2:00PM Water Cooler 2/17/2023

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 Administration

“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.

Republican Funhouse

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!). 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.

* * *

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

Not wrong:

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 (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot); Variants (CDC; Walgreens).

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:

Act 2:

Act 3:

* * *

“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?

Readers, are you seeing anything similar?

Fashion forward:

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.

Elite Malfeasance

“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. “Brownnosestone, Norfolk: So solid and reliable-sounding!

* * *

Case Data

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.

Stats Watch

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 Bezzle:

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. The students did not balk at any of it. 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).

Zeitgeist Watch

“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 24% over 29 years.” 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.

Class Warfare

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”?

Water (1):

Water (2):

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:

“We will elevate that issue for you.”

I’m not sure that this meetingis the same as the next one–

Meeting (2): The EPA:

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:

“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!

* * *

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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. Carolinian

    Quiet smoke filled rooms? They could light up the cigars for old times sake–don’t have to smoke em.

    And Trump has also quite accurately said that Haley’s only qualification to be president is her ambition. Said ambition requires plutocrat support and “nothing fundamentally will change.” Been there done that and wish we hadn’t.

  2. antidlc

    RE: Masks
    Is the tide quietly turning?

    I’m totally, totally, p***ed off today. Our PCP was one of the last holdouts — used to require a mask and if you didn’t have one, they would supply one.

    Went with a family member today for a blood draw. Masks now optional. An older gentleman arrived wearing a mask. When they called his name, he approached the nurse who said, “You know, you don’t have to wear a mask here anymore.”

    None of the nurses (Including the ones in the lab drawing blood) wore masks.

    It’s hopeless.

    1. wuzzy

      And here in small town my PCP and hospital have gone back to masking for all, including nurses and doctors.

      1. curlydan

        I got a blood test at the local hospital this week–luckily, still requiring masks.

        I also went to the Social Security Administration this week and was pleasantly surprised to see masks required, chairs placed 6 feet apart, AND a solitary but better than nothing air filter chugging away in the waiting room. Way to go SSA!

    2. The Rev Kev

      Was at the doctors yesterday. They have mostly given up on masks too. But considering that a doctor’s office is exactly where sick people gather, I opted to keep mine on.

  3. Realist

    “So [WHILST ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL] Trump is to the left [sic] of Obama in his “Grand Bargain” days”

        1. Questa Nota

          Wild dream:
          Eliminate the grifter class in pharma and insurance,
          use gov’t buying power to get meds, e.g., insulin and about a zillion others at some rational price,
          use some of the savings to provide M4A,
          use the rest to dividend people’s money back to them to use however they see fit.
          Bonus, no more BS commercials or mailings from Medicare scammers.

          Many’d pay extra to watch trials and jailings of pharma and insurance grifters, as tune-up for MIC

            1. JBird4049

              Firing squads? That is considered an honorable way to die at least compared to other methods. I would think that the noose would be more appropriate method for the greedheads, after a fair, scrupulous, and constitutional trial of course. Just because they have made a joke of the legal system does not mean we should do so.

              Of course, legally they would probably not be eligible for the death penalty, but I would happy if they served life. A 3-4 decade vacation in Club Fed would do even. The evidence would be plentiful after all and considering all the corruption…

        2. marym

          He talked about covering “everyone” before he was elected too, although not how he’d do it. In office didn’t propose plan to Congress or try to work with them to develop one. He supported the Republican attempt to repeal the ACA with no replacement, which would have ended the Medicaid expansion and Medicare for All in Libby, MT.

          (In this 2015 link he talks about using private insurance with “lots of competitors”)

      1. Realist

        Maybe it’s the Mandela effect at work, but i remember his 2020 budget proposal included almost a trillion in cuts to medicare over 10 years.

        Most of his administration’s earlier proposed “entitlement” cuts in 17,18 &19 didn’t make it to the final budget, but they gave it a good old try.

  4. Wukchumni

    IA: “GOP Structuring Book Hearings So Only Parents In Favor Of Bans Are Heard”
    I’m against retaliation in a tit for tat, page for page, chapter by chapter ban, but Danielle Steel could go, I could see that.

  5. Terry Flynn

    Re genital length. First health project I did in 1997 was in erectile dysfunction for the company producing Caverject (be careful about looking it up). “Stretched penile length” was regarded as very imperfect proxy for erect length back then. (Personal observations bear this out – TMI I know). Measuring erect length was ruled out on ethical grounds in most cases but I guess getting men excited is now more acceptable?

    However that leads to new problems. I and a STD specialist had to tell a fellow resident at a gay resort in Gran Canaria (Spain) to go to the ED one morning when he boasted that his bit of trade loved that he had a 7 hour erection. We told him to tell them he had priapism induced by *100 mg VIAGRA* (which was OTC there back then). Idiot.

    However anecdotally I’ve seen growth among partners who I know are taking such meds. The “growth” may not be as large as the article claims. Plus there’s selection bias….. Sorry to do TMI again but it’s a trope now that “tops” are rarer and I suspect things like pron have biased samples towards those who are bigger and therefore more confident to self identify that way. I think more multidisciplinary teams might have been required……

    1. vao

      Even more interesting is that while erect penis length increased, male fertility cratered — during the same period (barring biases due to measurement approaches that are not directly comparable across time).

      By the way, I understand the abbreviations OTC and STD, but what does TMI mean?

      1. Terry Flynn

        Too Much Information :) (I’m gay with my fair share of experience).

        Plus given that experience, longer is NOT leading to happier. Anecdotal I know and based on mostly male-male experience plus only a little female experience but girth beats length anyday. This group of superwangs aren’t generally doing well unless they’re working in a very specific industry.

      2. Revenant

        Perhaps the lead in our petrol was taking the lead out of our pencil?

        By which aphorism, I would merely like to highlight that rather than being a sign of impending doom, it might actually be correlated with a good thing (the lead suggestion is just because it is a popular mechanism for all sorts of large cultural claims). Or it could be the bovine somatotrophin in our burgers. Or something in the vaccines. Or 5G (needs a bigger aerial).

        Terry, your suggestion that Viagra may be a factor is intriguing. But we had trinitrotoluene for angina before WW2. There are three generations since the start date of the study, five or six generations possibly studied. Perhaps the rise of pornography and female pleasure, maybe even the pill, has led to a very quick assortative mating result?

        There is no obvious mechanism for something similar in homosexuality, except through the fitness of straight brothers, so perhaps this explains the dearth of tops?

        We need to ask the hard questions here. :-)

        1. Revenant

          OK I couldn’t resist reading the original study. It repays reading. When you look at the subanalyses, there is no meaningful growth over the time period in volunteer patients, only in urology patients. There is also a shrinkage (!) In North American populations bit growth in other world regions. There is no meaningful growth in spontaneous erection method but significant growth in the inter-cavernal injection method. Now, in my opinion, patients in the urology clinic who require sticking with a needle just might be unrepresentative of healthy male physiology, which apparently has not changed. I wonder if the improvement in urology population measurements is because of less surgical impotence or better porn I’m the cubicle or Viagra…?

  6. fresno dan

    “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 24% over 29 years.” That’s a lot!
    born too early….

    1. griffen

      Out an abundant interest in the “scientific findings”, I confess to also clicking on the sourced article. It’s funny as we age, my older siblings and myself are still at our base merely adolescents making fart jokes and the occasional ill advised double meaning messages.

      All in good fun, I will add. Growing up in a hyper Puritanical house had some side effects !

    2. Expat2uruguay

      Excuse me! It was never explained why bigger may not be better.

      As far as I can tell they just said that a rapid change may be cause to worry.

      Did I miss something? Inquiring for a friend…

      1. Paradan

        If you told American males that they penises were 20% smaller do to deregulation, poor governance and rampant predatory capitalism they’d finally rise-up.

  7. antidlc

    NC has reported on Medicare REACH.

    Wendell Potter sent out an email today that said:
    Advocates find a victory against Trump’s REACH

    On a related front, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) declared a significant victory in an ongoing fight against another Big Insurance move to privatize Medicare, a Trump-era holdover called REACH, which would shift Medicare beneficiaries–without their consent–into accountable care organizations. PNHP’s president, Philip Verhoef, M.D., wrote in a February email that:

    For the past 18 months, an incredible coalition of Medicare champions has worked tirelessly to push back against the privatization of our most important and beloved public health program. We’ve raised the alarm about the REACH program, which places third-party middlemen between Traditional Medicare beneficiaries and the care they need.

    Despite our efforts, the program has continued to grow, from 53 Direct Contracting Entities in 2021, to 99 such entities in 2022, to 132 REACH entities as of January 1. But in a major victory for our campaign, I’m happy to report that the growth of Medicare REACH ends today.

    Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what Elizabeth Fowler, Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, told the California Public Employees’ Retirement System recently:

    “We have no plans to open up another application period [for REACH],” she told the CalPERS Board. “There will not be any more than 132 organizations in the model and most likely no more than 2.1 million beneficiaries.”


    I don’t see anything on the PNHP.ORG website. I’d like to be optimistic, but I doubt anything will change.

    1. antidlc

      As recently as Jan. 17, 2023, CMS had this on its website:

      CMS Announces Increase in 2023 in Organizations and Beneficiaries Benefiting from Coordinated Care in Accountable Care Relationship

      Three Innovative Initiatives Will Help CMS Achieve Goal of 100% of Traditional Medicare Beneficiaries in Accountable Care Relationships by 2030

      Three Innovative Initiatives Will Help CMS Achieve Goal of 100% of Traditional Medicare Beneficiaries in Accountable Care Relationships by 2030

  8. Jeremy Grimm

    An off-the-wall question[my forte] — which does remotely relate to the “Bird Song of the Day”: what bird makes a sound most like that described for the wind-up bird in Murakami’s “Wind-up Bird Chronicles”? “The cockatoo is the one that sounds like a creaking door.”

    Related aside: The various calls of the Loon remain the most haunting and lonely calls to me. They sound almost eerie.

  9. Terry Flynn

    Re supremes. This is exactly what you get when you telegraph what issue means most to you. Clones on your main issue but potential nasty surprises on secondary issues.

    Trump should have made informal enquiries before nominating any of them. The enquiries would involve trade-offs – which of these conclusions would you be most likely to uphold? One is anti-abortion, one is another conservative issue close to his heart (wallet) etc….. He could have at least got one of the three as an ultra business friendly type who might not have been so strongly against Roe-Wade (but who might when push came to shove voted against it anyway). Very poor ability to think beyond one dimension there.

  10. Darnell

    “Brainard, like all the Fed’s voting members, has backed Powell on rate hikes — hoping to avoid a recession before the 2024 election…”

    Hoping to hurt the phoney democrat Biden and reward he and his party for their Ukraine waste of hundreds of billions and threats of nuclear war, plus all the other crap coming out of the white house, everyone I know has vowed and is attempting to buy as little as possible and the fewest new retail items and services for the next couple of years.

    Need a tool, building material, expendibles? You can borrow it from us or someone else and replenish your stocks after the 2024 election.

    To our brothers and sisters in East Palestine, if the railroad doesn’t do a complete cleanup of your town, pay all your medical bills or buy your houses, maybe people should continually block the tracks until that’s delivered?

  11. NotTimothyGeithner

    Progressive group calls on Buttigieg to add regulations after East Palestine train derailment”

    This is why “progressives” have no power. The call in regards to Buttigieg should be for Biden to fire him with the message he should have been fired a year and half when he didn’t show up for work one Summer.

    1. Billy

      He was on maternity leave you fascist! /sarc

      Ports jammed and overflowing,
      A grounding of all airplanes in the U.S. for a day,
      and there’s one other failure that I can’t remember
      from lubricano pete.

  12. Diogenes

    The OptOut piece appears to be comprised mostly of ad hominem attacks, outright distortions (click through to some of the links for yourself and see if the substance you find at the other end matches the OptOut description of them) and innuendo.

    Marty Makary and Jay Bhattacharya’s politics, as best as I can guage them, are well to the right of mine, but Martin Kulldorf is by his own description a European style social democrat. In any case what do their politics have to do with their scientific truth claims? And if their public health policy proscriptions are bad on the merits then why not engage them on the merits?

  13. pjay

    “Jack Smith, Special Counsel for Trump Inquiries, Steps Up the Pace” [New York Times].

    Lambert: “Looking forward to voting for Trump when he runs from a jail cell.”

    Remember when Lula was going to win a Presidential election down in Brazil and the Powers that Be conducted a massive lawfare campaign to put him in jail and prevent him from running? If I remember correctly, some people from our DOJ (among other government agencies) were involved. Is it just me, or does anyone else see any possible parallels?

    If they do manage to throw Trump in jail, (1) he’ll win, or (2) if they prevent him from running there will be a civil war. And it’s not like there aren’t other things happening as well, like the potential for WWIII with Russia, or China, or both.

    The next few years should be quite entertaining.

  14. Mark Gisleson

    I would attribute the increase in penis size to the “Portnoy Effect.” Greater awareness and encouragement of masturbation results in stronger, healthier penises which—like the appendages thought to signal penis size—keep growing as you get older. Look at pictures of people when they are young vs old and you will see that their noses, ears and feet continue to grow. As do other things (I understand that breasts also grow longer however that’s hearsay but if so, shouldn’t we also be studying this brustverlängerung effect?).

    Longer life spans alone should increase these numbers, as should increased average height. Vigorous exercise just adds to the lengthy list of perfectly normal not at all weird reasons for this penisverlängerung phenomenon. I would say that I’d be interested in Teen Vogue’s take on this but yeah, that sounds kind of creepy coming from an old guy so I’ll just wait on the NYTimes (assuming the NYTimes still covers the penis beat but maybe that’s all been moved to the op-ed page).

    1. Terry Flynn

      Greater awareness and encouragement of masturbation results in stronger, healthier penises

      Yep. I know full well of how many “straight” men look at the “physician examination” category on certain websites to know that they are much more relaxed to give a 100% erect measurement than their dads were. If dads only got to 90% in controlled environments (physician office) then that’s a 11% increase there. Study is at best vastly overblown (no pun). And now I’ll shut up.

  15. pjay

    “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.”

    Uh… when did Trump ever say that COVID was a *hoax*? Good God! It is literally ok to say *anything* if it is about Trump. I’m getting so damn sick of having to defend this guy. Pathetic.

  16. Art_DogCT

    The Stated of Connecticut provides daily reports and weekly summaries via this portal: https://data.ct.gov/stories/s/COVID-19-data/wa3g-tfvc/

    I’ve spent some time looking at what’s presented and how. They like bar charts a lot. Takes more than a little digging to get to the source data, but for the purposes of ‘personal risk evaluation’, it will do. (I hear James Cromwell in Babe saying, “It’ll do, pig. It’ll do.”)

    CT is apparently doing no wastewater monitoring. CT defaults to the CDC for that, and even encourages people to consult the CDC Community Levels map if they find the provided reports too cumbersome.

  17. John k

    So trump is to the left of Obama…. Who isn’t?
    My guess is trump will come out against the Ukraine war by summer or earlier, and use the issue to attack his 2024 opponents, just as he did do successfully against Jeb! re Iraq. Imo he anyway sees wars as risky, and war with Russia as the ultimate risk. Seems likely the public will turn quickly against the war.
    Reps are awful, but dems are dangerous. Ww3 would kill more species than climate change, granted the former would end the latter.

    1. Not Again

      So now I have to vote for Trump if I want to end the Ukraine War or save social security.

      LOL. Great job, Democrats.

  18. skk

    Your Bezzle link to Google copying Bing and incorporating Chat-BOTs into search lead to–>…–>…> eventually to this :

    A highly worthwhile read. The analogy with it being a lossy compression of the text on the internet is a good one. I quibble about it being blurry, because then you’d know it doesn’t know when in fact it lies with ease, bullshits without any recognizable cues the way a blurry jpeg cues you.

    Except for quantitative stuff like elementary arithmetic, or my example of the distance between Chicago and Tokyo which it gets spectacularly wrong. Which leads me to wonder if subjects in the narrative domain of study that don’t have repeatable experiments to back them really are, just bullshit.

    And THEN, I read your link to : “The Good Marxist” – about the lives and times of a humanities professor. I’m tempted to rest my case.

    Except of course applying the principle of reflection ( a Java computer language term) I note that the articles themselves are just narrative As is my comment there. And thus in the domain I characterize as bullshit. So it goes. Self-referencing systems are a real drag.

    1. Jerremy Grimm

      Your comment twists my old guy mind well past its flex limits. The reference to “The Good Marxist” really twists my grasp of your “qualms”. I am left wondering what case you have made to rest, or more generously what your comment intends to communicate, assuming communications remains an intent motivating comments [as this intent motivates my comments].

      a “Java computer language term” … !!!!! I feel so intimidated!!!!! Java language! A Language that attaches new terms to existing terms of computer ‘science’ but coffee related !!!!! … scary, truly scary.

    2. jhallc

      This mornings link “Why Smart People Believe Stupid Things” – Gurwinder, is a good companion piece to “The Good Marxist”. Why can’t smart people like the “Good Marxist” Dept. Chair seem to do the right thing. He could have at least taken up a collection at the next Department staff meeting. Too much riding on their career, status to rock the boat. If “Kathy” had known he was teaching her class unpaid I bet she would have paid him herself. That is if she had any money left after paying all the medical bills.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        “… she would have paid him herself.” Or begged him not to teach her class and teach her students the later theorems for which her class taught the most important axioms.

        1. JeremeyGrimm

          I agree with the sentiments of this comment … … … but I do not remember tendering this comment as my own. I am frightened about future comments — and will take especial care in making them. … …

          I am generally very pleased by the comments already make. I am nothing more than an old curmudgeon … expressing some blow-back.

  19. Joe S.

    Is anyone else looking at the Wisconsin covid wastewater having trouble seeing the graph? Now I have to sign in with a username and password but there’s nowhere to create one. I’ve reached out to them for a response, so hopefully they fix it (or maybe it’s my computer?).

    We (the teachers unions) have won MERV 13s in a buildings, 7 air exchanges an hour, and more ASHRAE recommended stuff in Racine, Milwaukee, Madison, a bit ago and I still want to keep up.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > We (the teachers unions) have won MERV 13s in a buildings, 7 air exchanges an hour, and more ASHRAE recommended stuff in Racine, Milwaukee, Madison, a bit ago and I still want to keep up.

      Awesome. What does the national union think about this?

      1. Joe

        we couldn’t have done it without their support of time and expertise. would not have been able to defeat the district buying bipolar ionization because I wouldn’t have known it wasn’t proven tech.

  20. Robert Hahl

    Lambert on covid messaging: “I wonder what De Tocqueville would think…”

    “Always be pretending.”?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > De Tocqueville

      This is the topic I was looking for in Democracy in America:

      The political associations which exist in the United States are only a single feature in the midst of the immense assemblage of associations in that country. Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions, constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other kinds – religious, moral, serious, futile, extensive, or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found establishments for education, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; and in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. If it be proposed to advance some truth, or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society. Wherever, at the head of some new undertaking, you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association. I met with several kinds of associations in America, of which I confess I had no previous notion; and I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object to the exertions of a great many men, and in getting them voluntarily to pursue it. I have since travelled over England, whence the Americans have taken some of their laws and many of their customs; and it seemed to me that the principle of association was by no means so constantly or so adroitly used in that country. The English often perform great things singly; whereas the Americans form associations for the smallest undertakings. It is evident that the former people consider association as a powerful means of action, but the latter seem to regard it as the only means they have of acting.

      Thus the most democratic country on the face of the earth is that in which men have in our time carried to the highest perfection the art of pursuing in common the object of their common desires, and have applied this new science to the greatest number of purposes. Is this the result of accident? or is there in reality any necessary connection between the principle of association and that of equality? Aristocratic communities always contain, amongst a multitude of persons who by themselves are powerless, a small number of powerful and wealthy citizens, each of whom can achieve great undertakings single-handed. In aristocratic societies men do not need to combine in order to act, because they are strongly held together. Every wealthy and powerful citizen constitutes the head of a permanent and compulsory association, composed of all those who are dependent upon him, or whom he makes subservient to the execution of his designs. Amongst democratic nations, on the contrary, all the citizens are independent and feeble; they can do hardly anything by themselves, and none of them can oblige his fellow-men to lend him their assistance. They all, therefore, fall into a state of incapacity, if they do not learn voluntarily to help each other.

      Has this capacity atrophied, Bowling Alone-style? Or am I being too pessimistic?

  21. square coats

    Anecdote re: covid and masking

    A couple weeks ago I went to see TrueAnon live in Cambridge MA. First time I’ve gone out to do anything indoors besides shopping/doctor/vet visits since the pandemic started. The venue had a main downstairs section and smaller upstairs around the perimeter of the room. I stood upstairs wearing an N95 and I would say maybe 1/10 people also upstairs were wearing masks too. Those close enough for me to make out the details all seemed to also be wearing N95s.

    I could also hear and feel what seemed to be some kind of large fan going on periodically (the air temp didn’t change so it wasn’t AC, not sure the origin of the air).

    I gargled mouth wash and rinsed my nose out with saline before and after too and am happy to be able to report that up to now, 15 days after the event, I haven’t experienced any signs of covid. I live with my mom and she hasn’t either.

    Adding: I only ever got one J&J vaccine now quite awhile ago.

  22. notabanker

    Easy fix for Palestine prevention. Call it an act of domestic terrorism and send the C-suite and BOD to Gitmo while the investigation is pending.

    There would never be another train crash in the US and Congress will suddenly find piles of dough to put into infrastructure. Probably not see another oil spill either.

    Mayo Pete ought to know from his McK days, once you have a pile of dough the only thing you fear is death and prison.

    1. Chas

      With all the law suits that will be arising from the derailment the townspeople may be wise to plan their litigation strategy together. They could call their organization the Palestine Litigation Organization, or PLO for short.

  23. JTMcPhee

    “ Any change will have to come from the outside. ”

    Maybe the ancient Slavic enemy of all that is Angle and Saxon and its partner in the Mideast will provide that impetus that will complete the crumbling and force the change.

    Is there enough in the way of people, place and resource to get us to our own autarkic federation of smaller and more stable and more homeostatic units?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > our own autarkic federation of smaller and more stable and more homeostatic units

      As always, my question is: What happens to the nuclear weapons? Maybe “autarkic federation” gives the answer:

      If the country really did break up into more or less self-sustaining units, the issue of how to prevent invasion comes to the forefront, whether Canada, Mexico, or through a landing on the Atlantic or Pacific coasts, and subsequent expansion from the beachhead.

      Perhaps managing the nuclear deterrent should be the sole power of the most night-watchman-y of night watchman states? (Of course, each unit would need to be able to veto a launch, so thought would need to be given to the triggers.)

      1. JTMcPhee

        Majority are in the submarine fleet, I believe. Maybe S.P.E.C.T.R.E and Blofeld might take the problem off our hands.

        Not a chance that I can see that any of the insane rulers of various states that have their own nuclear weapons will ever agree to give them up to be disarmed. Always the chance that someone will cheat and use any remainder to pursue hegemony once again.

        Scott Ritter keeps pushing the wishful notion of reviving “great power” negotiations to bring some sanity into the world mix. Given how “democracy” brings socio-psychopaths to the top of the power structure in US, GB, France, maybe Japan, Israel, not a snowball’s chance in a nuclear fireball of what most of he rest of us would consider “sanity” of breaking out…

      1. petal

        That’s what I’m thinking. Burlington has covid wastewater testing, but I couldn’t find anything for the whole state.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Ontario waste water link

      Fixed (wrong link). But I poking about I discovered that some states require you to be coming from inside the US to use their dashboard, heaven knows why, and so if you get an “Access denied” message, set your VPN to US.

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