2:00PM Water Cooler 2/22/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, this Water Cooler is a bit light. I actually was able to go to a doctor today and get a physical. Everything is A-OK, and in fact I’ve lost weight, good for the heart, the blood, everything. Tomorrow I will be back on form. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

I thought of jackdaws because of Konrad Lorenz’s wonderful King Solomon’s Ring, which I read when I was quite young (and unaware of Lorenz’s views on “social decline”).

Eurasian Jackdaw, Eindhoven–Brederolaan, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. “Flock.” Indeed, with many other birds, including, I think, an owl.

* * *


“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

What does “you will not outlast us” even mean:

Biden’s getting into a war of attrition with Russia? With what manufacturing base? With what troops?

* * *

“FTC won’t challenge Amazon’s One Medical deal” [Politico]. “The Federal Trade Commission has decided it won’t challenge Amazon’s $3.9 billion deal for primary care provider One Medical, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter…. One Medical is the second Amazon acquisition to go unchallenged at the FTC since Lina Khan, a fierce critic of the company, took over the agency in 2021. Amazon’s purchase of MGM Studios also closed without opposition, though the commission at the time was deadlocked 2-2 along partisan lines, preventing a lawsuit.” • Sounds like Amazon is turning into a conglomerate. Time for some shareholder activism, if Lina Khan isn’t all that “fierce”?

Biden’s Surgeon General shills for a private company, and that’s OK with liberals. But:

So who’s on the side of the angels, here?

The Supremes

“Partisan priorities and institutional legitimacy in the flawed challenges to student-debt relief” [SCOTUSblog]. “A brief submitted on behalf of legal scholars, including me, focused on whether the secretary of education had authority to embark on debt cancellation. This is a matter of statutory interpretation. The HEROES Act of 2003 grants the secretary the authority to ‘waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs under’ Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which created the framework for federal student aid. The idea is, the secretary should act to ensure that borrowers are not in a worse situation because of the emergency. We argue that this language unequivocally permits the cancellation contemplated by the Biden administration’s plan. And Congress specifically foresaw that this language contemplating waiving and modifying could encompass changes to loan programs en masse rather than on an individual borrower basis. In their attack on the statutory text, the plaintiffs argue that cancellation constitutes a ‘breathtaking assertion of power and a matter of great economic and political significance’ sufficient to demand a clearer expression of congressional intent than that in the statute. The brief calls on the court to invoke the ‘major questions doctrine’ to conclude that Congress did not speak clearly enough.” • The Congressional Research Service in 2022: “Congress frequently delegates authority to agencies in general or broad terms to promulgate regulations that advance the goals Congress has identified. In a number of decisions, however, the Supreme Court has declared that if an agency seeks to decide an issue of major national significance, a general delegation of authority may not be enough; instead, the agency’s action must be supported by clear statutory authorization. Courts, commentators, and individual Supreme Court Justices have referred to this doctrine as the major questions doctrine (or major rules doctrine), although the Supreme Court has never used that term in a majority opinion. The Supreme Court has recently signaled an increased interest in applying the major questions doctrine as a principle of statutory interpretation in challenges to significant agency actions.” And in 2023: “On June 30, the Supreme Court issued a consequential decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, 2022 WL 2347278 (U.S. June 30, 2022) (W. Va. v. EPA). The decision, based on the ‘major question doctrine,’ struck down the EPA’s authority to require power plants to move away from the use of coal. The major question doctrine applies where a novel federal agency rule will have an expansive effect and significantly impact the nation’s economy. In such a case, the Court goes beyond statutory language authorizing such agency rulemaking and looks at other factors to determine whether Congress intended to delegate such authority to the agency.”

“Supreme Court rejects Ohio man’s bid to sue police over arrest for Facebook parody” [NBC]. ” The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned away an Ohio man’s claim that his constitutional rights were violated when he was arrested and prosecuted for making satirical posts about his local police department on Facebook….. In March 2016, Novak set up a Facebook page that purported to be that of the Parma Police Department. He published six satirical posts in 12 hours, one of which claimed there was a job opening to which minorities were encouraged not to apply and another that warned people not to give food, money or shelter to homeless people. The police department, claiming the posts had disrupted its operations, launched an investigation and ultimately searched Novak’s apartment, arrested him and jailed him for four days. Novak was charged under a state law that criminalizes disruption of police operations but acquitted at trial…. The police officers, Kevin Riley and Thomas Connor, say they had probable cause to arrest Novak because they genuinely believed his conduct was disrupting their operations.” Oh. More: “After lengthy litigation, a federal judge dismissed Novak’s claims. The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in a ruling in April that ‘the officers reasonably believed they were acting within the law’ even if his Facebook page was obviously a parody. That’s because there was no court precedent saying it’s a violation of the Constitution to be arrested in retaliation for satirical remarks when the officers have probable cause, the court said.” There’s no precedent because nothing so grotesquely absurd had ever been done! More: “Among those backing Novak’s appeal was the satirical news site The Onion, which filed a lighthearted brief saying its writers ‘have a self-serving interest in preventing political authorities from imprisoning humorists.'” • Light-hearted? Dead serious! So now any thin-skinned cop can arrest you and you in jail out of “reasonable belief.” That’s “our democracy”!


“Inside the Trump grand jury that probed election meddling” [Associated Press]. “The case has emerged as one of Trump’s most glaring legal vulnerabilities as he mounts a third presidential campaign, in part because he was recorded asking state election officials to ‘find 11,780 votes’ for him. For the next eight months, [grand juror Emily] Kohrs and her fellow jurors would hear testimony from 75 witnesses, ranging from some of Trump’s most prominent allies to local election workers. Portions of the panel’s final report released last Thursday said jurors believed that ‘one or more witnesses’ committed perjury and urged local prosecutors to bring charges. The report’s recommendations for charges on other issues, including potential attempts to influence the election, remain secret for now.” More: “Kohrs was fascinated by an explainer on Georgia’s voting machines offered by a former Dominion Voting Systems executive.” Oh. And: “Trump’s attorneys have said he was never asked to testify. Kohrs said the grand jury wanted to hear from the former president but didn’t have any real expectation that he would offer meaningful testimony. ‘Trump was not a battle we picked to fight,’ she said.” • And… Oh.


“Data center opponent Weir projected to win seat on Prince William Co. Board of Supervisors” [WJLA]. “Bob Weir is projected to defeat Kerensa Sumers for the Gainesville supervisor position. As of 11 p.m., Weir had received 4,195 votes to Sumers’ 2,735 with 16 of 17 precincts reporting. Weir is a noted opponent of the development of data centers in the county.” • Data centers are as noxious as pipelines, I would say. It’s right to oppose them where found.

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.

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Realignment and Legitimacy

“How Georgia Became Democrats’ Test Site For Their 2024 Private Takeover Of Election Offices” [The Federalist]. “Earlier this month, DeKalb County, one of the state’s most populous localities and a Democrat stronghold, announced it had been selected to join the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence and that the county’s commissioners had accepted a $2 million grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). Launched last year, the Alliance is an $80 million venture by left-wing nonprofits to ‘systematically influence every aspect of election administration’ and advance Democrat-backed voting policies in local election offices. Despite Georgia law (SB 202) prohibiting election superintendents or boards of registrars from directly accepting ‘funding, grants, or gifts’ from private entities, DeKalb County election officials have found a way to skirt such provisions to acquire the Alliance’s funding. In her remarks to Decaturish.com, a local Georgia news outlet, DeKalb Board of Registration and Elections Chair Dele Lowman Smith, a Democrat, admitted the application process for the Alliance grant was spearheaded by DeKalb’s finance department instead of the board of elections. According to Lowman Smith, this was done ‘since election offices are not allowed to receive grants directly.'” • I don’t normally link to the Federalist, but this looks well-sourced. Do any Georgia readers have thoughts?

“‘I Was So F*cking Freaked Out’: Ex-NYT Staffer Describes ‘Crying’ and ‘Bloodthirsty’ Colleagues Seeking Vengeance for Cotton Op-Ed” [Mediaite]. “Mediaite obtained excerpts of Steve Krakauer’s new book, Uncovered: How the Media Got Cozy with Power, Abandoned Its Principles, and Lost the People…. The internal clash at the Times was no secret. The publication of an op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), headlined “Send in the Troops” and arguing for the National Guard to respond to the 2020 riots, sparked outrage at the paper…. At the latter, McCreesh said that Charlie Warzel, a White tech writer, started to cry because ‘none of his friends wanted to talk to him anymore because he worked for this horrible evil newspaper that would print this op-ed.’ ‘It was just so bizarre what was happening,’ said McCreesh. ‘It was like a Maoist struggle session.'”


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

• Readers, since the national data systems in the United States are being vandalized, let’s start collecting links to state data, too. If readers would send me links (see Plant below) to their favorite State and local dashboards/wastewater sites, that would be great. Canadians, too! Or leave a link in Comments.

Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data).

Resources, United States (Local): CA (dashboard); CO (wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); SC (dashboard); TX (dashboard); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater). No longer functional: Utah (dashboard).

Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Art_DogCT, CanCyn, ChiGal, Gumbo, hop2it, JB, Joe, John, JM (2), JW, Michael King, LaRuse, mrsyk, otisyves, Petal (5), RK, nRL, RM, Rod, Utah, Bob White. (Readers, I am not putting your handle next to your contribution because I hope and expect the list will be long, and I want it to be easy to scan. (If you leave your link in comments, I use your handle. If you send it to me via email, I use your initials (in the absence of a handle.)

• More like this, please! Total: 1 6 11 18 20 22/50 (44% of US states). Can anyone find RI? Also, we should list states that do not have Covid resources, or have stopped updating their sites, so others do not look fruitlessly. Thank you!

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Look for the Helpers

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

Covid Is Airborne

Yesterday, I presented a tweet from a dull normal who actually bought some UVC technology (expensive, but no doubt it will come down). So more on that technology:

“Evaluation of UVC Excimer Lamp (222 nm) Efficacy for Coronavirus Inactivation in an Animal Model” [Viruses]. Animal model. From the Abstract: “Ultraviolet subtype C (UVC) excimer lamps with 222 nm wavelength have been tested on airborne pathogens on surfaces and the exposure to this wavelength has been considered safer than conventional UVC. To test the efficacy of UVC excimer lamps on coronaviruses, an animal model mimicking the infection dynamics was implemented. An attenuated vaccine based on infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) was nebulized and irradiated by 222 nm UVC rays before the exposure of a group of day-old chicks to evaluate the virus inactivation. A control group of chicks was exposed to the nebulized vaccine produced in the same conditions but not irradiated by the lamps. The animals of both groups were sampled daily and individually by choanal cleft swabs and tested usign [sic] a strain specific real time RT-PCR to evaluate the vaccine replication. Only the birds in the control group were positive, showing an active replication of the vaccine, revealing the efficacy of the lamps in inactivating the vaccine below the infectious dose in the other group.” • Hmm. As a UVC noob, it’s nice to have a wavelength to look for.

“Far UVC 222nm Light Excimer Lamp” [CureUV.com]. “The 222 nm Far UVC Light Excimer Lamp is a UVC Lamp designed specifically to attack harmful pathogens while being completely safe for the skin. This innovative lamp uses quartz tubes to emit 222nm UVC light that is used in public disinfection programs because of its high effectiveness and safety for humans.” • Innovative, then. But then there’s this:

In some ways, posting a secondary product that undermines the safety claims of your main product — on the same page! — is charmingly naive. And it could be that consumers buy the glasses out of “an abundance of caution” (vile phrase). On the other hand, filtration technology doesn’t require any caution at all. A study on this topic–

“222 nm Far-UVC from filtered Krypton-Chloride excimer lamps does not cause eye irritation when deployed in a simulated office environment” (preprint) [medRxiv]. “Whilst significant research has been undertaken to investigate skin safety of these lamps, less work has been undertaken on eye safety. In particular, there is very limited data on human eye safety or discomfort from the deployment of this germicidal technology. In this pilot study, immediate and delayed eye discomfort were assessed in a simulated office environment with deployment of Krypton-Chloride lamps. The discomfort was assessed immediately post-exposure to the Far-UVC and several days after exposure using the validated, standardized Standard Patient Evaluation Eye Dryness (SPEED) and Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) questionnaires. Our results show that there was no significant eye discomfort or adverse effects from the deployment of Far-UVC in this simulated office environment, even when the lamps were operated continuously. In addition, through collection of bacteria and fungi on agar plates, with this non-optimised lamp arrangement a statistically significant reduction in pathogens of 52% was observed. Far-UVC in this simulated office environment did not cause any clinically significant eye discomfort and was effective at reducing pathogens in the room.” • 52% argues for a layered strategy. But you can bet — and this is my greatest fear, or bugaboo, if you will — that people, especially business owners — will screw UV-looking lightbulbs into random sockets and call it good.

* * *

A good thread on how to think about airborne:

This is the only other tweet I’ve seen that makes an analogy between sharing air and sharing water in a public pool. In my experience, the analogy doens’t “take.” I’m not sure why.

“How scientists are protecting themselves from COVID-19” [The Age]. “[Burnet Institute director Professor Brendan ] Crabb runs a mental ‘airborne audit’ for most spaces he enters: how many people are here? What’s the ventilation like? Are we in a time of high transmission? Some spaces he avoids or wears an N95 mask. Those he judges safer, he attends with his personal air purifier. ‘They are the bottom of the chain of controls – we don’t even know how effective they are, frankly.’ Crabb’s workplace has developed its own clean air strategy to monitor and filter office air (it helps to be the boss). At home, he has deployed three or four air purifiers. With the help of open windows, his goal is to completely turn over the air in his house at least six times an hour.’ ‘I don’t want to get COVID. I certainly don’t want my family to get it,’ he says. ‘Even though I almost certainly will, I want to get it as few times as possible. Clean air is at the heart of my own personal strategy.'” • Some totally organic and spontaneous reactions:


“The Mask Mandates Did Nothing. Will Any Lessons Be Learned?” [Bret Stephens, New York Times]. “The most rigorous and comprehensive analysis of scientific studies conducted on the efficacy of masks for reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses — including Covid-19 — was published late last month. Its conclusions, said Tom Jefferson, the Oxford epidemiologist who is its lead author, were unambiguous.” • This is the so-called Cochrane study, which has finally slithered out of the muck into the mainstream (and it took long enough, from which I infer that there are real problems with it). I will be dealing with this truly unfortunate excresence over the weekend. In the meantime, comments are welcome on Cochrane studies, RCT fetishism (when you’ve got a hammer, nothing looks like a bolt), and mask studies generally. Note that masks are apparently fine in industrial settings. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before Stephens and allied knuckle-dragging eugenicsts call for abolition in all settings, for any purpose, because Freedom*. Note also that Stephens is confusing mask efficacy with mask mandates, a possibly just-clever-enough rhetorical move. NOTE * “Freedom” is how a libertarian says “F*ck you.”

“Strapless N95 (ReadiMask) Review – The Most Innovative N95 Respirator?” (review) [Breathe Safe Air]. “ReadiMask (licensed to Alliant Biotech) has created one of the few truly innovative masks on the market. The mask, a strapless N95 which seals with a skin-friendly adhesive, has made me rethink what masks are. I’m not the only one who thinks this, as, alongside Airgami, ReadiMask recently won BARDA’s DRIVe Mask Innovation Challenge…. Overall, I found the respirator fit me well, and I had great success with the seal. This is the best fit I’ve experienced from the N95 filtering facepiece respirators I’ve tried. It fits better than my go-to respirators – the 3M Aura and the Honeywell DC365N95. Compared to these two respirators, it’s also far more comfortable, and I much prefer to wear it when I know I need to be masked for a long period. That said, it’s also relatively pricey, especially when considering how little it can be reused. For this reason, I don’t recommend it for everyday wear but rather for high-risk situations where donning it for a long time is essential. If you don’t mind the extra price or normally only wear your masks or respirators a couple of times, there’s no reason you can’t use the Strapless N95 as your everyday mask. However, I believe this isn’t a viable approach for most people, so I recommend not relying on these masks daily but rather having them on hand when needed. Other than the reusability, there were a few downsides to the Strapless N95 from ReadiMask and Alliant Biotech. Filter collapse means the respirator isn’t great for exercise, but it also isn’t designed to be. I also found the adhesive to pull on my skin when I needed to yawn or cough, but this felt like a reasonable price for the great seal. One point of note is to be careful of the bottom of the respirator. It’s easy to wear the product so that it feels sealed, but there is a slight leak near the bottom seam. I recommend double-checking this leak-prone area and performing a self-fit check to ensure it isn’t leaking.” • So, wait for version 2.0, except in the use cases indicated?


“Effect of Higher-Dose Ivermectin for 6 Days vs Placebo on Time to Sustained Recovery in Outpatients With COVID-19” [JAMA]. Yes, it’s an RCT. I’m not even going to quote the Abstract. It’s been a long time since I’ve tracked Ivermectin studies, but IIRC, the use case that NC readers, at least, settled on was prevention, where the-drug-that-shall-not-be-named was an absolute no-brainer: No risk, low cost, ginormouso upside. This study, as well as — I can’t say all, but certainly most — of the other studies were hospital-centric, and focused on treatment, not the prevention use case; to have more fun with dead metaphors, JAMA is not only flogging a dead horse, it’s the wrong horse.

Elite Malfeasance

“Synchronization in epidemic growth and the impossibility of selective containment” [Mathematical Medicine and Biology]. From 2021, still germane. From the Abstract: “Containment, aiming to prevent the epidemic stage of community-spreading altogether, and mitigation, aiming to merely ‘flatten the curve’ of a wide-ranged outbreak, constitute two qualitatively different approaches to combating an epidemic through non-pharmaceutical interventions. Here, we study a simple model of epidemic dynamics separating the population into two groups, namely a low-risk group and a high-risk group, for which different strategies are pursued. Due to synchronization effects, we find that maintaining a slower epidemic growth behaviour for the high-risk group is unstable against any finite coupling between the two groups. More precisely, the density of infected individuals in the two groups qualitatively evolves very similarly, apart from a small time delay and an overall scaling factor quantifying the coupling between the groups. Hence, selective containment of the epidemic in a targeted (high-risk) group is practically impossible whenever the surrounding society implements a mitigated community-spreading. We relate our general findings to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” • A model, I grant. But if true, the GBD crowd is full of it, unsurprisingly.

“Want to Fix Public Health? Stop Thinking Like a Doctor” [Eric Reinhart, The Nation]. “Since 1953, every director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has had a doctor of medicine, or MD, degree as their primary credential, with secondary degrees serving mostly as résumé decor. Given that medical interventions constitute only 10–20 percent of modifiable factors affecting health, the backgrounds reflected in CDC leadership—and, likewise, at most state and local public health agencies—are notable for their consistent prioritization of narrow biomedical expertise at the expense of other fields that represent the remaining 80–90 percent of pertinent knowledge for making public health policy. Physician and public health scholar Milton Roemer once observed that for the work of public health, “most of medical education is irrelevant.” But neither doctors’ irrelevant medical knowledge nor relative ignorance of essential fields—labor history, social anthropology, political economy, epidemiology, environmental sciences—is the most troubling aspect of physician control of public health. Rather, it’s the lack of epistemic humility, conferring an inability to recognize the limits and hazards of clinical reasoning, with which medical training often imbues them. Clinical reasoning is not only not the population-level logic of public health; it is frequently antithetical to it.”

The Jackpot

“Broken Sociality” [Peste]. Very affecting. I’m sure many of us have experienced this. “The pseudo-return in the “new normal” means social life and community appear to be more available, but for many of us, they aren’t, really – no more than a meal someone spat on is really available as food. Experiences of community are offered but not actually present, in that they’re present only via serious risks which are often un- or under-acknowledged. I think of this facet of broken sociality as social loneliness. This involves more time spent alone — reduced time doing things and seeing people compared to pre-pandemic — because fewer places are doing anything (let alone enough) to mitigate covid exposure… Social loneliness blurs into another facet of broken sociality, what I think of as political loneliness. This is the sense of a gulf in values or in understanding of some very important aspects of the world. Knowing that the return to normal means even more dying and life-altering suffering is terrible. Knowing that many people seem not to realize this, that people in officially respected positions seem to find this acceptable, that fellow travelers on the left don’t treat this as a priority, that all feels isolating to a degree I find hard to overstate. What’s happening, I think, is that there’s no consensus on the reality we’re living in: ideologically, the pandemic continues for some of us and is over for others, while, of course, it hasn’t *actually* ended; it feels like living in a different world from other people, but still interacting. In some cases, this means old relationships feel different, and not for the better. What I’ve called political and social loneliness overlap and are related significantly. Political loneliness is less place dependent. It isn’t so much a matter where I am and who I’m around (it’s possible to feel it, as I often do, even when I’m literally alone, as I often am), but rather comes from a sense of differing from other people on the values, assessments, and explanations through which we understand the pandemic and the management of the pandemic by institutions. This comes up sometimes in casual phone calls with far-flung friends and family as we chat about our lives. I try to suppress any urge to be judgmental about individual choices and to focus my anger at those with the most institutional power, but I do notice differences on this stuff. Those differences increase the sense of isolation. This is heavily reinforced by various explicit and implicit messages from public officials and other high-status actors. Another element of all of this is a disconnect over the status of the tradeoffs, so to speak. We need community. Those of us who can’t be in a space due to the covid risks are forced out of those spaces. Those of us who choose to weigh the costs and benefits are forced to do the weighing, and when the balance comes out that it’s not worth it, we’re also forced out of those spaces.” • It never occurred to me to frame “personal risk assessment” as a tax on time, but that is — among other things — exactly what it is. On the bright side, I’d point out that in market terms, at least, there is a critical mass of people who still mask, who want UV, and of course want to build Corsi-Rosenthal boxes, for which there are now kits. We’re out there….

* * *

Case Data

NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from February 21:

For now, I’m going to use this national wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical case data portion of this chart, which in my view “goes bad” after March 2022, for reasons as yet unexplained). At least we can spot trends, and compare current levels to equivalent past levels.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published February 21:

-1.2%. Still on the high plateau, equal to previous peaks.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,142,981 – 1,142,704 = 277 (277 * 365 = 101,105 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease). Well, the total wasn’t 192 again. Not that I feel better about it.

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

Lambert here: Lowest level in awhile. Although we’ve seen this before.

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

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Tech: Silicon Valley is training us for master-slave relationships. Which is what the oligarchs want, of course:

The Bezzle: “There Are No (Absolute) Red Flags in Venture Capital” [Aaron’s Essays]. Remember: Red flags are very rarely outright fraud, and when they are, it’s often obvious only in hindsight. Different investors have different levels of risk tolerance and generally only agree with each other when someone else makes a catastrophically bad and public mistake. Especially in a later stage company, there are so many places for a malicious actor to hide their dirty dealings that it would be incapacitating for any investor to do all the diligence required to definitively eliminate fraud. Such a thing simply isn’t possible. Look at Enron! Look at Madoff! And finally, on the other side of any red flag is one critical, inescapable question: If the product is selling and the company is making money, how big a problem could it be?” • These are the people whose social function is capital allocation.

Labor Market:

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 64 Greed (previous close: 63 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 72 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 22 at 1:58 PM ET.

Photo Book

“Gaslighting” [Socially Engaged Art Salon]. • Not a big fan of this genre, but there’s some powerful stuff here.


“Our health is the price of industrial capitalism” [Nate Bear, ¡Do Not Panic!] “The mass media has been so firmly captured by the progress narrative it can be difficult to find out the true state of our civilisation. We’re all living longer and getting healthier, right?… This avoidance of reality in favour of the progress narrative means many stories that should be at the front of our consciousness just aren’t. For example, the astonishing, frightening rise in cancer among young people. In recent years study after study after study has confirmed the same thing: we are in the early stages of a youth cancer epidemic. The big headline stat is this: every generation since the mid-80s has a higher cancer incidence than the generation before. This was the conclusion of one of the largest studies of its kind published in October last year which found that the incidence of early-onset cancer (cancers diagnosed in adults under 50 years of age) of the breast, colorectum, endometrium, oesophagus, extrahepatic bile duct, gallbladder, head and neck, kidney, liver, bone marrow, pancreas, prostate, stomach, blood plasma and thyroid has increased in multiple countries around the world on the same time frame. The researchers say that early screening cannot be the only cause, and that ‘a genuine increase in the incidence of early-onset forms of several cancer types also seems to have emerged.’ Rates among young people in many countries studied, from Ecuador, to Indonesia to Italy, are increasing 2-5% per year. The trend in the US is stark: a study of adolescents and young adults found a shocking thirty percent increase in cancer diagnoses among individuals aged between fifteen to thirty-nine years old between 1973 and 2015.”

Groves of Academe

“Vanderbilt University apologizes after using ChatGPT to console students” [ABC News]. “Last Thursday, administrators at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development sent an email to students and staff that noted, in small print at the bottom, that the message was a ‘paraphrase from OpenAI’s ChatGPT AI language model, personal communication.’ The email stressed the importance of ‘a safe and inclusive environment for all’ and encouraged members of the college to ‘come together as a community,’ and was written in clear, understandable prose. However, unlike a statement the day prior by the university’s vice provost, which seemed to use more personal language than the Peabody message, the Peabody email lacked a list of campus resources students could access to help them process their emotions.” • Stupidest timeline, stupidest administrators. And you know they won’t stop. After all, they were probably able to cream off more bonuses by firing some poor adjunct making a few bucks crafting press releases. So it goes.

Our Famously Free Press

Ding ding ding ding ding:

Journamalists, I’ll tellin ya….

“Does Being Balanced at the New York Times Mean Giving the Right Space to Lie?” [Dean Baker, CEPR]. He has to ask? “Guess so since it gave Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, plenty of space to say things that are extremely deceptive, if not outright lies. The gist of Riedl’s piece is that it will not be possible to sustain Social Security and Medicare without tax increases on the middle class…. Unlike Social Security, Medicare is not designed as a system where a dedicated tax is supposed to fully fund the program. Traditional Medicare has three parts: Part A is the hospital insurance portion of the program, which is supposed to be paid from the dedicated Medicare tax. Part B covers doctors’ payments. This is only designed to be partially funded by premiums paid by beneficiaries. Part D is for drug coverage, which is also designed to be only partially funded by beneficiary premiums. (There is also Part C, Medicare Advantage, which is intended as a way to funnel money to insurance companies.) Since much of the Medicare program is not even designed to be covered by payments directly to the program, it makes no sense to include these portions of the program in complaints about Medicare’s deficit. When Riedl tells us that Medicare is projected to run a $48 trillion shortfall over the next three decades, the overwhelming majority of this projected shortfall is due to a portion of the program that is not covered by Medicare-specific taxes by design. It is comparable to telling us that the Defense Department is running an $890 billion deficit this year (3.4 percent of GDP), because that is the extent to which its spending will exceed its designated taxes. I assume that the NYT would not allow the piece complaining about the huge Defense Department deficit on its opinion page because it makes no sense. Why is this complaint about the Medicare deficit allowed?”

Class Warfare

“WTF Happened In 1971?” [WTF Happened In 1971?] • A masterful collection of charts. I noticed the same phenomenon perhaps a decade ago (though I placed my tickmark around 1975). However, this collection is far more comprehensive than anything I ever did. As readers know, I am not a believer in theories of elite class warfare that require a Bond villain-like command structure. However, there do seem to be times when elites move in the same direction at the same time, like a school of fish. The “neoliberal turn” (if we may so label “WTF Happened In 1971”) is one such, a sort of saltation… Well, what do we call it? We have a word for when an ancien regime cracks up and is destroyed: Revolution. But is there a word for when an ancien regime displays adaptability and reinvents and renews itself? If so, what is it? The recomposition of capital?

“Inside the Teamsters’ Preparations for a UPS Strike” [Jacobin]. “here are now around 350,000 Teamsters at UPS, a mix of drivers and warehouse employees who work inside the buildings where packages are loaded and unloaded. The national master contract expires on July 31; negotiations for the new contract are set to begin on April 16. That makes for a shortened negotiation window compared to prior years, in which bargaining began well in advance of the contract’s expiration. Current Teamsters general president Sean O’Brien has vowed that if the union doesn’t have a tentative agreement by the end of July, workers will strike. The union has several sticking points. Foremost are “22.4s,” named after the 2018 contract provision that created a tier of lower-paid full-time workers. That process was led by then IBT president James P. Hoffa, son of the man whose name is synonymous with the union. While the average annual pay for a UPS driver is $95,000 — making it the rare job that offers livable pay, a pension, and benefits without requiring a college degree — newer drivers who are slotted into the 22.4 category do the same work as more senior drivers, but while the latter’s pay tops out at $41 an hour, 22.4s’ ceiling is $6 per hour less. Importantly, these newer drivers also lack comparable control over their schedules. Such a situation creates higher turnover among 22.4s, another benefit to the company given the greater compensation that seniority brings. O’Brien has also pledged to lead his members out on strike if the company refuses to eliminate the tier. Fewer than half of the Teamsters at UPS are drivers; the rest work inside UPS distribution facilities, and many of them are part-time. Some part-timers are paid as little as $15.50 — meager enough that in some parts of the country, the local minimum wage is higher. The Teamsters want to raise the starting wage above twenty dollars an hour.” • Excellent. Two-tier is an abomination. 100% anti-solidarity.

So do we pro-rate the reparations:

News of the Wired

“Poisoning Web-Scale Training Datasets is Practical” [arXiv]. “Deep learning models are often trained on distributed, webscale datasets crawled from the internet. In this paper, we introduce two new dataset poisoning attacks that intentionally introduce malicious examples to a model’s performance. Our attacks are immediately practical and could, today, poison 10 popular datasets. Our first attack, split-view poisoning, exploits the mutable nature of internet content to ensure a dataset annotator’s initial view of the dataset differs from the view downloaded by subsequent clients. By exploiting specific invalid trust assumptions, we show how we could have poisoned 0.01% of the LAION-400M or COYO-700M datasets for just $60 USD. Our second attack, frontrunning poisoning, targets web-scale datasets that periodically snapshot crowd-sourced content — such as Wikipedia — where an attacker only needs a time-limited window to inject malicious examples. In light of both attacks, we notify the maintainers of each affected dataset and recommended several low-overhead defenses.” • Hoo boy. Sixty bucks?

“The Cure for Hiccups Exists” [The Atlantic]. “Luc Morris is a surgeon at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, specializing in tumors of the head and neck. Almost 20 years ago, when he was a medical student at NYU, he wrote a letter to the editor of a specialist medical journal in which he laid out a potential treatment for ‘idiopathic persistent singultus,’ a.k.a. the hiccups. The name he gave to the new technique was ‘supra-supramaximal inspiration.’ SSMI, as the medical profession’s predilection for abbreviations has it, boils down to a simple breathing exercise. First, exhale completely, then inhale a deep breath. Wait 10 seconds, then—without exhaling—inhale a little more. Wait another five seconds, then top up the breath again. Finally, exhale. Generally, you will find that your singultus is gone.” • Supra-supramaximal inspiration is something I could totally use.

* * *

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WB writes: “Frosty Minnesota!”

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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. Lunker Walleye

        If I were still doing graphics, sign me up for the Starter Pack 5. There are some beautiful fonts.

  1. Barbara

    Is anyone following this issue? Since Bill Gates and WHO are in cahoots, do we really want to have WHO running the show? “No WHO Pandemic Preparedness Treaty Without Senate Approval Act” on Feb 15, which states that the pandemic accord must be deemed a treaty, thus requiring the consent of a supermajority of the Senate, which is 2/3rds. Here’s hoping there will be enough pushback to halt this truly evil plan for world control by the likes of WEF, the Gates clan, and the rest. I’ve seen reports that Joe is ready to sign on.

      1. Barbara

        Nothing to do with “states” but about the document that (which) states we’re subject to the WHO. If only it would be the rock group not the regime.

  2. John

    Does the unexpected identity of your ancestor four centuries removed change who you are today? Go back far enough, search as widely as you are able. The unexpected will appear.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Maybe has something to do with the granular validity of claims of disadvantaged prejudice? Or of claims for reparations? My Scotch-Irish forbears have a bone to pick with the British ruling class. I would like a check for the amount of my injuries.

      Maybe just turn over the whole set of race and economic-inequity history to some disaffected algorithm that will sort out and apportion blame and rights and entitlements. Uh-huh.

      Lots of historical and literary figures who got tripped up by the realities of their personal provenance, surfacing after their laying claim to certain moral-high-ground positions or after fraudulent claims of privilege get punctured by assiduous and honest research and revelation. Looking at you, Pocahontas… among others.

    2. Louiedog14

      I am told I have relatives who came over on the Mayflower. Yay for me.

      My favorite ancestor never left Scotland. He was apparently a well-regarded fiddle maker and a giant of a man. Six and a half feet tall! Supposedly he was the inspiration for that old classic Scottish folk song: “Aye Alex, Ye Need a Longer Kilt, Yer Dangly Bits Are a Showin”.

    1. curlydan

      OMG!! You’re right. Highly recommend the video. He’s really asking for my vote, too. It’s like strange gravitational forces are whipping through my brain and chest right now.

      1. LawnDart

        The last time I voted it was for Obama in ’08, but this could make me reconsider… almost.

        If only we could see Hillary run again: the tears were delicious!

    2. fresno dan

      I was gonna use a 4 letter abbreviation, but…
      Anywho, WOW. as they say, you go with the peace candidate you got
      Seriously, Trump pulls the peace through strength at the end, but Trump really does lay into the MIC and lays into Nuland by name which is never done by politicians.
      We can’t know how bad it can go in Ukraine, but Trump is definitely staking “we shouldn’t have gotten involved” position. I think there are better than even odds we will see Trump as POTUS

  3. G in SF

    Re: What happened in 1971

    The Hayek quote at the bottom is a give away that the site’s author is ascribing the phenomena to the end of convertibility of USD to gold. I don’t know that I agree with that conclusion but the charts are pretty stark.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the site’s author is ascribing the phenomena to the end of convertibility of USD to gold

      I’m not a gold bug or a libertarian, so I don’t agree either.

      It is possibly that Nixon’s act sent a signal of some sort? MMT’s opening gun, except kept as a secret for elites and bent to their purposes?

      1. digi_owl

        I’m tempted to put a finger on the loosening of Glass-Steagall and similar, as well as the use of credit cards taking hold.

        There is no outright graph for household debt that i can find (but the site is just a bunch of images so it is hard to do a text search to be sure), but the house value graph is telling as the housing market is as best i can tell very credit (mortgage) driven.

        I think it was one of Adam Curtis’ older videos, part of his Pandoras Box set, that gave me on the idea that maybe the introduction of the credit card has had ramifications not often considered. He had dug up a very cheeky ad that had been broadcast some time during the 1970s, showing a bikini clad young lady out shopping with only a Visa card.

        This then being the period when the Phillips curve broke down as a predictor, perhaps thanks to workers supplementing stagnating wages with consumer credit.

        Credit is the one thing conventional economists do not want to talk about, handwaving it away with things like “one man’s debt is another’s savings” or some such.

        I kinda lost track of his work after he got involved in Australian politics, but Steve Keen’s work on private debt and the effect it has on economies have intrigued me from the first day i read about it.

        Frankly there is something scary lurking there, but most are discouraged from looking as conventional economists claims it is of no interest and no importance.

      2. Revenant

        If you read the Adam Tooze tweet responses, there is a post by an autodidact heterodox economist, Mike Alexander, which posits exactly that.


        Mike’s concept of the balance seems very close to the concept of “credit impulse” that one of heterodox economists NC featured in the global financial crisis used as a tool (it is the change in credit in unit time that matters, not the amount of credit). Unfortunately I cannot remember which one! Steve Keen? Bill Mitchell? It might have been the guy who first led me to the literature on Shimomuran economics, Godfrey/Geoffrey somebody who lectured at public access Gresham College in London and was already retired so might now be dead!

        1. Revenant

          It was Steve Keen!

          Apparently it has gained some acceptance and now investment banks publish research notes on the credit impulse figures and forecasts!

          Also, I am reminded that Steve Keen can turn a phrase:

          ‘Professor Steve Keen may be the first mainstream economist to address a fatal flaw in economic theory: omitting or minimizing the role of energy. Keen has developed a production formula incorporating energy, not as one factor of production along with capital and labor, but as the indispensable flow activating both.

          ‘“Labor without energy is a corpse” says Keen; “Capital without energy is a sculpture.”’

          1. fjallstrom

            Yep, and it is the oil that makes the 70ies stagnation.

            First there is the closure of the Suez canal for everything (including oil), then peak oil in USA and the oil embargoes. With less energy comes less goods and less services, causing rationing or rising prices. If wages keeps up, and capitals slice shrinks, it’s inflation (and very, very bad). If wages doesn’t keep up, the lack of demand can be solved by credit.

            Technology solutions to get more useful work from the same amount of raw energy are instituted but takes time.

            And then you have the neoliberal answer to the crisis in the 80ies that makes sure the upper class gets the benefits of the now low oil price, and the energy savings instituted in the 70ies.

            If the same curves would be observed for Western Europe (except UK), I would guess the 70ies would still be stagnation, but the wealthy would only later begin their rise into the stratosphere. Because neoliberalism started at different times.

          2. digi_owl

            Yeah, seeing the development of his thinking has been phenomenal. Starting out with stock-flow modelling of the economy around 2008, to getting ever more detailed models of how credit affects national economies, to now digging back through the history of economic though to resurrect the french physiocrats using the modern understanding of physics.

            Quite the tour the force when one summarize it. And i am glad to hear that it is at least getting some interest and traction, even though it is likely to get just as distorted and misused as the works of Keynes and Phillips were once they could no longer defend it themselves.

      3. Objective Ace

        I was thinking along the same lines. Not necessarily a signal, just that doing so made the consequences of political decisions (or lack of desions) easier to hide. Ie. Emoloyers don’t need to lower wages to change the allocation of of productivity, just wait for inflation to lower workers purchaser power. Since wagers are still going up, it’s harder to conclude workers need a union, Yada Yada yada

      4. John Zelnicker

        I’d say that the Powell Memo was a major factor. It’s dated about a week after Nixon closed the gold window.

        And, two months before Nixon appointed Powell to the Supreme Court.

    2. skippy

      Oops I posted and time lag interceded, but concur, monetarists can never look further than hard currency because that would jeopardize their entire ideological framework.

      BTW the house move has been epic, battlefield or Ranger school epic …

        1. skippy

          Did left shoulder rhomboid pinched nerve thingy with sensations down my arm and three fingers just before X-Mass, it was acute.

          Physio/GP useless …

          Mate at work had some Forte codeine Cox-1 tablets before getting banned from over the counter that got me some sleep and could still do light work.

          Then had to move/toss 20 years of accumulation out of a 6 bedroom house, 6m skip, 4 trips to recyclers and 10 to tip with trailer, eldest son had booked a trip with GF in advance to Japan, leaving me 19 yr old son, helped moving he heavy stuff over but then he had vehicle dramas, so I move all the rest by myself to the new down sized 3 br house.

          Slowly getting better, another month maybe …

          1. ambrit

            Funny that the “Authorities” ban or make it almost impossible to get effective pain relief on one hand, and push a seriously addictive “pain reliever” on the other. A cynic might see the “Hidden Hand” of the Profit Motive behind it all.
            It’s mainly done now I see, so, let the rest flow it’s way downstream to a comfy eddy pool.
            Are you in any way sentimental about relics from the personal past? Sorting out that lot must have been as painful psychologically as it appears to have been physically.
            Stay safe.

    3. Wukchumni

      You can still covert greenbacks to all that glitters, in fact its much easier than it would’ve been in 1971, albeit a wee bit more dear, the almighty buck having lost about 98% of its value, although that last couple percent won’t be an easy get.

    4. The Rev Kev

      Still think that there was a generational effect here. The wealthy people that lived under FDR hated him in the same way that Nuland hates the Russians. And that this hatred was imparted to their wealthy kids so that by ’71 a lot of them were senior people in both business and government and wanted to kill off the effects and laws of FDR. And so far they have been extremely successful using their wealth to bring this about.

      1. bojang bugami

        That long-planned anti-NewDeal dismantlement project should be taught about in detail to the same young people to whom the New Deal itself should be taught about in detail. One wonders if the scattered remnants of the Occupy movement could figure out how to create thousands of little reading rooms all over America, just like the Christian Science reading rooms that exist all over America, and make them centers of disseminating the hidden knowledge and information to all the millions who have been very carefully kept from hearing about it.

        Occupy your memory.
        Occupy your knowledge.
        Occupy your reading list.

      1. petal

        Ah, see, I was only looking for wastewater. Saw that one the other night but didn’t post it bc no wastewater. Sorry.

  4. none

    It’s near inconceivable to me that 222nm UV doesn’t mess up your skin and eyes if exposed. I can’t understand why anyone wants to subject humans to unshielded UV radiation like that. But, it seems fine to put the lamps inside ventilation and air filtering devices, so the air running through the machine gets hosed down with UV, as long as it happens inside an area shielded by filters or baffles.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > But, it seems fine to put the lamps inside ventilation and air filtering devices, so the air running through the machine gets hosed down with UV, as long as it happens inside an area shielded by filters or baffles.

      That is the original use case, IIRC, which I first read about from Naomi Wu, of all people.

      1. Revenant

        I would buy the mirrored safety goggles. They look cool and UV may be skin safe but it is certainly not eye lens-safe. Any energetic radiation promotes cataracts (probably by seeding defect crystallisation by initiating polymerisation or just damaging the liquid-crystalline lens material).

      1. Revenant

        I doubt the HEPA filter is clearing the ozone. Ozone breaks down into oxygen free radicals, which steal electrons from anything nearby in order to return to a low energy electron configuration. This in turn generates free radicals in the electron donor material. Some of the ozone will be generating other nasty radical species in air and to the extent it/they are not detected, it is because your HEPA filter is sacrificing itself to the ozone rather than clearing it. This probably means embrittlement and degradation of structure and thus filter function but I could not say if that is weeks or years….

        Anyway, no need for an ozone panic. It is a major constituent of the lovely smell of the seaside, being generated by sunlight on salt wave spray.

        1. britzklieg

          Thanks for that info, and indeed, a closer reading of the article mentions hepa filters and charcoal. Besides. I’ve lived near the ocean for a large part of my life and for 27 years lived in a basement apartment in NYC… I think ozone and underground goes together.

          Those UV lights are expensive to replace so maybe I’ll just let ’em go dark…

        2. Grebo

          We once had to move a large laser printer at work for maintenance. The plaster wall by its exhaust vent was crumbling. That’s what ozone will do.

          As for seaside ozone, scientists say it’s actually the smell of DMS.

    2. Skip Intro

      And the ‘safe for skin’ claim, even if true, and excluding corneas etc. seems like misdirection since one of the concerns has always been, AFAIK, the possibility of the UV turning the various indoor chemicals into even worse ions, and an unknown brew of indoor pollutants… a problem also mitigated by ventilation.

  5. Donald

    Last week someone in Matt Taibbi’s comments section was trumpeting the Cochrane study and “random controlled” studies as the gold standard. His conclusion was that any belief in the effectiveness of masks was pure superstition.

    I pointed to a paper , IIRC, which made the obvious point that mask effectiveness is based on the physics of aerosols and not on studies which might depend on how well people were adhering to mask guidelines, but not being familiar with the Cochrane report I couldn’t say more. Besides, I’m not an expert in any sense.

    But yeah, this study is something we are going to have thrown in our faces fairly soon. And it also taught me, yet again, that just because the PMC liberals are full of it doesn’t mean that conservatives are any better. Which is depressing, because on Russiagate (which is why they read Taibbi), the conservatives make some legitimate points about the press which liberals won’t accept.

    1. Nordberg

      So to counter the report being throw in our faces, do we just have to force them to admit Trump was correct?

    2. tegnost

      just because the PMC liberals are full of it doesn’t mean that conservatives are any better.

      For some inexplicable reason (well, there’s the benjamins…) the PMC liberals have decided to go play in the loony rights sandbox, so now we have two party’s fighting over the same toys

      1. albrt

        I think the PMC liberals are playing in the loony right’s sandbox because the PMC liberals are inherently authoritarian, plus they need to defend their right-wing president.

  6. Realist

    When i read the Cochrane study itself, i thought it said their conclusion was that the existing mask studies were all badly designed, and so they had low confidence in the findings therein, and someone should design a decent experiment to find out what’s really going on.

    Maybe i misread it? The media seen to be focusing on the conclusions of the badly designed trials instead.

    1. t


      And of course these pieces always ignore the very avaliable evidence from certain schools and churches and Turburculosis treatment centers…

    2. marku52

      Yes they admit the studies are “weak” but I stopped caring about what they say when the suppressed Tess Lawrie’s meta analysis that showed IVM as a very effective covid treatment. They also take Gates Foundation money, another tell for being a BIg Pharma hack

      1. Realist

        Meta analysis seems like a load of crap tbh. A favorite of Psi charlatans, and others who want to eek out a favorable conclusion where none exists.

        It needs great underlying studies to offer anything worthwhile, but if the underlying studies are so good, why would meta analysis be needed?

    3. IM Doc

      These studies are published with a unique nomenclature known only to them.

      The use of such terminology as “low-level certainty” and “low-level confidence” means something completely different to epidemiologists than it does to the public. This is very very confusing and there is no need for it. Just more efforts to keep everything as opaque as possible.

      1. Realist

        I had to look it up on Cochrane to see what you were saying.


        “Very low certainty If the evidence is low or very low certainty, we should be concerned about using this evidence alone to inform our clinical decision making. We want our evidence to be as high certainty as possible.”

        It really doesn’t seem to be cryptic or ambiguous at all. What were you driving at?

        Check the study, all the findings are either low certainly or very low certainty (which is equivalent to calling it BS without insulting a fellow credential holder).


        1. JBird4049

          Maybe it is like how a scientific theory means something different than an ordinary person just having a theory about something that might be. The theory of evolution or the theory of gravity does not mean scientists are debating their existence now. However, some opponents of the theory of evolution use the word theory to cast doubt, which might be fine, if the word had exactly the same shade of meaning, but they do not.

  7. skippy

    Ref – WTF Happened In 1971?

    At the bottom of the page ….

    “I don’t believe we shall ever have a good money again before we take the thing out of the hands of government, that is, we can’t take it violently out of the hands of government, all we can do is by some sly roundabout way introduce something that they can’t stop.” – F.A. Hayek 1984

    1. Wukchumni

      Its pretty obvious the vast oodles of money backed by nothing, are eventually gonna run out of luck and/or relevance, but when?

      1. skippy

        Money distribution is decided by Capital, but allocation to productive or speculative distribution has nothing to do the token.

        Did everyone miss the H.K. bit about getting – our money – away from government trope. I mean this guy became a payed hack to Capital …

    2. digi_owl

      Yep, blame the spendthrift government. Not the private banking sector lending to anything with a pulse and a signature, if allowed.

      1. Paradan

        The Federal Reserve may be privately owned and run, but they still have to answer to congress, and give regular reports about what they are doing. Therefore, they are, in effect, controlled by the government and restrained from running the economy properly by the fickle populist decision making that politicians are required to adopt in order for them to maximize their chances of re-election.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Report to Congress, the same place and people owned by and beholden to the banking interests that make up the private Fed system? I heard the expression “futility loop” somewhere, seems to fit. When was the last time the bought and paid for legislators took the looters and the folks who strangle the real economy and squeeze the last coppers out of the working class to the woodshed?

      2. tegnost

        It’s like people don’t understand collateral, which in the state sense is productive resources.
        the electricity spent making crypto is gone gone gone

  8. Pat

    In this week’s edition of Odd sightings in NYC we have numerous new free Covid testing vans and kiosks.

    While traveling through lower and Midtown Manhattan on major streets I have seen new free testing offerings. For most of the last six to nine months, the vans that park and then open to the sidewalk and the little open tents on the sidewalks offering free Covid testing have been pretty stable. Oh there might be a corner switch or the van might be on the other side of the street but they were what was left from the peak. But suddenly there are double or triple the locations I was used to seeing.

    Now I see two possible reasons for this. First there is can increased demand, and despite the official numbers ( Anecdotally I think this might be possible as I personally know multiple people who have just gotten over being or are currently positive.) Or more cynically, the entrepreneurs who have these operations are attempting to grab as much of the last guaranteed reimbursement for this as the government decides to ditch Covid from their responsibilities.

    Either reason is depressing as hell.

    1. Arizona Slim

      If it’s being offered for free, then you are the product.

      As an alternative, I like those tests-in-boxes that the library provides for free. You can take them home, use them as you see fit, and no kiosk needs to know about it.

      1. Pat

        I recently tried to get the free ones sent to me and the online portal was a dead end. So things are being shut down. Grab those boxes at the library while you can.

    2. tegnost

      I personally know multiple people who have just gotten over being or are currently positive

      same here in socal, I don’t believe the numbers other than as a minimum caseload

    1. Paradan

      Damit! We don’t have enough 155mm, we’re gonna have to call up every mortar man that’s served in the past 20 years.

  9. Angie Neer

    Master-slave relationship with AI & robots—this is one of the most disturbing things to me about machines using natural language, because I think machines should be treated as slaves. I don’t mean targets of sadistic abuse, but simply as machines. I highly value politeness and decorum with humans, both for pragmatic reasons and because humans are kin and deserve respect as such. I object to politeness with machines, because it makes them seem equivalent to humans. That extends all the way down to software that, when trying to sell me some useless thing I didn’t ask for, presents a “No Thanks” button. The algorithm requires me to thank it. Am I the only one bothered by that?

    1. LawnDart

      “No, thanks” is giving thanks; “no thanks” is not giving thanks.

      I hope that this session has been helpful, and has helped you to come to terms with this issue– we’re here to help!

      You may either remit payment via this website, or we can bill your insurance provider…

    2. square coats

      Me too! Also when a pop-over asks me to sign up for something and my only options are basically “now” or “later”. Even if I’ll never be taken to task for clicking “later” and forced to sign up (maybe on my death bed), it still bothers me.

  10. antidlc

    RE: “Broken Sociality”

    Thanks for this link. I can relate.

    ” On the bright side, I’d point out that in market terms, at least, there is a critical mass of people who still mask, who want UV, and of course want to build Corsi-Rosenthal boxes, for which there are now kits. We’re out there…. ”

    I’d sure like to see where this “critical mass of people” are. Not in my neck of the woods. Everyone thinks I’m the crazy one because I’ve avoided restaurants, indoor gatherings, funerals, weddings, etc.

    What I don’t understand is what I will call “cognitive dissonance”. Case in point: my PCP has a sign on the door saying “Masks recommended, but not required.” Yet, NO ONE — staff, nurses, doctors, PAs were masked. Does that even make any sense? Why would masks be “recommended” yet no one in the office masks up? PCP says he thinks “ventilation” is what’s most important. Well,yeah, it’s important, but ventilation doesn’t do you one damn bit of good when someone is right in your face examining you. (To be fair, the ARANET reading was in the 500s in the confined room.)

    And the odd thing about all of this, is the PCP seemed to really have read a lot about long COVID.

    I really, really, don’t get it.

    1. Stewart J

      Seconding the appreciation for this link.

      To your point anti, I think that there’s a significant number of people who know the facts but, for lack of a better term, ‘accept’ the risk as part of their life and work. They don’t necessarily fall in the “the pandemic is over” crowd, but they also either find social utility in not masking or believe that the level of risk is acceptable for themselves and leave others to make their own decisions. It’s a very liberal perspective that I face at my job on a regular basis. Not that I agree with it, but I feel that I can understand it at least.

    2. curlydan

      I can definitely relate to that article as well. I feel more isolated. Lord knows how many invitations I kind of let slide or ignore. And it is political and social as well. I think a lot of people who normally would “care” about others just kind of buy into the “pandemic is over” mindset.

      The one beef I had with the article was here: “What’s happening, I think, is that there’s no consensus on the reality we’re living in”. Unfortunately, there is a consensus, and it’s that the pandemic is over and you do you. We just happen to be outside the consensus. Once 90% to 95% of people start thinking the same, then it’s basically a consensus.

    3. Jason Boxman

      My social life being an adjective failure, I entered the pandemic with essentially no social relations, so at this point after three years, I’ve kind of accepted it. America isn’t the place for a chronic condition like long COVID. I intend to avoid infection as long as possible. I’d rather live out life alone, but able to live and complete all activities of daily living without assistance. We’ll know within a decade what kind of own goal this Pandemic policy is. I don’t have high hopes for any course correction anytime soon.

      1. bojang bugami

        Nor should you. Not when the establishment’s Prime Directive is ” Kill as many people as we can possibly kill year after year after year while getting away with it. The Prime Caveat being . . ‘ don’t get caught ‘ “.

    4. ChiGal

      captured how I have been feeling so well I emailed it to a friend I had been trying to explain myself to. all except the feeling like a weirdo for masking—it’s actually kind of cool to discover how little peer pressure affects me. of course I do think NC and other sources of information I read regularly create a sort of virtual solidarity that helps.

      and p.s. on hiccuping, my fool-proof fix is 21 rapid small swallows of water. my guess is it works by the same mechanism as the repeated intake of breath. you interrupt the rhythm long enough and they stop.

    5. Sub-Boreal

      This article really connected with me, so I appreciated getting this link today.

      Last July, I wrote the following in response to a commentary elsewhere about quitting academia, although in my case I’m now in my final semester of teaching before retiring at the end of this summer:

      What I find most demoralizing now is having to live through the fragmented shambles of how the Canadian education sector – at all levels – is dealing with COVID. Protections like masking requirements have been lifted almost everywhere, and I will only be able to implore my students to wear them in class.

      Even more disappointing is watching the steady falling off of mask-wearing among my colleagues. Although it’s mid-summer here, and many are away for field work or vacations, the remaining sample doesn’t appear any different in its behaviour from the folks that I meet in the grocery store or any other public setting. It’s depressing and tiring always having to be the one who pleads for this basic precaution when organizing transport for excursions, arrangements for meetings etc.

      I just want to make it through the next year managing to avoid both short- and long-COVID. But even if I do, it will be hard not to have a pretty disillusioned view of the people that I’ve worked with for two decades. When it comes to showing the value of higher education, we’re certainly not making a strong case by example! I really do want to leave next year on friendly terms with everyone, but just the thought of the effort this will take is enough to make me want to take a nap!

      If you’d asked me, say, 5 years ago, I certainly would have never expected to be in this frame of mind when I was so close to the finish line.

  11. Utah

    Just fyi, from what I understand, UVC can cause oxygen to break apart and reform to ozone. So it should not be used in a small room or in air purifiers, etc. I know this because my classroom air purifier has a uv light option and an ionizer option, both of which I learned I shouldn’t be using because of the ozone risk.

  12. jsn

    “WTF happened in 1971” ends with: “I don’t believe we shall ever have a good money again before we take the thing out of the hands of government, that is, we can’t take it violently out of the hands of government, all we can do is by some sly roundabout way introduce something that they can’t stop.” – F.A. Hayek 1984

    This was Hayek proactively blaming the nationalization of the dollar, taking it back from private investors, for all the coming sins of the Oligarchy he was instrumental in creating.

    The Serfdom he was concerned about in “The Road to Serfdom” was the erstwhile rich being reduced to the same status as all other citizens, chattels in is vision: the opposite has been effectuated in great part through the above clever turn of phrase.

  13. chris

    I think you could make a career writing about how the PMC and elites view themselves, and how their madness is creating an increasingly fractured and dangerous world. But of all the examples in the genre lately, I think this latest from the Guardian is the best (worst) of its kind:

    I scan the demographics in the room like a statistician, curious at how diverse it is. Craning my head to discern how many languages are being spoken around me, how many nations are represented. I wonder about the span of ages, people with disabilities, and race. Always race.

    The author goes on to describe how they seek a kind of self selected segregation despite being part of an interracial family. They also share that their nephew dropped out of college in part because of the White students trying to figure out how to be around black people.

    Depending on which statistics you want to use either 12 ish % of the US population is black, or 14 ish % identify as black. That means 86% is not Black and does not identify as Black. Further, the places in the country with significant Black populations are strongly concentrated. So… it is actually very possible to live in the US and not see or have any experiences with Black people. It is just about impossible for Black people to have experiences where they don’t see or have to deal with people from other backgrounds. And yet people like this author always focus on race…

    It’s all a form of madness. I’m not sure what would let this people move on from race issues to economic issues so that they can implement the justice they claim to seek. But it’s clear that they will not accept a movement that lifts up all people. Just their people. However they define their people. Which in the case of this author is apparently well to do professionals in fancy conditions who wish there were more Black people who lived around them and had the same socioeconomic background?

    1. digi_owl

      They can’t move on, because they do not themselves have economic issues. Or if they do, they see that as their personal character failure rather than something systemic (or deity forbid, class related).

  14. ProNewerDeal

    I heard a headline about Joe Brandon saying Murica is Defending Democracy by supporting the Ukraine War.

    Afaict Russia, nor Ukraine or the USA are functioning democracies. So we have 3 authoritarian oligarchies bitching amongs themselves, fake-preening about democracy?

    (In Southern accent) “I ain’t no political science Professor, but this is my understanding of the situation”:

    Russia has the Putin’s All People’s United Front dominates parliament. The other parties in Parliament have to be non-oppositional & non-confrontational to stay legal, even the Communist party.

    In Ukraine, Zelensky banned Social Democracy + any party more further left. So SocDems like Bernie Sanders/Andres Lopez/Lula Da Silva/Jeremy Corbyn, as well as 2 left-most European Parliament groups of Democratic Socialists GUE/NGL + Social Democrats S&D would be banned in Ukraine. Eg Zelensky & Ukraine Government are Authoritarian & not pro-democracy.

    Then in Murica, the Princeton study shows the US is an oligarchy non-democracy, with many policies with supermajority support like Medicare4All being slammed as fringe by the right-wing Democrat/Republican duopoly. The same duopoly authoritarianly supresses any 3rd parties like the Green Party attempting to get ballot access.

    I am amazed that pro-Biden normie dems that self-claim to be political science-knowledgable buy this Biden Ukraine pro-democracy propaganda/BS. An appalling lack of Critical Thinking.

    Then again, this is Murica, where many physicians/HealthcareWorkers despite clear worldwide COVID spread evident in wasterwater testing, refuse using a N95 mask at their clinical jawbz. smh

  15. fresno dan

    Joe Biden “you will not outlast us”
    Less then 2 years after Afghanistan. And what was that country….starts with a V….Vanuatu?…nah, …Venezuela! …no, that’s not it either. Well, whatever it was, we left there too. So, there are plenty of places that outlast us.
    Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
    Uh, no.
    Why is there such grandiose speech by politicians in this country???
    So many things said that are so easily refuted and so obviously not true? What is it here that causes so many American leaders to so shoot off their mouths???

      1. britzklieg

        Political Science

        No one likes us, I don’t know why
        We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
        But all around, even our old friends put us down
        Let’s drop the big one, see what happens

        We give them money, but are the grateful?
        No, they’re spiteful and they’re hateful
        They don’t respect us, so let’s surprise them
        We’ll drop the big one and pulverize ’em

        Asia’s crowded, Europe’s too old
        Africa is far too hot and Canada’s too cold
        South America stole our name
        Let’s drop the big one, there’ll be no one left to blame us

        We’ll save Australia, wouldn’t wanna hurt no kangaroo
        We’ll build an all American amusement park there, they’ve got surfin’ too!

        Boom goes London, and Boom Paree,
        More room for you and more room for me
        And every city, the whole world ’round
        Will just be another American town
        Oh, how peaceful it’ll be
        We’ll set everybody free
        You wear a Japanese kimono, babe
        There’ll be Italian shoes for me

        They all hate us anyhow
        So let’s drop the big one now
        Let’s drop the big one now

        – Randy Newman


    1. ChrisFromGA

      Thoughtful Ukrainians should be asking Dementia Joe:

      who’s this “us”, kemosabe?”

      All the dying is being done by us.

  16. anon in so cal

    I use the ReadiMask and believe I’ve recommended it here, also.
    If I have to enter a facility where there might be positives, I first don a size S ReadiMask, then top that with another ReadiMask in size L. Those next get topped with a “traditional” N95 with head straps, typically a Harley L-188. I also tape that around the perimeter with masking tape.

    The thing is, while the ReaiMasks are great, I am afraid to totally trust them. Interestingly, they seem to have gotten their NIOSH certification prior to the pandemic. If I just take out the trash or something low-risk, I will wear a single ReadiMask.

    1. Daryl

      Those are interesting. Looks like it might work better for me. I have a very deviated septum and n95s tend to leave a large gap, so I wear KN95 instead.

  17. B24S

    California is way too big, but here’s the local dashboard, just revised this last week:


    And our neighbor to the north, Sonoma:


    Unfortunately, that one is blank and useless.

    Boy #1 works as a PA in the formerly named Marin General, now MarinHealth (I can’t stand these names…), where they were both born, and the other is working as an ER Tech twenty-five miles north at Petaluma Valley, a Providence run facility, while he completes nursing school. They’ll hire him as an RN as soon as he beats the boards, none of this “no experience” crap.

    Three years on, and they’ve managed to not get infected working in ERs. #2’s girlfriends’ father, however….

  18. LawnDart

    Re; “Supreme Court rejects Ohio man’s bid to sue police over arrest for Facebook parody”

    So no more Fourth Amendment?

    [The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.]

    How many rights do we have left?

    (An introduction to “probable cause” vs. “reasonable suspicion):


    1. JBird4049

      American constitutional law comes right from Classical Liberalism, which itself comes the Age of Enlightenment; the Constitution generally, and the Bill of Rights in particular, was meant to protect people from the government as well as abuses from any majority. FFS, you can read John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton.

      But I don’t think that the courts are concerned about all that. They are concerned about keeping the proles under control. So, just what are these “rights” people are talking about?

      It is funny, in a sad way, to note that while the Founders as well as many other Americans of the time were worried not only about the lower classes, the mob, getting control, they were more concerned about what they called tyranny: dictatorship, rule under a strong man and his army, even an oppressive oligarchy.

      Their solutions were a balance of power between the states and the federal government, three opposing branches of government, strong civil rights, state militias backed by a very small army. They also preferred a population of mainly profitable small family farms and small businesses. Under the benevolent leadership of prosperous upper class of course. Adding the American System to
      create a developed economy.

      I am not seeing any of what is in my previous paragraph. It has all been consumed or destroyed to give more wealth to a small class.

      And the police often can do whatever they want including beat, lie, and steal and in some places a side of murder and rape. Then there are the jails and prisons, which often are worse.

      A terrorized, increasingly poor population under an increasingly militarized police and a strengthening authoritarian oligarchy. This might not end well.

  19. NorD94

    revenge of the Neanderthals

    How Genes from Neanderthals Predispose People to Severe COVID-19 – Researchers dissect the Neanderthal-derived region on chromosome 3 that drives severe COVID-19 to zero in on the key causal variants https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/how-genes-from-neanderthals-predispose-people-to-severe-covid-19-70975

    “From an evolutionary perspective, this work provides a beautiful example, all the way to the molecular level, of how a small part of our genome that was inherited from Neanderthals is impacting our health . . . to this day,” says Steven Reilly, a geneticist at the Yale School of Medicine, who wasn’t involved in the research. He adds that “the fact that this risk comes from DNA that originated in Neanderthals is very interesting and highlights how complex human ancestry is.”

    1. The Rev Kev

      What if the Neanderthals died out because of a Coronavirus that did not effect our own ancestors so much. Maybe our ancestors served as the “reservoir” that helped transmit that particular virus to the Neanderthals too come to think of it.

      1. JBird4049

        That is not a bad idea. We can easily exchange diseases with any of the great apes. IIRC, Cro-magnon populations were comparatively denser although nothing we would call dense. Both were hunter-gathers.

        Much of the DNA we have from them deals with the immune system, probably to deal with the new diseases in Europe whatever they might be. I have read that Europeans got some genetic changes to survive some disease(s) from the Middle Ages that had some benefits against HIV. It would be interesting to see that the genetic inheritance we retained to deal with past diseases might make us more susceptible to another newer one like Covid.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Add in the fact that Neanderthals were operating in small clans where the loss of only a few key members could cripple them and the fact that they lived in caves or huts where aerosol transmission was extremely easy and it is game, set and match.

  20. Tim

    Not sold on UVC is safe enough to use in a persistent exposure environment (my own home). I could afford it, but we know just 40-80 nm wavelength longer does damage eyes and skin. I’m not risking eye damage and skin cancer to steer clear of COVID.

  21. The Rev Kev

    ‘Colin Kinner
    These synchronised “anti-clean-air” tweets have to be among the most ludicrous of the entire pandemic. . . and there has been some stiff competition 🤡🤡’

    Hey, The Age is an Australian newspaper based in Melbourne so that idiot is here. Doesn’t matter as that old adage works everywhere – you can’t fix stupid.

  22. Mildred Montana

    Lambert, glad the heart and blood are A-OK. Did the doctor mention anything about your intelligence and wit? Hope they’re double A-OK!

  23. LawnDart

    Re; symbolic capital

    So I get how a veteran accrues symbolic capital, and how this may be conferred upon a judge, scientist, or doctor via their professional roles, but I am struggling as to understanding why it is given to the top tiers of our caste system: is it solely due to wealth (i.e., a wealthy man; an heiress…) or is their more to it than that? Or is that something else entirelly?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > s it solely due to wealth (i.e., a wealthy man; an heiress…) or is their more to it than that?

      Not solely, but it helps. For example, the 1%, in addition to their economic capital derived from ownership (of the means of production, or the means of financing production), may accumulate symbolic capital by donating to charities, sitting on NGO boards, owning money-losing sports teams, ballooning, Tweeting voluminously, and so forth.

      The PMC do not have economic capital in that sense. Hence the overwhelming focus on symbolic capital (which they also attempt, of course, to accumulate for their children by sending them to the right schools, giving them violin lessons, etc., but this is far more fraught an endeavor than simply bequeathing a property interest, as generally happens with the capitalists).

      1. LawnDart


        “Owner” definately carries weight; “manager,” if you’re a Karen; “influencer” for themselves and the bubble-brained.

        There’s old money with a family name that carries weight; strivers obviously can use children and spouses to accumulate symbolic capital… I’m getting it– it’s just something that I didn’t really pay much attention to, and failed to recognize the importance of (hey, I grew up in flyover…).

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Dammit, it snuck in again! (I fixed this page and updated the master, which is what I forgot to do the last time I updated Ontario to be Ontario, and not Indiana.)

  24. Geoffrey Dewan

    BretBug this morning:
    “The mainstream experts and pundits who supported mandates were wrong. In a better world, it would behoove the latter group to acknowledge their error, along with its considerable physical, psychological, pedagogical and political costs.”

    As Kelsey Piper observes, this is substantially overstated:

    “I think Jefferson — an Oxford University epidemiologist who has a number of eccentric and flatly nonsensical opinions about Covid-19, including that it didn’t originate in China and may have been circulating in Europe for years before its global emergence — is overstating his case. There is something we can learn from the Cochrane paper, but it’s as much about the process of science as it is about the effectiveness of masks.

    First, the reasons I don’t totally buy the Cochrane review’s conclusions:

    The review includes 78 studies. Only six were actually conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic, so the bulk of the evidence the Cochrane team took into account wasn’t able to tell us much about what was specifically happening during the worst pandemic in a century.

    Instead, most of them looked at flu transmission in normal conditions, and many of them were about other interventions like hand-washing. Only two of the studies are about Covid and masking in particular.

    Furthermore, neither of those studies looked directly at whether people wear masks, but instead at whether people were encouraged or told to wear masks by researchers.If telling people to wear masks doesn’t lead to reduced infections, it may be because masks just don’t work, or it could be because people don’t wear masks when they’re told, or aren’t wearing them correctly.

    There’s no clear way to distinguish between those possibilities without more original research — which is not what a meta-analysis of existing work can do.

    Those studies that did take on Covid and masks directly often painted a different picture than the broader conclusions from the meta-analysis.

    One of the largest studies of mask-wearing during the Covid pandemic was conducted in Bangladesh, with more than 170,000 people in the intervention group and similar numbers in the control group. The authors studied a series of public announcements and mask distributions which raised the frequency of mask-wearing. In the end, around 40 percent of the experimental group wore masks, compared to around 10 percent in the control group.

    The result, the study found, was a substantial reduction in the share of people with Covid-19-like symptoms, and in antibodies that would suggest a Covid-19 infection: “In surgical mask villages, we observe a 35.3% reduction in symptomatic seroprevalence among individuals ≥60 years old … We see larger reductions in symptoms and symptomatic seropositivity in villages that experienced larger increases in mask use.”

    That looks like pretty substantial evidence that mask-wearing reduces Covid-19! And this article is one of only two studies of mask-wearing included in the Cochrane review which happened during the Covid-19 pandemic. The other, a study in Denmark, assigned people to wear masks (though, of course, not all of the people told to wear masks did so consistently or correctly) and had a control group that generally did not wear masks. The group that was told to wear masks had slightly lower infection rates than the group that didn’t wear masks, but the sample was too small for the effect to be significant.

    Given that — one study finding very solid evidence for the benefits of masks, and one finding limited but encouraging evidence — how did Cochrane arrive at its conclusion that mask wearing “probably makes little or no difference?” Because their meta-analysis mixes these studies with many more pieces of research that were conducted before Covid-19 and found little effect of masks on the transmission of other illnesses like influenza.

    Even if we assume arguendo that mask mandates as implemented in the United States were not very effective — very possible, although it is far from an established fact — the apparent paradox between good, properly-worn masks being effective at an individual level but mask mandates not being very effective is fairly easily resolved. Even in deep blue jurisdictions, mask mandates were not enforced by even mild state coercion, there was little-to-no attempt to provide people with N-95-quality masks, even people making a good faith effort to comply with the mandates often wore poor quality masks and/or wore them improperly, and they were constantly being undermined by people with large platforms like Stephens asserting that it was impossible for COVID to be widespread outside of a few dense urban areas.

    “Poorly conceived and executed policies were ineffective” is, even if it proves true, very different than “masks don’t work,” but I have no doubt that people like Stephens will be successful at conflating these points in the public mind, which will make it harder to respond to the next pandemic.

  25. ashley

    hey re UVC:

    i used to work for a design and marketing agency as a designer, and our main client produced UV and air filtration/purification systems for HVAC, since waaaaaay before the pandemic, mainly focused on keeping HVAC equipment clean to prevent the spread of common illnesses and allergens, particularly mold forming on wet HVAC coils and drain pans (surface mold, not airborne mold, making statements otherwise is heavily regulated so their erred on the side of caution although theoretically airborne mold would be mitigated to some level).

    UVC is dangerous to your eyes, period. when photographing product i wore safety glasses – pretty much any glass will do in preventing the UV from going through. any kind of exposure for more than a few moments would lead a person to feel like there was sand in their eyes, essentially, they sunburned their eyes. my boss did this once by accident when photographing product. HOWEVER – our client sold a product that was for use in rooms with people, it was an upper air irradiance unit, that was mounted at a minimum of 7′ on a wall off the ground, and it had louvers to direct the light upward as to not harm the people in the room. this is totally safe and was marketed originally to hospitals and doctors offices, during/post covid it has been marketed to schools and malls and airports and anywhere large groups congregate.

    they sold a system that combined bipolar ionization, merv 11/13 filtration, UVC disinfection, and PCO purification, all in the HVAC system.

    if you’d like, i could send you one of their commercial brochures that we did, they also made residential products but the commercial brochures cited studies regarding efficacy and the audience of these brochures was more technical than the average consumer.

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