2:00PM Water Cooler 1/12/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Giant Kingbird, Parque Nacional Alexander von Humboldt; Nuevo Mundo, Guantánamo, Cuba. “Habitat: Forest.” Lots of forest sounds.

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Politics

“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

2024

“DeSantis, Newsom and the Red/Blue State Divide” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “It’s hard to believe that it was almost 20 years ago that a young, upcoming Senate candidate named Barack Obama mesmerized the Democratic faithful with his nomination speech for Sen. John Kerry at the DNC convention in Boston. His message was one of “the audacity of hope” and a conviction that we are more united as a country than we are divided. “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America—there’s the United States of America” turned into the foundation for his eventual run for president just four years later. It was almost 25 years ago when Texas Gov. George W. Bush, already considered a front-runner for the 2000 GOP nomination, delivered an equally hopeful message in his 1999 inaugural address in Austin. ‘Texans,’ he said, ‘can show America how to unite around issues that are larger than race or party,’ Today, two of the most high-profile and widely discussed potential presidential aspirants—Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)—gave inaugural addresses that directly challenged the notion of ‘E Pluribus Unum.’ They contend that America is a deeply divided country, not because we aren’t committed enough to unity, but because one version of America is the correct one while the other version will lead to America’s destruction. In his inaugural address, Gov. Newsom argued that blue states like California must remain on the frontlines to fight against ‘Red state politicians, and the media empire behind them, selling regression as progress, oppression as freedom. And as we know too well, there is nothing original about their demagoguery. All across the nation, anxiety about social change has awakened long-dormant authoritarian impulses. Calling into question what America is to become, freer and fairer … or reverting to a darker past.’ California, argues Newsom, isn’t just a great place to live because it has a thriving economy and a good quality of life, but because it promotes a ‘far-reaching freedom agenda. A full-throated answer to those demagogues of division, determined to regress and oppress.’ Come for the sunshine and Silicon Valley. Stay for the fight against demagogues and nativists. Across the country in Tallahassee, Gov. DeSantis laid out the ways the Sunshine State thrived over the last couple of years thanks to his fights against Blue State overreach. ‘When other states consigned their people’s freedom to the dustbin,’ DeSantis said, ‘Florida stood strongly as freedom’s linchpin. When the world lost its mind—when common sense suddenly became an uncommon virtue—Florida was a refuge of sanity, a citadel of freedom for our fellow Americans and even for people around the world.’ The leaders in blue states, said DeSantis, ‘have harmed public safety by coddling criminals and attacking law enforcement. They have imposed unreasonable burdens on taxpayers to finance unfathomable levels of public spending. They have harmed education by subordinating the interests of students and parents to partisan interest groups. They have imposed medical authoritarianism in the guise of pandemic mandates and restrictions that lack a scientific basis.’ Come to Florida, for low taxes, great beaches and a chance to, as DeSantis put it: ‘navigate the boisterous sea of liberty rather than cower in the calm docks of despotism.'” But: “The idea of running a campaign on the “audacity of hope” or “compassionate conservatism” feels incredibly outdated. But, we also learned that leaning into the division—as Trump did in his re-election bid in 2020 and GOP Senate candidates in purple states did in their 2022 campaigns—is a losing proposition.” • So, a plague on both their houses?

“Additional documents marked classified found in Biden’s Wilmington garage” [Politico]. “Lawyers for President Joe Biden have discovered additional documents with classified markings in a storage space in the garage of his Wilmington, Del., residence, the special counsel to the president announced Thursday. The lawyers found the Obama-Biden administration records during a search completed Wednesday night of Biden’s residences in both Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Del. All but one of the documents were found in a storage space in Biden’s Wilmington garage, with one other record found in an adjacent room, Special Counsel to the President Richard Sauber said in a statement. It’s the second batch of documents marked classified discovered in a space used by Biden since the end of the Obama administration. The previous set, found at a Biden-affiliated think tank on Nov. 2 and publicly disclosed earlier this week, triggered the broader search and a move by the Justice Department to scrutinize the discoveries.” • So, Biden’s own lawyers “found” the documents? One can only wonder what other lawyers would find. (Reminds me forcefully of Hillary handing over her server after her lawyer cleaned it up. I mean, who wouldn’t trust a Democrat lawyer?)

Republican Funhouse

“Marjorie Taylor Greene said the House should “absolutely NOT!” display a bust of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy” [Politico]. • MTG keeps asking for my vote. Of course, the next thing out of her mouth will be something I can’t possibly vote for, but still. Goes to show.

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.

* * *

“Democrats, Young Voters Deserve a Policy Agenda That Supports Their Future” [Teen Vogue]. “If Democrats want to beat historical odds again in 2024, they’ll need a legislative vision that gives people something to vote for. Above all, they’ll need a vision that centers those voters who drove their success — young people, especially young voters of color.” • Worth a read, but there’s no evidence the Democrats could enact any of this, or even want to.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“‘Justice Has Finally Prevailed’: Former Student Celebrates Shutdown of Fundamentalist School Where He Says He Was Abused” [The Roys Report]. • There must be a study out there that compares various Christian denominations for levels of abuse; but I’ve never seen it. However, it doesn’t seem to me that Christianists and Catholics differ much in that regard.

#COVID19

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!

* * *

• ChiGal writes in, for the New Year:

howdy and happy new year! an ever dwindling number of people I know have escaped Covid: my brother, four friends (I don’t count the ones who claim not to have had it but who neither mask nor test–nor do I gather indoors with them!), and I’d say a quarter of my clients. Three friends went down for the first time this holiday season, two healthy and fit and taking precautions, one in her thirties and one in her sixties; and one healthy and fit but an Ayurvedic medical practitioner and yoga instructor who has used alternative methods (skeptical of big pharma) to maintain immune health and did not vax or mask, age 70. One of my clients, an ICU Covid traveling nurse with PTSD from the past 2 3/4 years also went down for the first time by gathering unmasked with family who were supposedly testing.

the friend in her thirties says she is the sickest she has ever been in her life, two weeks and counting of pounding headaches, brain fog, congestion, fever, body aches, utter exhaustion, and a deluge of a menstrual period like never before, basically the works but not hospitalized–fingers crossed. The others have had the “bad cold” version, a good five days of symptoms but mostly recovered with lingering congestion.

me? I seriously limit indoor socializing (1-2x/mo), mask (mostly LG Airwasher, the KF94 recommended by the mask nerd, but I do have N95s for times when I anticipate more exposure), and use Enovid–thanks NC and Carla! knocking on wood here…

* * *

• Multiple levels of pathetic, including that the Times Covid newsletter editor actually believed in “herd immunity”:

The Times is like a little child that hasn’t mastered object permanence. They think if they close their eyes, the pandemic will go away. Then again, most of their readers probably think the same thing.

* * *

• Guerilla ventilation:

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• “More than 24K people have reported COVID test results to new NIH website” [ABC]. “Tens of thousands of Americans have reported a COVID-19 test result to the National Institutes of Health’s website that launched in November. The site, MakeMyTestCount.org, allows people to anonymously report the results of any brand of at-home COVID-19 test. In updated data exclusively provided to ABC News, 24,000 people have reported a test result to the site. Additionally, three-fourths of the results are a positive test and women were more likely to report a test result than men.” • Great! Why the hell couldn’t CDC do this, like a year ago when the home test kits came out?

* * *

• “The ‘Kraken’ Subvariant” [New York Times]. “To understand more, I spoke to my colleague Carl Zimmer, a science reporter who covers the coronavirus.” So a reporter interviews a reporter. Gad. “It looks like XBB.1.5 is a cut above the other Omicron subvariants in terms of getting around our defenses, and it’s also a very transmissible virus. We won’t know the full XBB.1.5 story until it’s over, but right now it’s definitely looking like it could potentially become dominant in the United States, maybe even the world…, Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of data on its effects. From what I’ve heard from experts, it doesn’t look like it’s any more severe, which is good. But it takes time for a variant to become common enough that it infects people in large numbers, and then for some of those people to end up in the hospital, and then to analyze all those numbers. It’s really surging here in the northeastern U.S., but we don’t have great medical information systems to get quick answers on that.” • Three years in, and “we don’t have great medical information systems.” What do all these credentialed people do with their time?

• XBB.1.5 severity:

* * *

• Maskstravaganza: A long thread from Lloyd Armbrust, mask manufacturer. Worth reading in full, but this passage stood out:

The Biden Administration destroyed those businesses because hospitals wanted cheap masks from China, and to support giant monopolies like GM.

• Maskstravaganza: “The spectacle of anonymity: how the mask became a way for celebrities to control their image” [The Conversation]. “When celebrities mask, they perform the spectacle of anonymity, rather than achieving anonymity itself…. The mask places further distance between us and them – it allows a one way scrutiny and the ability to see but not be seen. Disguising themselves in this way only serves to heighten the aura of celebrity. This has the effect of preserving their relative status as an image, as opposed to a knowable entity. It is easy to forget, then, that this object of desire (or ridicule) is a person. One might suggest this failed form of disguise is strategic or intentional, driving the frenzied economy of celebrity image production. If celebrities can reclaim access to their image – their moneymaker – it is little wonder they adopt the mask in the public sphere.” • As long as masks do not conceal the eyes — as KN95s and below certainly do not — I don’t believe the confer an ounce of anonymity.

* * *

Case Count

• “The doctor won’t see you now: Covid winters are making long hospital waits the new normal” [WaPo].

[P]ublic health officials are still waiting to see how bad the current winter surge in viral infections turns out to be. So far, this covid winter in the United States has been challenging, though not nearly as disastrous as the past two. But most of the winter still lies ahead, and covid-19 hospitalizations have risen significantly since October…. The big unknown now is what will happen as the health-care system feels the effects of holiday gatherings.

Wouldn’t it be great if we collected case data? These people don’t know any more than I do (and I’d argue I’ve got better priors). What a farce! And:

But I don’t think we have hit a steady state of disease to be able to say for sure what we will see year in and year out. … It’s very dynamic.”

“We all agree that the virus is evolving faster than we thought. We just don’t know where the virus is headed. We don’t even know what the next three weeks are going to hold.”

That’s a confidence builder!

Transmission

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:

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.

Positivity

From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published January 12:

-2.1.%. Still heading down, at the same rate.

Wastewater

Wastewater data (CDC), January 8:

Holy moley. That’s a lot of red!

January 7:

And MWRA data, January 10:

Lambert here: Finally! Unmistably down. However, not all the students are back; BU classes begin January 19; Harvard’s January 22.

ChiGal sends in this wastewater site for Illinois:

Interesting. the more we know about wastewater, the worse the case count looks.

Variants

Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. Does nobody in the public health establishment get a promotion for tracking variants? Are there no grants? Is there a single lab that does this work, and everybody gets the results from them? [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk]. UPDATE Yes. See NC here on Pango. Every Friday, a stately, academic pace utterly incompatible with protecting yourself against a variant exhibiting doubling behavior.

Variant data, national (Walgreens), December 30:

Lambert here: BQ.1* still 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 12:

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

• Hospitalization data for Queens, updated January 8:

Deaths

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,123,466 – 1,121,725 – 1,121,298 = 1741 (1741 * 365 = 635,465 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

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 1,000 to 205,000 on the week ending January 7th, well below expectations of 215,000. It was the lowest value in over three months, adding to recent evidence of a tight labor market despite the Federal Reserve’s aggressive tightening path last year.” • The Fed is turning a rubber thumbscrew…

Inflation: “United States Inflation Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The annual inflation rate in the US slowed for a sixth straight month to 6.5% in December of 2022, the lowest since October of 2021, in line with market forecasts.”

CPI: “United States Consumer Price Index (CPI)” [Trading Economics]. “The consumer price index in the US increased 6.5 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 296.797. It was the lowest inflation rate since October of 2021.”

* * *

The Bezzle: “FTX Pre-Mortem Overview” [SBF, SBF’s Substack]. • Yes, SBF got a substack. I can’t even. Perhaps Yves will have something to say.

The Bezzle: “DCG’s crypto broker Genesis owes creditors more than $3bn” [Financial Times]. “Crypto broker Genesis owes creditors more than $3bn, prompting its owner Digital Currency Group to explore selling assets in its large venture portfolio to raise money, according to people familiar with the matter. DCG, a conglomerate that controls crypto media outlet CoinDesk and investment manager Grayscale, is seeking to raise fresh cash after its Genesis unit was wrongfooted in November by the collapse of FTX. As part of its efforts, DCG is considering offloading parts of its venture capital holdings, which include 200 crypto-related projects such as exchanges, banks and custodians in at least 35 countries, and is worth about $500mn, according to people familiar with the matter. Genesis’s debts to creditors, the scale of which have not been previously reported, underscore the magnitude of the fundraising task for Connecticut-based DCG, whose search for outside funding has failed to draw interest as the group struggles in the wake of the collapse of crypto exchange FTX.” • Somehow, I don’t think those “crypto-related projects” are worth $500mn.

The Bezzle: “JPMorgan shutters website it paid $175 million for, accuses founder of inventing millions of accounts” [CNBC]. “JPMorgan Chase

on Thursday shut down the website for a college financial aid platform [Frank] it bought for $175 million after alleging the company’s founder created nearly 4 million fake customer accounts… Regardless of the outcome of this legal scuffle, this is an embarrassing episode for JPMorgan and its CEO, Jamie Dimon. In a bid to fend off encroaching competitors, JPMorgan has gone on a buying spree of fintech companies in recent years, and Dimon has repeatedly defended his technology investments as necessary ones that will yield good returns. The fact that a young founder in an industry known for shaky metrics and a ‘fake it ’til you make it’ ethos managed to allegedly dupe JPMorgan calls into question how stringent the bank’s due diligence process is.” • Yes, the “founder” did a bad thing. But I’m finding it hard to work up any outrage that somebody defrauded Jippy Mo.

The Bezzle: “John Deere’s repair fake-out” [Cory Doctorow, Medium]. “Last week, a seeming miracle came to pass: John Deere, the Big Ag monopolist that — along with Apple — has led the Axis of Evil that killed, delayed and sabotaged dozens of Right to Repair laws, sued for peace, announcing a Memorandum of Understanding with the American Farm Bureau Federation to make it easier for farmers to fix their own tractors… The MOU that Deere and the Farm Bureau signed is full of poison pills, gotchas, fine-print and mendacity, as Lauren Goode documents in her Wired article, ‘Right-to-Repair Advocates Question John Deere’s New Promises‘: For starters, the MOU makes the Farm Bureau promise to end its advocacy for state Right to Repair bills, which would create a repair system governed by democratically accountable laws, not corporate fiat…..Deere’s deal offers independent repair shops access to diagnostic tools and parts “on fair and reasonable terms,” a murky phrase that can mean whatever Deere decides it means. Crucially, the deal is silent on whether Deere will supply the tools needed to activate VIN locks, meaning that farmers will still be at Deere’s mercy when they effect their own repairs. What’s more, the deal itself isn’t legally binding, and Deere can cancel it at any time. Once you dig past the headline, the Deere’s Damascene conversion to repair advocacy starts to look awfully superficial — and deceptive.” • J-LS would be ticked; though I bet she would have called it.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 Greed (previous close: 54 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 42 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 12 at 1:59 PM EST.

Healthcare

“The doctor won’t see you now: Covid winters are making long hospital waits the new normal” [WaPo].

“White House covid-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said the American health-care system may not be able to withstand the continued viral onslaught, straining the system’s ability to care for other serious illnesses. ‘I am worried that we are going to have, for years, our health system being pretty dysfunctional, not being able to take care of heart attack patients, not being able to take care of cancer patients, not being able to take care of the kid who’s got appendicitis because we’re going to be so overwhelmed with respiratory viruses for … three or four months a year,’ Jha told The Washington Post.”

So now you’re telling me “Let ‘er rip!” is problematic? That “nobody could have predicted”? That mass infection was the intended outcome of administration policy is a lot more parsimonious; “what you see is what you get.” And then there’s this gem:

Hospitals are already under financial stress because of rising labor costs, physician burnout and the trend toward outpatient treatment. The added coronavirus strain is likely to push some facilities over the edge, noted Robert Wachter, a professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco.

“With all of this, you’ll see hospitals … begin closing at a faster pace, leaving some rural/suburban communities without a hospital, and fewer hospitals in urban areas,” Wachter said by email.

So far, Congress and the federal government broadly have not taken concerted action to address these chronic challenges. There is no cavalry on the horizon for the health-care system.

No mention of executive salaries and bonuses, no mention of upcoding and fraud, no mention of private equity gutting systems. No, the first thing out of their mouth is labor costs. And all this from a liberal Democrat house organ, the party that successfully nuked #MedicareForAll.

I applaud Medlock for helping a family member join ObamaCare; I hope it works out for them:

But read the thread if you want to see a ridiculous, trap-filled process replete with complex eligibility requirements. Despite Medlock’s “easy-peasy” intent, the process is clearly not.

Under the Influence

“Why ‘Kidfluencers’ Have So Few Protections — Even As Americans Support Regulating The Industry” [FiveThirtyEight]. “While polls like the one by YouGov show that the public is exhibiting a healthy amount of hesitation toward monetizing children’s online presences, the American legal system makes it hard to act on that concern.”

Class Warfare

“Nurses at 2 NYC hospitals return to work as deal ends strike” [Associated Press]. “Thousands of nurses at two New York City hospitals ended a three-day strike Thursday after reaching a tentative contract agreement that union officials said offers better working conditions, in addition to pay raises. The tentative deals at Mount Sinai Hospital, in Manhattan, and Montefiore Medical Center, in the Bronx, include raises totaling 19% over three years. Nurses began returning to work at both hospitals Thursday morning, with Gov. Kathy Hochul greeting returning nurses at Mount Sinai just before dawn…. The union stressed staffing levels as a key concern, saying that nurses who labored through the grueling peak of the coronavirus pandemic are stretched far too thin because too many jobs are open. Nurses say they have had to work overtime, handle twice as many patients as they should, and skip meals and even bathroom breaks. The agreements with the privately owned, nonprofit hospitals include concrete, enforceable staffing ratios, the union said. The agreement with Montefiore also included what the union described as community health improvements and nurse-student partnerships to recruit local nurses from the Bronx.”

News of the Wired

“The end of the high school essay” [Seth’s Blog]. “There’s not a lot of evidence that getting good at writing book reports or regurgitated essays under typical high school conditions leads people to success or happiness later in life… They were actually a signal that you could do just enough work to persuade an overwhelmed teacher that you were compliant. So, now that a simple chat interface [ChatGPT] can write a better-than-mediocre essay on just about any topic for just about any high school student, what should be done? The answer is simple but difficult: Switch to the Sal Khan model. Lectures at home, classes are for homework. When we’re on our own, our job is to watch the best lecture on the topic, on YouTube or at Khan Academy. And in the magic of the live classroom, we do our homework together. In a school that’s privileged enough to have decent class sizes and devices in the classroom, challenge the students to actually discuss what they’ve read or learned. In real-time, teach them to not only create arguments but to get confident enough to refute them.” • Hmm.

* * *

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 RM:

RM writes: “Sundog sunrise on New Years Day here in Eastern Montana. Looks like it is going to be a fantastic year.” I hope so!

Readers, please 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.

81 comments

  1. Jason Boxman

    Honestly, reading all that about knowing nothing, I’m not kidding when I suggest our public health elite simply commit suicide. We’d be better off without them. They’re simply making a dreadful situation worse. Full stop.

    Reply
  2. Carolinian

    Film buff alert–Melvyn and his guests take on Citizen Kane in new In Our Time.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001g37l

    The film–deemed a “shallow masterpiece” by Pauline Kael–was long at the top of Sight and Sound’s greatest films list until Hitchcockians decided Vertigo was a better shallow masterpiece. But who says films are supposed to be profound anyway? They play on our emotions–often helped along by music (Bernard Herrmann in both cases).

    Reply
    1. Pat

      Kane isn’t a bad film, it is pretty good, but it is hard to understand the reason it is so high on so many lists just by viewing it. It is on those lists because it was revolutionary. Welles was the first to do a whole lot of things we take for granted in Citizen Kane.

      Reply
      1. Carolinian

        Yes a lot of it is context. Shallow or not the film had far greater thematic and cinematic ambitions than the Hollywood films of the time (or for that matter our time–mostly). Since films are so expensive they have always tended to be commercial propositions. Welles by contrast was brilliantly showing off with the help of some leading Hollywood veterans. Kael thought the follow on Magnificent Ambersons would have been better if not taken away from him (or given away by him). Art versus commerce was her signature theme as expressed in the essay Trash, Art and the Movies.

        Still even if Kane doesn’t quite live up to its exalted reputation I find it hugely entertaining.

        Reply
      2. Big River Bandido

        I don’t understand why Kael describes Kane as “shallow”…the meaning behind it is so deeply buried I had to watch the film 7 times before I started to see all the clues.

        And yes, it was both revolutionary and decades ahead of its time. The optical effects alone must have blown people away in 1941. The techniques The Beatles developed in the recording studio (25 years later) were tape adaptations of those that Wells first used in Kane.

        Reply
        1. Carolinian

          If this is addressed to me I believe she meant not intellectual–just offering a gloss on the phenomenon that was Hearst. Welles himself called Rosebud “dollar book Freud.”

          Having now listened to the podcast I think it is very good and talks about why the film came to be so praised–particularly in Europe. Worth a listen.

          Reply
  3. antidlc

    RE: signing up for Obamacare

    I just went through this whole process, helping a family member sign up for an ACA plan. (COBRA runs out soon.)

    Oh. my. What a cluster&^*$. I don’t know how many hours we spent and I still don’t really know what some of the coverage is.

    Reply
    1. Lupana

      Similar experience with a family member. Finally gave up and called to see about Medicaid. So easy! The papers came in the mail. She applied. Was approved and it’s been working fine. We spent hours comparing plan after plan all of which seemed to offer with as much complexity as possible high deductibles that made the plans pretty close to worthless. Honestly don’t understand why this has to be made so complicated.

      Reply
  4. Kell

    Newsom’s “freer and fairer”…

    Mandatory multiple vaccination to keep your state job or enter a public building,
    Schools shutdown and churches shutdown, For nothing, it turns out.

    1/3 or Small businesses destroyed to favor corporate donors, Target becomes a “Grocer,” sells candy bars,

    Doctors can lose state license if they even mention alternate theories about Covid,
    Restrictive gun ownership,

    Destruction of ability to run business, use parks or sidewalk because homeless attracted from everywhere,

    State building code banning natural gas connections,

    Freedom to pay 12% state income tax on everything, including capital gains,

    Longstanding community and environmental plans discarded to build 3.5 million housing units, discarding all zoning and environmental regulations.

    https://48hills.org/2020/10/the-mystery-of-newsoms-3-5-million-housing-units-shortage/

    Reply
    1. Stephen V

      Thanks for this list Kell. Haven’t lived in CA for 25 years, but without looking I’ll bet pharma lobbyist funding is still number one. Back in the day prison guard union was number 2.
      Freedom for whom?

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        He rode into town on Willie Brown’s horse
        Got a parking & traffic job up north
        His chances were swingin’ in the breeze
        All the recall election posters had pictures of he

        Tied what was left of his hopes to a meal Prix Fixe
        Walked into a restaurant, they called the French Laundry
        He ordered up sans mask, they called for his head
        He survived the likes of Elder, then he still led

        He used to have Kimberly Guilfoyle right by his side
        He’s the California Kid, I hope you’re quite prepared for his 2024 ride

        You can only imagine the electorate was eyeballing he
        Staring down from their screens you see
        Some women claimed he caused a lack of breath
        He was winning hearts being handsome & not near death
        Some found him tragically hip, as good as it gets

        He’s got Getty, right by his side
        He’s the California Kid, I hope you’re quite prepared for his 2024 ride

        He uncorked a bottle, the pro wino whined
        Why drink anything from the late teens?
        ’bout that time the paparazzi snuck in
        And there sat some asshole all uncovered in sin
        Do as I say-not as I do, he said ‘That’s no lie’
        Almost blew a hole in his chances just as big as the sky

        He’s got Pelosi, right by his side
        He’s the California Kid, I hope you’re quite prepared for his 2024 ride

        California Kid, by the Beat Farmers

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGQC1rPjOeU

        Reply
    2. anon in so cal

      Newsom exempted the California Prison Guards Union from the vaccine mandate (donated $1.75 million to Newsom’s campaign).

      Reply
    3. agent ranger smith

      It seems to me that Newsom and DeSantis are competing with eachother to see who can attract more people to move into their overpopulated states and who can make their state more overpopulated past any hope of ecophysical sustainability.

      Over the next 50 years, global warming will push many climate and social-breakdown refugees out of both of those states.

      Reply
  5. nippersdad

    Throughout that Politico article about the new finds in Biden’s garage, nowhere is it mentioned who his lawyers actually are. He has so many retreads from the Clinton and Obama machines that it would be easy to believe he just hired Williams and Connoly as well.

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      He’s just like his son Biden. Biden leaves laptops with incriminating materials scattered around the country while old Joe Biden, being of an older generation, leaves paper documents of incriminating evidence scattered around the country.

      Reply
  6. Jason Boxman

    The doctor won’t see you now: Covid winters are making long hospital waits the new normal

    “If XBB.1.5 had the virulence of delta, we would be in deep weeds,” said Ross McKinney, chief scientific officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges.

    McKinney and other experts stress the importance of improving vaccine uptake to reduce the respiratory disease burden — to ward off severe covid-19 cases, as well as other diseases like the flu. Despite all the pain and suffering inflicted during the pandemic, vaccine acceptance remains dismayingly low, experts say.

    “The willingness of the public to accept vaccines to limit the spread of these respiratory diseases is very limited,” said William Schaffner, an infectious-disease doctor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “If the public doesn’t accept them, there’ll be more people sick and greater stress on the health-care system.”

    These people are functionally stupid. We know the vaccine doesn’t limit spread in any meaningful way, and there’s never been an accurate accounting of the actual effects of the mRNA vaccination, and public health can’t be bothered to level with the American people.

    So why would uptake be so great? And anyway it doesn’t particularly matter.

    What a joke.

    Reply
    1. JohnA

      Are you trying to spoil the plot of the latest Knausgaard series of books? It was supposed to be a trilogy but he is now talking about seven or so. Of the first two published to date that I have read, the first is far better, set in Norway, while the second meanders from Norway to the then Soviet Union without any real conviction.

      Reply
  7. chris

    Wow, a plethora of good links this afternoon.

    Re: ChatGPT at school and the death of the essay… this is much exaggerated. The issues discussed with ChatGPT have been present for years at schools. Especially with typed essays. Teachers have good ways around that at the high-school level. Professors have good ways around that at the collegiate level. In class essays that you can’t use a lap top or computer to cheat with are still assigned. And many papers and essays are assigned as projects. So, you may be able to have ChatHPT help you write the essay, but you can’t have it help you summarize the references and where you want them in the order of your argument, or help you explain why you want to pursue a list of possible thesis topics that you instructor has to approve, or produce intermediate drafts that you’ve then edited… at that point it’s more work to get something like ChatGPT to fake the intermediate parts than it is to just do the work yourself. That being said, students are trying to use ChatGPT to help them write their papers collaboratively. My kids’ teachers run the gamut on that. Some absolutely forbid any use. Some allow it if used for finding quotes to insert in the paper.

    Re: NYT and PMC clicking their heels 3x to go home where there is no COVID… most of my friends have stopped masking or testing. They are however still contracting COVID. The line that I heard the other day at a gathering where I attended wearing a mask and had used an iodine based nasal spray prior to arrival was “we’ve done everything that science says we can do.” So there you go. Check the box and move on. I have a feeling we are going to have a very bad time when these people realize that is not the case. There’s only so much an Emily Green can do to beg her peers to move forward and forget past sins.

    Re: Ukraine, the news is whiplash inducing lately. Krystal and Sagaar continue on their downbeat assessment of Russia that is still light-years ahead of most media coverage. I feel like the quantum reality field around this war will collapse to the truth soon and then we’ll be treated to all the Good people having to explain why they don’t need to talk about being so wrong for so long.

    And lastly… something is happening to kids lately and I’m not sure what. Incidents of violence for children 15 years and younger in our area have risen dramatically. Both at schools and in extracurricular activities. Issues of non-compliance have also increased. This is affecting everything from church youth groups and the boy scouts to lacrosse teams and travel soccer. Accompanied with the kids not being alright is a lot of parents checking out. This has lead to some dangerous situations occurring where the kids got into trouble and no one could find their parents to help or supervise. I mention this in case others in the commentariat have similar experiences to share.

    Reply
    1. Joe Well

      Do you make your own iodine spray or do you buy it already made?

      I am about to run out of my spray and can’t get any more.

      Reply
      1. Revenant

        I make my own, a few drops of Lugols 15/5 solution in tap water in a perfume atomiser bottle. The water is a cold tea colour and smells and tastes of iodine but without being irritant. Like swimming pool water.

        I would like to get hold of iodine in a chelating agent, like Betadine, but the spray is not sold in UK.

        Reply
    2. Jason Boxman

      I can’t say I fondly remember in-class written essays in college, but I do remember that they were challenging and required thought and dexterity to complete during the allotted time. And you had to actually sort of understand the subject to succeed.

      For long form papers, those needing the dreaded APA or MLA citations, ChatGTP is useless except perhaps as a starting people for actual research, if you can’t think of a topic, which might actually be a good use for it. I do kind of miss being able to request research papers, and somewhere, some undergrad would dutifully pull it for me and scan it to PDF. Those were the days.

      Reply
    3. Adam

      What happens when ChatGPT produces the same essay for everyone in a class? Everyone gets an ‘A’? A funny thought. It reminds me of a situation a very long time ago when I was a TA for a introductory computer science class and many people turned in almost the exact same final computer program each with slightly different documentation. Little did they know that the guy that all got it from had accidentally embedded hidden characters in the text file that I could see with a binary editor and it confirmed that they were all the same program. They all got to take the test again in class with me so I got punished also by having to supervise them. Oops.

      Reply
      1. Acacia

        many people turned in almost the exact same final computer program each with slightly different documentation

        A former colleague once overheard two undergrads walking out of the campus computer center; the first one said: “…and don’t forget to change all the variable names”.

        Reply
  8. fresno dan

    “Additional documents marked classified found in Biden’s Wilmington garage” [Politico].
    Really, its as if the word hypocrisy had never been invented. The really unbelievable ignoring of classification and security by Hillary, and then…meh…then TRUMP HAS CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS! The Law!!! The Law!!!
    Now Biden.
    Can anyone seriously say that the law is being enforced objectively, disspasionately, impartially? That the FBI action between Trump and Hillary shows equipoise?
    I bring this up so much, because last night I saw a documentary on Neflix about Maddof. And its pretty obvious that the rich/powerful get away with things because it is designed for them to get away with things.
    So, even though I dislike Trump, why do they hate him so much?

    Reply
    1. notabanker

      Anything that upsets the status quo is an issue. Remember, Biden ran on nothing will fundamentally change, and it hasn’t if you are wealthy or carrying their water.

      The Netflix show was pretty good. I especially liked the part where after one of his competitors contacted the SEC for years to tell them his returns were mathematically impossible. He finally badgered the SEC to the point they called Bernie to review his hedge fund. The agent calls Bernie to let him know they are coming and he says, “I don’t have a hedge fund”. The only truthful part of that was that he wasn’t licensed to have one. The SEC’s response? Oh. Well then, ok, thanks for your time.

      But they finally got him, you say? Uh no, it was his son’s that turned him in after Bernie knew the gig was up.

      Reply
      1. fresno dan

        notabanker
        Later on when Markoulous, I dunno, after the 5th, 6th, 7th time of trying to get the SEC to pay attention, and they FINALLY do, and Bernie gives them the phone number to his account, which would have proven that there was no investing going on and ergo a PONZI, after the SEC gets that phone number, THE SEC Doesn’t call the Number!!! I had a conniption – I was so enraged I almost had a stroke – I am sure the whole experience shortened my life.

        Reply
        1. Duke of Prunes

          I believe that the person from the SEC who was supposed to investigate Maddoff was actually engaged, and then married, to his niece. It’s a big club, but you aren’t in it.

          Reply
          1. nycTerrierist

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shana_Madoff

            “In 2007,she married Eric Swanson, a former Assistant Director of the Office of Compliance Investigations and Examinations at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).[11] She and Swanson met originally in April 2003 when the SEC performed an inadequate examination as to whether Bernie Madoff was front running customer orders—completely missing the multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that her own cousins (Bernie’s sons) would expose in December 2008”

            Reply
    2. The Rev Kev

      The real story being missed is where those first set of documents were found – at Penn Biden Center. This is his own think tank so was of course a scam. Hillary & Bill used the Clinton Foundation to extort money from governments and people in return for access to the US government. Biden set up Penn Biden Center and the deal was that Penn Uni would do all the heavy lifting of fund raising for his think tank while Biden would make only a few nominal visits as professor.

      Reply
  9. Carla

    @Chigal, who said in part —

    “me? I seriously limit indoor socializing (1-2x/mo), mask (mostly LG Airwasher, the KF94 recommended by the mask nerd, but I do have N95s for times when I anticipate more exposure), and use Enovid–thanks NC and Carla! knocking on wood here… ”

    You rock, girl!

    Some personal anecdotes: My sister & I have been using Enovid faithfully since last May. We both KN-94 mask without fail in public indoor spaces. She’s in New England and has been regularly exposed, unmasked, to her children and grandchildren (all either schoolteachers or students) all of whom have had Covid, several repeatedly. I’m in Ohio, have a good hepa filter in the house, socialize indoors seldom and unmasked, but with only three or four people at a time, and am almost never around children. So far, neither of us has ever tested positive for Covid, nor felt unwell in any respect for more than one day since Jan. 2020. However, neither her mate nor mine uses Enovid, and neither has had Covid, either.

    Reply
    1. GramSci

      Thanks, Carla,

      Enovid seems to be working for us, too, with similar precautions. However, we were around grandchildren, and may have contracted Covid once from them. We tested negative, but perhaps the Enovid invalidated our results? Perhaps we should have done anal swabs as has been suggested here on NC.

      Reply
        1. CoryP

          I don’t think it was suggested editorially but came up in a link that found positive anal swabs. I don’t have the link but I remember seeing passing mention of it.

          Reply
    2. ChiGal

      very curious! do your mates also mask and limit indoor exposure to others?

      I also have hepa filters inside that I run when service providers (plumbers, painters) have to be in my space. and I generally socialize at home with one person at a time.

      Reply
  10. semper loquitur

    Good God that Seth’s Blog essay on why essays are useless is amazing. It manages to make utterly hollow arguments and by virtue of that provide a solid example of the very dreck it purports to be criticizing. It’s a bit of a feat!

    “There’s not a lot of evidence that getting good at writing book reports or regurgitated essays under typical high school conditions leads people to success or happiness later in life.”

    So, the key weasel words here are “typical”, “success”, and “happiness”. Why are the typical school conditions such that the students are producing such poor work. The use of typical implies that there are atypical schools. What are they doing right? Can we make ALL schools atypical?

    And what is Seth’s definition of success and happiness? Who, for that matter, is Seth? He claims to be a teacher (the people who denigrate teachers the most are always calling themselves teachers) but the hyperlink takes you to a video about canoeing. He offers an “altMBA” that turns out to be a 31 day course in “online leadership”. OH, he has a book about marketing. Forgive my presumption, gentle reader, but I’m willing to bet his definitions of success and happiness are about as shallow as a glassful of spilled water.

    “When typing became commonplace, handwriting was suddenly no longer a useful clue about the background or sophistication of the writer. Some lamented this, others decided it opened the door for a whole new opportunity for humans to make an impact, regardless of whether they went to a prep school or not.”

    Oh, goody, a history lesson from the teacher. Perhaps we should question why there are differentials in handwriting skills in the first place? And why do we need such “clues” anyway? Oh, right, class markers, duh, the primum mobile of marketing slicksters like Seth. So sure, some lamented losing an obvious class marker but where in the fu(k is Seth going with “new opportunity for humans to make an impact”? What does that even mean? An impact on their keyboard? A marketing survey?

    “… banning the greatest essay device since Danny Dunn and his Homework Machine is not the answer. In fact, it’s a great opportunity to find a better way forward.”

    Right, so instead of dealing with the issues that made, according to teacher Seth, the essay so problematic we should instead empower a program that spits out pseudo essays because it’s going to “find a better way forward”. To where, exactly? And to be clear, it doesn’t write essays. Writing requires a conscious mind. Crappy GPT3 spits out patterns that have been spoon-fed to it’s algorithms.

    “The first challenge of the essay was the asymmetrical difficulty in giving useful feedback. 30 essays, 5 minutes each, do the math.”

    Sure, Seth, here’s some math: 30 essays times 5 minutes = MORE THAN ONE FU(KING TEACHER being hired.

    “If you grew up in a household with verbally agile family members, you probably did way better on essays than your peers, but not due to much effort on your own.”

    Why, were your parents writing your essays for you? Are you claiming that kids learning from their parents is somehow a shortcut? And why are there differentials between the verbally agile and the not-so? Sure, nature to an extent, but perhaps nurture plays a role? And why does installing an automated mediocrity like GPT3 make things better? How about more education? Oh, wait, those both require a social fabric and spending that is conducive to an educated populace, sorry, never mind.

    “They were actually a signal that you could do just enough work to persuade an overwhelmed teacher that you were compliant.”

    Why were they that thing, Seth, if in fact they were? Why was all this mediocrity running around in the richest nation in the world? Why were the teachers overwhelmed? There was a time when we had the finest public school system in the world! What happened, historian Seth?!

    “When we’re on our own, our job is to watch the best lecture on the topic, on YouTube or at Khan Academy. And in the magic of the live classroom, we do our homework together.”

    Right, because the best lectures are delivered via a bluescreen! The “magic” of the classroom magically dissipates when the lectures take place! Of course! And since everyone has so much free time and children are so naturally disposed to set aside Tik-Tok in order to watch a lecture about ancient Greece, it’s bound to be successful! And as a bonus, it diminishes the role of the teacher! Next? Robot teachers!

    “In a school that’s privileged enough to have decent class sizes and devices in the classroom, challenge the students to actually discuss what they’ve read or learned.”

    But what about those schools that don’t, Seth? Any plans for them? Any ideas as to why there are overcrowded classrooms that lack the latest in techno-gimmickry? Nah, not from Seth.

    “In real-time, teach them to not only create arguments but to get confident enough to refute them.”

    You mean what teachers already do?

    “Not only can the teacher ask a student questions, but groups of students can ask each other questions. Sure, they can use GPT or other tools to formulate where they begin, but the actual work is in figuring out something better than that.”

    Wow, what powerful insights! No wonder Seth calls himself a teacher. He’s got it all figured out AND has time for canoeing! And what better basis to form and refute arguments than the vomited detritus of an algorithm written by a bunch of introverted coders! It’s all so clear now, Seth!

    “At first, this is harder work for the teacher, but in fact, it’s what teachers actually signed up to do when they become teachers.”

    No, I don’t think teachers signed up for meddling m0r0ns like Seth to try to reengineer the classroom according to their techno-fantasies. They signed up to dig into the hard work of teaching children how to think and communicate those thoughts clearly. People like you failed them, oftentimes intentionally.

    “…If we want to train people to take initiative, to question the arguments of others, to do the reading and to create, perhaps the best way to do that is to have them do that.”

    Yeah, because taking the initiative naturally involves relegating the initiation of the process to an app.

    “We’ll never again need to hire someone to write a pretty good press release, a pretty good medical report or a pretty good investor deck. Those are instant, free and the base level of mediocre.”

    A concept sensai Seth has obviously mastered.

    “Bringing insight and guts to interesting problems.”

    *gagging noises

    Reply
    1. Victor Moses

      I don’t disagree with what is being said but Seth does question the status quo as not working. And no – I don’t agree that throwing more money at it will necessarily solve the problems. I think there is a rigidity in teachers’ unions and the attendant bureaucracy that can stifle novelty and innovation.

      Reply
      1. Pat

        It is not just or even primarily the teachers unions whose bureaucracy that stifles things. What do you think No Child Left Behind was meant to do besides enrich Neil Bush’s educational testing company? It wasn’t teachers who made standardized test results so important in the schools. Hell in a public school system required to take on any disabled child capable of being in a school room, the administration is now screaming that a class with students that in some cases are barely verbal needs better test scores. And in those classes the teachers are also busy filing required paperwork because student x likes to bite people or student q cannot stay awake (medication? disrupted home). All between getting many of their charges to understand how to hold a pencil and fill in a dot…again.
        I realize that this is an extreme example, but if the system cannot drop their artificial benchmarks here, do you really expect them to show less rigidity where children are fully developed for their age?.

        Reply
      2. hunkerdown

        Novelty and innovation are childish neoliberal religious values designed to justify a stance of moral perfectionism and its demands for totalitarian unity under markets. You need to apologize to all of us for Common Core, that famous epitome of your infantile desire for stimulation and action for its own sake.

        Reply
    2. Acacia

      Thanks for this comment. @semper. So much of what Seth is saying is so bonkers, it’s difficult to know where to start, isn’t it? I rather doubt Seth has ever actually taught writing in a high school, nor at a college or university. Unfortunately, there are people who will like what Seth is saying, and in the spirit of slash-and-burn MBA style “smart destruction”, some schools will probably experiment with these ideas, e.g., getting rid of the high school essay and replacing actual teachers in classrooms with YouTube videos. Later, these reformers/crapifiers may or may not wonder why the students who had the new essay-free ‘education’ tended to fail more often, to complete college degrees in programs that required writing, or, if they made it that far, in graduate schools. It’s well known (except to Seth, it seems), that college writing programs are already spending a lot of time mopping up after high schools that didn’t teach students the basics of logical reasoning and argumentative writing, let alone correct grammar. With self-anointed geniuses like Seth pointing the way forward, we can expect that situation to get worse.

      At the same time, there will be schools that won’t listen to people like Seth, and part of what they offer will be the traditional, known to work methods of instruction. WRT the ‘problem’ of this new tech, many colleges and universities already use platforms that scan student papers and flag them for plagiarism. Experienced teachers can generally spot plagiarism, as they have read countless other student papers and have a pretty good idea what to expect, so these platforms provide a support function. This is kind of standard practice now, as it’s so easy for students to just google up some text and paste it into their essays. Students are typically required to submit their essays to the plaform, and their teachers then get an analysis along with the essays. The platforms check against a very large database, and add all incoming papers to the database, cross-checking essays in the same class, different classes, etc. This also readily flags any writing that came out of the “frat house files”, etc. I doubt it would be very difficult to train these platforms to detect ChatGPT output, so this tech may not quite be the ZOMG game changer that people are worrying about.

      Reply
      1. thoughtful person

        FWIW I agree giving up on teaching communication in writen form is nuts, and software to detect stuf like chatGPT output would be nice (but think about it, if you know someones authentic writing, a submission one day by another writer may not be so hard to catch…).

        Just wanted to say what I suspect about the most effective education processes is that back and forth interactions are the key to learning. Thus if class time is not spent lecturing but more of a two way (or multi way interactive situation) that is likely good thing.

        Reply
    3. hunkerdown

      > Why, were your parents writing your essays for you?

      A friend of mine was once hired to “edit” her accounting office manager’s fourth grade daughter’s essays, so, well, yes, outside labor is definitely showing up in the work product in elementary school.

      I think Seth, like most of the PMC neo-feudalists, is trying to deprecate reason and replace it with pathetic and ethic bird song, for easier manageability of a fractious labor force.

      Reply
  11. Samuel Conner

    A couple of masking sightings in the past week:

    long-term care facility: visitors recommended to mask, but not required. Staff wearing cloth masks; residents unmasked. I offered a few boxes of 3M Auras to the facility director. She pulled out the identical mask from a stash behind her desk — they are on hand for use in outbreaks.

    The thought occurs that upping the mask “game” only after the beginning of an outbreak may be a bit late.

    rehab facility: Entryway marked “Masks required beyond this point.” Staff are masked — surgical procedure masks or ear-loop K95s. Clients are unmasked. One visitor was wearing what looked like an N95, but fitted so poorly that she may as well have been unmasked.

    In the 3 times I have offered Aura N95s to people in the last month, they were refused, politely, twice. The third offer, to a fuel oil delivery person, of a couple of boxes to share with his coworkers was accepted with a big grin; “Are you that guy?” One of his colleagues accepted a box from me in November and shared them out. I’m guessing that this is not normal customer behavior, in their experience.

    No one has expressed offense at the offers.

    Offering these things to people may be a slow but eventually effective way of encouraging people to protect themselves. One suspects that by the time the CDC gets around to strongly urging effective protection, it will be too late to avoid serious outcomes for many millions of our countrymen. I’m awaiting this future with a mixture of anxiety and curiosity. I don’t think that my backyard food production efforts will help much in the event of significant system breakdown.

    Reply
  12. Young

    RE: MTG and the Bust

    To those Zelensky lovers, I have a better proposition than the bust in the Capitol:

    Change the stars on the flag to David’s, and stripe colors to blue and yellow.

    It’s a bipartisan resolution.

    Reply
    1. 430MLK

      Thomas Massie, the KY congressman most aligned with the Republican Freedom caucus, tweeted, “I wanted to believe this story was satire from the Babylon Bee, but it’s not.”

      Reply
  13. griffen

    Yes and double please, let us install a portrait bust of his most honorable and venerated leader, Mr Zelenskyy. I mean why the heck not, after all? We can place the bust of Mr. Z in a carefully curated money tree, which is where the US Congress conveniently finds the resources and sends him the funds for his every wish. \SARC

    I really could use a laugh and that was it ! Alas, no money tree for me or for thee. Bootstraps on offer though.

    Reply
  14. Jacqueline jax

    AIR PURIFIERS: A few days ago, a commentor mentioned an air purifier made with PC fans for quiet operation.

    I lost the link. Hoping someone else has it.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  15. enoughisenough

    “There’s not a lot of evidence that getting good at writing book reports or regurgitated essays under typical high school conditions leads people to success or happiness later in life”

    Come on. That’s a straw man. What would evidence for that even look like? Some beneficial things do not lead to direct statistical confirmation.

    In the case of writing essays, and thinking critically to decide what is relevant and what is not and being able to successfully summarize information is……I dunno, kind of the cornerstone of basic intellectual skills from which everything else flows out from.

    So. It’s a foundation level. Harder to assess via later “happiness” – that’s just absurd.

    It’s like saying having a solid foundation for your home isn’t necessary, because rain comes from above.

    Reply
  16. griffen

    SBF and starting a new platform to talk about eating jars of peanut butter and his ill considered rationales for why there is something still there. Because he insists it to be thus and so. Oh and the white shoes law firm is a bunch of meanies ( I carry no water for S&C, Sullivan and Cromwell, but come on they are not amateurs ).

    Beg my pardon you lying ass, you scum, you should be scrubbing prison floors for what the hell you and your meth or cocaine (ok, perhaps both) addled cohorts brought to pass. Bitcoin and crypto collapsed in 2022; for many of these platforms or exchanges the fact of Bitcoin reaching lofty heights during 2021 concealed how little was actually there. And FTX was perhaps a legitimate crypto business but that remains to be seen or properly explained.

    This morning on CNBC, I caught some coverage of this essay. One of the CNBC anchors was quick to point out that SBF is, in all likelihood, just full of it. SBF does remind me a lot, quite a lot, like Ted Bundy of the infamous serial killing spree of the late ’70s. Just delusional.

    Reply
  17. Mark K

    Re: “Great! Why the hell couldn’t CDC do this, like a year ago when the home test kits came out?”, which was Lambert’s comment regarding the NIH’s rollout of a system for reporting the results of at-home COVID tests.

    On top of this, the kits manufacturers should have been — and should still be — required to put the 800 number to call with positive results on every package. And make it the largest font on the package. The criminality of not making the reporting of positive results frictionless was obvious to me six months or more ago.

    Reply
  18. Wukchumni

    THREE RIVERS, Calif. – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to conduct pile burn operations of up to 1,000 piles of downed hazard trees, branches and understory brush at Case Mountain Extensive Recreation Management Area, southeast of Three Rivers, Tulare County. The burn operations will start as early as Thursday, Jan. 12, and continue periodically until spring. Burning will take place only when weather and fuel moisture allow for safe and successful operations. Smoke may be visible in the Three Rivers area.

    “The prescribed burn is part of a multi-year effort to reduce fuels in the Bureau’s only giant sequoia groves to strategically thin trees and remove needles, branches and brush from the forest floor, which can feed flames to the treetops.” said Bakersfield Field Manager Gabriel Garcia. “This prescribed fire will help increase protection of the wildland-urban interface for the town of Three Rivers in Tulare County and improve landscape health.”

    https://www.blm.gov/press-release/blm-reduce-wildland-fire-risk-case-mountain-giant-sequoias-0

    Reply
    1. agent ranger smith

      Are they consulting with their local Indians to be told when conditions are most nearly right for that burn?

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        Are they consulting with their local Indians to be told when conditions are most nearly right for that burn?

        The local tribes last lit their understory on purpose circa 1847 and have been on the Tule reservation for 10 generations now.

        Reply
        1. agent ranger smith

          One hopes against hope that some passers-downers of traditional knowledge may have given instructions from generation to generation. They might be sterile out of context, but if any such
          traditional-story-keepers were to spend a solid year in the current forest area in question, perhaps the stories might begin to make sense in context and be present time applicable.

          Or perhaps not.

          Worth a try, given the stakes?

          Reply
          1. Wukchumni

            85 to 90% of the populace of the 60 or so Yokuts sub-tribes died of measles in 1868-69, anybody that knew fhe old ways died.

            Reply
  19. Rod

    Lambert:
    After Alabama based Warrior Met Coal Mining got the NLRB nod Aug22 now this in Washington State

    https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/supreme-court/supreme-court-weighs-concrete-companys-damage-claim-union-rcna64875

    Justice Department lawyer Vivek Suri, arguing on behalf of the Biden administration, said that the concrete company’s lawsuit should be allowed to go ahead in state court based on the fact that the strikers failed to take reasonable precautions.
    Oh,oh—and don’t think this involves the drivers shutting down the drums either
    Happy New Year also…..

    Reply
  20. DGL

    Abuse: I agree abuse in uniform in many church and school settings. The Catholics have failed in many ways but their failings are more public because of the corporate structure of the Catholic Church. There are assets worth millions to be sued against. An individual church has no assets.

    Reply
    1. Adam Eran

      I beg to differ. Fair Oaks Presbyterian did not want to admit gays (because they’re icky), so it bought its building from the Presbyterian denomination for $1.2 million. So… a) even protestant denominations have assets, and b) even little (now independent) Fair Oaks Church does too.

      Reply

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