2:00PM Water Cooler 7/27/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers, I apologize once more for the thinness of the Covid coverage, but there’s been so much happening in electoral politics I thought I should clear my backlog there. Life’s rich pageant! –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Horned Lark, California, United States.

* * *


“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

Capitol Seizure

“Jan. 6 committee divided on Dem meddling in GOP primaries” [Axios]. “Members of the House Jan. 6 committee are divided on whether to condemn the growing trend of Democrats meddling in GOP primaries to boost pro-Trump election deniers — a tactic designed to secure more favorable matchups in the general election. The committee has spent the last year warning that former President Trump and his allies — including candidates running in this year’s midterms — are endangering American democracy by casting doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election…. Public backlash intensified yesterday when it emerged that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is boosting an election denier in his primary against Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) — one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot…. ‘The DCCC is playing with fire. It undercuts the great work of the Jan. 6 committee and makes us look like hypocrites,’ one Democratic member of Congress told Axios.” • The DCCC? Surely not.

“‘Kind of Wild/Creative’: Emails Shed Light on Trump Fake Electors Plan” [New York Times]. “Previously undisclosed emails provide an inside look at the increasingly desperate and often slapdash efforts by advisers to President Donald J. Trump to reverse his election defeat in the weeks before the Jan. 6 attack, including acknowledgments that a key element of their plan was of dubious legality and lived up to its billing as ‘fake.’ The dozens of emails among people connected to the Trump campaign, outside advisers and close associates of Mr. Trump show a particular focus on assembling lists of people who would claim — with no basis — to be Electoral College electors on his behalf in battleground states that he had lost. In emails reviewed by The New York Times and authenticated by people who had worked with the Trump campaign at the time, one lawyer involved in the detailed discussions repeatedly used the word ‘fake’ to refer to the so-called electors, who were intended to provide Vice President Mike Pence and Mr. Trump’s allies in Congress a rationale for derailing the congressional process of certifying the outcome. And lawyers working on the proposal made clear they knew that the pro-Trump electors they were putting forward might not hold up to legal scrutiny. ‘We would just be sending in ‘fake’ electoral votes to Pence so that ‘someone’ in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the ‘fake’ votes should be counted,” Jack Wilenchik, a Phoenix-based lawyer who helped organize the pro-Trump electors in Arizona, wrote in a Dec. 8, 2020, email to Boris Epshteyn, a strategic adviser for the Trump campaign.” • It sounds like the Committee would rather indict the whole Republican Party instead of Trump, so why don’t they just go ahead and do that?

Biden Administration

“McConnell says Pelosi would hand China a win if she sacks Taiwan trip after complaints” [New York Post]. “The Kentucky Republican was asked about the speaker traveling to Taiwan amid China’s threats and said there are other matters beyond the trip that should be discussed. ‘If she doesn’t go now, she’s handling China a sort of a victory of sorts,’ McConnell said at a Senate Republican leadership news conference on Tuesday.” • Oh, great. Has there ever been a truly bad idea that wasn’t bipartisan?

“Pelosi has invited senior lawmakers to join Taiwan trip, top Republican says” [NBC]. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has invited a small group of lawmakers on her official trip to Taiwan, including the top Democrat and Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told NBC News on Wednesday. McCaul, the ranking member on the foreign affairs panel, said both he and Chairman Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., have been invited by the speaker on an upcoming trip to the self-ruling island that China sees as under its control. The Texas Republican said he declined the invitation due to a personal obligation that conflicts with the visit. The trip is slated to take place during the congressional August recess, though McCaul did not provide the exact dates. ‘Any member that wants to go, should. It shows political deterrence to President Xi,’ McCaul, a China hawk, said in a brief interview in the Capitol. ‘But she should also pay attention to the military if it’s going to cause a blowback and escalate things.'” • McCaul’s position is actually more responsible than Pelosi’s.

“House Democrats Urge More Vegetarian Meals in US Buildings” [Bloomberg]. “US government cafeterias should add vegetarian meal options to all menus, a group of 32 Democrats from the House of Representatives said in a letter to President Joe Biden on Tuesday….. Plant-based meals can produce “dramatic” improvements for individuals’ health, and serving them in federal facilities would reduce the government’s carbon footprint, the group said. Agriculture accounted for 11% of US greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.” • All true, but is “small ball” politics really what we need right now?


* * *

PA: “Gen Z mobilizes for midterm elections as study emphasizes young voters’ outsize impact on Pa. politics” [Post-Gazette]. “Earlier this summer, the political department at Tufts University in Massachusetts released a study ranking Pennsylvania as the top state where youth are poised to have a disproportionately high electoral impact in the 2022 elections. In part, that’s due to Pennsylvania’s high rate of youth voter registration, which sits at 69% — not to mention the substantial 54% of youth that actually voted in the 2020 elections, giving President Joe Biden a net advantage of 150,000 votes from that demographic.”

PA: “John Fetterman Isn’t Doing What He Thinks He Is With His Meme Roasts of Dr. Oz” [Slate]. Key point: “[T]here is little evidence that social media resonance has a tangible effect on electoral success.” • I view the social media effort as a holding action (and also a way to distract the vicious children in the political class with memes, which is both fun and the right thing to do). So long as Fetterman’s numbers hoild up, I won’t worry too much. (I’m a lot more worried about Fetterman’s performance in debate, if there is one. Maybe they could make things easy for Oz, and hold it at Rutgers?)

PA: Everybody hates a tourist:

(Good idea for a Fetterman theme song, actually.)

TX: “If enough Texas Democrats vote, Beto O’Rourke will be governor, Dallas county judge says” [Dallas Morning-News]. “The prospects for Democrats in Texas are “ever-improving,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told the crowd at the Texas Democratic Convention in Dallas on Friday. He said the party can win by reaching out to new voters and those who typically don’t vote for Democrats. Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging Gov. Greg Abbott, is working to appeal to disaffected Republicans and independents, in addition to Democrats. ‘If enough Democrats in Texas vote, Beto O’Rourke will be our governor,’ he told the fired-up crowd.


“Trump tiptoes closer to new White House run in DC address” [The Hill]. “Trump’s viability as a leader of the party has been thrown into question at least for the moment as a House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol spotlights the former president’s role in spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election, encouraging his supporters to come to the Capitol and then doing nothing for hours to quell the violence. Polling has shown majorities believe Trump bears responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack. And more recent polls have indicated at least some of the Republican Party is willing to move on from Trump in favor of an alternative candidate in 2024.” • Reaction to Trump’s America First Agenda Summit in Washington, DC.

“Mike Pence squares up to Donald Trump as former running mates eye 2024 bids” [Financial Times]. “On Tuesday morning, Mike Pence stood before a crowd of young Republicans in Washington DC, outlining his vision for the future of the party and calling on its supporters to avoid ‘the temptation to look back’. Six hours later and a mile down the road, the former vice-president’s erstwhile boss, Donald Trump, made his own pitch for the party’s future at a conference for the America First Policy Institute, repeating his disproved claims of fraud in the 2020 election and teasing the possibility of another presidential run. ‘If I renounced my beliefs, if I agreed to stay silent . . . the persecution of Donald Trump would stop immediately,’ he told the crowd. ‘But that’s not what I will do . . . I have to save our country.’ The back-to-back speeches in the US capital were the latest evidence of the simmering feud between the former running mates turned political foes and of their competing political ambitions, with both eyeing a bid for the White House in 2024. In his speech at the Young America’s Foundation’s National Conservative Student Conference, Pence attacked the ‘aggressive liberalism’ [lol] of the Biden administration and Democrats and said this year’s midterm elections offered Republicans ‘the best chance we will ever have to build a lasting majority.’ But he also made a thinly veiled plea for the party to break with Trump, urging Republicans to focus on winning Congress and then the White House rather than fighting historic battles. ‘Now some people may choose to focus on the past,’ he said. ‘But elections . . . are about the future. And I believe conservatives must focus on the future to win back America.’ Pence is hoping he can overcome anger among Republican voters — many of whom fault him for certifying Joe Biden’s election victory in 2020 — by taking credit for economic, immigration and trade policies implemented during the Trump administration.” • I would speculate that many Republican voters are of the mind of Baron Harkonnen: “The man must die. He tried to help my enemies.” Certainly one future to look forward to! One of life’s little ironies is that Pence, as the man who didn’t “get into the car,” is perhaps best positioned to articulate a “theory of the case” against Trump’s actions or inactions during the Capitol seizure. I don’t see Pence as the master communicator who could perform that plot reversal, however.

“Buttigieg edges out Biden among Democrats in New Hampshire poll” [The Hill]. “The University of New Hampshire (UNH) Survey Center Granite Poll found that 17 percent of likely 2024 Democratic primary voters in the state would choose Buttigieg among a list of Democrats, or those who caucus with Democrats, who are considered possible 2024 presidential contenders. Biden received 16 percent support, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who each came in at 10 percent. A handful of other Democrats, in addition Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), received less than 10 percent. The margin of error for among the Democrats polled specifically is plus or minus 4.7 points, meaning Buttgieg and Biden are statistically tied among voters. But the polling further demonstrates that Democrats are not wedded to the idea of choosing Biden as their nominee in the next presidential cycle. The White House has said Biden intends to run in 2024, though Buttigieg has not made any announcements on the matter.” • One might think that treatring defense of “our democracy” as a core value and then nominating a candidate who declared himself (falsely) the winner of a primary before a single vote was officially counted* would somehow be at odds, but then these are Democrats, who are notably flexible in their thinking. NOTE * Iowa 2020.

Republican Funhouse

“Telling the Truth about the 2020 Election” [By Thomas B. Griffith, J. Michael Luttig, Michael W. Mcconnell, Theodore B. Olson, Benjamin L. Ginsberg, and Dave Hoppe, National Review]. “Continuing allegations that the 2020 election was ‘stolen’ are roiling our politics and dividing our country. Indeed, now a significant percentage of the American public doubts the legitimacy of our system. That caused us, political conservatives who have spent most of our careers working to uphold the Constitution and the conservative principles upon which it is based, to delve deeply into those charges and gauge their accuracy. All of us have either worked in Republican Party politics at multiple levels and in various capacities or worked in the government as a result of Republican appointments. Indeed, one of us, Theodore B. Olson, successfully represented George W. Bush in a Supreme Court case that ended Al Gore’s unmerited challenge to the results of the 2000 presidential election. We have no affiliation with the Democratic Party…. Because allegations of fraudulent and rigged elections are so seriously affecting public opinion, especially among Republicans, we conducted an open-minded examination of the many claims by former president Trump and his supporters and allies who agree with him about the 2020 election and attempted to act on their beliefs. We take such claims seriously…. Therefore, we painstakingly surveyed each of the 187 counts in the 64 court cases brought on Trump’s behalf contesting the results of the 2020 election, the state recounts and contests brought in the name of the former president, and the post-election reviews undertaken in the six key battleground states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) to determine whether there is any fire amidst all the smoke. Our review has led us to conclude that there is simply no evidence of fraud in the 2020 presidential election of the magnitude necessary to shift the result in any state, let alone the nation as a whole. In fact, not even a single precinct’s outcome was reversed.” • Their report. It is not, however, clear that the Republican Party in which these individuals were grandees even exists anymore.

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.

* * *

“‘There was almost no debate’: How Dems’ defense spending spree went from shocker to snoozer” [Politico]. “Last year, Democrats on Capitol Hill stunned observers when they voted to ladle tens of billions of extra dollars onto President Joe Biden’s first Pentagon budget. Wielding control of the House, Senate and White House for the first time in a decade, Democrats were expected to hold the line on Pentagon spending that ballooned under Republicans and the Trump administration. Now, Congress is poised to do it again — with even more money at stake — and it’s anything but shocking.” • That’s because Democrats are the War Party.

Bill Kristol as not part of the Republican Establishment….

The mind reels. It’s like, say, Cromwell morphing into a Royalist.

Obama Legacy

Thanks, Obama!

And undercutting a Red State advocate!

“Biden’s Problems Go Back To 2009” [Seeing the Forest]. Final sentence: “When you think about ALL the things Democrats could have done after the public DEMANDED change, putting Obama into the presidency and delivering HUGE majorities in the House and Senate – but chose not to – you can see why things are the way they are today.” • Exactly.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“America’s Self-Obsession Is Killing Its Democracy” [The Atlantic]. “American democracy is dying. There are plenty of medicines that would cure it. Unfortunately, our political dysfunction means we’re choosing not to use them, and as time passes, fewer treatments become available to us, even though the disease is becoming terminal. No major prodemocracy reforms have passed Congress. No key political figures who tried to overturn an American election have faced real accountability. The president who orchestrated the greatest threat to our democracy in modern times is free to run for reelection, and may well return to office. Our current situation started with a botched diagnosis. When Trump first rose to political prominence, much of the American political class reacted with amusement, seeing him as a sideshow. Even if he won, they thought, he’d tweet like a populist firebrand while governing like a Romney Republican, constrained by the system. But for those who had watched Trump-like authoritarian strongmen rise in Turkey, India, Hungary, Poland, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Venezuela, Trump was never entertaining. He was ominously familiar. At issue was a classic frame-of-reference problem. America’s political culture is astonishingly insular. Turn on cable news and it’s all America, all the time. Other countries occasionally make cameos, but the story is still about us… Our self-obsession means that whenever authoritarianism rises abroad, it’s mentioned briefly, if at all. Have you ever spotted a breathless octobox of talking heads on CNN or Fox News debating the death of democracy in Turkey, Sri Lanka, or the Philippines? That’s why most American pundits and journalists used an ‘outsider comes to Washington’ framework to process Trump’s campaign and his presidency, when they should have been fitting every fresh fact into an ‘authoritarian populist’ framework or a ‘democratic death spiral’ framework. While debates raged over tax cuts and offensive tweets, the biggest story was often obscured: The system itself was at risk.” • In fact, America, although deeply provincial, is indeed exceptional:

We’re engaged in a massive social experiment to see whether an elite (ruling + governing classes) can “cull the herd” in six-figure quantities, and still retain hegemony (TINA); the Covid pandemic is only the latest and most obvious example. So far, the answer seems to be yes, or even “Hell, yeah!” Viewed in that light, is “the system” “at risk” at all?

“On the campaign trail, many Republicans talk of violence” [WaPo]. “Both candidates described a country that was not merely in trouble, but being destroyed by leaders who despise most Americans — effectively part of a civil war. In both swing states and safe seats, many Republicans say that liberals hate them personally[1] and may turn rioters or a police state[2] on people who disobey them.” • NOTES [1] Are they wrong? [2] A police state? Democrats?! Commentary:

“Is Democracy Constitutional?” [Adam Serwer, The Atlantic]. “In Moore v. Harper, North Carolina Republicans are arguing that no other state body, including the state supreme court, has the power to restrict the legislature’s ability to set voting rules—specifically ones allowing legislators to gerrymander the state, in defiance of a ruling by the state supreme court finding that their plan violated the state constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote. This belief is based on a crank legal premise called the ‘independent-state-legislature theory.” Sounds like something John C. Calhoun would love. More: “The independent-state-legislature theory has drawn a great deal of attention for its most radical potential application, the possibility of a legislature voting to throw out its state’s presidential-election results and appointing electors to favor the candidate of its choice…. If the Supreme Court upholds the independent-state-legislature theory, it will deprive the public of yet another means of defending itself. For the party that appoMinted the majority of the justices, that would be ideal.”

“The English Vocabulary and the Future of Capitalism” [Capital as Power]. “Blair [Fix] compares [here] the use of economic versus biblical vocabularies. He shows (1) that, in the English language, the ‘jargons’ of the two vocabularies are almost mutually exclusive; (2) that, historically, the relative importance of these two jargons moved more or less inversely to each other; and (3) and most surprisingly, that in the late 20th century, the importance of biblical jargon started to rise while that of economics began to decline (first figure). If this latest inflection is a harbinger of future trends, Blair argues, we might have already passed ‘peak capitalism’. Commentary:

Looks like yet another example of a “What the heck happened in the mid-70s?” chart….

* * *

“Right-wing group is quietly conducting review of 300,000 Tarrant County ballots from 2020 primary” [Texas Tribune]. “Around 40 volunteers with a conservative group questioning the integrity of Texas election results, as well as that of some election administrators, have begun a review of thousands of ballots from Tarrant County’s March 2020 GOP primary election…. Members are specifically counting votes in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, in which Sen. John Cornyn won with 73% of the vote in Tarrant County over his closest challenger, who won 13% of the county’s votes. The group also alleges a range of fraudulent activities related to the 2020 November general election in Tarrant and other counties across the state but has offered no evidence to support the allegations.” • It’s good that ballots are public records in Texas. But note that if the ballots were hand-marked and hand-counted in public, the adminstrative burden Tarrant County complains of would be eliminated. So would any doubt about election results.


* * *

• I will have more to say about airplane air in due course. Here’s a teaser:

• Your library could do this:

* * *

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

Case count for the United States:

The train is still rolling. There was a weird, plateau-like “fiddling and diddling” stage before the Omicron explosion, too. This conjuncture feels the same. Under the hood the BA.4/BA.5 are making up a greater and greater proportion of cases. 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 DNC-blue “Biden Line” at that point. The previous count was ~122,150. Today, it’s ~129,000 and 129,000 * 6 = a Biden line at 774,000 per day. That’s rather a lot of cases per day, when you think about it. At least we have confirmation that the extraordinary mass of case anecdotes we’ve seen have 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.

Regional case count for four weeks:

The South:

A slow upswing in the rest of the south, beneath the Florida and Texas gyrations.

The West:


NOT UPDATED From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, July 19:

1.1%. Up. (I wonder if there’s a Keynesian Beauty Contest effect, here; that is, if people encounter a sympotomatic person, whether in their social circle or in normal activity, they are more likely to get a test, because they believe, correctly, that it’s more likely they will be infected.) What we are seeing here is the steepest and largest acceleration of positivity on Walgreen’s chart.

Lambert here: I’m depressed. Walgreens has been so great, and now this data isn’t updating. What gives?


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. Use the community transmission immediately below.

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. For July 21, 2020:

Status quo, i.e. it’s a totally not-over pandemic.

Lambert here: After the move from the CDC to the laughingly named ‘https://healthdata.gov,” this notice appeared: “Effective June 22, 2022, the Community Profile Report will only be updated twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays.” So now the administration has belatedly come to the realization that we’re in a BA.5 surge, and yet essential data for making our personal risk assessment is only available twice a week. What’s the over/under on whether they actually deliver tomorrow?

Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), July 26:

Worse in California and Upstate New York (what’s up with that). Better in Texas. Status quo elsewere.

Previous Rapid Riser data:

Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), July 26:

Lots of yellow. Haven’t seen so little green (good) in quite some time.


Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. I looked for more charts: California doesn’t to a BA.4/BA.5 breakdown. New York does but it, too, is on a molasses-like two-week cycle. Does nobody in the public health establishment get a promotion for tracking variants? Are there no grants? Is there a single lab that does this work, and everybody gets the results from them? Additional sources from readers welcome [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk].

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), July 10:

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), July 9 (Nowcast off):

BA.5 moving along nicely.


Wastewater data (CDC), Jul 23:

I found this chart hard to read, so I filtered the output to the highest levels (somewhat like Rapid Riser Counties, see on here). What’s visible is that a lot of cities are in trouble; but that coverage is really patchy. Illinois, for example, has always had a lot of coverage, but the dots stop at the Illinois border. This chart works a bit like rapid riser counties: “This metric shows whether SARS-CoV-2 levels at a site are currently higher or lower than past historical levels at the same site. 0% means levels are the lowest they have been at the site; 100% means levels are the highest they have been at the site.” So, there’s a bunch of red dots on the West Coast. That’s 100%, so that means “levels are the highest they’ve ever been.” Not broken down by variant, CDC, good job.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,052,935 1,052,467. I have added an anti-triumphalist Fauci Line. It’s nice that for deaths I have a nice, simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job.

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Durable Goods Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US-made capital goods rose 1.9 percent from a month earlier in June of 2022, the most since January and the fourth consecutive monthly increase. Figures beat market forecasts for a 0.5 percent decrease in a sign that business spending plans remain strong so far despite higher interest rates and inflation.”

* * *

The Bezzle: “Dashcam repo” [Cory Doctorow, Pluralistic]. If you want a motto for the current economic situation, a touchstone to check in on whenever you hear about a new business model or a new depredation, I suggest Michael Hudson’s bedrock claim: “Debts that can’t be paid, won’t be paid.” 40 years of wage stagnation, combined with spiraling health, housing and education costs have produced a mountain of unpayable debts. Our society is organized around a small number of creditors extracting rents from an ever-growing pool of debtors whose ability to pay is eroded by every penalty and every emergency triggered by the lack of a cushion: Enter the digital arm-breaker. Networked, digital objects make arm-breaking cheaper and more effective than ever, transforming the artisinal, personal craft of terrorizing debtors into a mass-scale industrial activity. Miss a car payment? Maybe that car has a second, remote-controlled stereo that blares angry demands at you wherever you go: https://edition.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/wayoflife/04/17/aa.bills.shut.engine.down/index.html Or maybe the dealer can immobilize it, disabling the ignition system: https://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/miss-a-payment-good-luck-moving-that-car/ Or maybe it’s a Tesla, which will lock and immobilize itself and signal the dealer, then, when the repo man arrives, will flash its lights, honk its horn and back out of its parking place to ease repossession: https://tiremeetsroad.com/2021/03/18/tesla-allegedly-remotely-unlocks-model-3-owners-car-uses-smart-summon-to-help-repo-agent/ Algorithms can automate the arm-breaker’s creative sadism.” • A must-read.

Tech: “Google’s Nest Will Provide Data to Police Without a Warrant” [PetaPixel]. • That’s nice.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 37 Fear (previous close: 38 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 27 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 27 at 1:20 PM EDT.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Fake Dog for Home Security” [Tanner]. “I set up a fake dog that barks if my surveillance cameras are triggered while I’m out of town on vacation. It’s a pair of computer speakers plugged into a Raspberry Pi, which is an inexpensive single-board computer. One speaker faces the front door and the other faces the side door. When the front door camera is triggered my surveillance camera system sends a message to the Raspberry Pi. A simple program plays an audio clip of a big dog barking through the side speaker and then the front speaker. The change in speakers simulates a dog moving towards the front door. The opposite happens if the side door camera is triggered….”

Guillotine Watch

“Brooklyn pastor says he and his wife were robbed of more than $1 million in jewelry while preaching” [CNN]. “A flashy Brooklyn pastor known for wearing designer outfits and extravagant jewelry says he was robbed along with his wife of more than $1 million while he was preaching at church Sunday. Police say they received a report that three people entered the Leaders of Tomorrow church Sunday with firearms and removed the jewelry pastor Lamor Miller-Whitehead, who goes by Bishop, and his wife were wearing.” • I think Jesus would have approved.

News of the Wired

“Help pick a syntax for CSS nesting” [Chrome Developers]. Not just for Chrome! Looks to me like the original CSS is more clear. But developers love them their squiggly brackets… Any CSS mavens in the readership with views?

* * *

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 Beez:

Beez writes: “2 in 1. Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants!” And: “Lambert! We are in luck. Attached is a Coral Fungi! Not as bright as some images yet encapsulates fungi & coral in one. Clavarioid fungi, colloquially Coral Fungi. Eucalyptus Ironbark flower in foreground amongst leaf litter. NSW Australia.”

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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. LawnDart

    To hazzard a guess, I’m guessing you guys are reading what I’m reading in SCMP and Global Times and that’s why WC is delayed… …overnight developments (it’s midnight there) in the US-China are not exactly good.

    [Edit: I was wrong– came in as content was being loaded I think]

      1. LawnDart

        FH, check out Yves post– excellent analysis. After it was put up, the Chinese responded to the current situation via Global Times and SCMP, articles that really drove home the points that she was making.

        At this point, USA is moving towards a “High Noon” moment with Bejing– and most (in US) here remain unaware, as of this time.

        The USA is returning its carrier strike force to the South China Sea, and China has declared it’s intention to respond to Pelosi’s visit via the use of direct military force– not a simple diplomatic complaint. This means that we’re one mistake from war with China, which at the least will mean a rather sudden and drastic reshaping of the US economy, and a lot of immediate pain for most of us.

        1. spud

          there is no confusion about this period.

          the people who came to power in 1993 are not imperialists, imperialism through out history there has always been some give and take, many losers, but not always blowouts of other countries.

          the people who came to power in 1993 are not imperialists, they are fascists. under fascism whats mine is mine, whats yours is mine, and there will be no discussions period.

          they are the hammer, everything else is a nail. when you understand this, then you can see why there was NAFTA and letting china into the W.T.O..

          and above all, white supremacy. that is why they thought it was safe to let china in, but they are to stupid to understand what they did, it ended their reign of terror.

          china and russia are not sub human as the free traders thought they were.


          “Free trade, democracy promotion, and the use of force to uphold global norms comprised the core of Bill Clinton’s foreign policy – and they remain the central ideas of today’s Democratic foreign policy establishment.”

          when bill clinton signed nafta, destroyed GATT and replaced it with the W.T.O., then let china in, was the equivalent of hitlers operation Barbarossa.


          hitler never attempted peace with the soviet union when it became apparent he would lose, because he viewed them as sub humans, and what was theirs, was really his. once you understand this, then you can understand what appears to be irrational.

        2. Fiery Hunt

          Missed that post this morning. ..excellent as usual.

          And damn, the Demos really embracing that War Party label, aren’t they?

          This country is run by dumbf*#ks.

  2. Toshiro_Mifune

    Pelosi has invited senior lawmakers to join Taiwan trip

    What’s the point of this? Are they trying to provoke a confrontation? Is this purposefully egging things on to some sort of military action?

    1. LawnDart

      We outta show them by sending a delegation comprised of all of our congress-critters, as well as the president and vp– that’ll show bipartisan unity and our committment to Taiwan for sure! (Yes, I’m dreaming, darkly.)

      1. griffen

        Fish in the barrel….yes one can darkly dream…Wait whatever will we remaining Americans do without our beloved leaders and the intrinsic daily guidance they provide to all of us?

        I wouldn’t know where to start in negotiating tactics with airlines without Pete’s tact and guile in attacking the issue of a cancelled flight.

    2. Ranger Rick

      The One China policy is being put out to pasture. Cui bono, on the other hand, is not apparent here. Pissing off the neighbors does not seem to be a particularly great strategy, but given the spectacular international pariah Russia turned itself into over Ukraine, perhaps they think the same strategy might work with the Chinese?

      1. JTMcPhee

        Russia an international pariah? What you been reading, man? Looks to me that Russia and China are the winners in the idiot war of sanctions started by the US, the same US that provoked the Ukraine conflict by feeding the goons in Ukraine and planning to make Ukraine a launching point for “NATO” attacks on Russia. And how popular is the US, on its way to being a pariah itself thanks to our rulers’ “leadership” in driving our sorry-moved-it-all-offshore economy off the cliff? Can’t even arm-twist all those nations in the UN to go along with “UN” actions proposed by the neocon a$$es against Russia.

        Cui bono doesn’t work in this environment. A very few will profit from conflict and decimation, the very few who have said right out loud that the population needs to be culled of useless eaters and small-d democrats and other unnecessaries. The rest of us? “Let them eat strontium.”

        1. John

          Trip to Taiwan? A stunt. A dumb stunt, but that ought not surprise us. A dangerous stunt, but we must remember that our Nancy is bulletproof … figuratively …. seriously, I doubt there is anyone around her whose calculation of the reaction to this trip goes beyond some sophomoric domestic political consideration. When the outer limits of your world is the DC Bubble and Echo Chamber, how could it be otherwise.

          1. Acacia

            Yep. Bubble dwellers.

            Almost makes ‘ya look forward to PLA air force jets interdicting Pelosi’s plane to Taipei and forcing it to land at a military base in mainland China.

        2. midget

          One small caveat:

          It may be that SE Asia does not care about what Russia does in Ukraine, but they seem much more likely to care about China attacking Taiwan: after all, it is in their (extended) neighborhood. Additionally, you would almost certainly see India pushing hard to support Chinese isolation, instead of playing a supportive role as it had with Russia, and Vietnam/Singapore/Philippines might also elect to quietly support the kneecap-China effort. The Nine-Dash-Line was not well-received by China’s neighbors.

          So, a push to use Taiwan to isolate China might meet with more success than the effort to do the same to Russia, although I have no idea what the resulting cost would be to the USA and the world.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Your comment reminded me of that old British newspaper headline-

        ‘Fog covers Dover. Continent isolated.’

    3. chris

      I have no idea. The US government has actively been annoying both India and China for the last two years. Pelosi’s stunt is just the latest example of elite madness.

      I can’t say I would be sad if her plane was shot down on the way to the meeting. But I’d prefer she face charges in whatever capacity that can be brought against her and her husband for insider trading to being made a martyr and starting a war with China. (I acknowledge this will probably never happen. I’ll have to be satisfied with the image of her burning in a lake of fire next to the Clintons for an eternity.)

      1. Randy

        Would the US go to war over Pelosi’s plane getting shot down by China?

        50/50 chance at most? Zero chance with Repubs in charge.

        Risk a nuclear exchange for 85 year old Nancy Pelosi?! Send a thank you note instead.

      2. digi_owl

        As i understand it, congress is exempt from insider trading law.

        They just need to report any such trading to a committee inside of a certain time period afterwards. And even if they are late, the penalty is an amount that has not changed since the committee was established.

        1. Objective Ace

          But Pelosi’s husband is not part of Congress. This seems like a clear cut case if the SEC wanted to persue it and I would certainly settle for him being thrown in jail in leu of Nancy

      3. The Rev Kev

        A plane full of Pelosi and a bunch of fanatical Republicans that think that this is all a great idea to stick it to China may take off from the US. But there is nothing to say that it even reaches Hawaii. Just sayin’.

    4. Tom Stone

      Agreement incapable, delusional, prone to tantrums, careless of consequences and armed with Nukes, this is the USA the world has to deal with.

      Maybe we’ll get lucky…

      1. jr

        And people wonder why I’m so into UFO’s and their purported interest in our nuclear weapons and reactors. Who else do we have in our corner? AOC and the Regressive Progressives?

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          I know how you feel, jr, but just because we need a rescuer doesn’t mean there is one. WOOO (as opposed to YOYO).

          1. jr

            Oh I agree completely. I try to avoid the imbalance of hope and go where the Unity takes me. Existence is it’smown rationale.

            But I still dream of glowing orbs shutting down the missiles.

    5. Lambert Strether Post author

      > What’s the point of this?

      Money, I would think. Whether for the Party (from the MIC) or from Mr. Market (chips, via Paul).

      Then again, perhaps Ukraine is no longer The Current Thing. We’re just going to drop it and move right along to the South China Sea? Take the Ukraine flags off the “In This House” signboard and put up Taiwan’s?

      1. John

        Ukraine? Was it Ernestine who ended each skit with, “Never mind?” Nothing to see here folks. FUBAR does not begin to describe it.

      2. hk

        What is “Taiwan’s” flag? The “Blue Sky White Sun” flag if that of Republic of “China” (and also that if KMT, more or less, who definitely will not call themselves “pro-Taiwan.”.

    1. curlydan

      Is that why Drake and Travis Scott called their song “Sicko Mode”? Maybe Drake just thought it was 13 hours after a Xanax.

      “I did half a Xan, thirteen hours ’til I land
      Had me out like a light, ayy, yeah
      Like a light, ayy, yeah

      Like a light, ayy, slept through the flight, ayy
      Knocked for the night, ayy
      767, man, this shit got double bedroom, man
      I still got scores to settle, man”

      I think one score will be settled when one of his beach-front houses floods soon.

      1. Late Introvert

        I liked the idea of Drake, rapper with live musicians. I feel sorry for those musicians, so boring. I also don’t like being shouted at every song. He can’t sing at all. What is up with people liking this shite? Dancers are part of the show as well, but they strut and bore equally. I say this as someone who never understood how beautiful dance could be until my daughter studied and performed classical ballet at University of Iowa Youth Ballet.

    2. griffen

      Celebs and elites hate sitting in traffic. I read years ago about USC (or a comparably pricey) private college students taking their Uber trips to get to their next class. Because…walking is hard. \sarc

      Several years back I drove through Atlanta at peak traffic on Thanksgiving Day. Brutal slow and forget meeting or exceeding the posted speed limits. I suggest that as punishment for anyone taking such ridiculous short flights where it’s wheels up / wheels down within ~ 15 to 20 minutes.

      Added context, it is a 40 minute flight connecting to Charlotte Douglas from Greensboro, NC. Even on a turbo prop (been a few years back). Driving distance is about 100 miles give or take.

  3. FreeMarketApologist

    Worse in California and Upstate New York (what’s up with that).

    I’ll hazard a guess for NY: in the lower part of the state it’s suburbs and summer camps – kids are out of school, and creating super-spreader events. The lower part of the strip along the right would be part of the Hudson Valley, significant 2nd home ownership, also full of moms & kids taking the summer off at the country house. Part of the upper section, the Adirondacks, also home to summer camps / communities. To the far left, Niagara Falls – lots of tourists perhaps, but that’s only 1 small part of the counties that are heading orange/red. Numbers sure are changing fast!

    It seems to be tracking with the wastewater info (I would find it helpful if the filtering on that chart included some of the yellow ‘warning’ level as well).

    1. petal

      It looks like St. Lawrence County(red) and Jefferson Co(orange), so Ft. Drum, Alex Bay, and camps, and summer cottaging in Oswego County(red) and the orange counties along the lake. Everyone I know is acting as if it’s summer 2019-going up each weekend to Alex Bay and partying, trips from the East Coast for a week in Hawaii, vacations on the OBX or in Ireland, flying in from MT and spending a month in the White Mountains at the summer lake home.

      1. petal

        Another friend and their family just flew from PA to London for a couple of weeks. Everyone is traveling.

        1. Lee

          I too am feeling the urge to travel. Being a Covidphobe [Is one phobic if one’s fears are justified?], I’m shopping for small travel trailers.

          1. John

            Yellow counties in Hudson Valley: Sullivan, Ulster, Putnam, and Westchester. Cannot tell if Rockland is included; map scale to small. Orange county is clear for the moment.

      1. jsn

        Litchfield County in CT has similar issues and has been a steady outlier out of sync with the rest of the state. Better sync to NYC.

      1. Screwball

        FTA linked above;

        They declined to provide details, but said that fighter jets, ships, surveillance assets and other military systems would likely be used to provide overlapping rings of protection for her flight to Taiwan and any time on the ground there.

        Maybe Nancy can talk to them about a green agenda while she is there. The stupid, it burns.

      2. Henry Moon Pie

        A carrier strike group is a small thing to risk so that Nancy can scratch something off her bucket list. We can look forward to Nancy’s return and her cooing about “those brave boys defending us out in the South China sea. We felt so safe, and with our Lord watching above.” All delivered by a face covered with as thick a make-up as any used at Versailles.

        1. Skippy

          The idea of sending Nancy anywhere to instill fear in a foe is mind boggling, more like we’ll all be dead soon so just sit back and watch whilst we all die …

          1. jsn

            Our times do boggle the mind.

            A nuclear psychopath dependent on the kindness of strangers, or at least their situational awareness.

            None this side of Hawaii.

  4. Glen

    The Federal Reserve took a strong stand today to ensure that rich people get richer, and the working class gets crushed:

    US Federal Reserve announces three-quarter-point interest rate increase to cool inflation – live


    I’m listening to Powell say that the “labor market is moving back into balance”. What does that mean? That companies will be forced to do lay offs? That people will be forced to work for whatever job they can get?

    How does this make America stronger, and benefit average Americans?

  5. Brunches with Cats

    OMG, who is this Beez of the fantabulous fungidote? This has to be among NC’s all-time Top Ten, tough though the competition be.

    1. LawnDart

      Imagine seeing that… …thing… …the morning after an intimate evening…

      Let me tell you a story: her name was Mary Jane (note: I heard this in basic training, so you might want to scroll elsewhere…),…

  6. Mildred Montana

    Re:. 1/6

    I watched Merrick Garland’s interview on NBC last night and listened closely to every word he said. What caught my ear in particular was this:

    “We will pursue justice without fear or favor.”

    Fear? What does that have to do with the dispensation of justice? If he were investigating a Wall Street fraudster would he have used that word? Somehow I doubt it.

    So fear seems to be an important consideration to him. Which is why, as I’ve said before, he’s dragging his feet for so long on charges. In the back (or front) of his mind is a vision of millions of Trump’s crazies running amok. He is afraid—literally scared—of the consequences of any action he takes with regard to Trump. I am quite sure that in the end he will do absolutely nothing important.

    And fear will Trump justice.

    1. pjay

      The biggest “fear” for the Jan 6 committee crew is that they will not be able to come up with a law that Trump actually broke so they can bar him from future office. If you are wondering about Garland’s “foot-dragging”, I suggest that as well.

      1. Michael Ismoe

        Trump got 48 or 49 percent of the vote in 2020. Someone explain how they are going to get 12 jurors to convict him unless they use the January 6th Committee as the juror pool.

  7. JBird4049

    “Brooklyn pastor says he and his wife were robbed of more than $1 million in jewelry while preaching”

    I think that not only would Jesus approved, I am wondering just how the “Bishop” and his wife would not be ashamed at having so much bling while preaching the Gospel. This is embarrassing to read even though those grifters got some of what they deserve.

    I can see wearing a good suit and a nice watch. His wife wearing the equivalent as well, but a bespoke suit and shoes, a top of the line watch and all the regular accessories would be twenty thousand maybe. Same with the wife. Image is important, especially in the age of the television and the internet, but were they wearing a jewelry store? Some nation’s crown jewels? One million dollars is the equivalent of the gross wages of twenty or more working class people. It could feed ten thousand people for a week or about two hundred for a year. I think the Carpenter would have some words with this “Bishop.”

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      I don’t know this fellow’s schtick, but if it’s the Prosperity Gospel, then he’s been up to his lips in blashemy for a while, and sadly had an audience for it.

    2. FreeMarketApologist

      A follower of “prosperity theology” *, perhaps? The Bishop and his wife would seem to be aspiring to compete with the Rev. Creflo P. Dollar. **

      * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosperity_theology
      ** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creflo_Dollar#:~:text=Creflo%20Augustus%20Dollar%2C%20Jr.%2C,Georgia%2C%20a%20suburb%20of%20Atlanta.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creflo_Dollar#:~:text=Creflo%20Augustus%20Dollar%2C%20Jr.%2C,Georgia%2C%20a%20suburb%20of%20Atlanta.

  8. Val

    “American public doubts the legitimacy of our system” but everything is ok…anybody actually checked the methods on this one?

    We well and truly passed “doubts the legitimacy…” several exits back. In any neoliberal context, “Our X” is a very reliable BS tell, just as the Atlantic clip references “our democracy”, “real accountability”, on and on, etc.

    Perhaps all of Congress could fly to Taiwan together for some reason, with the in-flight menu offering hormone and mRNA injections, choice of mandatory hyper-processed vegan virtue loaf, open bar and a writhing bowl of breakfast crickets to keep Nancy focused and alert.

    1. notabanker

      Send the President, his cabinet and the Supreme Court with them. For a show of strength.

    2. Late Introvert

      I was with you until vegan loaf – my wife enticed me with a nice lentil loaf on our 2nd date. Frugal and a vegetarian and can cook? Sign me up.

  9. Alan Kirk

    Vegetarian meals in Federal cafeterias? What a joke! Make them use locally sourced food and any food waste must go to food kitchens, farm animals or compost. Would be much more eco and you might see more rabbit or guinea pig on the menu!

    1. The Rev Kev

      I’m just waiting for when some Democrats demand that bugs be served on the Federal cafeterias. For just the staff mind. Nothing like a locally sourced bowl of crickets and meal worms to get you through a Congressional session – yum, yum, yum! Pro tip. Try to swallow the crickets quick before they try to crawl back out again.

    2. Michael Ismoe

      Every time the Dems do stuff like this they lose a half million votes. Not complaining, just laughing at people this distanced from what the real word is going through.

    3. Late Introvert

      I see nothing wrong with promoting a more balanced diet in federal workplaces. I guess you might be triggered by “vegetarian”, how about “more vegatables, less meat – it’s good for and the planet too”. I suspect that may actually be a bigger trigger.

      Your suggestions are excellent, but unlikely. Same with this law too, it will have little effect.

  10. Mark Gisleson

    Disappointed to learn that today’s plant is coral fungi and not some new kind of purple ginger. Or is coral fungi edible?

    1. Mark Gisleson

      Googled coral fungi and felt obliged to update my comment by pointing out that many kinds are in fact quite poisonous.

      1. LawnDart

        I would then consider it an edible in many federal cafeterias.

        Thank you, Mark, for participating in our brainstorming session.

  11. Carolinian

    re CSS–here’s how to turn it off and reveal hidden content. In Firefox press ALT to show the “menu bar” at the top, Then click View and Page Style and then No Style. You can turn CSS back on with the same drop down.

    I prefer Firefox because it seems to be the most configurable browser. Images, Javascript, offline are also controllable by various means.

  12. jr

    “Police say they received a report that three people entered the Leaders of Tomorrow church Sunday with firearms and removed the jewelry pastor Lamor Miller-Whitehead, who goes by Bishop, and his wife were wearing.”

    Was it the Holy Trinity?

        1. Late Introvert

          Jesus pissed off the currency exchange racket in The Temple, and look what happened.

  13. jr

    re: Pushy software

    I signed into my Goog-tube account on my laptop last night. I was told I needed to confirm my contact data. I was then asked for my motherfu(king street address!!!

    The same Windows 10 running laptop has been trying to get me to update to 11 for like a year now. I keep saying no. Last night, I get a new message that there is this wonderful new option for my laptop to be able to synch every device I own to it. I can read my texts on my computer! I think it’s just a stealth way of getting me to install 11. I said no and it said it would remind me in three days!

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      when i got this laptop, it came with win10…and immediately updated, and caused a recurring PITA with the sound synching when one watches netflx, etc…hafta go through the device manager once or twice a week to reboot the driver.
      so i set about attempting to stop the windows updates…as i’ve always done since Win98SE…because they like to experiment on us with those, apparently, and seemingly get drunk somewhere in the coding and put a ? where a / should go…causing my annoying first world sound synch problem.
      Win10 wouldn’t let me….because i don’t really “own” the software…or the laptop, apparently.
      i prefer Zone Alarm for firewalls(used it from the get go, and understand it), and therefore disabled the windows firewalls, i told ZA to block anything that looked like a windows update.
      helped by several several lists of filenams that have to do with updates that i found.
      took some doin, but seems to be working.
      no more hijacking, or turning itself on at 2am to talk to the mothership.

      the more puter adept will no doubt find all manner of issues with my method,lol…but i’m an analog guy in a digital world, and this appears to serve my needs.

      1. ambrit

        Recently I got an e-mail telling me that Win 8 will stop security upgrades after Jan 1 2023. There is no way in H— I will install Win 10 or “above” on any device I use. My problem is that I am a Techno Luddite and have problems with something as ‘simple’ as Ubuntu.
        I have been removing as many of the “apps” as I can from the forced “upgrade” phone we got. Talk about a mare’s nest.

        1. The Rev Kev

          I hit my limit at Windows 7. Took one look at Win 8 and balked. And with each new version of Windows that has come out am glad for not going on and “updating.” The trend is clear. Not only will you not own the operating system software (you can only really lease it) but any work that you do on that computer may not really be owned by you as well. Sort of like if you work on the company’s time using their gear, it is the company that gets to own it. All part of the philosophy of how ‘you will own nothing’ – but the unsaid part is that you can only ever lease goods and services which is what a rentier society looks like.

          1. ambrit

            Yes, Win 7 was the best of the lot for simpleminded users like myself.
            If only some enterprising hacker collective would do independent security upgrades for the ‘legacy’ operating systems. Is a computer operating system still copyright protected if the parent company abandons it?
            Cyber Salvage LLC.

  14. Skippy

    BTW did anyone else catch Krugmans NYT opinion[tm] piece on inflation … ummm … post GFC orthodox models were doing their thang and then opps I was wrong … errr the model did not reflect reality … stoopid me[!!!!!] … forgot to input covid/russia sanctions – rim shot …

    1. Lee

      Something I don’t get is if the causes of the current inflation are a supply side as opposed to a demand side problem, won’t hiking interest rate exacerbate the situation by reducing capital available to increase productive capacity? But then I’m not an economist, so what do I know?

      1. Skippy

        “increase productive capacity” are you mad – ????? – its taken decades to strip that all out ….

      2. Lou Anton

        You’re take is right! Pandemic stimulus led to a one-time shift in demand for goods, while at the same time supply was constrained due to the pandemic. Mismatch between supply and demand led to prices shooting up.

        The Fed’s only tool at this point is rate hikes…that will kill a significant amount of demand…which will lead to sellers increasing prices less or not at all…which will then lead to lower inflation.

        So, a good news story if you’re not one of the millions of people who will lose their jobs because of that “kill demand” part.

      3. Pelham

        Not being an economist, you have an unfair advantage on such matters given your less obstructed access to reason and reality. In other words, you’re right to raise what should be but isn’t an obvious question.

      4. KT2

        “Although our analysis does not support the simplistic view that inflation is being driven by market power, it illuminates the way in which market power and inflation interact.

        “Most importantly, it provides no support for the idea of a wage-price spiral. And that means is no case for cutting real wages to fight inflation.”

        “Inflation is being amplified by firms with market power”

    2. ChrisRUEcon


      #Natch … not even going to go look for it.

      The Last Court Jester Of The End-of-Empire Neoliberal Crown

  15. Jess K

    Covid case counts:

    Is anyone aware of an explanation for the longevity of the current surge? If the ‘official case counts x7’ metric is even somewhat accurate, the US has been in the midst of a truly massive Covid wave that peaked two months ago and has more or less held at that peak level for more than two months. At this point I would think there would be no one left to infect.

    For contrast the last Omicron mega-wave was finished in less than 3 months start-to-finish and case counts started tumbling in <2 weeks. Both waves are pretty close to each other and both in the no-mitigations era, so I'm wondering what's going on here.

    1. Lee

      The current dominant strain is both immune evasive and more highly transmissible for double the fun.

    1. Tom Stone

      The death knell of the Aircraft carrier sounded during the 1982 Falklands war with the success of the Exocet missile.
      The big ones (Ford Class) have really nice senior officer’s quarters…

  16. flora

    re: Matthew Yglesias tweet chart.

    In the US something big must have happened between 2009 and 2011 to pull down life expectancy like that. Is it possible that O saving the big banks, wall st, and the 1% while throwing Main St under the bus, tens of thousands of homeowners out onto the streets with fake HAMP help and fraudulent foreclosures, and wrecking the economy for the 99% had something to do with the earlier increasing life expectancy trend line breaking and start to fade and then drop into a flatline?

    Now we have “Son of O” (his VP) in the Oval Office promising us inflation for “as long as it takes.”

    1. ambrit

      That CNN, what a bunch of cut ups. The whole piece is full of loaded language and jingoistic slurs thrown at Russia and those other “bad actors” who defy America.
      The young woman is supposedly up for having some weed on her person when entering Russia. America has similar laws the last I looked.
      However, I see nothing at all about a swap for the Americans caught by the Russians while fighting for the Kiev government in the Ukraine.

  17. Pelham

    Many years back I viewed a PBS documentary on Huey Long that was balanced overall and thus IMO surprisingly sympathetic to Long. His son, long-serving Sen. Russell Long, offered a mild defense of his corrupt but nonetheless popular father at one point, saying that his opponents tended to mistake the tenuous, technical trappings of democracy for a possibly messier and approximately functional real democracy.

    We aren’t at that point with Trumpism, since Trump isn’t nearly popular enough to merit genuine majority support. But isn’t there a nugget of popular truth in the persistence of the loyalty he inspires? If we assume that “the system” is methodically clearing out the nation’s underbrush of “deplorables” by various and sundry means (pandemic, opioids, Chinese fentanyl, deaths of despair driven by unchecked trade policies, replacement by unchecked immigration), then the only rational response is one that reaches for solutions that are somehow beyond the system. In 1930s Louisiana it was Huey Long. Now, Trump.

    1. pjay

      I think you are right about the similar appeal. But the tragedy is that Trump is a fake populist, just playing a role. His appeal is because there is nowhere else for people to turn. Though Long was more corrupt in the usual definition of that term, I think he was much more authentically “populist” in his orientation. Today all we have left in politics are simulations.(gee, maybe the postmodernists were right after all).

  18. marym

    Cancel culture

    07/26/2022 Voter vs. voter [*]: Georgia conservatives target thousands for cancellation

    Bearing long lists of voters’ names, a determined group of Republicans is asking local election boards to cancel thousands of Georgia voter registrations, using a new power bestowed by the state’s voting law…that allows any voter to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of their neighbors, an effort that’s taking place outside the routine government-run process of removing people who have moved or died.

    …No fraud has been proved among registrants who moved from Georgia or used P.O. boxes as their addresses.

    * Not really. It’s voters who think they should be the only ones allowed to vote vs voters.

    Freedom Loving Real America really seems to like this snitch-on-your-neighbor approach: reporting to the state those who seek or provide abortion, birth control or medical care for pregnancy complications; voters and election workers; teachers and librarians; and lgbtq+ kids and adults.

      1. Tom Stone

        She’s prettier than “Good old Uncle Joe” Stalin who was featured on the cover of “Look” Magazine.

      2. griffen

        Think about the marketing opportunities to come, when this big budget film below hits the screen in 2023….I have nothing against the historic doll or those who collect mind you. If the choice could have been made I would own a pristine collection of Star Wars collectibles in original packages after seeing Return of the Jedi. Alas, no money beyond Christmas time and Hot Wheels were my thing instead.


        Can’t Make This Up.

    1. Acacia

      I guess we’d better brace ourselves for a forthcoming LEGO movie “Return to Azovstal”.

    2. Brunches with Cats

      Holy F cow, had me worried there for a minute, Milton. They’re not official Lego products but someone’s customized mini figures. But raises a disturbing point about the “action figure” toys that the boys get. While looking at some of them on eBay a few weeks ago, it actually occurred to me how much they resemble the Azovstal fighters.

      Meanwhile, girls have a full range of ID-pol Barbies to choose from. I’ve started checking the clearance aisle at Walmart when I have to go there (not much else here in rural red upstate NY other than Bezos Prime) to see which Barbies have been relegated to the $5 discount rack. African American alopecia Barbie obviously failed to make a splash, as did prosthetic leg Barbie. I thought Barbie Pet Photographer was cute, but her obvious African immigrant looks apparently didn’t appeal to this demographic area. Wheelchair Ken didn’t do too well, either, nor did the skinny AA Ken. I don’t think this Walmart carried the blue-eyed blond Barbie with articulated legs allowing her to squat down to deliver puppies that you load into the mommy dog, so I don’t know how well that went over. No /s — I am not making this up.

  19. Jason Boxman

    Isn’t it telling how easily the Times was able to authenticate emails related to 6 Jan, but somehow can’t be bothered to dig into the Hunter Biden laptop story? Surely such authentication skills might prove useful, no?

  20. VTDigger


    Leave it alone. Bored engineers over engineering. CSS preprocessors like Less and Sass are make-work. Things do not need to be hard. People are trying to wall off the profession to new entrants. See the latest from React, the largest front end framework. Recently switched from a perfectly functional class based paradigm to a more fashionable functional paradigm. Much more confusing for new developers. CSS in JS is the correct solution. No newfangled syntax required.

  21. The Rev Kev

    “Telling the Truth about the 2020 Election”

    I really can’t see the problem here. Think back to 2016 when Hillary demanded that whatever the results of the election that year, that Trump accept the results. Well Trump won and almost immediately Hillary, after recovering from her bender, went on a campaign to say that the election was stolen – by the Russians. The establishment and especially the media went all in on this fable. They did this huge psyops campaign to mess up the body politic in America for four straight years. The effects spilled over into international relations and led to a worsening of relations with Russia which caused problems in other countries. Yes, part of it was to destabilize Trump’s reign but it was more about battered, personal egos and it really had a bad effect on the country. So in 2020 the Republicans say now that the election was stolen from them and they do have a case but not in the way that they think., So what happens? The Democrats and the media start shouting ‘You can’t say that!’ If I was an American Republican, I would be less than impressed.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Republicans can say ” one bad turn deserves another”. As a citizen-hostage on this runaway train, I can only say that countering bullshit with other bullshit does not mean less overall net bullshit.

      In mathematics, 1 + negative 1 = zero. But politics is not mathematics. The Clintonites’ dolchstosslegende + the Republicans’ dolchstosslegende does not equal ” zero dolchstosslegendes”. It equals ” two dolchstosslegendes”.

      And one sick puppy of a polity.

      If someone with demonstrable credibility has spent years pointing out how each dolchstosslegende is equally engineered in its own way as part of its own running psychological operation against the public at large, that person’s work should be highlighted in case there are people prepared to see it and reflect upon it.

    1. Tom Stone

      The “King Bishop Narcise” lived down the street from my grandparents house on Kalmar Ave in Oakland.
      He had a different Rolls Royce for each day of the week and his driver a lovely blonde in a very well tailored uniform.
      It was very impressive to a five year old.

  22. ambrit

    Seeing Our Fair State of Mississipi shown as a chartreuse coloured line on the ‘New Confirmed Covid-19 Cases’ chart is somehow very appropriate. If any state could claim to be in the vanguard of the return to the Robber Baron days, Mississippi is it. (The only more appropriate colour of that I could think of is mauve, and try showing that on a computer screen!)
    In his book ‘The Peripheral,’ Mr Gibson described the Post Jackpot world as a cut down version of today. I rather wonder if perhaps the Post Jackpot world that a very few of our descendents occupy might not be a Steampunk version of the late 1800s.

  23. Objective Ace

    Regarding libraries and air quality monitors. Pittsburgh has apparently been doing this for awhile–well before Covid. I’m not clear about the “nationwide” aspect. I think other libraries can borrow from the Carnegie library system


    Edit: there appears to be some conflicting info: https://carnegielibrary.libanswers.com/info/faq/334857 One of the librarians in the Pittsburgh suburbs told me they still do, but she may be misinformed

  24. Skip Intro

    I’m not sure the CO2 readings on that airplane are that dire. Assuming the recirculated air is well filtered, which everyone seems to believe, the high CO2 no longer corresponds to a high exhaled aerosol count.

  25. Jason Boxman

    Study Finds Another Condition That Vitamin D Pills Do Not Help:

    The first part of VITAL, previously published, found that vitamin D did not prevent cancer or cardiovascular disease in trial participants. Nor did it prevent falls, improve cognitive functioning, reduce atrial fibrillation, change body composition, reduce migraine frequency, improve stroke outcomes, protect against macular degeneration or reduce knee pain.

    Another large study, in Australia, found that people taking the vitamin did not live longer.

    Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Harvard Medical School and the leader of the main VITAL trial, said the study was so large it included thousands of people with osteoporosis or with vitamin D levels in a range considered low or “insufficient.” That allowed the investigators to determine that they also received no benefit for fracture reduction from the supplement.

    (bold mine)

  26. spud


    “Neoliberal politicians like Bill Clinton presented globalization as “the economic equivalent of a force of nature, like wind or water” that it would be stupid to try to reverse.”

    “Barack Obama in 2016 framed it in similar terms as “a fact of nature.” Politics was presented as the management of the necessity of globalization, with economic decisions limited to those acceptable to international investors, with some sections of the moderate and soft left broadly accepting these ideological premises.”

  27. Anthony K Wikrent

    “On the campaign trail, many Republicans talk of violence” 

    Are they wrong? YES. FFS, we’re now over half a century into “feeding red meat to the base.” WTF did anyone think was going to be the result of decades of incessant propaganda mocking, then dehumanizing “liberals”?

    Sadly, though, I do think liberals are entirely capable of imposing a police state. Aren’t they already? What with the Patriot Act. the dystopian elements of the information age, such as mass surveillance and psychological profiling; and now the promotion of conflict with Russia and China.

    But Francis Fukuyama Is NOT Right: Socialism Is the NOT the Only Alternative to Liberalism. The historical alternative to liberalism in USA is civic republicanism.

    1. Late Introvert

      Thanks for the link. Historical interest, but it seems unlikely at this stage. That train left the station in the Reconstruction period then left for the Phillipines.

      1. Late Introvert

        and this is where you lose me

        “It is true governments cannot be supported without great charge, and it is fit every one who enjoys his share of the protection should pay out of his estate his proportion for the maintenance of it. But still it must be with his own consent, i. e. the consent of the majority, giving it either by themselves or their representatives chosen by them; for, if any one shall claim a power to lay and levy taxes on the people by his own authority and without such consent of the people, he thereby invades the fundamental law of property and subverts the end of government; for what property have I in that which another may by right take, when he pleases, to himself?”[87]

        Freedom for the rich landowners, frack everyone else. You work for us.

  28. drumlin woodchuckles

    I just heard-watched an interesting Beau of the Fifth Column video. it is called . . . ” Let’s talk about Republicans’ bizarre request of DOD . . . ”

    For background, the bizarre request has to do with DOD looking through the ranks for extremists who should not be there. Republican players-of-the-victim-card pretend to regard “extremists” as “conservatives and Republicans”. I think Beau believes the DOD is looking for various flavors of Nazis, Klansmen, other White Power/ Aryan Brotherhood/ etc. people whose receiving of taxpayer funded military training and access to taxpayer-funded military weapons does not improve the safety of taxpayers.

    Beau suggests the DOD will not stop seeking and removing such people from its ranks, but he wonders why the Republicans specifically want to make sure that such people receive serious military training and access to serious military weapons. Why exactly DO the Republicans want to secure military training for genuine sure-enough actual extremists? ( And for some reason Independent Senator King of Maine also signed onto this Republican request. I will speculate that this is just King once again strutting his Boldly Independent Maverick Stuff).

    Anyway, here is the link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cWHtdsXHH8

    Here is the link.

  29. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here is a photo with explanatory paragraph from the oldschoolcool subreddit. It is of a ” penny auction” in rural Michigan in 1936. The caption explains what a “penny auction” was. It has been not-often-enough noted that this kind of thing throughout a heavier-populated-than-today farm country helped create pressure to get certain New Deal legislation passed.


    ( This was also part of the reason the Federal Government began its multi-decades-long program of “farmer cleansing” to depopulate the countryside of enough farmers that the remainder could not have that kind of an impact on national political-economics going forward.)

  30. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here’s a Scientific American article taken off the reddit . . . ” Eating Too Much Protein Makes Pee a Problem Pollutant in the US ” Apparently enough of us are eating protein beyond our body’s growth and/or maintainance need for it that we are turning most of it into urea to pee out, and the amounts involved rival nitrogen fertilizer runoff and leach-down.

    1. Adam Eran

      See Garth Davis’ Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It. Davis is a bariatric surgeon who deals with the morbidly obese, stomach stapling, etc. His recommendation: Whole foods, plant-based diet.

      My rather primitive take is that protein is a carbohydrate with some nitrogen as part of its molecules. We excrete the nitrogen, and too much protein is hard on one’s kidneys. I had a protein-obsessed friend who got kidney cancer from eating almost exclusively protein. (OK, that’s my diagnosis, but he concurred)

      In any case, the surprising combination of James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic), Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger produced The Game Changers (Netflix), a movie exposing how champion athletes know vegan diets are best. That’s right, the governator is vegan now!

      See also Forks Over Knives and What the Health! (Netflix) Apparently, even the gladiators were vegan.

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