2:00PM Water Cooler 5/27/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

This is Tanager week at Naked Capitalism. Sao Paolo, Brazil.

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“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

Sleeping on the job?

To be fair to Biden, Harris was speaking.

“Biden has limited options, but there are some things he can do on guns” [The Hill]. “Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is holding back on votes to give space to bipartisan negotiations on gun legislation, though hope is slim that those talks will bear fruit. Jean-Pierre said Thursday that Biden would defer to Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the mechanics of the legislative negotiations.”

“Biden to visit Uvalde on Sunday after school massacre” [Dallas Morning News]. “‘When in God’s name will we do what needs to be done? If not completely stop, fundamentally change the amount of the carnage that goes on in this country,’ the president said. ‘I’m sick and tired. I’m just sick and tired of what’s going on and continues to go on.'” • Applies to just about anything, including Covid. And including “carnage.” “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” –Donald J. Trump, 2020 Inaugural Speech. Ah well, nevertheless….

“White House sidesteps question about police response to Texas school shooting” [Washington Examiner]. “The White House refused to call for an investigation into the police response to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, saying President Joe Biden ‘has the utmost respect for the men and women of law enforcement.'” • Every good liberal Democrat loves cops.


* * *

After the debacle:

I can just hear Manchin: “See what you made me do” (dk):

“Mitch McConnell: ‘Get Your Crying Done Now Because We’re Not Passing Shit’” [The Onion].

* * *

MI: “The ‘straight, white, Christian, suburban mom’ taking on Republicans at their own game” [Guardian]. “Why did the speech strike such a chord? McMorrow suggests that Democrats have been afraid of talking about religion and faith openly while Republicans have sought to weaponise Christianity and create the illusion that they speak on behalf of all white suburban mothers. She reflects: ‘It feels like Democrats have ceded ground to the Republican party on Christianity and religion and family values and patriotism. Waving a lot of American flags tends to be associated with the Republican party now despite the fact that many of my colleagues supported the insurrection [in Washington on January 6, 2021].” • Well, perhaps in Mallory’s district. I think, as with Beto, Democrat voters are simply tired of Democrats who have the muscle tone of a corpse. I know “spineless Democrats” has been a trope for years, and as an account of how the party works, it’s seriously inadequate, not least because it doesn’t consider money, or other institutional factors. That said, it’s nice to see a Democrat moving out of the usual focus-grouped defensive crouch and standing up on their hind legs. That, I think, was the appeal of Mallory nationally; it wasn’t ideological at all. Ditto O’Rourke the other day. Say something, for pity’s sake! It was the same with AOC. Ah well, nevertheless….

TX: “Two critical Democratic runoffs in South Texas remain too close to call. Here’s what comes next.” [Texas Tribune]. “U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, is leading his challenger, Jessica Cisneros, by 177 votes, while the margin is even smaller in the 15th Congressional District, where Michelle Vallejo is ahead of Ruben Ramirez for the open seat…. Cuellar declared victory on election night, but Cisneros has not conceded and told reporters Thursday she is “within reach to go and win this thing.” After speaking with election offices, she said, it is “very clear” there are still hundreds of uncounted mail-in and provisional ballots. Due to the upcoming holiday weekend, many probably will not get counted until early next week, she said…. .In the 15th District, Vallejo came out of election night with a 23-vote lead, and both she and Ramirez agreed it was too close to call. At least two counties — Hidalgo and Jim Wells — have since updated their results, changing her lead to 27 votes. But like in Cuellar’s race, a final resolution likely will not come into focus until early next week. Both runoffs have national implications. The moderate Cuellar’s long political career is on the line against Cisneros, a progressive. Ramirez ran as a moderate, while Vallejo campaigned as a progressive.”

TX: “Why the Cuellar-Cisneros race is far from over” [Politico]. “The third face-off between Rep. Henry Cuellar and Jessica Cisneros remains undecided. The veteran Texas Democratic incumbent declared victory over his progressive challenger, but his lead is less than 200 votes, and there are still outstanding votes to be counted.” And: “‘Cuellar can lose this race [in November] as easily as Cisneros,’ Rocha said. ‘If it continues to be a one-sided conversation where the only messaging is coming from Republicans, then they’ll continue to make inroads, making [this seat] even more competitive.'” • Subtext here; Sanders won the Hispanic vote in California in 2020. Why not Texas? What went wrong?

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.

* * *


“Durham trial: FBI agents who opened Alfa-Bank inquiry testify about ‘typos’ in launch document” [Washington Examiner]. “As revealed in the trial that is part of John Durham’s special counsel inquiry, the electronic communication marking the opening of the investigation wrongly cited a nonexistent ‘referral’ from the Justice Department rather than correctly saying the Alfa-Bank allegations came from a lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. The opening communication, titled ‘Alfa Bank,’ was authored by FBI agents Curtis Heide and Allison Sands, who both testified this week in Washington, D.C., and the investigation initiated on Sept. 23, 2016, four days after Sussmann’s meeting with FBI General Counsel James Baker. Sands and Heide both referred to the glaring errors as ‘typos,’ and Heide suggested it was possible they may have conflated the FBI’s Office of General Counsel, which Baker led, with the Justice Department.” • Hmm.

“John Durham’s case against Michael Sussmann just got tougher” [Andrew McCarthy, FOX]. “In a predictable but nevertheless damaging blow to the prosecution, the judge in the Michael Sussmann trial ruled Thursday that the government may not argue that Sussmann’s text message to the FBI’s then-general counsel constitutes the false statement charged against him. Rather, prosecutors must rely on their evidence that Sussmann made the false statement the following day, when he met with the general counsel, James Baker, at the latter’s FBI office. The problem for Russiagate Special Counsel John Durham is two-fold. First, his prosecutors did not have the text, or even know about it, when they indicted Sussmann in September 2021. Consequently, the text is not pled as a false statement in the charging document. The indictment, instead, charges that Sussmann made the false statement while meeting in person with Baker on September 19. That makes the case much more challenging for prosecutors. The 20-minute meeting between Baker and Sussmann was not a standard FBI interview. It was more like a short, one-on-one meeting between a pair of old friends. The session was not recorded, and there was no second FBI official on hand to take notes and clarify any ambiguities…. Durham’s second big problem is the five-year statute of limitations. He was right up against the deadline to file charges when he indicted Sussmann in September 2021. Six months later, when interviewing Baker in preparation for his upcoming testimony, Durham asked Baker – who no longer works for the government – to check his personal records for any information that might be relevant to the case. At that point, Baker checked his stored text messages and found several from Sussmann, including the smoking-gun text from September 18, 2016. Ordinarily, a prosecutor who’d received such ironclad proof of a false statement would simply go back to the grand jury and obtain a superseding indictment, charging the text as a separate false-statement count. In this instance, however, the five-year statute of limitations had already lapsed.” • Oy.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Did Elites Really Take Over Identity Politics?” [Jacobin]. “[Olúfémi Táíwò defines elites] as a small group of people who have power over a larger group. Crucial to this definition is that the concept of an elite is nonessentialist: there is nothing about a specific racial or ethnic group that classifies it as an elite. This is a good corrective to the excesses of identity politics, which encourage an obsession with combating the dangers of ‘whiteness’ and men, heterosexual or otherwise. It is, nevertheless, hard to avoid asking the question: Where does this broad notion of an elite leave the Marxist definition of capitalists, defined by control over the means of production? In providing an account of elite capture, Táíwò relies on a number of theoretical approaches, some of which are liberal and others Marxist. Undoubtedly, pluralism can be a virtue, but it is unclear exactly in what mechanism he locates the cause of elite capture. Is it, as Wolfgang Streeck, who he makes references to suggests, that decades of slow growth have hollowed out the capacity of liberal states, providing them with no means of ensuring profitability to capitalists other than by directly distributing resources to them via tax cuts and other forms of corporate welfare? Is elite capture a contingent phenomenon, resulting from the continued existence of predemocratic institutions within democratic states who seize power during moments of crisis, as another of Táíwò’s sources suggests? Is elite capture another term for antidemocratic tendencies and institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, which Táíwò blames for the indebtedness of nations in the Global South? Or is elite capture a cultural phenomenon, referring to the ways the formerly radical movements for queer or minority liberation have been defanged by conservatives? Táíwò answer is, dubiously, all of the above. Elite capture is a general term that describes these disparate phenomena.” • Hmm.

“We Don’t Live In A Society” [John Ganz, Unpopular Front]. “We seem to be in the slow and torturous process of dissolving ourselves as a civil and political society. Laws cannot be changed or passed. No one wants the responsibility of governance. The answer is always “it can’t be done.” But it was done to us. The laws actually were made worse. The main symbol and the main engine of this process is the anarchy of our gun laws. Max Weber said the state was the monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Carl Schmitt said the sovereign was he who decided on the state of exception. Now each man can be his own commando force, an army of one, each man is the sovereign that can decide on the exception when the laws of society no longer apply, when he can suddenly resort to violence. No one can tell him otherwise: he has a gun. There’s no ‘legitimate’ or ‘illegitimate,’ just force. The only solution on offer is to further distribute sovereignty: make more men their own armed-to-the-teeth statelet to be a check the other guy. The idea is hopefully that will create stasis—if not exactly peace— through mutual fear. Every man his own nuclear-armed power. Haven’t they heard of the Wild West?” And: “Not the Leviathan, dictatorship from above, but the decentralized, endlessly distributed, granular, block-by-block tyranny of the assault rifle, preventing people from coming together freely. More atomization, more loneliness, more hatred, more fear: a war of all against all, lives that are solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. We will have to figure out how to join again, or die.”


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, and hospitalization is up. 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.

* * *

“Delta to ‘strategically decrease’ flights this summer” [CNN]. “Delta said it would continue to adjust its schedule in the coming weeks. ‘More than any time in our history, the various factors currently impacting our operation — weather and air traffic control, vendor staffing, increased Covid case rates contributing to higher-than-planned unscheduled absences in some work groups — are resulting in an operation that isn’t consistently up to the standards Delta has set for the industry in recent years,” said Allison Ausband, chief customer experience officer, in a statement.” • Could there be a reason:

Smile, proles! Musical interlude:

* * *

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.

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Case count by United States regions:

Yikes! Biden beats Trump decisively, and I need a bigger chart! Remember that cases are undercounted, one source saying by a factor of six, Gottlieb thinking we only pick up one in seven or eight.) Hence, I take the case count and multiply it by six to approximate the real level of cases, and draw the blue “Biden Line” at that point. Yesterday, the count was 106,000. Today, it’s 153,000, and 153,000 * 6 = a Biden line at 918,000. Again, yikes! At least we have confirmation that the extraordinary mass of case anecdotes had a basis in reality. (Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out.) The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises.

Here are cases for the last four weeks:

Looks like CDC found a bale of case reports in a warehouse somewhere. Holy moley!

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. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal.

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker:

First signs of a peak? I’m leaving the corporate logo on as a slap to the goons at CDC.

MWRA wastewater data:

Down (for both north and south systems). Colleges and universities are finishing the semester, with commencements. We’ll see where the trend line ends up after summer school begins.

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.

Cases lag wastewater data.

From Biobot Analytics:

Now another enormous backward revision, this time for the South (a signal that had been doing on for weeks). I don’t like this at all, and maybe I should drop this chart. The other thing I’m not liking is that big time lag with the variants. May 11? Really? I want to know about BA.4 and BA.5 (dubbed “variants of concern” by The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) last week, but not WHO).

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

California is bad. Pennsylvania improved. Midwest much improved. Note that the South is not pulling away, as from the national wastewater data I’m looking for (except a Louisiana, perhaps). And indeed Biobot has just retrospectively revised away the rise in the South!

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:

East coast, West Coast, and Midwest are all red. Although New Hampshire has gone yellow!

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile). Back to normal, so yesterday’s debacle (this chart disappeared) was only an editorial screw-up (CDC drone: “That guy Strether is onto us!”):

Less and less green. Very dynamic.

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,030,775 1,030,415. Now at the second-lowest “valley,” which is good. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line.

Covid cases in top us travel destinations (Statista):

Big jump in the UK and France! Why both together? Coincidence? (Note the quality of these numbers varies wildly. For example, the UK is cutting back on testing data.

The excess deaths chart appears weekly, on Friday:

What kind of organization puts “in recent weeks” in an explanatory dropdown, and then obviously never comes back to check? Look at the qualifications in that drop-down. And the ginormous typo, helpfully highlighted, has been there for weeks. CDC, if you’re reading this, please send a signal by getting this fixed. And then throw some documents over the transom. In complete confidentiality! Obviously, nobody at CDC is checking the excess deaths chart, because otherwise the typo would be fixed. I certainly hope there are no “coding errors” in the algo.

Stats Watch

United States Michigan Consumer Sentiment: “United States Michigan Consumer Sentiment” [Trading Economics]. “The University of Michigan consumer sentiment for the US was revised down to 58.4 in May of 2022, the lowest since August 2011, from a preliminary reading of 59.1. Consumers continued to have negative views on current buying conditions for houses and durables, as well as the future outlook for the economy, primarily due to concerns over inflation. At the same time, consumers expressed less pessimism over future prospects for their personal finances than over future business conditions.”

* * *

The Bezzle:

The Bezzle: “Mark Zuckerberg Is Blowing Up Instagram to Try and Catch TikTok” [Bloomberg]. “Reels are a kind of short-form video that influencers like Sharp see as a lesser copycat of TikTok’s namesake posts. Instagram owner Facebook (which rebranded in the fall as Meta Platforms Inc.) needs talented users to start posting entertaining Reels to draw young people to the app, and to Facebook by extension. The main social network’s user numbers have flatlined, sending investors running and contributing to a 47% drop in the company’s share price since the start of the year. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s strategy to reverse the trend—and shore up investor support for his long-term bets on virtual reality—is centered almost entirely on copying TikTok. Over 14 years, since the invention of its news feed, Facebook has become extremely good at one thing: showing people what they definitely want to see, based on their past behavior and online activity…. The upside of that kind of algorithm is a $116 billion advertising business. The downside is, people get bored…. TikTok delivers a level of algorithmic magic that’s a step beyond, introducing people to stuff they had no idea they would be entertained by….” Reels is a brutal UI/UX change. And: “Instagram became a generation’s go-to social app on the strength of its filtered, aspirational lifestyle photography. Now the company is actively killing that identity in the name of beating TikTok, and it might not even work.”

Tech: “Who Owns 4chan?” [Wired]. “OVER THE PAST 19 years, the imageboard 4chan has been tied to Gamergate, the inception of QAnon, the incubation of a particular brand of online racism, and a raft of domestic terror attacks that have killed scores of people… Even as the imageboard continues to rise in infamy, a question lingers: Who actually owns 4chan? For years, its ownership has been murky: Invented by an American, sold to a Japanese businessman in 2015, its corporate structure is largely unknown, beyond a pair of Delaware-registered corporations. New information, shared exclusively with WIRED, provides greater detail into 4chan’s largely unpublicized relationship with a major Japanese toy firm called the Good Smile Company. Legal documents, corporate records, and interviews with those familiar with both companies show that Good Smile played a role in 4chan’s 2015 acquisition. In addition to being 4chan’s silent partner, Good Smile has struck major deals with some of the world’s largest entertainment companies, including Disney and Warner Bros. Good Smile also produces figurines depicting underage anime girls in various states of undress. The company said last year that it is just a passive investor in 4chan. Records of a nondisclosure agreement, however, reveal that Good Smile Company and a major Japanese telecommunications company were involved in the 2015 acquisition of 4chan by its current owner.” • Good smile?!

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 20 Extreme Fear (previous close: 13 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 12 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 27 at 1:53 PM EDT.

Zeitgeist Watch

“This Olivia Rodrigo TikTok Doppelgänger Has the Internet Freaking Out” [Teen Vogue]. ” O-Rod’s doppelgänger, Aurea Ocampo, attended SOUR Tour L.A. basically wearing an Olivia uniform: a purple satin mini-dress with combat boots, black knee-high socks, layered silver necklaces, and chunky black sunglasses. Complete with Olivia’s signature middle-part pigtails, Aurea could perfectly cosplay as the popstar. Aurea plays up the likeness in the TikTok, fake-shielding her face from concert-goers and posing in classic Olivia fashion, parted lips and all. The clip also catches a few fellow concert-goers staring at Aurea, clearly trying to figure out if Olivia was really standing in front of them. The resemblance is truly uncanny, with dozens of shocked commenters pointing out that it took them the entire video to realize Aurea wasn’t actually Olivia. ‘I thought ur sister was the little girl in the beginning 💀,’ wrote one user. ‘I didn’t read and really thought it was her LMAOOO,’ said another. ‘THE POSES AND THE WALK ARE SO ACCURATE,’ someone else added. Aurea looks so much like Olivia Rodrigo, that even Olivia herself got confused. “No I thought she was me too,” the actual Olivia commented on the TikTok video, totally seeing the undeniable resemblance.”

Class Warfare

“Elif Batuman Wants Her Tea to Taste Like Candy ‘Add milk, and you’re basically drinking a bowl of Apple Jacks.'” [New York Magazine]. “I was nervous because I had to give a four-minute talk about how I thought we should prioritize our scattered energies at this unprecedented time. I talked about Putin’s and Trump’s childhoods and the way adverse early experiences can lead to war and environmental disaster.” Classic PMC, personalizing. More: “Afterward, I met my grad-school friends Luba and Marilena for lunch at Maman on the Upper East Side.” Because of course. And: “We then headed to the Met, where we talked nonstop for three hours” — quietly, I hope — “while looking at paintings by Winslow Homer and Jacques-Louis David.” • Not this one, I don’t think, it’s in the Louvre, but this certainly gives the congenial tone:

What ticks me off here is that everybody can benefit from humanity’s heritage of painting, and sculpture, and music. The Met was conceived of as a national museum, not a club for grad school friends. Everybody! And society should be arranged so that everybody had time to do so, not just Manhattanites angsting about their “scattered energies.” (You want to scatter your energy? Try working in a warehouse. Or meeting the public in retail!)

News of the Wired

“Surveillance Tech Didn’t Stop the Uvalde Massacre” [Gizmodo]. • So far as I can tell, from this and this morning’s links, the Uvalde school did everything the Security Industrial Complex consultants told them to do. It didn’t work. Operational incapacity, it seems, applies across the political spectrum.

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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. Larry Carlson

    Well, at least Adam Neumann’s Flowcarbon is likely to produce the same results as WeWork: money from wealthy investors and venture capitalists will flow into Adam’s pockets to fund his extravagant lifestyle. This is much better than stealing from the poor, although not as nice as Uber, where wealthy investors lost money so that the general populace could get a few years of subsidized taxi rides.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Wealthy investors spent money on Uber in order to destroy the taxi industry and as much public transit as they could destroy, and the general populace got inferior rides of utterly unpredictable price with utterly unpredictable drivers . . . . who destroyed the value of their own cars faster then they could make money to restore or even maintain that value.

      And the rich investors will keep investing to achieve the rest of their real goal, to exterminate the very last taxi companies and mass transit on earth wherever they can.

      Anyone who takes a Uber deserves whatever happens to them.

    2. griffen

      “Hey it’s the dude and dudette who convinced Softbank to light a few billion on fire. They seem nice.” Yeah one would think the grifting would go observed and noticed from their previous effort, but I guess the wealthy venture capital and endowments need another lesson.

      Unbelievable. That dude should be as convincing as a next generation Bernie Madoff with an investment scheme that “can’t fail or even bother to deviate.”

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > wealthy investors lost money so that the general populace could get a few years of subsidized taxi rides.

      While hurting the existing taxi industry, hurting public transportation, and above all establishing a new category of “gig worker” without labor protections. Individual investors may have done badly. The class of investors did very well. Think of Uber et al as privatized social engineering, necessarily subsidized.

      Also, making people even more dependent on their phones.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Yes. I am very lucky to live in a little University Town bubble where there is an adequate bus system for getting around during the daylight hours and where the places that need a car or a taxi to get to are places that my brute physical survival does not require me to be able to go.

        I have been able to get away with never ever using a UberLyft even once so far, and never ever buying a single thing from Amazon so far.

        So far . . .

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      As they say about conspiracy “theories” . . . ” Its not a ‘theory’ if it happened.”

      1. LifelongLib

        Unfortunately, it’s also not a conspiracy if it’s legal. The law allows a lot of injustice.

  2. Glen

    Wow, just watching all the news from Uvalde. What a tragedy. It almost seems unreal. If this had been in a fiction book even ten years ago, I would have put it on the way, way out there branch of fiction.

    Lots of thoughts rumble around in my poor brain trying to sort it all out, but one has bubbled up to the top:

    The fish rots from the head. It took a long time and a lot of rot to get us here. The head of this fish is old, rich, out of touch, and corrupt, and I suspect nothing will fundamentally change – for them, but for the rest of us, be safe, we are on our own. I profoundly hope our country can change to make the lives of Americans safer. I’m not sure what that change is.

    As for me, we have lost a son. I have some idea of what many people are going to go through, and I would never, ever, wish it on anybody. May they be given the support, time, and space to find peace.

    1. GF

      I’m not a constitution scholar. The second amendment allows for the possession of firearms. Does the constitution specifically allow for the sale of firearms and ammunition?

      1. voteforno6

        Well, the Supreme Court says the second amendment allows for the possession of firearms. History and reading comprehension suggest otherwise.

        1. RockHard

          With the clause about a “well-regulated militia”, and many court cases judging that the right to bear arms was contingent on defense. A recent publication featured on this esteemed blog quoted the Tennessee Supreme Court:

          A man in the pursuit of deer, elk, and buffaloes might carry his rifle every day for forty years, and yet it would never be said of him that he had borne arms; much less could it be said that a private citizen bears arms because he has a dirk or pistol concealed under his clothes, or a spear in a cane.

          But IDK, history, reading, who has time for that when you’re actively trying to destroy society?

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > the Supreme Court says

          Every single Supreme Court decision after Bush v. Gore in 2020’s stolen election should be rolled back, including their insanely bogus reading* of the Second Amendment. Scalia selected Bush because Bush would nominate judges who were ideologically compatible with his views.

          NOTE * After Scalia’s edits: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Exterminate the head of the fish. That at least would stop it from propelling the rot.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Exterminate the head of the fish

        Since they all seem to be infecting each other with superspreading events, perhaps the cumulative vascular and especially neurological damage will do the job. A Senate with one or two Diane Feinsteins is not an issue. But a Senate with ten, twenty, or thirty?

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Well . . . if the same thing is happening at the top of every major corporation, university, media-outlet, foundation, and in fact in every single leadership center there is, then we-the-forcibly-led may have a passive chance at survival if the whole leadership elite across all spheres can all become the Walking Brain-Dead . . . . if we can survive their passing.

    3. flora

      Krystal and Saagar on Breaking Points. Krystal is nearly beside herself with frustration and rage about the law enforcement response. (I think Krystal has 3 young children.) utube. 18~ minutes.

      REVEALED: Law Enforcement STOOD BY As Uvalde Shooter Shot Kids


        1. flora

          Thank you for the link. I think many of us are doing what in earlier times we would not normally do.

    4. Stillfeelinthebern

      Glen, I am so sorry that you lost your son. I cannot imagine anything more devastating that losing a child.

      Ultimately, marketers (NRA, gun manufacturers, military industrial complex) have marketed their products very well. So well they can kill off our children, one classroom at a time and….. it just goes on.

      1. Glen

        It happens, it is horrible, and we have had years, years to recover.

        Strong family, strong friends, good co-workers, faith, this all helps. But The Compassionate Friends, the link I provided above was tremendous help because you meet the other people in the club you never wanted to be in. You all have lost a child, and you all help each other.

        If you know somebody in this situation that is struggling, tell them about TCF.

  3. FreeMarketApologist

    I’ve generally liked much of Elif Batuman’s writing, but this interview shows that she should stick to writing, and not giving interviews. And as for the reason for the article itself, who really cares? A great example of just how witless New York magazine can be (and unaware of its witlessness).

    1. dcblogger

      really anyone’s life can look that silly. I can think of public talks I have given followed by equivalent activities.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > anyone’s life can look that silly

        To me, the whole article just breathes the attitude “Only I and my special friends can truly appreciate such things.” Makes my back teeth itch.

    2. Robert Hahl

      While reading Batuman’s memoir, “The Possessed,” about life as a Russian literature grad student, I would tell my wife stories from it which she found entertaining. But a problem developed, she started acting jealous of my new “girlfriend.” I actually remember saying, “You know she is just a book, right?” It is a pity that Manhatten, and The New Yorker, have ruined a great talent. Just ike AOC was ruined in Washington, D.C.

      1. playon

        If you look at AOC’s background, she wasn’t “ruined by D.C.” She graduated from Boston University with a degree in international relations, grew up in Westchester NY, where her father was an architect, and worked for Senator Ted Kennedy’s office while in college. Not quite as working-class as some think.

        1. Robert Hahl

          My crap detector must be wearing out, I thought AOC was genuine. Unlike Obama, who was obviously a Deep State baby.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Maybe she was and even herself thinks she still is . . . . but she wasn’t wearing a strong enough anti-radiation suit when she stepped inside the DC Political Nuclear Reactor.

  4. Henry Moon Pie

    “We Don’t Live in a Society”–

    Very thought-provoking article. His “return to the state of nature” and “acting like wild animals” as ways of understanding where we’re at seem completely wrong to me. We’re not moving closer to our original state. Twisted by a twisted society, we’re moving further and further away from our evolutionary tendencies with predictable effects on physical, mental and emotional health.

    But his reference to the post-Civil War West seems ominous to me. Much of that era’s violence was simply a continuance of the still unsettled Civil War. In the South, it was the rise of the KKK and violence against blacks, but out West, it was remnants of Confederate forces, especially guerrillas like the James and Younger brothers, against other whites, especially if they were bankers. Remember the James’s mother lost her arm in a visit by patrolling Union soldiers in rebel-friendly Clay County in western Missouri (just N of KC). That area had been at war for five years before Lincoln was ever elected. The Kansas-Nebraska Act had set up a plebiscite to decide whether Kansas would be free or slave, and proponents and opponents of slavery began to flood the state. “Border ruffians” from Missouri crossed over to harass, burn out and sometimes kill abolitionists. The Free Staters responded in kind with Jayhawker raids into Missouri and John Brown’s Pottawatomie Massacre. By the time shots were fired at Ft. Sumter, war was old hat along the Missouri-Kansas border.

    So the Civil War lasted far more than from 1861-1865. It began in 1855 and extended well into the 1870s. Organized armies, employing artillery and drilled infantry, was limited by the South’s ability to field an army, but the violence and rage stretched over two decades of scattered incidents that we’d call terrorism today.

    Once this rage gets rolling, it takes a while for it to burn out, until survivors are exhausted by the death and misery.

    1. digi_owl

      Fire up some European social media and you see the Balkans flair up regarding events going back to the crusades. So yeah, once the rage is kindled it will keep going for generations.

      1. eg

        Try on the 30 Years War for size — now that’s some serious family-blog right there …

    2. Tom Stone

      Quite a few of those Confederate soldiers moved to Mendocino County particularly the Round Valley area, the James Brothers visited fellow Guerilla veterans there during their fugitive days and may well have stopped at Washoe House on the way.
      It’s still open after 172 years.
      They were still hunting Native Americans for sport in mellow mendoland as late as 1900…

      1. ambrit

        California had a bounty on Indians until just after 1900. Genocide was official State and National policy.
        The story of Ishi, the last of his tribe turned popular opinion. He was “famous” back around the turn of that century.
        Ishi: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishi

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Perhaps we should start speaking of the Manifest Destinazi Holocaust of the Indigenous Nations.

    3. Robert Gray

      > So the Civil War lasted far more than from 1861-1865. It began in 1855 and extended well into the 1870s.

      Thank you, Henry MP.

      I’ve never been particularly interested in the history of the American Civil War but your comment makes me laugh when I think of the many many many Americans I’ve met over the decades who think that World War Two started on December 7, 1941.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          I remember reading two very different takes on the “ending” of World War One. One is the one we all know by Keynes . . . The Economic Consequences of the Peace.

          The other one I heard about on a PBS biography of Harry Truman, who was a Captain of Artillery in Europe during World War One. He was a dutiful son and wrote letters back to his mother. Apparently in one of those letters . . . . when German was permitted to surrender before the war was fought to a Final Conclusion over every square mile of Germany itself . . .
          that the Germans should never have been permitted to ever surrender. They should have been forced to keep fighting until they were utterly and totally destroyed within the borders of Germany itself. Permitting them to surrender without the utter destruction of Germany itself guaranteed that there would be another war with Germany in ” twenty years”. And he was right.

          America should never have entered World War One to begin with. But once it did, it should have used its power to either force a Trumanian or a Keynesian approach to Germany and Europe.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        It’s always been a topic of interest to me. My ancestor, Henry Moon, rode with Quantrill. Well, he was his cook. (Video) ;)

    4. Skunk

      There are various theories of the state of nature. Not all are Hobbesian. Rousseau believed that human beings were basically good. If there were not some truth to this, I don’t think so many youth would be on antidepressants. So you’re right that we’re a twisted society that has moved away from basic human tendencies.

  5. digi_owl

    Funny thing about social media et al.

    Facebook and Twitter naturally get some big press thanks to their size and the prominent users. And as seen above, 4chan get some attention for the antics of its users.

    But there is one social network that seems to fly below the radar, but that may have been the spawning ground of much of the behavior we now see running riot on at least Facebook and Twitter, and that is Tumblr.

    One thing of note is that on Tumblr you can’t really comment below a post. What you do instead is copy the post into your own, and then write a comment to go with.

    Another interesting aspect is that Tumblr is not west coast based, their HQ is in NYC.

    1. RockHard

      Another aspect is that Tumblr was really popular 10 years ago. 2 acquisitions and a bunch of noodling later, nobody cares

  6. flora

    re: MI McMorrow suggests that Democrats have been afraid of talking about religion and faith openly while Republicans have sought to weaponise Christianity and create the illusion that they speak on behalf of all white suburban mothers.

    I kinda think she has a point. I also kinda think that after the Scope’s ‘Monkey’ Trial ,/a>, which saw William Jennings Bryan’s reputation and political future destroyed, I think the Dem estab was good with having a Bryan, a Populist destroyed in the party’s thinking. ( Bryan was one of the Populist Party’s greatest hopes in the 1890’s-1900’s, and a bane to the Dem estab then, but co-opted by the Dems under Wilson, imo). At the same time, with a Bryan loss as the losing champion in the Scope’s trial, the Dem party could champion itself (not those ‘loser’ Populists) as the party of science, material progress, and the ‘future.’ I think a lot of Dem estab types, then and now, took it as a given, almost a party leitmotif that religion (and Populism) was anti-progress and anti-science.

    1. flora

      Democrat voters are simply tired of Democrats who have the muscle tone of a corpse.

      Muscle tone of a corpse? Not when it comes to fellating Wall St and the Great Reset globalists.

      (too raunchy? sorry.)

      1. upstater

        I tried to find a quote by Huey Long, I think, that was something like: “The only difference between democrats and republicans is how fast they drop to their knees for Wall Street”.

          1. ambrit

            The way I heard it was,”One kneepad has a big D on it, the other has a big R on it.”

  7. Carolinian

    Latest Taibbi


    Some talk elsewhere today about the unreality of Mayberry but we definitely have Mayberry Machiavellis and the press who love them. Include not only the Clintons but the preposterous (going by that laptop) Biden crime family. The ridiculousness of calling Trump a Russian agent is only matched by the absurdity of those who believe it or pretend to believe it. Hillary “wipe like with a cloth” Clinton is one comical bumbler. But the funny/sad joke is on the USA.

  8. Carla

    I miss the Plantidote!

    C’mon, Lambert. The rabbits are eating all the kale I planted. At least let me live vicariously through some beautiful, or interesting, plantidotes.

  9. Jason Boxman

    What kind of organization puts “in recent weeks” in an explanatory dropdown

    “Please listen carefully, as our menu options have recently changed.”

    The most useful voice message I’ve ever heard in my life. And that has been going on for decades now, in fact. So why not the CDC?

  10. griffen

    Missing the Rapture Index lately, not that a real time indication of the proverbial stuff continues to fit the shan is a request. No I’m not trying to assign work for anyone ! One hell of a week in real time no less.

    Beg my pardon if that’s too stark. But the rose colored glasses just seem a bit useless in my humble opinion.

    And the NRA convention should be situated onto an express travel route straight to the hell they deserve. Same damn week in the same damn state.

  11. RockHard

    There was some random reddit thing yesterday that said something like “I really like how when Biden’s speaking, he’s basically saying ‘I wish I knew how to get ahold of this President guy and give him a piece of my mind'”

    Kind of like the one where Obama is mourning all the deaths and this woman tweets “I like what this man is saying. I wish he was President and had a supermajority in Congress”

    1. Hepativore

      Not to worry, President Manchin and VP Sinema are on the job…I am sure that they will not let us down when it comes to staying the course of the country. After all, the nation’s transformation into the Dickensian hellscape that it is intent on becoming will only be complete when we rollback child labor laws. We have to do something with all of those children that are going to be born once both parties succeed in banning abortions at the Federal level…

      If current trends continue, how long will it be before employers can claim their buildings and properties as an independent micronation and can therefore set their labor and employment policies as they see fit? I can see it now…employees will now be paid in cryptocurrencies that can only be redeemed at the company stores on the office grounds…

  12. deplorado

    I wonder what Michael Pettis has to say about this (“impending China financial doom” etc; (while I think Prof. Michael Hudson would approve of this summary)):

    the whole thread:
    Izak Novák @izak_novak 9 hours ago

    China executed a perfect judo throw by using capital’s inherent short-sightedness against itself. Western Capital abandoned its manufacturing strongholds at home for short-term profits abroad but is steadily losing that advantage as China “domesticates” the whole value chain.

    That manufacturing is never coming back to the West. China’s two-tiered economy creates stability unheard of elsewhere. While commodity production is relegated to semi-private enterprises, the natural resources, financing and infrastructure system is nationalized.

    This means that the state has direct, long-term planning and control over the most important levers of the economy and can direct the flows of value as needed, without needing to micro-manage enterprises engaged in low-level commodity production or higher-level tech innovation.

    I say “semi-private” because I no longer consider China to have a true “private” economy in any normal sense of the word, thanks to the pervasive influence of state policy and the 80%+ coverage of CPC committees in all enterprises.

    This is the real reason for the campaign against Huawei, one of the biggest tech companies in the world and a major competitor to Western tech. Huawei, by the way, is worker-owned via the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, which makes it the definition of “semi-private”.

    I discussed the way in which China used its “bargain” with foreign capital and how this bargain is coming to a close in more detail in my article “The War on China” (see Part 2 especially):

    The War on China
    My comprehensive analysis of Chinese socialism, the bargain between US capital and China, the Belt & Road Initiative, US strategy in Eurasia and the breakdown of the US-China relationship.

  13. Soredemos

    >Good Smile also produces figurines depicting underage anime girls in various states of undress

    Oof. That’s basically a lie.

  14. bwilli123

    Re the PMC

    “Members of the PMC are often lampooned as being marionettes of the ruling class. But a more accurate critique is that the ruling class builds marionette theatres, to which willing marionettes inevitably flock.
    In this way, members of the PMC are like hang-gliders riding an updraft, guided by a million barely perceptible currents toward unconsciously adopting ruling class ideology and internalizing it, without ever feeling as they have been told where to fly.”

    Extracted from a thread at


  15. Noone from Nowheresville

    May 27, 2022 at 7:24 pm

    Playing the what if game. What if China decides to not restore supply chains or perhaps key pieces of them to the US as longer term strategy? If they choose such a path, Covid lockdowns, shipping port congestion, inflation, food and energy shortages, etc. would cover many disruptions to supply chains.

    Since we don’t make many things anymore and the little manufacturers / businesses don’t really count (go big or go home), how long would it take someone in a leadership role to notice AND do something about it for the common good rather than just mine / exploit the problem for their own benefit?

  16. griffen

    Article on the doppelganger who just looks and dresses a lot like Olivia Rodrigo. Well, Vegas is filled with role players who act and behave, maybe even sing like the world famous Elvis. Is this really a new phenomenon? Ok, yes that’s mildly sarcastic. Heck I could pass for a Forrest Gump or even Bobby Boucher on my best of days (or a cheap imitation). Me play football?

    I’d pair this with the famous or infamous scenario from a Super Bowl many years ago. Joe Montana pointing in the stands Hey is that John Candy ?


  17. Soredemos

    “Good Smile also produces figurines depicting underage anime girls in various states of undress.”

    This is a really bad faith attempt to smear the company as some sort of producer or facilitator of virtual child porn.

  18. Jason Boxman

    So what’s especially bizarre about these school shooting defense plans is basically you’re planning to defend against a determined attacker with military-grade hardware storming a soft target. How could anyone ever expect that to end any way other than badly? You’re guaranteed some level of casualties, unless you have a solider at every doorway. We’d need to design schools like Iraq-style “green zone” bunkers, not centers of learning.

    America is a suicide pact.

    It may be that the purpose of your country is merely to serve as a warning to others.

  19. VietnamVet

    Examples of the consequences of the intentional destruction of democracy and failure of the US government to protect and serve Americans has become astonishing;

    1) The dangerous proxy World War III being fought in Ukraine was triggered by the deliberate provoking of Russia to settle old scores, change governments, and take control of their energy and food supplies.

    2) The sixth wave of coronavirus variants is sweeping across America is due to the termination of the public health service and the sole mitigation against the illness remains only the “for-profit” mRNA vaccines.

    3) The recent devastating wildfires in New Mexico were caused by the US Forest Service not assuring a burn pile was extinguished and letting a prescribed burn go out of control in a millennial drought.

    4) The Baby Formula shortage was caused by the FDA not making sure that Abbott’s Michigan plant was safe to manufacture formula and then when obviously unsafe shutting it down with no alternate suppliers available due to industry consolidation to pump profits.

    5) Mayo Pete, Transporation Secretary, was on paternity leave while the backlog blew up at California ports triggered supply shortages.

    6) Russiagate was instigated and paid for by the Clinton Campaign which was ignored by the Mueller Investigation.

    7) Law Enforcement stood by as Uvalde Shooter shot kids.

    The reason is basic. “Unlimited money in politics.” Jimmy Carter: “It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president.”

  20. GramSci

    Well, I was waiting to hear what Trump would have to say about Uvalde. DDG offered up MSN first:

    “Every time a disturbed or a demented person commits such a hideous crime, there is always a grotesque effort by some in our society to use the suffering of others to advance their own extreme political agenda,” Trump said.

    “All of us must unite, Republicans and Democrat, to finally harden our schools and protect our children.”


    Perhaps he meant “protect our schools and harden our children”, military school education and all that. Nor do I think he appreciated that it is the NRA and their associates who “use the suffering of others to advance their own extreme political agenda”.

    We shouldn’t wear masks or ventilate classrooms to protect our children against a new, highly contagious illness, but we should put bars on school windows.

    Irony aside, I’m afraid Trump’s line of argument will play well in Peoria.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Those who wait to be disappointed by what Trump has to say on a subject are seldom disappointed.

    2. Basil Pesto

      We shouldn’t wear masks or ventilate classrooms to protect our children against a new, highly contagious illness, but we should put bars on school windows.

      on that, the twitter algos threw this up at me yesterday. I understand I have no idea who this guy is or what his politics are, and I realise I’m running strong echo chamber non-socratic risks with the twitter algo game, but he ain’t wrong.

      Since 2020, there have been more children killed by COVID (~1,125) than in all school shootings since Columbine (169), over 20 years ago.

      it goes on from there

    1. Skippy

      The only thing I find extraordinary Sir is the attitude since the beginning to covid and highlighted by per se the last shooting and topped off with the gaslighting about the Ukraine. Seems it does not matter what divisive social milady occurs as long as the perception management can be gamed for more control by the administrative class in shaping reality to suit its agenda.

      On that note the surreal …

      Sean Penn joins Sean Hannity to discuss Russian invasion of Ukraine


      BTW you might be interested in some Lex Fridman interviews.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Extra-ordinary within the context of the tape I (we) have been watching. Narratives aren’t supposed to collapse in their own terms, especially narratives as hegemonic as this one.

        Also, people might wish to look at the chart (or might have wished) to consider travel plans. It was bad enough already, but holy moley.

        1. Skippy

          Its so absurd to watch a narrative attempt to take on a virus – with a huge evolutionary potential – which does not respond to propaganda, so the only other option is to screw heads on backwards so they think its a fight for freedom and liberties in some twisted antiquarian esoteric mishmash of emotive PR talking points.

          Anywho … may I suggest you mop your floors with ammonia.

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