [STAT]. “The White House hasn’t publicly detailed exactly how it’s spent the more than $4 trillion Congress authorized for Covid-19 relief — and now, that lack of transparency could imperil its request for more money to fight the pandemic and buy therapeutics. Amid heated negotiations over a government funding bill, three dozen Republican senators including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are refusing to consider more Covid-19 relief funding unless the federal government provides a full accounting of how funds have been spent. The White House disputes the accusations that there has been a lack of transparency, and an administration official said the White House briefs Congress on a regular and bipartisan basis about details of the status of relief funding. And the budget crunch is even more severe than the administration has let on. The White House has held off on buying millions of courses of Pfizer’s highly effective antiviral drug that the White House already committed to buy due to budget constraints, according to public contract disclosures and the Department of Defense, which issues the contracts. In January, the White House announced that it was doubling its order of Pfizer’s antiviral, named Paxlovid, committing to buy an extra 10 million courses. But according to public contracts, the White House has only actually contracted for 835,000 of those courses to date.”

“Former Biden COVID-19 advisers, experts call for more action from White House” [The Hill]. “A group of 53 authors — some of whom served on President Biden’s COVID-19 task force before he entered the White House — have released a roadmap for the “next normal,” arguing for further action as the country prepares to live with COVID-19. In their report released Monday, the authors acknowledged the sense of fatigue that many people are now experiencing as the pandemic stretches into its third year. ‘Americans are beyond tired of waking up to uncertainty about what the future holds thanks to a COVID pandemic that feels never-ending,’ said Ezekiel Emanuel, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, who coordinated the report. ‘As the threat of Omicron fades and Americans are looking for direction, it’s time the country maps out a way forward so that people can start to live their lives in a next normal,’ he added.” • Well, it’s always “beyond tiring” to be involved in a complete debacle that costs a million lives. Where the heck were these goodthinkers over the last two years?

“High Demand for Drug to Prevent Covid in the Vulnerable, Yet Doses Go Unused” [New York Times]. “As much of the nation unmasks [breaks out pom poms] amid plummeting caseloads and fresh hope that the pandemic is fading, the Biden administration has insisted it will continue protecting the more than seven million Americans with weakened immune systems who remain vulnerable to Covid. Evusheld, which was developed by AstraZeneca with financial support from the federal government, is essential to its strategy. But there is so much confusion about the drug among health care providers that roughly 80 percent of the available doses are sitting unused in warehouses and on pharmacy and hospital shelves.”

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.

* * *


* * *

“Senate Republicans set sights on blue state ‘sleeper’ races” [The Hill]. “President Biden’s sagging approval ratings, combined with the fact that the party in power tends to lose ground in Congress in midterm elections, has Republicans looking for new offensive opportunities. ‘It’s dependent on Biden’s numbers essentially staying where they are or falling even further,’ Doug Heye, a Republican strategist, said. ‘If 65 percent of voters going into Election Day feel the country is still on the wrong track, they’re going to blame the Democratic president, Democratic House and Democratic Senate.’ ‘The more that goes on, the more the map expands for Republicans,’ he added. ‘It’s not necessarily about predicting victories, but as these numbers continue [for Democrats], opportunities for Republicans are only going to increase.'” On the other hand: “While the GOP is playing offense in Georgia, Arizona, New Hampshire and Nevada, the party is also defending Senate seats in states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin. At the same time, the party is riddled with internal disagreements over former President Trump and his baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.”

“Can Biden Improve His Grade With Democratic Voters?” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “In late January and earlier this week, I sat (virtually) in two focus groups of Democrats who primarily vote in presidential elections, but are not consistent midterm voters. These are the kinds of voters Democrats need to turn out in 2022. The January group was majority people of color. The early March group was composed of Democrats who were white. Progressive political organizations sponsored both groups. Like so many voters across the political spectrum, these folks were concerned about inflation and crime and the lingering effects of COVID. But, mostly, they were exhausted and anxious. When asked to describe the state of the country, they used words like ‘disappointed,’ ‘frustrated,’ ‘tired’ and ‘confused.’ They were happy to be rid of Trump, but they didn’t find much to be excited about under Biden. When asked what they liked about Biden, they mentioned things like ‘bipartisan’ and ‘trying to help our country.’ But, overall, said one Democratic woman this week, he’s just ‘average.’ ‘He wants to be the moral center but he’s not compelling or dynamic to energize people.’ The late January group of Democrats agreed Biden’s intentions are ‘in the right place.’ Still, for a range of reasons, they felt that he’s not able to get stuff done. Many were also deeply discouraged by the lack of progress on issues that are important to them. ‘Things aren’t changing for the better the way they could be,’ said one of the participants this week. ‘There’s too much talk and false hope,’ said one man in the late January group. ‘No one is really doing anything.’ While they gave Biden credit for getting the infrastructure bill into law, they were frustrated that Republicans refused to cooperate. ‘That bill was universally seen as the greatest thing to happen to infrastructure in history,’ said one man in this week’s group of Democratic voters, ‘But, even getting to it was like pulling teeth. Republicans still voted no.’ Others in the group pointed to the hypocrisy of GOP lawmakers who voted against the bill but happily promoted its benefits to their constituents. But, even as this behavior frustrated the Democrats in the group, it didn’t make them more committed to showing up to vote this fall. When asked by the moderator if the GOP obstruction made them feel discouraged, or if it instead inspired them to go out and ‘beat those Republicans’ in the election, most chose discouraged.” • No mention of Joe Manchin, Democrat.


“Hillary Clinton’s 2024 Election Comeback” [Wall Street Journal]. Wall Street Journal being helpful: “Several circumstances—President Biden’s low approval rating, doubts over his capacity to run for re-election at 82, Vice President Kamala Harris’s unpopularity, and the absence of another strong Democrat to lead the ticket in 2024—have created a leadership vacuum in the party, which Mrs. Clinton viably could fill. She is already in an advantageous position to become the 2024 Democratic nominee. She is an experienced national figure who is younger than Mr. Biden and can offer a different approach from the disorganized and unpopular one the party is currently taking. If Democrats lose control of Congress in 2022, Mrs. Clinton can use the party’s loss as a basis to run for president again, enabling her to claim the title of ‘change candidate.'” • Wowsers.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Why Democracy Is Dying” [James Kwak, GEN]. ” I have argued for years that progressive Democrats should not compromise with moderates, let alone conservative Republicans—that the path to political victory and to a better society begins with an undiluted focus on the economic welfare of ordinary people. Today, however, our top priority has to be protecting democracy from Donald Trump and his followers. (If you don’t believe me, please read Barton Gellman’s analysis.) Unchecked economic inequality certainly helped make Trumpism possible. But even the most enlightened economic policies, enacted today, would be unable to reverse the tide of inequality in time for the 2024 election…. To begin with, it’s important to realize that the most likely scenario is not that American democracy is overthrown by a mob assault on the Capitol. Neither the Pentagon nor even this Supreme Court would uphold that outcome. Instead, the coup will occur under cover of procedural legality. Republican state legislatures—operating under the well-established principles that states have primary responsibility for elections and that the legislature determines how presidential electors are chosen—are already passing laws giving them the power to intervene at key points in the voting process.” • Kwak, interestingly, doesn’t proffer a solution.


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.

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?

* * *

The “Waning Wall”:

“CDC Data: ‘Stealth’ Omicron Cases Doubling Every Week in the U.S.” [US News]. “Cases of a highly transmissible omicron subvariant are doubling in the U.S. every week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BA.2, or “stealth” omicron, was responsible for 8% of coronavirus infections in the U.S. last week, the CDC estimates. That’s up from 4% the week prior and 2% the week before that. Experts have raised concerns that the relaxation of mitigation measures like mask mandates could give the subvariant an extra advantage as it spreads in the U.S., and they have questioned if the country is doing enough sequencing to understand the true number of BA.2 infections. BA.2 is already the dominant lineage in 18 countries, according to the World Health Organization. The subvariant’s unofficial nickname of “stealth” omicron stems from a testing response that makes the lineage look like the delta variant, so it requires additional sequencing that the more common omicron subvariant did not.” • Here from CDC is the variant tracker:

This is CDC’s “NowCast.” The name and the presentation suggest that we are seeing data, but we are seeing a model. As CDC, to their credit, says:

Nowcast is a model that estimates more recent proportions of circulating variants and enables timely public health action. CDC is providing weekly Nowcast estimates which will be updated every week on Tuesday.

Readers will recall that the last CDC model I encountered went very, very badly — for CDC.

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:

Those notes in red at the bottom make me wonder about what else is wrong. (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.

Those notes in red also make me think “Potemkin Village”:

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

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

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

Sea of green once more. From the point of view of our hospital-centric health care system, green everywhere means the emergency is over (and to be fair, this is reinforced by case count and wastewater). However, community transmission is still pervasive, which means that long Covid, plus continuing vascular damage, are not over. (Note trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 984,020 . Heading downward. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci line.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of note today.

* * *

Commodities: Fertilizer:

Many charts on this thread.

The Bezzle: “Musk Takes China’s Ambassador to U.S. for a Spin in New Tesla” [Bloomberg]. “Dressed in a black suit and tie, Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk took China’s Ambassador to the U.S. for a drive in a Model S Plaid, an experience the passenger described as a ‘smooth ride.’ The diplomat, Qin Gang, shared photographs from the car on Twitter. He also posted a shot from a meeting with Musk, in which they discussed everything from cars to ‘stars in the sky’ and ‘the meaning of life.'”

Tech: “Husband Returning Late At Night Accidentally Killed By Frightened Google Home” [The Onion]. • Hard to believe this hasn’t happened….

Labor Market:

Labor Market:

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 14 Extreme Fear (previous close: 17 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 24 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 7 at 1:07pm.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Food Supply. “Wheat hits an all-time high on the Invasion of Ukraine by Russia” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so higher is better.)

The 420

“Guerilla pharmacologists”:

Our Famously Free Press

One of my favorite accounts:

Class Warfare

“This Is the Teamster Effort To Organize the Truckers at the Ports” (podcast) [Odd Lots]. “Some truckers make good money and have a high degree of control of their schedule. Others work for low pay under exceptionally difficult conditions. Port truckers, in particular, have dealt with poor pay, high debts, wage theft, and other difficult conditions. But an effort is being made to organize for a better situation. On this episode, we speak with Ron Herrera, Director of the Teamsters Port Division, on the union’s efforts, as well as how it fits into broader supply chain stress.”

News of the Wired

What is wrong with these people:

Why on earth is this person on television?


* * *

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 (MJ):

MJ writes: “I’ve always wanted to submit one of my amateur mycology photos and the green light from yesterday’s Water Cooler was all the prompt I needed. This is a Fomitopsis spraguei from Hartwood Acres (a few miles from Pittsburgh) in southwestern PA. Found this on a hike in late September when it was doing some serious guttation (oozing moisture), looking simultaneously beautiful and gnarly.”

* * *

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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. fresno dan

    “Hillary Clinton’s 2024 Election Comeback” [Wall Street Journal].
    Well, zombies are a perennial favorite – disaster strikes and soon enough they’re shuffling about again, causing horror and destruction. Hmmmm, tell me again, what is the difference between a politician and a zombie? Oh yeah, zombie speeches are more succinct…

    1. Carolinian

      That WSJ take on Hillary is a hoot. Both Blinken and Sullivan came to Biden from Hillary-ville. We are having the crisis we could have had in 2016. Aren’t there any competent Democrats who could run?

      1. Carla

        Competent Democrat is a non sequitur. And actually, if the last several years haven’t proven that to you, I can’t help you.

        As segments of the Republican party appear to be competent, but their competence is psychopathic, and since we are incapable as a people of launching any alternatives, I humbly suggest that we’re f****d.

    2. Nikkikat

      Oh God, please not her again! I’m afraid we will end up with Donald Trump again. But then Old Joe didn’t turn out so well either. Why will this horrible hag never, ever go away? Isn’t there a master class or book tour or something with which she can amuse herself?

      1. jsn

        It’s really looks like the Clintons spent the 40 years from 1992 drowning future Democrat leadership in Grover Norquist’s bath tub.

        1. ambrit

          We could say that Bill Clinton is Grover Norquist’s “Bathtub Djinn.” A bad djinn, without doubt. Where’s the Seal of Soloman when you need it? He is most definitely a “Freedom Djinn,” in a Libertarian sort of way. Say, 1984 in our own private Idaho.

        2. .human

          It’s really looks like the Clintons spent the 40 (sic) years from 1992 drowning future Democrat leadership in Grover Norquist’s bath tub.

          This is why we get the government that we deserve.

      2. Maggie

        Nikkikat – you said it well… “Oh God, please not her again! I’m afraid we will end up with Donald Trump again.” Without a NC “like” button, I’ll chime in to say “like”…. The saddest thing is there isn’t a name that comes to mind …

        1. Nikkikat

          Thanks Maggie, I’ll take the like! What an awful place to find ourselves. A choice between orange man and the Clintons. Thinking about Bill wandering the White House and Hillary looking for new Libya’s to conquer. Orange man spending four years getting even with his many detractors. There won’t be much left to then.

          1. Pat

            I’m pretty sure that Cuomo’s attempted reentry on the scene is his announcement he’s rested and ready.

    3. petal

      hahaha I think I called this not long ago. Someone at the Journal must be reading here /s. Dems will get destroyed in 2022, then HC will have an opening and run on that she is the saviour of the D party. It’s her big chance!

    4. JohnA

      Except Biden already beat her to her favourite pastime, warmongering. What will be left for Hillary to missaccomplish?

          1. ambrit

            You can, as Madame Secretary showed us in Libya, kick the gaming table over. Sadly enough, we, as kids, used to call that the ‘Nuclear Option.’ Prescience at work? As our political overlords tell us, there is no Minority Report.

            1. Tom Denman

              Yes, if Hillary Clinton were president at this moment Moscow and Washington would be exchanging ICBMs instead of insults.

              1. Late Introvert

                I abstained the last time she ran, not being able to bring myself to vote for the real estate guy who stiffs contractors. I think the stakes are higher now, and the lessor (pun intended) of two evils might be in order here.

                  1. Late Introvert

                    Trump avoided wars. He (may be) the Lessor of Two Evils in the next Hillary/Donald face off, sorry if I was unclear.

                    We are faced with such choices because the War Party likes it that way.

    5. drumlin woodchuckles

      I think this endorsement of Hillary by the Wall Street Journal may be part of a Republican pied piper strategy designed to trick the Democrats into nominating Hillary again for 2024.

      Perhaps her running mate could be Kamala Harris . . . . VPing some more for some more seasoning so she can be tried, tested and ready to succeed President Hillary. I’m sure Hillary would be flattered to think so.

      1. ambrit

        Oh, to be sure. In that situation, Hillary would be the ultimate “hands on” boss. Kamala would be her usual ‘flexian’ self and ‘triangulate’ her way to the middle.

    6. Dr. John Carpenter

      Hilary 2024: it’s time for a different disorganized and unpopular approach!

      1. ambrit

        But Reagan, despite his many deficiencies, could “do charm.” He was a trained professional actor after all.
        Hillary? She is just a Professional Grifter.

  2. DJG, Reality Czar

    Terry Bouton on Twitter about the Truck Convoy.

    I can’t let this pass me by: “Christian Nationalism mixed with QAnon spiritualism.”

    For the ninety-nine percent of the Christians in the world who aren’t U.S. Baptists, that summation is completely meaningless. Well, maybe the word “with” stands up to scrutiny.

    I’ll take an iconostasis any day over “Christian Nationalism mixed with QAnon spiritualism.”

    And that tweet-stream is supposedly some deep look into the State of the Nation, the usual blubbering about the Deep Feelings of the Heartland, still another chance to attend to the cries of the back-row kids. I’m skeptical.

    So what is the truck convoy really about? And if they want all COVID mandates removed, do they propose a program of voluntary use of masks, because the overwhelming amount of evidence is that masks work in preventing the spread of disease? Because they are practical people, right?

  3. jr

    If you’re a fan of Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion”, get ready to attempt to blind yourself:


    I’ll never forgive Jackson for infecting my mind with that dull-eyed mannequin Blanchett as Galadriel. This is an evil of a new order. Short haired elves!?! The commenters turn to the master’s own words to convey their disgust. It will be sweet to read of it’s inevitable failure…

    1. Louis Fyne

      You have my sympathies.

      I have very little knowledge of Tolkien’s universe, but from what I have been reading/hearing, his “canon” has been flipped upside-down by the latest adaptation and the indifference of the Tolkien estate to maintain Tolkien’s legacy.

      This happened to the Star Trek universe, which to me is damaged beyond repair.

      1. jr

        The criticisms are interesting. This phrase keeps getting attributed to Tolkien:

        “ Evil is not capable of creating anything new, it can only distort and destroy what has been invented or made by the forces of good.”

        but it seems to be a paraphrase of this actual quote:

        “The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own. I don’t think it gave life to the orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them; and if they are to live at all, they have to live like other living creatures.”

        The Internet “clarifying” things as usual. That being said, when you hear Amazon’s take you can understand the rush to condemn this garbage:


        Of course, Woke-ness. This series will fail and fail but good. I look forward to that.

        The only theatre Tolkien should be viewed in is that of one’s imagination. Nothing else will suffice. Anything else is an echo of a whisper of the deep, profound immersion his writing provides. For a taste, give one of the audiobook versions a listen:


      2. JBird4049

        Yes, adhering to latest wokeism or just to whatever is the latest trendy distraction instead of following that creator’s universe’s reality and myth making to make good stories. Hopefully stories that not only entertain, but also teaches or at least suggest other ways of living, of lives lived differently. That is the point of a movie, play, novel, or show.

        Insisting not only jamming our WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Developed or Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) views onto everything, but using the even more limited range of approved morés and beliefs of American upper-middle class, college (preferably Ivy League) educated, coastal elites is to create listless propaganda and even flat out lies, or worse, self affirming BS that the lives of these elites are the only true lives worth living or existing.

        All this might seem like hysterics to some, but the arts in whatever form you chose, including that of story telling, not only informs, it also broadens one’s views, one’s idea of the possible. The perversion of the works of past writers is also connected to the elimination, or the threat to do so, of much of what was taught in college. There is a reason that today’s economics as taught in college is essentially a lie following Neoliberal doctrine. Or the elimination of the history of the Labor Movement, or the rise of the pernicious Dunning School and its partial antitheses, the equally pernicious 1619 Project.

        So, if “the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there,” and the future comes from our dreams of the possible, what the future will be is being determined by the perversions of art, science, and history happening right now. More immediately, we as a society is made stupid, ignorant, and dreamless by these perversions.

        1. Adam

          That first sentence is the core of where the Wheel of Time show went wrong (and I’m not talking about the diverse casting- I think everyone they choose did a great job- but the changes to the mythos of the world that started undercutting critical aspects of the story starting in episode 1).

      3. jr

        Here is an oft-quoted piece from the Silmarillion, in relation to the Amazon series:

        “And it seemed at last that there were two musics progressing at one time before the seat of Ilъvatar, and they were utterly at variance. The one was deep and wide and beautiful, but slow and blended with an immeasurable sorrow, from which its beauty chiefly came. The other had now achieved a unity of its own; but it was loud, and vain, and endlessly repeated; and it had little harmony, but rather a clamorous unison as of many trumpets braying upon a few notes. And it essayed to drown the other music by the violence of its voice, but it seemed that its most triumphant notes were taken by the other and woven into its own solemn pattern.

    2. Barbados Slim

      Even worse is the Tolkien estate apparently declaring war on fans and fan works to protect Amazon’s expensive new brand.

  4. fresno dan

    “Why Democracy Is Dying” [James Kwak, GEN].
    Of course, if you ask Americans if they are in favor of “democracy,” well over 90 percent will say “yes.” The important question, however, is whether they value the proper functioning of democracy more than their preferred set of political outcomes: whether, for example, a liberal would give up progress on climate change, or a conservative would agree to abortion rights, in exchange for fair elections. Many people would probably say they would take that deal. In practice, I doubt it.

    Who stands to lose most from right-wing, Gospel-thumping, white authoritarianism? Jews. Muslims. Other non-Christians. Ethnic minorities. Gay and transgender people. Journalists. University professors who value academic freedom. Over-educated intellectuals.
    I am unfamiliar with the author. But was this individual concerned with the obvious and outrageous manipulation of the FISA court, the DoJ, and the FBI to fabricate charges against Trump? Why do I think he wasn’t???
    A situation where spurious charges were made to OVERTURN a legitimate election??? Again, I have nothing but contempt for Trump, but maybe we are in the situation we are in because of a war instigated, justified, and authorized because of LYING. ALL those politicians who went along with the idea that water boarding is not torture, and Obama’s decision not to prosecute anyone for doing it. All the people who yammer incessantly about inviolate sovreign borders, except sovreign borders when we have made up information not to hold borders inviolate. And so on…the examples are too numerous to list. AND yes, I think it is getting worse because there are too many people making too many excuses for not being in reality.
    And Journalists LOL – that is beyond parody or satire. Sure, there are a precious few real journalists, but the word has been degraded by employing it to describe the stenographers at the Washington Post and New York Times, and the newsreaders at CNN. Too many questions not asked, to many voices not heard, too much credulity of what one wants to believe.

  5. drumlin woodchuckles

    So . . . . the Wall Street Journal “supports” Hillary for 2024? This could be the Republican Wall Street Journal’s own “pied piper strategy” designed to get the most defeatable democrat, Hillary, nominated for 2024.

  6. NotTimothyGeithner


    I saw this tweet and looked up the article.


    Mull’s follow up tweet on the story

    If you’re at a school full of rich southerners and no one wants to talk to you it’s not because you’re a republican. You’re gonna have to think harder

    I can’t really add, but this isn’t The Onion. This is the NYT. And they missed that UVA doesn’t have seniors.

  7. Carolinian

    I still wear my mask but am feeling increasingly conspicuous since many don’t.

    Therefore ironic that only now can one get an N95 mask simply by walking in the Walmart. I pick one up whenever I go in on the theory that I am helping the government out by taking them off their hands. The great majority of the customers probably don’t even know that these are special free govt masks.

    1. Pelham

      I rarely go anywhere these days but happened to find myself waiting for my spouse to make a quick pickup at a PetSmart in Kansas over the weekend. The parking lot was packed, and every one of the dozen or so people I saw was wearing a mask. None of them appeared to N95s, but still …

      Perhaps the message in this right-wing stronghold that the feds are trying to kill us is sinking in.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Just came back from downtown a short time ago and hardly anybody is wearing one because, don’t you know, the pandemic is over. I was literally told this by a shop owner. I could have told them about Denmark’s experience but I would be wasting my breath. Long-covid is not yet on people’s radar and by the time it is, it will be too late. Stay safe, Carolinian.

      1. Grellie

        Should there be another Covid outbreak the Philippines’s infection rate should be interesting. The government declared that the masking rule will remain in effect until Covid is declared over by the government. You cannot get into any mall or major retail establishment without a mask even though the alert level is at 1 the lowest. Enforcement isn’t as strict as before in villages but at least 50% wear mask by my observation. When the alert level was higher one could be fined 1000 php for first offense of not being masked outside the home.

      2. Late Introvert

        I do house calls for tech support, mostly seniors. I show up double-masked and they immediately say “oh, we’ve all had our shots” and I say I’m just being careful. And so far everyone relaxes and says “that’s a good idea” and puts on their mask.

        Maybe just gives them a hint I might be contagious, which I’m not because I’m a fanatic about all the protocols and testing, but also MASKING UP AROUND OTHER PEOPLE INDOORS.

    1. hamstak

      Another way to look at it is they knew this (or a) fight was coming and wanted to try to prevent it from going hypercritical.

      1. Kent

        Nuclear war means the end of civilization.Therefore anyone with the power to and who advocates it, or works to start one needs to preemptively be eliminated, or be stripped of effective power for the good of everyone.

        Attack them in the streets, in their offices, homes, wherever. There’s no second chance here.

        Read The Road to see what survivors, if any, might face.

        1. Late Introvert

          Those folks don’t run in my circles, but agreed Kent. How come we never have lone wolf types on the side of good? Nature of the beast I guess.

        2. Henry Moon Pie

          “The Road”–

          Or watch “The Day After” that portrays what happens to the Kansas City area after a full scale thermonuclear war. It was an ABC miniseries in 1983. It’s on YouTube in full. A cam version, but watchable.

        3. griffen

          Not sure about the novel, by Cormac McCarthy I believe. But the film itself is a really, really depressing take on that future scenario.

  8. jr

    “ The diplomat, Qin Gang, shared photographs from the car on Twitter. He also posted a shot from a meeting with Musk, in which they discussed everything from cars to ‘stars in the sky’ and ‘the meaning of life.’”

    So they talked about Musk.

  9. britzklieg

    These people in Donbas look happy to be exchanging their money (hryvna) for rubles, and as the narrator says, it shouldn’t be overlooked that the truck bringing the rubles is from a national Ukrainian bank. Really interesting comments from these older women. I may be reading into it my own bias but they look and sound relieved: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFf053GjrSs

  10. Wukchumni

    As California entered a second year of drought last spring, the slash in water allocation didn’t catch Rachel Krach and Greg Massa, owners of Massa Organics, by surprise. The real shocker came when they went to plant their Sacramento Valley rice fields: an unprecedented, three-week delay in their expected supply.

    “Normally, you have your water within 24 hours [of ordering it],” says Massa, a third-generation rice farmer in Hamilton City. “You can flood your fields in a few days and you’re good to go.”

    With the region’s main reservoirs—Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville—at historic lows, the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District had drastically reduced the amount of water they would distribute each day. “It really impacted us badly,” says Krach of the erratic delivery, which resulted in a massive weed infestation, lower yields and a wrench in their October harvest.

    For generations, Sacramento Valley farmers have had the assurance of some of California’s oldest and most secure water rights. They’ve protected historic irrigation districts such as Glenn-Colusa with prescribed limits to curtailments, even during dry spells. But as drought worsens, those priority rights, along with any certainty of timely distribution, may potentially hold little water.


  11. bassmule

    Re: “Husband Returning Late At Night Accidentally Killed By Frightened Google Home”

    It’s been done. Automated Customer Service (“Love, Death and Robots, Netflix). Not behind a paywall.

    Spoiler: We don’t learn whether she dies, but it’s not looking real good for her.

  12. Andrew Watts

    RE: Why Democracy Is Dying

    If the counties/states controlled by Republicans will no longer accept elections that are unfavorable to their interests then we’re headed for a crisis of secession. Which will likely end with the dissolution of the United States. Why should a state like California accept the arbitrary rule of a tiny minority from a state whose population doesn’t equal one of their own counties?

    Instead of a bourgeois civil war comprised of a bunch of squabbling class interests and petty factionalism playing out in the courts, or the media, we will swiftly devolve into becoming different polities. That’ll be in spite of the fact, or even if, the US federal government persists for a time.

  13. mrsyk

    Michael Hudson has a piece up on The Saker today. I won’t link to it, but it’s easy to find. One quote:

    There already is a striking disconnect between the financial sector’s view of reality and that promoted in the mainstream NATO media. Europe’s stock markets plunged at their opening on Monday, March 7, while Brent oil soared to $130 a barrel. The BBC’s morning “Today” news broadcast featured Conservative MP Alan Duncan, an oil trader, warning that the near doubling of prices in natural gas futures threatened to bankrupt companies committed to supplying gas to Europe at the old rates. But returning to the military “Two Minutes of Hate” news, the BBC kept applauding the brave Ukrainian fighters and NATO politicians urging more military support. In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 650 points, and gold soared to over $2,000 an ounce – reflecting the financial sector’s view of how the U.S. game is likely to play out. Nickel prices rose by even more – 40 percent.”

    That’ll show ’em.

    1. Robert Gray

      Erm … isn’t this the same piece Yves linked to early today under the title ‘America Shoots Its Own Dollar Empire in Economic Attack on Russia ‘?

  14. Brian Beijer

    I believe someone in the Links comments said that this is when one should start worrying about the Ukraine situation.
    From Sputnik 20 minutes ago. “US Destroyers Enter Baltic Sea After Third Round of Talks Between Moscow & Kiev End”.

    “The forces and means of the Baltic Fleet have begun monitoring the actions of the US Navy destroyers with guided missiles, Donald Cook and Forrest Sherman, which entered the waters of the Baltic Sea,” the statement says.


    And I thought we were living in interesting times during the pandemic…

    1. lyman alpha blob

      I wouldn’t be too worried about that yet. Pretty sure they can’t hit Ukraine from the Baltic, but I could be wrong. If they start moving into the Black Sea though, that’s a different story as I believe Turkey had said no ships not already based there would be allowed through the straits.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Just to ease tensions, the US also sent over a coupla B-52 bombers to fly around Europe. That should help.

  15. Ranger Rick

    Here I thought the “drug checking” service mentioned in that Tweet was for potential complications for stuff like adderall (widely abused as a ‘performance enhancer’ on college campuses) when it’s mixed with other medications.

    Turns out it’s far more basic than that, they’re basically doing ad-hoc inspections and testing recreational drugs for quality and purity. Morally, probably a good idea since, anecdotally, people are dying from surprise fentanyl overdoses. Ethically? Questionable, but mostly because it could be construed as making them accessories to crime.

  16. amechania

    Near future covid:

    All those cancelled concerts from the last two years are about to happen.

    We already have mass gatherings at sports tho.


      1. Samuel Conner

        On the bright side, sufficiently severe long COVID would probably disqualify one from being drafted into military service in the burgeoning conflict.

        1. ambrit

          Cannon fodder is cannon fodder. Someone has to run out into those minefields to clear the way for the “best and brightest” in uniform.

  17. Michael Ismoe

    “…infrastructure bill into law, they were frustrated that Republicans refused to cooperate. ‘That bill was universally seen as the greatest thing to happen to infrastructure in history,’ said one man in this week’s group of Democratic voters.”

    The problem is that the Democrats actually believe that crap. This was a nothingburger meant to fund a ton of “private – public partnerships” to rape the locals with fluctuating cost toll roads. Until the Democrats realize that they suck, they deserve to lose

  18. Lee

    This may be a dumb question but here goes. If the Poles supply the Ukrainians with jets, how will they be delivered. If they roll them across the border I suppose there’s no problem. But if they fly them over the border and happen to become engaged in combat with Russian aircraft, then this could be construed as an attack initiated from Polish/NATO soil.

    1. Pookah Harvey

      Andrei Martyanov’s Blog follows the daily public briefings by the official representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Major General Igor Konashenkov. The latest one includes the following:

      “…we know for certain about Ukrainian combat aircraft that had previously flown to Romania and other border countries. Please note that the use of the airfield network of these countries for basing Ukrainian military aviation with subsequent use against the Russian armed forces can be regarded as the involvement of these states in an armed conflict.”

  19. Acacia

    Regarding Gilbert Doctorow, who has been cited and discussed a bit recently here at NC: I mentioned him to a friend, who later replied that he was having trouble finding much about Doctorow that wasn’t self-authored, and that his “internet fingerprint” was strangely thin.

    I asked what he meant by this, and he pointed me at Google’s search results. I compared these with the results from DuckDuckGo (my usual go-to), and found a very different picture. I also found an anonymously-authored blog called “Useful Stooges” with hit pieces on Doctorow, Chris Hedges, and a number of academics.

    I wonder if Doctorow has been sh*t-listed by Google, and this is what it looks like (as if another reason not to use Google was needed).

  20. Captain Obious

    “Biden urges return to office”

    From r/latestagecapitalism: “Casual reminder that a huge reason that they don’t want you to work from home anymore is because in terms of capitalism, it makes the dozens of skyscrapers and office buildings they built obsolete, impractical, unprofitable and a generally bad financial investment.”

    1. jr

      “Biden urges return to office”

      Then Jill gently reminded him he still is in office and it’s not ‘24 yet…

  21. Tom Stone

    Let Hillary run again, her youthful vigor and her accomplishments as Secretary of State ( Libya is her Mistresspiece) are unequalled by any other potential Democratic candidate.
    And poor Kamala has been learning why John Nance Garner described the Vice Presidency as being “Like a warm bucket of piss”.
    She really should have been nicer to Joe in the debates…
    Who else has a chance?

      1. flora

        I guess mentioning her husband in the same breath as Oscar Wilde’s novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is probably a step too far. / heh

        1. Amechania

          “Every gentleman is interested in his good name. You don’t want people to talk of you as something vile and degraded. Of course, you have your position, and your wealth, and all that kind of thing. But position and wealth are not everything. Mind you, I don’t believe these rumours at all. At least, I can’t believe them when I see you. Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed. People talk sometimes of secret vices. There are no such things. If a wretched man has a vice, it shows itself in the lines of his mouth, the droop of his eyelids, the moulding of his hands even…”

          -Basil Howard, The portrait of dorian gray.

          Turns out Dorian Gray was another Oxford type. Nancy Pelosi should get her portrait checked though.

  22. Bill Carson

    Biden has terrible timing. At just the exact time when we need to start REDUCING consumption of gasoline, he encourages everyone to go back to commuting. You can’t make this stuff up.

    1. Barbados Slim

      I’m sure they knew what they were doing when they started to pay returning to the office with gas at five dollars a gallon.

  23. Dave in Austin

    Two bits of Ukraine information I think are bad news.

    First the Russian artillery attacks near the front line north of Kiev seem to have increased and, according to the so-far very reliable https://www.understandingwar.org/:

    “Russian forces are concentrating in the eastern, northwestern, and western outskirts of Kyiv for an assault on the capital in the coming 24-96 hours. The Russians are bringing up supplies and reinforcements as well as conducting artillery, air, and missile attacks to weaken defenses and intimidate defenders in advance of such an assault. It is too soon to gauge the likely effectiveness of any Russian attempt to complete the encirclement of Kyiv or to seize the city at this time”

    If Putin makes a major attack in Kiev without letting the civilians leave, I’ll start wearing one of those Ukraine-US lapel pins and waving the Ukrainian flag. So far Putin’s Political Leader-to-Ogre ration has been pretty high. But a Beirut or Grozny with trapped civilians would change my opinion of him pretty fast. There is a real problem with “What do you do with the 18-59 year-old men leaving the city?” Do you force them to stay like we did in Falluja? If they leave are they then part of the Ukraine army? There is an issue here.

    The second bit of bad news is equally if not more disturbing. Google maps has apparently removed any map of the 2014-15 cease-fire line. I found that out by accident. https://www.timesofisrael.com/ukraine-parades-russian-troops-captured-during-invasion-before-cameras/ had a picture of Lunansk breakaway soldiers captured by Ukrainians on 2/24 during “an attack on the town of Schast’ye… near Luhansk.” I always find the location, in this case to determine which side of the Ukraine cease fire line the town was on; it was attacked the first day but by which side? The timesofisreal picture shows the Ukrainians are in modern battle gear, the captured troops are dressed as irregulars, odd if they were the attackers.

    I Googled Schast’ye and the other spelling Schastia. The town is there on Google maps. Google no longer shows the cease-fire line on Google maps. No Google search at all seems to give the cease fire line maps. To me it is a very bad sign when the fact that there is a cease fire line vanishes.

    Worse, a quick review of the various Wikipedia articles on the cease fire and Minsk seems to indicate that the Wikipedia line is now: “Why, sorry, Minsk collapsed and is no longer operative”.

    And what about the Orange Revolution? We get: “In late 2013 protests began in Kyiv as a response to the decision of the then-President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, to abandon the planned Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement.[3] After months of protests, the government fell and unrest spread to other regions in Ukraine, in particular the Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions.”

    Government’s fall in parliamentary democracies all the time. This wasn’t a “fall”; it was, for better or worse an “overthrow”. And “unrest spread …”? No cause-and-effect; just “After months of protests…”. Either my memory of events has gone bad or Wikipedia has gone bad… or maybe both.

    1. Acacia

      Wikipedia went bad long ago. It’s never been a credible source.

      And Wikipedia’s disinformation spook “Philip Cross” even tried to stir up mischief here at NC until Yves booted him out.

    2. britzklieg

      I was looking on line for any Iraqi flag lapel pins left over from that other invasion but apparently they never existed.

    1. Daryl

      Might actually be a good thing, were the US “agreement capable.” As is though, they’re probably just trying to be seen to be doing things.

  24. The Rev Kev

    What is wrong with these people indeed. Some of the stuff it those tweets is reckless and just crazy. Maybe even horrifying. Like you see in a lot if these shows, can you see them going down to a firing range to shoot stuff up and maybe fire off a few explosive? And they have these guys on TV?

  25. blowncue

    My octogenarian mother informed me that there is some sort of effort to provide hand-me-down fighter jets from Poland to the Ukrainian resistance?

    I haven’t watched the news lately but (checks notes) Poland currently hosts about a million plus refugees?

    I asked my mother had she considered the consequences of operating a conduit for fighter jets out of the same territory that hosts a million plus refugees?

    She had not.

    I understand they’re looking at the logistical challenges. I suppose flying a jet over the border could be deemed provocative albeit elegant in its simplicity.

    Fighter jets by rail? Fighter jets by rail in modules? 3D printer? A really really big flatbed truck? Is this a Doonesbury comic strip? Can we get Honey on the case?

  26. britzklieg

    Peer reviewed. 2/15/22. One city. 223,128 considered for study, 159,561 included.
    113,845 users, 45,716 non-users
    4311 infections in user group, 3034 in non users. 44% reduced infection
    25 deaths in user group, 99 in non-user. 68% reduction in mortality
    44 users hospitalized, 99 non-users, 67% reduction in hospitalization

    Click to Edit –

    1. The Rev Kev

      His work appears frequently on Asia Times and I have always found his conclusions to be pretty accurate.

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