2:00PM Water Cooler 9/14/2022

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Patient readers, our site issue seem to have been — crossed fingers — resolved, but they left me behind the eight ball. So here is a Politics-less Water Cooler. More to come soon. –lambert

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Arctic Loon, Finnmark, Norway. “Habitat: Large expense of open water on the river.” I think I hear the person doing the recording wading through the water, too.

* * *

Politics

“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

Capitol Seizure

“GOP senators led by Graham slam Trump Jan. 6 pardon promise” [The Hill]. “Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said he wouldn’t support granting pardons to people convicted of crimes because of their actions on Jan. 6. ‘If he were elected, he would have a constitutional ability to do it,’ he said of Trump’s promise of pardons. ‘I would disagree with it. I think there was insurrection and I think these folks need to be punished. I was there. This was truly violent. People were injured, people were killed. I have very little mercy for the individuals that were involved in that activity that day,’ Rounds added.” • Interesting.

Biden Administration

“Still Waiting for Those Biden U-Turns” (excerpt) [Eunomia]. “There are some important differences between the two administrations, but the striking thing is that Biden has reversed remarkably few of the policies that were specific to the Trump administration. The case for continuity is stronger than the original analysis piece allowed. Consider the example of U.S. sanctions on various countries. All broad sanctions on Iran, Venezuela, Syria, and North Korea imposed by the Trump administration remain in effect a year and a half after Biden took office, and Biden has been in no hurry to lift any of them.” • On Covid, Biden’s policy is, if anything, worse.

2022

* * *

Democrats feeling their oats:

“Make the 2022 Election a Referendum on Lockdowns” [The American Conservative]. “s the midterms approach, it is remarkable just how much the pandemic has been scrubbed from public consciousness. One would expect the most important political issue in recent memory to be worthy of greater attention. For two straight years, it was all anyone talked about. During that time, we were told with overweening moral righteousness by Democrats and their media allies that they were justified in shutting down the country, while Republicans were endangering us all with their reckless push to reopen. If that was so, Democrats ought to be running in 2022 on their spectacular pandemic success. They should be shouting their records from the rooftops, reminding us all that they were on the Right Side of History once more.” • Personally, I’d run on squandering Trump’s vaccines, and nasal vaccines (see Inhofe, of all people, yesterday), but I realize that might not play well to the libertarian segments of the Republican base. That said, it’s amazing that Covid isn’t a political issue at all. Just not part of the horserace.

“GOP memo calls for candidates to finish their sentences on messaging” [The Hill]. “The RNC sees education as a bright spot for the party; it warned that delivering a winning message requires more than raging against ‘critical race theory’ and other culture war issues. ‘Focusing on CRT and masks excites the GOP base, but parental rights and quality education drive independents,’ the memo said, also adding: ‘When asked about topics like CRT, Republicans should also talk about issues that move independent voters like kids learning enough of life’s basic skills, emotional and educational development, and parental involvement.'” • Frankly, after the hubbub in Virginia, I expected “education” to be front and center.

* * *

GA: “Warnock, Walker to participate in Georgia Senate debate on Oct. 14” [The Hill]. “The October debate will air on Nexstar’s three TV stations in Georgia. The campaigns wrangled for months over how many and in which debates the candidates would participate. Last month, Walker said he had accepted the WSAV invitation. After weeks of negotiations, Warnock, who had initially accepted three other debates, agreed as well. The Democrat also wants Walker to commit to another debate, either in Macon or the state capital.”

NH:

Schumer funded Bolduc from the Senate Majority PAC, as part of the Democrat’s 2022 “Pied Piper” strategy (as opposed to teh 2016 “Pied Piper” strategy used by the Clinton campaign, that gave us Trump).

2024

“Calling Trump the F-Word” [Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker]. “Anne Applebaum, a historian of the Gulag, has written an essay for The Atlantic on the psychology of collaborating with authoritarianism, with the Trumpist example in the foreground of her vision. It is never the direct appeal of the fascist or the authoritarian that stirs the collaborator, she points out; Vichy intellectuals no more wanted the Nazis in France than the resisters did. The motivating factor is the capacity to convince yourself that your traditional domestic political opponents have become so evil and so out to get you and yours that collaboration with forces who are clearly deranged or evil is, however shameful, essential.” • Hmm. I loved Paris to the Moon, although, retrospectively, the fact that the swimming pool for Gopnik’s young son was in the basement of the Ritz was a tip-off….

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.

* * *

“Voters Don’t Believe You Stand for Things Until You Actually Do Them” [David Atkins, Washington Monthly]. “[A]n unusual thing happened during the summer: Both sides managed to accomplish big things. Conservatives succeeded in their decades-long effort to overturn Roe v. Wade. Shortly afterward, Democrats broke through their internal logjams to enact important policies, from climate change to rebuilding domestic manufacturing to student loan forgiveness and more. They highlighted Donald Trump’s malfeasance surrounding the January 6 insurrection and have increased the salience of the MAGA threat to democracy among much of the American public. Interestingly, it turns out that when both Republicans and Democrats get real substantive things they want, voters are impressed by Democrats and repulsed by Republicans. Back in March, Democrats were trailing by at least four points on the generic congressional ballot, per reputable pollsters. Today, Democrats are leading by four points. While nothing is assured and much can change between now and Election Day, Democrats are increasingly confident in their ability to hold the U.S. Senate and even dare to hope that they might hold on to the House.” • Which would be great, because Pelosi would get another term as Speaker. I never did jump on the bandwagon that the Democrats would be brutally punished in the midterms, even though they richly deserved it. Apparently, scattering crumbs is enough for voters desperate to see govenment function on their behalf, however minimally.

Republican Funhouse

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Fewer Than Half of Americans May Be Christian By 2070, According to New Projections” [The Roys Report]. “If current trends continue, Christians could make up less than half of the population — and as little as a third— in 50 years. Meanwhile, the so-called nones — or the religiously unaffiliated — could make up close to half of the population. And the percentage of Americans who identify as Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and other non-Christian faiths could double. Those are among the major findings of a new report from the Pew Research Center regarding America’s religious future—a future where Christianity, though diminished, persists while non-Christian faiths grow amid rising secularization.”

#COVID19

“Role of scientific advice in covid-19 policy” [BMJ]. “Key message”:

  • Governments claimed to be following scientific advice during the pandemic to legitimise decisions
  • Advice should be autonomous to ensure that governments do not simply seek advice that aligns with what they want to hear

    Transparency is also essential to know who gave the advice and what the government did with it

  • The UK’s advice system was not autonomous, being designed to answer questions posed by government with advisers appointed by government
  • The system became more transparent as a result of political pressure

“Study co-authored by B.C.’s top doctor says 80 per cent of kids, youth have had COVID-19” [Globe and Mail]. “Filiatrault said one of the most jarring aspects of the study is the authors’ assertion that the levels of infection, combined with vaccination, have resulted in ‘more robust hybrid immunity.’…. Filiatrault said one of the most jarring aspects of the study is the authors’ assertion that the levels of infection, combined with vaccination, have resulted in ‘more robust hybrid immunity.'” • So Henry’s opposition to non-pharmaceutical interventions was, well, eugenic. Bonnie, good job. Commentary:

“How Polio Crept Back Into the U.S.” [ProPublica]. “Many question whether the expansion of wastewater testing fueled by the pandemic will last. [Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of pediatrics at the Stanford School of Medicine], the American Academy of Pediatrics’ infectious diseases committee chair, said the recent polio case is another signal that more disease tracking is critical. ‘Maybe this is a clarion call for us to really start building better surveillance networks,’ she said.” • Why, yes. Yes it is [pounds head on desk].

* * *

“Public perception of COVID risk at low point: survey” [The Hill]. “The percentage of respondents who said they sometimes or always wear a mask when outside the home has dropped to 37 percent, down from 71 percent last September and 89 percent in September 2020. Americans reporting they’re at least somewhat concerned about COVID-19 has also dipped, though not quite as steeply: The share is now at 57 percent, down from around 80 percent last September. Of that number, 28 percent are worried about spreading the virus to others and 18 percent are worried about contracting long COVID-19 symptoms. Twelve percent reported being worried about hospitalization and 11 percent about death. Just under half of Americans, or 46 percent, report they “have returned to their pre-COVID lives” — up from 18 percent in January — while 65 percent believe there is little or no risk in doing so.” • That discrepancy between 46 percent “have returned to their pre-COVID lives” while “65 percent believe there is little or no risk in doing so” screams for analysis. If they truly think there’s no risk, why don’t they do it? The headline is more than a little deceptive… And masking is more prevalent than the press would have you believe…

* * *

What if… everything were a “personal risk assessment”?

* * *

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 ~79,500. Today, it’s ~73,400 and 73,400 * 6 = a Biden line at 440,400. (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.

Lambert here: The fall in case count looks impressive enough. What the Fauci Line shows, however, is that we have at last achieved the level of the initial peak, when New York was storing the bodies in refrigerator trucks. So the endzone celebrations are, to my mind, premature. Not that anyone will throw a flag. Of course, the real story is in the charts for California and the South. See below.

Regional case count for four weeks:

The South:

The South (minus Texas and Florida):

Data problems, no doubt.

The West:

Wastewater

Wastewater data (CDC), September 10:

For grins, September 9:

Positivity

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, September 9:

2.8%. Should be a leading indicator, if Walgreen’s customers are an adequate national proxy. Interesting who’s not (especially the grain belt) and who’s not.

Transmission

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

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

Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), September 9:

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

Previous Rapid Riser data:

Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), September 14:

Sea of green!

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

Variants

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

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), August 27:

Still no sign of BA.2.75 at Walgreens, despite its success in India and presence in Bay Area wastewater.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), August 20 (Nowcast off):

Still no sign of BA.2.75. I looked at all the regions, too.

BA.2.75 in Ontario and Quebec, Canada:

Deaths

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Lambert here: It is interesting that the deaths per 100,000 curve — with its curious recent flattening — has more or less the same shape as the case curve, suggesting that a “Biden Curve” would have more or less the same shape as the case count curve, as opposed to the straight line I am drawing for the current level.

Total: 1,076,343 – 1,076,053 = 290 (290 * 365 = 105,850, 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). 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

* * *

The Bezzle:

Yeah, where are the web3 bros? It’s gone quiet suddenly.

The Bezzle: “‘Scary easy. Sketchy as hell.’: How startups are pushing Adderall on TikTok” [Vox]. • Ugh, but hard to get excited about TikTok after what Big Pharma and the school systems have alread done.

Tech: “Google’s ‘Rest and Vest’ Days for Senior Employees Are Over, Says the CEO. It’s a Brilliant Idea” [Inc.]. “With looming recessions and inflationary pressures, there’s growing concern of slower growth and fiercer competition. At the conference, Pichai talked about TikTok and other entrants in the Chinese market. Things that they didn’t have to think about two years ago are suddenly becoming real issues for the big guns. There will be a number of solutions put in place to find efficiencies and weather this economic downtown. One of the approaches just may be a concerted effort in uncovering the resters-and-vesters and calling them out. Or getting rid of them altogether.” • If you think Google sucks now, just wait ’til the coders don’t get free lunches and massages any more.

Finance: “SEC fines BNY Mellon, TD, Jefferies on muni bond violations” [Banking Dive]. “NY Mellon, TD and Jefferies have each settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after the agency found the banks failed to comply with disclosure requirements concerning municipal bond offerings, the SEC said Tuesday. As part of the settlement, BNY Mellon will pay a $300,000 penalty and nearly $657,000 in disgorgement, plus prejudgment interest. TD and Jefferies, meanwhile, will each pay a $100,000 penalty and roughly $53,000 and $43,000, respectively, in disgorgement and interest. The SEC also charged financial services firm Oppenheimer with the same violations on 354 offerings but also filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging the company made deceptive statements. The complaint seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement plus prejudgment interest, and a civil money penalty, the SEC said.” • Municipal bonds, eh?

Retail: “Milk, Diapers and Checking Accounts: Banking Comes to Walmart” [Bloomberg]. “A venture that’s majority-backed by Walmart Inc. is poised to emerge from the shadows this month with digital bank accounts meant for the retail giant’s 1.6 million US employees and legions of weekly shoppers. In coming weeks, the company will start offering the accounts to thousands of workers and a small percentage of its online customers as part of an initial beta test of the new service, according to people with knowledge of the matter.”

The Bezzle: “How Are My Apes Doing” [Eschaton]. • Starbucks, OMG….

Tech: Kill them with fire (dk):

Frankly, I’m surprised the cops didn’t whack the robot. If it were human, they might have.

Tech: “Four takeaways from the Twitter whistleblower hearing” [The Hill]. 1. “Twitter lacks framework for protecting user data.” 2. “US regulators’ enforcement not up to par.” 3. “Bipartisan consensus to target tech, but lack of action on bills.” 4. “Calls for Twitter to be restructured.” • We shouldn’t be calling for Twitter management to be restructured, ffs. We should be calling for it to be broken up, as all the platforms should be broken up.

Tech: “Twitter Whistleblower Testifies About Breaches, Vulnerabilities on the Platform” [SFist]. “Zatko previously claimed in media interviews that Twitter executives don’t understand where user data on the platform — which includes IP addresses and the locations from which users tweet — goes when it gets deleted, or if it gets deleted at all. And, per CNN, Zatko testified today that Twitter collects and retains all kinds of data that it doesn’t properly keep track of — and that executives don’t seem to have a clue what data exists, where it is, or how it’s stored.” • Facebook has the same problem. If Silicon Valley’s engineers really don’t know what happens to our data, they’re overpaid. And there must be some theory that would put the executives in jail.

Tech: “Google faces $25.4 billion damages claims in UK, Dutch courts over adtech practices” [Reuters]. “lphabet unit Google (GOOGL.O) will face damages claims for up to 25 billion euros ($25.4 billion) over its digital advertising practices in two suits to be filed in British and Dutch courts in the coming weeks by a law firm on behalf of publishers.” • I like that the claim in the billions. That seems right.

The Fed: “‘They Should Do 100’: Wall Street Debates the Fed’s Next Rate Move” [Bloomberg]. “Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary and the President Emeritus of Harvard University, tweeted that if he was a Fed official, he would pick ‘a 100 basis points move to reinforce credibility.'” • Awesome. That was our theory in Vietnam, too. The “best and the brightest” are still at it….

The Fed: “Inflation’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” [John Authers, Bloomberg]. “All [measures] except the core inflation measure, which rose but remains below its peak from March this year, are at fresh highs for this cycle, and at their highest in decades. A year ago, the fact that these measures remained largely under control was a key point of evidence for those who believed inflation was transitory. Now, they suggest it could be very much more long-lived…. Some commentators have tried to say that the direction of inflation was still downward, and that the market overreacted. I think such a view is simply wrong. From the point of the view of the Fed, this report could scarcely have been worse, and that means it’s bad for everyone…. ‘Expectation is the root of all heartache.’ So the great poet William Shakespeare is supposed to have said — although there’s no evidence that he ever actually did. But it certainly played out in American markets Tuesday, which saw US stocks fall in a broad-based selloff after the CPI announcement. Overconfidence leading into the day created the biggest selloff in more than two years.” • Sloppy factchecking by Bloomberg on that Shakespeare quote; 30 seconds on the Google shows it’s Facebook flotsam. I think the quote Authers is looking for is from the Buddha: “The cause of suffering is desire.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 44 Fear (previous close: 48 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 40 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 13 at 1:42 PM EDT.

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Civil Rights. “The lack of negative activity has downgraded this category” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 188. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.). Finally, climate. I like “maxium,” because it menas a human is reallly doing this.

The Gallery

Awk!

Zeitgeist Watch

Accentuate the positive:

He’s right, actually.

“Closing the curtain on Norm Macdonald’s comedy” [Spectator World]. “What made his appearances so memorable was the versatility: he mastered every format — the around-the-barn anecdote, the one-liner or the old-school joke. I have heard variations of the moth joke dating back to middle school, but only Macdonald saw the potential to turn it into Russian literature…. A joke should catch people by surprise; it should never pander. ‘Applause is voluntary, but laughter is involuntary,’ Norm recalled in the greatest work of fiction in the aughts, Based on a True Story. He hated lazy comedy that played for ‘clapter,’ but also shock for shock’s sake. That may seem odd for a man who was banned from the state of Iowa in 1997 and took to the Dennis Miller radio show with his ‘virulent anti-Semite’ ventriloquist dummy. (‘My Jewish friend says I should just burn him, but I say two wrongs don’t make a right.’) Anybody can use profanity, but it takes true comedic genius to turn cliché into punchline. Macdonald recognized that plainspoken folk wisdom could surprise in a postmodern age dominated by euphemism and jargon….” • Here is the moth joke (because the setup is both long and grim, I’m going to give the link instead of embedding it, but the punchline is brilliant, a variation of “it’s my nature”).

Class Warfare

I say the railroad workers should strike to prove they can:

Back in the day, I was thinking along the same lines:

My concept was that I would blog — that being my real work — and get my health insurance from Starbucks. For me, fate intervened. I wonder how many Starbucks workers are in a similar situation today.

News of the Wired

Bros being bros:

But not getting whacked by the cops. Odd!

“Consciousness has no gender” [IAI News]. “Here’s a question I’ve been pitting to friends and family this last month: if tomorrow you woke up without a body, would you be able to guess what gender you are?… But my point is this: if biological sex is not the determining factor of gender, and culture is permanently shifting decade by decade and country by country, what is the determining factor? If there is no objective criterion, and the choice of gender is simply ‘what feels right for the individual’, then there are suddenly as many genders as there are individuals, in fact possibly as many genders as there are people who have ever lived, at any time and in any place. So why bother with gender at all? For, in giving oneself a gender, isn’t one automatically being sexist?” • The hypothetical of waking up without a body seems like the sort of thing a Silicon Valley squillionaire would think. It’s just not possible, and if it were possible, it would be bad (see C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength). So that word “automatically” is doing some very, very heavy lifting.

“The Myopia Generation” [The Atlantic]. Literally, not metaphorically. “We may not know exactly how ogling screens all day and spending so much time indoors are affecting us, or which is doing more damage, but we do know that myopia is a clear consequence of living at odds with our biology. The optometrists I spoke with all said they try to push better vision habits, such as limiting screen time and playing outside. But this only goes so far. Today, taking a phone away from a teenager may be no more practical than feeding a toddler a raw hunter-gatherer diet. So this is where we’ve ended up, for those of us who can even afford it: adding chemicals and putting pieces of plastic in our eyes every day, in hopes of tricking them back to their natural state.” • As the proud wearer of progressive trifocals — if only I could find them — I concur that I should play more outside. So should we all!

* * *

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 IM:

IM writes: “More west coast vegetation. This is from Little Qualicum Falls, on Vancouver Island. A deeply cut canyon through a patch of intruded grandiorite. I kind of like the blurred foliage in NE and SW corners, but readers can make up their own minds! No zoom, a cliff in front, no tripod for ultra depth of field, no alternative.”

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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.

115 comments

  1. Wukchumni

    I got about halfway through this Pete puff piece before throwing up, but being the gentleman-swallowed my Munster cheese omelette back down…

    The ordinarily polished Mayor Pete suddenly was casual.

    “Who knows,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Vox Media’s Code Conference when asked last week about the idea of running for president again.

    “You don’t run for an office — well, maybe some people do — because you always wanted to,” he said. “But I think you run for an office because you notice something about the office, and something about yourself, and something about the moment that adds up.”

    “So who knows what the future is going to call me,” he said.

    What started three years ago as a longshot bid by a college town mayor for the most coveted slot in Democratic politics turned into major upsets in key early states and a Cabinet secretary position in the Biden administration.

    Now, less than two months from the midterms, some Democrats are speculating about what a second Buttigieg run could look like.

    “What he was able to accomplish in the Democratic primary for president is unbelievable,” said Joe Caiazzo, a Democratic strategist who worked on Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) presidential campaigns in 2016 and in 2020, including a senior role in New Hampshire. “Mayor of a small college town is able to connect with voters in such a way that catapults him to the top tier in the first two states.”

    https://thehill.com/homenews/3641659-why-buttigieg-is-sparking-2024-chatter/

    Reply
      1. Screwball

        That is waaaay to polite Lambert.

        My PMC friends love this creep, and their neocon buddy who worships Bolton and Kristal love him even more. It’s like dogs and cats sleeping together, thanks to the Lincoln Project (and Trump) IMO. They are all warmongers now.

        How about it Dems – a Harris/Pete ticket. What’s not to like? /s

        Reply
        1. John

          Not being snarky: why do they love him? I look at him and see a person of no relevant experience, a person who has never by word or deed impressed me as likely to ever have the gravitas that I believe is necessary. Joe Biden was in the legislature for over 40 years. He had eight years as vice president and I submit that he lacks the wherewithal to be an effective president. So where does that leave Mayor Pete?

          As to a Harris/Pete ticket? Show me the exit.

          Reply
          1. Screwball

            Not being snarky: why do they love him?

            Great question. I have no idea what they see in him – other than he’s a Dem and for my PMC friends – that’s all that matters (because we must elect dems to save democracy).

            The neocon? That’s easy – he thinks he will be a war monger.

            Reply
            1. Wukchumni

              When speaking in monolingual tongue as we are prone to do in these not so united states, many are easily impressed by a polyglot.

              Reply
          2. hunkerdown

            Owners™ tend to act on behalf of their property rather than their more human relations. The PMC, on average, love an empowering narrative, especially one that keeps the help down.

            Reply
          3. Socal Rhino

            After FPOTUS, I am convinced for many it is perceived class identity. He sounds like people they went to school with, work with, live around.

            Reply
          4. jsn

            Because we’re at the Alzheimers of Dementia stage of propaganda where no two experiences are any longer connected for anyone relying on corporate media and Pete is familiar in a way that reminds these members of the PMC of themselves with all their delusions, its familiar and comforting.

            Reply
  2. Samuel Conner

    Re: “Consciousness has no gender”

    The thought has occurred to me that in a way similar to the question of whether other’s subjective experience of sensory inputs closely resembles one’s own, there is a similar uncertainty about one’s ability to understand others’ subjective experience of their own embodiment. So, even granting that the counterfactual thought-experiment is impossible and not a strong basis for argument to conclusions, I think that the underlying thought (that I interpret to be) that “gender is intrinsically multivalent” might have merit.

    (And as a pre-emptive reply in case I offend traditional sensibilities, I think that one at the very least ought to consider the possibility of “gender-discordant chimerism” in humans, a plausible possibility that the seat of consciousness could in principle be differently “gendered” — at a chromosomal level — than the reproductive anatomy.

    For a discussion of this,

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/216874877_Dual-gender_macrochimeric_tissue_discordance_is_predicted_to_be_a_significant_cause_of_human_homosexuality_and_transgenderism

    )

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I don’t believe that consciousness as we know it is possible without a biological substrate. However, recall that as with anything really important, like sleep, love, death, the immune system, and a long list of other things, we don’t understand consciousness. So my beliefs are worth somewhere between very little and nothing. It is not even clear to me that we can understand, and if we could, I think that would be bad (“If men were angels…”). So I deny the hypothetical on which the article is based. It’s like saying “If you were a stone, would you have gender?”

      Reply
      1. John Steinbach

        As we age the testosterone levels in females increase, while estrogen levels decrease. The exact opposite process occurs with males. As a 75-year old male, my consciousness is substantially different than it was 20-40 and 50 years ago.

        Reply
        1. Tom Bradford

          “Someone asked Sophocles, ‘How do you feel about sex? Are you still able to have a woman?’

          He replied, ‘Hush, man: most gladly am I rid of it all, as though I had escaped from a mad and savage master.'”

          Plato – Republic 1

          Reply
          1. The Rev Kev

            That comment of Sophocles reminds me of the guy from Texas who was asked what he thought about the New Morality back in the sixties. He said-

            ‘I’m agin’ it for three reasons. It’s against the Laws of God. It’s against the Laws of man. And I ain’t getting any of it.’

            Reply
      2. KD

        Here’s a question I’ve been pitting to friends and family this last month: if tomorrow you woke up without a body, would you be able to guess what gender you are?

        Only if I could still speak a Romance language.

        Reply
      3. Bruno

        “if tomorrow you woke up without a body”
        Even a thought experiment cannot assume the impossible, and this is impossible because self-contradictory. “Waking up” and “sleeping” are, by definition, functions of a *body*, so neither can possibly occur “without a body.”

        Reply
          1. ambrit

            Makes me feel like one of the shadows on the wall of Plato’s Cave. Blinded by Enlightenment. As with actual shadows, as enlightenment increases, shadow stuff, or ego if you will, decreases.
            It’s like the Wild West version of Schrodinger’s thought experiment. You face the entrance to a box canyon. Is there a wildcat waiting inside, ready to rend you limb from limb, or is there not? You have to venture into the box canyon to find out.

            Reply
            1. Wukchumni

              My high school football team was named the Wildcats, and while it sounds menacing, is a Eurasian feline about the size of a house cat.

              Reply
              1. John

                I once had to separate two house cats to save my rather meek and mild cat from serious injury. I succeeded but was bleeding from elbow to wrist. Perhaps your football team was similarly fierce.

                Reply
        1. KD

          No, you have pictures of ghosts with see-through bodies that pass through walls, making them incorporeal. . . so you could have an invisible body that can pass through matter. Or you can imagine a poltergeist, with no physical presence but able to slam things around at will. Since its like imagining a unicorn, you don’t have to worry about it being real.

          The question is, if concepts are tools, and these tools have evolved in specific human contexts, what is the point of imagining how these concepts might function in some wholly unrelated and imaginary context (where there are no norms of usage), its similar to imagining what you could do with a hammer at the bottom of the ocean giving you some great insight into how to use a hammer on the surface on a construction job. Even if you could dream up some use for a hammer on the bottom of the ocean, it would have nothing to do with how the tool works in its actual context.

          Reply
        2. Lee

          But to imagine what is not is a quintessentially homo sapiens trait. According to Harari and others, this mental capability in the form we possess it dates back to a neurological mutation that occurred some 70 kya. Now, for good or ill, we are stuck with it with some imaginings more reifiable than others.

          Reply
      4. KD

        More seriously, gender is a concept that exists in language, and the proper use of the concept is governed by intersubjective norms of usage. What I feel, historically, has nothing to do with what gender I am. Further, gender bending is demonstrated by aping gender norms for the other gender, whether it is dressing in drag, or what have you, that is to say, observable behaviors. Obviously, you can change the rules to total subjectivity (the way the concept of my favorite ice cream functions), but this actually eliminates the original function of the concept as a tool in society.

        Reply
          1. KD

            I think we need trans-banking. If I feel like a billionaire trapped in lumpenprole credit profile, it is discrimination if the bank doesn’t extend credit to me as if I am actually a billionaire. If biology is socially constructed, how much more so are credit ratings and solvency measures.

            Reply
      5. Acacia

        The hypothetical of waking up without a body seems like the sort of thing a Silicon Valley squillionaire would think.

        …which they probably got from one of the more hackneyed “thought experiments” of analytic philosophy. It’s a variation on Hilary Putnam’s “… but how do you know you’re not a brain in a vat?”

        Reply
      6. Lee

        The “he” in the following passage is the Dalai Lama:

        “Speaking through his translator, Thupten Jinpa, he notes the tendency among Tibetan Buddhists to think of these subtle states of pure awareness as if they lack embodiment or have no material basis. Yet he has come to think that even the subtlest “clear light state of mind,” which manifests at the exact moment of death, must have some kind of physical base. He declares his view to be like the scientific standpoint that the brain is the basis for all mental events. And then, switching to his partial English, he explains that without the brain, the ordinary mind can’t function. So, similarly, without some subtle physical base, there can’t be subtle states of consciousness. “Whether there is something independent or not, I don’t know.”’

        From The Dalai Lama’s Conjecture.

        This conjecture unsettled a good number of my friends who are Tibetan Buddhist adherents.

        Reply
  3. antidlc

    Walker Bragman:
    “Letting COVID rip in a rushed attempt to restore economic normalcy was nothing short of a crime against humanity.”

    And the people responsible for restoring “economic normalcy” will never be held accountable.

    We lost 510 people yesterday in the US due to COVID.
    https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/cumulative-cases
    Yesterday’s data (9/14/2022)

    New Cases: 67,306
    Deaths: 510

    The first case of COVID-19 in US was reported 965 days ago on 1/21/2020. Yesterday, the country reported 67,306 new confirmed cases and 510 deaths

    Reply
    1. John

      I started keeping track of the COVID-19 statistics at first daily and now weekly. The figures for deaths I have for recent weeks is about 3,000. 3,000 X 52 = 156,000. Seems a touch worse than the flu. I’m an old guy, over 85, and it feels a bit like a gun aimed at my head. Granted many things are in that category for me, but not because of the shambles of public health and the deficiencies and inequities of a voracious for-profit “health care system.” One begins to entertain conspiracy theories of hidden motives on the part of “them” as it seems impossible that well-meaning persons could have performed so badly.

      Reply
      1. CheckyChubber

        However, flu deaths are usually very low during these summer months. The vast majority are dying during the winter.

        Reply
        1. John

          3,000 week on week recently. It was higher earlier this year. The total since January according to the site I follow is c.116,900 since January 1, 2022. The greater number of COVID-19 deaths were in the winter this year. Tis is much worse than any flu and Lambert notes on a daily basis that cases and deaths are undercounted.

          Reply
    2. The Rev Kev

      Took a look at the stats here for Oz to see that we have racked up 14,458 dead – all but about 912 since we opened up the country last July or so. Pretty impressive work but at least our economy is doing so-so. It would be better but we keep having so many people getting sick all the time.

      Reply
  4. C.O.

    Re Bonnie Henry’s report on how well her determined effort to get all the kids sick with covid is going… I am experiencing difficulties coming up with a comment that is accurate while maintaining NC’s levels of decorum. She has two books out, the second one clearly intended to massage the historical record in her favour. At this stage it seems to me she barely has more self-awareness than Trudeau, and the BC provincial health minister is a buffoon angry that people keep masking and resisting further dosing with vaccines that aren’t helping as much as everybody was told they would. Meanwhile, at least a quarter of the provincial population has no access to a family doctor and the doctors just got a nice big check for reasons.

    Reply
  5. pjay

    Gopnik citing Applebaum:

    “It is never the direct appeal of the fascist or the authoritarian that stirs the collaborator, she points out; Vichy intellectuals no more wanted the Nazis in France than the resisters did. The motivating factor is the capacity to convince yourself that your traditional domestic political opponents have become so evil and so out to get you and yours that collaboration with forces who are clearly deranged or evil is, however shameful, essential.”

    I read this section twice to make sure Gopnik wasn’t referring to *our* Vichy intellectuals collaborating with our increasingly powerful National Security establishment (though not “shamefully”). The absolute obliviousness of this passage is mind-boggling. I swear, every time I think I’ve heard everything…

    Reply
    1. hunkerdown

      Confessional or instructive, yes; oblivious, no. Consider that the ruling class are constructed of lies and cannot exist in their absence.

      Reply
    2. Bruno

      “Vichy intellectuals no more wanted the Nazis in France than the resisters did.”
      This is a “damn lie.” The whole French Right, which became the Vichy regime, had as its primary political conception the slogan “Better Hitler than Blum.”

      Reply
  6. RookieEMT

    I’m a few hours drive to railroad hubs in the south. Congress saying they won’t allow strikes is a red line they crossed. I’ll start acquiring more gear and be ready. State violence against the workers is unlikely but not impossible in this day and age.

    I will never vote Democrat for the rest of my life… Leader Steny Hoyer can burn in hell.

    Reply
  7. RoadDoggie

    Facebook has the same problem. If Silicon Valley’s engineers really don’t know what happens to our data, they’re overpaid.

    The engineers that build the tools absolutely know where information gets stored, imo. It’s the executives that have no clue, and are definitely overpaid lol. If there is no framework requirement and/or no auditing requirement there is no need for the executives to occupy themselves trying to find out. A good example of a framework requiring auditing is the PCI standard applied to any vendor that takes customer card info.

    If there is no applicable framework or a framework exists but is unenforced, than you get situations where some junior engineer thinks its a good idea to just store passwords in plaintext in a CSV and forgets to lock down the cloud storage. Or maybe they hard code the password into their code as a variable, in plaintext. Cause why not, no one is telling them not to, and it’s easy. “I was just using it for testing what’s the big deal?”
    You’ll recall the time the DoD contractor stored all the spies resumes in a publicly available amazon bucket for anyone who wanted to just go download it because they forgot to click the little button making it private.

    The enforcement of a framework forces an organization to have good internal processes and reviews. It’s not the auditors that necessarily find anything, it’s that the organization doesn’t want the auditors to find something, so the org makes an effort to do things that conform to the requirements of the standards.

    I found that whistleblowers complaints totally believable and twitters response laughable.

    Reply
    1. hunkerdown

      The engineers that build the tools absolutely know where information gets stored, imo

      But they might not be there anymore. If they are, they might have long forgotten what they were doing on some one-off project that is no longer their problem once the unit tests pass. NoSQL databases’ loose or open schemata encourage ad-hoc data hoarding.

      Such facilities are very helpful in performant deployment of new user-facing functionality, such as adding edit history to a tweet without revising every tweet already in the system, but they also attract clutter and, absent forethought, erstwhile wanted or needed data requires more effort and time to purge. I think the usual social media “framework,” in the European legalistic sense of the term, is the NSA’s “Collect It All” framework, because you never know what a client wants you to monetize tomorrow.

      Agree, Mudge is perfectly plausible on this one. I would be very, very interested to know if the unnamed foreign country is the one we think it is. The CEO’s response “what is the problem if we have more?” would be a lot more interesting in that context.

      Reply
    2. Acacia

      Yep. The engineers absolutely know. Given that it’s Twitter, none of the horrible security lapses @RoadDoggie describes would be surprising.

      Interesting that the focus of the hearing/article seems to be on data privacy, and on “foreign operatives”. Never mind how many Langley spooks are on the team. Having all those IP addresses could be useful for things like targeting drone strikes.

      And I’d still like to know how many bots are on Twitter, and who is using them for astroturfing.

      Reply
  8. Chas

    Re: Myopia-

    There is a small, but not small enough to be ignored, community of people who claim to have reversed (in some cases, completely) myopia via a combination of: vision habit changes (reducing up close / screen time, and not wearing full distance-corrected Rx for up close), and slowly reducing prescription strength over time. The theory being that progressively worsening myopia (which most myopia sufferers experience), is caused by a lengthening of the eyeball in response to over-corrective Rx lenses for up-close work in a vicious cycle that repeats over time, and that this lengthening can be reversed by “challenging” the eye with slightly under-corrective lenses. Naturally the mainstream medical establishment holds that this eyeball lengthening is irreversible.

    Fascinating idea if true, and there is enough anecdotal evidence to at least warrant further study, but of course it will never be studied in earnest given the threat to the highly recurring nature of optometry industry revenues (an industry which already took a big hit when the likes of Warby Parker showed up to take a battle axe to rx eyewear retail margins).

    Endmyopia.org is probably the largest community (albeit with a kooky founder who has become kookier as he has sought desperately to monetize “his” method), but there are others. http://www.losetheglasses.org has a solid summary of the theory and methods as well.

    Reply
    1. Objective Ace

      That is interesting — as someone who has terrible eye site, I’ve wondered how its possible for evolution to diverge that quickly. 200 years ago I would have aboslutely died before child bearing age without corrective lenses

      Reply
    2. CanCyn

      I have a friend whose mother’s myopia was found to have lessened quite a bit one year at her annual eye exam. We were calling her Wolverine. When I asked my optometrist about it, he said it is not unusual for myopia to lessen with age. He said, it gets worse as we age (I remember when my myopia first kicked in worrying that I was going blind the way my prescription needed strengthening several exams in a row), then it sometimes get better. Reading what Chas has said now makes me wonder if that phenomenon has more to with initial over-prescribing.
      My yoga teacher encourages us to do the class without our glasses on and we occasionally do some eye muscle exercises*. I also occasionally go for a walk without my glasses on or sit outside and gaze afar without my glasses. I don’t know how much it helps but it is pleasant not to have my glasses on all the time and it doesn’t seem to hurt.
      *If they’re of interest, eye muscle exercises include:
      Do each several times
      ~ slowly look up, then down, then left, then right as far as you can without moving your head.
      ~Keeping your eye on a point to the right while slowly turning head left without moving eyes to the left, focus on that same point to the right, then do the opposite left to right
      ~Look straight ahead while softening your gaze and trying letting the peripheral and above and below in naturally, ie don’t focus on any one thing.

      Reply
      1. Chas

        The issue with a friend’s mother you describe is likely a known phenomenon, acknowledged by the medical community as you point out. At the onset of presbyopia there can be spontaneous reduction in myopia due to the hardening of the lens in the eye. Although there may be more to it than that of course.

        Would also note that these methods are very different from merely “going without glasses.” Many of these communities would actively discourage the latter as counterproductive given it leads to what they refer to as “blur adaption,” meaning one simply becomes used to / accepting of blurry vision, rather than inducing any physical changes in the eyeball itself.

        Reply
    3. HotFlash

      No so sure about this. I have long eyeballs and, concomitantly, large eyes. Up to 10 or 11 years old my vision was fine, but in grade 5 I, a straight A student, started getting C’s and even D’s. My grade 5 teacher ‘punished’ slower students by moving their seats further from the front. I had to go up to the blackboard at the end of class to write down the day’s homework. When we finally had a school-wide vision test, turns out that I was 20/200 (can see at 20 ft what normal vision sees at 200 feet) and they stop counting at 200 ft since that is ‘legally blind’. Well!

      Agree with O’Ace, I would have been run over by an oxcart or fallen off a cliff by age 12 w/o glasses. Natural selection is being circumvented.* OTOH, if we big-eyed types make it through, we are pretty likely to breed, large eyes being considered attractive by many. But my eyeballs didn’t naturally shorten back then, nor did my lenses get flatter to focus on my (more distant) retina.

      *DId you know that native Americans with good vision can see 13 stars in the Pleiades, the constellation Euro types know as the seven sisters?

      Reply
      1. Chas

        I think O’Ace is making the opposite point regarding selection pressure. Namely, thousands of years of evolution should have selected out myopic tendencies to such a degree that it would be entirely non-existent as a heritable trait. The dramatic growth in myopia in only a few hundred years therefore cannot be explained by changes in selection pressures; there are simply too few generations since the advent of corrective lenses. This points to environmental factors in the modern world (the advent of broadening literacy leading coincides well here – increasing time spent indoors staring at things a few feet from one’s face) being the cause instead, which is what opens the door to the theoretical idea these changes may be reversible.

        Reply
  9. Robert Gray

    Re: recent (and pending) Fed interest rate increases

    Has anyone seen any effects of this coming out ‘the other side’ yet? — I mean, in terms of interest paid to ordinary people on savings account deposits.

    My oh so cool credit union is certainly in no hurry to adjust those rates. :-(

    Reply
    1. curlydan

      At the banks, no. But if you want to buy 4-week bills at treasurydirect.gov, rates are a little better. I purchased a 4-week bill last week with about 2.5% interest. They also sell “I-bonds” with interest rates that are closer to the current rate of inflation, but you can only buy $10K max in each calendar year, and your money is tied up for a year. According to treasurydirect.gov, “The composite rate for I bonds issued from May 2022 through October 2022 is 9.62 percent. This rate applies for the first six months you own the bond.”

      The yield curve (https://www.gurufocus.com/yield_curve.php) shows 2.47% on a 4-week bill now and probably is close to what you can buy directly from the government for that timeframe.

      Reply
      1. skk

        Re limit on Ibonds- in addition to 10K per person, if you have a trust( which because of the costs of probate people in Cali have ), that’s another 10K. If you have a S-Corp or Llc that’s another 10k for that entity.

        Reply
    2. Mikel

      The goal is to increase the ratio of job hunters to job openings. Can’t have people holding out with fat savings accounts or any other type of savings they think they can fall back on. (and that’s a snark)

      Reply
      1. griffen

        But it is perfectly timed, the economic releases this week. Joe held a victory lap and celebrated the historic passing of the Inflation Reduction Act. Dark Brandon is just not too worried about some middling inflation reports, it really appears. Could just be my reading of the tea leaves.

        Lot of talk this morning, on CNBC, about mortgage demand falling and also the inputs for Owner Equivalent Rents. Could be interesting to observe just how “sticky” residential rent increases are going forward.

        Reply
    3. lyman alpha blob

      You made me check and my CU is oddly, or not, not posting the current interest rate on the obligatory savings account. I do see that my total monthly dividend hasn’t increased over the last few months so clearly the near zero rate hasn’t yet either.

      My ODLOC however is well labeled with a 14% interest rate that I’m liable for should I decide to use it.

      Reply
  10. LawnDart

    Tech (attn. FresnoDan):
    Or,
    Re: “Consciousness has no gender”?

    Erotophilia and sexual sensation-seeking are good predictors of engagement with sex robots, according to new research
    by Concordia University

    The sex robot market currently caters heavily toward heterosexual men. Female robots—known as gynoids—feature much more prominently in media, advertising and websites, and high-end units can cost up to $15,000 US. Dubé points out that heterosexual women constitute the majority of sex toy consumers and believes there is an opportunity for manufacturers to cater to a female customer base in the future as the technology improves and becomes more affordable.

    “Right now, women probably do not feel that the product meets their own preferences or needs, or it is just too expensive for something that does not have to be particularly complex or interesting.”

    https://techxplore.com/news/2022-09-erotophilia-sexual-sensation-seeking-good-predictors.html

    Not complex… …or interesting. I get the first part– no complications is a very, very good thing, but the “not interesting” part..?

    Reply
    1. Karl

      Maybe a better word than “interesting” is “meaningful.” Ultimately an orgasm with the help of a toy is little more than a fantasy-induced sensation (this can also be induced with a living toy, i.e. casual partner). Boink then sleep. How meaningful is that? (IMHO, interesting and meaningful sex assumes a meaningful relationship.) Note, I’m not knocking toys. But women (and probably most men too) may be too practical to put much money into a fancy one when something more basic is good enough…. Still, as the technology improves, who knows?

      Reply
  11. Mikel

    “Letting COVID rip in a rushed attempt to restore economic normalcy was nothing short of a crime against humanity.”
    — Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) September 14, 2022

    And it didn’t restore economic “normalcy.” That’s been gone since 2008. Things were starting to get shaky in 2019 (the sudden rate cuts were for a reason) and the Russia-phobia and anti-China sentiments were gaining more speed. So many are walking around in stunned denial, with “corporate nice” smiles…pretending. Because now there is fallout to deal with it’s effect on worker participation (getting sick over and over again) and the effects of ways the pandemic was used to implement other agendas (mainly around surveillance and control).

    Reply
  12. Mark Gisleson

    I hate to put this in the comments, but I’ve reported this and in all the uproar the typos in the headline and first sentence of this NC page still need to be fixed!?

    “an” and “is”

    Not biggies but nothing new readers should see when they first click in. Feel free to delete this comment.

    Reply
  13. Wukchumni

    I heard if things are going well for the GOP come November, they’ll abort abruptly midterm and blame it on their Roe vs Wade stance.

    Reply
  14. Jason Boxman

    Walgreens updated with new variants; BA4.6 looks like one to watch.

    BA.5, BA.4.6 COVID variants continue US expansion, from late August. Also:

    “So BA.4.6 is a descendant of omicron BA.4. It does have an additional mutation in the spike protein and as you probably know this spike protein is what helps the virus get into human cells. So it also has the advantage, because of this mutation in the spike protein, to have additional immune escape…” said Dr. Sharon Welbel, the director of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control for Cook County Health. “These newer variants of concern, help the virus itself escape natural immunity, or immunity that we have from vaccines or both.”

    From What is BA.4.6? Expert Explains New COVID Variant Now Being Tracked by CDC

    Can’t find the Twitter that tipped me off to this from months ago. This also has info:

    https://twitter.com/tigresseleanor/status/1568590670381580288

    Stay safe!

    Reply
    1. wilroncanada

      Apparently, at least 35 universities in the US are using robots to make deliveries to student residences from cafeterias, whenever students get the growlies during their late night cramming/studying/video games. Have to keep their noses to the grindstone, shoulders to the wheel, ears to the ground, and eyes on the prize. In that position they’re more likely to eat the robots.
      I wonder how many poorer students don’t have part-time jobs because of the robots.

      Reply
    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      About that Food Deliveroobot “forcing” its way across the police crime-scene lines . . . I didn’t see any force.
      I saw Officer Friendly very kindfully and considerately lifting the yellow tape so the Deliveroobot could cross under it.

      Officer Friendly could just as easily have kicked the roobot over sideways so it couldn’t roll any more.

      Reply
  15. antidlc

    RE:”“Study co-authored by B.C.’s top doctor says 80 per cent of kids, youth have had COVID-19″

    Martins said she would like to know how school boards have spent federal money provided via the province to improve air quality, especially as COVID-19 cases are projected to rise this fall.

    Well, I am trying to find that out here in the US.

    I received some info from the school district but I had additional questions based on the info I received. I filed another public information request.

    My certified letter to the community college has been received. They have 10 days to respond.

    I have another certified letter ready to go to the university. I tried to get the university paper to ask the questions and to see what the CO2 levels are in the various classrooms and lecture halls and report the results. I didn’t get a response from them, so I will have to ask the university myself.

    It turns out the state education agency had/has to approve funds for HVAC projects. I’ll have to file a public information request to see what school districts requested funds, how many of the requests were approved.

    I hope I can get some answers soon, so I can report the results.

    Reply
    1. Jason Boxman

      Is there a particular guide that you’re following to achieve this, or did you kind of roll this on your own? I’ve not done this, so I wouldn’t know where to begin with local schools or municipal buildings.

      Thanks!

      Reply
  16. Petter

    >>Wisconsin: Billboard on Highway 35, off I 94, heading towards River Falls: Taxidermy and Cheese
    It was there, don’t know if it’s still there. I haven’t passed through River Falls since 2006. Will never forget that billboard though.

    Reply
    1. Bugs

      Near the City of Wilmot there used to be a sign for a diabetes clinic and funeral home combination business. It somehow made sense. I have a photo of it somewhere that I took while driving up in a massive snowstorm in late April when I was there for a niece’s wedding.

      Reply
  17. Bugs

    Just wondering, Lambert – are you keeping some stuff in the Bezzle section semi-permanently now as running commentary that you’ll riff on?

    Reply
  18. Carolinian

    Re waking up without a body–first, assume your body is a can opener? Gore Vidal said we are all to a greater or lesser extent bisexual and his contemporary Kinsey said something similar. But so what? We all have a body and once you start whacking away at it the gender concept becomes binary indeed. Could be these theorists have way too much time on their hands.

    Reply
  19. aj

    RE: Inflation

    CPI has remained relatively unchanged since June. June = 296.31, July = 296.27, Aug =296.17. Yet they keep reporting the Year over Year number to freak people out. Major market sell-off yesterday and now the Fed talking about raising rates on essentially no news. Maybe I’m missing something. Seems to me the oligarchs are just mad that no one wants to do their crappy jobs anymore so they need to force some unemployment on the proles.

    Reply
  20. mrsyk

    These Covid numbers from June and July 2022 are eye popping.
    “An estimated 17.3% (95% CI 14.9, 19.8) of respondents had SARS-CoV-2 infection during the two-week study period–equating to 44 million cases as compared to 1.8 million per the CDC during the same time period. SARS-CoV-2 prevalence was higher among those 18-24 years old (aPR 2.2, 95% CI 1.8, 2.7) and among non-Hispanic Black (aPR 1.7, 95% CI 1.4, 2.2) and Hispanic (aPR 2.4, 95% CI 2.0, 2.9). SARS-CoV-2 prevalence was also higher among those with lower income (aPR 1.9, 95% CI 1.5, 2.3), lower education (aPR 3.7 95% CI 3.0,4.7), and those with comorbidities (aPR 1.6, 95% CI 1.4, 2.0). An estimated 21.5% (95% CI 18.2, 24.7) of respondents with a SARS-CoV-2 infection more than 4 weeks prior reported long COVID symptoms.”
    Author Denis Nash was quoted here on NC (Links, June 2), context was how bad of an undercount is the official tally.
    The prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection and long COVID in US adults during the BA.5 surge, June-July 2022

    Reply
  21. flora

    re: “Fewer Than Half of Americans May Be Christian By 2070, According to New Projections” [The Roys Report]. “If current trends continue, Christians could make up less than half of the population — and as little as a third— in 50 years.”

    And so scientificism will fill the breach? Wherein Sciencificism, you know the materialistic thing, is greater than the human thing? (We’s all only material constructs now. riiight…. heh. )
    Sorry, this isn’t about a ‘particular’ religion for me, and I’m sure my outlook isn’t modern enough. ha. And going on much too long, science is a great mode of inquire into the material world, but it has nothing to say about human spirit and human meaning. Confusing the human spirit with mere materialism – as in people are only material things – no sorry, can’t go there. Humans are much more than that.

    Reply
    1. semper loquitur

      It’s when we delve into questions of consciousness that materialism breaks down. Consciousness is the chink in it’s armor, the crack allowing in some light. I recommend reading “Why Materialism is Baloney” by Bernardo Kastrup, flora, it will fortify your intuitions with solid argumentation.

      Reply
      1. Carolinian

        Why Materialism is Baloney sounds like baloney. I think there can be great virtue in some religions as long as they don’t try to deny science. Genuine science that is. There can also be baloney science.

        Reply
        1. semper loquitur

          With luck, you’ll read the book and we can learn why it’s baloney. I agree religions shouldn’t deny science, there is in fact no need to do so as the two are perfectly compatible. It is fundamentalism, in any form, that gives rise to conflicts.

          Reply
        1. semper loquitur

          Not to my knowledge. If you are referring to the Essentia Foundation:

          https://www.essentiafoundation.org/

          well, that organization was founded to promote Analytic Idealism. It’s a philosophical organization with profound religious implications. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if it’s being dismissed as a religious organization by some.

          Reply
    2. Tom Bradford

      What’s taking you so long? In the 2018 Census 48.6% of New Zealanders declared no religion as against 37.4% with some flavour of Christianity and 14% with one of the other brands.

      Reply
  22. Wukchumni

    My Kevin (since ’07) & another congresscrtter introduced the Save Our Sequoias Act in June and Kev’s long suit is really renaming post offices and reservoirs, not doing anything meaningful, so predictably it went nowhere fast…

    Perhaps because they were saplings when she was a little girl, Dianne Feinstein has an affinity for the Brobdingagians?

    Anyway, she has taken up the cause in the Senate after My Kevin couldn’t get ‘R done, and it has the same name, but I haven’t read it yet to compare bills.

    Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla (both D-Calif.) yesterday introduced the Save Our Sequoias Act, a bill that would protect California’s giant sequoias – the largest trees in the world – from the threat of wildfire and expedite future wildfire-resiliency projects.

    “California’s iconic giant sequoias are facing new and increasing threats from devastating wildfires,” said Senator Feinstein. “Once considered impervious to wildfires, these resilient trees’ defenses are now tragically being overwhelmed by intensifying fires driven by climate change. An estimated 20 percent of all mature giant sequoias have been destroyed since 2020, and scientists predict that without significant action, another 20 percent could be lost in the next three years. This would be a staggering loss, and it’s imperative that we act now to save one of the world’s most majestic and treasured species.”

    “For millennia, Sequoia trees have been a hallmark of California’s rich natural heritage. But increasingly long, dry, and catastrophic wildfire seasons are putting them at serious risk,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “We must work collaboratively to protect these California icons from the threat of climate change and make sure they are preserved for generations to come.”

    https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?id=25BDFB94-3DBC-426B-BABE-A9A92E33193F

    Reply
    1. flora

      Hey, Wuk. Don’t know if you ever read the book “The Last of the Redwoods and the Parkland of Redwood Creek.” 1969. cheers.

      Reply
    2. Carolinian

      Doesn’t Kevin get at least a couple of brownie points for wanting to save the Sequoias? And shouldn’t ancient Diane be seeking out Republican co-sponsors for a bill that would seemingly have no opponents?

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        I read her bill, a triumph of lawyerese with giant dollops of obfuscation scattered profusely, although I did find the bottom line… DiFi wants $285 million over 10 years, while My Kevin was thinking $350 million over the same time span.

        Kudos to Kev for trying, and now get back out there being the rainmaker for the party and make Bakersfield-adjacent proud!

        Reply
  23. semper loquitur

    re: Gender bent

    Sometimes you come across an article that is so patently ill-informed and even silly that your breath halts for a moment as you read it. This article is one of those, on steroids:

    “While our bodies clearly have a gender, some argue that our minds do not.”

    No, our bodies do not have genders. They have sexes. Gender, a psychological construct, is influenced by sex because there are differences between the sexes that inform notions of gender, such as the higher rates of aggressiveness and physical strength in males or the fact that women give birth to children. I’m reading this tripe as I write about it and I am fully expecting the writer to begin confusing the terms “gender” and “sex” at some point soon.

    “if tomorrow you woke up without a body, would you be able to guess what gender you are?”

    Allowing this as a thought experiment, I would say say yes as you would have your memories to look to. Over time, as a disembodied consciousness, your personal notions of gender would probably drift into some neutral place as you would have neither the influence of your sexual biology nor the reinforcement of cultural norms to enforce your gender. Since you couldn’t speak or interact with consensus reality (an ontological, not a semantic, point to be clear), lacking eyes or a tongue or any features at all.

    And on to that confusion I mentioned:

    “Female artists earn ten percent of what male artists do, but when potential buyers of a painting were asked to guess the gender of the artist, they confessed they hadn’t a clue.”

    While it’s impossible to tell what an artist’s chromosomal mix looks like from their art, it’s equally impossible to tell if they are masculine or feminine in bearing. The difference in pay comes about because society values men’s work over women’s, a cultural norm that needs to go away. That exploitation takes place between the artist and the art dealer, not the artist and the art viewer.

    “And if we have a stab at it, would we be being sexist?”

    The confusion continues. The author has already side-lined sex for gender but then worries about “sexist” charges. Shouldn’t it be “misgendering”? If not, then when and where does biological sex come into play? Are our physical selves more “gender” than “sex” to her thinking? What’s the dividing line?

    “Of my five grown-up sons, two said they would guess they were male. But when I asked them why, their answers were pretty feeble: one said he felt ‘too driven’ to be a woman; another, because ‘childcare’ drove him practically crazy.”

    Here the author, and her benighted children, confuse gender stereotypes with biology. Gender doesn’t determine sexuality, biology does. So her enfeebled sons need only glance between their legs, unless they belong to the fraction of humanity whose biology straddles the line between the sexes, to know whether they are male or not. By the way, how do you know you have sons if they cannot determine whether they are males or not?

    “Nonetheless, they had a vague sense of being male, they said.”

    Well, size isn’t everything.

    “This begs another important question, to what extent can one divorce one’s incorporeal spirit from one’s cultural baggage?”

    Ok, the thought experiment is over. This is not “another important question”. It’s a fantasy founded upon a (somewhat useful) fantasy. Let’s stick with wondering to what extent our corporeal selves can divorce themselves from cultural baggage. Thanks.

    “Patriarchy’ was never part of my own experience, therefore, and nor do I imagine it was for most of history, where the men would be press-ganged into fighting wars they didn’t believe in, or sentenced to a life of grinding, agricultural labour.”

    Nothing the author provides in the paragraph before this claim, nor anything in this sentence itself, reveals any sort of an understanding of the full definition of what a patriarchy is. A patriarchy is a description of a society as well as a family unit. There will always be exceptions to the dominant paradigm at the micro level. So while her family unit may have had more equality between the sexes than others, they all may very well have lived and be living within a patriarchy. As to the claim of “most of history” neatly aligning with “my own experience”, that’s just dull a-historical thinking tinged with narcissism.

    “Gender roles within society change according to both geography and history….where the man spends his days decorating himself, creating beautiful, exotic headdresses for a full season of festivals, … the unadorned women do the fishing, feed the community, take charge of the purse-strings, and are ruthless in their choice of sexual partner.”

    If the author thinks gender determines whether we are male or female, as the example of her sons implies, and gender changes with history and geography, how can we say with certainty it’s the men who decorate themselves and the women who do the heavy lifting? More to the point, if the gender roles are reversed relative to the author’s culture, the reason she supplies her example from New Guinea and not, say, New York, and gender determines “maleness” and “femaleness”, isn’t it the males doing the hard work and the females prettifying themselves in Tchambuli society? What exactly is the role of sex? Perhaps we could ask those people about it. I’d bet a trazillion dollars they aren’t confused about sex and gender.

    “But my point is this: if biological sex is not the determining factor of gender, and culture is permanently shifting decade by decade and country by country, what is the determining factor? If there is no objective criterion, and the choice of gender is simply ‘what feels right for the individual’, then there are suddenly as many genders as there are individuals…”

    Biological sex is one determining factor in gender, in that biology influences our psychological states directly and indirectly. The other determining factor is culture, as notes above with her comments on history and geography. Because there is no Platonic, pure, objective criterion doesn’t mean there isn’t a criterion, there is a criterion mediated by one’s biology and nested within one’s culture. It’s fluid, but bounded.

    The notion that it’s an individual’s choice is inane, as one doesn’t choose one’s biology nor one’s culture. More than that, it exhibits a strong odor of colonialism, assuming everyone sees things in individualistic terms. This is an artifact of Western individualism. Thus, there are not as many genders as there are individuals, there are as many genders as there are a. sexes and b. cultures.

    Reply
  24. Bart Hansen

    Tonight’s headline at CIDRAP –

    CDC head says monkeypox slowing in US

    CDC Director Rochelle Walensky says patients and clinicians likely did not recognize this new infection early on, which delayed outbreak response.

    Reply
  25. Wukchumni

    Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, his spouse and two adult children are giving away their ownership in the apparel maker he started some 50 years ago, dedicating all profits from the company to projects and organizations that will protect wild land and biodiversity and fight the climate crisis.

    The company is worth about $3 billion, according to the New York Times.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/14/patagonia-founder-donates-entire-company-to-fight-climate-change.html
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

    Full Disclothesure: My Patagucci gear has served me well since the 1990’s which most of my ensemble dates from. There’s the odd rip, fray or hole here and there as evidence that the clothes had fun.

    Reply
    1. skippy

      They have stated that now the Earth is Patagonia’s share holder … rim shot …

      I see Bill Gates rev.2.0 in the offering …. btw I hear he is having a sad of late ….

      Reply
  26. semper loquitur

    “Just under half of Americans, or 46 percent, report they “have returned to their pre-COVID lives”

    No one is going to return to their pre-COVID lives, whether they know it or not. Everything is different now. Some will realize that sooner than others, some never will, but nothing is going to be the same.

    Reply
  27. OffTrail

    Well, I had never heard of Norm MacDonald before. It was worth coming to Water Cooler today to see the moth joke. He snuck a reference to Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners In the Hands of an Angry God in there.

    Reply
  28. ChrisRUEcon

    #TrumpSlammedOnJ6

    Interesting indeed …

    I keep saying, the GOP establishment is acting like a fighter that was up till the middle rounds and then took a hit. Is this the result on some internal polling being done? Could it be that the west-wing production J6 miniseries hearings actually had meaningful impact outside of Acela corridor liberal land? Definitely something to keep an eye on. ‘Specially with the Marquis De Mar-A-Lago looking to announce for 2024 soon.

    Reply
  29. skippy

    On the religion thingy … wellie the rub is not Metaphysics, Scientism, Royal Science, or anything like that …

    Its Anthropology and Natural History.

    All religions are foundation myths and lest we forget the second in authority of civilizations since time immortal. It seems it was a means to fill gaps in knowledge and at the same time a tool of control over your civilization of choice. Interesting how they were the first Scientists of the natural world as they had the leisure time to examine the said natural world on others labour. Then there is the issue of how older mythologies are repurposed or re-decanted [old wine new bottle] when power structures shift or new information makes past religious views impossible to adhere too – sorta like AGW denial. Additionally most religions will incorporate pagan beliefs when it suits mollifying the natives to advance the agenda of the conquers agenda/s – wealth, prestige, social status aka power.

    I would note that way back in NC days I linked to the occurrence of a gathering of all the major religions in America held in Chicago. The one defining point of the whole thing was not the stuff that divided them on religious matters, it was like the tide was going out and too many people were abandoning religion – that was it. Imagine how so many put down their axes and came together just on the issue on the lack of peoples willingness to be instructed how to live and what is and what is not – as they say. Its almost like an industry consortium of religion was suddenly self aware after a millennium of time, was losing both market share and income derived from it and what that meant for its admin and employees or status/power in shaping society. So what brought them together was not spirituality, but loss of status in society, power, and income.

    It has to be said that orthodox economics has presented itself as a religion in its own right, whilst bastardizing science by dint of royal maths and physics through numerical symbology to hide the metaphysical axioms underneath it all – rational agent models et al. Furthermore the same ideology drives the agenda in response to how covid is remediated as a public health concern vs the established ideological construct and how it effects previous notions about how life is e.g. letting people get of whiff of some other construct is an anathema to the power of elites to control reality.

    So at the end of the day Royal Science is just a means of observation with support in its conclusions of the natural world, until better understanding is had, better yet the past can be refuted, contrary to the supposition that religious dogma is empiric by dint of how many followers it has and how that effects its power to decide others fate.

    Was religion the original app – ?????

    Reply
  30. Pat

    Biden is by far the worst President of my lifetime. While I vaguely remember JFKs funeral, that lifetime really began with LBJ, so it seems it has been one doozy after another. I have often stated that One of many things I could never forgive Barack Obama for was he made me long for Richard Nixon.
    Long before the extent his administration would damage this country and the world running a proxy war with Russia in the Ukraine became clear, Biden had secured the title. His total capitulation to the top donor class by sacrificing an admittedly ragged public health and the public good to their greed and selfishness during a pandemic was breathtaking. As schizophrenic as the Trump administration was regarding Covid, there was actually more real acceptance that it was a danger and that the government needed to provide services and support than in the Biden administration. One of the things that has been absurd to me was Biden’s embrace of vaccines that would not exist without Trump, and my certainty that if Trump were still in charge the absurdity of relying only on these weak and ineffective tools would be another sign of his failure by the very people who currently embrace them as the only tool needed while supposedly recognizing the science. But it is totally understandable for an administration desperate to both move on from Covid because their donors do not want to have to provide sick leave, insurance companies don’t want to provide testing which could be preventative and certainly not care if they cannot limit it, pharmaceutical companies that only want to make a fortune on endless boosters, and most of all both governments and businesses who really do not want to spend money on adequate ventilation. People aren’t important enough for that. It isn’t just war where the majority of the populace is cannon fodder, it is every aspect of our society today except for those wealthy enough to demand different. Why should air be different than water, clean and disease free drinking water has been becoming too much of a drain on our resources for decades, air just joined it. So after over a million dead and still losing hundreds to thousands a week to a communicable disease, all support has disappeared, the rules enacted to protect have been wiped away, and responsibility shifted to individuals with no control over the most important means of protecting themselves short of doing without jobs, education, society and likely food and shelter as a result.

    Still stripping most means to isolate the infectious and essentially reestablishing the work even while ill standard is so deadly, so cynical, so debilitating in the long run I am agog at the utter sociopathic cynicism from our highest levels of government.I almost have more respect for the Republicans who refuse to acknowledge the disease. Within that framework their response is more honest. It is just as deadly, but they aren’t pretending to be concerned.

    At this rate Biden is making me long for Trump. Really I long for someone who hasn’t been a President in my lifetime. President Wellstone maybe. But we would still have to drop most of the top Democrats and Republicans into the volcano as sacrifices all the time hoping the gods don’t reject such obvious whores and concubines.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      This is an epic and very well deserved rant, in the good sense of the word. I said some time back, “If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention,” and it is even more true now.

      Reply
    2. skippy

      Indian city of Bhopal said what – ????? – hate to brake it too you Pat but there is decades of humans that have suffered under neoliberalism whilst a few live the “good life” and now that a few key nations are not on board, its time for inverted totalitarianism – have you not seen the oligarch score card in the U.S. alone.

      Best bit is the democrats are late comers so voting republican is just going old school, Trumpo included.

      Reply
      1. Pat

        It was slower moving, Skippy, but the OxyContin addiction disaster is still going on in the US. And it was a joint effort between industries that needed workers for things that wracked their bodies and pharmaceutical psychopaths who pushed and lied about the drug for massive profit. Some of the psychopaths also look like they will get to keep vastly more money than the relative pittance which might be wrenched from the companies to be spent on treatment. I am not unaware this is ongoing.

        And noting that Trump was slightly less bad than Biden and that the Republicans aren’t telling me that dripping I feel is water does not mean I want anything to do with them either.

        Reply
        1. skippy

          Pat this has been going on a long time and only when it hits some do they take issue with it – that is how it happens. Nothing against you personally.

          PS I agree with YS and thank you for your comment, don’t stop.

          Reply
    3. Ignacio

      Agreed: Biden is the worst US president I have watched from afar. Not alone though. In Europe we have the worst president of the EU commission who is behaving and talking as if the president of the whole EU, totally out of bounds regarding her capabilities and responsibilities as if asking loudly for a motion of censure that nobody seems willing to promote.

      The problem, though, is that next presidents will almost certainly be worse. Trump 2.0 would be worse than Trump 1.0 and whatever democrat or republican that will come next, provided there are next elections, will be worse than Biden. The person in charge doesn’t make a difference as they stop being humans once in charge.

      Reply
      1. skippy

        How is any Corporatist political offering worse than the other Ignacio when the ideology proceeds all of them and the schools they attend spit them out like cogs and widgets to dominate the market of thought aka pubic choice theory in the market place of ideas.

        Sadly the unwashed are not facilitated by such deep social networks that can shape realities because of information arb and making wages to pay rent/s for their betters …

        I raze[tm] my cup at you and thank you for your works …

        Reply
    4. Randall Flagg

      Could not agree more and thank you!!
      But at times (maybe most of the time), I think whores and concubines are deserving of a little more respect than having politicians compared to them. They’re just trying to make a living and get by.

      Reply

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