2:00PM Water Cooler 2/2/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Spectacled Finch, Nar Gali, North-West Frontier, Pakistan. Got some points knocked off by purists for the highway noise, but what a performance!

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

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

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

Biden Administration

“Biden’s Ending of the Covid Emergency Is a Public Health Disaster” [Gregg Gonsalves, The Nation]. So I’m not the only one. “[T]wo recent decisions—by a Democratic Congress and the Biden White House—represent harmful action rather than harmful inaction. Let’s start with the omnibus bill signed in December…. In 2020, Democrats and Republicans—yes, in bipartisan fashion—allowed people on Medicaid to continuously stay on the rolls until the public health emergencies that had been declared at the beginning of the pandemic were lifted. This was a momentous decision and a wise one. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, ‘Total Medicaid/CHIP enrollment grew to 90.9 million in September 2022, an increase of 19.8 million or more than 27.9 percent from enrollment in February 2020.’ That represents close to a third of all Americans who were protected from losing their health insurance for the past three years. However, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and President Biden decided to do the inexplicable [No, it’s not] just in time for the holidays: They put a measure into the bill to delink the continuous enrollment provision in Medicaid from the public health emergency and end it as of March 31, 2023. According to Kaiser, ‘between 5 million and 14 million people will lose Medicaid coverage once the continuous enrollment provision ends.’ But the Democrats weren’t finished. On Monday, the White House announced that it will let the Covid-related public health emergency declarations expire on May 11, 2023… [T]he numbers don’t lie. As Alyssa Bilinski and Kathryn Thompson from the Brown School of Public Health, along with Ezekiel Emanuel from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, wrote in a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association in November: ‘The US continued to experience significantly higher Covid-19 and excess all-cause mortality compared with peer countries during 2021 and early 2022, a difference accounting for 150,000 to 470,000 deaths.’ Last week, more people died of Covid than perished in the Twin Towers on 9/11.” • Once you accept that the Democrat policy is mass infection without mitigation, these decisions are not “inexplicable” at all. They’re not bugs. They’re features. Features that make Pfizer very happy!

“What Ron Klain Learned in the White House” [The New Yorker]. That you can slaughter a million people without any political pushback? Kidding! Hagiography, but this little vignette: “The low point came in the fall of 2021, when progressives in the House withheld their support for a bipartisan infrastructure deal on the suspicion that moderates in the Senate would not follow through on a social-policy bill. The White House looked feckless, and, according to ‘The Fight of His Life,’ by Chris Whipple, a new book on Biden’s first two years, Klain thought of resigning. Instead, he turned, once more, to old relationships. [Ro] Khanna told me that Klain appealed to him for help, saying, ‘This has gone on long enough.’ Khanna agreed. ‘I said, ‘Ron, I’m going on ‘Face the Nation.’ I’m going to break from the progressive caucus and say I’m going to vote for the infrastructure bill.” Biden beseeched more liberals to support the bill, and prevailed; in November, 2021, he signed it into law in a ceremony on the South Lawn.” • The Freedom Caucus cut a much better deal for themselves, didn’t they?


“Why DeSantis Is on Track to Beat Trump” [Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine]. “Unlike Trump’s 2016 opponents, who cycled through a series of unsuccessful attacks, DeSantis has also clearly prepared a winning contrast over Trump’s support for COVID-19 vaccines. Anti-vaccine sentiment has exploded on the right, and DeSantis has seized its leadership. ‘I think the blood-in-the-water knockout blow is the vaccines,’ former conservative radio host John Ziegler told Matthew Lewis, ‘because Trump is so deluded into believing that the vaccines — because he wants to take credit for them — were the greatest thing ever. That’s where, with way more than 50 percent of the Republican base, DeSantis can strike a knockout blow.'” • Maybe. But maybe not. If the issue is vaccine mandates, those were imposed by Biden.

“Nikki Haley, once Trump’s UN ambassador, to take him on in 2024” [Reuters]. “ormer South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will kick off her campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination this month, squaring off against her one-time boss, Donald Trump, two sources familiar with her plans said on Wednesday. The move would make her just the second declared Republican candidate and could set the stage for a more combative phase of the campaign, potentially putting her in the sights of the pugnacious former U.S. president. Haley’s campaign sent an email to supporters on Wednesday inviting them to a Feb. 15 event in Charleston. There she will declare her candidacy, the sources said. South Carolina is expected to host one of the first Republican nominating primaries in 2024 and will play an important role in picking the eventual candidate.” • So awesome. Clyburn muscled the Democrat primary to South Carolina, too! “South Carolina is too small for a republic, but too large for an insane asylum.” –James Louis Petigru of Charleston, South Carolina (1860).

“Inside the GOP’s “Save the kids” strategy” [Axios]. “The fractious Republican Party is consolidating around a ‘Protect the children’ platform for 2024 that aggressively targets school policies on gender identity and how racial issues are taught. A year before presidential primaries begin, Republicans see this as a winning formula that can fire up their base and attract some independents, pointing to the recent electoral success of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Much of the battle is being fought at the state and local levels, giving an edge to GOP officials such as DeSantis and Youngkin — both potential presidential candidates who recognized the potency of educational issues early on.” • I dread 2024. I don’t think it’s going to be… fun. At all.

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.

* * *


“The press versus the president, part one” [Jeff Gerth, Columbia Journalism Review] (and two, three, and four). • I’m still reeling from this. Within 24 hours after Mueller goes down in flames before Congress — and the very expectant press — Trump picks up the phone and makes a call to get dirt on Joe Biden* — from a CIA asset: Volodymyr Zelenskyy. I’m sure the Big Z couldn’t believe his good luck, and immediately sold Trump to his handlers. In so many ways, Trump comes across as… well, as a little child. An innocent in a world of malevolent grownups (which, given Fred, was certainly true, at least for a short time in Trump’s life). If you have the time to sit down with this, it’s really worth it, just to get the incredibly grotty timeline straight. NOTE * I am not, of course, implying that there is no dirt on Joe Biden.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Jimmy Dore on Tucker Carlson:

Good for him. Do it, say I.

“Can we please distinguish between antiwar and just war politics?” [Carl Beijer]. “Here, I’d like to just make a basic definitional point: just war arguments are not antiwar arguments. I don’t understand how anyone could object to this, first because it’s just logically true because of what “anti” means, and second because just about everyone believes in some version of just war theory. If we can just agree to use these words consistently, maybe the discourse on Ukraine will become at least marginally less ridiculous. The fact that both sides are leaning so heavily on nearly identical arguments — “it isn’t war if you’re fighting in self-defense” — should be a big red flag no matter which side you’re on, because it reminds us how easily this war-is-peace rhetoric can be abused. I don’t think that the case for war is even remotely defensible here, but if you’re going to make it, own it.”

“We’re Ruled By [glass bowls] Because We Have [glass bowl] Systems: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix” [Caitlin’s Newsletter]. Quoted text not necessarily safe for work: “People have a fairly easy time accepting that things are fucked because we are ruled by corrupt assholes. They have a much harder time accepting that we are ruled by corrupt assholes because our corrupt asshole systems will always necessarily elevate corrupt assholes to the top. It’s easier to blame our problems on oligarchs or the Deep State or a cabal of satanic pedophiles than it is to blame them on systems that we ourselves participate in and have lived our entire lives intertwined with and which have been continuously normalized within our culture. If the problem is just a few corrupt assholes then it’s not a very daunting problem, because all you have to do is remove those corrupt assholes and everything’s golden. If the problem is the systems around which our entire civilization is structured, it’s far more daunting. It’s easy to imagine a future without corrupt assholes. It’s almost impossible to imagine a future where human behavior is not driven by profit for its own sake, where we have moved from competition-based systems to collaboration-based ones where we all work together for the common good.” • Hence, the destruction of public health and, in fact, the very notion of a “public” (but maybe it was time for that?)

“What’s the Matter with Men?” (review) [The New Yorker]. Richard V. Reeves, Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It. Quick summary: “[T]he rapid liberation of women and the labor-market shift toward brains and away from brawn have left men bereft of what the sociologist David Morgan calls ‘ontological security.’ They now confront the prospect of ‘cultural redundancy,’ Reeves writes. He sees telltale signs in the way that boys are floundering at school and men are leaving work and failing to perform their paternal obligations. All this, he says, has landed hardest on Black men, whose life prospects have been decimated by decades of mass incarceration, and on men without college degrees, whose wages have fallen in real terms, whose life expectancies have dropped markedly, and whose families are fracturing at astonishing rates. Things have become so bad, so quickly, that emergency social repairs are needed. ‘It is like the needles on a magnetic compass reversing their polarity,’ Reeves writes. ‘Suddenly, working for gender equality means focusing on boys rather than girls.'” • Anybody who thinks that being a member of the PMC is about “brains” is a very particular kind of fool. I know; these are my people!


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

I am calling a “Something Awful.” It’s gonna be bad, in some new way, and we don’t know how, yet (but see here for immune system dysregulation, which is looking pretty awful).

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

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• “China Covid: Coffins sell out as rural losses mount” [BBC]. “There has been much debate about the real number of Covid deaths in China, after the virus ripped through its megacities. Some 80% of the population – more than a billion people – have been infected since China scrapped restrictions in December, according to leading epidemiologist Wu Zunyou. Last weekend China reported 13,000 Covid-related deaths in less than a week, adding to the 60,000 deaths it has counted since December. But these deaths have been in hospitals. In rural areas there are only sparse medical facilities and those who die at home are mostly not being counted. There is not even an official estimate for the number of village deaths. But the BBC found evidence the death toll is mounting. We visited a crematorium and they too have been busy, mourners dressed in white walking forward carrying the ceremonial box which would eventually contain the remains of a loved one. In another village, we saw one man and woman loading huge tissue paper birds onto the back of a flatbed truck. ‘They’re cranes. You ride the crane into the afterlife,’ the woman said. As they packed up other elaborate, Buddhist images newly made from tissue paper they said they’d had an explosion in demand for their funeral decorations, two or three times what’s normal. Everyone we met in this part of Shanxi who is connected to the funeral industry told us a similar story about an increase in deaths and they all attributed it to the coronavirus.” • We need better proxies. But… No estimate for rural deaths? Really?

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• “Commercialization of COVID-19 Vaccines, Treatments, and Tests: Implications for Access and Coverage” [Kaiser Health News]. • Here we go:

While each of these two changes – the depletion of the federal supply and end of the PHE – matters on its own, their interaction also matters and may amplify access challenges.

  • The extent of these challenges varies by product and is most acute for treatments and tests. While COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, will continue to be available for free to virtually all those with public and private insurance even when there is no longer any federally-purchased supply remaining or PHE protections in place, this will not be the case for COVID-19 treatments and tests, where cost sharing will be widely permitted.
  • These access challenges will also vary by payer, with the uninsured and the underinsured standing to lose the most. Whereas these products will continue to be covered by both public and private insurance after the federal supply is depleted and the PHE protection period is over, albeit in some cases with cost sharing, this is not the case for adults who are uninsured, who will have limited access to free vaccines, and no coverage for the cost of treatments and tests.
  • Finally, even if consumers are still guaranteed free access or protected against some costs, they could face access challenges if sufficient supplies are not available from manufacturers or procured by pharmacies or other providers.

“Cost sharing.” What a euphemism.

* * *

“Could a popular COVID-19 antiviral supercharge the pandemic?” [Science]. Yes, actually. Molnupiravir: “A widely used COVID-19 drug may be driving the appearance of new SARS-CoV-2 variants, sparking concerns it could prolong and even reinvigorate the pandemic. The drug, molnupiravir, produced by Merck & Co., is designed to kill the virus by inducing mutations in the viral genome. A survey of viral genomes reported in a new preprint, however, suggests some people treated with the drug generate novel viruses that not only remain viable, but spread.” • That preprint in Links, 12/23/2022. Now it’s in Science….

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• “House bill seeks to end CMS’ COVID-19 vaccine rule for healthcare facilities” [Becker’s Hospital Review]. • Not a “rule.” A mandate. Quite a difference.

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• I agree with this:

I personally dodged many a bullet, I would like to believe protected by my protocol, but I know others who were not so lucky. It’s very hard for me to believe that a million people can die — especially elders, whose death necessarily effects generations — with no society-wide expression of grief. There was an AIDS quilt — 54 tons worth of it — and a National AIDS memorial. Why no equivalent for a much larger, society-wide, culling event? I can only think that there must an enormous quantum of “stuffed” emotion surrounding the pandemic, some perhaps displaced onto rage (blaming masks, for example), but most unexpressed. Very strange.

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• Maskstravaganza: Useful timeline:

* * *

• A good tip on overhead vent hoods:

I certainly don’t have a good mental model of how air circulates in a confined space like a bagel shop. Would be useful!

Case Data

NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from January 30:

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.


Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission (the “red map,” which is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you.) The map is said to update Monday-Friday by 8 pm:

The previous map:

NOTE: I shall most certainly not be using the CDC’s new “Community Level” metric. Because CDC has combined a leading indicator (cases) with a lagging one (hospitalization) their new metric is a poor warning sign of a surge, and a poor way to assess personal risk. In addition, Covid is a disease you don’t want to get. Even if you are not hospitalized, you can suffer from Long Covid, vascular issues, and neurological issues. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published February 2:

0.4%. Slight increase (still at a high plateau).


Wastewater data (CDC), January 29:

Again, what the [family blog] is the [family blogging] use of a national wastewater map where nearly all the collection sites are [family blogging] greyed out?

January 28:

And MWRA data, January 30:

Looks to me like New England’s regional surge is winding down. No bump from the students returning. Readers?


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

Variant data, national (Walgreens), January 23:

Lambert here: XBB overtakes BQ. CH not moving too fast, reassuring, because a Tweet in Links, January 11 from GM drew attention to it (“displays such a high relative growth advantage”) and in Water Cooler, January 18, from Nature: “CH.1.1 and CA.3.1 variants were highly resistant to both monovalent and bivalent mRNA vaccinations.”

Lambert here: Wierdly, the screen shot about has been replaced today by data from “10/7/2022.” (It’s clearly not current data; BQ.1* and XBB do not dominate.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), January 7 (Weighted Estimates Only*):

BQ.1* takes first place. XBB coming up fast. (For BQ.1/XBB and vaccine escape, see here.) CH.* now appears, a week after Walgreens. Here is Region 2, the Northeast:

CH.1* appears, but slightly below the national average. XBB utterly dominates, making clear that Region 2 (New England) varies greatly from the national average. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we ended up with different variants dominating different parts of the country.

NOTE * CDC used to have a “Nowcast Off” radio button, which I used because of my bad experience with CDC models like Nowcast. CDC explains (I think) the change in the following note:

Weighted estimates (provided for all weeks except the most recent three weeks) are variant proportions that are based on empirical (observed) genomic sequencing data. These estimates are not available for the most recent weeks because of the time it takes to generate the unweighted data, including sample collection, specimen treatment, shipping, analysis, and upload into public databases.

Sublineages with weighted estimates less than 1% of all circulating variants are combined with their parent lineage. When the weighted estimate of a sublineage crosses the 1% threshold and has substitutions in the spike protein that could affect vaccine efficacy, transmission, or severity, it may be separated from its parent lineage and displayed on its own in the variant proportions data.

Nowcast estimates (provided for the most recent three weeks when the “Nowcast on” option is selected below) are model-based projections of variant proportions for the most recent weeks to enable timely public health action. CDC uses the Nowcast to forecast variant proportions before the weighted estimates are available for a given week.

Someone who can interpret The Great Runes can look at this; but I don’t have time today.

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

Not as high as Biden’s ginormous jouissance, but still high.

Hospitalization data for Queens, updated January 29:


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,134,259 – 1,132,935 = 1324 (1324 * 365 = 483,260 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

It’s nice that for deaths I have a simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job. (Though CDC may be jiggering the numbers soon. Lower, naturally.)

• “More Californians Are Dying at Home. Another Covid ‘New Normal’?” [Kaiser Health News]. “The covid-19 pandemic has spurred a surge in the proportion of Californians who are dying at home rather than in a hospital or nursing home, accelerating a slow but steady rise that dates back at least two decades…. ‘Whenever I ask, ‘Where do you want to be when you breathe your last breath? Or when your heart beats its last beat?’ no one ever says, ‘Oh, I want to be in the ICU,’ or ‘Oh, I want to be in the hospital,’ or ‘I want to be in a skilled nursing facility.’ They all say, ‘I want to be at home,” said John Tastad, coordinator for the advance care planning program at Sharp HealthCare in San Diego.” • So, good!

Stats Watch

There are no official stats of interest today.

* * *

Retail: “The Junkification of Amazon” [New York Magazine]. The deck: “Why does it feel like the company is making itself worse?” • Because it is.

Advertising: “Fame: Brands wanna live forever” [Bob Hoffmann, Campaign]. “If it is true that all we have are likelihoods and probabilities, we should ask ourselves what the single outcome of advertising is that is most likely to result in business success? I believe the answer is obvious. Fame. All of the world’s hugely successful brands have one common characteristic. They are famous. A brand that is famous has enormous advantages over its competitors that are not famous. Traditional marketers and advertisers will often assert that differentiation or positioning or ‘brand meaning’ are the key advertising drivers of brand success. I’ve heard them say that fame without ‘a reason’ is empty and worthless. They say that positioning or differentiation are the first job of advertising because they give substance to fame. In other words, positioning and differentiation are the factors that make fame productive. I think this is wrong. In fact, I think it’s exactly the opposite. I think that fame, by itself, inherently creates the strongest type of positioning and differentiation. The most powerful differentiator for any brand is being the most famous in its category. The most powerful position for any brand is being the most famous in its category. Fame has many positive but not necessarily logical associations. These include trust, social acceptance, and credibility. Any brand can try to differentiate or position itself by claiming to engender ‘trust, acceptance, and credibility.’ But only fame has the unique ability to communicate these attributes without having to say them.” • Hmm.

Tech: “The Billions-Dollar VR/AR Headset Question” [Daring Fireball]. “The appeal and utility of all-day [Augmented Reality (AR)] glasses is obvious. But we are obviously very far away from such devices being possible, at any price. And I don’t think such devices will ever be goggles with a screen, using cameras to show the real world. I think they must be see-through lenses that somehow include display technology that can project opaque objects and virtual ‘screens’ within your field of vision. I am convinced we will get there. I am equally convinced we are not close to being able to make such devices…. My strong gut feeling is that mass-market all-day AR glasses won’t be feasible until 15 or so years after the first sensational VR goggles. They’ll require that much of, and that many, generational leaps forward: chip miniaturization, battery tech, display tech, and sensor tech.” • That’s a long time to wait…

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 73 Greed (previous close: 73 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 68 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 2 at 2:08 PM EST.

Photo Book

Black and white (1):

f64 no doubt… Sharp all the way back to the mountains!

Black and white (2):

Under the Influence

This is like one of those Onion headlines where you don’t even have to read the story. One tweet will do:

The 420

“High Anxiety” [Spotlight PA]. “Anxiety disorders are now the leading reason Pennsylvanians get a medical marijuana card, a first-of-its-kind analysis of more than 1.1 million certification records obtained by Spotlight PA reveals… The Department of Health’s rules and enforcement give those physicians great leeway in deciding whether to issue certifications. The department adopted regulations that require medical marijuana doctors to review available health care records, but those rules do not spell out how providers should determine if records exist. The department has also stated that patients might not have records for certain conditions and certifying doctors may be the ones ‘making the initial diagnosis.’ Some medical marijuana card companies actively court clients who lack a prior diagnosis or medical records showing they have an anxiety disorder.” • The contrast to the free pass given to oxycontin is pretty obvious. Then again, what on earth is there it be anxious about? What’s wrong with these people?

Health Care

“Incorrectly recorded anesthesia start times cost medical centers and anesthesia practices significant revenue” (press release) [American Society of Anesthesiologists]. n= 40,312. “Inaccurately recording the start of anesthesia care during a procedure is common and results in significant lost billing time for anesthesia practices and medical centers, suggests a study being presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ ADVANCE 2023, the Anesthesiology Business Event. The anesthesia start time (AST) must be documented from a computer logged into the electronic health record (EHR), and typically occurs once the patient is in the operating room (OR). However, the anesthesiologist meets with the patient prior to their arrival in the OR and begins tasks that are vital to the procedure — such as administering pre-medication and attaching monitors — and that time typically is not recorded. Depending on the patient and procedure, adding two to five minutes to the AST when logging it would account for the preparation and transit time, researchers say. ‘These seemingly minor inaccuracies of recorded AST can cost medical centers and anesthesia practices hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue,’ said Nicholas Volpe Jr., M.D., MBA, lead author of the study and an anesthesiology resident physician at Northwestern University McGaw Medical Center, Chicago. ‘We suspect most anesthesiologists are unaware that they aren’t recording AST accurately. It’s not a result of negligence, but rather reflects that workflow hasn’t been optimized for accuracy.'” • Good to see our M.D.s focusing on what really counts!

Zeitgeist Watch

“Relatable: Marie Kondo Gives Up” [Gizmodo]. “‘Up until now, I was a professional tidier, so I did my best to keep my home tidy at all times,’ [Kondo] said via interpreter in a recent media webinar, as reported by the Washington Post. More recently though, ‘I have kind of given up on that,; she noted. And declared, ‘my home is messy,’ in no uncertain terms. Kondo gave birth to her third child in 2021, and has seemingly been re-evaluating her priorities since. She said she’s abandoned peak organization ‘in a good way.’ Instead of dedicating endless hours to ensuring her home is perfectly put together, ‘Now I realize what is important to me is enjoying spending time with my children at home.’ To her, focusing on family over folding is time spent ‘the right way for me at this time, at this stage of my life.’ To which Gizmodo says: good for her! She may have built an organizational empire off of books, TV shows, brand partnerships, and home goods all essentially bearing the message of ‘get yourself together,’ but everyone deserves a break from the unending work of categorizing life’s clutter. Plus, if Marie Kondo isn’t even KonMari-ing, maybe that means the rest of us are free to stew in our slop.” • Yay!

“The Dirt on Pig-Pen” [Astra]. From the Peanuts cartoon strip: “There is something hard to pin down in Pig-Pen’s condition. The nature, even the physical behavior of Pig-Pen’s dirt fluctuates. From one week to another, it is likened to chalk powder (as when he ‘washes’ his hands by beating them together, ‘the way they clean erasers’), to sand (you could put ‘four boards around that kid and have an ‘instant sandbox”), to soil, mud, and dust. He is described as being ‘cooled by several layers of clay’ (protecting him from heat), or blending in with the dirt at second base. He is associated with bacteria, carrying his Easter jelly beans around so long that they start to ‘ferment.’ Violet describes him as a ‘germ carrier.’ Pig-Pen seems offended, but declares that even germs need a rest. The physical dirt itself: Is it organic or inorganic? Does it come off? Does Pig-Pen want it to? Pig-Pen first appears in 1954. Violet’s judgmental friend, Patty, sees him playing in the sand and asks his name. Pig-Pen replies that he doesn’t have one; people just call him ‘insulting things.’ Patty asks for specifics. ‘I’ll tell you if you won’t laugh,’ Pig-Pen says. His name is a punch line. For a long time, Pig-Pen’s name consistently appears in quotation marks, reminding us that it isn’t really a name — that he has, presumably, another one that he doesn’t know.”

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Low Resolution History” [London Review of Books]. “One of the most revealing things about discussion of The Woman King has been how low-resolution popular knowledge of African history remains. Half a century after the Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford declared that there was no African history to teach, only the ‘history of Europeans in Africa’, many in the West would still fail to name a single pre-colonial African kingdom if asked. The Woman King represents a step forward in general awareness, but it’s in a cultural climate where discussions of Africa cannot take any pre-existing knowledge for granted. For many, the image of pre-colonial West Africa remains one of undefined ‘tribes’ and men with spears. Discourse about ‘Africans selling Africans’ is also common, but slaves were most frequently captured in inter-state conflicts, by people who saw them as categorically different. This was a time before Pan-Africanism was even a twinkle in Kwame Nkrumah’s eye. And attitudes differed among those in power: Ghezo’s commitment to ending the trade was shaky but, as Walter Rodney noted in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, one of his Dahomey predecessors, Agaja Trudo, actively raided and looted European forts and slave camps on the coast. All this nuance is lost in the widening gyre of contemporary political imperatives, and no Hollywood movie can reasonably be expected to act as a microcosm of an entire historical era, let alone an already underrepresented one.”

Class Warfare

“The difference between ‘rich’ and ‘wealthy,’ according to New York Times ‘Wealth Matters’ columnist” [CNBC]. “To the frustration of some of his readers, [Paul] Sullivan came to define wealth not as a dollar figure but in terms of what your savings allow you to do. ‘The people that I consider wealthy — whether you’re a schoolteacher or a billionaire — are the people who, when they want to do X, they can do it,’ he says. He pointed to billionaire businessman Jon Huntsman, whose corporation invented, among other things, the plastic clamshell containers that Big Macs used to come in, as well as to his own aunt, a retired schoolteacher whose savings allow her to buy whatever she wants for herself and to travel to visit family whenever she pleases. On the rich-but-not-wealthy side of the equation, Sullivan says you’re likely to find plenty of hedge fund managers. ‘They make a ton of money, but they may also be highly leveraged,’ he says, meaning that much of their money on paper may come from investing borrowed money. Lack of control over their own financial decision-making is a key indicator that they’re not, in fact, wealthy, he adds: ‘Life is going to make choices for them.'” “Life” doesn’t “make choices” for working class people? All of them, without exception? In a way that “life” does not “make choices” for, say, Trustafarians?

“Tech layoffs strip the facade off TikTok’s ‘day in the life’ videos” [NBC]. The deck: “Creators pivot to content about unemployment and labor rights instead of aspirational videos of corporate perks.” • Wow, TikTok permits that?

News of the Wired

“A city-wide examination of fine-grained human emotions through social media analysis” [PLOS One]. “In this study, we expand upon the previous research domain and utilize data from the social media platform Twitter to analyze fine-grained human emotions at a city wide level. Different approaches for automatically detecting fine-grained human emotions from the social media platform Twitter were examined and evaluated. Afterwards, Neural Network classifiers were used to identify emotions from geotagged tweets in two cities, San Francisco and London and data from Open Street Map data was used to spatially contextualize the social media information….. [W]e examined seven different fine-grained emotions (Anger, Anticipation, Disgust, Fear, Trust, Joy and Sadness) at a city-wide level based on large-scale data analysis from social media… The results showed significant differences with regard to the type of place, such as how tweets in London showed significantly more Anger at Transportation and Sport locations than at Education, and Residential locations and how tweets which display Anger and Sadness in SF tend to have significantly higher numbers of Office venues in the nearby vicinity.” • Interesting, actually!

“The science behind seasonal depression” [Scientific American]. “As much as three percent of the general population is thought to experience SAD, but one study Rosenthal published in 1990 found that the condition became more prevalent in the U.S. in northern latitudes, with as many as 10 percent of New Hampshire residents reporting the condition.” • Not all studies agree, and there are many confounders. That said, I believe SAD is real, and I also believe it has to do with change in available light, i.e., you can get it moving away from the solstice as well as towards it. My advice, as usual, is to walk outside in the daylight, and look up at the sky and the trees, not down at your feet. One day the buds on the tree branches will appear!

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marku52 writes: “Red Hot Pokers this fall in SW OR.”

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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. Mikel

      “Some scientists had warned before it was authorized in late 2021 that by virtue of how it works, the drug could give rise to mutations that could turn out to be problematic. The preprint paper has reawakened those worries about the Merck drug….”

      I remember that being discussed here on NC.

  1. antidlc

    RE: Commercialization of COVID-19 Vaccines, Treatments, and Tests: Implications for Access and Coverage”

    “Whereas these products will continue to be covered by both public and private insurance after the federal supply is depleted and the PHE protection period is over, albeit in some cases with cost sharing, this is not the case for adults who are uninsured, who will have limited access to free vaccines, and no coverage for the cost of treatments and tests.”

    Anyone who thinks the end of the PHE is a good thing, is speaking from a position of privilege.

    There. I said it.

    1. IM Doc

      I agree – they had better really work on some of the issues here.

      One can argue about the efficacy of both the vaccines and Paxlovid. But the facts are that going forward, the vaccine cost will be 100-150$ a dose – and Paxlovid will by report be 200-300$. Any future monoclonal antibodies will be in the thousands. I expect all three to completely tank to zero outside of traditional Medicare if they proceed with their current plans.


      The ridiculous Obamacare deductibles of 10K-15K, etc – essentially has young patients paying for all their medications. I already have all kinds of these patients who cannot afford routine labs or routine meds right now – they most certainly will not be paying for these “questionable efficacy” COVID Rx either. The Medicare advantage plans are largely the same – many of them have deductibles and co-pays. And then do not even get me started on the “doughnut hole” with both the Advantage plans and even at times with traditional Medicare. With about 70% of the country living from paycheck to paycheck in a recent poll, I seriously am thinking affordability will be a big problem going forward.

      I am convinced that there is not a single physician in any of these panels making these decisions that actually sees patients from day to day and has a clue what is going on with these affordability issues. If so, ideas like this would never see the light of day. It is the very definition of “hare-brained”. Why is that surprising? We have been doing everything the “hare-brained” way from the beginning.

  2. fresno dan

    “We’re Ruled By [glass bowls] Because We Have [glass bowl] Systems: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix” [Caitlin’s Newsletter].
    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – every presidential election in my lifetime the 2 party candidates are worse than the previous presidential candidates.
    The thing that is different from the 1970’s is that the propaganda is all pervasive and the media lies are the predominant narrative.
    In another link today, Jimmy Dore has to appear on Tucker Carlson to be essentially the lone voice challenging the all war, all the time narrative. HAS TO APPEAR, because it is the only mass venue open to him. Let that sink in.

    1. Pat

      I’m having a moment of deja vu.
      Anybody but me remember when Phil Donahue was essentially the lone voice on any major television media outlet questioning the Iraq invasion and the war on terror? He was the highest rated program on MSNBC, but was still cancelled. Now at that time MSNBC was owned by GE, whose main enterprise was its defense operations.

      Why am I figuring that Tucker might be this decades’ Donahue.

      1. truly

        Noam Chomsky told a fascinating story several years ago. In a lecture, I wish I could find a link to a recording of it. He told that he had been invited to do a segment on an NPR program. Invited by an old friend.
        He explained that they would never allow him to be on NPR anyhow. His friend assured him, “yes, I will get you on. This is my show, I have control of content”. So Noam writes out what he will say. Submits it for approval. It is approved. Then he pre records his statement. They sent it back as it was 20-30 seconds too long. He re records and submits it. Approved. Now it comes to the day of airing the show. When it came to his 20 minute segment he was cut and it went to elevator music. His friend, the producer, called him fuming mad. He did the old, I told you so, they will never let an anti war voice on your network.
        The next part of the story was just as stunning. He explained that he could still get on FOX, and that they never pre screened ANYTHING. Not even a pre interview. Just invite him on and he gets to say what he wants.
        The world is upside down.
        Sad that so many great voices have been sidelined. Donahue, Hedges, Chomsky, and so many more.

        1. Mildred Montana

          That Tucker Carlson interview of Jimmy Dore was truly refreshing. If only because it presented a contrary view from that of the MSM.

          Fox is unavailable in Canada, can’t even get it if you’re willing to pay extra. I wonder why that would be? CRTC playing Big Brother?

        2. digi_owl

          Because FOX News is not something to reference in polite company. FOX News, and Carlson’s show in particular, is the modern day court jester. They can broadcast anything, because nobody will ever admit to taking them seriously.

    2. The Rev Kev

      ‘I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – every presidential election in my lifetime the 2 party candidates are worse than the previous presidential candidates.’

      When you have people like Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley throwing their hats into the ring for the Presidential nominations in 2024 and being taken seriously, well, what can you say? And the Democrats are just as bad with people like Pete Buttigieg. But these are the only choices offered to Americans. It’s like a guy that comes up to you and says ‘Pick a card. Any card!’ But that deck of cards has been cut so cold, that you can see icicles hanging off of it.

    3. lyman alpha blob

      There has been a definite downward trend but I also harbor a special loathing for our own homegrown Zelensky, Ronald Reagan, who really shoved the hypercapitalism right down our throats and began the trashing of the idea of a public good which has continued to this day. 40 years later and most people still don’t get that he was an actor hired to play a role by his superiors. I’m thinking there were one or two Republican candidates arguably better than Ronnie, but that is admittedly a very low bar. If there’s room for a third in Beelzebub’s fetid maw down there in the 9th circle, Reagan will be there.

  3. fresno dan

    “Relatable: Marie Kondo Gives Up” [Gizmodo].
    I’ve always thought of “tidying” as a war against entropy, and since I can’t win, I surrendered, accepting that at some point, if I accept maximum entropy, and without effort, I am declutering as much as I am cluttering…
    This worked well…until I got married.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Been there, done that, and am still wearing the t-shirt. Small hint – for what is your own gear, try this. Every day, get rid of one thing no matter how small. It is easy and takes only seconds. If you get something new, then get rid of two things that day. You can even write a list of stuff you dump if you want to keep check for any patterns. Keep this up for a coupla weeks but then something happens. Slowly, very slowly, it gets harder. You find yourself debating why you are keeping some gear and if you want it in your life. When it gets really hard, then you can stop. If down the track you find that you are keeping too much stuff, you can repeat the process.

      1. TimH

        How to get rid of books:
        Will I read it again?
        Do I want someone else to read it?
        Is it intrinsically decorative?

        If no to all, lose it…

        1. lyman alpha blob

          The problem with question one is that you hit a certain age and realize you might want to read a book again, but you probably won’t manage it with so many others still to get to. No fun coming to the realization that you just won’t be able to read all the books. But you get to keep them any way due to question two!

          One of the reasons I like building a personal library is because so many public libraries are digitizing. Somebody needs to keep the analog around.

          A question four comes to mind – do I now have two or three copies of the same book due to buying another before getting around to reading the first one?

      1. MichaelSF

        With even the largest family it shouldn’t take more than a few weeks of “one child discarded per day” to get it down to a comfortable size.

    2. c_heale

      She’s made money from getting people to throw stuff away. Now she’s gonna make more getting people to buy stuff again. Nice work if you can get it.

  4. Carolinian

    Re Haley

    Her major accomplishmen, other than the somewhat ill fated Boeing acquisition, was to require all state offices to answer the phone with “It’s a great day in South Carolina.” She’s a fiscal conservative super hawk in the mold of Sarah Palin long after Palin’s sell by date. Only the press like her as far as I can tell (see super hawk). Presumably she figures that, plus lots of billionaire money, will be enough.

    And Ansel stopped down but also had lots of pixels via those large format view cameras. However he himself gave all the credit to his darkroom procedures which extended the tonal range of b & w photography. He said the negative was the score and the print the performance. He started out as a musician and appropriately our pleasure in his pictures surely has a lot to do with enjoyment of the virtuosity of a top performer.

    1. Wukchumni

      Ansel would often be in the backcountry for long stays and if there was a word for mountaineers, stoic is as good as any when playing beast of burden carrying a load up and down the Sierra-you can endure hardship with a Cheshire cat grin all the while, and often see what Ansel portrayed as splendid suspended moments in time as a moving canvas of sorts, where the view is different as you are the easel constantly moving and thus changing the look.

      Rarely does a human appear in Adams family of photos, and the way I see it is i’m surrounded by 8 billion of us, i’d rather be alone with a few friends and slim chance of seeing anybody else, while being surrounded by natural beauty.

      1. Carolinian

        I really love Ansel as much for his environmentalism as his photography. If you read his biography or his letters he was just a really cool guy (his wife might not have thought so). Like some of my other heroes, such as Pauline Kael or Dave Brubeck, he was a San Franciscan when that conveyed a certain outsider cachet that could look beyond the snobby East Coast. Plus we who live under constricted skies can never quite know the exhilaration of all that space. I believe Europeans come here and trip out over it.

        So all hail your fellow Sierran. Long may he wave.

    2. griffen

      I doubt she’ll gain much in the way of traction but do wish her well (I suppose, I’ll be nice). Heck, it’s not looking like there will be the conga line of candidates as there were in 2016.

      Conservative (and somewhat a smaller one) red state playbook won’t do well on the left coast, or in the NE states. She might find an audience in a super biz friendly state like Texas, though.

      1. petal

        Haley’s on her way up here to NH. Lucky us.
        “Potential presidential candidate Nikki Haley is planning to visit New Hampshire immediately after making an announcement in South Carolina, according to a source close to Haley.

        The source said Haley plans to announce she’s running for president in 2024, setting up a challenge for the Republican nomination with former President Donald Trump. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has said he’s also considering a run for president.Haley is expected to make the announcement on Feb. 15 in Charleston, South Carolina. She is then expected to hold town hall-style events across New Hampshire from Feb. 16-18.

        Haley, a former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under the Trump administration, was a regular in New Hampshire during the last election season, campaigning for Republican U.S. Senate nominee Don Bolduc during the general election and Republican U.S. House candidate Matt Mowers during the primary.

        Haley also campaigned in Tilton for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.”

      2. Karl

        Perhaps the first female president will be a Republican. Republican women are, increasingly, winning elections.

        She’s the daughter an Indian Sikh family. Surely that will get her the woke vote in the Democratic party.

        Accomplishments? Didn’t she remove the Confederate flag from the State Capitol’s flag pole? Surely we live in an age where being telegenic is more important than accomplishment, or even character. However, I think she’s been pretty scandal free over her career.

        If Haley is nominated, and runs against Biden (or even Harris), I think she wins.

        Personally, I hope Tulsi runs. She’d have to run as a Republican, I think.,

        1. Carolinian

          On October 9, 2018, she tendered her resignation as the U.N. ambassador, which President Donald Trump accepted.[150] Haley’s resignation emerged a day after an anti-corruption watchdog accused her of accepting seven luxury private plane trips as gifts from South Carolina business leaders.[151] The watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), was the first to break this story after requesting an Inspector General investigation. Haley listed these seven flights as gifts on a 2018 financial disclosure, claiming that they are exempt from ethics violations as they were gifted by personal contacts. A spokesperson for CREW said they have no reason to believe that this was related to her resignation as ambassador.[1


          In February 2019, it was announced that Haley had been nominated to the board of directors of Boeing. She was elected at the annual shareholder meeting on April 29.[160][161] Critics have alleged that the position at Boeing may have been offered to Haley due to favorable official actions she took with regard to Boeing while in office in South Carolina.[162] Boeing board members earn “a minimum annual compensation of $315,000 as of 2017, the most recent figures available in a regulatory filing.”[163] On March 19, 2020, Haley stepped down from the Board of Directors stating her disagreement with the board over a government bailout during the global coronavirus crisis


          She’s a hardcore Israel hawk and a hawk in general and could be expected to carry on the neocon obsessions re Russia. And yes she favored taking down the Confederate flag after first opposing it. Haley is low on ability and long on ambition so it isn’t hard for the cynical among us to see a degree of national political calculation in her every action. As a Republican she is tight with people like Rubio,Graham and Romney. I doubt if her improbable bid will get very far but given the press hatred of Trump who knows?

        2. ambrit

          It is conceivable that Gabbard could run as the first national candidate for a new “Congress Party.” That would be the epitome of the “Third Way.”

      1. Fiery Hunt

        Not all of them… Mapplethorpe was an amazing photographer.
        See Robert Mapplethorpe’s Irises, 1987

        Weston is amazing, Adams a legend, the New Yorkers fantastic but for my money I’d rather have one Peter Beard.

  5. Jason Boxman

    Liberal Democrats have also now presided over the largest increase in child poverty, thanks to letting the subsidies for that expire as well. It’s almost as if liberal Democrats have an insatiable desire to do harm upon Americans. They surely are an effective evil. They don’t even bother trying to hide it anymore. I guess I should sign up for my Democrat Party membership today!

    1. griffen

      They are fighting! Fighting for you. Fighting for Democracy. Fighting for the soul of this, that and also the other. They never hesitate in letting us know, about all of this fighting.

    2. fresno dan

      Back when we actually had a partial liberal media, this might be the number one story, as it profoundly affects millions of the poorest Americans. But as far as I can ascertain, speaking about poor Americans is verboten. Even if Trump were president, it would not be reported, because it would show that our market based economy can’t provide things that are critical to life – that for really important stuff, the market doesn’t work Because that would show that all those NGO’s are just a lot of hot air and a big waste of money. That all that deregulation doesn’t work.

      1. Jason Boxman

        Republicans want to beat you up with a baseball bat; Liberal Democrats want to beat you up with a baseball bat, and then give you a hot cup of tea. Regardless, you’ll find your pockets emptied of their contents as well, for both doors R and D.


        1. c_heale

          I think it would be more accurate to say Democrats beat you up with a baseball bat then say they want to give you a cup of tea, but they never actually give it to you.

  6. Wukchumni

    “The difference between ‘rich’ and ‘wealthy,’ according to New York Times ‘Wealth Matters’ columnist” [CNBC]. “To the frustration of some of his readers, [Paul] Sullivan came to define wealth not as a dollar figure but in terms of what your savings allow you to do. ‘The people that I consider wealthy — whether you’re a schoolteacher or a billionaire — are the people who, when they want to do X, they can do it,’
    I’ll be skiing next week with the dartful codgers, cheek by jowl in the vicinity of people of vast wealth on the same frozen tilted playing field… but I prefer doing it on the cheap, and it isn’t as if you can tell somebody’s worth by their form on the slopes-oftentimes the ski bums who make less than a McDonald’s employee working for the resort look like they’re ‘money’.

    Pretty much everything else I like to do costs nothing aside from gas money and occasional lodging, there are no specific trails on public land for those with gluttonous amounts of manna, nor is there any conveyance aside from walking the walk, bling there-done that.

    When the lottery got up to a billion, a gaggle of us were talking about how things would change if we won (keep in mind none of the 7 of us had met the lottery half way in buying a ticket) if we were to have the winning numbers, and it dawned on me that nothing would change in my life, that’s how ‘rich’ I am, cheap bastard.

  7. Samuel Conne

    >They’re not bugs. They’re features. Features that make Pfizer very happy!

    Perhaps these could be called “Pfeatures.”

  8. Laughingsong

    “Can we please distinguish between antiwar and just war”.

    I’m not sure there is really a just war, I think there really is no mitigation…. Just like I believe nobody wins a war either, or else why are we constantly re-fighting wars of the past? We go to war because someone did something sucky either presently or in a past conflict, the side on the defensive (supposedly the “just” side ping-pongs back and forth. Just. Stop. Please. It won’t fix anything.

    “ My hot take is that most of us have not adequately processed the trauma of the pandemic. And our sprawling, unprocessed trauma chews away at our brains”

    For me, it wasn’t the pandemic per se, but my society’s response. My society’s responses have been eating my brain (actually I would say my heart) bit by bit my whole life: Vietnam, volker, Reagan, no peace dividend, 9/11 war madness, GFC…… watched it become an “anti-society “.

    Back in the depths of time we humans, social creatures, created various societies to support each other. Now it’s just a weapon, a cudgel in the hands of the powerful.

  9. Cat Burglar

    Jeffrey Pine atop Sentinel Dome. It died in the 1980s, mainly because of prolonged drought. The dead trunk was still standing the last time I was there.

  10. t

    What’s the matter with men? Maybe simple: not socialized to smile and make the best of things and be cheery and aren’t doing anything to fool themselves and others about their despair.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Doesn’t help when you have a literal culture war against men. If you doubt this, then I invite you to watch for example the 2016 film “Ghostbusters.” I have noticed a fightback about this the past few years so when “Velma” came out continuing this trend, it got roasted something chronic. What is “Velma?” Remember the 70s cartoon “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!”? Well it has been re-booted but without Scooby Doo-

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds8w2Vv_RSY (7:42 mins)

      Note how the male character is treated in this new remake. This is a really long trend. I really noticed this here in Oz back in the 90s when literally, and I mean literally every male in TV ads were depicted as goofy, incompetent, clownish and easily manipulated. I wondered what the effect of this message would be on young kids growing up and I knew that it would not be good.

      1. digi_owl

        It may be a long trend, but i swear it kicked into overdrive after 2008.

        This perhaps because a whole university class of “humanities” students were prematurely decanted into the workforce with nothing more than a raging hatred for the Y chromosome to their name.

        Also, ads seem to be aimed at being ever so slightly offensive. It is how they get noticed and talked about.

        The change in entertainment is something else though, as the shows etc keep failing yet the people making them seem to keep on being hired.

    2. eg

      That bit about boys struggling in school is not new. I took a course in the sociology of education in 1987 and the Prof told us that despite it being fashionable in the press to express concern about opportunities for girls, it was the boys who disproportionately underperformed in schools.

      Same as it ever was …

      1. c_heale

        I read that some research demonstrated that girls at school were under massive psychological pressure to do well, and that the school environment for them was much more competitive than for the boys.

        So it’s probably not working for the girls either.

        1. fjallstrom

          It’s the same pitting groups against each other while ignoring the larger picture.

          The problem for everyone who needs a paycheck is the neoliberal economics that demands unemployment. Bring back full employment and unions. Then the rat race that starts in the schools becomes more optional. Better for everyone, except the owners.

  11. pjay

    “Can we please distinguish between antiwar and just war politics?” [Carl Beijer]

    Everything after Lambert’s quote is behind a paywall, but I’ve read Beijer’s take elsewhere. He is one of those “leftists” who are critical of people like me who try to explain, if not justify, the Russian invasion of Ukraine. For him, as for so many others on “the left,” those who excuse Putin’s “imperialism” are just as bad as those who justify our own.

    I can’t read Beijer’s full article, and I don’t really want to. I’m just really tired of this crap by so-called “leftists”. If Beijer is supporting an “anti-war” position, then he should acknowledge this: Russian had been trying for 8 years to AVOID war. The US and NATO had been actively *stoking* the war machine in Ukraine during that time. Russia had engaged in good-faith efforts negotiating the Minsk agreements. For all parties on the other side this was just a charade, stalling for time while building up Ukrainian forces. I am so sick of this “both sides” bulls**t by these empire enablers posing as our “progressive” moral superiors.

  12. griffen

    I don’t intend to sound mean but if you wish to sport a devilish grin or impish smile a little this afternoon, try reading the one about the tech layoffs and the shifting messaging that former tech employees are now utilizing on “vlogs” and Tik toks. You have my sympathy on the job loss but that’s where it ends for me.

    I had started to see more of these postings via Linked In, especially after the start of 2023, all the postings quite familiar in the orderly summation of “please don’t skip my post” and how they recently lost their position of XX years and please if you can comment and leave pointers.

    Tech companies are mean since they’re no longer so charitable on the free lunches and themed conference rooms.

  13. roxan

    What’s the problem with men? I’m not sure, but I observed long ago that women were seeking ways to get by on their own because they either couldn’t find a man capable/interested in having a family, or the man they did have prooved useless in some manner. Every woman I know–from working class to professional–wanted to get married and have a family. Almost none did, despite searching for years. At 73 y/o, I grew up in a traditional, very religious country town, then moved to a big city and went to college, so I think I have seen the whole evolution of ‘womens lib’. My mother was sure that if men could get sex without marriage, few would marry. Was she right?

    1. Mildred Montana

      >”What’s the problem with men?”

      I would rephrase the question: “What’s the problem with women?” From my 71-year-old perspective and having lived a bit of life, I would say that women privilege occupation and income too much. I know that money is important in a marriage, but does it really matter if a man supports his family by doctoring or by carpentry? If his income is sufficient, that’s enough.

      There are many well-paid skilled tradesmen out there, and they’re nice, decent, respectable guys. Yet some women will turn them down because they don’t sport a white-collar, because they wear a sweaty T-shirt and a dirty pair of Levis. That’s a mistake on the part of women, yet many of them persist. Give me a lawyer, give me a doctor, or give me spinsterhood they say.

      In the end, love and marriage and friendship and all the important relationships in life are about *values*. Can I love this person, can I live with this person, can I be friends with this person, can I be married to this person? And that is where, imo, women often go wrong in their choice of mates. They are looking for the wrong things.

      1. Tom Pfotzer

        Mildred: that was a most insightful and IMO helpful comment. After an evening of reflection on this subject, I observed that:

        * There’s no decent user manual for selecting a mate. We start off with a bunch of socialized-in precepts about what we’re to want. Those precepts are very often not consonant with what we actually do want

        * What we want evolves over time. What we thought was important turns out not to be, but we’ve made high-consequence, long-duration commitments based on a very imperfect perception of the situation we’re in

        * The forces that bind us together – need for a help-mate, an income (comfort), sex – while they have high relevancy at the outset – attenuate over time for various good reasons

        Given the inherent instability of the situation – lot of moving parts, and parts not well-understood – it’s no surprise that relationships don’t last. How could they?

        Maybe a user-manual on Selecting a Mate is needed.

        I’m thinking of a manual containing chapters on self-assessment, on the various basis / reasons to be in a marriage (a cafeteria, make your own salad), on how to identify (reliably) the actual motivators of your potential partner, on how those motivators tend to change over time, and certainly a section on the durable satisfactions that do stand the tests of time. Those satisfactions that constitute and reinforce and feed the comfortable mate-ness that some old people achieve.

        And maybe a section on how to tell when the things that bound you together aren’t working, and how to calmly and constructively re-negotiate the deal when that situation occurs. That chapter might be the most useful of all.

        Such a manual, issued during a high-school class on Finding a Mate, would serve us all well. Get it on the table _before_ the high-consequence decisions get made.

        Not that I would have paid much attn to it upon receipt, but it would have registered into my consciousness, and possibly been remembered and even consulted from time to time thereafter.

    2. Tom Pfotzer

      I often wonder if the best thing for both sexes might be for men to take a pill that eliminates sex drive.

      Then the actual, durable, true character of the value of being together would either become obvious by its presence, or by its absence.

      “if men could get sex without marriage, few would marry”. Well, that helps answer the question, does it not?

      Let me state your premise on the obverse: “if women could get a family, with all the support necessary to nurture it and for women to have all their emotional needs met, would they marry?”

      Maybe not.

      ====== On to the emergent role of men in tomorrow’s world.

      It seems to me that, by virtue of the development of machines, men have obsoleted their role as brawn. And by virtue of universal education, to a large degree, the role of “professional” is also kaput as foundation for male identity.

      So the requirement for men now is to conceive of new roles for themselves. What we were and had, women want and generally seem to be able to do as well as we ever did.

      Do we continue to define ourselves based on our ability to attract a mate that doesn’t really want or need us?

      Or do we find new roles, roles that others haven’t any interest in, but are interesting to us, and fill those roles?

      1. Karl

        Do we continue to define ourselves based on our ability to attract a mate…?

        From late teens to today, I was always quite intentional about keeping my identity –and indeed, my life goals–non-contingent on partner or serious relationship. That included children, family, and all of that.

        I think I knew deep down that finding the person who was even moderately right for me would be a very, very long shot. So, I put my dreams and energy into other things. Boy, did that decision spare me a lot of heartache and headache. I did eventually find the right person the way it would absolutely have to (for me): serendipitously. We did eventually have kids. But mate and family are still not central to my identity.

        Perhaps I’m strange in that respect.

      1. c_heale

        Ironically sex for many couples becomes less common as time goes on.

        What I think most people really want are children and love/sffection (in no particular order).

        Sadly many people don’t get the love/affection part. And modern neoliberal society is anti children in many aspects.

  14. Van Res

    ‘We Can Pay for What We Decide to Pay For’, by Janine Jackson, at Fair
    JANUARY 30, 2023

    CounterSpin interview with Michael Mechanic on defunding the IRS

    “And what they managed to do is just hack away the IRS budget. They cut it by about 20%, 25%, and they also cut the enforcement budget, more specifically. So the IRS lost a big chunk of its workforce, and most notably, it lost the experts that are required to unravel these incredibly complicated tax returns of sophisticated partnerships and businesses and corporations, and very, very wealthy individuals who have really smart lawyers on their payroll, who are all pushing the envelope of tax avoidance. There’s a lot of gray areas of what’s legal and what’s not.

    “And when you don’t have the manpower, this stuff is daunting, and you really need sophisticated tax lawyers—who can get paid more, incidentally, in the private sector, right? So the IRS lost a lot of its top guns, and that left it knee-capped and unable to address these wealthy returns, and you saw this soaring of avoidance.”

  15. anon in so cal

    717,552 Covid fatalities since Biden took office.

    1,116,364+1,188 US Covid fatalities as of today minus approximately 400,000 under Trump.

  16. pjay

    Re: “The press versus the president” – Jeff Gerth, Columbia Journalism Review

    I’ve finally had time to read the whole four part series, and I agree that it is well worth the time to do so. The mainstream media – especially the NY Times – are shown to be biased partisan hacks. *Real* journalists like Taibbi, Greenwald, Mate, and Gareth Porter come off very well. There is a nice take-down of the whole “Russian meddling” through social media scam. The Democrats, especially the Clintonistas who ginned up the original collusion BS and those like Adam Schiff who kept it going, are depicted as the liars they are. The Pulitzer Prize doesn’t come off very well, either. As Gerth points out often, it is striking how many of these weasels refuse to acknowledge they were wrong.

    That said, I made the comment a few days ago that this series really whitewashes the role of the intelligence community in the whole Russiagate agenda. I stand by that today. The FBI mainly comes off as Russiagate *skeptics* who were forced to investigate claims they never really believed in. *Peter Strzok*, of all people, is portrayed as the voice of sanity trying to warn people not to overreach! This is perhaps because he seems to be a major source for these articles. The FBI role in general is mainly depicted similarly; even Comey comes off relatively well. And Brennan, Clapper, the CIA? Well, they are hardly mentioned, and when they are it seems they were mainly just skeptical bystanders who had little or nothing to do with it. Mifsud was apparently just a guy spouting off to impress, as were the other sources. Etc.

    As I said earlier, this is a good take-down of the MSM, but in my view it is a limited hangout. Russiagate was, and is, about more than Trump and Trump-derangement by the liberal media.

    1. Jason Boxman

      Yep, the national security state went after a president. Disturbing stuff. And these people are into everything. Big Tech, liberal Democrat Congress people, think tanks, media spokes people, journalists, anonymous sourcing, outfits that political campaigns employ, ect. It seems we’re closer to Chinese style surveillance capitalism than anyone might want to believe.

      1. c_heale

        The national security state was implicated in the assassination of Kennedy. Seems par for the course.

    2. Jason Boxman

      Come to think of it, this was a continuous, orchestrated attempt to depose a sitting president of the United States. Full stop. That’s what both impeachment attempts were. The second on no firmer ground than the first. The former overwhelmingly in concert with the intelligence services.

      This is deeper, and more chilling, than any number of 6 Januarys might be. And liberal Democrats are yammering about their Democracy. Indeed.

      1. in_still_water

        I hold Nance responsible for the timing of the second impeachment (e.g., when she encouraged the public celebration of the Chinese New Year) which contributed the Democratic horrific response to the pandemic – along with the horrific response by the Republicans.

    1. Screwball

      Why not? Only Trump can be the wrench thrown into the machine that isn’t working for most Americans, just to crash the machine. That’s what he has going for him. A loose cannon, but that’s where people are. They have nothing to lose and they know it.

      We are living in an insane world controlled by insane people. I’m 66 years old, and I have never been more worried in my life. I have kids, and grand kids.

      Please, adults in the room to the white courtesy phone.

    2. notabanker

      Even better, they aren’t going to ban them. They are going to means test them. You’ll still have access.

  17. Volundra

    Taxpayers paying to fund Newsom’s wife’s hobby business

    While her husband attends to state business, Jennifer Siebel Newsom engages in her passion: advancing “gender justice” through her charitable nonprofit The Representation Project. According to tax documents the organization is “committed to building a thriving and inclusive society through films, education, and social activism.”

    We previously reported that while the governor engaged in the highly unethical practice of soliciting 1,000 state vendors for $10.6 million in campaign cash, the first partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, solicited state vendors and the governor’s campaign donors for large gifts to her charity, The Representation Project.

    However, Newsom’s charity shouldn’t have been soliciting anyone for donations throughout most of 2022.

    Last week, our investigation broke the story that The Representation Project was not in compliance with the California Charitable Solicitation Act. Now, it’s clear that the charity spent last year engaged in big-money fundraising events with corporate executives and philanthropists – while its charitable filings were delinquent with the state.

    Then, the Newsom nonprofit scrambled to submit their proper registration. Working with the California Attorney General, a process that normally takes days or weeks was completed in hours.

    The films are leased for screenings to individuals, corporations, and schools, and come with their own lesson plans. Schools spend between $49-$599 to screen these movies to children.

    Jennifer Siebel Newsom is credited as a writer and director on each of these films. Two of the movies feature Gavin Newsom himself, and many of the lesson plan activities are oriented toward engaging children in social and political activism.

    Because of Gavin Newsom’s role in these films and because licenses are sold to schools which the governor is responsible for funding with tax dollars, auditors at OpenTheBooks.com felt the organization deserved further scrutiny.

    Who’s Watching? 2.6 million students in 5,000 schools

    According to The Representation Project’s Impact Report (2011-2021), the organization’s film curricula are being used in over 5,000 schools in all fifty states. The Representation Project claims over 11,200 copies of the curricula have been distributed, reaching more than 2.6 million students.

    Tax records show that since 2012 the nonprofit has generated $1,483,001 in film screening revenue, although it is unclear how much money came from schools versus other sources. We asked The Representation Project for the number of California schools that purchased a screening license and received no response.


  18. Old Sarum

    Foxed? (Noam Chomsky)

    Here in Australia, we have Philip Adams. He has a long term gig with another Murdoch outlet called ‘The Weekend Australian’ magazine. I regard his column as the modern form of the medieval court jester. He has been given special licence as Stalin did with some of “his” writers and seemingly what Adams says on public radio and writes for Rupert is probably true; however:

    Keep Calm
    Carry On.

    It only goes to show the level of confidence in propaganda-as-usual.


  19. The Rev Kev

    “More Californians Are Dying at Home. Another Covid ‘New Normal’?’

    I think that I read that in the UK people who were infected were told to stay home and deal with it unless it got really bad in which case only then could you call an ambulance. And then not that long after I read that ambulance call times were through the roof and there were long lines of ambulances parked outside UK hospitals unable to get their patients into those overwhelmed hospitals. I did wonder briefly if you had death certificates with the place of death listed as the hospital waiting bay.

  20. The Rev Kev

    ‘It’s very hard for me to believe that a million people can die — especially elders, whose death necessarily effects generations — with no society-wide expression of grief. There was an AIDS quilt — 54 tons worth of it — and a National AIDS memorial.’

    That is rather remarkable that. But then again, the effects of Neoliberalism were just starting to take effect and there were still hundreds of media companies, unlike the present six, that was reporting this in real time. The Democrats were till a factor as Bill Clinton still only lay in their future and the Republicans of Ronald Reagan look positively mild these days. In so many ways, it was a different country in the 80s.

  21. Carolinian

    This is interesting

    Vladimir Putin today will visit Stalingrad. No, it is not a typo–this day Volgograd will officially become Stalingrad again. A number of the road signs have been changed to Stalingrad and in 2013 Volgograd’s City Duma passed legislation that for 10 days a year Volgograd will be called Stalingrad


    It’s the 80th anniversary of the German surrender. I’ve been reading a book about Stalingrad (The Lighthouse of Stalingrad) and recently rewatched Enemies at the Gate which I think is a good movie although full of historical whoppers. Jude Law plays the sniper Vasily Zaitsev. Wiki has a rundown including the inaccuracies.


    1. Karl

      Yes, I’ve seen Enemies at the Gate many times. Great movie. It’s based on the writings of Russian WW II war correspondent Vasily Grossman, a great writer and novelist about the Eastern Front. He wrote as an observer on the front lines in very vivid and graphic prose. My guess is that the character in the movie who writes the newspaper stories about Zaitsev is somewhat autobiographical. It’s a wonder that Stalin gave him considerable license to write truthfully about the horrors he witnessed. I wonder if there’s anyone like that writing about the war in Ukraine today (on either side)? The experiences of these soldiers need to be preserved. I can imagine what the horrors of Bahkmut are like today, in freezing cold trenches amid constant shelling. The courage of these soldiers is awesome.

      1. Carolinian

        It’s Enemy at the Gates which I fudged. Sorry. Based on a book of the same name.

        And I think it’s well directed and well acted. We don’t expect fiction movies to be perfect history. Also while it takes some shots at Stalin and the Soviets it does convey the tremendous sacrifice endured by the Russians in taking on the Nazis. In other words it’s very relevant to the here and now.

        1. Polar Socialist

          Enemy at the Gates has very little historical accuracy. Limited to the facts that there was a battle at Stalingrad and Vasili Zaitsev took part in it. Everything else in that movie is totally made up.

          For example, only one Red Army unit ever went into action directly from the crossing, Rodimtsev’s 13th Guards Division and Zaitsev was not serving in it. Before crossing Rodimtsev gave an actual pep talk to his men (armed to the teeth in the pictures), then personally led them over, because they did an exceptional daytime crossing due to a developing crisis in the city. Now, that would have made some emotional cinema, Rodimtsev standing on the bank, pointing towards Stalingrad on the other side and getting his men pumped up for action, while smoke is spread over the river and Stukas are circling overhead. But no, they chose to do it differently…

          Zaitsev himself arrived to Stalingrad actually at the same time than Red Army finally got rid of the commissars, so none of that dynamics in the movie would have happened. Also all the NKVD troops were subordinated to Chuikov, stopped being military police and started building and manning strong points. There were no “blocking detachments” in Stalingrad – there are stories of wounded being evacuated by force, because they did not want to leave.

          For moral reasons Chuikov made sure that he was seen in the front lines as often as possible, there were moments when his HQ was actually surrounded. He also demanded the same from all his commanders, and also to keep the morals up, he demanded all men kept themself clean and shaved – many a veteran has told how it was a nuisance, but soon they started to feel superior to the ragtag Germans.

      2. digi_owl

        Has not been something like that on the western side since Vietnam.

        The 2003 invasion was particularly notorious for having carefully vetted “embedded journalists” among US forces that had nothing but high praise to say about events.

    2. Jason Boxman

      In regards to lack of weapons, which happened early in the war and changed by 1942, Isaev said: “There were no unarmed soldiers sent to the attack…. What is shown in Enemy at the Gates is pure nonsense.”[16]

      So much for the opening scene. It seems Russian barbarism of their own people is somewhat overstated in the film. Still, I agree, it is a good film on balance.

  22. Jason Boxman

    From https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2023/01/why-does-it-feel-like-amazon-is-making-itself-worse.html

    Many products will be described in SEO-ese: “Silicone Spatula Turner, VOVOLY 3-Pack Spatula Set for Nonstick Cookware, BPA Free Rubber Spatulas, Heat Resistant Kitchen Utensil, No Scratch or Melting, Ideal for Egg, Cookie, Crepe, Burger, Pancake.” Most, maybe all, will be eligible for Prime.

    No, it is garbage, garbage, garbage. 90% of Amazon is just Chinese garbage now. Look up VOVOLY or almost any other randomly named “product” on Amazon, and you’ll get some business address in China. It’s all trash, trash, trash. Amazon has become one big con. If it isn’t linked to by some marginally trusted site like Wirecutter, it’s garbage. It’s probably still garbage, regardless.

    Amazon is a microcosm of the crap-ification of America.

    Your best bet is to avoid anything that isn’t both fulfilled and shipped by Amazon; If it’s from some third party seller, it’s almost without a doubt, trash. Very profitable trash for Amazon. Because they get paid whether it is trash or not trash. They take a cut in every direction. So the more trash, the better!! Drowning in trash!

    LOL, I jumped the gun. This article actually does address the Chinese junk angle. The first I’ve ever read.

    The view of Amazon from China is worth considering everywhere. Amazon lets Chinese manufacturers and merchants sell directly to customers overseas and provides an infrastructure for Prime shipping, which is rare and enormously valuable. It also has unilateral power to change its policies or fees and to revoke access to these markets in an instant — as it has for thousands of Chinese sellers in recent years, with minimal process, because of alleged review fraud. It’s a lot of power for one firm to have. E-commerce analyst Juozas Kaziukėnas, founder of Marketplace Pulse, has highlighted growing concerns in the country about Amazon’s dominance and trajectory, including an editorial in the People’s Daily critical of the company’s e-commerce “chokehold.” (The article is available in translation here.)

    Only took someone about 6 years to notice and write a story about it. Yay!

    1. Realist

      Almost everything is made in China these days. Have you been into a store in the last 30 years? Please go ahead and pay much more for a brand name you recognize if it makes you feel better (and you can afford it).

      1. Jason Boxman

        No, you’ve missed the plot. These aren’t western multinationals manufacturing their goods in China. This is rando junk being sold under random made up names. First hit for random search “cat toys”:

        Business Name: Shenzhen Dangkang Electronic Commerce Co.,Ltd.
        Business Address:
        baoanqu xixiangjiedao hezhenghuiyicheng2A2002

        That’s just some garbage random vendor. Click any link for cat toys on Amazon, this is what you’ll find. Another at random:

        Business Name: Shenzhenshi Aohai Technology Company Limited
        Business Address:
        13d, Bldg.1, Jingtingxuan, Block 1, Zhongzhao Huayuan Nanwan
        Nanwan Street Longgang District
        Guangdong Province

        If that’s your jam, go for it. This isn’t the cesspool I’m looking for.

        1. Michaelmas

          Jason Boxman: No, it is garbage, garbage, garbage. 90% of Amazon is just Chinese garbage now … These aren’t western multinationals manufacturing their goods in China. This is rando junk being sold under random made up names

          [1] As Realist points out, many of us had figured this out; and …

          [2] It’s very much not all junk.

          I buy a line of Chinese electric shavers, forex, that sell for less than Braun charges for replacement blades for their electric shavers, has a USB cable to charge it through my laptop (which suits me because I travel), keeps its battery charge as well as a Braun (and if I ever get a bum one, it’s so cheap I’ll just throw it away and get another), and generally works as well for my purposes (I finish shaving by tidying up with a light wet razor, but I had to do that with the Braun, too).

    2. Grebo

      “Silicone Spatula Turner, VOVOLY…”

      Spooky. I have one of those and it is excellent. Except I broke it trying to knead bread, which it is not designed for. You’ve reminded me to order another one (from eBay). Thanks!

  23. sharron2

    New foodservice ventahoods are integrated ventilation systems that are tied to outside air and ac and heating. They should run most of the time and should have a quick air turnover as they are very high volume. Older systems will evacuate air and pull air from the rest of the room. The old ones won’t have any outside air feeding into it. It will probably have high CO2 readings. The old style are turned on manually as they aren’t tied to the whole ac system. We started installing these types of systems in school lunch renovations about 6 years ago. There was quite a learning curve for our staff and our ac maintenance department. The 1st one was installed backwards and brought in untreated air so when it was 100 degrees outside the the staff overheated and in the winter they froze. Took a few months for the installers to figure out what they did wrong.

  24. eg

    Regarding the Caitlin’s Newsletter link and Lambert’s bit at the end, regarding the destruction of “the notion of a public; (but maybe it was time for that?).”

    That ship sailed 35 years ago when Thatcher claimed “there is no such thing as society.”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Correct, but I was too cryptic.

      The problem with “the public” (as with “community”) is that it takes no account of, well, contradiction. If both capital and workers are subsumed under the notion of “the public,” as I think they are, perhaps the concept is best discarded in favor of a something with greater clarity. Capital, as you point out, certainly believes that!

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