2:00PM Water Cooler 12/20/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, thank you for all the kind words about Water Cooler’s Covid coverage (after I whinged that I wasn’t sure anybody was reading it). –lambert P.S. The more anecdotes, tips and techniques, and field reports the better!

Bird Song of the Day

Snow Bunting, North Slope, Alaska, United States. “A male singing, responding another male on the background.”

* * *


“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

Capitol Seizure

“‘What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’: Trump DEFIANTLY slaps down Jan. 6 committee criminal referral following never-before-seen damning testimony by Hope Hicks” [Daily Mail]. “In her taped testimony played at Monday’s final meeting of the Democrat-led committee, Hicks revealed that Trump ‘refused’ to put out a statement warning against violence in the lead-up to January 6. In a videotaped segment of her prior testimony, Hicks also discussed warning Trump that he could harm his legacy by pushing his election fraud claims. ‘The only thing that matters is winning,’ the ex-president allegedly responded.” • Hmm. I remember thinking “Hmm, there’s something here” when Hicks, quite early in the campaign, told a Bloomberg reporter seeking an interview that she would be taking a nap instead.

“Jan. 6 panel urges Trump prosecution with criminal referral” [Associated Press]. “While a criminal referral is mostly symbolic, with the Justice Department ultimately deciding whether to prosecute Trump or others, it is a decisive end to a probe that had an almost singular focus from the start…. The report’s 154-page summary, made public as the hearing ended, found that Trump engaged in a ‘multi-part conspiracy’ to overturn the election. While the majority of the report’s main findings are not new, it altogether represents one of the most damning portraits of an American president in recent history, laying out in great detail Trump’s broad effort to overturn his own defeat and what the lawmakers say is his direct responsibility for the insurrection of his supporters.” • What we have instead is “violations of four criminal statutes”: aiding an insurrection, obstructing an official proceeding, and conspiracy to make a false statement. (I’ve read this mess of an article twice, and can’t find the fourth one.) Insurrection is a crime. So far as I can tell, none of the January 6 participants have been charged with insurrection. The Proud Boys have been charged with “seditious conspiracy” [that word again], considered by the Committee but rejected in the case of Trump (“Among the other charges contemplated, but not approved, by the committee was seditious conspiracy”). But if the rioters weren’t charged with insurrection, then where exactly is the insurrection Trump is being charged with? Please don’t make me put on my yellow waders for this….

Biden Administration

“What Trump promised, Biden seeks to deliver in his own way” [Associated Press]. “Biden aides are quick to say that the president is fulfilling his own campaign promises, rather than honoring pledges made by Trump. But one of Biden’s first moves as president in 2021 was to provide $1,400 in direct payments to Americans as part of his coronavirus relief package. Along with the $600 in payments in a pre-Biden [i.e., Trump] relief package, the sum matched the $2,000 that Trump called for in the twilight of his presidency, though he could not get it through Congress.” • Biden (and Warnock and Ossoff, while all three were working to win the key state of Georgia in the Senate) promised me $2,000. They didn’t promise me $1,400 plus $600 from the former guy. I’m amazed, except not, to see AP repeating this “baseless” claim. It discredits the rest of the article.



“Making Sense of Midterm America” [Richard Haas, Project Syndicate]. Haas is head of the Council on Foreign Relations, so this is The Blob’s conventiional wisdom on the midterms: “A political earthquake in the United States was averted in the midterm elections. With the Democrats exceeding expectations, US foreign policy will remain mostly on familiar terrain for the next two years, until the 2024 presidential election – after which anything can, and possibly will, happen. What was expected to be a decisive no-confidence vote in Biden for the most part failed to materialize. Republicans were widely expected to perform better than they did. The party in power almost always loses seats in midterms, as voters seek to express unhappiness and look for change, and many of the issues at the top of voters’ minds, including inflation, crime, and illegal immigration, ought to have resulted in big Republican gains. But voter concerns about other issues, from abortion rights to the health of American democracy, together with questions about the fitness of more than a few Republican candidates, worked in the Democrats’ favor.” • Note that “What was expected” is in the passive voice; I never expected. Note also that the “familiar territory” in question is Bakhmut, Kherson, Kharkiv, Kyiv, etc… Meanwhile, another Blob member actually interprets international relations in terms of identity politics:


* * *

FL: “The surprising resurgence of Republicans in Miami” [Financial Times]. “When Raquel Regalado was growing up in 1980s Miami, she remembers protesters demanding that immigrants speak English and an inhospitable bumper sticker that asked: ‘Will the last American to leave please remember to bring the flag?’ These days, Regalado, a county commissioner who is the daughter of Cuban immigrants, delights in what she calls ‘this fusion that is very Miami’. It is a place where Hispanic immigrants of various stripes have mixed and mingled and intermarried. Bilingualism and multiculturalism are the norm. So, increasingly, is the Republican party. In one of the more surprising results of November’s midterm elections, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis became the first Republican candidate for statewide office in 20 years to conquer Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county and a Democratic bastion dominated by black and Hispanic voters. DeSantis’s 11-point victory in Miami-Dade represented a whiplash-inducing 40-point swing from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 triumph there over Donald Trump, intensifying speculation the governor will mount a White House campaign. It also confirmed what many on the ground already knew: Republicans now dominate what was, until recently, a vital swing state that has shifted to the right even as conservatives’ grip appears to be loosening on other traditional havens, such as neighbouring Georgia. It had become conventional wisdom among pundits that the growing numbers of Latino voters in states such as Florida would fill the Democrats’ ranks. Instead, Miami-Dade’s turn could be a sign that Republicans have honed their appeal to more culturally conservative Latino voters, something that could pay dividends far beyond south Florida.” • The “coalition of the ascendant” — the concept that Democrats didn’t actually have to deliver on anything, because demographics would do their work for them — turned out to be a debacle (called it). It’s been quietly abandoned, but very naturally nobody has been held accountable since this is, after all, the Democrat party.

NY: “Who Is Rep.-Elect George Santos? His Résumé May Be Largely Fiction” [New York Times]. “George Santos, whose election to Congress on Long Island last month helped Republicans clinch a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, built his candidacy on the notion that he was the ‘full embodiment of the American dream’ and was running to safeguard it for others. His campaign biography amplified his storybook journey: He is the son of Brazilian immigrants, and the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat as a non-incumbent. By his account, he catapulted himself from a New York City public college to become a ‘seasoned Wall Street financier and investor’ with a family-owned real estate portfolio of 13 properties and an animal rescue charity that saved more than 2,500 dogs and cats. But a New York Times review of public documents and court filings from the United States and Brazil, as well as various attempts to verify claims that Mr. Santos, 34, made on the campaign trail, calls into question key parts of the résumé that he sold to voters. Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, the marquee Wall Street firms on Mr. Santos’s campaign biography, told The Times they had no record of his ever working there. Officials at Baruch College, which Mr. Santos has said he graduated from in 2010, could find no record of anyone matching his name and date of birth graduating that year. There was also little evidence that his animal rescue group, Friends of Pets United, was, as Mr. Santos claimed, a tax-exempt organization: ” • Typically, oppo is performed before elections, not after. What’s really going on here?

WA-03: “Volunteers fueled an upset WA Congressional win one doorbell at a time” [Seattle Times (PI)]. “Amid the punditry and late-night quarterbacking of the postelection season, a major lesson is getting lost: The importance of volunteers knocking on doors. A case in point is the astonishing victory that an army of volunteers more than 500 strong, most of them young mothers, pulled off in the last weeks of the race in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District that includes Vancouver. The pollsters at FiveThirtyEight had given Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, a down-to-earth auto body shop owner and Democrat, a 2% chance of winning the district against Joe Kent, a career soldier and rising MAGA Republican star who was crushing Gluesenkamp Perez in their debates.” Good detail on the volunterers, and: “Early on in Gluesenkamp Perez’s campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided it had bigger fish to fry, leaving her largely to fend for herself. Just across the river, the party threw its weight behind Jamie McLeod-Skinner, the incumbent in Oregon’s District 5, south of Portland. The DCCC funded a field staff at least five times larger than Glusenkamp Perez’s but recruited many fewer volunteers. McLeod-Skinner lost by 2 points. Most campaigns don’t believe that people will volunteer their time to save their country, and that’s a fatal mistake. Many elections that decide the future of the country come down to a handful of votes. Yet a number of voters hold a complex set of views and can go either way. A real conversation with a volunteer from their community is the most effective way to persuade them to go to the polls.”

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.

* * *

“Manchin sidesteps questions on leaving Democratic Party: ‘I’ll let you know later’” [The Hill]. “Manchin avoided saying outright if he’d join fellow centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), who shocked Washington earlier this month by announcing that she would become an Independent…. Manchin said last week that he didn’t intend to immediately follow Sinema in making a party switch but didn’t rule it out for the future.”

“Jeffries taps DelBene to lead House Democrats’ campaign arm” [The Hill]. “The move by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) puts [Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.)] — a seasoned former tech executive with deep ties to the deep pockets of Silicon Valley — at the helm of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) during a high-stakes presidential cycle…. But the playing field changed dramatically last month, when rank-and-file Democrats voted to shift the top DCCC spot from an elected position, chosen by the full caucus, to an appointed role at the discretion of the Democratic leader. That adjustment gave Jeffries, who will replace Pelosi at the top of the party next year, new power to choose the campaign chief unilaterally. In picking DelBene, he touted her experience as a ‘battle-tested’ lawmaker with ‘serious management and operational experience inside and outside government.'” • I wondered if DelBene, being from Silicon Valley, was a CIA Democrat:

“Try on spy disguises!”

Our Famously Free Press

“Hunter Biden’s Laptop and 2020’s First Big Lie” [Wall Street Journal]. “When you say the Hunter Biden laptop story was real, Democrats and their media allies respond that the private embarrassments of Hunter Biden aren’t news. sWhen you say a large retinue of former top intelligence officials lied when they portrayed the laptop as a Russian intelligence operation, they say there’s no evidence that Joe Biden profited from his son’s activities. When you say Twitter censored a legitimate news story and active-duty FBI officials may have encouraged the company to do so, they insist that Twitter is a private company and that Hunter’s activities were not illegal and had already been widely reported to the public. In other words, the defenses now filling the media evade every important question. Only one intellectually honest statement has been heard anywhere and that was offered months ago by liberal philosopher and podcaster Sam Harris: Yes, the laptop story was true and newsworthy. Yes, intelligence veterans and the press lied in suppressing it to help Joe Biden. And he supports their doing so.” • All true, something I don’t say often about what appears in the WSJ’s Op-Ed page. And: “So compromised are the national reporting staffs of the Washington Post, the New York Times and other outlets that they can’t be trusted on the biggest story of the day. A Jeff Bezos, say, would have to take a page from the CIA’s own history and recruit a ‘Team B’ off-site from his Washington Post to investigate the laptop ruse, then require his newspaper to report the truth however discomfiting to its newsroom and leadership.” • Not such a bad idea.


Lambert here: I am but a humble tapewatcher, but unlike Eric Topol, I’m not calling a surge, because the last peak was Biden’s Omicron debacle, and after an Everest like that, what’s left? Topol’s view is the establishment view: Hospital-centric. Mine is infection-centric. I do not see the acceleration or doubling in cases that I would expect to see based on past surges. There is also the TripleDemic aspect, which I don’t know enough about.

I am calling a “Something Awful.” It’s gonna be bad, in some new way, and we don’t know how, yet. Wastewater has taken off in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, right on time, two weeks after Thanksgiving. Those are not only in themselves large cities, they are all the sites of international airports (reminiscent of the initial surge in spring 2020, which emanated, via air travel, from New York). Wastewater is a leading indicator for cases, which in turn lead hospitalization (and death). In addition, positivity has begun to increase again (Walgreens), and BQ.1* has taken over. Finally, I’m hearing a ton of anecdotes (and do add yours in comments).

Stay safe out there! If you are planning to travel on Xmas, do consider your plans carefully.

• Here is the national wastewater data from BioBot. This is probably the best proxy for case counts that we have:

I have drawn a grey line to show how current levels compare to past peaks; nothing near Biden’s ginormous jouissance last year at about this time, of course. But there’s still time! I have drawn a DNC-blue vertical line to call attention to the divergence between clinical case curves and wastewater curves; at some point I need to track down what policy changes the administration made near that date (besides Walensky’s “Scarlet Letter” remark).

• “A new omicron subvariant is spreading in China. Here’s what we know so far.” [Live Science]. “Reports from China indicate BF.7 has the strongest infection ability out of the omicron subvariants in the country, being quicker to transmit than other variants, having a shorter incubation period, and with greater capacity to infect people who have had a previous COVID infection, or been vaccinated, or both. To put this into context, BF.7 is believed to have an R0, or basic reproduction number, of 10 to 18.6. This means an infected person will transmit the virus to an average of 10 to 18.6 other people. Research has shown omicron has an average R0 of 5.08. The high transmission rate of BF.7, taken with the risk of hidden spread due to the many asymptomatic carriers(opens in new tab), is understood to be causing significant difficulty in controlling the epidemic in China.” • Fortunately, with our rigorous regimen of airport testing and quarantine of infected travellers…. Oh, wait. It has occurred to me, as I [await|consider|fantasize|live in fear of] whatever “Something Awful” might be, that a really good candidate would be something out of China. The virus has pretty big population to experiment on, there, some of them surely immune-compromised.

• “New Covid-19 wave coming? China’s reopening puts rest of Asia on alert for fresh virus strains” [South China Morning Post]. “Singapore’s health minister Ong Ye Kung this week warned that China’s reopening could lead to mutations of the coronavirus, something the city state was ‘watching.’ ‘They’re taking very decisive steps to open up their economy and society. This [is] bound to drive up infections, which we are not so worried [about] because our resilience is high and we’ve gone through three waves this year,’ he said. But the question is, with 1.3 billion people mostly uninfected, [when] the disease starts to spread, we are bound to get mutations.'” • Lots of minimization going on in Asia, too, sadly. Of course the SCMP is owned by Alibaba, which wants people shopping.

* * *

• Metaphors (1):

• Metaphors (2):

* * *

• A long thread explaining how to fit-test your mask:

The only test I have known hitherto — which may be folk wisdome — is putting a small mirror in the freezer. Put on your mask, then hold the mirror near your mask as you breathe out (including the sides). It the mirror mists, the mask fit is bad. However, this approach seems much more systematic!

• Maskstravaganza: More on the study emitted by Canadian Infection Control goons John Conley et al., purporting to show that there is no difference between surgical masks and N95s:

• Maskstravaganza: “Lion tests positive for COVID-19 at Seneca Park Zoo” [WHAM]. “The zoo said all of its cats are vaccinated for COVID and boosted. Anyone working within six feet of the animal is required to wear a mask.” • Commentary:


• Maskstravaganza: Nazis gotta Nazi:

“[P]eople who are servicing you are not allowed to infect you, but it's ok for you to infect them.” Sounds better in the original German: Lebensunwertes Leben

* * *

• ”Nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal rinses with neutral electrolyzed water prevents COVID-19 in front-line health professionals: A randomized, open-label, controlled trial in a general hospital in Mexico City” [Biomedical Reports]. n = 170. “A prospective open-label randomized controlled clinical trial was performed on front-line medical staff from the Dr. Enrique Cabrera General Hospital in México City to evaluate the effectiveness of nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal rinses with a neutral electrolyzed water, known as SES, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 disease among front-line, not vaccinated medical staff. … The prophylactic protocol was demonstrated as a protective factor, in more than 90%, for developing the disease, and without adverse effects. Nasal and oral rinses with SES may be an efficient alternative to reinforce the protective measures against COVID-19 disease and should be further investigated.” • I can’t translate this advice from Wu, but it sounds like a good idea:

Readers, have any of you tried this?

* * *

• ”Artificial intelligence model detects asymptomatic Covid-19 infections through cellphone-recorded coughs” [MIT Press]. “MIT researchers have now found that people who are asymptomatic may differ from healthy individuals in the way that they cough. These differences are not decipherable to the human ear. But it turns out that they can be picked up by artificial intelligence. In a paper published recently in the IEEE Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology, the team reports on an AI model that distinguishes asymptomatic people from healthy individuals through forced-cough recordings, which people voluntarily submitted through web browsers and devices such as cellphones and laptops. The researchers trained the model on tens of thousands of samples of coughs, as well as spoken words. When they fed the model new cough recordings, it accurately identified 98.5 percent of coughs from people who were confirmed to have Covid-19, including 100 percent of coughs from asymptomatics — who reported they did not have symptoms but had tested positive for the virus. The team is working on incorporating the model into a user-friendly app, which if FDA-approved and adopted on a large scale could potentially be a free, convenient, noninvasive prescreening tool to identify people who are likely to be asymptomatic for Covid-19. A user could log in daily, cough into their phone, and instantly get information on whether they might be infected and therefore should confirm with a formal test.” • This is from 2020. What the hell happened? Where’s Apple on this? Or Huawei?

* * *


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.) The map updates Monday-Friday by 8 pm:

NOTE: I shall most certainly not be using the CDC’s new “Community Level” metric. Because CDC has combined a leading indicator (cases) with a lagging one (hospitalization) their new metric is a poor warning sign of a surge, and a poor way to assess personal risk. In addition, Covid is a disease you don’t want to get. Even if you are not hospitalized, you can suffer from Long Covid, vascular issues, and neurological issues. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal.

• On hospitalization (see also under Variants for New York data):


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published December 18:

1.0%. Still increasing.


Wastewater data (CDC), December 16:

Yikes. The country’s redder than ever. (Ohio has tended to be very red for some time; but now it’s greyed out, i.e. no data.)

December 11:

And MWRA data, December 15:

Lambert here: Slight drops North and South, but the trend is still clear.


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.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), December 2:

Lambert here: BQ.1* dominates, XBB coming up on the outside. Not sure why this data is coming out before CDC’s, since in the past they both got it from Pango on Fridays.

Variant data, national (CDC), November 26 (Nowcast off):

BQ.1* takes first place. Note the appearance of XBB. Here is Region 2, the Northeast, where both BQ.1* and XBB are said to higher, and are:

• As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated December 20:

Lambert here: Looks like a plateau, for now. But hospitalization lags cases, so we shall see.

• Hospitalization data for Queens, updated December 17:



Death rate (Our World in Data):

I don’t know why this chart has turned red. Perhaps they’re holding a masque?

Total: 1,113,307 – 1,112,797 = 510 (510 * 365 = 1861,50 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

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

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

* * *

The Bezzle: “CFPB Orders Wells Fargo to Pay $3.7 Billion for Widespread Mismanagement of Auto Loans, Mortgages, and Deposit Accounts” [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau]. “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is ordering Wells Fargo Bank to pay more than $2 billion in redress to consumers and a $1.7 billion civil penalty for legal violations across several of its largest product lines. The bank’s illegal conduct led to billions of dollars in financial harm to its customers and, for thousands of customers, the loss of their vehicles and homes. Consumers were illegally assessed fees and interest charges on auto and mortgage loans, had their cars wrongly repossessed, and had payments to auto and mortgage loans misapplied by the bank. Wells Fargo also charged consumers unlawful surprise overdraft fees and applied other incorrect charges to checking and savings accounts. Under the terms of the order, Wells Fargo will pay redress to the over 16 million affected consumer accounts, and pay a $1.7 billion fine, which will go to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund, where it will be used to provide relief to victims of consumer financial law violations. ‘Wells Fargo’s rinse-repeat cycle of violating the law has harmed millions of American families,’ said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. ‘The CFPB is ordering Wells Fargo to refund billions of dollars to consumers across the country. This is an important initial step for accountability and long-term reform of this repeat offender.'” • Can the CFPB bring criminal charges, and if so, why did it not? This isn’t Wells Fargo’s first time at the rodeo, as Chopra in fact says.

The Bezzle:

The Bezzle: “Orphaned neurological implants” [Cory Doctorow, Medium]. “Earlier this year, many people with Argus optical implants — which allow blind people to see — lost their vision when the manufacturer, Second Sight, went bust. Nano Precision Medical, the company’s new owners, aren’t interested in maintaining the implants, so that’s the end of the road for everyone with one of Argus’s “bionic” eyes. The $150,000 per eye that those people paid is gone, and they have failing hardware permanently wired into their nervous systems. Having a bricked eye implant doesn’t just rob you of your sight — many Argus users experience crippling vertigo and other side effects of nonfunctional implants. The company has promised to ‘do our best to provide virtual support’ to people whose Argus implants fail — but no more parts and no more patches. Second Sight wasn’t the first neural implant vendor to abandon its customers, nor was it the last. Last week, Liam Drew told the stories of other neural abandonware in “Abandoned: the human cost of neurotechnology failure” in Nature. Among that abandonware: ATI’s neural implant for reducing cluster headaches, Nuvectra’s spinal-cord stimulator for chronic pain, Freehand’s paralysis bypass for hands and arms, and others. People with these implants are left in a precarious limbo, reliant on reverse-engineering and a dwindling supply of parts for maintenance.” • This will definitely not happen with Musk’s brain implants.

Tech: “Meta axes two Danish datacenters amid shift to AI infrastructure” [The Register]. “Meta has canned two datacenters under development in Denmark as part of a broader plan to deepen investments in artificial intelligence…. The decision comes just weeks after Meta announced it would lay off approximately 11,000 employees – about 13 percent of the company’s global workforce. The layoffs followed a string of difficult quarters for the Social Network. During the most recent quarter, revenues slid four percent year over year while profits slid 52 percent to 4.4 billion. While Meta shed human capital, the org indicated it was doubling down on datacenter infrastructure. During its Q3 earnings call this fall, CFO Dave Wehner said Meta was in an ‘investment cycle to build more headroom in our datacenters.’ Those investments included a larger emphasis on AI/ML workloads, which Wehner said Meta would be “carefully evaluating” to determine the scale of future deployments. In the weeks since making these statements, Zuck’s mothership appears to have decided to focus future deployments around AI infrastructure – to improve engagement both with ads and with user-generated content.” • Let me know how that works out.

Tech: “Thirst Traps” [Jon Stokes, Return]. “If there’s a ray of hope out there, I look for it in Musk’s subscription model. I think Musk correctly apprehends a dynamic I’ve covered in detail in my newsletter: the social media advertising machine feeds on engagement, and the best way to drum up engagement is to stimulate outrage. If he can move the revenue base away from the spiritually corrosive ad model to a model where users are paying for the value they get from the network, he has a shot at actually turning Twitter into a net benefit for society. Obviously, the incumbent class of successful outrage merchants hate this plan and have pilloried it since it was announced. That’s a good, crowd-sourced signal that what he’s doing might work. Because in any world where being a human scissor is a losing strategy, they’ll all fade back into well-deserved obscurity.” • Not the main thesis of the article, but interesting nonetheless.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 38 Fear (previous close: 38 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 20 at 3:05 PM EST.

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 185. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.)

Xmas Pregame Festivities

“By the numbers: How Walt Disney World transforms for the holiday season” [ABC]. “The decorations have become a tradition for Disney’s parks and resorts, as well as many visitors. Rave Troan, Walt Disney World’s marketing strategist, hopes visitors leave full of memories and cheer. ‘It’s traditions, it’s storytelling, it’s spending time together unplugged and really taking it all in and taking it with you for years to come,’ she said.”• No, it’s really not. Especially the “unplugged” part “25,000 C-7 shaped LED lights and 40,000 mini-LED lights are in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.”

The Gallery


A sketch:

One might imagine a similar sketch for this final version:

(I should have been able to find matching color schemes and composition, but even Twitter won’t let me do that. Nonetheless, the concept of Whistler painting like (the extremely odd) Alma-Tadema is pretty amusing….

The 420

“Can you bring marijuana on a plane through a TSA checkpoint?” [The Hill]. “There are numerous items you can pack while preparing for holiday travel but marijuana isn’t exactly one of them. There are, of course, exceptions. Marijuana itself remains illegal on the federal level, TSA reminded last week. That includes certain cannabis-infused products as well, like CBD oil. However, cannabis products containing no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis or those approved by the FDA are the exceptions. These items are permitted in both carry-on bags and checked bags, according to TSA. These rules apply regardless of where you’re flying from or into.”

Zeitgeist Watch

“Things could be better” [psyRxiv]. “Eight studies document what may be a fundamental and universal bias in human imagination: people think things could be better. When we ask people how things could be different, they imagine how things could be better (Study 1). The bias doesn’t depend on the wording of the question (Studies 2 and 3). It arises in people’s everyday thoughts (Study 4). It is unrelated to people’s anxiety, depression, and neuroticism (Study 5). A sample of Polish people responding in English show the same bias (Study 6), as do a sample of Chinese people responding in Mandarin (Study 7). People imagine how things could be better even though it’s easier to come up with ways things could be worse (Study 8). Overall, it seems, human imagination has a bias: when people imagine how things could be, they imagine how things could be better.” • Making NC a very special place!

“The Fetishization Of Mr. Rogers’s ‘Look For The Helpers’” [The Atlantic]. From 2018. I think this is the most “The Atlantic” article ever published. “We must stop fetishizing Rogers’s advice to ‘look for the helpers’ as if it had ever been meant for us, the people in charge—even in moments when so many of us feel powerless. As an adult, it feels good to remember how Mr. Rogers made you feel good as a child. But celebrating that feeling as adults takes away the wrong lesson. A selfish one. We were entrusted with these insights to make children’s lives better, not to comfort ourselves for having failed to fashion the adult world in which they must live.” • The question-begging is in “celebrating that feeling.” Who’s celebrating? I think it’s simple pragmatism. For example, people who mask are helpers, by definition. And it makes sense to “look for” them to avoid being infected by a potentially deadly disease, for example. Further, voluntary masking is a pretty good proxy for the percentage of “helpers” in a society (itself a good proxy for the viability of a society)). That has a lot to do with fashioning the adult world.

Class Warfare

Who among us:

“Rail union bureaucracy allows opposition candidate to take office, while demanding sweeping attacks on freedom of speech” [WSWS]. “Hall, a local officer from Arizona, won the union’s presidential election in a stunning upset that indicates the huge rank-and-file anger over the BLET’s role in ramming through the White House-brokered contract. The union was able to secure a narrow ratification by the engineers, but the rejection of the deal by workers in four other unions prompted Congress to intervene to unilaterally impose it earlier this month. Hall had an open complaint against him, filed by a member of Pierce’s BLET United slate, that he had accepted ‘outside assistance’ from a ‘nonmember employer’ by sharing an article from the World Socialist Web Site. That article reported on the fact that 25 of the 26 national leadership positions, with the sole exception of the presidency where Hall was the one opposition candidate, were ‘elected by acclamation’ at the BLET convention. On that basis, the WSWS characterized the vote as a ‘sham election’ of the type conducted by dictatorships.”

“In a local first, workers at Intelligentsia Coffee ratify union contract” [Chicago Sun-Times]. “With union organizing drives brewing at area coffee chains, workers at Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago are the first to taste a collective bargaining agreement. The workers have ratified a two-year contract that delivers wage increases and job protections, Local 1220 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers announced Friday. The contract covers 31 employees at Intelligentsia’s five ‘coffeebars’ in Chicago. The baristas and shift leads will get pay increases of about 14% over the term of the contract, said Brett Lyons, business representative for Local 1220. It’s the IBEW’s first agreement with a coffee chain. Citing key improvements, Lyons said workers will for the first-time be paid for mandated 30-minute meal breaks and will earn double time for holidays, compared with the prior time-and-a-half. He said baristas’ starting pay will be almost $18 an hour, with shift leads at about $19. ‘Most of the workers are in their 20s and, for a lot of people, this is their first union job,’ said Jordan Parshall, a shift lead at the 53 W. Jackson Boulevard branch. He said employees are happy with how the union performed.” • Starbucks?

News of the Wired


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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. semper loquitur

    re: psych!-borgs

    This is truly awful. And this was just the result of a company belly-upping. We’ve already heard of Tesla bricking cars whose owners fall behind on their payments. What happens when it’s your legs? Or when the company decides they don’t like your politics and your neural link to your computer goes dead?

    1. doug

      Any company wishing to do this should put up a performance bond or something, as a minimum requirement. Where the heck is the FDA? never mind…
      I feel for those folks who paid to be test subjects. Truly awful.

      1. semper loquitur

        There was a video game a few years back that detailed a similar situation. In that world, though, there were two factors to deal with. One was the implants and the prosthetics. The other was the drugs necessary to keep them operating properly. I don’t know if that’s a real consideration but if it were, you would have two quite possibly bad actors to contend with.

        1. JM

          If you’re talking about the prequel Deus Ex games, there’s another angle to add – there’s an Internet of S(family blog) aspect. Spoilers if anyone cares: people are required to go in and get a firmware chip upgrade, which has a backdoor that allows the nefarious group of PTB villains to use the direct connection to the nervous system to manipulate people’s limbic system (roughly at least).

          That these things will almost certainly be constantly connected to the internet is disturbing. What are the odds they have security worth talking about?

    2. ambrit

      I’ve mentioned this before, but this situation is the plot basis of John Varley’s story “Blue Champagne.” One sub-plot in the story is the question of how far someone would go to retain such an artificial ‘replacement’ for a lost ability.
      It is an educational piece. Basically, what is the basis of Evil, personally and corporately.

    3. jax

      Re: Orphaned neurological implants, please see the excellent Jude Law and Forest Whittaker in 2010’s “Repo Men.” Art imitating life, life imitating art, I’m confused. But I’m not surprised.

    4. agent ranger smith

      I can’t remember just where, but I remember William S. Burroughs tossing off a few sentences on this basic concept somewhere in his novel The Naked Lunch.

      ” We’re evicting your mother from her iron lung for non-payment of the rent.”

  2. semper loquitur

    That’s a profoundly awful The Atlantic article and that says a lot. Why shouldn’t we look for the helpers around us? Why shouldn’t we look for the helper in ourselves? And is it any wonder that people look for comforting mantras in the modern world, wracked with violence and infested with a predatory economic system that The Atlantic has done much to promulgate?

    This smacks of hyper-individualism to me. Adults are supposed to be the guides of children and one another! What world does this clown inhabit? Oh, the one of privilege and entitlement, that one, the one that hires it’s helpers in the form of servants and service people. The one’s who imagine themselves as the bedrock of society, even as they help to drive that society apart.

    1. agent ranger smith

      The helpers should begin to figure out how to find eachother and build a social siblinghood of helperism.
      If they can do that, then they might work on how to identify the hurters and quietly begin withdrawing their help from the hurters wherever and whenever they can get away with doing so.

    2. lambert_strether

      > This smacks of hyper-individualism to me

      I did say it was the most “The Atlantic” article ever….

  3. semper loquitur

    re: electrolyzed water

    I found this NIH study on the health benefits of electro-water. They seem rather profound: improved digestive health, more good cholesterol, and even better sleeping patterns. Plus the stuff can be used to clean around the house!



    Ebay sells small spray bottles that electrolyze the water for you, I’m looking into them now.

    Update: https://bionicsanitizer.com/

    Cheaper on Ebay.

    1. vao

      So liquids containing electrolytes are actually better? When does the shooting of the sequel to Idiocracy start?

        1. vao

          That’s exactly what I would expect the scenario for Idiocracy II to include — fighting off an epidemy with Gatorade nose-flushes!

      1. John Zelnicker

        vao -Have you ever heard of Pedialyte? It’s used for babies and kids with colds or other illnesses that make it hard for them to keep hydrated.

  4. Mildred Montana

    Re: Neurological Implants

    “The $150,000 per eye that those people paid is gone, and they have failing hardware permanently wired into their nervous systems.”

    Well of course, if the hardware actually worked and was reliable the company would have 𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦𝘥 them to the afflicted in true rentier fashion. Instead it knew it was selling a pig-in-a-poke so wisely took the money upfront.

    All these neurological geniuses should first work on spinal cord injuries. Ya gotta crawl before you can walk. The spinal cord is easily accessible, the results of any treatment are easily measurable. Oh wait, now I know why they prefer to pursue pie-in-the-sky treatments in other areas. For the very reason that results are not often easily measured or observable and rely solely on subjective data.

    We are forced to call upon supreme genius Ray Kurzweil, who believes that the human brain and computers will be melded in about twenty years (although he takes 100 vitamin pills a day just in case).

    Hey Ray, there’s a whole lot of spinal cord injuries out there that need your inspired attention. Find a way to fix them first and then get on with your brain/computer symbiotic dreams. Okay?

    1. voislav

      To quote the CEO of the company formed by merger of Second Sight with another biotech startup: While we will attempt to do what is right from an ethical perspective regarding Second Sight’s existing devices, the company’s past is simply not relevant to the new future.

    2. agent ranger smith

      I believe Kurzweil wants to make sure of living long enough to be able to upload himself when a place to upload himself to is perfected.

      1. TimH

        But the upload, let’s presume as a perfect personality clone, is not the donor person. It’s a copy, whose personality will diverge instantly. When the donor dies, the donor is still dead.

        When you wake up from a dreamless sleep, how do you know that you are the same being that went to sleep?

  5. vao

    The twitter stream by Paul Poast contains this pearl:

    This, combined with that notion that it’s really hard to see the “physical threat” posed by Ukraine (even a Ukraine in NATO) to Russia, only underscores how ontological security might be the most useful framing for understanding the Russia’s motivations.

    Are we really supposed to take that drivel seriously?

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      I wish someone would start a rumor about Putin Puts Nukes in Cuba. “But that’s different!”

      Why did the Natives so overreact to Custer? ‘Tis a puzzlement.

    2. Daniil Adamov

      Is he wrong about that much, though? Ukraine only posed a threat to its (former) citizens. I also have trouble seeing how Ukraine or NATO could threaten the Russian Federation militarily – other than with nukes – which do not really require Ukraine. The increase in physical danger to our survival from Ukraine joining NATO would have been negligible. It would have been a blow to prestige, but we survived plenty of those before. Of course, it’s possible that Putin thought differently, about either of those possibiltiies.

      Is there some physical threat angle I am missing, here?

      1. vao

        I do not remember the exact figures, but putting NATO nukes in Ukraine would bring them so much closer to the heart of Russia that the time between a launch and a strike on, say, Moscow would amount to just a few minutes. This would make the strategy of “first strike” look even more feasible to those in the USA who are already considering this possibility.

        1. NN Cassandra

          On the other hand, Russia is supposed to have retaliatory second strike capability anyway, so it’s not like this would change things fundamentally.

          1. Polar Socialist

            Dunno. Kinda like saying that a belt of explosives is the best self-defense: when threatened, just blow up everyone including yourself.

            Some people might think that removing threats would be a better option. Be it peacefully or violently.

            1. NN Cassandra

              Well, this is the state of play anyway, regardless of how Ukraine ends. And if Russia manages to secure ground east of Dnieper, all they gain strategically is something like 200 km on the road to Moscow. That doesn’t seems like much for all the carnage…

              1. ambrit

                It’s the time factor, plus, the Western Neo-cons have pushed an agenda that overtly wants to break up the Russian Federation. What self respecting country would roll over and allow that?
                The other problem with nukes in the Ukraine is that, being so close to the command and control centres of Russia, the Russians would have to set up their strategic nuclear forces such that said Russian nukes would be launched immediately upon notification of missiles coming in from the Ukraine border. In other words, MAD with a vengeance.
                Now, it is conceivable that the ever wily Putin could supply pocket nukes to the stalwart freedom fighters of the Quebec Legion in response to nukes in the Ukraine. Goose or gander, both are going to get cooked.

                1. Daniil Adamov

                  Wanting to achieve something is not the same as being able to achieve it. I do not doubt that some (most?) Western leaders would like to break us up, but they have no real means of achieving this end. If anything, though, the war in Ukraine has played into their hands by increasing internal tensions (on the other hand, sanctions have helped shore up support for the government).

          2. The Rev Kev

            Thing is, the US nearly went to nuclear war when Russia stationed nuclear missiles in Cuba back in the 60s. And its not like Washington wouldn’t freak out if the Russians set up nukes now in Baja California. The nukes that the US wants to set up in Europe would give the Russians about 7 minutes to react to a launch. That being the case, anything on the radar screen and they would probably have to launch as there would be no time for any investigation to see if that was a true radar track.

            1. NN Cassandra

              I think we here can all agree that if the situation was reversed, the Blob would nuke Kiev/Ottawa ten years ago at the latest. Also I think we can all agree The Blob are raging lunatics dragging US from one catastrophe to another, so it’s probably not so good idea to try to mimic what they would do in similar situations.

              Given all those close encounters we already had with nuclear war, I would really really hope the procedure for launching retaliatory strike isn’t based just on ten/fifteen frantic minutes of some random guy trying to decipher some random radar images. As if it’s possible to do any rational determination of launching planet destroying nuclear salvo in fifteen minutes as opposed to in seven.

              1. Daniil Adamov

                Thank you. Yes. It is somewhat maddening, the way some people keep coming back to how our foreign policy is really no worse than that of the Americans. I agree that it is not, but what kind of standard is that?!

          3. Acacia

            Retaliatory second strike capability … as in the Perimeter a.k.a. “Dead hand” system?

            I would say the difference between the neocons thinking they can win a game of nuclear chicken with Russia and being on the receiving end of the entire Russian nuclear arsenal is rather significant.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          A hypothetical first strike would not be launched from Europe – any launch and protectory would be too easy to identify immediately and track. It would be primarily launched from SSBN’s as the launch would be far harder to identify quickly.

          The Russians believe (whether this is true or not I’ve no idea) that the latest Trident missiles are designed to follow relatively flat and low trajectories (possibly over Europe) which would make them very difficult to identify until it was too late. B2’s would also be used as they could enter much of Russian airspace without being identified.

        3. Daniil Adamov

          Even if we assume that makes a major difference – and I am not sure about that – they can also place nukes in the Baltic States, which were part of NATO for a while now.

          1. vao

            The distance from, say Kharkov, to Moscow is shorter by about 200 km than the distance from one of the Baltic States to Moscow (some 850 km). That is not insignificant.

            And if NATO relocated some nuclear-tipped missiles in the Baltic States, Russia could reciprocate by placing some in Kaliningrad — which amounts to having them ready to go right in the middle of NATOland. Either NATO would be instantly vaporized with missiles not on its doorstep but already in the lobby, or it would have to nuke Kaliningrad — which would also self-defeatingly vaporize the Baltic region. Which might explain why NATO has not installed its nuclear force in the Baltic States yet (as far as I know).

        1. Daniil Adamov

          Err… that is not about the US placing missiles in Ukraine. That is about the US developing longer-range missiles – which if anything only reinforces my point. Those weapons make Ukraine strategically irrelevant.

          1. Acacia

            The essential point of the argument is not concerned with range, it’s about maintaining a strategic balance. Placing missiles closer and closer to Russia, and claiming that they are purely defensive upsets that balance. For, a putatively defensive missile system “is part of an offensive strategic capability, and is tightly linked to offensive missile strike system”. Moreover, interceptors could be easily swapped with nuclear missiles. A missile could have a nuclear or non-nuclear warhead. How would the Russians know? Romania and Poland are mentioned. Ukraine is even closer, ergo more problematic. And neither the Poles, nor the Romanians, nor the Ukrainians would know what the actual policy is, since they are all subordinate to US-NATO.

            I gather the concern is that as the strategic balance is further disturbed in this way, the window of time within which a decision needs to be made about a possible threat gets smaller and smaller, until you have a situation in which Russia would feel compelled to assume within a matter of minutes that an incoming missile is part of a nuclear attack, and to respond accordingly. If ICBMs are launched from North America, travel time to Moscow is 20-30 minutes and there is a little time to assess the threat. If launched from a submarine, it would be around 15 minutes. If launched from Ukraine, it would be less than 10 minutes.

      2. Martin Oline

        “Is there some physical threat angle I am missing, here?”
        The UK wanted Crimea as a naval base. That is Russia’s only warm water port and also gives access to the Mediterranean Sea. NATO would never blockade Russia of course, until they do.
        Maybe you know the two famous promises that follow “The check is in the mail.” This being a family-rated blog you will have to add them yourself. The expression “Trust me” has also been expressed as another two word popular expletive, also unprintable.

        1. Daniil Adamov

          That would no longer have been a factor by 2022, now would it? (Also we do have other Black Sea ports, you know. Sochi off the top of my head. Of course a British base in Sevastopol would have made it much easier to block traffic from there, but that seems like a pipe dream.)

      3. Michaelmas

        Daniil Adamov: Is there some physical threat angle I am missing, here?

        Yes. Other than US-NATO stationing missiles there — and though opinions differ, the argument can be made that once they’re launched, it doesn’t matter where they’re launched from — there definitely is another angle that any nation-state would take seriously.

        That is, Ukraine would provide a staging area immediately adjacent to Russia where forces aimed at regime overthrow and insurrection in the RF could be built up and retreat to. A couple of historical models of the potentials such a situation :

        [1] The Japanese invasion and occupation of Taiwan in 1895 provided a stepping stone for the full-scale invasion of China’s mainland by the Japanese starting in 1931.

        [2] In Ireland in 1649-50, to end the build-up of the military threat posed by the alliance of Irish Confederate Catholics and English royalists who had retreated there after the English Revolution, Oliver Cromwell led an invasion from 1649 to 1650.

        1. Daniil Adamov

          If they were to follow the Japanese example, they would need to completely disregard the existence of our nuclear arsenal. Does that appear likely?

          The Irish example is somewhat more credible, except there are no insurrectionary forces to speak of in Russia and it is not clear where they could come from. Today’s emigres aren’t the fighting sort, except for some of the Chechens and ultranationalists I suppose, and there are not nearly enough of them to form an invasion force.

      4. jsn

        Distance and response time.

        Is this really that hard?

        It’s the difference between some cloaca across the street pointing a shotgun at you as opposed to putting to your temple.

  6. Jason Boxman

    New Spending Bill Makes It Easier for Americans Saving for Retirement

    Caring for those too old or frail to support themselves is a societal imperative, so naturally we get this bipartisan garbage instead:

    Employers can already enroll their employees in workplace retirement plans if they choose to, which is known to meaningfully bolster both workers’ participation and savings rates.

    But this bill would require employers — at least those starting new plans in 2025 and thereafter — to automatically enroll eligible employees in their 401(k) and 403(b) plans, setting aside at least 3 percent, but no more than 10 percent, of their paychecks. Contributions would be increased by one percentage point each year thereafter, until it reaches at least 10 percent (but not more than 15 percent).

    Existing plans won’t need to follow the new rules. Small businesses with 10 or fewer workers, new businesses operating for less than three years, and church and governmental plans are also exempt.

    Employers will be permitted to automatically enroll workers into emergency savings accounts, which are linked to employees’ retirement accounts. They can enroll workers so that they set aside up to 3 percent of their salary, up to $2,500 (though employers can choose a smaller amount).

    So forced savings, directed at Wall Street. Of course!

    1. Nikkikat

      They have been working on this rip off for years now. California implemented a couple of years ago. Stealing from poor minimum wage workers. Democrats have been pushing this for several years. Just look at the sponsors names. The article never mentions that people do not save for retirement because it’s all they can do to make enough to not have to live under a bridge.

  7. Jason Boxman

    Our crapified health care system continues to amaze:

    Important information concerning your health insurance coverage

    Dear Valued Patient of Tufts Medicine,

    I am writing to you because our records indicate that you have health insurance coverage through Cigna.

    As one of our valued patients, it is important that you know that, effective February 1, 2023, Cigna may no longer cover services you receive at Tufts Medicine. Tufts Medicine includes Tufts Medical Center, Lowell General Hospital, Melrose Wakefield Hospital and nearly 2,000 physicians in the Tufts Medicine Integrated Network. Go to tuftsmedicine.org/cigna to see if your doctor is part of Tufts Medicine.

    For many months, Tufts Medicine has tried to engage Cigna in productive negotiations to achieve fair and equitable payment for the care we provide our patients and the communities we serve. Despite our efforts, Cigna has refused to offer a contract that ensures we can continue to provide the high-quality care our patients expect, need and deserve.

    We will continue to talk with Cigna and try our very best to reach an agreement. If Cigna is not willing to reach an agreement, we will work with you to understand your options for continuing to receive care at Tufts Medicine. You will need to switch to another health insurance plan to maintain your relationship with your physicians and care teams at Tufts Medicine. Otherwise, you will need to find a new hospital system and physician to ensure that Cigna will continue to pay for your medical services after January 31, 2023.

    We recognize that this news may cause stress and uncertainty about the future of your care. We are extremely sorry that Cigna has put us all in this difficult position. Please know that our top priority is to support you and be a resource to you.

    For answers to questions you may have, please see the FAQ document included in this letter or visit tuftsmedicine.org/cigna. We will also be available to answer your specific questions beginning Monday, December 19th at x-xxx-xxx-xxxx You can also reach Cigna at the member services number on your insurance card.

    Again, we are so sorry this is happening and will continue to do everything possible to support you and our care teams during this difficult time.

    (bold mine)

    Very sorry to hold people’s lives hostage!

    1. notabanker

      Taking a page right outta the cable monopoly playbook. The content oligopoly won’t comply with the broadcasters oligopoly’s demands so you the consumer are SOL. But no worries, we are really, really sorry . And to prove it to you, here is a $1.67 refund on next months bill. All good, thanks for playing.

  8. Objective Ace

    it accurately identified 98.5 percent of coughs from people who were confirmed to have Covid-19

    What’s the percent of people it identified who didnt have Covid? A high type 2 error could have been the reason this ended up going nowhere

  9. ChrisRUEcon

    #COVID19 #CosmeticColdFogger ???

    > Readers, have any of you tried this?

    Not yet, but I’m open. Only thing is I am not seeing the same product from Naomi’s tweet anywhere. Maybe I’ll have to try Alibaba or something. What I am seeing are the hand held nebulizers. I’ll do some digging.

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      Lambert, just letting you know that I shared your C******** T***** article from yesterday on #Twitter, and got this (via #Twitter) … did the spooks still at the #BlueBird get spooked?!!

    2. ChrisRUEcon


      Well, well … been a long time coming … but I actually see “T-Cells” trending on #Twitter … in one sense, sad yes, because we know so many people are getting ill, but the good thing is that more people are realizing what COVID19 actually is and does, and hopefully it means better behaviors and mitigations being engaged with by more people.

    3. SocalJimObjects

      I am personally not sure what to make of Naomi’s Tweet. I mean there’s not enough details there in terms of dosage etc or perhaps one’s supposed to read those papers in which case my bad. I am not sure if the following will help some people, but I’ll just translate some of the phrases from the two pictures.

      Picture 1: mostly product “information”
      弹力头带 = elastic headband
      免手持式 = hands free
      颗粒细腻 = fine particles
      低音雾化 = super quiet nebulizer
      TL;DR a portable super quiet nebulizer with rechargable batteries for people who like to be on the move.

      I honestly can’t see anyone wearing this outside.

      Picture 2: again more product advertisement
      薇娅推荐 = recommended by Viya. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viya_(influencer). Just as an aside, pretty sure she got into trouble a couple of months ago, and is probably still on the authority’s s*** list. If the product works though, then it works.
      双倍大喷雾 = twice the spray. I think there’s basically there’s two output holes instead of the usual one?
      可加纯牛奶/爽肤水 = you can add pure milk/skin toner.

      1. ChrisRUEcon

        Thx SoCalJim

        The handheld nebulizers (the left image in Naomi’s tweet) are not worn permanently like a mask. It’s more like for people who need to take albuterol in 5ml – 10ml shots (lotta kids do) – when having the big machine that needs a power outlet is not feasible. So those have a mask that attaches, and you’d wear it for 5 – 10 minutes while administering whatever soluble compound you need to.

        The HOCL sprayers (the right image in Naomi’s tweet) are vaporizers that don’t require a mask. I have to do some more digging, but I guess you can load them up with some sort of capsule+water to make the HOCL solution.

        If the HOCL thing checks out, I will definitely get some for the family. Perfect thing to take to school or on a flight IMO to do some prophylaxis, especially when others are no masking.

        1. SocalJimObjects

          ChrisRUEcon, hopefully you wouldn’t mind sharing your findings later on :) I think there will be a lot of interested people here.

  10. Val

    Great gladness the CFR is pleased with the result and here to help us “make sense” of the midterm elections. Now we can rest assured that the deck chairs are in their proper positions.

    Two character states possible with the US midterm elections: legit. or not. Results are not reassuring in either case. Fortunately there is no paper trail to interrogate, ever again.

    Of course, a public rebuke the West’s criminal overclass would be inconvenient and unseemly, given the Russian General Staff’s baseless ontological concerns.

  11. Adam Eran

    Lambert asks whether nasal rinse is helpful. I’ve been doing it for some time now, post-COVID, and find it helps manage surplus mucus nicely. I use a little watering can, mix warm water and salt (or salt plus baking soda), and do jala neti.

    I doubt I would have got COVID if I’d done this regularly before my two-weeks-ago infection (I was fully vaccinated, [surgical] masking, MERV-13 air filters, HEPA air filter, etc.) One of my friends got infected–not from me–and was noticeably lower-energy before symptoms appeared.

    I’m now N95 masking and doing the jala neti morning and night. As far as I can tell I’m fully recovered, even though I’m old…but one never knows what lingering effects will crop up.

    1. BMW DOG

      There was a article on using whisky and other alcohol while back and if anyone can refer me back to it I would appreciate it.
      I woke up the other morning with a scratchy throat like when getting a cold. I haven’t had that in several years. The article recommended putting an oz of whisky in a glass and adding an oz of boiling hot water. Then taking 12 deep breaths of it that should clean out the system of the Covid virus. I did that as well as drinking the liquid after. It must have worked because I never had any problems with getting Covid as well as maybe keeping me from getting sick from a cold or ??
      Anybody else try it?

      1. PlutoniumKun

        A traditional Irish remedy for respiratory illnesses was poteen (usually stronger than whiskey) served hot with carrigeenen melted into the drink – I had to take it many times as a child. Carrigeenen is one component of some proprietary anti-viral nasal sprays so its possible that the vaporised alcohol was allowing the carrigeenan to provide a protective coat to nasal passages. Thats my theory anyway.

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      I’ve been using saline in a netti pot for over five years, and noticed after a year or two that I had stopped getting the office respiratory bugs. Usually using it in the evening. Taking from NC, I’ll add povodine after hanging with strangers. I’ve pondered how long it takes for an infection to work it’s way through our mucus shield.

      BMW, I once tried a waitron trick of mixing a teaspoon of cayenne with a shot of orange juice. I did not get sick. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

  12. Matthew G. Saroff

    Regarding, “If he can move the revenue base away from the spiritually corrosive ad model to a model where users are paying for the value they get from the network, he has a shot at actually turning Twitter into a net benefit for society,” that number is very low.

    Remember the value is in the user generated content, and not the network itself.

    I am the sysop for a BBS with a hundred some odd users, low noise, high signal, because it is small, and the total cost, not counting my time, is on the order of $15/month.

    Counting my time managing the BBS, it largely runs on its own, and the number might to to $50 a month, or about 50¢ a user.

    When these systems get larger though, the costs rise geometrically, (think about the poor volunteers here who have to moderate the comments) while the benefits to the user rise (at best) linearly.

    There is not a business model where this works.

    1. fjallstrom

      I am also a bit sceptical of that claim, but from another perspective.

      If Musk wanted to end the addictive algorithm, he could end the addictive algorithm. The claim that Musk will do that if he gets enough subscribers is unsupported.

      Just because you are paying, doesn’t mean you are not also the product.

      1. lambert strether

        I think of Musk enabled small creators — think the “Poorly Drawn Cats” account — to get payments for their work, which he did at one point suggest, Twitter would sweep all before it.

  13. IM

    Re: frozen mirror for mask fitting: you will still fog a mirror with a properly fitting mask, as water vapor passes through the filter (if it didn’t, the masks would get wet in a hurry.) A good proxy for proper fit test is to stabilize the mask on your face and exhale quickly and forcefully. If you feel a breeze on your cheeks/eyes, you have a leak.

  14. Wukchumni

    Two Democratic congressmen from California are pushing to see 1.4 million acres that lie between Yosemite and Kings Canyon national parks moved from the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management to the National Park Service and recognized as the Range of Light National Monument.

    “The Sierra Nevada is an important part of our American Heritage. Its lands contain half of California’s native plant species, including the iconic Giant Sequoia, and other rare and endangered wildlife, while its three major watersheds provide drinking water for millions of people. It’s unacceptable that extractive industries, roads, and wildfires have placed these treasured lands at great risk, severely degrading some areas already,” said U.S. Jackie Rep. Speier after introducing the bill last week.


    The only way to get funding for this project is to name the new National Park:

    Kiyv NP

    Ki stands for Kings Canyon & Yv is for Yosemite Valley, but together sound Ukrainian enough for our political leaders to greenlight it & throw gobs of money it’s way.

    1. agent ranger smith

      Are you sure they actually want to call it Kiyv NP? I read through the whole article linked-to and did not find any mention of naming it Kiyv NP. If they are suggesting that, I would say that “Paris is worth a mass.”
      But I couldn’t even find any suggestion of them actually suggesting naming it that.

  15. pjay

    Wow. I just read the most realistic assessment of Ukraine I’ve seen in the mainstream media, in Newsweek. The title is: ‘Lessons From the U.S. Civil War Show Why Ukraine Can’t Win’

    Something seems to be up among at least a segment of the Establishment. This article almost sounds like MacGregor or Ritter wrote it. Here are the authors:

    “David H. Rundell is a former chief of mission at the American Embassy in Saudi Arabia and the author of Vision or Mirage, Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads. Ambassador Michael Gfoeller is a former Political Advisor to the U.S. Central Command. He served for 15 years in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.”


      1. The Rev Kev

        That is an awful lot of truth telling in that article. It seems that there is a segment of the political establishment that is not happy how the neocons have steered the west into a ditch full of Ukrainian mud. And how these neocons have no reverse gear but are still trying to double down which may bring American troops in direct confrontation with Russian troops.

          1. Michaelmas

            fresno Dan” slowly, slowly, step by step, some of the media has turned…

            It’s only just beginning. But yeah, as Aeschylus said:-

            In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

            Like that.

      2. Carolinian

        Thanks for the link although there is this

        There is a growing possibility of Iran launching a preemptive military strike on Israel.

        and a link that says just the opposite–that the Israelis want to bomb Iran


        which is true by all accounts and the new Israeli government is claiming that the US is going to help them. Maybe somebody should ask Biden (and the American people) about this.

      3. Offtrail

        The Newsweek article astutely compares Bakhmut to the WW I battle of Verdun. At Verdun the Germans sought to force the French to defend at a disadvantage a place that the French could not afford to give up. The German strategy failed, but in Bakhmut the Russians appear to be succeeding.

    1. flora

      Henry K. had an op-ed in the NYT saying “give negotiated peace a chance.” Maybe his bosses decided a nuclear war in the heart of Europe wasn’t good for business. Zelensky acting like an engine with only one speed – faster! – needs to be reined in before either Ukr’s loss is undeniable or the overreach ends in nuclear disaster. Just a guess.

      1. flora

        Adding, winter in Europe and UK with too little gas supply for reliable heating and manufacturing plus big bribery scandals in the EU Parliament is putting the EU on edge in a way that could crack the union if more drama/stress is added right now; stress like the Ukr war sucking more resources away from the EU countries. The EU has enough problems to sort without the Ukr. Just a guess.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Henry K. is becoming a broken record whose idea is a modified Minsk 2 agreement where Russia gives up nearly everything that they have gained and that which the west will allow them to temporarily keep will be up for negotiation. In other words, it will simply set up a far worse war in about a decade’s time. As Henry won’t be here to see it, that will be just fine with him.

        1. flora

          Yeah, it’s that sort. On the other hand, he’s sent a signal and offered a walk-back position, (which we might disagree with but getting people to back down requires offering them a walk-back position.) My 2 cents.

    2. rowlf

      I think WW2 showed that command economies such as the US and USSR implemented are what is needed to defeat opponents.

      During the U.S. Civil War the CSA often tied their shoelaces together by letting business interests get in the way of the war effort, as well as the war effort crippling needed production by conscripting workers.

    1. fresno dan

      I see your twitter Part 7 and raise you a twitter Part 8

      Lee Fang
      *How Twitter Quietly Aided the Pentagon’s Covert Online PsyOp Campaign*
      Despite promises to shut down covert state-run propaganda networks, Twitter docs show that the social media giant directly assisted the U.S. military’s influence operations.

      8. One Twitter official who spoke to me said he feels deceived by the covert shift. Still, many emails from throughout 2020 show that high-level Twitter executives were well aware of DoD’s vast network of fake accounts & covert propaganda and did not suspend the accounts.
      9. For example, Twitter lawyer Jim Baker mused in a July 2020 email, about an upcoming DoD meeting, that the Pentagon used “poor tradecraft” in setting up its network, and were seeking strategies for not exposing the accounts that are “linked to each other or to DoD or the USG.”
      Jim Baker – you knew he was gonna be there. You know, if the DoD or any part of the government wants to have a Twitter account, fine with me. But when if is a clandestine account, you can bet it will be filled with lies. But it irks me that all the twitter “rules” are not applied objectively. And of course, all the testimony before Congress is bullsh*t….

  16. The Rev Kev

    “New Covid-19 wave coming? China’s reopening puts rest of Asia on alert for fresh virus strains”

    Over the past few years we have seen all sorts of variations of this virus emerge but the thought of it bouncing around a population of one and a half billion people among city and rural dwellers would be something to give pause you would think. You would think. Guess not.

    On another note, Lambert says that he is looking for data points so here is one-

    ‘Dr. Syed Haider
    So you were on Pfizer’s payroll? Yes. And you were also on the “independent” Data Safety Monitoring Board for the Pfizer Vax trial? Yes. So it wasn’t actually independent then? No, it was independent.

    Okaayyy … can we have a dictionary please?’ (with 3:31 min video)


  17. Wukchumni

    In past collapses of the climate kind, the ancient ones (er, that’d be anybody before 1900 or so) knew nothing, so yes it must have been a shock when their civilizations collapsed, but was easily explained by invoking a deity’s displeasure that done did the dastardly deed, but we’re different in that we know pretty much exactly what is going on and none of this will be a shock.

    Lake Mead is one of my searches, and half the articles are in regards to the possibility that the newest corpse unveiled in Davy Jones Locker might be some mobster nobody has ever heard of, who disappeared 37 years ago.

    Tens of millions of lives to be permanently affected by the Colorado River going dry, and the emphasis is on the corpus derelicti.

  18. The Rev Kev

    I see that President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Bakhmut. Well, I don’t think that it was green-screened. The funny thing is that on the TV they keep on saying that Bakhmut has no military significance according to western experts and can’t understand why the Russian are trying to take it. And yet they will mention how the Ukrainians keep on throwing in reserves to keep that place. It is like 1984’s Doublethink at work. More to the point, the Ukrainians are losing a battalion of men each and every day and they have had to throw in their reserves for the entire section of the front here to try to keep it. Good thing that it is not important then-


  19. agent ranger smith

    . . . ” “[P]eople who are servicing you are not allowed to infect you, but it’s ok for you to infect them.” Sounds better in the original German: Lebensunwertes Leben ” . . .

    Since they are bound and determined to infect us, the only real choice we have is whether we wear a mask or not. If we wear an N95 or other serious 95-type equivalent mask, it might be harder for them to infect us. That may be the best we can do for ourselves and eachother at this time.

    1. tikitaka

      From that “return” magazine article:

      “, I happen to be someone who often finds himself in wildly different social circles by way of Facebook groups, email lists, and IRL gatherings. And when I say “wildly different,” I mean woke media and academic types, so-called TERFs and third-wave feminists, anarchists, MAGA, new right, tradcaths, rationalists, postrats, classical liberals, and more. If you have thoughts on some fringe, then I’ve probably been in their group chat or at their event at some point in the past two years. (Except tankies – I draw the line there.)”

      In other words, a diverse range of opinions from anyone except leftists. Makes sense if you want your takes devoid of any underlying material analysis.

      1. Late Introvert

        Last I checked anarchists are pretty hard left. I agree that list is performative and off-putting to the extreme. Dabble much with edgy stuff, poseur?

  20. fresno dan

    “‘What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’: Trump DEFIANTLY slaps down Jan. 6 committee criminal referral following never-before-seen damning testimony by Hope Hicks” [Daily Mail].

    Turley filets the referral:
    The failure of the Committee to offer any new and direct evidence of criminal conduct was obvious at the outset. Vice Chair Liz Cheney began her remarks by again detailing what Trump failed to do. It was a repeat of the prior hearings and for some likely left the impression of actors who are refusing to leave the stage long after the audience departed.
    The one new piece of evidence was largely duplicative. It shows former aide Hope Hicks saying that she also called upon Trump to make a public statement calling for peace and telling him that there is no evidence of systemic fraud. ***

    It is a disappointing end for the J6 Committee, which could have been so much more than it was. Both sides have pointed fingers at each other for the failure to have a single member nominated by the Republican party. However, even after that breakdown, the Committee could have strived to create greater balance by discussing alternative interpretations of key actions or statements. It could have allowed for greater public examination of witnesses rather than the tightly scripted accounts used in the hearings. It could have explored other issues in public hearings, including the failure of the Congress to adequately prepare for the riot despite prior warnings.
    You know what it could have looked into? What was practically a coup with regard to the claims of Russia interference in the 2016 election. The complete lack of professionalism and integrity of soooooo many FBI, DoD, and star chamber…uh, I mean FISA court. The lack of investigation into the Clinton campaign and the democratic committee. But obviously, principels ceased to exist a long time ago in this political system.
    *** You make things up about election fraud, when you lose, how do you think that won’t happen when the other side loses???

  21. The Historian

    ” But if the rioters weren’t charged with insurrection, then where exactly is the insurrection Trump is being charged with? Please don’t make me put on my yellow waders for this….”

    I think that perhaps what Trump is being accused of – not actually charged with at the moment – is an inchoate crime which is defined (by google) as:

    “Inchoate crimes are crimes where liability attached even though the crime may not have been completed. They generally involve at least taking a substantial step towards committing a crime, preparing to commit a crime or seeking to commit a crime.”

    Perhaps plotting insurrection is one of those crimes?

    I know there was an actual lawyer who used to post here (a person I went to high school with) so maybe he can chime in and explain this in more detail. I had started following the legalities of Trump’s position but the sheer volume of lawsuits had pretty much overwhelmed my hobby time. I pretty much just listen to podcasts now and they are mostly ‘meh’ when it comes to details. And with lawsuits, it’s the details that matter.

    1. trinkets

      This is standard practice tinpot dictatorship rpactice. Trump up some random crime to fit on your opponent, BAM they cannot run against you. Label their supporters enemy of the state, etc.

      Its not really different from Putin or Xi, really.

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