2:00PM Water Cooler 10/21/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Dark-eyed Junco (Red-backed), Otero, New Mexico, United States. “Song at sunrise of a Red-backed Junco singing from the top of a dead conifer with its trunk cut off ca. 30′ up. Background includes: Warbling Vireo, Mountain Chickadee.”

* * *


“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

“The logic of the insult and the logic of scientific classification represent the two extreme poles of what a classification may be in the social world.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

Biden Administration

Debt ceiling trainwreck on the way:

Why not kill off the debt ceiling in the lame duck session? More important than shoveling more money to Ukrainian black market arms dealers, surely.

Biden is correct:

The consequential outcome is victory or defeat for The Blob (in my view, the real enemy). Now, how The Blob would react to defeat is an open question — presumably the defeat would need to be of “helicopters on the Embassy roof”-scale to avoid denial — but it’s a question that needs to be posed.


* * *

“Peter Thiel’s venture capital-style political strategy yields low returns” [Financial Times]. “Thiel and his candidates — Blake Masters in Arizona and JD Vance in Ohio — have largely failed to muster support with the Republican establishment, raising questions about the Silicon Valley billionaire’s long-term relationship with the party’s gatekeepers, such as Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican. In interviews, Republican political strategists and longtime associates of the PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor say his unconventional political giving is heavily influenced by his background as a venture capitalist. His strategy closely mirrors the industry from which he hails: make a few big, early and targeted bets on a couple of campaigns. Yet some of those people said they struggled to see the wisdom of this formula, especially in high-profile Senate races that are likely to determine which party effectively controls Washington for the next two years. ‘These [tech] guys make a lot of money and think they’re brilliant — because they are . . . But that doesn’t transfer to politics as seamlessly I think as they hope,’ said a Republican campaign consultant who, like other people who know Thiel, asked not to be named in order to speak about the billionaire more freely. A successful campaign was like a three-legged stool, the consultant said, with one leg being a good candidate; another being outside money; and the third being party support. ‘The kind of ‘donor-owner’ model really anticipates one [leg], which is their money,’ the consultant said. ‘They don’t think about candidate quality because they know them and they think they’re great guys and would be great senators, and that’s the only consideration.'”

“Thiel-Backed Candidates Struggle to Connect With Donors Not Named Peter Thiel” [Bloomberg]. “On the surface, Blake Masters and JD Vance would seem to have an important advantage as they head into the final weeks of their Senate races. Both have deep ties to Silicon Valley’s richest and wealthiest investors and years of experience raising huge sums of money to fund technology companies. Masters spent nearly a decade working closely with the venture capitalist Peter Thiel and co-wrote Thiel’s Zero to One, regarded by a generation of Silicon Valley billionaires as the definitive startup manual. Vance also worked for Thiel, and then later alongside AOL co-founder Steve Case, and Thiel was among the key backers of his venture capital fund, alongside former Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt and Marc Andreessen, who co-founded one of the Valley’s largest venture capital funds. But while the connections to Thiel paid off for both Vance and Masters in the primaries—each was buoyed by a $15 million super PAC contribution from their former boss—they haven’t been able to turn Thiel’s seed capital into sustained fundraising success.”

“Crypto Punk’d” [Slate]. “When Sam Bankman-Fried was asked during a podcast earlier this year how much money he might give to political candidates over upcoming election cycles, he offered an eye-popping ballpark number. The 30-year-old crypto titan guessed that, at a minimum, he would put down ‘north of $100 million,’ enough cash to make him one of the country’s most important donors. Pressed by the host on whether he might even spend up to $1 billion, he answered, ‘Yeah, I think that’s a decent thing to look at,’ adding that the number was ‘a sort of soft ceiling’ on his potential largesse. Even if that $1 billion figure sounded outlandishly unrealistic, the comments still seemed to promise a huge tailwind for largely Democratic candidates. After all, Bankman-Fried, who founded the global crypto exchange FTX and is currently worth about $15 billion according to Bloomberg, was one of Joe Biden’s top financial backers in 2020…. But now, as the general election nears, Democrats are starting to look like the victims of a political rug pull. With the party desperately low on cash in a number of House races, Politico reported last week that Bankman-Fried had ‘turned off the spigot’ and was walking back his promises to spend big in the future. ‘That was a dumb quote on my part,’ Bankman-Fried told the publication, regarding his suggestion that he might donate $1 billion. Elsewhere in the interview, he added that at ‘some point, when you’ve given your message to voters, there’s just not a whole lot more you can do.’ For Democratic groups facing a number of tightly contested races that could go either way, it must have felt like a twist of the knife.” • Whoops.

* * *

“‘A Category 2 or 3 Hurricane Headed Democrats’ Way'” (interview) [Dave Wasserman, New York Magazine]. “I think this is probably a Category 2 or 3 hurricane headed Democrats’ way, just not a Category 4 or 5…. We’re still in a similar place, where Republicans only need to win about one in every five tossups to win the majority, and Democrats would need to win more than four out of five. That’s a really tall order. It’s true that in most years, tossups break heavily in one direction or another. But I would also point out we have a bunch of races — 17 to be exact — in our Lean Democratic column, which means there are a lot of races teetering right on the edge, and we wouldn’t be shocked to see some of them fall to Republicans…. some of Democrats’ biggest struggles this year are in blue states where the threat to abortion access is not as potent a November voting issue as it is in midwestern battlegrounds, where there have been ferocious fights between Democratic governors and Republican legislatures over the issue.” • Well worth a read; Wasserman is a refreshingly sober analyst.

Handy chart:

* * *

PA: “Dr. Oz made reputation as a surgeon, a fortune as a salesman” [Associated Press]. “Dr. Mehmet Oz rolled onstage inside of an inflatable orb, put on a hydrating face mask and proceeded to pitch a new line of skin care products to a convention of supplement distributors at Salt Lake City’s Vivint Arena in 2018. The crowd roared in applause. The celebrity surgeon’s appearance seemed like an extension of ‘The Dr. Oz Show’ on daytime TV. But his attendance was in service of the convention’s host, Usana Health Sciences, a Utah-based supplement manufacturer that has been investigated by federal authorities, sued by its own shareholders and accused of operating like a pyramid scheme. The company was also a top advertiser on Oz’s show, paying at least $50 million to be a ‘trusted partner and sponsor’ featured in regular segments that often blurred the line between medical advice and advertising, while also donating millions of dollars more to Oz’s charity, according to records reviewed by The Associated Press. Oz may have made his reputation as a surgeon. But he made a fortune as a salesman.” • To be fair, Usana, structured as a multilevel marketing firm, hasn’t been convicted of anything. But there is a strong aroma of regulatory action, fines, lawsuits, non-disclosure agreements, and so on. I assume Fetterman’s oppo people are going over this carefully.

Democrats en Déshabillé

Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert

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.

* * *

Realignment and Legitimacy

“It’s been two years since 51 intelligence agents interfered with an election — they still won’t apologize” [New York Post]. “Exactly two years ago, on October 19, 2020, one of the dirtiest tricks in electoral history was played on the American people by 51 former intelligence officials, who used the false alarm of ‘Russian interference’ to stop Donald Trump winning a second term as president. Using the institutional weight of their former esteemed roles, they signed a dishonest letter to mislead voters 15 days before the election, claiming that material from Hunter Biden’s laptop published by the New York Post “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.’ In their expert opinion, ‘the Russians are involved in the Hunter Biden email issue.’ … It was all a lie…. You would think since so many have been outed for their involvement in the (non-existent) weapons-of-mass-destruction intelligence disaster that justified the Iraq war, not to mention secret prisons, torture, warrantless eavesdropping and the bulk collection of Americans’ data, they might have learned some humility.” • lol no. Nice to hear a conservative publication say this. Now how about a Presidential candidate?

“Foreign Funding and Public Trust in the Think Tank Sector” [Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft]. “Think tanks can serve as a crucial link between academia and the policy community, offering critically important research and ideas to solve the nation’s most pressing problems. But think tanks can also serve as de facto lobbyists and public relations mouthpieces for their funders, sometimes even doing work at the behest of foreign powers. As these conflicts of interest have become more apparent the public has expressed low levels of trust in think tanks, which has only been amplified by recent scandal — most notably the former President of Brookings facing allegations of working as an unregistered foreign agent.”

“Primary Occupation” [The Intercept]. “Two groups — Democratic Majority For Israel, or DMFI, and Mainstream Democrats PAC — began spending millions pummeling Turner on the airwaves. The two were effectively the same organization, operating out of the same office and employing the same consultants, though Mainstream Democrats claims a broader mission. Strategic and targeting decisions for both were made by pollster Mark Mellman, according to Dmitri Mehlhorn, a Democratic operative and Silicon Valley executive who serves as the political adviser to LinkedIn billionaire Reid Hoffman, who funds the Mainstream Democrats PAC. DMFI has also funneled at least $500,000 to Mainstream Democrats PAC…. While DMFI is ostensibly organized around the politics of Israel, in practice, it has become a weapon wielded by the party’s centrist faction against its progressive wing. In fact, DMFI, Mainstream Democrats PAC, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee have spent so much money that the question of Israel-Palestine now dominates Democratic primaries. Across the country, progressive candidates who a cycle earlier had been loudly vying for national attention with bold ideas to attract small donors were instead keeping their heads down, hoping to stay under the radar of DMFI and AIPAC.” • In no way could this be characterized as foreign interference, any more than Jeremy Corbyn’s defenestration could be. And of course, in the UK, the organs of state security were heavily involved, which couldn’t possibly happen here.


• Shot:



This is pretty much where I am (including having lost patience with being nice, probably stupid, tactically). I don’t want to moralize (cf. John 7:8-9). But I’m not a nihilist, either. Unlike some:

I can understand why Wachter would feel this way. He is, after all, the man who chivvied his wife into attending a superspreading event, where they both got Covid (and his wife got Long Covid, IIRC). That wasn’t a “bad” choice. It was a bad choice, an obvious candidate for steps 4-10, not only for his wife, but for the public at large (and now, I suppose, I’m out here taking Wachter’s inventory. In my defense, he is presenting the actions driven by his method as a model for others to follow).

• ”Nominations for the Peste Magazine Public Health Disservice Awards, Hosted by Neoliberal John Snow” [Peste Magazine]. “We ask that you nominate individuals and groups who have, in public venues, sought to worsen public health in 2022.” • Perhaps readers have some ideas!

* * *

• There are many, many such loops, the entire PMC is made to function through a network of such loops:

It seems familiar, like:

Ironically, Tammany was the very political machines the progressives of the day were attacking. And here we are!

* * *

• More IDweek follies (“the joint annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS), and the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists (SIDP)):

Masking up with a poorly performing mask, and modeling unmasked behavior for the cameras… It’s really hard to outdo this. What do these infectious disease “scientists” think a mask is, anyhow? Some kinda scarlet letter?

* * *

• Holiday thoughts:

I think it still does….

* * *

• ”COVID Virus May Tunnel through Nanotubes from Nose to Brain” [Scientific American (semper loquitur)]. “How, in fact, does the pandemic virus that has so changed the world cross over into the brain after entering the respiratory system? An answer is important because neurological complaints are some of the most common in the constellation of symptoms called long COVID. The mystery centers around the fact that brain cells don’t display the receptors, or docking sites, that the virus uses to get into nasal and lung cells. SARS-CoV-2, though, may have come up with an ingenious work-around. It may completely do away with the molecular maneuverings needed to attach to and unlock a cell membrane. Instead it wields a blunt instrument in the form of nanotube “bridges”—cylinders constructed of the common protein actin that are no more than a few tens of nanometers in diameter. These tunneling nanotubes extend across cell-to-cell gaps to penetrate a neighbor and give viral particles a direct route into COVID-impervious tissue.” • A mild happy dance from lambert, who wrote on 8/12/2020: “All about “long Covid.” It’s those [family blogging] tentacles, I swear. Once you get bindweed in your garden….” Miild, because the Financial Times article to which I linked (“Coronavirus produces ‘sinister’ tentacles in infected cells“) seems to describe a different mechanism. Nevertheless — as with so much else — it’s the tentacles!


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.)

Lambert here: I have to say, I’m seeing more and more yellow and more blue, which continues to please. But is the pandemic “over”? Well….


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, October 18:

1.0%. This has been increasing steadily for the last few days.

Readers, please click through on this, if you have a minute. Since Walgreens did the right thing, let’s give this project some stats.


Wastewater data (CDC), October 17:

October 16:


Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. 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].

NEW Variant data, national (Walgreens), October 7:

Lambert here: BQ.1*, out of nowhere. So awesome.

Variant data, national (CDC), October 1 (Nowcast off):


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,092,409 – 1,092,031 = 378 (378 * 365 = 137,970, which is today’s LivingWith™ number (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the LivingWith™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease.

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.

Groves of Academe

This is sad:


I’m sure there are many such stories:

And many such undergrounds, by diagnosis:


Zeitgeist Watch


But this is not a new concept:

“Everyone Wants to Be a Hot, Anxious Girl on Twitter” [The Atlantic]. From the @itspureluv account: “Here’s a very popular tweet: ‘she’s a 10 but she cries on her birthday every year.’ … There’s a whole universe of big accounts that post content like this—little snippets of language with mass appeal. They often regurgitate the same messages…. I started noticing this phenomenon last year and followed about a dozen of these accounts out of a curiosity that felt kind of sick—they gave me a chill! They were so good at spitting out (or selecting and copying) sentences and fragments that hundreds of thousands of people related to, and they were doing it to no obvious end. They were shameless about retweeting themselves or tweeting several slightly different versions of a thought to see which one would hit biggest…. Other people on Twitter had noticed them as well and referred to them (usually with irritation) as “gradient accounts,” because many of their profile pictures are not of human faces or anything else, just color gradients…. The facelessness of the accounts is what gives them a strange, bordering-on-sinister allure. Who is posting all this stuff, and why?… ‘I want to set the record straight,’ Andrew Zaffina, the 25-year-old behind @itspureluv told me when I messaged him on Twitter and asked him to call me. “I’m so sick of people thinking we’re bots. I’m literally just a really relatable, chill, fun internet personality…. Zaffina uses his Twitter to drive attention to his other accounts and to his businesses—he is a spiritual medium, teaches online classes about spiritualism, and sells hoodies explaining different angel numbers. Relatable content is easy for him to come up with, he says, because he looks at Twitter all day, every day, and his brain has started to operate in the language of the site. And in 2022, the language of Twitter is the language of a hot, anxious girl.” • Hmm. I remember angels from a Jezebel article the other day. In any case, it’s sort of a reverse Turing test, isn’t it? Very odd. (I suppose, for example, you could characterize all the Ukronazi tweets on the Twitter as emanating from a “hot, anxious girl.” But I don’t think so. I do think the author has stumbled onto a phenomenon that’s deeper than they know. (I personally have never encountered a “gradient account.” But Twitter is a large and strange place.

Class Warfare

“The Federal Reserve Is Coming For Your Next Raise” [HuffPo]. “The central bank has been raising interest rates, making money more expensive to borrow, in a bid to slow down the whole economy so people don’t spend so much. That way, businesses will offer lower prices. Part of the solution involves what Fed Chair Jerome Powell calls ‘softening of labor market conditions.’ That softening, as Powell and his colleagues envision, will involve higher unemployment in the coming year. But Fed officials speak in abstractions, discussing supply and demand or the importance of righting imbalances between the two, while avoiding talk about the material consequences for workers. ‘The language that’s used to talk about monetary policy is almost designed to make it less clear what actually is at stake and what the real goals are,’ said J.W. Mason, an associate professor of economics at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Powell has acknowledged that there will be some ‘pain’ in the Fed’s campaign against inflation, maybe to the point of recession. But even workers who stay employed will feel the impact of increased interest rates. ‘The only way in which higher interest rates reduce inflation is by raising unemployment and thereby inducing workers to accept lower wages,’ Mason said.”

* * *

“Major U.S. freight railroads are powering right through labor concerns with profits intact… But the railroad’s $114 million charge in the quarter connected to tentative and ratified labor agreements is a reminder that the bigger concern remains labor relations” [Wall Street Journal]. “Two of the largest unions started to send ballots on their agreements to members this week.” • Neatly avoiding the midterms, a favor the Democrats will not return.

“Starbucks Corporate Workers Doubt Company Values in Internal Poll” [Bloomberg]. “Starbucks Corp. white-collar employees’ faith in the coffee chain’s ethics and social impact dropped to a historic low this year, according to an internal survey, with corporate staff voicing concern about the company’s response to the union campaign spreading through its cafes. In a survey of office-based US employees, only 52% said they ‘completely agree’ that Starbucks ‘behaves in an ethical and responsible manner,’ executives told staff at an Oct. 13 meeting, a video of which was viewed by Bloomberg News. Slightly fewer, 48%, said they completely agreed that they were ‘proud of the role Starbucks has in making a social impact.'” • I think those white collar workers need a union.

News of the Wired

“The process” [Labor Intensive Art]. The deck: “Sharing the tools, techniques, and stories of how I make my rugs.” And: “As a result, I’ve always shown the back side of my work as the front. It’s confused a lot of viewers over the years, so, just to clear the air: I am cheating. I am showing you the back.” • This is really neat! (Thinking back to Amfortas the Hippie’s examples of art that I, a hoity toity fine arts guy, would not consider “fine,” hence not art.) Lots and lots of tips!

* * *

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 Not Even Anonymized:

Not Even Anonymized writes: “Red maple last Autumn.”

* * *

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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. Neohnomad

    An advert popped up on a random video today for a company called “Acre Trader”
    And I am rather perturbed by the premise, and find it to be a very Bad Idea.
    As best I understand, it is a REIT for farmland.

    A line from the ad: “with rapidly increasing global food demand, the value of the shares is expected to grow over time as the price of land increases”
    The Financialization of everything continues.


    1. Anthony G Stegman

      Just a few years back, before latest drought in CA, it was a “thing” for upper middle class folks with extra cash to “invest” in almond orchards. Especially orchards with access to senior rights water. Food and farmland are commodities to be traded. Capitalism 101.

      1. Wukchumni

        Just a few years back, almonds were fetching $4.47 a pound, versus the current quote of about $1.50 per pound…

        Doesn’t matter how senior your water rights are, you’re down 2/3rds before they even got a commercial crop in, ha ha.

  2. hunkerdown

    Richard Haass is leaving CFR as well. I disagree with Quincy, of course; property owners, including the incorporeal kind, should not have any special access to governance, John Jay be damned.

  3. Steve H.

    > type 1 diabetes

    Got a data point here. At the dentist (Aranet approved, thank you NOx), chatting with the hygienist, she started out saying she had an autoimmune disorder from the vaccine. A few cycles later she opened up: she was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, her doctor told her it was from the vaccine, and said there was a wave that was misdiagnosed as type-2 due to obesity. She had a predisposition, a parent with type-1.

    People at least have a chance to turn back type-2. Can’t regenerate a pancreas.

  4. Socrates Pythagoras

    ‘The only way in which higher interest rates reduce inflation is by raising unemployment and thereby inducing workers to accept lower wages,’ Mason said.
    Because we can’t POSSIBLY use tax policy to pull excess cash out of the market. You know, the money being held by those that aren’t willing to “trickle down.”

    1. Lou Anton

      Reject the assumption of “excess cash.” Wages are up (a thing we used to call “the wage-clearing rate”), but the drivers are supply shock hangover, low Saudi oil output + lack of refining capacity, and monopoly/monopsony pricing power.

    2. Carval

      Millions and millions of “migrants” who are willing to take any job that’s how you really hammer down wages.

      Plus they speak Spanish, so they will fit seamlessly into the cheap labor service pool that require that language to get hired for positions where one is not greeting the public. And, more and more, even greeting the public and unable to answer questions in English.

    3. curlydan

      I also thought this was an amusing assumption: “businesses will offer lower prices”

      Maybe gas stations will lower their prices, but I really doubt the food prices that I’ve seen skyrocket in the past year are going to decrease no matter how successful the Fed is at throwing people out of work.

    4. Kurtismayfield

      This sounds too much like MMT. We must only use MMT theory to print money to spend.. not use MMT to remove money from the economy.

    1. Jeff W

      “Am i missing something…”

      Sort of—that “qualifier” doesn’t seem to be doing much qualifying.

    2. Angie Neer

      That repeated-tweet glitch happens a lot. Unfortunately it kinda spoils Lambert’s narrative flow.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        It does. I have some sort of glitch in copy-paste, or Twitter does. I’ve been copy-pasting for some decades on the Mac, and I’m used to going so fast and so accurately that I don’t need to check what’s been pasted, and I’m on to the next task. For some reason, Twitter embeds have a glitch, I don’t know if it’s me or it.


      1. Angie Neer

        Thanks for the fix. And re underground systems, I’ve seen lots of signs around here on utility poles, commercially printed, offering to buy diabetic test strips. My guess is the sellers they seek are people who have received subsidized supplies, but either they’re desperate enough to sell them, or they’re scammers abusing the system (by which I mean the system that decides who deserves not to die of diabetes).

        1. JBird4049

          Speaking of desperation, I have heard that some people sell the use of their SNAP or food stamps, is to get money for items like detergent; makes sense that some would sell their medicine to get the cash for the same… or for gasoline. Fortunately, I only know of this third hand.

          We’re one f—– up country, aren’t we. Some were already living on two dollars in cash a day a decade ago, but benefits have hardly kept up with inflation. You might get enough in SNAP and section 8, but clothes, gasoline, all the little things. We are so, so fucked.

        2. Bugs

          Saw lots of those signs in Wisconsin when I was there last November. Weirded me out. I figured same as you that it was people getting them free from Medicaid who would skip a few for pocket cash and the rest got resold online.

  5. digi_owl

    I have no idea how to even process that Atlantic article on “gradient accounts”.

    But then i am a graying male nerd…

  6. fresno dan

    “It’s been two years since 51 intelligence agents interfered with an election — they still won’t apologize” [New York Post].
    “Exactly two years ago, on October 19, 2020, one of the dirtiest tricks in electoral history was played on the American people by 51 former intelligence officials, who used the false alarm of ‘Russian interference’ to stop Donald Trump winning a second term as president.
    You would think since so many have been outed for their involvement in the (non-existent) weapons-of-mass-destruction intelligence disaster that justified the Iraq war, not to mention secret prisons, torture, warrantless eavesdropping and the bulk collection of Americans’ data, they might have learned some humility.” • lol no. Nice to hear a conservative publication say this. Now how about a Presidential candidate?
    NOW the NY POST figures out that Iraqi stuff is a problem? The problem with the Post and all media nowadays is that this lack of impartial justice stuff is only important when it happens to an ally, i.e., republican (i.e., Trump, i.e.i.e.i.OH). Consistency, intellectual honesty, integrity, heck, any honesty is scarcely part of any public conversation anymore in this country.
    Of course, the dirty tricks AKA serious criminality by the 2016 Clinton campaign can be ignored by the Obama administration and ABETTED by the dems – because that without fear or favor is nothing but propaganda. Hunter Biden is minor, minor, MINOR compared to the conspiracy undertaken by the FBI and DoJ, as well as the dems in instigating Crossfire Hurricaine and the Mueller debacle. And the lack of honor among all those FISA court people – not one resignation, and all those DoJ lawyers – really it just shows how rotten the whole edifice is. And of course, voting for either party just gets you a corrupt bunch who will do anything to serve the rich.
    And the thing most terrifying about the 51 is that I think they are sincere – like the inquisitors of the Holy Roman See, they really believe that they are the true defenders of all that is good – the shining city on a hill, democracy, the free market. They CANNOT see why Iraq and Afghanistan failed, and why Ukraine will fail.

  7. Stephen V

    The language that’s used to talk about monetary policy is almost …
    Almost really? ‘Almost’ regarding those for whom obfuscation is a way of life?

  8. John Zelnicker

    Lambert – Your third “1onegoodtern” tweet is a repeat of the second.

    The Scott Handlesman tweet is also duplicated.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Fixed. And I went straight through, very slowly, and lo and behold! I copied the third embed, and the second was what was pasted. I’m guessing it’s some weird JavaScript thing. What a PITA.

  9. C.O.

    Lambert, I happened on Colin Jones and his study of the history of the smile and thought immediately of you and your cosistent call outs of the stupid demands to “see our smiles” instead of pursuing sensible masking practice to curb covid transmission:

    https://www.bsls.ac.uk/reviews/early-modern-and-enlightenment/colin-jones-the-smile-revolution-in-eighteenth-century-paris/ Colin Jones, The Smile Revolution in Eighteenth-Century Paris

    He has a more recent Aeon post as well:

    https://aeon.co/essays/a-history-of-the-smile-through-art-culture-and-etiquette The smile: a history

    In any case, he argues that the “modern toothy smile” is a product of 18th century French dentistry and a reassignment of open mouthed, toothy smiles to the classes who could afford fancy dentistry to give at least the appearance of white, straight teeth.

    1. The Rev Kev

      From the film “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” How insane would it be if someone smiled in a photograph-

      Anna turned to him. “Y’know, supposedly there’s some guy in Texas who smiled one time while he was getting his picture taken.”

      “Shut the f*** up,” Albert blurted with excitement. “I was just talking about that the other day.”

      “I think. I mean, I heard it somewhere. I dunno if it’s true.”



  10. petal

    Re public health disservice awards: they’re gonna need a lot of trophies…

    More “scientists behaving badly”: the Microbiology/Immunology dept sent out a save the date email for the Christmas party today. First week of December in a caf on campus. It’s usually a fairly long sit down meal. What could possibly go wrong? Kinda funny in a sick, ironic way. Almost no one is masking around here, everyone’s partying like it’s 1999 and there’s been a big jump in cases as the weather has turned colder. I can’t imagine what it is going to be like by December.

    And one of the expensive LMIAL houses on a main drag has put up one of those huge 5′ or 6’x 4′ yard signs and it says “Reproductive Rights are on the Ballot”.
    Ugh nuts-there are people on the corner of my front lawn with dem candidate signs(Hassan is one) and the reproductive rights on the ballot signs, so going to have to listen to people honking until they decide to finally leave. Can’t even have a quiet afternoon.

    Have a good weekend, all. Take care.

    1. Roger Blakely

      I cannot imagine how I would cope with that level of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Just one percent of that level of exposure leaves me wrecked. The brain fog, fatigue, and GI tract misery leaves me barely able to function. I wear my respirator everywhere. What is my exposure? A few breaths of unfiltered indoor air here and there and whatever SARS-CoV-2 ends up landing on my eyeballs. I have not been wearing my chemical splash goggles into the grocery store, but I may need to start doing that.

      1. kareninca

        I had an upset stomach for about three months. I have never tested positive for covid (I test every week for my volunteer position), but I do figure that despite N95-masking and Xlear I must get some exposure due to shopping. I wouldn’t be surprised if I had a covid infection that didn’t show up on tests or show up with typical symptoms; I think that has to be common since the virus is everywhere.

        I did not get relief from the usual stomach aids (pepto, ginger, turmeric), but ground up nigella sativa seeds (using a coffee grinder) mixed with honey did help. This is not medical advice, and for all I know nigella sativa (which is easy to buy online; I get Starwest Organic in the pound package; it is not costly as far as such things go) may interfere with other meds or supplements. Some people use black cumin seed oil supplements for the same purpose, but I prefer to use the seeds and grind them myself; it is cheaper and the honey is soothing, too. Nigella sativa is used as a wormer in traditional medicine; it seems to have antiviral properties.

        I also had intermittent periods of serious fatigue. That I have gotten rid of using a combo of hawthorn and natto-serra (breaks up fibrin). This is DEFINITELY not medical advice, since I am sure these would interact with something or other.

        You may not be being reinfected; you may have just not cleared an infection. Of course you still want to avoid a reinfection. The bit about avoiding reinfection is medical advice.

          1. ambrit

            And definitely wethered.
            “The gate is straight and the byte is right.”
            Another term for that function is ‘Judas Goat.’

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > LMIAL

          Good acronym! I was about to embed the same song you already linked to. (It’s classified as satirical, but it seems pretty literal to me. A new “first time as ___. second time as ___” trope?

          1. petal

            Thanks! I think it kind of stuck from the last 1 or 2 pres? elections when I was observing that one house up the hill.

            I was listening to it as I watched them from my 2nd floor window and I thought “You know, this is probably about right…”. Kept singing the chorus and chuckling the rest of the evening.

            I had to run back into work for a freezer emergency and walked to the bus stop and they were blocking the crosswalk. I snarkily thanked them for blocking it and said maybe they should think next time. They obviously aren’t the uh..type to ever have to use public transport or walk much so would never think “gee, maybe we should stand over here so as to not block the crosswalk”. I cannot wait for this election to be over.

    2. flora

      Thanks, Petal. My almost entirely vx’ed family were crowing to me last spring that because they were all vx’ed the pandemic was over for them. Over! Fcy and B said so. Only the un-vx’ed need worry. When I suggested that maybe the pols weren’t correct I was lambasted as as “know nothing.” Ok. right. They can think what they will. (and the apparent glee with which they castigated the “uniformed” was something to behold.) sigh….

  11. semper loquitur

    Good new for British readers!

    PREMIER PIERS Piers Morgan drops biggest hint yet he WILL run for Prime Minister after record-breaking GMB success

    “As for politics… listen, if it’s my turn to serve, and the people want me…” he told us.

    “Who am I to ignore the will of the people?”


    First a man who looks like a haystack with an I.Q. of 90, then a woman who resembles a confused head of lettuce, now a man who looks like a sneering cat’s a$$…

        1. ambrit

          I dunno. Larry, or will it now be Sir Larry, would be fine with Morgan as PM and Jimmy Carr as head of the Home Office with the cast and crew from “8 Out of 10 Cats” running things. As far as actors in politics goes, America had Ronald “Son of Satan” Reagan as President for not one but two terms. At least Morgan and His Cats have experience running successful television programmes.
          Let us go all meta and call it the Spectacle Party.

  12. Michael Fiorillo

    Sam Bankman Fried? Is he even solvent, let alone in a position to realistically be expected to donate a billion dollars to a pitiful (though not deserving of pity) Democratic Party?

  13. Anthony G Stegman

    As an economist, J.W. Mason ought to know better than to say that lower wages will reduce inflation. That has been thoroughly discredited. Inflation is largely profit driven these days, not wage (or even supply chain) driven.

    1. eg

      While inflation has been primarily profit driven (who do people suppose set prices anyway?) presumably stagnant or declining wages and increasing unemployment must eventually crash that party — that’s the only transmission mechanism by which raised rates can reduce inflation, right?

  14. JBird4049

    The consequential outcome is victory or defeat for The Blob (in my view, the real enemy). Now, how The Blob would react to defeat is an open question — presumably the defeat would need to be of “helicopters on the Embassy roof”-scale to avoid denial — but it’s a question that needs to be posed.

    In my lifetime and in the lifetime of much of the Blob’s leadership, there have been two of these incidents, and you are saying that a third might get these deluded narcissists to rethink their actions? Many have already forgotten Kabul and there is the hippies/leftists stabbed us in the back narrative to explain Saigon.

    1. nippersdad

      That is actually one of my favorite sayings. “The war ain’t over until the helicopters have lifted off the embassy roof.” It really does give a sense of how successfully we prosecute wars around here. Wars designed to never be won tend to have that effect.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > In my lifetime and in the lifetime of much of the Blob’s leadership, there have been two of these incidents, and you are saying that a third might get these deluded narcissists to rethink their actions?

      Well, I’m known for my sunny optimism. I think also that the Empire is more decayed now than in 1968 or even 2003, so more serious and unpredictable effects are possible. I also think losing a war in Europe, for NATO, to Putin, really would cause a domestic political earthquake (hopefully not of the “Who lost Ukraine?” variety, which is where the paleocon conservatives would be helpful).

      No, we can’t kill the Blob at one go. But we can hack it back some. One has to start somewhere. And who said isolationism is a bad thing?

  15. Screwball

    Off topic question. I see tweets from the Biden administration about over the counter hearing aids. I need one (or two) but have never looked into them as I understand they are very expensive and medicare does not help much (could be wrong). This seems to be something new the administration is taking credit for, so I’m already skeptical, but maybe there is something to it.

    Too much loud music and fast cars. :-(

    Has anyone looked into this, and if so, where? Any information would help, as I really don’t know where to look, and I trust the NC commentariat more than our healthcare (what’s that? /s) system or this administration. Thanks in advance.

    1. Bugs

      My dad got one finally. Now the TV seems to be at a normal volume when I call.

      You really need a specialist to set it up so the OTC availability, well it’s sort of another poisoned neoliberal chalice. You can’t just put the things in your ear and fiddle with the volume like Deputy Director Gordon Cole.

      Call around. I’m sure someone can help you out with the setup for a somewhat reasonable price. It’s been a gamechanger for my mother. She’s the one who doesn’t have to scream anymore.

      1. Screwball

        Thanks. I think my neighbors can hear my TV. Funny though, I can hear a train 5 minutes out. It’s all about frequency. I teach part time in a local college while retired, and I’m to the point I can’t hear the questions. It becomes embarrassing.

        1. Laura in So Cal

          When my mom needed hearing aids, we found that Costco had the best pricing. My parents’ out of pocket cost was LESS than what their cost with their Medicare advantage plan would have been. Costco has good pricing on batteries as well.

        2. petal

          Screwball, at least you are aware of it, and are looking to fix it. There are a lot of people(like my late father) who refused to even admit it. It was impossible to do homework or fall asleep at night because he’d have the tv absolutely blaring. If we brought it up, he’d flip out on us.

    2. JBird4049

      >>>Too much loud music and fast cars. :-(

      Indeed. Just a suggestion here as right now on something else (as Medi-Cal pays for mine). And the suggestion is probably overdone.

      Even when everything done correctly, getting someone to wear their aids can be difficult. You adjust to your environment and their environment does not have any background noise. So, you put on your aids and suddenly are overwhelmed WITH ALL THIS NOISE, which just might be the birds, the clock, and the rumble from the street. And everyone JUST NEEDS TO SHUT UP and they are talking normally.

      I have gotten headaches myself with a new aid, but with just a little time, an hour, day, or a week, and eventually your brain will rewire itself to the increased information. But start at home in a quiet spot and not first at the office party, which will drive you insane. It is just a skill that needs to be relearned. Like the first steps in walking and it requires patience. Even if it drives you bananas.

      If you can, use the aids for a week, even a month, and if things do not improve, and even the best make mistakes, take the aides back or at least ask for a refitting. And if it is a loved one leaving those expensive aids in the drawer, get them to put them back on and in a quiet place at first. It will get better. Just be sure to bring the aspirin.

      1. Angie Neer

        Very interesting, thank you for this. Mother-in-law (92) got top-of-the-line aids a couple of years ago, but after a while just stopped using them, and resisted any encouragement. I wonder if she experienced what you describe, but she wouldn’t talk about it. Maybe I’ll try gently mentioning your experience. Unfortunately, her method for dealing with any health problem is denial. She insists she could hear just fine if only people wouldn’t mumble so much, and the reason she never answers the phone is that it just doesn’t ring (believe me, it RINGS). I strongly suspect, sadly, that difficulty with communication is accelerating her cognitive decline.

  16. Mikel

    Re:Night Sky Ads

    That has to be bad for mental health.
    And wouldn’t be surprised by adverse physical effects from affecting sleep patterns.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Imagine if the US Commerce Department or something announces that they are taking in bids for international rights to have advertising projections made on the moon’s surface? I’m sure that the Artemis Accords would let them. When you have a full moon, that would be a big advertising board. Robert Heinlein mentioned something similar in one of his novels.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Bonus points. During elections you could also screen political messages onto the face of the Moon.

      1. caucus99percenter

        Heinlein’s The Man Who Sold the Moon, featuring dueling soft drink makers 6+ (≈ 7-up) and Moka-Koka (“Only a Moke is really a coke”).

        1. The Rev Kev

          I like the bit where “D. D.” Harriman got the Pentagon to support him by suggesting that the Soviets would put the Hammer and the Sickle emblem on the moon for all to see. The man knew which buttons to press.

  17. Michael Ismoe

    Peter Thiel’s venture capital-style political strategy yields low returns

    The media has declared the elections over already I guess. This reminds me of the timeline of 2016. Halloween, then Christmas then Hillary’s inauguration in that order. What could go wrong?

    Vance will probably win in Ohio and Blake Masters is within 2 pts of Mark Kelly as of a poll released this morning in Arizona. Thiel will own either 1 or 2 percent of the US Senate after January 3rd. Not that bad an investment actually.

  18. The Rev Kev

    ‘Republicans against Trumpism
    BREAKING: President Biden SLAMS Kevin McCarthy for pledging to cut all aid to Ukraine- “These guys don’t get it; it’s a lot bigger than Ukraine. It’s Eastern Europe. It’s NATO. It’s real serious, serious consequential outcomes. They have no sense of American foreign policy.”‘

    Won’t somebody please think of the rice bowls?

    1. JBird4049

      Good, there are some sane San Franciscans wearing masks.

      On the station, I think I will try it out.

      I just want to note that after the Loma Prieta Earthquake took twenty-six years for the Bay Bridge to have its craptastic rebuilding and the new station thirty-three years from its conception right after the quake, while the Golden Gate Bridge only took four years not counting the planning. Even if you doubled the time to account for the planning, the Golden Gate a third of the time the Bay Bridge did. Something is not right, here

    2. Angie Neer

      I live near an elementary school that is majority people of east Asian descent including many recent immigrants. A lot of the kids are wearing masks, at least when dropped off by their mask-wearing parents (dropped off in their Teslas and SUVs, because it’s apparently unthinkable to walk to school…but that’s a rant for another day).

    3. curlydan

      Back in flyover country, I went to an election worker training tonight. About 100 people in the room, and so many senior citizens that it made this just over 50 year old feel young. And 6 people wearing masks–mostly the “young” ones.

      “We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
      Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s insane” Bob Dylan, Visions of Johanna

      1. Alex Cox

        I’m on a trip to Spain and just took three trains. Everyone is asked to wear a mask on board. Not everyone does… but perhaps more than 50% were wearing them. All taxi drivers I saw in Madrid and Cordoba were masked, and expected the passengers to wear ’em, too.

  19. Fastball

    Too bad the Election Bingo card doesn’t have room for “most important election in the history of the world / universe / humankind”.

  20. Jorge

    I believe it is the Justice Dept. that writes the memos for “these parts of the budget are sacred and get emergency funding”. If the President jammed Justice with a crew that writes these memos, they could say “everything is sacred” and everything gets funded. The entire concept of the budget can be killed.

    Or, the memos could say “everything is sacred but the Federal courts, including that Supreme one” and shut down the entire court system and lay everybody off. 40 years of the Federalist Society’s maneuverings go up in smoke.

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