2:00PM Water Cooler 11/4/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

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

* * *


“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

“Manchin Wants Deal on Debt, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid” [Bloomberg]. “West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said Thursday that Congress needs to deal with the nation’s ‘crippling debt’ by making changes to shore up Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs he said are ‘going bankrupt.'” • Like a bad penny….

“Biden Pentagon official joins TikTok amid review of the Chinese app” [Washington Examiner]. “A former Biden Pentagon official who claimed Twitter’s censorship of Hunter Biden laptop stories proved they were false while working on the Biden campaign has joined TikTok as a communications director. Jamal Brown, who served as the Defense Department’s deputy press secretary from February 2021 to February 2022, has joined TikTok to run its policy communications in the Americas, reportedly with a main focus on the United States, as the Biden administration conducts a national security review of the Chinese government-linked video app and as Republicans urge President Joe Biden to ban it. Brown was also national press secretary for Joe Biden from April 2019 to November 2020, during which he worked to downplay allegations related to Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings in China and praised Twitter’s censorship of the New York Post’s stories on the laptop hard drive in October 2020.” • Oh.


* * *

Polls, polls, polls:

“Republicans Are Just A Normal Polling Error Away From A Landslide — Or Wiping Out” [FiveThirtyEight]. “With just five days until Election Day, Republicans are in good shape in the FiveThirtyEight forecast. If each party were to win every race they are currently favored to win, Republicans would have 51 Senate seats and Democrats would have 49, according to our Deluxe forecast as of Wednesday at 3 p.m. Eastern.1 And if the same thing happened in the House, Republicans would win 225 seats and Democrats would win 210. But those gains would be modest by the standards of midterm elections. In other words, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast, this likely won’t be a ‘red-wave’ election like 2010 (when Republicans picked up 63 House seats) or 2014 (when Republicans picked up nine Senate seats). Instead, it’s looking like more of a ‘red ripple.’ But that doesn’t mean a red wave is impossible…. our research has found that you can’t predict the direction of polling error in advance. Historically, polls have been equally likely to underestimate Republicans or Democrats. So it’s also possible that pollsters have fixed the problems that plagued them in 2016 and 2020 — maybe even overcorrected for them — and that the current polls are too good for the GOP. In other words, a wide range of scenarios is possible in this election: everything from a Republican landslide to a world where Democrats hold the House and gain seats in the Senate.” And: “So what would the election results look like if Democrats did 5.4 points better than the FiveThirtyEight forecast currently predicts in every Senate race and 6.3 points better in every House race? In this scenario, it would be Democrats who win 54 Senate seats — the ones in which they are currently favored plus Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin.” • Off by 5.4 or 6.3 points? That’s a lot. It could also be where we are!

“The contrarian case for Democratic optimism” [Axios]. “Conventional wisdom isn’t always correct. Every election carries surprises — it was just two years ago that Republicans defied expectations to gain seats in the House — and there are at least a few bright spots to consider before Democrats commit themselves to the political wilderness.” Five reasons for optimism: “The Senate remains very much in play”; “Governor’s races are a surprise bright spot”; “The growing gender gap”; “The bogeyman is still there”; “Polling is never perfect.”

“A Nonpartisan Generic Ballot Aggregator” [Split Ticket]. “It’s increasingly well accepted at this point that Democrats are on track to have a fairly bad year, at least in terms of the national popular vote. Their president’s approval rating is at 44%, the out-party shows serious enthusiasm, and inflation is at 8%. None of these things generally point to a remotely competitive race for Congress, and many of the partisan pollsters currently releasing public polls suggest that Republicans appear on track for a comfortable victory come November. But when you sit down and look at the polling numbers from nonpartisan pollsters, they tell a very different story.” Chart:

“As of the morning of October 30th, there are two pictures being painted. The first, by nonpartisan public pollsters, is encapsulated in the graph above. It suggests that the November elections are essentially a dead heat, and that if they were held today, the generic ballot would be a virtual tie. The second is by partisan pollsters, and it suggests a more Republican picture; in fact, the average of partisan-affiliated pollsters (Trafalgar, Data For Progress, Navigator Research, Rasmussen Reports, Insider Advantage, and Echelon Insights) over the last week suggests an R+3 year. These are extremely different forecasts, and there are conflicting signals on who to trust.” • Yep!

* * *

“The Memo: Biden’s plea for democracy struggles to get traction” [The Hill]. “[F]rom an electoral standpoint, Biden’s argument looks likely to get lost in the crosswinds of economic distress and political polarization. Put simply, the voters who agree with Biden were probably going to vote for his party anyway. And, even for many Americans who believe democracy is in real peril, anxiety about inflation and the economy can feel more urgent.” And: “A NewsNation-Decision Desk HQ poll this week found roughly a quarter of voters believe that 10 percent or more of mail-in ballots are fraudulent. Independent studies indicate the real figure is closer to 1 in 50,000.”

“Biden Warns Americans That Ability To Even Pretend U.S. A Democracy At Stake” [The Onion]. “‘Today, our country teeters on a grim precipice, and if we aren’t careful, it will become completely impossible to embrace the charade that we are in any way a functioning democracy,’ said Biden, describing how the upcoming midterm election could be the nation’s last chance to delude itself into believing its political system was actually built on the will of its people.”

“‘Back to normal’: Republicans benefit in first ‘post-pandemic’ election” [Financial Times]. “‘Covid-19 is declining as an issue for the American public,’ said Chris Jackson, senior vice-president at Ipsos. ‘People have gone back to normal, but they are not giving the Democrats credit for that — they want to know what both parties are going to do for them next.’ Top of the list of voters’ worries going into Tuesday’s vote is inflation, multiple polls have shown, which is running at 8.2 per cent. Earlier this week, Fed chair Jay Powell indicated the US central bank’s fight with soaring prices is far from over, warning interest rates will peak at higher levels than previously expected. While high prices have also been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, economists say the problem stems from the pandemic. A study by Adam Shapiro, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, shows nearly three-quarters of core inflation can be traced back to the supply chain and demand disruptions caused by the virus. Claudia Sahm, the founder of Sahm Consulting and a former Federal Reserve economist, said: ‘China has just locked down the city where Foxconn makes iPhones — we are still seeing the effects of the pandemic play into supply chains. I have no idea why we are not talking more about Covid.’ When voters do link issues such as inflation to the pandemic, it can work against Democrats. For instance, some blame the stimulus bill passed in the early days of the Biden administration, which helped boost demand just as the economy was recovering. Rich Thau, a moderator of the Swing Voter Project who has been conducting regular focus groups during the campaign, said: ‘Voters say the pandemic has fuelled inflation mostly through the money that was shovelled out the door by the federal government.'” • [bangs head on desk]

“The 30 Prosecutor and Sheriff Races that Will Shape Criminal Justice Next Week” [BOLTS]. “But the elections that will affect policing and the court system most immediately are the local races for sheriff and prosecutor. These powerful officials decide who to prosecute and how severely, what sentences to seek, whether to team up with federal immigration enforcement, and other major policy questions over which they have vast discretion.” To pick an example at random: “Marion County [Indianapolis, IN] is one of many places this year where police unions have clashed with local prosecutors who pushed some amount of reform. The local Fraternal Order of Police overwhelmingly approved a vote of ‘no confidence’ against Democratic incumbent Ryan Mears over the summer and endorsed Republican challenger Cyndi Carrasco to replace him.” • Since when do cops get to stage votes of “no confidence” against elected officials? Who’s running the city, here? A worthwhile read. Check if your city is on the list!

* * *

PA: “Oprah Winfrey endorses Fetterman over Oz in Pennsylvania Senate race” [CNN]. “Television icon Oprah Winfrey announced on Thursday night that she prefers Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman over Oz in the midterm election contest. ‘If I lived in Pennsylvania, I would’ve already cast my vote for John Fetterman, for many reasons,’ WInfrey said during a conversation she hosted on voting.”

* * *


“Donald Trump teases Iowa crowd: ‘I will very, very, very probably’ run for president” [USA Today]. “‘Get ready,’ former Republican President Donald Trump teased a crowd in Sioux City Thursday as he hinted, once again, at a looming presidential run in 2024. ‘That’s all I’m telling you,’ he said, pausing to let the crowd chant his name. ‘Very soon. Get ready.’ Trump has continued to hint at a new presidential run, though he hasn’t made any official declarations. ‘In order to make our country successful, and safe and glorious, I will very, very, very probably do it again okay,’ he said. ‘Very, very, very probably.'” • Loss of national sovereignty under TPP axed, no ground wars (especially with nuclear powers), Operation Warp Speed producing vaccines in record time, actual reduction of poverty under the CARES Act. What’s not to like? (Well, a lot, but what’s not to like that nets out negative over Biden? Particularly when you note that Biden squandered the time “the former buy” bought him with vaccines, and actually killed more people?)

“Exclusive: DOJ mulling potential special counsel if Trump runs in 2024” [CNN]. “As Donald Trump inches closer to launching another presidential run after the midterm election, Justice Department officials have discussed whether a Trump candidacy would create the need for a special counsel to oversee two sprawling federal investigations related to the former president, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN. The Justice Department is also staffing up its investigations with experienced prosecutors so it’s ready for any decisions after the midterms, including the potential unprecedented move of indicting a former president. Top aides to Trump have been eyeing the third week of November as an ideal launch point for his campaign, with two sources telling CNN on Friday morning that the team has specifically discussed November 14. In the weeks leading up to the election, the Justice Department has observed the traditional quiet period of not making any overt moves that may have political consequences. But behind the scenes, investigators have remained busy, using aggressive grand jury subpoenas and secret court battles to compel testimony from witnesses in both the investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his alleged mishandling of national security documents kept at his Palm Beach home.” • Ah, “the traditional quiet period” by the totally not politicized Justice Department. It would be quite a spectacle, Trump running from a jail cell. Especially if he won.

“OnPolitics: What the 2022 midterms will mean for the 2024 election” [USA Today]. “Notably, many of the states that are part of the former president’s final 2022 campaign swing are ones that would be pivotal in a 2024 run, including Iowa, Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.”

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.

* * *

“Democratic Consultants Cash in on AIPAC Spending — Even as It Tries to Hand the House to Republicans” [The Intercept]. “Four major Democratic firms worked with a Super PAC that is now spending $1 million to defeat one of their party’s congressional candidates. The Super PAC for the country’s largest pro-Israel group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, put close to $3 million into the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District — spending that turned into contracts for two of the Democratic consultants to go after a progressive in their own party, state Rep. Summer Lee. Lee, however, prevailed and now the PAC, United Democracy Project, is spending more than $1 million against her in the general election, backing her Republican opponent Mike Doyle.” • But wait. What about “our democracy”? What about “fascism”?

“How a secret meeting put Hakeem Jeffries on track to replace Pelosi” [Politico]. “If the [Jim Clyburn] does clear the way for his younger colleague [Hakeem Jeffries], however, the 58-member [Congressional Black Caucus] would overwhelmingly rally to Jeffries, paving the way for him to become the first African-American to serve as a congressional leader. ‘He brings old-school political acumen with an ability to relate to younger people,’ Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, another member of the CBC, said of Jeffries, while taking care to note he was not going to formally declare his preference until after the election. Privately, a number of Democratic lawmakers said Jeffries is their best option as leader because he’s the rare member who’s proficient at both the outside and inside game, skilled enough to carry the party’s message on television but also attuned to his colleague’s needs and wants…. Few Democrats more fully grasp the power of the party’s diversity than Clyburn, the man whose eleventh-hour endorsement helped revive President Biden’s campaign in the first primary state with a large share of Black voters.” • It’s really awesome that the Black Misleadership Class would finally dominate the Democrat Party completely. (To be fair, there are other options: Adam Schiff, for example.) So as far as deep-sixing Pelosi? Be careful what you wish for.

“Drinking Enemies: Two Cocktail Parties that Reveal the Schism in the Millennial Left” [Politico]. “As the Inclusive Populists tell it, the Democratic Party started to go awry during the Obama years. His was a style and a rhetoric that let all Americans see themselves in the story he would tell about the country; allowed voters to place themselves in the grand sweep of the nation’s progress from the revolution, through waves of immigration, westward expansion and social justice movements, culminating in his election as a path-breaking president. All of which left room open for someone who could put together a coherent story for people looking for someone to explain why, if all that inspiring stuff was true, everything seemed to be falling apart in the country, as inequality increased, housing, medical care and the cost of living skyrocketed, and ever larger swaths of the country were left behind in the global economy. Inconveniently for every Democrat in America right now, the person who did figure it out wasn’t a populist like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. It was Donald Trump. And in a way, the whole fight between the popularists and the inclusives is about how to grab the microphone and that argument — their argument — back from the elderly white nationalist celebrity who took it over.” • Well, the obvious first step is to censor the “elderly white nationalist celebrity”‘s supporters, and then to put him in jail. I tried to read the whole thing, I really did….

Republican Funhouse

“Hawley aims to reshape Senate GOP with Vance and Masters” [Politico]. “Josh Hawley doesn’t just want to flip the Senate by electing fellow Republicans Blake Masters and J.D. Vance. He wants to bend the entire GOP conference with a bloc of like-minded senators. The Missouri senator, who helped convince both candidates to run, will go to Arizona on Friday for Masters, Ohio for Vance on Saturday and then finish the campaign on Monday in Missouri for GOP candidate Eric Schmitt. The senator who led objections to President Joe Biden’s election win foresees a Senate GOP that is more confrontational toward large corporations and tech companies and less focused on Ukraine aid, and he’s convinced Vance and Masters have proven they’ll be allies in that endeavor.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

I don’t think anybody’s looking good here:

Obviously, Musk’s claim that Twitter is a “cybernetic super-intelligence” is risible, even with the qualifier “can be thought of.” But I think Strosser’s riposte quoting Gibson’s is wrong as to facts and context: Wrong on facts, because Twitter has many quiet and even not-so-quiet neighborhoods that are nothing like Gibson’s “baby hippo.” For example, I find it hard to believe that the aerosol scientists/Corsi-Rosenthal box activists would have emerged without Twitter, and these are both very kind and helpful communities. As to context: I think that when Gibson wrote of the “double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka,” he’s presenting an early example of the sort of (class-based) disdain — nay, hatred — that later produced Hillary Clinton’s notorious “deplorables” remark. When Gibson famously said, “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed,” he was more correct than he knew: Here the future is the inability of the PMC to live with classes of people inferior to themselves, or to believe they should be allowed to vote in “Presidential elections”. Since Gibson saw this tendency in the first Clinton administration, that’s a very good call. I’ve never liked the “baby hippo” passage, stylistically brilliant though it is, and now that Strosser cites to it, I like it even less.

Radicalisation. a thread:

If everything that happened to this guy is true — like his son dying — his whole life has been an avalanche of suffering*. And yet, the last pebble to roll down the hill — “rhetoric” — is what our symbol manipulators seize on. We need to adjust is cognitive infrastructure! NOTE * Suffering does not enoble. It’s just suffering.


New York hospitalization (via Lou Anton):

Not reassuring. Let’s wait and see (and I sure wish I had a breakdown by borough).

* * *

• More on the GPS lawsuit against ionizer whistleblower Marwa Zaatari linked to yesterday. Alert reader DG asks me to signal boost the following:

However, there isn’t yet a federal SLAPP act, so [Zaatari] will want to ask the state lawyer and the federal false claims act lawyer how to handle that delicate part of the matter. IANAL, but I suspect it is important that she make her federal false claims act claim as part of her response and counterclaims. This will let her lawyer choose which federal circuit to rain legal death upon this vile corporate scum. First she should get a white shoe law firm that regularly handles federal false claim act cases. @popehat should know a few off hand. I am willing to bet that the vast majority of their recent revenue bloom has been from sales to schools using federal grant money. She’ll be able to sue qui tam and get a nice reward from the recovered funds. They will go bankrupt. Second, check whether she lives in a state with a SLAPP law and have it thrown out on that.

Readers, thoughts?

* * *

• ”Two early US programs successfully traced COVID case contacts” [Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy]. “A pair of new studies describe how two US jurisdictions quickly mobilized teams of contact tracers to identify and isolate people exposed to SARS-CoV-2, with a massive New York City effort finding 1.4 contacts per case and a college student-led Central Pennsylvania initiative that may have led to fewer symptomatic household infections.” • Since these efforts were successful, we naturally made no effort to scale them, and abandoned contact tracing entirely.

* * *

• Another jurisdiction besides Belgium gets indoor air quality right:

* * *

• Another minimizer trope shot down, what a shame:

* * *


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 3:

0.8%. Increase.


Wastewater data (CDC), October 31:

October 30:


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.

UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), October 24:

Lambert here: BQ.1* moving along quite briskly.

• ”Pandemic daily update, 3 November 2022″ [Eric Topol, Ground Truths]. “Today’s update is upbeat. The main concerning new variant in the United States now is BQ.1.1 (and its descendants such as BQ.1.1.10) which has shown a marked growth advantage here in recent weeks and we’ll get another update from CDC tomorrow. Along with XBB (<1% in the US) it has an extreme level of immune evasiveness. So we now turn to France, where BQ.1.1 has become dominant, accounting for >50% of new cases. There is no sign that it is having a clinical impact with cases and Covid hospital admissions heading down.” • Yes, but that’s France.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), October 8 (Nowcast off):

Lambert here: Updated every Friday, perhaps, but not as of this writing.

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.)


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,097,881 – 1,096,717 = 1164 (1164 * 365 = 424,860, 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 Unemployment Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The unemployment rate in the US increased by 0.2 percentage point to 3.7 percent in October 2022, up from September’s 29-month low of 3.5 percent and slightly above market expectations of 3.6 percent. The jobless rate has been in a narrow range of 3.5 percent to 3.7 percent since March, suggesting that the labor market is already very tight, which, in turn, is likely to contribute significantly to inflationary pressure in the world’s largest economy for some time to come.” • The beatings will continue….

* * *

The Bezzle: “Musk’s California Hyperloop Prototype Will Become a Parking Lot” [Gizmodo]. “The Hyperloop’s inaugural tunnel, a prototype built in Hawthorne, California, has been torn down and will be replaced with parking spots for SpaceX employees…. [A]s of last week, there is no longer a trace of the tunnel in Hawthorne, with local city council confirming that the land would serve as parking spots for SpaceX employees.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 56 Greed (previous close: 54 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 60 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 4 at 2:03 PM EDT.

The Gallery

Certainly looks like a cat drawing itself up:

Class Warfare

“What Hunter-Gatherers Can Teach Us About the Frustrations of Modern Work” [The New Yorker]. “a look back to the deep history of human work seems well suited to the goal of better understanding structural issues currently afflicting the knowledge sector. Those frustrated Apple employees aren’t just arguing about their commutes; they’re at the vanguard of a movement that’s leveraging the disruptions of the pandemic to question so many more of the arbitrary assumptions that have come to define the modern workplace. Why do we follow a factory-style work schedule, or feel forced to perform busyness, or spend more time in meetings talking about projects rather than actually completing them?” • Odd there’s no focus on “essential worker,” but then this is the New Yorker…

News of the Wired

“Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee wants us to ‘ignore’ Web3: ‘Web3 is not the web at all’” [CNBC]. “The creator of the web isn’t sold on crypto visionaries’ plan for its future and says we should ‘ignore’ it. Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist credited with inventing the World Wide Web in 1989, said Friday that he doesn’t view blockchain as a viable solution for building the next iteration of the internet.” • TBL is correct. At the same time, I subscribed to his own project, Solid, some time ago, and haven’t heard a peep from them.

* * *

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 Re Silc:

Re Silc writes: “Vermont glitter (from Stamford, Vermont).”

* * *

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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. LadyXoc

    Re: Vermont glitter: Frederic Church’s paintings, when first shown in London, were deprecated for showing what was perceived to be fake, garish, and unnatural color in depicting our Northeast fall.

  2. Wukchumni

    We got about a foot of snow out of the first storm of winter and next week should get another 3 to 5 feet in the higher climes of the Sierra Nevada as an early November storm sets in, almost the same pattern that did the Donner Party (Donner party of 87: ‘we are ready to (s)eat you’…) in 1846.

    That’s an impressive base and latter-day Donner types are more likely to have skis & snowboards on the roof of their wagons en route to a ski resort, for I know i’ll be seeking the treasure soon.

    Book Tip: Ordeal By Hunger, by George R. Stewart

      1. Wukchumni

        In the late 1980’s they found around 500 of these little glass bottles with parts of the Donner Party cabin within-in the attic of a house in Nevada City, Ca., each complete with a wax seal and ‘certificate of authenticity’ from 1893.

        They were donated to the Donner Museum @ Donner Pass and they were selling them for $15 a piece and I bought 6 of them and quickly sold them for $50 and made a beeline for more back in the stone age before the internet when news flowed like molasses, but word had gotten out and they were sold out of them, curses!


  3. Amfortas the hippie

    re: twitter as entity.
    aahh..but remember the terrifying john robb tweetstorm/discussion about socmed as hive mind.
    every time i think about such things, the word “nyarlhothep” bubbles up in my mind, unbidden.
    i’ve long thought of big corps as a kind of AI.
    the entire field of AI ruminating has been so dominated and infused with that weird silicon libertarianism that i’m unsure that we would recognise an emergent AI until well after the fact.

      1. flora

        ” Nyarlathotep . . . the crawling chaos . . . I am the last . . . I will tell the audient void. . . .”

        This reminds me that in 2016, 2018, and 2020 I thought all the campaigning chaos would stop the day or week after the election. It didn’t end. I’ve been thinking the same thing about this year, thinking Wednesday will be a welcome close to the campaign chaos. Now I realize the crawling chaos probably won’t end this time either. Only the TV and media ads will end.

        ( Must step away from the news and the keyboard for a few days and enjoy(?) this pre-election “calm”. My garden needs work before winter sets in. )

    1. LY

      Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross (same guy as in the Water Cooler links) also think of corporations as slow AI – https://boingboing.net/2017/12/29/llcs-are-slow-ais.html

      Charlie Stross also writes a sci-fi/fantasy world very close to ours where computing will lead to a Lovecraft singularity. And the Prime Minister of UK is Fabian Everyman, an avatar of Nyarlathotep, but that’s because there are worse things out there.

      1. Michaelmas

        re. Twitter as entity.

        Marx was arguably there first, seeing capital and capitalism as an actual entity—a alien being with a mind of its own that operates independently from us.

        Marx: “The essence of money…the mediating entity or movement, the human, social act by which man’s products mutually complement one another, is estranged from man and becomes the attribute of money, a material thing outside man … the relationship itself, between things, man’s operation with them, becomes the operation of an entity outside man and above man. Owing to this alien mediator—instead of man himself being the mediator for man—man regards his will, his activity and his relationship to other men as a power independent of him and them. His slavery, therefore, reaches its peak. It is clear that this mediator now becomes a real God, for the mediator is the real power over what it mediates to men. Its cult becomes an end in itself.”

        Italics mine. As for Gibson ….

        Lambert Strether: …when Gibson wrote of the “double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka,” he’s presenting an early example of the sort of (class-based) disdain — nay, hatred — that later produced Hillary Clinton’s notorious “deplorables” remark.

        Maybe. But he comes by it honestly in that he was born a poor Deplorable in the US South, and deeply hated the whole culture and ran from the whole thing as soon as he could –


        ‘William Ford Gibson was born on March 17, 1948 in Conway, South Carolina. However, he spent most of his childhood in Wytheville, Virginia where he moved with his mother after the death of his father at an early age. Leading a disturbed childhood in isolation, Gibson wanted nothing more than to become a science fiction writer by the age of 12. An anthology he bought on Beat writing at the age of 13 exposed Gibson to the works of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs creating a profound interest in the genre. Frustrated by his constantly poor academic performance, Gibson’s mother sent him to the Southern Arizona School for Boys in Tucson, Arizona. However, Gibson dropped out of the school before graduation at the age of 18 following the death of his mother. He travelled around and immersed himself in the counterculture. In 1967, Gibson moved to Canada where he spent many weeks of joblessness and homelessness before appearing in a CBC show about the hippie culture in Toronto.’

        1. digi_owl

          And these days gush about designer techwear and mechanical watches.

          And frankly any system of rules may well take on a life of its own, in particular as the original writers of the rules fade to obscurity and those that come after fail to learn the whys.

          1. Michaelmas

            And frankly any system of rules may well take on a life of its own, in particular as the original writers of the rules fade to obscurity and those that come after fail to learn the whys.

            There’s an almost complete overlap between Marx’s and von Hayek’s vision of the Market as Lovecraftian entity. Von Hayek, though, straight-up worshipped it.

            And these days gush about designer techwear and mechanical watches.

            Gibson is no J.G. Ballard and his obsessions seems slightly … questionable to me, too. But we all have our foibles and I recall the thrill of reading Neuromancer and the short stories in the 1980s.

      2. digi_owl

        Sadly Cory and Charlie are both PMC in a sense.

        Doctorow up and moved his family from London to LA in response to Brexit and Johnson, while Stross is a staunch remainer based in Scotland.

        Frankly Doctorow is mostly interesting for applying FLOSS principles to literature, and ended up becoming something of a living meme thanks to XKCD.

        But both, and perhaps Gibson as well, are embodiment of the whole “die a hero, or live to become the villain”.

        On a different note, author blogs and twitter seems perfect for “do not meet your idols” as i have found that i can’t peruse say Stross’ blog for long before giving up in a frustration and disgust.

        All in all, it may well be that to write solid stories one need hardship. Gibson wrote Neuromancer after having lost both parents and decamped to Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft. Stross wrote Accelerando after nearly having a mental breakdown thanks to being the primary programmer at a burgeoning UK ecommerce service.

        1. Michaelmas

          But both, and perhaps Gibson as well, are embodiment of the whole “die a hero, or live to become the villain”.

          J.G. Ballard remained pretty admirable from start to finish, unless maybe there’s what someone or other might deem bad behavior in his private life towards girlfriends. (And everyone has that.)

    2. chris

      I like the idea that large entities have personalities and that those personalities could map to the elder gods dreamed up by Lovecraft, Bloch, Smith…

      I guess the Blob could pass for a shoggoth.

  4. Michael Ismoe

    The GOP closing argument:

    Far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) on Thursday vowed to nix American funding for Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion if the GOP retakes Congress in next week’s midterm elections.

    “The only border they care about is Ukraine, not America’s southern border,” Greene said of Democrats at a rally in Iowa. “Under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine. Our country comes first. They don’t care about our border or our people.

    Greene’s pledge was met with cheers from the audience.


    1. lambert strether

      I deprecate the term “closing argument.” It’s a symbol manipulator’s way of imposing a narrative structure on a series of events that fundamentally lacks one. Worse, it’s lawyerly and West Wing brain-ish

      1. John

        And empty of content unless you consider word salads consisting of slogans, talking points, and hysterical punctuation a closing argument.

    2. Geo

      Gotta love subverting a good point (anti-warmongering in Ukraine) with hysteria about the mythical border wars that the right has been freaking about almost my entire lifetime (with a very brief hiatus during the GWB years when they had amber alerts to use instead for election fearmongering).

      I’ll never defend the Dems and agree with Tulsi they’re a warmongering party but to pretend the GOP isn’t as well is deluded. Even Trump dropping an MOB, assassinating Soleimani, reimposing Cuba sanctions, etc… he wasn’t exactly a dove. Sadly as close as we’ve had to a peace president in my lifetime but that’s a very low bar.

      As someone living in a SoCal neighborhood that’s 50%+ Latino (under 10% white), and 68% immigrant, I find this immigrant hysteria obnoxious. I live here because it’s a great neighborhood and enjoy my community here. And I’ve not had one person pull a weapon on me or threaten me like I did when you lived in (or even just visited) small town “heartland values” places.

      Yeah, elitist dem liberals are awful. I still vote anti-war which mostly means third party (as impotent as that usually is). Doesn’t mean conservative nuts like MTG are commendable for having half of a good opinion. She’s was against the withdrawal from Afghanistan and called refugees from there terrorists. She’s a contrarian first, warmonger second.

      1. John

        Are they really warmongers or do they simply lack the wit and imagination to conceive of any way to confront a situation they dislike other then to see themselves as a hammer and said situation as a nail? Another way to look at it, and I think this is close to the mark, neo-liberal economics sees nothing worthy of attention but its profit. That allows any tactic that serves that end. The end in the present situation is the neutering of China and Russia leading, they dream, to a final triumph, I hesitate to say final solution, it has distasteful connotations, but I think it not inaccurate. The Democrats as representatives of the empire are trying to freeze it and history in place.

        1. bdy

          Warmongers. Raised on an evolving arc fro cowboy westerns to 1st person shooters, with Die Hard in between. Justifiable homicide is the #1 fantasy of the west, edging out sex with porn stars. The killing dream dovetails into the carcass of higher education, left to rot by the Chicago School and it’s scientific sociopathy. A war for every generation, fought by a rainbow coalition that welcomes everyone but the rich and the sane.

          1. amechania

            Trump clarified america. Its all about hating ‘losers’

            Immigrants and the war arent about policy. Its about power and us losing it. Sure, its reductive because there can be no winning and no winners, but inclusion isnt in the conservative lexicon.

    3. fairleft


      Woking on movies virtue-pays poorly compared to doing same to Republicans at election time.

    4. Robert Gray

      I deprecate the term “Far-right Rep.” It plays into the hands of the wingnuts on the right who continually trumpet (and in some cases may actually believe) that Brandon, Pelosi, Schumer et al. are ‘far-left’ and that AOC is the spiritual daughter of Lenin. George Lincoln Rockwell was far-right. David Duke was far-right. Marjorie Taylor Greene is just another attention-seeking panderer on the conservative side of the American tweedledee-tweedledum political spectrum.

      Cf. George Lakoff on framing the discourse.

      I wish I could remember properly (or even find on the interweb) a marvellous quote I vaguely recall from a French history course I took 50 years ago. I think it was in the context of the Third Republic, perhaps in the run-up to the First World War. It was something like ‘A Radical is simply a monarchist who doesn’t go to Mass.’

  5. Geo

    ‘Voters say the pandemic has fuelled inflation mostly through the money that was shovelled out the door by the federal government.’” • [bangs head on desk]

    That echo you hear is my head hitting the desk too.

    1. JohnnyGL

      Whatever you do, be sure not to blame the executive suite for their price gouging or their mismanagement of supply chain logisitics. They cannot fail or err…they only maximize utility.

  6. Roger Blakely

    RE: There is no sign that it is having a clinical impact with cases and Covid hospital admissions heading down.” • Yes, but that’s France.

    In today’s Indie SAGE report Prof. Christina Pagel indicated that the UK hopes to avoid a devastating rise in hospitalizations due to BQ.1 by giving boosters to everyone over 65 years old. Here in the US the public health officials are talking about the bivalent booster shot, but no one is getting it.

    I still think that BQ.1 is going to generate a devastating wave of illness and hospitalizations in the US because 1) the dominance of BA.5 since June has given people the impression that the pandemic is over, 2) the antibodies generated from the initial BA.5 infections over the summer have waned, and 3) no one will do anything to avoid inhaling huge amounts of BQ.1.

  7. overoverb

    “…he’s convinced Vance and Masters have proven they’ll be allies in that endeavor”

    Something tells me that the anti-China hawks knee-deep in Thielbux won’t exactly minimize the warmongering and tycoon prioritization.

    Also, anyone that put Pompeo and Bolton in charge of anything is highly unlikely to reduce any kind of geopolitical tensions.

    1. Roland

      Did you pay attention to how Donald Trump mocked and humiliated John “World War Six” Bolton?

      The Bolton appointment was skilful politics on Trump’s part, working against a hostile faction of his own party. It was a classic case of “keeping your enemies close.” If the neocon hawk Bolton refused a place in the administration, he would render himself unserious. But if Bolton takes the appointment, he gets put under Trump’s thumb, and then tweeted to scorn.

      Either way, the President made the world a little bit less dangerous.

      Nobody has actually done more to oppose the PNAC types than Donald Trump. To this day, Trump has been the only major US politician to admit the Iraq War was wrong (“a big fat mistake.”) Did Obama ever show as much courage, or good sense?

    2. marym

      Trump also ended the Iran agreement, increased civilian casualties with less transparency in reporting the drone wars, and continued supporting war in Yemen.

      Imagine if he’d put the same energy and commitment to building anti-war sentiment and activism among his followers as he did in vilifying immigrants and voters and election workers in jurisdictions favorable to Democrats.

  8. antidlc

    Viral infections like RSV, the flu, and COVID have one Southern California county declaring a pediatric health emergency. It’s far from alone

    Flu and RSV cases usually don’t rise until later in the year, leaving experts like Patel bracing for a potentially worse winter at children’s hospitals across the continent.

    A few factors are likely contributing, Patel says, including the abandonment of pandemic precautions and the impact COVID may have on children’s immune systems, potentially making them more vulnerable to other viruses.

    “Most kids have had COVID, and there could really be something about COVID affecting children’s immune systems that we haven’t been able to fully understand at this time,” she said.

    (bold mine)

    What has “let ‘er rip” done to our kids?

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      But I thought we were building up kids’ immune systems by exposing them to as many viruses as soon as possible in their lives.

      New motto? “Get sick. It will make you healthier.”

    2. The Rev Kev

      Yesterday on the news in Oz they were tossing around figures on how many people have been infected by this virus the past coupla years. I think that about three quarters of adults have been infected and perhaps 90% of kids. If I was there I would have been asking this person where was all that “herd immunity” that they were pushing for the first coupla years then.

    3. Basil Pesto

      of course this is being blamed on, if not the vaccine, the sinister pseudoscientific concept of “immunity debt”, which doesn’t appear in the scientific literature until 2021: “lockdowns” and remote learning led to children incurring an “immune debt” which is now coming due (even though “lockdowns” in the US were both patchy and leaky). It’s a kind of made-up political bastardization of the hygiene hypothesis, which of course is not at all about exposing children to noticeably pathogenic viruses.

      As with the increase in heart attack and stroke deaths, Covid would appear to be the most likely hypothesis. Warnings of damage of Covid to the immune system have been in place since 2020, not least from Leonardi, who was and is demonised for it. If that held, it remained to be determined the extent and severity of that damage. Looks like paediatric hospitals might be starting to get an idea. We are a stupid and barbaric animal, really.

  9. Carolinian

    That’s quite the Oprah slap at her one time protege but then she also called Obama “the one” so she must have been torn.

  10. Michael Fiorillo

    Regarding Hakeem Jeffries as potential Speaker: how awful, and how typical.

    Jeffries originates in the power-center-posing-as-a-law-firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind & Garrison, and was an integral player in the institutional embedding of charter schools in NYC during the Bloomberg-Obama years, deeply connected to the hedge fund-spawned, explicitly anti-union Democrats For Education Reform. He started his career trying to oust Roger Green, who had radical bona fides, in his Brooklyn state assembly district back in the day.

    Not unexpected, but Ugh all the same…

  11. Jason Boxman

    My election report. Electronic machines in NC for general. Prints a bar code per race. Asked elections official about it, was annoyed and went into the various ways that they confirm and audit. Told me I was paranoid when I politely asked if source code was available, and further explained auditing process. Perhaps my half face respirator made me look paranoid. A few people wearing free surgical masks they had available inside!! after waiting in line.

  12. bdy

    It’s Charles Stross, not Strosser. He’s hit or miss, mostly miss IMO.

    Accelerando has a pretty good premise: corporate personhood extends to the algorithms that make corporate decisions, accelerating the “singularity” via various legal actions. Not bad prescience for early aughts. Mercifully short — that singularity stuff doesn’t deserve much more that 1/4 million words.

    The Laundry Files stuff was pretty fun, but I put this guy aside when I got tired of reading apologies for the “good apples” in the UK state.

  13. flora

    Biden’s speech on protecting democracy is failing to get traction, and , the Biden DoJ is thinking of opening a special council to hound a possible GOP pres candidate if he declares in 2024. Yeah, no contradictions there. / oy

    1. skippy

      Protecting democracy or free markets overseen by USD … the decades of that ring in my ears … spreading democracy and free markets ….

          1. skippy

            Goats sack flora I remember a doco not that long on SBS here in OZ and how loud and proud some neoliberal travailing sales men flew private jets to far away places and told the eager to receive elites how things in this world work … play the game and you and yours will live extraordinary lives … just don’t look down and get pangs of guilt about your fellow countrymen or their families plight …

            Fair dinkum they even had heads of state on video saying it out loud …

  14. Jack Pot

    Dear Lambert,

    Have you seen any of the Amazon Studios production of The Peripheral?

    I have never read the book, but I thought the show was quite good so far.

    I would be interested to know if you, or anyone else, had any thoughts about it.

  15. Tom Stone

    The Sheriff of Santa Clara County just resigned after being convicted on corruption charges..
    The proximate cause was blatantly selling concealed weapons permits in return for a $5K Campaign contribution.
    It turns out that she’d been preferential in granting permits to the right kind of people…VIPS, retired Judges, salting away a little good will, so to speak.
    These days California is a “Shall Issue” State due to Bruen and a CCW is much less expensive than it was at about $2K for the application fee, annual fee and mandatory class here in Sonoma County.
    The Sheriffs may have lost the ability to do the right people a big favor but at least the poors won’t be legally carrying concealed weapons.

    1. Paradan

      Not sure if this is still true, but here in CA if your caught carrying without a license, the first offense is a misdemeanor. I think it was intended as a loophole for celebrities and such.

  16. JBird4049

    >>>$2K for the application fee, annual fee and mandatory class here in Sonoma County.
    The Sheriffs may have lost the ability to do the right people a big favor but at least the poors won’t be legally carrying concealed weapons.

    About a month’s rent for a very jr. one bedroom apartment or the food, gas, insurance,and utilities for a family. How nice.

    Say what you will about our rights as what they should or should not be, but it seems in the United States you are more real, if you have money. But then, you are not real to the Elites unless you have Money, so why should you have any rights with you not actually existing.

  17. JBird4049

    “Republicans Are Just A Normal Polling Error Away From A Landslide — Or Wiping Out”

    The Republican Party today is such a cthulhuist fright that if they were facing the Democratic Party of thirty years ago, the Democrats would using a backhoe for digging the trench to bury them while ordering the beer for the massacre and post victory party; however, the current Democratic Party is such a neoliberal horrorfest themselves that Cthulhu could be invited to give them a whipping and the fools will be blaming the voters for not kissing and worshiping their well educated, credential posteriors.

    This is what drives me bananas. The economy is not doing well at all. Covid is still killing people. The environment is changing. And both parties’ “solutions” are all the things that got us to this mess and why they are fearfully building up the police state right now.

    Maybe we should invite Nyarlathotep and its family members Azathoth, the Nameless Mist, and the Darkness to whack the fools for 2024?

    This might be the only thing that would work, such is the short term (non) thinking of the political class.

  18. chris

    View from an aisle seat on a quick flight from Midwest back to DC/MD… Lots of people complaining about their “sinus infections”, maybe 10 people on the flight wearing masks. Few of the masks are any good. They’re mainly wearing surgical masks.

  19. Karl

    RE: Manchin deal on Debt, Medicare, Medicaid Social Security

    See, the debt is “crippling” and these programs need “shoring up” because they are going bankrupt.

    It seems the donor class has selected (“bought”) Manchin to give this latest message, on top of the same message they’ve paid for over the decades. I hope Manchin got a good price for this deed, because his “sell by” date is rapidly approaching. If Dems lose the Senate, no one will care what Manchin says anymore. A tie, of course would be his best outcome. If R’s win, he may just defect to the Republicans or declare himself independent.

    And of course, we have “crippling debt” because of those pesky social welfare entitlements, not MIC spending.

    Is Manchin the new Grover Norquist? The tub is full, and there are so many more puppies (social programs) the donor class wants to drown. Those puppies keep growing up, begetting more puppies, and squealing for more.

    1. Darthbobber

      The best part of this piece is at the bottom:
      “He also urged the business community to stop giving campaign donations to lawmakers and asking for “nothing in return,” which he said was foolish. He said instead they should ask politicians why they should invest in them and what they will get in return.”

      So apparently the pressing problem is that the oligarchs aren’t exercising enough control? He seems to be describing the actual present as if it were a desired future state? Anyway, he’s also now saying the quiet parts out loud.

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