2:00PM Water Cooler 10/4/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers, at your request, I have blown away all the “?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”s in the HTML code for links in Twitter embeds. Hopefully that will provide a more pleasing experience on clicking through. Do let me know. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Slate-colored Solitaire, Chiapas, Mexico. I searched for “prettiest bird song,” and the Slate-colored Solitaire is what I got.

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

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

“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

“Biden administration scales back student debt relief for millions amid legal concerns” [Politico]. “The Biden administration is scaling back its debt relief program for millions of Americans over concerns about legal challenges from the student loan industry as well as a new lawsuit from Republican-led states. In a reversal, the Education Department said on Thursday it would no longer allow borrowers who have federal student loans that are owned by private entities to qualify for the relief program. The administration had previously said those borrowers would have a path to receive up to $10,000 or $20,000 of loan forgiveness. The policy change comes as the Biden administration this week faces its first major legal challenges to the loan forgiveness program, which Republicans have railed against as an illegal use of executive power that is too costly for taxpayers. On Thursday, a group of six GOP attorneys general sued to block loan forgiveness. The states of Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Carolina asked a federal judge to strike down the debt cancellation program, arguing that it’s illegal and unconstitutional.”

“Biden Picked the Worst Possible Moment to Declare the Pandemic ‘Over'” [The New Republic]. “Yes, we’re in a different place than we were in March 2020. Some parts are better: There are no refrigerator trucks stationed outside hospitals right now, we have incredibly safe and effective vaccines, we have learned how well high-quality masks and ventilation help prevent the spread of all respiratory illnesses. At a moral level, however, some parts are worse: We now know exactly what works to stop the spread, yet we’re not doing it. We know how to save lives, but hundreds of people continue dying every day. ‘We have the tools, and now we’re setting up the entire system so that we cannot use those tools,’ said Esther Choo, professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University. ‘We just created this vacuum of information so that we can’t even pivot intelligently as the next surge comes.’ What’s actually ‘over is the funding and sense of urgency for addressing the pandemic…. In June, the Biden administration reportedly discussed how many deaths from Covid are acceptable. That number appears to be more than 200,000 so far this year. One runs out of ways to describe such an intense wave of loss. That’s almost 500 jumbo jets crashing so far this year—almost two every day. It’s more than the entire population of Little Rock, Arkansas, or Salt Lake City, Utah, or Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is nearing half the population of Wyoming. And the year isn’t over yet….. We seem, instead, to have decided that this is an acceptable rate of loss and disruption; this is our new normal. As soon as we leave the acute emergency phase, we believe the crisis has passed. But that means it’s only going to go on longer—and winter is coming.” • “Long Covid” means don’t short it, I suppose…


* * *

“Column: Here’s why the House is likely to flip while the Senate remains up in the air” [Los Angeles Times]. “Republicans need only five seats to take back the House. The GOP is poised to pick up four seats just through the partisan drawing of congressional districts that followed the last census. So they’re almost there. Heck, Republicans could gain four seats in Florida alone, where Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the handiwork of the GOP-run Legislature to push through a political map that’s even more egregiously slanted in the party’s favor. Of course, Republicans are also defending a number of seats, including several in California. But it would take something close to a miracle for Democrats to hang onto the House.” And: “For a time, it seemed Republicans would pick up three or more Senate seats, easily regaining the majority they lost in January 2021. But today the fight for control seems like a toss-up…. Control of the Senate will most likely be decided by four states: Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Biden carried each of those, but not by much. In Nevada and Georgia, respectively, incumbents Catherine Cortez Masto and Raphael Warnock are defending Democratic-held seats, while Republican Ron Johnson is seeking his third term in Wisconsin. The Senate race in Pennsylvania is for an open seat held by retiring Republican Patrick J. Toomey. Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are looking better for the GOP than they had been, as Republicans increasingly lean into the crime issue. So it could come down to Nevada and Georgia.”

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“Biden’s delicate midterm dance” [Politico]. “The president has eased into a familiar cadence: He’s raising cash for Democrats and echoing the big-picture themes the party wants emphasized; he’s doing just enough to stay visible, but not so much that he becomes a heavier anchor. Biden is aware — and increasingly comfortable — with the reality that he isn’t wanted everywhere. White House officials are supplementing his campaign travel with events closer to home they believe still allow him to respond to Republicans and capitalize on the bully pulpit. But they’re not in the business of taking too many chances. Biden himself has, to this point, been comfortable with the lighter public footprint, telling advisers that what matters is holding onto the Senate and that, if he would do more harm than help in certain races, he’d stay away. That’s an evolution from earlier this year, when the president hit a low-water mark, and he complained to aides that he was not in demand on the campaign trail, pointing to his successful efforts as a draw and even a closer in 2018, particularly in tight contests. Biden received a pep talk from former President Bill Clinton in May in which the former president urged the current officeholder to do more selling of what his team had done.” • “Delicate dance” is one of those Beltway phrases I’ve never quite gotten a handle on.

GA: “Herschel Walker’s campaign in turmoil as adult son accuses him of violence, lying” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. “Herschel Walker’s campaign was in turmoil Monday after his adult son accused him of threatening to kill him and his mother and also lying about past behavior to cast himself as a ‘family man.’ The astonishing Twitter tirade from Christian Walker came just two hours after a news outlet repo rted that his father, the Republican U.S. Senate nominee in Georgia, paid his then-girlfriend in 2009 to have an abortion. Walker, who staunchly opposes abortion, condemned the report by The Daily Beast as a “flat-out lie” and pledged to sue the publication. At about the same time as the former football star appeared on FOX News to deny the allegations, Christian Walker unleashed a series of tweets accusing his father of ‘making a mockery’ of the family. ‘You’re not a ‘family man’ when you left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence,’ wrote Christian Walker, who hasn’t endorsed his father’s campaign or appeared publicly at his events. In another exchange, Christian Walker tweeted that ‘every family member of Herschel Walker asked him not to run for office because we all knew (some of) his past.’ ‘He decided to give us the middle finger and air out all of his dirty laundry in public, while simultaneously lying about it,’ he wrote.” • Dear me!

GA: “Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker Debate Canceled” [BET]. “Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and former NFL player Herschel Walker, the Trump-endorsed Republican candidate, have a debate scheduled for Oct. 14 in Savannah, Ga. However, Warnock and Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver also agreed to a debate in Macon, Georgia, but Walker has not confirmed. The debate is now canceled.”

GA: “Warnock leading Walker by 5 points in Georgia Senate race: poll” [The Hill]. • September 29.


“Why the White House Tries to Pretend That Biden Doesn’t Forget Things” [National Review]. “Acknowledging a routine memory lapse is harmless to most presidents, but in this administration, admitting the president has forgotten anything is likely to spur the fair question, ‘say, how is Joe Biden’s memory these days?'” • Nifty picador work….

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.

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“Most Latinos Say Democrats Care About Them and Work Hard for Their Vote, Far Fewer Say So of GOP” [Pew Research Center]. Wow, I wonder what that feels like. More: “Latino registered voters identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party over the Republican Party by a nearly two-to-one margin (64% vs. 33% in this year’s survey), with Latino party identification shifting little over the past few years. Even so, Latino registered voters’ future party affiliation remains uncertain. A 2021 Pew Research Center study of Americans’ political views found substantial shares of Latino voters fell into groups with soft ties to the political parties. For example, roughly one-in-ten Latino voters who identified as either a Democrat or Republican held political views that more closely aligned with the opposing party than with their own party.” And: “According to the new Center survey, a larger share of Hispanics have a negative than positive impression of socialism (53% vs. 41%). By contrast, Hispanics have a more positive than negative view of capitalism (54% vs. 41%). When it comes to socialism, Hispanic Democrats and Democratic leaners are split on how they view socialism (48% negative vs. 50% positive). Meanwhile, Hispanic Republicans and Republican leaners have a more negative impression of socialism, with nearly three-quarters (72%) viewing socialism negatively. Latinos ages 18 to 29 are more evenly divided in their views of socialism (46% positive vs. 50% negative), a pattern seen among all U.S. young people.”

“Progressives hunt for new, younger leaders post-Sanders-Warren era” [The Hill]. “‘We’ve been talking about fresh blood for years,’ said one Democratic strategist who reluctantly supported President Biden in the 2020 election. ‘Years! And every time we go back to the dinosaurs because we say we have nothing better.'”

Republican Funhouse

“CPAC backtracks on tweet criticizing US aid to Ukraine” [The Hill]. “The Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) tweeted Saturday that its account delayed the deletion of an ‘unapproved’ post on the Ukrainian crisis due to the time difference of an event its hosting in Sydney, Australia. According to screenshots of the post shared on Twitter, CPAC had tweeted that Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘announces the annexation of 4 Ukrainian-occupied territories’ while ‘Biden and the Dems continue to send Ukraine billions of taxpayer dollars.’ ‘Meanwhile, we are under attack at our southern border. When will Democrats put #AmericaFirst and end the gift-giving to Ukraine?’ CPAC wrote in the original post. The post went up Friday morning and was not taken down until sometime on Saturday. CPAC said there was a delay in deleting the ‘unapproved tweet’ because of a time difference, as the organization is currently hosting a conference in Australia. CPAC also acknowledged the post had ‘belittled the plight of the innocent Ukraine people.'” • Hmm.

Obama Legacy

Obama speaks in measured tones; he does not whine. Otherwise, on point:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“How Government Ends” [Boston Review]. “[Administrative agencies] currently number 400 or so departments and offices—from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Postal Service, and the Securities and Exchange Commission to the Food and Drug Administration, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Federal Election Commission—with over 3.5 million civilian and military employees, budgets totaling more than $1 trillion, and legal responsibilities covering the gamut of daily life. These agencies are created, funded, overseen, and given directions by Congress. Anyone who eats food, drinks water, breathes air, drives a car, takes medicine, receives mail, collects retirement benefits, or owns publicly traded stock—to name a tiny set of examples—has crossed paths, even if unwittingly, with the work of an administrative agency…. The Supreme Court long policed these kinds of legislative choices with a light touch, understanding that Congress was in a better position than the Court to identify the appropriate breadth of delegations of authority to agencies and the appropriate degree of political independence for them. But this long period of legislative hegemony and judicial restraint with respect to the powers and structure of federal agencies appears to be coming to an end. Deploying originalist arguments, the conservative justices on today’s Supreme Court have served notice—most recently in West Virginia v. EPA, decided this June—that they are prepared to weaken and restructure contemporary government in order to return us to their vision of our constitutional past. For these justices, the fact that their originalist interpretations of the views of the Constitution’s framers align perfectly with the deregulatory and anti-government program of today’s Republican party is a mere coincidence.”


• ”How the CDC’s communication failures during Covid tarnished the agency” [NBC]. “In one case, the agency sent teams from its headquarters in Atlanta to areas of the country where the earliest cases had been reported. One team was sent to Chicago, the city that reported the first documented human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus in the U.S. There, CDC officials met with local and state health officials to help facilitate early guidance, even though little was known about the new virus at the time. The team got on a conference call with CDC scientists in Atlanta to ask how they might best stop further spread of the virus. ‘If someone sneezes on a table, how long will the virus live on the table?’ they asked, according to a staffer familiar with the conversation. ‘What kind of precautions should they take? What kind of cleaning should be done?’ ‘Rather than saying, ‘We don’t know; we’re going to have to look into this,’’ the person said, the CDC scientists said they didn’t see a need for any special decontamination, because there was no science at the time to back it up. When local health officials on the call questioned the advice, the response from the CDC was ‘do what you think is best.’ There was a lot of weird looking around the room, like, ‘What do I do with that?’ Problems communicating guidance continued. The agency later flip-flopped on critical advice for the public, such as when people should wear masks, who should be tested after a Covid exposure and how the virus spreads.” • One nuggest of wisdom I did pick up at school is that whenever “communication failure” is invoked, that’s never the real problem. I’ve done a shallow dive and a deep dive into CDC’s response to Covid recently, and all I can say is that the rot goes very, very deep. If indeed our elites consider it rot, and not simply thinning the herd, a desireable outcome.

• “The College is failing to protect us from COVID. Here is how.” [The Williams Record]. “If I had a nickel for every one of my friends who has COVID-19 right now, I’d have about 12 nickels. Which is a lot, and at this point, it’s not weird that it’s happened that many times. The College’s COVID policies are sorely lacking in execution and content, and given the huge outbreak that most of us are intimately familiar with right now, students are hurting from it. I haven’t seen any of my suitemates in a week because they’re all self-isolating. Every day classes are a little emptier because someone else has gotten sick, but students have no way of knowing just how widespread the outbreak is — R.I.P. the COVID dashboard. Students deserve transparency and openness from the College. The dashboard is an essential tool for students when making informed decisions about masking and attending classes in person. And given that we have the data from the student positive reporting form, it shouldn’t be hard to create a modified dashboard tracking positive cases reported on campus. The College lacks the intention, not the means, to communicate with its students. The College’s arrival policies made absolutely no sense. Yes, the College’s guidelines are based on advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but the College should have known that our situation is unusual enough to require a more nuanced approach.” • [snort]. “Yes”? NOTE There’s note at the top of the article that says the administration addressed some of the concerns raised in this editorial. But maybe that’s just flak-catching.

• ”Impact of Age and Symptom Development on SARS-CoV-2 Transmission in Households With Children—Maryland, New York, and Utah, August 2020–October 2022″ [Open Forum Infectious Diseases]. This article is full of CDC people, so I don’t get why it’s not in MMWR. Scientists? “Households are common places for SARS-CoV-2 to spread [2], and studies of households can be used to learn more about factors associated with virus transmission and susceptibility…. . Following participants through the Alpha and Delta waves, we hypothesized that a person’s age would not be associated with SARS-CoV-2 acquisition or transmission, COVID-19 vaccination status would protect against viral acquisition or transmission, and presence of symptoms would increase odds of transmission.” • Nothing on ventilation, then? Lol. There’s a boatload of anecdote on household transmission being prevented by isolation, Corsi boxes, opening windows, etc. You’d think that the Centers for Disease would be looking at what people can do.

* * *

• ”Why is the Government giving more money to Peter Daszak?” [Unherd]. “A familiar Covid-19-related name is back in the news. The NGO run by Peter Daszak has been granted another $600,000 by Anthony Fauci’s agency, NIAID. This, to say the least, has raised eyebrows… While recent headlines about a fresh $600,000 grant are accurate, the reality is that Daszak’s organization was awarded about five times that, $3.3 million, by the NIH to hunt viruses in south-east Asia.” • This is batty [thanks, I’ll be here all week]. Never mind Wuhan. Just look at the rest of the record.

* * *

• “New nasal spray vaccines might reduce COVID infections, but the money is still missing” [Boston Globe]. “While current shots are effective at preventing severe disease and death, they haven’t protected people from catching the virus. Some scientists say nasal vaccines will do a better job, because they stimulate a special class of antibodies in our noses that would stop the virus at the door, blocking infection. Dozens of academic labs and biotech firms, including Moderna, are working on nasal vaccines. A few countries, including India, recently approved them. Prominent researchers are calling for a coordinated effort to accelerate their development in the United States.” But: “Several researchers have called for a sequel to Operation Warp Speed, the Trump Administration’s government’s $12 billion program that accelerated the testing of the initial COVID vaccines and bankrolled their production…. Plans for that sequel are in the works according to Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator. In September at Globe Summit, The Boston Globe’s annual conference, Jha said the Biden administration is proposing an effort called ‘Project COVID Shield’ to speed next-generation vaccines and therapies. The administration requested $8 billion to support the project as part of a $47 billion budget proposal largely focused on the COVID pandemic and support for Ukraine. But debate on the vaccine funds was punted to avoid a government shutdown. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that the administration wouldn’t give up on trying to secure that funding. The outlook for private funding is no more promising.” • “Won’t give up” = “fighting for,” I suppose.

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• Hold it! Smile!

• Smile! Hold it!

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• Ventilation tips and tricks:

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• This is a very unsettling theory, which I think is a mere prank or jape. A thread:

Nobody I know who has gotten Covid wants to get it again. Nevertheless….

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Lambert here: The Walgreens site (used for positivity and variants) is not working for me at all on either my Mac or my iPad, no matter what browser I use, or whether I turn my VPN on or off. The COVID-19 Community Profile Report from HeathData.gov is not updating its reports. I suppose this is how a pandemic ends, with sites simply going dark with no explanation?

Case Count

Case count for the United States:

Cases are undercounted, one source saying by a factor of six, Gottlieb thinking we only pick up one in seven or eight.) Hence, I take the nominal case count and multiply it by six to approximate the real level of cases, and draw the DNC-blue “Biden Line” at that point. The previous count was ~53,100. Today, it’s ~45,800 and 45,800 * 6 = a Biden line at 274,800. (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 the first surge in New York, in the spring of 2020 (after which the Times printed the images of the 100,000 who died, considering that a large number, as it was at the time).

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

Regional case count for four weeks:

The South:

Florida, come on. This isn’t funny.

The South (minus Texas and Florida):

The West:


Wastewater data (CDC), September 30:

Lambert here: I’m pleased to see that there are now some live sites in New York City.

For grins, September 26:

An alert reader suggested taking a look at the MWRA data from the Boston area, and lo and behold:

This is a seven-day average, mind you, so the rise is no fluke. Let’s see if it continues. Let us also remember that the Boston area is not only the home of many, many students, it’s also a PMC center, and we have already seen one ginormous superspreader event from the conference in Boston. Boston also has a major international airport, another cause of spread.

• “Local wastewater shows an uptick in COVID. What does it mean?” [WGBH]. “New data shows a recent uptick of COVID-19 virus levels in local wastewater — a trend that, while unsurprising, has caught the attention of some public health experts. ‘We’ve seen this the last several times when school has come back in session,’ said Andrew Lover, an assistant professor of epidemiology at UMass Amherst. ‘But it is a bit concerning that it’s so sudden and pretty high and [in] just a short period of time.’ Lover said part of the reason for this recent increase has to do with waning booster shots. The state’s most recent weekly COVID report, published Wednesday, shows less than half of people in their 20s have gotten at least one booster; just over half for people in their 30s; and 59% for those in their 40s. ‘The booster uptake is a bit lower than we had all hoped for,’ he said. ‘And so quite a lot of people are getting to probably the end or near the end of their protection.’ Looking overseas, the trends elsewhere don’t spell out a good future. ‘Right now, currently, the United Kingdom is seeing quite a quite a large wave,’ Lover said. ‘And they are a few weeks ahead of us.'”


SITE DOWN From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, September 21:

-0.5%. Not so much down, as fluky. Something seems to have nuked the layout.


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.)

Lambert here: I have to say, I’m seeing more yellow and more blue, which continues to please.

NOT UPDATED AGAIN FFS Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), September 23:

I suppose that if case counts are indeed level, it’s likely there would be few rapid risers. Those two red areas in Northern Maine and upstate New York are both on the way to Quebec, Canada.

Previous Rapid Riser data:

NOT UPDATED AGAIN FFS Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), September 23:

Not a sea of green.

NOTE: Rapid Riser and Hospitalization data are updated Wednesdays and Fridays. Not this week, though! Mr Covid’s on vacation? So the boys and girls don’t have to come into the office?


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].

SITE DOWN Variant data, national (Walgreens), September 10:

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

Variant data, national (CDC), September 10 (Nowcast off):

• BA.2.75 showing impressive growth across The Pond:


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,085,060 – 1,084,282 = 778 (778 * 365 = 283,970, which is today’s LivingWith™* number (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though 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

Employment Situation: “United States Job Openings” [Trading Economics]. “The number of job openings in the US dropped to 10.1 million in August of 2022, the lowest since June 2021 from a downwardly revised 11.2 million in July and a record level of 11.9 million in March. Figures came below market expectations of 10.775 million but were still above pre-pandemic levels, suggesting demand for workers remained strong.” • Despite the best efforts of the Fed. (Random thought: Why is there no musical about the Fed? Like instead of Hamilton, Greenspan? The big production number: “I Made a Mistake.”

Manufacturing: “United States Factory Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US manufactured goods were flat in August of 2022, after a 1 percent decrease in July and in line with market expectations.”

Logistics: “Hurricane Ian caused much destruction in Florida” [Trading Economics]. “The Logistics Manager’s Index in the US increased for the first time in six months to 61.4 in September of 2022 from 59.7 in August which was the lowest since May of 2020. The reading pointed to sustained growth in the logistics industry, fueled by high levels of inventory (71.9 vs 67.6) and costs (77.2 vs 76.8). On the other hand, transportation metrics continue their slowed pace, reaching the second highest level of capacity growth (71.8 vs 64.3), and the third fastest rate of price contraction in the history of the index.”

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Tech: “I tried the controversial internet tool that lets anyone create AI-generated art for free — here’s how to use DALL-E” [Insider]. “DALL-E generates images based on detailed text descriptions that a person types into a text box. Over 1.5 million people use DALL-E to make over 2 million images a day, according to OpenAI.” • I wonder if any readers have tried this? I loaded it, but they wanted my telephone number, so nope!

Tech: “Bug in fMRI software calls 15 years of research into question” [Wired]. fMRI = functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. “A bug in the software used by researchers to interpret fMRI data could invalidate fifteen years worth of neuroscientific research, a paper claims. Three of the most popular pieces of software for fMRI – SPM, FSL and AFNI – were all found to have false positive rates of up to 70 per cent. These findings could invalidate ‘up to 40,000 papers’, researchers claim. fMRI measures blood flow inside the brain and, by proxy, brain activity. It assumes cerebral blood flow is coupled or correlated with neural activity, and has been used to explore how the human brain responds to robots, how memory and imagination interact, how the brain looks when someone has an idea and more. ‘Though fMRI is 25 years old, surprisingly its most common statistical methods have not been validated using real data,’ said Anders Eklund.” • That “surprisingly” is enough to make me cynical.

The Bezzle:

The Bezzle: “Kim Kardashian fined $1 million by SEC over crypto promotion” [Associated Press]. “The long list of celebrities promoting cryptocurrencies just got shorter. Kim Kardashian is being barred from doing so for three years — and will pay a $1 million fine — to settle federal charges that she recommended a crypto security to her 330 million Instagram followers without making clear that she was paid to do so. The reality TV star also must give up the $250,000 she was paid for the Instagram post about Ethereum Max tokens, plus interest, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission settlement announced Monday. Kardashian is the latest celebrity to get ensnared in regulations that require full disclosure by people getting paid to promote financial products.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 29 Fear (previous close: 23 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 17 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed).

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Wild Weather. “Hurricane Ian caused much destruction in Florida” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.)

The Conservatory


Class Warfare

“A causal test of the strength of weak ties” [Science]. The Abstract: “The authors analyzed data from multiple large-scale randomized experiments on LinkedIn’s People You May Know algorithm, which recommends new connections to LinkedIn members, to test the extent to which weak ties increased job mobility in the world’s largest professional social network. The experiments randomly varied the prevalence of weak ties in the networks of over 20 million people over a 5-year period, during which 2 billion new ties and 600,000 new jobs were created. The results provided experimental causal evidence supporting the strength of weak ties and suggested three revisions to the theory. First, the strength of weak ties was nonlinear. Statistical analysis found an inverted U-shaped relationship between tie strength and job transmission such that weaker ties increased job transmission but only to a point, after which there were diminishing marginal returns to tie weakness. Second, weak ties measured by interaction intensity and the number of mutual connections displayed varying effects. Moderately weak ties (measured by mutual connections) and the weakest ties (measured by interaction intensity) created the most job mobility. Third, the strength of weak ties varied by industry. Whereas weak ties increased job mobility in more digital industries, strong ties increased job mobility in less digital industries.”

News of the Wired

News you can use:

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


Adding, I could still use more plants!

* * *

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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. ChiGal

    that bird sounds a crystal bell chiming. puts me in mind of Jerry Garcia, who in a class by himself actually played a guitar like “ringing a bell,” the notes rang out so sweet and clear.

  2. Carolinian

    Obama speaks in measured tones

    While doing a delicate dance? I’ve always thought that political journalism, MSM style, was something even I could do. You just need the phrase book.

    And speaking of Twitter now looks like Musk may buy after all

    1. Tom Stone

      Musk as the Chief Twit?, King of Twits? Twitmeister?
      It seems like a regression from Twat to Twit…
      I hope his next mutation is more attractive.

    2. Mildred Montana

      And speaking of MSM, that abbreviation now has another meaning:

      MSM—Master Stock Manipulator. As in Elon Musk. It looks like he will never face any investigations or sanctions by the SEC. Instead, he makes a mockery of it and the SEC sits there and shamefully takes it.

      A nation of laws indeed, says Elon as he laughs his way to the bank.

    3. wol

      ‘Obama speaks in measured tones,


      Paging Ogden Nash. I’ve gotta get back to work.

    4. Screwball

      Random thoughts…

      1) Musk and the Twitter thing, IMO, is really no different that what goes on each and every day. Laws are broken, nothing happens. They are in the big club.

      2) If Musk ends up owning Twitter and drives it into the dustbin of history, would that be a bad thing?

      3) If Musk really allows (given TWTR ownership) unlimited free speech to be disseminated on Twitter (do we know what his business model really is?) can you imagine the entertainment value?

      4) I think I read there is some stuff going on with section 230 that might have an impact on where it all goes, which will probably include TWTR.

      Interesting times.

      1. Carolinian

        Musk is a jerk without a doubt but I don’t think we have to dismiss his more idealistic noises as mere P.R. Since he is rhetorically in favor of free speech then a new Twitter associated with him means that any censorship will be associated with him and not with faceless button pushers tending their algorithmic garden. I’d say this is a good thing.

        That said one can certainly question why he is doing it. The article I saw said it is probably because he is likely to lose in court.

      1. Revenant

        The fMRI data issue is not a surprise. I’ve had the privilege of working with a Professor of astrophysics at the Cavendish in Cambridge. What he doesn’t know about certain kinds of maths and information theory is not worth knowing – all those blurry spectra from afar to interpret. His inventions included ways of applying new functional basis sets to the image, to remove blur and obtain the provably maximal information from it.

        I funded a company to apply his techniques to terran data. One of the applications was MRI data (another was ultramicrographs of margarine but that’s a less glamorous story).

        He was invited by a large pharma company to process a large MRI dataset to improve time resolution (blur). He told them the file was corrupt. They insisted it wasn’t. He told them the dara were more noise than signal. They were outraged he was impugning months of experiments by scientists who had captured valuable anatomical / physiological data. He said they should recalibrate it. They accepted the challenge. He said the data were still bad.

        They escalated and said that the manufacturer itself had recalibrated it. He said the manufacturer needed to calibrate it again. The manufacturer invited him to test the algorithm on their demonstration models, with the same result. It turned out the entire design was faulty and the calibration with the MRI phantom introduced subtle but fatal artefacts in all data captured with that scanner series.

        Big pharma company simply ceased hiring us after that and manufacturer did nothing. Ignorance is bliss!

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > My favorite story of fMRI statistics is the Dartmouth dead salmon brain scan that showed activity


        I don’t know enough about medical technology to know if fMRI data is embedded in chips, or if technology that we would be in a normal hospital environment depends on it. Readers?

        1. Revenant

          MRI detects the relaxation energy of the nuclei of specific chemical elements. The commercial machines detect hydrogen nuclei, i.e. protons, but in theory other elements could be detected. An intense magnetic field lines up all the nuclei; an radio wave is applied which slaps them off alignment and in wobbling back into position they emit an energy pulse which is detected. The signals from the cylindrical array of detectors need to be processed and transformed into a 3D representation of the tissues, based on their proton density. Water, fat, muscle, bone and air will all show up with different intensity.

          fMRI performs some even fancier calculations to use MRI principles to detect changes in oxygenated blood flow (oxygenated and deoxygenated haemoglobin have different signatures in MRI).

          Calibration of any MRI machine is hugely important, to determine what is real signal and what is external noise or noise in the machine. So, if you are wondering where the qualify control issues are, it is software all the way down….

          Some of the bugs will be in the signal extraction software or MRI machine design itself (my anecdote) and some of them will be in the assumptions about the physiological / clinical meaning of certain signal features (the fMRI of the dead salmon).

          1. digi_owl

            On that note, years ago i read about some tech that was being researched as an alternative to fMRI for brain activity. Sometime about passing a current between points along the head and looking for changes thanks to resistance. Naturally not as detailed as fMRI, but had the potential benefit of being usable in the field.

          2. fjallstrom

            Very good and accesible description.

            I would like to add, that ordinary MRI and fMRI should probably be treated as somewhat different animals. MRI with its focus on what is where in for example brains, both measures on a larger scale, and is often used before surgical intervention. One would think that if MRI results often was wonky, surgeons would notice.

            fMRI on the other hand studies processes that are largely unstudiable through other means. So if the results are wonky, it in generela won’t be noticed, unless the fish is dead.

            MRI studies bodies that are then used, and the bodies are examined through other means, providing a valuable feed-back loop in knowledge and expertise. fMRI lacks such a feedback loop.

            1. NorD94

              wonder why Wired published this in Oct 2022, the linked study is from July 2016, there are several other articles from 2016.

              I don’t work in the field and have no idea what “fixes” have been done in the last 6 years.

              wired link: Cluster failure: Why fMRI inferences for spatial extent have inflated false-positive rates https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1602413113

              similar 2016 links:

              A Bug in Fmri Software Could Invalidate 15 Years of Brain Research

              A Bug in FMRI Software Could Invalidate 15 Years of Brain Research

              1. NorD94

                from the Scienealert link:

                “The bug was corrected in May 2015, at the time the researchers started writing up their paper, but the fact that it remained undetected for over a decade shows just how easy it was for something like this to happen, because researchers just haven’t had reliable methods for validating fMRI results.”

                the PNAS article has link to a letter about the paper. (April 2017)

                fMRI clustering and false-positive rates

                This points out a real software bug was found/fixed, but bug does not seem to have major impact. Also other comments about the original paper. from the letter

                “a 15-y-old bug in AFNI’s 3dClustSim significantly contributed to producing “particularly high” FPRs compared with other software.”

                and a reply to the letter:

                Reply to Brown and Behrmann, Cox, et al., and Kessler et al.: Data and code sharing is the way forward for fMRI

  3. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Progressives hunt for new, younger leaders post-Sanders-Warren era

    One of my in-laws is US rep, is ranked fairly high among Democrat leadership in the House, and has joked about being one the “youngsters” on the Democrat bench. That person is pushing 60.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Progressives hunt for new, younger leaders

      Dang, I just realizes I forgot to add “[bangs head on desk]” after that link. One moment: [bangs head on desk]. There.

    2. hunkerdown

      Barbara and John Ehrenreich pointed out in their PMC essay that, as a mediator class living in a mediated society, PMC would eventually produce then depend on expert mediators to reproduce themselves. They couldn’t have been talking about Dan Savage specifically, but he certainly embodies the high form of Puritan PMC priesthood. To that end, modern Progressive culture movements, and in particular the overweening woke movement, might serve them as a tardy, half-baked attempt to attend to the reproduction of the “rational” social order that needs themselves, before this moment escapes them.

      It’s even more interesting in light of today’s Link about the failure to reproduce organic chemists. Lambert’s head-banging would be much safer with some good polymer chemists and some closed-cell foam. Oh well, the ruling class must imagine they’ll just order some polymer chemists off jobs dot ua or something.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > modern Progressive culture movements, and in particular the overweening woke movement, might serve them as a tardy, half-baked attempt to attend to the reproduction of the “rational” social order that needs themselves, before this moment escapes them.

        This makes me think (as I struggle through Bordieu’s Classification Struggles*, that the form of (social**) capital that the PMC possesses is far less subject to reproduction than the capital possessed by capitalists proper, or by a landed aristocracy.

        So one could indeed look at the PMC’s endless churning of complex eligibility requirements, of gatekeeping, of censorship, etc., as a form of class reproduction. And it’s all so crapified because class reproduction is really the sole function of it all; it serves no other larger purpose.

        NOTE * This is not fair to Bordieu. Classification Struggles proceeds from first principle, whereas Forms of Capital assumes I know those principles. Ih medias res is fine for drama…

        NOTE ** But what capital is not social?

        1. hunkerdown

          Yes, exactly, absolutely. The capital of an old-style capitalist can be seen as their ability to insinuate themselves between laborers and means, and to selectively deny access to means, and thereby dictate material production. By analogy, the capital of a PMC might be recognized as their ability to insinuate themselves between and among laborers and capitalists, and to “rationalize” access to relations between and among those atoms, and thereby dictate social production. Land deeds are far more durable than social fashions.

          Protestant theology holds that God is immanent and active in world affairs, and also that ministry is an activity of great importance and necessity. Rationality, defined in the particular possessive individualist way, is the PMC’s major value, and “ministry”, with or without portfolio, seems to be their proposition to manifest it in the world. We can never be completely sure how cynically that proposal was originated, but I am compelled to lift from Ehrenreich this quotation by Edward A. Ross, early 20th c. Progressive ideologue, which deserves a response:

          Social defense is coming to be a matter for the expert. The rearing of dikes against faithlessness and fraud calls for intelligent social engineering. If in this strait the public does not speedily become far shrewder… there is nothing for it but to turn over the defense of society to professionals.

          Well, we have, and they whinge about it all day long on Twitter while quiet quitting.

      2. digi_owl

        For some reason these things increasingly make me think of the stories surrounding Robin Hood.

    3. Pelham

      It appears to me that there are no progressives or (heaven forbid) populists remotely capable of succeeding Warren and Sanders. And that’s because those two have records and reputations that began to take shape well before woke-ism emerged and indelibly stained and poisoned every progressive who has arisen since in this environment.

      Personally, what I’d like to see is a leftish version of Giorgia Meloni, someone who stands for God, country and family, who wants to seal the borders, rejects any bending of the knee to the woke, but also demands card check for union organizing (what ever happened to that?) and a no-holds-barred push to address climate change. He or she would also dismantle the intelligence agencies, reject undeclared wars, shut down about 99% of our 800 or so military bases around the planet, and be able to knowledgeably quote G.K. Chesterton. For a start.

      1. Late Introvert

        Don’t just cancel part of the college debt, cancel the medical debt too, all of it.

        Run on that and watch the votes roll in.

  4. semper loquitur

    Here’s a genuinely funny Jimmy Dore segment featuring Jeffrey Sachs laying down truth on Bloomburg TV:


    Apparently, nobody at Bloomburg TV knew that Biden and Co. have outright stated that they would “bring an end to” the Nordstream pipelines.

  5. Randy

    I’m surprised nobody has been talking here about the fact that the NordStream saboteurs missed a pipe. NS1 and NS2 consisted of two pipes each where the sabotage occurred. They got both NS1 pipes but apparently only got one NS2 pipe.

    1. aleric

      I’ve been wondering about that too – would be interesting to check the seismic record for evidence of additional explosions that could indicate a swing and a miss.

      1. Randy

        Yes, and it is somewhat old news.

        I can believe that the MSM hasn’t uttered hardly a peep about it but find it hard to believe that Naked Cap missed this. lol. This is the kind of stuff that NC and its commenters immediately glom on to.

        I’d love to see Russia get their hands on some un-exploded ordinance found still attached to the pipe with some country’s fingerprints all over it.

        1. Yves Smith

          I’ve been on holiday and I am afraid the other writers don’t follow Russia as intensely as I do. But I don’t recall some of the usual suspects like the Duran boyz mentioning it either.

          1. JohnA

            Only yesterday or so, did Russia announce that one of the pipes was salvagable and could be brought back in service soon. Russian PM Alexander Novak has stated Russia is prepared to cover the repair costs to the pipelines. In the meantime, Sweden has declared the area around the crime scene a no-go zone to prevent any independent investigations, and sent its own diving vessel to inspect the damage.

        1. nippersmom

          I saw your link yesterday and thought the information very intriguing. Looks like Europe in general and Germany in particular still have a slim thread to hang on to. I wonder if they will have the sense to use it instead of letting the US break it.

      2. ThirtyOne

        Hopefully we get good quality video/images of the damage when the inspections are done. Internal vs external explosions should be fairly obvious. Bonus would be finding an unexploded mine on NS2 String 2.

          1. jsn

            Materials have properties, as do explosions, that aren’t that hard to sort.

            The type, quality and provenance of any representation is an entirely different question.

        1. Revenant

          The Swedish have launched a sub to investigate.

          Odds on they either hide the UXB or deliberately crash into the remaining good line….

          1. The Rev Kev

            Should it be noted that the national flag colours for Sweden are the same as that for the Ukraine? Just sayin’.

    2. MichaelC

      Re crickets on this:

      I’ve been hard pressed to understand why Alexander Mercouris hasn’t jumped on this.

      As recently as today’s video, he’s still supporting the view that the pipelines are completely off the table.

      So far I’ve found him to be the most clear thinking, yet not infallible, voice of critical analysis challenging the official narrative.

      Yet if we’ve known since 9/28 that only 3 of the 4 Nordstream conduits are kaput, why has he not mentioned it in his broadcasts. Perhaps it’s escaped his notice.

      If one of the pipes, and a not insignificant one, is still in play then:

      : Blinken’s Great opportunity’ meme looses a lot of steam ( sorry)
      : Germany’s leverage is not entirely destroyed
      : Russia still retains a huge bargaining chip to exploit, and likely is

      I’m disappointed Alexander, nor anyone else apparently ( among those I follow anyway) is exploring the ramifications of this distruption of the ‘ Norstreams are off the table’ meme.

      Clearly the fact the B stream Is still viable is a major factor in negotiations.

      1. dommage

        Except that a fourth leak was found on 9/29, reported by Reuters as follows:

        OSLO, Sept 29 (Reuters) – Sweden’s coastguard said on Thursday it had discovered a fourth gas leak on the damaged Nord Stream pipelines earlier this week, after ruptures first reported on Monday sent gas spewing into the Baltic Sea.

        The European Union suspects sabotage was behind the leaks on the subsea Russian pipelines to Europe, and has promised a “robust” response to any intentional disruption of its energy infrastructure.

        The leak reported on Thursday is the second one found in Swedish waters, while two others were discovered in Danish waters.

        While neither pipeline was in use at the time of the suspected blasts, they were filled with gas that has been spewing out and bubbling to the surface of the Baltic Sea since Monday.

        “There are two emission sites in Sweden’s exclusive economic zone, the bigger one above the Nord Stream 1 and a smaller one by Nord Stream 2,” the coastguard said in a statement.

        The distance between the two sites measured about 1.8 km (1.1 miles), it added.

        Danish authorities have also reported one hole in each of the two pipeline sections in their exclusive economic zone.

      2. Cetra Ess

        I’ll re-add my comment to foghorn yesterday:

        It may be there’s undetonated explosives down there.

        And on top of that I’ll also add that, if true, it may be why the West has been subdued in its response. Is everyone having an “oh sh*t” moment behind the scenes?

        (Cuz unexploded ordinance = evidence.)

          1. LawnDart

            No need to plant– evidence is already there!


            Although seriously, the act itself was very coarse, blatant. If an unexploded device was found, the components would need to be type-specific or very rare to other than a given nation’s known military ordinance lest the “who-done-it” still be on par with a “he said/she said” argument.

            I’ve read other reports that it is the Nord Stream 1b pipeline that is still intact: regardless, does anyone here know the capacity of the remaining pipeline? And if it is 1b, that still means that there is a turbine-problem, right?

  6. Carolinian


    It was not enough to call it “Jim Crow on steroids” and “sick,” President Biden wanted the public to know that the law was flagrantly unconstitutional. Some of us disagreed, but the view that counted was that of U.S. District Judge Steve Jones, an Obama appointee who heard the challenge to the law. This week, Jones found the law to be entirely constitutional.

    After being declared the “new confederacy” and subjected to a costly boycott, Georgians could be forgiven if they view Biden’s claim as more foul and fowl.

    Re Biden and the trail. Leaving aside his shoot from the lip style and latter day attempts at Churchill-esque (“not one inch”), wouldn’t the Dems be best advised to make him as invisible as possible? Is there anywhere he would be a campaign asset?

        1. Carolinian

          Apparently Biden was a guest on Sharpton’s MSNBC show and Sharpton says Biden told him privately that he is running. So chalk up among Biden’s lack of political instincts the notion that the country could conceivably want him for another term.

    1. Tvc15

      Enjoyed the Loretta Lynn Whispering Sea video. The song was on her last album Full Circle in 2016. She had a stroke in 2017.

    1. Angie Neer

      I look forward to the plant every day. I’ve never thought of myself as a plant person (and I’m terrible at learning or remembering their names), but I’ve become much more attentive to them. And the plant photos here broaden my perspective.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Today’s looks to me like a variety of Rose of Sharon. I’ve planted my yard to have something blooming all year long from crocuses to asters, and Rose of Sharon is great for late summer to early fall. Mine has been blossoming for a couple months now, since early August.

        1. Chet G

          Yes, it is a Rose of Sharon (a replacement for my former bush), but the flowers look far closer to a hibiscus (from which is it closely related if not derived). Whatever, the hummingbirds are very attracted to them.

      2. jsn

        In combo with the birdsong up front, these two features are adding years to my life, or if the Center for Disease has its way, at least substantial quality to whatever I get!

  7. JBird4049

    #Florida millionaire is under investigation by the #Mexican government after he burned a $10 million #FridaKahlo artwork in a martini glass to launch his #NFT @Luxurylaunches https://t.co/CLEywKUnHG

    The man is an ass. Frida Kahlo’s art is really not my thing, but she was a true artist and destroying her work as a form of advertisement is just despicable.

    1. The Rev Kev

      The new barbarians. They only see art in terms of monetization and as assets that can be traded. That is why some art is fetching fantastic prices when put on sale. You heard of trophy wives? Well you also have trophy art. For this guy, a piece of artwork only served to help launched the fad of an NFT as he saw the original art as a disposable asset.

  8. Glossolalia

    “Column: Here’s why the House is likely to flip while the Senate remains up in the air”

    So it could come down to Nevada and Georgia… well unless Republicans in all the other states don’t accept the election results and have judges who are sympathetic…

    1. ThirtyOne

      From the Wiki link:

      Stable Diffusion is notably more permissive in the types of content users may generate, such as violent or sexually explicit imagery, in comparison to similar machine learning image synthesis products from other companies.[28] Addressing concerns that the model may be used for abusive purposes, CEO of StabilityAI Emad Mostaque explains that “(it is) peoples’ responsibility as to whether they are ethical, moral, and legal in how they operate this technology”,[8] and that putting the capabilities of Stable Diffusion into the hands of the public would result in the technology providing a net benefit overall, even in spite of the potential negative consequences.[8] In addition, Mostaque argues that the intention behind the open availability of Stable Diffusion is to end corporate control and dominance over such technologies, who have previously only developed closed AI systems for image synthesis.[8][28]

      Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.

    2. Bugs

      And on the other, you can put in a fake phone number. I think you have to really read up about it first before you can give it precise enough instructions to get something interesting. I found it fiddly.

      1. hunkerdown

        “Diffusion models can invert arbitrary processes.” Scary but exciting!

        I’ve run Stable Diffusion on my CPU. It’s fascinating. The generations are actually colorably related to the prompts. There is a low-VRAM version for those of us with sad 4GB video cards but I have to shut everything down (including the GUI) and halve the generation size to just fit.

    3. Greg

      Dall-E, Stable Diffusion, MidJourney, and mini Dall-E are all fairly easy to access at the moment. They’re good at different things.
      Dall-E mini is the 1.0 version of Dall-E, and is available here https://www.craiyon.com/
      Dall-E is as linked, and it’s much better than the 1.0. They share similar strengths though – both are very good at building odd combinations of things. Less good at realistic assembly, modular biology (two eyes, two legs, etc).

      SD is available in many places, but also to run yourself. It runs on a lot less resources. Best way to play with it yourself is using google collaboratory notebooks with free cpu/gpu time on googles servers, for example here https://colab.research.google.com/github/altryne/sd-webui-colab/blob/main/Stable_Diffusion_WebUi_Altryne.ipynb#scrollTo=vhZQqFGxEHcA
      You can also find SD implemented at several web hosts that are making money off providing it with ads etc, like nightcafe. There’s also the original demo instance on hugging face https://huggingface.co/spaces/stabilityai/stable-diffusion
      SD is good at making things look like they might be real, putting context in images. Less good at completely bizarre combinations of things.

      MidJourney is the best for “artsy” images, if you want to churn out fantasy art like the internet is already full of. That runs via a discord server you feed lines to.

      All of them can be fed images as starting points now, which means you can pass content from one to the next. There are several pipelines being developed to use the strengths of each to build towards a final product that makes sense and does what you want, but they’re almost all reliant on large amounts of image processing manually by humans using photoshop and similar.

      The art demons – as I call them, since they’re black boxes we cast bizarre sequences of words at and get unexpected things in return – are all terrible at multiple inputs. You can ask for a blue cat, but if you ask for a blue cat beside a bicycling fish you’ll get some combination of the parts, likely with the whole image tinted blue.

      They are also all subject to massive biases resulting from what they’ve been fed. English inputs work better. Words for categories commonly found in online databases and museum catalogues are used to determine the flavour of result you get (“vintage photograph”, “HD”, “4K”). You can generate endless variations on the sort of mediocre imagery that populates deviant art. Great for a world that believes the height of creativity is a sequel.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Great for a world that believes the height of creativity is a sequel

        So what AI is good for is hosting up millenia of human creativity and turning it into Deviant Art?

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > generating everything you can think of

      Rather, generating a jumble of everything people have previously thought of.

      I think I’m a lonely voice on this, but all the AI (and NFT) art that I have seen has been bad, without exception. I hate it all. Since the ultimate outcome will be to devalue the human making of art, I think DALL-E is an amputation, as McCluhan would say. I assume that massive amounts of computing power will be devoted to it, with all the utility of the power devoted to bitcoin. Kill it with fire.x

      1. Mikel

        Not everything of that either.
        Only what has been previously picked to be exposed – by creators and by others.

  9. outside observer

    Toxoplasma CoVidii… Funny, not funny. Inquiring minds wonder whether those in charge bringing us to the brink of nuclear annihilation have had covid once, twice, thrice maybe?

  10. Asher

    “The Biden administration is scaling back its debt relief program for millions of Americans”
    Yet another broken promise.

    “Where’s my $600?
    Covid Solution?
    Build Back Better?
    Improved passenger rail?
    Peace dividend?
    Free college?
    Getting rid of Trump tax cuts?
    Free Childcare?
    Free Healthcare?
    Lower priced drugs from Canada?
    Alternate Energy?
    Higher minimum wages?
    More family leave days?
    Free Pre-K
    Doubling the EIC
    Free Mental Health Counseling
    Race based Reparations”

    1. ambrit

      I always add to the list: Real Democracy.
      A good bumper sticker: “Pot Sherds ‘R’ US.gov.”

      A more Traditional minded observer might say that it is merely an Ostra-Con (Azul). But it’s the Marketplace of Ideas, right? And Markets are sacred. Ami rite?

  11. Will


    I’ve been holding back for the past month not wanting to brag, but up here in Canada, we’ve got the whole Covid data reporting thing all figured out. The Province of Ontario has recently been showing, on a single web page, a “high-level assessment of respiratory virus activity in Ontario.” That’s right, a side by side visual for the intensity of Covid AND influenza activity in the province.

    Please note that they’re using the test positivity rate as the measure of intensity of Covid activity in the province. (Ditto for flu.) As the current test positivity rate is between 10% and 16.9%, we’re told the intensity of Covid activity is “Moderate”.


  12. Anand Shah

    “I tried the controversial internet tool that lets anyone create AI-generated art for free — here’s how to use DALL-E”

    — You could try Stable Diffusion, said to be an alternative, but open source…


  13. The Rev Kev

    “How the CDC’s communication failures during Covid tarnished the agency”

    ‘Frustrations still run high at the CDC, but staffers remain hopeful that the agency will regain its credibility with the public.’

    Not without a clear-out of their upper ranks – starting with Fauci. The problem is that the CDC is now a political organization which is just the way that DC prefers and wants it to be. This way the medical advice can be shaped to the political wants which answers to the economic wants. So it is the economy which is shaping the medical interventions – or lack of. And if the economy does not want to be disrupted by a pandemic, then bye-bye medical advice. Same applies to other countries like Oz.

    1. wilroncanada

      The Rev Kev
      While I know you (and just about everybody else) hate Fauci. Please begin here, and repeat after me: Fauci was not in the CDC; the CDC is not Fauci–he is/was in the NIH. Please add actual CDC names to your scapegoats list.

  14. The Rev Kev

    The other day there was a link to a story about Google dumping Stadia. Here is a tweet that gives real insight why this happens at Google. It’s the LPA cycle – Launch, Promo, Abandon – where it is all about personal promotions. And who care what happens to it after if the people pushing it get the promotions and then leave-


  15. Amfortas the hippie

    i must report that mom…my real life PMC/blue check analog…insists that russia bombed their own pipeline, and literally scoffed at the suggestion that “we” did it to prevent german/russian rapproachment.
    msdnc is like cocaine or nazi meth.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Thought for a long time that the news media is like the nervous system for the body politic. Properly working, it should tell you what to pay attention to. The present media is like that condition that some people have where they can accidentally rest their hand on a hot plate and not notice any pain – Congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP) – but only notice when they see their hand frying. It is a dangerous condition to have for a person but it is bizarre to see on a societal level.

    2. Teddy

      Along that line ask your Mom how Putin tricked Joe Biden into banning the following imports in March of this year?

      In 2019, the Office of the United States Trade Representative reported the main imports from Russia to the U.S. were:

      Mineral fuels ($13 billion)


      Precious metal and stone (platinum) $2.2 billion

      Iron and steel $1.4 billion

      Fertilizers $963 million

      Inorganic chemicals $763 million

      The U.S. also imports agricultural products from Russia, totaling to $69 million in 2019, including:

      Snack foods $8 million

      Tree nuts $6 million

      Other vegetable oils $3 million

      Essential oils $3 million

      Other dairy products $2 million

      What about Russian oil

      About 60% of what the U.S. imports from Russia is in energy, including oil, coal and natural. Russian oil accounts for about 3% of what the U.S. imports each year, but that’s enough to drive up prices for consumers.

      The lack of Russian oil leaves less crude to process at refineries at the West Coast, and making costs even higher at the pump, according to University of Houston Professor Ramanan Krishnamoorti.

      In 2021, the U.S. imported an average of 209,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Russia, according to the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM).

      While the amount of Russian oil in the U.S. is a fraction of the overall total, Krishnamoorti said it is important because Russia produces “heavier, sour crude,” and the U.S. depends on a balanced portfolio of fuel at refineries.
      How much grain does Russia export?

      Russian wheat accounts for around 17% of the global supply.

      Russia will suspend exports of wheat, meslin, rye, barley and corn to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) until Aug 31.

      Together Russia and Ukraine exported 25.4% of the world’s wheat in 2019, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC). USDA analysts said exports from the two countries would fall to a combined 52 million tons this marketing year.

      How much fertilizer does US import from Russia?

      The U.S. imports approximately 96% of the nation’s potassium fertilizer from Russia, including 1 million short tons per year, according to Michigan Potash & Salt Company.

      In 2019, the U.S. imported roughly $299.4 million in phosphate fertilizer from Russia, making it a total of 729,288 metric tons, according to Progressive Farmer.

      In 2021, the U.S. imported $1.28 Billion of fertilizer from Russia, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade.

      Mom alert!

      The U.S. imports around $24.1 million in beverages, spirits and vinegar annually from Russia, according to Bloomberg.

      About 1.2% of the vodka the U.S. imports originates in Russia. In the first half of 2021 Russian vodka exports to the US were worth around $18.5 million, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

      Yup, Mom’s right, that Putin is one clever devil. He makes it look like punishing his country is actually hurting them. The he tricks Biden into admitting the sanctions will hurt us. Talk about clever psy-op!https://news.yahoo.com/biden-says-americans-feel-pain-213037599.html

      Love the way he projects his voice into Biden’s mouth. Maybe he’s the AntiChrist?

  16. lb

    Along with dall-E, there was a thing called dall-E mini, which was a less refined but similar site. That site has since relocated to “craiyon” but it appears to still work. It doesn’t require an account or other personal details, last I checked.

    I used the predecessor site with friends for a couple weeks, challenging it to do odd things, and combining the intellectual property of companies in ways they would never ever allow.

    I suspect the eventual outcome of technologies like this is gatekeeping by the media megaliths which hold the rights to all ingress content. Here’s an idea as to how to accelerate the crap out of that process, by the way: throw the phrase “Disney’s The Spanish Inquisition” at Dall-E or any of its siblings. The source content is rich, and the output can be really high-quality. It’s also exactly the kind of thing to piss lawyers off, perhaps enough to instigate a fight. Not that I’m a trouble-maker or anything.

    (Put another way, much like the google project that scanned umpteen million books without the consent of their authors, this engine produces output from content without the consent of the originators… and that whole presumptive appropriation and commercial exploitation will have to be resolved sometime…)

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > engine produces output from content without the consent of the originators

      Who knew that the first successful mass use case for AI would be appropriating the intellectual property of otherss! Rather like Amazon bootstrapping itself by not paying state taxes….

  17. Swamp Yankee

    I used to write for the Williams Record! Glad to see it at Naked Capitalism (I’d regularly publicly humiliate Oren Cass in the pages of the same).

  18. Jason Boxman

    After the Storm, the Mold: Warming Is Worsening Another Costly Disaster

    I’ve wondered about this with regards to the livability of hot, humid areas, because mold absolutely and completely destroys everything and you must use a dehumidifier, which is basically an air conditioner, but one that doesn’t deposit waste heat outside.

    I had mold in all places, western NC mountains, and it’s insidious. I found it everywhere. Every. Surface. Wooden silverware. Ceiling fans. Synthetic fabrics. Ultimately, it seems content to grow anywhere. All you can do is remove it. You can’t kill it. Mold spores are the hardiest things in the universe. Unless you want to incinerate your property, all you can do is remove it. Carpet. Drywall. Destroyed. You have to remove it and throw it away. Some molds are toxic. If there’s a large enough surface area of mold, you need specialized equipment to protect yourself.

    “If you don’t act right away, the mold will cover everything,” he said.

    In 20 years as a mold remediator in South Florida, Mr. Zuluaga has seen many houses where people didn’t act, and mold choked the houses from top to floor, settling on clothing and bedding and spreading through ductwork.

    And so I wonder if it is even possible to live in humid climates without dehumidification, even if there’s some way to minimize actual air conditioner usage?

  19. Mikel

    “Smile! Hold It”

    It’s perfect that the No. 1 box office movie currently is a horror flick called “Smile.”
    It features (you guessed it) creepy smiles that appear on people’s faces before they kill you.

    Nothing creepier than a “corporate nice” smile that makes your skin crawl.

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