2:00PM Water Cooler 9/21/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Saxaul Sparrow, farmland around Ruoqiang Xingjiang, Xinjiang, China. Sounds like I’m hearing farm machinery in the background, too….

* * *


“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

It’s absurd to think Biden misspoke:

Hey, remember when the adults were going to be in charge, and one of them was Klain, touted as a pandemic expert because of his Ebola experience? Good times.

Like roaches scuttling into the light:

Kudos to “Typos of the New York Times.” Amazing what a good copy editor can do.

[lambert nods vigorously]:

So commercializing our response, shutting down data collection, seeking to discredit non-pharmaceutical interventions, leaving public health for dead, and “letting ‘er rip” is the way forward for global health? Really?

* * *

Good for Ossoff:

Seems like a thankless task. Do I have to change my mind about this guy?


* * *

AZ: “Scoop: McConnell-aligned super PAC pulls out of Arizona” [Axios]. “The Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund is canceling $9.6 million in television ads for the Arizona Senate race, confident that other outside conservative groups will make up much of the difference for Republican nominee Blake Masters. The cancellations mean that the GOP’s leading super PAC won’t be spending any money in Arizona, one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country. Its allied nonprofit arm spent several millions in the state on issue ads over the summer. Other GOP-aligned super PACs, including one affiliated with the conservative Heritage Action for America super PAC, will be making up some of the difference.”


PA: “Dr. Oz Pushes Medicare Privatization For All” [Lever News]. From August, still germane: “[Oz bills his own health care plan] as ‘Medicare Advantage for All.’ Such a program could move seniors and most Americans into private insurance plans that have been raising premiums and denying roughly one in ten medical claims, according to a recent government report finding that the plans frequently refuse to cover services required by Medicare. To pay for his privatization plan, Oz has proposed a 20 percent payroll tax, which would ultimately transfer money from workers to the Republican Party’s private insurance donors that have been reporting record profits while jacking up premiums. In other words, Oz himself wants to increase taxes on lower- and middle-class Americans to fund his own version of a corporate-run, universal health care system — one that could come with high patient costs, continued barriers to care, and a windfall for the health insurance industry.”


“Trump, company and family members sued by New York AG over alleged fraud scheme” [Politico]. “New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed suit against former President Donald Trump, three of his adult children and his business empire, accusing them of large-scale fraudulent financial practices and seeking to bar them from real estate transactions for the next five years. The attorney general’s civil suit alleges more than a decade of deception, including billions of dollars in falsified net worth, as part of an effort to minimize his companies’ tax bills while winning favorable terms from banks and insurance companies… James’ suit relies on a special statute for repeat instances of alleged violations of the law, stemming from real estate transactions. She is also filing a criminal referral to federal prosecutors in Manhattan and a separate tax fraud referral to the IRS for the same underlying allegations.” • But what is one lawsuit among so many?


I called out this page because a lot of Democrats are spiking the ball in the end zone over “have your cake and eat it.” But Trusty is a Trump lawyer, and Dearie seems to be in agreement with him. Readers, I’m completely over my head on this, and perhaps one of the legal eagles in the commentariat can make sense of it.

As I said, always use a wide-angle lens:

I mean, if you’re a working reporter, and not some kinda artist.

“DeSantis’s Migrant Flights Aim to Jolt Midterms, and Lay Groundwork for 2024” [New York Times]. “For months, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona have been busing migrants across the country, using immigrants as political props as they try to score points in the midterm elections and bolster their conservative bona fides. But last week, Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor, supercharged the tactic, flying two chartered planeloads of undocumented migrants out of Texas — about 700 miles from the Florida state line — to Martha’s Vineyard, the moneyed Massachusetts vacation spot frequented by liberal celebrities and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The migrants had not set foot in Florida and said they were misled about their destination. The island was unprepared to handle the influx. But Mr. DeSantis got exactly the reaction he wanted. Liberal condemnation. Conservative applause. And national attention.” • If I lived in a poor border town with no budget, I might be annoyed at migrants too, and feel unprotected by my government. And if a city or state wants to declare itself a “sanctuary city” (never mind the Calhoun-esque nullification doctrine implied), then obviously that jurisdiction should take as many migrants as they are sent, and not whinge. But Martha’s Vineyard is not a sanctuary city. So DeSantis was using migrants as props to own the libs, which is a genuinely [glass bowl]-ish thing to so. I’ve taken a dislike to DeSantis. I think his face is too tight, not because he’s had some work done, but he’s internally ticked off all the time. He reminds me of Corbell Pickett in Gibson’s The Peripheral: A vicious small-town Tesla dealer gone wrong. Sorry, DeSantis fans!

“Florida officials made fake ‘official-looking’ brochure advertising refugee benefits for migrants, lawsuit against Ron DeSantis says” [Business Insider]. • Classy gesture! Frankly, I’m still stunned DeSantis had them flown from Texas. Florida doesn’t have any gusanos of its own?

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.

* * *

Join the club:


• They can’t help themselves:

It would be a damn shame if Queen Margrethe weren’t the only global leader infected.

* * *

• ”Nasal Vaccines May Not Be The Game Changer We Think They Are” [Forbes]. This, to me, is the key point. The data: “Both China and India have provided limited data from trials of their mucosal vaccines. Data from a phase II trial of CanSino’s inhaled vaccine found that when given as a booster, the vaccine raised blood-serum antibody levels significantly more than a CanSino intramuscular booster injection. Indian vaccine developer Bharat compared its intranasal vaccine to Covaxin, a Covid-19 intramuscular injection available in India, by measuring antibody levels in the blood, deeming it successful but did not publicly release the results of the trial. Neither has been compared to mRNA intramuscular injection, currently the gold standard for Covid-19 vaccines. Even less data is available on the efficacy of the other mucosal Covid-19 vaccines. Iran approved a Covid-19 vaccine administered as a nasal spray and made by Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute in Karaj in October 2021. More than 5,000 doses have been delivered to the public. Russia’s health ministry is reported to have approved an intranasal-spray version of Sputnik V, but neither country has published data on efficacy in humans. We can always hope for the best with the development of nasal vaccines, but we must also prepare alternatives.” • I do think this is a little bit naive, or indeed disingenuous, about the power structure in the industry. That so-called “gold standard” is deeply, deeply politicized by Big Pharma. Further, the “gold standard” takes no account of the requirements for cold chain delivery and needle injection. Those two requirements rule out billions of people.

* * *

• “Polio is the next front in the disinformation wars” [Politico]. “But unlike the 1950s and ‘60s, when the public largely embraced new vaccines as salvation from a disease that terrified communities and condemned paralyzed children to iron lungs, public health officials today have to deal with rising anti-vax misinformation and disinformation. So the last thing they need is a particularly inartful and confusing expression — “vaccine-derived polio” — to make their job even harder, several worried experts told Nightly.” And: “But people who get the oral version [as in the United States] do excrete minute traces of the virus, which can reach the water supply and sometimes mutate. Exposure to that mutated version is how people ‘derive’ polio. Those water-borne traces ‘don’t infect anyone when people are vaccinated,’ [Heidi Larson, a medical anthropologist who is one of the world’s leading experts on vaccine hesitancy] told Nightly. ‘Where it thrives … is where there’s low vaccination.’ During Covid, vaccination programs lagged across the world, for polio and other childhood diseases. The spread of anti-vax sentiments isn’t helping.”

* * *

• “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over: The ‘End’ of the Pandemic and Long COVID” [Mike the Mad Biologist]. “Over the weekend, CBS 60 Minutes aired an interview with Biden, in which he proclaimed ‘the pandemic is over.’ Leaving aside all of the ways this is harmful, such as ‘why should I get a booster, especially if I had side effects, now that the pandemic is over?’, what I found frustrating was Scott Pelle’s inability to ask Biden about long COVID. In fairness, the entire political press corps along with celebrity journalists don’t ask about long COVID. But it’s getting really enraging. The point isn’t to ‘ding’ Biden (though if that motivates hacks to ask the question, I can work with that), but to get an answer about long COVID. I haven’t seen much polling on the issue, but my sense–not just my personal vibes–is that people who are still be conscientious about mask wearing are motivated in no small part by a desire to avoid long-term or permanent illness. Given the frequency of long COVID in vaccinated and boosted people–as best as I can tell, one percent is the rough lower bound (a paper I’ll discuss tomorrow suggests that could be higher)–you are not the weirdo if you’re trying to avoid getting (re-)infected. You’re not. America, in the Year 2022 of Our Gritty, is not a place you want to be disabled, even temporarily.” • Well, you are weird, but that’s a good place to be, and certainly better than the hospital. See Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. The Abolitionists were weirdos. So were the early Christians, for that matter.

* * *

• Maskstravaganza: “The Mask-Optional DEI Initiative” [Bill of Health, Harvard University]. “I will be direct: schools that have officially departed from masking, including begrudgingly “allowing” people to still mask if they individually choose to do so, are stating an ongoing commitment to purposeful exclusion…. The rejection of masking during an ongoing pandemic by institutions of higher education and their leaders is clear evidence of how disabled people are regularly and purposefully excluded from full participation in colleges and universities. It follows, then, that necessary conversations about access — access in an ever-evolving sense, which anticipates and responds to the complex, changing, conflicting needs of disabled students, faculty, and staff — are not formally occurring and are unlikely to occur at these institutions.” • Sounds to me like the “necessary conversation” should take the form of a ginormous lawsuit, starting at Harvard.

• Maskstravaganza: “I Was Fired for Asking Students to Wear Masks” [Texas Observer]. “[M]y career at Collin College came crashing down at the beginning of the fall 2021 semester, when I recommended that my students wear masks to keep themselves and others safe from COVID-19. My administration often has not treated the pandemic with the seriousness warranted by the deadliest event ever to befall Americans (in terms of total fatalities, anyway). Like much of the country, Collin College shut down in the middle of the spring semester in 2020, with classes offered online. However, by that summer, the college president, Neil Matkin, made clear he intended to resume mostly in-person teaching by the fall, and he used language that faculty found unnerving. At one point, Matkin claimed that masks were only 10 percent effective in preventing COVID transmission. He said the reported deaths were “clearly inflated.” He insisted Texans faced more danger from car accidents. “The effects of this pandemic have been blown utterly out of proportion,” Matkin proclaimed in an August 15, 2020, email sent to all employees. (A quick Texas statistics check shows how wrong he was: County health authorities reported 31,315 deaths from COVID in 2020, far more than the 3,896 motor vehicle fatalities recorded that year.)” • I wish university administrations wouldn’t make sh*t up. It’s unseemly.

• Maskstravaganze: On Covid-detecting masks:

But if the mask alarm went off, at least I could leave the area, and at the least reduce my dose….

• Mastravaganza:

Stickers for school kids, naturally, although for parents and schools who have given up on protecting children I suppose that won’t matter.

* * *

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 ~60,600. Today, it’s ~60,500 and 60,500 * 6 = a Biden line at 363,600. (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.

• “NY schools no longer required to report COVID-19 cases; statewide data tracker shut down” [Gothamist]. “The COVID-19 Report Card, a long-running collection of public health data from schools across New York, has been taken offline. Concerned New York City parents noticed this week that the report card’s webpage — schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov — now redirects to the New York State Department of Health’s main page on its COVID-19 response. But the pivot was made over the summer, according to Cadence Acquaviva, a spokesperson for the state health department. The agency also wouldn’t rule out shuttering other COVID-19 trackers in the future.” And no mitigations either:

Regional case count for four weeks:

The South:

The South (minus Texas and Florida):


The West:

California on a high plateau all of its own,


SITE DOWN* Wastewater data (CDC), September 13:

Lambert here: I added all the dots back in. The number of grey dots really concerns me. How can all the sites for international air travel center New York be grey (“no recent data”). And California’s pretty gappy, too.

For grins, September 11:

NOTE * If I can’t get the page to load in five tries, it’s down, dammit. As a temporizer, here’s the latest MWRA data:

Nothing earth-shattering, but definitely up.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, September 10:

-4.0%. Good news!


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 20:

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 20:

If I had been fooled by CDC’s “Community Levels” okey-dokey, I’d be pretty happy right now.

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].

Variant data, national (Walgreens), September 10:

Still no sign of BA.2.75 at Walgreens, despite its appearance in CDC data below.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), August 27 (Nowcast off):

Two highlights: BA.4.6 has assumed a slightly greater proportion (more in the NowCast model, which I refuse to use). Also, first appearance of BA.2.75. So where is it, you ask?

The above chart shows variants nationally. I have gone through the CDC regions and made a table. As you can see, BA.2.75 is prominent in Region 2 (New York and New Jersey), followed by Region 5 (Midwest), and Region 1 (Northeast). Hmm.

Table 1: CDC Regional BA.2.75 Data, Sorted by % Total

CDC Region % Total States in Region
Region 2: 0.8% New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands
Region 5: 0.7% Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin
Region 1: 0.7% Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont
Region 3: 0.4% Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia
Region 4: 0.4% Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee
Region 7: 0.3% lowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska
Region 6: 0.0% Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas
Region 8: 0.0% Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming
Region 9: 0.0% Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands….
Region 10: 0.0% Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington

Let’s see if BA.2.75 starts doubling.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Lambert here: Not sure why World in Data changed the color to red.

Total: 1,079,206 – 1,078,938 = 268 (268 * 365 = 97,820, 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.

• Handy chart:

• ”Who Is Still Dying From Covid? The CDC Can’t Answer That” [Bloomberg]. Of course not. Interesting last paragraph: “There’s another deceptive factor that can make it look like everyone is in pretty good shape, said Andrew Noymer, a demographer and associate professor of public health at the University of California, Irvine. The infection fatality rate, a number many were obsessed with finding early in the pandemic, is probably now close to that of flu. But the disease is killing a lot more people than flu because so many people are getting Covid. It’s common for people to get Covid several times a year, whereas people tend to get flu — at most — several times a decade.” • 

Stats Watch

* * *

Energy: Oregon, OH:

That’s the third refinery fire in my recent memory, at least. Odd.

Supply Chain: “Amazon Air Cargo Flights Grow at Slowest Pace Since Early Pandemic” [Bloomberg]. “Amazon.com Inc.’s cargo airline is growing at the slowest pace since the start of the pandemic, the latest sign that the e-commerce giant is adjusting to slackening demand…. The world’s largest online retailer entered this year with too many workers and facilities as consumers returned to normal shopping habits. Amazon has shuttered, delayed or abandoned plans for dozens of warehouses in the US and Europe, Bloomberg reported earlier this month. The company reduced its workforce — primarily through attrition, Amazon says — by almost 100,000 people between March and June, the biggest quarterly decline in its history. ”

Retail: “‘Line balk’ is one of the biggest obstacles facing popular chains like Starbucks and Chick-fil-A — here’s what it is and how they’re fighting it” [Insider]. “Drive-thrus are the source of massive sales at both chains. Starbucks says about 50% of sales currently come through drive-thrus. New locations will cater to customers’ desire for drive-thrus even better, the chain says, with 90% of new stores having drive-thru service, and building new formats including drive-thru only locations.” • ”Waiting in line” isn’t the same as a “drive-thru.” That said, I suppose not sharing air is a benefit, pollution aside.

The Bezzle:

“Revered” NFT “artsts”? Kidding, right?

Manufacturing: “China Meets With Boeing, Raising Hopes for 737 MAX Flight Resumption” [Wall Street Journal]. “The Civil Aviation Administration of China held an evaluation meeting last week with Boeing’s U.S. and China teams to review the training protocols for pilots, the CAAC News, a news outlet run by the regulator, said Tuesday. The regulator will release a revised report on the plane once questions raised at the meeting are resolved, the news outlet said, adding that it offered hope that the process to reintroduce the 737 MAX to China would be completed soon. The CAAC News didn’t provide a timeline. A spokesperson for Boeing said the company would continue to work with customers and global regulators, including the CAAC, to safely return the 737 MAX to service worldwide.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 39 Fear (previous close: 36 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 41 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 21 at 12:45 PM EDT.

The Gallery

Ceci est un signe (MG):

Zeitgeist Watch

“The Dark Side of Frictionless Technology” [The Atlantic]. “I’m quite drawn to this idea of creativity through submission. It perfectly describes my experience learning and struggling with improvisation on the guitar. To speak fluently through a guitar, you have to submit to the rote practice of training your fingers to find each note of a given scale and its various positions, which is its own separate challenge and set of rigid rules. But even after you’ve locked in the muscle memorization, you must contend with the realities of a song and its chord progression. To make the instrument sing, you have to work within its constraints. Real, genuine musical expression is possible only when you’re innately familiar with the math and geometry of the instrument, and use its rules as a road map to get to where you want to go. Crawford goes even further, arguing: ‘The example of the musician sheds light on the basic character of human agency, namely, that it arises only within concrete limits that are not of our making.’ His claim is part of a bigger argument about most technology, which (writing from 2009) he laments has become aggressively convenient.” And: “Crawford’s maxim [is] that ‘things need fixing and tending no less than creating.'”

“‘Left to hold my grief alone.’ Grieving platonic love in a culture of romantic domination” [Scalawag]. “Romantic love is not a fixture in my life. Platonic love and community will always be my most significant and most cherished non-familial intimate connections in this world. Living in a culture dominated by romance, this makes me an oddity. For people like me—whether we are seen as oddities, non-conformists, relational misfits, freaks of nature, inhumans, undesirables, or just romantic failures—our focus on platonic love and community leaves us too often grieving lost friendships and unrealized intimacies when romance ultimately, inevitably wins out. In a society that privileges romantic partnership, all other connections will inevitably be treated as lesser, and those who are not romantically partnered are seen as less worthy of care—both intentionally and inadvertently. This is true at the personal level, and even on an institutional level: Single people, those not romantically attached, experience documented prejudice and discrimination in our romance-centric society. Stereotyped as being less functional and less productive members of society, unpartnered people—especially if we are also childfree—are often asked to put ourselves in more danger than our coupled counterparts, expected to work longer hours and accept more undesirable assignments than our romantically-partnered coworkers. Policies like paid leave and medicaid expansion are biased against unpartnered people. It’s even harder to gain access to life-saving organ transplants without being romantically attached to someone.”

Groves of Academe

“The case for lotteries as a tiebreaker of quality in research funding” [Nature]. “Earlier this month, the British Academy, the United Kingdom’s national academy for humanities and social sciences, introduced an innovative process for awarding small research grants. The academy will use the equivalent of a lottery to decide between funding applications that its grant-review panels consider to be equal on other criteria, such as the quality of research methodology and study design…. Other funders should consider whether they should now follow in these footsteps. That’s because it is becoming clear that randomization is a fairer way to allocate grants when applications are too close to call, as a study from the Research on Research Institute in London shows (see go.nature.com/3s54tgw). Doing so would go some way to assuage concerns, especially in early-career researchers and those from historically marginalized communities, about the lack of fairness when grants are allocated using peer review.” • Now let’s do the same for college admissions.

Class Warfare

“Amazon Promotes Ex-Private Prison Exec to Run Warehouse Training” [Matt Stoller, BIG]. “It’s always fun to keep an eye on Amazon’s internal personnel moves, because they speak to the general culture of the pacesetting firm in American retail and commerce. And something telling happened recently. A contact pointed out to me that last week Amazon shuffled its management teams across its warehouse divisions, revealing that it had promoted the company’s head of loss prevention in the Americas and a former analyst at a private prison company – Dayna Howard- to the head of training for warehouse workers. Following Howard’s path is interesting for what it says about Amazon. She started her career at the private prison giant known as Corrections Corporation of America, which has since been renamed CoreCivic because it had such a toxic brand. (Some fun controversies involved letting private gangs run an Indiana prison to save costs, and stock manipulation.) At CCA, according to her LinkedIn page, Howard “re-vamped inmate admission process and revised all processing documentation. Resulted in a 20% reduction in inmate processing time and a reduced error rate.” Howard was apparently good at designing systems to herd prisoners. So naturally, she went to Amazon.” • Jeff, come on. It’s not funny anymore.

News of the Wired

“Getty Images bans AI-generated content over fears of legal challenges” [The Verge]. “Getty Images has banned the upload and sale of illustrations generated using AI art tools like DALL-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion. It’s the latest and largest user-generated content platform to introduce such a ban, following similar decisions by sites including Newgrounds, PurplePort, and FurAffinity. Getty Images CEO Craig Peters told The Verge that the ban was prompted by concerns about the legality of AI-generated content and a desire to protect the site’s customers. ‘There are real concerns with respect to the copyright of outputs from these models and unaddressed rights issues with respect to the imagery, the image metadata and those individuals contained within the imagery,’ said Peters. Given these concerns, he said, selling AI artwork or illustrations could potentially put Getty Images users at legal risk. “We are being proactive to the benefit of our customers,’ he added.” • That’s a damn shame. I’m no Getty fan, but anything that kills that technology with fire is good.

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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 TH:

TH writes: “Las Vegas does a pretty good job at making artful displays of palm trees. This is at the entrance of the Red Rock Resort.” Palm trees rattle at night. A very odd sound!

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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. amechania


    Just throwing up that original headline was “Ukrainian official mocks Russia over its failures after Putin’s threatening speech: ‘Everything is still according to the plan, right?'”

    Not a great informational environment. Jepstein@insider.com

    Paging doctor Q, in MSNBC homepage. Rest of the screed is pretty bad today.

    Regarding Twitter, that’s not an adult, that’s a graphic design team.

    *waiting for real covid numbers*

    Checks California and sees just the same at the CDC. Oh my. They just took the week off. Hmmm.

  2. amechania

    That’s Jake Epstein of ‘Business Insider.'” It doesn’t seem he comes up on this other platform today. Just goes to other MSNBC trash.

  3. ambrit

    Ah, palm trees! I remember climbing one of the palm trees in the front yard of the family home on Miami Beach to fetch a coconut for one of Mom’s recipes. I got up to the top, ready to cut a nice ripe coconut off to drop and being confronted by several quite agitated rats. The little buggers were nesting in the fringe of dead frond matter that circles most palms just below the spray of live fronds. Luckily, they were more frightened of me than the other way around. I held on tight for a minute as lively streaks of grey fur ran down the bole of the tree. (I remembered to cut off a coconut.)
    Las Vegas now, I would imagine, has rats of all shapes, sizes, and colours everywhere you looked. (Somehow, I doubt if we could find a Maud-dib there. Desert environment notwithstanding.)

    1. Wukchumni

      Was driving through the backroads of Godzone yesterday and you’ll sometimes see rows of palm trees lining a 200 foot long driveway, all surrounded by a vast orchard and the enormous palms were planted maybe a century ago (you’ll never see that kind of see me-dig me display these days in latter-day commercial orchards-they’re all business) and really serve no purpose aside from being striking looking, and is it better to look good than to be good for you?

      My favorite palms are @ the upper springs @ Saline hot springs with each of the soaking tubs having a 40 foot wide curtain of 50 year old sentinels swaying in the breeze & providing shade. Its one of my choice locations for sleeping in a hammock between palm trunks.


      1. Wukchumni

        Palm trees in city settings tend to be magnificent fire spreaders with the fronds acting as flameboyant spear chuckers.

    2. nippersdad

      I tried climbing a palm tree for coconuts when I was a kid as well. No coconuts, but I’m pretty sure I still have the splinters to show for it.

  4. Milton

    “Climate mapping for resilience and adaption”
    The govt’s response (towel tossing) to global warming. We can track our descent into oblivion.
    Since I indirectly help with the maps, I can’t be too cynical about the project.

    1. Mikel

      It’s all just a reminder of how inhospitable the earth’s climate has been for current life forms for most of its existence.
      There hasn’t been a forever species.

      1. LifelongLib

        IIRC I saw a factoid that in the absence of human activity the climate would have remained stable for several thousand more years. But I agree that in general nature is under no obligation to provide us (or any other species) with a comfortable or even livable environment.

        1. Mikel

          Considering the cosmos/universe has an effect on the climate, they can’t be sure of that extra couple of thousand years….

  5. John

    “He reminds me of Corbell Pickett” … Yes! the physical type I imagine for Pickett fits DeSantis quite nicely. These three governors using people like chips in a casino is one of the less edifying spectacles of an era of unedifying spectacles.

  6. Wukchumni

    The only conflagration so far around these parts has been the Summit Fire in the general vicinity of Hockett Meadow and nearest to Summit Lake deep in the backcountry of Sequoia NP, which started in early August from a lightning strike and was of the sleeper variety which didn’t really manifest itself for nearly a month, and then was turned into a prescribed burn with a goal of 1,400 acres to be be consumed, utilizing boundaries of the 2020 Castle Fire as an ad hoc corral to keep it in bounds, and now they’re at 1,394 acres burned and a 60% containment.

    Kind of a perfect fire…


  7. griffen

    Amazon promotes former prison company employee to the rightful place of now also herding the cattle, er, warehouse workers. what isn’t there to like. \sarc

    I’d suggest that her office have a trap door built in, just in case a rapid termination occurs there is a pit of hungry lions to ensure any rabble rouser is conveniently disposed. What a horrible company.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      How many people would have to live out in their own personal lives the motto: Amazon delenda est . . .
      in order to really make it happen? To delenda estify Amazon from the face of the earth?

      Some people have no alternative to buying from Amazon anymore. Every alternative they could have bought from has been vaporised by the JeffBorg. But as to those people who choose to buy from Amazon when there are still NOmazon alternatives to buy from at whatever the price? They deserve to have to work in Amazon warehouses for the rest of their lives.

  8. hunkerdown

    This Charlie Warzel? “Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole” with dek “Critical thinking, as we’re taught to do it, isn’t helping in the fight against misinformation.” Hoo boy.

    There are no “rigid rules” for playing a musical instrument ffs. It’s a guitar, not an unseen lawgiver. It’s a scale, not an ethical statement. The same goes for the standard guitar tuning, from which, like any other mechanically feasible chromatic tuning, any even-tempered chromatic scale can emerge. You make a shape and it makes a sound according to the shape. Monkeys exaggerate but noobs dramatize.

    Warzel, naturally playing to the ambitious upper PMC, here bids to normalize managerialist submission, using Crawford’s actually dialectic and actually good book as a doorstop, and closing with a sloppy wet kiss to nudge theory (“What tools do we build, then?”). You, the galaxy brain vanguard, have familyblogged up quite enough. You build nothing, you say nothing, and you stay out of actually productive people’s way.

    1. Grokguy

      There are no “rigid rules” for playing a musical instrument ffs. It’s a guitar, not an unseen lawgiver.

      I have to push back here. I’m an amateur jazz pianist and have worked at my improvisation skills for years. My learning has been facilitated by rules (of varying rigidity) that I impose on myself as a player (e.g. avoid the 4th on a 1 chord, resolve the melody note on an altered dominant chord, stay in scale for emphasized notes). Note that none of these rules are 100%; they are the result of what sounds good to most people most of the time and breaking them judiciously can often lead to exciting results. HOWEVER, the key to breaking them productively and artistically is to have first mastered the rule (call it a heuristic if you want but I’ve always called them rules) in the first place.
      In other words, reading the passage charitably, the point is that these constraints we impose on ourselves create a manageable scaffolding upon which we build our capability for artistic expression, beginning with mastering certain patterns and heuristics and gradually moving towards forming new patterns with more loose and simultaneously more complex heuristics. If you suddenly handed me a piano and told me to express myself as freely as Bill Evans did, I’d be [family-blogged] and so would my audience. But within the set of rules that I am comfortable navigating as a player, I can sometimes express myself nearly as beautifully as Bill did. (And as a final point, Evans placed major emphasis on the importance of “the rules” for learning any instrument).

      I take no issue with you excoriating him for sloppily extending this maxim to the workplace of course :)

  9. KD

    This is true at the personal level, and even on an institutional level: Single people, those not romantically attached, experience documented prejudice and discrimination in our romance-centric society. Stereotyped as being less functional and less productive members of society, unpartnered people—especially if we are also childfree—are often asked to put ourselves in more danger than our coupled counterparts, expected to work longer hours and accept more undesirable assignments than our romantically-partnered coworkers. Policies like paid leave and medicaid expansion are biased against unpartnered people. It’s even harder to gain access to life-saving organ transplants without being romantically attached to someone.

    Better ask to speak to the manager. [One of the horrible and hidden findings of social science to survive the replication crisis is that stereotypes are generally true, at higher correlations than most other sociological variables.]

  10. Pat

    Silver is mostly being shredded in the comments. Both for speaking for someone who should be able to speak for themselves AND for ignoring the numbers which clearly are so bad they do not support Biden even with the caveats added.

    People may want to ignore it, but the disease is winning and everyday brings that realization to more and more. Not sure when or how it will end, but I have no doubt Joe Biden will not come out of it as “the adult in the room”. Pretty sure he will end up with an image closer to Hoover than FDR.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The media didn’t report Iraq war protests. So why would the media report Ukrussia war protests?

  11. The Historian

    Re: “I called out this page because a lot of Democrats are spiking the ball in the end zone over “have your cake and eat it.” But Trusty is a Trump lawyer, and Dearie seems to be in agreement with him. ”

    I’m surely no lawyer, but I have been following this closely because I wondered if Trump’s lawyers would be willing to state that the documents have actually been declassified, and apparently, they aren’t willing to risk their licenses on this one.

    What the general consensus is after watching many lawyers – on both the left and the right – is that Trump brought this case, i.e., he is the plaintiff, so it is up to his side to state why he thinks these documents belong to him. And I think Judge Dearie agrees with them that it would be foolish to give anyone their defense theories ahead of a possible indictment.

    But, on one side, there are the marked documents and no doubt statements from National Archives saying they have no evidence that the documents were declassified, i.e., prima facie evidence the documents belong to the government – and NOTHING from the plaintiff stating why they could even possibly belong to Trump. Even Patel, who claims he heard Trump declassify the documents, isn’t willing to send a brief or appear in court. So what is Judge Dearie, who appears to be a ‘by the book’ judge, supposed to do? I assume he is mystified as to why Trump brought this case if his lawyers aren’t willing to provide any evidence. I don’t think Judge Dearie is impressed with the argument of ‘because I say so’.

    1. lambert strether

      Thanks, this is very lucid. So much if the coverage is Benghazi-like, in that it goes straight to the reflex action for whatever “the current thing” is, with no context.

  12. will rodgers horse

    ““But people who get the oral version [as in the United States] do excrete minute traces of the virus, which can reach the water supply and sometimes mutate. ”
    No. the US has not used OPV for 20 years or more. we use IPV.
    “Those water-borne traces ‘don’t infect anyone when people are vaccinated,’ ” This is only partly true. IPV will block disease from ingesting wild polio virus, but will not prevent infection.

  13. drumlin woodchuckles

    We should perhaps rename Dr. Oz’s “Medicare Advantage For All” plan as ” Ozcare”.

    Some clever person could write the slogan: ” If you liked Obamacare, you’ll love Ozcare”. Perhaps that slogan could be part of an effort to pre-discredit the Ozcare concept.

    I don’t know if the Democratic candidate Fetterman would be allowed to ask Dr. Oz in public the question . . . ” How is your Ozcare plan any different than Obamacare?” But maybe anti-Oz agents disguised as reporters might be able to get the question so very asked on camera and hot microphones that it can’t be unasked for the rest of the campaign.

  14. The Rev Kev

    It would be a damn shame if Queen Margrethe weren’t the only global leader infected.

    It would be nice if the virus could give us a break and have infected Trudeau while he was belting out ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ the day or so before the funeral.

    1. Pat

      I’m sort of hoping for a deadly bout for Liz Truss and David Cameron. Unfortunately it was only Biden from the US and even if he died they would still wheel him out. (And I just cannot handle Joe going on and on about Jill kicking the bucket.)

  15. drumlin woodchuckles

    About that photo of the ” thank you for noticing this new notice” sign . . . does the tiny print at the very bottom of the sign say . . . ” and reported to the authorities” ?

  16. The Rev Kev

    ‘That’s the third refinery fire in my recent memory, at least. Odd.’

    The same thing has been happening in Venezuela too I think. If so, tit for tat?

  17. Jason Boxman

    America, in the Year 2022 of Our Gritty, is not a place you want to be disabled, even temporarily.

    LOL. I’ve seen saying this since long-COVID was first recognized as an outcome, before it had a name, when we first started hearing about it back in probably March of 2020. It was clear then that we were all screwed, and that neoliberal America is not the place to have any chronic medical condition. You’re doubly screwed then.

    NY schools no longer required to report COVID-19 cases;

    So, the Trump approach of just not testing reigns supreme! Maybe the Other Guy was on to something here?

  18. Ed Grystar

    Fetterman is the consummate opportunist. Stands for nothing except getting elected and maybe smoking dope. As mayor, he did nothing as hospital giant UPMC closed Braddock Hospital costing 300 union jobs. Now he’s the working class savior? He’s also a fracker and war supporter. While Oz is a open supporter for privatized health care, only the most naive Democrat Party cultist would say that Biden is different. He got more health dollars than Trump in 2020. Fetterman is against M4ALL, which would be the biggest anti poverty program in decades and help women, minorities and the working class. He never talks about this simple fact.

    1. Brunches with Cats

      And Oz isn’t an “opportunist” for buying property in Pennsylvania only after declaring his candidacy?

      Both candidates claim to support fracking; for Fetterman to do otherwise would cost him the union vote. Don’t like it, but not sure what we should expect him to do. As for M4A, I just checked his website. Here’s what he says:
      In the Senate, I will support any legislation that gets us closer to the goal of universal health care coverage. I’m less fixated on what you call it, and more focused on the result: ensuring access* to health care for every American. I will also support efforts to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60 while expanding its benefits to include vision, hearing, and dental care.

      As I recall, many critics of Bernie’s health care plan said he shouldn’t have called it M4A, as many voters would mistakenly believe he meant Medicare as it’s currently operated, with all the frustrating limitations and out-of-pocket expenses. “Single payer” would have been a more accurate name for what he was advocating.

      You are, of course, correct about Biden’s support for privatizing Medicare, to which I add Democrats in general, CMMS, and the VA, which is pushing veterans toward MA plans in a sneaky move to shift more of the cost burden onto them. In fact, the 2PMWC story links to a source asserting that 50 percent of Medicare coverage is now through MA plans, and healthcare industry watchers expect this percentage to climb. For all practical purposes, the VA and Medicare are already privatized.

      * Yeah, I know…

      1. The Rev Kev

        I obviously have no dog in this fight but if I were an American, I would be very concerned where he says ‘ensuring access to health care for every American.’ I think that Lambert would translate that word ‘access’ as meaning ‘never going to happen.’

        1. Brunches with Cats

          Thus, the “*” and footnote.

          And for all we know, maybe he, too, thinks this universal healthcare should be privatized — i. e., Medicare Advantage. Indeed, some plans do have vision and dental, which “original Medicare” does not. No dental coverage for most veterans, either — which is how I ended up with the $340 surprise ambulance bill. (I’m hoping to be able to send Lambert an on-the-ground report at some point.) Readers who’ve never lived in the U.S. for any length of time simply can’t fathom the state of healthcare in this country.

  19. Jason Boxman


    Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, asked people not to be “numb” to these numbers on his popular Twitter feed, and people responded by asking the same questions I’ve been posing to experts for weeks. Who is dying in late 2022? Is it nursing home residents? Anti-vaxxers? Essential workers? How many of them have had the vaccine? Boosters? Did we fail them, or did they fail to take care of themselves?

    (bold mine)

    Well, of course. Because some lives are more important than others. And who decides what qualifies as taking care of oneself? I mean, vaccines!! obviously. And therefore it follows, in the elite sphere, that the deaths that matter are only of those that were virtuous, meaning vaccinated, and other deaths were the fault of the dying, and this conveniently erases breathing as a shared relation, and any concept of community or public heath.

    Well done!

    Even those public health experts who are furious with Biden for his remarks have had to concede they were wrong in claiming that we’d “crush” the pandemic if only enough people followed the rules, stayed locked down, or masked up for 100 days. “When this first arrived, we thought this would be a nightmare for six months and it would go away because we’d all have immunity,” said Noymer. “That hasn’t panned out.”

    What lock downs? None of this actually happened, despite howls from both conservatives and liberal Democrats to the contrary. We had no serious masking, and serious mask guidance, no modeling of good behavior, no positive reinforcement of good behavior or acknowledgement of sacrifices.

    Meanwhile, China _did_ crush the Pandemic. And other countries were successful until following the US model of let it ride.

    Garbage revisionist history here.

  20. JBird4049

    “We are here today because what the United States is allowing to happen on our watch in prisons, jails, and detention centers nationwide is a moral disgrace.”

    Much like how they are “allowing” the police to kill over a thousand people each year almost always without any personal consequences? If you don’t want the Meritocracy to protect their society from the Disposables, maybe you should ask the right questions as well as accurately describing the situation?

    And just who are the disposables probably is a much larger category than you want to accept being as you are almost certainly in it.

  21. Jason Boxman

    So it’s interesting to note that, per Walgreens from 9/20, BA5.2.1 was at 28% or thereabouts. Today it still is. Not trending. Meanwhile.

    BA5.2 is up 2% over the same period, and BA4.6 went from 6.5% to 12.5%, over that same period. I think we’re off to the races with our winter variant here, and we’ll know for sure if Biden’s Winter of Death does visit us this year. Variants can be unpredictable, so who knows. (BA5.1 is actually declining already.)

    Stay safe out there!

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