2:00PM Water Cooler 4/7/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

California Quail week at Naked Capitalism continues.

* * *


“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

“Pelosi positive for COVID-19, was at White House with Biden” [Associated Press]. “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tested positive for COVID-19, a day after appearing unmasked at a White House event with President Joe Biden. Pelosi received a positive test result for COVID-19 and is currently asymptomatic, her spokesman Drew Hammill said Thursday in a tweet. He said she had tested negative earlier in the week.” • This after the cluster at the Gridiron Club. Elites hate masks, changed policy to remove mask requirements, didn’t wear masks, and now they’re all infecting each other. Karma in near-real time:

All unmasked, all smiling for the photo op. Examples to us all.

* * *

Starting with positives:

“Student Loan Pause Is Extended Through August 31, White House Says” [Teen Vogue]. “The Biden administration is expected to extend the student loan moratorium until August 31, according to reporting by Bloomberg and The Hill. An official announcement is set for Wednesday. This will be the fourth payment pause since President Biden took office less than two years ago, and the seventh pause since the federal COVID relief bill was first implemented in 2020. As with earlier extensions, the interest rates on loans are expected to remain at 0% for the duration of the pause.” • In 2020, under [gasps] President Trump.

* * *

The Democrat machine seems to be throwing a lot of cogs. Gradually, and then suddenly:

“Jill Biden’s Secret Service detail is infiltrated by two FAKE Homeland Security agents who showered security personnel with gifts including $40,000-a-year penthouse and $2,000 assault rifle” [Daily Mail]. “Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 36, were taken into custody as more than a dozen FBI agents charged into a luxury apartment building in Southeast Washington on Wednesday evening. Photos posted to social media Wednesday night showed FBI crews moving boxes out of their luxury apartment and even bringing in a big box truck to the scene. Taherzadeh and Ali are accused of posing as members of a fake Department of Homeland Security taskforce investigating gang violence and the January 6 Capitol riots. The pair, whose nationalities have not been revealed, are said to have driven around in an official-looking SUV equipped with flashing lights. They are said to have successfully ingratiated themselves with Secret Service agents, who they supplied with rent-free luxury apartments, high-end electronics and policing equipment. Four members of the agency – including the first lady’s bodyguard – have been placed on leave, with their identities not revealed. In one instance, Taherzadeh allegedly offered a member of First Lady Jill Biden’s security detail with a $2,000 assault rifle. He and Ali also reportedly supplied a USSS agent with a penthouse apartment valued at more than $40,000 a year. It is unclear what they had hoped to gain from the ruse, and prosecutors say the investigation is ongoing, even as four members of the Secret Service – including the one from the first lady’s security detail – have been placed on leave. Investigators have also not said whether the pair ever successfully managed to have direct contact with Mrs Biden, who is the most heavily-protected woman in the United States. In the meantime, Taherzadeh and Ali are being detained and are scheduled to appear in the US District Court in DC on Thursday.” • Oh-k-a-a-a-y…, I hope Dr. Biden was keeping a close watch on Joe’s meds, is all I can say.

“Here’s a dozen times Joe Biden played a role in son Hunter’s business dealings” [New York Post]. Item 3: “Hunter Biden acknowledged in a 2019 New Yorker magazine article that he and his dad once discussed Hunter’s job on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, which paid him as much as $83,333 a month when Joe Biden was vice president under President Barack ­Obama. ‘Dad said, ‘I hope you know what you are doing,’ and I said, ‘I do,’ ’ he recalled.” • So, the New York Post and the Daily Mail own the Hunter’s laptop story, and have the data, too. And then there’s James Biden.

Anne Applebaum and David Axelrod, together on the same stage:

Applebaum gets completely owned, and I’m sure doesn’t even know it.

“Was Biden Ignored by Obama at White House? What Videos Really Show” [Newsweek]. “However, the clip on the Fox News show was cut short moments before Obama turns to Biden. Biden then introduced Obama to a woman and the pair shake hands and exchanged pleasantries before Biden, Harris and Obama move through the room to greet other attendees.” • This is apparently the exculpatory video:

I’m not persuaded, either by Biden’s demeanor or by the interactions. The interaction I see is Harris and Obama working the crowd side-by-side, together, and Biden — hand on Obama’s shoulder — trying to join the twosome. That never happens, and as this video shows, they never do join up, and all move off in different directions.

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.

* * *

Concrete material benefits (1):

Concrete material benefits (2):

Concrete material benefits, albeit of a different sort:

Republican Funhouse

“Texas Rejects 12% of Mail Ballots in First Vote Since Crackdown” [Bloomberg]. “According to updated data released Wednesday by the secretary of state, 24,636 mail-in ballots were not counted, for an overall rate of 12.4%. By comparison, less than 1% of mail-in ballots were rejected in the entire U.S. in the 2020 election, according to figures from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. In September, Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed a sweeping elections overhaul, adding a new requirement that voters provide their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on the envelope used to return a ballot so it can be matched with their voter file.”


“Republican registrations surge in Pennsylvania in warning sign for Democrats” [Reuters]. “Republicans are registering formerly Democratic voters at four times the rate that Democrats are making the reverse conversion in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, a warning sign for Democrats as they try to keep control of the U.S. Congress. The Republican gains in Pennsylvania, home to a critical U.S. Senate race, follow a pattern seen in other states that could have competitive contests in November’s elections, as high levels of disapproval with President Joe Biden’s handling of his job are helping narrow the long-held advantage held by Democrats in numbers of registered voters….. While registered Democrats still outnumber registered Republicans by more than half a million in Pennsylvania – 4 million Democrats to 3.4 million Republicans as of March 28 – the long-held Democratic advantage continues to narrow and is on pace to be the smallest in a general election since 2005.”

“Treating Politics Like the NCAA Tournament” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. No brackets. Betting: “According to the PredictIt betting odds, there is an 84 percent chance that Republicans will capture the House in November, a 77 percent chance that the GOP wins a Senate majority, and a 72 percent chance that Republicans end up controlling both…. Obviously, no one has a fully functional crystal ball, but the collective conclusions of rank-and-file bettors currently match most election experts, reflecting the nature of midterm elections, the increasing nationalization of our elections, and turnout. Either a president’s fellow party members vote in reasonably high numbers or they don’t (usually it’s the latter). Either those in the opposition party turn out in strong numbers, or they don’t (they usually do). Either independents are favorably disposed towards the party of a sitting president or they aren’t (usually they are not)…. Politically speaking, though, polls are quite clear that voters remember—and resent—the insistence by the president and his administration that any inflationary pressures would be both minimal and transitory. For presidents, issue contamination can be a problem. That is, once voters get mad at you for one issue, it colors their assessment of you on nearly everything else.”

Our Famously Free Press

Well, at least nobody trusts Breitbart:

Clinton Legacy

“Hillary Clinton Receives $225,000 Speaking Fee For Telling Grandson Bedtime Story” [The Onion]. “She even stayed afterward to sign a copy of the book and take any questions Jasper might have.”


If you missed it, here last week’s post on my queasiiness with CDC numbers, especially case count, which I (still) consider most important, despite what Walensky’s psychos at CDC who invented “community levels” think. But these are the numbers we have.

Case count by United States regions:

In the aggregate, cases are down. However, cases in the Northeast are up (reinforced by wastewater rapid riser, and now hospitalization data (albeit from a low baseline).

“America Is Staring Down Its First So What? Wave” [The Atlantic]. “If the United States has been riding a COVID-19 ’coaster for the past two-plus years, New York and a flush of states in the Northeast have consistently been seated in the train’s front car. And right now, in those parts of the country, coronavirus cases are, once again, going up. The rest of America may soon follow, now that BA.2—the more annoying, faster-spreading sister of the original Omicron variant, BA.1—has overtaken its sibling to become the nation’s dominant version of SARS-CoV-2. Technologically and immunologically speaking, Americans should be well prepared to duel a new iteration of SARS-CoV-2, with two years of vaccines, testing, treatment, masking, ventilation, and distancing know-how in hand. Our immunity from BA.1 is also relatively fresh, and the weather’s rapidly warming. In theory, the nation could be poised to stem BA.2’s inbound tide, and make this variant’s cameo our least devastating to date. But theory, at this point, seems unlikely to translate into practice. As national concern for COVID withers, the country’s capacity to track the coronavirus is on a decided downswing. Community test sites are closing, and even the enthusiasm for at-home tests seems to be on a serious wane; even though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a new deal on domestic pandemic funding, those patterns could stick. Testing and case reporting are now so “abysmal” that we’re losing sight of essential transmission trends, says Jessica Malaty Rivera, a research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital. ‘It’s so bad that I could never look at the data and make any informed choice.’ Testing is how individuals, communities, and experts stay on top of where the virus is and whom it’s affecting; it’s also one of the main bases of the CDC’s new guidance on when to mask up again. Without it, the nation’s ability to forecast whatever wave might come around next is bound to be clouded. • Joe, Rochelle, Jeffrey, Tony: Good job. Jha had better be superb on TV.

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

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection:

Still going up, both in the aggregate and in the North and South Systems. Too soon for a Fauci line? I’d give it a week.

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

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

Every so often I think of doing away with this chart, and then there’s another flare-up. Hello, Santa Barbara County in California! Hello, Arizona! I remember using the metaphor of flying coals in a forest fire — many land, but sputter out; a few catch, and the first spreads. What I notice about this round of flare-up is that the “coals” are the size of multiple counties, not, as previously, single ones. FWIW! (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:

Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission. This is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you:

Continuing slow improvement as the map shifts from mostly red to mostly yellow (assuming the numbers aren’t jiggered). However, look at the Northeast, which remains stubbornly red.

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

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

A new way for hospitals to game the data:

IM Doc writes: “I would guess with Omicron about 60% of the patients were on Dexamethasone – so no – not an adequate proxy” for hospitalization.

Just a reminder:

As with everything else, because the United States is not a serious country, our hospitalization data is bad. Here the baseilne is off:

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,010,537 1,009,390. We did it. Break out the Victory Gin. An unfortunate upward blip. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line. Even if the numbers are going down, they’re still democidally high.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits decreased by 5 thousand to 166 thousand in the week ended April 2nd, back to levels not seen since 1968. Figures came well below market expectations of 200K, in another sign of a tight job market and robust labor demand. The Department of Labor revised the methodology used to seasonally adjust the national initial claims and continued claims to reflect a change in the estimation of the models.”

* * *

The Bezzle: “The Hottest NFT Marketplace is Mostly Users Selling to Themselves” [Bloomberg]. “A closer look at the LooksRare platform that has quickly become the leading NFT marketplace by trading volume shows that most of the activity is actually users selling tokens to themselves to help earn rewards in the form of more coins. The platform was launched in January by two anonymous co-founders — who go by Zodd and Guts — as an alternative to market leader OpenSea during the height of the NFT boom. The site had planned to add new features to lure NFT enthusiasts, according to a blog post at the time. Almost all of those initiatives have focused on the incentive program built around the Looks token awarded to active users of the platform. About $18 billion of the trading volume on the platform, or about 95% of the total activity, can be attributed to what’s often referred to as wash sales, according to data compiled by NFT tracker CryptoSlam. The transactions are seen as one of the many gray areas in crypto when it comes to regulation. In this case, the sales are done to win new tokens rather than to pump up nonfungible token prices to lure unsuspecting buyers. The marketplace benefits from the fees generated by each transaction.” • We just said it looks rare.

The Bezzle: “We could be spending an hour a day in the metaverse by 2026. But what will we be doing there?” [World Economic Forum]. Gartner propaganda: “The metaverse will have a ‘virtual economy’, including digital currencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Gartner says. NFTs are unique digital tokens that can be used to buy, own and sell digital or physical items online, including music, art and property. Gartner also predicts that employers will be able to better engage and collaborate with their workers through ‘immersive workspaces’ in virtual offices. Businesses won’t need to create infrastructure for this, because it will be provided by the metaverse.” • I have not seen an example of an NFT being used to buy a physical object. Have I missed something? Also, every item of digital artwork I have seen in the NFT space has been ugly and stupid, college undergraduate UV poster-level ugly and stupid:

But perhaps that’s just me, the old codger. Readers?

The Bezzle: I’m sure Schultz thinks this will get those darn kids back onside:

Will the Starbucks NFTs taste burnt too?

The Bezzle: “Tesla-Backed Startup Made Cheap Power a Debt Burden for the World’s Poorest” [Bloomberg]. “Since solar pay-as-you-go, or paygo, was introduced almost a decade ago, it has been hailed as the answer to the elusive challenge of bringing electricity to hundreds of millions of people currently off the grid in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It began in the spirit of the microcredit model that Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus popularized in the 1980s.” Uh oh. More: “Because solar paygo is a low-­margin, high-default business, and investors and commercial lenders often demand quick returns, com­panies end up on a funding treadmill. The former employees say the solar startups are pressured to grow at rates that can be achieved only through high prices, unreliable products, misleading sales pitches, and little or no due diligence. The consequence is “a social impact credit trap,” says Daniel Waldron, a solar specialist who analyzed the industry for the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, an organization of international development agencies, and now works at impact investment company Acumen…. In some places half the loans ended up unpaid, and those who continued paying struggled. During the pandemic, one study found, 43% of paygo customers had to cut back on food consumption to keep their ­service. Now some of Zola and D.light’s competitors are pursuing an even more vulnerable customer base: ­refugees in camps in Rwanda, Uganda, and elsewhere.”

Tech: Thank you — and I never, ever thought I would say this — Elon:

One of the genuinely refreshing things about Twitter is that management and programmers hate their users. I don’t know whether Elon will change that, or whether its a good thing. Still, Twitter users have been screaming for an Edit button for years. Those dolts over at Facebook figured out how to do that. So why not?

Tech: Please stop:

Tech: “Japanese robot can peel bananas cleanly, most of the time” [Reuters]. • Kill it with fire anyhow.

Manufacturing: “Tesla to open Texas factory critical to growth ambitions” [Reuters]. “Tesla Inc. will on Thursday hold an event to mark the opening of its $1.1 billion factory in Texas, which will help ramp up production of electric vehicles and batteries critical to its growth ambitions…. Combined with a new Berlin factory, the Austin factory is expected to double the company’s annual production capacity to 2 million vehicles. Tesla said it would also expand production at factories in California and Shanghai. Tesla has said it expects 50% annual increases in deliveries over a multiyear period.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 47 Neutral (previous close: 48 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 51 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 7 at 1:08pm.

The Gallery

So here we are at the start of the petroleum era (and not guitars or café tables or nudes descending staircases, etc.):

I think later on Stuart Davis turns into a sort of American Matisse (in the cut-outs phase).

Sports Desk

This actually scans:

FIFA to The Hague:

Our Famously Free Press

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made”:

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made” (not a mistake):

Zeitgeist Watch

“The Herbalism Community Is at War With Itself Over Abuse Allegations” [Vice]. Quite a lead: “Many of the stories about the 76-year-old herbalist Susun Weed—positive and negative, frightening and tame—begin like a fairy tale, with a green new apprentice traveling through the thick woods of upstate New York and arriving on the doorstep of a small house on Weed’s property, called the Nettles Patch. What happens next—the screaming, the ritualistic killing of rabbits and goats, the intense psychological pressure —is not really under dispute. But what those stories mean—how best to interpret the things that happen on Weed’s land—is a subject that’s surging, plant-like, from under the surface and flowering once again into view.” More: “Herbalists, for a variety of very good reasons, resist any kind of centralized governing body, and point to a long history of mainstream institutions attempting to suppress or cast doubt on the legitimacy of their field. Many of Weed’s supporters see the criticism of her as an attack on herbalism itself as a free and nonconformist space, an attempt to homogenize or regulate them in a way they think will harm the field as a whole.” • I seem to recall simliar issues with the Zen “community.”

Class Warfare

Holy moley, look at the household income data:

“COVID-19 health workers suffer combat-type moral trauma” [Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy]. n=2099. “A Duke University study shows that, amid COVID-19, US healthcare workers (HCWs) had similar rates of potential moral injury (PMI)—a type of trauma-induced wound to the psyche—as military combat veterans…. [L]ead author Jason Nieuwsma, PhD, a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Duke researcher, said in a Duke Health press release. ‘While ‘burnout’ is often used to describe the effects of ongoing stress in the workplace, moral injury is used to describe the damage done to the conscience or identity of people who might witness, cause, or fail to prevent acts that go against their own moral standards,’ he said. ‘For example, with health care workers, this might entail them making choices or being part of situations that stray from their genuine commitment to healing.'” • One would expect the same to be happening with “public health” experts at CDC, but it isn’t. One can only wonder why.

News of the Wired

“The Leak” (podcast) [The West Wing Thing]. • A good take on Will Smith v. Chris Rock, if that is still a thing.

Pater iocus:

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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. Via Re Silc:

Re Silc can grow indoor plants. I can’t. I can’t even grow plants in pots, inside or outside. Only plants in soil.

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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. Questa Nota

    Axelrod busts out his laptop for the lyrics to a Glenn Miller tune:

    Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me
    Anyone else but me, anyone else but me
    No, no, no!
    Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me
    Till I come marchin’ home!

    Funny, Axelrod and his types never marched away. Who was their drill sergeant, anyway?

  2. Glossolalia

    I don’t get this narrative about mask mandates going away because it’s what the elites want. I mean sure, maybe they also want it, but vast swaths of the serfdom also don’t want mask mandates either. I’m not disputing the effectiveness of masks, just saying it ain’t just the elites that want them gone.

    1. hunkerdown

      Political partisans don’t have agency, and it’s only because we treat them as if they did that political parties have any power.

    2. Acacia

      Check out the chart tweeted above showing return to normal as a function of household income.

  3. antidlc

    Has this been posted? If so, I missed it and I apologize.


    The Corporate Past of Jeffrey Zients

    The administration’s highest-ranking COVID official built his wealth through billing practices that have been alleged as fraud, triggering hundreds of millions in fines.

    Over the span of two decades, the health care companies that Zients controlled, invested in, and helped oversee were forced to pay tens of millions of dollars to settle allegations of Medicare and Medicaid fraud. They have also been accused of surprise-billing practices and even medical malpractice. Taken together, an examination of the companies that made Zients rich paints a picture of a man who seized on medical providers as a way to capitalize on the suffering of sick Americans. In the end, it seems to have all paid off.

  4. NotTimothyGeithner

    Half of Democrats trust the Murdoch owned WSJ per this media poll. The current state of the Democratic Party can be summed up in one statistic.

    1. MP

      The news part of wsj is ok.

      The editorial part of wsj is a bunch of neo-cons e.g. Karl Rove.

      Surprised it doesn’t poll higher with R’s.

      I think D’s for some reason prefer war mongering neo-con wing to the populist Trump wing.

      1. Guild Navigator

        Interesting how mediocre NationalPetroleumR fairs with the liberals. They are atrocious.

  5. Raymond Sim

    The SCAN Bay Area wastewater data is updated to Monday or Tuesday for most of the sites that do update regularly. The number of maxed-out readings continues to obscure the strength of current growth trends. If they’re not going to deal with that they ought to remove the “trimmed average line” from their presentation.

    San Francisco made another one-day run at Zero-Covid!


    Oh, and forgive me if it’s just that spot of spongiosis on my parietal lobe acting up, but I didn’t notice NC welcoming the newest (apparently independent) Omicron lineages: BA.4 and BA.5!

    Is there a Hellmouth in Southern Africa? Thank God these things aren’t kaiju. But they’ve both got L452R, so they might wreck Tokyo anyway.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I am puzzled by your comment. It appears to contain information I am very interested in … but which I am unable to parse. Have mercy on the old, slow, and less connected.

      1. Raymond Sim

        Have mercy on the old, slow, and less connected.

        In my case ‘Birds of a feather should stick together.’ would be more like it, and I’m happy to oblige. Is there a particular element I could start with?

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > San Francisco made another one-day run at Zero-Covid!

      I think the data visualization at the SF site could be improved (i.e., I can’t make head or tail of it, and wish I could).

      1. Raymond Sim

        It’s possible that my confusion is born of my own ignorance of their methodology, but I have a high enough opinion of my remaining intellectual powers to think if that’s the case, it stands as something of an indictment of their presentation.

  6. lyman alpha blob

    RE: the Caduceus tweet

    The caduceus is the symbol of Hermes and is tied to commerce, thievery and trickery. They aren’t even trying to hide the grift – they named their company after it.

    1. Guild Navigator

      That’s right, Lyman, the Rod of Asclepius (with one snake) was associated with the healing arts vs the Caduceus, a rod with two snakes.

      Here are some unpublished notes I made about the confusion between the two, apologies if it gets a bit soap boxy at the end:

      Figure XYZ. A Roman denarius from Vespasian’s reign (a.k.a., the sacker of Jerusalem) with a winged, double serpent-entwined caduceus of Mercury/Hermes.

      A caduceus is an object consisting of a rod entwined by either one or two snakes and sometimes flanked by wings. It is tempting to compare the symbol to a double helix, the classic topology characteristic of the DNA molecule. However, its origins lie deep in mythology rather than molecular biology, with variants appearing in Sumerian, Babylonian/Assyrian, Hebraic, and Greek traditions. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, a snake steals the elixir of life Gilgamesh obtained by Utnapishtim, a mysterious Noah-like figure at the ends of the earth. In Numbers 21, Moses mounts a (single) bronze snake on a rod to protect the Israelites in Sinai’s wilderness.

      The caduceus undoubtedly owes its origins to snakes’ widespread association with healing and rejuvenation and prehistoric serpent-venerating cults. Because of their ability to slough their skin, by which means snakes were thought to rejuvenate themselves, snakes came to be associated with healing. With their ability to represent sin and redemption or life and death, this ambiguity captures the uncertainty of success with any medical interventions, with their dual nature as poison, therapeutic agent, or both.

      While the caduceus is recognized internationally as a symbol for medicine and the healing arts, less attention has been paid to which particular serpent-entwined rod (one snake, two, winged or wingless?) is being used. Resolving the confusion entails answering precisely which serpent-entwined rod symbol is being used: the rod of Asclepius or the caduceus of Hermes. It turns out that the distinction is important.

      The rod of Asclepius consisted of a rod entwined by a single snake (unflanked by wings). The rod’s namesake, Asclepius, whose name means ‘cut open,’ was a physician mentioned by Homer in the Iliad who healed the wounded on Troy’s battlefields and was later deified. In contrast, the caduceus of Hermes, the god of commerce, was represented by a rod entwined with two snakes rather than one and often flanked by wings. The wings represented Hermes’ speed, the messenger god heralding messages from Mount Olympus. The rod of Asclepius did not have wings because speed was thought to be antithetical to healing. The rod was associated with the administration of opiates, a frequently used medicine because opiates bring sleep, sleep brings rest, and rest brings healing.

      Which symbol is used – one or two snakes and winged or wingless is vital because medicine was an art of the Temple, not the Agora/Bazaar. The Temple is a place set apart where avoidance of harm is paramount. By contrast, an agora is a place of risk, making a mint or losing your shirt, and where the house always wins, and the rest are sore losers.

      The caduceus was appropriated by the United States Medical Corps in 1902 because of its superficial similarity with the rod of Asclepius and still appears in the logos of the US Army Medical Corps, the Public Health Service, and the US Marine Hospital. However, some use the correct version of the rod. For example, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, are among other organizations that get it right. (After considerable debate on the issue, the AMA abandoned the caduceus for Asclepius’ rod in 1912). It turns out that these confused semiotics, more than mere nitpicking by curmudgeonly antiquarians, is emblematic of more nefarious points of confusion, which we will examine in this book.

      Admittedly, it is uncanny that a country that would conflate symbols of commerce with medicine would also have the largest number of medical bankruptcies occur in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world ($3892 Trillion under management), and where those who need to care the most avoid healthcare for lack of money. It is tempting to think that the fusion of commerce (prioritizing rent-seeking) and medicine (prioritizing patient well-being) was inherent to the medical enterprise; that the oath of Hippocrates would even have an entire paragraph devoted to the sacred drive to medical entrepreneurialism; and that medical school debts are exalted on high.

      The confused semiotics belies the perversion of medicine. This perversion has caused medicine to join finance, the military-industrial complex, and other self-interested pursuits as sources of harm rather than healing. This book is an antidote to that line of thinking. The Temples of Asclepius (called Asclepeions) can be considered as early hospitals of the Greco-roman world. Hippocrates and Galen, the two most celebrated physicians of antiquity, learned the medical arts at the Asclepeions at Kos and Pergamon.

      We demand not only the purity of symbols, though symbols are important. Medicine does not belong in the commercial sphere and needs to get back to its roots in the Temple. That is, in the world apart from the agora. For what harms cannot heal, and what does not heal cannot be recognized as being true to the spirit of Asclepius. Here, the maxim of sometimes less is more also applies to the number of snakes entwining (or whatever the correct verb is) a rod.

      Our aim in writing this book is to help expel the money changers from the Asclepeion.

      1. QuicksilverMessenger

        This explication is far too complicated. The caduceus is a “religious” symbol- a symbol of deep inner work. It is not “outside” as it were. The staff of course is the spine, and the snakes are the circulations that move up and down the axis, crossing at the chakras, the wings are, finally, the higher body, or ‘soul’. One needn’t go further than that as an ‘explanation’, but to begin to experience this. It is very real

    2. DJG, Reality Czar

      lyman alpha blob and Guild Navigator: Hermes was a complicated, remarkable god, quite ancient. So I’m not buying (sorry) this business of the caduceus standing for commerce. The word derives from Greek keryx, which means herald, one of busy Hermes’s many jobs.

      Yes, I’ll admit that Hermes is my patron: Let us not forget that he invented letters and numbers, is the patron of crafts and artisans, is a great seducer (hence his involvement in Hermaphrodism), and leads the souls of the dead to the underworld, as Psychopompos and chthonic god.

      Some more wild aspects of Hermes, lifted from Wikipedia:
      — Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (1913) pointed out that the serpent as an attribute of both Hermes and Asclepius is a variant of the “pre-historic semi-chthonic serpent hero known at Delphi as Python”, who in classical mythology is slain by Apollo.[13]

      –One Greek myth of origin of the caduceus is part of the story of Tiresias,[14] who found two snakes copulating and killed the female with his staff. Tiresias was immediately turned into a woman, and so remained until he was able to repeat the act with the male snake seven years later. This staff later came into the possession of the god Hermes, along with its transformative powers.

      –Another myth suggests that Hermes (or Mercury) saw two serpents entwined in mortal combat. Separating them with his wand he brought about peace between them, and as a result the wand with two serpents came to be seen as a sign of peace.[15]

      I suspect:
      The company named Caduceus thought the name must be cool, just as there are now several companies named Cerberus. Would that these peeps got a better classical education. Magari.

  7. Dr. John Carpenter

    Nathan W. Pyle is one of my favorite cartoonists at the moment. I recommend his Strange Planet book highly.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Why? Nothing I saw or read in Amazon comments [for what they are worth] drew my interest.

      1. Dr. John Carpenter

        To each their own. His comics kind appeal to my sense of the absurd and silly.

  8. ddt

    So Zelensky made his rounds at the Greek and Cypriot parliaments today. The surprise was when Azov battalion reps also made an appearance in Greece, and the link was shut down in Cyprus when the Turkish invasion of the island was brought up. Good times.
    Ukrainian embassy then followed up claiming that Azov battalion isn’t nazi at all. That there’s just Russian propaganda…

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Who exactly is sponsoring this Zelensky world tour? And are there T-shirts?

      I’ve never seen this kind of multinational PR campaign for a war before. What I’m waiting for is or one of the recipients of this propaganda to ask Zelensky if he’s actually a real president now or is he still just playing one on TV.

      1. Nikkikat

        Lol, it does seem that he has the entire world on speed dial. The T shirts would be green with the Iron cross on them. He wore that to impress the Israeli’s didn’t work out too well. Then there is the brown sweatshirt you know like the brown shirts. Last time I saw that clown he was wearing some sort of military gear on his chest. But, what I love the most is the way he comes out talking about meeting with the Russians in the morning and by afternoon he is spouting about how they are all are criminals and war criminals and name calling. I guess the blob keeps changing his script.

      2. jo6pac

        And are there T-shirts?

        You bet they are and for $1000.00 he’ll sign to you his good friend. Then there’s another $500.00 for shipping & Handling;-)

        The Amerika tax payer is his sponsor through the normal ways of NED & cia. That should be on his jackets;-)

        1. integer

          Don’t forget MI6. Probably the DGSE, too. Also gotta wonder about the ties Kolomoisky – who provided the seed money and public platform from which the Zelensky enterprise was launched – has to Mossad. I think Israel’s resentment towards Russia for supporting Assad really flies under the radar.

      3. WJ

        It just shows you that this war is really Russia vs. the rules-based order, and that same rules-based order is going to pull out all the stops to try to ensure its victory. The hysteria, hypocrisy, delusion involved in this war is like nothing since Iraq in 2003 and even EXCEEDS it, in that the special services now have far greater control over all aspects of media and hence popular opinion based on it than they did twenty years ago.

    2. Skip Intro

      As glad as he is to be out of Ukraine, he always has some not-nazis around to keep him company, and remind him of his positions. Is it surprising they don’t let him out of their sight?

  9. Jason Boxman

    Is This What Endemic Disease Looks Like?

    The talking point that won’t die:

    Many scientists predict that endemic Covid may have a similar burden to other respiratory viruses.

    “It will be no more deadly than seasonal flu, or may be mild like one of the cold-causing coronaviruses,” said Lone Simonsen, the director of the PandemiX Center at Roskilde University in Denmark.

    “The reason for this is that we have a lot of immunity and we keep getting boosted from the infections that we run into,” she said.

    But each infection seems to convincingly come with a cost, not to mention long-COVID dice roll, so, no.

    In addition to environmental controls, vaccination programs can reduce cases and deaths. But when communities do not adhere to vaccination recommendations, outbreaks can happen.

    Measles, for example, remained endemic in the United States for 40 years after the introduction of vaccines. During that period, unvaccinated people remained vulnerable, fueling occasional outbreaks. In 2019, two decades after the disease was declared eliminated in the United States, several outbreaks, many associated with unvaccinated travelers, infected more than a thousand people.

    Vaccination lie. A corona virus is not measles, and vaccination does not have the same effect. Conflating apples and oranges.

    Much of what we know about the transition out of pandemics comes from flu — humans have witnessed four influenza pandemics in the last 100 years. The 1918-19 pandemic, which killed more than 50 million people globally, dwarfs them all.

    Ignores the Russian flu, which is most similar. Typical.

    Stay safe out there! With increasingly limited data reporting, each day is possibly more dangerous than the last. And our great political class is lately modeling _outcomes_ for us, if safety isn’t taken seriously!

  10. FreeMarketApologist

    re: “…‘immersive workspaces’ in virtual offices. Businesses won’t need to create infrastructure for this, because it will be provided by the metaverse….

    Maybe. Isn’t this just like office buildings though? Or a short-term conference room rental? Every single business doesn’t have to build it’s own building, because somebody else built an office building with the idea that a business could rent space. But, while raw space is rented, the business still kits it out in ways specific to how they work — cubicles, offices, open plans, equipment, kitchens, decor, whatever. “provided by the metaverse” doesn’t really say a thing, and I’m sure there will be all sorts of fees for providing the desired specific features. I would appreciate a concrete example of exactly what the metaverse will provide that isn’t already available, or a reason why their version of it is materially superior to the current options.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > a reason why their version of it is materially superior to the current options.

      Fraud, probably.

      For example, it will be a lot cheaper to spend X amount of money for what looks like a plushy and permanent metaverse office than it is to build or rent a plushy and permanent physical office. So, undercapitalized start-ups that look stable and solid….

      All the material cues we are used to will be replaced by symbol manipulation, and we know where that goes.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Perhaps someone will coin a word for ” meatspace reality” that sounds and looks just enough like “metaverse” to be a clever play on “metaverse”. Something like ” meataverse” perhaps.

  11. Leroy R

    Awhile back, discussing Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, it failed to be mentioned that his takes on the Russian characters in that novel can be laugh-out-loud hilarious. A quick, enjoyable book, for what it is, and easy access to Thomas Pynchon. “Thomas Pynchon, channeling his inner Jewish mother, brings us a historical romance of New York in the early days of the internet.”

  12. Acacia

    Pelosi has COVID. Who’s next? Joe… ? Admitted to Walter Reed “as a precaution”? Receiving oxygen “as a precaution”? Then … Kamala has to take charge, just in time to emit a series of gaffes before the midterms?

    1. flora

      After spend a nearly 40 year career in one of the sciences, my take away is that either the tests don’t work or the shots don’t work. Gads, neither idea comports with ye olde publicly pushed narrative.

  13. JM

    This article was linked to by Scott Ritter, “The Military Situation In The Ukraine” by Jacques Baud. I feel like I saw Baud’s name come up recently but I think this might be new, since it was only posted April 1. Not much new information, but it does a good job encapsulating things, so might be good as an outreach/information sharing tool for those who haven’t drunk too deeply of the Kool-Aid.


    1. begob

      John Helmer had this a couple of days back – non-https site: http://johnhelmer.org/how-to-read-the-war-in-reverse-without-outsmarting-yourself/

      What none of the analysts has considered yet is that the Russian General Staff realized there were serious risks of a Ukrainian offensive – that’s to say, an attack across Russian borders, not merely counterattacks against initial Russian manoeuvres. There was every possibility of an Ukrainian battle group breaking northward toward Voronezh and then taking cover in civilian areas for an advance to include a swing southward towards Rostov, with the aim of encircling Donbass.

      In the absence of NATO air-cover, I wonder if the threat was real?

      Also an interesting point about views on the battle of Kursk.

  14. Michael Ismoe

    I hope Dr. Biden was keeping a close watch on Joe’s meds, is all I can say.

    You may have that backwards. If you take her out, he’s essentially alone. Not a good place to be when you’re 80 and you have “a stutter.”.

  15. Skippy

    UN Cancels Russia from Human Rights Body – ????? – the signs whipping a past are like photons of light …..

    The Ukrainian Head of State seemingly on a world tour to promote a PR Movie to increase ticket sales and make investors happyagain[tm] …

    The Anointed One returns only to remind the seat warmer its getting thin and thread bare whilst illuminating his disciples ascendancy in the pecking order …

    What Covid …

    1. Tom Stone

      The UN does have a sense of humor !
      No conception of Irony, but definitely a very dry sense of humor.

      1. Skippy

        No – bodily rights – if you don’t have one or it gets cancelled it seems …

        Then again I remember when the U.S. was behind on its U.N. payments[tm] and the reason bandied about was bang for buck not going far enough …

  16. Tom Stone

    Back to those clips of the ACA bash.
    Joe was being shunned,at a performance like this (Every event at the White House is a performance) NO ONE is left alone and floundering.
    It does not happen by accident I’ve been to performances of this kind at the County and State level and I have never seen anything like this happen.
    And Biden is not sumdood, he was the host and is the President of the United States.
    This bash was supposed to boost JRB in the polls, his good friend and mentor Barry O was expected to give Joe a brotherly hug and a “Great Job, Brownie”.
    Instead it was a calculated insult and a crystal clear message that Joe Biden no longer speaks for the President of the United States.
    And that Kamala “The People’s Choice” is the chosen savior of “Our Democracy”.
    If I am right Jim and Hunter’s top cover has vanished and we’ll see the results PDQ.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Jim and Hunter’s top cover has vanished

      Nice metaphor. It’s very hard for me to believe that Kamala Harris could ever be President, but it’s the stupidest possible outcome, so I guess it’s inevitable. I wonder who’ll be running the country?

      1. LawnDart

        Who’s her Chinaman?

        My memory of how she was selected for #2 is foggy, but now that she’s looking to be the front, who’s on the other end of the strings and calling the tune?

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Biden made his promise and found he can’t directly lie once people pay attention. He brought in Granholm for interview, going right up to the DNC. Harris was the only state wide, black woman available. Congress types would be too liberal for Biden.

          It was just Biden saying something for a small audience, not realizing how cameras were work. It’s like Hillary changing accents between venues. It worked in the 80’s.

  17. Mikel

    “America Is Staring Down Its First So What? Wave” [The Atlantic]

    “Americans should be well prepared to duel a new iteration of SARS-CoV-2, with two years of vaccines, testing, treatment, masking, ventilation, and distancing know-how in hand.”

    Two years of “ventilation know-how” in hand? Really? All of a sudden, for the entire two years these rat revisionists have been all about “ventilation”.

    You would thinkg from this article the USA had Chinese style lockdowns.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      I just got off the phone with my mom. She, my sister and niece are going on a cruise late this month “unless Washington does anything stupid again”, by which she means a lockdown. Bear in mind what we all know about the US lockdowns and that I can tell you for a fact the impact to her amounted to she couldn’t eat out with her friends 5 days a week. Nevermind she’s in an extremely vulnerable condition healthwise and were she to catch Covid, I’m sure it would be fatal. I’ve stopped arguing with her. She’s always been stubborn and I can’t compete with eight hours a day of cable news plus Facebook and whatever her friends are about (I can only guess.) All I can do is hope for the best.

  18. Tom Stone

    Dr Carpenter, you have a lot of Company.
    My Parents are long dead,but I have friends in their 70’s and 80’s with serious health issues who are no longer masking or isolating.
    Wolensky and Fauci told them it’s OK, do what you are comfortable with.
    I expect to attend quite a few zoom memorials over the next few months.

    1. Guild Navigator

      That Nobel Peace Prize laureate did say, to paraphrase, “I am good at killing folks.”
      So between orphans, widows, and bankruptcies, I’d concur on the sadistic streak. You gotta get yer O-face pushin’ austerity and home and racking up an impressive kill count on your belt abroad, otherwise, you ain’t a real US president. (Structural) sadism is a feature not a bug though.

      1. Harold

        He was also mugging (in a mocking way) four years ago, when Hillary was speaking and he was sitting behind her. It was during her campaign. Not to mention drinking a glass of fake Detroit water in front of agitated Detroit residents upset about their water quality. That amiable detachment conceals a lot of rage.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          “That amiable detachment contains a lot of rage.”

          Well said: I’ve always sensed that little Barry, desperate to belong, was always yearning and calculating how to. be accepted by the Kool Kids. Then he became one of them, and has been locked into it ever since.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          Technically it was Flint water in front of agitated Flint residents . . .

  19. Wukchumni

    Re: AirBnB bans Russians & Belorussians

    That’s a bit much, but its how we roll these days, acting more like the USSR all the time…

    When a home comes up for sale in tiny town, invariably it becomes another AirBnB, making money & wrecking the bonds which allow neighbors to know one another to the point where reliance is a given-for instance my neighbor has a backhoe and knows how to use it and has helped out numerous times, can I get that on a 3 day stint with Bob & Betty Bitchin’ from Brentwood & their lovely kids Trevor & Truly?

    I really thought Covid might kill the business, but didn’t count on how popular getting away from it all would be, combined with the National Parks being one of the few public places open during the pandemic-it was a zoo, with all of the primates being from the USA as sojourners from abroad were verboten…

    On a hike to Crescent Meadow in Sequoia NP, heard the foreign accents again and Covid might not be over, but the tourists are coming over… and i’ll admit to missing them, as they gave a cosmopolitan feel not typically associated with the Central Valley to our town.

    This ruins the reign of my French ex-pat friends from the CVBB being some of the only foreigners (all ex-pats pretty much) whose accent you’d hear for the past few years. They related that they’ve been asked at least 20x how they were able to visit Sequoia NP (their accent is strong) during the pandemic, and in their best english, explain that it’s only a little drive from Visalia, where they live, ha ha.

    1. caucus99percenter

      Clare Daly is absolutely one of my role models. A kind of frank, honest talk that is totally lacking in the heavily censored world of German politics.

  20. LawnDart

    Free Press (?)

    I’m not sure if that’s the correct heading, and while this could be listed under Russia/Ukraine, this is Russia addressing Goog/UToob’s censorship, the elevation of propaganda, and maniuplation in support of CorrectThink:

    Roskomnadzor undertakes coercive measures against Google over failure to comply with Russian laws

    “The YouTube video hosting service has become a key platform for disseminating fake information about the progress of the special military operation in Ukrainian territory that discredits the Russian Armed Forces,” the agency said.

    “In addition, YouTube does not make any efforts to contain the dissemination of information from extremist organizations, such as the Right Sector [designated as an extremist organization and banned in Russia] and the Azov regiment. More than 12,000 prohibited materials of this kind remain unremoved,” it said.

    Additionally, about 60 incidents of YouTube’s discrimination against the content of Russian media outlets, state, civil and sport organizations, and figures have been observed since April 2020, Roskomnadzor said.

    “For instance, there has been the blocking of accounts or content from news agencies such as Russia Today, Rossiya 24, Sputnik, Zvezda, RBC, NTV and many others,” it said.


    Sorry for the longish excerpt, but it captures the heart of the matter. (Appeared 4/7)

  21. Felix_47

    Re:Republican Funhouse
    Requiring driver license numbers or the last four of the SS number on mail in ballots to verify identity. How is that unreasonable? Has anyone ever tried to cash a check or visit a doctor without ID? I was at the doctor’s the other day and they made me put the last four of my SS number on the blood tubes and urine container. Can someone tell me why that is considered voter suppression by the evil Republicans?

  22. dk

    A Twitter edit button that lets people edit out typos after a post has gone up also enables ephemeral messaging and the gas-lighting, stealthy harassment, and other subterfuges that use it. A big change in Twitters long-standing function and tone that if one can’t stand by what one posts one can take it down.

    When a post is edited, should it be marked as having been changed, maybe with a revision number? Should readers be able to see what changes were made (nice feature from Wikipedia)?

    Should editing be available of all past posts, or just new ones with some kind of time limit? And/or a limit to the number of edit sessions available?

    No matter how Twitter implements it, people will test its limits and find unexpected consequences. I for one have had enough upheaval to last several more lifetimes.

    We’ve fried our planet for luxurious conveniences in the name of “choice!” and groaf. But people can’t stop wanting to mimic the spoiled scions of wealth who must have everything just so, and then easier, and then easier than that, until a whole new dynamic is created, which some using community must then adapt and re-adapt to. It’s not progress.

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