Links 8/26/2022

Lambert and I, and many readers, agree that Ukraine has prompted the worst informational environment ever. We hope readers will collaborate in mitigating the fog of war — both real fog and stage fog — in comments. None of us need more cheerleading and link-free repetition of memes; there are platforms for that. Low-value, link-free pom pom-wavers will be summarily whacked.

And for those who are new here, this is not a mere polite request. We have written site Policies and those who comment have accepted those terms. To prevent having to resort to the nuclear option of shutting comments down entirely until more sanity prevails, as we did during the 2015 Greek bailout negotiations and shortly after the 2020 election, we are going to be ruthless about moderating and blacklisting offenders.


P.S. Also, before further stressing our already stressed moderators, read our site policies:

Please do not write us to ask why a comment has not appeared. We do not have the bandwidth to investigate and reply. Using the comments section to complain about moderation decisions/tripwires earns that commenter troll points. Please don’t do it. Those comments will also be removed if we encounter them.

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Artemis Accords: Why the international moon exploration framework matters

Amazon Care is shutting down at the end of 2022. Here’s why Fierce Pharma. Amazon’s acquistion of One Medical has not closed, lest you think they’re leaving the business entirely.

Amazon is pressing pause on dozens more self-checkout grocery stores amid disappointing sales, report says Business Insider

World’s biggest Amazon warehouse raises fears over toxic air Reuters

What Will Come of the Nightmare Travel Summer of 2022? Matt Stoller, BIG

The casualties of California legalizing pot: Growers who went legal WaPo


California Approves Ban on Gas-Powered Car Sales by 2035 Bloomberg

Pace of Climate Change Sends Economists Back to Drawing Board NYT. Origin of the cliché:

A cautionary note about messages of hope: Focusing on progress in reducing carbon emissions weakens mitigation motivation Global Environmental Change. From 2016, still germane.


Long COVID, Cognitive Impairment, and the Stalled Decline in Disability Rates FEDS Notes

Nirmatrelvir Use and Severe Covid-19 Outcomes during the Omicron Surge NEJM. Paxlovid. n = 109,254. From the Abstract: “Among patients 65 years of age or older, the rates of hospitalization and death due to Covid-19 were significantly lower among those who received nirmatrelvir than among those who did not. No evidence of benefit was found in younger adults.”

NIH to terminate EcoHealth Alliance grant after its Wuhan partners refuse to deliver information on coronavirus studies Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

New monkeypox cases begin to slow in L.A. County, echoing trends elsewhere LA Times. Paragraph 16: “‘Many people have quit reporting their illness because it’s mild,’ [Troy Masters — publisher of the Los Angeles Blade, an LGBTQ newspaper] said. ‘I’m aware of this from numerous friends. They keep an eye on it. If it gets out of control, they then contact their doctor.'” Oh.


China Hasn’t Reached the Peak of Its Power Foreign Affairs

US has ‘no good options’ on Taiwan as China resets status quo FT

US tariffs on China goods are yesterday’s problem for exporters – it made some even stronger – but now they face a bigger threat South China Morning Post


UK will support Rohingya ‘genocide’ court case as refugees mark five years since fleeing Myanmar The Telegraph

Britain’s former Myanmar envoy detained in Yangon Reuters. What they’re up against:



Saudi Arabia sends message to Biden on oil FT

Iran ‘carefully reviewing’ US response to nuclear deal proposal Al Jazeera

Mossad Chief Barnea: New nuclear deal will not block us from acting against Iran Jerusalem Post

Najib Razak’s Political Career: The End of the Beginning or the End of the End? Fulcrum


After the Virus Mainly Macro

Routine Covid tests in English hospitals to be scrapped next week Guardian

Italy’s Centrists Are Failing to Take the Fight to the Far Right Jacobin

New Not-So-Cold War

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant temporarily disconnected from grid Al Jazeera. I’m still not clear why the Russians would be shelling a power plant they plan to connect to their own grid. But then who on earth could be doing the shelling?

France seeks clarity on potential TotalEnergies fuel links to Russian army France24

Russia Advances in Donbass, UK Johnson Tells Zelensky Continue War, $3 Billion in Weapons from MIC Alexander Mercouris, YouTube. 3:30: Debunking of “stalemate” begins. 5:03: “Now I just want to deal with this question of the fighting being at a standstill because what we see is that this has now become the new Western media meme….It’s the Russians that are advancing in southwest Ukraine and the Russians who continue to advance in Donbass.”

Biden pumps billions into the long war in Ukraine Politico

Putin issues decree to increase army’s standard strength by 137,000 as of 2023 TASS

Russian allegations of rampant Nazism in Europe Gilbert Doctorow

Venezuela: ConocoPhillips Closer to Enforcing $9.7B Award After Guaidó Opposition Misses Payments VenezuelAnalysis. Commentary:


Biden Administration

US government to make all research it funds open access on publication Ars Technica. Press release from White House Office of Science and Technology on guidance. Big win for OST. Now do ventilation. And see Aaron Swartz here.

In Washington, agricultural policymakers circulate among Farm Bureau, USDA and industry Investigate Midwest


Judge orders unsealing of redacted affidavit in Trump search Associated Press

Election 2020 Post Mortem

Taibbi asks a good question:


FBI officials slow-walked Hunter Biden laptop investigation until after 2020 election: whistleblowers FOX

Nate Silver: ‘Liberal elites’ pressured Pfizer to delay vaccine until after 2020 election NY Post

Our Famously Free Press

How One Spook-Run London College Department Is Training the World’s Social Media Managers Mint Press

A crude replacement for local news Heated. The deck: “As local newsrooms rapidly shut down across the country, Chevron steps in to fill the gap with propaganda.”


‘A Place To Die’: Inside A Nightmare For-Profit Hospital In Rural America Moe Tkacik, More Perfect Union. August 18.

When Private Equity Takes Over a Nursing Home The New Yorker (Furzy Mouse). August 25. No cite to Tkacik.


How Deadly Bacteria Spread in a Similac Factory—and Caused the US Formula Shortage Bloomberg

Sports Desk



Imperial Collapse Watch

The spinning door: From US government service to lobbying for dictators Responsible Statecraft

‘We Need to Own the Heat The Way We Now Own Night,’ Pentagon Climate Expert Says Defense One (Re Silc). “Tactical cooling vests.”

Class Warfare

How US life expectancy fell off a cliff FT

‘I’ve Seen a Lease Calling for Daily Lap Dances’ New York Magazine

Newfound Brain Switch Labels Experiences as Good or Bad Scientific American. “…but thinking makes it so.”

Antidote du jour (Suzi Eszterhas ):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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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. upstater

    So much for Switzerland’s direct democracy…

    Swiss Govt, Campaigners in Dogfight Over F-35A Jets

    The Swiss government said Wednesday there could be no public vote on replacing its aging fleet of warplanes with F-35A fighter jets before the deal was signed, infuriating campaigners.

    The announcement came despite a petition containing more than 100,000 signatures, which allows any matter to go to a vote under Switzerland’s direct democracy system.

    Although the left-leaning “Stop-F-35” alliance delivered the petition last week, the government said there would not be enough time to hold a vote before US manufacturer Lockheed Martin’s offer for 36 F35-As expired.

    If the Swiss elites want modern air defense, they should buy S400’s. Having 36 F-35s for air defense in such a small country is gross overkill; the objective obviously is interoperability with the US and its kennel of NATO poodles.

    We won’t be able to hear Julie Andrews types singing in the Alps given the 121 decibels of the F-35.

    1. Polar Socialist

      About F-35, one must remember that according to the USAF statistics, if you buy 36, only 12 or so of them will be operational at any given time.

    2. The Rev Kev

      You can probably kiss Swiss neutrality goodbye pretty soon just like that for Finland. They are already on Russia’s Unfriendly Countries List because of their actions and I would not be surprised to see demands for them to join NATO.

      1. Jorge

        Slovenia has ports in the Gulf of Trieste and a border with Switzerland. The Slovenes are sensible.

        Of all the major countries involved in this kerfuffle, Russia and Switzerland were voted “Most Likely To Make A Deal” in high school. The logistics are there.

        And, yes, I spent too much time playing railroad building games.

    3. PlutoniumKun

      The Swiss tried to buy Saab Gripens 8 years ago, but it was blocked by referendum. So ironically it is Swiss voters who drove the Air Force to F-35’s. Its a logical purchase for them as they already use aging F/A-18’s and prior to that, F-5’s (along with some French aircraft). There is very little choice out there for a neutral country that wants air protection, so in rejecting the one semi-independent option, it was really a choice between US and French aircraft as you need some compatibility with existing systems. Plus, according to the Swiss, the F-35 was the cheapest option of all assessed (it also looked at the Typhoon, Rafale and SuperHornet).

      The number 36 isn’t random, btw – that’s usually quoted as the number of aircraft you need to ensure that you can keep a pair of aircraft in the sky at all times in an emergency – this is vital for a country with very few suitable airstrips.

      You can’t really replace an interceptor aircraft with an S-400. The problem with ground-based missiles is that they have only two operating modes – fire and don’t fire. If you want to protect your airspace there is no real alternative to having aircraft that can go up and take a look at any intruders – and the no.1 stated scenario by the Swiss military was the prevention of countries using their airspace as a short cut in a conflict. The deal for the F-35 does include 5 batteries of Patriot missiles to protect the airfields.

      1. upstater

        Fire/Don’t Fire air defense is sorta like having nuclear weapons… certain destruction. To insure a secure airspace against violators, the certainty of a salvo of missiles is quite a deterrent. Circling a couple of F-35s 24/7 during a crisis seems like a very expensive vanity solution for Swiss Mavericks. A less charitable explanation is effectively becoming part of NATO.

        1. David

          It’s not a question of deterrence but of policing airspace, which is something all countries do. Relying on missiles would be like sacking the security guards in a building and replacing them with an AI-controlled automatic weapon to identify and kill potential intruders. This probably has little to do with NATO, and much more to do with commonality of logistics and training with other European countries.

        2. Old Sovietologist

          As anyone else wondering who will be attacking the Swiss? Are they expecting an air attack from Germany, Italy or France.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            The stated no.1 scenario in the contract was for aircraft to dissuade other countries from using Swiss airspace in the event of a conflict. In other words, they are not expecting an attack from a neighbour, but they are anticipating a scenario where other countries ignore their neutrality and overfly Swiss territory. Or put another way, they don’t want to be Belgium c. 1914 and 1939.

            1. The Rev Kev

              Or maybe they remember how it was not the Germans or the Italians that bombed them in WW2 but it was in fact the Allies – who pretended it was just a mistake. But I cannot see any scenario where they are worried about being invaded by Russia. Russia’s military is a defensive force who would struggle to occupy just Poland and the Baltic countries. I think however that they would be far more wary about what NATO might have planned for them.

              1. PlutoniumKun

                Political neutrality can never trump the hard facts of physical geography as the Belgians have repeatedly discovered. The long time Swiss fear is that in a conflict in Europe one combatant will insist on the right to overfly Switzerland and the other combatant tells Switzerland ‘stop this or we will take control of your airspace and do it for you’. The only way of preventing this is ensuring you can make life uncomfortable for both combatants. The Swiss airforce did try to buy the only reasonably non-aligned combat aircraft available, but as I noted above, voters vetoed it 8 years ago.

                As with all neutral nations, they have to play certain games and will favour certain sides (as with Ireland in WWII interning luftwaffe pilots/seamen but quietly sending crashed US/British airmen across the border), but this is all part of the compromises small nations have to make to survive.

                1. The Rev Kev

                  Unless there is an absolute breakdown in Europe leading to warfare between nations, who is going to be overflying Switzerland on bombing runs to other nations? Can you see any scenario where you have the Russian Aerospace Forces flying over Switzerland? Because I can’t. Not based on the past six months.

                  1. ambrit

                    I can see NATO/America flying over Switzerland in transit to and from the Ukraine, Hungary, etc. The Russians would probably be sending hypersonic missiles over the mountainous country on one way flights to points West.
                    Even so, going around the mountains should be preferable for various reasons.

            2. vao

              Two points.

              1) Regarding The Rev Kev’s arguments:

              To make things brief, during the first half of WWII, Switzerland had to contend with repeated incursions by Lutfwaffe fighter aircrafts, and with German bombers transiting towards Italy. All this resulted in a number of aerial fights.

              During the second half of WWII, bombers from US forces transiting through Switzerland (a few were forced to land) and even deliberately bombing Swiss cities (Basel, Schaffhausen) were the main problem.

              2) Regarding PlutoniumKun’s arguments:

              The scenarios of engagement listed in the requirements specifications for the aircraft acquisition were leaked, showing such examples as destroying bridges in Bavaria, or attacking airfields in the Czech republic. In other words, nothing at all to do with defending the Swiss neutrality or its air space, and everything to do with becoming a “partner” (suppletive) force under the umbrella of NATO.

              I refer to my older comment above for on-going efforts by the Swiss government to throw neutrality out of the window and becoming de facto a NATO follower. The F-35 acquisition must be seen in that context.

              1. PlutoniumKun

                I’m at a loss to know how publishing scenarios involving bombing Nato members is an indicator that they are trying to secretly join Nato.

                1. vao

                  Because these are not scenarios to bomb NATO troops, but to cooperate with NATO troops in order to repell an adversary coming from the East that is attempting to overrun Europe.

                  I.e. these scenarios are of the form “fight with NATO to repulse an invading Russia”.

                  And as I mentioned previously, the current idea pushed forth by the Swiss government is to “update” the neutrality policy so as to cooperate militarily with NATO. What has leaked of the soon-to-be-published report explicitly proposes training with NATO and integrate Switzerland’s and NATO defense plans. The above scenarios fit exactly in that framework.

              2. Old Sovietologist

                “The scenario of bombing an important Danube bridge in southern Germany in order to make it more difficult for enemy units to advance in the direction of Switzerland”.

                Which enemy units would this be? I presume they mean Soviet, sorry Russian units. Well Europe would be covered in mushroom clouds before any such units reached southern Germany.

                It sounds like Swiss Security Policy is stuck somewhere in the 1970’s


                Maybe they fear a revanchist Germany or Italy? I suppose you can’t be too careful these days.

                1. vao

                  It sounds like Swiss Security Policy is stuck somewhere in the 1970’s

                  Possibly a form of original antigenic sin that has been reactivated by the war in Ukraine (Russia invading towards the West) and by the realization how puny the military capabilities of Switzerland currently are (hence, cooperate with NATO). The days Switzerland could mobilize 600000 soldiers in 48 hours are long, long gone.

                  Maybe they fear a revanchist Germany or Italy?

                  Excluded; after all, for decades the official formulations of Swiss diplomacy and politics have been:

                  Our German partners…

                  Our Italian friends…

                  Our French neighbours…

                  Our Austrian cousins…

                  On the other hand, and given the developments on the front of climate change and growing energy scarcity, I would strongly advise the Swiss general staff to plan carefully for a scenario where neighbours attempt to seize its very valuable hydroelectric dams in the mountains.

                  1. The Rev Kev

                    I would make a bet that NATO wants to get Switzerland into that organization. True, there would be the sight of Swiss Air Force planes patrolling the Polish border but you can bet that NATO is absolutely drooling at the thought of establishing bases in Switzerland and getting their grubby mitts on all those mountain tunnel bases that the Swiss have built up over the decades. With then, NATO could turn Switzerland into their very own fortress.

          2. Jorge

            A fine point that Americans do not understand is that while Europeans have affectionately mean nicknames for other Euros (Krauts, frogs, etc.) and mostly forgive past indignities, everyone hates the Swiss.

      2. wendigo

        According to airforce magazine F15 and F18’s cost around $29000 an hour to fly.

        Lockheed is signing a contract that puts the F35 at $30000 for 2023 and $25000 for 2025.

        Thats what cheapest looks like.

    4. Karl

      This story needs to be filed in an archives folder named “Stupidity.”

      Isn’t the Ukraine war proving that manned fighter jets are becoming obsolete?

      The next generation of cheap attack drones will be flown in swarms that the F-35 won’t be able to defend against.

      The price tag of 36 F-35’s would buy lots of better alternatives. If this “decision” were open to public debate and a public vote, this would probably become all too clear. But: The.Russians.Are.Coming.

      1. Polar Socialist

        Nah. Russian air force and army aviation are flying every day and night around hundred missions in Ukraine.
        Russian fighters are still hunting for Ukrainian planes and air-defense systems. Russian ground-pounders are attacking moving targets behind the Ukrainian lines. Russian helicopters are pounding the Ukrainian positions everywhere the artillery or missiles are busy with other sectors or counter-battery fire.
        What we’ve learned so far is that if you can hit the target with a missile or a rocket, use them. But if, for any reason, you need a pair (or two) of eyes there and a brain to make a decision on the spot, you send a manned aircraft.
        Or when you need to fly a profile to lure that radar to ping you so that your wing man can lob an anti- radar missile and make it go bang, you need to send manned aircraft.

        Besides, every weapon system has a counter – it’s likely that by the next war there will be EWS and anti-drone systems that make them almost as obsolete as a bolt-action rifle. Who knows.

    5. tindrum

      Isn’t it simply much more likely that the US said buy the F35s or we shoot the Swiss banking system?
      Jacques Baud says exactly that in this interview (German language) at 1:16:18. Herr Baud says that Switzerland lives on insurance and banking and most of its customers are american. The USA can shut down Switzerland at will. He says that his report regarding (the lack of) WMDs back in the day was quietly shelved by the Swiss govt. so as not to annoy the Americans.

  2. Henry Moon Pie

    For-profit North Carolina hospital–

    This pretty well encapusulates neoliberal practice:

    Dr. Lee: These private equity firms have realized they can do the billing without doing the rest of it. There’s no innovation as far as good patient care. There’s innovation in how to extract wealth.

    The other thing that struck me was that the hospital in question was located in little Wilson, NC. I’ve never been there, but I was familiar with the town. For forty years, my grandmother living in Missouri corresponded more or less weekly with a woman in Wilson. Their sons had been part of the same B-17 bomber crew, and the correspondence continued for decades even after my uncle was reassigned to another crew and died on a mission when his oxygen mask froze and his inattentive new crew didn’t notice in time. The two women provided a lot of mutual support for each other over those years even though they never met face-to-face.

    This country has always had serious flaws beginning with its anti-democratic Constitution, slavery and slaughter of aboriginal people, but there was a bond that held most of the country together. That’s nothing but a memory now.

    1. doug

      I was there the first 17 years of my life. Wilson was the town that caused congress to pass a law saying no other municipality could provide internet. It is a utility there, provided at cost and billed like water. So they have that going for them.

      1. Karl

        Thanks for that story–I never knew about that law. Congress seems to have pulled a fast one. Municipalities can own electric, water and other utilities, and carry out this function to the satisfaction of their “shareholders” (voters). Precedent would say that local internet wires are not engaged in interstate commerce: there are many local electric and water utilities that distribute wholesale power and water that originate across State boundaries. Similarly, internet signals are carried solely on local wires to local homes within a city’s boundaries. I wonder why this law wasn’t an challenged in the courts? I guess I know the answer to that one!

    2. John

      Here’s a hideous example of for profit nursing home abuse:
      I had a relative die in one of his for profit hellholes.

      As to Asswholesfoods self checkout stores closing, those in San Francisco suffered a wave of homeless eating for free after muscling in behind legit customers who entered.
      Eat less than $945 dollars worth and it’s a misdemeanor, hardly enforced in that state, thanks to “Justice Reforms.”

      “If someone goes into a store and takes $30 worth of food because they’re hungry, that would not be prosecuted,”

        1. Laughingsong

          Heck, when I was homeless, I would line my pockets with plastic bags from the produce dept. and take whatever I could (though sometimes I had enough to go to a happy hour, but a $1.50 beer, and fill said bags with buffalo wings and nachos – I was working full time the whole time).

      1. JBird4049

        I really don’t support stealing, but as someone who has gone hungry for days and more then once, I ain’t going to be all unhappy, and certainly won’t snitch, on anyone liberating some food. I mean really, it is just disgusting how Americans are forced to go hungry especially children, and Congress cannot be bothered to increase the pathetic amount of funding for SNAP (food stamps). Heck, individual states can add to that program for their own citizens like with Medicaid, but aside from California, I don’t know of any states that does it regularly.

  3. jackiebass63

    Where I live the grocery stores all offer self checkout as well as an employee checkout. I refuse to do the self checkout. Most of the customers are like me. You will see lines at the regular checkout and no-one at the self checkout. Doing the self checkout is helping the store eliminate employees. Something I don’t support. I might but probably not use a self checkout if I was offered a discount.I’m a firm believer oh helping people keep their jobs even if it cost me more.Most of the time money saved by the company cutting workers goes to the company. It usually doesn’t lower prices.

    1. Lexx

      Our local Sprouts installed self-checkout last year. I refused to use it, thinking then that surely if customers had any interest in the cashiers having jobs, they too would decline.

      Since then every time I look over at self-checkout it has by a large margin the longest lines, with very few at employee checkout. I can’t figure out what the self-checkout customers think they’re gaining, none of them are wearing masks. Instead they’re waiting longer because more of them waiting, and breathing all over each other since they’re not bothering with masks or ‘social distancing’.

      It’s not cheaper overall and if they use coupons, they have to have the help of the one employee overseeing all of the self-checkout stations… and he/she will be right with them as soon as they finish helping other customers. Oh, and those coupons come via an app the corporation is sure to use in advertising to you, in exchange for real estate on your expensive smart phone and a slightly discounted price on that month’s sales items.

      I just feel like customers aren’t thinking that one through, but maybe I’m missing something. Madness.

      1. notabanker

        Deplorable flyover country here. I see the opposite. Lines are usually non existent at the self serve, and folks can be waiting in line 2-3 deep at the ones with a human.

        I almost never use them, only if I have like 2 or 3 things with barcodes already on them, which is almost never because I rarely buy packaged goods, or they make a tiny percentage of purchases. They are a total pain and every single time I used them for normal grocery shopping, some person had to come over and override something with a code. The whole thing is ridiculous.

        1. jr

          I was at a CVS recently and one of the self-serves was down. The other was being operated by an elderly woman who clearly was confused by the thing. The line backed up while the clerk assisted the frustrated elderly woman. Because the CVS is always, always, always understaffed, no clerks were available to take the registers. Few wore masks, so I dropped my stuff into a nearby bin and cruised.

          1. Barnabas

            That’s happened to me at Walgreen’s. No one manning the register for a minute or more? I just figure the price in my head, ad the tax and round up a few pennies, drop cash on the checkout counter and walk out.
            Do video the cash drop and the items~in case of interception by law enforcement.

            But, that has never happened and no one has ever challenged me.

        2. Lexx

          Went to Sprouts yesterday afternoon to get the missing ingredients for ratatouille, so all produce. Got in line for those items, total $16.23. At the bottom of the receipt was a coupon offering $10 off total purchase of $75 or more, between the 22nd and Sept. 4th. Not gonna happen.

          Most of the grocery store chains here are competing in the Grocery Store Wars, offering similar coupons dependent on customers snapping their teeth together chasing ever larger carrots. Kroger is up to $120 for $12 off, both in-store and curbside pick-up. I keep the one that gives me $10 off $50 or more. Old broads like me* don’t need calculators to know how close to $50 I’ve gotten. I can just look in the cart, so I’ve been stalking other customers at the register, quick tabbing their carts and if there’s enough, offering them the coupons I can’t use (most of them). Great fun! I’m rewarded by their pleasant surprise… and Kroger sending me yet more coupons.

          If the purchases and coupons are tracked to our account, at this point Kroger’s computers should suggest our food interests are wide-ranging, possibly gluttonous, and our budget unlimited. But since the other coupons we receive exactly track what we purchase with our loyalty card, then the coupons are anonymous data-free gift giving. Hurrah!

          Gave the $10 coupon to the woman behind me in line whose purchases included vitamins. Despite having very little in her cart, she was easily over $75; you know how spendy they can be.

          *generally savvy experienced grocery shoppers

      2. JTMcPhee

        Our Sprouts clientele seems to include a large number of PMC and Yuppie types, both current and retired, like the Trader Joe’s located in up-and-coming-land in St. Petersburg, FL, square in the path of gentrification for some reason. Ya think these folks give a rip about jobs for mopes? When there’s a chance to employ an anti-social
        “System” so they don’t have to interact with other humans?

        I especially did not like shopping at TJ’s — “shoppers” were a pretty rude bunch, petty bourgeoisie types driving their carts with “intensity” as they pursued their specialized treasures. Not that the local Publixes are much better. No place here has people wearing masks, not staff nor customers, including the pharmacy staff.

        1. Oh

          I’ve shopped in several TJ’s around the country. I’ve found the clientale to be cheerful and friendly as were the store employees. Their prices are good. The only problem is that their produce is not fresh. They pay their employees well and cover them with good health coverage. I avoid Sprouts because there are not enough checkout persons and their fruits and veggies are so so.

          I’ll make sure to avoid the TJ’s at your neck of the woods.

      3. Earthling

        I head for the real-person checkouts most of the time, but, if they all have lines, I will resort to self-check.

        A lot of people have been burned by choosing a cashier line, investing 15 minutes in a wait, then finding out the person ahead of them has A Problem, and you’re stuck waiting through the call-the-manager drill, or the price-check-drill, or the card-declined drill. So their instinct is now to avoid Choosing A Line in favor of the one line for self-check, which does not get bogged down if one person has A Problem.

        1. Chris Smith

          That problem would be solved by changing the human operated checkouts into a single queue multiple server configuration, which is how most self-checkout systems are configured.

          1. CanCyn

            Yes! Single lines are much more efficient. I mostly shop at a couple of local small stores but do head to the big stores now and then. Our Loblaws grocery store (Ontario) went to a single line for the pandemic, one long straight line, social distancing easier. It is a big enough store that if the line had to curve down an aisle, the aisle wasn’t blocked. Much to my chagrin, now that the pandemic is over (/sarc), they’ve gone back to lines at each cash. When I asked a cashier about it she said that management knows the single line is more efficient but customers complain about the long line all the time so they went back to lines at every cash. Perception over reality wins. They had even invested in a computerized system that told the next person in line when the next cash was free and which one it was. Dunno how much that cost but it is gone now. Makes me wonder about the human capacity for critical thinking. As someone who almost alway manages to choose a slow line when all cashes have a line, I love the single lines. It was obvious to me that it was a great idea the first time I saw one.
            Adding, I too hate self checkout. Especially the grocery store. I buy a lot of produce, not packaged stuff, and it is a PIA to scan the little labels or look up codes.

            1. Earthling

              Illuminating story! I had thought it was pretty tacky for Home Goods to have a lot of candy and other impulse products lining the area where people wait in the single queue. Now I see it is to keep them entertained so they feel they are still shopping rather than Waiting.

        2. Milton

          I have an idea. Enforce the damn 15 items or less rule if the line has that sign. But alas, there’s as much chance of that as there is in ticketing large vehicles parked in compact only stalls.

      1. jefemt

        Oh, I am quite confident you will be interacting up close and personal with robot driving. Might not be the interaction anyone desires!


        1. .human

          My point being that it is impossible to drive without constantly interacting with robots, eg traffic lights.

    2. Carolinian

      Before self checkout stores often had a ten items or less lane because many customers (this one) hate standing in line waiting for someone with a basket full of groceries to check out. I believe self checkout began as a convenience feature for the customers rather than primarily about saving labor. However that may be changing and in Walmart’s “Marketplace” grocery stores they will sometimes have no human checkers at all or only one. Walmart has been me too-ing Amazon lately. The regular Walmarts have greatly increased their self check lanes as well.

      And yet the parking lots in both types of stores are full. Walmart has the market power to shape their customer’s behavior as well as their suppliers. Meanwhile many of those former checkers have been put to work pulling orders for parking lot pickup and this too is about convenience for the customer.

      Personally I love self checkout and don’t see it as a moral issue. But opinions vary. However if our most ruthlessly bottom line retailer is embracing the concept it’s unlikely to be going away.

      1. CanCyn

        How are self check outs more efficient? If I bag, or if my cashier has someone to bag (that’s 2 jobs btw) while my cashier rings stuff in, I am through the cash in no time. At self check, my bags collapse and are a pain to fill. And as I said elsewhere, produce is difficult to scan or spend time looking up codes. And the few times I’ve used one I have always encountered some kind of problem that required staff assistance.
        Grocery store work used to be good full time work. At least here in Canada. My sister had a union job with benefits and a pension at Safeway back in the 70s. And oddly enough my one income family, father was in road construction, could afford to shop there. While that is no longer the case, and my sister was lucky to get out before the unions were busted and the part time-ification happened, I still choose people over technology.
        I sometimes question whether I am doing any good supporting the crap jobs that retail work has become but I dunno what else to do.

        1. Barnabas

          It may be a crap job to you, but to others it’s a lifeline. Always respect and value human labor over corporate efficiency and profits.
          Anytime you are asked to do the job that an employee used to do in traditional times, you should resist and try to use the employee. Asked to type in all the details of our car license plate, name, home address, that kind of stuff at a hotel we were checking into, I asked how much of a discount I would get? Zero. So I turned the keyboard back to the clerk and said “you check me in, I want to keep people working”. Big smile and best of all, they comped us a meal in the attached cafe.

          1. CanCyn

            I did say that I choose people over technology. Part-time precarious work is crap, not the people who do jobs. I was in a union for many years, I know and appreciate their value. What I am trying to do is support the world I want to live in. That means people with jobs that can actually support them and/or their families and give them time for whatever kind of recreation they’d like to do. The tired, drawn, fed up faces of a lot the retail employees I encounter makes me almost ashamed to shop in those stores. Clearly there is something wrong. And we here at NC all know what it is – profiteering of the neoliberal elite on the backs of the workers.

        2. Carolinian

          For me it’s more efficient. Sounds like your store still gives the option of not using it as do most of them. Meanwhile my favorite non discount grocery has added more self check, not taken them away. Grocery is very competitive. I think if most customers don’t like it they wouldn’t have done this

          1. CanCyn

            You still haven’t answered the how question. Is it just faster for you? Then say that. Efficiency is more than just speed.

            1. Carolinian

              It’s true that I don’t often buy bags of loose vegetables but believe if I did I’d know the codes by heart and it wouldn’t slow me down very much. But it’s efficient because I almost never wait in line more than a minute or so and part of that is because some of the other customers do indeed prefer the human checkouts. Where I live the Walmart Marketplace is the only store that is almost all self check.

              For the store it is efficient because they can only use the number of checkers they need for normal traffic and not have some idle or looking for a task during slow traffic. Stores like Aldi take care of this fast/slow problem by having the cashiers stock during slower times.and they are summoned by walkie talkie when needed.

              However I do believe the groceries see this as a convenience for the customers more than for themselves as there are downsides to it–shoplifting not the least–and the benefits must outweigh the problems. Since none of our stores around here are union it’s doubtful–to me–that it’s about shafting labor.

    3. John


      As a former front end worker, I love your attitude. If more people were like you in most aspects of daily life, the parasites on our society would fall off and die a deserved death.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I refuse to do the self checkout. Most of the customers are like me. You will see lines at the regular checkout and no-one at the self checkout.

      Good, good, and good.

  4. zagonostra

    >Matt Taibbi – “How is this not a huge story?”

    Because everyone already knew it, as Leonard Cohen said long time ago…I wish Taibbi would go back to being an investigative reporter instead of a commentator.

    1. nycTerrierist

      Agreed re: Taibbi’s commentary

      Much prefer Aaron Mate on ‘Useful Idiots’ (who’s been subbing for MT)

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Much prefer Aaron Mate on ‘Useful Idiots’ (who’s been subbing for MT)

        Agreed. The KH/AM interplay is good, but I think the KH/MT interplay went sour.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      Pretty sure he’s still doing investigative reporting, just not on a daily basis. From what I understand he’s taking time off from commentating on Useful Idiots to write a book.

  5. griffen

    Air travel in 2022, suggested reading for anyone who has plans or is planning to travel. That’s a handy chart midway into the article, regarding industry consolidation. The lack of teeth in the regulatory playbook should not, or is not, that shocking after all.

    Once you’ve got your ticket punched, it’s just cattle into the cabin. Okay, first class is a better place in the cabin. I’ve read some horror stories about certain budget priced airlines. My recall is that the anecdotes about Spirit were among the worst.

  6. The Rev Kev

    ‘BREAKING: Mark Zuckerberg tells Joe Rogan that Facebook algorithmically censored the Hunter Biden laptop story for 7 days based on a general request from the FBI to restrict election misinformation.’

    That little weasel is just using weasel words here. When he was talking about fact checking, he was probably talking about how Facebook partnered with the Atlantic Council ‘to monitor election misinformation’ and the Hunter Biden laptop would fall into that category. One of the consequence of this partnership was how when Burisima gave the Atlantic Council half a million bucks, negative press on the Big Guy’s company disappeared from Facebook-

  7. H. Toin

    The France 24 article on Total Energies’ activities in Russia omits a crucial detail : this isn’t original reporting by Le Monde, but reporting on a report by an NGO called Global Witness. Said NGO is funded by a bevy of foundations including the usual suspects (Open Society, Ford Foundation) plus some governments (identities not detailed, representing 20% of their income).

    This keeps happening. An obscure NGO, presented as independent, produces a report which advances the Empire’s aims, which gets picked up by mainstream media and presented as the honest truth because NGO is independent. And every time you look up who pays the report, it’s Western governments and Foundations.
    In June it was the Institute for Strategic Dialogue exposing the “pro-Kremlin” social media content creators… with financing by the US State Department! And Le Monde actually presented this institute as independent.

    Of course, the facts presented might well be true, who knows. But I’m pretty sure some people would be very happy to see Total weaken itself by leaving Russia.

  8. Solarjay

    Pot casualties
    I know many of the people in the article pretty well.
    It’s mostly quite accurate. One part left out is what the Humboldt county government did to destroy it all.
    They went after small ma and pa growers with a vengeance. The ones that spend all their money locally. And they created a horribly inefficient and beyond slow, expensive ( often $100,000 and up kinda expensive) hugely onerous requirements on top of that state regulations for becoming a legal operation.

    They also implemented a tax on sq foot of growing area regardless, of how good of a crop you had.

    Because of the extremely high setup most of the largest operations were from investors out of the area. Meaning profits went out of the country.
    Head banging predicable and stupid.

    And now it’s not profitable really.

    Other counties like Santa Barbara issued large acreage permits like cheap candy and lots of people went there.

    Thx for posting.

    1. rob

      That sounds like a lesson for the rest of us to NOT replicate as our states go legal.

      I’m guessing there is some serious lobbying money against the idea of actually making weed “not illegal”..Returning it to just being a plant/crop ,once more.
      One that anyone can grow, and use as they see fit….
      and IF business want to get involved… they can spend the money, and grow the best… for THAT market.
      And if the state fair wants to have a “weed” ribbon… and people want to grow artisan weed… to compete.. so what. I don’t need a license to grow heirloom corn.
      Then the retail market, can do as they wish.. and everyone else can buy or grow… whatever they want…
      It is just amazing how many people get “busted” or fined in states where pot is legal… The regulation schemes seem to be a way to keep people paying high prices, which support corporate farmers, and migratory gangs of growers.
      Kinda like the old laws which made money for cops and criminals..

      1. hunkerdown

        International conventions on “psychotropic substances” or “narcotics” require signatories to enact a regime of positive control and prison time over what Big Pharma and the gentry doesn’t like, on pain of various sanctions. That treaty is in force until ~75% of the world renounces it. Will isn’t necessarily the operative factor when international suicide pacts are a thing.

    2. Lex

      It is a good telling of the situation and history, though I can’t say I know any of the people in the story. I now some others and a few who left for Tokelahoma or other places. The same story plays out a bit differently in all the other states too. It’s like legalized weed got every horrible aspect of late stage American capitalism applied all at once. Given the financial structures of Big Weed, it seems like collapse of the legal world is on its way. Outside of Cali outdoor, rising energy costs are going to be crushing for the Big Weed ops in places like MI running 15,000 stems deep.

      I don’t participate deeply in the black market, but I hear that prices there are starting to climb again. The flip side is that one can buy an ounce in MI dispensaries for $75 out the door.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        “It’s like legalized weed got every horrible aspect of late stage American capitalism applied all at once.”

        No kidding. When Maine legalized weed in 2016, I was expecting that people would soon be able to pick up a joint at a convenience store along with a six pack and some chips. What we wound up with instead is just about the farthest thing from that scenario.

        After four years of legal wrangling, legal recreational weed finally went on sale. It cost far more than the back market price, not less as it should have, despite an enormous oversupply. It is only sold in specialty stores, and while some towns don’t allow the sale of it at all, those that do often failed to limit the number of licenses so every other storefront is a weed shop in the mad rush to cash in. Often you must show a driver’s license to a camera before you’ll be admitted to the store, and only a limited number of people can go in at a time. In some cases that number is one, and the other customers have to wait outside on the sidewalk in front of the store with the big weed sign on it. Making a legal purchase makes one feel more like a criminal than when it was illegal.

        About the only good thing the regulators did is try to limit out of state growers so that it would benefit small local operations. Now the state is being sued for that by the big weed companies, and losing.

    3. Mark Gisleson

      Anecdotal only, but my understanding was that after legalization occurred in California, certified growers almost immediately began doing end-arounds on production reporting with significant amounts of each crop leaving the state untaxed to be sold at premium prices in states still conducting drug wars against their citizens.

      I was told that the growers were pocketing almost as much from these sales as legal sales. Since then I’m in a different network originating in another state and I’m back to not knowing anything about what I’m buying.

      1. Lex

        Everyone in every legal state is backdooring as much product as they can. But if you want to see real corruption and general familybloggery in weed world, it’s in the analytical labs. There are a few that are good, but they usually fail. Lab shopping is common, proprietary methods, no QA/QC program, etc etc etc.

        1. Eureka Springs

          The plight of every farmer. Go giant or learn to code or flip burgers while living in a run down condo on the south side of a lost and lonely big city.

          I always winced at those who successfully broke the chain of legalization with neoliberal talking points and of all things, ‘tax me please’. Which is fine I suppose but not at sin tax levels. It’s not a family blogging sin! In those days I said, this will all end in Marlborough marijuana ultra light 420’s. Funny enough an 85 year old neighbor of mine told me tobacco is entirely legal to grow, like tomatoes, here in Arkansas. She grows nicotina around her chicken coop to ward of bugs. So why not weed?

          I ve never walked in a dispensary. In AR you can’t enter one without a prescription. In OK even on the most remote back highways there are more dispensary stores than gas stations, dollar gen and liquor stores combined. There must be a bubble about to burst. No way there are enough customers to pay those retail rent and light bills. Friends on the border say OK weed is far superior to AR. Which is very odd, twenty years ago AR Ozarks and Humboldt County were considered the best in the country.

          And yes yes yes, energy crunch or not, at least 85 percent of all weed should be grown outdoors. Just don’t put hemp and cannabis farms as neighbors. That’s creating new Hatfields and McCoys with cross pollination issues. Only bitcoin power waste sounds more absurd than large indoor grows.

          I’d just like to taste that ’70’s Colombian gold one more time.

        2. Michael McK

          Yes. Bad actor mega growers had the Capital to go legal and do it big. They had made most of their money with out of state markets so they just keep supplying them on the sly while their small time black market competition gets raided by the County. Not all the green rushers are outsiders mind you; several local kids of Mom and Pop have transitioned to mega-grower status but are as bad as the outsiders if not worse since they have even more massive senses of entitlement and better connections. I know a few decent families who have made the transition and are not a menace but they are now business people and employers, not farmers. For economic health and product quality all farms should have been restricted to 5000 sq feet max with any Person having a beneficial interest in only one permit but that ship sailed long ago.
          Do the world a favor, grow your own. There is a reason it is called ‘weed’.

          1. Mark Gisleson

            I could grow weed but I could never in a million years grow cloned hybrids using the elaborate techniques employed by commercial grow rooms. If I loved agriculture that much, I would have stayed on the farm.

            I would love to learn my new source is actually local, but I have no control over this so long as my state insists that only doctors can pick and choose who can legally use cannabis and everyone else has to buy from the friend of a friend.

    4. LifelongLib

      “tax on sq foot of growing area regardless, of how good of a crop you had.”

      FWIW, same thing Alexander Hamilton did with whiskey stills, tax capacity rather than production. Looks fair on the surface but discriminates against the “less efficient” small or part-time producer…

  9. fresno dan

    Matt Taibbi
    How is this not a huge story?
    BREAKING: Mark Zuckerberg tells Joe Rogan that Facebook algorithmically censored the Hunter Biden laptop story for 7 days based on a general request from the FBI to restrict election misinformation.
    How is it a huge story that Hunter Biden is not being prosecuted? Oh yeah, its all fake news – as they say, the news afflicts the afflicted, and comforts the comfortable…

    1. notabanker

      “look if the FBI, which I still view as a legitimate institution in this country…….”

      Still? Hmm. For how long? Which institutions do you not still view as legitimate Zuck?

      1. fresno dan

        The billionaires are a pretty contented bunch (except for Trump, which might explain Trump’s popularity) – Zuck thinks the system works just like its suppose to…

  10. The Rev Kev

    “Artemis Accords: Why the international moon exploration framework matters”

    Personally I despise the Artemis Accords. If you wanted a more accurate name, it would be the ‘Rules-Based Order’ – in space! It says that ‘More than 20 nations have signed on to the NASA-led Artemis Accords’ but if you look at the right-hand side of the Wikipedia page on this to see who is listed, practically none of them have a space program. Well, maybe the Isle of Man does-

    If you read further, it says ‘But over the longer term, NASA plans to use the accords as a set of norms to establish how countries should conduct space exploration more generally, and to govern how they can work together for missions to Earth orbit, the moon or even Mars’ but although Russia is mentioned as the new space pariah, China is not as in at all, even though they have a large space station in orbit which is only getting bigger.

    NASA is lying when they say that the Artemis Accords are reinforcing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. That Treaty is actually international law where the Artemis Accords is a made up construct that wants to replace it totally. It has a provision to allow a nation on the moon establish a huge security zone – against Selenites perhaps? But you know where this will all end- (3:37 mins)

    1. Alex Cox

      I wonder if the surviving members of The Clash know what their music is being licensed to promote… US Moonbase triumphalism to the tune of ‘I Fought the Law’!

      1. SteveB

        “I Fought the Law” written by Sonny Curtis and made popular by the
        “Bobby Fuller Four” Clash covered Fuller’s arrangement..

  11. Mike

    “US government to make all research it funds open access on publication Ars Technica. Press release from White House Office of Science and Technology on guidance. “

    Finally some good news for once jeez we’ve only been doing this whole government funded research thing since WW2. Should be retroactive, or maybe we could have a federal database without a stupid $40 paywall per paper that our tax dollars put to work.

    1. The Rev Kev

      But will Big Pharma allow it? Normally they take government medical research for free, make a few tweaks, and then slam a patent down on it hard with plans to evergreen that patent from now to forever.

      1. hunkerdown

        Pharma’s property structures are in patents and trade secrets. Knowing the formula only helps so much when someone else owns the rights to practice that sacred incantation. (See also: Four Thieves collective)

        Yes, the American idea is nothing more than magical idealism.

    2. The Historian

      Ars Technica is owned by Conde Nast. So now will it be Conde Nast that decides what gets published? And at what cost? How is this good news?

      The Feds have multiple websites – they could easily publish their research so that we could all access it for free if they wanted to.

  12. jo6pac

    Well let me say this about the below. We all know Russia shelling the nuke plant and as for hooking up to their grid they did that so they could control the turning off the plant if needed.

    I’m still not clear why the Russians would be shelling a power plant they plan to connect to their own grid. But then who on earth could be doing the shelling?

    1. Yves Smith

      Do you realize that what you wrote makes zero sense?

      The fact that Lambert didn’t use /sarc is because he thought the conclusion was obvious.

      Russia controls the nuke plant. They can turn it off when they damned well please. They do not need an excuse or permission to do that.

      Shelling the plant will not trigger a nuclear disaster but could damage refrigeration and other units. Repairing them would delay power switchover, which is something Russia wants to happen.

      That’s before the fact that Russian soldiers are guarding the plant. Do you seriously think they’d shell their own men? Any Russian staff tasked to do that could/would refuse the order and spread the word. Russia has very active use of Telegram and those reports are widely read and reported on.

    2. Polar Socialist

      According to the news release of the company running the ZNPP, it was knocked out of the grid completely for a while, and the first connection restored was to Ukrainian grid.
      Four units are shut down due to maintenance, and two remaining were shut down by an emergency system yesterday, because bush fires caused by intensive shelling short circuited power cables.
      According to the Military and Civil Admnistration of Zaporozhye, Ukrainian artillery fired 17 shells on the area of the ZNPP.

      And by the way, until 20th February or so, ZNPP power generation was synchronized with Russian grid. In March Ukrainian grid was synchronized with ENTSO-E (European) grid, but it’s really hard to find out in which one ZNPP is operating in at the moment, since it was occupied by the Russian forces around the time of synchronization.

      1. The Historian

        The ‘being knocked off the grid’ story is generating some huge propaganda on the national news this morning, complete with ‘experts’ who ought to know better. NO there was no ‘crisis’ or fear of a meltdown or anything else. All reactors have emergency diesel power just in case they lose electrical power for any reason. Remember that Fukushima became a disaster not because of the earthquake, but because of the tsunami that drowned their back-up diesel generators.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > According to the Military and Civil Admnistration of Zaporozhye, Ukrainian artillery fired 17 shells on the area of the ZNPP.

        IIRC, the workers at the plant are “Ukrainian” (whatever that means these days). I’d be nervous about that, given the level of lunacy required to shell for Ukraine to shell a nuclear power plant.

  13. The Rev Kev

    “‘We Need to Own the Heat The Way We Now Own Night,’ Pentagon Climate Expert Says”

    Yesterday I made a comment how we should crowdfund stillsuits because of the increasing heat. It looks like the Pentagon will be doing in instead. If they are successful, I am sure that there would be a civilian spin-off that civilians could go buy. Thing is, everything with the Pentagon is ‘tactical’ like how they refer to tactical cooling vests. If some of the gear that they provided to their people included yoga pants, I suspect that they would be known as Tactical Yoga Pants.

  14. ChrisRUEcon


    “Following legalization, state officials made several far-reaching decisions that have effectively driven many small cannabis farmers to the brink of insolvency while consolidating a $5 billion-a-year legal market in the hands of industrial-scale growers, most of them based far from these northern reaches.”

    Every. FamilyBlog. Time.

    When you break a sentence like this down, it’s literally showing you how kleptocrats (state officials) help plutocrats (industrial-scale growers) with the latter’s market ambitions. And closing the circle, from 2017:

    The cannabis industry has a clear favorite in the race to be California’s next governor

    Tsk, tsk. A pox upon The House Of Tupac.

    1. hunkerdown

      Never support a recreational pot law that does not generally permit small-scale personal production and clear gifting. Any expansion of non-market social relations is worth supporting.

  15. Kent Y

    Pace of Climate Change Sends Economists Back to Drawing Board NYT.

    “Awww gee shucks, I wonder why the market didn’t save us again.” This article is a massive underselling of the role economists played in getting us here. They’ll keep going back to that drawing board and wondering why it doesn’t reflect reality. Even when they do carry out real research, they ignore the results when it doesn’t suit them. Steve Keen outlines the whole mess in [1].


    1. rhodium

      Economists do not understand the concept of objectivity as reality constantly contradicts them. They are stubbornly stuck in ideological knots and refuse to see the economy as a complex organism that is composed of people with a vast array of complex behaviors and motivations. Since when have people’s behaviors been entirely predictable or rational? That’s their first mistake.

      The second is ignoring what they claim they already know, that people respond to incentives. Here they ignore the aspect of values. A billionaire may be operating on the level of shortsightedly needing ever more money to have ever more status and perceived power just to try to fill that hole in their soul. That hole is an emotional/spiritual issue and such a person may not be capable of looking out past it enough to really consider the existential crises of climate change or the horrors they create in society via their businesses. Do not get me started on externalities. An economist’s view of the world does not even comes close to addressing any sort of philosophical, psychological, or spiritual concept of why the world looks the way it does. They robotically apply a coldly rational (yet unrealistic) view that everyone else is coldly rational and things are simply “supposed” to work like gears in a machine.

      With that kind of faith how could they possibly believe anything else about climate change?

      1. hunkerdown

        > A billionaire may be operating on the level of shortsightedly needing ever more money to have ever more status and perceived power just to try to fill that hole in their soul

        But probably isn’t, because people who chase value tokens make easy prey and inevitably end up undermining themselves. Nobles and elites perpetuate a class system by soaking up resources that the “lower orders” would “misuse” by abolishing the classes that produce the system. Other elites regularly expel rogues from their ranks when they endanger the whole class racket by their actions, and sometimes whole mini-industries spring up to make it happen (Trump).

        The appearance of “chasing after” is a deceptive ideological misrepresentation of the necessity to “keep the working-class poor” and industrious by exhausting them.

        Idealism is disinformation. “Spirituality” is an inherently elitist cop-out. If people think their feelings of self-superiority are a reason to deprive absolutely anyone anywhere of an equitably comfortable life with enrichment and leisure, they are the enemy. In contrast, freedom from religion solves or moots almost all of the problems that values-based societies cause.

      2. Karl

        Economists (I am one) who try to be rational about climate change also tend to focus on “expected outcomes” and ignore risk (i.e. “tail effects” or the “worst case scenario”).

        If all economy-climate models were carried out as Monte Carlo models with probability distributions for all of the very uncertain variables, you’d get a VERY wide distribution on social outcomes. If, say, you wanted to avoid a climate disaster over the next 50 years with 90% confidence (a pretty low confidence level for such a dangerous risk) you’d probably get a “social cost of carbon” of $500/ton CO2 (wild ass guess). If applied via tax and dividend, overnight only the top 0.001% could afford to fill up their gasoline tanks or even plug in an appliance using electricity from fossil sources.

        That is how a rational economist should model climate change for purposes of national economic policy. Note that the biggest uncertainty in such modeling is the discount rate. Most rigorous economists haven’t the faintest idea how to get consensus on quantifying a social discount rate applicable over 50-100 years. This may be one reason why the Biden administration has quietly shelved its cabinet-level interdisciplinary effort to quantify the social cost of carbon, announced with much fanfare shortly after his inauguration.

        So, the bottom line is that economists should take a back seat in policy making. Climate policy should lean on mandates (like “fossil plant and cars must be phased out by year X”) rather than market incentives like carbon taxes because the tax will always be wrong (and too low to assure climate safety across all scenarios).

    2. mary jensen

      I want to thank the person responsible for the Peter Arno cartoon. Cannot get enough of Peter Arno, what a character. Great stuff.

  16. digi_owl

    “When Private Equity Takes Over a Nursing Home The New Yorker (Furzy Mouse). August 25. No cite to Tkacik.”

    I seem to recall that privatized nursing homes were a particular problem spot during the early spread of COVID in both Sweden and Canada.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      In the spring of 2021, an offer materialized from the Portopiccolo Group, a private-equity firm based in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, which then had a portfolio of more than a hundred facilities across the East Coast. “They said they like to keep things the way they are,” Sister Mary John told me.

      “portopiccolo” of new jersey. Bah Dah Bing.

      Within two weeks, management laid out plans to significantly cut back nurse staffing. Some mornings, there were only two nursing aides working at the seventy-two-bed facility. A nurse at the home, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, told me, “It takes two people just to take some residents to the bathroom.” (When reached by e-mail, a Portopiccolo spokesperson said, “We never made any staffing cuts during the transition.”)

      Seems like simple math to me.

      Bottom line here is that the vast majority of the income supporting private equity “profits” in “free market deals” like these comes from Medicare and Medicaid. (That would be the same Medicare that is supposed to be the holy “healthcare” grail if made 4All, by the way.)

      The feds could end this abuse in a heartbeat. But I suppose it helps to have a senator like robert menendez, who knows a thing or two about beating a Medicare fraud rap, in your pocket. Oops, I meant corner. Then there’s senator rick scott who got a governorship, senate seat, beach house, and ranch in Montana as punishment for his Medicare fraud.

      Oh, hell, just fuggetaboutit. Ya prolly need 60 votes to do anything anywayzzzz, and the parliamentarian might not like it.

  17. fresno dan
    America’s allies in Europe are desperate for alternative supplies of fuel amid the Ukraine war, and U.S. producers are happy to provide what they can. So wouldn’t you know the Biden Administration now wants to limit fuel exports.

    That’s the message Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm sent last week in a letter imploring seven major refiners to limit fuel exports. We obtained a copy of the letter, which the Administration didn’t release publicly. Ms. Granholm warns that gasoline inventories on the East Coast are at a near-decade low, and diesel stocks are nearly 50% below the five-year average across the region.

    “Given the historic level of U.S. refined product exports, I again urge you to focus in the near term on building inventories in the United States, rather than selling down current stocks and further increasing exports,” she writes.
    GASP – it seems as if our noble, altruistc, sacrificing Hollywood stars, who have let EVERYONE know that they are willing to make sacrifices for Ukraine, are being undercut by the Biden administration. I can only presume Biden doesn’t know Granholm is not doing everything in her power to support Europe. Remember, we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty – of course, assuring ‘Mericans have access to health care, if it incrementally reduces health care profits by one tenth of 1% is way, way, WAY too much sacrifice – that would be socialism…

      1. Stephen

        This is classic Puritanism. Let’s suffer on behalf of a cause even though our likely suffering is not even helping the cause. European elite behaviour on Ukraine is well past the stage where it is amenable to rational analysis or rational argument.

    1. Carolinian

      Yes it’s almost as though Putin knew that people like Biden and our Congress would in the end put their own political survival ahead of Zelensky and the neocon’s Great Game. It’s going to be an interesting few months.

    2. Pat

      Yet another fail in logic and knowledge of human nature by the Washington brain trust whose record of failure should have had them s**t canned over a decade ago. Starting a proxy war with the country that supplies most of the fuel for energy and heat to Europe and then demanding that Europe sanction that country thus endangering that fuel…oh wait didn’t they expect Russia to keep supplying that fuel without getting paid for it (fail 2). Now everything might be remotely back to normal even if more expensive because the sanctions would cause Russians to rise up and throw out their modestly Russian friendly government for one more like what they got after the breakup, when Western friendly bureaucrats raped and pillaged the country for everything not nailed down leaving those remaining to struggle even without sanctions. They haven’t done that (fail 3). Meanwhile Ukraine is looting all the aid being sent, which is exponentially higher than the brain trust expected and still losing. (fail 4). And back in America despite relentless propaganda the majority could care less about Ukraine and are more concerned with their wages not remotely keeping up with the cost of food, fuel and housing, causing Biden’s already mediocre approval rating to drop further (fail 5). Now as it continues on longer, Europe’s need for fuel is being gleefully embraced by American based energy companies who see a windfall, and the administration is suddenly realizing that also raises fuel costs at home where people don’t like having to choose between eating and freezing to death and it might hit during an election period and they have very few options (fail 6).

      If the effects of these failures didn’t cause overwhelming and unnecessary pain and difficulties for millions with little to no say in the matter and if we still had the option of some long and painful form of death as a penalty I might actually enjoy these failures. Unfortunately we don’t and in most cases the people who have failed this miserably never pay, all I can do is weep.

      1. spud

        you would have to over come this,

        “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.”

        Bill Clinton Did More to Sell Neoliberalism than Milton Friedman
        A brief history of how the Democratic Party’s turn to market capitalism wrecked everything.
        Lily Geismer June 14, 2022

        “Yet, it came into popular usage in the 1990s largely through the help of Bill Clinton, who readily adopted it. Clinton used it to describe both his administration’s approach of enlisting the private sector to address poverty domestically and using free trade and globalization to promote freedom, democracy and human rights around the world. The phrase encapsulates the aspirational belief that it is possible for the market to do good and to achieve traditional liberal goals of equality and providing for those in need.”

        1. Pat

          In a just world there would be a not so small list of subhuman destructive people who would be hung from their genitals like mobiles over every meeting of note in the trade and economic foreign policy sector and at the opening of things like Congress and Parliment. Attendees would be given a list of their evil accomplishments, a statement of their now unimpressive finances and a warning that all actions that enrich a few at the cost of the public good will put you on the short list to have your finances stripped, and your opportunities limited to the lottery to be this week’s warning mobile. Bill and Hillary Clinton would of course be included members of the Mobile Club from day one.

      2. Stephen

        Great summary.

        The additional fails are:

        7. European (incl especially UK) “elites” went along with this enthusiastically, and I agree with an earlier comment that they cannot have been “bought” en masse

        8. The GOP “opposition” jumped straight on board too, although MIC donations influenced their judgment, but when this unravels now they will be blamed too

        9. Ukraine’s rulers embraced being a proxy battlefield wholeheartedly and Ukraine is suffering the most; although personal motivations here must have been even more influenced by financial gain and the opportunities for looting that you suggest.

        The European elites are the biggest pure non “bought” failure I would say.

        In order of pain the big sufferers will be firstly ordinary Ukrainian citizens, next European citizens and then US citizens. Apart from a small minority doing the fighting, ordinary Russians seem fine. China is the likely main winner,. Way ti go.

  18. haywood

    Re: ‘Liberal elites’ pressured Pfizer to delay vaccine until after 2020 election

    Didn’t they admit to this? I swear I’ve seen interviews with Eric Topol where he all but brags about calling people at the FDA urging them to not give into political pressure to announce vaccine results before the election.

    1. Basil Pesto

      Not sure about that but I do remember last year some GOP social media team put a montage together of prominent Dems in late 2020 expressing Grave Reservations about taking the Trump Vaccine before they were absolutely certain about it etc etc. Then they won. Video is of course the most dishonest medium but I assume it was directionally accurate.

    2. Katniss Everdeen

      So, I must be getting old because this narrative is confusing the hell out of me.

      From the politico article to which Nate Silver is apparently reacting:

      The Trump administration pressured the Food and Drug Administration, including former FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, to authorize unproven treatments for Covid-19 and the first Covid-19 vaccines on an accelerated timeline, according to a report released Wednesday by Democrats on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

      “The Select Subcommittee’s findings that Trump White House officials deliberately and repeatedly sought to bend FDA’s scientific work on coronavirus treatments and vaccines to the White House’s political will are yet another example of how the prior Administration prioritized politics over public health,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who also chairs the subcommittee, said in a statement.

      “These assaults on our nation’s public health institutions undermined the nation’s coronavirus response,” he added.

      According to the NYP, the announcement of the “vaccine’s” 90% effectiveness was made 6 days after the election. Six days hardly sounds like the difference between scientific malfeasance and scientific rigor, but apparently as far as the “select subcommittee,” it is, and “warp speed” is another Trump “crime” against humanity.

      Tucker Carlson, who’s recently been pointing out possible health complications from the “vaccines,” suggested last night that this is the dem’s desperate attempt to distance itself from its embrace of the “vaccine” mandate, and all of the serious health fallout continuing to unfold from it.

      Sounds like as good an explanation as any.

    3. haywood

      Found it

      One doctor’s campaign to stop a covid-19 vaccine being rushed through before Election Day

      How heart doctor Eric Topol used his social-media account to kill off Trump’s October surprise.

  19. Lexx

    ‘In Washington, agricultural policymakers circulate among Farm Bureau, USDA, and industry’

    Couldn’t click on to this page – ‘Page Not Found’ – but as long as I was there and not familiar with that publication, I paged down to see what I might have missed. This one caught my eye from June:

    Instant recognition. It’s also (theorized) to have been where the Great Influenza of 1918 started. The nearest rural hospital appears to be in Stevens County. They seem to be well funded according to their own website, despite that being a very sparsely populated corner of Kansas. Wonder who actually owns the hospital.

    1. The Historian

      Yep, information is becoming more and more available only to those who can pay for it. See Lambert’s last link (the Aaron Swartz article) to the Ars Technica story. It started with pay to play journals, now it has seeped down to the rest of us.

  20. GramSci

    Re: Newfound Brain Switch

    Sigh. More XOR switching. That neurotensin has opioid-like antinocioceptive effects that manifest in midbrain structures that release hormones (“feelings”) has been known for at least 20 years. The assertion that “Mental disorders may result when the up/down labeling goes awry” reads to me like just so much more “better living through chemistry(TM)”.

    The advertising jingle that especially stuck in my craw was how “The findings suggest that the brain’s default state is negative and that neurotensin input is needed to switch it to something more positive.” I’m sure that if I were a lab rat, my brain’s default state would also be negative.

    And perhaps I am and perhaps the Buddha was right. Life is Suffering. Nevertheless, the midbrain structures are where bottom-up experience is compared with top-down memory. I’m sure some drug company will rise to the occasion so we can have buy our SOMA and eat it, too, but this will change neither present experience nor past memory. It will bring us a new and “improved” opioid epidemic. (See today’s Links, op cit.)

    1. digi_owl

      Even the pope knows life is suffering. That is why Christianity promise an afterlife of leisure, as long as you keep toiling in the present.

      1. hunkerdown

        Every leisure class makes up its own reasons for entitling itself to a laboring class. All of them, without exception, are fit for Zizek’s trash can.

    2. hemeantwell

      Describing the brain’s experience evaluation system in this kind of bit-wise fashion is a tad naive. The researcher seems to believe that if you go all the way up the stream of experience and influence tagging there, that will determine evaluations downstream as the higher levels of consciousness come into play. Haven’t they heard of placebo effects? They are caused by researchers, intentionally or not, basically drawing on a positive transference derived from an aura of expertise/benevolent parents/whatever to override the subject’s disposition. And as far as Buddha goes, those benign looking statues are not just there to serve as a mnemonic device.

      I’m sure they’ll get more funding — though maybe less than in the Golden Age of Neurochemical Reductionism that appears to be closing — and the viability of their research program will depend on the ability of the neurological fetishists to fend maintain links with Big Pharma.

  21. Mikel

    “Some 16 million Americans of working age have long-term COVID and about 2 to 4 million are not working as they struggle with their symptoms, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution…”

    Amazing that they didn’t say these people were “quiet quitting.”


    “..Moderna Inc. MRNA, -0.27% surprised investors early Friday it is suing Pfizer Inc. PFE, -0.52% and German partner BioNTech SE BNTX, -1.19% for infringing patents relating to its mRNA platform, the source of the COVID vaccines developed by the three parties.

    The suit is to be filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and the Regional Court of Düsseldorf in Germany.

    “This groundbreaking technology was critical to the development of Moderna’s own mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, Spikevax,” the company said in a statement. “Pfizer and BioNTech copied this technology, without Moderna’s permission, to make Comirnaty,” said the statement, referring to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine…

    …The move marks a reversal of Moderna’s stance in 2020 that it would not enforce patents while the pandemic continued, he said. The company will not pursue patents for vaccine used in the 92 low- and middle-income countries in the GAVI COVAX Advance Market commitment, but expects Pfizer and BioNTech to respect its IP rights now…”

    While the mavens of non-sterilizing “vaccines” battle it out, can we get more info and progress on nasal vaccines with the potential to do more on the prevention front?

  22. Mikel

    New monkeypox cases begin to slow in L.A. County, echoing trends elsewhere LA Times. Paragraph 16: “‘Many people have quit reporting their illness because it’s mild,’ [Troy Masters — publisher of the Los Angeles Blade, an LGBTQ newspaper] said. ‘I’m aware of this from numerous friends. They keep an eye on it. If it gets out of control, they then contact their doctor.’” Oh.

    And this is how the “surprise” mutations continue to develop unknown. Stupid, stupid, stupid…

    But we don’t have any sane health officials that have the desire to explain why they need to keep track of the virus making the biggest debut globally since the discovery of its existence.
    That’s not “feel-good, magical thinking” news.

  23. The Rev Kev

    “Saudi Arabia sends message to Biden on oil”

    I think that this is just Saudi Arabia messing with old Joe again. They say that if Iranian oil comes back online again, that it might lead the Saudis cutting production. But the Saudis want to do this anyway in co-operation with Russia to keep prices high. Also-

    ‘According to Goldman Sachs, even if a deal were agreed, Iran would take around 12 months to fully ramp up its oil production. The bank also estimates Iran would increase its output to 3.7 million barrels a day, but exports would likely take several months to pick up. At best, Iran’s return to the market will have a temporary effect in the near term, because a part of Iran’s oil is already available in the market. ‘

    So from this, nothing is going to change this year – and lots can happen between now and next.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Zelensky is panicking about those trials and what will come out of them. That is why the Ukrainians murdered all those POWs of theirs. The Russians not only have testimonies that will be read into the record but videos as well of atrocities. Zelensky said that if those trials go ahead, there will be no negotiations for peace with Russia. But as there is no negotiations going on anyway, that is an empty threat. You think that CNN and MSNBC will send reporters to cover those trials?

      1. Polar Socialist

        You think that CNN and MSNBC will send reporters to cover those trials?

        I’m sure they’re trying to, but unfortunately Kiev doesn’t grant press visas to occupied areas. /s
        And even it did, journalists visiting Donbass will be treated as criminals and who would believe stories by criminals?

        1. The Rev Kev

          Those inspectors that want to check out the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. Safest way for them is via Crimea and then by helicopter to that plant as it is in Russian territory anyway. You think that Zelensky will flip out if this happened instead of going from the much more riskier Ukrainian side of the river?

          1. Polar Socialist

            It’s indeed my understanding that he has been flipping out for days thus delaying the inspection. Just recently the Russian side agreed that the inspectors can pass trough the front lines to access the ZNPP, since it’s the only way Zelensky accepts.
            Ukraine is not sovereign, if people just come and go as they bloody well like.

              1. Polar Socialist

                A few words about Sanna Marin, if you don’t mind. And don’t get me wrong, I think she’s the worst Finnish prime minister since Cajander, who managed to get Finland into a war. The stupidest is probably Alexander Stubb. I wish Marin would find a spine and realize that even during that war Cajander got Finland into, the Finnish government was smart enough to understand that Finland’s security will and should be decided between Helsinki and Moscow.

                That said, it’s pretty clear that on the video the people sing about an alcoholic drink and not drugs. Even the background song is about drinking. And nobody ever uses the word ‘jauho’ for any drug in Finland. The first (and probably only) interpretation any Finn would have for ‘jauhojengi’ would be ‘bunch of idiots’. ‘Jauho’ here being short for ‘has flour for brains’, a very common usage. Hmmm….

                Anyway, this ‘scandal’ started from a right-wing message board, spread to the MSM and now the Finnish MSM is actually editing their earlier articles as fast as they can. And wondering where that weird interpretation about drugs even came from. And, look, shiny!

                Frankly – taking Finland to NATO is so huge a sin, I couldn’t care less if she uses recreational drugs or not. On the contrary, this is the first time I saw her as something other than a synthetic, triangulating politician.

                Sorry, it was more than a few words. My bad.

                1. The Rev Kev

                  Personally I could care less if she does drugs or is into the party scene. But letting images of it all go to social media was pretty dumb on her part. And I fully agree about steering Finland into NATO being a colossal mistake. The whole country will be turned into a massive military base for NATO forces and the Finns will find that they won’t have much say in the matter – but they will have to pay for the privilege.

      2. Stephen

        I see your point re CNN et al!

        The media’s ability to ignore facts is impressive in a perverse way.

        Spoke with a former colleague today here in the UK for the first time in many months. She happens to have a role where she is right in the middle of the drama associated with fertiliser shortages. That was what prompted a Ukraine discussion.

        Anyway, she had no idea that Ukrainians are fighting in the DPR / LPR militias against the Zelensky regime; nor even that those republics exist. She is well educated and so forth but time poor. This is how our disgusting governments are able to propagate the fiction that they dream up.

        Even smart people who do not visit sites such as this really have no idea what is going on.

  24. Mikel

    “Nate Silver: ‘Liberal elites’ pressured Pfizer to delay vaccine until after 2020 election” NY Post

    Politics aside, I find it hard to be upset that something put a delay on what has been a mass experiment.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Hadn’t realized Silver was a wholly owned subsidiary of Disney now, which he is according to the article.

      No wonder the elections results as compared to Silver’s polls often seem so “magical” in recent years.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Too lazy to find the link, but I recall that Pfizer called Biden on election night after the election had been called (but before Biden had made an announcement). One can only wonder what information was exchanged.

  25. The Rev Kev

    “Russian allegations of rampant Nazism in Europe”

    Just today I saw video of a huge monument being destroyed in Latvia commemorating the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany-

    Considering the fact that the Baltic States still let parades of Nazis annually hit the streets to remember how their forces were part of Nazi SS Divisions back in WW2, maybe they should just erect memorials commemorating the Nazi Wehrmacht defenders of their country that fought the Red Army in WW2. Let them come out of the closet so to say. :)

    1. Carolinian

      The real kicker from the Gilbert Doctorow column is Scholz pooh poohing Nazis to the Russians when far more Russians died at the hands of the Nazis than those taken to the death camps. Making jokes about the latter would quickly get him sh*t canned. Germans are the last people to make any kind of dismissive remarks about Nazis.

      In one of Lord Nelson’s famous battles the senior admiral signaled him to withdraw and he raised his telescope to his eye patched eye and claimed not to see the signal. Our oh so moral Atlanticists all have eye patches.

    2. digi_owl

      Yep, saw people pretty much cheering the demolition over on Reddit.

      Supposedly it was done because Russian speakers were gathering there to celebrate every win in Ukraine.

      More and more it feels like everyone is behaving like toddlers throwing tantrums.

  26. Lee

    “Nirmatrelvir Use and Severe Covid-19 Outcomes during the Omicron Surge NEJM. Paxlovid. n = 109,254. From the Abstract: “Among patients 65 years of age or older, the rates of hospitalization and death due to Covid-19 were significantly lower among those who received nirmatrelvir than among those who did not. No evidence of benefit was found in younger adults.”

    So, young people have more effective immune responses to the acute phase of the disease than do older people. Not a big surprise. But what about long Covid in young people who experience mild or even in some cases no symptoms when infected? Known unknowns abound.

  27. DJG, Reality Czar

    I wish that David Broder over at Jacobin, fretting over Italy’s whiffy centrists, could do some synthesis.

    Regazz’, about all you have to know is this:
    [From Broder’s Jacobin article]
    “Meloni has in the past praised Vladimir Putin but is broadly more committed to “Atlanticist” positions than the Lega, notwithstanding the fact that her party is closer to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and the Trumpian wing of the Republicans than to the incumbent administration in Washington.”

    Both Meloni and Salvini (of the Lega) have attended CPAC.

    Meloni is engaged in dog-whistling with the fiamma tricolore and immigrant-crime videos. U.S. voters will be familiar.

    Likewise, the naval blockade is Build a Wall.

    Likewise, those mythical centrists? Think Kyrsten Sinema.

    Meanwhile, I read two articles about the Mirafiori FIAT, now Stellantis, plant in today’s LaStampa. One was an interview with the leader of the union that represents many auto workers. His diagnosis: The Partito Democratico abandoned the workers, and they know it. The other article had interviews with workers: Many don’t know whom to vote for. Others stated flat out that they won’t vote for the left because the Fornero law and other reforms mean that they cannot retire–their pensions have been put off by years, five, six, seven. To paraphrase one autoworker, Why should I vote for them now that my pension has been put off by years and I have to work on an assembly line till I’m 67?

    Meanwhile, goodthinking columnists write in English-language papers that Italy is inscrutable and ungovernable.

    It’s an effect of too many different kinds of cheese, sez I.

    1. Maxwell Johnston

      As the polls show that a center-right coalition has a decent chance of winning on 25 September, I’m noticing that politically correct Italian pundits are playing the Russia card: malign Russian influence is swinging the election towards Putin-friendly politicians (especially Salvini). Much like Brexit and The Donald in 2016, it must be Putin. It can’t possibly be that the electorate is fed up and wants change. And Draghi is routinely praised as Super Mario, even though he’s just a rich technocrat whom nobody voted for.

      Democracy is messy. Real democracy, that is.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > It’s an effect of too many different kinds of cheese, sez I.

      “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” ― Charles de Gaulle.

      So not cheese. Pasta?

      1. DJG, Reality Czar

        Lambert Strether: Yes, I had in mind that witticism by Le Grand Charles, who managed to govern France pretty well in spite of the dairy democracy.

        Here in [[Undisclosed Region]], we eat cheeses that don’t even have names in standard Italian. In part, it is a way of keeping the well-established but declining local language alive. And [[Undisclosed Region]] has a reputation for being well governed.

        When people talk about a country being ungovernable, they like to imply that the citizenry is deplorable. Yet the problem is that when a country is “ungovernable,” it’s because the legislature isn’t doing its job. So we see turmoil in Italy, and we see turmoil in the United States.

  28. Pat

    Cynical and paranoid musing here, I am troubled by things being revealed in the last few days. Oh sure it is still at the drip stage, but it indicates a trend. Think of it like seeing rodents exiting a building before it collapses. The Maralago raid is steadily becoming a boost for Trump without any bounce back for Biden, the Hunter Biden story won’t go away. And now we have both Nate Silver and Mark Zuckerberg making revelations of entities working to suppress things that might have helped Trump in the election.

    None of this is surprising, we have so many things over the past decade that have shown how hard it is to come by real information. How little choice we are allowed. How manipulated everything is. When the dance changes mid tune, I have to wonder WTH is going on. It will probably have to play out for awhile for an overall picture to come clear, but meanwhile color me distinctly unsettled.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      Pat: Up above, you list six failures.

      Let’s open the seventh seal, the way that major scandals break.

      I was in high school, but I recall how Watergate broke, in dribs and drabs. It took a while for Sam Ervin to line up the ducks and perps–the work of his last two years in office. Ervin was a guy who was terrible on racial issues and somehow very good on civil liberties. According to Wikipedia, “Unexpectedly, he became a liberal hero for his support of civil liberties.[8] He is remembered for his work in the investigation committees that brought down Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954 and especially for his investigation of the Watergate scandal in 1972 that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon.[”

      But it took years. Then the cases went to Judge John Sirica.

      The U.S. justice system was malfunctioning then, and it is just as bad now. Maybe someone will show that he or she has a conscience.

      Right now, there is too much access to too much minor information. (I just passed a thread in which a bunch of Italians were joking about how their lives were saved by finding out in an on-line gossip piece that Dolce of Dolce & Gabbana is on his yacht vacationing with this young boyfriend.) There are too many media, and the beast wants to be fed.

      Paranoid: Well, no, it won’t happen that someone will promote justice. Or? Realist (?): There are still people out there who have a conscience.

      So: Maybe.

      1. KLG

        I had just graduated from high school, but I remember everyone telling me that John Dean was a liar. Not so much. I was working in a (union) chemical plant at the time, so I could not watch on TV, but Walter Cronkite covered the hearings well. Plus Dan Rather ;-) I have no expectation there are any current equivalents of Peter Rodino, Leon Jaworski, or John Sirica. Or even a gang of Republicans or Democrats like Hugh Scott, Barry Goldwater, and a few others I cannot remember who had the guts to go tell Nixon to give it up.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > I cannot remember who had the guts to go tell Nixon to give it up

          U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., U.S. House Minority Leader John Rhodes, R-Ariz., and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott, R-Pa. I don’t think they told him to quit, per se; they just told him the score, which was that he had no defense against impeachment in the House or the Senate.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > we have both Nate Silver and Mark Zuckerberg making revelations of entities working to suppress things that might have helped Trump in the election.

      Even more cynical and paranoid: “Stop the Steal” and the focus on ballots* generally is misdirection from the real miscreants.

      NOTE * Fully justified systemically but not in election 2020. I think the Clinton campaign was over-confident and didn’t feel the need for insurance, as it were.

    1. Mel

      It had been done, in the ’80s I think, by Joseph Bulgatz in More Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.
      The chapter I remember concerned the Xhosa people in southeastern Africa. A girl went to get water, and came back saying that the spirits of the ancestors had risen out of the spring and told her that if the people would destroy all their crop seed and slaughter their cattle, then the hated British rulers would go back to Britain and leave the Xhosa alone. The Xhosa did, the British didn’t. A terrible ending to a prophecy.
      If the book really is from the ’80s, then yes, we have a 40-year backlog of delusions to catch up on. Mostly about us, if we’re honest.

  29. jr

    The Scientific American article about “brain switches” is full of inconsistencies and assumptions. For starters:

    “A molecule tells the brain whether to put a positive or negative spin on events. Mental disorders may result when the up/down labeling goes awry “

    Really? A molecule tells the brain that? How does that translate to a positive or negative “spin” on events? Where is the role of the mind in this? Where does the concept of negative or positive come in? Or does this crude reductionist not believe in concepts?

    “Rather than just dabble in theories of the mind, however, Tye has long wanted to know what was happening in the brain.”

    It’s good to know one’s limitations. The writer, God save us from science writers, takes the familiarly dismissive route, veering away from things beyond her ken. Whether this actually represents Tye’s understanding of things is unclear but there are indications they share this ill-conceived notion. What is clear is that when the writer dismisses the philosophy, she is engaging in it.

    “she could not find a class that spelled out how electrical impulses coursing through the brain’s trillions of connections could give rise to feelings.”

    No kidding? Has that class been drawn up yet? Perhaps in the personal imaginarium of the writer.

    “Where do we think emotions are being implemented—somewhere other than the brain?”

    Yes, actually.

    “In a recent Nature study, she and her colleagues uncovered something fundamental: a molecular “switch” in the brain that flags an experience as positive or negative. “

    Here’s where it gets a bit more squirrely. One of the definitions of “flag” used as a verb, the one I believe that applies, is:

    to mark or identify with or as if with a flag

    Sooo, then Tye isn’t making a causal claim, she’s making a correlation. The “position” of the “switch” indicates that an emotional state is positive or negative. But then back to the writer’s first claim:

    “A molecule tells the brain whether to put a positive or negative spin on events.”

    So which is it? Is it identifying the emotion being experienced or is it causing the brain to put a spin on things? Those are two very, very different things but this distinction is lost on the writer. She goes from Tye’s identifying a correlation to that process generating an experience without a pause. And still we haven’t explained how those concepts arise, nor how we can conceive of them, all of that is conveniently assumed. The claim boils down to “Physical event X happens…….(a bunch of stuff we don’t, probably can’t address)…..mental event Y happens.”

    An aside: The claims about helping people to view negative situations in a more positive light indicate an ability that’s ripe for abuse. One can imagine soldiers artificially “lightening up” when having to kill civilians or workers finding 14 hour work days less unpleasant. How much of what passes for “mental health” is actually about compliance? A lot, as NCer’s know well.

    To be clear, I’m not claiming that all this doesn’t “work” in that if one were to tinker with these parts of the brain a particular outcome might be achieved. The position I take is that rather than being the root cause of such mental states, these brain-parts and this tinkering would be altering how the brain filters consciousness. This is, of course, an Idealist take. Rather than the brain being the fount of consciousness, it is rather a channel that shapes it as consciousness flows through.

    “In the short run, the work extends the hard science of emotion in significant ways in part through the new tools Tye invents for unraveling the brain’s machinery.”

    Ah, the fetish of “hard”, always a red flag in science articles. It linguistically presumes, for the comfort of the writer and her readers, that a mind-state such as an emotion can be boiled down to some physical reactions. This work, while fascinating, doesn’t extend anything but rather just kicks the can down the road a bit. As for “unraveling the brain’s machinery”, well, given the billions of neurons and trillions of synapses and their fluctuating states, I won’t wait around for that golden day.

    “The work is a technical tour de force,” Maren says. “It’s really pushing the field in new directions in terms how we manipulate neural circuits.”

    See my point about happier soldiers and contented slaves above.

    1. HotFlash

      I have been involved with 3 or 4 ‘events’ that made that newspapers. None of the printed reports bore any resemblance to the event I witnessed. A very interesting one was a Biggy National Newspaper reporting that a (local) Biggy University was using computers to translate a certain ancient language. The reporter wrote the story he wanted to write, but in fact the computer was used for typesetting. Graduate assistants (underpaid) did the translations.

  30. Dr. William Wedin

    Everyone should watch Dan Cohen’s interview with Mark Sleboda (spelled with an “e”) on Darya Dugina’s assassination. Mark is an ex-Marine emigre to Russia with a Ph.d. in sociology and international affairs who has taught with Alexander Dugin and became friends with both him and his daughter, Darya, who was on the Ukrainian Intelligence Service’s hit list and now has a big “X” over her face. Mark is married to a Crimean woman (of all un-Woke things!) and has extensive family in Crimea and Ukraine. Mark is the most knowledgeable and insightful commentator on Russian and Ukrainian affairs I’ve encountered. The interview is entitled, “US Rewards Darya Dugina Assassination with $3 Billion for Weapons” at

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