By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
In honor of the tool-using Cockatoo:
Gang-gang Cockatoo, Rail Trail, Launching Place Swamp, Yarra Ranges, Victoria, Australia. The cockatoo is the one that sounds like a creaking door.
“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 faces a key economic decision ahead of reelection” [Politico]. “President Joe Biden’s selection of Lael Brainard as his top economic adviser fills one big policymaking gap for the White House — and creates another opening for him at the Federal Reserve to shape one of his biggest threats: a volatile economy. Brainard, named by Biden as director of his National Economic Council, has been an influential force at the central bank for the past decade in setting interest rate policy, including nearly a year as Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s No. 2. The president’s decision on her successor offers him a chance to select someone who would be gentler on the economy — Brainard, like all the Fed’s voting members, has backed Powell on rate hikes — hoping to avoid a recession before the 2024 election. Gender and racial diversity are also factors, given that Powell and Michael Barr, vice chair overseeing regulatory policy, are both white men.”
“President Biden Signs Executive Order to Strengthen Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Across the Federal Government” [The White House]. “Through the implementation of landmark legislation and historic executive action, the Biden-Harris Administration is working to make real the promise of America for everyone—including rural communities, communities of color, Tribal communities, LGBTQI+ individuals, people with disabilities, women and girls, and communities impacted by persistent poverty.” • @wsbgnl: “Please look away from the extraordinary avoidable covid-related loss of life and deepening public health abandonment of rural communities, communities of color, Tribal communities, people with disabilities, and communities impacted by persistent poverty…”
“Senior Democrats’ Private Take on Biden: He’s Too Old” [Politico]. “gh-level Democrats are rallying to President Biden’s reelection, not because they think it’s in the best interest of the country to have an 82-year-old start a second term but because they fear the potential alternative: the nomination of Kamala Harris and election of Donald Trump…. ‘Nobody wants to be the one to do something that would undermine the chances of a Democratic victory in 2024,’ Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) explained to me. ‘Yet in quiet rooms the conversation is just the opposite — we could be at a higher risk if this path is cleared.'” • “Quiet rooms.” Love that.
“Trump attacks Haley on Medicare, Social Security cuts” [The Hill]. “Former President Trump on Wednesday attacked new Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, his former United Nations ambassador, for her previous support of cutting Medicare and Social Security. In an email titled ‘The Real Nikki Haley’ sent minutes after her official campaign launch event, the Trump campaign noted Haley supported former Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) plan to eliminate Medicare and turn it into a voucher system. He also highlighted a 2010 Fox News interview where Haley indicated Congress should be looking to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Trump has leaned into attacking his current and potential 2024 rivals on entitlements, looking to exploit divisions in the Republican Party over the issue — just as President Biden and the Democrats are doing. Biden used his State of the Union address last week to accuse Republicans of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare, baiting them into loudly booing his remarks. Trump is pushing a similar attack on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has not officially declared his candidacy but is seen as Trump’s main rival for the 2024 GOP nomination.” • So Trump is to the left [sic] of Obama in his “Grand Bargain” days….
“Jack Smith, Special Counsel for Trump Inquiries, Steps Up the Pace” [New York Times]. “Did former President Donald J. Trump consume detailed information about foreign countries while in office? How extensively did he seek information about whether voting machines had been tampered with? Did he indicate he knew he was leaving when his term ended? Those are among the questions that Justice Department investigators have been directing at witnesses as the special counsel, Jack Smith, takes control of the federal investigations into Mr. Trump’s efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss and his handling of classified documents found in his possession after he left office.” I don’t know why it makes sense to combine those two investigations under one hat. I suppose Whitewater sets a precedent, though. More: “Current and former officials say Mr. Smith appears to see the various strands of his investigations as being of a single piece, with interconnected elements, players and themes — even if they produce divergent outcomes.” Which is fine, but the article doesn’t explain why that is. More: “The intensified pace of activity speaks to his goal of finishing up before the 2024 campaign gets going in earnest, probably by summer.” More: “His team is sifting through mountains of testimony provided by the House Jan. 6 committee, including focusing on the so-called fake electors scheme in which some of Mr. Trump’s advisers and some campaign officials assembled alternate slates of Trump electors from contested states that he had lost.” Concluding: “But many legal observers see the current situation — with two likely 2024 presidential rivals, Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, facing separate special counsel investigations — as evidence that the special counsel mechanism is being used far beyond its intended, limited purpose.” • Looking forward to voting for Trump when he runs from a jail cell.
IA: “GOP Structuring Book Hearings So Only Parents In Favor Of Bans Are Heard” [Iowa Starting Line]. “House Republicans are designing their special government oversight public hearings on school book banning so that they only get input from parents who agree with them. Last week, the House Government Oversight Committee met to hear from five women who want books removed or restricted from their school libraries and curricula. Legislative Republicans decided this year to hold special listening sessions at the Statehouse to look into book concerns pushed by right-wing activists—these are separate from regular committee hearings on proposed bills. Opponents to the book-ban push were frustrated that only one side got to speak on the topic, but Republicans noted they’d have a follow-up hearing. However, State Rep. Brooke Boden (R-Indianola) told a parent group that the other hearing won’t allow input from parents opposed to the censorship push, but instead focus on school administrators.” • These are state-level hearings. I wonder if the Republican handbook for national hearings around the country recommends that they be embubbled, or not?
“Trump’s Supreme Court Picks Are Not Quite What You Think” [New York Times]. “Opponents of abortion got what they wanted when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and the ramifications of that decision can’t be overstated. But did Mr. Trump get the rest of what he wanted from the justices he appointed? Almost six years after the first appointment, we can begin to form an answer: not entirely. While conservative, none of his three appointments are nearly as conservative — nor as consistently conservative — as Justices Thomas and Alito. The Trump appointees are also not as unified as they might initially appear…. [They] cannot be easily characterized as either hard-core originalists or blanket partisans…. The significant ideological gap between Justices Thomas and Alito, on the one hand, and the Trump nominees, on the other, can be seen in their Martin-Quinn scores, a measure of judicial ideology developed by political scientists. Based on their rulings during the court’s last term, Justices Thomas and Alito earn scores of 2.949 and 2.458, the higher number signifying greater conservatism. Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett earn scores of 1.019, 0.791 and 1.318, respectively — fairly close to one another, but markedly different from the two scores of the staunch conservatives anchoring the right wing of the court.” • Interesting, and shows the vacuity of the nomination fights.
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!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“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.
* * *
PA: “Sen. John Fetterman has checked into Walter Reed hospital for clinical depression” [The Inquirer]. “Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Wednesday night to receive treatment for clinical depression, his office said Thursday, adding that his longtime struggle with that issue became ‘severe’ in recent weeks… ‘While John has experienced depression off and on throughout his life, it only became severe in recent weeks,” his chief of staff, Adam Jentleson, said in a statement Thursday…. U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, a Lehigh Valley Democrat whose partner died by suicide in 2019, issued an impassioned statement hailing Fetterman’s public announcement. She pointed to the strain he faced this past year, including the stroke, a fraught political campaign with national stakes, and adjusting to a demanding new job. ‘There are those who will say living with depression is a barrier to serving your constituents, but they are wrong,’ Wild wrote. ‘Rather, the Pennsylvanians who also live with depression see in their Senator someone who understands their struggles, bravely sought help, and will fight to ensure that they can receive the same quality care he does.'” • “Living with.” Now I know where that phrase came from….
PA: “Fetterman draws praise for getting help for depression” [Associated Press]. And so he should. “Fetterman’s public struggle is extraordinary in a building where few talk about their own mental health, even while members of both parties have legislation to expand aid for it. Kennedy and a handful of others who have been open about their own problems, or those in their family, say they hope Fetterman’s honesty — and his decisive action to get help — will foster more openness among lawmakers and their constituents in the wake of a global pandemic that has had far-reaching effects.” • Maybe. I don’t have a great deal of sympathy for partisan sniping on Fetterman; in the same way I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for partisan sniping on, say, Matt Gaetz. Warren? Oz? Dunk away, they earned it. But not everybody does.
PA: “Depression and Stroke” [American Stroke Association]. “Depression is a common experience for stroke survivors. It’s often caused by biochemical changes in the brain. When the brain is injured, the survivor may not be able to feel positive emotions. Depression can also be a normal psychological reaction to the losses from stroke.” • It’s up to Pennsylvania voters, in my mind.
PA: “Fetterman campaign may have violated finance rules by selling donor list” [New York Post]. “On Nov. 3, 2022, five days before voters were scheduled to go to the polls in the key senate race that pitted Pensylvania Democrat Fetterman against Republican television personality Mehmet Oz, Fetterman for PA raked in $2.2 million from two progressive Washington strategists for the sale of the list. Middle Seat Consulting, which worked on Fetterman’s campaign, paid $1 million in a ‘list acquisition purchase,’ according to campaign finance records. Aisle 518 Consulting LLC, which has worked on Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential bid, among other progressive campaigns, paid $1.2 million for Fetterman’s list, according to public records. A day later, on Nov. 4, the Fetterman campaign took in $250,000 from fellow Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey for Senate Inc, Federal Election Commission filings show. While it’s neither uncommon nor illegal for political candidates to sell or rent out their donor lists, the Federal Election Commission requires that they be sold at similar prices: ‘At the ‘usual and normal’ rate without the purchaser making a contribution,’ said a spokesman for the FEC. In Fetterman’s case, his list commanded wildly divergent rates and was sold again in the weeks after the midterm elections to one of the Washington-based strategists.” • Seems like a venial sin, not a mortal one.
WI: “Democrats Meddle Again in a G.O.P. Primary, This Time Down-Ballot” [New York Times]. “The Democrats are helping a far-right election denier who has become a pariah within her party in her race against a less extreme, but still election-denying, conservative. They hope that with a more vulnerable opponent, Democrats can win a seat held for decades by Republicans and deny the G.O.P. a veto-proof majority in the gerrymandered chamber.” • You’d think “Democrat-endorsed” would be the kiss of death in a Republican primary. Why don’t the Republicans ever push back on this?
Realignment and Legitimacy
Trump convinced his base, that it’s a hoax, Biden convinced his base, that Covid is nothing to worry about anymore. Different strategies, same result. It’s infuriating. We deserve better than that.
— Tina (@Tina2Tired) February 12, 2023
Brain worms wherever you look. The terrible thing is that you don’t know you have them. Nobody does, including me. I wonder what De Tocqueville would think…
The same phenomenon–
“The Closed Imagination of the Online Liberal” [Ross Barkan]. “If you disagree with one tribe, you are coded as belonging to the other, even if you claim no membership in it. Conservatives will cast out those who criticize Donald Trump or don’t believe that critical race theory is the single greatest threat to American civilization. Liberals will censure anyone who offers sustained critiques of Democrats or the pathologies of the college-educated set…. this is the kind of sentiment I see all the time, especially in political circles. It is, funnily enough, not so different than the slapdash analysis employed by the people Stancil despises—the right-wing, the fascist-friendly, the ardent Trump supporters. The analysis takes a deeply complex, multifarious world and furiously flattens it; it makes existence fit for consumption. Individuals are like soft drinks that must be immediately sorted. Are you Coke or Pepsi? Mountain Dew or Fanta? Are you good or bad? Please tell me, because I want to know what to think.” • Classification struggles…
“Being Radical is a Skill” [Joshua P. Hill, New Means]. “The need for a widespread understanding and adoption of true radicality, of reaching for and grasping problems at the root, is everywhere we look. I can’t count the times I’ve encountered discussion of the important issues we face and seen people respond only be engaging with the information immediately presented, rather than looking at what might have motivated the scenario, what dominoes may have lined up and toppled over in the buildup to the final event that we’re discussing. The discussion of crime, broadly, is maybe the clearest example. People see someone hopping a turnstile, for example, to avoid paying the subway fare, and a few reactions typically follow. The conservative response is to arrest them and fine them heavily, accompanied by a call for more police involvement in public transit. And that response appears to guide policy in most cities across the U.S. But, there are other ways to respond. A moderate response may be that they shouldn’t be arrested, but should face some sort of fine, and most importantly they really should pay for the subway next time because we need people to pay for public transit in order for it to function. Now what I would ask of you, if you’re discussing a scenario like this, is to start first by going to the root, grasping at the root causes and issues before passing judgment. First, that entails knowing that in this country public transit is used far more by the working class than the ruling class. Second, it involves looking at why fare evasion is considered a problem. It’s considered a problem because we fund public transit precariously, meaning we underfund it and force the system to rely on millions of small purchases. Yet other vital public services are not funded this same way. We don’t force folks to give small or large fees for police and fire and public education, despite some conservative efforts to change that. So why should the trains or busses that are the primary, often only, means of transportation for millions of working class people be reliant upon endless small expenditures from those who generally have far less to give? They shouldn’t. At the root of this issue of fare evasion is the fact that there should be no fare to be evaded. That radical idea, the idea we arrive at when we go to the root of the problem, is what should guide us.”
“How elite psychological biases can explain a civilisation in free fall” [¡Do Not Panic!]. “To those of us with little agency over the direction of the system but with a keen interest in not going up in a ball of flames, the evidence that we need massive change is obvious. But if you are deeply invested in the system as it is, if you helped develop and define it, if its functioning continues to be advantageousness for you personally, the need for change won’t be obvious. Many of our elites are decades into this thing, their fingerprints all over how the system works and why it works the way it does…. So with things starting to go very obviously wrong, rather than look rationally at the evidence and change course, the elites are turning to strange schemes and bizarre ideas, unable and unwilling to believe that the whole edifice they helped build and run is crumbling…. We cannot hope to break the cognitive biases of political and business elites. They are too deep in to business-as-usual and too well-rewarded by it. The elite have sunk everything into this ideological project for the last 40 years, and will continue to escalate their commitment, in denial of their failings, until it all falls apart. Any change will have to come from the outside. From people and forward-thinking movements with no investment in the systems and institutions that govern us. From those with no skin in the game. With conditions worsening, the next pandemic inevitable and the planet getting less habitable by the year, this change needs to come soon.”
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!
• Readers, since the national data systems in the United States are being vandalized, let’s start collecting links to 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. Canadians, too! Or leave a link in Comments.
Resources, United States (Local): CA (dashboard); ME (dashboard); IN† (dashboard); NC (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NY (dashboard); IL (wastewater); SC (dashboard); TX (dashboard); VA (dashboard); WI (dashboard). NOTES † Set VPN to US.
Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater).
Hat tips to helpful readers: CanCyn, ChiGal, hop2it, JB, Joe, John, LaRuse, Petal (2), RL, Rod. (Readers, I am not putting your handle next to your contribution because I hope and expect the list will be long, and I want it to be easy to scan. (If you leave your link in comments, I use your handle. If you send it to me via email, I use your initials (in the absence of a handle.)
• More like this, please! Total:
1 6 11/50 (22%).
Look for the Helpers
A hospital chaplain tells a story. Act 1:
I got up as close to this patient as possible—now my patient—an arm’s length. Just out of striking distance. I asked, “What do you need right now?”
No kidding, his mouth hung open. He stared at my hair. Back to me.
“Hungry,” he said. “I’m hungry. But I mean, I need real food.”
— J.S. Park 박준 (@jsparkblog) February 15, 2023
“Okay,” I said. “Are you NPO? Sorry. I meant, do you have any dietary restrictions?”
“No sir, I don’t,” he said. “I am the opposite of dietary restrictions. I am dietarily open-minded.”
“How about a hamburger and fries?”
“For real? You for real? Can I get two of each?”
— J.S. Park 박준 (@jsparkblog) February 15, 2023
And he told me between bites:
“Chaplain, believe it or not, but I’ve stayed at the Ritz. And this right here is the best burger I’ve ever had in my life.”
“I believe you,” I told him.
— J.S. Park 박준 (@jsparkblog) February 15, 2023
* * *
“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.
Airplane travel returning to sanity?
My mom is currently on a plane, and she reports there are “multiple people wearing heavy duty respirators” on her flight. She also noticed a lot more people are masked at the airport, an obvious increase over last month.
Is the tide quietly turning?
— Laura Miers (@LauraMiers) February 16, 2023
Readers, are you seeing anything similar?
It's here it's here! My breathe99 elastomeric from armbrust!
— @Dr.Bailey😷 (@BaileyDevine20) February 16, 2023
I like the breathe99 mask. I don’t like the business model of all the new wave maskers, where the replacement items are obviously where the money is made; the mask is the razor; the filters are the blades. I think that’s a barrier to uptake, and frankly, I’d rather buy N95s than filters at one buck a pop. I think what the industry should do is adopt a standard size of filter that all manufacturers use. That will cut costs. It should also be possible to buy, say, a box of N95s and enable users to cut their own filters out of the fabric. What do readers think?
“The haunting brain science of long Covid” [STAT]. “There are no approved therapies for the physical or cognitive disabilities that now plague 65 million people around the world, a conservative estimate given the degree of undocumented cases. It is now clear from U.S. and U.K. investigations of approximately 2,000 previously hospitalized Covid patients that six months later more than half have problems managing finances and paying bills as well as completing everyday activities like preparing meals, bathing, getting dressed, or walking across a room…. Autopsy studies show that the virus can persist in some people for many months even though they have no symptoms and test negative for the virus. Brains donated by people who died of Covid-19 also show widespread problems in the cells lining the blood vessels and exaggerated clotting, supporting the idea of Covid-19 as a blood flow disorder that brings on brain disease…. A study from the National Institutes of Health of 44 complete autopsies mapped and quantified the distribution of SARS-CoV-2 and showed it was widely distributed throughout the body, including in the hypothalamus and cerebellum in the brain and neurons in the spinal cord. Especially relevant to long Covid, viral fragments were detected in some of the brains of people who died many months after symptom onset.” • Worth reading in full.
“New Scientist Group Calling For Pandemic Answers Is Tied to Rightwing Dark Money” [OptOut]. “A new medical group behind an 80-page ‘blueprint’ for a potential congressional commission to investigate the harms of the U.S. government’s COVID-19 response has ties to the political right and dark money. The Norfolk Group purports to be eight independent scientists [Bhattacharya; Hoeg; all smiling, so watch out!] from different political backgrounds who are not working ‘on behalf of any institution, public or private’ but are rather seeking answers to explain how the U.S. has fared so poorly throughout the pandemic…. On the third page of the Norfolk Group white paper is an acknowledgment that the authors came together through a meeting organized by the Brownstone Institute, a shadowy COVID misinformation nonprofit. Important Context and the OptOut Media Foundation previously reported that Brownstone received most of its funding from just nine anonymous large donations in 2021.” • Moar Flexians! All these funders — liberal and conservative — are as good at inventing names for their entities as Enron was, back in the day. “Brown
nosestone, Norfolk: So solid and reliable-sounding! * * *
BioBot wastewater data from February 16:
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 17:
-0.8%. Still on the high plateau, equal to previous peaks.
Death rate (Our World in Data):
Total: 1,141,862 –
1,141,220= 642 (642 * 365 = 234,330 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). Well, the total wasn’t 192 again. Not that I feel better about it.
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.)
Lambert here: Lowest level in awhile. Although we’ve seen this before.
There are no official statistics of interest today.
* * *
Shipping: “BIMCO: Chinese Shipyards Achieve Market Share Record in 2022” [Maritime Executive]. “After decades after China began its concerted efforts to build its competitiveness in the global shipping industry, its shipyards hit a record 47 percent market share in 2022 according to a new analysis from the shipping trade organization BIMCO. According to their report, last year was the first time that Chinese shipbuilders exceeded the combined market share of Japanese and South Korean shipyards. China initially attracted orders by offering lower costs focusing on the most basic of ships such as bulk carriers. They contributed to the shift away from Europe’s traditional shipbuilders to the lower costs found in Japan, South Korea, and ultimately China. More recently they have invested in new systems and processes to enhance productivity and now are beginning to make entries into the high-value, more complex segments including their first substantive orders for LNG gas carriers and using their first domestic cruise ship construction to develop expertise in the segment. China looks to leverage these competencies to compete in these segments still dominated by the South Koreans and European shipyards.”
The last decade was characterised by platforms enabling the efficient, laser-guided, unregulated distribution of (sometimes dangerous) nonsense to individuals.
The next decade may well be characterised by unregulated AI systems turbo-charging the generation of that nonsense. https://t.co/pMFfrtVfOM
— Craig Hamilton (@craigfots) February 16, 2023
AI = BS. Or worse.
* * *
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 66 Greed (previous close: 69 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 69 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 17 at 12:40 PM ET.
Groves of Academe
“The Good Marxist” [Year Zero]. I’m going to pick out the bright spot from this horrid story of how academia works now; you should read it in full because it’s very good. So: “Quickly I discovered just how much Kathy devoted to her teaching. The syllabus, lent to me on the first day by one of her students, was a half-inch thick, filled with a carefully tailored reading list of a few hundred poems, book excerpts, and essays. It included a 3,000 word statement on her pedagogical philosophy, and detailed, to the hour, expectations for every class and assignment. This may seem a bit overbearing for an undergraduate creative writing elective. . They had all, to a person, stayed up to date on their work and reading. Kathy had written paragraphs of rigorous feedback for every submitted assignment. ” • Students respond to good teaching. They really, really do. No wonder administrators are trying to destroy it.
Our Famously Free Press
“The Sy Hersh effect: killing the messenger, ignoring the message” [Responsible Statecraft]. “Absolute crickets. That is the sound in the major mainstream media — both foreign and domestic — following the charges by veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that the United States led a covert operation to blow up the Nord Stream pipelines in September 2022…. Second, they point to what appears to be “single sourcing” in Hersh’s Substack report (though he is much more ambiguous about this in his interview with Radio War Nerd this week). Additionally, Twitter and Substack sleuths, using OSINT (open source intelligence,) say they’ve found holes in the details (like the class of minesweeper ship involved and where it was located the day Hersh claims the explosives were planted) that cast doubt on his entire story. But the questions raised about Hersh and his reporting (appropriate or not) do not explain the lack of mainstream coverage of his extremely detailed, 5300-word article, which under any other circumstances should have opened the floodgates of journalistic inquiry. … Media critic, author, and podcaster Robert Wright suggests the media blackout is part of an ongoing trend of one-sided and incurious Ukraine War coverage. He pointed to explosive, yet little-reported claims by former Israeli prime minister Neftali Bennett earlier this month that the West had killed a tentative peace deal between Russia and Ukraine last March. ‘In some ways I think MSM’s more or less ignoring Naftali Bennett’s comments on aborted early-March Ukraine negotiations is even less excusable than ignoring the Hersh story,’ Wright said in an email exchange with RS. ‘MSM can always say Hersh is now just a freelancer and was relying basically on a single anonymous source, etc — but Bennett is an eyewitness to what he’s describing, and he’s the former prime minister of Israel!'” • NC readers know about both, of course. As for “ongoing trend,” that’s just another example of the State of Exception that the PMC declared after coming to class consciousness as their reaction to Trump’s 2016 victory. Turns out liberals aren’t so liberal after all (and it’s working out very well for them).
“Increasing penis sizes are worrying doctors. Here’s why bigger might not be better” [Miami Herald]. “The study, published Feb. 15 in The World Journal of Men’s Health, examined data from 75 different studies between 1942 and 2021 that recorded the penis size of their study participants. They found slight differences among geographic region, age and other population indicators, but overall the average erect penis length has increased .” That’s a lot!More: “‘The increase happened over a relatively short period of time,’ [Michael Eisenberg, a urology professor at Stanford Medicine] said in the release. ‘If we’re seeing this fast of a change, it means that something powerful is happening to our bodies.’ … Eisenberg thinks environmental factors may be changing when puberty starts, and it could be chemicals or even just an increase in sedentary lifestyle choices. ‘There could be a number of factors at play, such as chemical exposure, like pesticides or hygiene products, interacting with our hormonal systems,’ Eisenberg said.” • So am I right that the “soy boys” are the beneficiaries here, if that’s the word I want? Hilarious, if true.
I’m filing some East Palestine train bomb material here, because class warefare is what Precision Scheduled Railroading is.
“East Palestine resident refuses to sign ‘hold harmless’ form” [NewsNation]. “Just weeks after a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, some residents say they are being asked to sign contracts they fear could prevent them from suing later on. Katlyn Schwarzwaelder and her boyfriend Chris Wells live just down the tracks from where the Norfolk Southern train derailed and released hazardous material. Last week, Schwarzwaelder says, Norfolk Southern came by to test for toxins in her home. But before doing so, she was asked to sign a document. ‘We were told they were an independent testing agency, they were escorted by the EPA,’ Schwarzwaelder explained. ‘Before they could enter the premises, they handed us a contract. The contract was essentially to be able to get onto the property, but also at the bottom was a hold harmless agreement.’ The document states that the landowner agrees to ‘hold harmless Unified Command’ from ‘any and all legal claims, personal injury or property damage.’ Schwarzwaelder says she refused to sign it.” And: “In a statement to NewsNation, Norfolk Southern said the forms were ‘access agreements’ so air quality testing teams could be allowed on the property. The company acknowledged that a batch of agreements contained improper language referencing indemnification. ‘Those incorrect forms were immediately pulled when the problem was discovered,’ Norfolk Southern said. ‘No one in the community has waived their legal rights against Norfolk Southern through this program or any interaction with us thus far.'” • Lol. Sure. For realz. Presumably they’re going to be doublechecking that nobody actually signed them? And giving them the correct forms if they did? Because all the errors only go one way. And: WTF is “Unified Command”?
I was going to ask Norfolk Southern executives to drink the water in East Palestine high school, but the executives didn’t show up (because they didn’t feel safe) and the water fountains in #EastPalestine high school look like this. pic.twitter.com/nUwdto0mi8
— The Holler Ohio Valley (@heyjohnrussell) February 16, 2023
Visited a local creek in East Palestine today. These waterways are still very polluted. It’s time for Norfolk Southern to finish the cleanup. Check this video out: pic.twitter.com/4lsHBmrMJj
— J.D. Vance (@JDVance1) February 16, 2023
That J.D. Vance gets to play populist and leverage this makes me wanna hurl. Where the [family blog] is Sherrod Brown, once spoken of as Presidential timber?
“Progressive group calls on Buttigieg to add regulations after East Palestine train derailment” [The Hill]. “A petition that the PCCC launched calls on Buttigieg to immediately use his existing power to ‘make safety rules much stronger, so that rail workers and communities across America are protected.’ Rouda said the Obama administration had rules in place to prevent this type of situation, but the Trump administration removed them following ‘corrupt corporate lobbying’ and Buttigieg has not restored them. The release cites an article from The Lever that states that Buttigieg specifically has not brought back a rule that was designed to expand the use of superior brake technology.” • Unsurprising that Precision Scheduled Railroading (and the hot box it caused) is never mentioned; liberals hate unions and working people. What I’m having a hard time with is that Lever News was leading the way on this. In a way, the conservative critique of the liberal tendency to regulate has some merit: Since regulation invariably involves credentialed gatekeepers, it reinforce PMC class power. Where conservatives go wrong is looking to the interests of owners, not workers, by seeking to dismantle regulation where found.
Meeting (1): Raucous:
"Why are people getting sick? There's no answer! This is why we're getting frustrated. We keep getting blown smoke, and told to call another number, and it circles back."
— World Socialist Web Site (@WSWS_Updates) February 17, 2023
“We will elevate that issue for you.”
I’m not sure that this meetingis the same as the next one–
Meeting (2): The EPA:
⚠️ONE TIME WATER💦 TESTING NOT ENOUGH—@EPAMichaelRegan says he’d allow his kids to drink or bathe in the water in #EastPalestine OH if home tested. ➡️However, soil contamination means EVERY TIME IN RAINS—new/more chemicals can be flushed into the water!pic.twitter.com/buXIcdoV90
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) February 17, 2023
Almost a parody of DEI: Left to right: The university professor, the Black Man, the woman in the rainbow vest. Doesn’t mean they’re malevolent, or even incompetent, but the contrast between them and the audience above, if the meeting is indeed the same, is pretty great.
* * *
“Union tells striking Warrior Met Coal miners to return to work” [AL.com]. “The United Mine Workers of America is telling its members that they may return to work at Warrior Met Coal next month, 23 months and one day after the union’s strike began. UMWA International President Cecil Roberts sent a letter today to Warrior Met Coal CEO Walt Scheller announcing that union members would return to work at the company’s four locations on March 2. The letter, known as an ‘unconditional offer to return to work,’ follows federal labor law, according to the union. It would allow union members to return to work, while giving the union and Warrior Met time to work out a new agreement. A Warrior Met Coal representative said the company has received the letter and has no comment.” • Commentary:
Now, the company has been asked to allow the UMWA members to return to work. As we have been on an unfair labor practices strike, if they agree, the scabs will be terminated. If the company does not agree, the strike becomes a lockout. Which then starts the clock for backpay. 5/7
— Haeden Wright (@HaedenWright) February 17, 2023
“Post-Gazette asks court’s help in enforcement of trespassing law” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (!)]. “The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is suing Mayor Ed Gainey and two public safety officials for failing to keep union supporters out of the company’s distribution center on the South Side. Mr. Gainey, acting police Chief Thomas Stangrecki and Lee Schmidt, director of public safety, were sued in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County after police failed to keep mass pickets from damaging property, blocking access and threatening independent drivers on private property at Gateway View Plaza after a strike began in October, according to the lawsuit.”
News of the Wired
“Wood stove – Memorable and primitive beauty” [Peakd]. “The wooden stove is my memorable childhood. I was born and grew up in Dak Lak, a mountainous province on highlands of Vietnam. At that time, the weather is really cold at night in my place. I still remember all members in my family gathered around the fire and had some hot sweet potato before going to bed. The life at that time was difficult but so much happy. We didn’t have electric light. In the evening, children like me used to use burning charcoal to draw on the dark air.” • Like this:
* * *
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 CC:
CC writes: “It’s not really a plant photo but I found it interesting to see when I came into work that morning after the storm. Located in New Hampshire near the Connectictu River.” I think it’s totally a plant photo!
* * *
Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:
Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated:
If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!