2:00PM Water Cooler 11/30/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Flavescent Flycatcher, Pichincha, Ecuador. Ornate, handsome, now flavescent!

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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

Good, but so very far below the hopes and dreams of so many:

And see the Railroad Workers United Open Letter below. And:

Now I have to understand “enrollment correction”:

“Accompanied by.” Hmmm.

The dogs that don’t bark:

* * *

“Biden’s Secret Service rental vehicles burst into flames after he left Nantucket vacation” [FOX News]. “Biden spent Thanksgiving on the ritzy Massachusetts island with his family last week. The Secret Service rented five vehicles from Hertz to carry the president and his family, and all five of them caught fire in the parking lot, according to footage first obtained by the Nantucket Current… It is currently unknown what caused the fire.” • All five?


“In Legislative Elections, Democrats Defied Recent History” [BOLTS]. “Republicans were confident that they would build up power in statehouses and inflict a ‘bloodbath‘ on Democrats. Instead, they failed to win any new legislative chamber, their seat gains are minuscule by recent standards, and their strongest showings are concentrated in places they already dominate. Democrats, meanwhile, flipped four legislative chambers and allied with centrist Republicans to wrestle a fifth chamber away from the GOP. The results have deflated conservative ambitions to channel backlash against the sitting president to leap ahead in states, like they did in 2010 and 2014…. No such wave occurred in 2022. Republicans gained only 22 legislative seats this fall out of more than 6,000 that were on the ballot, according to Bolts’s review of the latest available results…. And it gets worse for Republicans. While they managed to net a few seats overall, their biggest gains came in chambers that they already massively control, such as the West Virginia or South Carolina houses, or else in New York, where they are deeply in the minority. By contrast, Democrats soared in closely-divided legislatures and seized four previously GOP-held chambers: Michigan’s House and Senate, Minnesota’s Senate, and Pennsylvania’s House. In addition, the GOP seems to have lost control of Alaska’s Senate; a group made up of centrist Republicans and Democratic senators announced on Friday that they would form a coalition to run the chamber. We may not know until 2023 if a similar coalition emerges in the Alaska House, or if the GOP can coalesce to win control of that chamber.”

Republican Funhouse

“Aren’t You Embarrassed?” [The Dispatch]. “The Mar-a-Lago dinner is a sublime example. If I told you that a once and possibly future president held court with two famous Jew-baiters, you’d be mortified. But if I told you that one of those Jew-baiters was America’s most famous African American hip-hop star and his sidekick was a dweeby white nationalist incel, you’d find it hard to take seriously. The MAGA establishment is an endless freak show, and freak shows are scary—but also ridiculous. Many memorable moments of the Trump era are like that. When I think back on them, it’s less a linear progression than a vertiginous kaleidoscope of preposterous yet sinister cringe. It’s an irreligious Trump holding up a Bible after pushing protesters out of Lafayette Park. It’s hair dye running down Rudy Giuliani’s face while conniving to overturn a national election. It’s Mike Lindell punctuating endless rants about voting machines to hawk pillows. It’s Sean Spicer bellowing that Trump’s inauguration crowd was the largest in history despite photographic proof to the contrary. It’s Steve Bannon in four layered collared shirts casually revealing Trump’s ‘Stop the Steal’ plot in advance. It’s Kyle Rittenhouse walking out to virtual confetti and fireworks at a Turning Point USA event. It’s Kash Patel pushing conspiracy theories about the 2020 outcome in a children’s book. It’s grandmas and grandpas turning out for Trump rallies in ‘Q’ tie-dye. It’s cop-punching goons carrying ‘Thin Blue Line’ flags outside the Capitol on January 6. It’s anti-vaxxers dosing themselves with deworming medicine as a folk cure for COVID. It’s everything that comes out of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s mouth.” • From the right. Also an aesthetic argument.

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

“The Best Tax System on Earth” [People’s Policy Project]. “Here, all ordinary wage and tax transactions are processed through a central government system, and TAKS automatically takes out whatever it estimates you owe before the money is deposited in your bank account, along with any welfare payments—like family or unemployment benefits, pension payments, and so on. (Self-employed people and businesses do have to file tax returns, but this can’t be avoided.) The Faroes also have an exceptionally clean tax code, with no deductions of any kind for ordinary employment income. The Faroese code could be printed on a fancy restaurant menu…. But TAKS is a substantial upgrade even from the world’s most efficient and hassle-free tax systems, which provides several immediate advantages. First, because it monitors every income stream for each individual, and does it continuously instead of once a year, it can automatically adjust tax withholding on the fly, and almost always hits the correct figure. “When the year is over, almost everybody ends up with ‘oh, it’s correct. I don’t have to pay anymore, and I don’t get any money back,’” said Mørkøre. Continuous collection also eliminates the time risk of the government losing out on tax payments if companies go bankrupt before TAKS could cash their checks. Second, nearly all government benefit payments are consolidated and partly automated. Instead of welfare agencies having to maintain their own payment systems—like how each American state maintains a separate unemployment bureaucracy, many of which are severely dysfunctional—the government simply tells TAKS who is eligible for what program, and the payments are rolled into the daily distribution. Third, most of the burden of payroll processing is removed from employers. “Business, they are very happy about this,” Mørkøre told me. ‘They don’t have to do anything else—they don’t have to transfer some money to the tax authorities or some pensions, or the other funds, nothing. It’s all done at the same time.’ Fourth, TAKS’s requirement that everything happens through their bank-centered system both greatly simplifies their administrative tasks and ensures that virtually every person has a bank account.” • Population: 45,000.

“The Perpetually Irrational Ukraine Debate” [Stephen Walt, Foreign Policy]. “What if the war does end in a messy and disappointing compromise instead of the happy Hollywood ending most of the world would like to see? Despite the welcome progress Ukraine has made in recent months, such an unsatisfying outcome may still be the most likely result. If Russia still controls substantial amounts of Ukrainian territory a year from now, Ukraine has suffered additional damage in the interim, Putin still rules in Moscow despite the harm his war has done to Russia, and the United States’ European allies have had to absorb another influx of refugees and endure difficult Ukraine-related economic hardships, then it will be increasingly difficult for the Biden administration to spin this war as a success story. The finger-pointing, blame-casting, and blame-avoidance will then make today’s rancorous debate seem mild by comparison. Unfortunately, these are the sort of political circumstances that lead presidents to keep distant wars going. Even if there’s no plausible path to victory, the desire to avoid being accused of not having done enough tempts them to escalate in some way or kick the can down the road. (In case you’ve forgotten, that’s pretty much how the United States ended up in Afghanistan for nearly two decades.) U.S. President Joe Biden and his team haven’t given themselves a lot of wiggle room, and their freedom of action is further reduced when any hint of less-than-total support for Kyiv generates a firestorm of hawkish denunciations.”

“Oath Keepers founder guilty of sedition in U.S. Capitol attack plot” [Reuters]. “Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, and another leader of the right-wing group, were found guilty on Tuesday of seditious conspiracy for the attack on the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump supporters, an important win for the Justice Department…. All five defendants were convicted of obstruction of an official proceeding – the congressional certification of the election results – with mixed verdicts on a handful of other charges. The charges of seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding each carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Two more high-profile trials related to the attack are due to begin next month. Four other Oath Keepers members face seditious conspiracy charges, as do members of the right-wing Proud Boys group, including its former chairman Enrique Tarrio.” • A sad fate for an organization riddled with FBI informants.

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“Detroit Voting Machine Failures Were Widespread on Election Day” [Time]. “ore than 80 voting machines in Detroit malfunctioned on Election Day, officials say, resulting in ballot discrepancies in 59% of precincts that raise questions about the reliability of future election results in a city dominated by Democratic and minority voters. ‘This is not the first time,’ adds Daniel Baxter, elections director for the city. ‘We’ve had this problem in nearly every election that we administer in the city of Detroit.’ Baxter says that the machines were tested for accuracy before election day in accordance with state and federal guidelines, but that sometimes the machines ‘hit up against each other and malfunction’ as they’re being transported to the precincts. The machines were optical scanners, meaning they registered and counted the votes marked on paper ballots. Many of the machines jammed over the course of election day, perhaps because Michigan had a two-page ballot this year, which meant that paper ballots were collected but inconsistently recorded by the machines. Michigan does not have early voting, so any mechanical malfunction would necessarily happen on election day, since that’s the only day the machines are used. That’s why so many machines malfunctioned at the same time. ‘You don’t expect a laptop to last 10 years, and you shouldn’t expect a voting machines to last 10 years,’ says Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey.” • … hand-counted in public.


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.

* * *

• ”One shot, once a year”:

Look, I know this is Kamala Harris, but it’s still disinformation. “One shot.” Really? Not last year! Show me the study. “Stay protected.” From Long Covid? From vascular and neurological damage? Really? No, not really. Harris’s lying would be shocking if it were not so routine.

* * *

• “How to think like an aerosol scientist this holiday season to stay healthy” [Colorado Public Radio News]. This is a really good wrap-up, worth reading in full. “Jose-Luis Jimenez, a chemistry professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, believes those worried about sicknesses ruining holiday plans could do one simple thing to reduce risk of infection — thinking about ventilation and airflow as you go about your day. ‘The basic concept is, think that everybody you are next to is smoking and imagine that they are exhaling this smoke and you wanna breathe as little of that as possible,’ Jimenez said. Throughout the pandemic, his constant companion (besides a well-fitted N95 mask) is an ordinary-looking, simple tool: a clear square box, which regularly posts a number in large black font. He takes a carbon dioxide monitor everywhere — his office at CU, museums, fast food joints, planes, trains, automobiles, along on his travels to his native Spain, and more. His goal is to promote awareness of aerosols in the transmission of illness, through the monitoring of carbon dioxide in indoor environments. High levels of carbon dioxide means a space is poorly ventilated, and there’s a greater chance of breathing in a virus someone else might be carrying. The general concept, he said, is summarized by a maxim in the aerosol research world: the solution to pollution is dilution. Jimenez said people are just starting to understand the risk of dirty air as similar to the way humans learned of the dangers of dirty water.”

* * *

• “The Mystery of the COVID jogger” [Bob Morris, DropCite]. Here is an annotated version of the original paper from China CDC Weekly. This is a useful summary of the paper, with maps of the part and seating diagrams. Morris comments: “I have been criticized for calling the evidence of jogger as the source of the outbreak through airborne spread in the park ‘overwhelming’. After reconsidering, I agree that this was not the right word. Instead, if these data are accurate, I would call this as close to metaphysical certainty as I have ever seen in 34 years as an epidemiologist. This all depends on data accuracy. I have included a series of questions to the authors in China and reached out to ask them to weigh in.” • Here are the questions:

* * *

• Good!

I just wish I knew how widespread CR boxes are. Plenty of tweets, but at some point you’d expect an association of some sort.

* * *

• ”Persistent alveolar type 2 dysfunction and lung structural derangement in post-acute COVID-19″ (preprint) [bioRxiv]. Lung imaging study, n = 11. From the Discussion: “We observed that PC cases showed distinct features in comparison to healthy lung or acute COVID-19, with extensive derangement of the vascular network characterized by increased microvascularization and NET-induced [neutrophil deployment of extracellular traps] vascular damage. Thrombosis as well as intussusceptive and sprouting angiogenesis have been found in acute COVID-19 at higher levels than in Influenza patients. The fact that in our data we find the level of vascular derangement higher in post-acute than in acute COVID-19 suggests that vascular remodeling is a continuously acting process during post-acute COVID disease.” • Ulp.

* * *


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 29:

3.8%. Yesterday was 3.2%. We now have not only an increase, but an increase in the rate of increase. NOTE I was wrong yesterday. This chart is based on a seven-day moving average. So there’s a train rolling. Let’s see how fast and hard.


Wastewater data (CDC), November 26:

November 22:

And MWRA data, November 22:

Lambert here: Nothing special, but note the date.


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:

• NOT UPDATED As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated November 29:

Lambert here: Unlike 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: 1,105,049 – 1,104,879 = 170 (170 * 365 = 62,050 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

Employment Situation: “United States ADP Employment Change” [Trading Economics]. “Private businesses in the US created 127K jobs in November of 2022, the least since January of 2021, and well below market forecasts of 200K. The slowdown was led by the manufacturing sector (-100K jobs) and interest rate-sensitive sectors like construction (-2K), professional/business services (-77K); financial activities (-34K); and information (-25K). The goods sector shed 86K jobs. On the other hand, consumer-facing segments were bright spots.”

GDP: “United States GDP Growth Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The US economy grew an annualized 2.9% on quarter in Q3 2022, better than an initial estimate of 2.6%, and beating forecasts of 2.7% reflecting upward revisions to consumer and business spending and net trade.”

Manufacturing: “United States Chicago PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago PMI in the United States tumbled to 37.2 points in November of 2022 from 45.20 points in the previous month, marking the third consecutive month of contractions. It is the lowest reading since May of 2020, well below market forecasts of 47.”

Profits: “United States Corporate Profits” [Trading Economics]. “Corporate profits in the United States went down 0.2 percent to USD 2.52 trillion in the third quarter of 2022, after a 6.2 percent rise in the previous period.”

* * *

The Bezzle: Giving Andrew Ross Sorkin the help that he needs:

The Bezzle: “Crypto Lenders’ Woes Worsen as Bitcoin Miners Struggle to Repay Debt” [Bloomberg]. “Beleaguered crypto lenders are being dealt another blow from Bitcoin miners as they weather the aftermath of the FTX collapse. Miners, who raised as much as $4 billion from mining-equipment financing when profit margins were as high as 90%, are defaulting on loans and sending hundreds of thousands of machines that served as collateral back to lenders. New York Digital Investment Group, Celsius Network, BlockFi Inc., Galaxy Digital, and the Foundry unit of Digital Currency Group were among the biggest providers of funding to finance computer equipment and build data centers.” • Eesh, so out of this bubble we’re not even getting some leftover infrastructure?

The Bezzle: “The secret to Liver King’s success? Steroids” [Unherd]. “Over the course of the past year, an ‘ancestral fitness’ personality named Brian ‘Liver King’ Johnson has become a ubiquitous presence on the internet. Skyrocketing from relative obscurity to become an influencer with millions of followers, this short, thickly-bearded, heavily-tanned, and always-shirtless man cuts an impressive figure who belies his 45 years. He attributes his eye-catching physique to the consumption of raw organ meats and testicles in conjunction with an ‘ancestral lifestyle’ built on nine tenets (‘wins,’ ‘primals,’ ‘move,’ ‘eat,’ ‘cold,’ and so on). Even as his fame grew and high-profile people in the sports and fitness world, like podcaster Joe Rogan, accused him of steroid use, the Liver King merely said he was glad famous people were talking about him. At the same time, he adamantly maintained that performance-enhancing drugs played no role in the development of his physique — which he claimed to have been building since he was a teenager. It should come as little surprise, then, that emails written by Johnson himself, asking for advice about the steroids he was using, were eventually forwarded to the YouTube fitness channel More Plates, More Dates.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 67 Greed (previous close: 60 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 62 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 30 at 1:45 PM EST.

Our Famously Free Press

“Twitter is no longer enforcing its Covid misinformation policy” [CNN]. “Twitter said it will no longer enforce its longstanding Covid misinformation policy, yet another sign of how Elon Musk plans to transform the social media company he bought a month ago. In 2020, Twitter developed an extensive set of rules that sought to prohibit ‘harmful misinformation’ about the virus and its vaccines. Between January 2020 and September 2022, Twitter suspended more than 11,000 accounts for breaking Covid misinformation rules and removed almost 100,000 pieces of content that violated those rules, according to statistics published by Twitter. The policy received acclaim from medical professionals: In an advisory to technology platforms, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy cited Twitter’s rules as an example of what companies should do to combat misinformation. Twitter did not appear to formally announce the rule change. Instead, some Twitter users Monday night spotted a note added to the page on Twitter’s website that outlines its Covid policy. ‘Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy,’ the note read. Musk has promised to restore many previously banned Twitter accounts as soon as this week. It is possible that among the restored accounts will be some of the 11,000 banned under Twitter’s former Covid misinformation rules.” • I am in some sympathy with aghastitude on this. However, the greatest and most effective misinformation in the entire pandemic came and continues to come from trusted institutional sources: WHO and CDC, on airborne transmission and masks. And yet those two accounts are not among the 11,000 banned. This appears to me and other old-timers as a moderation issue. And moderation is hard:


I’ve been dubious that moderation can scale; but Reddit is moderated. Twitter has 206 million daily active users, and Reddit 52 million, but at least it’s not an order of magnitude difference.

On blogs:

Twitter seems to be stirring up (justified) feelings of reminiscence for what was lost.

“Choosing not to kill off millions of vulnerable people (as the US is doing) isn’t a ‘critical flaw'”

I hold no brief for Taylor Lorenz, but she’s right on that.

Zeitgeist Watch

“The Fetishization of the Old” [Sam Bankman-Fried, Measuring Shadows]. His blog. From 2015, still germane: “We like old plays and old movies and old wines and old instruments and old laws and old people and old records and old music. We like them because they’re old and come with stories but we convince ourselves that there’s more: we convince ourselves that they really were better.” • Based on this post — and SBF’s subsequent career — “we” are right. The old was better.

“When High Fashion and QAnon Collide” [New York Times]. More on Balenciaga, and I’ve seen the photos from Balenciaga’s campaign: creepy child abuse. “As online criticism of the campaigns spread, the story was picked up across right-leaning media outlets, including The New York Post and the prime time Fox News show ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight.’ The show has helped to publicize and mainstream QAnon, the internet conspiracy theory that ‘a group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media.’ ‘Here you have a major international retail brand promoting kiddie porn and sex with children,’ Mr. Carlson told viewers on Nov. 22, ‘and not promoting it subtly but right out in the open.'” Carlson is, in fact, accurate (though the sexualization of children isn’t confined to Balenciaga). Further, the Times headline is deceptive. Nowhere does the Times indicate that QAnon per se was actually involved. More: “The social media ire has moved beyond the brand to envelop swaths of the global fashion industry — including the celebrities who are often its billboards — for not being more openly critical of Balenciaga’s provocative marketing strategy.” • “Provocative marketing strategy”? If I were inclined to believe that “a group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media,” the initial Times distortion plus its weird whitewashing and reframing” would be another stage in my journey down the QAnon rathole. Holy moley.

Class Warfare

“Railroad Workers United Open Letter to Congress and the President” [Railroad Workers United, Google Docs]. Strong stuff:

Senator Sanders has tweeted that he will “block consideration of the rail legislation until a roll call vote occurs on guaranteeing 7 paid sick days to rail workers in America”. We applaud this effort but we also note that rail workers are fighting for 15 days of sick leave and that the United States is the only country in the developed world that does not guarantee paid sick leave. Under the threat of a railroad strike, which will cripple the US economy if executed, the opportunity has opened up for all working people in the country to stand in solidarity with railroad workers and demand what we deserve, the right to live in dignity.


As members of Congress debate amendments to the Tentative Agreement in order to avert a railroad strike, we urge Congress and the President to also take hold of this historic opportunity to empower all working people. As such we urge Congress to adopt the following demands:

1. Public Ownership of the Railroads: To deal with the current supply chain crisis, Congress must take control of rail infrastructure as is done the world over and operate it under the public interest.

2. Universal Paid Family and Sick Leave: The United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee paid leave. Our members of Congress have the privilege of enjoying paid family and sick leave which must be expanded to include all working people.

3. Pass the PRO Act and Fund the NLRB: Congress must step up and ensure that the right to organize for working people is protected through the passage of the PRO Act and also ensure that the NLRB is properly funded to accommodate the sharp increase in unionization.

Note that RWU is a caucus of craft union members, and not a rail union per se. It’s possible to add your signature.

“Web3, the Metaverse, and the Lack of Useful Innovation” [American Affairs]. “For the past decade, the United Way’s ALICE program has attempted to measure how much of the population faces economic hardship, taking into account both the cost of living and available incomes. Working at the county level in about half of the United States, alice routinely finds that about 40 percent of the population struggles to make ends meet. While this reality hits some groups harder than others, it affects all races, genders, and other identities, from the majority of white populations in, for example, dying manufacturing and mining towns in Appalachia to majority black populations on the Southside of Chicago or rural Alabama. The reality of hardship plays out in places with long-standing black poverty, examined in classics like William Julius Wilson’s When Work Disappears (1996), as well as in Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s study of the more recent rise of ‘deaths of despair.’ Our question is whether newly hyped technologies, like the Metaverse, Web3, and blockchain, have any chance of changing this basic picture. There are many reasons to be skeptical that they can. In many ways, the Metaverse and Web3 are merely a pivot by Silicon Valley, an attempt to gain control of the technological narrative that is now spiral­ing downward, due to the huge start-up losses and the financial failure of the sharing economy and many new technologies. Huge start-up losses along with the small markets for new technologies have brought forth novel criticisms of Silicon Valley. If we are correct that the newest wave of hot technologies will do almost nothing to improve human welfare and productivity growth, then elected officials, policymakers, leaders in business and higher education, and ordinary citizens must begin to search for more fundamental solutions to our current economic and social ills. In what follows, we will first review Web3 and the Metaverse. Mul­tiple industry insiders claim that these technologies require far better infrastructure than currently exists, and that their constituent technologies of blockchain, crypto, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) aren’t working well by themselves.”

News of the Wired

I don’t know if I want to switch to green tea:

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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 JJD:

JJD writes: “A nice Fall flowering combination: perennial sunflowers and Salvia leucantha.” It is!!

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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. Librarian Guy

    Thank you for the railroad workers’ links! This was one of the first things I saw online this morning and got my blood boiling with rage before I even got in the shower!! Gotta hand it to the Dems, the R’s at least sincerely worship the wealthy and money and will gladly kick workers in the teeth, do not hide their hatred of working people too well. (Their “populism” consists of claiming “Mexicans” or other non-white workers are taking the jobs of their poorly educated working class voters.) The Dems will stab you in the back after false “We will fight for youuuuu . . . ” promises, as Biden so complacently did here. That morning rage returned in weaker form when I read the Bernie and “Progressive” Caucus tweets, surely everyone (other than maybe their staffs?) knows that these people will fold like wet tissue paper and let Biden jail or otherwise crush the workers if they do any strike action, then tell “activists” who call them out to pound sand, dirty f-ing hippies, like AOC et al did to those calling them out for voting billion$ for endless Ukraine proxy war.

    1. in_still_water

      This is yet another – all too frequent – tragic example of gaslighting or lying by the admin and press. Biden took credit for an unfinished deal that was heralded by the admin and press as closed.
      There either was an agreement (which the issue of paid sick time was discussed since it was/is such an important sticking point) or there wasn’t.

      1. agent ranger smith

        Bernie is not a long-shot high-stakes revolutionary. He is an incremental reformationary. His intentions are good, genuine and genuinely good. But there is something he fears more than seeing Congress and the President break a crucial historical hinge-point strike.

        And that is seeing a Republican elected President in 2024. He fears that more than anything. So he will end up trying to spare Biden the level of embarassment which could get Biden or any other Democratic presidential nominee defeated in 2024.

        If he regarded the Democrats’ presidential hopes for 2024 as a hostage that he was willing to take or even shoot if necessary to make sure no less-than-ideal back to work bill were allowed to pass, there are things he could do which he will not do. For example, he could work with McConnell and the Republican “populist” Senators to filibuster any bill which failed to encode the railroad workers’ highest hopes for paid sick leave. He could appeal to the Republican Senators’ cynical desire to see the Democratic nominee for president defeated in 2024 to convince them to keep the bill filibustered all session. That would buy enough time for the railroad workers to be able to strike without a law in place to persecute them for it.

        Then he and other pro-worker Senators could campaign for the nomination and election of more pro-worker Senators in the next election to get closer to a filibuster-proof number of pro-worker Senators to pass a back-to-work one-sidedly beneficial to the workers over any filibuster attempt in the next Congress. It would keep the workers’ hopes in play and within reach while visibly punishing Biden for doublecrossing the workers. It would probably get a Republican elected president next election.

        And that is why Sanders won’t do that or any other sort of hostage-taking or hostage-shooting over this issue. Because he fears a Republican president more than anything. He fears the loss of our few remaining tattered incremental legacy New Deal reforms under a Republican president.
        So he won’t risk that loss in return for possibly getting a huge gain.

        This is just my personal layman’s opinion, of course.

        1. Acacia

          From this layman’s perspective, a Republican POTUS in 2024 would happen for a variety of reasons that have very little to do with Bernie, with what he did or failed to do. And by failing to do something for railroad workers, or the working class in general, he will help to give people that many fewer reasons to support the Dems going forward.

          1. Adam Eran

            Possibly a Republican could make a peace deal in Ukraine. (a big turn-around since Iraq/Afghanistan)

    1. Christopher Williams

      Thanks Jo, did you see that the hydro electric dam has been breached in a large section. Water is gushing through the damaged sections. He is a brave man doing a good job reporting from the Russian side.

  2. Wukchumni

    The Bezzle: “Crypto Lenders’ Woes Worsen as Bitcoin Miners Struggle to Repay Debt” [Bloomberg]. “Beleaguered crypto lenders are being dealt another blow from Bitcoin miners as they weather the aftermath of the FTX collapse. Miners, who raised as much as $4 billion from mining-equipment financing when profit margins were as high as 90%, are defaulting on loans and sending hundreds of thousands of machines that served as collateral back to lenders.

    ‘Hundreds of thousands of machines’?

    Riddle me this Batman, er Bitman about the ploy wonder…

    Why is Bitcoin going up in the face of crypto falling apart, now over $17k?

    There is no there-there, like all the other pretenders to the money throne, why the strength in value?

    1. Tom Stone

      Crypto and especially Bitcoin are very useful tools for some groups and organizations, the CIA comes to mind and so do other organized crime groups.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > the CIA comes to mind and so do other organized crime groups

        A topic about which the silence is conspicuous. A payment system designed to evade scrutiny. And our intelligence community isn’t using it? Air America was much more visible!

        1. Acacia

          Indeed, the use case is pretty clear: instead of the former practice of sending a mirror-shaded spook on a jet, carrying a briefcase full of cash to ply some tinpot dictator or corrupt government official in the developing world, spook HQ can now just electronically send that money to tinpot dictator’s crypto wallet. The money can be transferred and laundered at the same time. The tax authorities won’t ask any questions of spook HQ.

          It’s like an upgrade from James Bond to Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) in his island cyberterror HQ in Skyfall. Of course, the transaction won’t be exactly as smooth as the old skool briefcase, as it may take some unspecified amount of time for the blockchain to clear the transfer, and the price of BTC is highly volatile, so it is entirely possible that between the $500 million payoff arriving in tinpot dictator’s crypto wallet, the market does one of those mini-pukes and $50 million gets vaped. Still, it’s lot faster and smoother than spook HQ sending out the guy with the briefcase. And how many times do guys with briefcases full of money get robbed or otherwise nailed?

          The problem remains: how would we know this is happening?

          There is that rather suggestive 1995 NSA white paper that predated Nakamoto’s own, indicating some strong interest in “anonymous electronic cash”, but that’s not a smoking gun that spooks are indeed using cryptos. There are a bunch of companies doing blockchain analytics, but they can’t identify who owns which wallet or is moving how much, etc. They can and do report “what” but “who” is difficult-to-impossible, even with public blockchains. Unless you have the surveillance power of the alphabet agencies, it’s going to be difficult to even get an IP address for a blockchain transaction (and of course those can be obfuscated, spoofed, etc.).

          1. Yves Smith

            No, blockchain is traceable and transparent. Every transaction is recorded on the blockchain. When FTX was imploding, various sites were reporting on the movement of specific coins in specific transaction sizes. Many of these were successfully traced not long after.

            The only way to have a secure and secret receipt is to hold the coin only on your local device, which makes it vulnerable to the hard disk crapping out or the device being lost.

            And you still have to transfer the coin into fiat for it to be of any use. Otherwise you are hoarding monopoly money.

            1. Acacia

              Yes, the transactions are all recorded and visible, and yes we can get the wallet addresses involved in every transaction, but from what I understand of how most exchanges work, getting the identity of the persons who made those transactions is another story. We — any of us actually — can get wallet addresses, but then what?

              FTX was an exchange with known addresses. It was possible to see money flowing out of the exchange. As for who was initiating those transactions, the only way we’ll know is by getting internal data from FTX servers. But consider the case of spook agencies sending money through another exchange that is just doing normal business and isn’t under scrutiny like FTX. How would anybody ID them?

              There are exchanges like ByBit, CoinSwitch, and Evonax which have no KYC and no withdrawal limits. Many exchanges do have KYC rules, which means they may require some ID for a customer, though often these rules are not mandatory and mainly increase the allowed size of transactions per day. KYC is now usually done by sending a photo with a ID document. Of course, if the ID documents were plausible forgeries, it’s possible to defeat this, and regardless, it would take a request from law enforcement to get the identity behind a particular account.

              It is also possible to monitor the traffic going through an exchange, and try to identify the IP of the person who initiated the blockchain transaction, but I think only the FBI or intel agencies have the resources to do this kind of analysis. It involves eavesdropping on traffic and in effect extracting a drop of water from a firehose.

              Also, note that the user identification API of most exchanges runs through an HTTPS connection and is signed using an SHA-256 key. The only way to pair a client talking with the exchange to a transaction between the exchange and the blockchain would be to crack HTTPS and SHA-256, and even then it would only work if the exchange sent the crypto wallet address back over the network stream to the client. There are people who believe that the NSA has the means to crack these encrypted communications, but the math suggests it would be extremely difficult and AFAIK it has never been confirmed that this is happening.

              My point is simply that spook agencies could probably use blockchain with impunity because even if the FBI makes a request to the exchange to divulge the identity behind a wallet address, they’re probably going to come up empty handed.

              1. Yves Smith

                As indicated, the bitcoin or crypto is useless until it is exchanged for real money. So it can be traced at the other end.

                I would not want to take a highly volatile and potentially useless and traceable asset as a bribe or payoff. The NSA could sort this out if they wanted to. As Snowden stressed, nothing on the Internet is secure. The US regularly has oligarchs and national leaders that we suddenly unfriend.

                There are plenty of ways to launder money movements now through companies in secrecy jurisdictions. This introduces all sorts of people, like the wallet holding company, whose security is not established. If you think their staff would stand up to, say, detainment by a state actor or their mercs, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. I’d rely on established mechanisms with known risks.

                1. Acacia

                  As you point out, there are certainly weak links in the crypto ecosystem, though those can be used to evade detection as well. E.g., fiat money has to get converted into cryptos, but that could come from dodgy banks, etc. Similarly, crypto wallets may be custodial or non-custodial. If the latter, you run the software yourself to manage it, ergo there’s no custodian to shake down. There are something like 300 million wallets just on the BTC blockchain, and in principle there’s nothing stopping a malicious actor from creating another million wallets and using them to launder funds.

                  Going back to OP’s comment, I guess the big question is whether spook agencies — USian spooks, in particular — are using blockchain, or not. More than a few people are wondering about this. I think it’s technically possible and only a very small number of state actors have the resources to “out” the identities of those transferring the money, but I also agree with you that all the weak links in the system make it undesirable for the recipient of a payoff. Then again, I really don’t have any insight into the psychology of such people. Maybe they think it’s really “safe enough”, idk.

                  1. Yves Smith

                    I think they would be very sensitive to the HUMINT risks. New tech = new and very likely impossible to vet sufficiently parties in the transaction.

            2. kriptid

              The only way to have a secure and secret receipt is to hold the coin only on your local device, which makes it vulnerable to the hard disk crapping out or the device being lost.

              This is a common misconception, and requires a somewhat technical clarification. It is impossible to ‘hold’ a coin on a local device. The coins are always on the blockchain once mined and cannot leave. What you can store in a device are a set of keys. Keys merely serve as pointers that indicate which coins on the blockchain belong to whom. A major point of confusion arises here, because Satoshi and some of the early Bitcoiners made the unfortunate choice of calling the key-storing program/device a ‘wallet’, when a much better name would have been ‘key chain.’ Essentially, the wallet holds a set of keys that point to specific coins on one or more blockchains. These keys can then be used to ‘unlock’ coins on the blockchain to transact with them as desired.

              So when you hear stories about someone ‘losing their Bitcoin,’ what this actually means is that they lost the keys that identify them as the owners of Bitcoins on the blockchain, not the coins themselves. By intentional design of the blockchain (at least in the case of Bitcoin), coins can never be destroyed or lost. Only keys used to access coins can be lost.

              The BIP39 protocol allows a set of private keys to be retrieved using a set of 24 randomly generated English words (2^256 possible combinations, for the math nerds out there — for comparison, the Earth is comprised of roughly ~2^166 atoms). BIP39 has greatly mitigated the dangers of key loss due to lost/broken/compromised devices. This has been adopted by all major hardware/cold wallet manufacturers and similar measures are now also in place for soft/hot wallets that might be integrated into browsers for Web3. Put simply, these 24 words allow you to recover access to your private keys from any cold/hot wallet that runs the BIP39 standard.

              A simple example to illustrate this idea: Let’s say you buy a hardware wallet. You memorize the 24 word seed phrase that is generated by the BIP39 protocol when you set up the new wallet. You then use some fiat to buy one BTC on an exchange, which you subsequently send into your new wallet. Your new wallet now holds one BTC. The next day, you lose your hardware wallet, or it gets crushed, stolen, etc. But you didn’t just automatically lose your Bitcoin; you’ve only lost the keys to your Bitcoin. That’s OK, because you have your 24 word seed phrase. You set up a new wallet (doesn’t matter what type, can be the same or different as the one you lost), and enter your 24 word seed phrase during the set-up. The new wallet can now link to all of the old private keys. You’ll see your one BTC linked to your new wallet. Your old device, if compromised, is bricked once the 24 word recovery phrase is invoked with your new wallet. Your old wallet is now useless and cannot link to your keys.

              All this is to say, that the days of ‘losing your Bitcoin’ because you misplaced a hard drive or device are over and have been for many years now (BIP39 was proposed in 2013 and has been standard in crypto for 6+ years now). All of these stories about Bitcoin worth millions of USD being lost happened pre-BIP39 protocol when Bitcoin was sub $100. The odds of this type of thing happening again at scale (especially given the increase in fiat value of Bitcoin) are quite small, since it would require both the loss of your wallet and your recovery phrase simultaneously.

              If you’ve made it this far, indulge me for a moment and think about the following: if you memorize the seed phrase and destroy your wallet intentionally, you now essentially carry the keys in your head. Makes them very difficult to confiscate or lose, provided you trust your memory. Years later, if you want to retrieve those coins, you can do it with the memorized seed phrase via BIP39. This can be done anywhere in the world and with any major wallet. So, essentially, you can self-custody your crypto in your head, access it anywhere in the world on an indeterminate timeline, all while paying zero fees to keep it secure. For me, this is a major value proposition of the technology underlying blockchains, regardless of how one feels about cryptos as currency.

    2. Acacia

      I would guess it’s a combination of general faith by many stakeholders in some form of cryptos surviving (doesn’t have to be Bitcoin or Ethereum), and the view that this is a major bump or pothole in the road but not a death blow, and because there’s a lot retail/dumb money in cryptos (HODLers) that the whales and institutional traders can still profit from.

  3. indices

    Lithium batteries in those burning cars in Nantucket? If they were not electric vehicles, perhaps the electrical system was souped up to handle all kinds of electronic gadgets. Lithium battery fires are becoming harder to sweep under the rug these days, and they sure seem hard to extinguish.

      1. marku52

        I can’t believe that the SService would just rent a car for the president.

        “Hi Hertz, I’d like reserve an 8 ton bullet and mine proof Explorer with heavily darkened windows”

    1. Jen

      This put me in mind of a incident in these parts.

      About 10 years ago, all 3 of the police cruisers in the town across the river from the “small liberal arts college” I work for mysteriously caught fire. The police chief at the time was roundly despised by everyone, and most people I knew found this event hilariously ironic. Including a friend who was a police officer on the other side of the river.

      The state police investigated and determined the cause was not suspicious. The police chief was livid, and insisted that it was arson, evidence be damned. Things died down, and the chief started serving as interim chief for a neighboring town. Damned if all three of their cruisers didn’t catch fire shortly there after.

      Trouble just seems to follow some people around.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      According to the reports I’ve seen, they were big SUV/trucks. Definitely not EV’s with lithium batteries. I saw a clip of what is claimed to be the fire and they all seemed to be parked in one area, so its possible that it was just a fuel spill that ignited several vehicles parked together.

  4. Questa Nota

    Ask young people what they think about the Balenciaga story. If you don’t have your own children, maybe you have nieces and nephews.They probably see and hear things differently than you might. Btw, are there estimates of how many in the NC community are childless?

    1. GramSci

      My grand-daughters (aetat 10, 7, 5) seem to think the Balenciaga dollies are noble Azov child warriors. Not that they know what “Azov” or “warrior” means outside of cartoonland. But that’s their reality, all right, even though they will tell you they are proud ‘Democrats’.

    2. The Rev Kev

      I found it remarkable that this story was not making the main stream media until you had such diverse voices like Tucker Carlson, Jimmy Dore and Nigel Farage calling it out. And now publications like the New York Times have been forced to talk about it.

  5. diptherio

    So far as I know, Reddit is moderated entirely by volunteers, and I’m one of them. When you set up a subreddit, you become the mod. As the mod, you have discretion over how to run your sub, what you allow and what you don’t, etc. You can set up an auto-moderator to flag or remove posts with keywords, profanity, etc., but that’s the only help Reddit provides.

    It works the same on Mastodon – instance admins are responsible for moderation on their instance. As a result Mastodon has far, far more moderators than Twitter, just by default, as it’s a task that gets distributed to a lot of people, rather than being consolidated and dumped on just a few. Which is another reason to prefer the decentralized social media model to the centralized one (many benefits though it has): you don’t end up with people traumatized from being exposed to horrible stuff all day long.

    1. digi_owl

      That said, Reddit the company can override subreddit mods and even close down whole subreddits if it gives Reddit as a whole bad press.

      An individual Mastodon instance can keep on going as long as the admins can fund the hardware and connectivity needed for the user traffic. Beyond that the worst that can happen is that other instances refuse to federate.

    2. Adam

      There’s also a cabal of power moderators who moderate an insane number of subreddits almost inevitably badly and with very little recourse since global moderators seem to only look for very specific things.

      1. digi_owl

        Yeah there is that age old issue that the people that seek power are the last people it should be given to.

        But it will be oh so tempting to take on an experienced mod, because they understand the systems and know the people…

  6. Laughingsong

    “Here, all ordinary wage and tax transactions are processed through a central government system, and TAKS automatically takes out whatever it estimates you owe before the money is deposited in your bank account, along with any welfare payments—like family or unemployment benefits, pension payments, and so on.”

    Sounds a bit like the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system in Ireland. I really enjoyed this when I got there, and didn’t have to file.

    I was astounded to find out that I still DID have to file in the USA though, even though my new tax home was Ireland (grr). I think that the US is the only country to tax its citizens abroad but I’m not sure.

    I wonder if other Euro countries have a TAKS or PAYE equivalent?

    1. digi_owl

      I have heard that many US expats find it hard to bank abroad because of that, as foreign banks then have ot report to the IRS etc. Thus many banks refuse to take on US citizens as customers.

      1. caucus99percenter

        That is correct. In Germany, because of IRS reporting requirements, I can’t, for example, sign up for online brokerage services which many banks now offer, even though I have had a checking account (presumably grandfathered) at the bank in question for 30 or 40 years.

        Not that, in actuality, I would have any money to play the ponies with…

      2. Jeff V

        My UK bank regularly asks me to confirm I’m not tax resident in the USA, for reasons best known to themselves (they have no reason to think I might be – I’ve never even visited the place).

        It’s not just banks, either – all sorts of finance industry businesses have to report on US citizens, at their own expense. (Needless to say, the USA does not reciprocate about foreign nationals living there.)

        Even industries where there are no such reporting requirements can be encouraged to avoid dealing with the USA since business insurance policies often exclude cover for dealing with it. Even “worldwide” travel insurance is a lot cheaper if it excludes the USA.

        It does make me wonder whether there might come a tipping point, where nobody will deal with the USA unless (heavens forbid) they walk back some of their extra-territorial legislation.

  7. Objective Ace

    Reddit is moderated

    Is it? I know it has “moderators”, but when the information and groups are as disaggregated as they are at Reddit, and no one is moderating the “moderators” the effect is no moderation.

    You quite often will have two groups: say a pro IVM and a pro vaccine group where each group will censor what is allowed in the other, the net effect on the material available being no moderatio. Actually its even worse then no moderation. If there was no moderation one could at least see counterpoints to false headlines

    1. agent ranger smith

      I wonder if the two groups in your example would read eachothers’ work intently and argue against eachother within their two silos, this providing some point-counterpoint cross-comparison linkage.

      1. digi_owl

        Sometimes, but often that is frowned upon as a invite to “brigading”. This where one side show up in force to downvote and report the posts and comments of the other.

  8. Jake

    I’ve been dubious that moderation can scale; but Reddit is moderated. Twitter has 206 million daily active users, and Reddit 52 million, but at least it’s not an order of magnitude difference.

    The /r/austin sub is moderated, and most everyone agrees it is far over moderated. And the mods may be city council people or their friends. I would not agree that reddit is an example of moderation working. There used to be a sub that discussed this issue with hilarious meems like Cranklins, but that sub at some point was taken over by a similar level of over moderation. (r/austincirclejerk) IMHO that is why so many people, including democrats I know, talk a lot about the woke mob not letting anyone have reasonable discussion about things like homeless people or meth camps.

    1. Objective Ace

      Agreed – I seem to remember the wallstreetbets group censoring anyone who tried posting anything counter to the narrative “Gamestop to the moon”. A Lot of people lost a lot of money there. If people had been allowed to post some reasonable counterpoints the pain may not have been so bad

      1. caucus99percenter

        Imagine what BartCop — Terrence R. Coppage from Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1953–2014, R.I.P. — would have had to say about Michelle Obama and the Democrats embracing the BFEE (“Bush Family Evil Empire”).

        All that good press, that heartwarming human-interest b.s., after GWB offered Michelle a cough drop at John McCain’s funeral! And Michelle literally using the words “my partner in crime”…

  9. Steve

    CR boxen in school:
    Why do all the filters have their support lattice on the outside? I hope they are two sided, since the air flows in through the filters. The lattice is supposed to support the filter against airflow.

    1. Darius

      I wish someone would make a kit for assembling CR boxes. With the right fans and filters and everything fitting together.

  10. fresno dan

    So I watch way more crime shows than I should, but I find this as shocking as the Uvalde fiasco from the standpoint of sheer police incompetence.

    When Allen spoke with an officer in 2017, he admitted he was on the trail for roughly two hours, the affidavit says. In a subsequent interview in October 2022, Allen told authorities he had gone out there to “watch fish,” that he was wearing jeans and a black or blue jacket and also said he owns firearms which were at his home, according to the affidavit. Why wasn’t a search conducted 5 years ago??? What evidence has been lost due to 5 years going by???
    “On October 13th, 2022, Investigators executed a search warrant of Richard Allen ‘s residence,” the affidavit says. “Among other items, officers located jackets, boots, knives and firearms, including a Sig Sauer, Model P226, .40 caliber pistol with serial number U 625 627.”
    According to the document, investigators found a .40 caliber unspent round less than two feet away from one of the bodies, and between the two victims.
    SO, in 2017, the suspect arrested Oct 2022, admitted in the 2017 interview that he was in the area, wearing the same clothing as shown in the video (taken by the victims on their phone at the time of an individual who they thought was creepy) and certainly consistent in appearance to the man photographed. So he is arrested last month due to a search conducted FIVE YEARS after this information was known. Is that incompetent or what??? Only serendipity/stupidity kept the suspected perpetrator from getting rid of the gun. So the trial hasn’t happened, but it difficult to believe this is not the perpetrator.
    One of the things about TV perpetuating the adoration of cops is that it makes it difficult to have any accountability for sheer incompetence, as well as the wrong doing cops are involved in. Will there be any investigation about how this was not followed up on 5 years ago?

  11. digi_owl

    I wonder if “we” fetishize the old as some variant of survivorship bias.

    It having survived thus far against the ravages of time, it must have some quality that the rest didn’t.

    But there is also perhaps a separate variant, where we worship our own childhood. This perhaps is new, as current living humans are the first humans that, thanks to vast media archives, can experience it all again. This then cross over into a worship of youth. Of trying to extend childhood “innocence” longer and longer.

    1. The Rev Kev

      In lots of ways, older ways were better. We have often talked about the crapification of modern goods and services these days. Certainly life was better for most working people living in the 1970s than the 2020s. And as an example, the Clerical Drinker is highly critical of modern films and their lack of good, story telling or even such quaint notions as good script-writing. If you flick through his videos, he often does an episode on why modern films suck-


      The point is that with our modern technology we could turn out much better stuff as the author of this article points out. But we don’t. We turn out mostly junk that barely lasts beyond a minimal lifespan. And that applies across the board with clothes, films, cars, microwaves, etc. So it is no wonder that people look back on what we have lost .

      1. Basil Pesto

        Countless solid-to-superb films are made all over the world every single year, alongside the countless shit ones. This has always been true. Scrolling through the critical drinker’s yt playlist, there’s clearly a pretty effing dramatic selection bias at play there, but his audience seems rather obvious. My advice would be to watch more movies, fewer podcasters ;)

        1. The Rev Kev

          Trust me I do and I have a large collection of DVDs of my favourites to prove it. And some of the better ones have been made in overseas countries rather than Hollywood. But too many of the latest Hollywood films are just crap as the Critical Drinker notes. They are not so much for the entertainment and uplifting of people but ones dedicated to a very narrow base whose purpose is at best dubious. The fact that the actors/actresses in these productions seem to revel into fighting with the people who come to watch them is a sign of something being “off”. And it shows at the box office where the returns of them have been disastrous and you wonder how many billions can be thrown away by modern film/TV production companies.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > highly critical of modern films and their lack of good, story telling or even such quaint notions as good script-writing

        Somehow, I managed not to preserve the Thanksgiving dinnertable tweet where a 20-year-old opined that there were no good movies before the year 2000 because they were all “too slow.”

      3. digi_owl

        Supposedly them pre-industrial hand made boots of the English farmer were generally better and longer lasting than the early industrial output.

    2. Acacia

      There is something to this idea of “survivorship bias”. Generally, the “old” works of culture that survived were only a small subset of all that were produced. Not everything gets preserved. Not all plays written in Shakespeare’s time were preserved. There’s quite a lot we don’t know even about the Bard himself. The same is true of other forms of literature, especially those written in antiquity.

      Similarly, in the history of cinema, many films have been lost. Somewhere along the line, somebody decided they weren’t worth saving, or there was only one copy lost in a fire, etc. (nitrite has a nasty habit of combusting). So the old films that we see have in effect been curated by countless people who decided they were worth saving. This can affect our perception of the nature of old films, though it is often surprising to discover how a B-movie from the 1950s can be a pretty solid work when seen today. Critics’ assessments can change, as well, which can be unfortunate when something is lost.

      SBF’s argument follows a familiar line, insofar as he’s only concerned with what is objectively “the best” for his generation. Making claims about “the best”, he seems unaware that since the XVIIIth century, it has been understood that taste is neither objective nor subjective, as Hume famously argued. Hume, like Kant before him, is interested in the structure of judgements, in this case of taste.

      SBF also doesn’t see that part of the reason we should be concerned with “the old” is that we are also concerned with the future, and that some effort is needed if we’re going to preserve something from the past to share with future generations. SBF seems to be saying “why should I care about that? I’ll be dead”. The consequences of this attitude should be clear enough.

      Finally, while there has been great progress in the technological supports (I.e., media) of literature, music and the visual arts (e.g., photography, cinema) it doesn’t follow that there has been “progress” in the art of literature, music, or photography, or cinema (which would be strict technological determinism). It would be nonsensical, for example, to say that the art of Andy Warhol is “more advanced” than that of Monet (because the latter used industrial screen printing, for example). It’s not clear whether SBF sees this or not, and the consequences of this for thinking about the past and the future of culture, but his inability to understand Citizen Kane, for example, makes me think that probably he doesn’t grasp this.

        1. caucus99percenter

          Also, I think you probably meant:

          > the art of Andy Warhol is “more advanced” than that of Monet (because the latter former used industrial screen printing

  12. Jeff N

    Thanks for including the response from the union. And sarcastic thanks to Bernie Sanders for *starting* negotiations at a woeful 7-days. >:(

    It’s just ridiculous that Dems won’t let a union negotate…

  13. flora

    re: the bezzle:

    “You realize it was illegal for you to misappropriate assets from your customers’ accounts, right?”

    Boom! There it is. Thanks.

  14. Jason Boxman

    Checking just now, the latest Boston wastewater is actually a rocket ship. North has caught up with south in a large increase. Looks like we’re off to the races. Thanks Biden!

  15. Harold

    “The chicken-pie, Mr. Lovel, is made after a recipe bequeathed to me by my departed grandmother of happy memory, —And if you will venture a glass of wine, you will find it worthy of one who professes the maxim of King Alphonso of Castile [quoted by Sir Francis Bacon], —Old wood to burn—old books to read—old wine to drink—and old friends, Sir Arthur—ay, Mr. Lovel, and young friends too, to converse with.” —Walter Scott, The Antiquary (1816), chapter 6

    The Antiquary is next on my list of old books to read

  16. Tom Stone

    It appears that high diesel prices are showing up on the shelves, $5.69 for one can of progresso soup.
    A little more than the price of one gallon of regular gas at the cheap station…$5.25.

  17. spud

    don’t get fooled again, and its correct!


    “Weeks later, when Time magazine named Clinton “Man of the Year,” its cover story carried the headline “THE TORCH IS PASSED.”

    The Clinton presidency went on to carry the torch for corporate-friendly measures. The NAFTA trade pact destroyed many well-paying union jobs; “welfare reform” harmed poor women and their families; a landmark crime law fueled mass incarceration; Wall Street deregulation led to the financial meltdown of 2007-2008.”

    “In fact, Hakeem Jeffries is thoroughly corporate, As The Intercept reported four years ago, after he won a close race against Rep. Barbara Lee to become chair of the House Democratic Caucus, “Jeffries is heavily backed by big money and corporate PACs. Less than 2 percent of his fundraising comes from small donors, who contribute less than $200, according to Federal Election Commission records.”

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