2:00PM Water Cooler 5/10/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

This is Hermit Thrush Week at Naked Capitalism (hat tip Noone from Nowheresville). Dawn song.

* * *


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

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

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

Biden Adminstration

“Biden Can Fight Inflation by Repealing Trump’s Tariffs. Why Hasn’t He?” [Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine]. “Inflation is, by far, President Biden’s gravest problem.” A million dead in a pandemic? War with a nuclear power? Move along people, move along. There’s no story here. More: “One recent study finds that rescinding the Trump tariffs would reduce prices 1.3 percent. With inflation currently running over 8 percent, that would hardly resolve the crisis, but it would do more to alleviate it than any other step Biden could take on his own.” • Whatever’s going to prevent a midterms debacle for the Democrats, this is obviously not it.

“COVID-19 cases climb after White House media dinner” [The Hill]. “COVID-19 cases among attendees at the White House correspondents’ dinner last weekend are mounting, highlighting the continued threat of the virus as cases rise nationally…. There is no exact count, and it is not clear which dinner attendees contracted the virus at the dinner itself or at one of the many parties last weekend surrounding it. But the string of reported cases does emphasize the point that even as the country seeks to move on from the virus, large indoor gatherings do carry some risk. ‘I’m yet another [White House Correspondents’ Association] weekend casualty,’ tweeted Julia Ioffe, a correspondent at Puck News. ‘I knew I was taking a risk and, well, here we are!'” • Ioffe lights up a cigarette, blows the smoke in your face. “I knew I was taking a risk.” Yeah, for both of us! Can’t these people practice their death cult rituals in the privacy of their own homes?

“Biden disinformation chCief Nina Jankowicz pushed Trump-Russia collusion claims” [Washington Examiner]. • Yes, that’s the point.



* * *

GA: “Democratic megadonor Soros puts $1 million into Abrams’ campaign” [Atlanta Journal Constitution]. • That’s nice.

PA: “‘Ultra-MAGA’ longshot roars into contention in key Senate race” [Politico]. “Kathy Barnette has been outspent 358-to-1 on TV in Pennsylvania’s GOP primary for the Senate. She hasn’t run for statewide office before. She doesn’t have former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. But the ultra-MAGA commentator is surging in the polls anyway in the final weeks of one of the most expensive and closely watched races in the country. Barnette’s unlikely — and, to some, unbelievable — rise has turned heads in political circles across the state because it defies political logic. Just two years ago, she lost a House bid in the Philadelphia suburbs by a wide margin…. Barnette has a purist’s zeal, a compelling life story, and the ability to tell it to Republican grassroots voters. And, according to Republican strategists and officials across the state, Barnette is likely benefiting from a smashmouth primary that features Oz and McCormick going nuclear on each other on TV… Barnette has used forums and debates to talk about her striking biography: She has described herself as a “product of a rape,” whose mother was only 11 years old when she was conceived. As a child, she lived on a pig farm without insulation. She went on to become a veteran, adjunct professor of corporate finance, and author of “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: Being Black and Conservative in America.'” • Listen to Black women! (Her bio reminds me a little of J.D. Vance.)

PA: “Pro-Israel Lobby Spends Big to Defeat Progressive Summer Lee” [ReadSludge]. “Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), fresh off its victory in helping defeat progressive Democratic challenger Nina Turner in Ohio, has begun throwing money behind corporate attorney and former Republican congressional staffer Steve Irwin in Pennsylvania. Irwin is facing progressive State House Rep. Summer Lee in the Democratic primary for the state’s 12th Congressional District, a solidly Democratic seat that is being vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle. The group’s super PAC recently put $305,000 behind TV ads and $95,000 behind internet ads backing Irwin, according to new FEC filings. DMFI is closely tied to the pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It was founded in 2019 by Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster and former AIPAC consultant, and several of its board members have recently held positions with AIPAC and its affiliated groups. Many of its donors have also been affiliated to AIPAC. For example, Stacy Schusterman, the chairman of oil and gas company Samson Energy who is DMFI PAC’s top donor this year with $2.5 million given, is a former AIPAC board member. Irwin co-leads the government relations and securities groups as a partner with the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl law firm.”

Democrats en Déshabillé

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

* * *

“The Scourge of Sentimentality Politics” [John Ganz, Gawker]. “For 50 years, conservatives have worked tirelessly towards the repeal of Roe v. Wade. While calling for ‘strict constructivism,’ ‘judicial restraint,’ and denouncing ‘judicial activism,’ they trained and deployed cadres of lawyers as right-wing activists. They gradually took over institutions and then the key institution: the Supreme Court. This required them to adopt Machiavellian means: most of the justices in question swore up and down at their confirmation hearings that they had no designs on Roe, that it was the settled precedent. They were lying. In a certain way it’s a brilliant feat of political will and organization that should be studied. But while the conservative movement has pumped out loyal foot soldiers who understood that the cause was the main thing, liberals have gotten caught up in the hagiography of their leading functionaries, making everyone involved forget that they are part of a larger movement and not the ends in themselves. A perfect example of this is the pathetic and embarrassing cult of Ruth Bader Ginsberg — the “Notorious RBG” T-shirts, the inane interest in the details of her workout regimen, the literal votive candles — part of that political tribe’s tendency to worship bureaucrats and officials as saviors, a process replicated in Comeyism (his trashing of Clinton’s electoral chances was quickly forgotten after he became a vocal Trump critic), Muellerism, and Faucism…. Republican voters are much less sentimental: when a figure betrays them or just insufficiently serves their interests, they turn on them, ruthlessly destroy their reputation, and cast around for better instruments. They are no respecters of persons. When they got the sense that they were being cheated by their establishment who would just collect checks, pal around in Washington D.C., and not deliver anything, they unleashed Trump to menace them. Their entire apparatus is a kind of grotesque vision of ideal democracy: an unruly mob terrifying and disciplining the elite. ‘Don’t get out of line, we will come for you.'”

Republican Funhouse

“Pro-abortion chalk message appears on Susan Collins’ Bangor sidewalk” [Bangor Daily News]. “Sen. Susan Collins was confronted with a pro-abortion rights message Saturday night when an unknown person or persons wrote in chalk on the sidewalk outside her West Broadway home in Bangor, prompting a police response. ‘Susie, please, Mainers want WHPA —–> vote yes, clean up your mess,’ the message read, according to a Bangor police report. WHPA refers to the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify the right to abortion into law and ban restrictions on abortion access. Bangor police responded to West Broadway at 9:20 p.m. Saturday to investigate a message written in chalk on a sidewalk, Bangor police spokesperson Wade Betters said.”


“Three Friends Chatting: How the Steele Dossier Was Created” [Wall Street Journal]. In Links, but worth rehoisting for the yarn diagrams: “[A] Wall Street Journal review found [that] many of the dossier’s key details originated with a few people gossiping after they had been brought together over a minor corporate publicity contract.” And here is how the contract came to be: “Mr. Danchenko [Steele’s “source”] had spent most of his professional life in the U.S., including several years as a researcher for the Brookings Institution. By 2016 he was doing research for Mr. Steele. When Ms. Galkina asked him to suggest a publicist for her employer, Mr. Danchenko emailed his former boss at Brookings, Fiona Hill. ‘I have an URGENT small favour to ask you,’ Mr. Danchenko wrote, relaying that a ‘very good old friend of 25 years’ was seeking help from a public relations firm with Russia experience and would be in Washington the following week. Ms. Hill, who later became a top National Security Council Russia expert—and later still a witness at Mr. Trump’s first impeachment hearings—forwarded the email to Mr. Dolan, the PR executive. After Ms. Galkina arrived in Washington, Mr. Danchenko took her shopping and to a restaurant, say FBI notes of a later interview with the researcher.” • As I experienced Trump’s second impeachment, it was The Blob, in the person of Fiona Hill, whipping Trump into line (to, as we now may assume, move a proxy war in Ukraine with Russia forward).

Realignment and Legitimacy

Smiles (1):

Smiles (2):

Smiles (3):

Smiles (4):

“Eyes Are Windows to the Chinese Soul: Evidence from the Detection of Real and Fake Smiles” [PLoS One]. “In Western cultures, the mouth is crucial in identifying and interpreting facial expressions, especially with regard to happiness and smiles. A rich body of literature supports this idea…. However, interpreting the meaning of a smile also depends on the information conveyed by the eyes, especially for distinguishing between real and fake smiles…. Williams, Senior, Loughland, and Gordon [15] further proposed that the distinction between real and fake smiles is so important that, when a smiling face is detected, attention is automatically directed towards eyes and eye corners to evaluate the authenticity of the smile. In support of this hypothesis, they demonstrated that observers make more fixations to eye corners (crow’s-feet wrinkles) for smiling compared to neutral or sad faces.” • So, it’s not just that the anti-maskers want to optimize for smiles. It’s that they want to optimize for fake smiles (i.e., for people who can be conned because they look only at the mouth, not the eyes). I suppose, in today’s America, that is not unsurprising.

* * *

There’s science, and then there’s “science” and then there are scientists:

I wonder how many of those pro-science Democrats have confused science with scientist-celebrities, like Fauci; or with the work of demonstrably democidal institutions, like CDC. I woiuld bet many.


Just in case these people think nobody’s paying attention:

(Yes, I’ve got to get around to Leana Wen, but McBride is Wen’s mini-me.) I felt McBride deserved a place in the pantheon when I read this:

“The next COVID mandate? Focus less on masks and more on those behind them” [Lucy McBride, The Hill]. “In other words, it’s time for people to assess their personal risk for COVID and act accordingly. It’s time to graduate [!!] from a one-size-fits-all [for masks, and indeed mask-wearing, this is literally untrue] to a more nuanced approach to risk mitigation. The problem? Not everyone has access to information and proper medical guidance to do so. In fact, approximately 80 million Americans don’t have access to a primary care provider. As we face this next chapter of the pandemic, it’s time to arm people with individualized guidance and the tools they need to protect themselves against COVID — plus the myriad non-COVID health threats all around us. This starts with giving people unfettered access to a trusted guide. ” A professional, in other words. More: “The common thread between countries who successfully navigated the pandemic was surprisingly not GDP, smoking, cancer rates, population density or even health insurance coverage; it was trust. A Lancet study concluded that higher levels of trust in public health measures were the most predictive factors of lower COVID infection rates. Sixty-three percent of Americans trust their medical providers, many of whom are members of their own communities…. As we transition to the “that’s up to them” phase of COVID, we must meet the moment and invest in the unmet needs of millions of Americans. Primary care medical providers, if well-funded and scaled up, are the best line of defense against our most insidious health problems and the vacuum of trust.” • McBride seems to believe that population-level public health measures are best delivered at the patient level; in other words, she confused public health with medicine. I’m all for scaling up primary care medical providers, but McBride’s reason for doing so is bad. (Imagine Snow leaving the pump handle on, and then asking the people in his cholera-infested district to talk to their primary medical care provider about whether they should keep going to the pump, or boil water, and what “assessing their personal risk” meant.)

And we welcome a previous winner, Ashish Jha:

“Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki and White House COVID-⁠19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha” [White House]. “So I want to take a minute to talk about where we are with the pandemic. We are — I believe we are at an inflection point.” • Wait, what? I thought Covid was over. We don’t need no steekin’ inflection points! Jha then goes on to sell Paxlovid. Hard.

* * *

Lambert here: I am but a humble tape-watcher, but if some trusting, non-realist soul tells you that “Covid is over,” you can tell them that cases are up, transmission is up, test positivity is up, hospitalization is up, rapid riser counties are up, and wastewater is up, too. And this is all from data designed to support the narrative that “Covid is over,” and gamed within an inch of its life. So, if signals like that are flashing red, consider what the real signal must be like. (Note also this is all with BA.2 only, and with what the establishment considers an “immune wall” made from vaccination and prior infection. Since semper aliquid novi Africam adferre, and we’ve let ‘er rip at the airports…. Well, I just hope we get lucky with BA.4 and BA.5. “God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.” –Otto von Bismarck.

* * *

If you missed it, here’s a post on my queasiness 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:

Looks like the train is rolling, now. Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out. Also remember, it’s 100% certain the cases numbers are significantly understated. They’ve always been gamed, but it’s worse than before. One source said they though cases might be undercounted by a factor of six. Gottlieb thinks we only pick up one in seven or eight. The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises. The blue “Biden Line” shows what the case count would be if it were 73,000 * 6 = 438,000, i.e. not gamed. (I changed the Biden Line from dotted to solid because the dotted line was too hard to draw properly in my crude tool.)

Here are cases for the last four weeks:

Worth noting that cases have nearly doubled in four weeks.

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.

However, and astonishingly, it looks like CDC is gaming “the green map” is well. Thread:

Do we have any SQL mavens in the house who would like to replicate this work?

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to the goons at CDC.

MWRA wastewater data:

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 Biobot Analytics:

Northeast unflattened, and — hat tip to readers for pointing to this — it looks like past aggregation was adjusted up. But that drop in the West looks like an adjustment, too. Do we have any readers who track non-biobot wastewater in the West?

“U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Selects Biobot Analytics to Expand National Wastewater Monitoring” [PR Newswire]. ” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has selected Biobot Analytics to expand the agency’s National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS), an integral part of President Biden’s plan to fight Covid-19 and prepare the country for future pandemics. NWSS works with public health departments across the country to track SARS-CoV-2 levels in wastewater so communities can act quickly to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The Biden Administration recognizes wastewater monitoring as a predictive indicator of new cases as well as an inclusive public health tool. Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator, wrote that wastewater monitoring ‘can give us early insights into rising case rates and help us track infections in the community.’ ‘This program will allow hundreds of local communities to benefit from this novel technology.’ Over the next year, the CDC will work with Biobot to collect and analyze wastewater samples from 500 communities across the country to gather SARS-CoV-2 data.” • 500? That’s all? Seems unlikely to help me do my personal risk assessment homework.

Cases lag wastewater data.

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

Major improvements on the West Coast. Pennsylvania improves in the Northeast. (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.) It would be nice if the falling wastewater measures in California presaged a drop in cases. (OTOH, the Biobot data is only as good as the non-representative sample it uses, so…).

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:

The Northeast remains stubbornly and solidly red. Now California is red as well. The Upper Midwest is moving that way, too. (The Unorganized Territories in Maine are back to red, good job.)

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

This map is very dynamic! Now the orangization has moved from the Northeast to the Midwest and the Mountain states. (Note trend, whether up or down, is marked by the arrow, at top. Admissions are presented in the graph, at the bottom. So it’s possible to have an upward trend, but from a very low baseline.)

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,024,752 1,024,546. Now even the death rate is up. By a lot. Did CDC discover a bunch of death certificates stuffed in a drawer? I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

“Spring Breakers Arrange Scattered Corpses To Spell Out YOLO” [Babylon Bee]. • Onion-class, but I think the Bee thinks they’re owning me. Theyr’e not.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Broadly down. (Note the quality of these numbers varies wildly. For example, the UK is cutting back on testing data.

Stats Watch

Inflation: “United States Inflation Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The annual inflation rate in the US accelerated to 8.5% in March of 2022, the highest since December of 1981 from 7.9% in February and compared with market forecasts of 8.4%. Energy prices increased 32%, namely gasoline (48%) and fuel oil (70.1%) as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed crude oil prices higher. Also, food prices jumped 8.8%, the most since May 1981.”

Small Business Optimism: “United States Nfib Business Optimism Index” [Trading Economics]. “The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index in the United States was unchanged at 93.2 in April of 2022, the same as in March, and remaining at levels not seen in two years. More business owners expect business conditions to worsen over the next six months but the share of those raising selling prices eased from a record high in March and more expect real sales to be higher in the short-term.”

* * *

Shipping: “Contract talks due to start this week between West Coast dockworkers and cargo-handling companies carry high stakes for U.S. supply chains. The negotiations covering 29 ports have proven highly contentious and disruptive in years past….” [Wall Street Journal]. “The risks are even greater this year with freight networks still backed up and the American economy looking increasingly fragile. Leaders of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association both are expressing optimism they can reach an agreement. The early start to talks to replace a contract expiring this summer suggests there is some urgency backing up the public statements, partly because importers are already looking for alternatives to the congested Southern California ports. Automation on the docks is shaping up as the biggest issue, with big questions that were pushed back in earlier contracts now growing more pressing.

The Bezzle: “Crypto’s Audacious Algorithmic Stablecoin Experiment Crumbles” [Bloomberg]. “Algorithmic stablecoins, like their more ‘traditional’ counterparts, are supposed to provide calm in the chaos of crypto. Instead, as investors in one such token are rapidly finding out, they can serve as lightning rods for volatility. Rather than trading at $1, as designed, the TerraUSD coin, or UST, slipped over the weekend to around 99 cents. By Monday evening in New York, it had plunged to 60 cents, obliterating its previous low of 92 cents in May 2021. It clawed back losses on Tuesday and is fluctuating between around 90 cents and $1 — a sign of trouble. What caused Terra’s coin to become untethered is a topic of intense internet debate. The disconnect happened alongside a sharp selloff in cryptoassets — including a plunge in Bitcoin to below $30,000 — and a broader retreat from risk assets including stocks. Whatever the catalyst, it’s no small thing: There are around 18.5 billion of UST in circulation, according to CoinMarketCap, a big enough presence that its swings could have systemic implications for other coins and protocols. And Do Kwon, the crypto upstart behind UST, has previously committed to buying as much as $10 billion worth of Bitcoin as part of his support of the coin, further entwining the project with the core of the digital-asset market. ‘It’s fairly clear that there is a crisis of confidence,’ said Kyle Samani of Multicoin Capital. He added that it was not certain whether UST would survive. That raises the prospect of the current turbulence snowballing into one of the biggest crypto blowups in recent memory.”

The Bezzle: “The Tech Industry’s Epic Two-Year Run Sputters” [Wall Street Journal]. “The technology industry, which powered the U.S. economy during the pandemic and grew at tremendous scale during a decade of ultralow interest rates, is confronting one of the most punishing stretches in years. Global powerhouses and fledgling startups are feeling pain from a variety of economic, industry and market factors, spawning postpandemic turbulence in e-commerce, digital advertising, electric vehicles, ride-hailing and other segments. Companies that emerged as job-creating juggernauts in the past two years—collectively adding hundreds of thousands of workers to their payrolls in engineering, warehouse and delivery jobs—have begun to freeze hiring or even lay off employees.”

Tech: “REVEALED: Elon Musk plans to FIRE 1,000 Twitter staff, quintuple revenue, get 69 million users paying $3 a month and cut reliance on advertising income, presentation to investors shows” [Daily Mail]. “Musk is said to favor a subscription-based model over advertiser funding, as it would make Twitter less beholden to advertiser pressure. He has even suggested users could pay with cryptocurrency, including joke currency Dogecoin which Musk has long had an affection for…. Among his other goals, Musk expects the social media company to bring in $15 million from a payments business in 2023 that will grow to about $1.3 billion by 2028. As one of the founders of PayPal, Musk is familiar with the world of digital payments. Twitter’s payments business today, which includes tipping and shopping, is negligible. It’s believed Musk may also want to introduce payment abilities to Twitter.” • That would be interesting….

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 21 Extreme Fear (previous close: 22 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 32 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 10 at 1:12 PM EDT.


Not sure quite where to file this:

The Avengers universe (R.I.P. George Pérez).

Sports Desk

Probably a little late, but for those who missed it, this from the Kentucky Derby is extraordinary:

The Gallery

Elites have gone cray cray* before:

But not always with a good outcome:

NOTE * I mean, they’re literally holding superspreading events and infecting each other.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Exposed By A Strava Kom: The Many Lives Of A Fake Pro Cyclist” [Cycling Tips]. “On the quiet Leigh Mill climb segment, not far from Falls Church, the road rises from Difficult Run River and punches upwards for half a mile (~800 m). When Clark logged his ride to Strava at day’s end, his speed up the climb – an apparent 33 mph (53 km/h) on a climb that peaks at 8.5% – suggested an absurdly strong set of legs, or a digital glitch. Maybe both; stranger things have happened, both in cycling and on the internet. But among some observers – one of whom thought a Strava KOM might’ve been sniped via motor-doping, digital-doping, or just plain old ‘doping’ – it stretched plausibility just a bit too much. So, some people started digging.” • And dig they did…..

Black Injustice Tipping Point

All amazing, if true:

News of the Wired

Not a bad idea:

This picture reminds me that I believe I forgot to issue my seasonal warning: When you go out for a walk, make sure you look up up up into the light. Not down at your feet:

* * *

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. From AM:

AM writes: “Fuzzy green fern-like plants juxtaposed with the classic shiny leaved style of Florida plant – near Naples FL. Not a huge fan of FL but the vegetation is a trip.”

* * *

NOTE ON PAYPAL: As some readers may know, PayPal whacked Consortium News’s account, for no justification that I can see. It’s to be hoped that Consortium News has its account completely restored, and that NC doesn’t come under the same ban hammer. In the meantime, until I/we can come up with an alternative, I must continue to rely on PayPal (and rely I do). I will be cleaning out the account daily, and PayPal does give a heads-up, so your risk is minimal. Please carry on as before, or, if you feel you must, write me and I will send you directions for sending a check. Please put “PayPal” in the subject line. Thank you for your support! It is much appreciated, and helps me with responsibilities. –lambert

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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. IM

    The bushy guys are Asparagus densiflorius! AKA foxtail fern, though they are not ferns at all; an asparagus grass. Toxic, from South Africa.

    1. Skippy

      Wait till some try and remove the asparagus grass after a few years, huge thick mat of bulbs and roots underneath, and you have to get all of it.

  2. super extra

    Susan Collins calling the police at 9:30PM over a message written in chalk on her front sidewalk is utterly pathetic. You ruin people’s lives over your lack of principle you can stand a little heat from your own constituents and they were nice enough to use chalk and not spray paint. Pathetic and shameful.

    1. Michael Ismoe

      Chalk isn’t much of a problem. She ought to be a tad more concerned about piazzas though.

      The bodies of Mussolini and Petacci were taken to Milan and left in a suburban square, the Piazzale Loreto, for a large angry crowd to insult and physically abuse. They were then hung upside down from a metal girder above a service station on the square.

  3. Quentin

    The western smile is all about the teeth, white and gleaming, regularly arranged and well-gummed. On the most basic level they tell how much money someone has to maintain and prettify them. So there, you have it or you don’t, like so many other physical and social markers in life.

    1. LawnDart

      The teeth are a tell, but the eyes are a dead give-away.

      For practice, one can watch the evening news and keep a steady-gaze on the newsreader’s eyes– that they can’t fake. It’s tatally surreal.

      1. Late Introvert

        Dead eyes are indeed a dead giveaway. I got a laugh from teens while shooting prom photos last weekend about how many smiles are fake. They seemed startled that an adult would tell them that.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > On the most basic level they tell how much money someone has to maintain and prettify them.

      Yes, teeth have long been recognized as a class marker.

      The one who smiles and is smiled at (i.e., the dominant person in the interaction/relation) may have different reasons for smiling (pride in dental work, working a mark, asserting class power) from the one who smiles at (i.e., the subaltern in the interaction/relation) and smiles (fear, desire to please, desire not to make things worse than they already are, desire to continue to gain some benefit). I mean, when a Dean and an adjunct smile at each other, there’s no possibility whatever that the interaction in in any way mutual.

      The power-tripping of “Let me see your smile” is especially grotesque, given the protective and altruistic motives of mask-wearers. Of course, that enforcement of “no masks” would come was obvious….

  4. Ranger Rick

    That WSJ article makes me smile. “Burn rate” was common in tech startup parlance for decades and investors are only just now realizing their money is being set on fire with no return?

  5. WobblyTelomeres

    Susan Collins and chalk.

    One of the ladies who escorted at our Huntsville abortion clinic had run afoul of the law by writing snarky messages in chalk on the sidewalk where the antis would stand. The city ordered us to stop defacing public property and clean the messages or else. I brought my pressure washer down and she sprayed away with a grin on her face. Turned out, she selectively cleaned, spraying more snark with a fine tip on the sprayer wand. City could do nothing as there wasn’t an ordinance against incomplete cleaning, so they sent a city crew to fully pressure wash the sidewalk. The mayor sent word that he wasn’t happy. “Oh, darn,” she said.

    1. Jen

      And this is helpful how? By making it absolutely clear to the Europeans who their real enemy is?

        1. Greg

          That map is very illuminating. It does indeed look like Ukraine has cut the line that delivers specifically to the one country that opposed (openly) the demand for total sanctions from the EU last week.
          Which makes the sudden disabling of that line look like collective punishment.

    2. The Rev Kev

      If only there was some way to get Russian gas to Europe that bypassed the Ukraine altogether. Maybe a rout that went under a sea and was already waiting to be used.

  6. curlydan

    I was at my kid’s baseball game this weekend. Small crowd at first, and I was unmasked in the bleachers. As the game proceeded, more parents showed up…quite a few coughing occasionally. After about 5 minutes of that, I was thinking “[bleep] this”, went to my car, got my folding chair, and set up about 20 feet from the nearest person.

    “We can never go back”…until the morgue fills up…

  7. Mikel

    “The next COVID mandate? Focus less on masks and more on those behind them” [Lucy McBridge, The Hill].

    “Individualized guidance”

    Everyone has to take a drink each time they encounter that talking point.

  8. jr

    I came across this comprehensive take down of the trans movement from the wonderful organization Women’s Declaration International:


    It has it all! The weaponization of poststructuralist critiques of language as well as norms of common courtesy, the reification of misogyny by trans activists, the wielding of porn culture and sex worker “liberation” as a cudgel to suppress dissenters, and a glimpse at the powers behind the scenes of this so-called freedom movement.

    PaleoBotanist, if you are reading this, the talk hearkens back to our brief exchange a short while ago about the inordinate power of the IDpol and specifically trans cultists in social justice movements. Big Pharma is there making a killing on long term gender reassignment therapies. The Gates, Soros, and Ford foundations have spent 2.6 billion US$ in their efforts to promote this insanity and provide it with a scientific and authoritative sheen. It’s infected the news media, entertainment, academia, the corporate world, and the military. They are literally attempting to rewrite reality.

    No wonder organizations like the ACLU are dumping women’s rights to protect these IDpol degenerates. (I just read the link above about the Depp trial. It’s all about the money for them.) No wonder talk show hosts chastise speakers who use the correct pronouns, feeling emboldened to enforce these artificial norms as if the matter has been settled. No wonder men in dresses feel the liberty to assault women in the streets and in the prisons. It’s an all-out war on women, not incidentally on queer-folk, and not least of all on the actual fraction of humanity who truly are transsexual. It’s intentionally divisive and extreme nature also plays into the hands of the Right, who can make much hay by taking a contra position to it’s obvious absurdities. It’s a win-win for the powers that be.

    This is class warfare at the heart of it. Make no mistake. As women’s rights are dissolved, so goes men’s rights, except for a ruling elite with the power to protect their own privileges. Dark days, indeed.

  9. deplorado

    Did you all look further down the tweet about the budget surplus:

    Jamie Dupree
    CBO says total revenues in the first 7 months of FY 2022 for Uncle Sam are up $843 billion compared to the same time in 2021.

    + Withholding from paychecks up $314 billion (20%)
    + Non-withheld tax payments up $445 billion (119%)
    + Corporate income taxes up $38 billion (21%)

    I think in translation this means W-2’s and small businesses coughed up the vast majority of new cash to Uncle Sam, while big corporations – gave up under 5% of the total increase. That, in a year of record profits and buybacks, if Im not wrong. Nice work, tax system, nice work, democracy.

    1. Objective Ace

      W-2’s always cough up the most. Its only labor who pays any significant taxes. As Warren Buffet is quick to point out–he pays a lower effective tax rate then his secretary.

      All of this arguing about tax rates on income misses the bigger picture — the real rich people of the world like Bezos and Musk dont pay any taxes because they effectively do not have income

    2. Skippy

      Yeah that marginal/wage taxation spread out over the unwashed so the job creators[tm] can move humanity forward … is a hoot …

    3. John Zelnicker

      deplorado – It’s the 119% increase in Non-withheld tax payments that makes the big difference. These are payments made by taxpayers whose withholding isn’t adequate to cover their tax liability. In addition, first quarter Estimated Tax Payments are due on April 15th.

      Although, it looks like a lot this year, it is common for April receipts to increase and there is often a surplus in April.

      1. curlydan

        Here are the surpluses/deficits from the last 5 Aprils. 2020 and 2021 likely ran deficits from later tax filing deadlines and other COVID related stuff.

        2018: +$218B
        2019: +$161B
        2020: -$737B
        2021: -$225B
        2022: +$308B

  10. Arizona Slim

    That Strava KOM story really bopped me over the head. Not just the Tucson connection to the story’s lead villain, but the description of his blazingly fast ride up the Mount Lemmon Highway.

    People, it has been years since I have even contemplated putting a wheel on this highway. It’s one of those stretches that turns into an instant, unrelenting climb that will beat you up for 19 miles.

    Even when I was in my cycling prime, this was a tough ride.

      1. Wukchumni

        There was a big fire in Mount Lemmon about 20 years ago and you still see a few of the older cabins, but the fire wiped out most of em’, only to be replaced by McCabins-which in truth were houses or larger.

        The drive there is utterly spectacular going through so many life zones…

    1. upstater

      We resided in T-town for 8 years, until 2004. Rode up Mt. Lemmon a couple of times and it was strenuous. On spring weekdays, it was wonderful. There is great cycling throughout the region, the best part is almost never looking at a weather report… Unlike upstate NY where 5 months are crossed out for cycling, maybe 2 or 3 months are good for XC skiing. And ALWAYS look at the weather, twice a day!

      (we even did XC on Mt. Lemmon and campground roads in winter, although it was seldom optimal)

    2. Late Introvert

      I lived on Twin Peaks in SF for a couple years, and was commuting by bike to the South of Market area, back before it got gentrified. The ride in every morning was SWEET! The ride home not so much, and it sure wasn’t 19 miles.

  11. Peter Edant

    Typo on Sociopath of the Day, McBride/McBridge?

    Did Musk really project 69m paying Twitter users? *chuckles*

  12. Dr. John Carpenter

    Re: Smiles. I know it’s been said before, but people were asked to do the absolute minimum (and sometimes not even that) and the kvetching has been deafening. I fear for what’s going to happen when the next bigger thing comes along demanding more than simply wearing a mask and people won’t have the option to not do it.

    1. asher2789

      that problem will hopefully sort itself out, without harming those who do the right thing. these people will learn real quickly why teaching creationism instead of evolution in schools was a bad idea, as they are not mentally or intellectually fit enough to survive.

      1. ambrit

        Not that I disagree with you too much, but I must observe that even the use of “intellectual” capacity as a sorting function for survivability is a false metric. There are plenty of “smart” people in this world who would be completely lost in a true survival situation.
        The definitions we tag onto various and sundry Terran human characteristics indeed skew our perceptions upon which we base our decisions.
        YMMV (The Tetragrammameme.)

  13. LilD

    Two observations

    I know at least a dozen people who have had COVID for the first time, all in the past few weeks

    I drove a few hundred miles this week for tennis matches and relative visiting and saw seven fairly major traffic accidents. More than one per hundred miles

    Also, no one wearing N95 anymore, just me…

    Unusually large numbers for both sets of data.

    Calling Potiphar

    1. Fiery Hunt

      Adding my little data set to yours…
      Here in the SF Bay Area both me and my better half have had direct contact with co-workers who tested positive. Heard about more positives this last week then I have in the last two years. And masks are spotty at best.

      So much harder to be safe….

      Good thing sister-in-law is Stage 4 and my wifey and I are caring for her… it’s an absolute stain on our collective soul, this sham of public /private health system.

  14. LawnDart

    The key give to lawmakers trying to hide something: create a false-sense of urgency, and “fast-track” your proposal. As we saw yesterday, the Ukraine/covid-19 bill was quickly split– sweetened for the warrior vultures, and is obviously a greater priority than public health. The Patriot Act of 2001 might be another good example of these sort of maneuvers.

    The Chicago parking-meter deal, referred to below, saw the city’s meters privatized, literally rushed-through behind closed-doors, cost Chicago over $2B in revenue, and screwed-over countless residents through draconian enforcement and loan-shark expensive rates. But it was a great lesson on the effects of neoliberalism. Now, for Chicago, it’s a long-overdue casino, a potential revenue-cow, at issue: they’ve waited years, what’s a little longer? Afraid the sun will rise and some light crack the gloom?

    Fast-Tracked Chicago Casino Is The Parking Meter Deal All Over Again, Ald. Says As He Vows To Fight It

    Ald. Brendan Reilly wants City Council to pump the brakes. “The last time we were given less than two weeks to vet and approve a deal, it blew up on our faces and it was called the parking meter deal.”

    Reilly said the quick turnaround of the ordinance and the anonymity of the committee evaluating the casino is suspicious.

    Only two alderpeople who spoke at the meeting back the casino plan: Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), whose ward includes the River West site that would house Bally’s permanent casino, and Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th).

    “In life, we have to seize a moment,” Burnett said in support of the casino.


    I do find it ironic that they’re building this on the site of the old Chicago Tribune production facility, apparently sold-off and rechristianed the “Tribune Freedom Center.” The reporters are gone but the politicians are still on the take, and the Chicago Outfit’s kids have become lawyers and legalized the rackets– squeezing nickles from chumps and lining their own pockets with silver.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Just a brief video from a woman in Odessa, letting us know how the billions our “representatives” have fast-tracked to Ukraine are being allocated and distributed: the part that is “humanitarian aid” (which I would guess includes the old tanks and armored personnel carriers being rousted from museums, too) that is. As in Chicago, the Big Man sees to it that it all passes through that sieve that sorts out the valuable stuff and puts it in the “corruption” pile, and the needy can go frack themselves: https://rumble.com/v13xtpj-corruption-in-odessa-humanitarian-aid-is-being-sold-in-stores-for-profit.html

      Stupid effing humans.

  15. LifelongLib

    John Brown’s original plan for Harper’s Ferry was to raid the armory there, take whatever he could, and then head for the hills to form a guerilla army that escaping slaves could join. When he changed the plan to holding the armory and hoping for a slave uprising, Frederick Douglass tried to talk him out of it, telling him “Harper’s Ferry is a steel trap from which you will not escape.” Brown’s force was of course trapped in the armory and quickly overwhelmed. I’d be surprised if under those circumstances Harriet Tubman really intended to go to Harper’s Ferry, unless it was after Brown was arrested. She would have known that his plan was almost certain to fail.

    1. djrichard

      Recommend Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks. A fictionalized account which stays true to what’s known and adds a first-person narrative around it. As portrayed in the novel, the man was “touched” as we used to say.

  16. Wukchumni

    First they came for the lawns, but I wasn’t into Bermuda grass so I said nothing.

    Then they came for the landscaping, but I preferred native flora so I said nothing.

    Then they came for the swimming pools, but I preferred swimming in the river so I said nothing.

    Then they came for pee to turn urine into freshwater, but that’s icky, man.

  17. marcyincny

    When you go out for a walk, make sure you STOP and look up up up into the light.
    I have scars from falls I’ve taken looking up while I’ve continued walking. Took me way too long to learn to stop.

    1. Katiebird

      No scars but long lasting bruises. We have 2 different trees that drop round things (seeds?) about 1” in diameter. They can be anywhere. And for some reason while they drop mainly in the fall they can drop anytime (like now). Also our sidewalks are poorly maintained and cracked. Oh. And I get dizzy trying to look at the trees while I walk. I don’t mind stopping now and then to look and admire though.

      1. Janie

        Sweet gum (liquid amber) maybe. Kids called them woofie balls and threw them at each other. The will throw those who are looking up, for sure.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      That description of how “stablecoins” are stabilized sounds a LOT like check kiting. And here I thought this was bleeding edge finance, but it turns out everything old is new again!

      As much as I generally like Breaking Points take on things, I had to chuckle to myself today as crypto fanboi Saager seems genuinely surprised to find out that “stablecoins” really aren’t that stable – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iEExNdtGl8

      Whocouldaknowed that schemes cooked up by anonymous silicon valley mountebanks weren’t on the up and up?

  18. Basil Pesto

    the reliably ghoulish McBride will have to give way tomorrow for Theodor Ghebreseus ‘Christ Alive’, who has gone on record today as saying that China’s policy of SARS elimination is “unsustainable”. He doesn’t really explain why except by throwing out the “we have the tools” cliché (in fact, China has the tools; PCR testing lol). Ghebreseus, remember, is the head of *checks notes* the World Health Organisation.

    Millions of people are going to die as a result of SARS2 infection in the next 5 years. It’s unclear to me why China would want any part of this. Instead China makes WHO and the rest of the world look like fools, which is what they truly find unsustainable.

    Again, head of the World Health Organisation, ladies and gentlemen. We are in serious trouble.

    1. lambert strether

      China is sovereign in its own currency. Of course Zero Covid is sustainable.

      Amazing that the West is baying for the deaths of millions of Chinese so their quarterly results don’t take a hit.

      1. Pat

        I don’t think it is just quarterly results. Sure that is a factor. But I think some longer picture thinkers have figured out that unless China follows our stupid lead the comparison of per Capita dead and long Covid sufferers in America vs. China is not going to go well for elected officials, doctors, Pharma, CDC, WHO, everyone. Especially since at the rate things are going most living Americans will be two and three time losers, have multiple family dead and have or have relatives with long COVID by this time next year.

        Anecdote acquaintance in large westside Manhattan hospital has spent last night and will spend tonight in the ER because they do not have an available bed. It is a troubling foot infection not COVID, but …

        1. JBird4049

          Maybe they want to bring back the death rate from disease to its pre 1900s levels? Just reading the occasional history of modern medicine and diseases (and the deaths) before around 1880 makes one feel horror. The last of the great episodes of childhood and maternal epidemics happened in the 1960s and I’m a victim. The vaccine hadn’t quite gotten to mass distribution. Mom seems to feel some guilt although what for I don’t see. I don’t think that she or Dad could have made a call to the CDC. Like with many diseases such as COVID, people can have no or mild symptoms, but can be devastating to children and especially in utero.

          It is strange thinking about “childhood” diseases or AIDS. At least with all the former, an immense amount of resources was used to slowly control or eliminate the individual diseases. It took something like two centuries using several empires and numerous smaller countries. With AIDS, when it arrived it was just terrifying because at first nobody knew anything except that once you got it you died. Horribly. For a bit, I got to feel a taste of what everyone, worldwide, regardless of class, felt for forever.

          Now, we have this new disease, which our leaders are being chuckleheads on. We know how to stop its spread and how to treat it. I know that fifty years ago they would have stopped it. There might be some stumbling as with many diseases.

          The longer this goes on the more I dread something like smallpox. Everyone got it. It killed something like 10% to 20% of the entire population pre vaccine. Scarred many and blinded some. Every single generation. The list of kings, emperors, heirs is long who died is long. It was a reason for the heavy makeup and beauty marks. That is something we might have. After which they might get around to dealing with the current epidemic.

    2. asher2789

      while china’s attempt to minimize covid to near zero is admirable, being stuck in a “closed loop” system at your job unable to see your family or friends sounds like slavery but with more steps.

      workers being stuck in a closed loop factory for essential goods like medical supplies or food during a covid outbreak is one thing, workers being stuck in a factory for consumer electronics so american and western corporate profits dont take a hit is quite another.

      your next phone will be made by slave.

      1. Basil Pesto

        Ah yes, just behold all that unbearable unfreedom

        Seriously, you seem to be implying that the workers of China have been living and working in some kind of “closed loop” system continuously for coming up on 2.5 years now. Do you have any evidence for this?

        Consider this for example. Clearly domestic travel is stunted, as one would expect during a pandemic in a country that, no matter how well it’s doing, isn’t pretending it’s over. But 35,000 weekly domestic flights, to me, is not redolent of any kind of tyrannical mass “closed loop” system of any description.

    3. Basil Pesto

      (I absolutely butchered the dude’s name in my pre-sleep anger but frankly sloppy orthography is the least he deserves)

  19. Samuel Conner

    I wonder if there are medicines that give you quiet but really foul smelling flatulence. That would encourage physical distancing.

    I suppose that less frequent bathing and washing of clothing could help with that, too.

    Perhaps a line of N95s with add-on Volatile Organic Compound filters could be produced to provide relief from public-spirited gas-bags. I imagine that people who seem to not mind contracting COVID might be willing to mask up to avoid the affliction of a harmless compound that smells bad.

    It’s for your own good!

    And it would be a great gag for next year’s Correspondents’ Dinner!

      1. JTMcPhee

        Sulfur dioxide is pretty nasty too, a bit less toxic.

        We had a smart kid in my HS class who made the hydrogen sulfide stuff and put a beaker of it in a locker near one of the intakes for the ventilation system in the science/art/shop wing. Out of school for a couple of days while the stink cleared. He also made some mercury fulminate, and recognizing that it was a contact explosive that when it’s dried and you brush it with a feather will detonate. It’s what is called a “primary explosive.” He flushed it down the sink in the chem lab, and there was enough of it that when it dried and detonated, blew up the drain system in that part of the building. That end of the school had more than its share of such trouble, the rough crowd loved to flush cherry bombs and M-80s done the toilets and sinks and blow them off the floor and wall.

        And now, in Ukraine and the capitals of Europe, and in the lairs of the spooks and such in DC, really powerful people are playing a giant game of chicken, with things that are a lot more volatile and potent “primary explosives.”

        I see that the public betting by the US foreign policy set is that Putin will blink first — I guess betting that he is more humane than they know themselves to be, those folks who are contemplating how to “win” a nuclear war…

        Amazing that our species has lasted as long as it has. All things considered.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > the public betting by the US foreign policy set is that Putin will blink first

          It has occurred to me that one way of “weakening Russia” would be to force a nuclear confrontation where Putin “blinked,” thereby rendering Russia’s nuclear arsenal useless. Exactly for that reason, I don’t think Putin will blink. But The Blob is cray cray enough — and invested in — the idea he will.

          Go long iodine?

    1. anon y'mouse

      remember trying to travel through the halls to class when someone would stink bomb the H.S. semi-monthly?

      yah, i was never “one of those” but now wish i had the recipe from those who were!

      granted, sociology tells us that bad smells increase violent behavior (noise & heat do as well), so perhaps we don’t want to go that route since Americans are already prone to lashing out at any opportunity.

  20. skk


    Thanks Huge for linking to that. I follow exposes of fakes – I take a lot of pleasure at watching these narcissists brought down by good forensic work. A site I visit often is marathoninvestigation.com which exposes cheats in the amateur running world and I thought this looooooooong article would be in the same vein.

    Not so ! This guy – fake soldier, stock promoter, fake educational qualifications, fake cyclist and fake cyclist coach – he’s really got some a huge range to his fakery. Quite amazing.

    Its quite worthwhile reading this article to the end. A great job by the journalist. Now THAT’s journalism.

  21. chris

    Sharing some anecdata from my part of MD/DC/VA:

    A lot of us have COVID right now. The closest CVS to our house looks like it’s been ransacked. Things like throat lozenges, tissues, even large bags of M&Ms are all out of stock. We currently have 2 in my family who are positive. One of my colleagues from work is home taking care of 3 people in his family who are positive. My wife is a senior PM and she is having difficulty running her teams because lots of people are out with COVID. My daughter’s dance studio just went back to zoom only classes because so many of the teaching staff are sick. We’re getting lots of emails from schools with confirmed cases and identified cohorts again. The superspreader events in DC may make it seem like no one is wearing masks. But when I’ve had to go there on business all the workers and all the managers are wearing masks indoors and outdoors.

    We are fortunate to have the turn in the weather supporting our keeping the windows open. We also have two HEPA units providing an estimated 8 ACH for the house. I’m feeling fine but even twinge or sniffle makes me jump. I’ve taken a rapid test each day to provide some confidence I can continue to go out and not infect people. There’s no patience for people who want to shelter in place anymore. So I don’t have the option to not go out in public.

    I hope the rest of the commentariat is doing well.

    1. Carla

      Thanks for this snapshot of life in your area, chris. Sounds similar to conditions here in NE Ohio. People speak casually of having had Covid-19 (“because I was quadruple-vaxxed, it was just like a cold”) and of friends and relatives who have it now. It’s just a regular fact of life as far as they’re concerned. I mask in all indoor public spaces and still have not dined in an indoor restaurant, but I’m in a tiny minority. Also, I’m using a Betadine gargle occasionally and Enovid anti-viral nasal spray daily. I don’t know ANYONE else doing these last two things.

      1. chris

        I’m regularly gargling with peroxide solutions and I use my nasal spray too. It is a rare thing. Perhaps that is what has prevented me from getting sick again? I had covid in 2020 and it was awful. I’ve had all my shots but it’s been 6 months since I was boosted. So I have no illusions there’s any kind of antibody reservoir to draw on.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > It’s just a regular fact of life as far as they’re concerned.

        So we’ve ended up making the United States a giant reservoir of infection. If I were Xi, I would consider this an act of war.

  22. Wukchumni

    Diesel was $6.58 a gallon here in Cali the other day contributing to the delinquency of profits for truckers, is there a breaking point as far as price goes?

  23. anon y'mouse

    “three friends chatting…” re: Steele Dossier.

    ever since this came to light, i’ve been calling it Three Drunks in a Bar. how odd to see the Wall Street Journal coming close to that designation.

  24. marym

    Re: “talking excitedly about…‘ONE BIG UNION’”

    “Target Workers Are Joining the Union Wave
    Employees at a store in Virginia filed for a union election Tuesday

    They’re working with the Industrial Workers of the World and plan to make Target Workers Unite a subsidiary of IWW, which they hope will allow them to issue union cards at any store that wants to hold an election.

    [Adam Ryan, one of the lead organizers] tells his co-workers that IWW won’t send people in from headquarters who tell them what to do. “A lot of unions are very top down,” he said. “If you set up a local, you have your own autonomy and can determine your own path.””
    05/10/2022 https://newrepublic.com/article/166412/target-union-virginia-nlrb-amazon-starbucks

    Target Workers Unite @TGTWorkersUnite
    “After Target workers at Store 1292 in Christiansburg, VA were ignored by corporate regarding their seniority pay petition, they have now filed for an NLRB election to collectively bargain through the @NRVIWW”

    “Once it became apparent no direct answer would be given to Target workers at Store 1292 regarding their seniority pay petition Target workers were forced to petition the Labor Board for the right to collectively bargain. Target workers have established the New River Valley General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World as their official bargaining representative.”

    1. Carla

      This is great! Thank you so much, marym, for all of these excellent links and your summaries. Very valuable information!

  25. Jason Boxman

    The common thread between countries who successfully navigated the pandemic was surprisingly not GDP, smoking, cancer rates, population density or even health insurance coverage; it was trust.

    Past tense? The pandemic ended and no one told me? The jury is very much still out on who successfully navigated the pandemic, which is ongoing, and by what metric. But if we go by deaths and infections, China wins hands down. And if long-COVID is as serious as it seems, a victory here ensures China a strong position heading into this century. Other countries that had initial successes seem to have mostly abandoned reason for madness.

  26. Skippy

    Ref – “The Scourge of Sentimentality Politics”

    “Republican voters are much less sentimental: when a figure betrays them or just insufficiently serves their interests, they turn on them, ruthlessly destroy their reputation, and cast around for better instruments.”

    It has been noted that they – eat their own – Lambert, because success is all that matters.

    On another note everyone around here is dropping like flies from some flu or ???? as many are negative to RAT tests 2 to 3 days in, 2 of my kids, eldest son has chest infection and taking antibiotics, youngest son 18 is laid out, both husband and wife across the road, 3 young guys at work and boss/his family a week earlier, nary a mask in Queensland to be seen … price of freedom chortle … until it goes “The Stand” levels.

    Which then is highlighted by the whole product commodification of humans with the brand buffer of a smile, so everyone can read other peoples faces and relax, I mean everyone knows[tm] only bad people hide their faces in public …

    1. LawnDart

      “Republican voters are much less sentimental: when a figure betrays them or just insufficiently serves their interests, they turn on them, ruthlessly destroy their reputation, and cast around for better instruments.”

      I would strongly disagree with that statement, based on first-hand experience. No, the ones I went against either doubled-down when there was controversy and got even more nasty or disassociated themselves when the ship was obviously sunk. When they got caught-up in the vortex born by the sinking-ship, there was a lot of “I didn’t knows!”

      They might abandon the figure in question, but they do not turn against them because to do so would amount to a confession of guilt.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        Agreed. How do voters destroy someone’s reputation anyway?

        Here’s an example: Scott Walker was for a brief moment a rising star in GOP politics… no real core beliefs but willing to do whatever was requested/needed, a kind of everyman, aw shucks persona, many in these parts believed he was somehow presidential material – he was actually topping the polls in Iowa at one time. After he flamed out – the voters spoke – and the real people who run Republican politics had moved on, he was set up as the head of some fake right-wingish NGO and allowed to hold onto his personal belief in his political future. No one ruthlessly destroyed his reputation, they just moved on. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has dozens of new Walkers just waiting their chance at the gold ring and willing to say and do anything for that opportunity. If any of them turn out to be decent vote getters, they will be supported and promoted. Otherwise, they will be sent to pasture and the next ones will step up. The personalities change but not the politics/policies. The only role for Republican voters is to tell the elites who is and isn’t electable. Note that this is at least a valuable role for voters in party affairs, even if it has no impact on policy. As far as I can tell, Dem voters serve no purpose because the elites who run that party don’t really listen to their views/votes on electability or policy.

  27. Matthew G. Saroff

    So, Elon wants to pay people to access the hell site by making it even more hellish. (Bringing Trump back, etc.)

    The problem is that people will not pay to be trolled, and trolls won’t pay if there are no people there for them to troll.

    He is making Rupert Murdoch and MySpace look like a work of genius.

  28. super extra

    The Strava KOM piece was a hell of a ride! I was left with a few unsettling thoughts after reading it:

    – I hope that guy’s kids turn out okay;
    – it reminded me a lot of a story a year or two back where a guy faked an entire ‘my fake metal band is actually successful enough to book these clubs’ tour until it fell apart when nobody showed and then it turned out to have been mostly self-funded;

    and the big one,

    – how common is this level of fakery and bs artistry at the leadership level??? how much does this explain the omnishambles of said leadership over the crises of the last several years??

  29. djrichard

    From the cyclingtips article about the KOM (King of the Mountain)

    “He was in a position of power that allowed him to prey on people that looked up to him for advice and leadership. It was an abuse of power,” one of the women on the team told me, forcefully, the anger evident in her voice. “The way he used his clout as a former pro – it was almost like a false God,” another said.

    Made me think about our current disinformation environment. As in, the whole campaign of the dis-disinformationists is that we need to rescue people in these situations so that we give them true gods instead of false gods. Which makes me wonder about my disinformation campaigns which are to simply undermine authority – presumably that defies the dis-disinformationists as well.

    Anyways, shades of the movie “Catch me if you can” which the article makes reference to in the lede. But also shades of the thread about John Wayne Gacy from May 6th on NC related to https://caitlinjohnstone.substack.com/p/on-psychopathy-power-empire-and-ego. Reading the wiki on John Wayne Gacy, I think he would have been able to masquerade as a normal functioning human if he’d just been born 20 years or so later where submerged desires could have had less anti-social outcomes (i.e. gratification without rape or killing). He still would have been an authority figure though – and a psycopathic one, getting his gratification from power.

  30. Michael Ismoe

    Kathy Barnette has been outspent 358-to-1 on TV in Pennsylvania’s GOP primary for the Senate. She hasn’t run for statewide office before.

    But the Democrats keep telling me that you need lots and lots of money to be heard. If they didn’t have $100 million campaign coffers then there wouldn’t be a Senator Amy McGrath or Senator Jamie Harrison today.

  31. The Rev Kev

    “COVID-19 cases climb after White House media dinner”

    There has to be a guest list for that night. The fact that the White House media has not contacted the people on that list, asked them if they have been infected, and then published the results tells you all you need to know about this main stream media

    1. Jason Boxman

      Indeed, we’ve adopted Trump’s approach. As if by magic, the virus is gone.

      1. flora

        A new $40 billion in only 10 weeks. The ‘official war’ is only 10 weeks old. That’s, what, $4 billion a week?

      2. Jacob Hatch

        Considering much of Ukraine’s weapons are either in the black market or in the hands of the DNR/LNR and Russia, perhaps Biden has moved both the European Mafia and Russia up in the rankings?

      3. Karma Fubar

        The Russians measure their military (as per Scott Ritter) by its combat effectiveness. The US measures the Ukraine military by its market cap. If the arena was Wall Street, Ukraine might have the upper hand. But if the arena is combat…

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > The Russians measure their military (as per Scott Ritter) by its combat effectiveness. The US measures the Ukraine military by its market cap.


        2. Chops

          What if the arena is combat? Russia isn’t exactly demonstrating world-class combat ability.

          1. darren price

            The only reason people go on about Russia’s ostensibly poor combat ability is because that’s what they are told by the media. Maybe it’s true, I don’t know, but given that reports of Ukrainian soldiers complaining about getting hammered (and hampered) by Russian artillery appear in that very same media, I wonder. You don’t hear much about the Ukrainians taking back territory or winning crucial strategic victories either. What does that say about their NATO armed military’s abilities against a supposedly inferior foe? But you do hear a lot about the necessity of pumping billions of dollars worth of weapons into Ukraine and for western proles to take a quality of life hit in order to keep this war going. A bit odd if the Russians are fighting as poorly as the talking heads claim.

            The truth is most MSM consumers are not military strategists and have no idea what is actually going on. Before the war Russian military strategy and the country of Ukraine occupied zero space in their reality so they are just repeating what they read, hear and see on the internet and on TV. Until the war gets boring and the next media delivered freakout arrives and the blue and yellow icons are replaced by a new badge of “spontaneous” PMC virtue signalling.

            In wartime anyone who takes one sides assessment of the other side at face value is a fool. Sorry, there is no kinder way to say that. Of course the Russians also do propaganda but it is not nearly as unhinged, or a slickly packaged, as the stuff put out by Ukraine’s media and state supporters in the west. Output from both sides needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

            But back to Russia’s combat effectiveness, there is a saying that goes ‘Russia is never as strong or as weak as it seems.’ I’d wait a while before jumping on the Russia can’t fight bandwagon – and keep in mind where that message is coming from.

  32. curlydan

    Let’er rip claims more victims. Bill Gates (actually admitted to mild symptoms!). Kelly Ripa. And Stephen Colbert is now having a “recurrence”. I wonder if he took Paxlovid and is experiencing the viral comeback many seem to claim. Craziness. Masking in the stores I go to is virtually non-existent!

  33. LawnDart

    “Nothing to see here, move on.”

    Pandemic gets tougher to track as COVID testing plunges

    Testing for COVID-19 has plummeted across the globe, making it much tougher for scientists to track the course of the pandemic and spot new, worrisome viral mutants as they emerge and spread.


    Relevent vid clip– 30 seconds:


  34. mrsyk

    I read that Cycling Tips article on Nick Clark this morning over coffee. Fascinating! IMO American society places way too much weight on credentials. Mr. Clark was highly skilled at manufacturing his own. If you’re reading a hint of admiration on my behalf you read well. Thanks for the link.

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