2:00PM Water Cooler 2/10/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Reader Query Once More: Periodically we’ve posted threads of recommendations for vendors (doctors, dentists, restaurants, retail, gyms, performance venues) that are what I might call “airborne conscious,” that is, having proper ventilation (HEPA, CO2 meter, maybe Far UV), and masking. Am I right in thinking that there is no central repository for airborne conscious vendors? Very infrequently I see a site float by, but nothing really seems to click. Thank you! –lambert P.S. There’s certainly nothing on Google Maps, in the sense that this information is a normal field like address and phone, which would indeed be very handy, though perhaps someone has built a Google map that does this.

Bird Song of the Day

Ultramarine Grosbeak, Distrito Capital, Venezuela. “Neotropical Institute Cut # 8. Bulk reel: 177 Background quite clean although Arremonops conirostris is heard faintly. Note: the last two songs may be of a different individual.”

* * *


“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’s SOTU stats:

However, if, as Stoller urges below, Biden’s real audience was the party, this doesn’t matter very much.

“Former Twitter Executives Say They Erred in Blocking Links to Hunter Biden Laptop Articles” [Wall Street Journal]. The deck: “Executives tell House Oversight Committee that mistakes stemmed from limited information, not pressure from government officials.” • The deck seems to encapsulate the Democrat(/RINO?) framing very well. So, no “government officials,” no problem? This is moronic. First, the pressure came from Democrat party officials (as “The Twitter Files” makes quite clear). The head of that party later became President, and it’s not implausible to think that’s the result of “election interference” in the form of Twitter’s suppression of the New York Post’s story on Hunter Biden’s laptop. (Surely, what’s sauce for the “but her emails” goose is sauce for the “Hunter’s laptop” gander?) Second, the distinction between Twitter employees, government officials, and the Democrat Party is a false one. In reality, Twitter content moderation was a ginormous cuddle puddle of Democrat tribalist Flexians, some pitching, some catching, in which all such distinctions were collapsed. Holy Lord, the Republicans are going to butcher this easy lay-up, I can see it coming.

“House GOP’s under-the-radar Hunter Biden problem: DOJ got there first” [Politico]. “House Republicans are itching to investigate Hunter Biden. But they have a problem: The feds got there first. Though their probes differ in focus and scope — Republicans are looking at possible conflicts of interest by the Biden family writ large while the Justice Department homes in on potential crimes by Hunter Biden — they’re treading on overlapping terrain. That’s an issue for the House GOP, because any DOJ indictment of Hunter Biden would effectively close off certain investigative paths. The turf battle has flown largely under the radar, but it threatens to undermine one of House Republicans’ most highly visible priorities for their new majority. Investigating Hunter Biden is one of the few things they could do unilaterally, at least in theory. But the DOJ looms as a potential roadblock.” • I wouldn’t worry. Surely the DOJ investigation will be complete before 2024.


“Biden’s 2024 headaches” [Axios]. “Chicago Democrats are pushing President Biden to choose their city for the 2024 Democratic National Convention, warning that hosting the event in a right-to-work state like Georgia would be a major insult to the labor movement.” Note also: “The DNC has given New Hampshire and Georgia until June to comply with the new calendar dates, but Democrats will punish New Hampshire if they jump ahead, likely by revoking delegates at the national party convention.”

“Poll: DeSantis leads Trump for 2024 GOP nod — but not if Haley and others split the vote” [Yahoo News]. • This is their story: Trump won because the party was divided. No. Trump won because he was the better candidate. (Purely on the technical, nuts and bolts level: Show me another candidate who did A/B testing, personally, live before audiences.)

“DeSantis edges closer to 2024 decision” [The Hill]. “Several Republicans familiar with the deliberations say that DeSantis is almost certain to seek the GOP’s presidential nomination. His advisers have begun reaching out to and interviewing potential hires for a campaign and are gaming out the best time to announce his intentions. A formal campaign launch is still months away, they say, and won’t likely come until after the state legislature wraps up its regular session in May. Two sources familiar with the plans said that the Florida governor could announce his presidential bid as early as late May or early June. ‘I think his mind is pretty much made up at this point,’ one Republican operative said. ‘My read on it is: Let’s get through session, get some stuff done and see where things stand. But unless something changes drastically between now and then, I’d say he’s a go.’ DeSantis has said little about his 2024 ambitions, but his growing stature within the GOP is clear. Early polling shows him tied with or beating former President Trump, his onetime political benefactor, in a head-to-head primary match-up, and conservatives are increasingly naming him as a top choice for the party’s presidential nod.”

“‘Sorry, Ron, you’re No. 2′: Sununu says he’s the top dog among conservative governors” [Politico]. “‘I’m ranked the most fiscally conservative governor in the country,’ Sununu, who is considering a 2024 presidential bid, told POLITICO’s Lisa Kashinsky. ‘I’m No. 1 in personal freedoms. Sorry, Ron, you’re No. 2,’ he added, a jab at the Florida governor, considered a frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. ‘I would challenge anyone on Second Amendment rights. We’re far and away the best, you know, because we believe in those individual freedoms. Regulatory reform, I’ll challenge any state on it,’ Sununu added. Sununu acknowledged that he may be ‘more moderate’ on social issues. But on those issues, New Hampshire has ‘better results than almost anywhere else,’ he said. ‘I would challenge anyone on conservative credentials.'” • Testing whether short-bodied Yalie DeSantis can take a punch? Because the DeSantis boomlet looks engineered by Never Trumpers, to me.

Republican Funhouse

“Emails expose right-wing fraudsters’ scheme to use robo calls to suppress Black voter turnout in Cleveland” [Cleveland.com]. ” Hours after right-wing fraud peddlers Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl unleashed tens of thousands of robocalls on Black voters in Cleveland and other cities across the country to suppress their vote in the November 2020 election, Burkman dashed off a giddy email to his partner provocateur…. The emails bolstered Cuyahoga County prosecutors’ assertion that the men specifically sought to suppress Black voter turnout in the 2020 election between Democrat Joe Biden and then-President Donald Trump…. The email is among several pieces of evidence that prosecutors here used to charge and eventually elicit guilty pleas from Burkman and Wohl for calls that went to Cleveland and East Cleveland residents. The men also face similar criminal charges in Michigan, which are pending.”

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.

* * *

“Bill Clinton Has Left the Building” [Matt Stoller, BIG]. I put this in Links this morning, but I want to draw your attention to this paragraph:

The way to understand political arguments isn’t about who wins the debate. It’s about who gets to ask the question. If the President proposes something about flag burning, then politics becomes defined around what people think of flag burning. If he discusses big business, then big business becomes the realm of political activity. So what Biden said in his State of the Union mattered, because it told the Democratic Party establishment what to think about.

This jibes very nicely with the portrait of the Democrat Party — really, the heirarchy of elected and party officials, by no means the complete Party — painted by Kim Stanley Robinons in New York, 2140, quoted in Water Cooler, January 31. Charlotte, one of the protagonists, has just been asked to run for Congress:

“No way!” Charlotte said, shocked. “What about the mayor’s candidate?”>

[The Democrat] Party was a hierarchy; you started at the bottom and moved up one step at a time—school board, city council, state assembly—and then if you had demonstrated lockstep team loyalty, the powers at the top would give you the party endorsement and its aid, and you were good to go. Had been that way for centuries. Outsiders did pop up to express various dissatisfactions, and occasionally some of them even overthrew the order of things and got elected, but then they were ostracized by the party and could get nothing done. They just wasted their time and whatever little money could be dredged up to support such quixotic tilts.

So indeed “the powers at the top” tell “the Democratic Party establishment what to think about.” Seems like a vulnerability….

Realignment and Legitimacy

“U.S. lawmakers try again to end ‘forever war’ authorizations” [Reuters]. “Democratic and Republican U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation on Thursday seeking to repeal two longstanding authorizations for past wars in Iraq, renewing an ongoing effort to reassert Congress’ role in deciding whether to send troops into combat. Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, Republican Senator Todd Young, Republican Representatives Tom Cole and Chip Roy and Democratic Representatives Barbara Lee and Abigail Spanberger led the effort to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, or AUMFs.” • Moderates!

“Martin Wolf on Democratic Capitalism (and me as it turns out!)” [Equality by Lot]. “Martin Wolf is talking up a storm on the crisis of democratic capitalism, and he’s supporting sortition as you can hear from around 11 minutes in where I’ve set it up to begin.”

“You’re probably wrong about how things have changed” [Experimental History]. “I think the better solution is to crank down your convictions. It’s easy to feel like you know what things were like back then and what they’re like now, but it’s hard to actually know. You can’t get a good sense of the past or the present by skimming the headlines, just like you can’t get a good sense of America by spending a 4-hour layover at the Reno airport. You have to rent a car and drive around, talk to people, eat a burrito, fall in love, watch some bad standup, host Thanksgiving, go camping, get your heart broken, take the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty, play intramural basketball, and move apartments four times in three years—and even then all you really know is that you don’t know much. And that’s just what it takes to know the present. Knowing the past is much harder. History is an endless display of priceless vases and time is a dude with a sledgehammer smashing each one in turn: once a moment is gone, it’s gone for good, and all we can do is try to piece together what it used to look like. Maybe this piece went with that one? Maybe it’s a picture of a—is that a lion, or is that a person? Meanwhile, the pile of shards grows taller. These studies show that, when we try to glue the vases back together, we don’t just mix up some pieces randomly. We consistently put some of them in the wrong place. One of the big mistakes we make is failing to realize how liberal attitudes already were in the past, and how little they’ve changed since then. Americans were already split on abortion in the 1970s, they’ve long thought that people with unpopular opinions should have the right to free speech, and most of them have believed for decades that humans are causing climate change. A majority of them also thought interracial marriage was bad as recently as 1990. The past is complicated, man. So next time you’ve got an inkling that things ain’t like they used to be, consider the possibility that you might be totally wrong. Man, people used to be so much better at this!”


Lambert here:

Looks like “leveling off to a high plateau” across the board. Stay safe out there!

A bit of self-criticisism here: Unlike Eric Topol I did not call a “surge” in January, because in my mind a “surge” worthy of the name would need to be of Bidenian, Omicronic scale. However, I prepared to make the call. My theory of the case was that (1) holiday travel, the elimination of all mitigations, and new variants that were more transmissible and immune evasive would make the numbers, and (2) the pattern of spread, given holiday travel, would be similar to the pattern in 2020: Starting in airports, with air travel, and spreading. Hence, as you will remember, I started tracking wastewater in airports and hospitalization in 2020’s epicenter, New York (JFK/LGA), and indeed both wastewater and hospitalization in those areas were high. But no surge on the Omicron level made itself visible, and so I did not call one. However, what the wastewater case data (see below) clearly shows is that there was a surge, slightly higher than July 2022, and higher than all the surges except Omicron. This surge I did not call, for which I apologize. (I flashed on using the wastewater data as a proxy for case data too late.) Perhaps I’ve become jaded, idk.

I still think “Something Awful” is coming, however. I mean, besides what we already know about.

* * *

Lambert here (again):

Today I’m going to reconfigure Covid coverage (at least temporarily; we may need to adjust to another surge). I’ve always thought of this section as providing readers with not only trend data, but early warning about locations (to the county level) particularly in travel season. But now the data is simply too slow and too bad, unsurprisingly, since “Covid is over.” So I will revert to three charts only: national Case Data (Biobot), state Positivity (Walgreens), and national Deaths (Our World in Data). I will include links to Transmission (CDC), Wastewater (CDC), and Variants (CDC; Walgreens). I will still cover all of these topics (especially variants), but eliminate the charts. I also feel that the top of the #COVID19 section has not been sufficiently structured, and I’m going to create some buckets, like “Indoor Air,” or “Masks” (and “Variants,” if I encounter a good link). This reconfiguration is not a “step back,” as Dima would say; but I do think I can use the freed-up time to beef up other sections, like Politics and especially Stats. Reader comment welcome!

Indoor Air

“Hidden harms of indoor air pollution — five steps to expose them” [Nature]. “Air pollution is a leading cause of illness — from asthma to heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and, probably, dementia. For outdoor air pollution, improved standards and regulations, guided by science, have over the past three decades markedly driven down emissions of particulates, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide in many parts of the world. Indoor air pollution hasn’t received the same attention, even though it might cause almost as many deaths globally — 3.2 million in 2020, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), compared with around 3.5 million linked to polluted outdoor air (see go.nature.com/3jngf7x). In industrialized nations, most people spend 80–90% of their time indoors — in private homes as well as in public spaces such as schools, workplaces, transport hubs, hospitals and supermarkets. Such spaces are typically not subject to legally enforceable ambient air-quality standards… Decision makers need scientific evidence to help them prioritize groups of interventions and to develop strategies for improving indoor air quality. There are many options, but it is difficult to quantify the effect of each intervention (see go.nature.com/3wv28vt). Generally, as for outdoors, removing the largest sources of emission is most effective. That might mean replacing gas cookers with electric stoves, or reformulating products — for example, changing sprays such as deodorants and air fresheners that contain butane and propane to use nitrogen or air instead. Some indoor sources are surprisingly large — in the United Kingdom, compressed-aerosol cans now release more volatile organic compounds than do petrol cars.”

Mass producing Corsi-Rosenthal boxes:

I don’t know why the hatred and shaming for masks doesn’t happen with CR Boxes too. Odd!


“Is Orthrus the Next Top-Dog COVID Variant?” [MedPage Today]. “The Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5opens in a new tab or window — aka “Krakenopens in a new tab or window” — has climbed to more than 66% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., but a relatively new Omicron subvariant named after a two-headed dog may be nipping at its tentacles. Over the last several weeks, CH.1.1 — deemed “Orthrusopens” after a monster canine in Greek mythology — accounted for less than 2% of new COVID cases in the U.S. as of January, per the CDC. However, Orthrus has a mutation, L452R, previously seen in the highly pathogenic Delta variant, and highly transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 variants, according to researchers from the Ohio State University in Columbus. In a BioRxiv preprint, Shan-Lu Liu, MD, PhD, and colleagues said Orthrus emerged in Southeast Asia in November 2022, and now accounts for about a quarter of cases in the U.K. and New Zealand. At other times in the pandemic, the U.K. has served as a bellwether of what could hit the U.S. in terms of new variants and potential surges. They also explained that Orthrus, along with another new variant, CA.3.1, possess a ‘consistently stronger neutralization resistance than XBB, XBB.1, and XBB.1.5, which is astonishing and warrants continuous monitoring and further investigations.’ Liu’s group called for continuing current vaccination strategies, or the investigation of new ones, and the ongoing surveillance of emerging variants. The February 2023 COVID epidemiological update from the World Health Organization (WHO) lists Orthrus among the top three most prevalent variants in Europe, clocking in at 12.3%, slightly behind BQ.1 at 13% and BQ.1.1 at 31.3%.”


“Early Treatment with Pegylated Interferon Lambda for Covid-19” [NEJM (NL)]. n = 933. Brazil. From the Discussion: “This phase 3 trial, which was conducted in a predominantly vaccinated population infected with various SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, showed the efficacy of a single subcutaneous dose of pegylated interferon lambda administered within 7 days after the onset of symptoms (mean, 3 days). This regimen resulted in a greater than 50% reduction in the risk of a primary-outcome [hospitalization or ER] event. Our trial findings were consistent across the SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and across multiple subgroups according to vaccination status.”

“Incidence and predictors of breakthrough and severe breakthrough infections of SARS-CoV-2 after primary series vaccination in adults: A population-based survey of 22,575 participants” (accepted manuscript) [Journal of Infectious Diseases]. n = 89,762. From the Abstract: “Breakthrough infection was 4-25 times more common during the Omicron-dominant wave versus earlier waves. Higher burden of severe breakthrough infections was identified in subgroups.”


Vascular damage:

Good to see this make it through on one of the networks.

Science Is Popping

“Scientists discover receptor that blocks COVID-19 infection” (press release) [University of Sydney]. “University of Sydney scientists have discovered a protein in the lung that blocks SARS-CoV-2 infection and forms a natural protective barrier in the human body. This protein, the leucine-rich repeat-containing protein 15 (LRRC15), is an inbuilt receptor that binds the SARS-CoV-2 virus without passing on the infection. The research opens up an entirely new area of immunology research around LRRC15 and offers a promising pathway to develop new drugs to prevent viral infection from coronaviruses like COVID-19 or deal with fibrosis in the lungs. The study has been published in the journal PLOS Biology. ”

“Inhalable ‘SHIELD’ Protects Lungs Against COVID-19, Flu Viruses” (press release) [North Carolina State University]. “Researchers have developed an inhalable powder that could protect lungs and airways from viral invasion by reinforcing the body’s own mucosal layer. The powder, called Spherical Hydrogel Inhalation for Enhanced Lung Defense, or SHIELD, reduced infection in both mouse and non-human primate models over a 24-hour period, and can be taken repeatedly without affecting normal lung function. ‘The idea behind this work is simple – viruses have to penetrate the mucus in order to reach and infect the cells, so we’ve created an inhalable bioadhesive that combines with your own mucus to prevent viruses from getting to your lung cells,’ says Ke Cheng, corresponding author of the paper describing the work. “Mucus is the body’s natural hydrogel barrier; we are just enhancing that barrier.” • One can only wonder how much creative, useful, life-saving work has been held back by “vax only” and “the pandemic is over.” But there seems to be a lot of work coming out just now (I commented on all the nasal-related work coming out in prestigious journals). One can only hope that’s not a sign that funding has dried up.

“Mucociliary Clearance Augmenting Drugs Block SARS-Cov-2 Replication in Human Airway Epithelial Cells” [bioRxiv]. “A prominent component of COVID-19 is the infection and destruction of the ciliated respiratory cells, which perpetuates dissemination and disrupts protective mucociliary transport (MCT) function, an innate defense of the respiratory tract. Thus, drugs that augment MCT could improve barrier function of the airway epithelium, reduce viral replication and, ultimately, COVID-19 outcomes. We tested five agents known to increase MCT through distinct mechanisms for activity against SARS-CoV-2 infection using a model of human respiratory epithelial cells terminally differentiated in an air/liquid interphase. Three of the five mucoactive compounds tested showed significant inhibitory activity against SARS-CoV-2 replication.” • Same comment as above.

Professional Malfeasance

Hospital Infection Control is at it again:

“Cost neutral” is rather a give-away, isn’t it? Nickel-and-diming patients to death to keep the mask line item low! As Coatsworth would, in his private practice (as opposed to Canadian Medicare).

At the doctor’s office:

Fathomless arrogance and ignorance!

* * *

Case Data

BioBot wastewater data from February 9:

For now, I’m going to use this national 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.


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

-0.8%. Still on the high plateau, equal to previous peaks.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,139,675 – 1,137,929 = 1746 (1746 * 365 = 637,290 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. (Though CDC may be jiggering the numbers soon. Lower, naturally.)

Stats Watch

There are no statistics of note today.

* * *

Shipping: “More boxships inactive as freight levels tank” [Container News]. “Close to 6% of the global boxship fleet is now idle, up from just under 5% a week ago, according to Alphaliner. It appears that it is mainly the carrier-controlled small and mid-sized vessels that are now unemployed. Alphaliner’s count suggests that 338 vessels totalling around 1.48 million TEUs are now inactive, as freight levels, cargo volumes, and port congestion revert to pre-Covid-19 levels. The inactive fleet was dominated by 1,000 TEU to 2,000 TEU ships, with 74 idle vessels followed by 3,000 TEU to 5,100 TEU range, of which there were 64 idle vessels. Vessel inactivity increase across all ship size classes with the exception of very large and ultra large ships above 12,500 TEUs, where it remained more or less stable, with just 31 inactive ships. nIdle ships are defined as vessels that are not generating revenue, such as those in warm or cold lay-up, in-between service assignments for longer-than-normal periods, arrested, detained, abandoned, or idle for any other reasons.”

The Bezzle: “Cheating carriers could cost web-starved Americans billions in subsidies” [The Register]. “Major US carriers are exaggerating the availability of fixed wireless services and leaving under-served communities at risk of missing out on billions in federal funding that would pay for improved services. The findings, detailed in a Bloomberg report this week, found that T-Mobile and Verizon routinely claimed to offer fixed wireless services where no such service was actually available. The incentive to do so is obvious from a competitive standpoint: marketing is marketing after all. According to Bloomberg, the carriers’ coverage maps claim services are available before they’ve actually built the necessary infrastructure. But if they have plans to build the infrastructure eventually, what’s the harm? The harm is that if carrier maps show that particular cities and towns already have broadband access they won’t be eligible for a share of the $42.5 billion in federal infrastructure funds the Biden administration allocated to improve internet service across the US.”

The Bezzle: “U.S. judge extends FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s bail restrictions” [Reuters]. “‘I am far less interested in the defendant’s convenience’ than in preventing possible witness-tampering, [U.S. District Judge Lewis] Kaplan said at a hearing in Manhattan federal court.” • And there is like a billion dollars floating around out there somewhere, no?

The Bezzle: A thread on spotting ChatGPT papers:

Manufacturing: “Boeing 737 MAX plea deal withstands challenge from crash victims’ families” [Reuters]. “A U.S. judge in Texas on Thursday denied a legal bid by families of the victims of two Boeing (BA.N) 737 MAX crashes to reopen or reject a January 2021 deferred prosecution agreement. Boeing won immunity from criminal prosecution as part of the $2.5 billion Justice Department agreement over a 737 MAX fraud conspiracy charge related to the plane’s flawed design. The families had asked the court to strip Boeing of immunity from prosecution, toss out, revise or supervise the agreement and order disclosure of information about Boeing’s conduct. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled he did not have legal authority to grant the relatives’ requests despite what he called ‘Boeing’s egregious criminal conduct.'”

Mr. Market: “The Stock Market Is in the Mood to Rally, Even if It Defies Logic” [Barron’s]. “There’s still a big disconnect in the market’s logic. If the labor market and the economy hold up, then the Fed would probably not feel inclined to lower interest rates in the back half of 2023, as futures pricing implies. It might take some real deterioration in the economic data to spur the central bank into action. In other words, it’s hard to see a scenario aside from rates staying higher for longer—lifting bond yields and putting pressure on stock valuations—or growth disappointing, dragging down earnings. There’s still a big disconnect in the market’s logic. If the labor market and the economy hold up, then the Fed would probably not feel inclined to lower interest rates in the back half of 2023, as futures pricing implies. It might take some real deterioration in the economic data to spur the central bank into action. In other words, it’s hard to see a scenario aside from rates staying higher for longer—lifting bond yields and putting pressure on stock valuations—or growth disappointing, dragging down earnings.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 70 Greed (previous close: 72 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 76 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 10 at 1:40 PM EST.

Civil War Studies

Minnesota nice:

Many other examples, you betcha!

Bird Flu (H5N1)

Let’s hope it’s a flash in the pan. Reader updates welcome!

See the thread for commentary on the sourcing. I think Najberg is at least real enough to draw to your attention. (Note that I have very strong priors on air travel. But just because something rings true doesn’t mean it is true.)

A followup:

The difficulty here, after Covid, is believing public health officials. They don’t want us to panic (meaning they are panicked because my gawd, careers are at stake).

“US – Medical doctor reports there is an H5N1 avian flu case in Houston, reportedly traveled from Hong Kong – February 9, 2023 – no official confirmation yet” [Flu Trackers]. • This looks like the source to watch. It’s a forum, so there’s a long thread, including a response from the physician, Tiffany Najberg, as well as a copy of her physicians license, follow-ups, etc. The moderators published it in “Discussion,” not “News,” a nice distinction!

The Gallery

“Explore Hundreds of Exquisite Botanical Collages Created by an 18th-Century Septuagenarian Artist” [Colossal]. “At age 72, Mary Delany (1700-1788) devoted herself to her art practice, taking up a form of decoupage to create an exquisite collection of botanical collages from dyed and cut paper. She interpreted many of the delicate specimens she encountered in Buckinghamshire while staying with her friend, the Duchess of Portland, through layered pieces on black backdrops. From the wispy clover-like leaves of an oxalis plant to the wildly splayed petals of the daffodil, the realistic works are both stunning for their beauty and faithfulness to the original lifeforms. Known for her scientific precision, Delany labeled each specimen with the plant’s taxonomic and common names, the date, location of creation, name of the donor, and a collection number, the latter of which was used to organize all 985 collages in her Flora Delanica series. Together, the works create a vast and diverse florilegium, or compilation of botanicals and writings in the tradition of commonplace books.” For example:

Zeitgeist Watch

Like the Moscow Subway:

Or the New York Public Library, in its own way.

Via Nippersmom:

Our Famously Free Press

“Finish line: Fighting unwinnable wars” [Axios]. • Anecdote about Roger Ailes. Funny, I thought the story would be about something else. Maybe I shoujld have filed this under Zeitgeist Watch.

Class Warfare

“Two former factory workers are going head to head in a battle to control one of America’s most powerful unions” [Fortune]. “[This] will be the first-ever direct election of a UAW president in the union’s 88-year history… Until this year, the leaders of the UAW had always been chosen by delegates to a convention rather than by rank-and-file union members. But in the aftermath of a bribery-and-embezzlement scandal involving union officials, members voted to hold a direct election this time…. Under Curry’s leadership for the past 19 months, the UAW has taken a more aggressive stance in labor talks, having gone on strike against Volvo Trucks, John Deere, the University of California and CNHI, a maker of agricultural and construction equipment. In forthcoming contract negotiations, Curry and Fain have each said they would seek to restore traditional pensions, which, beginning in 2007, were replaced by a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan for new hires. Both also want cost-of-living and general pay raises and an end to differing tiers of wages and benefits for workers doing the same jobs, depending on their length of service.” • However:


“Will New Leadership Make the UAW Labor’s Vanguard Once Again?” [The Nation]. “The insurgent candidate, Fain, joined the UAW in 1994 as an electrician at Chrysler’s Kokomo Casting Plant. After nearly 20 years in the shop, he became a union staffer but also a burr under the leadership’s saddle. He was among those on the UAW bargaining team who urged rank-and-file rejection of contracts that won little or nothing from Fiat-Chrysler. With other reformers, Fain wanted the UAW to elect top officers by vote of the entire membership—a break from the long-standing delegated convention system that insured control by an Administrative Caucus all too adept at doling out favors or punishing dissidents. Curry, an African American who got his start in a North Carolina truck plant, has been on the union executive board for more than a decade. He won board appointment to the union presidency in 2021. The Administration Caucus was founded three-quarters of a century ago by the newly empowered forces supporting Walter Reuther. At the time, it was a vibrant coalition of militants, ranging from Trotskyists on the left to Catholics corporatists on the right, all ready to take on the big auto corporations. But after 1980 UAW membership plummeted as plant closures, foreign competition, periodic recessions, and the growth of nonunion production in the South sapped the union’s strength.”

“‘Disrespectful to the Craft:’ Actors Say They’re Being Asked to Sign Away Their Voice to AI” [Vice]. “Voice actors are increasingly being asked to sign rights to their voices away so clients can use artificial intelligence to generate synthetic versions that could eventually replace them, and sometimes without additional compensation, according to advocacy organizations and actors who spoke to Motherboard. Those contractual obligations are just one of the many concerns actors have about the rise of voice-generating artificial intelligence, which they say threaten to push entire segments of the industry out of work.”

News of the Wired

“Rage Against the Machine” [American Philosophical Association]. “Until machines can themselves reason with us and shape our collective moral norms, our reactive emotional responses to them will not fall into the participant attitudes and will not confer responsibility.” • So we can kill ChatGPT with fire?

“Heat pumps boom in Maine, despite frigid cold and oil industry pushback” [WaPo]. • I looked inside one once and it had circuit boards. Outside? Really? I dunno. Also, Maine doesn’t really do air conditioning in the summer. If heat pumps allow that, that’s bad from a climate perspective.

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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 Lee O.:

Lee O. writes: “Fungi, species unknown to me, appeared for the first time in the neighborhood along with the ‘atmospheric rivers’ we’ve been favored with recently. Their shiny orange glow caught my eye–as if lit from within.”

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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. ChrisFromGA

    RE: Boeing the Criminal Corporation

    So, if this judge determined he lacks the authority to hold Boeing accountable for killing 346 souls, who does?

    Actually, I believe the specific legal issue here was the immunity deal. So DoJ broke the law by not allowing the victim’s families to testify before the deal was closed. Seems like someone needs to hold the DoJ accountable – was this merely sloppy lawyering, or something else?

    What specific power does the Federal Judiciary lack here? Seems that if DoJ can just ignore the law, without accountability, then they’re above it.

    Anyone who has a copy of the actual ruling, please post it here.

    1. Bart Hansen

      Boeing makes the Pegasus refueling aircraft for the military. This alone must place the company in the untouchable category. I’ll bet at any one time there will be several of the Pegasus planes in the air throughout the world.

      1. ChrisFromGA

        Ignoring the disturbing implications of that statement, had the judge lifted the immunity deal it would have opened the door to criminal charges against current and past Boeing execs, not necessarily disturbing Boeings defense contracts.

        The company itself would no doubt survive.

    1. upstater

      “Meanwhile, mergers and acquisitions activity in the U.S. this year is down by 76%.”

      You don’t suppose this has anything to do with the Fed raising interest rates from 12 years of near ZIRP to 4.75% (which is still negative given inflation)?

      Pundits see what they want to see through rose colored glasses.

      1. Late Introvert

        And I passed by the SOTU for about 5 seconds and was utterly appalled at the garbled speech from that decrepit warmonger on drugs. I can’t take anything he says seriously, DC is a gerontocracy.

        In short, Matt Stoller is dreaming. I wish it were true, the turn against big corporations. I doubt it. Upstater is right, it’s interest rates.

  2. Not Again

    I’m still waiting for AOC to introduce those articles of impeachment against Biden for blowing up Nordstream 2.

    1. tevhatch

      It would go better if you said: “I’m still waiting for AOC to introduce those articles of impeachment against Biden going around Congress’s back to carry out acts of war against Germany.”

      There has to be a better way to word this, back implies there is a spine, which neither AOC or anyone else in Congress for more than one term can possibly have.

      1. pjay

        It does complicate things a bit when the government “victim” in question seems to be good with it, and the vast majority of Congress cheers. However, out of curiosity I would like to hear what AOC has to say on the subject.

        1. The Rev Kev

          I heard AOC go on a rant the other day how Republicans wanted to investigate all that was in Hunter’s laptop but would not talk about things like healthcare – the very same thing that she never talks about anymore. Somebody did a chart of the number of times AOC has talked about healthcare and though there was a lot before she was elected, that number just rapidly declines with each year. Nancy must be happy with the new generation of Democrats replacing her.

          1. tevhatch

            That’s surprising, I’d expect ACO to talk more as she does less, sort of like how she waves her hands to get her chest moving – distraction technique. She is even duller off script than I’d have thought.

    2. chris

      I’m sure that will happen once the Guardian, NYT, WaPo, Chicago Trib, and the LA Times, all congratulate Mr. Hersh on what a fine jib of reporting he did…

  3. Jason Boxman

    And it’s worth noting that, if you’re at a doctor’s office, particularly in America, you’re probably quite desperate for whatever care you seek, so you sadly cannot simply say, with feeling, please put on a respirator you’re putting me at risk, and when the arrogant reply arrives that no mask shall be donned, reply with f**k you and walk out.

    But you’re a hostage, in a sense, to whatever condition brought you into the thralls of the medical system in the first place. So you probably can’t risk alienating someone that maybe can help. Your own illness is weaponized against you. Why not? It’s par for the course in America’s healthcare system.

  4. Mark Gisleson

    “Disrespecting the Craft” sounds a lot like training your replacement to me which is something some of my resume service clients had to do. Maybe now that they’re doing it to actors something can be done about this!

    /sarcasm (these actors are screwed and they know it)

    1. britzklieg

      Stealing voices has been going on for quite a while in the Madison Avenue AD world, especially singers. I used to do off-camera singing TV and radio ads (Olive Garden and AT&T commercials with classical/faux operatic vocal music in the background) and at first they were the most gainful employment I’d ever had, Could go into the studio for an hour to record such 30 and 60 seconds commercials and depending on how often the commercials played received a ridiculous amount of money for as long as they were on the air. The checks just poured in and were enough to pay my rent and qualify for very good SAG and AFTRA health insurance (this was in the ’90s) I made far more money there than I ever did on stage, even when singing at the MET. Frankly it was ridiculous but I wasn’t complaining. Downside were the know-nothing ad execs who made impossible demands , like asking basses to sing in the range of tenors and insisting on a particular “way” to approach the task that was usually incongruous to the talent assembled- “No, no no, no no! It has to go like THIS” and then craoked out something vocal from which no specific “way to go” was discernible.

      Then one day I was called in to sing back up to a pre-recorded Richie Havens ad for Amtrak (oldsters might remember the “all aboard Amtrak, all aboard” campaign which featured his unmistakable voice – I and several friends were singing monosyllabic “train” noises behind his lead vocal – “hoo-hooooo”). The man behind that music was Eddie Jobson, celebrated keyboard/synth musician for many rock bands, including Zappa and Jethro Tull and subsequent winner of Clio Awards – the Oscar equivalent for commercial advertising. After we finished he asked to “sample” our voices with a vague commitment to paying us if he ever used them going forward. I never saw a dime or got another call from him after that, despite the charming way he seduced us: using one of the most famous studios in NYC where everyone, including the Beatles had recorded – he even let me play the mellotron which Lennon had used for something, which was very exciting for a 20 something wannabe in Manhattan.

      I’d already figured out that only the top 1% of classical singers had gainful employment. If an unknown had just enough talent to land money-paying gigs, everyone else – the PMC behind the events_- took their cut first and the talent ended up with pennies and the expectation of unending gratitude for those robbing us.

      The actors signing their voices away don’t have a chance.

      The business of art is a sewer.

      1. britzklieg

        I should add, in tepid defense of Jobson, that he too had probably been seriously ripped off by the rock n roll business from which he emerged – hence his shift to lucrative commercials. Despite his success with Zappa, Tull, Roxy Music etc, his was not among the publicly recognizable names, the “brands” as it were, which, especially after Tom Petty, were able to call the shots with a bit more power and better remuneration for their efforts.

        1. Dr. John Carpenter

          If he worked for Zappa, I guarantee he was ripped off at some point. As much as I love the man’s art, he was a rather notorious “capitalist to his bones” when it came to the business side of things (something his family trust carries forward to this day.) For example, he was sued by a bunch of old band members because he put out some archival live recordings and didn’t feel he needed to pay them.

          And yeah, he himself got screwed by the business too. But stories abound of him perpetuating the same exploitation he complained loudly about when it happened to him.

      2. GramSci

        All business is a sewer; if you don’t put a trap on the lines, gasses foul the atmosphere. My recommended trap fixes maximum income at 10x the minimum wage.

        1. britzklieg

          You’re right, of course. I remember explaining and complaining to my father about the music business – he, a distinguished professor of Spanish and Spanish lit, founding faculty member at a “progressive” religion affiliated liberal arts college in the south and subsequently “Professor Emeritus” there, who before he retired was earning 1/3rd the salary of more “important” peers. His response: “It’s no different in academia, unless one teaches the “toney” subjects like business management and pre-med. If you love what you do and are good enough to be employed doing it, there are no alternatives.” At the time, naming one’s price was not often an option.

      3. C. Rogersen Hart

        Thanks for sharing this. I’m a big fan of the old vocal groups(Hi-Lo’s, Singers Unlimited, 4 Freshmen) and it seems like many of those singers survived on commercial work. I heard an old interview with Marlene VerPlanck where she talked about how she worked constantly from the 1960s and never had an agent. I guess she was in that top 1%.

    1. Mark Gisleson

      Clicked on Wolf and found myself thinking about “democratic sortition.”

      What if everyone got to type in the name (and some sort of specific ID) of their chosen candidate and then got an instant printing (not printout) of a double ticket with their candidate’s name on it, one half for dropping in the lottery box, the other half a receipt/souvenir. Party regulars would generate lots of tickets but every candidate would have a “chance.”

      From that point onwards my thoughts focused more on how to hack this system but I do think that if ticket transportation could be done, the actual picking of tickets should somehow be done by small children of an untrainable age. I do see merit in such a system. Yes, you’d get some peewee level “Trump”s but voters would quickly see the error of that strategy and would pick people they really trusted (or hated, this could easily become a “your turn in the barrel” thing).

      Lambert, keep this up and you could trick me in to voting again. Just change our election system and I’ll give it serious consideration.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Control over the ballot line is the “distinctive competence” of a political party. Both parties will fight this tooth and nail, as they fight even a relatively minor change like RCV. It has always been my thought that a parallel system could be set up. I think of the unions as one institution with the competence to do this, but their elections have been corrupted by union management. Wherever one turns, a thicket of difficulties…

        1. Mark Gisleson

          I wish I could agree on the ability of unions to get this done. I think we both know the American tradition in this regard but this will take more than just one grassy knoll.

          I didn’t express it well, but ‘my’ sortition would allow multiple tickets for one candidate (the party advantage). There has to be an incentive for altruistically casting your vote for a common candidate instead of your best buddy (who’s promised to make you Secretary of State and there’s another bug — you really trust a rando to pick a Cabinet?).

          Still, compared to every other system…sortition does have a certain je’ne sais quoi.

  5. JM

    I can’t say anything about the quality of the things listed here, but the only resource I’m aware of for listing businesses or individuals who are still attempting to minimize COVID transmission is: https://covidmeetups.com/

    I believe I originally found it here on NC, not sure if it was a comment or what.

    1. petal

      He’s part of the Bush/Cheney-wing of the GOP. He hates Trump with the heat of 1000 suns and will do anything he can to make sure Trump doesn’t get anywhere this time.

      1. Carolinian

        And what can he do? Plus who even remembers the guy.

        I saw another story saying that Trump plans to accuse Biden of trying to start WW3 which has the virtue of being true. The weakness of the other Repubs is that they can’t make Biden the issue because they mostly agree with him and especially on Ukraine. Here’s suggesting that’s why they disappointed on the midterms. Per Stoller on the speech, it sounds like Biden is going to once again try the old populist switcheroo along with the Hillary wink wink nudge nudge to the plutocrats. Whatever his many flaws Trump knows, and has always known, where the red meat is stored. Heck we all know if only somebody will say it.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > it sounds like Biden is going to once again try the old populist switcheroo

          It is true that Lina Khan is doing well at the FTC, a thoroughly unexpected Good Thing. Of course, when she actually nails a big player, it’s always possible Biden will swoop in and cut a deal (for more censorship, say).

        1. ambrit

          Could be a Flexicrat, who evolved out of the Dixiecrats of the 1940s. [Both were ‘created’ by Southern politicos supposedly aligned with the Democrat Party.]

  6. Paradan

    Who want’s to bet on whether they bring out Felix Baumgartner for an interview on MSM?

    I’m hoping someone on Reddit starts a campaign for people to call in and report any balloon they see as a Chinese Spy Balloon, so the Feds get swamped with calls.

    Back in the good ole cold war days a bunch of hippies would’ve released a small weather balloon over DC with “@#$% NATO” or something on the side.

    Theory: These balloons are always going over, and the Pentagon just ignored them, but when they shot that first one down, they gave the pilot a confirmed kill, and now all the other fighter jocks want a kill too (as long as they’re equitable). So they’re gonna shoot down every single one from here out. After all there hasn’t been a balloon ace since WWI.

    1. ThirtyOne

      From Cassad’s Telegram:
      The balloon invasion of America continues. The United States claimed that their fighter jet in Alaska shot down another balloon, though they don’t know whose, which treacherously sneaked up on the United States. Now they are going to look for the wreckage in order to establish what was shot down and if it is a ball, then whose.

      1. Carolinian

        Larry Johnson says NORAD detected the last balloon before it crossed into Alaska and thought nothing of it. It was the Bidenistas who decided to make it an issue before the State of the Union.

      2. Not Again

        I just saw a ton of them over at the Dollar Store (the $1.25 store I mean). How can you tell which ones are Chinese?

        1. Skip Intro

          I expect those Chinese balloons cost a lot more than $1.25. On the other hand I’m sure they are orders of magnitude less expensive than an F-22 sortie. How many balloons will it take before the F-22s are all grounded and out of suitable missiles. It seems as clever as launching air defense missiles against drones.

          1. wendigo

            According to the airforce, 44k dollars per hour of flight time, around 10 hours of maintenance per hour and 2 hours mean time between maintenance. About 400 k dollars per missle.

  7. JohnnySacks

    Won’t eliminate my gas heat if/when we go heat pump, that’s for sure. When that stuff starts crapping out there will be no skills available to fix it. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, treated like discard and replace consumer goods. It’s a wham-bam plug and play hit and run install to begin with.
    Think how hard and expensive it is to get a simple appliance part like a stove igniter fixed, then multiply it by 10, waiting in the middle of freezing winter weather.

    1. herman_sampson

      I have been told that heat pumps “work” down to about 20 to 40 degrees F ( I forget exactly), then when it is colder the
      then it’s built-in resistance (or “emergency”) heating takes over. If electricity rates are high, that could be a killer.

      1. Carmen

        Remember the sudden demands for Americans to give up their gas heat, hot water and stove is a ploy to drive down the futures price of gas to hurt the Russians who still export most of it.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Remember the sudden demands for Americans to give up their gas heat, hot water and stove

          That little moral panic did blow up awfully fast, didn’t it? And then disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.

      2. chris

        I’m not sure what model of heat pump you’re talking about with respect to an “emergency heat” function. Many heat pump installers will tell you to include a back-up heat option for extreme cold when you install an air source heat pump (what most just call a “heat pump”). Heat pumps can be very good even in cold climates but before jumping the gun to installing a new system like that I’d make sure your house insulation is what you need. The rate at which heat pumps can increase indoor temperatures can be defeated by a house with a lot of drafts or thin insulation.

        Another concern for installing heat pumps is where to put the outside coil. Since you will be running it in the winter, and since in the winter it is rejecting cold, it will have to go through defrost cycles like your fridge does. If you put that coil underneath some eaves or a place where it will go moisture dumped on it during the winter you could be in for a hard time.

        Another concern is making sure the entire line set for the heat pump is installed per the manufacturer’s instructions. Some people will try to save money by using the existing liquid and gas lines from an A/C. Or they’ll use any old stuff they have in the truck. Or they’ll give up running the proper diameter lines once the attic or crawlspace installation becomes too challenging. Don’t let them do it. To get the efficiency and performance you need you don’t want any additional restrictions in the lines.

        I don’t know what we’ll do if power becomes an issue do to an extended bout of government stupidity or weather. Our house is situated on property that is too wooded to make an easy solar install feasible. I’ve been told what trees I’d need to cut down but I can’t bring myself to remove these huge old trees. I’m currently researching solar field options as a back-up. And in that case, I like my pellet stove and wood stove just fine, with oil heat on back-up.

    2. LY

      The skill set for heat pumps is the same as for an air conditioner, as a heat pump is an A/C with a crossover valve. The heat is being extracted either from a ground loop or from outdoor ambient air. If it’s outdoor ambient air, there’s an extra cycle in there to prevent the outdoor part from icing up.

      Heat pumps can work to very low temperatures, but they lose efficiency. For those times, they can use supplemental heating like natural gas when the efficiency crosses over to favor burning natural gas (or possibly whenever natural gas would be cheaper than electricity).

      Personally, I’d go for a real backup system for when the power goes out.

      1. JohnnySacks

        I can deal with the time it takes to get an A/C unit repaired, if possible, and surprise! R-22 refrigerant is no longer available so when mine breaks, a complete system replacement is required. Think below freezing temps outside and being told that same story for a heat pump. That dumb as heck baseboard heat boiler will be a lifeline, of course all bets are off for a power outage. And it can be integrated to take over when too cold outside for a heat pump to be efficient.

    3. ChrisPacific

      Heat pumps have been fantastic in New Zealand where they are becoming the primary means of heating. They are extremely efficient in our climate. Install prices have come down a lot (to the point where they are often a no brainer) and they are well supported.

      They don’t seem like an obvious fit for the Maine climate at all. They don’t work well (or in some cases at all) in ultra low temperatures, which are by no means uncommon in Maine. They also make more financial sense if you need them for cooling as well as heating.

      Unfortunately everything I hear about the heat pump market in the US suggests that it’s become a scammy get-rich-quick scheme like everything else does there. It’s a shame as they are a fine product in the right context.

      1. Bosko

        I live in Maine, and I can tell you that the local heat pump installer is popular and busy–largely, I think, because many people around here are worried about climate change and want to make the right ethical choice (possibly virtue signaling). But the thought in Maine is that you would need to augment such a system in winter, with oil, propane, wood, etc. At the end of the day, here, that’s not a big problem, because people in Maine are used to Franken-systems that comprise multiple energy sources. I myself have a oil heat for the basic heating, then a propane canister for just the dryer (I would love to get rid of it, but not as easy as you would think), and then a wood stove, which I adore.

        1. tevhatch

          If they are using the ground for a heat sink (capital intensive but more energy efficient) then the outside temperature will not matter very much unless it is so cold for so long that the frost line moves significantly deeper.

          1. Another Scott

            Digging the boreholes for ground-source heat pumps is very expensive, and New England geology is unfavorable to say the least. Ledge is incredibly common. Ground-source heat pumps might be nearly impossible in some places and prohibitively expensive in others.

            1. tevhatch

              Yes, that’s the capital intensive part. Another option, extremely capital intensive, is the use of deep pond/lake water or ocean water. Here the capital costs is getting land with access (and the flood insurance). :-)

    4. Bosko

      My understanding of heat pumps (at least in the areas I’ve lived in for the last 20 or so years, New England) is that they take advantage of the fact that the temps underground are relatively stable, with pipes circulating underground and then into your house. They are not cheap (and I live on a rock so I don’t think it’s an option for me), but you say “no skills available to fix it”–well, if it breaks, I imagine you would call the installer, and if they gave you the runaround, you would yell at them until they sent someone out. IN other words, not that different from my oil furnace. The outfit in my area, they are definitely trying to stay in business for the long haul, and I doubt they’d screw their customers for fear of losing future business.

      1. upstater

        I live in central NY state, usually plenty of winter here (but not this year!).

        We have wood as our primary heating and propane forced air as backup.

        I would consider heat pump with wall mounted mini splits on each floor as a back up to replace propane (when it quits) and for AC on the 10 or 20 days a year above 90F.

        My uncle in Ontario replaced an oil furnace with a central forced air heat pump in the 00s. His electric bills were over $1500/month 20 years ago! Far more expensive than oil.

        Heat pumps are fine south of here, but not as economical as advertised here.

      2. Lost in OR

        Wow. Amazing mis-information here.

        Heat pumps do not have resistance back-up heating included.

        Ground Source Heat Pumps use the near constant temperature of the ground below 5′ as a source of both heating and cooling. Not the same as your standard heat pump. This is an extremely efficient source of indoor climate control in most outdoor climates. You pay dearly upfront for this efficiency.

        Back in the early 2000’s I had a mini-split HP installed in my small home in Oregon. The very first winter we had a Christmas storm that brought ice and snow and sub ten degree temperatures. My big concern was that we would lose power, but we would have been in trouble then even if we still had the old gas furnace. The HP held up throughout. The cold walls seemingly sucked the heat from our bodies, but the HP maintained a survivable temperature.

        The problem I think we moderns have is that we expect 100% solutions. A better path might be to go for the 90% solution and then be resilient for the other 10%. The cost, energy, and carbon savings could be significant.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > My understanding of heat pumps (at least in the areas I’ve lived in for the last 20 or so years, New England) is that they take advantage of the fact that the temps underground are relatively stable, with pipes circulating underground and then into your house.

        Then your understanding is at best incomplete. There are both air-source and ground-source heat pumps. I would bet the great majority of heat pumps sold, and especially in Maine, are air-source. Nobody’s going to be digging up the yard when the alternative is hooking up a box to the side of the house.

        1. fjallstrom

          As I understand it, the ground source gives more heat per kWh, but the air ones are easier to install.

          Sweden had a government program with subsidized installing heat pumps to get rid of electric heaters and oil. It ran in the late 90ies and early 00ies. Lots of heat pumps installed back then. In general, they seem to keep on working. Sometimes someone has had a minor part replaced, but they don’t seem prone to problems.

  8. Toshiro_Mifune

    Well, we are on week five of this semester and I’ve already been handed a paper written by ChatGPT.
    They’re not hard to spot if you know how the AI crafts ‘answers’ and the mistakes it makes, but now is the time to familiarize yourself with what that looks like.

    I played around with ChatGPT a few weeks ago and it can turn out some pretty impressive results. I asked it why “did the concept of the individual arise at the same time as the concept of the nation state” and, well, it gave me a decent and coherent answer. Pretty cool.
    So I started to play around with it a bit more to see where the edge’s of its knowledge were. I asked it about the Templars and it answered well, but I suspected it would.
    I asked it about Mordenkainen, and it answered well, but that I knew it would probably get.
    Then I asked it about Spike from DRI and it basically fell over telling me Spike’s real name was Dez Cadena and he was the lead singer of Black Flag from `81 to `87. Which is wrong on almost every single count. Then I realized most of the nerds* who developed this are pretty far removed from the 80’s hardcore scene and had no idea what a valid source for info on it would be. Though Wiki is correct.
    Im assuming its plagued by garbage in/garbage out in lots of other areas as well. I stopped at the DRI question. I’ve seen a few others who’ve asked it to write bash scripts or python programs with some mixed results.
    I wonder if all its going to do is expose how much of the knowledge and creative economy has no real depth.

    *Said in exactly the 80’s ‘Revenge of’ fashion

  9. Maggie in NC

    “This looks like the source to watch —> Flu Trackers…”

    Without a doubt the source … I’ve followed Sharon Sanders and Flu Trackers for years..

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Without a doubt the source

      I checked today for updates, so perhaps indeed a flash in the pan. The problem is, given our experience both with the public health establishment and the organs of state security embedded in social media, there’s no particular reason to think that the story would have been suppressed. So it is hall of mirrors time!

  10. shinola

    Re the tweet with the images from “at the doctors office”

    Can someone clue me in as to what an”Arnet” is? (I did a search for the term & there was nothing that might even come close to being a “comfort item”)

    1. petal

      Must be a typo for Aranet(portable air quality sensor).
      How that can be called a comfort item…smh. The disdain is palpable.

      1. Samuel Conner

        It’s a discomfort item — tells you how anxious to be. 2000ppm is, IMO, what was called, in Red Dwarf, “brown trousers time”.

    2. Lex

      CO2 meter, and CO2 concentrations are an accepted means of indirectly assessing building ventilation. In ASHRAE standards, indoor CO2 should not be more than 700 ppm higher than the outdoor. Technically you need to measure both but 450 ppm is a reasonable assumption for outdoor air in populated areas.

      So that office shouldn’t be higher than 1150 with adequate ventilation. The problem with good CO2 meters is that they’re very sensitive and you can pick up exhalation concentrations at 3+ feet.

    3. LilD

      CO2 monitor

      There are other brands but this seems to be the most recommended one.

      CO2 level is a reasonable proxy for guessing how much indoor air is being rebreathed.
      400 or so is ambient air; ie there is always some CO2
      800 or so is about as high as I want to handle.
      Much above 1000 is not good for extended time
      I’ve personally seen about 2700 but don’t remember exactly where, suffice it to say that I skedaddled, to use the technical terminology

  11. Samuel Conner

    > Fathomless arrogance and ignorance!

    I’ve been wondering how much of this is influenced, modulated, exacerbated, or something-or-othered by undiagnosed cognitive sequelae of prior COVID infections. It seems likely that most medical personnel have been infected at least once.

    Perhaps this is in the realm of sci-fi, but it seems to me that if there is — as seems plausible — evolved variation in the virus’ ability to impair cognition, the more cognition-impairing variants would, all else equal, have a propagation advantage, since the self-control and diligence to consistently employ transmission-reducing mitigations has a cognitive component. OTOH, maybe the timing doesn’t work.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the more cognition-impairing variants would, all else equal, have a propagation advantage

      Well, there is this: “Hypothesized behavioral host manipulation by SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 infection” [Medical Hypotheses (Sub-Boreal)]:

      Even the common influenza virus has been shown to selectively increase in-person sociality during the 48-hour incubation period, thus producing an obvious vector for transmission. Here we hypothesize that the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV2, which produces the COVID-19 disease may produce similar host manipulations that maximize its transmission between humans.

      The authors outline a number of ways to test what they emphasize are hypotheses; so far as I know, none of them have been done.

      I would swear we published a study on this idea (maybe from Naomi Wu?) and not this one, but I can’t find it!

  12. Bosko

    Regarding the ChatGPT Twitter thread, I really don’t understand the teacher’s impulse to “find” a paper written by ChatGPT. When you’re first learning about pedagogy, you’re told to be very, very careful about accusing a student of plagiarism. That it’s supposed to be very damaging to their tender psyches, etc. I would never accuse a student of plagiarizing a paper without indisputable proof; otherwise, you’re just saying that you kind of think that the student didn’t write the paper himself. Parents, administrators, and consultants have been telling college students for years that they’re commodities, a degree makes them more marketable, and in order to get the degree they merely have to ‘jump through a few hoops.’ Of course some such students are going to turn to AI to write their papers. As I think I said on another thread somewhere, students can easily find someone online to write a paper for them from scratch, guaranteed at least an A-, for $30, and there’s absolutely no way to catch them doing it. Where was all this outrage when a multimillion dollar website (Course Hero) marketed itself to college students as a repository of student papers to plagiarize, for only $5 a month? (This was only a few years ago, too.) My feeling is that students are always going to try to cheat. It’s really exhausting and pointless to get caught up in trying to “catch them in the act”–just let the software (Turnitin, etc.) handle it, and give them an F on the paper if you find one. College was and is supposed to teach young people how to write, think, and learn. If students are in college and not interested in becoming better writers (and many of them weren’t well before ChatGPT), so be it.

    With respect to heat pumps, I recall that Lambert used to, or still does (?), live in Maine… I can say with authority that heat pumps are very popular here, getting moreso (google “Royal River Heat Pumps”), and air conditioning is also considered a necessity, at least south of Camden. People certainly don’t run the AC all the time, but it’s easily hitting the high 90s in the Portland area.

    1. c_heale

      Given the shoddy product ChatGPT seems to turning out on a regular basis, could it be enough to just to mark it as not good enough and not worry about the plagarism.

    2. Acacia

      Indeed, I expect Turnitin and similar platforms will all soon promote their ability to ID not only standard plagiarism, but AI-generated text as well. Somebody will make money on this.

      That said, these apps are not foolproof. E.g., I once received a student paper that was clearly plagiarized, which I verified quickly just with Google. However, the plagiarism detection app used by the college (a competitor to Turnitin) didn’t flag it. The student had changed every third or fourth word of the plagiarized text, which was just enough to thwart the algo.

  13. kareninca

    Ugh, things are getting bad out there. Well yes, I know they have been bad, but here goes.

    I have one relative (by marriage)(probably by genes, too, since it is small town New England), 62 y.o., who due to weight got a leg infection, which turned into a blood clot which turned into a pulmonary embolism, which caused a rehab stay, where he caught covid. He’s just now out of the ICU and will soon be an a facility.

    One 76 y.o. relative from MI, vacationing in Florida, who got a UTI last week which turned instantly to sepsis; saved by ICU, now out of hospital but getting antibiotic infusions for ten days.

    Two relatives by marriage in CT, both in late 70s, in horrible physical condition, have done their very, very best to avoid covid. Their daughter visited them yesterday and they seemed worse than usual so she called ambulance and sent them to ER; they both have covid; they will be in a rehab facility soon. Fortunately they do not seem to be in horrible shape, right now, at the moment, which is the best one could hope.

    My mom is getting arm surgery in CT on Feb. 14th. Per the Walgreens charts that Lambert kindly posts, CT is red for covid transmission right now. But she can’t put off the surgery.

    I had written that I go to reddit/covid positive every day and many people seem to be getting covid for the first time now. This matches what I am seeing. Also, the wastewater is now starting to spike up again in the Palo Alto, CA area.

    If I were the Chinese government I would cause a massive poisonous rail accident in the heartland just while sending a balloon across the country, in order to freak people out. But that is just me (if I were the Chinese government). It is incredible how the accounts on reddit re how bad the spill was, coincide with a media that has no interest and cops that arrest reporters who ask questions about it. I wish I knew what to suggest to the people I know who live in Ohio only seven miles from that accident (or whatever it was), but they can’t move anywhere.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I wish I knew what to suggest to the people I know who live in Ohio only seven miles from that accident (or whatever it was), but they can’t move anywhere.

      “Why don’t they just move?” has always been a stupid question, but in situations like these it’s even stupider.

      1. kareninca

        Yes, these are old, poor people who tend to people who are even poorer and older than they are. They are stuck there with the toxic fumes and water.

  14. The Rev Kev

    “U.S. lawmakers try again to end ‘forever war’ authorizations”

    Actually this is easy to do. There are laws on the books that are just not enforced. Torturing people? That is illegal and the US has tried people for that as war crimes. But then came the war on terror and then it was OK. Later on Obama gave them a free pass and told people to look ahead and not back. There is another law that after you have the US military involved in an action for 6 months, you have to get Congress to authorize any more actions. Again Obama was involved in Libya and when the 6 months point cam along, just ignored it and Congress did not chase him about it. There are lawas on the book but they are not enforced for the right people.

  15. Jason Boxman

    So that Slate story ends with:

    But researchers emphasize that even if COVID routinely tinkers with the immune system, our body’s defenses are stubbornly resilient. “Think of the immune system like a Boeing aircraft,” said Lynn. “For it to crash, you need multiple things to go wrong. Just one, or even a few things, is unlikely to be sufficient to bring the immune system down.”

    But I guess professor David Lynn isn’t up on current events? Like two Boeing crashes?

    Regardless, Slate clearly doesn’t want to alarmist about how COVID affects the immune system, but ~ 10% of people getting long-COVID seems enough reason for concern, even if COVID doesn’t do anything else, which it does.


    1. chris

      Slate is a great place to go for articles where the PMC reader is trying to feel un-ironic and yet informational. They’re down with the “herd immunity” concept that is being preached. They love Biden, Pelosi, etc. Not sure I would read anything there and consider it useful information on anything other than what the Elites were going to shove down my throat next.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yes, MCAS was the first thing I thought of, followed by Boeing’s labor disputes and QA problems in its South Carolina plant. Not clear to me why anybody would choose Boeing as a paragon of reliability: source, author, editor.

  16. Joe Well

    re: Victorian sewage pumping station

    A 19th Century water treatment plant in Chestnut Hill, Boston, has been preserved as the Waterworks Museum.

    It was a marvel of engineering that, among other marvels, made it possible to have a metro area of millions of people.

    It may have been the first place in the world to try to test drinking water for pathogens.

    Anyway, they celebrated these things because they were like the Mars Rover or the MRNA vaccines of their time, only the benefit was obvious and immediate.

    1. The Rev Kev

      You look at things like that Victorian sewage pumping station and straight away people can see the need to preserve such beauty. You look at a modern equivalent with bland concrete and functional steel and nobody cares if it gets torn down or not.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > It may have been the first place in the world to try to test drinking water for pathogens.

      The Victorians were far less advanced that we are. When confronted with the possibility of pathogens, we make “personal risk assessments.”

  17. ThirtyOne

    Been reading that the Russians have been hitting the electrical generation equipment this go round.
    “Accurate hits on the equipment in the turbine halls guarantee an extremely long-term repair of facilities , and, accordingly, a sharp drop in power generation at the stations.”

    1. The Rev Kev

      That is a big thing that. I mean actually hitting the generators rather than the transmission gear. The Krivorozhskaya Thermal power plant is one of them. I am not sure but I have the impression that this is happening to regions that will before too long be part of the Russian Federation so the Russians will be able to replace them with their own reserves if not just build them outright.

  18. J.

    Update on Atlanta’s Cop City violence:

    Some Atlanta Police Department bodycam footage has been released from just after the forest defender was killed and a Georgia State Patrol officer injured, and the APD officers remark to each other that it was friendly fire.




  19. Acacia

    Alternate blogosphere news: Andrei Raevsky, a.k.a. the Saker, is shutting down his site at the end of this month.

    It seems he has had a long-standing position that should a direct war between the US and Russia break out, the site would be shut down. While this has not yet happened officially, he believes that war is now unavoidable.

    I won’t include a URL for the known reasons.

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