2:00PM Water Cooler 1/20/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Black x Eastern Phoebe (hybrid), Big Thompson River Bike Trail, Larimer, Colorado, United States. “Dawn song and various calls from the hybrid.” 28 minutes long, with a lot going on, so you can listen while making your coffee :-)

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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

Biden Administration

Never let it be said the Biden Administration doesn’t deliver:

“History on the Hill: Powerful spending committees now led by women for the first time” [NBC]. “In the Senate, Washington Democrat Patty Murray is the new Appropriations Committee chairwoman, while Maine Republican Susan Collins is the ranking member. They are taking over from two longtime male colleagues who retired last year. In the House, Texas Republican Kay Granger is the new Appropriations Committee chairwoman, while Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro, the panel’s past chair, is serving as ranking member. Together, the quartet of powerful appropriators is known on the Hill as ‘the Four Corners.'”

2024

“Trump to GOP: Don’t touch Medicare or Social Security in debt ceiling fight” [Politico]. “‘Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security,’ Trump said in a video message. The two-minute video — which goes on to lambaste President Joe Biden over the migration crisis at the southern border — is part of a series of policy announcements put out by his campaign. And it comes amid growing brinkmanship between congressional Republicans and the White House over raising the nation’s debt limit.” • Trump moves to seize the sensible center (because you know that Biden will do just that — after all, Obama couldn’t do that, so Biden would finally one-up him). And then there’s this:

DeSantis’s voice (1):

DeSantis’s voice (2):

I dunno… Here’s DeSantis:

Ready for the national stage?

By way of comparison, Buttigeig:

Not sure either are really ready for the national stage, tbh.

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.

* * *

“Rep. Omar celebrates federal funding for Minnesota Public Housing fire sprinkler systems” [KSTP]. • No Grenfell Tower in Minneapolis!

#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).

Stay safe out there!

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• A helpful tip:

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• “Big Mystery Donors Fund COVID Conspiracy Nonprofit” [Walker Bragman, Important Context]. “The country’s media, and to a large extent, policymakers, have moved on from the ongoing crisis—a reality that is, at least in part, a testament to the work of one man: Jeffrey Tucker, the founder of the Brownstone Institute, a shadowy new nonprofit dedicated to waging war on public health measures….. With his Brownstone Institute, a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Tucker has sought to turn the clock back on public health—and perhaps on child labor laws as well…. New federal tax filings obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy and provided to Important Context and the OptOut Media Foundation reveal that the organization has little popular support. Instead, it is bankrolled mostly by large donations of up to $600,000…. Throughout the pandemic, business-aligned groups and the political right have been pushing back against public health measures. Koch-backed organizations have been in the fight since March 2020, messaging against business closures and later, school closures and masking in an effort to minimize economic disruption. The Brownstone Institute arose out of those efforts; specifically, an October 2020 conference Tucker helped organize while at AIER…. Held at AIER’s headquarters in Great Barrington, Mass., the conference spawned an influential open letter—the “Great Barrington Declaration”—calling on governments and scientists to reject broad public health measures in favor of pursuing herd immunity through mass infection and “focused protection” only of the vulnerable. Similar ideas had been proposed in a reopening plan from the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation months earlier. The declaration and its authors, three scientists from prestigious universities—Drs. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford and the Koch-funded Hoover Institution, Martin Kulldorff (then) of Harvard, and Sunetra Gupta of Oxford–were promoted by the political right, including the Trump White House, DeSantis, and Koch-tied groups, to undermine scientific consensus around public health measures…. The declaration signaled that public health was the new front in the war over the size and scale of government.”

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• “Airplane lavatories deliver new hope for the CDC’s variant hunt” [Politico]. “At the same time, after a successful test run at New York’s JFK Airport, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is pursuing talks with airlines and port authorities to start collecting samples from long-haul international flights’ wastewater after they land. The small but growing Traveler Genomic Surveillance program, run by the CDC with a biotech firm and a company that collects samples, is seen by administration officials and public health experts as part of a revolution in biosafety infrastructure — and a critical plank of national security in the post-pandemic era. As it expands geographically and sets its sights on new pathogens, it could function as an early warning system for where and when dangerous viruses and bacteria, natural or otherwise, enter the country. ‘Just like we have radar to look for airplanes to make sure we know what’s coming into our country, or we take swabs and samples to make sure somebody walking through security doesn’t have explosives on their hands, this is the same thing for pathogens or viruses or bacteria,’ said Matthew McKnight, the general manager at Ginkgo Bioworks, whose biosecurity and public health unit, Concentric by Ginkgo, partners with the CDC in the program along with XpresCheck.”

* * *

• “MRI evidence of olfactory system alterations in patients with COVID-19 and neurological symptoms” [Journal of Neurology]. “Brain MRI findings demonstrated [Olfactory Bulb (OB)] damage in COVID-19 patients with neurological complications. Future longitudinal studies are needed to clarify the transient or permanent nature of OB atrophy in COVID-19 pathology.” But more research needed: “Our results, along with a previous study finding no difference in OB volume between COVID-19 patients with and without self-reported olfactory loss [37], suggest that OB atrophy may be associated with the neurological sequelae of COVID-19, even without leading to (self-perceivable) olfactory loss, supporting the hypothesis of SARS-CoV-2 using the olfactory pathway as a gateway to the brain. This is further supported by the findings of Gu et al. [38] and Buzhdygan et al. [39], but true evidence of the neuroinvasive potential of the Coronavirus is still missing. It may be also possible that neurological complications are due to para- or post-infectious immune processes occurring in response to the virus. Further research is required to investigate this aspect.”

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• I don’t see why “eugenics” is the wrong word:

After all, we just saw a splendid example at Davos. Davos attendees — ruling class, all — know very well that #CovidIsAirborne, and took the appropriate measures to protect themselves, while at the same time not only denying you all the same protections, but funding a massive propaganda campaign against them, and diverting the state which they control away from public health altogether and toward libertarian nostrums (see “How Ashish Jha and Rochelle Walensky of Newton, MA Protect Their Children from Covid (But not Yours).“)

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• “Solving the HEPA Filter Noise Problem” [It’s Airborne]. “If you want the right answer, you need to ask the right question. You should see [Portable Air Cleaners (PACs)] as an air cleaning AND noise making device. The right question is how do you get 250 cubic ft per minute of clean air with only 45 dBA noise? The numbers can change depending on the space, but the basis of the question remains the same. It seems like an easy solution — pick a quiet PAC. But if you have a look at the PACs on the market, you will quickly notice that almost all of them are too loud. It is extremely rare to find any PAC advertised at being below 45 dBA…. CR Boxes are inconsistent with noise profile because they use different fans. Some of the most powerful fans are the noisiest and not appropriate for many situations. The most commonly used box fans are the Utilitech, Lasko and For-Living. The noise usually falls within the range of 47–52 dBA. Areas with higher background noise should be able to tolerate these without difficulty. For a typical classroom, the noise tolerance varies depending on the environment and teacher. … [PC Fans] might be the future of in-room air cleaners. To clean the air, you need a fan. PC fans are designed to be super quiet, even when you are sitting very close. Using these fans gets the best clean air delivery rate at low noise that you can find. A single fan cannot provide that much flow, but these fans can be placed in parallel to give you very high airflows with very low noise.” • Very interesting!

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• That’s a lot:

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• “Judges ‘rewrote’ COVID coverage policies, restaurants tell N.Y. top court” [Reuters]. “CRO’s complaint alleged in detail that the virus had physically damaged its restaurants by adhering to surfaces, turning them into ‘vectors for disease transmission’ and rendering the dining areas ‘functionally useless.’ That should be enough to state a claim under New York’s pleading standards, the brief says. The Appellate Division disagreed, calling the complaint ‘conclusory.’ Even if the virus did adhere to surfaces, it could easily be wiped away and therefore did not amount to ‘tangible’ or ‘demonstrable’ property damage, the panel held.” • Oh gawd. We’re going to write fomite and droplet transmission into case law. Please, no.

Case Data

BioBot wastewater data from January 19:

Lambert here: For now, I’m going to use this wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical case data portion of this chart, which in my view “goes bad” after March 2022, for reasons as yet unexplained). At least we can spot trends, and compare current levels to equivalent past levels.

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 20:

-1.5.%.

Wastewater

Wastewater data (CDC), January 16:

January 15:

And MWRA data, January 17:

Lambert here: Slight uptick in the north. However, not all the students are back; BU classes begin January 19; Harvard’s January 22.

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.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), January 9:

Lambert here: BQ.1* and XBB still dominate. However, CH.1.91 appears for the first time at 1.9%. That’s a little unsettling, because a Tweet in Links, January 11 from GM drew attention to it (“displays such a high relative growth advantage”) and in Water Cooler, January 18, from Nature: “CH.1.1 and CA.3.1 variants were highly resistant to both monovalent and bivalent mRNA vaccinations.” Now here is CH.1.1 in the Walgreens variant data. Let’s see what CDC does with it tomorrow. The Covid variant train always leaves on time, and there’s always another train coming!

Lambert here: Wierdly, the screen shot about has been replaced today by data from “10/7/2022.” (It’s clearly not current data; BQ.1* and XBB do not dominate.

Variant data, national (CDC), December 31 (Nowcast off):

BQ.1* takes first place. XBB coming up fast. CH.1, unlike the Walgreens chart, does not appear. (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:

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 19:

• Hospitalization data for Queens, updated January 14:

Deaths

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,128,330 – 1,127,059 – 1,125,895 = 1271 (1271 * 365 = 463,915 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, and now we have some confirmation that whatever we just went through is decreasing.

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

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

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The Bezzle:

More Nexo:

The Bezzle: “Elon Musk’s Appetite for Destruction” [New York Times]. “For a company that depended on an unbounded sense of optimism among investors to maintain its high stock price — Tesla was at one point worth more than Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, Ford and General Motors combined — these crashes might seem like a problem. But to Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, they presented an opportunity. Each collision generated data, and with enough data, the company could speed the development of the world’s first truly self-driving car. He believed in this vision so strongly that it led him to make wild predictions: ‘My guess as to when we would think it is safe for somebody to essentially fall asleep and wake up at their destination: probably toward the end of next year,’ Musk said in 2019. ‘I would say I am certain of that. That is not a question mark.’ The future of Tesla may rest on whether drivers knew that they were engaged in this data-gathering experiment, and if so, whether their appetite for risk matched Musk’s.” • Ah. “Personal risk assessments”!

Tech: “The High Cost of Cheap E-Bikes” [The New Republic]. “Fires and overheating accidents attributed to lithium-ion batteries killed 19 people in the United States in 2022, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In New York City alone, six people died in these uniquely fast-burning infernos. Experts say poorly made batteries, like those often found on cheaper e-bike models, are the primary culprit. So why is it still so easy to purchase them? Does a typical bike owner know how to safely charge and maintain a bike battery? And are lower-paid workers, such as delivery people, essentially being forced to purchase unsafe bikes just to be able to do their jobs?”

Tech: “Amazon’s Huge Layoffs Are Gutting Comixology” [Gizmodo]. “The true scope of the layoffs at Comixology is unknown, leaving its fate uncertain—especially in the wake of a highly controversial rehaul of the platform last year. The changes went far beyond redesigning the app and website for the leading digital comics storefront and included a disastrous integration of the service more closely into Amazon’s storefronts, shutting down Comixology’s own website in the process. Between mass errors, clunky navigation, title discoverability issues, and the end of a long-running creator royalties program in favor of using Amazon’s ebook publishing system Kindle Direct, Comixology spent much of the last year apologizing for and attempting to fix the litany of issues, an ongoing process. Or at least, was. Amazon’s moves to gut Comixology after nearly a year of customer and creator strife potentially doesn’t just threaten the service’s presence at the forefront of digital comics distribution, but its existence at all.” • Commentary:

The Bezzle: “The AI Magic Show” [New York Magazine]. “If these early AI encounters didn’t feel like magic, they often felt, at least, like very good magic tricks — and like magic tricks, they were disorienting. It wasn’t just direct encounters with these demonstrations that were confounding, though. Explanations about how deep-learning and large-language models actually work often emphasized incomprehensibility or, to use the terms of art, a model’s explainability or interpretability, or lack thereof. The companies making these tools could describe how they were designed, how they were trained, and on what data. But they couldn’t reveal exactly how an image generator got from the words purple dog to a specific image of a large mauve Labrador, not because they didn’t want to but because it wasn’t possible — their models were black boxes by design.” • Another way of putting this is that AI is not maintainable. Particularly when its on a chip, and particularly when that chip is in a consumer product. As they will be. So, when the NannyBot puts the turkey in the crib and the baby in the oven, don’t blame me.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 55 Neutral (previous close: 52 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 61 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 20 at 1:53 PM EST.

The Gallery

The lawn, the paths, the composition:

Police State Watch

“Inside the Underground Economy of Solitary Confinement” [The Marshall Project]. “Whatever you’re buying or selling, you must learn how to “fish” to participate in the solitary economy. Fishing lines are made of ripped strips of sheets, towels and clothes. With thin enough strips, you can make about 100 feet of line out of a single state-issued bedsheet. To fish, you attach the item you’re selling to the line along with a weight, such as a bar of soap. When you toss the line toward your buyer, the weight creates the momentum needed to carry your item through the air and drag it into the right cell after it lands.Of course, commodities can fall off the line or land in places where they can’t be recovered. Arguments can ignite over accusations of theft, so you need to know who you can trust to pass on your goods. In my reporting, I heard about one guy who didn’t have any family members on the outside to help him pay for basics like toilet paper. Thanks to his cell’s central location and his good aim and trustworthiness, he was able to support himself by securing other people’s lines. It started out as something he would do to pass the time, but he ended up getting really good at it. People would look out for him, sending him items in exchange for his help.It is difficult to fully describe the restrictive conditions in which fishing takes place. The rec pen is just a small cage, and the space between the bars is a matter of inches. In units where the bars are too tight to fit one’s hand between them, people use a “spear” to throw the line. A spear is a magazine or newspaper rolled up so tight that it glides through the air. It serves the same purpose as a weight does. For those who are not yet adept at fishing, it can take dozens of tries just to connect to someone a few cells down.But the limitations make prisoners’ proficiency all the more fascinating.” • I don’t know what’s come over The Marshall Project, but they’ve been producing really good material lately.

MMT

Anyone can mint a coin. The trouble is getting it accepted:

Hard to see today’s Democrats reacting to this line of thinking with enthusiasm.

Saving Social Security:

Class Warfare

“Shock and anger after fired worker killed by police at Oklahoma pork plant” [Guardian]. “Chiewelthap Mariar, a 26-year-old refugee from Sudan, was killed by police officers while working at the Seaboard Foods meatpacking plant in Guymon on 9 January. A worker who filmed parts of the incident on his cellphone, and was later fired for doing so, requested to remain anonymous for fear of further retaliation. The worker claimed Mariar was fired from his job by a supervisor but was told by human resources to finish his shift. The worker said the supervisor who fired him confronted Mariar on the shop floor after he was fired, and police arrived soon after to escort Mariar from the site. Seaboard Foods did not comment on but did not refute this characterization of the situation. ‘I witnessed the entire thing, from when they started arguing with him until he was shot,’ said the worker. ‘He had a company-issued band-cutter in his hand. When the police got to the plant, the guy was already working, minding his own business.’ The worker provided cellphone footage leading up to and following the incident, where Mariar can be seen with the band-cutter in his hand working around other employees and being confronted by officers on the shop floor. ‘They made him out to be a danger when they said he had a knife in his hand, when it wasn’t. And that’s wrong on so many levels,’ the worker said. The worker claimed employees were told to keep working after the incident occurred. ‘I worked in maintenance. All they had us do was cover the scene with plastic, and we proceeded to finish what was on the production line,’ the worker added. ‘This company fired me for recording the truth they were trying to brush under the mat. They never asked me if I was OK. It was my first time seeing a guy get killed – and then I get fired.'” • IIRC, that’s what Amazon does: Put some plastic round the corpse, and keep on working.

“Here’s How Rail Workers Are Fighting On After Biden Blocked a National Strike” [In These Times]. “[Deven Mantz, a BMWED member in North Dakota] explained that rather than an executive order from Biden himself — which the rail carriers would likely challenge in court — guaranteed sick leave could come in the form of new safety rules from another part of the executive branch. The Department of Transportation, for example, could mandate paid sick days on the grounds that forcing employees to come to work ill and unrested creates unsafe conditions on the railroads.” Pete? Pete? Pete? More: “Rank-and-file railroad unionists seem to agree that the best hope for a better contract next time is greater cross-craft unity, and a single bargaining coalition of all the rail unions.” As I urged. More: “Building such unity is the main goal of Railroad Workers United (RWU), a solidarity caucus of rank-and-file workers from across the dozen different rail unions…. RWU organizer Ron Kaminkow said that while the group would like to see Biden mandate paid sick days, they are not going to expend their limited resources trying to persuade the president to do what he could have done during contract bargaining…. In particular, he said RWU is going to ​”go notch 8″ on its recently announced campaign calling for public ownership of the freight railroads. (Notch 8 is the highest amperage on diesel locomotive engines.).” • Good. I wonder where Sawant is on this….

“How Much Income Do You Need to Be Rich?” [Of Dollars and Data]. “Here are the top 10%, top 5%, and top 1% of household incomes in the United States:

  • Top 10% = $191,406
  • Top 5% = $290,164
  • Top 1% = $867,436

Interesting. Because the top 1% isn’t all that much, is it? Must be quite a steep power curve, eh? (And let us all remember that income is not class. Class is a social relation. Neither “the rich” nor “the poor” are a class. Nor is the “middle.”

News of the Wired

“David Boswell Reid’s Ventilation of the Houses of Parliament” [The Victorian Web]. “Lord Sudeley, Chairman of the Commissioners who selected the design for the New Houses of Parliament, said in the House of Lords “The ventilation of the [Temporary] House of Commons was complete and perfect ‘ and the first plan of systematic ventilation ever carried out in this or any other country”. In a written report he stated ‘To the skill, zeal and determination of Dr Reid, it is owing that the members of the House of Commons can now pursue their senatorial duties without a sacrifice of either health or comfort. To him we owe the solution of the problem, that, by a proper system, ventilation may be obtained in the most trying and difficult circumstances’ (Harris in Reid, 1858). In 1835, Sir Benjamin Hawes, Chairman of the Committee on Acoustics and Ventilation, which had originally recommended Reid’s appointment, wrote to Reid ‘You have facilitated public business, and prolonged the lives of public men’ (Harris in Reid, 1858).” •

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

timotheus writes: “Plant or antidote – not sure.”

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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.

58 comments

    1. Wukchumni

      …I think she was playing the fair trade air flute but who can be sure?

      I should up my game when it comes to adjusting lyrics in particular on Davos themed ditties and am now doing requests…

      Reply
    2. flora

      Ha. I’ve decided these WEF “leaders” are very rich old men – mostly old men, with far too much money and power, who have intellectually retreated to the college freshman/sophomore late night “if only we ran the world here’s how we’d save it” bullshite sessions type of thinking. That’s scary. / ;)

      Reply
        1. flora

          adding: if the EU was the home of the Davos economic philosophy, and if the Davos economic philosophy was really just the Mont Pelerin Society’s neoliberalist economic philosophy disguised as a false “wealth for all” ideology, well then…. / ;)

          Reply
  1. Wukchumni

    Trillion $ coin et al…

    …brother can you spare a trillion?

    An ounce of Platinum is about a grandido, with the seignorage being on the tune of $999,999,999,900.00 which isn’t chicken feed, and close to being as silly as Bitcoin, but obviously the Numismatrix wants it, neigh needs it.

    One thing I noticed in numismatics in my decades of pitching aged round metal discs, is that there were practically no new young coin collectors, the Hobby of Kings was dying out. Talking to numismatist friends lately, if anything the generational gap is even more profound, with Baby Boomers pretty much all net sellers-not buyers these days.

    The glamour coins of great rarity (1804 $, 1913 Liberty Nickel, et al) are going great guns, having increased in value demonstrably, but everyday bread and butter everyman collectible coins have only gone down in value or now only worth the precious metal content value.

    p.s. A little inspiration, as the highest denomination coin was minted exactly 100 years ago!

    https://www.kuenker.de/en/archiv/stueck/162588

    Reply
    1. britzklieg

      I collected pennies all my life and have two 99% complete sets of the Lincoln cent, 1909 – present (2023 coin seems to be slow in coming out) including one 1909-S VDB but obviously lacking the 1943 copper alloy. There are several other collectible dates for the Lincoln cent and I have them, though never invested in determining their grade. It was just a hobby, really. But indeed, they seem to have increased in value amongst traders these past few years, if for no other reason then the price of copper has increased (as you know, pennies were 95% copper through 1981). I won’t sell but will pass them on to my nieces and nephews who can do whatever they will want with them. For me it’s the historical value that matters and it was an easy choice to focus on a coin honoring Abraham Lincoln.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        Fair enough, lots of collectors enjoy old money for what it is, little time capsules…

        I stopped collecting when I was 14~

        Maybe 30 years ago I was headed to the horse races in Del Mar and there was an auction in Santa Ana that had coins and back then you had to be there-there being no internet, and there was just gobs of stuff-junk to gems-as they say.

        I looked at as much of it as I could, and bought a bunch of it and one of the lots had 2 rolls of copper-plated 1943 steel Lincolns, and being the merry prankster, spent them all over Southern California over a few year period, here and there.

        Were they the real enchilada, each of them would be worth a cool quarter million.

        …never made it to the races that day

        Reply
  2. Carolinian

    Sounds like Trump really is running. Will he come out for single payer next? Running to the left of the Dems wouldn’t be hard.

    Believe he’s in SC today–with Lindsey of course.

    Reply
    1. Realist

      He did come out for it the last time, and then totally forgot about it when he was elected.

      Remember this pack of lies from 2015?

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2015/09/28/donald-trump-on-obamacare-on-60-minutes-everybodys-got-to-be-covered-and-the-governments-gonna-pay-for-it/

      Trump: They’re going to be taken care of. I would make a deal with existing hospitals to take care of people. And, you know what, if this is probably—

      Pelley: Make a deal? Who pays for it?

      Trump: —the government’s gonna pay for it. But we’re going to save so much money on the other side. But for the most it’s going to be a private plan and people are going to be able to go out and negotiate great plans with lots of different competition with lots of competitors with great companies and they can have their doctors, they can have plans, they can have everything.

      Reply
      1. Procopius

        I never understood why the Democrats didn’t play that segment over and over again. “The government will pay for it.”

        Reply
    1. Bsn

      Yes, some people think of it as a “sexy” type of passion, except Catholics of course. Beautiful flower on a fairly light vine that can cover and stretch for 20 – 30 feet. Much better for a porch or arbour than Wisteria which can demolish a wooden structure in just a few years. “You hit me with a flower, you do it every hour, Oh, you’re so vicious”

      Reply
    1. hunkerdown

      Those “dissident honest brokers” are salving their own consciences by affirming how states actually work in extremis. They aren’t abolishing the conditions of the state’s existence and therefore working to preserve the problem, and the illusion that power can be redeemed.

      Reply
      1. Diogenes

        I did say “appear”. Deceipt is the Agency’s stock in trade, so ultimately who can say for sure.

        If they are being honest — and if I were a betting man, I think I’d probably plunk my personal nickel down as to Agee and McGovern — it seems to me they’re doing more than just salving their consciences, they’re informing the public. Gurri? I have no idea.

        Abolishing the conditions of the state’s existence seems a tall order for one person. (Particular from my vantage of typing Internet comments from my couch.)

        Anyway, one man’s opinion. And thanks Britzklieg for the link.

        Reply
  3. FreeMarketApologist

    Re: Nexo:

    Unusual that the SEC is letting them pay off the fine in installments. Most firms get whacked with paying the entire amount up front. Does somebody not want to kill them off entirely? (and it seems like a rather small fine as well)

    Reply
  4. cnchal

    From this link in today’s Links

    Amazon hit with OSHA citations at 3 facilities due to ‘ergonomic hazards’ for workers FOX

    Williams added that his office is also looking into possible “fraudulent conduct designed to hide injuries from OSHA and others.” Last month, OSHA cited all six facilities they were investigating for not properly logging injuries to be reported to OSHA.

    The Justice Department said that its Civil Division is also looking into safety hazards for workers – not just in those six facilities, but in others around the United States. – and whether Amazon was accurately reporting injuries.

    Will anyone on the inside pipe up or are they all afraid to go on the record because they fear retribution from Amazon? Amazon does have hundreds of hit men . . . er lawyers to threaten retribution, so it will take a brave soul with nothing to lose to speak up.

    As for Amazon shitting the bed, don’t they do that every day? Apparently everything they touch has turned out that way. I mean a 30% return ration of crapola sold and a 150% annual churnover rate, the equivalent of all new people every eight months, speaks volumes.

    Amazon shopper = whip cracking sadist

    A side note and question. I notice that the comments in links are relatively few compared to most days and was wondering if the internet is particularly unfreindly today and eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

    Reply
  5. Wukchumni

    Was thinking about almonds & marijuana…

    The majority of almonds in the world are grown here in Godzone as we have the perfect Med climate for them, just add pollinators!

    We had a goldurn monopoly and it was only a matter of meeting demand, imagine all the almond cookies in the far east to be crumbled!

    Greed was good for the worldwide consumer, in that the wholesale price went from $5 to $2 a pound because of planting far too many trees and flooding the market. There are nearly a billion pounds of unsold almonds in storage in Cali.

    Marijuana when it was illegal was as now, a strictly cash business, and perhaps on account of its shadowy substance as a Class 1 accomplice, there was always a wee bit of danger involved, and an ounce of the kind was $300-400.

    Now it’s legal and an ounce of the kind is $50, cash. Everybody and their mother have been growing it, and forget about the little guy grower, they’d make more growing pot marjoram.

    The silver lining here, is that when illicit marijuana gardens run by Mexican drug trafficking operations were discovered in Sequoia NP just after the turn of the century, it took almost a decade to root them out, but nobody will be growing nothing now aside from Mother Nature and oh how it has greened up around these parts after the deluge, presently under sunny skies.

    Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        Death Valley got an angry inch worth recently and combined with the deluge in August, could turn out to be an epic flower year such as 2005, which we witnessed in all its glory.

        There were fields of yellow bricked rows that went onto into infinity as far as you could tell.

        Death Valley NP is typically a place where you only stop the car at something interesting, but in that super bloom, there was 5x the the usual traffic (although it wasn’t busy on the roads) i’d ever seen, cars stopped everywhere, humans out-mouths agog.

        Lake Manley was alive again, all 3 feet deep of it, 100 yards wide and a mile long. There was a fellow kayaking on it.

        The most intense floral displays were down by Ashford Mill, wow!

        Reply
  6. Michael Fiorillo

    Does that household income of the 1% include dividends, stock options, rents, capital gains? It seemed low to me.

    As for De Santis’ “gay” voice: oh, honey, please…

    Reply
    1. digi_owl

      Likely it only counts whatever is deemed income for tax purposes, and ignore the various “wealth” owned and their ability to use that as collateral for loans.

      Reply
  7. Mo

    The DeSantis gay/whining observation strikes me as way off mark, after listening. His problem, and Buttigig’s as well, is that he just isn’t smart or talented or original. He was boring boring boring. And BTW, what kind of symbolism is it to put your podium and flags in front of a wrecked building? How about showing something you can be proud of? At least a fire truck or a red cross tent for crying out loud.

    Also, many people have commented that Trump’s voice is soft and feminine. But he makes it work.

    Reply
  8. Jason Boxman

    So if you believe Google Trends, those keywords aren’t searched for particularly often. I put in half of them just to see what comes up. The searches range between in the dozens of searches to about 100 for various of the terms over the past 5 years, including prior to the Pandemic by years. (Google uses an “interest” metric that various from 0 to 100, but in this case there isn’t even state level data outside of CA and NY, so how many searches could there possibly be for this?)

    Maybe that’s a proxy for what Google thinks might be a related search term? I included just the word COVID as a control group, and all the other terms simply disappear at this point, lost in the volume of the former. The searches instead track the Pandemic, and drop off sharply after Biden’s first winter of death, in February 2022, and continue to decline slowly after that.

    But I get that the thrust of this is that COVID causes some nasty, nasty damage, and an indication of that is what kinds of keyword searches are performed on the largest ‘search’ engine, if Google is that anymore.

    If you put in “loss of taste” and “loss of smell”, they both track each other identically over a 5 year time period, and follow the higher peaks and high plateaus of our ongoing Pandemic. Neither term is popular prior to the onset of this global disaster. This go around, they peaked out during Christmas week, and have been declining in tandem since then. Make of that what you will. It tracks the wastewater and Walgreens positively nationally.

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      Perhaps the question is not whether Musk is a sociopath but rather why is he allowed to install an obviously unsafe device in his cars? Supposedly this debate was settled back in the Nader era when Detroit said the terrible carnage on the roads was the fault of drivers and not Detroit’s indifference to crash protection. Nader won and now American cars are one of the most regulated products out there.

      But then, as IMDoc has said, we’ve been undergoing a vast medical experiment with respect to Covid vaccines so why not experimental cars? There are a lot of corporate jerks out there and they aren’t all named Musk.

      Reply
  9. Wukchumni

    Dr. Strangloam: Or how I learned to love the land shift:

    Driving home on the 5 through the Grapevine, a low lying hill near Templin Highway had schluffed onto a couple lanes of the highway, and when I say it was a lowlife of a hill, perhaps i’m pushing it, the damned thing barely qualified as a knoll.

    We got a lotta winter left and land slippage might be a common occurrence occasionally, so be open minded about areas being closed down, Cali.

    Went to the meeting in regards to damage to roads & infrastructure in Sequoia NP and the damage is extensive and every Tom, Dick & Harry locale in the Golden State is in a state of needing heavy equipment, and its a funny thing, when the 2021 KNP Fire hit, it was ‘Spend Every Dollar…’ (to the Sound Of Music’s ‘Climb Every Mountain’) and in a few months the bill was $104 million and nobody said nothing about paying it, of course everybody got theirs.

    Flooding and infrastructure damage is a different kettle of risk, especially with the unknown knowns that come with 3 more months of winter to come, and financial help is a lot slower in stepping up to the plate.

    The sliver lining out of the deal, is access to the Giant Forest will probably be closed until the 12th of never or February 29th, whatever comes first.

    The 300 mostly rather spartan AirBnB’s and the like in Tiny Town will be sucking wind, hastening their departure perhaps from a profound lack of income, as nobody goes there anymore.

    Reply
    1. Henry Moon Pie

      I’m feeling for you, Wuk. Losing access to your home–and for an indefinite period–is something hard to contemplate much less bear.

      And the dollar aspect both in terms of repair and lost income is a reminder that we’re being hit with all these things like Covid and the climate that operate as sand in the gears of capitalism. Really dealing with these things would require that we bring things to a halt ASAP, doing just enough to keep everyone going. Then there would have to be a lot of learning how to do things differently, at least for a while, and a whole lot of learning to do with less.

      But no, the people in a position essentially to decide things have decided to push on, damn the sand in the gears, just crank up the engine a little higher. It’s like the scene in “China Syndrome” where Jack Lemmon hears the vibration, and the scene shifts to some of the reactor’s plumbing as it shakes violently and emits steam. The signs of system failure and increasing unpredictably are everywhere. It even gets acknowledged by the Dimon types occasionally now. Is there any movement away from gaslighting everybody about these problems? To the contrary. I don’t doubt that a sick level of greed and lust for power motivates a lot of this catastrophically destructive behavior, but I think a stunning lack of imagination, maybe even laziness is behind some of this.

      “It would be so difficult to figure out all that tracing stuff. And quarantines? Who’s going to sell that sh-t sandwich? Let’s just give them a shot and tell them it will all go away.”

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        HMP,

        Watching things unfold, its as if Mother Nature is the blitzkrieg and NPS is France, in a fashion. I don’t see any gaslighting by those in charge of things, the situation has simply not gone to their advantage and the enemy has advanced on all fronts, its a disaster unlike a fire in that there isn’t that much urgency to do anything other than a quick fix, and I get it, why bother with so much winter left, including a plethora of uncertainty?

        I’m not affected here in Tiny Town, only the ‘driveway’ to my summer cabin-which is 21 miles long, a greater distance than most other driveways, i’ll give you that.

        The budget here in Sequoia NP has been continually cut to the point where any old winter storm and the aftermath closes down the Generals Highway to the Giant Forest for 3-4 days, and that never used to happen as they were johnny on the spot once upon a time, because they had to have heavy snowmoving equipment to remove snow between Sequoia & Grant Grove on the Generals Highway, and having the equipment and knowhow made it easy to clear everything else, but then they got rid of the equipment & ability about 15 years ago in a cost cutting move and the road is no longer cleared in the winter.

        Other cost cutting came by hiring law enforcement rangers in lieu of interpreter rangers, as the latter don’t have any revenue enhancing abilities, that sort of thing.

        This is one of the country’s crown jewels and we treat it like costume jewelry.

        Reply
    2. Keith Howard

      I’m curious about those 300 AirBnBs. Do you have a reading on how many of them were bought with borrowed money?

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        About 1/5th of them are owned by out of towners who bought a place here in the past few decades with the best intentions of being here more often, and then AirBnB came along-making it an ideal set-up for their situation.

        If I was a would-be foothills Hilton on the other hand with no community skin in the game, it’d be to my advantage to not have much invested into my garage mahals as it isn’t as if you live there, its strictly business. Lotsa borrowed money.

        I hear of the mysterious ‘LA investor’ who has 17 homes now and things like that, along with a fair number of locals who finally found a way to make an income here, which was nearly impossible before short term rentals.

        A friend follows the local real estate market, and told me just about every home that is rentable on a short term basis, that comes up for sale the past 5 years has sold to a speculator, not somebody wanting to live here. Our population was 2,000 and now they’re thinking its closer to 1,500, along with the school attendance dropping quite a bit from 200 when we moved here almost 20 years ago to the present 120 students who attend K-8 grades.

        Reply
  10. Jason Boxman

    Class is a social relation

    True story. I’m reading The Proud Tower by Tuchman right now, and she opens with the English gentry in her first chapter, The Patricians. Most of these guys had their estates for centuries, but they also as a class took the obligation to rule seriously, as only their class had the right and ability to do so. Good luck getting into that class.

    Reply
  11. Bsn

    Those following the Ukraine situation (and the financial/BRICS/dollar decline situation) should see today’s Military Summary at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaTDbMcCQgY
    It seems that Russia is making a move from the south to north in the Zaporizhzhia (sp?) region. It’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next few periods of time. I only hope that the every day people in Ukraine and Russia see a rapid end to this US/NATO sponsored war.

    Reply
  12. fresno dan

    Donald Trump Jr.
    @DonaldJTrumpJr
    ·
    Follow
    This is absolutely insane. We don’t need to be in another war because the military industrial complex and other DC warmongers want to get richer than they already are.
    =============================================
    What does it say about the American political system that to say something so sensible, true, and good for every person on earth has to be said by Donald Trump Jr.???
    and why do we call our reactionary, ignorant, corrupt media liberal when they are anything but???

    Reply
  13. Carla

    Not that I want to help him, but referring to the video above — if DeSantis wants to run nationwide, he needs to open his eyes. I mean literally. That mean-eyed squint ain’t gonna win ’em over in fly-over country. Just my take.

    Reply
  14. aj

    DeSantis sounding “gay” seems like a story that should have come from Trump. Even Mayo Pete doesn’t have the effete that I would consider stereotypically gay. I’m thinking the authors of those tweets don’t know many actual gay people.

    Reply
  15. Carla

    Lambert says: let us all remember that income is not class. Class is a social relation. Neither “the rich” nor “the poor” are a class. Nor is the “middle.”

    I grew up going to Episcopal Sunday School with children who were a different “class” than I. I knew it, and so did all the other kids. I was the only one wearing hand-me-downs.

    But let us also remember than income is not wealth. Not by a long shot. Nor is it necessarily “privilege.”

    Actually, it’s a curse, but that’s another story.

    Reply
    1. digi_owl

      Class has become a mixed term, thanks to UK using it for something more akin to castes while Marx used it for strictly economic relations.

      And when it comes to the US use of the term, middle is annoyingly nebulous. One moment it seems like anyone with a paycheck, even if after two jobs pr day they still have to get food stamps to survive, are considered middle class.

      Reply
  16. The Rev Kev

    “Shock and anger after fired worker killed by police at Oklahoma pork plant”

    I hope at least that they wiped away the blood from the pork that that guy was working on when the police shot him down. That whole story is so wrong on so many levels that you don’t even know where to begin.

    Reply
    1. digi_owl

      Between the ongoing degrading of worker safety in USA, and Musk betting big on mind-machine interfaces the world of late do start to resemble the early days of a cyberpunk timeline.

      Also, one should never forget that anyone in USA can become a cop after maybe 14 days of night classes.

      Reply
      1. Greg

        Disagree with early cyberpunk. We’re well into corporate dystopia, it’s just unevenly distributed (as certain genre-defining authors describe it).
        Name any key attribute of cyberpunk worlds and you can find some version of it in the news of the last five years or so.

        Reply
        1. Acacia

          Nope, I would say @digi_owl is correct.

          “Early days of a cyberpunk timeline”, e.g., Otomo’s Akira (1982, 1988), especially the mind-machine interfaces in Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), and the timeline goes back through the 1970s if you want to include the works of P. K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, etc.), J. G. Ballard, et alia. This is a timeline that extends back to the realization of joho shakai in the 70s and 80s, not just “the last five years or so”.

          Reply
          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > P. K. Dick

            I disagree that PKD is cyberbunk. Two cents a word, he’s straight out of pulp fiction. I think at least when he was at the top of his form (pre-A Scanner Darkly) his rates were so cheap nobody cared what he wrote; and so he was free to exercise his own unique sensibility.

            Reply
  17. none

    I’ll guess that the drop in community transmission in the Northwest and West was because of the very long series of rainstorms there, that kept people from getting out too much much. If that was the cause, expect transmission to be up again soon.

    Reply
  18. Acacia

    Re: “Solving the HEPA Filter Noise Problem”, there was a great thread by the same author (HVAC engineer Joey Fox) linked here in WC on 01/10, with a bunch of specifics on building a Corsi-Rosenthal box using PC fans:

    The biggest problem with portable air cleaners that prevents them from being scaled up is noise. That’s why so many of them are off everywhere. The noise problem is now solved. PC fans are extremely tolerable at a high rate in any normal situation.

    https://twitter.com/joeyfox85/status/1612263296727502850

    From this, I learned of Arctic P14 (140mm) fans, which are comparable to the high-end Noctua PF-A14, but a whole lot cheaper.

    Reply
  19. Even keel

    P.C. fan air cleaners.
    A corsi box with P.C. fans takes some extra framing and wiring. Doable. But a bit harder. They are super quiet though. Like library quiet.

    Just last night I got my kids’ principal to agree to buy 2 kits per classroom of a premade P.C. tan kit. From cleanairkit.com. Easier and quicker than putting them together myself.

    We opted for those over the cheaper corsi boxes because I figured they would be more likely to be on.

    Reply
  20. Realist

    Ron “Fred Schneider” DeSantis, “Who threw that h̶a̶m̶ immigrant at me?”

    I had avoided every hearing his actual voice until now, but once you hear that fruity twang, you can’t unhear it!

    Reply
  21. JR

    Wow, I didn’t know that DT and DT Junior had joined (or were more progressive than) The Squad:

    “Trump to GOP: Don’t touch Medicare or Social Security in debt ceiling fight” [Politico]. “‘Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security,’ Trump said in a video message.”

    “This is absolutely insane. We don’t need to be in another war because the military industrial complex and other DC warmongers want to get richer than they already are. https://t.co/7gwyNfGYSX— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) January 19, 2023″

    Hmm, I wonder where the Squad is on this stuff? Things really are in a state of flux.

    Reply

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