2:00PM Water Cooler 11/29/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Handsome Flycatcher, Megantoni Camp 3, Tinkanari, Cuzco, Peru. Today, the flycatcher is handsome. Yesterday, the flycatcher was ornate!

* * *


“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

“Proud pro-labor President”

“But in this case – where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions – I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal give the workers four sick days.” Fixed it for ya.

“Statement from President Joe Biden on Averting a Rail Shutdown” [WhiteHouse.gov]. “I share workers’ concern about the inability to take leave to recover from illness or care for a sick family member. No one should have to choose between their job and their health – or the health of their children. I have pressed legislation and proposals to advance the cause of paid leave in my two years in office, and will continue to do so. Every other developed country in the world has such protections for its workers. But at this critical moment for our economy, in the holiday season, we cannot let our strongly held conviction for better outcomes for workers deny workers the benefits of the bargain they reached, and hurl this nation into a devastating rail freight shutdown.” • So, when the workers have no leverage, we don’t give them what they demand. And when the workers have leverage, we don’t give them what they demand.

An easy layup even for Marco Rubio:

Now would be a good time for the Progressive Caucus to roll on its back, expose its belly, and widdle like the little puppy it is. Nothing on this on AOC or Jayapal’s Twitter feeds….

“Biden calls for Congress to act to stop rail strike” [Roll Call]. “The union membership that has rejected the tentative agreement has cited ongoing concerns about a lack of paid sick days. But Biden, in the statement about the need for Congress to act quickly, rejected the idea of lawmakers reopening the terms of the agreement. ‘Some in Congress want to modify the deal to either improve it for labor or for management. However well-intentioned, any changes would risk delay and a debilitating shutdown. The agreement was reached in good faith by both sides,’ Biden said.” • Translation of “both sides”: Union management doesn’t represent the workers, the majority of whom rejected the deal. Shocking, I know.


NY: “GOP voter turnout at presidential levels, outpaces Democrats in N.Y. governor’s race” [Times-Union]. “Republican turnout was substantially higher than for Democrats, 63 to 47 percent, according to an analysis of unofficial election results obtained by the Times Union from the state Board of Elections.” • Hmm. The New York Democrats really are in disarray.

TX: “Here’s why we still don’t know what went wrong in Harris County on Election Day” [Texas Tribune]. “Even now, election staffers are continuing to call each of the more than 700 election judges who worked the polling sites to find out exactly how many locations opened late, how many ran out of paper and how many had issues with voting machines. An investigation by the county’s district attorney launched earlier this week alleges at least 23 polling locations had paper ballot shortages. Harris is unusual among large Texas counties in not having an effective system for logging its polling place problems. Others have an easier, faster way to gather that data that doesn’t require calling hundreds of people individually and taking down notes. Instead, election software troubleshooting tools, used these days by many election directors across the nation, can help monitor and keep track of every issue reported at polling sites. These tools have features that alert officials of an issue in detail and provide status updates of the resolution in real time.”


“Biden Helped Democrats Avert a ’22 Disaster. What About ’24?” [New York Times]. “Now, as Mr. Biden mulls a decision over whether to seek a second term, interviews with more than two dozen Democratic elected officials and strategists suggest that, whatever misgivings some Democrats may harbor about another Biden candidacy, his party is more inclined for now to defer to him than to try to force a frontal clash with a sitting president. In recent days, officials ranging from Representative Henry Cuellar, one of the most conservative House Democrats, to Representative Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have said they would support another Biden bid. In private conversations, younger Democratic operatives have shifted from discussing potential job opportunities in a competitive presidential primary to gaming out what a Biden re-election campaign might look like.” • Fascinating to see “operative” used in a neutral, non-judgemental way (something I tend not to do).

“Turning Point for Garland as Justice Dept. Grapples With Trump Inquiries” [New York Times]. “But the appointment of a special counsel, Jack Smith, on Nov. 18, and a painstakingly planned rollout of the announcement, signaled a significant, if subtle, shift in that approach. Garland has shown a growing willingness to operate outside his comfort zone — within the confines of the rule book — in response to the extraordinary circumstance he now finds himself in: investigating Trump, a top contender for the 2024 nomination of a party that is increasingly rallying around the charge that Garland has weaponized the Justice Department against Republicans.” • Look. Aren’t these walls taking rather a long time to close in?

Republican Funhouse

“The postliberal crackup: The GOP’s post-midterm civil war starts with the New Right” [Salon]. • You’ll like this, if it’s the sort of thing you like. But I can’t believe these ideas are being taken seriously (which is a big weakness of mine; often stupid ideas are very powerful).

Democrats en Déshabillé

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

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

* * *

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Republicans in Arizona, Pennsylvania counties decline to certify midterm election results” [ABC]. “Republicans on the election boards of Cochise County in Arizona and Luzerne County in Pennsylvania voted against motions to certify the election results there.” Ann English, [Cochise County’s] board chair and a Democrat: “[O]ur machine count and hand count matched 100%.” So what do we need the machines for? More: “In Luzerne County, two Republican members of the elections board voted against certifying the midterm results, two Democrats voted to certify and one Democratic member abstained. Luzerne County faced a paper ballot shortage on Election Day, but voting hours were extended to ensure that all ballots could be cast.” • It is true, as a paper ballot advocate, I haven’t addressed supply chain issues….


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.

* * *

• “There is no such thing as ‘herd immunity.’ Why the ongoing dangers of COVID-19 are real” [USA Today]. “We all need to recognize the dangers of COVID-19 and the risks it imposes to our long-term health and our country’s workforce. Long COVID occurs in approximately 30% to 35% of cases. It commonly occurs with even mild disease and with reinfections. The severity is additive with each exposure and the symptoms can often persist for over a year (the longest patients have been followed). There is no such thing as ‘herd immunity’ and I beg to differ with the CDC regarding “immune debt” causing the increase in respiratory infections, and there statement regarding Respiratory Syncytial Virus infections: ‘And so these children, if you will, need to become infected [with RSV] to move forward because it’s a disease very common in children.’ ‘Immune debt’ is just another push for ‘herd immunity’ and to use this to explain the increase in RSV infections is mind boggling, since we had a significant number of infections last year. At the end of Nov. 2022, Pediatric hospitals were filled with RSV, but at that time there were corresponding more RSV infections in the previous year. We are on track to have an even larger RSV season, but ‘immune debt’ is an unlikely etiology. Another explanation for rising RSV hospitalizations is ‘immune theft’ due to COVID-19 which as of last March had infected over 75% of children. Mounting research has shown that COVID-19 is associated with immune dysfunction which can persist for at least 8 months (the longest time studied).” • The person at CDC with whom the author “begs to differ” is, of course, America’s favorite eugenicist, Rochelle Walensky.

* * *

• Maskstravaganza: “But everyone can make their own personal risk assessment”:

“I felt small.”

• Maskstravaganza: One tiny anecdote, perhaps an outlier:

My own anecdote: I watch for “Let me see your smile!” stories, because they tick me off so much. Very few of them lately. I did find one

• Maskstravaganza: UC = University of Calgary:

I pity the “Lady.” She’s trusting, and two years into the pandemic, believes that plexiglass screens work. Terrible, terrible communications from the Canadian public health establishment….

* * *

• “New Covid outbreak on a cruise ship headed for Melbourne after ‘slightly elevated’ cases caused it to skip a stop at another major Australian port” [Daily Mail]. Next to last paragraph: “Meanwhile a limousine driver told Mr Mitchell his company had 13 people booked for collection when the [S.S. Petri Dish The Grand Princess] arrives in Melbourne but said he won’t be collecting them as he ‘cannot risk’ his drivers and their families.” • The phrase you’re looking for is “plague ship.”

* * *

* * *

• “SARS-CoV-2 and the Eyes: A Review of the Literature on Transmission, Detection, and Ocular Manifestations” [Medical Science Monitor]. A review of the literature. From the Abstract: “During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, numerous reports of ocular anomalies occurring in patients infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) have emerged. The most frequently reported pathology is conjunctivitis, which may be the first or only clinical manifestation of the disease. Involvement of SARS-CoV-2 in development of alterations in other ocular structures was suggested, including the cornea, the retina, and blood vessels. Possible mechanisms include direct activity of the viral agent, as well as systemic inflammatory response with accompanying thromboembolic complications. Genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 was detected in ocular secretions of infected individuals, including asymptomatic patients. Moreover, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), a receptor protein used by the virus to enter the cell, has been found on the surface of various structures of the eye, which indicates a risk of transmission through ocular tissues. Therefore, it is crucial to use eye protection by medical professionals having contact with potentially infected patients.” • For me, an epidemiological study is the [sic] “gold standard.” I haven’t seen one for transmission through the eyes.

* * *

“COVID-19 cases to jump 80% by Dec. 7, Mayo forecasts” [Beckers Hospital Review]. I’m using the Wayback Machine for this, since (spookily?) the original URL throws an Error 500. Looks like Becker, who is good, took this down, rightly so far as I can tell. I can’t find the 80% forecast on the Mayo page, which Mayo says is being taken down anyhow.

* * *


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 28:

3.2%. Yesterday was 3.0%. These rates are not smoothed, so we really can’t be sure if there’s a train rolling or not. Nevertheless, we now have not only an increase, but an increase in the rate of increase. Let’s wait and see.


Wastewater data (CDC), November 22:

November 21:


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 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 29:

Lambert here: As with positivity, these rates are not smoothed, so we really can’t be sure if there’s a train rolling or not. Nevertheless, we now have not only an increase, but an increase in the rate of increase.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,104,879 – 1,104,755 = 124 (124 * 365 = 45,260 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.

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

* * *

The Bezzle:

Here’s the transcript of an interview with Anthropic’s founders. It’s… remarkable.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 60 Greed (previous close: 59 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 29 at 1:34 PM EST.

The Screening Room

Lots and lots of detail on Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon: The NASA lens, the grain of the film….

By “doesn’t feel real” must be meant “doesn’t feel like an oil painting.”

Civil War Studies

Holy moley, Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens:

“Speaking before his people at home in his impassioned plea for this scheme of ruin to Southern wealth-holders….” And note the chapter title: “Confiscation.” Makes you wonder what the Andrew Johnson impeachment and acquittal were really about.

Zeitgeist Watch

Look on my works ye mighty:

China can’t seem to upgrade its HVAC systems either.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“The Black Investors Who Were Burned by Bitcoin” [The Atlantic]. “[T]housands of Black investors… have seen the value of their crypto investments plummet. The prototypical face of crypto is young, white, techy, and male, but perhaps no other demographic group has been harder hit by the crypto bust than Black Americans, who are half as likely to own stocks as their white counterparts but significantly more likely to own cryptocurrencies. Because Black investors piled into the crypto market at or near its most recent top, many of those investors are now in the red. That is especially worrisome because Black investors had so little to lose to begin with: Young Black men are one of the poorest segments of American society. It is also worrisome because many Black investors poured money into bitcoin because they found it so hard to build generational wealth in the first place. Discriminated against by banks, overlooked by investment managers, redlined and saddled with educational debt, many turned to more esoteric opportunities.” • Exactly as a generation of Black wealth was destroyed by the Great Financial Crash and Obama’s subsequent housing policies.

Class Warfare

“Inequality in Society Drives Stock-Market Performance” [Wall Street Journal]. “[S]tocks and other financial assets are just tokens whose price is determined by supply and demand. Most of the time it is demand that matters most, with large amounts of supply—IPOs and secondary issues—usually a symptom of excessively high prices. It turns out that one of the biggest drivers of that demand in the long run is how unequal society is. The argument is pretty simple, as laid out by Jacques Cesar, a former managing partner at Oliver Wyman now leading a research project for the management consultancy: The rich save more and are more willing to take the extra risk of putting their savings into stocks. Mr. Cesar calculates that one household earning $1 million a year would put about 20 times as much into stocks as the total invested by 20 households each with an income of $50,000, based on averages for their income groups, even though their overall income is the same. Raise inequality and demand for stocks goes up, and so do prices. This doesn’t mean traditional financial metrics are irrelevant. But it helps explain why there has been an upward trend in valuations over the past 40 years, as U.S. inequality has soared. More millionaires and billionaires are buying stocks because there are more millionaires and billionaires. At the same time, there are more millionaires and billionaires because profit margins are high—for many reasons, including increased monopoly power—and companies choose to pay their top people much more than in the past. ‘There’s a duality,’ Mr. Cesar says. ‘Ultimately they’re two faces of the same coin. [Company] earnings are both cause and consequence of high income inequality.'” • A duality. Or a contradiction.

“Railroading workers” [Popular Information]. “The dispute boils down to one issue: paid sick leave. … Railroad companies have adamantly refused to include any short-term paid leave. That means rail workers must report to work, even when they are sick, or forfeit their pay. “It’s an insane and cruel system, and these guys are fed up with it,” Peter Kennedy, chief negotiator for the maintenance workers union, which rejected the deal, said. Rail workers say that some colleagues come to work with COVID because they can’t afford to take time off. The maintenance workers are seeking a deal with at least four paid sick days. The railroad companies, according to the union, are unwilling to negotiate.” • Four. Sick. Days.

“Reports from Striking University of California Philosophy Graduate Students” [Daily Nous]. “During my time in San Diego I’ve always spent more than 50% of my income on rent. My landlord recently raised my rent so I’m now paying about 75% of my income on rent. I simply can’t afford that. I’m trying to find a place to move, but it’s nearly impossible to find a place. Not just a place that’s safe or reasonably close to campus. It’s nearly impossible just to find a place, any place, that I can afford with my stipend. I work full-time over the summer and try to find ways to make extra money during the academic year, all just to be able to pay my bills. It’s undeniable that I would be a better philosopher and better teacher if I had been able to spend those countless hours doing what I came to UCSD to do instead of spending that time trying to survive. It harms grad students, our departments, the students we teach, our universities, and the discipline of philosophy as a whole when grad students are forced to spend inordinate amounts of time making extra money instead of focusing on our work. That’s why we need more money. ~ UCSD Philosophy Graduate Student.”

“The Culture Workers Go On Strike” [The New Republic]. “This season culture workers are organizing against their own exploitation. Professors of art, workers at museums, and assistants at a publishing house have all gone on strike or staged public protests during contract negotiations. Call this a black-turtleneck-worker uprising rather than a white-collar one. ‘Wages are stagnant and we earn far lower salaries than our peers elsewhere,’ the union representing employees at the Brooklyn Museum recently tweeted. They’ve been busy protesting outside their work site. During one action, workers held up signs decrying the vacuity of the VIP opening for the museum’s haute couture fashion exhibit: One read, ‘You can’t eat prestige.’ (The union is calling for a 7 percent salary increase this year and raises of 4 percent per year for each of the two years following.) Unions are currently on strike at the publisher HarperCollins and at the University of California system, where 48,000 academic workers are sitting out their underpaid teaching gigs.”

News of the Wired

I remain, today, unwired.

* * *

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Timotheus writes: “Stands out amidst the green, Isham Park, upper Manhattan.”

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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. Dr. John Carpenter

    “Nothing on this on AOC or Jayapal’s Twitter feeds…”

    They must not be letting the interns run their Twitter accounts.

    1. agent ranger smith

      It would be kind of neat if Congress were to pass a law “encoding” all the contract provisions which the railroad workers wanted, most especially including paid medical leave for self or family care, sending it to Biden and thereby backing him into a corner where he has to reveal himself by either signing it or vetoing it.

      If McConnell decided that a pro railroad workers contract-forcing bill would gain the Republican Party credibility with union workers while subtracting credibility from the Democratic Party with those same union workers, could he get himself and the Republican Senators to overcome their natural anti-union bias long enough to get that legislation passed against the no-votes of the Clinton Democrats, and use it to troll or even outright own President Biden?

      1. IMOR

        Once upon a time (say, 30, 35 yrs ago), this would have been done late this summer. It’s an excellent idea, tactically powerful, no budget cost, and wld be automatic if there was less than 90% congruence betw the ‘two’ ‘parties’. A handful of GOP lawmakers actually would be fine with this deal- some of them even sincerely so, not just as a bulwark allowing Congress or a GOP administration to say ‘No!’ next time.

    2. marym

      Every worker deserves paid sick leave. I will not support a deal that does not provide our rail workers with the paid sick leave they need and deserve.

      Railroad workers grind themselves to the bone for this country as their labor produces billions for Wall St. They demand the basic dignity of paid sick days. I stand with them.
      If Congress intervenes, it should be to have workers’ backs and secure their demands in legislation. https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1597684448606420992

      At a time of record profits in the rail industry, it’s unacceptable that rail workers have ZERO guaranteed paid sick days. It’s my intention to block consideration of the rail legislation until a roll call vote occurs on guaranteeing 7 paid sick days to rail workers in America.

      Alaska @Rep_Peltola (D) says she’s concerned that rail worker negotiations concluded without improvements to sick leave and is currently a no vote on the agreement. “I just don’t think it’s right or fair to expect workers go to work sick as a dog.”

  2. doug

    Can the railroad workers have an old fashioned ‘wildcat’ strike before Congress can act?
    It would seem prudent at this point. But I know nothing about the laws concerning such.

    1. Mike

      If the unionized workers are fully united and on board with it, they can – but it would become a political strike, just as the transport workers strike in the UK. Are theu ultimately ready for that?

    2. tommys

      Taft Hartley act can destroy a union’s funds with big fines….. It’s also another reason to never look to union leadership for mass general strikes here..only the rank and file going rogue as they should..(beyond on how most union leaders are very conservative people anyway….)…..pretty much illegal, and gov’t will attack funds….

      1. vao

        Then do what unionized Finnish nurses did some 20 years ago: announce a mass resignation of the personnel — not a strike, so nothing at all the employers can do, nor the government, short of declaring martial law.

        1. chris

          I would dearly love to see this happen. A non-violent way of making a solid point. Taking these corporations by the balls and forcing them to accept the humanity of their hired labor. But so many in this country live paycheck to paycheck. Union leaders will never accept the rank and file sidestepping the process and their authority.

          It will never happen.

          What may happen, and in fact what I think is likely to happen, are accidents and sickouts and sparks of violence. Maybe a few will catch fire and we’ll see whatever the American equivalent of the Jillet Jauns is. But with congress, the president, the corporations, the union bosses, and most of the public against the idea of these laborers achieving their goals nothing is going to happen absent a revolutionary change in the system. I have no idea what that might be or if it could happen at all.

      2. Hepativore

        The US government would also send out the National Guard to forcibly break up the strikes under threat of gunpoint.

        Somehow I am not surprised that Biden pulled a Reagan. Neoliberalism is far from on its way out. In fact, it is alive and well.

      1. chris

        You probably could try. Of course, the example from people like Trudeau and the behavior of companies like PayPal suggest to me that those who support wildcat strikes will be punished if they use normal channels. And the behavior of our police system for the last several decades suggests that any cash donations would be quickly confiscated. If the bosses are smart they’ll find a way to require the strikers to constantly change where they set up camp so that any supplies they accumulate will become burdensome.

        So, the requirement for these strikes will have to be something that grabs the public to protect the strikers, has a small essential footprint, that can be felxibly erected or disassembled, and can be funded through means which aren’t easily cut off or stolen.

        Given it’s winter time, and so many are in fuel poverty in the US, a COVID realistic warming bank adjacent to the work centers for the rail yards, with most supplies available out of vans, and funded by something like a private intermediary that’s managed by a board with some kind of fiduciary duty to not screw over the strikers, is something I could see working.

        I’m saying all this to further the conversation. Also because I wanted to make the point that if what we’ve seen with recent celebrated causes is any indication we’ll get a lot of requests to send money to “help” that are just grifts. Things that would never work even if the money reached the strikers.

  3. Toshiro_Mifune

    Lots and lots of detail on Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon
    Its undoubtedly a beautiful movie. That f0.7 lens was only used wide open in a few scenes though. The Candle Scene is the highlight. Of course the actors can barely move in it because the DOF is so shallow. Some more on the film/cinematography/lens here.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I know many of the places the film was shot in very well – around Blessington and Glen of the Downs in Wicklow – the light is always highly variable in those mountains, even mundane regular film photography is challenging (much easier with modern digital of course). Many of the shots in that film are near miraculous.

      1. Carolinian

        Don’t forget the grads he used for those skies. Kubrick of course started out as a photographer–for Look Magazine–and the movie is nice to look at but not very good. You keep wishing someone other than Ryan O’Neal was in it.

        1. semper loquitur

          A friend told me once that the inauthentic O’Neal was specifically chosen as Kubrick thought he best represented Barry Lyndon’s shallow, devious nature.

    2. The Rev Kev

      A finely crafted film. I’m going to have to go watch it again. Other films have made scenes look like paintings. The 1993 film “Gettysburg” for example where a few scenes were recreations of famous painting.

    3. Acacia

      Some years ago, I was amused to stumble on the claim that NASA let Kubrick use the lens because he… uh… did a super big favor for the agency around the time of the first moon landing.

  4. Mikel

    “The postliberal crackup: The GOP’s post-midterm civil war starts with the New Right”

    “…Postliberals’ favored models…. expansive social welfare programs tied to “socially conservative and exclusionary practices.”

    Sounds like the same thing already going on. Ex: The tax code resembles a “expansive social welfare program tied to socially conservative and exclusionary practices.”

  5. Adam

    Anecdotal Thanksgiving travel report: I had the pleasure of flying from Chicago O’Hare to LAX and back to visit family. Almost nobody wearing masks in either airport and on both flights, and I had the joy of having an unmasked sick person (‘I only have a cold’) sitting right next to me and my wife on the flight home. Plus my brother and his family are militantly anti-mask. We wore our N95 masks everywhere. Luckily all eating was outdoors or in their home.

  6. semper loquitur

    re: Petri Culture of Culture Discontent

    I worked for a few years in the “Culture Industry” in Philadelphia, specifically museums. A bit of context: many of the workers do not expect to stay for long, neither in those institutions nor in their junior positions. There are a lot of young, elite students for whom the work is simply a stepping stone to “better things”, especially applications to prestigious schools. I’m not saying this to contradict the article nor to show a lack of support for the worker’s efforts.

  7. jo6pac

    “That’s why we need more money. ~ UCSD Philosophy Graduate Student.”

    I can’t believe these kids would want to take money from football team/s

    1. ambrit

      Sounds like a good idea for a Post Monty Python’s skit. A sports team cheerleading squad comprised of philosophy graduate students.

      1. Synoia

        Yes, they could spent the time discussing how kick-off is performed, and end the game and discussion some 90 minutes later.

      2. hunkerdown

        The cheer coach exasperatedly prods them to cheer when their team scores and between quarters, some of which cheers break down in arguments over metaphors in the lyrics. Maybe they are rewritten for correctness on the fly; subverted rhyme and rhythm are always good for a chuckle.

    2. chris

      Yeah, that’s a problem. Fundamentally the market which supports graduate students and provides grants that pay stipends for graduate students doesn’t give a fig about philosophy. And the pool of money that is used to pay for things like sports programs can’t be accessed by graduate students or their advisors. So…universities would need to come up with those funds absent outside support. Which doesn’t happen for things like psychology, philosophy, English, communications, etc. it’s been that way for a long time. And state and federal support have been decreasing for a long time too. Those students are always abused and paid little. Not underpaid. There’s just no money for what they do despite the fact that a university wouldn’t be able to offer those courses without them.

      If your degree leads to a job that pays little on average why would you expect to be well compensated in grad school? I’m not saying the kids in STEM programs have it much better. I remember my stipend being enough to squeak by and rent a nice place which many of peers couldn’t do. But I wasn’t saving anything. And twenty years ago, I recall being paid roughly 3x what the philosophy and psych students were getting. But I was an engineering student on a corporate funded grant program, so the money was there for me.

  8. semper loquitur

    That’s Me! How to Make a Self-Aware Computer

    Since we are building a robot that will emulate human conscious-awareness of itself and the world around it we should remember that the human brain operates with independent parallel continuously operating sensory systems. To emulate this, CP will optimally have parallel processing and as quickly as possible it should be able to handle almost concurrently each of the sensations with which we endow it.


    Last night, I mentioned a yo-yo on Medium who was designing a “conscious” computer. Here is an article from him. His first article was written to define “computer qualia”. This would be hilarious if there weren’t millions of people who think this is legitimate.

    The dreary Avi Loeb wrote an article that I read a while back in which he described how we will have sentient computers in the near future. He then explained that a sentient computer allowed to lose all power would be akin to starving an infant. This is a crystalline example of the dehumanization possible under materialism. People are just biological robots to these f00ls…lumps of meat.

    1. hunkerdown

      > A worrisome increase in temperature > 100 C would result in the fan being “reflexly” turned on by the AP.

      Ohhhh, it’s all just a thought experiment. Well, here’s a real test of self-awareness: tell CP about the Arrhenius equation and semiconductor fabrication processes, and test whether the fan begins to run continuously. It may be necessary to spell out to CP that “it can be roughly estimated that the rate of reaction increases by a factor of about 2 or 3 for every 10°C rise in temperature” and that semiconductor junctions are subject to Arrhenius diffusion.

    2. LifelongLib

      Well, we used to have conscious machines, or at least conscious beings who were treated like machines. They were called “slaves”.

  9. Rob Urie

    Re: “Biden Helped Democrats Avert a ’22 Disaster. What About ’24?”

    According to Democratic party pollster fivethirtyeight.com, Joe Biden has been about as popular as liver cancer and child rape for most of the last year.

    He has consistently been less popular than Donald Trump was at a similar point in his administration. .

    Liberals really need to own this.


    1. Amfortas the hippie

      but how to make them own it?(
      glad yer here, btw, Rob)

      i cut them off of any funding, however meagre, some 13-15 years ago.
      havent voted for any of their presidential candidates since barack’s first go at it…and before that, i voted for ron paul and perot,lol.
      i even stopped yelling at them…in email, snailmail and the fone.
      i shit talk them in the feedstore parking lot…and make sure to be clear about why im shittalking them(ie; not for the reasons my interlocutors do)

      i dont know what else to do, besides sending dead fish in newspapers…but that seems rather unsanitary.

      if it is to work at all, loathing of, and the turning of backs upon, demparty perfidy must needs be a mass movement.
      if 30% of the “base” had been doing what ive been doing, it might have made a difference.
      they know full well how angry people are…including those who hold their nose and vote blue.
      they dont care.
      and why would they?

  10. semper loquitur

    Vonnegut Event: Out of the Cosmic Closet!

    Space Is Gay, and it Has an Important Lesson for Us: We should use the cosmos as a model of inclusivity.

    I set out to find queer people who had an intense love for space and ask them if they thought space was gay, and from everyone I spoke to, I received a resounding YES.

    By Ruby Anderson


    This has got to be the |)umb3st thing I’ve heard in an epoch of |)umbn3ss…because queerfolk don’t have normative beliefs, right? The entire notion that “space is gay” is a normative claim. !diots. Undoubtedly, this is infecting astronomy departments across the nation.

        1. hunkerdown

          Matter, of course, and information and energy too for the philosophical monists in the house. Space is an intensive abstraction and cannot be contained any more than a river can be stepped in twice.

    1. JBird4049

      Space is gay. What?

      I just don’t get the reason for this whatever it is. It is like saying the platypus is buddhist. It is a reality (or lack there of), which has nothing connecting it to human sexuality or even human beings. Was the writer bored or high or something?

  11. vao

    Regarding Covid-19 statistics:

    1) The situation is slowly but surely turning not necessarily to our advantage. Compare the current map to its predecessor one month ago. Overall, red has been supplanting yellow patches (just not on the Northeast — yet?)

    2) While “BQ.1* is moving along quite briskly” and “XBB is coming up on the charts”, BF.7 seems to be quite persistent. Are we seeing a return to the situation of two years ago, when several virus strains each had a substantial presence simultaneously (lambda in South America, Beta in Europe, etc)? I definitely do not like what it could mean in terms of pathology (being infected with several variants at the same time?) and treatment (hopeless wack-a-mole of “vaccines” tuned for specific variants).

  12. kareninca

    At my ultra liberal church in Silicon Valley, which I attend on zoom, in-person worship has continued to be fairly low. Recently there would typically be about 14 people in-person inside, and about 16 of us on zoom. Mask use has been down, down, down; perhaps half of the people there in person have been wearing one. But last Sunday, everyone was wearing an N95!!!!!! (except one guy who has cognitive problems). That was odd.

    The Palo Alto covid sewage level is “high”; it is half the omicron peak, which is a lot.

    The person in charge of volunteers where I help out just told me that a number of people have cancelled their slots since they are sick.

    I have a friend who teaches at a local college and his class was just put back on zoom, at least for this week, due to sick students.

    Perhaps connected, or perhaps not, I have a family friend in CT who just died. He was in his late 60s, and other than being overweight he seemed to be in perfectly good health. He was fully vaxxed and boosted; I don’t know if he ever had covid but it is likely he did since all of his household members have at least once. He had never smoked, but about a week ago he found out that he had lung cancer that had spread everywhere. The day before yesterday he died.

    This is horrible enough for the usual reasons, but it is also just strange. I have been reading about people dying faster of cancer than usual, and this is an example. This is a person who got good Connecticut health care; he was not someone who would ignore symptoms and avoid doctors. His family immediately assumed that his death would be an extended one since that is how that has always worked with cancer in their experience (he is from a big Italian American family); they were planning on extended home care. Instead it was close to instant. It is hard not to wonder if covid exposure (or a widespread experiment) has had some effect on how bodies cope with illness.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      my condolences, Karin.
      cancer’s a superbitch.
      ive wondered if wife having covid twice(jan 21 and jan 22) had some kind of deleterious effect on her cancer progression…including if it effected the efficacy of the 2 clinical trials.
      i didn’t know that it messed with tcells etc back then.
      (and those are the ones that arent monitored, i understand, because its hard to count them or something…so her regular bloodwork didnt even look at that….i have only the merest grasp of the nitty gritty of all that)
      but we can wonder and wonder,lol…and if, if, if….
      wear a mask among the Mundanes, and try not to linger overmuch in close quarters.

      1. kareninca

        Yes, it is another thing to wonder about. When I read that covid can cause liver cirrhosis, the first thing I thought of was my brother, who died two years ago of the obesity-caused version. He could have had an asymptomatic case of covid. I’m sure he didn’t, but he could have, and that is the first thing I thought.

        It is really terrible for the family here; they thought at least they would have time to tend him.

        Yes, we have to keep wearing real masks.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > But last Sunday, everyone was wearing an N95!!!!!! (except one guy who has cognitive problems). That was odd.

      Sorry to hear about your friend.

      On the sudden upsurge of N95s, I am seeing somewhat more anecdotes like this. Of course, the CDC’s “community levels” (“green map”) is a lagging indicator, so the society-wide default is to react too slowly.

  13. Robert Hahl

    Re: “Inequality in Society Drives Stock-Market Performance”

    I think that corporate stock buybacks drive market performance. Was illegal, now it isn’t – Line go up!

    1. cfraenkel

      Behind the WSJ paypall, so couldn’t read the rest. But it echoes a couple of posts from a few days ago:
      The Social Architecture of Capitalism

      Firming up Heirarchy

      The Top Down site has a number of related posts on income vs corp size – eg:

      Redistributing Income Through Hierarchy

      The common thread is that capitalism left to itself will automatically generate inequality, it’s baked into the system because the system is organized by power laws. And inequality falls out of the income distributions created by the power laws.

      That this same realization is appearing in the WSJ is maybe an encouraging sign?

      It seems to have been well known to the New Deal architects. Hopefully Wall St is belatedly waking up to it as well. (not holding my breath, though)

  14. Mark Gisleson

    That is one of my favorite scenes in Barry Lyndon. Barry is perfectly seated for passing out, he has clearly done this many times before as has everyone else in the room save the servant falling asleep on his feet and the gamblers who are otherwise engaged. The room appears disordered yet servants almost certainly remove the empty bottles daily or possibly even more often. The drinker vs bottle math is interesting.

  15. voislav

    I know this will never happen, but I would love to see Congress attach the provision that railroads are not allowed to pay out dividends or do stock buybacks while this agreement is in force. Then we’d see some real negotiating take place

  16. Will

    re Calgary maskstravanganza

    Public health officials have been bad, but let’s not forget our hideous elected officials. The city of Calgary is in the province of Alberta, which recently banned schools from instituting mask mandates or online learning.


    Health measures mandated by the province’s chief medical officer would take precedence but still seems pretty bad.

    In any event, a predictably horrible move by the new boss Danielle Smith, who replaced the detestable Jason Kenney. For the morbidly curious with time here’s a brief intro to Smith and a review of Kenney.


    1. eg

      As bad as the Canadian Covid response has been, Alberta is the worst.

      That they are also the Texas of Canada isn’t helping.

  17. Roger Blakely

    SARS-CoV-2 and the Eyes

    Thanks, Lambert. My point is that we have people fetishizing masks. If you’re trying to avoid SARS-CoV-2, and if you’re going to tra-la-la through an airport terminal or shopping mall clouded with BQ.1, then you haven’t got a prayer unless you are wearing a well-functioning respirator and chemical splash goggles. I wear a respirator in such places, but I only put on the goggles in the restroom (because the virus is concentrated in the restroom). I pick up SARS-CoV-2. I feel sick all of the time. But I don’t feel as sick as I would feel if I weren’t wearing the respirator and goggles.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      and remember, flush toilets aerosolise the fecal material as a part of normal operations.
      best selling point, after all these years, for our composting toilet.
      (also never backs up or clogs,lol…mom has an overflow whenever my brother and his golden horde ride in)

  18. Lex

    The Salon link re: Republican Funhouse is wild. When the US really starts to crack, it’s going to be a mess. We have a new right that wants to throw off liberalism for the sake of the constitutional republic which they think was some sort of a religious state rather than the perfect project of classical liberalism. Half of the new right will miss the point of being illiberal and just use it as a culture war club as if just banning the gays will somehow fix the fundamental problems of liberalism.

    Of course, that way leads to ethno-religious-nationalism and fascism as it will be cleverly harnessed by finance capital. So the new right is likely to leave us stuck with the worst aspects of liberalism and a layer of liberalism’s fascist dream state. (I stan Dimitrov’s definition of fascism, “The political manifestation of finance capitalism.”)

    1. KD

      I can’t remember the author, but he’s an academic and he wrote one book on Zapatista’s and all these indigenous radical movements in Central/South America, and then he wrote another book on European identitarian movements, and basically concedes they are approximately the same. They’re all just heathens, bitter clingers, would-be colonized subjects of the Hunger Games from the standpoint of the Imperial Center.

  19. KD

    But I can’t believe these ideas are being taken seriously (which is a big weakness of mine; often stupid ideas are very powerful).

    Which ones? Catholicism as a social idea basically ran Western Europe for 1000 years, and still remained enormously powerful even after the Reformation and Treaty of Westphalia. Some of the greatest minds in history, like Aquinas, were Catholics, and it offers a pretty sophisticated philosophical world view. Alasdair MacIntyre was a good Marxist and became an Aristotelean and ended up Catholic (but doesn’t identify with Integralism, despite the parallels between his philosophy and the latter). Integralism, in age of identity politics, is a pretty heady stuff.

    National Conservatism–well, Nationalism is the most potent political force in the modern world, from the French Revolution to the present. Most proles get it instinctively, it generally has to be “educated” out of most people and even then you end up with basically liberal nationalism. With high levels of immigration and secularism, the question of the day is who are we? Liberalism doesn’t really have a real answer, just some sanctimonious yard signs.

    For some of us, a lot of questions have no real answers (what to eat, age of consent, when human life begins, sexual morality in general), and society needs to anoint some authority figure to arbitrarily answer those kinds of questions in order to preserve the social order (because these kinds of issues are used to legitimate political violence between groups). This looks like political fundamentalism in practice, and it is the other side of a certain kind of relativistic outlook.

    1. hunkerdown

      Only when a state is “needed”, rather than one of the other kinds of regimes that do not presume to dominate all three rudiments of freedom. Come to think of it, a state is exactly an example of those stupid ideas with legs, for all the childish competition it facilitates.

  20. Tom Stone

    I picked up a dozen medium eggs and a head of lettuce this morning, $10.07 including tax.
    $2 and change more than I paid last week…

    1. Bugs

      France – €3.80 a dozen fresh organic eggs, lettuce €1.20 from the farm’s vending machine. USA prices are insane.

      1. chris

        So…5ish $s for those two items in US currency? That’s what my family pays for those items but we get them from the farms and other sources. Not in stores.

        And yes, the US is insane. In terms of prices and so many other things.

      2. paddlingwithoutboats

        Compare Vancouver Island:
        Jumbo eggs $7.85/doz
        Cheese has given me price shock since I moved here, around $60/kg

        I used to live where there was a food coop, reasonably local gorganzola for $4.95/pound. Sticker shock.

        No one here would support a food coop me thinks, it’s all so upper middle class statusy.

        Petrol was averaging $1.25/litre when I moved here six yrs ago, but since the US tirade in Ukraine (and we supposedly are fossile fuel self-sufficient and don’t import) has run around $2.00/litre up to $2.30/litre or $9.20/gal

  21. JTMcPhee

    NY Dems in disarray? Don’t hold a candle to FLDems, which are the essence of a private club, whose poncy members, like former Republican Charlie Crist and Debbie Does Wasserman-Schultz, have secured for themselves their guaranteed little corners and steady legal bribe sources.

    Nothing to see here….

  22. Mikerw0

    Let me offer a different perspective on the NY Gov race. In the beginning there was Coumo and only Cuomo. He ran things to ensure his continued reelection with an iron fist. He chose an untested, largely unknown to be Lt. Gov. Oops, Cuomo is gone.

    This left an inexperienced, largely unknown to take over. She makes two big early error. The biggest being funding a new football stadium in Buffalo. This incensed everyone. I spoke to my Assemblyperson who said their calls were massively against it, including her staff. The budget went through anyway. She then assumes that as NY has been reliably D since Pataliputra, and her opponent is from MAGA land that she is a shoe-in and almost doesn’t campaign. When she realizes she may be in trouble she hears up.

    If she wasn’t a tone deaf pol, she would have won going away.

    PS as we know they totally botched the redistricting.

  23. Jason Boxman

    I pity the “Lady.” She’s trusting, and two years into the pandemic, believes that plexiglass screens work. Terrible, terrible communications from the Canadian public health establishment….

    Man, somebody’s gotta light up a cit during one of these conversations and blow smoke in the interlocutor’s face, then point out that COVID works the same way. Sheesh.

  24. The Rev Kev

    “New Covid outbreak on a cruise ship headed for Melbourne after ‘slightly elevated’ cases caused it to skip a stop at another major Australian port”

    ‘Meanwhile a limousine driver told Mr Mitchell his company had 13 people booked for collection when the ship arrives in Melbourne but said he won’t be collecting them as he ‘cannot risk’ his drivers and their families.’

    There might be another factor at work here. If there was a major wave of infections after a ship docked in port, those very same drivers would be blamed for spreading it and that company knows it. It has happened before. The government/medical authorities/media would throw that company under the bus but hard so that people would not question having a plague ship dock in the first place.

        1. Swamp Yankee

          Went to college with Mike Needham, Rubio’s Chief of Staff. Charming and ruthless and intelligent — also objectively bad bordering on crazy neocon politics. Power may be lying in the street there, but this is only because the Dems are failing so abjectly. Needham and his friend/my frienemy Oren Cass, also of W_____ College 20 years ago, are canny and sharp and see where the Dems fall down, but also actively hate workers and are not to be trusted for a minute.

          Still, illustrative of what epic screwups this “proudly pro-labor except whenever it matters” Administration is.

            1. Swamp Yankee

              No, in fact if you read my statement above, I don’t say anything of the kind you suggest (that “Biden and his handlers don’t actively hate workers as well”). I said the Dems are screw ups who claim to love labor but don’t actually.

              I am saying that Needham et al., based on my personal experience and their political record, actively hate workers.

              The Dems suck and also actively hate workers, though I do think not to the extent Needham et al. do, and the former will, when you press them, defend things like social security or Medicare in a way the Needhams of the world do not. This site routinely and correctly castigates Democrats for rehabilitating leading Neocons because of their opposition to Trump; I, in turn, suggest it is not wise if you are actually pro-worker to view Needham et al. as anything but the neocons and WSJ editorial board types they are, even if we’re rightly pissed at Democrats.

  25. chris

    Not sure if this was picked up by our esteemed hosts yet or not. But MacGregor takes the Washington consensus on Ukraine to task in an article published by the The American Conservative today. it echoes all the points discussed here. The MBAs leading the show have metrics that have no basis in reality. The people pushing the war have no understanding of consequences or real military strategy. We’re creating a situation where we will be worse of for all of our efforts.

    I can see where all the Nazis flee Ukraine, set up shop in other countries criticizing the US that has lead to their new home country’s economic collapse, and then in addition to a hostile Russia and China we will also have to work with an ice cold Europe.

  26. ambrit

    From yesterday:
    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. This can be accomplished online, for a nominal fee.

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