2:00PM Water Cooler 1/10/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Western Kingbird, Lake, Oregon, United States. “Dawn song from willow tree [This is the “dawn song” or “Regularly Repeated Vocalization” following BNA and W. J. Smith.]”

* * *


“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

“Biden team eyes end of Covid emergency declaration and shift in Covid team” [Politico]. “Senior Biden officials are targeting an end to the emergency designation for Covid as soon as the spring, after debating doing so last summer and taking a pass, three people with knowledge of the matter told POLITICO. Should they do so, such a move would represent a major pivot point in the country’s battle with the pandemic. The decision, which has not yet been finalized amid more immediate efforts to manage a recent spike in Covid cases, would trigger a complex restructuring of major elements of the federal response — and set the stage for the eventual shifting of greater responsibility for vaccines and treatments to the private market. It would kickstart a transition away from the White House-led crisis operation and toward treating the virus as a continuous long-term threat. And for President Joe Biden, who campaigned on eliminating the virus, it would symbolize a measure of progress toward an early pledge that has proven far more difficult than anticipated to keep.” • What “battle”?

“Biden’s Education Department just proposed a new way to make monthly student-loan payments ‘more affordable and manageable than ever before'” [Business Insider]. Wowsers. ” the department said that the new IDR plan would require borrowers to pay no more than 5% of their discretionary income monthly on their undergraduate student loans — down from the current 10%, and it would also prevent interest from adding onto a borrower’s principal balance. Rather than creating an entirely new plan, as a fact sheet said, the department will amend the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan, which was created in 2016 to calculate borrowers’ monthly payments based on their discretionary income.” • The Secretary of Education is Miguel Cardona. We don’t hear much from him. Is it too much to ask that this effort won’t be butchered like all the others?

“Joe Biden’s claim to presidential greatness” [Financial Times]. My stomach is cast-iron. “But Biden’s effectiveness as president stems in large part from his Reaganite ability to set a clear direction for policy and then to delegate. The Democrats on Capitol Hill have done the heavy lifting to get legislation through Congress. The president’s national security staff have organised policy on Ukraine. Biden has presided but he has not tried to micromanage policy. A second term may seem too much of a stretch. But throughout his political career, Biden has shown a capacity to surprise and confound his critics. Don’t bet against him doing it again.” • I’m sure they juice him up before they wheel him out. That doens’t matter. Biden is still the best politician in the Democrat Party. Who’s better?


“Fulton special grand jury completes Trump investigation” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. “The Fulton County special grand jury that has spent the last eight months examining potential criminal interference in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election has completed its work and is being dissolved, according to the judge overseeing the high-profile panel. In a brief order issued Monday, Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney wrote that the grand jury has fulfilled its duties to his satisfaction…. McBurney also scheduled a hearing on Jan. 24, during which parties — including the Fulton District Attorney’s office that advised the jury, the news media and, presumably, investigation targets — will argue whether the grand jury’s report should be made public. Jurors recommended that their report be published, McBurney said.”

Republican Funhouse

“McCarthy’s concessions spur fears of potential default, government shutdown” [The Hill]. “The concessions Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) agreed to in a bid to appease conservative rebels set up showdowns this year with Senate Democrats and President Biden on the debt limit and the annual spending bills — heightening the danger of a national default or a government shutdown, political strategists say. McCarthy’s promises all but guarantee a standoff with Senate Democrats and Biden later this year, particularly those to attach spending cuts to legislation to raise the debt limit and to cap discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels. Democrats have refused to negotiate adding spending cuts or other fiscal reforms to any debt limit legislation over the past decade.” • More auto-kinbaku-ji. And you’ll pry the debt limit out of liberal Democrats cold, dead hands, exactly as with the filibuster.

“Unpacking the House GOP’s new rules: A handy guide to the changes” [Politico]. “Republicans have killed Democrats’ “pay-as-you-go” rule, often shorthanded as PAYGO. It had required legislation that would add to the deficit to be offset with tax increases or spending cuts. The GOP has replaced PAYGO with what it’s calling CUTGO, which requires mandatory spending increases to be offset only with equal or greater decreases in mandatory spending — no new taxes allowed. The GOP last put this into place in the 112th Congress. That doesn’t mean that deficit-increasing tax cuts are off the table. The CUTGO rule only requires offsets if bills would increase mandatory spending within a five-year or 10-year budget window. For example, Republicans could pass extensions of the 2017 Trump tax cuts, some of which have set to expire in 2025 (while others already have).”

“Episode 240 – We Need To Talk About Kevin (w/ Thomas Frank)” (podcast) [Bad Faith]. “Whenever something crazy is going down in Congress, Thomas Frank is here to talk about it. We chatted while the Capitol was stormed on 1/6, and now the historian, writer, and populism expert returns to Bad Faith as the House Republicans struggle to meet the 218-vote threshold to elect a Speaker. Inside: discussions about the parallels between this historical moment and the ones Frank has written about, the wisdom of Force The Vote, and whether Briahna is right to be jealous of the rogue Republicans in this moment.” • Good to see Frank out and about.

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.

* * *

“Russian trolls on Twitter had little influence on 2016 voters” [WaPo]. “Russian influence operations on Twitter in the 2016 presidential election reached relatively few users, most of whom were highly partisan Republicans, and the Russian accounts had no measurable impact in changing minds or influencing voter behavior, according to a study out this morning. The study, which the New York University Center for Social Media and Politics helmed, explores the limits of what Russian disinformation and misinformation was able to achieve on one major social media platform in the 2016 elections. ‘My personal sense coming out of this is that this got way overhyped,” Josh Tucker, one of the report’s authors who is also the co-director of the New York University center, told me about the meaningfulness of the Russian tweets. ‘Now we’re looking back at data and we can see how concentrated this was in one small portion of the population, and how the fact that people who were being exposed to these were really, really likely to vote for Trump,’ Tucker said. ‘And then we have this data to show we can’t find any relationship between being exposed to these tweets and people’s change in attitudes.’ • Hilarity ensues, because of course all this was obvious from the very beginning. And it’s been out in plain sight all the time; the Times, after all, published an archive of “Russian” memes. Who could believe they would influence anyone? Besides credulous liberal Democrats, I mean.There was Buff Bernie;

And who could forget:

“We will beat it together” sorta sums up the whole sorry RussiaGate saga, doesn’t it? Anyhow, now that we see that these 9/11 airplnes missed the Twin Towers completely, can we now cauterize the cancerous organs of state security that metastasized all over our First Amendment rights? Not a chance! Here’s the study–

“Exposure to the Russian Internet Research Agency foreign influence campaign on Twitter in the 2016 US election and its relationship to attitudes and voting behavior” [Nature]. “. Using longitudinal survey data from US respondents linked to their Twitter feeds, we quantify the relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and attitudes and voting behavior in the 2016 US election. We demonstrate, first, that exposure to Russian disinformation accounts was heavily concentrated: only 1% of users accounted for 70% of exposures. Second, exposure was concentrated among users who strongly identified as Republicans. Third, exposure to the Russian influence campaign was eclipsed by content from domestic news media and politicians. Finally, we find no evidence of a meaningful relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and changes in attitudes, polarization, or voting behavior. The results have implications for understanding the limits of election interference campaigns on social media.” • Greenwald comments:

A meta-SCAD?

Our Famously Free Press

Berenson’s “Twitter Files” effort sank like a stone:

Partly, no doubt, because who wants to attack a sanctified institution like Pfizer, but also because Berenson wrote four tweets and then blog-whored his site! (Every other Twitter Files report has been written in full on Twitter. So I don’t know what makes Berenson special. Like I said, they should have put a reporter on it. Which Berenson, sadly, once was….)


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 universal acceleration or doubling in cases that I would expect to see based on past surges.

I am calling a “Something Awful.” It’s gonna be bad, in some new way, and we don’t know how, yet (but see here for immune system dysregulation, which is looking pretty awful). 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 reached its highest level ever, at least at Walgreens, and BQ.1* has taken over, closely followed by XBB, and both are immunue escape variants. UPDATE The rise of XBB in the Northeast is very concerning. The effects of all our holiday travel should be playing out in the next two weeks, and we are one week in.

Stay safe out there!

• “The coronavirus is speaking. It’s saying it’s not done with us.” [Eric Topol, WaPo]. “[XBB1.5,] the new dominant strain shows that the virus is always evolving to spread more quickly and infect us more efficiently. That should serve as a wake-up call for the country to re-invest in new vaccines, treatments and pandemic monitoring…. Americans can take some comfort in the combined immunity from the country’s massive numbers of infections, reinfections, vaccinations and boosters. That should blunt the effect of XBB.1.5. Still, we have already seen the levels of covid hospitalizations in the United States reach their highest level in almost 11 months, and we’re not done with this wave yet…. The implications of XBB.1.5 are also much bigger than just this formidable variant. The virus is talking to us, and it is telling us it has many more ways to evolve. It is revealing that it not only can fake out or elude our immune response, but can also get better at penetrating our cells. What will happen next? Will we see a whole new family of variants arise that are distinct from the omicron family? It is entirely possible… We’ve moved from complacency to frank capitulation at just the wrong time. If XBB.1.5 is telling us one thing, it’s that we can’t be oblivious. We’re all tired, but we’re up against a force that isn’t. We have the intelligence, resourcefulness and ingenuity to finally get ahead of the virus, but politics and unwillingness to invest are holding us back. We cannot afford that gridlock.” • Assuming good faith, of course.

• “XBB.1.5 is the latest COVID-19 subvariant: What you need to know” [Yahoo News]. “XBB.1.5 has a few mutations in it which may give it some growth advantage over other variants, [Toronto epidemiologist Isaac Bogoch] explains. So far, it’s been found in over 30 counties, including Canada. However, while it appears to have some growth advantage, it’s not to the same extent that it was initially thought to have. ‘A few weeks ago, the CDC projected XBB.1.5 to represent over 40 per cent of all COVID samples in the United States,’ he says. ‘It was actually downgraded based on more places reporting data to represent closer to 20 per cent of sequence samples.’ While XBB.1.5 been shown to ‘wiggle around’ our protective immunity and cause reinfection, Bogoch says it’s not seeing the degree of exponential growth it was initially thought to have.” • So, my hermeneutic of suspicion regarding CDC projections turns out to be right (yet again). Now, XBB.1.5 is growing impressively fast, as the CDC variant charts (below) show. Just not as fast as CDC projected.

* * *

• “SARS-CoV-2 replication in airway epithelia requires motile cilia and microvillar reprogramming” [Cell (ChrisRUEcon)]. Important. From the Abstract: “Using primary nasal epithelial organoid cultures, we found that the virus attaches to motile cilia via the ACE2 receptor. SARS-CoV-2 traverses the mucus layer, using motile cilia as tracks to access the cell body. Depleting cilia blocks infection for SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses. SARS-CoV-2 progeny attach to airway microvilli 24 h post-infection and trigger formation of apically extended and highly branched microvilli that organize viral egress from the microvilli back into the mucus layer, supporting a model of virus dispersion throughout airway tissue via mucociliary transport…. Importantly, Omicron variants bind with higher affinity to motile cilia and show accelerated viral entry. Our work suggests that motile cilia, microvilli, and mucociliary-dependent mucus flow are critical for efficient virus replication in nasal epithelia.” • First time I’ve heard a mechanism for nasal infection described. Here is the graphical abstract:

So us nasal spray stans might not have been wrong! More–

• “Stanford Medicine scientists pinpoint COVID-19 virus’s entry and exit ports inside our noses” (press release) [Stanford Medicine]. “Somebody just coughed on you. On a plane. At a dinner party. In a supermarket line. If only there were a ‘morning after’ nasal spray that could knock out respiratory viruses’ ability to colonize your nose and throat. In a study publishing today in the print issue of Cell [above], Peter Jackson, PhD, a Stanford Medicine professor of pathology and of microbiology and immunology, and his colleagues brought that possibility closer to reality by pinpointing the routes that SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 virus, takes to enter and exit cells in our nasal cavity. ‘Our upper airways are the launchpad not only for infection of our lungs but for transmission to others,’ Jackson said.” • A “morning after” nasal spray is the exact use case for the Vaill CoviTRAP nasal spray developed in Thailand (see NC here, and — not to be unfair to Jackson — here: “A smallish Southeast Asian country was able to develop this technology, secure approval, produce, and bring it to market while we in the rich West sat on our pasty white fundaments and, to put it politely, twiddled our fingers. Ye Gods!”).

* * *

• “Circulating Spike Protein Detected in Post–COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine Myocarditis” [Circulation]. n = 16. “Immunoprofiling of vaccinated adolescents and young adults revealed that the mRNA vaccine–induced immune responses did not differ between individuals who developed myocarditis and individuals who did not. However, free spike antigen was detected in the blood of adolescents and young adults who developed post-mRNA vaccine myocarditis, advancing insight into its potential underlying cause.” • The spikes are bad. No reason little spike factories can’t have a special way to be worse (in some individuals). A layperson’s summary, well worth a read–

“Spikes Out: A COVID Mystery” [MedScape]. “In 12 out of 16 kids with myocarditis, the researchers were able to measure free spike protein in the blood — that is to say spike protein, not bound by anti-spike antibodies. These free spikes were present in — wait for it — zero of the 45 control patients. That makes spike protein itself our prime suspect. J’accuse free spike protein! Of course, all good detectives need to wrap up the case with a good story: How was it all done? And here’s where we could use Agatha Christie’s help. How could this all work? The vaccine gets injected; mRNA is taken up into cells, where spike protein is generated and released, generating antibody and T-cell responses all the while. Those responses rapidly clear that spike protein from the system — this has been demonstrated in multiple studies — in adults, at least. But in some small number of people, apparently, spike protein is not cleared. Why? It makes no damn sense. Compels me, though. Some have suggested that inadvertent intravenous injection of vaccine, compared with the appropriate intramuscular route, might distribute the vaccine to sites with less immune surveillance. But that is definitely not proven yet. We are on the path for sure, but this is, as Benoit Blanc would say, a twisted web — and we are not finished untangling it. Not yet.” • No mechanism yet. But with studies like this, and the nasal study above, it does seem that we are getting closer to an account.

• “Investigation of the effect of COVID-19 on sperm count, motility, and morphology” [Journal of Medical Virology]. From the Abstract: “Two groups were selected (100 men had and recovered from COVID-19, and 100 men never had COVID-19) spermiograms from both groups were analyzed in accordance with the World Health Organization standards. The sperm concentration of the COVID-19 negative group was significantly higher than those in the COVID-19 positive group. No statistically significant difference was detected between the groups for sperm motility and morphology. It was observed that men with COVID-19 had decreased sperm concentrations suggesting that COVID-19 may have a negative effect on male fertility. However, in the long term, more comprehensive studies with a large sample size are needed to understand better the changes in sperm concentration.” • More study needed….

* * *

• Maskstravaganza: “Long-haul flight passengers should wear face masks: WHO” [Bloomberg]. “Passengers on long-haul flights should be advised to wear masks and it’s not unreasonable for Europe to adopt travel restrictions as COVID-19 cases surge in China and the US, World Health Organization officials said. ‘A threat could come from a new variant of concern anywhere, anytime,’ Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said at a briefing in Copenhagen.” • We don’t “advise” passengers to put on their seatbelts, or “advise” them to place their seatbacks and traytables “in their upright and locked position.” We require it. Why this incredible weakness, this flaccidity, on measures to protect the public’s health?

* * *

* * *

• “Effectiveness of influenza vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 infection among healthcare workers in Qatar” [Journal of Infection and Public Health]. n= 30,774. “This matched, test-negative, case-control study was implemented on a population of 30,774 healthcare workers (HCWs) in Qatar during the 2020 annual influenza vaccination campaign, September 17, 2020-December 31, 2020, before introduction of COVID-19 vaccination…. Recent influenza vaccination is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 severity.” • Granted, this is the 2020 strain. It had occurred to me that for the current variants, Covid protection from flu vaccine might be a factor in this winter’s oddly behaving numbers. However, my impression is that total flu vaccination is down (CDC and search are not especially helpful on this). If so, so much for that theory. Readers?

* * *


Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission (the “red map,” which is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you.) The map is said to update Monday-Friday by 8 pm:

At least Alabama isn’t all blue anymore.

The previous map:

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.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published January 10:

-2.1.%. Still down.


Wastewater data (CDC), January 6:

Too much grey. New York city down. Really?!

January 2:

NOT UPDATED And MWRA data, January 5:

Lambert here: Both North and South are down. However, not all the students are back; BU classes begin January 19; Harvard’s January 22.


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 23:

Lambert here: BQ.1* dominates, XBB moving up fast. Note all the BQ subvariants; it’s almost like something’s encouraging them, like maybe a policy of mass infection. Sure hope none of ’em get lucky, like XBB.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), December 17 (Nowcast off):

BQ.1* takes first place. XBB coming up fast. (For BQ.1/XBB and vaccine escape, see here.) Here is Region 2, the Northeast, where both BQ.1* and XBB are said to be higher, and are:

Holy moley, XBB.1.5! (Makes clear that Region 2 (New England) varies greatly from the national average. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we ended up with different variants dominating different parts of the country.

• As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated January 5:

A retreat from the steady rise I have found so concerning.

• Hospitalization data for Queens, updated December 31:

I don’t know whether this is a genuine jump or a backward revisions, but I’ve been waiting for Queens to move after the holidays, because (I assume) a lot of LGA/JFK workers live there, or at least commute through there.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,121,298 – 1,121,097 = 201 (201 * 365 = 73,365 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).

Lambert here: Deaths lag, so we have a nice little jump here as a consequence of whatever it is we’ve been going through.

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

Small Business Optimism: “United States Nfib Business Optimism Index” [Trading Economics]. “The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index in the United States declined to a six-month low of 89.8 in December of 2022, marking the 12th straight month below the 49-year average of 98 as sales and business conditions are expected to deteriorate. Expectations for better business conditions over the next six months worsened by 8 points to -51%. Also, the net percent of owners who expect real sales to be higher worsened by 2 points to -10%. On the positive side, 41% of owners reported job openings that were hard to fill, down 3 points but historically very high.”

* * *

Tech: “Social Quitting” [Cory Doctorow, Locus]. “When economists and sociologists theorize about social media, they em­phasize ‘‘network effects.” A system has ‘‘network effects” if it gets more valuable as more people use it. You joined Facebook because you valued the company of the people who were already using it; once you joined, other people joined to hang out with you. Network effects are powerful drivers of rapid growth. They’re a positive feedback loop, a flywheel that gets faster and faster. But network effects cut both ways. If a system gets more valuable as it attracts more users, it also gets less valuable as it sheds users. The less valuable a system is to you, the easier it is to leave.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 50 Neutral (previous close: 47 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 36 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 10 at 2:30 PM EST.


Mosler’s “man with a gun” theory:

Groves of Academe

University administrators have lost their minds:

Besides the general idiocy, the wee problem is that practicum and field work are not synonyms. From Websters, practicum:

A course of study designed especially for the preparation of teachers and clinicians that involves the supervised practical application of previously studied theory

Field work:

2: work done in the field (as by students) to gain practical experience and knowledge through firsthand observation

3: the gathering of anthropological or sociological data through the interviewing and observation of subjects in the field

“Conservatives take aim at tenure for university professors” [Associated Press]. “The trend reflects how conservative scrutiny of instruction related to race, gender and sexuality has extended from schools to higher education. But budget considerations also play a role. Tenured faculty numbers have been declining even in more liberal states. Universities are hiring more part-time, adjunct instructors amid declines in financial support from state governments.” • Plus more administrators, naturally. See above.

Zeitgeist Watch

“Man Needs Sex and Violence, Not Top-Down ‘Meaning'” [Richard Hanania’s Newsletter]. I have to use a screenshot here because Substack’s HTML is horrid. See especially the highlighted portion:

Or could it be — hear me out — that decreased happiness had something to do with a million people dying?

Class Warfare

“Rapid wage growth at the bottom has offset rising US inequality” [PNAS]. From October 2022, still germane. “US earnings inequality has not increased in the last decade. This marks the first sustained reversal of rising earnings inequality since 1980. We document this shift across eight data sources using worker surveys, employer-reported data, and administrative data. The reversal is due to a shrinking gap between low-wage and median-wage workers. In contrast, the gap between top and median workers has persisted. Rising pay for low-wage workers is not mainly due to the changing composition of workers or jobs, minimum wage increases, or workplace-specific sources of inequality. Instead, it is due to broadly rising pay in low-wage occupations, which has particularly benefited workers in tightening labor markets. Rebounding post–Great Recession labor demand at the bottom offset enduring drivers of inequality.” • Hence, liberal Democrats busting unions. Handy chart:

This does not mean, of course, that the absolute levels low-wage occupations are anything like livable or humane.

News of the Wired

I am not feeling wired today.

* * *

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 Katiebird:

Katiebird writes: “I don’t know if you can tell from this photo — This morning, we had fog down to the ground and freezing cold – 32 degrees. It made the trees look like we had an ice storm but it was just frozen fog…”

Readers, please send me more plants!

* * *

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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. Questa Nota

    Yeah, about that field work issue.
    When will someone in authority dare to bring up the real underlying issue?

    That is, of course, that hyphenated names marginalize the other-named by their very existence.

    /s, sorta

    1. playon

      This reminds me of when Firefox browser changed their language from “master” password to “primary” password because apparently that word is racist.

    2. Michael Fiorillo

      The letter also referred to the Eliminating Racism Grand Challenge, which sounds painfully/wonderfully similar to the Michael Scott/Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Awareness Pro Am Race For The Cure.

  2. nippersdad

    Re: “Russian trolls on Twitter had little influence on 2016 voters” [WaPo] and Greenwalds’ tweets.

    I was just reading this* a little while ago…

    “The surging progressive left exhibits both of my maxims with tyrannical enforcement of its woke agenda. Pew Research Center defines the progressive left as “very liberal, highly educated and majority white; most say U.S. institutions need to be completely rebuilt because of racial bias.” The convictions of the most radicalized progressives can have the gravitational force of a black hole, where nothing is allowed to escape and alternative notions are sucked out of existence. Typically, judgments in this realm are either good or evil; say good-bye to nuance and balance.

    …And it only gets worse. Other than Taibbi’s expose on the Twitter files I could find no rationale for a security state apparatchik to come out from under the woodwork to do this kind of gaslighting hit job on a “Progressive Left” that had suffered total implosion in Congress over the past two years. This must be part of the “hilarity ensued” that Lambert references.

    * https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/3804770-a-reality-check-for-the-progressive-left/

    1. nippersdad

      Aaaaah! I think this may answer my question.* I haven’t been keeping up with the McCarthy leader saga because Republicans, but it looks like we may have a Church Committee in our future; one which Ihlan Omar is on board for. My apologies of this is common knowledge, but Ukraine has pretty much eaten up all the bandwidth I can spare these days.

      That is good news! I hope they follow through.

      Aaron Mate’ hosting the Jimmy Dore show:
      * https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cULjn0bDiuY

    2. Old Jake

      I keep seeing this term: “highly educated.” I think it may not mean what you (OK, we) have been thinking it means.

      Indeed, education content has changed considerably over the past century – my parents did not study what my children studied. And I think it much of that has been rather recent. And I’m not referring to CRT, though what led to whatever CRT is, is certainly in the mix.

      This of course applies as much or more to the USC tempest-in-a-teapot is it does to the Russia-Russia-Russia one.

  3. flora

    Thanks for the Thomas Frank link. Always good to read or hear his take on our modern times, the way we live now. / ;)

  4. agent ranger smith

    . . . ” We don’t “advise” passengers to put on their seatbelts, or “advise” them to place their seatbacks and traytables “in their upright and locked position.” We require it. Why this incredible weakness, this flaccidity, on measures to protect the public’s health? ”

    Because even those authorities who might wish they could impose a mask mandate are terrified of mass anti-mask riots ( or worse) by rioting ( or worse) masses of “no mask freedom” rebels.

    1. nippersdad

      That and what effect would masking have on the ability to identify people using face recognition software in public places like airports? I feel like there is a security theater dimension that is never addressed when talking about the state not wanting to intervene on this issue.

      1. agent ranger smith

        That is a very good point. I had not thought of that. Between the authorities not wanting masks to get between our faces and their facial recognition software, and the ruling elites’ wanting to MIHOP the spread of covid everywhere to everyone; the spread of covid everywhere to everyone is over-determined.

        If only Tucker Carlson decided that ” let ‘er rip” was really a conspiracy to selectively kill off the Fox Viewer Audience Base and if only Tucker Carlson decided to realize that mask-wearing can obstruct the facial recognition technologies of the ” PMC Liberal Democrat Fascist eiltes” , he might suddenly decide to instruct all his viewers to wear effective masks, install corsi boxes in all their personal and business spaces, upgrade ventilation in Majority Republican buildings and places of business, etc. He might even turn them into an effective fighting force for Mandatory Layered anti-covid measures for everyone everywhere in America.

        ( If Tucker Carlson has any people reading these threads, maybe they’ll suggest to him that he get to work on that.)

    2. bdy

      If they were afraid of mass riots they’d feed the hungry and medicate the sick. Those seatbelt and tray table rules are archaic carryovers from a long forgotten time when government and corporations pretended to respect the plebes by bossing us around on occasion. Nowadays they just shoot us, lock us up or ignore us.

      If COVID had come out in 1968, historic photos would show NYC sidewalks crowded by the masked masses. If planes came out today they might have a little grab bar on the armrest for your personal risk reaction/response. How often do you really need one of those pesky seatbelts anyways.

      1. agent ranger smith

        The hungry are too weak to riot. The sick are too sick to riot.

        The no mask freedom rebels have alread shown what they are prepared to do in state after state after state. They have terrorised Governor Whitmer into never again imposing any public health emergency behavior mandates ever ever again, for example.

        1. hunkerdown

          Not necessarily. It only takes a little food to make them your soldiers. The terminally ill probably have food and little else to lose.

          Do you really feel as if childish partisan performativity buys you positive cred outside of the PMC bubble? If so, why? Of which false bourgeois liberal shibboleths are you going to hold yourself up as a source?

          1. agent ranger smith

            Thhankyou for yyour interest in my ccomment. I amm always happpy to here from yuu.
            Ppleeze let me know iff you hav any uther concernz.

  5. Carolinian

    Re Biden/Reagan–both were gaga old guys who made a lot of stuff up. In both cases the press largely bent the knee. Both delegated to staff who then did bad things.

    See. Just alike.

    Oh wait Biden started a war with Russia and Reagan just made a joke about it.

    Perhaps the real question is how either of these people became president of the United States.

    1. Catchymango

      Biden hopefully shattering the western alliance through this ruinous proxy war will be just desserts for Reagan’s horrific invasion of Grenada in 1983.

      1. nippersdad

        I would be interested in knowing how you settled on Grenada as being the exemplar of horrific Reagan foreign adventurism. I would have thought that his war on the Sandinistas in Nicaragua would have been much more high profile. That one is still playing out.

        1. Monica


          Because Grenada is like the only war the U.S. has won in the last 79 years?


          The real question is how did Kamala Harris “win” the vice presidency?

          Biden=The Scarecrow, Harris=Toto

          1. JBird4049

            How can anyone forget Operation Just Cause? Better known as the American invasion of Panama in 1989 to get Manuel Noriega? Probably because he was actually governing Panama instead of doing whatever the CIA wanted him to do and taking his bribes as a good puppy should? Admittedly, he probably wanted an increase in his cut of the profits of the CIA’s cocaine smuggling.

            That is what truly convinced me that much of the federal government was a criminal organization.

  6. Mikel

    Social Work and “field work”

    I’ll bet Zora Neal Hurston knew the difference between the type of “field work” (while not social work) she did and plantation work and didn’t worry about such minutia.

  7. Carolinian

    Re Berenson–on his blog he said this would be his first dip into the Twitter files. Perhaps there will be more?

    On the other hand for a Substacker he doesn’t seem to post very much.

      1. Realist

        Asking Alex Berenson to write an expose about COVID-19 disinformation is like asking Gary Glitter to write an expose about Jimmy Saville.

        1. Redlife2017

          Yes, I do agree. He’s the guy you give it to if you want the story to die. Which…huh…perchance that is exactly why it was given to him?

  8. fresno dan

    “Exposure to the Russian Internet Research Agency foreign influence campaign on Twitter in the 2016 US election and its relationship to attitudes and voting behavior” [Nature]….
    “Second, exposure was concentrated among users who strongly identified as Republicans. Third, exposure to the Russian influence campaign was eclipsed by content from domestic news media and politicians. Finally, we find no evidence of a meaningful relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and changes in attitudes, polarization, or voting behavior. The results have implications for understanding the limits of election interference campaigns on social media.”
    Years ago, I had always thought the expression of vituperation against Hillary was so over the top that it was classic derangement. But when one considers the consequences of the Hillary and dem frame up of Trump, e.g., actual suggestions of nuclear engagement with Russia, and all the consequences of reigniting of hostilities with Russia, it is difficult to overstate the negative effects this woman has had upon the whole world.
    As well as bringing back from the 1950’s the politics and techniques of McCarthyism. It says something about the US system that someone so bad can be so influential…

  9. Diogenes

    Re the HPMC-based anti-COVID nasal spray, looks like the protection only persists for about 17 minutes:


    I suppose that could have some utility in particular circumstances but it’s no great shakes.

    Povidone-iodine, properly diluted, is also reputed to have some protective potential as a nasal spray and I can say, completely anecdotally (“n=1”) I’ve used it occasionally with no noticeable ill effects. Peeps with thyroid issues might wish to be extra careful, natch.

      1. lambert strether

        Whoops, got caught by the timer. Now it works.

        Not sure where in the post HPMC sprays are mentioned.

        1. Acacia

          Thanks much for this, Diogenes. Lambert, are you sure you got the right article? It’s entirely focused on HPMC nasal sprays. From the abstract:

          In this study, we assessed the ability of three hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC)-based powder nasal sprays, produced by Nasaleze, to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection and release in vitro. Upon application, the HPMC powder forms a gel-like matrix within the nasal cavity—a process we recapitulated in cell culture. We found that virus release from cells previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 was inhibited by the gel matrix product in a dose-dependent manner, with virus levels reduced by >99.99% over a 72 h period at a dose of 6.4 mg/3.5 cm2. We also show that the pre-treatment of cells with product inhibited SARS-CoV-2 infection, independent of the virus variant. The primary mechanism of action appears to be via the formation of a physical, passive barrier. However, the addition of wild garlic provided additional direct antiviral properties in some formulations. We conclude that HPMC-based nasal sprays may offer an additional component to strategies to limit the spread of respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.

          Reading this, a couple of things jumped out at me: (1) all three products tested were from the same vendor, with roughly the same concentrations of HPMC (93~98,5%); might be worth trying different brands for comparison; (2) the study noted that the presence of 5% European wild garlic powder in ‘Product A’ “reduced the viable virus to undetectable levels following a 6 h incubation, while products B and C showed no virucidal activity”; (3) the study estimates that the product could be cleared from the sinuses in 17 minutes, but unevenly (i.e., it likely lasts longer in some areas), and even that sort of temporary or post-exposure protection could be quite helpful, say after commuting on a train, a one-hour business meeting, etc.

        2. Diogenes

          Hydroxy(P)ropyl Methyl(C)ellulose = HPMC

          In your original Water Cooler post about it, you linked the phrase “bring it to market” to this story: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/2400651/thai-anti-covid-nasal-spray-ready-for-commercial-sale.

          Which story said:

          “The spray is designed to coat the nasal cavities with HPMC to reduce the amount of the virus and prevent it from entering the body through the holes of the nose. It can be applied every six hours, or three times a day.”

        3. Acacia

          It seems my earlier post on this got zapped by Skynet.

          Thanks, Diogenes, for that linked article on sprays (i.e., Viruses. 2021 Dec; 13(12): 2345.).

          It appears that all three sprays they tested were from the same vendor. The antiviral effects of European wild garlic powder in one of the three is also noteworthy. Would be interesting to see further research done using other types/vendors of nasal sprays.

  10. curlydan

    I was driving through Iowa in mid-December, and the frozen fog made the trees (and Iowa) look beautiful.

  11. enoughisenough

    Re “field work” – first they come for the vocabulary, then they use the changed terminology to defend cutting all funding for field research.

    1. hunkerdown

      Ethnographic activity is producing alterity that subverts their class power to create reality.

      1. JBird4049

        Just because the information gained from fieldwork creates the knowledge that informs students’ understanding of the propagandistic fecal matter that is IdPol, or the adjacent pernicious nonsense like the mantra of “safe spaces”; as enoughisenough said knowledge is power, and controlling the labels used can channel the discussion of it into different directions.

  12. Jason Boxman

    So the obvious question occurred to me yesterday; Why aren’t we developing COVID shots that are less easily evaded? Why always the “spike protein” which is a moving target?

    Not being in the field, I have no idea what to search for, but I did come up with an antibody cocktail approach news entry published a year and a half ago: Understanding SARS-CoV-2 antibody binding.

    The researchers also measured how well antibodies were able to neutralize viruses carrying various spike mutations. The effects of mutations depended in part on which community antibodies belonged to. Many mutations occur where the spike protein contacts its host cell receptor. These mutations could inhibit neutralization by antibodies whose footprints overlapped this area. But three communities had footprints elsewhere on the spike. These communities could neutralize the virus effectively regardless of which mutations were present.

    (bold me)

    So why can’t we come up with something that doesn’t suck so much?

  13. Sue inSoCal

    Having descended from peasant field workers, I’m finding it extremely difficult to wrap my mind around the concept of “field work” in academia as racist. And having experienced practicum and field work for a degree. I honestly believe these people have lost it. There comes a point where this becomes a purely idiotic exercise. Just my opinion, but does USC have nothing better to do?

    1. CanCyn

      It is crazy! I always think it can’t get any worse but it does! Trust the administration to not even know what a practicum is. I am surprised they didn’t re-name it Lived Experience Study. Sigh.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Does that mean that we can no longer watch “Field of Dreams?” Will the term baseball field have to be retired? Field is defined as a place where practical work is being done. Is that what offends those term definers so much? The ‘practical’ bit rather than the ‘field’ bit?

    3. Acacia

      Maybe they don’t want anybody to connect the dots that Academia itself is a kind of plantation economy?

    4. anon in so cal

      The concepts “field work,” “field notes,” and “in the field” are sacrosanct in ethnographic research.

      SD-P attended USC in the mid-1960s so probably doesn’t know this.

      “On September 14, 2016, Suzanne Dworak-Peck, BA ’65, MSW ’67, made a historic $60 million gift to endow and name the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work that will allow the school to broaden its vision and mission.”

      SD-P apparently got this money from “real estate investments.”


  14. Sub-Boreal

    As someone who has been committing “field work” and “field trips” with my students for more than 20 years, I guess I’m doomed.

    Well, I had a good run, and retirement beckons, so I should be glad for that.

  15. Mikel

    “Wells Fargo, once the No. 1 player in mortgages, is stepping back from the housing market” CNBC

    “Instead of its previous goal of reaching as many Americans as possible, the company will now offer home loans only to existing bank and wealth management customers and borrowers in minority communities, CNBC has learned….”

    This movie is a remake.

    Can’t let minorities miss out on those high interest rates. Everybody needs a chance to go underwater and buy high and sell low.

  16. MaryLand

    I know this sounds stupid, but I have to ask anyway. Re the research showing how covid infects via the nose: if nasal hairs are the preferred vehicle of covid to get to the skin cells lining the nasal passages, would removing nasal hairs help prevent infection? People use tweezers to remove nasal hairs that are growing too long, why not remove as many as you can to thwart covid? This does not replace wearing an N95 mask inside public places of course, just another possible layer of prevention.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > why not remove as many as you can to thwart covid

      I can see why this would inhibit transport, since if you remove the cilia, you halt the transport of mucus — presumably; do we have a rhinologist in the house?

      However, it would seem to this layperson that:

      1) Removing the cilia might cause infection (until they grow back, so we have a Sisyphean task here);

      2) Cilia moves the mucus along, and that’s an important biological function! Plus we don’t want the mucus to build up, I would think.

      I’ve had this “Mucus Welby, M.D.” joke in the back of my mind for days, so I might as well make it right now….

      That said, it seems to me that the thing to do is to use the mucus transport layer for treatment, for delivering Good Molecules (or vaccines). And now that the nasal spray developers have a model, I think we can anticipate more successful deliverables from them.

  17. Michael Fiorillo

    Regarding the Post and Nature articles about The Russia, it’s both flabbergasting and to-be-expected that mainstream/ #McResistance media can never bring themselves to acknowledge that, because they unexpectedly showed up in court, contested the charges and demanded discovery, Mueller dropped the indictments against the companies that sent out those classic ads.

    It’s beyond the beyonds: the pee tape/Steele Report is long discredited, the IRA indictments withdrawn, and to this day no forensic evidence presented that The Russia hacked the DNC (they might have, but the point is that it’s assumed they did while no proof has ever been offered or demanded) yet the #McResistance continues to literally take it as an article of faith that our travails since 2016 are attributable to foreign interference.

    How that Russo-phobia, first expressed in Russiagate, then Impeachment 1.0, borne of liberal TDS and stoked by NatSec and media players (often one and the same), then morphed into the Slava Ukraina idiocy we witness from these people every day, is topic for another time…

    1. Pat

      I will not be happy until they reach the obvious conclusion and put in the headlines “Clinton’s Own Incompetence Caused Her Loss” with a sub header “ Russian Interference was a dog ate my homework excuse spread by her campaign managers.

      It is not going to happen, any more than will we get to find out which tool wrote the letter that made the erroneous accusation look official .

  18. Joe Well

    Re: Covitrap nasal spray, anyone manage to order it from outside Thailand? Especially the US?

    And if you know of a spray in Mexico, where I am now and where customs is extremely strict and such things are usually confiscated…my Sanotize spray is running out.

      1. Joe Well

        Thank you!

        If anyone tries this, I will be periodically searching NC for “Covitrap” and would really appreciate anyone’s comments.

        Also if you have any ideas for how to get something similar in Mexico…

  19. The Rev Kev

    “Biden team eyes end of Covid emergency declaration and shift in Covid team”

    I would assume that the purpose is to erase the whole topic of Covid by the time of the 2024 Presidential elections. And I mean remove it as a factor or even as a consideration by then. Don’t talk about it or even mention it lest it have an impact of Democratic chances of re-election. Make it a test of loyalty to see who is on your side by having your people ignore it. If the government no longer deals with it and the obedient media no longer brings it up, does the pandemic even exist anymore? The virus, however, may have other plans. Watch this space.

  20. ChrisRUEcon


    Thanks for re-upping the Standford stuff, Lambert! I missed the #COVITrap stuff last October! A quick check on the interwebs reveals that it does not appear to widely available for shipping to the US – one eBay seller showing “out of stock”. But clearly the nasal-spray-arsenal has quite a few arrows in its quip! The articulation of the role of mucus in the Stanford paper is also news to me – who knew?!

    Thanks for keeping this community and the world beyond willing to listen so well informed!

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      #RussiaGate #WaPo


      I am reminded of the reality imparted to me on these pages – no one reads the corrections.


      Ooooopsie … from the CIA-affiliated-Billionaire-adjacent Post. Well that’s rich! Six years of normalizing Russophobia which serves oligarchy so well in the lands of blue-and-yellow-flag avis! Thanks for bringing back #BuffBernie! A personal favorite!

      > “We will beat it together”

      LMAO … Sir, this is a family website! Pardon my heavy double-entendre indoctrination under the influence of calypsonians (via YouTube), but the phrase does split an arrow at the bullseye with another arrow!

      #RussiaGate was the circle-j*** to end all circle-j***s!!

    2. ChrisRUEcon

      #COVID19 #SpikesOut

      Well … dang!

      Between that and the IgG3/IgG4 thing, I am really not inclined to receive any more MRNA vaccines. I went to IDPH website to see what they allow for mix and match here in Illinois, and apparently, once you start with MRNA, they’re not doing Novovax as a booster … is this policy in effect elsewhere?

  21. square coats

    Having made it through about 99% of a social work degree (long story), I’ll say I’d be shocked if social work didn’t rate top 5 in the wokest of woke fields areas of study.

    This whole “practicum” business is really problematic because a super prevalent complaint of students is that their field placements have very little to do with anything they’re learning in their coursework.

  22. Jason Boxman

    So the obvious question occurred to me yesterday; Why aren’t we developing COVID shots that are less easily evaded? Why always the “spike protein” which is a moving target?

    Not being in the field, I have no idea what to search for, but I did come up with an antibody cocktail approach news entry published a year and a half ago: Understanding SARS-CoV-2 antibody binding.

    The researchers also measured how well antibodies were able to neutralize viruses carrying various spike mutations. The effects of mutations depended in part on which community antibodies belonged to. Many mutations occur where the spike protein contacts its host cell receptor. These mutations could inhibit neutralization by antibodies whose footprints overlapped this area. But three communities had footprints elsewhere on the spike. These communities could neutralize the virus effectively regardless of which mutations were present.

    (bold me)

    So why can’t we come up with something that doesn’t suck so much?

  23. Jason Boxman

    Enjoy a 0% promotional APR on all new purchases through September 1, 2023 with your Banana Republic Rewards Mastercard®.
    After that, your standard variable purchase APR of 29.99% will apply.1


    Also got a fund raising email from a liberal Democrat group that wants to repeal Citizens United. 12 years too late. As per usual, I said FU in the most vulgar way possible. I dunno if Sanders gave up his list or what, but I’ve been getting this garbage for years from different Democrat groups. Or maybe it was my donation to the service workers fundraiser at the beginning of the pandemic. Who knows. But liberal Democrats have hounded me ever since late 2020.

  24. Mo's Bike Shop

    replication in airway epithelia requires motile cilia and microvillar reprogramming

    Are these the cilia I saw paralyzed by smoking in gross public advisory films from my teens?

    /adjusts tinfoil cigarette holder

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      > Are these the cilia I saw paralyzed by smoking in gross public advisory films from my teens?

      Yes (via #Twitter), but w.r.t. +ve effects, possibly, but not probably … at best, Nicotine may compete with COVID for ACE receptor binding and thus reduce SARS2 infection vectors.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Adolph Reed Jr’s latest.

      Great, as usual. (I wish nonsite.org had email notifications of new articles or a Twitter presence. Because I do sometimes need reminders.)

  25. SocalJimObjects

    My news feed today is filled with articles pertaining to the fall of the city of Soledar to Russian forces, which probably means that the capture of Bakhmut can not be far behind. I am looking forward to the consternation and teeth gnashing from the usual suspects.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Soledar

      Russia’s Wagner mercenaries battle Ukrainian resistance in Soledar’s town centre Reuters

      “Reuters was unable to verify conditions on the ground.” Or under the ground, considering the famous Soledar salt mines. The Wikipedia entry, updated 15 minutes ago (!!, says Ukrainian troops “utilizing the deep tunnels of the salt mine to maintain a defensive line in Soledar, as well as to keep stockpiles of supplies and launch attacks on Russian positions from their rear.”

      Presumably the Wikipedia entry was updated by a Ukrainian operative, making “from the rear” interesting. What can it mean? I couldn’t find a map of how the salt mines run underground, but here is a surface map, with a guess as to where the tunnels are located:

      If indeed the tunnels run East-West (from mine #1 at right to mine #4 at left) then the Russian “rear” is either to their North or to the South. Either implies that the Russian forces are deep in Soledar and Ukraine is therefore in bad trouble (as indeed the Western coverage would indicate, if we try to successfully reverse engineer the truth out of the bullshit).

      1. Polar Socialist

        Prigozhin has already posted pictures of himself and the Wagner troopers in the salt caves, so one would be excused for thinking that mopping up is already well on the way.

        As far as I can tell from the Telegram channels, Wagner units are approaching the Silj railway station north-west of Soledar and with Russians in Krasna Hora to the south, Soledar is now encircled.

        Most commentators seem to think that the Russians/Wagners will next turn north towards Seversk to roll up the Ukranian defenses in northern Donetsk.

          1. Polar Socialist

            Can I reformulate that as “Prigozhin has allowed to post pictured of himself and Wagner soldiers in the salt caves”? Even RT showed a film of him and his entourage walking in them.

            I would guess being with Wagners only a few hundred meters from the battle he’s not having his cellphone with him.

            It’s my understanding from the Telegram crumbs that the Ukrainians inside the city have concentrated on the Artemsol factory and School number 14, both right next to the City Council building. So the flag may have to wait for a day or two.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              > Even RT showed a film of him and his entourage walking in them.

              I try to avoid state media like RT, and (with less success) WaPo and the NYT. A search on “salt” at RT:

              Wagner group claims full control of Soledar RT. Although “full control” is delicately put; the Ukrainians are in a cauldron, but the cauldron hasn’t been closed (as of yesterday). No salt mines.

              Wagner group releases video from contested Soledar RT. No salt mines in the video.

              Now I want to know the provenance of those pictures even more!

              1. Polar Socialist

                At least one of the pictures has RIA Novosti text in it. Unfortunately I live in The Europe With Values, so my access to the RIA site itself is very limited.

      2. kriptid

        Telegram chatter is that many or all of the Ukrainians holed up in the salt mines (anywhere from 300-500) have already surrendered upon realizing they were encircled by the Russians. Although not sure if this includes Salt mine #4.

        Russians already have fire control over the route westward out of Soledar based on recent reports from the YouTube tapewatchers like Defense Politics Asia and Military Summary. So I would guess we will hear something about the valiant Ukrainian last stand at Soledar sometime in the next 24-48 hrs from Western sources.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Russians already have fire control over the route westward out of Soledar


          > many or all of the Ukrainians holed up in the salt mines (anywhere from 300-500) have already surrendered upon realizing they were encircled

          Everybody seems to think that the salt mines are just like the Mariupol steel plant. But my guess is that if that were true, the Ukrainians would already have holed up down there, and in the thousands, not the hundreds. So why haven’t they? Is it that, as Dima says, “nobody wants to die”? Or is it that, for some reason, the salt mines aren’t suitable for holing up in? If the latter, what’s the reason?

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I don’t know anything about those specific salt (halite) mines beyond the wikipedia entry, but in general salt mines involve huge voids, not seams like coal or metal. In other words, they generally consist of one big entrance and a huge self supporting cavern or series of caverns. So you can hide an army in some old deep halite (rock salt) mines, but you then face a problem with getting it out if the enemy has control over the entrances.

            So its very different from other types of older metal or coal workings where you might have dozens of shafts and entrances over a very wide area, so could be used for hit and run or getting behind an enemy. The reason why tunnels worked so well at Iwo Jima (to take a famous example) was that they interlinked defensive bunkers, so soldiers could be moved from defensive position to position underground, and sometimes even pop up behind US lines. The Viet Cons tunnel system likewise used their extensive and interlinked nature as a key part of their design. Destroying or taking one tunnel didn’t impact on the overall defensive system. Hizbollah has used long tunnels simply to get underneath Israeli defensive lines.

            It should also be said that many mining systems, especially coal mines, are pretty much useless for military defense because they fill up too quickly with methane or groundwater. I’m struggling to think of any example where old mines have been much use apart from hit and run guerrilla warfare. But sewage and water systems have of course long been used in urban warfare, most famously in the Warsaw Ghetto. Many underground subway systems have been designed for secondary defense (in Seoul, for example).

            So in simple terms, I think the Ukrainian salt mines are probably very useful for hiding material and manpower, but have minimal value as a defensive structure once it is over-run and the main entrances are under Russian fire control.

  26. Pat

    Everyone will be happy to know that Ukraine’s tee shirt wearing PR President made it to the Golden Globes tonight introduced with breathless but solemn admiration by excellent actor but hideous human being Sean Penn.

    Yeah there was still enough power to light and film Zelensky and then to transmit the high definition video. Too bad for any cold Ukrainians shivering in the dark, I am sure they know that his making a speech to a room full of over paid entertainment professionals was the best use of his time and energy. I mean he will need a job once Ukraine collapses.

Comments are closed.