2:00PM Water Cooler 9/1/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Tooth-billed Bowerbird, Queensland, Australia. Media notes: “Habitat: Montane wet forest, not as viney as some we have seen, but very good stature Behavior: Male directly above his court.” I wonder if the dinosaurs built a whole civilization on bowers, which we don’t know about, because the bowers never fossilized…

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

“Here’s food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels” –Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“You can’t really dust for vomit.” Nigel Tufnel, This is Spinal Tap

Biden Administration

“Harris brings on a veteran of the Reid political machine” [Politico]. “Vice President Kamala Harris is staffing up and tapping a top operative from Harry Reid’s famed Nevada political operation. Megan Jones, a longtime aide to the former Senate leader, is joining the vice president’s office ahead of the midterm elections, three people familiar with the hire tell POLITICO. Jones, who worked as a senior adviser to Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign in Nevada, is set to begin in the VP’s office this week in a temporary position as a special government employee, one of the people said. In the role, likely to last a few months, Jones is expected to help with political planning, outreach and coordination, said a second person, describing her as a reliable, no-nonsense operative. Harris’ team is gearing up to deploy the VP into battleground states in the midterms, and her office has relied on a mix of aides and outside informal advisors to shape some of her speeches and help prepare for the new phase. Jones’ arrival comes amid waves of staff departures and hires in the VP’s office, including a new chief of staff, an overhaul of its communications team, and changes to the speechwriter ranks.” • “Harry Reid’s famed Nevada political operation.” Ah yes. The party faction that send the entire state budget to the DNC when Sanders insurgents won control of the party apparatus. Nice people.


* * *

“Joe Biden to sharpen attacks on ‘extreme’ Republicans ahead of midterm elections” [Financial Times]. “Joe Biden is set to double down on his attempts to portray the Republican party as extremist, hypocritical and captive to Donald Trump’s influence ahead of November’s midterm elections, placing the rule of law and the integrity of America’s democracy at the heart of his pitch to voters. In a primetime address on Thursday night from Philadelphia, the president is expected to highlight a series of threats to the country’s democracy pushed by Republicans sympathetic to Trump. These include the denial of the 2020 election results, the downplaying of the January 6 assault on the US Capitol, and the recent attacks on law enforcement entities such as the FBI, following its search of the former president’s Florida estate as part of a probe into his handling of classified documents.” • Every good liberal loves cops, the FBI, and the intelligence community. The organs of state security and “our democracy” are one and the same, to them.

“House Rating Changes: Five Races Move in Democrats’ Direction, Including Alaska” [Cook Political Report]. “As we wrote in our new House overview, a post-Dobbs spike in Democratic voter enthusiasm could rein in GOP gains, allowing Democrats in bluer seats to breathe a bit easier. This week, we’re moving four suburban Democratic-held seats into safer categories. Notably, we’ve shifted Rep. Abigail Spanberger (VA-07) and New York’s open 3rd CD from Toss Up to Lean Democrat. We’re also moving our November rating for Alaska’s At Large CD from Likely Republican to Toss Up on the heels of Democrat Mary Peltola’s ranked-choice upset of Republican Sarah Palin in the August 16 special election.” • So it looks like the Democrat corpse is twitching. And–

“House Overview: GOP Control No Longer a Foregone Conclusion” [Cook Political Report]. “Three months ago, it looked like a category five hurricane was heading for President Biden and House Democrats clinging to a flimsy 221-214 seat edge. Today, not only has it weakened to a tropical depression, but GOP primaries have thrown Democrats enough sandbags to give them a plausible, if still unlikely, scenario to stave off a Republican majority. Republicans don’t need gale force winds at their back to reclaim the House; they only need to net a minuscule four seats. By our estimates, they are likely to pick up roughly three seats off the bat from redistricting alone, owing to New York’s top court torpedoing Democrats’ gerrymander and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signing a brutal GOP gerrymander into law. That was once a tiny component of Republicans’ potential House gains. Now, it looks like a critical GOP insurance policy in a highly fluid political climate.” • Sadly, both these are locked. In any case, won’t it be great when Democrat leadership doesn’t need to change?

“Senate Rating Changes: Arizona, Pennsylvania to Leans Democratic” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “The overall race for the Senate remains a Toss-up, with 49 seats at least leaning to each party and a couple of Toss-ups overall, Georgia and Nevada.”

“Notes on the State of Politics: August 24, 2022” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “[I]t’s perfectly reasonable to ask — if the environment is good for Republicans, shouldn’t they be doing better in these special elections? So there is an accumulating amount of evidence that Democrats are holding up better than expected in this midterm environment, likely in no small part because of the Dobbs decision. We now have these decent Democratic special election performances to consider, as well as House generic ballot polling that, collectively, no longer shows a Republican edge. This comes despite President Joe Biden’s poor approval rating — his numbers have been better lately, although he’s still in just the low 40s (as opposed to the high 30s).” • I would love to see the Democrats get severely punished, as in defeated so badly that the leadership is completely purged. Readers will, however, recall — hopefully I don’t have a brainworm drilling, unseen, into the back of my neck when I say this — that I never climbed on the bandwagon that said they actually would.

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AK: “Democrat Mary Peltola wins special U.S. House election, will be first Alaska Native elected to Congress” [Anchorage Daily News]. “Peltola topped Republican former Gov. Sarah Palin after ballots were tallied and votes for third-place GOP candidate Nick Begich III were redistributed to his supporters’ second choices. Peltola, a Yup’ik former state lawmaker who calls Bethel home, is now slated to be the first woman to hold Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat…. It is an outcome largely seen as an upset… The special election, held Aug. 16 with mail-in ballots counted over the past two weeks and the ranked choice standings announced Wednesday, determines who will serve out the remainder of Young’s term, which ends in January. Another election in November will determine who holds the seat for the full two-year term that begins in January. Peltola, Palin and Begich said after results were announced Wednesday that they intend to remain in the November race.” • Meanwhile, the Democrats, left for dead just a few months ago, have actually gained a seat in the House, albeit temporarily. Peltola comments:

I love “pro-fish.” More of us should be pro-fish.

PA: “Dr. Oz Said Abortion at Any Stage of Pregnancy Is Murder, Backtracking on Previous Position” [Jezebel]. The deck: “The Pennsylvania Senate candidate was defending Roe v. Wade as recently as three years ago before going full MAGA to run as a Republican.”

PA: Senior politics reporter, NBC:

Well, at least they’re not going into pull-the-wings-off-flies mode, as they so often do.

PA: “Pennsylvania’s Key Election Contests Are Too Close for Comfort” [The Liberal Patriot]. “For his part, Trump travels to northeastern Pennsylvania on Saturday to appear at a rally with GOP candidates in what Trump’s ‘Save America’ political action committee called ‘the entire Pennsylvania Trump ticket,’ an indication of just how much Trumpism continues to dominate the Republican Party in Pennsylvania. The 2022 midterm elections are just 9 ½ weeks away, a lifetime in politics, especially in a place like Pennsylvania where the statewide political pendulum can swing from blue to red dramatically in a short period of time. For example, the 1991 special U.S. Senate election saw a +50-point swing in the span of a few short months. With good reason Biden and Trump are focusing on Pennsylvania: the outcomes in U.S. Senate and House races could help decide which party controls Congress in 2023-2024. Who wins the governor’s race could impact how the 2024 elections are managed at a time when Trump and some of his backers continue to question the legitimacy of the 2020 elections.”

Democrats en Déshabillé

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

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

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

I have written of my disappointment that Bordieu’s Forms of Capital is nothing like The Bearded One’s Capital; it is, in fact, much more like a fabulously sophisticated and rigorous form of the media critique. So I finally took the bit between my teeth and ordered both Classification Struggles and Habitus and Field (from the Book Depository which although Amazon-owned, sigh, is not Amazon; they actually have customer service!). In Classification Struggles, Bordieu lays out his whole program starting on page one, and so I feel I am starting from first principles with his methods. I believe we have some Bordieu stans in the readership, so I would appreciate any help they can give in bringing me up to speed.

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Realignment and Legitimacy

“Federal judge allows lawsuit over dead people on Michigan voter rolls to move forward” [Detroit News]. “A federal judge has rejected Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s effort to dismiss a case challenging Michigan’s maintenance of its voter rolls when it comes to removing dead people. U.S. District Court Judge Jane Beckering ruled last week against Benson’s motion to dismiss the case based largely on procedural bars she felt the plaintiff, Public Interest Legal Foundation, had met while filing the suit. The judge has not yet ruled on the merit of claims, which allege Michigan at one point had nearly 26,000 dead voters still on its rolls.”

Obama Legacy


• CDC’s site is down again:

How am I supposed to do my daily personal risk assessment homework without any data? And speaking of “personal risk assessments”:

Thanks, liberals! No need to mask up for your conferences, no indeedy! And although I’m pressed temporally, and so don’t have time to create a sociopath of the day award, a special shout-out to David Leonhardt, liberel icon, from whose daily mailer the above chart was taken:

A million corpses, and Leonhardt thinks “many liberal” took covid “too seriously” [bangs head on desk]. As for the liberal brainworms that turned public health measures into partisan signifiers, I can’t even. I thought it was only right-wing lunatics who did that! How wrong I was. And the focus on “[my personal] convenience” is a ***chef’s kiss.*** It’s unbelievable — rather, all-too-believable — that Leonhardt lets this moral vacuity pass as a mere data point, without comment, or indeed excoriation. (“The inconvenience of wearing a seatbelt is more than worth it to have people think I’m not a conservative.” “The inconvenience of wearing a condom is more than worth it to have people think I’m not a conservative.” And so forth.)

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• A collection of useful tips. Thread:

* * *

• ”New data shows long Covid is keeping as many as 4 million people out of work” [Brookings Institution]. “The Census Bureau’s June to July 2022 HPS survey found that 16.3 million people (around 8%) of working-age Americans currently have long Covid.[1] This report uses HPS data rather than Current Population Survey (CPS) data—which is generally more robust—because the HPS asks questions specific to long Covid, and the CPS does not. The CPS asks about six specific manifestations of disability, which will likely identify some cases of long Covid, but almost certainly not all.[2] A recent Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis study corroborates the HPS figure. Using a longitudinal survey, it found that 24.1% of people who have contracted COVID-19 experienced symptoms for three months or more, which the author defined as long Covid.[3] And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70% of Americans have contracted COVID-19. If 24.1% of them have had long Covid, 34 million working-age Americans have, at some point, had long Covid. The Minneapolis Fed study found that 50% of respondents had recovered from long Covid. If we exclude that 50%, we are left with around 17 million people who may currently have long Covid—very near the HPS estimate of 16.3 million.[4]…. Using the Minneapolis Fed, TUC, and Lancet data on extent of work reductions gives us 2 million, 3 million, and 4 million full-time equivalent workers out of the labor force due to long Covid, respectively. The midpoint of this range—3 million full-time equivalent workers—is 1.8% of the entire U.S. civilian labor force.[5].” • A critique:

Whatever. Isn’t the real question why “a single Brookings think tanker” is putting together this rather important number? Instead of, for example, a First World government like our own?

• Hat tip CDC for saying you can leave quarantine after five days with no test (1):

• Hat tip CDC for saying you can leave quarantine after five days with no test (2):

* * *

• Maskstravaganza: From a former Surgeon General of the United States:

Because hospital infection control departments have (a) a lot of institutional power and (b) brain worms?

• Maskstravaganza: Masks as fashion items once more:

This isn’t a mask I’d wear; I think we need to get away from the lapidary, and work on the construction of the mask itself, as a fashion designer would. Why not, for example, spherical, transparent space helmets? (“André Courrèges released his Moon Girl collection, including white go-go boots and tall, spherical hats, in the spring of 1964″)

I’ll pass on the go-go boots. But the space helmet is pretty neat!

* * *

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

* * *

Case Count

Case count for the United States:

Cases are undercounted, one source saying by a factor of six, Gottlieb thinking we only pick up one in seven or eight.) Hence, I take the nominal case count and multiply it by six to approximate the real level of cases, and draw the DNC-blue “Biden Line” at that point. The previous count was ~88,700. Today, it’s ~87,550 and 87,550 * 6 = a Biden line at 525,300 per day. (Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out.) The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises. If you look at the Fauci line, you will see that despite the bleating and yammering about Covid being “over,” we have only just recently reached the (nominal) case level of November 1, 2021, and we are very far from that of July 1, 2021. And the real level is much worse.

Regional case count for four weeks:

The South:

Florida and Texas to resume their dance, though Texas is a little coy.

The South (minus Texas and Florida):

The West:

California on a “high plateau”?


SITE DOWN Wastewater data (CDC), August 27:

Very unhappy with the grey dots in California, or virtually no dots in Texas and Florida. We have no check on case numbers in critical states.

For grins, August 23:

What I’m really worried about is an increase in grey dots (“no recent data”). because that would mean the effort is being shut down or defunded.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, September 1:

-2.0%. The downward trend inside the red circle is actually encouraging.


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

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

This is actually improving. More yellow in the Plains states and the Mountain states.

NOT UPDATED Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), August 30:

I suppose that if case counts are indeed level, it’s likely there would be few rapid risers.

Previous Rapid Riser data:

NOT UPDATED Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), August 30:

Lots of green, which should make the hospital-centric goons at the Centers for Disease happy. Then again, Light Green is trending down, and Dark Green is straight down. What I would like to see is a lot of Dark Green. But I’m not.

NOTE: Rapid Riser and Hospitalization data are updated Wednesdays and Fridays.


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

Lambert here: The last real — i.e., not modeled — data from CDC is August 6. That’s such a ginormous derelection I don’t even know what to say. Basic disrespect for honest, hardworking Americans trying to make their “personal risk assessments.” How on earth are people supposed to do that without variant data? Do the morons at CDC think BA.5 is going to be the last?

Variant data, national (Walgreens), August 20:

Still no sign of BA2.75 at Walgreens, despite its success in India and presence in Bay Area wastewater.

SITE DOWN Variant data, national (CDC), August 6 (Nowcast off):

No sign of BA2.75 as yet.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,071,420 – 1,069,748 = 1,672 (1,672 * 365 = 610, 280, which is today’s LivingWith™* number (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, thought they can talk themselves into anything. Fluctuates quite a bit, but even the low numbers are bad). Rather a lot; maybe CDC found some deaths in a drawer. I have added an anti-triumphalist black Fauci Line. It’s nice that for deaths I have a simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits decreased by 5 thousand to 232 thousand in the week ended August 27th from a downwardly revised 237 thousand in the previous period and well below the market estimate of 248 thousand. It was the lowest level for initial claims since the week ending June 25th, pointing to tight labour conditions even in an economic growth slowdown.”

Employment Situation: “United States Challenger Job Cuts” [Trading Economics]. “US-based companies announced plans to cut 20,485 jobs in August of 2022. It is the lowest reading in six months.”

Manufacturing: “United States ISM Purchasing Managers Index (PMI)” [Trading Economics]. “The ISM Manufacturing PMI was steady at 52.8 in August of 2022, the same as in July, and close to 53 in June. Figures beat market forecasts of 52, but still pointed to low levels of factory growth not seen since June 2020. New orders returned to expansion (51.3 vs 48), supplier deliveries remain at appropriate tension levels (55.1 vs 55.2) and prices softened again (52.5 vs 60), reflecting movement toward supply/demand balance. Meanwhile, employment rebounded (54.2 vs 49.9), with few indications of layoffs, hiring freezes or head-count reductions through attrition. On the other hand, production slowed (50.4 vs 53.5).”

* * *

“Real Money, Fake Musicians: Inside a Million-Dollar Instagram Verification Scheme” [Pro Publica]. • Wait. You’re telling me every Blue Check isn’t legitimate?

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 44 Fear (previous close: 48 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 58 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 1 at 1:40 PM EDT.


“Federal judge rules New York can restrict gun carrying” [The Hill]. “Judge Glenn Suddaby of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York dismissed a motion for an injunction blocking the law from taking effect on Thursday, arguing the plaintiffs, the Gun Owners of America (GOA) and the Gun Owners Foundation, did not have standing to represent their members in court. … New York passed the Concealed Carry Improvement Act (CCIA) in July, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a previous state law requiring a proper cause for those who wish to conceal and carry in public. The CCIA requires applicants for a concealed carry permit to undergo 16 hours of classroom training and two hours of live-fire exercises. Applicants would also be subjected to a review of social media accounts for the past three years to assess character, a rule coming in the wake of deadly mass shootings. Additionally, carrying a firearm in amusement parks, schools, churches, subways and other places deemed sensitive by the state would be prohibited. Gun owners would also need to gain permission from property owners to bring a gun on private property. The CCIA also requires four character references who can attest to the applicant’s ‘good character,’ a point the GOA challenged as subjective. The plaintiffs also challenged the sensitive locations provision determined by the state and the training requirements, as well as other aspects of the law. Suddaby, while dismissing the plaintiff’s request for an injunction blocking the CCIA from taking place, delivered a mixed opinion on each of the challenged counts but seemed inclined to back the plaintiffs if the case had went the full distance. ‘The undersigned is left with a strong sense of the safety that a licensed concealed handgun regularly provides, or would provide, to the many law-abiding responsible citizens in the state too powerless to physically defend themselves in public without a handgun,’ Suddaby wrote. He was in favor of the plaintiff’s arguments that the ‘good character’ requirement was based on ‘vague, subjective criteria.’ The judge also disagreed with the state’s list of “sensitive” locations barring gun owners from carrying, which he said includes places that are ‘nonsensitive by nature.’ However, Suddaby did back the state on requirements for training, character references, an in-person interview with an officer and a social media background check. New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who defended the new law on behalf of the state, released a statement Wednesday night saying she had successfully fended off ‘baseless attacks by the gun lobby.'” • Sounds well-regulated to me. What’s the issue?

Zeitgeist Watch


Please, please make this a parody, I’m begging you. Think of the hotel staff!

Class Warfare

“‘Hot Strike Summer’: Hundreds of Thousands of UK Workers Are Going on Strike” [Teen Vogue]. “Organized labor has coordinated a long, hot summer of strikes across the United Kingdom, with close to 200,000 workers from vital sectors fighting for decent wages and fair working conditions. Many are also opposing cuts to pensions, the introduction of grueling working hours, and compulsory layoffs. Dubbed ‘hot strike summer,’ this recent wave has set the scene for some of the largest walkouts in decades — and it shows little sign of fizzling out soon. Since April, industrial action has been springing up across sectors whose ‘key workers’ have sustained essential services since the start of the pandemic: railways, buses, garbage collection, telecoms, postal services, ports, and criminal courts. More are likely to follow, with unions for nurses, teachers, university staff, civil servants, airport staff, and firefighters considering votes for possible action. Why now? Because several calamities have curdled into one. After enduring more than a decade of wage stagnation, workers are now grappling with runaway inflation, set to top 22% in the UK by the end of this year. What’s more, some unions are accusing employers of capitalizing on COVID-19 as an ‘opportunity‘ to push through cost-cutting measures and contract changes. Many workers claim they face pressure to sign away certain conditions that would have them ‘working longer and harder for less‘ and to accept changes that would undermine job security. There is significant public support for those striking for a fair deal, particularly among young people, who are overrepresented in precarious, low-wage work with poor union density.” • Hmm. Perhaps a long cold winter will deal with all this. (Very glad to see Teen Vogue continue with labor coverage.)

News of the Wired

“This is a test of Twitter’s new Edit Tweet feature. This is only a test” [Twitter]. “For this test, Tweets will be able to be edited a few times in the 30 minutes following their publication. Edited Tweets will appear with an icon, timestamp, and label so it’s clear to readers that the original Tweet has been modified. Tapping the label will take viewers to the Tweet’s Edit History, which includes past versions of the Tweet. For context, the time limit and version history play an important role here. They help protect the integrity of the conversation and create a publicly accessible record of what was said.” • Finally (though it will be interesting to see how twisted minds game it).

“You’re Not Stringer Bell, but You May Still Need a Burner Phone” [Wired]. “If you pay cash for the hardware and the service, you are theoretically untethered from being traced to the phone with your bank account, credit card, or home address. …. A burner phone can allow you to be accessible by phone but with a different phone number than your main one. If you value keeping your main cell number nonpublic, but you still need to be reachable to a large number of people, a prepaid phone may be simpler than getting a second line or using a service like Google Voice.”

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From PH:

PH writes: “My Irish plants are as yet uncompiled, but, just for fun, here’s a nice one, Stachys officinalis, wood betony, from Bull Island, Clontarf, Dublin.”

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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. digi_owl

    That prepay burner thing got me thinking.

    How about banks etc provide people SIM cards, under the control of the provider, that can only be used for communication between provider and customer?

    1. vao

      The article on burner phones is basically inapplicable in most of Europe, where even for pre-paid SIM cards the buyer must be identified (i.e. one must present an identity card/passport/driving license upon purchase of the SIM card).

      Besides, very frequently one must recharge the pre-paid SIM card with a minimum amount at least every 6 months, otherwise it gets de-activated and the corresponding phone number gets invalidated.

      Thus, in Europe genuine burner phones (actually burner SIM cards) can only be acquired via “relations” or in shady phone shops that are ready to close an eye regarding “Know Your Customer” regulations.

      And with the advent of the electronic SIM card, burner phones will become even more difficult to get — but e-SIM cards might enable what you are suggesting.

      1. digi_owl

        e-SIM is such a US thing, and pushed by the likes of Google and Apple no less.

        Europe introduced the SIM specifically to detach the carrier from the phone, as the analog NMT system had much the same thing going as cdmaOne/2k where the customer data had to be flashed onto the phone ROM at time of sale.

        e-SIM rolls all that back, simply to save on having to design space for a hatch for the card.

        1. Jason Boxman

          I always think of the billions of these little plastic SIM things in the trash somewhere. What a waste.

        2. vao

          I am well aware of the history of SIM cards. Since Google, and especially Apple, are behind the e-SIM, this will probably be increasingly common in mobile phones. I believe the market will still support physical SIM cards for quite a while though because of the specific requirements of low income countries.

          In general, mobile phones have ceased being interesting since 2014 or so — that is about when their evolution stalled, diversity of form factors and operating systems shrunk to a minimum, and functions started inexorably to disappear (no SD-card, no 3.5mm connector, no replaceable battery, no separate charging port…) while the capability specs (and prices at the high-end) started to inflate without bounds.

          1. digi_owl

            Yeah, sorry about venting like that.

            Just about the last interesting thing in phones these days is the introduction of IR cameras in some rugged models (and the price of them seem to be coming down).

            And yes, the specs, and prices, have come to rival that of a good laptop.

            Frankly whet seemed to happen was that iPhone and Android rolled the clock back by a decade or so.

            I recall a Nokia sales rep demoing a phone that could act as a “desktop” for doing email and such when plugged into a TV around that same time. And now Android phones are sporting desktop modes that mimic Windows when plugged into a suitable display.

  2. MaryLand

    High Folic Acid Supplementation associated with higher rates of Covid-19 infections and mortality, study finds.


    Following up on the link (above) and comment by JAC on August 31st at 5:02 pm.

    JAC remarked that this could be a sign of a vitamin deficiency slowing the folic acid cycle, “like Riboflavin, B6, B12, zinc.”

    Can someone expand on this? Does this mean it’s bad to take these vitamin supplements or that it’s bad to take folic acid supplements as preventatives? What to take and what not to take to try to prevent covid? I just need a clarification.

    1. Medbh

      Maybe this is a causation versus correlation issue. People on the drug methotrexate have to take prescription folic acid with it. Methotrexate is used to treat autoimmune disorders and cancer. People with either of these disorders are also much more likely to be hospitalized or die from covid.

      Perhaps it’s not the folic acid causing the covid vulnerability, but rather vulnerable people needing folic acid supplementation.

  3. Mo.B

    Surprise Surprise! The much touted I.R.A. provision for medicare insulin copay cap turns out to be a scam to ensure fat pharma profits for unnecessary analogue insulin. See John Abramson on Breaking Points. His Rogan interview from last December also a must watch

      1. TBellT

        Gonna quibble a little on one point he made, the capping only applies to the Medicare benefit. There’s still advantage of the California proposal for private insureds and uninsureds.

        Part D plans might also put the California insulin on a different tier to make it cheaper than 35$ for the beneficiary to incentivize lower claim cost.

        1. Eureka Springs

          35 is still highway robbery. Looking at this map comparing prices of several types of insulin around the world. The highest price of the most expensive kind outside of the US appears to be in Canada for 15. Lots of places it’s 2 to 6 bucks. Making it in bulk for a nation the size of ours it should be cheaper to give it out than bother charging for it at all. Needless bean counting costs too much and it’s a miserable job.

          1. TBellT

            Hate to bean count on you but the link is prices per standard units which the cited study refers to as generally a vial. A months supply, which is what the cap applies to, is typically 3 vials, so these numbers need to be multiplied by 3 to have them apples to apples with the 35.

            But the extra cost covered by the plan is going to end up in premiums so it’s still quite bad. Maybe the other provisions will decrease the prices on the current most prescribed insulins, though it creates additional incentive for them to create some other “snazzy improvement” to get a new patent.

  4. Hepativore

    As much as it would be gleeful to watch the Democrats get eradicated for refusing to govern, their axiomatic adherence to the Neoliberal doctrine means that they would only cling to neoliberalism more stubbornly.

    The tautological basis for the Democratic Party is as follows:

    1. If our candidate looses an election against a Republican opponent it is because he is too left-wing and we need to move further right the next election cycle.

    2. If our candidate wins an election against a Republican opponent then that means that we should continue moving further right as that shows that our neoliberal strategy is working.

    3. Regardless of cases 1 or 2, Party members who reject Neoliberal doctrine are heretics and must be either ousted or silenced as they cannot be allowed to deviate the Party from the Righteous Neoliberal Path of the Faithful.

    A red wave would only reinforce tautology no. 1, as Neoliberal doctrine cannot be falsified in the Democratic Party.

    1. nippersdad

      “A red wave would only reinforce tautology no. 1,…”

      Until the red wave is based upon running to the left of the Democratic party. When Trump starts running on single payer using a Mercatus Center study* the Democrats are going to have to pull Nancy’s poster out of the basement again and explain to us why she worked so hard to pass Newt Gingrich’s health care plan as a way to get there. Once the “She was for it before she was against it before she was for it again” story becomes the rationale for voting for Democrats on a range of issues things could get dicey. Just ask Hillary, even she couldn’t get that one over the finish line with the Obama trade bills**, and Trump cleaned her clock with it.

      * https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/8/23/17769130/medicare-for-all-costs-bernie-sanders-mercatus-study

      ** https://www.politico.com/story/2016/10/hillary-clinton-trade-deal-229381

    2. Carolinian

      Guess we’ll find out in a few weeks whether Lambert’s daily portents of GOP doom are correct. I do think it’s plausible that Trump injecting himself may be hurting the Repubs and also possible that they are just getting started and the economy is crashing fast. For Republicans the issue should be Biden Biden Biden and not gee we miss Trump. But it should also be the war and indeed moving to the left of the Dems which they won’t do because they also are hacks.

  5. Lee

    News from the temporarily unwired:

    Just drove to the hardware store for some home improvement stuff (winter is coming) and realized halfway there that I’d left home without my cell phone. I felt a moment of panic, on the verge of hyperventilating. What if an emergency arose? And without Google et al tracking my every move I experienced a kind of existential dread, as if I’d entered the bardo between being and nothingness.

    Arriving at the hardware store sans disaster and seeing everyone in the place masked like me, I felt so affirmed that my sense insubstantiality abated returning to normal levels.

    1. griffen

      Maybe later I can find a Zoolander clip since fashion models are getting a mention today in WC. There is that video clip of the male models / mimbo driving around in their Jeep, listening to Wham and having an awesomeness in their day. Alas, it ends badly in a gasoline fight.

      Or it ends hilariously, depending one’s humor and cynicism.

  6. griffen

    Joe Biden to saunter onto our TV sets tonight, will he be his alias Dark Brandon?

    Extended Two minute hate speech to follow. Trump bad, fascism bad, Republican bad, Biden good, inflation good, Democrat good. Job market is great, life is great. See I told you inflation was just a goose egg per the reports for July.

  7. Lex

    People are designing on the disposable cartridges? They last a good while under this sort of use, but generally if they get wet they’re pretty well done.

    The Dems continuing to run solely about and against trump seems like a strategy of diminishing returns. And I like how they conveniently forget that they believe the 2016 election was stolen when they wield such beliefs like a cudgel.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Thanks for that clip, ChrisRUEcon. But didn’t you hear? You can’t get on at MSNBC, CNN or Fox if your IQ is higher than your shoe size.

  8. Jason Boxman


    President Biden will travel to Independence Hall on Thursday to warn that America’s democratic values are under assault by forces of extremism loyal to former President Donald J. Trump, using a prime-time address to define the midterm elections as a “battle for the soul of the nation.”

    Liberal Democrats truly are nuts. Because having the intelligence services interfere in a national election, or faithless electors try to overturn an election, are in no way an assault on democratic values! Holy **it! These people are insane. No introspection at all. They’ve done more damage to the democratic process than Trump can dream of, and more effectively at that!

    1. Arizona Slim

      The good news is that he’s only hitting one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

      BTW, the number of counties in PA was something that was drummed into me and my grade school classmates. Since Fetterman is also a PA native, that’s why he can snap off the number of counties so easily.

      Pennsylvania. 67 counties. It’s something that we Keystoners never forget.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      The Liberal Democrats assaulted norms and values. If norms and values go, then the nuts and bolts of law and procedure guarantee nothing by themselves.

      Trump and the Trumpists are alleged to have violated nuts and bolts laws and procedures. If nuts and bolts laws and procedures are erased from reliable existence, then norms and values can only grind their teeth in helpless rage.

      Each is a problem in its own right. Both coming together assure the loss of democratic self government at many levels. If we can work on breaking the Trumpist conspiracy against nuts and bolts procedures and laws, we may buy ourselves time to work against the caustic acid bath of Liberal Democrat erosion of norms and values

    3. Daryl

      It’s so weird because one week they’re saying this stuff and the next week “we need a strong Republican party.”

  9. The Rev Kev

    ‘I avoided Covid from 2/20 – 7/22. I took every precaution (I have an autoimmune disease). On July 19, I ran into a friend at an outdoor venue. She hugged me. As we said goodbye, she said “today is my first day out of covid jail!” It was Day 6. I had Covid by July 22. ‘

    Here in Oz they have just reduced it from 7 to 5 days and next month they may do away with any days at all as we move into spring. And we don’t even have a CDC.

    1. JBird4049

      I have said it before and I will keep saying it: just what the f— is wrong with people that keep making a lethal disease caused by the questionably alive virus some sort of social or (God help me with this-a political) scoring system? Where a mask. Isolate if you think you have it (although too many “essential” worker can’t afford to). If this was smallpox or pneumonic form of the plague would they then would be so concerned with their virtue?

      If this is how people are treating extremely basic medicine and biology today, maybe I should be less dismissive of the 19th century skeptics of germ theory of disease.

      Anyways, not that many people are masking at my college in this ultra blue area although they seem to have seriously upgraded their air filtration.

  10. Questa Nota

    Michigan Voter Rolls

    What legitimate reason would there be to keep 26,000 dead people on the voter rolls, other than they really weren’t dead?

    1. nippersdad

      My guesstimate is that…

      Dead peasants make the percentages look good prior to an election for horse race reportage.

      After the election they work just as well when you can say all of those deplorable misogynists were prevented from voting by the mere existence of Susan Sarandon and Jill Stein.

      Ownership of Dead Souls featured in a Nineteenth Century Russian plot by Gogol to use life deprived serfs to improve the protagonists voter rolls social standing. With the Democratic party they just make them look viable long after their death. That may be why reading Russian literature is frowned upon; narrative control is everything and if you connect the dots Vladimir will win.

      Just a conspiracy theory thought. Make of it what you will.

    2. marym

      From defendant’s motion to dismiss:

      Includes the claim that plaintiff hasn’t provided the matching criteria for identifying “potentially” deceased voters and “the Secretary attempted to find out if there was a problem and found instead the voters [from random sample from plaintiff’s spreadsheet] had already been cancelled. But after being informed that its spreadsheet included people who had already been removed through list maintenance, PILF has still not provided the matching criteria…”

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I should look at the voter rolls and see if my mother is still on them. I would bet that she is. I don’t even know if there is a dataflow that connects deaths to voter rolls at all. How would it be done, especially under Federalism? We already know that death certificates are screwed up; who’s to say that the notification process is not?

  11. drumlin woodchuckles

    In that ” who thinks covid is still a risk” chart, it looks like the Moderates are the only group which gained a percentage of itself thinking covid is a risk. Maybe that means the Moderates could be the stub of a new reality-based party-movement yet to emerge.

    If one of their number could figure out how to get them to change from Moderate to Militant Moderate, and could find a way to make Militant Moderation include New Deal Revivalism, that one-of-their-number might be able to create a party-movement worth having, joining and advancing.

  12. Jay Ess

    A concern of mine with the 5 day isolation period, beyond the obvious fact that it’s not enough, is that we may be selecting for variants that keep people sicker for longer periods of time. If there really are any strains that are infectious for only 5 days, we are selecting them out in favor of variants that keep people sicker, longer.

  13. FreeMarketApologist

    Late to: “I’ll pass on the go-go boots.“, but ya know, those are the things that really make it work. Let’s recognize that the sum is greater than the parts, and everything contributes.

  14. ChrisRUEcon


    My turn to contribute …

    This is a great ad (via Twiiter)

    … and it shows that Fetterman’s team when and how to turn the screw.

    “I survived a stroke. Plenty of others have dealt with health challenges too. Can you imagine if you had a doctor who mocked you for it?”

  15. Paradan

    Greetings from Naked California!
    It’s currently 10:20 PM on the first day of September, and the brave little thermometer on my porch is reading a solid 85 degrees Fahrenheit. (omg spell-checker at least tell them how close I was to getting it right.)

    Y’all jelly yet, I mean about the weather not my awesome spelling skillz.

  16. JBird4049

    What I’m really worried about is an increase in grey dots (“no recent data”). because that would mean the effort is being shut down or defunded.

    Why would they not shut down the collection of Covid numbers? It would be the next step from the continuing crapification of those numbers especially with everything else happening. President Biden could just say that Covid is handled and both the Democrats and the Republicans can spew out some victim blaming clichés about lazy workers.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Why would they not shut down the collection of Covid numbers?

      Because leaving a dead system in place holds out the possibility it may be reactivated, diverts attention, provides ample opportunity for excuse-making, etc.

      Can a New York reader explain New York’s grey dots? Since New York is an international entrepot, and has already been the epicenter of one wave, having them not in the system is unconscionable.

  17. skippy

    Regardless of everything … no society … has survived people wrapping themselves – in their – money … for whatever reasons.

    JID – Stars (Lyrics) ft. Yasiin Bey – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTJxknLRDwM

    Eldest son I’ve spoke of before laid this on me tonight … so chuffed that without a degree he is a APS 6 working in a government fraud role and getting much world experience, not that his eyes were not open, but this is the real deal in real time and all the legal ramifications that flow between Gov and Private sector.

    A fathers Birthday gift of just late …

    “I’ll give you your birthday present tomorrow but thank you for always encouraging me to pursue knowledge and better myself it’s helped me get to where I am today.”

    What more is there in life … riches or money – ????? – only reason I cling to this experience is to see them all grow in betterment and nothing else …

  18. JBird4049

    “Judge Glenn Suddaby of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York dismissed a motion for an injunction blocking the law from taking effect on Thursday, arguing the plaintiffs, the Gun Owners of America (GOA) and the Gun Owners Foundation, did not have standing to represent their members in court.

    Why don’t the plaintiffs have standing to represent their own members??

    1. Yves Smith

      The members need to file themselves as individuals. An organization cannot profess to be harmed by stricter gun laws. In fact, they probably benefit because fundraising.

      1. JBird4049

        Okay. That makes sense. Thanks.

        And yes, I tend to think that guns are being used as a perpetual revenue stream. Both by the pro-gun and gun control groups. Whatever one’s views, it seems American politics, such as it is, will monetize it. Feh.

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