2:00PM Water Cooler 12/8/2022

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Gaziantep, Türkiye. Cretzschmar with a “C.” These guys have no logic at all.

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“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“Here’s food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels” –Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

Biden Administration

“‘Very painful decision’: How Biden chose to bring Griner home and leave Whelan in Russia” [Politico]. “‘Due to the nature of the sham espionage charges Russia levied against Paul [Whelan], the Russians have continued to treat his situation differently from Brittney’s and rejected each and every one of our proposals for his release,’ a senior administration official said. ‘It was a choice between bringing home one particular American, Brittney Griner, or bringing home none.'”


“Public Has Modest Expectations for Washington’s Return to Divided Government” [Pew Research]. Handy chart:

I’m not sure what intense tribalism plus no expectations for success is a recipe for, but I don’t think I’ll like it.

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GA: “Almost $80 million is spent on TV ads for Georgia’s 4-week Senate runoff” [NPR]. Thomas Ferguson teaches us to at look at the money first, so: “There has been a rush of spending on TV ads for the pivotal Georgia U.S. Senate runoff, which is just a shortened four-week campaign. In that period, some $79 million has been poured in to buy airtime. And spending by groups supporting Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock has more than doubled contributions from groups backing Republican challenger Herschel Walker, according to data from the ad-tracking firm AdImpact and analyzed by NPR. Here’s how the TV spending for this runoff breaks down: Pro Warnock: $54 million ($25m campaign, $29m outside groups) Pro Walker: $25 million ($10m campaign, $15m outside groups).” • Of course, if money were the only factor, Amy McGrath would be representing Kentucky in the Senate, not Mitch McConnell. And Hillary Clinton would be President. Nevertheless. And speaking of losers with lots of money from national Democrats–

GA: “Abrams’ aide says Democrat had ‘nearly impossible’ chance to beat Kemp” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. “[Lauren] Groh-Wargo, who was Abrams’ campaign manager during her bids for governor both this year and in 2018, said in the series of posts that conservative criticism of Abrams ‘poisoned her image’ while the Democrat ‘leveraged her time, talents and organizations to secure the wins of 2020’ in Georgia and other battleground states. ‘In doing so, she also made the 2022 gubernatorial race against a well-funded incumbent nearly impossible,; wrote Groh-Wargo, who blamed conservatives for driving Abrams’ ‘negatives sky-high’ and accused the media of framing Kemp as a moderate for defying Donald Trump. ‘In November, the white voters who had supported (Abrams’) work in 2018 and 2020 balked at giving her the job of governor because Kemp wasn’t ‘that bad’ and she had been tarnished by the unrelenting assault,’ Groh-Wargo said in the post.” • Commentary:

Anxious to see Abrams running for President in 2024.

GA: “Scenes from a doomed Senate campaign” [Politico]. “[B]eyond the scandals, the campaign operation was dealing with a clash between staff and Herschel Walker and his wife, Julie, about how to run things. It’s certainly not unusual for a candidate to take interest in the decision-making and provide input or require some level of accountability, but I heard similar stories from various levels of staff about being hamstrung, particularly by her. Everything from comms staffers being berated if they were seen talking to a reporter at a rally, or staff scheduling recommendations being ignored in favor of going to areas where they’d likely see little payoff. There’s no reason to think Herschel and Julie Walker didn’t mean well, but they probably had little-to-no business calling the shots on a major political campaign.” But: “Walker’s campaign schedule was not his undoing. It illustrates some of his strategy missteps as a political novice and provides some insight into his problematic campaign operation. His downfall, as I quoted a person very close to the campaign saying, was that he was unprepared to run for this level of office and made everything more difficult for himself, his staff and other allies by not being forthcoming about what was in his past. And in conversations with those people, many of them truly believe Walker just didn’t understand how closely he would be scrutinized, how brutal campaigns are, and how damning details from his past were going to be brought to light either way.” • Fascinating, too, about “Walker’s personality and genuine interest in staffers and their families made him easy for them to like.” Wasn’t my picture at all (I have priors about football, and football heroes). Not sure Walker can try again…

GA: “Republicans Don’t Know Who To Blame For Herschel Walker’s Loss” [Vanity Fair]. “[I]n his Tuesday runoff against Senator Raphael Warnock, [Walker] delivered a far worse performance than every Republican candidate who ran statewide in Georgia, prompting a cascade of finger-pointing…. When all is said and done, Walker’s loss to Warnock will likely work out to a couple of percentage points––a margin that suggests a more generic, less scandal-scarred Republican might have won the race, just as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted in April. ‘How could [Republicans] screw this up? It’s actually possible,’ he said of the party’s midterm hopes at the time. And now, after witnessing a wave of less-than-stellar performances by the GOP’s inexperienced primary nominees, McConnell’s concerns about poor ‘candidate quality’ appear to have been right on the money.”

GA: “Some Lessons from Herschel Walker’s Campaign Debacle in Georgia” [The New Yorker]. “‘Herschel was like a plane crash into a train wreck that rolled into a dumpster fire,’ the Georgia Republican operative Dan McLagan, who advised one of Walker’s rivals in the G.O.P. primary, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. ‘And an orphanage. Then an animal shelter. You kind of had to watch it squinting between one eye between your fingers.’ A Walker staffer told the same newspaper that his campaign felt like a ‘death march.’ And yet, after all that, with more than ninety-five per cent of the vote counted, Walker has received more than 1.7 million votes, or 48.6 per cent of the total cast. How could so many Georgians have voted for such a flawed candidate? The answer lies in the polarization of the current moment; the Peach State’s demographics; and an attempted rescue mission by a popular Republican governor…. Kemp’s late endorsement helps explain why so many Republicans did turn out for Walker again, but it wasn’t enough to repair the self-inflicted damage he’d already done….. In an environment of hyper-partisanship and all-out political warfare, individual candidates still matter.”

GA: “OnPolitics: How did the GOP lose Georgia? Walker, Trump influence cost Senate seat” [USA Today]. “‘Trump is the big loser,’ pollster Frank Luntz said in the wake of the Republicans’ latest loss in a major political race. ‘One by one, his handpicked candidates for Senate flopped. I can’t remember a time when the environment for Republicans was so good and yet the results were so bad.'”


“Trump hosts Mar-a-Lago event with prominent QAnon, Pizzagate conspiracy theorist” [The Hill]. “Liz Crokin, a former journalist and celebrity gossip writer now associated with far-right conspiracy theories, spoke at a fundraiser intended to combat child trafficking, according to posts on her Telegram account. At the event, Crokin said she discussed Pizzagate, a debunked conspiracy theory suggesting Hillary and Bill Clinton and other political elites run a child sex trafficking ring at a pizza shop in Washington. She also discussed the fashion company Balenciaga, which has recently taken heat for a photo campaign featuring children and plush bears with BDSM accessories. Trump, who last month declared himself a 2024 presidential candidate, made an appearance at the event. ‘You are incredible people and doing unbelievable work,’ he said in a video shared by Crokin. ‘We just appreciate you being here and I hope you’re going to be back.'” • How strange that we’re not seeing any liberal Democrats rushing to Balenciaga’s defense.

Republican Funhouse

“Kevin McCarthy faces debt-limit dilemma as House GOP ratchets up demands amid speaker bid” [CNN]. “House Republicans are plotting tactics for their new majority and weighing how to use their leverage to enact a laundry list of demands, with many zeroing in on an issue with enormous economic implications: Raising the nation’s borrowing limit. aIt’s an issue confronting House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is rounding up the votes to win the House speaker race and facing pressure from some of his colleagues to more forcefully detail how he plans to handle the sensitive topic before they decide whether to support him on January 3 for the most powerful position in Congress. In interviews with CNN, more than two dozen House GOP lawmakers laid out their demands to avoid the nation’s first-ever debt default, ranging from new immigration policies to imposing deep domestic spending cuts. And several Republicans flatly said they would oppose raising the borrowing limit even if all their demands were met, making McCarthy’s narrow path even narrower. ‘I’m a no, no matter what,” Rep. Tim Burchett, a Tennessee Republican, said of raising the debt ceiling.” • So Democrats should abolish the debt ceiling. Of course, they won’t. For one thing, they can fundraise off the cuts.

Democrats en Déshabillé

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

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

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

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

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“Hakeem Jeffries and the Railroad Workers” [Black Agenda Report]. “The Black Agenda Report team is proud to have coined the phrases “Black misleadership class” and “Black political class.” These words cannot be uttered and written too often because they name and shame the people who work alongside the neoliberal and imperialist order in the United States while also pretending to act on behalf of Black people, whose needs are antithetical to those of the oligarchy. Congressional Black Caucus member Hakeem Jeffries is the Black politico of the moment and his rise is a cautionary tale which must be followed closely…. If Biden wanted the railroad workers to have sick days, there was a simple way to go about doing that. He could just sign an executive order. In 2015 Barack Obama signed such an order requiring all federal contractors to provide paid sick time but railroad workers were specifically excluded. All Biden has to do is sign a new one which requires that railroad workers be included in this rule… Jeffries loves the theater as much as the rest of his colleagues. Taking a knee at all the appropriate photo opportunities while serving the interests of police or the Israeli state or railroad barons made him the perfect candidate for a leadership position. Nancy Pelosi’s time was up. A new face was needed, a younger face, and yes a Black one from a big city. Who better to give the impression that change was afoot when it actually wasn’t. Jeffries will be ready the next time his services are needed to crush workers or do something else that the ruling class requires of him. The Black first is all too often a person who is co-opted or who is simply ambitious and knows how to play the game.” • Yep.


Lambert here: Eric Topol has called a winter surge (or “wave”) of Covid. I am but a humble tapewatcher, but I’m reluctant to do so. (Partly because I know my temperament, and I have strong priors. So “I won’t because all of me wants to,” as Sam Spade says.) 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. Granted, Boston (wastewater) is accelerating New York (hospitalization) is increasing, they are good data, and they could be leading indicators (which is why I chose them). They could also be flashes in the pan. (Perhaps I need to take a rigorous look at wastewater, as for example in San Francisco (charts take forever to load).) So we’ll see. Let’s wait and see what the remainder of the holiday season brings. Reader discussion on this important point is welcome. Nevertheless–

Stay safe out there: High transmission (CDC), the elevation of positivity (Walgreens), the steady takeover of BQ.1* (CDC; Walgreens), along with increased hospitalization in BQ.1* hotbed New York, plus a wastewater surge in Boston are all more than a little unsettling (as is the apparent proliferation of variants). As one might expect at the beginning of a holiday surge, wastewater in Queens County, NY (JFK/LGA), Cook County, IL (ORD), and Los Angeles County (LAX) continues to be elevated. If you are planning to travel on Xmas, do consider your plans carefully.

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• Still in humble tapewatcher mode, let’s assume that wastewater is a good proxy for real case numbers (see next link). Here is Biobot’s chart of wastewater and clinical cases from the beginning of the pandemic:

(NOTE I don’t run Biobot regularly because I don’t like their unexplained backward revisions. But “assume”). If we look only at wastewater (the blue curve) we see would assume that clinical case numbers are now, and have been for some months, more or less at a plateau, and in fact at the same level as every peak before Biden’s climactic, Omicron-driven peak of December 2021, as the grey “Fauci line” shows. And now the curve is rising.

For all the peaks up to March 20, 2022, clinical case numbers and wastewater tracked very closely. Now they no longer do; they have radically diverged. I’d need to dig into why, but I’m not sure it’s home testing, because home test kits were available in 2021. It might be that Administration messaging changed. “Airlines, travel groups ask Biden administration to drop Covid testing before international flights” (CNBC, February 2, 2022). “States Lead the Way to ‘New Normal’ With Biden Administration Mum on Coronavirus Guidance” (US News, February 10, 2021). “The politics of getting to the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic” (NPR, February 17, 2022). “Are we really done with masking?” (CNBC, March 2, 2022). “National Nurses United ‘outraged’ over CDC’s rolled-back mask guidance” (May 17, 2022). Perhaps, in their totality, the administration’s move to “Let ‘er rip” messaging also conveyed to the public that Covid was, indeed, “just a flu.” Hence, no clinical cases. (It’s also expensive and dangerous to get involved with the health care system.)

• ”Citywide wastewater SARS-CoV-2 levels strongly correlated with multiple disease surveillance indicators and outcomes over three COVID-19 waves” [Science of the Total Environment]. From the Abstract: “Here, we present an 86-week long surveillance study that covers three major COVID-19 surges. City-wide SARS-CoV-2 RNA viral loads in wastewater were measured across 39 wastewater treatment plants and compared to other disease metrics for the city of Houston, TX. We show that wastewater levels are strongly correlated with positivity rate, syndromic surveillance rates of COVID-19 visits, and COVID-19-related general bed use rates at hospitals.”

• And still in humble tapewatcher mode, another CDC chart I don’t run regularly because it’s confusing. CDC explains how to read it: “If more area on the chart is shaded light or dark blue, it means virus levels were decreasing at more sites at that point in time. If more area on the chart is shaded red or orange, it means virus levels were increasing at more sites at that point in time”:

(The data is smoothed over 15 days.) At the bottom of the chart, you will notice that the number of sites in red — those with large increases in virus levels — has the kind of accelerating curve I’m concerned about. However, at the top, you will notice a black line dropping precipitously: This is the number of sites sampled. So, just when we need to have the best data, our sample is going bad (thanks, CDC). If you go down to the map in the Wastewater section, you will also see that the large number of sites — grey dots — that are not sending data at all (thanks again), as well as vast swathes of the country in the South, the border states, the plains states, and the mountain states that are not sending data at all (thanks once more).

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• ”BC Hasn’t Learned Much from the Pandemic” [The Tyee (C.O.)]. “The COVID-19 Lessons Learned Review, an operational review of the provincial government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, was submitted to Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth on Sept. 23…. For all its strengths, Lessons Learned has some glaring omissions. Charlie Smith, former editor of the Georgia Straight, posted results on his Substack of a word search he’d done on the Lessons Learned report: not once does it mention terms like ‘airborne,’ ‘brain injury,’ ‘cardiovascular’ and ‘excess mortality.’ ‘Long COVID’ gets one passing mention. Yet we have known for a long time that COVID-19 is an airborne cardiovascular disease that causes brain injury and other effects in people who contract even “mild” cases. (I might add that the report, like the government, uses “restrictions,” a pejorative term, when “protections” would have been more accurate.)” • One more for Bonnie Henry’s dossier. (I keep making jokes about the Hague Tribunal, but I wonder if there’s really a theory of the case.)

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•ª ”Jenna Ortega Had COVID While Filming Her Iconic Wednesday Dance Scene” [Teen Vogue]. “Understandably, the revelation has shocked many viewers, who have voiced their criticisms online.” • Good. A little crack in the wall of propaganda. It’s not impossible.

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• Maskstravaganza:

This pyscho has no concept that risk to others might enter into his calculation. From his bio, Frieden is — as one might expect — a “Former @CDCgov director and @nycHealthy commissioner.” And the kicker: “Focused on saving lives.” Well, no. The rot in the (hegemonic) PMC goes very, very deep.

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• “A bug I just can’t shake”:

Mental laziness as a form of denial?

“Why We’re All Forgetting Things Right Now” [Wall Street Journal]. From April, still germane. “We’re living in yet another moment of big change as we return to offices, create new routines and find our footing in yet another new normal. (And don’t forget a scary war in Europe on top of that.) All this change consumes cognitive energy, often much more than we think, neuroscientists say. It’s no wonder we can’t remember what we had for breakfast. Our minds are struggling with transition moments…. The chronic and cumulative stress of the past two years has taken its toll, too…. The deluge of information coming at us on multiple channels is cluttering our brains, too…. Then there’s the sameness of our lives during the pandemic. How are we supposed to remember a specific event when each day was exactly the same as every other?” • Absolutely no mention of neurological damage from Covid, even from mild cases, and especially from repeated infections. ‘Tis a puzzlement!

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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.)

Lambert here: The powers-that-be don’t even see transmission as a problem, obviously. But you might!

• “L.A. County facing a full-blown coronavirus surge as cases double, deaths rise” [Los Angeles Times]. “Los Angeles County appears in the midst of another full-blown coronavirus surge, with cases doubling since Thanksgiving. The spike — which partially captures but likely does not fully reflect exposures over the Thanksgiving holiday — is prompting increasingly urgent calls for residents to get up to date on their vaccines and consider taking other preventive steps to stymie viral transmission and severe illness. Also on the rise is the number of coronavirus-positive patients being cared for in hospitals, sparking concerns about renewed stress on the region’s healthcare system and raising the specter of an indoor public mask mandate if the trends continue, possibly shortly after New Year’s Day.” • Why on earth is an “indoor public mask mandate” a “spectre”? What’s wrong with these people? (Meanwhile, I’ve been yelling about LAX wastewater for awhile; here’s confirmation.)


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published December 5:

0.9%. Distinct slackening (remember, this data is smoothed). Then again, as the grey Fauci Line shows, we are at the same level today as we were in the last peak (except of course this time the pandemic is “over”).


Wastewater data (CDC), December 4:

JFK/LGA, Queens County is still red; ORD, Cook County is orange; LAX, Los Angeles County now red. I would bet that speckling of red in Utah is sky country. Stay safe when travelling.

December 3:

And MWRA data, December 5:

Lambert here: Decreasing.


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), November 19:

Lambert here: BQ.1* dominating. XBB coming up on the outside.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), November 12 (Nowcast off):

BQ.1* moving along quite briskly. Note the appearance of XBB, and see the highlighted note: Like BQ.1*, XBB appears suddenly when CDC decides to disaggregate the data. Exactly as with CDC’s infamous “green map,” a lag is introduced, this time by CDC’s decision-making process; Walgreens had XBB last week, but CDC has it only this week. I don’t see what purpose the aggregation serves. If the issue is a jillion low-circulation variants would make the table impossibly long and confusing for users, that’s a UI/UX issue; handle it with software. Have a slider/filter that aggregates variants under 1%, say. Allow scrolling the results. Whatever. But stop concealing data!

New York/New Jersey (Region 2) numbers are higher. BQ.1.* is dominating:

• As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated December 6:

Lambert here: I see a continuing increase, but not acceleration.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,108,815 – 1,107,794 = 1021 (1021 * 365 = 372,665 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

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Retail: “How to Take the Friction Out of Commerce | Case Study” [Business of Fashion]. “In physical stores, retailers in the US alone collectively lose more than $30 billion annually due to long queues, according to a 2018 estimate by Adyen, a financial technology platform. Online, the problems are even more pronounced. Baymard Institute, which conducts research on the user experience (UX) of e-commerce sites, estimates that online retailers in the US and EU lose around $260 billion in orders due to their checkout flow and design. And Baymard is not the only one to put a billion-dollar price tag on the problem. Coresight Research, an advisory firm specialising in retail and technology, recently found that US online retailers are losing between $111 billion and $136 billion in sales due to a less-than-optimal checkout. Part of the issue stems from brands and retailers failing to optimise for shifting shopping behaviours. Even before pandemic lockdown restrictions drove e-commerce’s phenomenal growth, consumer patterns were already clear. Now, for example, a good deal of shopping takes place during gaps in the day, when people are between tasks and browsing on their phones or laptops. Would-be customers can easily be interrupted by emails, phone messages or their physical environment and can become frustrated with having to fill out too many fields or create an account to make a purchase. The good news is that even small improvements in measures like conversion rates and average order values can have a meaningful impact when multiplied across thousands or millions of customers. To succeed, retailers are turning to tools and services that help them smooth the path to purchase.”

Tech: “Texas becomes latest state to ban TikTok on government devices” [Axios]. “A growing number of GOP-led states are barring state employees and contractors from using TikTok on government-issued devices as the FBI warns of possible threats to national security posed by the Chinese-owned social media platform. Texas became the latest to do so on Wednesday, joining South Dakota, South Carolina and Maryland, all of which banned the app on government devices in the past week. Wisconsin Republicans are urging their Democratic governor to do the same. ‘[U]nder China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, all businesses are required to assist China in intelligence work including data sharing, and TikTok’s algorithm has already censored topics politically sensitive to the Chinese Communist Party,’ Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a letter to state officials Wednesday.” • Because kids these days, all they care about is the Yellow Peril.

Tech: “Pentagon splits $9bn cloud computing contract among tech giants” [Financial Times]. “Amazon had accused Trump of putting pressure on the Pentagon to “screw” its founder, Jeff Bezos, and award the contract to its rival because of the former president’s personal animus. Oracle had claimed the single-vendor contract was unfair, while Google had withdrawn its bid in 2018 following a staff outcry for working with the DoD.” • “Tell your friends I don’t want a lot. Just enough to wet my beak. Don’t be afraid to tell them!” –Don Fanucci, Godfather II.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 60 Greed (previous close: 59 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 69 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 7 at 1:37 PM EST.

Xmas Pregame Festivities

“110 Unique Merry Christmas Wishes to Write in a Card” [Good Housekeeping]. • Feed this to ChatGPT.

Photo Book

“Searching for Saul Leiter” [FlakPhoto]. “I was late to the game in terms of Leiter. My first experience with his work was in 2006 when Lisa Hostetler staged an exhibition of his color photography at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Leiter’s winter picture was in the press kit, and I was immediately hooked. I loved its painterly qualities and how it looked like a dream. I come back to this picture often and only recently noticed that Saul appears to have wiped some of the condensation from the window before making the image. Talk about seeing!” • Many images from Leiter, and resources.

Our Famously Free Press

The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit“:


Health Care

“Limits of ‘Fauci effect’: infectious disease applicants plummet, and hospitals are scrambling” [STAT]. “The lack of doctors entering ID fellowships — and the ensuing shortage of these specialists — has been a concern for years, with experts pointing to the comparatively low earnings these physicians make as a major disincentive for doctors considering which field to enter. But this year’s numbers marked a backslide. Fully a quarter of available positions went unfilled. Among the fellowship programs, 44% didn’t fill their slots, according to data from the National Resident Matching Program. ‘You can’t sugarcoat it, can you?’ said Lisa Chirch, the ID fellowship director at UConn Health.” • Hard work, lower pay, and (speculating freely) promotion blocked by reactionary mossback droplet goons. Who needs it?

Zeitgeist Watch

“Axios Finish Line: Rise of kinless older Americans” [Axios]. “There’s a growing population of seniors who are aging alone — without any close family around them. There are nearly a million Americans over the age of 55 living without a spouse or a partner, any children or siblings. That’s because boomers have lower marriage rates than their parents did, and more of them have remained childless. On top of that, the divorce rate among couples who have crossed 50 has risen Rates of kinlessness are projected to grow as generations younger than boomers are even likelier to be aging alone. Kinless older folks are less likely to participate in community groups, sports or religious organizations — activities that stimulate the body and the brain. And they’re less likely to receive the care and help around the home that they need. As a result, kinless older adults die sooner.”

“The People Cheering For Humanity’s End” [The Atlantic]. “From Silicon Valley boardrooms to rural communes to academic philosophy departments, a seemingly inconceivable idea is being seriously discussed: that the end of humanity’s reign on Earth is imminent, and that we should welcome it. The revolt against humanity is still new enough to appear outlandish, but it has already spread beyond the fringes of the intellectual world, and in the coming years and decades it has the potential to transform politics and society in profound ways…. The first is Anthropocene anti-humanism, inspired by revulsion at humanity’s destruction of the natural environment…. Transhumanism, by contrast, glorifies some of the very things that anti-humanism decries—scientific and technological progress, the supremacy of reason. But it believes that the only way forward for humanity is to create new forms of intelligent life that will no longer be Homo sapiens.” • I don’t use the phrase “death cult” that often, but perhaps I should start. The exact perspective we should expect from The Atlantic: “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” –Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?

Speaking of death cults:

Class Warfare

“Exclusive: Delta offers pilots hefty pay raises as unions flex bargaining power” [Reuters]. “Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) has offered a 34% cumulative pay increase to its pilots over three years in a new contract, demonstrating the bargaining power aviators are enjoying in a short-staffed industry with booming travel demand.” • Travel demand and business travellers.

Real scarcity in the Congo:

Here, the scarcity is artificial. The desired results are the same.

“Research Letter: Association between long COVID symptoms and employment status” (preprint) [medRxiv]. n = 15,307. “: Long COVID was associated with a greater likelihood of unemployment and lesser likelihood of working full time in adjusted models. Presence of cognitive symptoms was associated with diminished likelihood of working full time.”

Social capital:

News of the Wired

“Driver Trapped for More Than 300 Miles on Highway After Cruise Control Breaks” [The Drive]. • Great metaphor.

“This American diet could add 10 years to your life” [National Geographic]. “There is another American diet, one that could actually increase your life expectancy by up to 10 years and, in some cases, reverse disease. It’s not a fad diet invented by a South Beach doctor, a paleo diet marketer, or a social media influencer. This diet was developed by ordinary Americans, is widely affordable, is sustainable, and has a lower carbon footprint than a meat-heavy diet. Most important, it is hearty and delicious, developed over centuries by fusing flavors from the Old and New Worlds in ingenious and uniquely American ways…. We start in New England, looking at the traditional foods of the Wampanoag Native Americans…. Though the Wampanoag hunted game and collected mussels and oysters, 70 percent of their diet came from plant sources…. Chinese American women living in Hawaii enjoy about 90 years of life expectancy, and the diet of Chinese Americans living there supports such longevity. (Want to live longer? Influence your genes.) Since Southeast Asians began arriving in Hawaii over 170 years ago as agricultural workers, each ethnic group has introduced its own flavors and ingredients. The Chinese brought leafy cabbage, soybean products, and teas. The Japanese, miso and their own version of tofu. The Filipinos, tender tips of many plants such as squash and pumpkin. This melding of foods and cooking techniques has made Hawaii the place to experience Asian fusion cuisine that’s primarily plant based…. African Americans living in the Deep South have a long tradition of eating blue-zones-type foods. What began as a largely plant-based West African diet morphed with local Native American and European influences to produce a unique and vividly delicious cuisine. Dietary surveys going back to the 1890s indicate that most foods eaten by southern African Americans were vegetables and grains. Aside from salt pork added for flavor, animal products played a minor role.” • “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” –Michael Pollan.

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From EM:

EM writes: “Here we have Mushrooms growing together with Raspberries and Strawberries. You can see the mychrozial network if you look closely. It’s a Lion King-esque circle of life.”

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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. flora

    re: “Hakeem Jeffries and the Railroad Workers” – [Black Agenda Report]

    Thanks for the link.

    Thanks also for introducing me to Black Agenda Report and to Adoph Reed Jr.’s writing.

  2. Seth A. Miller

    Re: Railroad Strike Broken

    To get the workers sick days, Biden could sign an executive order, this is true. But he need not have even done that. He could simply have told the railroad barons that he would not lift a finger to break the impending strike, and call upon the parties to return to the table, while at the same time extolling the basic human dignity represented by paid sick leaves. That would have been enough, and without having to deal with the filibuster.

    1. Jason Boxman

      Yep, in other words, if liberal Democrats wanted to exercise power, directly or indirectly, to deliver material benefits to a part of the working class, and humane treatment, there was literally nothing to stop them. Instead, they’ve failed to deliver what could easily have been done in a dozen different ways. It takes some skill to fail to achieve something that’s basically impossible to fail at delivering absent an intent to not deliver.

      This behavior from liberal Democrats shouldn’t really surprise anymore, though. And I doubt anyone at NC is surprised in the slightest.

      About the only good news I see these days is some positive movement on antitrust, shocking from Biden.

    2. Mo

      Furthermore, Jimmy Dore points out that Bernie and Lizzy could have held up the bill for two weeks by placing consecutive holds. This could possibly have given the unions time to strike and win sick days.

      And Kshama Sawant pointed out that Bernie’s introduction of the sick days amendment gave an opportunity for Rubio and Cruz to grandstand and thus boosted Republican party populist credentials.

      The fraudsquad thus has been worse than useless.

    3. Darthbobber

      All that was necessary was for Biden’s handpicked presidential emergency board to agree with the Union position on sick leave in it’s recommendations.

      What it DID do was to very explicitly agree with the carrier’s position and characterize the union proposal as unreasonable and unduly costly. The board’s full report is available online as a pdf and it’s discussion of sick leave is on pp83-86.

      So to be clear, the Biden administration did not “fail” to include sick leave, it opposed doing so.

      All this after the fact effort to appear powerless is in reaction to more people paying attention than they expected.

  3. SteveD

    and you’re not worried about long Covid,

    Hmmm. So I’d like to see the decision tree that enables one to “not worry about long COVID”. Is that published anywhere?

    1. The Rev Kev

      Well, there is but then you would have to pay an annual subscription for it. And it is in the form of an app that you would have to install on your mobile but which can update itself whenever it wants so that you would constantly have to check it to see what has changed. To find it online, just look for the Barrington app at the Store.

  4. semper loquitur

    Note to Dr. Frieden: when you have to say out loud that, as a doctor and public health official, you are “focused on saving lives”, there is a problem…

    1. hunkerdown

      It’s an honorific title, akin to tribal names of the “Always Giving Away Blankets While Walking” flavor. Not intended to be a factual statement.

      (Lambert, there are toxic italics in the Positivity section, after Walgreens.)

  5. in_still_water

    Biden (or his staff/DNC) didn’t forget the unions.

    1. tegnost

      Socialism for the underfunders, basically, yet another corporate bailout masquerading as “aid”.
      I’d be willing to bet that in the weeds it’s even worse than that. What is the dow at now? What kind of loser lost in this market? Where did the underfunding go to? Did the corps just decide they’d get more if they invested on their own behalf rather than for the pensioners? My bet is yes, they did.

      Many union retirement plans have been under financial pressure because of underfunding and other issues. Without the federal assistance, Teamster members could have seen their benefits reduced by an average of 60% starting within a couple of years.

  6. Roger Blakely

    The weekly press conference for Los Angeles County Public Health starts at 2:00 p.m. Let’s see what Dr. Ferrer has to say this week. Yesterday she told the LA Times that she probably won’t pull the trigger on the indoor mask mandate until after New Year’s Day.

    1. Roger Blakely

      Dr. Ferrer announced that today Los Angeles County went from medium CDC COVID-19 community level to high CDC COVID-19 community level.

      Dr. Ferrer did not issue an indoor mask mandate. The media showed up to the press conference because the mask mandate was the if-it-bleeds-it-leads issue of the day.

      In fact, Dr. Ferrer thinks that we will get through this winter surge without her having to issue the indoor mask mandate. The trigger will be more than 10% of staffed hospital beds with COVID-19 patients for more than two consecutive weeks. We are ate 6.9% at the moment.

      She said, “We are not asking anyone to curtail their activities.”

      She had a slide with the following text: Everyone over 2 years old needs to be masking in indoor public spaces, including transit.

      She said, “Please don’t hesitate to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.”

  7. Toshiro_Mifune

    Angry birds miniature golf course and attached bakery
    The American Dream Mall in the Meadowlands. Absolutely one of the dumbest ideas (NJ has no lack of shopping, same for NYC) that various market forces have tried to kill for almost 2 decades now. And yet they still persist with it.

    1. Louis Fyne

      ” that various market forces have tried to kill for almost 2 decades now. ”

      The market can’t kill that mall because NJ state government (NJ Economic Dev. Authority) gave the developers $300+ million in direct cash and $300+ million in indirect infrastructure subsidies.

      Malls, stadiums, etc. Democrats are just as culpable in these boondoggles as Republicans.

  8. Thistlebreath

    Wales vowed “….to smash copyright.” Thanks, Jimmy. This guy wouldn’t recognize the truth if it bit him.

  9. Just an Analog Girl

    Regarding the Axios articles on kinless older people, I am one of those. I have lived alone in Kansas City most of my adult life, although used to have many friends. Hated roommates, was married for a short time, and have lived alone ever since. However, the last nearly 3 years of COVID lockdown (for me) has been really hard on me. I was very close to my next door neighbor who did many physical chores for me, mowing, moving heavy objects, etc. However, his mother died and he relocated to southern KS to take care of her estate. While he comes back to KC every couple of weeks, his absence has been difficult. As for my family, my folks have passed, and I have 3 brothers in Sonoma, CA, Dallas, TX and Austin, TX. My few friends work and have families and don’t have much extra time. I have essentially been alone for the last 3 years. I don’t let people into my house, don’t answer the phone (too many scammers) and read a LOT of Naked Capitalism. I have connected with a senior services program, where I make a daily call-in to let them know I’m alive and well and Living in KC. Don’t exactly know where I am going with this thread other than my connection to the Axios article.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’m sorry. Allow me to proffer some entirely unasked for advice: When the spring comes, try gardening. It’s good for you; the plants are living things. You can plan for what to do in during the winter. The NC commentariat is a font of wisdom.

    2. curlydan

      I live in Kansas City, only work half-time, and have been looking for part-time volunteer opportunities. I will send my email address to Lambert if you’re interested in help from me or my kids (e.g. mowing lawn, raking leaves, yard work, etc). If you’d rather not connect or site policies prevent us from connecting, no problem.

    3. Glen

      We are glad you’re here. Please comment more, it’s not human contact, but it’s a community you can contribute to right now.

    4. AndrewJ

      There’s not a lot of times where I want to offer “thoughts and prayers”, but as a late-thirties-year-old who has spent the majority of life after leaving home without good human connections, friends, or family… I hope you’re as okay as you can be. I only lately found people who actually value the same things I do, via a nascent makerspace. Turns out a decade of going to shows while not being a musician was really the wrong track. I needed people who I have something in common with (physical crafts).
      Still, when I think about the future, it’s unlikely I’ll be in the financial or mental or relationship space to have had children to take care of me when I’m old, and I do expect to be living alone. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it.
      If you ever think of moving… the pnw is nice.
      Sorry for rambling. When one comes across someone in the same place you’ve been… I felt I should say something.

    1. GA on my mind

      I watched Tucker (time my son has asked me to share with him; dismantling Tucker’s various and superficial rhetorical tricks and his fast and loose play with facts he has learned to appreciate; plus, no matter what, he gets Greenwald and Tulsard) and Hannity on election night. Tucker did no early rah rah, just the facts; Hannity early responded to the numbers without his usual pom pomming, and in fact spent much of his night telling his republican +1.5 other audience that the Republican Party needs to stop bitching about early voting rules and learn to work within them. Ballot Harvesting, he said, needs to be done by Republicans, “but within the law, of course.” One more: Sean reported that the winning campaign received 120 million in reportable campaign contributions post GE, while Walker the former Runner received 48 million. Hard to separate disappointment from disgust watching Hannity that night.

  10. truly

    I would like to put a thought out there for the braintrust at NC to noodle over.
    Around February, when the events in Ukraine shifted from an internal conflict to a full on proxy war Micheal Hudson suggested that US interests were really less about defeating RU and more about defeating Western Europe. Defeating as in deindustrializing them and leaving them more dependent on the US empire. (I hope this is a fair recollection of his view). I initially thought MH was going a little conspiracy and maybe hyperbolic on this? But as I keep checking my notes and the scorecard, his view looks stronger and stronger.
    I would like to take Hudson’s views one step further. As we see how even the progressives and Dems have become openly hostile to organized labor, it occurs to me that this proxy war may be more specifically about destroying organized labor through the collective west. Organized labor has arguably done its best in Western Europe. The unions in Germany in particular have shown that auto manufacturers can remain profitable, produce great quality cars all the while paying decent wages and workers having decent safe work conditions. Now high energy costs (due to sanctions) will push industry to new markets, looking for not just cheap(er) energy but cheap and unorganized labor. Labor in Western Europe will have lost any leverage it had as factories are shuttered and moved away. When Ukraine is nothing but a rump, factories can move there where people will be so desperate for work they will accept any conditions. The American labor movement is so crushed that jobs coming here (US)will be of little benefit ( see- many homeless have full time employment).
    Transnational capitalists (globalists?) will be sitting pretty. Organized labor destroyed in old Europe. Organized labor destroyed in Ukraine. Displaced people desperate for work undercutting their fellow man (and woman) all over the west. A huge win for capital. A huge loss for laboring classes.
    I posit that this is not a war between countries. It is a war between capital and labor.
    All done in a Naomi Klein ‘Shock Doctrine’ sort of way.
    I ask the braintrust of NC to grade my paper.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      We are of like mind. I made a comment similar to your comment on today’s links page:
      Jeremy Grimm December 8, 2022 at 2:17 pm

      I think that Labor and also the remnants of socialism left from the years of social democracy in the EU will be targets in programs of austerity — austerity with the possible exception of allowances for weapons purchases to replace the weapons and ammunition shipped to Ukraine. Law enforcement will probably receive a boost as well, as weapons and criminals spread from the Ukraine across the EU.

      Like you, I believe Michael Hudson very correctly assessed the u.s. interests in the Ukraine war.

    2. danpaco

      The huge price in healthcare will make European companies think twice before relocating to the US.

    3. KD

      When Ukraine is nothing but a rump, factories can move there where people will be so desperate for work they will accept any conditions.

      Kind of hard to run a factory without electricity.

    4. Lee

      This line of thinking reminds me of Kissinger’s comment on the Allende government to the effect that from the U.S. standpoint the worst possible outcome in Chile would be if Allende were to lose a future election and a peaceful transfer of power followed. That is, the peaceful, democratic movement toward socialism must be thwarted at all costs. It would set a terrible example that other nations might seek to emulate putting the lie to America’s devotion to democracy. “There is no alternative”, but if there is one we’ll annihilate it.

    5. The Rev Kev

      You may be onto something. You see another example with American corporations – with local help – seeking to destroy the national health system in the UK. I sometimes think that a main reason is to remove a working free healthcare system so that Americans will see that with their own healthcare system that There Is No Alternative. All that money to be made is just gravy.

    6. skippy

      Wellie I would note that the dominate economic agenda in the Ukraine for yonks is/was too smash anything that stood in the way of privatizing everything and basically sold off to international … cough … western investors … and then proclaim it an economic miracle …

      So all these loans they are getting [war debt] for removing the Russians from some prime economic zones is a two’fer down the road.

  11. Mikel

    “How to Take the Friction Out of Commerce | Case Study”

    The simple transaction: just require financial info or cash for the purchases and stop worrying about the lives of customers after a purchase unless there is safety or health issue from a product.

    1. c_heale

      The figure of the amount lost – how was it measured? I would like to suggest that it is nonsense, since most people would have purchased the item from somewhere else. If course, that may have been offline – but in that case the sale still wasn’t lost, just made in a different place.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I read the article you linked to. It is written in some kind of ‘greek’. I get especially curious where it mentions that the “missing dollar debt” from the foreign exchange swaps is huge. The line that follows that raises a lot of questions for me:
      “In times of crisis, policies to restore the smooth flow of short-term dollars in the financial system (e.g. central bank swap lines) are set in a fog.”
      What or which crisis is this a reference to? How can central bank swap lines be in a fog and what does it matter unless there is a good deal more going on than “an agreement between two parties to buy one currency against selling another currency at an agreed price for settlement on the spot date” … “two business days from the trade date” — grabbing some text from a Wiki explanation of FX spot deals. “Hidden FX swap debt” ? Hidden indeed!

  12. ChrisFromGA

    Anyone else sniff out the nudging/propaganda attempt in the WSJ article cited?

    We’re living in yet another moment of big change as we return to offices, create new routines and find our footing in yet another new normal.

    Hmm, most folks I know are NOT returning to offices. Who is this “we”, Kemosabe? WFH seems here to stay. Why do I suspect the WSJ is carrying water for the big banks knee deep in illiquid CRE assets marked-to-fantasy?

    1. griffen

      I am slowly and quietly moving into job search mode, need something more permanent and solidified headed into 2023. Anecdotal but I expect some resistance to a proposed fully remote job function if the corporate employer is local. Local meaning southeastern US.

      I’ve heard that a local employer has run people off upon insisting earlier in 2022 to be fully in office. But the corporate leaders may well be psychopaths, as my employment with this same company was mostly beneficial until I actually found a much better paying role. They like their employees, mostly to be cheaply paid in comparison to most salary ranges.

  13. curlydan

    As noted above, the Walgreens positivity rate shows important trends, but it helps to combine it with more data. An example is Kansas. Its positivity rate is down 5.1 pct points in the past week, but number of tests are up so much that the # of positives overall is up 18% (or 195 positives this week vs 165 positives last week).

  14. Mikel

    “How strange that we’re not seeing any liberal Democrats rushing to Balenciaga’s defense….”

    The situation is too WTH were they thinking….

    Imagine: This was an ad campaign. So that means there were other ideas. The other ideas were either wilder or nobody could make the case for them to beat “children holding teddy bears with BDSM gear”.
    If nobody could say, “Wow, this too weird. No,” to the bear idea, what where the other ideas???

    1. flora

      When the global financial elite become so disconnected from the rest of the world… and suddenly realize how that disconnect appears to the little people they take for granted… and get an unwelcome whiff of their dependence on the little people. The limits of Sea Steading ideology. / ;)

      1. JBird4049

        Yes, the most troubling bit to me (aside from the suggestive child molestation porn bit that is) is the lack of awareness of just how out there this is by an advertising company whose job requires being aware of society’s culture, preferable all of it and not just the targeted audience. Advertisers often try to be a little bit shocking, a little outrageous, but this beyond that.

        This is merely very speculative thinking. I admit, I could be just full of it, but the whole of the Elites and their apparatchiks, paparazzi, glitterati, literati are connected… a society’s intelligentsia are the influencers, if not its leaders, in everything. Artists, writers, music, politicians, historians, scientists, etc… it is a collective, maybe better described as almost a hive or group mind. That is the reason why dictators and invaders either try to change or exterminate this relatively small group.

        If that group of glitterati and its handlers and advertisers are such a mess that they cannot see just how associating children with bondage might be offensive to over 90% of the American population, it suggest that much of what passes as the American elite is just fraked up. And by extension to the European elites as well.

        I think this is connected to Lambert’s death cult idea. It is a form of nihilism. Not the existentialism of Sartre or Camus, but the most depressing, destructive Russian nihilism of the nineteenth century. But of course, unlike any of those thinkers, there is does not look to be anything there actively trying to be nihilistic. I do not see any purpose to this. Any thought to it. Our elites (being overly broad here, I think) have stripped themselves of any reason for living, even the search for joy or pleasure, after discarding any of the cultural, philosophical, political, or religious frameworks that we all need to live. Ultimately, all human beings need this.

        They have done to themselves what they have done to American society and by extension to Western civilization. Deracinate it of everything needed to live from the practical necessities like farming, manufacturing, and government* to the social necessities like culture, art, religion, music, even philosophy.

        It has become a contest of getting the most toys, while faking emotions with increasingly outrageous activities. Maybe creating a death cult is one of those outrageous ideas. A means of emotional stimulation while waiting to die after simulating being alive.

        * (We don’t have a government. We have a grift)

    2. The Rev Kev

      Next step for Balenciaga – children actually wearing BDSM gear. It’s the logical next step. And the women at The View will defend them by saying it is only in bad taste and their latest designs look tacky but not that it is wrong. And celebrities like Kim Kardashian will take another week and a half to come out with a statement about them as she advertises their wares.

      1. flora

        Yep. And the brand will lose it’s aspirational appeal for the middle classes, and the View will wonder WTH is wrong with shoppers who aren’t buying the brand. And if the richest want association with such an ad campaign then that’s on them.

        1. flora

          adding bluntly: if the aspiring middle classes realize or think their children are seen as prey, sexual prey, by the upper classes,… well then Katie bar the door.

          1. JBird4049

            Which is another reason for Jeffrey Epstein’s “suicide.” Not only were his… friends in danger, but the friends’ friends as well. Whatever the numbers, people would speculate about the friends and family of the passengers of the Lolita Express and start believing in the existence of not only a financially predatory class, but also a pedophilic class as well.

      2. Mikel

        “children actually wearing BDSM gear”
        And we know those pics weren’t ever taken…(*crickets*)…right?

      3. Basil Pesto

        Next step for Balenciaga – children actually wearing BDSM gear. It’s the logical next step.

        Is it, though?

    3. ambrit

      “..what where the other ideas???”
      How about pizza parties with a “Five Nights at Bill and Hillary’s” theme. Kids love being tied up. That’s what Deacon Joe always tells us.

  15. cnchal

    > “Driver Trapped for More Than 300 Miles on Highway After Cruise Control Breaks”

    This is not credible. Braking hard slows it down, even were the throttle stuck wide open. Switching the ignition off and shifting to neutral, one can easily steer to the shoulder and stop.

    I was driving on the 401 going through a long construction zone in Toronto with no where to pull over when the VW I was driving went into WOT. Surprise!!

    To get out of that without causing a chain reaction wreck I let the speed climb to about 80 MPH, then hard on the brakes to about 50 MPH. Up and down in speed until there was room to pull over then cut the ignition. Nerve wracking to say the least.

    It was BIL’s car and after messing around underhood something reset and we were good to go. I never used more than half throttle for the rest of the drive and never looked at VW as a quality car again.

    1. Duke of Prunes

      I didn’t initially read the article. I thought it was a joke along the lines of the dim-witted people getting stuck on an escalator when it breaks. From your comment, I went back and read it, and I agree it seems suspect, but then people sometimes do silly things when under tremendous stress.

      My relevant experience is that I owned a Saab with the ignition switch located between the front seats. Once, my wife or one of the kids bumped it and turned off the car while I was negotiating a clover-leaf merge. Luckily there was no traffic so when the car suddenly died, I wasn’t terribly stressed. I aimed the car toward the shoulder of the road. Within ~10 seconds, I realized what happened, switched on the car, and off we went. During the time the car was off, I was able to steer just fine (having owned a non-power steering car in the past, you really only need power steering at low speeds).

      Maybe they build cars differently in China vs Sweden? Perhaps it’s all “drive by wire” so if you turn off the car, you also turn off the steering and brakes (i.e. no manual mode steering or braking). Seems stupid, but probably saves $$$ so why not?!?

  16. IMOR

    “…“Walker’s personality and genuine interest in staffers and their families made him easy for them to like.” Wasn’t my picture at all (I have priors about football, and football heroes).”

    Some of that was on display during the one of his two ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ seasons that I watched. Not so much more than other football players I’ve watched or a couple I’ve known.
    Regardless- no way the GOP runs him again. There are plenty of other female-despising, unqualified, popular famous men (or women) they can prop up there. And if not, they can always call the DSCC for a loaner.

  17. IMOR

    “[R]etailers in the US alone collectively lose more than $30 billion annually due to long queues, according to a 2018 estimate by Adyen, a financial technology platform.”
    …and the answer came up– needs moar fintech! Surprise!

  18. britzklieg

    a very long but eye opening open-mic discussion this morning from twitter spaces regarding FTX with some rather explosive new scandals, some factual some speculative. Many very informed speakers and yes, all pro-crypto peeps digging down to figure it all out because it’s tres complicated to say the least.. But the shocking stuff is not so specific to crypto per se (other than crypto’s demise, that is) rather the huge body of people and exchanges involved who might have a hard time ‘splainin what look to be serious criminal shenanigans already covered by existing regulation. Ouch! I’d suggest the best part is the last hour or so with a guy named farraj who encountered then declined integrating w/sbf some time ago because he was an obvious fraud. Lots of evidence gathered… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98ml-Eb5Zc4

    1. britzklieg

      oops… mr. farraj starts speaking around 1:10…

      the last hour is pure shilling of worthless crypto

  19. clarky90

    Re;……..QAnon, Pizzagate conspiracy theory…..

    Oldest DNA reveals life in Greenland 2 million years ago


    “Scientists, (published on Wednesday in the journal Nature) discovered the oldest known DNA, and used it to reveal what life was like two million years ago in the northern tip of Greenland. Today, it’s a barren Arctic desert, but back then it was a lush landscape of trees and vegetation with an array of animals, even the now extinct mastodon….”

    1. clarky90

      Re;……“The People Cheering For Humanity’s End”.

      It occurred to me…. The people glorifying “the end of humanity” (actually, just the end of the “others” not the end of them, or the end of their circle) are afraid of
      (1) global warming,
      (2) increased co2 and
      (3) increased moisture

      This is the hot-house-effect, traditionally used to raise plenty of food….

      Because then there would be (in general) more food for poor people, who would thus be able to survive, not die (again, a generalization).

      Some people and places would be worse off, but overall….

      A warm and moist planet will support Much More Life, than the cold and dry planet of today. Scientists say we are literally, still in an Ice Age, because both of our Poles are covered in Ice!

      I wonder, are ThePTB, ineptly fishing around for a plausible alibi for the extermination of most of us, “for the good of the planet/climate/environment……”

      1. anon in so cal

        No, “the People Cheering for Humanity’s End” are afraid that demographic growth will extirpate every other living species on the planet. Now 8 billion people and increasing? Humans are in no danger of going extinct but plenty of other species are. Bird populations, as just one example, have been precipitously declining, due principally to habitat loss.

        8 billion people clamoring for a middle-class lifestyle spell disaster for every other species. And, no, dismantling capitalism, alone, will not stop the habitat loss.

        (I can’t get past The Atlantic paywall but assume the article aligns with other reports I’ve read that address this trend.)

  20. Bart Hansen

    On the top plant photo of the whitish roots coming out of the ground:

    We have two large fencing wire bins into which we store a lot of fallen leaves each year, the object being to produce leaf mold for the garden. After a year or two of aging, we dig up the lower levels of each bin for the mold and find roots like in the photo coming up from the ground. We have no idea what they are, but they only grow in damp darkness.

  21. The Rev Kev

    “110 Unique Merry Christmas Wishes to Write in a Card”

    Well here is another-

    ‘Merry Christmas to all! (or if you prefer) Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all . . . and a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2023, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make the country great, (not to imply that the country is necessarily greater than any other country in both hemispheres), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee.

    By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.’

      1. Earl Erland

        May you have great feats of strength and otherwise ignore the teevee! But first feats of strength!

        Bless the Grievances. They have struggled this year.

  22. Glen

    So I’m reading “Into The Raging Sea” by Rachel Slade, excellent book. It’s about the sinking of the El Faro while going to Puerto Rico. I found a passage relating American history which I had never heard which might be of interest:

    … merchant seamen received medical care through a system of public health hospitals established in 1789. Seaman’s hospitals were founded to prevent the spread of disease and, over time, grew to serve military dependents, coast guard personnel, and the poor. These hospitals were once financed by a tax on imported commodities, but as of 1884 that money went straight into the treasury’s general fund rather than specifically supporting seaman’s health. After WWII, Republicans went to great lengths to dismantle the hospital system in support of their tax cutting agenda. As president, Ronald Reagan finally succeeded in eliminating the hospitals from the federal books, …

    Wow, I had no idea America had public health care in 1789. I wonder what the founding fathers would do to handle CV? Looks like we know what they did back when they were alive – public hospitals funded by taxes. What a concept!

    1. Earl Erland

      Thank You Glen

      All societies, whether a tribe, a communal, a city, a state, a federation, a confederation, a democracy, or a republic have developed medicinal practices to care for their brothers and sisters. Or so we hope. NC has covered the history of archeologists discovering care that can only be empathy. It has also covered disturbing trends in the United States.

  23. Wukchumni

    “The People Cheering For Humanity’s End” [The Atlantic]. “From Silicon Valley boardrooms to rural communes to academic philosophy departments, a seemingly inconceivable idea is being seriously discussed: that the end of humanity’s reign on Earth is imminent, and that we should welcome it.
    I’m in no particular hurry to leave this paradise that seems to have Venus envy, but I feel sorrow for what we all collectively have done to the planet all the same.

    I guess speaking as a nearly geezer without kids, I would welcome a Dark Age-light, where much of the advanced learning goes away and with it the possibility to make complex weapons and to be able to project that use far away.

    AI robots are getting closer and closer to scary @ present, it’d be nice if it went the way of self-driving cars and all we have is pleasant memories of videos of them pantomiming dog tricks, that is before they all got turned into ersatz GI Joes & Janes,

  24. KLG

    The question in Georgia is not why Herschel Walker lost, it is why he came so close to winning. Twice. No one has the answer. Raphael Warnock had the big advantage in Hotlanta and its 12 counties, for good reason. Despite being the kind of liberal Adolph Reed Jr. has been describing for 30+ years, he was the attractive candidate in this campaign. Bill Shipp was a columnist for the Atlanta Constitution when it was the separate newspaper that had been edited by Henry Grady and later Ralph McGill. Shipp maintained that if Hotlanta did not exist, Notlanta would trail Mississippi in most measures of social, economic, and political wellbeing. He was correct, not to unduly disparage Mississippi. Notlanta is where Herschel Walker won. As a close observer of Georgia politics for a very long time, albeit with a 13-year interruption, it is difficult to see how the 9th-largest state in the nation recovers from this sad condition. Hotlanta always advertised itself as the city too busy to hate, and there was a modicum of surface truth in that. Notlanta has been under the thumb of Neo-Bourbons since James Oglethorpe’s experiment with his slave-free colony came a cropper because South Carolina.

    Hard to have hope, but it would be worse not to search for a way out. One encouraging thing, though. Georgia was the final southern state to drink the Kool-Aid of one Newton LeRoy Gingrich, erstwhile savior of Western Civilization. It might be the first to purge itself of that noxious poison. And Georgia never re-elected a Jesse Helms four times or a Strom Thurmond seven times. So Georgia has that going for it, which is nice. Not that Richard Russell was a peach by any means.

    One other thing, trivial but nevertheless truthful. If the Georgia Bulldogs had been their usual decent football team that couldn’t get out of its own way when playing Alabama or LSU, instead of a revival of 1980-1982 when Herschel Walker walked about Athens as a god, with Donald Trump’s encouragement or not, he would never have resonated as he did. He will soon return to Texas to stay…Since 1982, the joke has held: If you see someone wearing a Georgia Tech cap, you can be pretty sure she went to Tech. If you see someone wearing a UGA cap, you can be pretty sure he went to WalMart.

    1. rowlf

      Awesome comment. I think a lot of media avoids mentioning how close the voting was as their view is all Cake-Or-Death sports coverage.

      I don’t like either major party but I do like watching Georgia politics and we have some good in-state political commentators. Local politics seems to work well (Citizens (many veterans), not Consumers) where I live in the lower Georgia Piedmont Belt south of Atlanta.

    2. Earl Erland

      How Rich Can I Get Before the Apocalypse.

      Brother, Can You Spare a Million of Hope?

      Good thing Georgia is ‘n the High Ground of Political Preachers.

      Funding God’s work takes alot of basket

      A tisket a tasket Sinema gets her asskisst

  25. The Rev Kev

    It is unnatural the idea that any one species will last into infinity. We are here now and when it is time for us to go, I am sure that nature will call out “Time’s up, ladies and gentlemen.” Even the universe will end one day and will probably be born into a new one. But the people in this article, in spite of cheering for the end, still have not really accepted it. I mean seriously – ‘What worries them is the possibility that it will happen too soon, before we have managed to invent our successors.’ Who gave them the idea that it was up to them to do so? Are they kinda hoping that their conscious beings can be uploaded so that they can live forever? If they are the sort that want the race to go for the checkout counter, well, it is up to them. I do have the suspicion however that these sort of people want to take us with them. If so, then I say to them ‘Screw you guys. I’m going home.’

    1. flora

      adding: as Taibbi is considered center-left so too is Weiss considered center-right. And as we have both left and right legs and arms and ears and eyes for a reason, well you know the rest of this comment.

      1. notabanker

        Love this, about time these tech companies run by Silicon Valley Thoughtronauts get some transparency. These guys make IBM look like Boy Scouts. Health, Misinformation, Privacy and Identity Research Team, I wonder how many sprints it took to come up with that, or if it was just beers over foosball.

        Can’t wait for the media to start screaming that there is nothing to see here. Greenwald’s already on it.

  26. Jason Boxman

    From earlier today: How Frighteningly Strong Meth Has Supercharged Homelessness

    I suppose there are ways to run those sites in ways that avoid overdose. But the idea of having a policy that says, “Well, we’re going to provide for you until you are ready for treatment,” flies in the face, I think, of a reality where people are on the street, living in degradation and exploitation of the most rank manner. So to me it’s an idea that maybe we should try, but I think we also need to have some real ideas. I think we need to keep in mind that keeping people on the street is going to be a death sentence. There’s a saying on the street, and I’ve heard it from several people, that there is no such thing as a long-term street-fentanyl user like there was with heroin. There are people who use heroin for 30, 40 years, but with fentanyl, everybody dies. There may be people using it who function in societies to some degree, but eventually everybody dies.

    (bold me)

    That’s insane.

    1. JBird4049

      From caffeine to cocaine to crack to meth to killer meth during fifty or sixty years. Heroin, prescription opioids, fentanyl, and now super fentanyl. Each decade the uppers and downers progressively more available, addictive, affordable, and lethal.

      At the same time, the healthcare system as well as the police and the courts being increasingly ineffective, cruel, and corrupt. They increasingly focus on wealth extraction and not on doing their jobs or societal functions. It is all about the money.

      I am detecting a trend here.

      And to think that I thought the Crack Epidemic like with the AIDS Epidemic and Covid was going to be the worst drug crisis in the United States in my lifetime. I guess I was being naïve.

  27. The Rev Kev

    Something for the quiet hours and I am not even sure how to categorize this. So Jennifer Lawrence from the “Hunger Games” films was saying in a Variety interview that before her, nobody had ever put a female as the lead in an action film. And I think that she was serious. Maybe her parents never had a TV in her house when she was growing up or something. One guy tweeted back-

    ‘I’m assuming she just forgot about Michelle Yeoh, Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hamilton, Mila Jovovich, Kate Beckinsale, Uma Thurman, Angelina Jolie, Pam Grier, and the countless others before your time. Or maybe just chose to not do the research?’


    How do you say stupid stuff like this and expect to get away with it or not be called out on it?

  28. Unforgivable Grifters Abound

    @Jason Boxman

    Re: From earlier today: How Frighteningly Strong Meth Has Supercharged Homelessness

    Actually I think that article should have been titled, if they were to be honest: How Unforgivable and Inexplicable-Outside of Repulsive GREED-Exploding Homelessness Has Supercharged Fentanyl Sales to Those Who Can No Longer Bear Living Another Day in 24/7 Terror

    This is white gloved murder and genocide at its utmost, particularly of the disabled and people in their sixties and older who worked most of their lives and never had a mental health, or criminal background, especially after the government noticed how easily they got away with all those deaths in Nursing facilities, particularly in the “Blue” billionaire Infested West and East Coastal Areas.

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