2:00PM Water Cooler 2/14/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all! If you leave out the commercial stuff, the expectations, and the rituals, it’s a pretty good idea! –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

In honor of the tool-using Cockatoo:

Blue-eyed Cockatoo, Cape Orford; Taintop Village, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. This one sounds like an alarm!

* * *

“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

“Ron Klain Looks Back on Biden’s First Two Years as President” [The New Yorker]. “Klain, at sixty-one, whirs with a low-key intensity. More than one of his peers in the White House told me that he had a helpfully ‘paranoid’ political radar, a catastrophic imagination for second- and third-order consequences that might seem as remote as a global pandemic once did.” Like 700,000 deaths from Covid on Biden’s watch? Or is that fourth order? Klain says exactly two things about Covid, and the squishy soft New Yorker doesn’t press. First:

Obviously, my work on the covid response was highly impacted by my work on the Ebola response, kind of understanding how those agencies work.


We paid for a lot of covid treatments, including Paxlovid—and that is why, when you look at covid right now, cases go up and down, but deaths stay like this [traces a horizontal line in the air]. That really was the rock for a lot of what we did that followed.

That’s it. That’s the mindset. (I’d need a study on Paxlovid, and “deaths stay like this” = “the high plateau” I keep talking about.

“Playbook: Plan B talks on debt limit go underground” [Politico]. “MODS’ DEBT LIMIT DILEMMA — The biggest subplot of the slowest-moving story in Washington — the partisan standoff over the federal debt ceiling — has so far centered on whether, absent a deal between President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, moderate House Republicans might somehow band together with House Democrats to avoid a catastrophic default. The speculation has gone far enough to prompt several explainers about how it all might work — whether through a discharge petition or other obscure House procedures that could allow a bipartisan coalition to skirt conservatives’ spending-cut demands. It’s gone so far, we’re told, that McCarthy has in recent days sent a message from on high to centrists who have openly toyed with the idea: You’re killing my leverage with Biden. ‘Don’t talk about a discharge petition because we absolutely weaken our hand and won’t get concessions if you do,’ said one person familiar with the internal conversations, summarizing the leadership message. At the same time, centrists are getting assurances that McCarthy & Co. have no intention of sparking a default, ‘but why don’t we get some concessions out of it?’ The message has been heard loud and clear. Some of those who had previously suggested they might be open to a discharge petition or other workaround, such as Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), have publicly backed away. One especially prime target for Democrats, Rep. DON BACON (R-Neb.), said the notion of sidelining McCarthy was ‘DOA.’ But while these conversations might have gone underground, we can report that they are very much still alive. Multiple people involved told us last night that a core group of bipartisan lawmakers have been texting, emailing and meeting about a potential backup plan should the McCarthy-Biden debt talks falter. It’s far too early to say what that could look like, but the lines of communication are very much open.”


Petey speaks:


Only eleven days. That’s not so bad. Meanwhile, let’s finish the job, as Biden says:


Maybe announce an initiative? Go for a bike ride on the tracks? Something?

“Could VP Kamala Harris be replaced in 2024? Democratic strategists weigh in” [FOX]. I know this is FOX, but that video of Harris. If I have to listen to that voice for four years…. “Harris will ‘play a critical role in rallying key constituencies within the Democratic Party and Independents ahead of 2024,’ Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor, Kevin Walling said. Jonathan Kott, a Democratic strategist and former aide to Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Chris Coons, D-Del., also came to the defense of the vice president telling Fox News Digital that Harris has ‘been a key player in the most successful first two years of any presidency in my lifetime.'” • No, and no.

* * *
“The Real Reason Trump Is Calling DeSantis ‘Meatball Ron'” [Daily Beast]. Well, DeSantis is kinda roly-poly. “One theory argued that our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and Trump understood how to succinctly capture the most negative framing of a person’s fundamental nature…. The good news for DeSantis is that this specific technique is not currently being used on him (stay tuned for ‘Groomin’ Ron’). But what does ‘meatball’ even mean? The New York Times calls it ‘an apparent dig at [DeSantis’s] appearance,’ which I take to suggest a shorter, pudgier frame—while hinting at a lock of social grace. But ‘meatball’ is also a slur against Italian-Americans (all eight of DeSantis’ great-grandparents came here from Italy). Somewhere, Don Rickles must be thinking that if he were born 30 years later, he might have been president. It’s not like DeSantis can complain or cry foul about this. It’s hard to imagine the current governor of Florida trying to curry sympathy from a Republican electorate that couldn’t get enough of it when Trump called Elizabeth Warren ‘Pocohontas.'” • Which Warren fully, fully earned. I’m not sure how serious “Meatball” is as a slur; for example, in the reality TV show “Jersey Shore,” “meatball” was “a way of describing a woman who was short, bulky and loved to party.” So I’m not gonna clutch my pearls over this. Meatball also has another meaning, though it’s hard to imagine Trump poring over WikiPedia to find it: “A baseball term for an easy pitch to hit — down the middle of the plate.” So, DeSantis = Son of Jebbie?

“Ron DeSantis Backs Down From A Fight” [Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine]. “Biden is probably going to run — his performance was lively enough to at least slightly alleviate doubts about his age — and his campaign is likely to focus on a defense of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security…. This dynamic clicked into place for me when I saw two pieces of reporting about Ron DeSantis, the conservative Establishment’s selection to replace Donald Trump as the presidential nominee. First, Josh Barro noted that, as a member of the House in 2013 and 2014, DeSantis not only voted for Paul Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into vouchers but also supported an even more radical plan that ‘would have raised the retirement ages for both Social Security and Medicare to 70…. The next day, Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck reported for CNN that DeSantis had endorsed privatizing both Medicare and Social Security. ‘I would embrace proposals like [Rep.] Paul Ryan offered… What is perhaps even more telling is the response from DeSantis: nothing. DeSantis has built an identity as a fearless pugilist. One of his ads literally boasts that DeSantis will ‘never, ever back down from a fight.’ And yet, even after the media reported these damaging stories, and even after Biden traveled to Florida to give a speech attacking him for denying health coverage to a million Floridians by boycotting Medicaid expansion, DeSantis did not reply.” • I’m sure DeSantis understands the Streisand Effect, and he’s under no obligation to deign to respond to the puling of liberal Democrat house organs, whether what they say be right or wrong. That said, I think Chait identified a useful dynamic to watch for. What happens when a real brawler throws a punch? How does DeSantis respond?

“Nikki Haley takes on Donald Trump for 2024 U.S. Republican nomination” [Reuters]. • Weighing in at 3.9%:

“Judge to release parts of Georgia special grand jury report” [Associated Press]. “— A Georgia judge on Monday ordered the partial release later this week of a report by a special grand jury that investigated efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss…. There was ‘very limited due process’ for people for whom the grand jurors recommended charges, [Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney] wrote. Some may not have had the opportunity to appear before the panel, and those who did appear did not have the right to have their lawyers present or to offer any rebuttal. For that reason, the judge concluded, it is not appropriate to release the full report at this time.” • Lol.

Republican Funhouse

“Mike Gallagher: A New Cold Warrior” [RealClearPolitics]. “The West is unprepared for everything all at once…. Well, at least that is what Rep. Mike Gallagher along with a team of academics and generals had to imagine when they poured over what looked like the most complicated “Risk” board ever assembled. It was only a war game, an exercise hosted last May by the Center for a New American Security…. If the U.S. and China go to war, the Wisconsin Republican said in a ‘Meet the Press’ interview, ‘a lot of people are going to lose their lives.’ The lesson: ‘We want deterrence to actually work.’ That is also the mission statement, in so many words, of the House Select Committee on China which Gallagher now chairs, a mammoth undertaking to examine not just the military risk but also the ideological and economic threats presented by the Chinese Communist Party. It is serious business. And Gallagher, a 38-year-old former U.S. Marine, is a serious man. Everyone says so. There is a feeling in Congress that the effort might just rise above the normal self-importance of Capitol Hill. ‘The word ‘serious’ has been tossed around about this committee because that’s the desire,’ said Rep. Mikie Sherrill. Confronting an existential threat, the New Jersey Democrat told RealClearPolitics, shouldn’t be something members ‘do for personal edification or partisan means.’ And that’s what had Gallagher ‘worried’ when he pulled her aside. The two have served on committees together, and they teamed up in the CNAS war game. A U.S. Navy pilot before entering politics, Sherrill said during that exercise she appreciated the Marine’s ‘knowledge of ground operations.’ His question on the House floor, between votes earlier this year, didn’t have to do with tactics or grand strategy. Who would the Democrats seat on his committee?” • Sherrill is, of course, a CIA Democrat. “Know your enemy and know yourself.” Can anybody in the national security establisment meet those two criteria? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

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.

* * *

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Sudden Dominance of the Diversity Industrial Complex” [Real Clear Investigations]. “Seemingly in unison, and with almost no debate, nearly every major American institution – including federal, state, and local governments, universities and public schools, hospitals, insurance, media and technology companies and major retail brands – has agreed that the DEI infrastructure is essential to the nation’s proper functioning. From Amazon to Walmart, most major corporations have created and staffed DEI offices within their human resources bureaucracy. So have sanitation departments, police departments, physics departments, and the departments of agriculture, commerce, defense, education and energy. Organizations that once argued against DEI now feel compelled to institute DEI training and hire DEI officers. So have organizations that are already richly diverse, such as the National Basketball Association and the National Football League. Many of these offices in turn work with a sprawling network of DEI consulting firms, training outfits, trade organizations and accrediting associations that support their efforts. ‘Five years ago, if you said ‘DEI,’ people would’ve thought you were talking about the Digital Education Initiative,’ Robert Sellers, University of Michigan’s first chief diversity officer, said in 2020. ‘Five years ago, if you said DEI was a core value of this institution, you would have an argument.'” • Hmm. Five years ago. That’s 2022 – 5 = 2017, one year after Trump won and the PMC lost their minds and declared the State of Exception under which we live today. Coincidence? You be the judge.


Looks like “leveling off to a high plateau” across the board. (I still think “Something Awful” is coming, however. I mean, besides what we already know about.) Stay safe out there!

Lambert here: Last Friday, I reconfigured 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 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!

Resources (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC); Variants (CDC; Walgreens).

Resources (Local): NC (Dashboard).

• Since the national data systems are being vandalized, let’s start collecting links state data, too. If readers would send me links (see Plant below) to their favorite State and local dashboards/wastewater sites, that would be great. Or leave a link in Comments. Hat tip to JB for the NC dashboard.

* * *
Look for the Helpers

Here is the information that alert reader Bob promised to send on Corsi-Rosenthal (CR) Box stands:

Attached 6 photos of Corsi-Rosenthal boxes and PVC stands both angled and upright. Also attached is list of PVC parts I bought the third time to make and modify the office PVC stand so that there is an angle. Here is link to place where I purchased the furniture grade PVC. I could have used Home Depot PVC but I opted to avoid the total industrial look where there is blue lettering on the HD PVC and that PVC is dull matte looking.


I found the place easy to work with as they were incredibly nice on the phone dealing with my admittedly novice questions. Shipping was fast but then I live in CT and they are in NJ. I went with white as the colored PVC was more expensive and neither my wife nor I care about the frame color as basically you do not really ever notice it.

The way you make an angle for the CR box is obvious when you look at either PVC frame below. The “front” has a raised bar. You control the angle by having different length PVC up-right pieces – two are needed one for each side. To change the angle you cut longer or shorter pieces with a hacksaw and using a rubber mallet knock apart that section of the PVC frame. Insert two new length pieces and bang back together. Instant new angle.

Note that the angled frames have two additional cross pieces. Two reasons. First the 2 additional cross pieces strengthens the entire frame. Second the back of the CR box then rests between the two cross pieces. Without that cross piece the CR box will slowly but surely migrate down and then fall off the frame if the CR box is angled. Bit of added resistance then prevents the migration. The entire fan and box will fall off the frame if you leave this cross piece out to save a dollar thirty five. Takes about five days for it to finally fall off – usually in the middle of the night to scare the hell of you. INTRUDERS!

I did not glue any joints as the CR boxes are so light and the fan basically adds no real weight. Zip vibration. And I get to experiment with different lengths.

And here is the parts list:

Bob was very kind to document his project and send in pictures. Please feel free to follow his example. Maybe a CR box decorated for Valentine’ day? Also, what do cats think of CR boxes?

“Covid Meetups” [COVID MEETUPS (JM)]. “A free service to find individuals, families and local businesses/services who take COVID precautions in your area.” • I played around with it some. It seems to be Facebook-driven, sadly, but you can use the Directory without logging in. I get rational hits from the U.S., but not from London, UK, FWIW.

Covid Is Airborne

“The history and science behind airborne infections and the use of ultraviolet irradiation for disinfecting indoor air Part One [WSWS]. Part two. This is super-interesting; kudos to WSWS for putting it together. This is a good entry point to the “Far UV” discussion. A tiny excerpt: “[W]e’re using Far UV—some people don’t like the term—to refer specifically to 222-nanometer (nm) or 206 nm wavelengths. Whereas what was used a 100 years ago, of course, was all UVC, but at 254 nm, which was the natural output of mercury lamps.” • Obviously, I have strong priors on filters. In a perfect world, Far UV and filters like HEPA and CR Boxes would work together. There are two barriers to this. One is that the “Far UV” and “Filters/Aerosols” verticals are institutionally separated; Colorado’s J.J. Gonzales, for example, is only now reviewing Far UV. This is a problem that can be solved with good will; neither vertical is, after all, hegemonic. (The series is a wonderful example of humans doing science; I highly recommend it.) My more serious objection is that this is the stupidest timeline. I can easily envision a future where people stick a blue light in a socket and call it done, vitiating alll ventilation efforts.

No wonder Listerine is good against Covid (hat tip alert reader Blitzkreig for initiating the discussion):


“Air Filters, Pollution, and Student Achievement” (abstract only) [The Journal of Human Resources]. Interesting natural experiment: “This paper identifies the impact of installing air filters in classrooms for the first time. To do so, I leverage a unique setting arising from the largest gas leak in U.S. history, whereby the offending gas company installed air filters in every classroom within five miles of the leak (but not beyond). Using a spatial regression discontinuity design, I find substantial improvements in student performance: air filters raised test scores by 0.1-0.2σ. Natural gas was not detected inside schools, implying that the filters improved air quality by removing common pollutants and so these results should extend to other settings.”

Science Is Popping

“Botanical inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 viral entry: a phylogenetic perspective” [Nature]. The Abstract: “Throughout the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the use of botanical dietary supplements in the United States has increased, yet their safety and efficacy against COVID-19 remains underexplored. The Quave Natural Product Library is a phylogenetically diverse collection of botanical and fungal natural product extracts including popular supplement ingredients. Evaluation of 1867 extracts and 18 compounds for virus spike protein binding to host cell ACE2 receptors in a SARS-CoV-2 pseudotyped virus system identified 310 extracts derived from 188 species across 76 families (3 fungi, 73 plants) that exhibited ≥ 50% viral entry inhibition activity at 20 µg/mL. Extracts exhibiting mammalian cytotoxicity > 15% and those containing cardiotoxic cardiac glycosides were eliminated. Three extracts were selected for further testing against four pseudotyped variants and infectious SARS-CoV-2 and were then further chemically characterized, revealing the potent (EC50 < 5 µg/mL) antiviral activity of Solidago altissima L. (Asteraceae) flowers and Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn (Dennstaedtiaceae) rhizomes.” • Interesting! Don’t go trying your own tinctures, though; the concentrations are huge.

Elite Malfeasance

“Interregnum – on the lockdown ‘sceptics'” (podcast) [Politics Theory Other]. From the UK. “Richard Seymour discusses his recent blogpost on the so-called lockdown sceptics, and in particular the work of Toby Green and his book ‘The Covid Consensus: The Global Assault on Democracy and the Poor—A Critique from the Left’. We talked about the straw man arguments, factual inaccuracies and conspiratorial thinking that characterise the book and the lockdown sceptic literature more generally. We also talked about why parts of the left have been receptive to some of this work and also what to make of the alliance between some self-styled anti-woke leftists and religious conservatives.” • Seymour gets pretty cranky toward the end; justifiably so. Lockdowns as scapegoating by, well, the enemies of human freedom:


I haven’t heard this viewpoint expressed. Could mean it’s valid!

Just ask youself: What would Weyland-Yutani do?




Patient readers: I can’t with this garbage Cochrane review; I’ll have a takedown in the near future.

* * *
Case Data

NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from February 13:

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.

• This chart does not look particularly seasonal. Leaving it up for a bit to make the point:

So Covid is not like “the flu,” making the plan to integrate flu and Covid shots even more surrealistic than it already is.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published February 14:

0.3%. Still on the high plateau, equal to previous peaks.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,140,209 – 1,140,017 = 192 (192 * 365 = 70,080 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.)

Bird Flu (H5N1)

Nail in the coffin on the putative Houston case:


Oopsie. Here is the reaction from FluTrackers (“Thank you to Dr. Tiffany for the effort”). One of the positives of the episode is that I learned abot FluTrackers, which is a really great site.

Stats Watch

Inflation: “United States Consumer Price Index (CPI)” [Trading Economics]. “The annual inflation rate in the US slowed only slightly to 6.4% in January of 2023 from 6.5% in December, less than market forecasts of 6.2%. Still, it is the lowest reading since October of 2021, with energy prices rising 8.7% while food cost went up 10.1%. ”

Business Optimism: “United States NFIB Business Optimism Index” [Trading Economics]. “The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index in the United States went up to 90.3 in January of 2023 from a six-month low of 89.9 in December but still remained below its 49-year average of 98. The proportion of owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months increased (up 6 points to -45%). Still, 26% of owners see inflation as their single most important problem (down 6 points) and about 42% of owners raised average selling prices (down 1 point). Also, 45% percent of owners said job openings were hard to fill (up 4 points) and the expectations for real sales to be higher worsened by 4 points to -14%. ‘While inflation is starting to ease for small businesses, owners remain cynical about future business conditions’.” • “Cynical”?

* * *
Tech: “Opera’s building ChatGPT into its sidebar” [The Verge]. “Opera’s adding a ChatGPT-powered tool to its sidebar that generates brief summaries of webpages and articles. The feature, called ‘shorten,’ is part of the company’s broader plans to integrate AI tools into its browser, similar to what Microsoft’s doing with Edge.” • Oh good.

* * *
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 72 Greed (previous close: 70 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 78 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 14 at 1:32 PM EST.


“More Clues into ME/CFS Discovered in Gut Microbiome” [NIH Director’s Blog]. “Because ME/CFS has many possible causes, it doesn’t affect everybody in the same way. That’s made studying the disease especially challenging. But NIH is now supporting specialized research centers on ME/CFS in the hope that greater collaboration among scientists will cut through the biological complexity and reveal answers for people with ME/CFS and their families. So, I’m pleased to share some progress on this research front from two NIH-funded ME/CFS Collaborative Research Centers. The findings, published in two papers from the latest issue of the journal Cell Host & Microbe, add further evidence connecting ME/CFS to distinctive disruptions in the trillions of microbes that naturally live in our gastrointestinal tracts, called the gut microbiome [1,2]. Right now, the evidence establishes an association, not direct causation, meaning more work is needed to nail down this lead. But it’s a solid lead, suggesting that imbalances in certain bacterial species inhabiting the gut could be used as measurable biomarkers to aid in the accurate and timely diagnosis of ME/CFS. It also points to a possible therapeutic target to explore.” • I had hoped to pair this with a paper on the neurological effects of Covid, suggesting that the brain and the gut might not be the independent standalone systems we think they are, but unfortunately the neurological paper is gone where the woodbine twineth.

Zeitgeist Watch

Is there some kind of catch?


Our Famously Free Press

From various liberal sources, I keep hearing that the problem with the Norfolk Southern train that derailed in East Palestine was brakes. But none of them cite to a source. By contrast, the union guys say it’s a hot box, and there’s evidence for that:


The brakes thing feels non-organic, and from members of my team, or people I’d like to consider adjacent to my team. So what’s up with that?

Class Warfare

“Ordinary Americans are counting the cost of thriving” [Financial Times]. “In 1985, an American man working the typical full-time job could support a family of four on 40 weeks of income, and be able to afford a range of nutritious foods, a three-bedroom house, a comprehensive health insurance plan, a family car, even saving to put both kids through the state university. In 2022, paying for all that would require 62 weeks of his income, which is a problem, there being only 52 weeks in a year. These figures come from the Cost-of-Thriving Index (Coti), which compares the rate at which wages are rising to the rate of cost increases for middle-class staples. They show starkly the effect on household budgets of a decades-long stretch in which housing prices [rents], health insurance premiums [rents], college tuition [rents], and more [rents] skyrocketed much faster than wages.”

News of the Wired

“Aphrodisiacs of the Aztec and Inca” [JSTOR Daily]. “Aztecs attributed aphrodisiac properties to many plant-based foods, including the chocolate beverage atextli. … Other Aztec aphrodisiacs were medicines with psychoactive properties, including the morning glory and certain mushrooms. One kind of mushroom, teonanácatl (now known as pajarito in Spanish) was associated with prostitutes, though it’s unclear whether they or their clients consumed it, or what the specific desired effects were. A plant known as cutiriqui was used not just for whetting sexual appetites but for rekindling the love of a married couple. However, [ethnobotanist Jan G. R. Elferink] writes, the most potent aphrodisiacs for the Aztecs seem to have come from animals. A part of the mazacoatl, or deersnake, was considered extremely potent, to the point of danger. The Florentine Codex, written by Spanish Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún in the sixteenth century, warned that a man who drank too much of a tincture made from mazacoatl ‘continually erects his virile member and constantly ejects his semen, and dies of lasciviousness.’ Also dangerous was the temolin, a large beetle, which may have contained cantharidin, the same toxin found in the notorious “Spanish fly.'” • News you can use!

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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 SD:

SD writes: “Wall of orchids, Longwood Gardens, PA.”

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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. fresno dan

    NBC News
    BREAKING: The U.S. intelligence community’s leading explanation for the three most recent unidentified objects shot down over North America is that they were being used for commercial or benign purposes, the White House says.
    Ya see, I just can’t buy that. My bunions were acting up real bad, and when they act up that always means Chinese nuclear armed commie red balloons floating overhead the next day. Damn fake news….
    Plus, our splendiferious government would never waste our military by sending tanks to Ukraine or shooting down harmless balloons…remember all that yellow cake…oh – wait

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > He also suggests evidence that something big is about to happen.

      So either from Belarus or the Russians deked us into believing it’s coming from Belarus. Let’s wait and see :-)

      1. Skip Intro

        A comment at MOA has an interview by Fabian Scheidler for Berliner Zeitung with Seymour Hersh that reveals interesting new tech.details:

        I: Mr. Hersh, please explain your findings in detail. According to your source, what exactly happened, who was involved in the Nord Stream attack and what were the motives?

        H: It was a story that cried out to be told. At the end of September 2022, eight bombs were to be detonated near the island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, six of which went off, in an area where it is quite flat. They destroyed three of Nord Stream 1 and 2’s four major pipelines.

        8 bombs only 6 went off…

        The fear, however, was that the bombs would not work if they remained in the water for too long, which was indeed the case with two bombs. So there was concern within the group about finding the right remedy, and we actually had to turn to other intelligence agencies that I deliberately didn’t write about.

        There is much more.


    2. mrsyk

      Joe Biden flying to Poland early next week certainly seems to set the table for something big happening. I am fervently hoping he doesn’t get false flagged.

  2. Carolinian

    re hotboxes–one of my regular hiking trails passes beside a Norfolk/Southern line. Gonna keep an eye on those axles!

    1. skippy

      Ref hotboxes …

      I submitted NC’s rail link to some on an OZ blog and a commenter with long experience mentioned that poor maintenance could be a factor, sensors should have noted temps well in advance. Then another commenter had a peek at the controlling interests with this company and was like Welp there you go ….

      Phew … almost done moving … 20 years of 4 kids in a 6 bedroom house after all the primitive accumulation and 2nd hand goods gifted for kids first move out of house … all recycled or gone to tip … me/myself/and I with some help for heavy stuff from young son and next door bloke, eldest son is in Japan for 3 weeks with future wife – sends photos of all the epic food he is eating …. did I mention I have an acute pinched nerve in my left shoulder … oh I’m 61 … ha ha ~~~~~~

    2. upstater

      If a train has a hotbox, it will not result in an automated brake application. That is why it is so dangerous. Trains have air brakes which are either intentionally applied by the engineer or automatically. Automatic operation happens in 2 cases; a brake line on the train is ruptured (an emergency application) or controlled by Positive Train Control (if a train passes a restricted signal). PTC is a GPS based system that ties the location of the engine to signals on the line.

      If a train has a hotbox, the wheels are still turning as the axle burns into catastrophic failure. The air brake lines wouldn’t be severed until cars derail and rip it apart.

      When cabooses were eliminated in the 1980s, 2 pairs of eyes at the end of the train were eliminated. Part of the argument was hot box detectors would provide an audio warning to the engine crew and the traffic controllers. When a hot box is detected, there is an audio tone. This would alert the crew to apply the brakes. Once the train passes, the hot box detector gives an audio message of how many axles have passed up to the failure. All this information is recorded. The Norfolk Southern crew apparently got the warning from the East Palestine hotbox detector and began stopping immediately before the derailment. It appears the hotbox defector in Salem (10-15 miles prior) did not issue any warning to the train crew or dispatcher. It seems to have been out of order. For how long? Was maintenance ignored or deferred?

      The other issue are the lack of regulations limiting train size and more relaxed regulations of handling hazardous cargoes. When I worked in Syracuse for Conrail, a major shipper was a chemical plant that produced chlorine and other nastiness. IIRC, dangerous cars has to be 6 from either end of the train and no more than 6 cars in a row. I do not recall any derailment that ever came close to East Palestine. And never ruptured tank cars. Trains were seldom 150 cars and never 200+ which is common today.

  3. John

    Why get your knickers in a twist about balloons. They have been up there. They are up there. They will be up there. Why now? Something non one is supposed to see or pay attention to about to happen? Only mild paranoia.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Seymour Hersch did just finger Biden as the perpetrator of an illegal act of war. Everything done in DC from an international perspective has been to drive anti-china arrangements. Would you really want to oppose China with the US at your back?

      Now everything needs to be about how insidious China is.

      1. Skip Intro

        It is weird they are so strenuously ignoring the derailment(s) and the 100 mile ‘National Sacrifice Zone’ developing around the Ohio River. Seems like they could definitely be blaming the Russians or Chinese, not to mention Iran.
        It would be great (for Sy Hersh) to find the smoking gun showing that the Powell memo and the entire neoliberal destruction and looting of the US/Western social and industrial infrastructure were a stunningly successful plot by the KGB to vanquish the west.

        1. Mark Gisleson

          Rail issues an endless can of worms no one wants to open (it will cost HOW MUCH?!) but maybe this derailment will be like the interstate bridge collapse in Minneapolis that resulted in (hopefully) all our bridges being inspected and (hopefully) repaired.

          There is a certain genius to the weather balloons angle not the least of which would be its impact on standup comedy and late night monologues. The suits in charge would rather be laughed at over weather balloons than yelled at for criminal behavior at home and abroad.

        2. JTMcPhee

          I’ve been thinking that Zelensky is actually a Russian agent. If one looks at all his operational moves, he could not be acting more directly to maximize the damage to the nationalist state of 404, or the decimation and near destruction of NATO and the exhaustion of the Empire’s resources.

          Wonder if there will ever be anything turned up that would lead to a conclusion that he has in fact been putting on the Oscar performance of the century in his green T-shirt, suckering 404 and NATO whelps and the US blob into position to be knocked off by a Russia that has proved to be amazingly resilient and effective.

          I’m cynical enough, of course, to question whether a revised world order led by Russia and China and Brazil and India and South Africa (not a very nice place) would end up dispensing fairness and justice any better than the shites who run the blob in all its tentaculation.

          1. agent ranger smith

            It probably wouldn’t. But it would be different. So if the current flavor of injustice and unfairness has become unbearably boring and boringly unbearable, why not hope for a whole new flavor under a whole new hegemony?

      1. britzklieg

        Ah yes! Mothersbaugh’s Devo – ahead of its time and over the heads of most in its day, including mine.

  4. Jeff W

    “…the DEI infrastructure is essential to the nation’s proper functioning.”

    DEI = diversity, equity, and inclusion

    (The initialism actually isn’t spelled out in the Real Clear Investigations piece, either—which, to me, is a real editorial lapse—it’s sort of referred to by implication.)

        1. Wukchumni

          Just had a sortie of F-35’s overhead when reports of a mylar balloon aloft came over the squawker, and using NORAD tracking they were able to establish it was launched from the Sequoia Mall in Visalia, with the wording ‘It’s a Boy!’

            1. Wukchumni

              Ran into a young miss a year old and a month on her feet @ the outdoor riverside garden of the brewery here in town, and asked mom what her name was?

              Mom said they hadn’t decided yet…

              Kinda refreshing, that. Never heard of such a thing.

              1. barefoot charley

                My sister couldn’t figure out how to name her daughter for more than a year. Her aunts shamed her into it, saying they didn’t know who to write their checks to, and it was child abuse. They were really upset. Me, I’m used to her.

              2. Janie

                A resident of the tiny town in the south that we visited regularly to see relatives was called Baby Girl. She was my grandmother’s age, so of course I called her Miss Baby Girl. She had a perfectly good name, acquired when she was several years old and her mother and father finally agreed on the name. Too late!.

                1. Anon in Oregon

                  Would that happen to be Byhalia Mississippi? There was a Baby Girl in my grandmother’s generation in Byhalia. Small world?

              3. ambrit

                It could be worse. You could be named by one of your older siblings. It ended up that I, a wee lad of nine, came up with the name for my middle sister. She has never forgiven me.

              4. Chas

                Many years ago I had a friend who was required to choose his own name. He chose “Seth Thomas” as his first and middle name because the family had a Seth Thomas clock.

                    1. ronnie mitchell

                      Too bad there weren’t more like her, what an incredible woman way ahead of the times. Standing up for the rights of others.

              5. Grateful Dude

                Ima Hogg, was the daughter of Sarah Ann “Sallie” Stinson and James Stephen “Big Jim” Hogg, later attorney general and governor of the state” – of Texas. She did not have a sister named Ura.

    1. Mark Gisleson

      …paving the way for Adam Schiff.

      Mixed feelings about Schiff in this one regard as I think the U.S. Senate deserves his company.

      A less woke Hollywood might find comedy gold in a series about Senators Schiff and Cruz stuck with each other’s company because no one else in the Senate cafeteria will eat with them.

        1. ambrit

          It’s a heavy cruz to bear.
          As the centurion is supposed to have said when the parade reached Golgotha: “Are you sure this is the hill you chose to die on?”

        2. chris

          But why does he have to keep happening to us?

          Also, does anyone else find it creepy how we’re accumulating a number of weird looking people like Schiff and McConnell in our government? I remember seeing pictures of Hitler’s cabal prior to WWII and wondering how anyone could listen to these people. Now I know :/

  5. antidlc

    From various liberal sources, I keep hearing that the problem with the Norfolk Southern train that derailed in East Palestine was brakes. But none of them cite to a source.

    Sirota references a “former Federal Railroad Administrator”, but does not give a name.

    Strikes me as rather odd.

    At the 2:10 mark,
    “One former Federal Railroad Administrator regulator told us that these brakes, which are known as ECP brakes, would have mitigated a disaster like this.”

    1. wendigo

      From reading various sources on the internet there are many improvements from ECP brakes.

      The mitigation comes from reducing the time for the air signal to propagate to the end of the train. Wikipedia says up to 2 minutes, a manufacturer of the equipment says up to a minute. As well as control when each brake is applied.

      The biggest improvement comes from shorter stopping distances. This allows larger capacities and greater speeds.

      They also mention the need for fewer brake tests.

      So faster longer trains that need less care in assembly and less maintenance.

      1. lambert strether

        Sure, good technology. I’m all for it. But on all the evidence I’ve seen, it has nothing to do with the East Palestine derailment, so I’m at a loss why Lever News has latched onto it; it seems inorganic. It’s also odd that this is their main focus, as opposed to the central focus of the workers, PSR.

        1. wendigo

          My guess is that it is an excuse/distraction to ignore PSR as a cause. No need to concern yourself with PSR, more technology that reduces costs will improve safety. Perhaps safe enough to allow autonomous or single engineer operation.

          The communication capabilities required for ECP would allow for sensors to detect problems on each axle giving a real time warning at little additional cost. But that does not cut costs so no mention of that.

        2. agent ranger smith

          Here’s some pie in the sky dreaming . . . what if the several million people who additively made up the Candidate Sanders small-donor base were to get themselves back together and send in their $27 per month to . . . the railroad workers to replace their income if they all decided to resign, quit, etc.

          And stay resigned, quitted, etc. until the railroad industry were tortured into hiring the workers back on the workers’s own terms. Didn’t I read once about how the teachers of Finland, when they were told that going on strike was a hard-prison-time offence, all resigned and quit their teaching jobs, which was perfectly legal?

          Could the Bernie DonorBase raise enough money to subsidize all the railroad workers for years to come to just quit, and stay just quitted?

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      In ‘Murca, the solution is always to buy something. Not fix something. Not maintain something. Not avoid something harmful. Buy something. Preferably on credit.

    3. VietnamVet

      Hot box detectors are usually twenty to thirty miles apart on mainlines. The earlier post here indicated that a detector wasn’t working and a closed circuit video showed the undercarriage was already on fire near that spot. The next detector down the line detected the heat from the fire and the engineer put the train into emergency braking.

      Precision Railroading now sets up miles long trains haphazardly. Putting unloaded railcars at the front of the train, for example. Trains are more likely derail as a result while braking.

      If the detector was working, the train shorter and put together properly, there would have not have been the environmental disaster. Like all accidents there is a chain of events that caused it to happen. If the safety rules were followed the accident would have been avoided but that costs money and eats into the corporate bottom line.

      Railroading is deregulated.

  6. griffen

    Substitute Weyland Yutani for I dunno, Pfizer or Moderna? Evil incorporated firms, only the first is in works of science fiction.

    We could learn to live with them aliens, but a hunch tells me it would not go well for humans or even androids! We ain’t gonna last 17 hours man with all them things running around!

    1. chris

      Yep. Alien and Aliens seem prophetic these days. That is truly how our corporate masters would behave given access to those resources. Ripley’s fate at the start of Aliens is also something I can imagine a corporation like Microsoft or Amazon imposing on a person who destroyed corporate property…

      1. Watt4Bob

        There is no evidence cited that brake issues were a proximate cause of the derailment.

        Unless the braking issues are of the type described below. (From the Lever News linked.)

        In order to mitigate in-train forces, railroads prior to PSR would build trains with the heavier cars on the head end and the lighter cars on the rear end. This prevents severe slack run-ins and run-outs throughout the trip and if the train’s emergency brakes are applied, you don’t have heavier cars running into lighter cars which causes jackknifing.

        The same paragraph says that 32N, the train that derailed in Palestine was improperly blocked;

        Building a train like this (Head end = locomotives, which are the heaviest part of any train, followed by heavy mixed freight loads, followed by a block of cushioned draw bar cars, followed by a block of heavy tank cars (such as the case with this 32N) is akin to placing two bowling balls on the ends of a rubber band and praying the rubber band doesn’t break.

        So even if it was a “Hot Box” that started the problem, the brakes/breaking may well have been involved.

        1. Watt4Bob

          Having said that, IMHO, PSR, and the related cutting of corners as regards safety are the root cause of this accident.

          PSR means crews aren’t allowed the time to properly assemble the train so as to avoid one of the issues that contributed to the derailment.

        2. lambert strether

          You are correct, I wrote in haste; I mean, it’s my own post!

          I meant that brake pads catch on fire, too, like a hot box. But there is no indication that brake pads did that, unless the notion of “hot box” has expanded way beyond my understanding, and that of my sources.

          1. upstater

            Stuck brakes would trip a hotbox detector. This can happen from brake rigging failure or most failure to release a hand brake (the proximate cause of the Lac Megantic disaster). It isn’t as dangerous as a hotbox (bearing failure) in the same way a stuck brake on a car is less serious than abrupt failure of ball joints or bearings. Of course none of these are tolerable and are unsafe.

        3. ronnie mitchell

          Years ago I was a brakeman for Canadian Pacific and when on the caboose you’re the end of the whip on cars run in and run outs and the majority of times the engineer is at fault by either being sloppy with the handling of the train. When you were on the caboose there was one engineer train crews didn’t like to work with.
          Also some engineers, like truck drivers have nodded off, and if the train was running in and out a little too often we’d call up front and ask about a train order or something. A few times the ride got a lot smoother.
          One important job on the caboose was to at least watch the train for sparks from a sticking brake and you would every so often look behind the caboose to see if there’s any fresh cuts on the railroad ties, a car somewhere on the train may have a wheel on the ground.

          1. Watt4Bob

            When I drove taxi, I often hauled train crews back in the 70s and 80s, back then, IIIRC, a crew was an engineer, a conductor a brakeman and what I think were called a Hostler and a Herder?

            At any rate, I would haul 4 guys to a hotel, or another train.

            Now if I understand it, the crew is two people, an engineer and a conductor?

            And the railroad company wants to do away with the conductor, no crew, just an engineer?

            Sounds ever more dangerous.

    1. fresno dan

      Hana M
      Carl Beijer
      OK this is genuinely insane: the US had 35 derailments per 1000 miles of track in 2021

      That same year, Sweden had… 0.6.
      You see all those statistics about how many people get shot by police in the US versus other countries, and you see this about derailments, and I dunno, but I just get the impression that we are all….expendable.

  7. fresno dan

    “Mike Gallagher: A New Cold Warrior” [RealClearPolitics]. “The West is unprepared for everything all at once…. Well, at least that is what Rep. Mike Gallagher along with a team of academics and generals had to imagine when they poured over what looked like the most complicated “Risk” board ever assembled. It was only a war game, an exercise hosted last May by the Center for a New American Security…. If the U.S. and China go to war, the Wisconsin Republican said in a ‘Meet the Press’ interview, ‘a lot of people are going to lose their lives.’
    Ya think? Does he think that should be prevented?
    I always wonder: what do the lemmings think as they free fall?

    1. The Rev Kev

      You don’t think that they are thinking of Mike Gallagher making a run for the Presidency in 2024, do you? And this article might be – dare I say it – a trial balloon?

  8. Hepativore

    So, I have been becoming increasingly annoyed with all of the Biden hagiography that has been coming from the “Squad”, particularly how everybody in the major news networks seems to think that he has been doing a great job in regards to the economy and are pointedly ignoring how anti-labor “Union Joe” actually is or how he has been trying to escalate confrontation with several nuclear-armed nations. I know that the latter is to appease the MIC with lucrative contracts for expensive new toys, but I do not see what the blob hopes to accomplish as it seems suicidal when nuclear weapons are involved.

    As I am not a boomer, but as an “elder Millennial”, are boomers and GenXers really swallowing this crap that is coming from the Biden administration? I know that the DNC is already trying to shuffle the state primaries around to give Biden an advantage for 2024, but is the resulting backlash really going to make much of an electoral impact on a 2024 Biden run? I hope for our sake that Biden will be too visibly mush-brained from dementia for the DNC to try and drag him across the primary finish line again…unless they try finding a convincing body double for when he has to appear in public.

    Even if there is a large backlash, I wonder when the DNC will just cancel having primaries at all for the foreseeable future and just appoint the Democratic Party presidential candidate, since there is nothing legally stopping them from doing just that, apparently.

  9. Mildred Montana

    >”People loved the lockdown as it gave them time to experience life outside of corporate control.”

    What world is “anordinarygirl” living in and how much has she thought about lockdowns? During the lockdowns most people left one corporate master (their employer) only to serve another (big tech). They didn’t “experience life outside of corporate control”, they most of them ended up sitting in front of their computers, doing many things online, and providing meat for the FANG.

    It wasn’t like these newly emancipated wage slaves were suddenly going to go for long walks on the beach and enjoy leisurely lunches. No, they were now glued to their computers, exactly where big tech wants them. That’s its long-term goal and lockdowns play perfectly into its hand.

    1. hunkerdown

      They did, to the extent that corporate control hadn’t interposed itself as decisively between them in the early stages of the pandemic. It only took them a few months to get everyone back into pugilistic form for the election, however.

      Besides that, many of us did use our furloughs to pick up hobbies, learn skills, and disinvest from capitalist relations. Others exploited capitalist relations in reverse and “overemployed” themselves.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      You’re saying working from home is the same as working in the office? From a 30,000 foot level, that’s true, since the wage relation is the same, but in terms of day-to-day experience, it’s absolutely not true. I mean, when I lived in Philly, I had a two-and-a-half hour commute. Each way. When I worked from home, I got a lot of my life back.

      1. FreeMarketApologist

        My pre-lockdown commute was 15 minutes (walk or subway). My lockdown commute was <1 minute. My life improved when I started going back to the office because I got a better mental break between work and non-work time, because having that commute time emphasized that there were two modes.

        I have co-workers who really don’t like WFH. They’d much rather be in the office, commute and all.

        1. lambert strether

          > I have co-workers who really don’t like WFH. They’d much rather be in the office, commute and all.

          Extroverts are gonna kill us all.

      2. Hepativore

        I am surprised that there is not a job board website somewhere specifically for work-from-home jobs. The trouble with most online postings is that they are either scams or temporary positions.

        I would have love to have a work-from-home job, as I would save massive amounts of money not having to drive from where I live in the middle of nowhere, and I was one of the lucky “essential workers” so I still had to go to work when the governor of my state issued lockdowns.

        1. Bugs

          On LinkedIn most jobs are marked with whether they’re on site, remote or hybrid. You could run a search with those terms.

      3. Mildred Montana

        Lambert: “You’re saying working from home is the same as working in the office?”

        No of course not. What I am saying—or rather, trying to say in a short comment—is that work on the computer at home will almost inevitably lead to non-work activities on the computer (“Gotta update my Facebook page, gotta order something from Amazon, let’s take a peek at Netflix…”) Who could possibly avoid the temptation?

        Pretty soon he or she is on the computer all day and into “off” hours as well. Few, and especially the young I predict, will be able to resist the pull. A big win for tech. A loss for other activities like reading, socializing, and long walks on the beach.

    3. JM

      I don’t know how common it is, but I’ve seen several variants on Reddit (workreform, latestagecapitalism, maybe antiwork ones; so take with a grain of salt on more general feelings) of people reflecting on things like: learning how to make bread, not commuting, not getting sucked into petty office politics/drama, etc.

      So, I do think that at least some people saw the possibility of another way, if only for a few moments.

      This probably was only possible because many businesses weren’t really prepared for WFH. The non-profit I worked at at the time had just started using Teams and a remote desktop for the majority of work only a few months pre-lockdown; and for us it was a scramble to get people working. If it were to happen again now, the digital screws would be a whole heck of a lot tighter.

  10. Matthew G. Saroff

    It should be noted that DEI bureaucracies do not work.

    It’s been a while since I looked at it, but in universities, ex employment in the diversity office, resulted in no increase in staff diversity.

    The problem with , or perhaps the goal of, most diversity offices is that they hire lots of people to train other people in how to purge their hearts of bigotry when what they should be doing is pursuing sanctions against offenders.

    As an FYI, this is very similar to civil rights training for cops.

    1. semper loquitur

      I ask again, how many mouths has liberal IDpolitics fed? How many naked, clothed? How many homeless, housed?

      1. hunkerdown

        No doubt a few tens of “scholars” have been successfully “uplifted” from the ghetti (Getty?) into elite universities to counter the effects of elite conspicuity.

    2. The Rev Kev

      On this other hand, this new “industry” will provide a lot of lucrative jobs for PMCs, especially those who have just graduated from college so will know how to fix things.

    3. agent ranger smith

      Perhaps their whole secret reason for being is to keep themselves in permanent existence as a lucrative self-licking ice cream cone racket.

      If your salary depends on solving the problem, and your salary stops when the problem gets solved, it is in you and your salary’s interest to make sure the problem never ever gets solved. Never. Ever.

      How rich has DeAngelo gotten by now off her White Fragility Training racket?

  11. DJG, Reality Czar

    “I had hoped to pair this with a paper on the neurological effects of Covid, suggesting that the brain and the gut might not be the independent standalone systems we think they are, but unfortunately the neurological paper is gone where the woodbine twineth.”

    Well, the article indicates that the imbalance means that gut bacteria that break down tryptophan are suppressed. Tryptophan seems to have big effects on our bodily cycles: “The body uses tryptophan to help make melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, and serotonin is thought to help regulate appetite, sleep, mood, and pain.” (a definition from elsewhere)

    Cold comfort, indeed, but I will offer some information on the brain in the gut:

    So there is much communication going on, with the vagus nerve involved, all of which is complicated by the virus’s evolution to go up one’s nose, which means directly into the brain, where it has been known to travel along the nerves.

    It’s a problem: Observing evolution in real time.

  12. Laughingsong

    “No wonder Listerine is good against Covid”

    Yeah, from the way it feels when used (we use it regularly, and we call it ‘Blisterine’), it just burns all dem mouth bugs like a chemical fire.

    1. Martin Oline

      I feel the same way about Listerine. It feels like it’s effective due to the taste. However, I went to the drugstore last month with a scrap of paper that had the two ingredients which are supposed to be effective against Covid. I found the Listerine did not have it listed as an ingredient. Both Crest and Colgate listed cetylpyridinium chloride 0.07% as an ingredient in some versions but it was not listed in the Listerine, so I reluctantly bought the Crest (clean mint). Not all variations of Crest & Colgate had the ingredient. I have thrown away the scrap of paper so cannot remember what the two chemicals were now. Perhaps someone can remember what they were.

        1. skk

          Really ! After moving in the early 1990s to the USA and then recovering from dental problems arising from smoking, lack of British dentist availability at ‘free at the point of service’ NHS ethos etc, the US dentist prescribed Chlorhexidine as helpful to recover from gingivitis.

          Since then, despite not strictly needing it, and while Chlorohexidine is prescription only in the USA, its over the counter in many other countries – e.g. Mexico and India. I stock up whenever I or friends visit those places . Of course you can buy it online too.

          Its helped mitigate the damage from smoking over the previous 30 years massively, IMO. It does stain your teeth so regular visits for stain removal and careful application at the areas under potential threat, not just swishing with it is something I do.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Started with listerine myself after reading here about some other oral rinse that might be effective. Listerine seemed like it might be effective to me too, and the worst that could happen is I’d have better breath. I’ve been using it pretty regularly for a couple years now along with my one J&J shot about a year and a half ago. Finally caught the rona a couple weeks ago for the first time that I’m aware of. Pretty mild case – felt bad for an evening then woke up the next day feeling fine. Took a test anyway and it came up positive. I rarely get sick, which I credit to growing up near the family dairy farm and picking up some of the good microbes. Can’t say I’ve been overly careful the last few years although I’ve taken some precautions. So even though I finally caught it I’ll keep taking the listerine anyway. Who knows? – it might have been worse otherwise and the blue stuff even tastes pretty good.

      2. Martin Oline

        I believe the original link was in the Jan. 27 NC but the crux of it is: “Cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) is widely used as one of the bactericidal components of mouthwash, tablets, sprays, and drops. CPC can disrupt the lipid membrane through physicochemical interactions. CPC has already been reported to have bactericidal effects as well as antiviral effects against influenza virus and coronaviruses” The link from Nature is here. Listerine may work as well but doesn’t have CPC. Whatever works is good for you.

    2. britzklieg

      Heh… as a singer, I’ve used Listerine mostly for colds, although I could have used it more and possibly saved some dental issues, the scourge of plaque and periodontitis. And since we know now that perio problems are co-morbid with covid it might be a good choice to consider. I had no idea that Lister originally conceived it as a barrier to airborne pathogens. I remember early in the scourge I heard a doctor mention it and began using it a lot more often.

      That said… here’s a precaution which I discovered only a few days ago. It will probably curb my enthusiasm a bit:

      “Most mouthwash contain antibacterial ingredients, which could impact oral microbes critical for nitric oxide formation, and in turn predispose to metabolic disorders including diabetes.” – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6628144/

      And people should be very careful not to swallow any of it. My experience is that even a tiny amount can really mess up gut flora.

      But here’s something a bit more upbeat and easy: Humming greatly increases nasal nitric oxide !


      Appreciate the “alert” compliment, lambert. As you probably figured out, my need to be so can go into hyperdrive, leaving me with too much info and too many disparate opinions to juggle. But at my age I figure better an active mind, however confused, than braindead.


      1. anahuna

        Thanks.That’s a useful reminder. Besides the negative nitric oxide effect, it seems that anti-bacterial mouthwashes kill off the good bacteria in saliva that help to digest food.

        One more choice to make.

        Humming. Humming.

  13. Raymond Sim

    Patient readers: I can’t with this garbage Cochrane review; I’ll have a takedown in the near future.

    Oh thank goodness, I looked upon it and despaired. It reminds me of the time I went to sweep out a granary that had been closed up over the winter, and discovered an ecosystem of cannibal rats.

  14. JM

    Wisconsin’s wastewater tracking page: https://dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/wastewater.htm. I’ve only poked around with it a bit but it seems decent, the city specific graph below the state one is a little confusing but not terrible.

    Washington state has it in a sub-tab of their PowerBI widget: https://covid19.bfhd.wa.gov/cases-and-roadmap-to-recovery/ (fantastic URL); looks like 4 municipal areas involved? Also has this: https://doh.wa.gov/emergencies/covid-19/data-dashboard#WasteWater

    Minnesota: https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/a8d269bd670a421e9fd45f967f23f13c?data_id=dataSource_1-17ed5c83cca-layer-5%3A2 Done by UM on a weekly basis.

    Couldn’t find anything on state websites for Virginia or Tennessee, maybe with more digging.

  15. Diogenes

    Your (Lambert) point that the virus levels do not appear particularly seasonal is well taken. However the deaths curve kinda does. Which obviously raises the question: why the divergence?

    Given how complex the systems are, we shouldn’t be too surprised if the answer is also pretty complicated, but at the risk of making an overly reductive hypothesis: seems like vitamin D would fit that bill, given the seasonality of natural production from sunlight, and the accumulating evidence linking bodily levels of vitamin d to healthy immune systems. Or maybe it’d be better put the other way round: a link between vitamin d deficiency and unhealthy immune systems.

  16. FreeMarketApologist

    Re: Plant of the day.

    For plant lovers, landscape lovers, and/or music lovers, if you’re in the area (Kennett Square, SW of Philadelphia), or willing to travel, Longwood Gardens is definitely worth a visit. Acres and acres of tremendously varied outdoor landscaping, extraordinary greenhouses (practically miles of rows of plants), and music (a very good pipe organ adjacent to the greenhouses). Can get a bit crowded as it’s definitely a destination, but worth a visit in most seasons.

  17. Wukchumni

    Go take a hike, Salt Creek BLM Trail Three Rivers

    Walked about 10 miles roundtrip to one man’s dream that i’d heard of but never been to, nicknamed ‘tiny village’, and its a schlep getting there as you gain a few thousand feet in altitude walking the Salt Creek fire road on BLM land, which gives way to adjacent private land, and tiny village has a couple of 1-2 person homes, a saloon, livery stable, deck with slide and maybe the best open air fully functional shitter ever where you peer out onto the white elephant of Alta Peak in the distance, if only the force was with me, Luke.

    Everything was locked up and the saloon looked interesting, peering into it. On the deck of the saloon was a beer cooler with about 2 dozen and a ‘help yourself’ sign.

    One of the houses had mostly $ bills with names written on them tacked to the ceiling above the deck, with the occasional $5 & $10, maybe $83 altogether.

    I was not ready for the spectacular view of both the frontcountry and backcountry of Sequoia NP from this eagles nest, one of the nicest i’ve ever seen.

    A nice perk 2/3rds of the way up is the 2 Salt Creek Falls, the bigger one is about 150 feet high with 7 or 8 stops along the way, the smaller one a straight shot down about 40 feet.


    1. Noone from Nowheresville

      Those links at the bottom of the Laboratory Hygiene page might be what you’re after.

      e.g., Here’s a report page at Outbreak.info on Minnesota on tracked lineages. They also have an API if someone wants to play. Sorry if this has already been posted, I’ve fallen behind on NC articles and links.


      RE: Top ten styled lists: If I had a to-be-considered for the future enhancement wish, it would be a month end summary list of articles written specifically by NC contributors. Or something similar. Coverage / reporting by NC contributors gives me the most bang for my reading time. I know I can use the excellent search feature but that’s not the same as links at a glance or spotlighting how important the NC writers and their reporting is.

      Just a thought because I’m behind in my reading. I’m probably not the only one.

  18. semper loquitur

    It’s reassuring to hear Secretary Pete say that he “continues to be concerned” eleven days in about a problem that will have knock-on effects, across a plentitude of issues, for decades to come. But perhaps he is working under a mainstream media time frame. This too shall pass. Waiting for the, erm, balloon to go up, as it were.

  19. Jason Boxman

    I’d avoid Opera like the plague since it was bought out by a shady Chinese firm some years ago. The core developers all decamped to Vivaldi. When using OperaLink to sync tabs, I noticed in the Facebook third party vendors data tab on Facebook that all my browsing history was showing up in Facebook, with the reported third party being Opera.

    I immediately uninstalled Opera and switched browsers.

    1. Bart Hansen

      Been using Vivaldi for several years. Dropped Opera when they went off the rails after release 12 and was on Chrome for a while until V stabilized.

      1. Jason Boxman

        My only disappointment is CTR-TAB/most recently used tab broke last year in 5.2? and having filed bugs, hit them up on Twitter, and posted in their forum, it’s WONTFIX. Someone with more ambition/more annoyed even posted a full video of this bug, but no dice. It’s very disruptive when switching between multiple tabs for projects. That and Google Voice not advancing the screen when I send/receive a text are probably the only major technology screwups I deal with, so I guess in that regard life is pretty good.

  20. DGL

    “Hot Box” – in the old days there were boxes where oil was put to lubricate axles. You illustrated the box yesterday. The box is no longer used. Ball bearings have been used since at least the 1950s-60’s. https://www.amstedrail.com/products/freight-car-components/bearings/
    Regardless they fail. The brakepeople in the caboose used to watch for hot boxes. The current peopleless automated detector method brings to mind the Ho Chi Min Trail detection system of the Viet Nam War. Unreliable.

    1. lambert strether

      Roller bearings still catch on fire, albeit more slowly, and should still be inspected.

      “Let’s wait ’til it catches on fire and then detect it!” I dunno….

      1. Rod

        FYI–heres what EPA District Five had to say to NS’s Chief Counsel last Friday 2/10 via E-mail and Fed Ex Overnight–with this on page 3:
        As a PRP, you should notify EPA in writing within one (1) calendar day of receipt of this letter of your willingness to perform or finance the response activities to address contamination caused by the incident described above and to reimburse EPA for its costs.


  21. Nick

    Corsi-Rosenthal (CR) Box stands.

    Great idea but I think I’ll stick to the Industrial look. If you don’t like the lettering on the pipe just sand it off or use clear primer to wipe it away.

    3/4″ PVC TEE- Industrial Grade QTY 8 .50 X 8 = $4.00
    3/4″ 3 Way PVC Industrial Grade Side Fitting 2.16 X 8 = $17.28
    3/4″ PVC End Cap Industrial Grade .35 X 8 = $2.80
    3/4″ PVC Pipe Industrial Grade 3 Each 10′ Sections 5.33 X 3 = $15.99

    Subtotal $40.59
    Tax $ 2.44
    Local Pickup Gas Cost $ 1.00
    Grand Total $44.03
    Money saved: Enough to build a Corsi-Rosenthal box to go on top.

  22. The Rev Kev

    ‘The Figen
    Very good.’

    That guy is good. Very good. And to add to this, a week ago I came across clips of a style of Russian dancing that I never saw before. I have seen lines of girls doing it as well as this big burly guy. Check this out-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiBvrsnB1cU (1:02 mins)

    As for that ‘At this point I really welcome Aliens’ tweet, it’s not gunna happen. Earth is under quarantine right now. Years ago there were aliens watching us from a monitoring station, especially our global communications when they discovered a silo called Rule 34. After watching it for a week they abandoned their mission and have refused orders to return. It is said that some of those alien observers still cry themselves to sleep each night.

    1. semper loquitur

      Kababble could be replaced with an Animatronic doll, well, then again, someone would notice how eloquent she had suddenly become…

  23. JustTheFacts

    If you are interested in upper room UV fixtures, here is an open source one. Maker Naomi Wu has been covering this for some time, and also made a plywood version.

    (use at your own risk obviously)

  24. Tommy S

    Granted I didn’t go past the FT paywall, but this bit ““In 1985, an American man working the typical full-time job could support a family of four on 40 weeks of income, and be able to afford a range of nutritious foods, a three-bedroom house, a comprehensive health insurance plan, a family car, even saving to put both kids through the state university.” No, not the 1980’s world whatsoever, unless they are ignoring the bottom half, and just go from ‘median household income’ (which by the 80’s meant at least two wage earners mostly) and up above. I didn’t know more then 2 out of 20, middle class or working class friends that could afford four kids AND a house then. Yes half of my friends went to college cheaply. One point right.

  25. Martin Oline

    Larry Johnston had a new piece on the Ukraine Defense Contact Group wherein he says “The remarks by Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley revealed two guys with an iron grip on delusion and a total lack of self-awareness. The audacity of these two failed military leaders to pretend they are qualified to offer advice to Ukraine on how to fight a first world military when their own dismal military records show they failed to defeat a bunch of goat herders and tribesmen that had no combat air, no helicopters and no artillery is the definition of chutzpah. It would be funny were it not for the slaughter underway in Ukraine.
    He has a link to the press conference at his article titled Public Display of Gross Incompetence… Something for you night owls.

  26. LawnDart

    China weighs in on Ohio derailment (and balloons as a distraction too!):

    ‘Serious’ Ohio chemical leak being ignored by US govt, media; aftermath could linger for 20 yrs

    By GT staff reporters
    Published: Feb 14, 2023 09:09 PM Updated: Feb 14, 2023 10:46 PM

    Peng Yingdeng, an expert from China’s central government supervision center for environmental protection and emergency management, said that the chemical leak constitutes a serious safety accident, and may impose “long-term” health threat to populations nearby. Vinyl chloride is highly inflammable, said Peng, noting that if the vinyl chloride is not burnt completely, it will release more toxic dioxins and phosgene. Dioxins is very difficult to degrade naturally, and once it permeates into soil, may remain there for decades, Peng said. He noted that the grains produced from this soil will cause cancer and mutation inside human bodies.

    Health experts also called US authorities’ handling of the Ohio derailment “irresponsible and unscientific.”

    Ding Xuejia, a professor from Beijing University of Chemical Technology, said that controlled burn is a wrong way to deal with vinyl chloride, noting that after being burnt, the vinyl chloride will release substances that are many times more toxic as the gas itself. Those toxic substances can enter human bodies, go into water body and air, and cause serious damage to people and the environment, said Ding.

    He predicted without further interference, the aftermath of the incident will linger for at least 20 years or even longer, and probably will lead to surge of number of cancer patients.


    In the article, GT appears to have misspelled Pittsburgh as “Pittsburg.”

  27. JB

    “This chart does not look particularly seasonal” — Agreed! I had this same discussion with some folks just a few weeks ago. They insisted COVID was endemic and seasonal. And I replied “oh so the season is, what, waves lasting 3-4 months every 3-4 months??” That goalpost has shifted from earlier in the pandemic when “season” seemed to be one wave (or 2 at the most, fall and spring, when multiple strains present) per year, you know, like the flu. It’s maddening to me that we are just accepting that this is all that can be done.

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