2:00PM Water Cooler 11/3/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Olivaceous Siskin, 17 km WSW Rioja, above El Consuelo – LSU/ AMNH, San Martín, Peru.

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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


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I am with Matthews on this:

I think the polls are interesting — as narrative! — but I have no trust in them at all. Much as my gold standard for Covid is the sort of epidemiological study with seating charts and airflows, so my gold standard on political data is the panel, the sort of thing Frank Luntz does, but in as much depth as possible (and not some Bigfoot from the Times folding up his parachute and stashing it under the diner stool, either).

As in so much else, the data — at least the data we see, but I think all data — is bad, bad, bad. (Bordieu has a lot to say about surveys in Classification Struggles, the basic issue being that pollsters as classifying subjects have as the objects of their study subjects who in turn are classifying them, based on the questions asked).

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“The ‘dire situation’ confronting House Democrats” [Politico]. “[Y]ou can see what a dire situation House Democrats are in by looking at where the last-minute money is flowing — into very Democratic-leaning districts that were once seen as safe.” Actually, no. All you can see from the money flows is what a dire situation the House Democrats believe they are in. So, no, we can’t get away from understanding voters. More: “One of the big patterns, though, is that Democrats have a lot of open seats out there from retirements and redistricting. The whole election for them hinges on where their candidates are able to float above Biden’s bad approval ratings, and it’s a lot easier for incumbents to do that, especially those with their own strong brands. (That’s also a reason why the Senate landscape has looked better for Democrats, though they could lose the Senate as well.) The open seats have been a real problem for House Democrats.” Note this is a technical reason, nothing to do with “our democracy” or “tyranny” or whatever. And on the one race to watch: “Virginia closes on the early side, and Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s seat went for Biden in 2020 and then Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin in 2021 in the governor’s race. The very definition of swing territory.” • Spanberger is — of course! — a CIA Democrat.

“Crystal Ball 2022 House ratings” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “Total seats rated Safe, Likely, or leans R: 219… Total seats rated Safe, Likely, or leans D: 196.” • For the sake of what remains of our Republic, the Democrat leadership needs to be scooped out and scraped like a Halloween pumpkin. That doesn’t seem likely. Suppose Pelosi decides to spend more time with her husband, as he recovers, and we get Steny Hoyer. Or James Clyburn.

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“Joe Biden warns of ‘unprecedented’ threat to democracy ahead of midterms” [Financial Times]. “Joe Biden said American democracy was facing an ‘unprecedented’ threat from political candidates who refuse to commit to accepting election results, as the US president made an eleventh-hour appeal to voters ahead of next week’s crucial midterm elections. ‘There are candidates running for every level of office in America: for governor, for Congress, for attorney-general, for secretary of state, who won’t commit to accepting the results of the elections they’re in,’ Biden said in a primetime speech from Washington’s Union Station on Wednesday night. ‘That is the path to chaos in America. It’s unprecedented. It’s unlawful [it is?]. And, it is un-American,’ he added.” • Well…. I’ve gotta say, I don’t like the spectacle of armed goons hanging about dropboxes, or the church ladies who run elections being harassed. That’s ugly and bad. But committing to “accepting the results of elections” isn’t an argument the Democrats have any standing to make (RussiaGate + the Resitance) or Biden personally (what was done to Sanders in Iowa). The chutzpah and lack of self-reflection by liberal Democrats on this point is staggering. I agree that “our democracy” is in trouble, but solutions are not on offer from either party, sadly.

“Biden ‘is a tyrant’: Furious Republicans say President’s ‘patronizing’ speech saying democracy is ‘not the rule of monarchs’ and the midterms a battle with MAGA ‘dark forces’ won’t divide Americans and distract from his dire record” [Daily Mail]. “The president said next Tuesday’s vote is a decision on ‘whether we’re going to sustain a republic, where reality’s accepted’ or the ‘dark forces that thirst for power‘ and a battle between ‘autocracy and democracy’.” • “Dark forces that thirst for power.” Dear me. Note that if a Republican said that, the yammering about the privileges of whiteness would go on for days…

“How Biden Uses His ‘Car Guy’ Persona to Burnish His Everyman Image” [New York Times]. “Two years into his presidency, Mr. Biden is once again embracing a persona that has served him since his earliest days in politics almost five decades ago: the car guy. The president has long used his affinity for cars to burnish his workaday origins and, more recently, to conjure an aura of vitality despite being the oldest president in American history. In the run-up to the midterm elections next month — with control of Congress and the future of his agenda at stake — Mr. Biden is hoping his gearhead reputation will appeal to some parts of the Republican base. In a country of car lovers, polls suggest that Democrats are still headed to defeat. But people close to Mr. Biden say his love of cars goes beyond the usual political posturing that is put on display only when voting is near. It is something of an obsession, they say.” • Personally, I think Biden looks good in sunglasses, in his Corvette. And like so much else in the molasses-brained Biden administration, even messaging, the “look” ought to have been cultivated from the first day, not wheeled out a week or so from the midterms.

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OH: “‘Emasculating Vance Is Actually Part of Tim’s Effectiveness’” [Politico]. “In a debate last month, Ryan had cast his Republican opponent, J.D. Vance, as a sycophant of Donald Trump, memorably saying that ‘Ohio needs an ass-kicker, not an ass-kisser.’ Ever since, the insult had become a refrain of his campaign, repeated in TV ads and on T-shirts and wrist bands worn by supporters at his events. The previous evening, at a rally in the Cleveland suburb of Brook Park, I’d watched Ryan sign his name in black Sharpie on a man’s shirt bearing the slogan. But here was Dan Fonte, vice president of the Ohio Alliance for Retired Americans, suggesting to Ryan that he make it cruder. Go with ‘ass-licker,’ he told Ryan.” • Euphony is important! But even though emasculating Vance is a worthy and entertaining objective, I still think that Ryan is the next Manchin; the Democrats need to rotate Manchin out, because he’s all used up.

PA: “OnPolitics: What do PA voters think about Fetterman after debate?” [USA Today]. “In a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll, more than half of those surveyed said they watched the debate and those who did viewed Oz as the winner by a huge margin, 62%-17%. As USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page reports, 7% of those now backing other Senate candidates or who were undecided said they would have backed Fetterman were it not for his stroke. The poll underlined a close race in one of the most closely watched battleground states in the Nov. 8 midterms, with Fetterman at 47% and Oz at 45%. In a September poll, Fetterman had a larger lead of six percentage points.”

PA: “John Fetterman’s Legacy As Mayor Of Braddock” [HuffPo]. “But Fetterman slowly won residents over through his dedication to the young people and his use of his family’s insurance industry fortune to host giveaways of Christmas gifts, school supplies and bicycles for Braddock’s children.” • The entire piece is worth a read. The project of reviving Braddock is very much NGO territory, which works exactly as the Trillbillies describe it. Not a pretty sight.

WI: Obama on Social Security:

WaPo, 2014: “Liberals didn’t kill Obama’s Social Security cuts. Republicans did.” The Republicans didn’t want to give Obama a win in the form of his long-sought Grand Bargain. And the only reason Bill Clinton didn’t cut Social Security was the Lewinsky matter, so elders owe Monica Lewinsky a debt of gratitude that persists to this day. All these people sound great until you know who and what they are.


“Virginia’s governor set up a tip line to crack down on CRT. Parents used it for other reasons” [USA Today]. “Complaints about special education violations. Praise for teachers. Concerns about academic rigor and options. These are some of the main themes in a sampling of the emails sent to a so-called tip line set up by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year for parents to report, as he put it, ‘any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated’ and schools are engaging in ‘inherently divisive practices.’ The email tip line was part of a larger campaign by the governor to root out the teaching of critical race theory. But few of the tips flag the types of practices Youngkin was describing.” And: “Based on USA TODAY’s analysis of the sample, which may not be representative of what the governor has received, much of the activity may not have been what he was looking for. CRT, the graduate school-level framework that examines how racism continues to shape society, came up rarely. ‘I explained to him that I was going to use that tip line to address issues that are real – not red-herring issues,’ said Kandise Lucas, a special education advocate who accounted for nearly half of the email records obtained by the media organizations.” • Trumpkin — whoops, typo, but why hasn’t anyone though of this? — gets trolled by a Special Ed advocate. Hilarity ensues! (Youngkin fought the release, which turned out to be partial. Hence USA Today’s caveat.)

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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“If I Emailed My Parents Like Democrats Email Me” [McSweeney’s Internet Tendency]. “SUBJECT: I’m DESPERATE, Mom… Mom, we don’t have a moment to spare. I’m asking—no, BEGGING—for you to chip in ASAP. If every parent reading this email contributes just $197.50 by midnight, we can defend the shirt I just bought from being returned this November.”

Republican Funhouse

Goddamned Republicans keep giving me reasons to vote for them:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“America’s political crisis may have to get worse before it gets better” [Gillian Tett, Financial Times]. “Members of Trump’s circle tell me that, if they return to office, they will not only try to take revenge against the officials conducting the inquiry into the events of January 6, but they also plan to use a little-known legal clause known as ‘Schedule F’ to oust their opponents from the civil service. This second point matters deeply, given that some bureaucrats worked to stymie the worst excesses of the Trump administration, as spelt out in a fascinating new book by David Rothkopf, American Resistance. What may loom in 2024, if not before, is revenge politics.” Where in the Civil Service? The Blob? I’m guessing no. And: “Polarisation and political violence have been a feature of American democracy since the very beginning, with periodic eras of significant progress. I still hope we are nearing another one. But this may not be soon: another telling recent survey showed that, while 71 per cent of Americans now think that democracy is threatened, just 7 per cent consider fixing this to be a national priority. The sense of crisis, in other words, might have to deepen further before there is a counter-reaction.”

“No Consequences” [The Baffler]. “My own research on impunity and financial crises finds that impunity tends to be the result of three problems: culpability, in that elites or heads of state are seldom personally responsible for any crimes; precedent, in that the human imagination for wrongdoing consistently outstrips laws and regulations; and scale, in that most legal systems are better equipped to handle individual crimes instead of social ones. Together, these problems create extralegal or a-legal spaces where social harms are perpetrated on a very large scale, benefiting a very small group of people, but nobody is legally at fault. From the eighteenth century onward, the increasing complexity of economic and political institutions and the increasing abstraction of governance has tended to diffuse impunity from individuals to impersonal forces like “markets.” Moreover, in economic or political contexts, harms are more difficult to assess than in contexts of actual violence, and for that reason, popular perceptions of impunity can be at least as destabilizing as actual instances of lawbreaking without consequences. Since impunity and democracy tend to be incompatible, repeated episodes of elite impunity can sediment over time, eventually producing crises of political legitimacy. Hence the world around us.” • Say, how’s Rochelle doing?

“Do you get paid time off to vote in midterms? There’s no federal law, but these states allow it” [USA Today]. • How odd that all Americans don’t have an equal chance to vote!


“Supreme Court Allows TSA To Issue Mask Mandates” [Forbes]. “On Monday the Supreme Court left in place a ruling that allows the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to issue mask mandates on planes, trains and other forms of transport, as it had for more than a year during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court denied a California attorney’s request to overturn a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in the D.C. Circuit from December, which found no merit in his claim and affirmed that the TSA does have the authority to maintain security and safety within the transportation system, including imposing the masking requirement.” • Good. Not that Biden will do anything about it:

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“The Problem With Our Boost-Boost-Boost COVID Strategy” [The Atlantic]. “In the United States, public health is an oxymoron; individuals with access and means seek out prevention and treatment, while others are blamed for not doing so.” • Yes, the flip side of “access” — either “access” or “means” is redundant — is eugenics. Rule #2.

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Good for Belgium:

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• ”Ionizer Company Sues Indoor Air Quality Expert” [Energy Vanguard]. “One of the great things about the pandemic is that so many indoor air quality experts were very public in sharing their knowledge. Dr. Marwa Zaatari is one of those experts. I interviewed her for my article on electronic air cleaners, and she really knows her stuff. She’s publicized a lot of the research on electronic air cleaners that are in the iffy category. Unfortunately, doing so has gotten her in legal trouble with a large company that sells ionizers, one of those electronic air cleaners that I’ve said is best to avoid. Global Plasma Solutions (GPS) is suing her for $180 million. Why? Because she’s been pointing out that independent researchers have found results that don’t support GPS’s claims. This is intimidation, pure and simple. It seems the company would rather keep the results of independent research out of the public eye as much as possible. In addition to suing Dr. Zaatari for $180 million, GPS is also suing Elsevier, one of the largest publishers of peer-reviewed scientific research. Two years ago, Dr. Zaatari was doing her thing and helping a lot of people understand indoor air quality and the effectiveness of different methods to achieve it. Over the last year, she’s gotten very quiet after GPS filed the lawsuit against her.” • Commentary:

Not hedgies, private equity (Falfurrias Capital Partners). Which explains a lot. Lie down with dogs…..

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“Pandemic daily update, 2 November 2022” [Eric Topol, Ground Truths]. At the very end, writing of the wastewater study linked to yesterday (“A really astonishing piece of science“) Topol writes: “Finally, a fascinating sleuth report from Marc Johnson and colleagues in Wisconsin who used wastewater surveillance and genomics to identify a cryptic SARS-COV-2 lineage coming from a a single set of bathrooms. The astounding finding that certain individuals were persistently excreting massive copies of the virus, up to 1.6 billion genomes/L, is notable and takes the concept of superspreader to a new level.” • I’m not sure Topol has this quite right. From the study: “[U]nprecedented wastewater RNA viral loads were observed in samples collected in June (~520,000,000 genome copies per liter undiluted wastewater) and August (~1,600,000,000 copies per liter), though viable virus could not be cultured.” If there is to be “superspreading,” there must be spreading. But I don’t think a non-viable copy of a virus can spread. The numbers are indeed massive, however.


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


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, November 2:

0.6%. Increase.


Wastewater data (CDC), October 30:

October 29:


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), October 19:

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

Variant data, national (CDC), October 8 (Nowcast off):

Lambert here: Most of the screenshots of CDC variants running around crop out whether Nowcast (CDC’s model) is on or off; see red box at top. The BQ1.* figure of 27% that’s running around is CDC’s Nowcast projection, three weeks out. (It’s telling that CDC would rather build a model than fund faster acquisition of real data.)

• ”A COVID BQ wave that started in New York has already reached California. It’s about to engulf the rest of the nation, experts say” [Fortune]. “When it comes to COVID, New York is experiencing a wave of highly transmissible, immune-evasive BQ infections—and it’s the epicenter of a national wave, experts say. BQ variants represented a third of reported New York cases as of Monday—and 15% of cases in California, according to data from GISAID, an international research organization that tracks changes in COVID and the flu virus…. Combined, GISAID and CDC data paint a picture of a BQ wave engulfing the nation—one that will impact available hospital beds, according to Rajnarayanan and Gregory. COVID hospitalizations are beginning to tick up in both states—dramatically so in New York. And while U.S. COVID hospitalizations remain relatively stable, the rest of the country could soon follow New York’s lead.” • I will have to dig into the hospitalization data….


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,096,717 – 1,095,646 = 1071 (1071 * 365 = 390,915, which is today’s LivingWith™ number (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the LivingWith™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease.

It’s nice that for deaths I have a simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 1,000 to 217,000 on the week ending October 29th, below market forecasts of 220,000. The result pointed that labor market conditions remain tight, backing the hawkish policy signaled by the Federal Reserve at its November meeting.”

Employment Situation: “United States Nonfarm Unit Labour Cost” [Trading Economics]. “Unit labor costs in the US nonfarm business sector surged by 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2022, below market forecasts of a 4.1 percent increase and following a downwardly revised 8.9 percent gain in the previous period, a preliminary release showed. It reflects a 3.8 percent increase in hourly compensation and a 0.3 percent gain in productivity.” • Here for the ratio.

Services: “United States ISM Non Manufacturing PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The ISM Services PMI fell to 54.4 in October of 2022 from 56.7 in September, and below market forecasts of 55.5, pointing to the slowest growth in the services sector since a contraction in May of 2020.”

Manufacturing: “United States Factory Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US manufactured goods rose by 0.3 percent in September of 2022, picking up from the revised 0.2 percent uptick in the prior month and in line with market expectations.”

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Retail: “Inside the Underground Market for Fake Amazon Reviews” [Wired]. “‘I saw this ad that said I could get a robot vacuum cleaner for free in return for a five-star review,’ says Oak, a PhD student at UC Davis. He figured it was a scam, but he clicked on the ad. Over the following days, he saw a flood of similar Facebook ads, all with the same proposition: Buy a product, write a positive review, get a full refund, and the product is yours to keep. So he tried it. Oak wasn’t willing to drop $300 on a robot vacuum, so he waited for something cheaper, which turned out to be a $20 neck pillow. With Amazon Prime’s 30-day return guarantee, he wouldn’t be out the money if things didn’t work out. He bought it, wrote a five-star review on Amazon, and received a refund. A decent neck pillow for almost nothing.” • I always thought that content in the form of reviews was one of Amazon’s most important assets. It seems that Amazon didn’t think that way.

Shipping: “Hackers could re-create Ever Given grounding in Suez Canal” [Container News]. “The Great Disconnect, a report produced by maritime research firm Thetius, maritime cyber risk management specialist CyberOwl and law firm Holman Fenwick Willan, said that it is possible for hackers to penetrate a ship’s navigation system and create havoc as the vessel passes major chokepoints, such as the Straits of Hormuz and the Straits of Malacca. The report stated, ‘Whether through spoofing GPS, or hijacking a ship’s control system, the ability of a nation state to manipulate the movement of maritime vessels can cause billions of dollars of disruption, shock the global supply chain, increase the cost of goods, and even instigate international conflict.’ The grounding of the 20,124 TEU Ever Given in the Suez Canal was not caused by a cyber attack but it stands as an example of the fallout of such an event. For six days, the ship remained wedged into the sides of the Suez Canal. It is estimated to have cost the global economy between US$6 billion and US$10 billion per day in lost trade. The report’s authors pointed to the detention of the UK-flagged products tanker Stena Impero as the result of a suspected case of hacking. On 19 July 2019, Stena Impero transited the Straits of Hormuz to pick up cargo in the Persian Gulf. The ship’s regular course keeps it well within the Oman waters, away from the border with Iran. But on this occasion, the ship’s crew experienced unusual deviations from their voyage plan and had to continuously adjust the vessel’s course to stay on their intended path. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard boarded Stena Impero, accusing it of colliding with a fishing boat and failing to respond to calls. Although Stena Impero’s Swedish owner Stena Bulk said there was no evidence of the accusation, the tanker was detained for two months as part of a diplomatic crisis between Iran and western governments. The detention of the Stena Impero was widely seen as Tehran’s retaliation for the UK detaining an Iranian tanker, Adrian Darya-1, two weeks before the Stena Impero was seized.” • Hmm…..

Tech: When quantity changes quality; thread on the “trust thermocline”:

Companies keep crapifying making incremental changes “because it worked the last time.” But then:

So, watch out, Twitter. (Personally, as long as Elon leaves my neighborhood alone, I’m happy. And feckles as Jack may have been, there’s literally no other place on the Intertubes where I can call for the CDC to be burned to the ground — in the form of message others can read, at scale. That’s worth all the pissing and moaning about a “hellscape,” simply another word for the human condition as overamped by dopamine loops and other algorithms.

Healthcare: “Moderna Cuts Outlook Amid Covid-Vaccine Supply Hurdles” [Wall Street Journal]. “Moderna Inc.’s third-quarter revenue fell by nearly a third and the pharmaceutical company cut its outlook, saying as part of its earnings report that supply constraints for its Covid-19 vaccines might sap as much as $3 billion in sales this year. The Cambridge, Mass.-based company said Thursday that higher costs and a decline in demand for its Covid-19 vaccines also hit its performance. Moderna, which three months ago said it projected $21 billion in product sales of its Spikevax vaccine for anticipated delivery this year, now expects between $18 billion and $19 billion. The company said short-term supply constraints will delay some sales into 2023. The choppy results came during a quarter of transition for Moderna. Demand for its original Covid-19 vaccine and booster shot dropped, while the company rolled out updated booster shots designed to better target Omicron subvariants of the coronavirus. U.S. regulators cleared one of the updated boosters in late August, and uptake has been relatively slow.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 55 Neutral (previous close: 50 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 57 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 3 at 12:28 PM EDT.

The Gallery

“Hollow City” [The Baffler]. “Hopper moved to New York City to study art in 1899 and died there in 1967. He and his wife lived in the same Washington Square apartment for nearly fifty years. He fought to save historic buildings in his neighborhood and nondescript ones, too, provided they weren’t tall. His paintings are unmatched in their evocation of urban alienation, but it never occurred to him to trade urban life for something else (judging from his paintings of New England and California, he didn’t like the rest of America any better). He was a ride-or-die New Yorker, the kind who never stops kvetching about his city but never seriously considers leaving, because he probably couldn’t function anywhere else. The New Yorkers in his paintings are in a similar bind: they’re so alienated they cling to the very places that prolong their alienation, which may also be what’s keeping them alive…. There is something unfamiliar and unfinished—stark but not quite iconic—about Hopper’s New York. Early on, he figured out how to make people look like buildings and buildings look like people. Degas inspired him to create vigorous diagonal compositions, and in his cityscapes, infrastructure is always bounding into the foreground, making the people seem lifeless by comparison. Buildings—quaint as it may sound, with half-empty needle towers darkening the land below—should be made for the people who inhabit them, but Hopper makes people seem faintly askew, swept too far to one side, like the woman in New York Movie (1939), or unable to get comfortable no matter how much they squirm, like the woman in Chair Car (1965). They don’t fit in, but they’re not iconoclasts by any means—that would require a level of courage or willpower Hopper gives us zero reason to think they’ve got. Funeral-faced, dressed in dull sensible clothes: they are neither at home in NYC nor glamorously rebelling against it. They just sit and wait. It can be painful to watch, and yet these paintings never become full-on tragedies, perhaps because we don’t know Hopper’s figures well enough to pity them—the pain arises from the tension between buildings and people, not from the people themselves.”

The show (“Edward Hopper’s New York“) is at the Whitney. Have any New York readers gone to see it?

Zeitgeist Watch

Apologies for the strong language, but yes:

Should be “ambient f*ckedness,” I think, but with that revision, a keeper.

Class Warfare

“Fed should make clear that rising profit margins are spurring inflation” [Financial Times]. “Broad-based inflation is normally a labour-cost problem. The rule of thumb is that labour costs are around 70 per cent of the price of a developed economy’s consumer prices. If wage increases are not offset by greater efficiency or reductions in other costs, the consumer will pay a higher price for the labour they are consuming. With normal inflation, central banks would need to create spare capacity in labour markets to push wages lower. Wages have been rising but prices have been rising faster, so real wage growth is catastrophically negative. This is far removed from the 1970s-style wage price spiral; apart from the wage and price control debacle of Richard Nixon’s presidency, US real average earnings rose for much of the decade. The US restaurant and hotel sector helps explain why wage costs have played a limited role in today’s inflation. Since the end of 2019, the average earnings of a worker in this sector have risen just under 20 per cent. But the number of employees has fallen over 5 per cent. Paying fewer people more money means that the sector’s wage bill has risen roughly 13 per cent. The real output of the sector has risen 7 per cent. So US restaurants and hotels are paying fewer people more money to work harder. The rise in wage costs adjusted for productivity since the end of 2019 is somewhere between 5 and 6 per cent. Restaurant and hotel prices have risen 16 per cent. This is the current inflation story. Companies have passed higher costs on to customers. But they have also taken advantage of circumstances to expand profit margins. The broadening of inflation beyond commodity prices is more profit margin expansion than wage cost pressures.” • Hmm.

“Why ‘The Communist Manifesto’ Still Matters” [New York Times]. “Clearly [China] Miéville’s goal isn’t merely to provide an introduction to Marx and Engels’s remarkable little pamphlet. Rather, he seeks to unify a demoralized, disarrayed left that wants badly to stand athwart the looming crises of environmental collapse, rampant inequality, rising authoritarianism and, now, nuclear Armageddon. Ultimately, A Spectre, Haunting is Miéville’s case against leftist factionalism. He wants to show how differences might be synthesized into a powerful movement without its various members having to compromise on their priorities. His final chapter, on revolutionary hatred and revolutionary love, urges readers to cultivate ‘comfort with contradiction,’ to abandon ideological certainty in favor of ‘a ‘band’ or ‘zone’ of reasonable understandings and approaches’ and, finally, to ‘hate harder than did the ‘Manifesto,’ for the sake of humanity.’ As he explains: ‘Who would we be not to hate this system, and its partisans? If we don’t, the hate of those who hate on its behalf will not ebb.'” • Sounds like an assault on our cognitive infrastructure. Is that even legal?

“A Difficult Space to Live” [London Review of Books]. On Stuart Hall: “‘We are all perplexed by the contradictory nature of Thatcherism,’ Hall notes. The perplexity, however, arises only because of what he calls ‘the illusion of the intellectual – that ideology must be coherent‘, whereas a really successful ideology works by binding all sorts of contradictory things together: ‘It does not reflect, it constructs a ‘unity’ out of difference.’ It calls to hopes, fears, prejudice, ambitions, and gradually, more and more people hear something that seems to speak to them, and form a new, unified entity, ‘the British people’. Thatcherism is ‘addressed to our collective fantasies, to Britain as an imagined community, to the social imaginary. Mrs Thatcher has totally dominated that idiom, while the left forlornly tries to drag the conversation round to ‘our policies’. This is a momentous historical project.'”

News of the Wired

I am not yet feeling wired. Perhaps tomorrow.

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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 Stephen V:

Stephen V writes: “Milkweed seed pod with Monarch? caterpillar, Milkweed bug to left and grasshopper.”

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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. MichaeC

      Anecdata point from Elmhurst Hospital (Queens NYC)
      All emergency room beds full, kids w RSV for the last month.

    2. ChrisRUEcon

      > Higher than we were last year this time

      Horrid, but unsurprising for those of us following along here …

  1. Hepativore

    So, does anybody have more news on the situation regarding the Department of Homeland Security and other alphabet agencies meeting with the techbros on a regular basis to deliver us from what they deem as “misinformation” and anti-war sentiments? I have been trying to find out more, but YouTube’s algorithm seems to be quickly burying the revelation. From what I understand, it is Biden’s proposed “information board” continuing under a different name, and it actually started awhile ago as it apparently did not originate under his administration.

    1. Jason Boxman

      So hilariously the latest get out of the vote effort in the NY Times I saw yesterday was a story about how Republicans will surely cut Social Security were they to regain control of Congress! Ha says I. You mean like Obama did?

      Wake me when we get there already!

    2. pjay

      Thanks Rob. I’d like to add that Lambert’s juxtaposition of Obama’s recent rhetoric with the 2014 post and comments is absolutely spot on:

      “WaPo, 2014: “Liberals didn’t kill Obama’s Social Security cuts. Republicans did.” The Republicans didn’t want to give Obama a win in the form of his long-sought Grand Bargain. And the only reason Bill Clinton didn’t cut Social Security was the Lewinsky matter, so elders owe Monica Lewinsky a debt of gratitude that persists to this day. All these people sound great until you know who and what they are.”

      If only Obama would have used his rhetorical talent for good! But no, he was a corporate shill. Of course if he were not he would be an unknown today. And don’t get me started on Clinton.

      1. JBird4049

        I assume a combination of sadism and grifting, or some bizarre political calculations are the reasons for cutting social security; it already does not pay enough, has never truly matched inflation, which means that it is already being surreptitiously cut, and cutting it would be a good motivator for the proles to kick some politicians into retirement.

        I have read of efforts to convert the program to a monstrous version of a 401k, which makes sense as gift for Wall Street, but cutting funding seems like political suicide. Maybe it is something to do with their egos?

    3. spud

      thank you Rob, they must be outed, to ignore the past, you cannot change the future. your last article on counterpunch was great!

  2. Wukchumni

    I’m zeroing in on 13 months, 13 hours, 13 minutes and 13 seconds until I can get some of that $XXX,XXX.xx of entitlement I put into Social Security if i’m lucky.

    1. Milton

      Perhaps you’ll literally be grandfathered into the current program. I hope so, as I’m a few months off from receiving some of that heavenly manna that falls from our betters to us dregs.

    2. John Zelnicker

      Wuk, and Milton – When Reagan changed Social Security, one of the provisions was to raise the Normal Retirement Age for those born after about 1940 (I can’t find the exact year in a quick search).

      Other changes were about raising more money for the government by creating a surplus in the Social Security funds that would help offset any deficit spending in the general fund so it would appear smaller. Gotta get that deficit down don’cha know.

      I don’t think the politicians are quite stupid enough to cut benefits for those receiving them or those within several years of retirement. The outcry would be incredibly intense.

      Recent estimates indicate that Social Security can pay benefits as they are for another 10 or so years. If changes are made, they will likely only affect those further away from retirement.

      At least I hope so.

      1. ambrit

        And yet not a peep from our wonderful politicos about raising the income cap for “contributions.” Just some classic ‘means testing’ clap trap.
        I’ll gladly volunteer to get a light machine gun, say a M249 and a crate of ammo, from that inexhaustible supply of munitions being sent over to the Ukraine Adventure. That could be my contribution to the Austerity Budget.
        Then to organize a ‘New Bonus March.’
        M249, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M249_light_machine_gun#:~:text=The%20M249%20light%20machine%20gun,the%20Belgian%20company%20FN%20Herstal%20(

  3. semper loquitur

    re: Hopper

    Great discussion, I’ll dig into it later. I just wanted to say that I love his work. I used to live by the café, now Japanese restaurant, that inspired “Nighthawks”. No one, but no one, captures the dimensional space between things and people like Hopper.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      semper loquitur: I find the article “Hollow City” in the Baffler to be the usual deeply shallow word-salad that passes for cultural criticism these days.

      Noting: “Nighthawks isn’t included in this exhibition, which is probably for the best. There is something unfamiliar and unfinished—stark but not quite iconic—about Hopper’s New York.”


      Hopper is a master at painting light. Those famous luminous gas pumps against a night sky. Gas pumps.

      Hopper also depicted the central problem in U.S. life–the loneliness of the individualist. The flat affect of the woman in “Chop Suey.” The loneliness of the usher in “New York Movie,” which is brilliant in depicting variations and uses of light. The light on light on light of “Groundswell.”

      In the seeming brightness of U.S. life, one is illuminated and alone. As in the two central figures of Nighthawks (which one must not mention). Yet an icon is an icon is an icon.

      Jackson Arn spends too many words avoiding the issue.

    2. Keith Howard

      In 2013 the Whitney organized a fascinating exhibit of Hopper’s charcoal drawings, taking advantage of the gift to the museum by Hopper’s widow of 2,500 drawings. It was evident to me that charcoal was really Hopper’s most natural and instinctive medium. Here’s a link to the Whitney’s page on the exhibit: https://whitney.org/exhibitions/hopper-drawing

  4. Neohnomad

    “The rule of thumb is that labour costs are around 70 per cent of the price of a developed economy’s consumer prices”

    Since {Familyblog}ing When!? The 1800s? Maybe still in some low margin sectors, grocery stores etc.
    But in any mass-produced product category, Labor is a tiny fraction of the end cost.

    1. hunkerdown

      The PMC have decided that they are labor now and that their take should be counted in the labor column rather than the management column.

      In all seriousness, the increasing incorporation of intellectual property into manufactured goods could be read, through ambiguous interpretation of IP revenue, as the increasing use of professional labor. Since fixed capital is said to “depreciate into” the commodities it produces, the increasing incorporation of IP into means of production can be read the same way.

      1. albrt

        Yep. I can’t access the article, but I’m pretty sure the labor of financializing, marketing, and otherwise siphoning off rent is being included.

        1. Questa Nota

          From that FT item:

          The broadening of inflation beyond commodity prices is more profit margin expansion than wage cost pressures.

          Gives new meaning to that saying about if it is free, you are the product. You have free access to those products, so you get marginalized while others profit. Heads they win, tails they win.

  5. Roger Blakely

    RE: A COVID BQ wave that started in New York has already reached California.

    We didn’t know that last week. Eleven days ago I flew out of LAX for a two-day training. I wore an industrial 3M respirator in the airport and on the airplane. By day 3 my back hurt so badly that I was doubled-over.

    BA.5 would not have done that to me. I’ve been exposed to BA.5 since June.

    Today (day 11) I’m at 50%. On days 3-5 my back hurt so badly that I could barely move. On day 6 I rode my bike for exercise. On day 8 I went to the gym for a light workout.

    We don’t know exactly what causes the back pain. BA.5 in June was exactly the same. We don’t know whether it’s the ACE-2 receptors in the lower back or general inflammation from the infection.

    What does it say about the power of BQ.1? I was wearing an industrial respirator and had been dealing with BA.5 for months. Ninety-six percent of people in the airport and on the airplane were wearing no mask at all let alone a respirator with an N95 (or better) filter.

      1. Jason Boxman

        If you fiddle with the NextStrain data, you can get it to display VoC in the United States for the past 2 months with samples limited to those collected no more than 7 days ago. But this doesn’t have a breakdown of say the percentage per variant for the last 7 days. So BQ1 only showed up today as about 3% or whatever. But I think that’s out of the total samples collected across two months, which doesn’t provide the same clarity that a breakdown by percentage over the last 7 days would.

        But the data is there. Not easily scannable at a glance like the Walgreens chart is, though, sadly.

    1. tegnost

      I’m on day 6 of whatever variant. stopped ibuprofen on day 4, yesterday my muscles felt like they are melting away (not normally inactive so that could be it) and dealing with anger, temp in the 97’s. All days have had trouble concentrating, but I’m reading a pulp fiction a day, and I can keep track of the plot and what page I was when I last closed the book (got tired of dog earing my books so now I just remember as best as possible. Today normal but still foggy and body aches, the pain in my lung dissipated and expectorating productively (sorry for the image). No need for deep breaths, sleeping better each day progressively. I get asked if my symptoms are mild, I say my symptoms may be called mild, but covid is not mild in any circumstance. Not at all surprised washington has gone red…

  6. Pnwarrior_womyn

    Due to the impacts of massive wildfire smoke in W. Washington last month, I’ve spent considerable time trying to get my asthma under control. Finally had to go to a local Tacoma ER yesterday for additional treatment, wearing my fresh KN95. Although I was confident in the care decisions and treatment, I was horrified at my experience. ER staff in cheap paper masks, many sitting around chatting around various nurses stations, sporting ‘em Amish beard style, or off in a hand, or too lose on the nose, the whole nightmare. A few select employees wearing N95s. It’s a joke now in emergency medicine.

    1. playon

      My wife and I visited our local community health clinic yesterday to get flu shots. We don’t get them every year (that is apparently unwise), but I have read that this season’s flu is a bad one and also that it has started early so it seemed a sensible thing to do.

      So I’m in a small room with the nurse giving the shot, and I mention that I’ve had COVID twice and I’m just now getting over the second round after three months and that I’m not sure I’ll ever be completely over it. She tells me that she’s had it three times and that she now has to use an asthma inhaler everyday, where previous to COVID she only used it occasionally when her seasonal allergies acted up. In addition the small room we were in was very stuffy with little to no air circulation (if there was any, I couldn’t tell). As soon as she gave me the shot she immediately opened the door to let some air in. This particular clinic is a brand new building as of 2019 & you would think they would have addressed air circulation.

      The situation is surreal… the U.S. has no pandemic policy, everyone is in some bubble of make-believe. These front-line health care workers are doing their best but their ranks will be decimated, it’s just a matter of time. Then what happens…

  7. CanCyn

    Re “The Republicans didn’t want to give Obama a win in the form of his long-sought Grand Bargain.” I think they already have a mutually beneficial grand bargain do they not? Neoliberalism is the ultimate grand bargain between the monied and our politicos. And we plebs will never get in on that deal.
    PS I don’t know if that clip of Obama in Wisconsin is more sickening than his ‘drink’ of water in Flint or not they both send me to a drink that is most definitely not water.

  8. Dr. John Carpenter

    Amazon has had a pay for review problem for years. I’m pretty sure I’ve been reading articles about it since at least the 2010s. It really seems to me the only way to end the shill reviews is to end the user reviews period. Obviously the system as it stands is profitable enough for Amazon to not want to do that.

    1. MaryLand

      I try to avoid Amazon as much as I can, but when I do use it I click on reviews, then on global ratings, then read the worst reviews first. I generally believe the mid level reviews but am skeptical of both the top rated ones and the very low ones (sometimes falsely put up by competing product sellers). The reason I suspect the very lowest ratings is because I have seen identical comments on products that are only alike in very few ways.

    2. Carla

      @Dr. John Carpenter — Seems to me the way to end shill reviews on Amazon is to quit buying ANYTHING from Amazon. I did so years ago and do just great without it!

  9. griffen

    Bless his heart, Joe Biden just wants us all to get along and reconcile our differences. See we can get along with those who disagree and have very different opinions

    Darn it, did I miss that part? Trump was a flaming turd*, but the current POTUS is doing most working Americans no favors. And after nearly 50 years in the political life and festering in the Potomac, Joe Biden has zero clue how things work in real terms.

    *Except to note, that real wages actually grew during his term if my recall is accurate. Maybe it was just because he was in the chair at the time, and instead market forces were unleashed after such a weak tea period of recovery. Trump did have idiots like Navarro in his ear.

      1. griffen

        I have a source that tells me, anecdotally, the pandemic issues not being solved in 2020 and that Russia ultimately invades Ukraine are both directly due to Trump failures. Biden administration failures can be looped back to following the 45th POTUS clown show. See, Joe has done so much to sweep up and the proles just don’t appreciate it.

        Sadly that is not sarcasm. The above is the lines of thought I receive from a sibling who really should know better. And you get crickets about a few other topics. If it is not in the NY Times, NPR or Wash Post and comparable options then it’s not from a properly respected media source. Orwell would be impressed, say, just reading the responses to the above tweet linking to a WSJ poll on support of the Ukraine efforts.

  10. JustAnotherVolunteer

    This may be of interest in terms of toss up voting. The State of Oregon votes entirely by mail and reports a running tally of returned ballots with a breakout (page 3) along party lines. The most recent report is here:


    Rs out returning the Ds by a hair with 25% of the vote in but there are a lot of other parties to account for –
    including non-affiliated. The Governors race here is tight as are several of the House seats so but as Blue as the Dems would hope.

    1. curlydan

      Then it’s a perfect time for a panicky, angst-ridden fundraising email from our Democratic Party overlords! (see McSweeny’s article above)

  11. semper loquitur

    re: fUBER

    I had to run some bulky packages into the City today. Called an Uber. En route a van driven by a man who should have been driving a chair in an old age home flew right in front of us. My driver slammed on the brakes.

    No harm done but he apologized profusely. I said it wasn’t a problem or his fault for that matter. He explained that getting into a collision is a lose/lose for the Uber driver.

    A friend of his was an Uber driver and got rear-ended. The passenger claimed a hurt neck and got some money. Uber fired the driver.

    It didn’t matter that it wasn’t his fault. That he had video proving so. That the passenger contacted the company to defend the guy. He told me that either Uber or Lyft just fires the driver without question or recourse.

  12. cfraenkel

    Re the superspreader in wastewater bit. Presumably, the unstated assumption is if a body has that many viruses flushed out of the digestive tract, there will be an equally high concentration in the lungs / respiratory tract. So even if the viruses in the wastewater are not viable, there are plenty of still viable ones in the lungs available to spread around.

    1. will rodgers horse

      I dont think there is any evidence that is the case.In fact, I think that the GI tract might be a place for this virus to linger long after the resp tract is clear. (to be sure we dont know)

  13. Art_DogCT

    A tail wag from the wilds of CT’s Northwest Corner.

    On the SARS2 front, Litchfield County shows up in today’s CDC Community Transmission map as a dark red patch in an otherwise orange-ish state. Since these maps have been included in 2:00PM WC Covid coverage, there have been few periods when we haven’t been ranked as experiencing ‘high’ transmission. When I must go into the world, I am always masked. One of a (sadly) tiny minority, though happily I haven’t personally been challenged over being masked, as many have written about here.

    My sense of our local Zeitgeist is one of battening down and digging in, with the often clearly articulated expectation that the coming winter will be very hard (as compared with a more generalized state of worry/anxiety tied to the polycrisis). Rather like everyone waiting on a shoe dropping . . .

    On the mid-terms/elections front, a friend and I were erranding several weeks back, and we agreed on two observations:

    1) There have been fewer campaign lawn signs in our community than in any local election in our memories – 21 years for me, 40-odd years for him. For any candidate. In the context of the fevered narratives about the mid-terms, with a US senate seat, the governorship, and a number of state offices on the ballot, we both find that paucity of any campaigns’ presence on neighborhood streets unprecedented. The last two weeks have seen some more lawn signs deployed for the governor and US senate campaigns. Feels very day late and dollar short.

    2) That discussion led to another realization – that none of the lawn signs and very few mailers we’ve seen mention the candidate’s party affiliation. We both agreed that in our respective growing up years campaign PR was routinely party-branded. Neither of us could remember when the shift happened. In my memory it’s about 10 years since I last saw party-branded municipal campaign signage, and it was remarkable at the time – blast from the past style.

    Offered as anecdata of undetermined import, for any possible interest.

    1. Duke of Prunes

      I have been seeing fewer signs as well. However, my mailbox is full of campaign mailers like never before. There was even a new trick this year – the campaign ad that looked like a newspaper – even had a few “local sports” writeups included to complete the disguise, but the headlines were all pretty heavily partisan suspicious, and turned out it was all paid for by a PAC.

    2. curlydan

      In suburban Kansas City, there’s been an interesting lawn sign phenomenon.

      While most houses are no signs, there’s about 1 house per block that goes full out 8-10 signs. It’s like each party has offered a variety pack of signs, presumably for a good contribution, then dumps every possible sign on that person. I walk by and silently ask in the direction of these houses, “Do you even know the first thing about these candidates?”

    3. playon

      The only signs I see here in eastern WA are for local races, most of them for the county auditor position. I have not seen a single sign for Patty Murray for senate which is unusual. There are several Republicans running unopposed in our district which is reliably red for the most part.

  14. semper loquitur

    Paul Austin Murphy on physicists who dislike, and who don’t realize they are engaging in, philosophy:

    The Fact that Philosophy Isn’t Physics Annoys Some Popular Physicists

    Some best-selling physicists really dislike philosophy and see it as a complete waste of time. Is this largely down to the very-simple fact that philosophy isn’t… well, physics?


    1. The Rev Kev

      Well economics isn’t like physics either – which is why they dress it up with mathematical formulas to make it look like it’s a hard science. So just like philosophy isn’t physics, economics is more like a fuzzy art than a hard science.

  15. Matthew G. Saroff

    He documents the phenomenon well, but “Trust Thermocline” is not a great analogy.

    There is actually an area of mathematics that models this Catastrophe Theory.

    Basically, image sketching a smooth graph on paper, and then folding the paper, and you get abrupt changes, and no way back.

  16. LawnDart

    A growing number of Republican lawmakers have pushed for switching to hand-counts, an argument rooted in false conspiracy theories… From AP:

    Why do election experts oppose hand-counting ballots?

    Numerous studies — in voting and other fields such as banking and retail — have shown that people make far more errors counting than do machines, especially when reaching larger and larger numbers. They’re also vastly slower.


    Not mentioned by AP:

    According to Pew Research, Paper ballots are by far the most common form of voting. Votes are cast by manually marking ballots in 209 of the 227 countries and territories for which the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network has data.


    If we in USA relied on MSM news for nutritional content, most of us would have already starved starved to death.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Most MSM news around the world is garbage and here is an example. About 20 years ago Australia brought in a 10% goods and services tax but which required a lot of convincing as after all, who wants a new tax. The MSM did their part in saying that yeah, it’s gunna be great but not once did they send any reporters to next-door New Zealand to ask people there how it was working out as they had not that long before done the same. And since then they have gotten much worse. The MSM news on the TV lately mostly sounds like it was produced by the UK’s 77th Brigade.

    2. marym

      These are separate issues: paper ballots and hand counting.

      In the US 69% of voters have the option of hand-marked ballots on election day. Eight states are entirely vote-by-mail. In 2020 43% of voters voted by mail/absentee. These are overlapping statistics, but a lot of US voters use hand-marked paper ballots. Tabulation is almost entirely by machine.

      I’ve only seen 1 study comparing accuracy of hand and machine counting. The AP story in your first link doesn’t have links to the studies it mentions.

      In addition to accuracy, there’s the question of time and people needed for the count. While some Republicans are “calling for” hand counts, some are also “calling for” counting to be completed on election day, and calling into question counting that takes longer.

      I’ve only seen a few references to hand counting in other countries which have very few items on the ballot. My 2022 ballot (IL suburb of Chicago) has 19 contested races, 13 uncontested races, a constitutional amendment, 2 referenda, and 62 judicial retention (Y/N vote) candidates.

  17. Angie Neer

    >9/10 of all communication being attempts to beg, sell or steal from you
    YES. Literally more than 90% of the communications I receive by email, phone, or text are attempts at criminal fraud. The telecommunications revolution has accelerated the pace of grifting. Grifts formerly requiring shoe leather and a knock on the door, or a telemarketer in a boiler room, now take only milliseconds. But they impose a significant tax on the time and psyches of the recipients.

    1. Jason Boxman

      Wow. You should see my incoming call list. I must have gotten a garbage number from Verizon back in December. I use my GV number, so I can thankfully just hard ignore all incoming calls. But just from today. The badge says I have 199 unanswered incoming calls. I had 20 from today. They come two or three at a time sometimes. That’s just from today. Tuesday was 30.

      Just spam calls. All of them. I’ve never given out this number in my life.

      What a joke.

      The United States is a failed state.

      1. albrt

        I signed up for a service from the phone company that plays a recording to unrecognized numbers. It says something along the lines of “this phone number does not accept solicitations. If you are not a solicitor please press one.”

        Of course, the spam calls are all recordings or autodialers that don’t connect to a person in a Pakistani boiler-room until after the target picks up the phone, so nobody hears the message. But the message is long enough that about 90% of the spam calls hang up before it rings on my end.

  18. will rodgers horse

    About the poop:
    it seems to me the GI tract still has received way to little attention in this pandemic. It sure seems like the virus can hang out there with some facility

    1. playon

      The virus can indeed hang out in the gut for a long time, this is known. Taking plenty of probiotics seem to help – we have been drinking a lot of homemade kombucha and kefir.

  19. KD

    Members of Trump’s circle tell me that, if they return to office, they will not only try to take revenge against the officials conducting the inquiry into the events of January 6, but they also plan to use a little-known legal clause known as ‘Schedule F’ to oust their opponents from the civil service.

    . . . and this is what, the light-beer version of Andrew Jackson’s spoils-system? So what? The Democrats have gutted the civil service in the name of affirmative action for 60 years, how is it this any different?

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