2:00PM Water Cooler 11/28/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, you can start reading now, there’s more than enough! I really outdid myself collecting material over what was for me a five-day weekend. So, more to come! –lambert UPDATE All done!

Bird Song of the Day

Ornate Flycatcher (Western), Milpe Bird Sanctuary, Pichincha, Ecuador.

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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

“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

Biden Administration

“White House looks to tell ‘great story of America’ with holiday decor” [The Hill]. “‘During your visit to the People’s House, through rooms full of history and holiday decor, in the mirrored ornaments and reflective lights, our hope is that you feel at home and find yourself in the great story of America,’ the first lady said. ‘As our country gathers for the holidays, traditions may vary, but our shared American values — a belief in possibility, optimism, and unity — endure season after season,’ she added.”


It looks like PCCC has hired Mothership Strategies. I hate to post an entire ad — which at least is toned down graphically from Mothership’s usual shrieking madness — but there’s a lot going on:

(1) At the top: “Work the word ‘Trump’ into every paragraph!”; (2) The fine print: PCCC gets a cut (half?) if you’re the sort of loyal donor who has everything already set up in ActBlue; (3) the Democrats have their base so persuaded that “fighting for” is all they can do that it’s now their actual pitch. I mean, donating so “Joe Manchin is less relevant” is the hill you’re going to die on? Really?

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CA: “Karen Bass drew more votes than any mayor candidate in L.A. history” [Los Angeles Times]. “A record number of Los Angeles voters cast ballots for mayor in this month’s election, the result of changes in the electoral calendar, the state’s easing of voter registration rules and the provocative contest between U.S. Rep. Karen Bass and businessman Rick Caruso, according to analysts and nearly complete returns from county officials. Bass took advantage of the new political landscape to drub her rival, notching a nearly 10-percentage-point margin.” • I hold no brief for Bass, but I’m glad Caruso couldn’t just buy the election.


“2024 Tracker: Here’s who is running for the GOP nomination” [The Hill]. • I hate it when stores start playing Xmas music after Halloween. But here we are.

“Newsom Told the White House He Won’t Challenge Biden” [Politico]. “Gov. Gavin Newsom has won three elections in five years in America’s largest state, is apoplectic about his party’s messaging defects and follows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the right-wing media ecosystem with a zeal that would put some opposition researchers to shame. But Newsom wants the word to go forth: He’s not going to challenge President Biden for the Democratic nomination in 2024. ‘I’ve told everyone in the White House, from the chief of staff to the first lady,’ he recounted to me as we sat on the top floor of California’s now-ceremonial governor’s mansion on election night. His message to Ron Klain and Jill Biden over the summer — when he visited Washington amid growing speculation, and considerable West Wing irritation, that he was plotting a primary challenge — was to count him as a firm supporter of Biden’s reelection: ‘I’m all in, count me in,’ he said he told them. Newsom relayed the same to Biden himself on election night.” • It’s the “now-ceremonial governor’s mansion” because Newsome doesn’t live there.

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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“House Dems on GOP’s thin majority: Welcome to hell” [Politico]. “House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his team are set to take over in January with the kind of margins that vexed Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but lacking the two decades of experience she brought to the task. And the House GOP will have to steer legislation through with as few as four votes to spare while its leaders deal with an emboldened Freedom Caucus, internal finger-pointing over a disappointing midterm cycle, and a looming brawl over a 2024 presidential primary that features Donald Trump back in the mix.”


Lambert here: I can’t call a winter surge, but I’m not uncalling it either. High transmission (CDC), the elevation and continued increase in positivity (Walgreens), and the steady takeover of BQ.1* (CDC; Walgreens) are all more than a little unsettling (as is the apparent proliferation of variants). Stay safe out there! (As one might expect at the beginning of a holiday surge, wastewater in Queens County, NY (JFK/LGA), Cook County, IL (ORD), and Los Angeles County (LAX) are all elevated, with JFK/LGA and LAX being more elevated than last week, and ORD the same. Hospitalization in BQ.1*-dominated New York continued to increase before Thanksgiving, so let’s see what happens after.

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This is very big:

“Outbreak Reports: An Outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Subvariant BA.2.76 in an Outdoor Park — Chongqing Municipality, China, August 2022” [China CDC Weekly]. The original article, referred to in Links this morning. “The first coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) case infected with the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron subvariant BA.2.76 who caused local transmission was reported in Chongqing Municipality on August 16, 2022. For 35 minutes, the Patient Zero jogged along a lake at a local park without wearing a mask. Among the 2,836 people potentially exposed at the time, 39 tested positive. Overall, 38 out of 39 cases did not wear a mask on the morning of August 16. All 39 cases lacked any previous exposure to the variant before testing positive on their nucleic acid test.” • “Fleeting contact” at scale. Mask up! On China generally:

• “Increase in COVID-19 downwind following a wind change” (preprint) [ResearchSquare]. The Abtract: “Aerosolized SARS COV-2 is viable for at least 3–5 hours. Aerosols can rapidly become droplet nuclei and be carried long distances by wind before they settle. We hence investigated the possibility of identifying wind-assisted transmission of COVID-19. COVID-19 cases/100,000 population was calculated for hotspots and surrounding areas. Daily wind direction/speed data for hotspots was collated. Seven-day rolling averages of COVID-19 cases/100,000 population was plotted against wind direction/speed to compare case rate trends in hotspots, upwind and downwind areas. Within 14 days of the wind blowing into an area, case rate trends downwind differed from that of the hotspot. The difference compared to the hotspot could be an increase, plateau, or a slower decrease. This suggests that viral particles carried by the wind can lead to an increase in infections downwind. Research on ways to reduce aerosol transmission in the community is urgently needed.” • Plenty of confounders! Here’s a summary. Still a preprint, not picked up by a journal, apparently. Nevertheless….

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From the Department of “I Got This Cough Over The Holidays I Just Can’t Shake”:

“‘The View’ Cohost Ana Navarro Got “Stuck Quarantining” In NYC Hotel After Testing Positive For Covid” [Deadline]. “‘It’s been a hell of a week. COVID got me again. Tested positive on Monday. Got stuck quarantining in a hotel in NYC. Took treatment,’ [Ana Navarro] shared on Instagram on Saturday, Nov. 26. ‘Fortunately, now feeling good and testing negative. I was triple-boosted and thought that protected me. I didn’t wear a mask anywhere. I got complacent.'”

“Sharon Stone reveals unlucky outcome following doctor’s visit as she catches Covid” [Hello]. “The mother-of-three reflected on the irony of the situation: ‘I managed to not get Covid for so long, do you know how I got Covid – because they stopped wearing masks. And do you know where I got Covid, from a nurse!’ … Detailing some of her symptoms, she added: ‘The scrambled brain, the isolation, it’s a lot.'” • A parallel case:

Another parallel case:

Is it really too much to ask that hospitals not spread disease? Yes, yes, I know “Healthcare-Acquired Infections” can make any hospital a death trap are a thing, but HCWs not masking really marks a new low for “infection control” (along with the infection control departments and administrators. For CDC’s abrogation of infection control for airborne Covid, see NC here.)

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• “Testing Toronto’s indoor spaces for virus transmission risk” [Toronto City News]. “Toronto is participating in what’s being billed as the first ever city-wide program to test and rate the indoor air quality of spaces where people work, shop, and gather. The City is partnering with BreatheEasy, which uses a 20 minute rapid air safety test to determine air quality ratings. ‘So what the system does it releases droplets into the air that are like human breath, and they move the way that human breath does in the space and are cleared by HVAC filters, by air purifiers, by the native air motion and air system in the building as well as natural ventilation,’ explains Sam Molyneux, the co-founder of BreatheEasy. ‘What the sensors do is they measure how quickly these particles are cleared from the space.’ … So far, almost 130 locations in the 50 busiest blocks of downtown Toronto have been tested to provide a vivid day-in-the-life view of airborne infection safety and risks. … ‘We started using that technology as a way of creating really safe spaces,’ says IQ CEO Kane Willmot. ‘It is a way to take the invisible and make it visible. So we are able to find out if there are airborne contaminants in our space, also do swabbing as well throughout our space to see if there is any COVID, or any sort of bacteria.” • Terrific. Why can’t we do this? Why can’t China?

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• Brain worms (1):

• Brain worms (2):

• Brain worms (3):

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• Maskstravaganza:

“Airgami wins BARDA Mask Innovation Challenge!” (press release) [Airgami]. “Gary Disbrow, Head of the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), announced today that the Airgami® origami mask, by Air99 LLC, has been named a first-place winner in the second and final phase of the Mask Innovation Challenge sponsored by BARDA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) within the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST). ‘The Airgami mask leverages origami principles to improve fit, breathability, and aesthetics. The unique design increases the overall filtering and breathing surface area which exceeded the criteria of the Target Product Profile (TPP) during the final round of testing.'” • This is extremely neat, and naturally led to an immediate grant of Federal monies to ramp up production. Ha ha, kidding! From the top of the page: “Airgami is NOT taking new orders at the moment. Please check back early-December.

Fulfillment time of existing orders is up to THREE WEEKS. Thank you for your patience.” Here is their FAQ.

• Maskstravaganza: “The science behind masks and their use” [Chasing Normal]. A useful roundup. “The broad consensus of peer-reviewed and published science has been straightforward: masks work. The degree depends on issues like real world compliance, study design, type of masks, and other factors. Here is a list of 27 peer-reviewed and published mask studies. Of these, 22 studies find masks are effective, 1 is inconclusive, and 4 find masks generally ineffective. (It is important that we set standards on what studies to review, since there are libertarian and disinformation faux institutions attempting to cherry pick, or ‘publish’ skewed reviews of mask studies and evidence.) Those still debating whether masks work may claim that there are few if any Randomized Clinical Trial (RCT) studies. While there was a study in Bangladesh of villagers that found benefits with surgical masks, the more important point is this: you cannot force people in the real world to consistently wear masks or not wear masks in situation A, setting B, and infection risk level C. It would also be unethical to ask some people to not wear masks in a known contagious or higher risk setting. The closest we can really come is with controlled environment aerosol ‘mannequin’ experiments and carefully analyzed real world comparisons. This article wryly mocks the RCT argument: ‘Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomized controlled trials.'”

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• ”Health+ Long Covid Human-Centered Design Report” (PDF) [HHS]. Report of an HHS contractor. “To ensure that solutions are implemented that respond to the real and immediate needs of people impacted by Long COVID—people with Long COVID, their caregivers, health care researchers and professionals, and Long COVID advocacy groups—HHS selected Coforma’s Health+™ program and its human-centered design process to launch Health+ Long COVID. The goal of this process is to understand the lived experiences and needs of people impacted by Long COVID across the United States, and to identify opportunities to improve government services and simultaneously advance interagency efforts to increase their quality of life and care. This report, commissioned by HHS and independently produced by Coforma, is a result of the Health+ Long COVID cycle.” • Sounds… Well, I don’t know what it sounds like. Do any readers have experience with Coforma or their process? (Also, “interagency” in the national security world also means slow, complicated, highly bureaucratized (besides yielding the results that we see)).


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


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published November 27:

3.0%. That’s quite a jump.


Wastewater data (CDC), November 21:

November 19:


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? [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk]. UPDATE Yes. See NC here on Pango. Every Friday, a stately, academic pace utterly incompatible with protecting yourself against a variant exhibiting doubling behavior.

Variant data, national (Walgreens), November 13:

Lambert here: BQ.1* moving along quite briskly, though lower than CDC. XBB coming up on the charts.

Variant data, national (CDC), November 5 (Nowcast off):

BQ.1* moving along quite briskly. Note the appearance of XBB, and see the highlighted note: Like BQ.1*, XBB appears suddenly when CDC decides to disaggregate the data. Exactly as with CDC’s infamous “green map,” a lag is introduced, this time by CDC’s decision-making process; Walgreens had XBB last week, but CDC has it only this week. I don’t see what purpose the aggregation serves. If the issue is a jillion low-circulation variants would make the table impossibly long and confusing for users, that’s a UI/UX issue; handle it with software. Have a slider/filter that aggregates variants under 1%, say. Allow scrolling the results. Whatever. But stop concealing data!

• “New COVID Variant XBB Is Gaining Ground Among Americans” [US News]. “Known as XBB, this latest subvariant now represents 3.1% of new COVID cases throughout the U.S. and 5% of cases in the Northeast. Based on preliminary estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of XBB may be doubling every 12 days. However, the variant shouldn’t pose the same threat that the emergence of Omicron posed a year ago, CBS News reported. ‘Where we’ve seen surges, they’ve seen mostly it be driven by seasonality, people coming inside, spending more time around one another, but not being specifically being driven by the emergence of a new variant,’ the CDC’s Ian Williams told the agency’s emergency response and preparedness advisers earlier this month, CBS News reported.” • Biden’s January 2021 Omicron surge wasn’t driven by Omicron? What am I missing here? (See the Walgreens variant chart above for a vivid sense of how Omicron conquered all before it. (And in the final paragraphs, US News amplifies CDC’s horrid “community levels” (“green map”) metric. Horrid reporting [pounds head on desk].

New York/New Jersey (Region 2) numbers are higher:

Here is Queens County, NY (JFK/LGA), now flashing red for the holidays:

• As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated November 24:

Lambert here: Increasing, after leveling out.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,104,755 – 1,103,355 = 1400 (1400 * 365 = 511,000 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ 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.

• “COVID-19 Mortality Working Group: Another month of high excess mortality in July 2022” [Actuaries Digital]. “Total excess mortality for the first seven months of 2022 is 14%.” • This is Australia. Our absolute numbers would be a good deal higher.

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Dallas Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ general business activity index for manufacturing in Texas increased to -14.4 in November of 2022 from -19.4 in the prior month. The prices paid for raw materials index fell sharply to 22.6 from 32 in October, supporting lower inflation for prices received for finished goods (13.9 vs 22.2). On the other hand, the production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, fell to 0.8 points from 6 in the prior month, suggesting further deceleration in output growth.”

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Retail: “It’s not your imagination: Shopping on Amazon has gotten worse” [WaPo]. “The first page of Amazon results includes an average of about nine sponsored listings, according to a study of 70 search terms conducted in 2020 and 2021 by data firm Profitero. That was twice as many ads as Walmart displayed, and four times as many as Target…. I call it the “shill results” business. Even when they contain a tiny disclaimer label — as do Amazon’s — these kinds of ads can be misleading because they fill up spaces people have every reason to expect to contain trustworthy, independent information. What’s worse, many other apps and online marketplaces are following Amazon’s lead. Shill results now crowd Apple and Google’s smartphone app stores — search for an app used for couple’s therapy, and you’ll get an ad for a dating app….. Amazon has turned shill results into its next big thing. After selling $31 billion in ads last year, Amazon became the third-largest online ad company in the United States, trailing only Google and Facebook….. [I]n my experience, Amazon’s ads are often not useful, not informative and can make shopping a little bit harder. If you are searching for a cat bed, you have an expectation that Amazon will show you the cat beds that are most useful for you. Not $389 cat beds. Not the pet bed Amazon makes the most money from. Not a weird knockoff.”

The Bezzle: “BlockFi Files for Bankruptcy as Latest Crypto Casualty” [Wall Street Journal]. “Cryptocurrency lender BlockFi Inc. filed for bankruptcy Monday, making it the latest major digital-assets firm to fail since FTX, with which BlockFi is financially intertwined. BlockFi’s chapter 11 filing continues the march of crypto platforms forced into insolvency following this summer’s crypto-price downturn and this month’s failure of FTX, a big exchange with ties throughout the largely unregulated industry. BlockFi, based in Jersey City, N.J., is only beginning to answer how its hundreds of thousands of customers will fare. The company’s top 10 creditors alone are owed close to $1.2 billion, according to its filings with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Trenton, N.J, with the total amount of liabilities likely to be much larger. The firm, founded in 2017 by Zac Prince and Flori Marquez and backed by Thiel Capital spinout Valar Ventures, lends money to customers using their cryptocurrency assets as collateral. Bain Capital, Tiger Global Management and a fund operated by the Winklevoss twins are also included among BlockFi’s equity investors, according to PitchBook Data Inc.”

Tech: “Facebook Is Replacing Its Human News Editors with AI” [OptOut]. “Recent reports reveal that Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, is axing its human news curators in favor of artificial intelligence. Facebook, especially, is becoming a fossil in the rapidly evolving world of social media, and it’s struggling to emulate newer, immensely popular apps such as TikTok. To make matters worse, the $300 billion company will stop paying news outlets to host their content.” • Ah. The pivot to AI.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 62 Greed (previous close: 63 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 28 at 1:41 PM EST.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Anti-Semitism. “Attacks against Jews have been on the increase” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.)

Xmas Pregame Festivities


The Conservatory

Psychedelia I’ve never heard, from alert reader ThirtyOne:

Our Famously Free Press

Full circle:

Zeitgeist Watch

Reminds me of Philip K. Dick’s VALIS (which I admit I have never read):

“Ancient Apocalypse archaeology update 2: Are there underground chambers at Gunung Padang?” [ArcheoThoughts]. • No. Thanks, Netflix.

“‘Goncharov’ isn’t a real Martin Scorsese movie, but Tumblr convinced the internet it’s a classic” [NBC]. “Martin Scorsese’s 1973 mafia masterpiece “Goncharov” is re-emerging online as film buffs obsess over the tale of corrupted power and loss. Its haunting theme song is finally on Spotify. The poster — which features Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Gene Hackman and Cybill Shepherd against an Italian cityscape — has gone viral. The film’s love triangle and homoerotic undertones have inspired hundreds of stories on the fanfiction site Archive of Our Own. The catch: “Goncharov” isn’t real. It’s an elaborate, and convincing, Tumblr bit. The fictional film follows Goncharov, a former Russian mobster and discotheque manager who gives up a life of crime to settle in the “seemingly idyllic Naples” with his wife Katya after the fall of the Soviet Union. But in Naples, he meets Andrey “The Banker” Daddano, who becomes his rival and implied love interest. While she grieves her father’s death, Katya meets Sofia, and they develop a close friendship brimming with implied sexual tension… The movie’s title can be traced back to a years-old Tumblr post, when a user published a photo of a pair of “knockoff boots.” Instead of a brand name, the tag on the boots read: ‘The greatest mafia movie ever made. Martin Scorsese presents GONCHAROV. Domenico Proccacci production. A film by Matteo JWHJ0715. About the Naples mafia.’ The user appears to have since deleted their blog. In 2020, another Tumblr user reblogged the post with a screenshot of a comment that read, ‘this idiot hasn’t seen goncharov.’ The fake film ‘inexplicably started to pick up traction’ during the weekend of Nov. 19, according to Polygon. The New York Times reports that ‘Goncharov’ was the top trending topic on Tumblr by Monday evening, followed by ‘Martin Scorsese.’ In the week since, it’s made its way to Twitter and TikTok, where the tag #goncharov has over 7 million views.” • Would Hubertus Bigend please pick up the nearest white courtesy phone?

A little too on-the-nose:

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“William Wells Brown, Wildcat Banker” [The Public Domain Review]. I just extract the money part, but the whole piece is worth a read; Brown is a fascinating figure. “As Brown explains it, the lack of small change in Monroe — a nationwide scarcity in this period — created a demand for shinplasters: small denomination bills issued by private businesses serving as Wildcat banks (like Brown’s barber shop) and backed by nothing more than the confidence of the local community. In Bank Notes and Shinplasters: The Rage for Paper Money in the Early Republic, Joshua R. Greenberg recounts how during the 1830s these western banks were often labelled as fraudulent, “wild cat” organizations, the joke being that such banks — in order to discourage anyone from trying to redeem their notes — were “located in areas so remote that only wildcats lived nearby”. Value often decreased over distance: dollars from a Monroe, Michigan bank were worth less in New York City because the issuing bank was regarded as unreliable, while the note itself was harder to redeem (the note holder would have to travel almost six hundred miles to cash it, if it could be cashed at all). Americans would need to constantly haggle over the perceived value of hundreds of different bank notes in their day-to-day lives, while papers like Counterfeit Detector and Bank Note List and Thompson’s Bank Note Reporter provided detailed — and constantly shifting — lists of which notes were reliable and which were not.” • This seems familiar somehow.

Guillotine Watch

“Balenciaga files $25M suit over controversial ad amid ‘BDSM teddy bear’ backlash” [New York Post]. Exceptionally nasty stuff, every bit as creepy as described, perhaps moreso, though I’m not going to reproduce the images. “The fashion house brought the suit Friday against production company North Six, Inc. and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins and his eponymous company for the inclusion in one of the ads of legal documents from a US Supreme Court decision on child porn laws. The fashion brand ad also showed unsettling pictures of a child holding teddy bears dressed in bondage outfits in ads that came out around the same time. The two-page court summons doesn’t mention the BDSM teddy bears.” • This suit is ridiculous. Anybody who knows anything about fashion, fashion photography, advertising, or advertising agencies knows that the client obessively reviews an ad at every stage of production, and has the final signoff. The only reason I can think of for Balenciaga to run it is shock value, followed by the Streisand effect. which would occur among Balenciaga’s customers, who are the sort of wealthy people who can pay for couture. So what does that say about our elites? Not that they’re all lizard people… but some are the sort of people who visit Little St. James. Or worse. And they somehow almost never get turned in! Good summary here.

“Sam Bankman-Fried’s Truly Effective Philanthropy: Teaching” [Dean Baker, CEPR]. “Recognizing the enormous waste and corruption in the financial sector, Bankman-Fried decided that the best way to attack it was by putting himself at the center of a scandal hitting finance at its most vulnerable point: the crypto craze…. The potential benefits here are enormous. If we can just downsize the financial sector by 10 percent, it will free up more than $300 billion a year for productive purposes. That comes to more than $2,500 a year for every family in the country. As the effective philanthropy folks say, you can buy a lot of mosquito netting with $300 billion a year…. So, Bankman-Fried knew what he was doing in running a Ponzi-scheme and making himself look like one of the most despicable people alive. He may spend a lot of time in prison and be viewed with universal contempt for the rest of his life, but if his crimes lead to a crackdown on finance, he will have provided a great service to humanity.” • This is irony along the lines of Swift’s Modest Proposal. A lot of the online commentary seems to have missed this.

Class Warfare

“The Spectacular Life of Octavia Butler” [Vulture]. Super-interesting and well worth reading in full. This passage caught my eye: “In Mind of My Mind, a young, Black psionic named Mary discovers she can create a ‘pattern,’ a neural network that brings other psionics under her control. While at first the others bristle, they soon come to discover they enjoy the mental stability her power gives them.” • Seems very contemporary!

News of the Wired

“Neuroexistentialism” [Philosophers Magazine]. “The constructive project of neuroexistentialism, then, is to make use of the knowledge and insights of the behavioural, cognitive, and neurosciences to satisfy our existential concerns and achieve some level of flourishing and fulfilment. While much progress has already been made on this front, the project continues. And since naturalism is the only game in town, it’s one we should all hope succeeds.” • Hmm.

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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 JustAnotherVoluteer:

JustAnotherVoluteer writes: “Most likely the last rose of summer along with some shade loving oxalis and the damn English ivy.”

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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. FlyoverBoy

    As others pointed out this morning here, WaPo hack Taylor Lorenz makes a really suitable pinata, and she often has no concern for accuracy.

    But I was deeply disappointed to see Krystal and Saagar knocking her around this morning for being the stopped clock that’s right twice a day. Lorenz had tweeted that China’s sometimes-disastrous zero tolerance Covid policy ultimately shows more concern for the population than the US policy that’s causing the “deaths of millions” (presumably past and future).

    Hate to say it, but I agree with Lorenz. They didn’t, whatsoever. Saagar responded that Covid is evolving to be milder like the common cold. Krystal was a bit less rash, but described the US collective reaction as a rational pluralistic consensus and portrayed Lorenz as endorsing mass incinerations in locked-down factories.

    You can’t trust anybody to be right about everything. Dang. Adult life, like math for Barbie, is hard.

    1. Geo

      Saagar’s irrational antipathy for China clouds anything he has to say about them. China could give a puppy a hug and he’d see something malicious in the act.

      The show is a good way to catch up on daily hoopla and some news when I’m too busy/lazy to read and research but the analysis is usually of little value. Main thing I like about it is they have a format that’s not based on opposition but on common ground and appreciation of differing perspectives. After decades of bloviating anger-peddlers from the Limbaugh/Savage radio days of the 90’s to todays partisan-vitriol-as-business-plan news media where whoever yells loudest is deemed most authoritative it’s nice to see a somewhat popular show where hosts talk like civilized humans and seem genuinely interested in understanding other perspectives.

      That said, the analysis on NC (including the comments) is much more insightful and well researched in my opinion! :)

    2. Citizenguy

      Like Geo, I enjoy that they approach everything from both a conservative and progressive position. But I have been seriously let down by their foreign coverage since Ukraine started up in February. I feel like they are taking facts at face value from the NTY or WAPO with little skepticism (minus the dressing down they gave AP about the Russian rockets killing Polish civilians).

      On today’s show, Krystal said something along the lines of “Due to CCP’s bravado, they refuse to use any internationally-developed vaccine; instead only using Sinovac since they developed it.” This was to indict them for poor uptick in older Chinese being vaccinated and the failure for them to contain Covid. First, I’d love if we could rely on sources for this instead of hunches, and second, there was no mention of the fact that Pfizer’s vaccine is ridiculously expensive for foreign governments and the US won’t release the patent rights to them.

      Then, Saagar launched into criticism of the European diplomat who lamented that the US was profiteering off the war in Ukraine. His retort was “Well, nobody said you had to stop making nuclear power plants or rely on Russian gas. It’s your own fault. Germany can make and sell weapons if it wants to.” But didn’t the US basically strong-arm Europe into banning Russian gas? Didn’t we force Europe into buying much more expensive US liquid natural gas? I think Michael Hudson has some excellent insights on the US plan to hollow out Europe’s industrial sector and import what it can state-side. Instead, Breaking Points made it a diatribe about the EU whining about the Inflation Reduction act “stealin’ their jobs.” Europe should complain! It sounds like some diplomat finally figured out what was going on, and now we’re making fun of them for calling it out.

      Again, just really disappointing foreign policy coverage. They need someone better for this stuff. Their own coverage is too influenced by domestic sources.

      1. Screwball

        You said this better that I could have. I quit watching them months ago for mostly the same reasons. It seems to me, when they went on their own, something changed. Money? I actually like the old Rising better than Breaking Points now – at times.

        Krystal turned me off even more with here stage 5 TDS. I’m no Trump fan/lover, but we get it Krystal – you don’t like Trump. He doesn’t need to be injected into any and everything you talk about. Then there is the Kyle Kulinski thing. They have him on their show cause he’s her love mate now. I cannot stand the guy, and I honestly don’t know what he brings to the table – other than bootlicking democrats when they don’t deserve it.

    3. Mo's Bike Shop

      Saagar responded that Covid is evolving to be milder like the common cold.

      How could that outcome be differentiated from, say, Covid already culling the more vulnerable humans?

      Not that I’m buying ‘mild’.

    4. KLG

      Been busy and I had not watched for a while. Saagar characterizing me as a “covidiot” pretty much ended my subscription. Then there are the million-plus dead Americans and what, a few thousand Chinese? ~16,000 according the the Johns Hopkins database.

    5. Basil Pesto

      They didn’t, whatsoever. Saagar responded that Covid is evolving to be milder like the common cold.

      lol, apart from the Delta-to-Omicron pandemic reboot, every successive dominant variant has been more severe than that which it replaced.

      This isn’t particularly difficult information for the truly curious to apprise themselves of. He’s an idiot.

      1. Redlife2017

        Idiot is a mild way to put it. My partner has Long-Covid. And got it from an infection in late September. As in September 2022. For me, I barely noticed the infection (had to take a blood test to confirm I even had it since I constantly tested negative). Our small kid got sick, but was OK in about 5 days. My partner got better after the initial infection and then…didn’t. And the little person subsequently has been getting sick on and off about every other week.

        Whilst death would have been worse, this is certainly a fate I would wish no one. My partner can’t work and can’t cook (something they enjoy immensely). My partner can barely pick up the little person from school in the afternoon. My partner is “lucky” – at least they can do a bit. My partner’s muscles are atrophying…

        This isn’t mild. A cold doesn’t make a vital person disabled. I cannot be the only person who’s had their partner maimed by the ruling class. It is difficult for me to accept analysis from people who refuse to see that other people are being hurt and in large numbers. I guess the apocryphal quote from Stalin was right “The death [maiming] of one man is a tragedy. The death [maiming] of millions is a statistic.”

  2. Jason Boxman

    Oh, come on, shopping on Amazon has been garbage since third party sellers. It’s been garbage since Amazon took away the sort for most reviews and left you with useless highest rating sort (possibly items with 1 or 2 5 star reviews, useless). The only way to find stuff now is to rely on a link from reddit or a commission-based link site and then read those reviews yourself and weigh your options.

    It’s probably been garbage for going on ten years now. Someone just noticed?

    1. ChrisPacific

      Yes, the shopping UI has been a confusing mare’s nest of marketing dark patterns for at least a decade now. I can’t go on there without all my mental warning alarms going off at once.

      It’s not just the UI. Amazon originally made its name on promising quick delivery times and then surpassing expectations. The last couple of times I’ve bought from them (some years ago now) I didn’t discover until AFTER completing the purchase that the delivery estimate was in the range of months. On my last order, they missed even that one, although I did get an e-mail on the last day of the range (“Good news! We have a new delivery estimate for you!”)

      Contacting them with a complaint did get results on that one, but it did nothing later on when I tried to track down the source of a mystery credit card charge. After various fruitless attempts to identify it, the customer service rep informed me that she was referring it to another team and they would call me within a week. I asked what I should do if they didn’t call and she said there was no need to worry because it was 100% certain that I would hear from them. Guess whether I got a call?

      (The mystery charge turned out to be a trial service I’d signed up for that was operated by Amazon On Demand. I was eventually able to track down the email from my signup which had a link to a cancel process. The credit card charge had no detail, and Googling for a cancel process was fruitless. I don’t believe for an instant that the customer service rep was ignorant of what the charge was. Had I not tracked down the email I think my options would have been challenging it with the credit card company or accepting the subscription for eternity).

      I do my best to steer clear of Amazon for everything now. It presents some difficulties on occasion, but I have so little confidence in the retail site now that avoiding it has been no hardship at all.

      1. Jason Boxman

        Ha. They wasted tons of time trying to get $1 of accidental aws storage paid for. I used it for five minutes a year before.

    2. cnchal

      > . . . shopping on Amazon has been garbage since third party sellers.

      Whip cracking sadists beg to differ. Third party sellers are the power stroke to Bezos’ famed infinitely faster spinning flywheel, caught in a pay to be seen scheme, the majority of them in China.

      The whole article is a soft pedaling load of how to shop smarter on Amazon. The department of crap built on lies is priceless..

      Amazon has turned shill results into its next big thing. After selling $31 billion in ads last year, Amazon became the third-largest online ad company in the United States, trailing only Google and Facebook. Some brands and sellers love Amazon ads because they show up right at the moment you’re making a purchase — though others tell me ads have become an extra Amazon tax they have to pass on to customers.

      The $31 billion figure is bullshit too. From the executive summary, “Amazon’s Toll Road”

      One of the most striking measures of Amazon’s monopoly power is the extraordinary amount of money that it’s able to extract from the independent businesses that rely on its site to reach customers. In this report, we find that, over the last two years, Amazon’s revenue from the fees it levies on third-party sellers has more than doubled. In 2019, Amazon pocketed $60 billion in seller fees. This year, its take will soar to $121 billion, our analysis finds.

      Out by a factor of four to obscure what is really going on. An internal pump and dump with third party sellers funding gigantic Prime money losses.

      First, Amazon uses seller fees to absorb massive, multi-billion dollar losses on Prime. These losses are predatory. They’re a key way that Amazon locks-in consumers and maintains its hold over the market. By providing free shipping, streaming video, and other perks for an annual membership fee that that doesn’t come close to covering the actual costs of these services, Amazon has induced 70 percent of U.S. households to sign up. Once someone joins Prime, studies show that they tend to make Amazon’s platform the first, and often only, shopping site they visit.

      Second, Amazon uses profits from seller fees to subsidize its own retail division, enabling it to sell household staples, such as diapers and laundry detergent, at prices that are competitive with Walmart. To maintain its ironclad dominance of online retail, Amazon can’t just be a thirdparty marketplace. It also has to be a Walmart supercenter, with Walmart’s pricing on the pivotal, high-volume items you’d find in a supercenter. Amazon can’t rely on third-party sellers for these items; it sells most of them itself.

      To keep its prices as low as Walmart’s, while providing free shipping and spending aggressively to expand. Amazon uses the revenue it extracts from small businesses and other sellers to cover most of the cost of processing, fulfilling, and shipping its own “first-party” retail orders. The losses Amazon sustains on Prime’s free shipping and selling goods below cost are how it maintains its monopoly power. The profits it reaps from imposing tolls on independent sellers are the rewards of that power. It’s no wonder Amazon wishes to keep both sides of this equation a secret. Its financial reports do so by offsetting one with the other.

      The monumental greed of Amazon is like a stuck wide open throttle. Jeff’s famed flywheel is showing signs of disintegration. Even with 400 eclownomists steadying the ship, they overshot by about four dozen warehouses and half a dozen office towers. We also recently learned that there were Uber sized losses from the spyware and digital crapola division. Amazon pleads poverty next, looking for a bailout.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        The spyware losses could be very well be a loss leader too. The consoles are collecting massive amounts of data that Amazon is doing something with, possibly helping other divisions to turn a profit. Or maybe they needed a tax write off. All depends on how you choose to structure the books.

        But I do hope the disintegration of Jeff’s juggernaut is imminent. No moon for you.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > All depends on how you choose to structure the books.

          Hmm. Presumably the “massive amounts of data” are stored on AWS, which bills Amazon for the service. Potential for manipulation there?

  3. Toshiro_Mifune

    It’s not your imagination: Shopping on Amazon has gotten worse
    It’s been like this for at least 6 years. Why are they only reporting on this now ?

    Amazon has turned shill results into its next big thing.
    Hang on… Like google wasn’t doing this in 2014?
    And that wasn’t what effectively killed Yahoo as a search engine in the mid 00s?
    I get you want to hate on Amazon but at least come correct. That’s just lazy… its also the same stuff physical retailers do with paid spots for endcaps/etc.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      I think the bigger question is, why is Bezo’s paper running this story? What’s the end goal here? It’s kind of hard for me to take any critical reporting of Amazon at face value when it’s in the WaPo.

      1. Toshiro_Mifune

        That’s a fair enough question and one I was wondering as well. Maybe we’re seeing a public portion of a power play internal to Amazon.

    2. Carolinian

      I’ve never assumed that the search results listing was ranked by quality or, really, anything other than the criteria you pick in the lefthand filter box. Surely only the naive don’t know that Amazon plays games with both placement and even prices which can vary according to some mysterious algorithm.

      We’ll be waiting for the real WaPo Amazon expose….and waiting, and waiting.

  4. Jason Boxman

    These Young Workers Are ‘Romanticizing’ the Return to Office

    (Subtitle ought to be, well paid and well treated employees enjoy showing off how easy their work lives are!)

    Alison Chen had some experience going into an office, but that was for internships she had in college before Covid. When she moved a year and a half ago for a new job as a product designer at Microsoft, in a city where she didn’t know anyone, the office helped her make friends, she said.

    In May, she posted a video titled “today my office reopened,” taking viewers along with her on her commute and showing her grabbing a coffee, eating a salmon roll with her team and going to an ice cream social and then a happy hour. The video has more than 143,000 views. For comparison, Ms. Chen’s recent “Day in Life: Rainy Day in SF” video has about 2,500 views; most of her videos have between a couple of thousand and 20,000. Ms. Kirupakaran’s non-publishing content on TikTok usually attracts a few thousand views.

    So having a tech job is fun and tock-worthy. How great.

    The flip side of romanticizing one’s office life is that not everybody finds these portrayals of the 9-to-5 grind convincing. A frequent comment on the videos is that TikTokers seem rarely to be working. Shots of them sitting at their desks are but a blip in a collage of coffee breaks and office events.


    What a vacuous society.

    1. digi_owl

      Another issue is that upon entering the workforce one’s colleagues are the major source of non-family socializing.

        1. Objective Ace

          We have a fresh college grad reflecting on this. He didnt complain, but you could tell he was missing out on the social aspect. That was a year or so ago. He has since found a number of social sports leagues that he is really enjoying. I think the “office social aspect” is only important because it monopolizes any social opportunities. Remove the monopoly and other opportunities come up

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I hazard its darker than people realize. The decline of the commons has been such an emotional issue people see shows like The Office and become romantic about the premise and job security.

            Like the premise of Cheers, I think people want to go where everyone knows your name.

            1. digi_owl

              For better or worse, but yeah.

              Grow up in a small town or village and you get to experience that full time. People will know who you are, who your parents are, possibly the whole family tree going back generations.

              The problem is that one keep having to find some excuse to gather (particularly when non-retired adults), rather than just do so. Otherwise one get hassled by law enforcement and busybodies that worry something unsavory is afoot.

  5. Henry Moon Pie


    Early on, I was struck by this:

    Neuroexistentialism is a twenty-first-century anxiety over the way contemporary neuroscience helps secure in a particularly vivid way the message of Darwin from 150 years ago: that humans are animals – not half animal, not some percentage animal, not just above the animals, but 100 percent animal. Everyday and in every way, neuroscience removes the last vestiges of an immaterial soul or self.

    I don’t think the author understands there’s a disagreement about the relationship between step one and step two of that argument.

    1. Lee

      Animals have no souls? This does not comport with my personal experience. I prefer the animists on this one, as here expressed by Wordsworth:

      “To every natural form, rock, fruits, or flower, Even the loose stones that cover the highway, I gave a moral life: I saw them feel, Or linked them to some feeling…”

      1. Joe Renter

        animals have personalities, but a group soul rather than a personal one such as humans.
        Not in a position to defend this statement, but I adhere to esoteric philosophy.

        Here is a crumb to nibble on, “all the kingdoms in existence will be or have been in the human kingdom”.
        An endless duration of time, for this to occur.

        1. Greg

          That seems like the sort of statement only someone who has never had a relationship with an animal could make (“owning” a “pet” doesn’t really cover what it means to add a non-human to your family).
          Animals are individuals as much as humans are.

      2. JBird4049

        This reminds me of the discussion on about mysticism, religion, and science on NC’s 11/25/2022 Links. Just quickly reading the article (and I am going to reread it), the assumption is that everything is material and nothing is immaterial. If I grant the existence of only the material, which means there is no immaterial soul or mind, then neuroexistentialism is really needed. But while one cannot completely prove the nonexistence of something as there is always a chance of a black swan event, cut-off has to be made somewhere. I think (and I could be putting my skis waaaay over the edge here) the possibility of the immaterial is usually countered with it a “it doesn’t exist because we say so. So why do anything about it?”

        If you have ever studied archeology or physical anthropology, you know that some of the evidence, at least at the beginning, is very little of not much. Someone stumbles over a rock, a bone, something, and then people can spend years, decades, studying whatever it is. Much of science is like that. People spending their lives getting the little bits into the big bits that eventual like an Impressionist painting appears. I read bits suggestive of somethings other than just the strictly material, but it is hard to find any studies because it is assumed to be nonsense. Which is nonsense. I should try to find the various bits that I have read over the years, but that would take some doing.

        Maybe, I am reacting to the Dogma of Scientific Materialism. It might be correct, but it is still treated as religious dogma and not something that is a principle. It feels like talking with modern economists with their beautiful and rigorous theories that rarely intersects with the real world.

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      “…assume that neuroscience will…or has already…determined that”….consciousness is thoroughly mechanistic, and there aint no soul.
      ive come to expect such handwaving from mainstream neuroscience,lol.
      the whole thing feels to me like a bad rendition of Nietzsche’ death of god problem…but without tackling the “Oh Shit” part that comes after killing god…the realisation that we’ll hafta take up the mantle of responsibility ourselves….figger out right and wrong, good and evil, eudaimonia, morality, ethics, and essentially replace the revealed ontology(now bleeding on the floor) with a new one.

      i like Goodenough as a good enough place to begin that conversation:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_naturalism

      but also admit…given my lifelong embeddedness in rural texas…that most folks should be left to believe in whatever religion they need to.
      Nietzsche famously warned that, after his death(1900) there’s be 200 years of nihilism.
      80 years to go, so i’d be circumspect about removing the crutches of so many humans at this time.

      anyhoo…these sorts of articles come along every now and agin, and they all seem to me to be akin to assertions of faith…similar to the hard core atheists one encounters(despite one’s best efforts) on social media.

      philosophical agnosticism(socrates, i know that i dont know) and doing our best to not be too big a dicks to the rest of the human species.
      that’s where i’m at on the “oh shit” portion of uncle friedriech’s dead god conundrum.
      as for the locus of the mind…i like the field model a lot better that the in-the-brain-only model…where the brain is an antennae, and consciousness is a field.
      comports much better with some of the more High Weirdness things i’ve experienced.

      1. semper loquitur

        “comports much better with some of the more High Weirdness things i’ve experienced”

        Amen to this. Nothing in physicalism can explain the things I’ve seen and felt, in the times and places that I’ve experienced them. Nothing.

      2. Acacia

        “Bad rendition,” indeed. Even a putative great brain like Heidegger (who btw claimed that Nietzsche had only one thought: will to power), eventually crashed on the “oh shit” part of European nihilism. In the famous interview with Der Spiegel, Heidegger reported that seeing an image of the Earth from the Apollo mission really freaked him out, and that as far as humanity was concerned “only a God can save us”.

        Also, I’m not sure about the “three waves” schema of existentialism sketched out in this article. Weber was already talking about the “disenchantment of the world” in Science as a Vocation (1917).

        Summarized like this:

        The constructive project of neuroexistentialism, then, is to make use of the knowledge and insights of the behavioural, cognitive, and neurosciences to satisfy our existential concerns and achieve some level of flourishing and fulfilment.

        …the whole project sounds kind of conflicted. Imagine that decades ago, somebody told you that embracing B. F. Skinner’s research could work to “satisfy our existential concerns”. They want to sperg out on neuroscientific reductionism while telling you that sperging out on this should reassure you.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          i read everything that was layin around the house when i was a kid.
          among them was Walden 2…and “Giles Goat Boy”…
          forgotten about both until right now.
          spooky shit.
          but the hubris of a certain set knows no bounds.
          if they cant fix us with conditioning writ large, or with chemical cocktails, then i guess some final solution will have to be found.

          i wonder, sometimes…do our betters know that they’re nazis?
          i think about that question using my covert narcissist mom…near as i can tell, she’s unaware of the weird passive aggressive things, and whatnot.
          i imagine that the real PMC are similarly blind and self congratulatory.those at the very ti[ppytop, oth, i expect are thoroughly amoral and a lot closer to Nietzsche’ sister’s corruption of Will to Power.

          1. JBird4049

            >>>i wonder, sometimes…do our betters know that they’re nazis?

            Let’s see, economic policies that are straight copies of the British Empire with its Dickensian London and ghastly famines in Ireland and India, and the idea of the Deserving and Undeserving Poor, reasonings that are also copies of British and American economic Survival of the Fittest, Eugenics which came from England, expanded, and put into practice in the United States, and reached a logical conclusion in Nazi Germany. Eugenics only declined because people were horrified at the results. But now, all the witnesses are dead, which means it’s making a comeback.

            Neoliberalism is just a shiny repackaging of this. I swear that the writings of Lord Trevelyan and his British and American contemporaries are extremely similar to modern neoliberal writings. It is uncomfortable to read and then recall the results in both the United States and the British Empire then and think about now.

            But no, only with some knowledge of history and the capability of self reflection would they know. Does anyone see this in our elites? They really are a shallow bunch.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > i like the field model a lot better that the in-the-brain-only model…where the brain is an antennae, and consciousness is a field.

        I believe that Christopher Alexander says that even stones have consciousness — just not very much of it, and it moves very slowly. Perhaps “have” is the wrong word. Something like “carry” might be better.

        On another note, as a good leftie, I’ve long assumed that class consciousness made one smarter (as distinct from whatever political functions it may perform). If the performance of the PMC post-2016, and the performance of capital after the Great Financial Crash is any guide, class consciousness makes you stupider.

    3. semper loquitur

      “Everyday and in every way, neuroscience removes the last vestiges of an immaterial soul or self.”

      Yeah, and they’ve been removing those last vestiges for how many decades now? This article is just another lazy bit of blather about how the hard problem has finally gone away. Almost.

      “This explanatory or conceptual gap problem, however, is commonplace when we are learning a new way of speaking. The various difficulties associated with treating the hard problem are to be expected when major conceptual change is called for, as it is by the scientific image of persons.”

      It’s always the same story. The materialist unfailingly tries to “solve” the hard problem by re-defining it, side-stepping it, or ignoring it. Medium has a medical doctor who has a theory of “computational consciousness”. He hastens to add that it’s not like our consciousness, the only one we actually know, but it’s consciousness never the less! He even provided a simple diagram, akin to a circuit board diagram, to prove it! Darn I wish I had bookmarked it.

      Now we are learning a new language! Does this one include the words “experiential reality”? Like the one in which I’m typing these words? And eating cheese and crackers? And feeling simultaneously exhausted from travel, satiated by food, and bemused by the authors’ ever so crisp pronouncements? If it does, then this new language better have language to explain these things. But it won’t. Now I have to get going, I understand Sean Carroll is giving a theology talk over on Youtube…

  6. Geo

    – Anybody who knows anything about fashion, fashion photography, advertising, or advertising agencies knows that the client obessively reviews an ad at every stage of production, and has the final signoff.

    As someone who has had a decades long career in fashion ads you are spot on with this. I do the video side but often work with and know the photographers, agency people, creative directors, etc. Nothing gets into these images that isn’t cleared by corporate. I’ve never worked with a couture brand (most of my work is the department store brand stuff) but know some who do and you’re correct it’s about shock value and Streisand effect marketing. The elite clientele love juicy scandal and gossip. Even the pricing is part of this: buying a leather sack (purse) for more than the median annual income feels scandalous. It’s part of the allure. Knew a model who bragged about having a $1M dinner. Never mentioned what the meal was, just where it was, who it was with, and the tab. They know they’re sick individuals and get off on it.

    – From the Department of “I Got This Cough Over The Holidays I Just Can’t Shake”:
    Diamond of “Diamond & Silk” fame is in this situation. It’s of course a partisan cesspit in the comments.

    1. wol

      This may be old news, signed on for HBO and started watching ‘White Lotus’. More class-consciousness v. Wokeism than I had expected.
      Also had T’giving dinner with some TDS PMC MSDNC friends. An outlier was an Oscar-winning director and we riffed off each other. Judging by the paused masticating and apparent cogitating I’m hoping his credibility and my similar perspective had an effect.

    2. digi_owl

      Almost as if they never left the schoolyard, as that kind of willful shamelessness seems part of the pecking order course.

      Then again, many of them only have their looks and their attention to sell.

      And thinking about it, not exactly new. How many “bands” were constructed by corporate marketing finding the best looking, best sounding, boys or girls and then running them through the wringer with carefully managed performances both on and off stage?

      Everything is kayfabe these days it seems…

    3. The Rev Kev

      I do wonder how many of those elites went out to buy a teddy bear wearing bondage gear for their kids after seeing that ad. You know that it would have had to happen.

      1. ambrit

        I’m wondering about the ‘Elites’ who buy a Bondage Bear for someone else’s child. How does that conversation work out?

    4. Mikel

      The replacement ad is a little boy in a cluttered room. The boy is not smiling, dressed in all black with a hood.
      Close examination of the contents in the room include duct tape and chains -not toys. Sure there are other questionable subliminal things in the room.

  7. NotTimothyGeithner

    I particulaly find the Kasparov bit amusing given his anti-Marxist stance. The fake history was cooked up by a Soviet professor due to a misunderstanding of Marxist historical analysis.

  8. LawnDart

    Re; BDSM teddy bear

    Aww, just a little too late– this would have made for an adorable Halloween costume!

  9. Wukchumni

    “William Wells Brown, Wildcat Banker” [The Public Domain Review]. I just extract the money part, but the whole piece is worth a read; Brown is a fascinating figure. “As Brown explains it, the lack of small change in Monroe — a nationwide scarcity in this period — created a demand for shinplasters: small denomination bills issued by private businesses serving as Wildcat banks (like Brown’s barber shop) and backed by nothing more than the confidence of the local community. In Bank Notes and Shinplasters: The Rage for Paper Money in the Early Republic

    An interesting period that lasted until the first Federal greenbacks were printed in 1861, combined with an ongoing shortage of silver & gold coinage, as we had essentially very little in the way of those metals anywhere in the USA in the heyday of the 1830’s & 40’s of what are now known as ‘Broken Banknotes’ by collectors.

    If you’d like to go deep on the subject matter. a fine read is:

    A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States, by Stephen Mihm

    A Federal version of wildcat money showed up in 1863 with the issuance of National Currency which all looked the same aside from the names of the banks, of which around 14,000 issued currency that was worth the same everywhere.

    Foreign coins were legal tender in the USA until 1858, and years ago @ the Donner Museum they had a photo of the silver portion of the Donner Treasure:* 145 silver Dollar sized coins which had been found in 1891, all dated 1845 or earlier and about half of them were from other countries. It gave me an appreciation for just how scarce Federal specie was at the time.

    * the gold coins portion of the Donner Money has never been found, it was thought to contain $3,000 to $5,000 in face value, which would be 150 to 250 ounces in weight.

    1. JBird4049

      One of the problems with the American economy before the revolution was a lack of currency and rum was used as money. I do think that the British government never truly realized that rum was a storage of wealth, use as money to buy things locally, and used to pay for imported manufactured goods, which was almost everything; the government’s crackdown on rum smuggling threaten to disrupt the entire economy.

      But I really am curious as to why America spent decades without enough available currency? Decades before the American Revolution and all the way to the American Civil War. That is over a century of not enough money.

        1. Wukchumni

          One solution was to import Spanish dollars, punch a hole in the middle and thus get twice as many coins out of them. I am sure Wuk has heard of them and these days they are worth a mint-

          I bought a ‘Dump’ (the inner punched out coin) at a coin show in Germany in the mid 80’s. It had been labeled New South Wales and wasn’t with other Australian coins that were in this dealers inventory, so it went overlooked until I nearly got 3rd degree burns in reaching into my pocket to pay the 425 DM asking price, ha ha.

      1. ambrit

        Speculating here, but the case for North America could be just like the case for South America back then. Most specie was probably exported to Europe, with some to the Orient, to ‘pay’ for imported goods.

      2. Swamp Yankee

        Wildcat banking has always been the appropriate analogy for crypto. It didn’t end well, either, e.g. the Specie Circular, the Jackson Administration’s attempt — somewhat hamfisted — to stop rampant and pretty baseless speculation and printing, essentially, of worthless money (not always worthless, but often predicated upon canals or turnpikes or railroads that just never even get close to being built) by the Wildcat Banks. It’s extremely, like, exessively, deflationary, and the Panic of 1837 sweeps the nation.
        To be fair to Wildcat Banks, they were orders of magnitude more tethered to reality than crypto ever was.

        And as to why there was so little currency: I’m an historian of early America, and it is fair to say this is related to early America being a colonial economy. Raw materials go out, whether tobacco or deerhides or beaverskins or pine trees or cod, towards Europe. Specie, i.e., gold and silver, often originally from Mexico or Peru, comes to the North American colonies to pay for this, but often the payment is in kind (e.g., trade kettles for pelts), and specie tends to stick around the advanced economies.

        Therefore you get these just constant note schemes in all the colonies, generally. Cf. Old Tenor and New Tenor currency in colonial Massachusetts. Paper notes issued off of a land bank that have to be revalued, causing debtors deep distress, as popular ballads reveal.

        Colonial economies were seriously warped; it’s like an economy on a moon base at first. There is a massive labor shortage that is incredibly severe (early New Englanders have an average of 10 children per family, and a lot of that is due to labor needs), but virtually no limit on certain natural resources (early European accounts constantly freak out about how much e.g., wood, there is).

        And the US remained a colonial economy in significant ways until WWI.

        1. The Rev Kev

          The Colonies in Oz got around those massive labor shortages by the importation of convicts with some 162,000 men and women transported from the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 through to the end of the system nationwide in 1868. I believe that convicts were also transported to the Yankee Colonies before that storm in a tea cup – among other schemes. The scheme here was that if they kept out of trouble for 7 years, they got their freedom back again and very many of them went on to become farmers, shop owners, traders, etc. When some no-hoper was transported to the ends of the world but got their freedom back and eventually became a wealthy land owner, it caused no end of wailing back in the Mother Land that this could happen.

      3. Wukchumni

        But I really am curious as to why America spent decades without enough available currency? Decades before the American Revolution and all the way to the American Civil War. That is over a century of not enough money.

        We had so screwed the pooch on paper money with our first attempt of being fiscally fit ending in one of the first ever hyperinflation episodes in western history with our Continental Currency fiasco (…Not worth a Continental!)
        that we swore off of it and then on the fourth turning after everybody had forgotten, we again issued currency.

  10. Wukchumni

    ‘I’ll back your scratch if you’ll back mine…’

    The Bezzle: “BlockFi Files for Bankruptcy as Latest Crypto Casualty” [Wall Street Journal]. “Cryptocurrency lender BlockFi Inc. filed for bankruptcy Monday, making it the latest major digital-assets firm to fail since FTX, with which BlockFi is financially intertwined.

    1. fjallstrom

      I have over the weekend been diving into the strange world of Efficient Alturism (or EA) and its connections to the Less Wrong forum and The Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI), formerly the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI).

      The strongest version of connection is that Efficient Alturism is basically the front organisation for Less Wrong which is in turn a forum for MIRI, which is in turn an AI domesday cult. The story goes that MIRI is founded by Eliezer Yudkowsky, self procliamed AI researcher and Harry Potter fan fiction writer (and the thing is Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is rather fun read) founded the forum Less Wrong to explain “rationally” that an evil almighty AI taking over is the worlds biggest problem (but with many, many more words). It is called “AI risk”. The only way to stop that is apparently to get a good almighty AI to take over and rule the world as an dictator instead. Stopping the evil AI is done by giving money to MIRI, because evil AI taking over the world is a problem that is otherwise “largely ignored by scientists in the field” (wikipedia).

      Then Efficient Altruism is launched (apparently so deeply connected that the forums has a built in cross post function), proclaiming that the most Good you can do is work in tech or finance and hand money to causes that benefits the greatest number of humans. And on the surface it is about mosquito nets and such, but once you are in you learn that in the future there will be much more people, whom you must save from the evil AI by thiting to “AI risk research”.

      Since these poeple are extremely online, I have essentially read up on this over the weekend (except HPMOR that I read while it was being written, decades ago). Sources are the Reddit “Sneerclub”, the rational wiki and numbers of tumblrs sharing lots and lots of screenshots, sneering and deconstructing the weirdness.

      Oh, and one quickly comes across Peter Thiel financing the early steps, and a funnel to the neo-reactionary Dark Intellectual Web. And mentions of valuing Human Biodiversity (HBD), which is essetially a re-branding of “scientific” racism. And accusations (including in a suicide note) of sexual predators preying on young females within the movement.

      Essentially it looks like an updated version of scientology, a cult for people who think they are to smart for cults. No wonder they were – and are! – willing to take any risk to save the world! But only from the evil AI, not world destroying capitalism. Now they are of course casting out those that have failed and shunning them. What else is a cult to do to protect itself?

      This shouldn’t take away from the larger issue of cryptocurrencies being fraud, and their exchanges and NFTs and such being frauds built on frauds. But I do think “cult front sponsored by Peter Thiel” explains a decent chunk of the weirdness around the “EA-movement”.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        Thanks for this. I remember the AI rationalists, didn’t realise they were connected to the altruists. It is also connected to the idea that the AI (the good one, I suppose?) is going to torture everyone who failed to make it real fast enough as punishment for the evil they therefore permitted to occur, isn’t it?

        1. fjallstrom

          Indeed. That would be “the Basilisk” for anyone inclined to look it up. The Good AI, coming into power and seeing how much evil the world would have been spared if it existed earlier decides to torture for infinity the uploaded consciousness of those that didn’t do enough. Pay your tithe or the Basilisk will come for your soul!

      2. Acacia

        Interesting that these different ideas connect. To believe in the threat of an “AI takeover”, I gather they have to first believe in progress towards AGI and, by extension, “the coming singularity”, but given the extremely poor track record in AI research, that begins to resemble a leap of faith.

        On this subject, here’s Rodney Brooks, former director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, writing in 2018 (emphasis mine):

        I think the press, and those outside of the field have recently gotten confused by one particular spin off name, that calls itself AGI, or Artificial General Intelligence. And the really tricky part is that there a bunch of completely separate spin off groups that all call themselves AGI, but as far as I can see really have very little commonality of approach or measures of progress. This has gotten the press and people outside of AI very confused, thinking there is just now some real push for human level Artificial Intelligence, that did not exist before. They then get confused that if people are newly working on this goal then surely we are about to see new astounding progress. The bug in this line of thinking is that thousands of AI researchers have been working on this problem for 62 years. We are not at any sudden inflection point.

        There is a journal of AGI, which you can find here. Since 2009 there have been a total of 14 issues, many with only a single paper, and only 47 papers in total over that ten year period. Some of the papers are predictions about AGI, but most are very theoretical, modest, papers about specific logical problems, or architectures for action selection. None talk about systems that have been built that display intelligence in any meaningful way.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > To believe in the threat of an “AI takeover”,

          I think AI will “take over” like the Internet of Things took over: An unmaintainable, insecure mess of crapification that works until it doesn’t, and then nobody knows what to do. Fine for collecting rents, though!

  11. jsn

    “Goncharov” is actually one of Ezra Buckley’s early films.

    You can read all about it in “The First Encyclopedia of Tlon”.

    Shot in Uqbar, it was produced by Orbis Tertius.

  12. dbk

    I watched the whole TikTok thing on the non-existence of the Roman Empire. As a trained classical archaeologist, I have to admit I found it pretty scary.

    1. The Rev Kev

      She was just throwing out all sorts of bs just for the clicks so I will satisfy myself by disproving one of her thoughts. No Roman original manuscripts? Seriously. It was not that long ago that NC had a link talking about a new technique to recover the writing from rolled scrolls that had been carbonized in Pompeii. And I won’t even get into the subject of Pompeii and Herculaneum itself.

      1. JBird4049

        Also just quickly from memory: parchment from the Byzantine Empire, discarded letters on papyrus in Roman Egypt, and letters made of wooden strips I think found in a Roman fort in Britain. All from the 3rd to 6th centuries.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      It was cooked up by a Soviet crank professor.. At times I’ve wondered if it was just a 3rd world psyop by the USSR. They ran crank stories, arguably more far fetched than the US as the US sticks to its usual myths.. Then I suspect it was elaborate trolling in pre world wide web internet days. Effing with otherwise fairly bright people.

      Julius Caesar being Charlemagne bugs me the most.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        God only knows whether Fomenko was serious or not. However, the troll version is more plausible than the psyop version. Historians here hate him because he and his acolytes are, or at least were, genuinely pretty popular domestically. The discrediting of official Soviet historiography created a vacuum that was quickly filled by sensational pseudoscience. If they were lying about the Molotov-Ribentropp Pact or Katyn, why not lie about the Romans too?

    3. truly

      A friend did their doctoral project in China. Project included collaboration with lots of archeologists. There were many “in the business” that think the terra cotta soldiers are a made up thing. Created to give a sense of history to the populace. I am not buying it. But goes to show how well educated folks can buy in to wild ideas.

      1. hunkerdown

        Why not? Symbolic property creates relations. And Mao was no stranger to team-building onsites gone horribly wrong.

    4. Wukchumni

      There is no way the Roman Empire existed as they didn’t have years on their coins, but to be fair nobody else did either.

      The first time there were years of issuance on coins in Europe was in the 1400’s~

      When I was in the biz it seemed as if there was almost a never ending supply of cheap ancient Roman coins available on the marketplace, as they were always finding another hoard of 100,000 somewhere, and none of it was museum quality, it was just mid to late 3rd century stuff (imagine burying 100,000 Lincoln Cents now and somebody finding them in 3526?) with decent detail and yours for a few bucks a piece, how many thousand would you like?

  13. Screwball

    RE: COVID (Ohio).

    We didn’t have a Thanksgiving get together last week due to a family member with COVID. Last week our college was closed from Wednesday thru Monday for Thanksgiving. I gave my students last Monday off for the holiday as well. My morning class today had 20% missing because they were sick. Imagine that!

  14. Glen

    Ok, I fess up, I am definitely in the “I Caught This Cough” catagory. I think at work. Have not tested positive for the coff, but my wife, the RN, suggests we need to get the more accurate test because she knows too many examples where the free at home tests did not find it.

    Sorry about that. I am normally masking in unsafe scenarios, but that was not sufficient.

    1. InquiringMind

      Suffering cold symptoms starting on a Sunday morning, my at-home tests were negative for 24 hours before the third one went very slightly positive on Monday AM.

      Tested immediately upon waking with symptoms on Sunday AM: negative. Tested again Sunday night before bed because the cold symptoms continued: negative. Tested Monday AM first thing: very, very slightly positive.

      After that, my daily test was positive for the next 14 days. Got fainter and fainter starting at about day 11. Tested negative day 15.

      tl;dr: keep testing & act like you have Covid now until you’re sure you don’t.

  15. upstater

    NYT calling for freedom for Assange:

    I wonder why it has taken more than a decade for this? Why now? Julian Assange has been held in a UK supermax for years awaiting extradition… How will the deep state react?

    An Open Letter from Editors and Publishers: Publishing is Not a Crime

    The U.S. government should end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets.

    Twelve years ago, on November 28th 2010, our five international media outlets – The New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and DER SPIEGEL – published a series of revelations in cooperation with Wikileaks that made the headlines around the globe.

    Twelve years after the publication of “Cable gate”, it is time for the U.S. government to end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets.

    Publishing is not a crime.

    1. hunkerdown

      “We have enough social media control to make sure he doesn’t get heard. It’s safe to free him now.”

  16. Mikel

    Re: Brain Worms

    With Covid still doing it’s thing, unchecked, the next pandemic to come along with it will probably kill about half the population. The death cult economy will demand the sacrifice.

  17. Roger Blakely

    TWiV 957: Clinical update with Dr. Daniel Griffin

    At minute 10:00 he goes over a newly-released article by the CDC on COVID deaths.

    1. In spite of all community immunity, COVID-19 remains the 3rd leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer.

    2. At this point 97% of the US population has had exposure to SARS-CoV-2 either through vaccination or recovering from COVID-19.

    3. The vast majority of Americans dying of COVID-19 today (80%) are over 65 years old and vaccinated or had a previous infection. (Only 20% of those dying of COVID-19 were unvaccinated or not previously infected.)

    What it tells me is that BQ.1 is going to take you out if you inhale enough of it.

    Today’s transmission and wastewater maps are not providing a clear picture. We are going to need another week to figure out how much of an impact BQ.1 and XBB are having.

    It isn’t that masks won’t help. Masks will help. Respirators are better. But BA.5 and BQ.1 are so transmissible that just what lands on your eyeballs and washes down into your eyelids will do the trick.

    1. lambert strether

      > But BA.5 and BQ.1 are so transmissible that just what lands on your eyeballs and washes down into your eyelids will do the

      Link, please

      1. Roger Blakely

        SARS-CoV-2: eye protection might be the missing key – The Lancet
        https://www.thelancet.com › PIIS2666-5247(21)00040-9

        COVID-19 has brought into focus many important factors that limit personal protective equipment efficacy, including frequent failure to use eye protection. Inadequate eye protection might explain why frontline workers who, despite wearing apparently adequate gloves, gowns, and masks, still can remain at increased risk of infection.

        1. SocalJimObjects

          3 weeks ago I was a bit careless and I finally contracted Covid. I went into a crowded mall fully masked for less than half an hour, and 3 days later, voila, tested positive. Infection through the eyes? Too believable, that’s how I think I got mine too.

          Fortunately, my symptoms were pretty mild, more of a cold than anything else, although I am sure some of my organs have been impacted in some ways.

          1. SocalJimObjects

            Forgot to mention that I was wearing a supposedly better (more layering than a normal) KN-95 mask.

            1. Basil Pesto

              KN-95s can be wildly variable in quality/efficacy and, of course, fit (there might be places in your area that can do formal mask fit tests for you, it might be worth booking if you can and bringing a few masks so you can find the best-fitted mask design for your face). Also, was it an ear loop design or headband? Ear-loops as a general rule will have poor seal and make you susceptible to infection, though this can be mitigated with mask braces like FixTheMask. But at that point you’re better off getting an N95 rather than a KN95 as I believe NIOSH guidelines require them to have headbands rather than earloops.

              Sorry, I know it’s been about three years of “not *that* mask, *this* mask” and there’s a lot of info to take on board and it can all get rather frustrating.

        2. Basil Pesto

          I’m sorry but this specific claim:

          But BA.5 and BQ.1 are so transmissible that just what lands on your eyeballs and washes down into your eyelids will do the trick.

          is not supported by any evidence, to my knowledge. Eyes/tear ducts as a mode of transmission is certainly possible, but there is no evidence to suggest it happens with anything like the facility you’re describing, and I suspect the number of infections by this mode is relatively very small compared to inhalation.

  18. JBird4049

    >>>Fulfillment time of existing orders is up to THREE WEEKS. Thank you for your patience.

    So, while there is a brand of masks that is effective, fits, is affordable, and actually has some good aesthetics, I have to wait through Peak Disease Season to get it? Right now, I am happy and sad.

      1. ambrit

        How about selling I Ching sets as “Personal Risk Assessment Tools?”
        The CDC can put out an “instructional” video on the proper way to throw the yarrow stalks. True to neo-liberal form, it will require a ‘credentialed professional’ to interpret the patterns.

  19. Pat

    I have to wonder if Joe Manchin won’t get to be such a poopy head if you elect Warnock will be as effective as the promise of $2000. And if the electorate knows that promise is about as good as the $2000 one. I mean if you follow enough to know about Joe wouldn’t you also know about buzz kill Sinema and that 51 minus 2 is 49 and still a problem.

    But what do I know, I mean I can remember when Democrats had 59 and 60 Senate votes and still couldn’t pass anything worthwhile for anybody outside of the big donor class.

    1. Glen

      Joe’s price to have an opinion may go down, it may go up. But poopy head, we will continue to get for free.

      Lucky us.

    2. fjallstrom

      The Democrats will have a bigger issue than Manchin, namely passing anything in the House.

      I file this together with the “problems” facing the Republicans in “passing legislation through the House”.

      The next two years nothing will be passed in both the House and Senate, except that which falls under the grand concensus of serving donors, empire and wars. And that would be passed regardless of election results.

  20. The Rev Kev

    ‘”Yes, a principal is telling someone’s wife to divorce him because he wants to protect them from a deadly, disabling virus.

    “Companies are also starting to pressure their employees to get therapy “to conquer their fear of Covid.”’

    Well worth reading all the tweets of his in that link. I think that the worse aspect of all this is that you could show that principal all the proof and all the studies of the damage caused by this virus, but when – not if – when that principal eventually gets infected, he will dismiss it as not the virus but just a common cold that seems to be ‘awful persistent’.

    I am somehow reminded of an old James Bond film here. Bond is fighting a goon who takes James Bond’s gun away from him, not knowing that it is a two-way gun. The goon shoots at Bond but gets hit by the bullet instead. Shocked, he looks at Bond who gives him the ‘nah, that could not have happened look’ so the goon then shoots again and this time dies. The principal is like that goon who will refuse to believe what is happening.

  21. ChrisPacific

    The China park transmission story is interesting since that’s one of the scenarios where I normally feel OK to go without masking.

    Some points:
    – Transmission rate was around 1.5% of all exposures
    – They did not give the masking rate for the uninfected cohort (only the infected ones)
    – 2836 people at a park seems like a lot, so I wonder how it would generalize to less-populous areas
    – No word on what the weather was that day? From Wikipedia, Chongqing is a humid subtropical climate and has over 100 days of fog per year, so the climate is obviously favorable for concentration of airborne particles. Intuitively it feels like you’d be at higher risk outdoors in an area prone to windless days and inversion layers than, say, at the top of Mount Washington.

    Worth keeping an eye on, in any case.

    1. Acacia

      No word on what the weather was that day?

      A ways down in the paper: “The wind speed was 0.5–3.0 m/s, the temperatures were 33.0°C–42°C and the air humidity was 44%–48% when Patient Zero was jogging”.

      To me, jogging in that heat (91.4 – 107.6°F) seems pretty difficult, tho @Objective Ace points out it can be acceptable for someone in good health. I assume the low temperature was in the shade.

      1. ChrisPacific

        Right, so that’s 1 to 5 knots, which is a pretty low wind speed, although not zero. I’ve run in temperatures at the low end of that before. It can be done but you end up drinking vast quantities of water, which means all that moisture you’re replacing was probably expelled into the atmosphere. It makes sense that that would make for a higher risk.

        To Basil’s point below, if I knew I was going to be in proximity to almost three thousand people then you can bet I’d wear a mask, whether it was outdoors or not. Also if it was a hot day with relatively low wind I’d be extra careful as well.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > To Basil’s point below, if I knew I was going to be in proximity to almost three thousand people then you can bet I’d wear a mask,

          And you can bet that if I saw a lone jogger approach me, I’d give them a wide berth, masked or not.

    2. Basil Pesto

      I think it’s sort of just a matter of common sense. Some people have assumed a degree of invulnerability when outdoors that doesn’t really make sense. For me, if I’m in a large park, I wouldn’t bother masking unless I was around a lot of exercisers, or loud, large groups. I live near a linear park with popular cycling/running paths and if I’m on that, I will almost always mask. It’s about proximity and concentration of aerosols and if you’re on a narrow linear path with other people breathing heavily and overtaking such people or being overtaken by such people while emitting relatively thick plumes of aerosols, risk is bound to be a little higher than average. Try to stay upwind as much as possible if you wish to remain unmasked, too.

      what this study confirms is that the BLM protests of summer 2020 almost certainly contributed to chains of transmission which would have killed quite a few people. A cause worth protesting for, just not in the thick of an epochal pandemic. It was a big political setback for the pandemic response in the US, because “restrictions for thee but not for me” and rationalising it with a thinly evidenced theory of no outdoor transmission is obviously hypocritical.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > It’s about proximity and concentration of aerosols

        Ding ding ding ding. If only Covid were visible and (new word!) olfactible, like cigarette smoke

        > what this study confirms is that the BLM protests of summer 2020 almost certainly contributed to chains of transmission which would have killed quite a few people. A cause worth protesting for, just not in the thick of an epochal pandemic. It was a big political setback for the pandemic response in the US, because “restrictions for thee but not for me” and rationalising it with a thinly evidenced theory of no outdoor transmission is obviously hypocritical.

        I don’t agree that outdoor transmission is “thinly evidenced” now though I’m too lazy to dig out the studies. (Am I right that the Australian “fleeting contact” and New Zealand quarantine hotel cases were after BLM?) However, it should be obvious that one’s Covid dose is reduced when the outside air dilutes it.

        However, “reduced” does not mean “reduced to zero,” and I agree, the BLM protests had to have contributed in some way. For example, we know that (in cities in a northern tier Midwest state, I think WI) the case count increased immediately after election day. I don’t see how waiting in line to vote, outside, is that different from a march, outside. (And if the riposte is that the precinct is a 3Cs place, I would bet anything that marchers met up, after the march, in other 3Cs spaces, like bars or restaurants.)

        As for “politically damaging,” I agree. I remember the pivot. It was, er, breathtakingly fast. (To be fair, IIRC then we did not have strong studies on outdoor. Nevertheless, the precautionary principle.) Of course, “for thee but not for me” wouldn’t have stuck so well if Democrats hadn’t already created very strong priors in people’s minds.

  22. Jason Boxman

    Cardboard Has Taken Over Our Lives. Where Does It Come From?

    Sometime after the Delta wave of Covid but before the debut of Omicron, I began tracking the number of cardboard boxes my family went through on a weekly basis. To make the experiment easier, I excluded so-called containerboard, the uncorrugated or lightly corrugated material used in juice boxes or milk cartons. I landed at an average of 18 boxes per week, a number that comprised Amazon Prime shipments — gummy vitamins and books and toys and electronics purchases — and produce boxes bundled by our local farm share. It felt like a lot, and it was a lot, but it was far less than the cardboard chewed through by some of our neighbors. Every Monday, I drag two tall blue bins of cardboard to the curb. One guy down the block does four.

    Honestly, that doesn’t sound healthy. I’m lucky to go through a half dozen cardboard boxes in a month. So 18 boxes a week sounds like honestly just sheer laziness.

    In the United States, the greatest beneficiaries of our newfound dependence on corrugate are the so-called Big Five, the paper corporations that dominate the American market. Of those five, I.P. is the largest, and WestRock the second largest, with Georgia Pacific, the Packaging Corporation of America and Pratt following closely behind. All are “vertically integrated” — they have harvesting and pulping capabilities as well as box-making plants and distribution networks — and most have grown, like predatory aquarium fish, by devouring their smaller peers. “I remember when I was hired at Smithers in 2021, I saw this data set that had two columns,” Cooper recalled. “The left column had the landscape as it existed a decade ago, and the right column was the landscape now. It has gone from 1,000 companies to half of that: 500 total. That’s how an I.P. or a WestRock got to where they are today. They acquired lots of regional players. And with each new acquisition, they got more powerful.” Cooper estimates that in 2022, the combined market share of the Big Five has come to rest at roughly 70 percent of the corrugate industry in the United States.

    More consolidation. Bad news.

    Consumers, as many companies have been quick to understand, tend to have a pretty good sense of this kind of thing, even if they’re not capable of reciting recycling stats for each type of container. “It’s true that you never buy a package — you’re buying what’s inside it,” Cooper, the Smithers analyst, told me. “But as a society, we’ve come to expect sustainability in everything we consume.” He went on: “So for Company X the decision to rely more on cardboard is a business decision. And it’s a good one.” At the grocery store closest to my house, cherry tomatoes that were once sealed in plastic are now available in lightly corrugated boxes; in the beverage aisle, carton-board boxes of water sit alongside the six-packs of cans. My favorite takeout place has gone paper-only: paper bags, corrugated clamshells instead of foam.

    Not out here. I bought some Springer chicken breast a few days ago, in plastic, and each tiny breast was individually wrapped like toxic waste in plastic. It was horrific to deal with. The Food Lion only sells organic vegetables in plastic wrap, like they grow that way. Horrid.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > How many PMC had paid time off for the holiday?

      The issue is not holidays; the issue is time off for, say, doctor’s appointments.

      You know how you always hear “Check with your doctor”? Like that.

      1. Glen

        A legitimate complaint for sure, but the railroad CEOs are wrecking America’s railroads too as they maximize profits. And that is not good. We’re going to desperately need good railroads going forward.

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