2:00PM Water Cooler 9/9/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

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Bird Song of the Day

Ocellated Thrasher, Oaxaca, Mexico. Over six minutes! Many thanks to SV for bringing this cheerful species to our attention. If any readers have more suggestions, especially for songbirds, please leave them in comments.

* * *


“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

“Ted Cruz amendment blows up journalism antitrust bill” [Politico]. “Supporters of a bill meant to give news organizations greater leverage against the giant tech companies were forced to temporarily withdraw the measure Thursday, raising new doubts about one of Congress’ prime efforts to check Silicon Valley’s power. Two hours into its Thursday markup, Republicans inserted provisions designed to limit the platforms’ abilities to moderate content, over the objections of lead sponsor Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who then withdrew the bill. She said she fully plans to move the bill forward in a bipartisan way.” • This is the bill Stoller discussed the other day.


* * *

“GOP donor pool unexpectedly shrinks as midterms near” [Politico]. “The number of online donors to the Republican Party unexpectedly dropped in the first half of 2022, according to a POLITICO analysis of campaign finance data — one in a series of setbacks that have tempered expectations of a red wave in November. Online fundraising usually ramps up dramatically and predictably over the course of an election cycle. But campaign finance data show that in the first half of this year, the number of people giving federal contributions to Republican candidates and committees through WinRed — the GOP’s widely used donation processing platform — fell to around 913,000 down from roughly 956,000 contributors during the six months prior. The surprising dip illustrates broader fundraising difficulties that have plagued GOP candidates in key races across the country this summer, even amid hopes that the party could retake control of Congress. It reflects the party’s long-standing challenges in building donor lists to power its campaigns. At the same time, the POLITICO review partially exonerates one perceived culprit of the party’s fundraising woes: former President Donald Trump. Though Trump is by far the GOP’s top online fundraiser, the data suggest he is not siphoning large numbers of donors from Republican candidates and committees doing battle in the midterms.Only 13 percent of Republican online donors this cycle gave solely to the former president’s new political group.” • I wonder where those 956,000 – 913,000 = 43,000 donors went?

“Two months out: A remade race in the aftermath of Dobbs” [Bleeding Heartland]. A metastudy of the polling, concluding: “he Dobbs decision created about a 2-point shift in the generic ballot polling. This shift is fairly consistent. Of the 25 pollsters that polled shortly before and after Dobbs decision, 20 found movement toward the Democrats. Moreover, this change appears to be accelerating. In generic ballot polling taken since August 18, the Democrats have opened up 1.8 point lead. This later movement may be a result of the recent improvement in President Joe Biden’s approval rating.” But: “Democrats perform better in polling of registered voters, rather than likely midterm voters.” • Bleeding Heartland, one of the few old-school blogs left standing, is always worth a read.

* * *

GA: “Two Black Georgia Senate rivals; two takes on racism” [Axios]. “‘Sen. Warnock believes America is a bad country full of racist people; I believe we’re a great country full of generous people,’ Walker declares in his latest ad…. A recent Emerson College poll showed Walker winning 25% of the Black vote, more than double former President Trump’s 11% vote share in 2020. But an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll in July pegged Walker’s share of the Black vote at 9%, and a Survey USA poll around the same time placed it at 5%.” • Let’s watch…

PA: So far, the PA Democrats haven’t stabbed Fetterman in the back:

PA: “Dr Oz backers hit Fetterman with attack ad claiming he pulled gun on Black jogger in 2013” [Independent]. • Plenty of jokes to be made here, but I think, again, that Oz staff is using tactics more appropriate to introducing an unknown opponent to the voters before they can introduce themselves. I’m guessing that Fetterman visiting every county, sometimes several times, has insulated him from attacks like this. The voters know him. All this is priced in already. (Note that Fetterman employed this tactic with great success: He introduced Oz to voters as being “from New Jersey.”)

PA: “Columbia University” [SourceWatch]. Yikes:

In 2004, complaints about Dr. Mehmet Oz’s dog experiments were cited in a report from an internal investigation into allegations of poor animal care made by Dr. Catherine Dell’Orto, a post-doctoral veterinarian. [5], [6] See also individual reports of Dr. Oz’s dog experiments. [7] According to the report, “highly invasive and stressful experiments” on dogs were performed without a “humane end point.” AWA violations included a litter of whelped puppies killed by painful cardiac injection:

“The screams of these puppies could be heard through closed doors. All of these puppies, lying in a plastic garbage bag, were killed in the presence of their litter mates.”[8]

Subsequent applications for grants to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by Dr. Oz have been denied.[9] In 2004, Columbia paid $2,000 in fines to the USDA. [10] See also ten worst laboratories.

“Cardiac injection,” eh? Good thing Oz wasn’t Fetterman’s doctor when he had his heart trouble… (Also, on animal torture, Republicans have form. See NC here.)

TX: “Mysterious group targeting Gov. Greg Abbott reserves $6 million in TV ads ahead of November election” [Texas Tribune]. “A shadowy new group has purchased at least $6 million in TV advertisements ahead of the November election and is airing an ad that targets Gov. Greg Abbott as he runs for reelection. The minute-long ad from Coulda Been Worse LLC, which started airing Friday, rattles off a list of major calamitous events that have happened on Abbott’s watch, such the Uvalde school shooting and 2021 power-grid collapse. As the narrator speaks, a picture slowly zooms out to show Abbott’s face. ‘Any one of these — a terrible shame for Texas,’ the narrator says at the end. ‘All of these — a horrific sign something big is terribly, terribly wrong.’ The spot ends with a clip of Abbott saying after the Uvalde massacre that it ‘could have been worse,’ increasingly a rallying cry of Abbott’s critics.


“DOJ will appeal judge’s decision to grant Trump’s special master request to review seized docs” [ABC]. “‘The Court hereby authorizes the appointment of a special master to review the seized property for personal items and documents and potentially privileged material subject to claims of attorney-client and/or executive privilege,’ [Judge Aileen Cannon] wrote.” • The press always focuses on executive privilege, never on attorney-client privilege. And the FBI Hoovered up documents covered by attorney-client privilege (and its a million-to-one they read and copied them). Why would anybody give control over a case’s documents to the people who did that?

“DOJ appeals special master ruling in Trump Mar-a-Lago probe” [Politico]. “[P]rosecutors indicated the intelligence community had halted its review of the seized materials altogether — including an assessment of whether they, or any sources and methods, had been compromised — due to ‘uncertainty’ around Cannon’s ruling.” • Somebody call a w-h-a-a-a-mbulance!

“Trump Is Caught in a Double Bind” [The Atlantic]. “Though it seems fair to say that Trump is complicating Republican midterm efforts, isolating his role in the final result in November will be impossible. But his continued hints—if anything so blunt can be called a hint—that he intends to run for president again in 2024 mean that we’ll get another chance to observe the trend. That election may not work the same way, though. Trump and his allies have already shown that they have a workaround for the broad public antipathy toward him: They’re planning to make sure he goes back to the White House, even if it means rigging the election.” • I keep going back to the notion of scale. If the Republicans run anybody else — DeSantis, Abbott — they will be running a smaller man, literally and figuratively. A man who, whatever other virtues he may have, cannot command the national stage as Trump could. No wonder the Democrats are so desperate to get rid of him.

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.

* * *

“Dem donor network works to build the party’s future bench” [Politico]. “A new Democratic donor network is springing up ahead of the midterm election with a focus on raising cash for candidates under 50. The Next 50 is a group of 17,000 donors that’s already raised $3 million for candidates in 2022, emphasizing support for younger candidates who are running in battleground races from state legislature up to the U.S. Senate. The group’s mission is to build up the Democratic bench — at the candidate level, by seeding campaigns with national donor cash, and at the donor level, by bringing along a new generation of younger Democrats new to political giving.” • A party worthy of the name would be doing this itself, not franchising out the brand (or at least the ballot line).

Who among us:

Mauvaise foi: “In the philosophy of existentialism, bad faith (mauvaise foi) is the psychological phenomenon whereby individuals act inauthentically, by yielding to the external pressures of society to adopt false values and disown their innate freedom as sentient human beings.[1] Bad faith also derives from the related concepts of self-deception and ressentiment.” • Seems legit.

Republican Funhouse

Realignment and Legitimacy


Lambert here: Still at our high plateau. A million dead, and no rioting. Indeed, no political reaction whatever. An important takeaway for the ruling classes, with wide application. Of course, our own takeaways may be different.

* * *

• Heroes indeed, and heroes (as opposed to celebrities, or idols, or “leaders,” are in short supply:

An army of aerosol understanders cannot be beaten!

• I don’t think that in stuff on the top is functional:

• Aerosol explainer comics:

* * *

• “Drug regulatory authority approves nasal Covid vaccine” [The Telegraph]. India. Last paragraph: “Scientists say the most promising aspect of the intranasal vaccine is its potential to confer so-called sterilising immunity — to stop the virus from replicating in the body. In contrast, current Covid-19 vaccines protect people from severe disease but are not as effective in preventing infections from mutated versions of the coronavirus. The vaccine was designed by scientists at Washington University, St Louis, in 2020. [Krishna Ella, Bharat Biotech’s managing director] had early during the pandemic recognised the intranasal vaccine’s potential to induce sterilising immunity and invested in the candidate through a pact signed by August 2020.” • Sterilizing immunity is the Holy Grail (and the destruction of Big Pharma’s “Immunity as a Service” business model. What a shame that would be). I understand the logic. Are studies being done? By whom? Next–

• “China and India approve nasal COVID vaccines — are they a game changer?” [Nature]. “These mucosal vaccines target thin mucous membranes that line the nose, mouth and lungs. By prompting immune responses where SARS-CoV-2 first enters the body, mucosal vaccines could, in theory, prevent even mild cases of illness and block transmission to other people — something COVID-19 shots have been unable to do. Vaccines that produce sterilizing immunity would be game changing for the pandemic… Exactly how successful these vaccines will be is unclear. Expecting a vaccine to stop transmission of a virus or prevent even mild illness — achieving what is called sterilizing immunity — is a high bar. Bharat and CanSino won’t know whether their vaccines can achieve this until they have conducted further efficacy studies.” • Well, hop to it.

* * *

• Maskstravaganza: We learn nothing:

More sabotage. “Masks don’t work.” “Yeah, if you use masks that don’t work!”

* * *

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:

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.

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 ~68,700. Today, it’s ~65,170 and 65,170 * 6 = a Biden line at 391,020. (Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out.) The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises. If you look at the Fauci line, you will see that despite the bleating and yammering about Covid being “over,” we have only just recently reached the (nominal) case level of November 1, 2021, and we are very far from that of July 1, 2021. And the real level is much worse.

Regional case count for four weeks:

The South:


Lambert here: If the Florida data weren’t so screwy, the national case count would be level or up.

The South (minus Texas and Florida):

Doing pretty well!

The West:


SITE DOWN Wastewater data (CDC), September 1:

• “Understanding the dynamic relation between wastewater SARS-CoV-2 signal and clinical metrics throughout the pandemic” [Science of The Total Environment]. From the Abstract: “Prior to global mass immunization campaigns and during the spread of the wildtype COVID-19 and the Alpha variant of concern (VOC), viral measurement of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater was a leading indicator for both COVID-19 incidence and disease burden in communities. As the two-dose vaccination rates escalated during the spread of the Delta VOC in Jul. 2021 through Dec. 2021, relations weakened between wastewater signal and community COVID-19 disease incidence and maintained a strong relationship with clinical metrics indicative of disease burden (new hospital admissions, ICU admissions, and deaths).” • Hmm.


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

-2.5%. The continuing downward trend inside the red circle is actually encouraging.


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

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

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

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 9:

First time in a long time I’ve seen only green. I do wonder if there’s a Labor Day effect, though; not just on the data side, but people thinking “I’m not gonna miss the family barbecue for a little ol’ cough.” So let’s see if this persists.

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].

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

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

• Andy Bloch has a site that reworks Walgreens data, including on variants:

For the life of me I can’t get the map at the site to do anything but throw errrors, but Bloch (and maybe you) have better luck. In any case, where’s the new variant? The BA.2s seem very, very low. Could Biden’s eugenicist strategy of “Let ‘er rip,” with the enormous Omicron peak, really have built an “immunity wall,” along with our (relatively low) vaccination rate? Maybe so–

• “COVID vaccines slash risk of spreading Omicron — and so does previous infection” [Nature]. “People who become infected with the Omicron variant are less likely to spread the virus to others if they have been vaccinated or have had a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection, according to a study in US prisons1. And people who have both had a previous infection and been vaccinated are even less likely to pass on the virus, although the benefit of vaccines in reducing infectiousness seems to wane over time. The findings are good news, says Megan Steain, a virologist at the University of Sydney, Australia. They show that the more exposure people have to the virus, whether through vaccines, boosters or infections, the ‘higher the wall of immunity’, she says. ‘If we can keep high levels of booster vaccinations up, then we can decrease how infectious people are when they’re sick,’ says Steain.” Then again: “Steain says the findings accord with what researchers know about the virus so far. But as new variants evolve, it is possible that the way they cause infections could change.” • So where are they? So far, the virus has “outsmarted” us at every turn…

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), August 13 (Nowcast off):

Still no sign of BA2.75.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Lambert here: We are seeing a drop in the death count. That suggests to me that a drop in the case count is real. (I don’t say “the” case count, because the cases we count are a fraction of the real number. It is interesting, though, 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: 1,074,787 – 1,074,171 = 616 (616 * 365 = 224,840, 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

Inventories: “United States Wholesale Inventories” [Trading Economics]. “Wholesale inventories in the US advanced by 0.6% from a month earlier to $900.7 billion in July of 2022, slightly below an initial estimate of a 0.8% rise and after a downwardly revised 1.8% increase in the previous month. It was the 24th straight month of gains, albeit smaller, as stocks of durable goods rose at a softer pace (1% vs 2.2% in June) while inventory levels of nondurable goods ticked down (-0.1% vs 1.2%). On an annual basis, wholesale inventories jumped 25.1% in July, also slightly below an earlier reading of 25.4%.” • 25% seems like rather a lot, no?

* * *

The Bezzle: “The Case for Resisting Self-Driving Cars” [National Review]. “In the future, the self-driving car will distinguish itself from mass public transit only by the fact of ownership.” • This is dumb. It’s the recurring fever dream of pods, which never work (the latest example being Musk’s fraudulent scheme for Teslas in tunnels).

The Bezzle: “Twitter Agreed to Pay Whistleblower Roughly $7 Million in June Settlement” [Wall Street Journal]. “Twitter Inc. agreed in June to pay roughly $7 million to the whistleblower whose allegations will be part of Elon Musk’s case against the company, according to people familiar with the matter. The settlement was completed days before Peiter Zatko filed his whistleblower complaint in July. Mr. Zatko is the hacker who was Twitter’s security head before being fired in January. In his whistleblower complaint, Mr. Zatko accuses the company of failing to protect sensitive user data and lying about its security problems.” • Sounds like Zatko was very unhappy, since $7 million didn’t make him go away.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 45 Neutral (previous close: 41 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 41 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 8 at 1:28 PM EDT.

The Gallery

The Queen:

This is actually a pretty gutst moving, sitting to be be painted by Lucien Freud. I can’t imagine either of the Obamas doing it. Or the Clintons.

The King:

The Screening Room

“William Gibson’s novel comes to vivid life in first teaser for The Peripheral” [Ars Technica]. “A young woman struggling to hold it together in small-town America finds herself witness to what may or may not be a murder in the first teaser for The Peripheral, a new Prime Video series based on William Gibson’s 2014 novel of the same name…. [One story] arc takes place in a futuristic and desolate London in the aftermath of an apocalyptic event dubbed “the Jackpot,” which wiped out 80 percent of the population.” • Let’s just hope Amazon doens’t butcher Gibson as badly as they did Tolkien. I wonder how they’ll represent the (oncoming and results of) the Jackpot. From the trailer, they’re messing about with Gibson’s dialog. They shouldn’t.

Our Famously Free Press

“Wine Media Is Broken: A Case Study” [Everyday Drinking]. “During a phone conversation last week, the president of a major public relations agency, one with a client list that includes wine regions, big brands, and importers, told me that his firm pays “about $25,000 a year” to a certain influential wine publication. This was not for advertising purposes, he said. Instead, this fee was “to ensure that our clients’ wines are reviewed” and to make sure “poorly reviewed wines aren’t listed” in critics’ tasting reports. That’s what he alleged. This “about $25,000” fee also allows the agency and its client to see reviews two days in advance of publication date, he said. He insisted that his firm is not the only one who pays this kind of fee to this publication.”

Zeitgeist Watch

Kids eating bugs. Isn’t that cute?

Class Warfare

“Segregation’s Sequiturs” (review) [New Left Review]. A review of Reed’s The South: Jim Crow and Its Afterlives. “Adolph Reed, now something of an elder statesman on the American intellectual left, has long argued for an understanding of race as a distinctly modern phenomenon, pushing back against essentialist notions in the process. Rejecting the idea that black people, within or outside of the United States, formed a single unified class, held together by communitarian notions of a shared culture, he has consistently argued that black politics cannot be understood in isolation from the broader currents of American society.” • Very sadly, paywalled just when it gets rolling.

“Ep 7: The Jim Crow South + Listener Questions” (podcast) [Class Matters]. Reed’s podcast. “In Part 1 of 2, Adolph Reed Jr discusses his new book, The South: Jim Crow and Its Afterlives, with Toure Reed. The Reeds explore how tendencies to romanticize Jim Crow undercuts our ability to address the root causes of racial inequality today. They also tackle questions from our listeners about race and about the labor movement.”

* * *

I remember a podcast which I cannot now find, where Richard Wolff patiently explained that prices rise because firms raise them [astonished pause]. It seems that we’re all Marxists now:

“George Risk Industries” [Rational Reflections]. “The United States is full of family-controlled businesses that fly well below the radar of most investors. The obvious reason is that most of these companies are very small and privately held….. In most cases, if you observe a family-run business that you would like to invest in, you’ll have to approach the controlling shareholder at the local Rotary Club. But some of these businesses are publicly traded and available to anyone with a brokerage account and enough patience to purchase thinly traded stock…. Then and now, GRI is very thinly traded. However, it was possible and still is possible to put money to work provided that an investor is willing to sit and wait for an execution and is not alarmed by the inability to quickly sell the position. Just as you would not jump in and out of a small private business, you would only invest in a public company like GRI with an indefinite time horizon. You might be buying a stock, but what you are really doing is going into a partnership with the Risk family.” • American gentry. Fascinating article for me, although perhaps if you play the ponies its old hat.

News of the Wired

Maybe the real burning man is the friends we made along the way:

“Truck-powered vasectomy? How a doctor improvised when electricity went out in Texas” [Miami Herald]. “A man who scheduled a vasectomy in Texas really didn’t want to have to reschedule when he learned the clinic’s electricity was out. After all, he already had the time off work. With a little creativity — and an electric pickup truck — his doctor proposed an unusual solution: a male sterilization procedure powered by an electric truck. Dr. Christopher Yang said the idea came from one of his staffers who jokingly suggested the doctor should use his newly acquired Rivian R1T pickup truck for power, according to WGLT. Yang did happen to have an extension cord that ran the length from the parking lot to the patient’s room. “When talking to the patient, we mentioned that we could just reschedule the procedure itself, or, if he was up for it, we could do the vasectomy using power from the truck,” Yang told WGLT. ‘And he had a good laugh as well, and we agreed.'” • And the rest of us had a good laugh as we joined the Third World!

* * *

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: “It’s been in the upper 80’s here in Southern California most of this summer, and while *I* wilt in temperatures this high when humidity is a factor, these lovely Iris in a residential garden near Alamitos Bay in Long Beach appear completely untroubled.” I have many favorite flowers, but iris are definitely included!

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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. ACf

    Re the Walgreens index, I’ve been self-interestedly watching NY, and have noticed that the positivity has gone up all this past week, the #s of tests went down in tandem. I’m wondering if fewer people got tested b/c of the holiday, but those that were symptomatic/sicker were more likely to show, rather than any real change in the rate in infection. This whole personal risk assessment thing is totally impossible.

    1. Pat

      Anecdotally this last week I have noticed that the number of Covid test vans and kiosks are up in the Manhattan neighborhoods I go through. One major street normally has one van or kiosk per block, but one block had two additional vans right next to the usual one.

      Maybe it is because of school starting, but otherwise I have no idea why the increase.

  2. Samuel Conner

    re: the “sea of green” in hospital capacity utilization, is CDC also tracking changes in absolute hospital capacity? I would imagine that 2+ years of stress has not resulted in encouraging trends in that statistic.

  3. Questa Nota

    Truck-powered vasectomies?
    I visualized a pickup truck with a tireless rim spinning a rope, as with old rope tow ski lifts.
    What remains but a broken ski pole with a jagged edge, and a sitz mark?
    Post-op with some schnapps in the hot chocolate, too.

    1. Barbara

      When I was in remote Kenya in 1981, the two docs from Holland did surgeries when there was enough gas in the wheel-less Land Rover – the overhead light plugged into a series of power cords, out the window, and jumped to the Rover. It worked just fine then as now – everything new is old again.

    2. ChrisRUEcon

      I initially misread this as “Trump powered vasectomy” and will in due course be retiring early tonight …

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Arguably, the numbers are worse as donors often track polls. The GOP strength for so long certainly brought in cash, so losing numbers of donors likely indicates major deaths.

      Though the Roe reversal may be problematic for the GOP donor base too. Politics is local too, and having Qanon candidate X on the ballot instead of GOP generic candidate X is likely to hurt with the elements of the country club crowd. The Senate races probably hurt with doofuses like Oz and Vance.

      1. Pat

        NTG, I will posit another rash of deaths have added to the deficit, the numbers of small business closures could also have had an effect.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          This is a good point. I’m starting to come around to Oz, Walker, and Vance just being losers.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Good point. How many of those donors were women who were unhappy with this development. Or men too for that matter. A side effect might be that many would realize that an accident for a young pair that was quickly ‘resolved’ now ends in a birth and a lifetime of commitments – and payments.

    2. in_still_water

      More like 43,000 are upset with the degree that RNC has failed to support Trump and failed to speak out against Biden and Pelosi.

    3. Mike

      Perhaps the missing donors are giving directly to candidates of their choice? That, or they’re concerned about being outed and doxed / cancelled as Republican donors.

  4. Samuel Conner

    > a podcast which I cannot now find, where Richard Wolff patiently explained that prices rise because firms raise them

    I think I saw that one. IIRC, it may have been a recent “Useful Idiots” episode:


    RW interview starts around 19:00

    speaking veeerrrry slowly, at 21:45 “whooooo determines the prices ?”

  5. Pat

    As the Obama portraits made me think of bad NFTs that stripped all life out of the subjects in stark jewel tone colors, they clearly don’t have the stomach for any artist who might capture even complimentary realities. They couldn’t handle Freud, who always sees more darkness than light in his subjects.

    1. Thistlebreath

      Geez, do I ever miss Rod Serling’s work. Although he had been more of a Kraft Television Theater kinda writer instead of Bradbury/Heinlein/Asimov leanings, his shocker endings were satisfying.

      FWIW, an alumnus of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH, from its glory years.

      1. paul

        If there is a better presaging on television than ‘it’s a good life’ I want to see it.
        Tough watch,good memory.

  6. nippersmom

    In 2004, complaints about Dr. Mehmet Oz’s dog experiments were cited in a report from an internal investigation into allegations of poor animal care made by Dr. Catherine Dell’Orto, a post-doctoral veterinarian
    I’m surprised Oz hasn’t been endorsed by Fauci.

  7. Wukchumni

    In a place where money doesn’t matter, 2x tix and a parking pass cost $1260 and we got the buddy deal. The same combo was selling for 2x that in the aftermarket for Burning Man leading up to the event.

    Add in another couple grand for gas, food, costumes, booze and ancillary exhilarating substances and we’re talking about going on vacay for a week for the same kind of money to someplace nice where friggin dust storms don’t pummel you for hours on end and you can sleep without the thump-thump-thump of techno which never relents, so there’s that.

    Most RV rental companies specifically state that they won’t rent them out if you’re going to Burning Man as alkali dust gets into everything and then some, but markets eh?

    So the ones that do, really put the gouge on renters and you’ll pay almost double the going rate compared to a regular joe going to Lake Tahoe..

    And as everybody was coming from far far away, $5 a gallon gas adds up quickly in a behemoth on wheels, again mo money, as if you’re burning through it.

    Half of our camp was from overseas and I heard so many different accents on the playa, so add big airplane tix to the total, yowza!

    For about $100 in food & booze costs and gas to get to and from the trailhead, I could do 8 days on the trail on a backpack trip.

    But back to Burning Man, it has pretty strict leave no trace ethics, the dry lake bed is seldom seen with any trash strewn on it, which would be heresy and then some, and this is good-just how we do it in the back of beyond which is so clean you could eat off of it.

    After the burn, Burning Man org spends months making sure that everything is brought back to how it was, as if we were never there, again admirable.

    But the amount of money spent for our sensory pleasure is something else. The fabulous looking temple which burned on Sunday contained $500k worth of brand new lumber, which could have easily been used to build a home or permanent building, but instead it lit up the sky for half an hour.

    The wide long line of cars is really an interesting photo and all those lanes coalesce into 1 lane when you finally get to the 2 lane blacktop. I’d never leave on Monday, but people gotta get back to work, I suppose.

    Maybe I saw a couple dozen Black people, no Mexican-Americans as far as I could tell and the rest of the 80,000 were all of the WASP variety, and by their very nature at being able to waste a lot of money to watch things go up in flames, wealthy.

    Enough of the dark side, here’s one of my favorite propane wasters, El Pulpo Mecanico an octopus art car sprouting fire…


    1. Carolinian

      Sounds like an investment. Hope it was fun.

      As a car camper I prefer my assortment of tents but I have felt the limit of these out West where wind and blowing dirt are constant. On one stormy night my tent, with me in it, threatened to blow off a cliff into the Green River and I had to shelter in the car.

      So the appeal of an RV to Western travelers is obvious in this respect and there sure are a lot of them. But in my neck of the woods seems like you’d roast or drive your fellow campers crazy with all night generator/ac noise. These days it’s hard to believe that all those parks and campgrounds built in the last century were part of a nostalgia craze for the country’s pioneer past. The pioneers had covered wagons. We have “slide outs.”.

  8. Amfortas the hippie

    regarding the wine thing and payola.
    i live just north of one of texas’ “wine regions”.
    we’re becoming a part of it, now…after many years of gladhanding by the local bougie class.
    that this sort of payola thing is happening in that set is yet another reminder that , unless your the actual boss, you’re just playing at being boss.
    sadly, in my experience, that set has its eyes so upwardly focused that there will never be any class consciousness outside of their own little group.
    kick down, gently…that’s the ticket.
    i thought about growing wine grapes some 26 years ago…looked like mediterranean climate, but for the lack of a nearby body of water(give it time).
    but the wine people are classist assholes, generally…at least when there are more than two of them.
    and thoroughly unaware of the fact, which just makes it worse.

    (billboard, between Comfort and Fredericksburg, Texas:” where wine is a pleasure, not a party”…irked me to no end….up there for years, and made me want to burn shit, like french and italian and spanish peasants might do—because ive been the Help for wine people, and they get just as stupidly drunk as anyone else,lol)
    now a bigger fish comes along…i suppose a bailout is in the works…and maybe some regulation…

    1. Wukchumni

      Not much in the way or terroir’ist activities around these parts, the soil isn’t up to snuff.

      They do grow a fair schwag of table grapes though…

      There is a wine named Stella Rosa and most if not all of their advertising is on billboards in California.

      Its about the only winery that advertises in such a fashion.

    2. LifelongLib

      FWIW some friends in eastern Washington State recently looked into growing wine grapes on their lot and decided against it. Apparently not worth the trouble on a small scale.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        for me, it was the necessity of hanging out with ‘those people’,lol…the hoity-toity bougie bullshitters.
        wasn’t worth pursuing.
        to be even adjacent and potential, going to their utterly fake and boring functions was mandatory.
        like a show goat, or something…letting them glom some legitimacy off me, somehow…ugh!
        fuck that.
        and all that pretentious bullshit in service of the fastest shrinking demographic of all: those who have disposable income enough to take wine tours.

  9. CGKen

    The University of Illinois has had a robust Covid testing protocol in place since they introduced their saliva-based test. Unvaccinated and those with symptoms are required to be tested this semester. If I’m reading their dashboard correctly they recorded the highest one-day case count of the pandemic last week.

    dashboard link

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > If I’m reading their dashboard correctly they recorded the highest one-day case count of the pandemic last week.

      I checked MWRA to see if Boston colleges had a rise, but nothing big,

      Illinois, OTOH, has been mysteriously high for some time.

  10. John Beech

    I voted Republican and was dismayed by the court’s decision. I’m glad to take this into account when I vote – but – I detest team Blue running a party hack President Biden, a man with whom I disagree on so much, abortion-alone cannot make me favor him with my vote.

    Getting this R to switch? Requires a ‘good’ candidate for me to vote Dem in general. Middle of the road on virtually everything, like me, personally. Except Medicare For All in which case I vote with Bernie and burn my Republican card on the gamble he can really make America better. Only guy I’d trust.

    Otherwise? That’s my next big thing, a candidate that ticks those boxes.

  11. Rainlover

    Ukraine offensive:

    The Duran has an excellent analysis up now that is not foaming with hysteria. Alexander opines that the apparent success of this offensive is a huge PR win for Ukraine and a blow to Putin’s prestige since he has been off in the Far East with his top military staff. Lots of good analysis about Putin as a war leader and a comparison with the Palmyra debacle in Syria. Not leaving a link because I go into moderation.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      If the Ukrainians put 9,000 troops in open territory, I would bet the Russians are rushing (ha) to put them in the bag ASAP. That’s sure better than fighting through fortifications inch by inch. Zelensky may well regret committing (by all accounts very good) troops to what is in essence yet another weapons-extraction-for-future-sale operation.

    2. Old Sovietologist

      It looks similar to Palmyra. In fact you could say the whole offensive is similar in style to ISIS in Syria & Iraq. Its almost like the Ukrainians and ISIS were taught by the same guys.

      1. Old Sovietologist

        Tinfoil Hat time

        What we are seeing isn’t some sort of cunning plan to trap the Ukrainian forces.

        Granted there’s no attempt to fight and what we are seeing are very well organised withdrawals but that suggests to me that peace negotiations are in the offing.

  12. Randall Flagg

    Kids eating bugs…
    Well, I”ll only really worry when they put out a food product called “Soylent Green”.

    1. The Rev Kev

      What the hell, man. If I was a parent of one of those kids I would be seriously unhappy at having my kid being used as a media guinea pig. And just listening to those ‘adults’ is sounding like child abuse to me. Bunch of do-gooders using kids to save the planet or something really sounds creepy.

      1. Randall Flagg

        A complete mistake in I should have put the sarcasm tag on my comment. Please don’t think I approve of this idea. I’ld rather not soapbox on the failure of our societies re food and children’s health. Easier and less painful to just bash my head into a wall.

        1. The Rev Kev

          My mistake too as I was not clear in my comment. I was actually agreeing with you and can’t believe that they are using kids in school to push this idea. I knew what you meant so should have been clearer. Anyway, can you pass some mustard to go with the Soylent Green?

          1. Randall Flagg

            Mr. Rev Kev, thanks for your understanding.
            I”ll piss people off, start a war here, but Ranch dressing make a great topping too on my crickets if it’s all the same. LOL!

      2. notabanker

        No man, you got it wrong. All the hipsta lads and karen’s can flex on their insta’s about how they are doing their part to save the planet. For the billionaires.

  13. kareninca

    I have a relative at a college in central PA who tells me that “We are in the high positivity ratings. Everywhere I turn folks have Covid.” She is immunocompromised and is scared. She just got the bivalent vaccine. I didn’t have the heart to tell her there was no human testing of it.

    Her in Silicon Valley people are not looking all that well. I went to Trader Joe’s today and the young woman cashier looked fatigued. I did as much of the bagging myself as I could but I could see it exhausted her just to pass me a bottle of juice. I have not seen this before. There is also a cashier in his 30s who about a month ago was very politely disdainful of my N95 mask. He was robust and energetic at the time. He is still not wearing a mask but he does not seem so robust; he has a worn look. I am afraid that he is soon going to have an “oh f*” understanding of what is up.

    I don’t know how they will be able to staff the place if their employees all collapse and maybe die. I’m worn out but it may be because I’m taking Natto Serra in my fervent hopes of not ending up with blood clots (this is NOT medical advice; it is not suitable for everyone and it can interact with other meds and supplements); a side effect can be fatigue.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Her in Silicon Valley people are not looking all that well. I went to Trader Joe’s today and the young woman cashier looked fatigued. I did as much of the bagging myself as I could but I could see it exhausted her just to pass me a bottle of juice. I have not seen this before. There is also a cashier in his 30s who about a month ago was very politely disdainful of my N95 mask. He was robust and energetic at the time. He is still not wearing a mask but he does not seem so robust; he has a worn look. I am afraid that he is soon going to have an “oh f*” understanding of what is up.

      Transmission is still very high. If hospitalization is not, that could mean people are just trying to power through it, with predictable bad results for some. If cases are not, that could mean people are simply home-testing. Or perhaps they are not testing at all. The dominant effect of our health care system is to deny people care, and then screw them if they make it through the eligibility requirements. So a “return to normal” would imply all these behaviors, especially for essential workers with no paid leave.

      1. kareninca

        There is now a spike in the Palo Alto area covid wastewater measure.

        And, someone I volunteer with has a horrible cough and is vomiting phlegm (but so far testing negative).

        The “care” that those Trader Joe’s workers need is mostly rest. Rest until they feel better, without a new infection, to give their bodies as good a chance to heal as possible. They aren’t going to get that unless they quit their job and move in with a relative. And around here the relatives’ places are all full up.

        If only it weren’t for the infection, we could have giant sanitariums in which people rest. But if we did that they’d reinfect one another over and over and over again. Like they now do in workplaces.

  14. lyman alpha blob

    What’s with all the bug eating? Mentioned earlier today in links that my kid has a bug eating assignment in her first week of school. Why has this become part of the zeitgeist all of a sudden? Something’s afoot. Or underfoot.

    If we aren’t allowed the plum cuts any longer, can’t we at least eat the feral hogs? Seem to be plenty of them around.

    1. Mikel

      They figure the younger they start them that time will pass and they won’t remember how it used to be.

      Will see how much home schooling increases as more people start paying attention.

  15. Lee

    Jack Aubrey : “Do you want to see a guillotine in Piccadilly?”

    Crew : “No!”

    As one whose predecessors fought to free this country from monarchy, I would answer otherwise. Not that we don’t have problems of our own regarding social and economic hierarchies.

    1. Carolinian

      They were all press ganged into saying that.

      Besides the French probably got the head chopping idea from the English who did quite a lot of it when they weren’t drawing and quartering. We USians decided to ditch the holy oil and conduct our local regime change in a civilized way (!?) without the knife or axe.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Jack Aubrey : “Do you want to see a guillotine in Piccadilly?”

      Aubrey is a Tory, so I’m sure those were his sentiments. But is that quote from the movie, or one of the books? If the latter, I’m drawing a blank.

  16. VietnamVet

    The termination of women’s reproductive rights into a swamp of 50 different State local laws and 11 distinct cultures is pretty hard to ignore. The New Deal (a secular America) is long gone with the end of the constitutional separation of church and state. Public health, public education, public utilities, and public safety are no more. As Uvalde TX parents lament; “everyone is on there own”. The safety of America’s children is of no matter. So too, the lives of America’s “Not-Insiders”.

    Republicans are the obvious culprits since they publicly pushed drowning of the government in the bathtub and their vocal support of “job creators”. But, Democrats are complicit too. They took the money and facilitated the western Oligarchs’ de-industrialization, depletion, and financial colonialization of the USA.

  17. IntoTheAbyss

    TH: nice Iris photo. That’s my old stomping grounds. I remember riding my mini-bike as a youngster in the dirt trails as they were building the Marine Stadium. Doubt I’d recognize the place now.

  18. griffen

    Looking forward to reading reviews on that series The Peripheral. As a non-devotee of anything from Amazon, I’ll have to find other avenues to find out what is good and what is not good about the show.

    For varied reasons I have my doubts. First time in a long time, I can actually say I read the book before seeing the film or series.

  19. ckimball

    This is not on subject but a concern. 9/3/22 was the last post I have received from Naked Capitalism. I have been calling it up on line..a bit unsettling..I
    don’t think I’ve broken any rules..How do I get back on? I tried to resubscribe but …didn’t work. Ideas please.

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