2:00PM Water Cooler 1/5/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Oriole Warbler, Outamba-Kilimi National Park, Northern, Sierra Leone. “First cut natural, second after playback of first. Duetting pair. Habitat: Forest, Evergreen Forest, Deciduous Forest.”

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

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

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

Biden Administration

This is really good (Stoller approves):

So I can’t understand why the Biden Administration is letting it happen.

“Biden announces new program to curb illegal migration as he prepares for visit to border” [Politico]. “In a rare White House address on the nation’s southern border crisis, President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled new policy that will accept 30,000 migrants a month from four nations but also will crack down on those who fail to use the plan’s legal pathways. Speaking in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, the president said the policy will grant humanitarian “parole” to eligible migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela. It will work as part of a border strategy that incorporates an expanded use of Title 42 expulsions.” • Awesome. More gusanos. And if the Democrats think these demographics will help them, they’ve lost their minds.

Republican Funhouse

“GOP stalemates on speaker vote despite McCarthy’s proposed deal” [Politico]. “The seventh speaker ballot showed little sign of outward movement toward the California Republican. Nineteen GOP lawmakers voted for Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), who most of McCarthy’s opponents are rallying behind for now, while Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) nominated former President Donald Trump. In total, it’s the same number who opposed McCarthy in previous ballots. The next steps for Republicans are unclear: McCarthy is offering new concessions to his holdouts, including allowing one member to force a vote on deposing a speaker. But it’s not clear it will get him across the finish line, with a handful of members vowing to continue opposing the GOP leader regardless of a deal.” • Sounds rather like the liberum veto?

“Republicans Routinely Undermine Their Speaker – By Design” [RealClearPolitics]. “House Republicans have a recent history of engaging in bruising battles with their own leaders that wounded previous GOP speakers and left others rushing for the exits. Perhaps this propensity to hobble those entrusted with authority comes with the territory – distrust of governmental power is an integral part of the modern GOP’s DNA. But this week it hasn’t been a pretty picture…. Yet, for the group of disruptors, it was all according to plan and part of well-worn quarter-century-long House GOP practice. Starting with Newt Gingrich, who was responsible for helping Republicans win back the majority for the first time in 40 years, and continuing with nearly every GOP speaker since, a small group of fractious House hardliners hasn’t hesitated to punish their top GOP leaders for missteps – real or imagined. Some of the offenses that have spurred modern-day GOP mutinies include underperforming in elections, the ambiguous charge of ineffective leadership, or consolidating too much power in their leadership roles…. ‘We’re doing exactly what the people want us to do … trying to make sure we stand up and represent our constituents against a swamp that is basically rolling over them – with a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill,’ Rep.-elect Chip Roy, a Texas Republican and a top leader of the conservative revolt against McCarthy this week, told Fox News’ Bret Baier Wednesday night.” • I’m so old I remember when The Squad were touted as disruptors….

“As McCarthy flails, Republicans refuse to cut a speaker deal with Democrats” [NBC]. “Many House Republicans are furious with a band of far-right rebels who they say are holding the party hostage by repeatedly rejecting its nominee for speaker. But there’s one thing they’re so far unwilling to do: work with a faction of Democrats to elect a centrist speaker to govern the narrow GOP majority and teach the rabble-rousers a lesson…. It’s a precarious situation for the moderate members, who are more likely to represent swing districts and could suffer the most from a tarnished party image. By contrast, the far-right Republicans mostly hail from safe red districts and face little threat of losing their seats to Democrats in a general election.” • But it could be done–

“As In Alaska And Pennsylvania, Mainstream Republicans Team Up With Democrats To Defeat Ohio MAGAts” [Down with Tyranny]. “Tuesday, Democrats helped elect Jason Stephens, a vaguely mainstream conservative, Republican Speaker of the Ohio House, denying it to vicious MAGAt Derek Merrin, who won the leadership vote in the very far right GOP caucus last month and expected to waltz into the speakership with his fully fascist agenda. All 32 Democrats joined 22 Republicans to elect Stephens. Yesterday, Anna Staver reported it was a stunning upset, ‘that essentially let Democrats pick the leader of a chamber where Republicans outnumber them two to one. Conservatives called it ‘absurd’ and ‘disgusting.’ House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) called it an opportunity to work with a speaker who ‘would work with us on the issues we could agree on.’ And Stephens promised to ‘try to do my best to communicate and to listen and to be there for all members of the House regardless of party. I intend to listen, and I intend to be very open and receptive to all members of the Ohio House,’ he said. ‘We represent all of Ohio… I’m really looking forward to working with Rep. Merrin and those who may not have voted for me,’ Stephens said. Merrin declined to comment.'”

“The Political Profile of McCarthy’s Detractors” [Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “Nearly all of those who did not support McCarthy on every roll call are either members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of hardline Republicans, or are politically adjacent to the Freedom Caucus. The House Freedom Fund, which is associated with the Freedom Caucus, supported some of the new members-elect who voted against McCarthy. The exact membership of the Freedom Caucus is a little hazy, as the group does not have an official public roster, but in going through these individuals, we found Freedom Caucus membership or connections for almost all of them. Spartz appears to be the single exception, although she has been supported by the Club for Growth, an outside conservative group that has often served as an anti-establishment force within the GOP political universe…. All of those who did not consistently vote for McCarthy were elected to districts that voted for Donald Trump for president in 2020, as well, although Trump’s performance in these districts varied widely, and a handful of them are on the fringe of the competitive House battlefield…. The likeliest outcome here is that the Republicans eventually figure this out and elect a speaker with just Republican votes. But we must reiterate that we are in essentially uncharted history here, at least in modern times.”

“The GOP Is More Ungovernable Than Ever Before” [Eric Levitz, New York Magazine]. • I take issue with the word “ungovernable.” Madison writes: ” In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” A political party is not the State; it is “governable” no more or less than any other association of citizens. Then again, if you’re in a party that’s systematically dissolving all checks and balances — see the merger of party, intelligence community, and content moderation in the Twitter files — perhaps the word rings true.

“Conservative heavyweights call for new House GOP leadership after McCarthy failed to clinch House speaker” [FOX]. “A group of nearly 50 conservative heavyweights co-signed a statement Wednesday calling to “change the status quo in Washington,” and applauded the 20 members of Congress who Wednesday voted against House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, sinking his bid for House speaker after six rounds of votes. Among the group calling for McCarthy, R-Calif., to bow out of the race for speakership are former Reagan administration Attorney General Ed Meese, Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and David McIntosh, president of Club for Growth. Conservative Action President Ken Blackwell, along with 47 others, offered support to the “20 courageous members of Congress” who have voted against McCarthy. ‘These members represents the millions of voters across the country who are disgusted with the business-as-usual, self-interested governance in Washington,’ the group stated.” • Wowsers, Ed Meese! I’m sold!

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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“Remarkable” indeed:

But not in the way Acela Corridor creature Jong-Fast believes. What this image shows is how deeply embubbled the Democrat Party is.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Josh Shapiro taps a Republican who stood up to Trump to be Pennsylvania’s top elections official” [NBC]. “Pennsylvania’s incoming Democratic governor, Josh Shapiro, announced Thursday that he is tapping a Republican who stood up to Donald Trump after the 2020 election to be the state’s top elections official. As the vice chair of Philadelphia’s Board of Elections, Al Schmidt was at the center of defending the 2020 vote in Pennsylvania, a key presidential battleground that narrowly went to President Joe Biden. Trump prematurely declared victory in the state and tried to stop Philadelphia officials from counting all the ballots there. When Schmidt refused to comply, he became a target of Trump supporters’ fury. Schmidt is Shapiro’s first Cabinet pick, after a campaign against Trump-backed state Sen. Doug Mastriano in which election administration took center stage. In Pennsylvania, the top elections official, the secretary of the commonwealth, is nominated by the governor rather than elected.” • Hmm.


Lambert here: I am but a humble tapewatcher, but unlike Eric Topol, I’m not calling a surge, because the last peak was Biden’s Omicron debacle, and after an Everest like that, what’s left? Topol’s view is the establishment view: Hospital-centric. Mine is infection-centric. I do not see the universal acceleration or doubling in cases that I would expect to see based on past surges.

I am calling a “Something Awful.” It’s gonna be bad, in some new way, and we don’t know how, yet (but see here for immune system dysregulation, which is looking pretty awful). Wastewater has taken off in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, right on time, two weeks after Thanksgiving. Those are not only in themselves large cities, they are all the sites of international airports (reminiscent of the initial surge in spring 2020, which emanated, via air travel, from New York). Wastewater is a leading indicator for cases, which in turn lead hospitalization (and death). In addition, positivity has reached its highest level ever, at least at Walgreens, and BQ.1* has taken over, closely followed by XBB, and both are immunue escape variants. UPDATE Walgreen’s positivity, Boston MWRA data going vertical, and the rapid rise of XBB in the Northeast are all very concerning. The effects of all our holiday travel should be playing out in the next two weeks. Readers, please feel free to add holiday anecdotes.

Stay safe out there!

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• “The Case for Covid Gaslighting Forever (01/05/23)” (podcast) [Death Panel, SoundCloud]. This is a version that runs in the browser. “We discuss a recent piece in the New Yorker called ‘The Case for Wearing Masks Forever’ which presents itself as a profile of the group The People’s CDC but instead, we argue, is a veritable hit piece on the idea of covid advocacy itself.” • A massive takedown of Emma Greens horrid article (see NC here and here).

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• “COVID-19 Forecasts: Hospitalizations” [CDC]. “This week’s national ensemble predicts that the number of new daily confirmed COVID-19 hospital admissions will remain stable or have an uncertain trend, with 2,400 to 13,200 new confirmed COVID-19 hospital admissions likely reported on January 27, 2023.” • Handy chart:

Of course, since CDC’s modeling hub totally blew it on Omicron, I don’t bother with them. But they’re still churning away!

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• Air circulation. Really interesting thread:

I suppose the basic concept is “How to spot a dangerous room.” Perhaps HVAC mavens in the readership can comment.

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• “As 2023 Begins, Americans Are Largely Comfortable With Domestic Travel, Socializing and Moviegoing” [Morning Consult]. “A lot can — and did — change in a year, according to a measurement of consumer comfort via Morning Consult’s Return to Normal tracker. As 2023 begins, we took stock of how Americans feel about a wide range of activities as the world ponders whether the coronavirus pandemic is ‘over,’ or just entering another phase. Comfort with several activities, including flying domestically and moviegoing, has reached highs since Morning Consult began tracking. And a clear majority of Americans are now comfortable with several other activities, perhaps signaling a year of growth for key industries.” • There’s a “Return to Normal” tracker. Help me. From the tracker:

Clearly, “comfort,” like “convenience,” is a totally unproblematic classification for one’s experiences (“feel OK”). As the anesthesia mask is gently lowered over the face of a prostrate body politic…. NOTE Incidentally, if 60% of the population is “comfortable” flying, 40% is not. I wonder why? Because 40% seems like a rather large number, to me.

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• “Credibility debt”:

Harsh, but fair.

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• A long thread citing many studies on Covid and the mouth. This seems relevant:

I’m sticking with Povidone Iodine, but it’s worth noting that came out of the dental community.

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• “Clinical and epidemiologic features of SARS-CoV-2 in dogs and cats compiled through national surveillance in the United States” [American Veterinary Medical Association]. n = 204 companion animals with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections between March 2020 and December 2021. “Among dogs and cats identified through passive surveillance, 94% (n = 87) had reported exposure to a person with COVID-19 before infection…. Results of the present study supported that cats and dogs primarily become infected with SARS-CoV-2 following exposure to a person with COVID-19, most often their owners. Case investigation and surveillance that include both people and animals are necessary to understand transmission dynamics and viral evolution of zoonotic diseases like SARS-CoV-2.”

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Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission (the “red map”). (This is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you.) 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.


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

0.2%. Decreasing rate of increase, but still the highest ever.


Wastewater data (CDC), January 1 (Happy New Year, wastewater stans):

Too much red (even with Illinois offline). JFK/LGA (Queens County, NY), SFO (San Francisco, CA), LAX (Los Angeles) are all red. ATL (Cobb County, GA) no longer. ORD (Cook County, IL) is offline.

December 27:

And MWRA data, December 29:

Lambert here: Still yikes. Going vertical. (North is up; South is very slightly down.) And certainly not all the students are back; BU classes begin January 19; Harvard’s January 22.


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

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), December 23:

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

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), December 10 (Nowcast off):

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

• As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated December 31:

Quite a jump, this time. Of all the charts, I find this steady rise the most worrisome, because it doesn’t fit into any of the narratives.

• Hospitalization data for Queens, updated December 31:

We’ll see what is hospitalization is like about two weeks into January, after holiday travel has ended.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,120,040 – 1,118,757 = 1283 (1283 * 365 = 468,295 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

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

• I think we’ve learned a very important lesson here today:

Elites in the United States have learned — on a bipartisan basis — that you can slaughter a million people with no riots or, indeed, any discernible political reaction.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits dropped to 204 thousand in the week ending December 31st, from the previous week’s revised level of 223 thousand and below market expectations of 225 thousand. It was the lowest number since late September, suggesting the labor market remains tight and might contribute further to inflationary pressure in the world’s largest economy.” • To the Fed: Moar cowbell!

Employment Situation: “United States ADP Employment Change” [Trading Economics]. “Private businesses in the US created 235K jobs in December of 2022, higher than an upwardly revised 182K in November and well above market forecasts of 150K.”

Employment Situation: “United States Challenger Job Cuts” [Trading Economics]. “US-based employers announced 43,651 job cuts in December of 2022, less than 76,835 in November which was the biggest since January of 2021. However, it is the second-highest number of monthly job cuts announced in 2022 and 129% above 19,052 cuts announced in the same month in 2021…. It is the second-lowest recorded total since Challenger began tracking monthly job cut announcements in 1993, with 2021 being the lowest. The tech sector led the losses with a total of 97,171, namely Fintech firms due to the crypto downturn (10,476 cuts).”

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The Bezzle: “€390M fine strikes blow to Meta’s ad-fueled business model” [Politico]. “In decisions on Wednesday targeting its Facebook and Instagram platforms, Meta is not only on the hook for fines totaling nearly €400 million, but it must also — quickly — find a new legal basis for its sprawling targeted advertising empire. According to Meta’s lead regulatory authority in Ireland, Meta has three months to legalize its data-targeting model after European Union regulators found that the current legal basis for advertising that Facebook and Instagram use is invalid. The orders heap yet more pressure on Meta’s revenue streams — just as the EU is finalizing a new rulebook that tightens the screws even further on internet advertising. The decisions stem from complaints filed by Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems on the eve of the EU’s strict privacy code, the General Data Protection Regulation, in 2018. These accused the company of lacking proper legal grounds to process millions of Europeans’ data. The decisions rebuke Meta’s claim that it could hoover up users’ data as part of a contract to provide them with personalized ads, and leave the tech giant scratching around for another legal route to target people with advertising.”

The Bezzle: “Bankruptcy judge rules that Earn account assets belong to Celsius” [Axios]. “Celsius Network’s bankruptcy might have just set a precedent in determining what crypto assets belong to whom when stored on a centralized platform. The judge in a 45-page written decision on Wednesday concluded that the deposits in the lender’s yield-bearing Earn accounts belong to the estate — that is Celsius — and not the individual holders of those accounts. Celsius had 600,000 accounts in its Earn program when it filed for Chapter 11 mid-2022, which collectively held roughly $4.2 billion in assets as of July 2022. Part of that included stablecoins then-valued at around $20 million. All of that is property of the estate, or Celsius. Investors with Earn accounts have been and remain creditors of Celsius. That means Celsius still owes them. Exactly how much they’ll recover, is the unknown. Crypto platforms’ Terms of Service could be central to how other bankruptcy proceedings shake out.”

Tech: “Microsoft and OpenAI Working on ChatGPT-Powered Bing in Challenge to Google” [The Information]. “icrosoft could soon get a return on its $1 billion investment in OpenAI, creator of the ChatGPT chatbot, which gives humanlike text answers to questions. Microsoft is preparing to launch a version of its Bing search engine that uses the artificial intelligence behind ChatGPT to answer some search queries rather than just showing a list of links, according to two people with direct knowledge of the plans. Microsoft hopes the new feature, which could launch before the end of March, will help it outflank Google, its much bigger search rival.” • Search could hardly get worse. I wonder what the SEO folks will do to game it.

Tech: “The cashless future is here. So is Big Brother.” [The Hill]. “Three-fifths of wealthier Americans, those with six-figure household incomes, told Pew pollsters they used no cash in a typical week in 2022. More than half of the under-50 demographic told Pew they no longer worry about carrying cash. ” But they never do anyhow. They have people for that. More: “[A] digital dollar would also give the government ‘direct control over citizens’ bank accounts.’, [David Waugh, managing editor at the American Institute for Economic Research] writes.” • What could go wrong? (In fact, from the Canadian truckers, we already know.)

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 44 Fear (previous close: 40 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 36 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 5 at 2:10 PM EST.

The Gallery

Monet (1):

Monet (2):

All that is solid melts into air:

Class Warfare

“There is no long term without socialism” [Carl Beijer]. “Within the ruling class we’ve seen the ascent of so-called ‘Longtermism’ — a new style of politics focused on massive, big-picture threats to human civilization. Threats that even liberal capitalism, we are told, just can’t handle. History, by their account, hasn’t ended; it has only just begun, and if we’re in it for the long haul we need to make some dramatic changes to our politics…. If you haven’t heard of Longtermism, this probably speaks well of you: though it’s become remarkably influential among the ruling class, it still occupies a fringe position in academic philosophy. The premise is simple enough. Humans must prioritize the survival of our species above everything else, and that before we take care of smaller problems, our politics need to focus on ‘existential risks’ that could wipe our species out entirely. Understood this way, Longtermism sounds less like a philosophy than a common-sense call for risk management…. Longtermism doesn’t just mean technological development. It means a very particular path towards technological development with ‘accumulating resources’ for Musk and austerity for everyone else. As Émile Torres argues, that last point is particularly sinister and goes well beyond simple austerity: in theory, this utilitarian rhetoric about ensuring the survival of the species can be wielded to justify just about any atrocity imaginable…. Managerial efficiency isn’t the only reason why Longtermists typically prefer a dictatorship. Both Thiel and Masters have also cited as inspiration writers like Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Curtis Yarvin, two unabashed monarchists who both ground their politics in a belief in ‘natural elites’. We are now very far away from the innocuous sounding Longtermism that simply valued risk management; beneath the Saganesque rhetoric about ‘extending the light of consciousness to the stars,’ the Longtermists are giving us something that looks a whole lot like textbook fascism. There just isn’t anything subtle about a tiny political faction insisting that the demands of lebensraum and destiny place them beyond conventional morality in their fight for absolute power.” • Yikes. Of course, in the short run, we are all alive. So let’s make the most of it! (See NC here on the odious Hans-Hermann Hoppe.)

“Why Capitalism Needs Sick People” [New York Magazine]. “Beatrice Adler-Bolton and Artie Vierkant, the co-hosts of the Death Panel podcast, approach public health with an emphasis on the ‘public,’ joining a straightforward left-wing-policy analysis with uncompromising rhetoric and a for-us-by-us sense of sick solidarity. ‘STAY ALIVE ANOTHER WEEK,’ reads one hat for sale in the Death Panel merch store, a portion of the pod’s sign-off message. Fed up with the consumerist approach to health, they’ve struck a nerve. When the lefty publisher Verso released their book Health Communism in October, the first printing sold out immediately. Along with co-hosts Vince Patti and Philip Rocco, Adler-Bolton and Vierkant launched Death Panel in late 2018. Covid-19 made clear the frailties of the American health-care system, but it would be a mistake to see their success as a pandemic phenomena; Health Communism even goes so far as to ignore the topic. ‘This omission is intentional,’ they write. ‘For all the horrors of the pandemic, we are aware of no actions taken during it by states or private industry that are not explained in full by the preexisting health-capitalist framework.’ For Adler-Bolton and Vierkant, these questions are all political in a personal sense. The couple completed an uncommon journey of radicalization from fine art to medicine as Adler-Bolton struggled with a rare and worsening autoimmune condition. There are no greater experts on the realities of the American health-care system than the many sick people who go to battle every day with an apparatus that, depending on the fulfillment of arcane bureaucratic requirements, may withhold or remit life-saving drugs and services. For them, Death Panel provides practical advice as well as policy analysis and theoretical context.” • For one Death Panel podcast, see the Covid section.s

“Here’s how much money it takes to be considered middle class in 20 major U.S. cities” [CNBC]. Many of the reasons I consider the term ‘middle class” useless at best, obfuscatory and malignant at worst. “The latest data from 2021 shows the share of the population in the middle class continues to hover around 50%, around where it has been since 2011. Prior to that year, the share of middle class Americans had been consistently shrinking since a peak of 61% in 1971.” And: “Pew defines ‘middle class’ as those earning between two-thirds and twice the median American household income.” So, super-skewed upward from the middle (which, if “middle class” is primarily aspirational, I suppose you would expect.” More: “American households earning as little as $47,189 and up to $141,568 are technically in the middle class.” Oh, “technically.” That’s just a ridiculously broad range.

News of the Wired

“Beware Flavored Software” [Every]. “The older I get, the more I appreciate the merits of vanilla software. There is money to be made in boring. Software that attempts to be different in a way that creates temporary excitement, but doesn’t create lasting value, is what I call “flavored software.” Of course, no one thinks this is what they’re building. They think their unique twist is a revolution, and that everyone will adopt their innovation in the future. But sadly, more often than not, they’ve invented the software equivalent of balsamic strawberry ice cream…. There is a lot of joy (and cash) to be had by selling balsamic strawberry ice cream, as long as you keep your costs low and don’t raise money from investors who are expecting you to disrupt vanilla.” • Interesting.

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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 Lunker Walleye:

Lunker Walleye writes: “This photo of a window in our home was taken when the temperature was minus 9F.
It reminds me of ferns or feathers.” I see green, so I guess I’m looking at chlorophyll….

Patient readers, I am still running very short on plant pictures, so if you could send me more, that would be great. New readers welcome! Plants covered in ice and snow are fine, but so are field reports on yield from fall gardens. Thank you! Your contributions are greatly appreciated!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Michael Hudson

    Here’s what’s so striking about the House vote. Look how the Republicans are blocking a speaker they don’t like. Why didn’t the Dem’s Progressive Caucus do this to block their right-wing enemy Jeffries as speaker? They could have insisted on someone less hostile. What’s the point of being a “progressive Democrat” if you don’t block your enemies?

    1. hunkerdown

      I can only assume it’s because the “new middle class” are better managers than the old middle class. “Our Democracy = the Will of the Swarm” -John Robb, paraphrased

        1. hunkerdown

          I think there is a critical theory of the middle class waiting to pick up where the manuscript left off, but fair enough.

          In the future I shall endeavor to substitute PMC and petit-bourgeoisie and avoid invoking less-than-clever puns to Hofstadter.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      The psychological/group dynamics explanation is that Democrats are authoritarian followers. They may also be mimicking the “predatory precarity” of their PMC base. Everybody has their place in the Great Chain of Being. Then again, there was that time Pelosi pistol-whipped AOC on the House floor (over Israel IIRC).

      If one regards control over the ballot line as the essence of a political party, then Democrat electeds are carefully selected because they share such characteristics. They are also ideologically selected for; I think the lesson from RussiaGate onward is that there are no progressives. Only liberals.* (I mean, where the hell is Sanders on Ukraine or Covid?) There’s also possibly a genuine belief** among Democrats that they’re fighting fascism, and so they desperately stick together. And of course, there’s corruption. As somebody who remembers the Vietnam War… This is a very, very different party.

      NOTE * I was around when liberal Democrats decided to rebrand themselves because Gingrich et al. had so polluted the word “liberal.” “Progressive” is the word they settled on.

      NOTE ** That doesn’t mean the belief isn’t delusional.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        I think the Republican Party is just more democratic. I live in the district Nine Turner would have represented, and NC readers are well informed about the pernicious cabal that did her in. There are some true rebels in the Republican caucus. Part of the reason the “crazy” label is applied to them is that many of them haven’t been groomed through a decade or two in the Ivies, at the CIA or McKinsey or Covington & Burling so they don’t speak American Mandarin. They say things that would not be out of place at amfortas’s feed or hardware store.

        And there might even be or two of them who are shocked at the levels of corruption and especially cynicism in Sodom on the Potomac. That scares all the players, and not just the political ones.

        1. JP

          Here we go again. Ability of erudition is not a general qualifier for being less democratic. On the other hand being folksy when pandering to the unwashed is an unqualified path to political office. The real reason the crazy label is applied to them is because they espouse very narrow viewpoints on any number of important issues and are all committed culture warriors.

          1. hunkerdown

            Partisan cosmology and culture are myths to grow out of, not to actually believe in. We deal in raw sociology here.

            That said, I think you’re neglecting the accepted observation (neo-Weberian whataboutery aside) that classes constitute themselves through their relations with other classes, and that ruling classes systematically keep laboring classes away from power and its tools through their power of resource allocation and doctrine creation, in order that the process of PMC and capitalist appropriation may perpetuate in comfort and style.

            That the educational indoctrinational process happens to be leaky, and that skills and tastes inapposite to one’s assigned class position can nonetheless be acquired when suitable free time, materials, and energy are available, does not diminish the value of particular styles of erudition, precisely performed, as a marker of successful parasitism, and thus likely and willing alignment with the capitalist order.

            As for moral culpability, it doesn’t matter which party does it. The parties allow one another to exist, in fact, they hold one another up when one of them is in existential trouble. Both play at creating and broadcasting an ever-changing series of codes to wreck and steal property in social commons. Both are overdue for abolition, along with the theater in which they perform their morality plays.

            Perhaps it’s our fault for valuing and respecting bougie bird song and other properties of charismatic religion-politics, rather than telling such figures to make and serve the familyblogging sandwiches and be silent while doing it.

            Signed, your neighborhood high school dropout.

    3. Katniss Everdeen

      And this is the same “power” progressives like Briahna Joy Gray and Jimmy Dore were imploring “the squad” to use against pelosi to “force the vote” on Medicare 4 All two years ago.

      The “squad” folded rather than expose democrats who campaigned on M4A but wouldn’t be caught dead supporting it with an actual vote.

      The talking heads on Fox are verklempt at the current “chaos” and “division” in the repub party. But the “dissenters” who have been interviewed have been clear. They are pissed as hell about the $1.7 trillion omnibus bill introduced in the dead of night and “passed” at the eleventh hour on Christmas Eve with the support of the likes of mccarthy and mcconnell. They are also pissed at the tyranny of the “Rules” committee, which they feel prevents the majority of reps from participating in shaping and debating legislation.

      More power to ’em, I say. The dems are a lost cause. If the repubs are the only ones with the balls to disrupt the status quo, then let them have at it. Forcing representatives to stay on the house floor for a few days instead of back to their begging-for-campaign-dollars business as usual isn’t gonna kill anybody.

    4. Carolinian

      What’s the point of being a “progressive Democrat” if you don’t block your enemies?

      You get the good vibe branding without being called a “rabble rouser” by NBC? NPR will like you too.

      Of course all that High Broderism only applies to Republicans these days. It’s considered normal for the Dems to regard most of the GOP as Satan. Therefore better than Satan earns you a “progressive.”

      Pelosi says McCarthy should have won first ballot. Perhaps she and some of her cohorts should have voted for him. On the other hand her endorsement suggests that the GOP rabble may have reason to complain.

      1. agent ranger smith

        If progressive Democrats obstruct something that the regressive Democrats want, the regressive Democrats will see that the Districts electing progressive Democrats are starved of money, government assistance, protections, etc. to the very best of their ability to torture those Districts into retiring their progressive Democrats.

        The progressive Democrats would have to explain that fact to their voters and explain the longer term plan being advanced by accepting all this suffering imposed by the regressive Democrats if they would hope to last long enough in office to conquer and consolidate territory and power in preparation for more political conquest against the regressive Democrats.

        1. tegnost

          regressive Democrats will see that the Districts electing progressive Democrats are starved of money, government assistance, protections, etc. to the very best of their ability to torture

          if this is correct then the dems should be viewed as abusive people, and I have not heard, and do not myself believe, that one should keep abusive people around on the belief that they will get incrementally less abusive over the long term.

    5. clarky90

      folks……. Listen very closely to my voice, as I take you into a deep and restful trance. I am kind! I will emphisize particular words, and anchor each of them, in your unconscious mind, by gently tapping on your knee, as I intone each of the anchor words…….. Listen intently……. You are safe……

      *…… denying it to vicious MAGA Derek Merrin, who won the leadership vote in the very far right GOP caucus last month and expected to waltz into the speakership with his fully fascist agenda……..”

      Now, slowly wake up, fully refreshed and alert, having forgotten the mechanics of your hypnotic induction….

    6. MP

      I think the difference is that the Republican Freedom Caucus bloc isn’t actually getting anything out of this, it’s just sheer spite and wading in the swamp of their own propaganda about RINOs. They extracted the committee assignments they wanted, they got the speakership basically revocable by fiat, and they got rule change concessions. Left-wing democrats simply do not have the dark money and institutional power to operate independently like MTG or Gaetz to just tank a Pelosi nomination. As much as we fantasize about “forcing the vote” we know that because these parties are class expressions, there is no benefit to tanking Jeffries or Pelosi because there is no “left” alternative that would satisfy centrist Dem votes. So they get forced to “work within,” with all the ill-gotten gains and concessions (as Lambert has mentioned, on Ukraine and Covid) that come with it, in exchange for getting something paltry in return. It very much seems there is no detriment to Lauren Boebert making hay because the voters, her base, and her donors are in alignment on it. Until the left-wing representatives are actually represented by a constituency with an outside body (I mean, look at how poorly the DSA was able to wrangle Jamaal Bowman on Iron Dome funding) that acts as the actual veto, I think left-wing democrats are making the logical decision based on the leverage they have at their disposal. If Amazon, Starbucks, and flight attendants workers threaten a strike unless they get concessions in a legislative battle, then we’ve pushed out of the zero-sum game we’re discussing.

    7. anon in so cal

      –These far-right Republicans (based on a superficial reading of the situation) seem to object to McCarthy’s support for funding to Ukraine (he wears a Ukraine pin on his lapel?). Apparently, there are no more than one or two Democrats who similarly oppose funding to Ukraine (Or Biden’s war against Russia, using Ukraine?). Do the progressive Dems view Jeffries (or Pelosi or Schumer or Blumenthal) as their enemy?

      –Larry Sabato

      “Larry Sabato @LarrySabato Jan 2

      All four–Adam Kinzinger, Stephanie Murphy, Liz Cheney, and Elaine Luria–deserve our deep thanks and history’s blessings. Virginia’s Luria put it well. “Being on the right side of history” is far more important than selling your soul to win an election.”


    8. Glen

      From what I can see the Republicans holdouts are getting anything that they want, and I am surprised at how not selecting Speaker stops everything after that – everything. So it’s obvious the screaming from the Dem elites back in 2020 that withholding the vote for Speaker was mostly because they KNEW this tactic would be extremely effective.

    1. Wukchumni

      …Kid Kevin comes out of the corner for the 8th round, he’s a little punch drunk and there’s a cut over his size and he can’t see good outta one eye as he staggers out into the middle of the ring against an imaginary competitor, with his ringman ready to toss in the towel if he’s in fear of Kev’s political well-being

      1. Wukchumni

        {…hawtie in form fitting 1 piece bathing suit holds up placard denoting the 10th round and pirouettes around the ring…}

        Kev’s beat but not done emerging from a neutral corner and takes repeated right hooks to the body politic and lies slumped on the canvas, as the trainer comes out in a jiffy, with Kev pleading ‘Don’t cut me Mick!’

        Inanity is doing the same thing over & over and expecting different results…

  2. tegnost

    So I can’t understand why the Biden Administration is letting it happen.

    I’ll try lots of layoffs in tech and those laid off are being hindered…oops, i mean the corps trying to hire workers are being hindered in hiring by non competes. For instance the concentration of tech in seattle as an example, the workers may not want to just move, and how many of the layoffs are just culling the herd to bring new stock, create some fear among the remaining stock? If that’s the case then non competes may be preventing churn…so the people who matter are complaining…

    1. Amateur Socialist

      I would also note that the workers likely to be affected by non-competes are the voters Biden and the current Democratic elite aspire to capture with this policy. Creative class, potential disruptors all. Unlikely to unionize. ( Book plug, Ed Burmilla’s new Chaotic Neutral is very good on the history of these aspirations, like so much it’s a lot of slick Willie’s legacy)

      As compared to the administration’s action regarding railroad workers deemed essential to the economy. Uh huh. Most pro labor president in history! /s

      1. eg

        Does the title of that book refer to the D&D alignment system?

        That brings back memories from the late’70s …

    2. Dr. John Carpenter

      I’m in tech and this was my first thought as well. I’d love to see some data on it, but I can’t help but feel at some point the non-competes butt up with the churn.

    3. JohnnySacks

      Stillborn, just some theater for fawning fans of always fighting, never winning. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is against it, so why wouldn’t Biden also be against it behind closed doors? After all, the guy’s been unapologetically on the wrong side of every substantive policy for 40+ years.

      1. cnchal

        > The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is against it . . .

        Any advantage over labor that corporate lawyers dream up is sacrosanct. Now that they are all shedding employees subject to those contracts, what is a coder supposed to do? Learn to cook, drive a truck or pick fruit?

  3. Thistlebreath


    Have a look at criteria #5 in the light of congress’ recent above and beyond allocation for military spending. Endorsed by ‘the squad’ no less.

    After McPhee retired, my pet name for the house that EB White built, the mag turned rag, has been “New Porker.” Ad Hominem maybe but also apt.

    Concern trolling any pro mask sentiment is now just business as usual.

  4. Jason Boxman

    The liberal Democrat tax horror has commenced in force. Logging into PayPal today:

    Plan to earn $600+ for goods and services?
    Add your tax ID to avoid a hold and 24% IRS backup withholding when you’re paid.

    Their short explanation:

    When you’re paid for goods and services, the IRS considers this reportable income.

    When you’re paid $600 USD or more, we’re required to send you a 1099-K.

    A change to tax laws also requires us to backup withhold 24% of your payments for the IRS when we don’t have your tax ID.

    Sounds pretty pernicious. Thanks liberal Democrats! Raising people’s taxes, largest increase in child poverty in history, ect. ect. Well done!

    1. playon

      The IRS effectively going after the bottom-feeders while corporate America and billionaires go untouched.

      This took effect awhile ago on websites that many musicians use to buy and sell second-hand musical equipment. So now if I sell a guitar on eBay for $700 the IRS wants to know about it, even if I made no profit on the sale. Many musicians I know use these sites to try out instruments and gear, especially if like me, they live in areas that don’t have good music shops nearby. Most people do not making a profit or if they do it is minimal.

      1. Realist

        Keep your reciepts and you’ll be fine. This is designed to go after drug dealers, sex workers and other traditional cash in hand businesses who now use cashapp, pay pal and venmo to make a tax free living.

        1. cnchal

          Just wait till the tech companies sell AI audit tools to the IRS. Talk about bang for the buck. Code is law, what are you going to do about it?

          Lose a receipt and watch out, never mind that many receipts are digital now. Hard drive crashed, cloud storage hacked, it’s a brave new world.

          The reason the scoop is so big is control, over every little thing one does.

        2. tegnost

          No it’s not, it’s designed to go after gig workers, some of whom are in your list.
          Maybe the company you work for should just pay the IRS and you can petition them for your portion after they take their cut? it’s the gov, they would never cheat you…
          Tax free living is only for the rich, donchaknow?

  5. VT Digger

    So am I crazy or is the labor market tight because 4% of the workforce is either dead or disabled? I don’t think interest rates will help with that…?

    1. jhallc

      Speaking of a tight labor force. My daughter told me a funny/sad story about trying to find a long term sub for her pre-school aged class of autistic kids. She’s going out on maternity leave in six weeks or so and they got three responses for a long term substitute position. Two were ruled out over the phone and a third was invited in today for an interview. The job requires a BA degree of some sort. The applicant has a culinary degree (i.e.was a chef) and seemed honestly interested in working with children. After the interview my daughter asked if she’d like to see her class. They went to the classroom and her kids were largely sitting at their tables engaged in activities. All good. She decided to go next door to her co-workers class and the walked in on what only be described as a sh*t show. Screaming kids, kids running around the room, standing on chairs all of which can happen at any given moment to the best of teachers. Apparently the poor applicant couldn’t get out of there fast enough. This is a decent paying job, pro-rated based on 50K/school year. I don’t see how they are going to find a replacement.

  6. Onward to Dystopia

    I came here to say something very similar to Michael Hudson — maybe I’m off-base with this assessment, heaven knows I’ve tried to stop paying attention to this *familyblog* stuff as much as I can. But it seems to me that all of this infighting on the right is just another sign that all of the political energy is over there. Meanwhile, the Dems elect a guy who’s a worse neolib shill than Nancy Pelosi, arguably — and there’s no protest at all. They’ve got nothing going on over there whatsoever, totally stagnant and lukewarm. Not that the GOP knows how to do anything but push the tax cut button for every problem, but I think it’s safe to say this is another sign that any unruly voices in the Democrats have been effectively disciplined.

    1. agent ranger smith

      Fear of a Gilead Republican President is a very effective discipline-through-fear tool.

      We have a two party system. That is just a fact. Those who want a better party will have to create one and will have to accept decades of hatred poured upon them by the Democrats who will accuse them of “playing into the hands of the Gilead Republicans”. Such hatred will have to be accepted as part of the price paid over the several decades it would take to grow a better-successor party to use to slowly replace the Democratic Party and take over its political space. The actual likelihood of spending time under a Gilead Republican President will also have to be accepted as part of the price to be paid.

      What would such a “better successor” party be? Maybe different groups of people will have to make different efforts to grow one and just see which one succeeds, if any do. I would like to see a Social Democrat Party running on a basic New Deal Restoration and Free Trade Abolition platform. If the relevant Republicans became reasonable people, I could see moving my vote from Democrat to Better Successor. But I can’t see doing that as long as the Republican Party remains what Black Agenda Report would still call the White Man’s Party ( with Gilead Republican tendencies).

      1. JBird4049

        Since the Democratic Party is completing its change into a fascistic security state party, what is left? There are the Greens and the DSA, but really, at the national level, they are a joke.

        1. agent ranger smith

          Well, that’s why people with a party-movement in mind would have to grow one and see what they could do with it over the next few decades.

      2. hunkerdown

        A one-party system would be far preferable to sham competitive virtue signalling. We certainly could destroy one of the parties and have a multi-party “democracy” within the one that remains.

        Affirmative theories are useless, at best.

        1. eg

          As Julius Nyerere is reputed to have said, “The United States is also a one-party state, but with typical American extravagance, they have two of them.”

      3. Carolinian

        “Gilead Republican”

        So your political analysis is based on a stupid TV show (The Handmaid’s Tail)? Sorry but in my judgment the true religious fanatics these days are on the Dem side and a lot of them are atheists. Non rational thinking is very much a thing among those Ivy educated sophisticates. And one article of faith is that the heartland is coming to get them via megachurches or perhaps a new Mormon style patriarchy. Fiction and nonfiction need to be kept carefully separated.

  7. playon


    USPS to close 115 post offices effective immediately, apparently due to weather, so temporary closings…?

    Whatever happened to that unofficial motto “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds.”?

    Locally, Cle Elum, a small town in Kittitas county WA had their post office flooded due to a broken pipe and have been sorting mail in the alley behind the P.O. for months in freezing weather. Postal employees are unable to work inside the building because there is asbestos present. Local rep Kim Schrier has written letters to Louis DeJoy but so far no help. Sh*thole country.


    1. Wukchumni

      You can’t spend time in Congress looking busy unless you’re busy renaming post offices, but if they’re closed it’s a moot point, so maybe it’s their long suit,

  8. agent ranger smith

    About FTC versus noncompetes . . . ” So I can’t understand why the Biden Administration is letting it happen.”

    Maybe some things just make no sense and passeth all understanding.

    Maybe it is important that the Biden Administration IS letting it happen, even if it doesn’t know WHY it is letting it happen its own self.

    I feel confident that if we get a successor Republican Administration, President Next Repub will make very sure to put a stop to it happening, and “non-compete clauses” will become the Rule of the Land again. And I feel confident that that is only one of the “deconstruction of the Administrative State” type activities which a Republican successor Administration will bring us.

    Based on my confidence in those predictions, I will likely vote for the Dem Ticket next year in order to keep our ongoing national collapse slow enough that I can prepare for it and hopefully survive it. In that sense, I am a self-preservationist Delayist. I want to delay the crash and soften it into a crash landing.

    If one is an Accelerationist, one would certainly vote for the Republican ticket for all the proper Leninist reasons. Since I am not an Accelerationist, I won’t be voting Repub.

  9. Sub-Boreal

    Bonnie Henry watch:

    Yesterday I reported that a recent (Dec. 30) change to the British Columbia official guidance on masking made it modestly stronger than what Dr. Henry was currently giving in her public comments.

    That inconsistency didn’t last long before it was cleansed away, as was noted in the past hour.

  10. LawnDart

    Re; no cash

    Stupid as F.

    When on the road, I always carry enough to get me back home– gas, bus, cigarette money for trucker… …whatever. It saved my butt more than once: when an ice-storm knocked power out across a region, when a data-breach caused my bank to freeze cards and would not mail a replacement to the hotel I was at… …maybe traveller’s checks or something easily pawned if uncomfortable with cash, but have something, anything other than electronic ones-and-zeros that can buy you time to work with!

    1. playon

      Yeah unless you have cash it’s all fun and games until the power goes out. Same goes for crypto.

      1. agent ranger smith

        If the power goes out, doesn’t the crypto go out? And wouldn’t the sort of reality-based people you might depend on in such an emergency be skeptical of crypto anyway?

        ” Hey pal, your crypto’s no good here. Its no good anywhere.”

    2. Noh1

      Especially because there are more and more cyber attacks. Without cash, you are at the mercy of the vicissitudes of electronic access.

    3. griffen

      I like keeping my cash handy just to prevent storing all my spending habits with the overlords in one convenient tracking device, er, credit statement. That said I think the trend has grown since the onset of the pandemic; go to a convenience store for a case of beer or what not and see how many pay with a card. Visit the local grocery store and skip the lines but one can only do so by flashing the Visa card.

      Also, over the holidays, I watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles in fits and starts. Towards the end of the calamities ( a seemingly endless series of travel drudgery ) the rental car catches aflame and along with it a wallet stored in the glove compartment. Cash burns just like everything else!

  11. FreeMarketApologist

    RE: Flavored Software: Under “warning signs”: “Leans hard on in-app copy to make users feel an emotional connection with the software”

    I am sooooo tired of ordinary office applications (looking at you, Webex), that want to be my cute and cuddly friend. Each time I log in, it says “nice to meet you”. It has a line image of marshmallows on sticks roasting over a fire. And yet, the working interface is ugly (and you are truly [family blogged] if you are color blind), wasteful of my screen space (not sufficiently compact), and wasteful of my time (too many mouse clicks, not enough automation of the routine).

    I’m not advocating a return to the 1970’s green screen (though in some cases, perhaps!), but I would love to see the current set of software ‘designers’ slapped around a bit.

    (The article also has some good ideas that are readily transferable to other activity domains.)

    1. Laura in So Cal

      It seems that every few months some perfectly functional website undergoes an update. Every one in the past few years has made the website harder to use and often contains less data. More icons, more pastels, but less information and less compact. For me it is an inconvenience, but for my visually impaired father, it is torture. It like rearranging the furniture in a blind person’s home. Several websites have become totally unusable for him.

      There are software consultants making lots of $$ doing work that looks good. But it crap as far as I’m concerned.

  12. hk

    The way the House speaker balloting is progressing (or not) is just astonishing. When it is obvious that the votes aren’t there, it makes no sense to keep voting: you should talk to everyone on the sidelines, cut deals as necessary, and not bother voting again until the deals are secure. Where does McCarthy and his people think they are going if they keep voting and keep getting the same 201 votes and no more than that?

    “Agreement incapable” applies to domestic politics as much as the foreign policy.

    1. JBird4049

      >> Where does McCarthy and his people think they are going …

      Hey, isn’t still Hillary Clinton’s turn?

      It is all about the ego for these freaks, which is one of the reasons for things falling apart. Even back in the bad old days of First Gilded Age, people often got power not only to get filthy rich, like today’s politicians, but they also often wanted to do something; getting office to orally satisfy egos and get bribes in an endless effort to fill an unfillable soulless emptiness does not lead to the creation of anything. This just shows how worse the Second Gilded Age is and we haven’t yet seen a real push back or a glimpse of the ground.

  13. JBird4049

    >>>We’ve known this for a while, but we now have final confirmation for 2021. In both 2020 and 2021, over 1% of the US population died. This hasn’t happened since the 1940s. It will be pretty close in 2022 again, sadly, once we have complete data https://t.co/IE14F2Dlts

    Assuming that having an annual death rate of one percent and that the birth rate has crashed and is nowhere near to what it was when the death was normally one percent, just where does that leave us? People use to marvel at the population death dive of the states from the former Soviet Union especially Russia. Does anyone, anyone at all, not see this happening for the still existing, for now, United States?

    1. hk

      Case and Deaton (same people who wrote the paper on the mortality in former USSR) wrote an analogous paper on US mortality (showing analogous patterns) some years ago (right before 2020 election, I think).

  14. Carla

    “American households earning as little as $47,189 and up to $141,568 are technically in the middle class.”

    Gee, I would imagine it might be possible for a single-person household earning $47,189 to be rather comfortably middle class, especially if they live in a low-rent part of the country, while a 6- or 8-person household earning $141,568 could be really struggling to stay afloat no matter where they live, and if they happen to live in a desirable coastal city, they would be poverty-level, no matter what the statisticians say.

    Statistics are such a goddamned racket.

    1. JBird4049

      Yes, and working class families use to easily afford either a good apartment or a house, but are increasing part of the homeless around here.

  15. The Rev Kev

    People are making pointed tweets about the whole McCarthy brawl-

    ‘Defund Ukraine
    Democrats furious with Republicans selecting their leaders by a democratic process.

    “Where are the superdelegates? The backroom deals? The falling in line behind the person who gave you the most lobbyist cash?” complained AOC and the Squad’


    But I was told withholding votes from someone trying to become Speaker of the House was a losing strategy that couldn’t win concessions???’


    1. JTMcPhee

      What was that little cut of AOC in the House seemingly standing up to some suited white guy when he mentioned a name, I couldn’t make it out, and she says, “Oh, its (unintellible) then.” And she wimps out. Tiny incident in the display of where the real power lies and how foolish it is to hope for something better from this system.

      It’s kind of fun watching the idiot neocons ramping up the provocations and “let’s push on the Rooskies more and more and find out if they really mean any of that red line woofing.” Knowing what the likely endgame is.

  16. Mikel

    Re: Covid and mouthwash

    Serious question:
    What about Bacardi 151? (alcoholic beverage, 151 proof)

    That can even be swallowed (not talking large amounts) and get more of the throat too.

    And a toast to the guy with the “credibility debt” thread.

    1. JBird4049

      151 proof? Wow. Is spontaneous human combustion still a thing? At 75% alcohol, I might stop worrying about catching Covid and start worrying about catching fire.

  17. Jason Boxman

    So Neeva search engine just launched their own AI search, and it includes references to where it got the data. It’s available by default. Regular search results are also included. This looks different from the usual search result Google has at the top that simply quotes parts of a single source in a box. This synthesizes a result from multiple sources.

    1. ambrit

      Yep. A dead ungulate in Venice, circa 1908 means that she really Mann’d Up. [At least it’s a ‘beautiful’ ungulate.]

  18. Mikel

    “The cashless future is here. So is Big Brother.”
    “The digital dollar is coming on the back of the FTX collapse” The Hill (from links earlier today)

    All the focus is on the government and banks/central banks access to accounts.
    A big focus needs to be on corporations and businesses access to how people have been spending money.
    This economic system is the merger of big business AND government. Instead of the credit check, imagine a future “spending check” that a potential employer or client may do?
    It’s control over people’s lives as if they were always on the clock – like a slave being monitored every minute of the day.

  19. none

    €390M fine strikes blow to Meta’s ad-fueled business model” [Politico]. “In decisions on Wednesday targeting its Facebook and Instagram platforms, Meta is not only on the hook for fines totaling nearly €400 million, but it must also — quickly — find a new legal basis for its sprawling targeted advertising empire.

    Nah they can just pivot their whole revenue stream to what they must have been doing quietly for years:


  20. chris

    Team Zelenskyy, winning hearts and minds…

    Ukraine Rejects Cease-Fire Offer for Orthodox Christmas

    I don’t understand this. It would be one of the easiest things to do to help their position for more support from their backers. It would not prevent them from backing out of future deals. Ukraine is making it easy for the rest of the world to sympathize with Putin. Not an easy thing to do!

    1. tevhatch

      It’s a grift from the git go, the only backers that matter are the bankers. Zelenskyi now has Slaboda Gang taking over Ukrainian Orthodox Churches (a church that denounced Putin) to ransack them, the monasteries, and nunneries (without a peep from Joe Biden, arch Catholic). The gig is almost up and it’s time to sweep up the last crumbs.

    2. hk

      Also, highlighting the “religious” dimension of the conflict: the Ukrainian Greek (Rite) Catholic Church has been closely associated with Ukrainian nationalism since late 19th century. I think they celebrate Christmas on the Gregorian calendar (or, at least started to do so), to align themselves (even more) with the West. But, by the same token, the Russian “schismatics” and the heretical traitors are celebrating Christmas on the wrong day so one can’t have that.

      And yes, Zelensky not being a Christian is also not helping things here.

  21. fjallstrom

    I am rather fascinated with this battle. In the European political tradition I am used to, the speaker position is prestigious and important, but not nearly as powerful as in the apparent US tradition. There are usually rules, say there will be a floor vote on all proposals that comes out of committee and all proposals that are voted down in committee but have at least X supporters.

    This can yield many proposals, some of which are mutually incompatible, and the speakers job is to pair these of in a way that enables the chamber to get to a coherent decision. There is some power there, A versus B and winner against C doesn’t always get the same result as B versus C and winner against A. But the ability to abuse such a procedure is limited and dependent on being really good at seeing how the decision tree will sort out, which is something you want in a speaker.

    In the best possible outcome, the US would resolve these battles by moving power from speaker to the house members. Though as we live in the stupidest timeline, I suspect that is out of the question.

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