2:00PM Water Cooler 1/24/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Varied Thrush, Snohomish, Washington, United States
Media from this location Illustrated Checklist. “Natural vocalization. Song from a male bird perched on the top of a tall leafless deciduous tree. Spacing between notes much closer together than normal song; perhaps this is dawn song (though no such vocalization is described in BNA) or subsong.” Subsong?

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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

“Biden Brings in a Consultant” [Franklin Foer, The Atlantic]. “In most press accounts about the impending appointments, Zients’s primary bond to Biden is the time he spent as the White House COVID czar—an intense 15 months, during which they masterfully rolled out vaccines and then sometimes sputtered in their quest to vanquish the pandemic. But another experience will inform their relationship—a relationship that arguably will dictate the contours and determine the success of the last two years of Biden’s term.” “Sometimes sputtered”? When the adults in the room slaughtered more Americans than Trump? More: “Where Klain rarely hesitates to steer into an argument, Zients cuts a more genteel presence. He loves to invoke managerial maxims. (He tells staff that they should “run over the hill,” by which he means they should err on the side of overreacting and overplanning.) Guided by acute emotional intelligence, he cultivates an aura of humility. He styles himself a mere facilitator, a problem solver who prefers to keep things simple by relentlessly focusing on the few things that matter.” • Damn. What’s that slurping sound? Commentary:

“Biden’s Next Chief of Staff Is a Disaster in the Making” [Jeet Heer, The Nation]. The scum also rises: “On Sunday, multiple news outlets announced that Zients was about to be tapped to be the new White House chief of staff, replacing Ron Klain, who has announced that he is stepping down…. In a note to me, Hauser summed up the case against Zients: ‘Biden at his best has picked battles with corporate America, from the tax plan funding the IRA to appointing regulators like Rohit Chopra, Gary Gensler, and Lina Khan to take on predatory behavior. With limited legislative possibilities over the next 24 months, Biden can only attain populist bona fides against populist wannabes Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump by unleashing the executive branch against corporate miscreants. Unfortunately, many of the most promising targets for Executive Branch scrutiny are industries Zients has gotten rich from, including private equity, health care, and Big Tech. Will Zients turn on people like himself, or will he acknowledge implicitly that his riches came at society’s expense and unleash the Executive Branch to enforce existing limits on corporate greed stringently?’ If appointed, Jeffrey Zients will be the White House chief of staff as Biden gears up for reelection in 2024. The strongest case against Zients is a simple political one. How will Biden be able to present himself as the champion of working Americans when his chief of staff is a plutocrat whose companies have a reputation for preying on Americans in moments of medical emergency? Zients would offer an irresistible target for Republicans. His elevation to the post of chief of staff is an unforced error.” • Holy moley, Zeints might want to bust the railroad unions!

Democrats en Déshabillé

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

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

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

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

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*** crickets ***

“Rebranding rift guts Blue Dog Dem ranks” [Politico]. “Congress’ influential Blue Dog Coalition is getting chopped nearly in half after an internal blow-up over whether to rebrand the centrist Democratic group. Seven of the 15 members expected to join the Blue Dogs this year, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), are departing after a heated disagreement over a potential name change for the moderate bloc. For now that’s left the Blue Dogs with seven, all male members — their smallest roster in nearly three decades of existence. One freshman member remains undecided. At the core of some of the breakaway Blue Dogs’ demands was a rechristening as the Common Sense Coalition that, they argued, would have helped shed the group’s reputation as a socially moderate, Southern “boys’ club.” Blue Dogs have long stood for fiscal responsibility and national security, issues with broad Democratic appeal, but some members felt the name had a negative connotation that kept their colleagues from joining. A majority of other members disagreed, saying they saw no reason to toss out a longstanding legacy.” • It’s the circle of life. These guys never last; Rahm Emmanuel’s crop failed, too. They get in, obstruct, and lose because they suck. Hilarously, .

RussiaGate

“Charles McGonigal, indicted ex-FBI head, helped trigger ‘Russiagate’ probe” [New York Post]. “The former FBI official busted Monday for allegedly taking illegal foreign payments played a key role in the bureau’s controversial ‘Russiagate’ probe of former President Donald Trump — and a ‘defensive briefing’ of ex-rival Hillary Clinton’s lawyers. Charles ‘Charlie’ McGonigal, 54, was among the first FBI officials to learn that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat that Russia had ‘political dirt’ on Clinton. FBI Deputy Assistant Director Jonathan Moffa told Senate Judiciary Committee staffers in 2020 that he got a July 2016 email from McGonigal which ‘contained essentially that reporting, which then served as the basis for the opening of the case.’ The FBI investigation, dubbed ‘Crossfire Hurricane,’ led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller and a 22-month, $32 million probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential ties to associates of Trump, now 76. Shortly before Mueller was appointed, McGonigal also sent a message to an FBI colleague that discussed how agents were interviewing another Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.” • McGonigal seems to have been a busy guy:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Changing Face of Ignorance” [Emily C.R. Tilton, New Work in Philosophy]. “Today’s feminists are well aware of these risks and are striving to make feminism more inclusive; they are rightly fearful of repeating past mistakes. However, a popular strategy adopted in light of this fear is frustrating feminist goals, rather than facilitating them. This strategy involves invoking what I call the strong epistemic disadvantage thesis (SEDT) to justify opting out of discussing intersectional forms of oppression (Tilton forthcoming). The SEDT holds that dominant social positions place strong, substantive limits on what the socially dominant can know about oppression that they do not personally experience—first-personal experience of oppression is to be taken to be necessary for understanding it. With the SEDT in hand, privileged feminists are equipped with an excuse for silence: if they tried to discuss forms of oppression that they don’t experience, they would inevitably mess it up. Since they don’t want to repeat past mistakes, it seems best that they leave that work to someone else…. So, the importance of intersectional work is acknowledged, but then shunted off to overburdened and underrepresented members of multiply-marginalized groups. This offers the illusion that contemporary feminists are taking intersectionality seriously, while in fact feminist philosophy proceeds as usual.”

“Skepticism and human reason” [Crooked Timber]. “[W]e don’t need strong assumptions about individual rationality to think that social reasoning processes can, under the right circumstances, work quite well…. On this account, we advance reasons, not because we are logically trying to puzzle out the world, but because we want to justify ourselves. That means, among other things, that our reasons are often illogical and at odds with the evidence, in ways that we are ourselves incapable of seeing and understanding. Our reasons are biased. So far, so skeptical. But where it gets interesting is when we start looking not just at how humans give reasons, but how they evaluate reasons that have been given by others. And here, Mercier and Sperber argue that we are pretty good. We may have ‘myside bias’ – i.e. we are not sharp-sighted about the flaws in our own arguments – but the experimental evidence suggests that we are readily able to see the flaws in the arguments of those whom we disagree with. That in turn means that even if individual reasoning is basically flawed, collective reasoning, under the right circumstances, can work very well. With the right kinds of group structures, and a bare minimum of goodwill or mutual endurance, we can correct each other’s errors, each, through frank and forthright criticism, obliging each to recognize the weaknesses in their own arguments, and improve them. …. What this implies (as we argue in the forthcoming piece) is a kind of qualified optimism about democracy. If you can construct group institutions that oblige this kind of debate, while making it harder for people to cluster around their shared misconceptions, you can construct relatively unbiased collective reasoning on the foundation of highly biased individual reasoners. Of course, figuring out how to build such institutions is a challenging research agenda in itself. ” • Hmm. I would imagine the people who fund research agendas would have something to say about this? (It occurs to me that a genuine left — not an NGO left — might well have a research agenda of its own. One thing the blogosphere taught or should have taught us — and our fight against the landfill in Maine taught me — is that dull normals can get pretty sharp at research.

#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!

• It seems a lot of good-thinking symbol manipulators are panicking about the word “kraken,” and so are dog-piling T. Ryan Gregory, who coined the word:

Personally, I like “XBB.1.5”; it sounds like the name of a K-Pop band. But if institutions like WHO thinks human-readable names are good, but have decided that “Omicron is Omicron” — demonstrably not true, since the variants have different properties — and so is failing to live up to its responsibilities, then what’s so wrong about others stepping in? Here is the best bad take I saw:

Perhaps there’s a level of French irony I missed here, but naming variants of a lethal pathogen after painters and flowers, just to keep things light, seems…. misguided.

• “Why no Pi? Variants are still stuck on Omicron even as coronavirus continues to mutate” [CNN]. “WHO quietly stopped designating Variants of Concern or Variants of Interest categories that call for new Greek names. Instead, it created a new category, Omicron Subvariants under Monitoring, to signal to public health officials which of these spinoffs should be watched – which might sound a lot like the reason to designate variants of interest and variants of concern in the first place. The organization left the door open to designate new names if it deems a variant to be sufficiently different, but it hasn’t seen the need to do that for more than a year. Yet the coronavirus has continued to evolve, becoming more transmissible and more immune-evasive over time. These changes have been consequential, too. As Omicron has mutated, for example, immunocompromised patients have lost key therapies like the long-acting antibodies in the preventive Evusheld. All of the monoclonal antibodies developed to help people with severe Covid-19 infections have lost their punch against the latest subvariants. The mRNA vaccines have also been updated in an effort to better protect people from the currently circulating viruses that cause Covid-19. Still, WHO says it doesn’t see a need to distinguish between them. ‘But the WHO has stopped naming them at this point, so [people] get a false sense of security,’ [Bette Korber, a laboratory fellow and variant specialist at Los Alamos National Laboratory] said. Continuing to use the Omicron name makes it sound like the virus isn’t changing anymore, ‘but in fact, it’s changing hugely.’ Korber said she’s been in public lectures where ‘very good doctors’ have said, ‘Well, now it’s not evolving anymore. It’s just been Omicron for over a year, so you don’t have to worry about that anymore.'”

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• And the fourth — or the class from which the fourth is drawn — drives the first three:

* * *

• Air circulation in closed spaces (which is this account’s mission in life to explain). Thread:

• “Adams House Installed — Then Removed — an $8,900 Covid-19 Air Disinfection System” [The Crimson]. “In July, as the new semester loomed, administrators in Adams House installed a set of air disinfection devices that appeared to be a part of the solution to preventing the spread of the virus in the house. The price tag was just shy of $9,000 — a reduced rate. But the devices — which were installed in the house’s dining hall and lower common room — lasted just a few weeks. Less than a month into the the semester, Harvard shut them off, following a recommendation from the University’s Coronavirus Advisory Group. By the end of December, they were removed entirely. The devices, which resemble fluorescent lamps, use germicidal ultraviolet light to disinfect the air. Once airborne pathogens are exposed to a certain level of UV radiation, they can become inactivated and no longer contagious. But according to Adams House Faculty Dean Salmaan Keshavjee, the University’s Covid advisory group determined that the installation of the new devices was unnecessary on top of existing ventilation systems. Thirteen UVGI units were installed in July by AeroMed Technologies, which manufactures the devices. UVGI has been researched and used to “eliminate airborne pathogens” for over 70 years, according to the CDC. Adams Faculty Dean Salmaan Keshavjee wrote in an email that the decision to install the technology came from a “collaboration” with one of the outgoing faculty deans at the time, John G. ‘Sean’ Palfrey ’67. Keshavjee, a global health professor, wrote that studies demonstrating that a certain type of UV light can inactivate viruses like Covid-19 helped inform the decision. He added that the fixtures were in spaces where people would be eating without masks: the dining hall and lower common room.” • (The devices are also installed at the Cambridge Friends School, so Cambridge — and I know this will surprise you — is just like Newton.) Commentary:

Makes sense to me. (I don’t stan for UV because I haven’t had the time to study up. But nobody is suggesting this installation was hazardous in any way.(

* * *

• I genuinely don’t understand why the concept of layered protection is so hard to grasp. Yet such seems to be the case:

* * *

A long thread of references:

• “Potential long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on the pulmonary vasculature: Multilayered cross-talks in the setting of coinfections and comorbidities” [PLOS Pathogens]. “One component of the prolonged pathology following acute SARS-CoV-2 infection may be a persistently injured pulmonary vasculature.”

• “Major alterations to monocyte and dendritic cell subsets lasting more than 6 months after hospitalization for COVID-19” [Frontiers in Immunology]. From the Abstract: “[W]e show here that alterations in the immune landscape remain more than 6 months after severe COVID-19, which could be indicative of ongoing healing and/or persistence of viral antigens.”

* * *

Case Data

BioBot wastewater data from January 23:

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 24:

-1.0.%.

Wastewater

Wastewater data (CDC), January 20:

Easing off, though you do have to wonder what’s the point of a national system where half the country has gone dark.

January 17:

NIOT UPDATED And MWRA data, January 19:

Lambert here: Still uptick in the north. However, only some 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.

NOT UPDATED 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 20:

Deaths

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,129,1451 – 1,128,807 = 338 (338 * 365 = 123,370 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

Manufacturing: “United States Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Manufacturing Activity Index in the Richmond area decreased to -11 in January of 2023 from 1 in December, the lowest since May 2020 and below market expectations of -5.”

* * *

The Bezzle: “The Crypto Industry’s Favorite Bank Is in Deep Trouble” [New York Magazine]. “The good news about the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency empire is that its failure did not send shock waves through the entire financial system and create a contagion. A key reason is that most banks have refused to deal with crypto. Recently, U.S. banking regulators even discouraged them from doing so. But one small California bank apparently decided it was better to risk having to beg for forgiveness than wait for permission. In recent years, La Jolla–based Silvergate went all in on crypto, forging relationships with more than 1,600 players in the industry, from hedge funds to exchanges to token projects…. Intelligencer has obtained documents showing that, in addition to FTX, Silvergate has been the go-to bank for more than a dozen crypto companies that ended up under investigation, shut down, fined, or in bankruptcy.” • So, to be clear, the regulators protected the banks, and not the poor shlubs (disproportionately Black and lower income) who got scammed.

Tech: “Lab-grown meat moves closer to American dinner plates” [Reuters]. • “I’ll have that with a side of insects!”

Labor Market; “Companies Cut Temp Workers in Warning Sign for Labor Market” [Wall Street Journal]. “Employers are shedding temporary workers at a fast rate, a sign that broader job losses could be on the horizon. In the last five months of 2022, employers cut 110,800 temp workers, including 35,000 in December, the largest monthly drop since early 2021. Many economists view the sector as an early indicator of future labor-market shifts. Temporary employment declined before some recent recessions and during economic slowdowns. Temporary workers, typically employed through staffing agencies, are easy for companies to bring on board—and let go. ‘For me, it’s a real warning sign,’ said James Knightley, chief international economist at ING. ‘The jobs market may not be invulnerable to the downturn story.'” • So the narrative drives the market, not the market the narrative? Big if true.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 63 Greed (previous close: 64 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 64 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 24 at 1:53 PM EST.

The Gallery

Edward Hopper?!?!?!?!?

This looks like commercial art; there’s space for text at left. And indeed “from about 1906 to 1925, Hopper found little support for his personal work, and earned his living by creating cover and story illustrations for American periodicals.” Rather like that other famous American realist, Andy Warhol.

Zeitgeist Watch

The problem with SUVs is that they’re not lethal, in addition to being bloated:

I love that they’re selling to “Moms.” Remember “soccer moms”?

News of the Wired

“Proper Pastry-Eating Etiquette, According to a Royal Butler” [Fresno Bee]. “‘Ladies and gentlemen, please remember that while having a pastry in the morning, you only take one,’ he says in the video.” • What. This being my day’s contribution to “Feel Good Fresno Week.” Readers?

1492 pitch deck:

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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 Copeland:

Copeland writes: “Recent beaver activity on what I think is Fraxinus latifolia (Oregon Ash) with Polystichum munitum (Western Sword Fern).”

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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.

68 comments

  1. flora

    re: “The Changing Face of Ignorance”

    So glad I’m one of yesterday’s feminists, not one of today’s. Yesterday, the goal was equal pay for equal work, access to bank financing to buy a house or a car without needing a father or husband’s signature on the loan, etc. Economic stuff for all women. Today’s goals’ are… I have no idea, but it doesn’t seem to be economic, especially not for the pink collar workers without college credentials.

    Reply
    1. semper loquitur

      Ah, the turn of the seasons, tis now time for the Woke ideologue to begin to blame their colleagues for not being intersectional enough….after decades of telling each other it’s impossible to be intersectional enough. In the best tradition of cult-formations, there is always someone holier-than-thou on rotation. At least the author identifies the fact that her argument represents a 180 degree turn from last week’s solipsistic-adjacent position that one cannot ever understand the pain of the oppressed, that empathy is a non-thing…but then goes on to marvel at how they all got where they are. Note she paints this lack of understanding as “excuses”. In other words, a moral failure, not the result of being told over and over again that it’s just not possible.

      In time, I suspect it will reverse course yet again and we will hear about how the privileged cannot possibly put themselves into the shoes of the oppressed. I think this will be so because the Woke cultist is fueled by moral righteousness alone and requires an unassailable, unimpeachable victim, a Lamb, to hold aloft, to found their authority to delineate the right and wrong of things to the masses. This, flora, is why they will never approach economic goals in any substantive way: those are material goals that in theory can actually be achieved. Can anyone tell me how many mouths the Woke inter-femi-sectionist has fed? How many homeless housed? How many ignorant educated? How’s that equity thing going for y’all, boot-strapping a handful of select oppressed into positions from which they can oppress others?

      Reply
      1. hunkerdown

        No mouths need be fed. The illusion of motion, and the attribution of moral cause, is the entire point.

        Iza Ding’s The Performative State looks really interesting, for those who want another familyblogging book to read on performativity and government. I’ll get to it sometime next month. At least part of it is free online at Cornell Press.

        Reply
    2. digi_owl

      It is about making powerful old hags even more powerful by exploiting the court of public opinion. Not that different from getting excommunicated by the church, really.

      Oh, and that the TLAs has learned that injecting intersectional friction is a nice way to foil left wing organizing along economic lines.

      The latest wrinkle kinda reminds one of the eunuchs of China’s Forbidden City though.

      Reply
      1. flora

        So, powerful PMC dames infiltrated a broad social movement. Who would’a guessed. Something about “pulling the ladder up behind them”? Pretty sure they aren’t in the pink-collar worker group.

        Reply
          1. flora

            Not all. Not all. Nor will I castigate any who come to the idea based solely upon their familial finances. Some may be “radicals” against familial finances if it is a block to womens’ autonomy. Just say’in.

            But to your main point, pretty much wrt social status based on other, earlier and inherited thing-a-ma-jigs. There is no unquestionable social regard once based primarily on race, economic class, social class, or anything else. The past’s imprimatur has only so much force now, which the going forward social acceptance may or may not accept.

            Reply
    3. jax Read

      re: The Changing Face of Ignorance.

      Flora, I’m one of yesterday’s feminists as well and really don’t understand the current argument. Depending on where you look [CDC, NSVRC, Statistica, FBI, DOJ] more than 50% of women in the U.S. have experienced sexual violence. Yes, the rate is highest among women of color, but surely all women and sympathetic men can unite for change around this one horrific fact. We knew we had to work together in the ’60s – across color and class boundaries. It’s idiotic to reinvent the wheel.

      Reply
      1. skippy

        Hi jax …

        Once again I would point out the divergence in how this topic has been bastardized after being incorporated into the market place circa 80s West Coast. Previously it had been a social topic without any profit or market based framework, arguments were based off ethical or moral grounds and a historical back drop into antiquity e.g. see the M&M saga of late as an example of the market treatment of this subject i.e. more about brand identity than the latter above.

        Which is not surprising considering the amalgamation of PR/Marketing, T1 behavioral psychiatrists, and MBAs. All which work for the executive C-suite which is incentivized by personal gain and not any social good. Not to mention the funding issues wrt academia with Corp and PMC grooming the next gen for even more hyper individualism, which then again serves the benefactors of the social market place agenda.

        BTW as a male with many experiences in life I completely agree with you on the violence or dominance issues being the core of it all, spent way too much personal time and energy assisting victims in my life, and its always after the fact. Which then is more about what enables males to act so than anything else, hence the focus should be and not this market based hyper individualism.

        Some bloke that took the fall for an ex Italian girlfriend getting pregnant so her mom would not go nuts, drunken party thingy, and more than a few times assisted with others with getting abortions after the partner bailed. The bloke in the seat in the waiting room for pre and post termination getting the looks from the females in the room – sigh ….

        Reply
        1. Terry Flynn

          If I understand you correctly, the original goal of feminism was achieved not by “winning a social war” but because the establishment realised that the single income family household model was no longer sustainable and women HAD to be brought into the workforce to keep our ability to buy nice things (with money we didn’t really have – debt).

          Indeed though correlation isn’t causation it is interesting that the big increase in demand for female workers happened pretty much in tandem with the beginning of the long stagnation in real family incomes (early 70s in USA, bit later in UK). The “old” model broke and 2 incomes was the only quick fix….. Which had the benefit that it could be “sold” as female emancipation. Either one income was insufficient and there could be social unrest….. Or 2 incomes was necessary to overcome labor supply bottlenecks – big increase in supply keeps wages down and makes profit expropriation easier. Win win.

          The question any feminist now should be asked is “if you WANT to be a stay at home mum to rear your kids, does the system allow you to?” I suspect the answer is “no” which means feminism did not achieve its main goal. It was used by the establishment as the first salvo in culture wars to stay in power.

          Reply
    4. ChrisPacific

      This whole theory about how oppressors can never properly understand the oppressed (racists can never not be racist, etc.) seems profoundly cynical and nihilistic to me – not to mention dismissive of situations where we have seen real and meaningful progress.

      It seems like a recipe for perpetual grievances to be mined for political gain, along with a built-in excuse for inaction. Democrats are free to bewail their inherent racism and sexism (and the presumably even greater prejudice of their opponents, and anybody who votes for said opponents). Since it’s inherent and can’t be fixed, there is no need to seriously examine or question it, and there is also no need to take any action, since no action can possibly fix the problem.

      I can’t help but wonder what the supposedly oppressed groups think of this performative sackcloth-and-ashes approach that never changes anything and never even accepts the possibility of change. I’d be pretty disgusted with the whole thing in their place.

      Reply
  2. Roger Blakely

    Considering the beatdown that I received from XBB.1.5 over the past two weeks, I am surprised that it isn’t causing more problems nationwide. Today is my first day out of self-isolation.

    Reply
    1. johnherbiehancock

      How do you know you had XBB.1.5?

      I was only told I tested positive for COVID (this is my first time with it), but it was reasonably mild. It took me about a full week to recover & Paxlovid seemed to help that.

      I have no idea where I got it from (possibly Target, a grocery store or work), but I had (stupidly) stopped masking in public.

      Since then, anecdotally, I’ve heard a lot of people around here (Houston TX) have come down with it in the last week.

      Reply
      1. curlydan

        I have known or heard of so many COVID “virgins” who have been infected in the past 6 weeks. It’s kind of amazing to me. Maybe there’s something to “hybrid immunity” for the latest variants. But if that’s the case, would that mean the next successful variants would be much better at re-infections? I’m glad you recovered quickly on Paxlovid. My step-father and I were both recent first-timers and had the rebound although maybe it helped us avoid something worse.

        Reply
        1. johnherbiehancock

          So the clinic I went to proscribed Paxlovid and told me to take it right away. I had started feeling sick the day before (D0), and went in after an inconclusive home test to confirm. It came on really fast and that evening (D1) I felt lousy. Like a bad flu, mostly muscle ache.

          I read about the “Paxlovid Rebound,” and Fauci’s own account of taking it, where he rebounded and then surmised the length of treatment should be longer than 5 days. I also read that Paxlovid was really only effective in keeping “high risk” people from developing severe cases, and since I didn’t have any risk factors and didn’t feel too bad (no cough, no lung issues, no trouble breathing) I decided not to take it and just fight it off.

          I felt better each day from D2 – D6, and then on D7 felt worse and a home PCR test showed a strong positive. That worried me a little, and I also read on the Peoples’ CDC that Paxlovid could prevent Long COVID… so started Paxlovid then, and within a day felt much better and by D10 tested negative and felt functional. I’d say I felt 100% by D12 or so.

          They told me to only isolate for 5 days. Glad I didn’t listen. No one else in my house got it… and I likely exposed them in D0 (clinic and my dr) and part of D1 when I was symptomatic, but not sure what I had

          Reply
    2. agent ranger smith

      If we want evocative names for the new variants as they emerge, perhaps “beatdown” itself would be a good word for one of them. Perhaps this one.

      Give the emerging variants names like Beatdown, Thorhammer, Strange, Devildog, etc.

      Reply
  3. Wukchumni

    “Proper Pastry-Eating Etiquette, According to a Royal Butler” [Fresno Bee]. “‘Ladies and gentlemen, please remember that while having a pastry in the morning, you only take one,’ he says in the video.” • What. This being my day’s contribution to “Feel Good Fresno Week.” Readers?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I’ve only ever seen adhesive pasties on unadorned skin in Fresno, not that there’s anything wrong with that, as I slipped a single under her garter belt for services rendered. Pasty eating is considered uncouth in the low circles I frequent in ate Ash (Fresno is Spanish for ash tree) bury, but i’d very much like a Royal Butler to show me the ropes, maybe Andy, when he gets his passport back from Chuckles the King.

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      I’ll chip in with a “yay Fresno” even though I’ve never been there. I did cruise down the central valley years ago and found it somewhat jejune.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        This particular week, I take the 5th on the 5th biggest city in the state and extol the amazing possibilities that lie in wait for those seeking the treasure. Fres-yes!

        Reply
    2. Janie

      Cornish pasties can be quite good. (Filling, too.) They’re a turnover with a pot pie filling, meant for miners’ lunches.

      Reply
    3. fresno dan

      https://news.yahoo.com/six-fresno-police-officers-fired-194057705.html?soc_src=social-sh&soc_trk=ma
      Six officers were fired last year from the Fresno Police Department as part of 58 disciplinary actions, according to a report released Monday.

      Along with the terminations, five cops resigned in lieu of other discipline, two retired, 28 were suspended, 12 got letters of reprimand, four signed “last chance agreements” and one was fined, according to the quarterly report from the city’s Office of Independent Review released Monday.
      ==========================================
      I don’t know if that is good or bad. Its good that police can get fired and disciplined. Is that a lot? Is it too few? google says Fresno has 811 police. Still, Fresno police seem to be much more law abiding than the Fresno county sheriff deputies, who seem to always being arrested for some serious crime.

      Reply
    1. semper loquitur

      Agreed, I’m happy to get on board, it’s not as if anyone is doing anything substantive about the energy crises we face anyway. Reducing a bit of suffering in the world is a good thing.

      Reply
  4. tevhatch

    Lab meat and insects: Read the FDA food standards, Americans are also eating insects all the time.
    I find fried cicada a tasty dish compared to fried dinosaur, and certainly free from artificial hormones, heavy metals, and all those flavoring agents that seem to appeal to USA’ians. I balk at vat grown meat, having done a lot of original research on the difficulty of keeping monoclonal antibodies relatively free of pathogens, I have a clear idea of what people will be eating, which probably will include a hefty dose of PFAS along with bio-carcinogens as flavoring agents.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      You know its gone too far when you see ‘caterpillar ala mode’ on the desert menu right next to ‘chocolate moose’, the latter coming slathered in cocoa but its still so gamy tasting.

      Reply
  5. Jason Boxman

    In most press accounts about the impending appointments, Zients’s primary bond to Biden is the time he spent as the White House COVID czar—an intense 15 months, during which they masterfully rolled out vaccines and then sometimes sputtered in their quest to vanquish the pandemic.

    Man, these are sick f**king people. Someday, it won’t be possible to hide the population level disability anymore. It seems what you can do is hide over a million bodies. But when the living can’t function on a day to day basis due to disability, that’s gotta have some kind of impact?

    We shall see.

    My suspicion is that by the end of this decade, it will no longer be possible to ignore. Perhaps some policy change will be forthcoming by then, but in the meantime, stay safe out there. This year is likely to be even more dangerous than last year, with the complete privatization of what little public health response was left last year, the end of funding, and complete normalization by way of annual “flu shot” like messaging that getting your annual booster is all you need to be COVID safe, ha.

    Seriously, take care.

    Reply
  6. Jeff W

    “Any upgrades indicate a need for and an understanding of the effectiveness of that measure, so all properties owned by an entity have to be upgraded simultaneously.”

    “Makes sense to me.”

    It makes sense but I’m not sure it’s true in the real world, at least in the US. I think remedial measures to show negligence are generally inadmissible as evidence—see, for example, this Federal Rule of Evidence (and followed generally by the states) —precisely because, as a matter of public policy, we don’t want to discourage people from taking remedial measures. (If that’s wrong, I hope other commenters will chime in with a correction.)

    Reply
  7. Jeff W

    “Any upgrades indicate a need for and an understanding of the effectiveness of that measure, so all properties owned by an entity have to be upgraded simultaneously.”

    “Makes sense to me.”

    It makes sense but I’m not sure it applies in that way in terms of liability from a legal perspective, at least in the US. I think remedial measures to show negligence are generally inadmissible as evidence—see, for example, this Federal Rule of Evidence (and tracked generally in state statutes)—precisely because, as a matter of public policy, we don’t want to discourage people from taking remedial measures. (If that’s wrong, I hope other commenters will chime in with a correction.)

    Reply
  8. Jason Boxman

    Temporary workers, typically employed through staffing agencies, are easy for companies to bring on board—and let go.

    While that may be true, I’m getting more recruiter emails from staffing firms than ever. Maybe double what I got this time last year. Meanwhile, I almost never hear from company recruiters about full time positions. This is in tech. The biggest change is I haven’t heard from a fintech or blockchain startup in probably almost six months. After the blowup this summer, that stuff all went radio silent, perhaps because some of these firms folded? Who knows.

    Reply
  9. Mikel

    https://nypost.com/2023/01/24/around-a-dozen-classified-documents-found-in-mike-pences-indiana-home-report/
    “Former Vice President Mike Pence turned over two boxes of records with classified markings that were found at his Indiana home to the FBI — despite previously denying taking any sensitive files — in the latest high-profile instance of a high-ranking official potentially mishandling secret documents…”

    It’s all starting to look like an SNL skit.

    Reply
    1. fresno dan

      Mikel
      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/22/magazine/the-strange-politics-of-classified-information.html
      ‘In a culture of secrecy,’’ the Moynihan Commission noted, ‘‘that which is not secret is easily disregarded or dismissed,’’ producing powerful incentives for government officials to classify pretty much everything. (And little incentive not to; why risk scrutiny?) Thus began the problem of overclassification, in which even humdrum exchanges end up labeled ‘‘Top Secret,’’ ‘‘Secret,’’ ‘‘Confidential’’ or at least ‘‘Restricted,’’ the four categories laid out by Harry Truman in his 1951 executive order establishing the modern classification system.

      This could produce absurd results. In the 1950s, according to the historian Sam Lebovic, the Labor Department refused to say how much peanut butter the Army had purchased, for fear that enemy number-crunchers might figure out the size of the armed forces, a statistic that was already public.
      ===========================================
      The question is, if we were to learn how much peanut butter the Pence household is using, we could than peanut number crunch to determine if there is an extra person in the household. Pence, being a republican politician, in the midwest, the most logical and likely explanation is obviously a mistress. This of course would undermine his candidcy for the republican presidential nomination. Incontrovertibly, exposure of this information would be due to the Russians trying to advance the election of Donald J. Trump…

      Reply
      1. Mikel

        Big picture: It’s no secret the govt operates like the world’s resources belong to the USA only. It’s in-the-face they way they do business. They can chill with all the “confidential” non-sense.

        Reply
    2. Bob White

      “It’s all starting to look like an SNL skit.”

      If you mean it will drag out too long, and end up not being funny anymore… then, yes.

      Reply
    3. chris

      Yep. This is Reuters take on it.

      https://www.reuters.com/world/us/classified-documents-found-former-us-vice-president-pences-indiana-home-cnn-2023-01-24/

      I feel like if we could shake DC so that all this junk falls put of everyone’s garages and offices we’d see a lot of classified documents that aren’t where they belong. Because our system makes too many classified documents. Still, these fools should be punished. All of them. Lord knows Biden has no business seeing classified material now, he’s liable to gaff it out during a presser or leave it in a park when he falls asleep.

      Reply
      1. Tom Doak

        Yes, if we could just establish that the penalty is disqualification from public office, then we could quickly disqualify nearly everyone we want from public office, except for those protected by the investigators . . . oh, wait.

        Reply
      2. Mike Mc

        Spent thirty plus years as a computer repair tech. Was often asked why TF if we have all these computers in our office, why is there MORE paper than ever? Not being an MBA type, I have no idea.

        Friends who are vets and/or Feds (or both) say much of it is CYA – justifying your existence (or department’s existence) via documentation. Seems likely. The NC brain trust should be better able to explore the classified crapola, though I suspect it’s a variation of the CYA theme.

        Reply
  10. semper loquitur

    Why Democracy Now sucks

    Jan 23, 2023

    The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal and Aaron Mate are joined by activist and comedian Randy Credico to discuss the pathetic state of Democracy Now, once a beacon of antiwar journalism and now a reliable fount of regime change propaganda that sandbagged Julian Assange when he was fighting for his freedom against the CIA.

    https://youtu.be/U3qZnCau7_Q

    I always thought Goodman was a dun(e, now I see she is also a tool.

    Reply
      1. Bob White

        Same here…
        Thought is was – Why “Democracy” Now sucks, instead of – Why “Democracy Now” sucks.

        Much like the “Commas are important people” meme. :-)

        Reply
  11. JBird4049

    …US pseudo-left when life expectancy looks like this and many major left orgs, media outlets, politicians and activists…

    Brought to you by Big Money’s Neoliberalism. Calling today’s Official Left as leftist is like calling Eugenics scientific. Just saying.

    Reply
  12. Dan

    “Personally, I like “XBB.1.5”; it sounds like the name of a K-Pop band.” I beg to differ – XBB.1.5 is clearly the name of Elon Musk’s 11th child!

    Reply
  13. wendigo

    There is a science fiction story from the 1930’s or so about a future where all there is was lab grown meat.

    One company was trying to find out why everyone preferred a competitors new product.

    Turned out the competitor had created human flavored meat.

    Reply
    1. digi_owl

      There is also a movie of a similar theme, that seem to have predicted the status quo with frightful accuracy…

      Reply
  14. fresno dan

    Eoin Higgins
    @EoinHiggins_
    ·
    Follow
    Misfiring the unlock button at after school pickup and pepper spraying my kids from the side mirrors as they’re zapped by the electrified door handles I left armed
    =====================================================
    for that price, I would expect a 50 caliber machine gun, and a 120mm cannon. I would also expect options of rocket propelled grenades, and 2 drones armed with hellfire missiles. And a flame thrower, which I admit is mostly for show…

    Reply
  15. JBird4049

    I read sometime around high school in a collection of short stories. IIRC, one of Del Ray’s line of science fiction short story collections consisting of individual writers and collected from science fiction magazines. A very short, good, relaxed story with a strong punchline, which has stayed with me for decades.

    Now, if I could only remember the author. I probably still have the paperback somewhere and I even think I remember the cover, but that is all. Funny, what we remember even decades later.

    I am still cataloging and putting back together my library, which means I will find again. Eventually. Someday. Boxes and stacks of books everywhere.

    Reply

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