2:00PM Water Cooler 2/8/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Red-and-black Grosbeak. Atta Lodge / Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, Potaro-Siparuni, Guyana. “4 cuts of a presumed pair. I think (but can’t be sure) that the last 2 cuts are the female.”

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

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

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

Biden Administration

“Remarks of President Joe Biden – State of the Union Address as Prepared for Delivery” [The White House]. On Covid, the Ultimate Lockdown in pure form:

But we will remember the toll and pain that will never go away for so many. More than 1 million Americans have lost their lives to COVID.

Families grieving. Children orphaned. Empty chairs at the dining room table./p>

We remember them, and we remain vigilant./p>

We still need to monitor dozens of variants and support new vaccines and treatments.

So, since vaccines do not prevent transmission, we have mass infection with no mitigation. Do you see any mention of mitigation? Of non-pharmaceutical interventions? Do you see a word of thanks to those who worked to protect others and themselves with NPIs? No. Never have, never will. Crocodile tears. It’s disgusting and immoral.

“‘Dark Brandon’ shows up at State of the Union, mops the floor with lost Republicans” [USA Today]. “Preaching populism and leaning hard on his noted skill as the empathizer-in-chief, Biden bounded through a speech that acknowledged the nation’s struggles while remaining unerringly optimistic. He went off script regularly, parrying Republican lawmakers who heckled him, at one point backing the whole party into a corner and getting them to swear to protect Medicare and Social Security benefits. I’ve never seen anything like it in a State of the Union speech – they ran at him like a pack of lemmings and, with a wink and a grin, he politely directed them to the cliff.” They juiced Biden up for sure, but the old guy can still cut it. The reporter as much as says it: “Whatever the White House cooks are feeding Biden these days, I’d like a plate of it myself.” Here is Biden mingling with the crowd:

Whatever it was on Biden’s plate, it’s good for solid speech and an hour of interaction.

“5 takeaways from Biden’s State of the Union address” [NPR]. “Some of what is likely to make Democrats comfortable is the pluck he showed — the willingness and ability to spar with Republicans and depict them not as normal, but extreme. The best example of this was on Medicare and Social Security. He deftly riled up House Republicans, accusing some of wanting to cut the popular entitlements. He was careful in that section to note that ‘some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years.’ That was something Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., the former National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, opened the door to with his ‘Rescue America Plan.’ Democrats have run with it, even though McCarthy has said cuts to Medicare and Social Security are ‘off the table.’ Biden’s accusation enraged House Republicans, who saw the charge as false and too far. ‘I’m glad to see it,’ Biden said of the apparent agreement not to cut the programs. ‘I enjoy conversion.’ The exchange took the lid off any comity that existed earlier in the evening. From then on, Republicans shouted and heckled — with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene accusing Biden of being a ‘liar’ and others yelling out, ‘It’s your fault!’ when Biden decried fentanyl deaths. McCarthy, who took 15 rounds to win his speakership because of far-right rejection and his small majority, could clearly be seen shushing his conference at least three times. It’s precisely the look Biden and Democrats wanted to put on display for what will likely be the largest TV audience the president will speak to this year ahead of his expected 2024 reelection announcement.”

“Fact-checking President Biden’s State of the Union speech” [CNN]. • Nothing on Covid policy, nothing on Ukraine. Odd!


“Field Dates: January 18-19, 2023” (PDF) [Harvard Harris Poll (Not Again)]. On 2024:

Five and eight points? That’s a lot.

Republican Funhouse

“The good and the bad of Iowa’s bill that would bring big changes to child labor laws” [Des Moines Register]. “A new bill introduced in the Iowa Legislature would rewrite Iowa’s child labor law to allow teens to work in previously prohibited jobs so long as they are part of an approved training program….. As with the existing law, the bill outlines the jobs that 14-17-year olds can do, like bagging and carrying groceries to cars, clerical work and preparing and serving food. The bill also maintains a list of jobs kids under 18 can’t hold, such as working in slaughterhouses, meatpacking or rendering plants; mining; operating power-driven metal forming, punching or shearing machines; operating band or circular saws, guillotine shears or paper balers; or being involved in roofing operations or demolition work. It makes a few modifications, such as removing a prohibition against 14- and 15-year-olds working in freezers and meat coolers…. In an entirely new section, however, the bill would allow the Iowa Workforce Development and state Department of Education heads to make exceptions to any of the prohibited jobs for teens 14-17 ‘participating in work-based learning or a school or employer-administered, work-related program.” I.e., a loop-hole you could drive a truck through. More: “The bill exempts businesses from civil liability if a student is sickened, injured or killed due to the company’s negligence. … A company could face fines of up to $10,000 for violations under the bill, but the state’s labor commissioner could reduce or waive the penalty.” • Seems…. business-friendly!

“Bill to extend working hours for Ohio teens reintroduced by lawmakers” [Ohio Capital Journal]. “Senate Bill 30 would allow 14 and 15-year-olds to work until 9 p.m. year-round with permission from a parent or legal guardian. Currently, these teens can only work until 7 p.m. during the school year and 9 p.m. during the summer months or on any school holiday of five days or more…. Employment law expert and professor at Case Western Reserve University Sharona Hoffman says just because a parent consents, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea — like how Ohio allowed for child marriages with parental and judicial consent up until 2019. The lawyer added that these teens have enough on their plates with homework and school activities, plus they aren’t able to drive, so safety concerns would also play into the bill.”

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

“Billionaire Funded Judges Who Could Decide His Speech-Crushing Beto Case” [The Lever]. “A lawsuit that could punish speech against wealthy political donors may ultimately land before judges who have accepted campaign donations from the billionaire bringing the case, a Lever review has found. The plaintiff’s fossil fuel company has also delivered money to political groups who boosted those judges’ election bids. Kelcy Warren, who controls the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and has a net worth of $5.3 billion, is suing former Congressman Beto O’Rourke over campaign comments made about him in a case that could set a new legal precedent for financially punishing political candidates who criticize billionaires’ political spending. On January 20, The Lever reported on Warren’s lawsuit, which alleges that he was defamed when O’Rourke impugned his $1 million donation to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), which was made weeks after the governor signed legislation allowing natural gas companies like Warren’s to opt out of weatherization regulations…. According to Warren’s suit, O’Rourke had defamed him by making comments like, ‘Kelcy Warren and Greg Abbott want us to stop talking about how Warren’s company made over $2 billion in profits while Texans were freezing to death, and then turned around and gave $1 million to Abbott’s campaign,’ as O’Rourke told the Dallas Morning News in March 2022. Debate in the case has focused on O’Rourke’s usage of the term ‘bribe’ [the idea!!] to describe Warren’s $1 million donation. O’Rourke’s attorney, Chad Dunn, said in a brief that it was used in ‘its nondefamatory colloquial sense.'” • “I won’t use the word ‘bribe,’ but feel free to think it.”


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

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

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

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• On the one hand, it’s good to see some support:

On the other, how about some hearings? Say on CDC policy on non-pharmacetical interventions? Or how OSHA’s workplace protections got gutted? Or the near-destruction of the domestic mask industry in favor of cheap and hospital-friendly masks from China? It’s a target rich environment, so how about it?

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• “Understanding the Regulatory Terminology of Potential Preventions and Treatments for COVID-19” [FDA]. What is says on the tin. “The language used to describe potential therapies can be confusing, and there’s public interest around the FDA’s work to ensure access to potentially life-saving treatments. Here’s what those terms mean.” • Bookmark, perhaps.

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• Hospital Infection Control is at it again. In Canada:

See NC on HAI here; IC/ID (Infection Control/Infectious Diseases) has little to be proud of, at least in hospitals. More:

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• “Protective Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on COVID-19-Related Intensive Care Hospitalization and Mortality: Definitive Evidence from Meta-Analysis and Trial Sequential Analysis” [Pharmaceuticals] • We’ve run this in Links already, but just to point out: “U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he and his wife Melania had tested positive for COVID-19, and the White House said he was given an experimental treatment designed to combat the virus as well as a small array of treatments including aspirin and Vitamin D.” Not a hill I want to die on, but nevertheless….

Case Data

NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from February 6:

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

• “This winter’s U.S. COVID surge is fading fast, likely thanks to a ‘wall’ of immunity” [NPR]. See chart above. This claim is true only if you think cases don’t matter. However, it is true that the last surge was not equal to Biden’s ginormous tsunami. Why? “Several factors may have played a role. One possibility could be that people avoided crowds, wore a mask and took other precautions more than public health experts had expected they would. But that doesn’t really appear to be the case…. Another possibility is ‘viral interference,’ which is a theory that sometimes when a person gets infected with one virus, their immune response may protect them from getting infected with another virus. [Jennifer Nuzzo, who heads the Pandemic Center at Brown University] and other experts suspect instead that the main reason the COVID surge is ebbing is all the immunity we’ve all built up from prior infections, and/or the COVID vaccinations many of us have received. ‘We have what I would call now a better immunity barrier,’ says Dr. Carlos Del Rio, an infectious disease [see below] specialist at Emory University who heads the Infectious Disease Society of America. ‘Between vaccinations and prior infection I think all of us are in a different place than we were before,’ he says. ‘All of us, if not totally protected, we are somewhat better protected. And that immunologic wall is real.'” • No, the “immunologic wall” is not real. It’s a metaphor, and an absurdly sloppy and stupid one. A wall is static, constructed of inorganic materials, persisent over time. However, both the virus and our immune systems are dynamic, organic, constantly adapting, in tandem or apart (for example, in reservoirs among the immunocompromised). Perhaps ID folks talk differently among themselves than they do when giving quotes to the media; I certainly hope so. If so, their professional ethics, if any, dictate that they educate the public, not talk down to them.

• “Nearly Four in Ten Say Their Households Were Sick with COVID-19, the Flu, or RSV Recently Even as Most People Say They Aren’t Too Worried About Getting Seriously Ill” [KFF (NorD94)]. “Nearly four in ten (38%) people say their households were affected by this winter’s triple threat of viruses, with someone getting sick with the flu, COVID-19, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and nearly half (46%) say the news of these three viruses spreading has made them more likely to wear masks or take other precautions to avoid getting sick, the latest KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey finds. At the same time, almost three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the public says they are “not too” or “not at all” worried about getting seriously ill from the virus (69%), though 31% still say they are worried. That’s somewhat more than say the same about the flu (26%) or RSV (25%).”


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

The previous map:

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


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published February 8:

-12%. Still on the high plateau, equal to previous peaks.

• “Almost 1,000 people wait up to 13 hours for COVID-19 testing in Maryvale” [Arizona Central]. • Over, totally over.


Wastewater data (CDC), February 4:

Less grey, though still too much; a lot less red.

February 3:

NOT UPDATED And MWRA data, February 2:

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


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

• “No new variants in weeks after China ended zero-Covid: study” [Agence France Presse]. “But the new study by Chinese researchers, which analysed 413 samples from Beijing sequenced between November 14 and December 20, said “there is no evidence that novel variants emerged” during that time. Instead, more than 90 percent of the cases were BF.7 and BA5.2, Omicron subvariants which were already present in China and have been overtaken by more transmissible subvariants in Western nations. BF.7 accounted for three quarters of the samples, while more than 15 percent were BA5.2, according to the study published in The Lancet journal. ‘Our analysis suggests two known Omicron sub-variants — rather than any new variants — have chiefly been responsible for the current surge in Beijing, and likely China as a whole,’ lead study author George Gao, a virologist at the Institute of Microbiology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a statement. Wolfgang Preiser and Tongai Maponga, virologists at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University not involved in the research, cautioned that it only covered a few weeks after China lifted its zero-Covid measures.” • Big if true. (If memory serves, we’ve seen new variants emerge from reservoirs of immunocompromised in both Kent in the UK, and in South Africa. I find it very hard to believe that the same scenario has not, or will not, happen in China.)

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), January 23:

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

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

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), January 14 (Weighted Estimates Only*):

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

CH.1* appears, but slightly below the national average. XBB utterly dominates, making clear that Region 2 (New England) varies greatly from the national average.

Here are all the regions, in a series of uncaptioned, legend-free and confusing pie charts:

It almost looks like, with respect to variants at least, there several pandemics, not one. The Northeast, where XBB (blue) dominates, and the other regions, with different proportions of other variants, but XBB not dominating. Odd. (Yes, I know the colors are the same as on the bar chart above. However, there are two charts, one bar, one pie, and on a laptop one cannot see both at same time. Just another example of CDC blithering at the level of the smallest detail.)

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

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

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

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

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

NOT UPDATED As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated February 7:

NOT UPDATED Hospitalization data for Queens, updated February 4:


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,136,960 – 1,136,448 = 512 (512 * 365 = 186,880 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

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

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of note today.

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Manufacturing: “Boeing plans to cut about 2,000 finance and HR jobs in 2023” [Associated Press]. “Boeing plans to make staffing cuts in the aerospace company’s finance and human resources departments in 2023, with a loss of around 2,000 jobs, the company said.” • Next, college administrators?

Tech: “Touchability, Productivity, and Portability — Pick Two” [Worms and Viruses]. “It’s foolishly optimistic to think that Microsoft or even Apple can make pointer interfaces as touch friendly as iPadOS without also destroying the very thing that makes them more productive than iPadOS — information density. Smaller controls means these platforms can disclose more information and interactivity to their users at once. That’s why a bunch of windows on even a 11″ MacBook Air feels natural while only four windows on a “large” 13″ iPad feels ungainly. Conversely, it’s impossible to make iPadOS more information dense without sacrificing the very thing that makes it the best tablet OS — touch friendliness. iPad users want more information on screen because that will help them be more productive, but the only way to present more information in iPadOS without sacrificing touch friendliness is a larger display….. [M]acOS can’t be made touch friendly without sacrificing information density and iPadOS can’t add information density without sacrificing touch friendliness.” • Every time the iOS crowd get their hands on a chunk of MacOS, it becomes crappier locking and harder to use. (Incidentally, this trilemma in the title is why the iPad can never be a productivity tool. I use my iPad constantly to gather information, but to write? I would have lost my mind (looking at my ten open applications, one of which is the shell, and a browser with umpty million tabs. And I’m not even a power user!).

Tech: “Leaked Document Suggests Hardly Anyone Bothered to Pay for Twitter Blue” [Gizmodo]. “The Information reported Tuesday based on a leaked internal document that by mid-January, just .2% of monthly users in the U.S., around 180,000 people, have signed up for Twitter Blue. The $8 a month service gives users the ability to undo and edit tweets, read threads in a long-form format, see half the ads other users do, and a few other customization features.” • If Musk is moving Twitter toward accepting payments, I would gladly pay $8 a month. I think a lot of creatives would!

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 74 Greed (previous close: 77 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 67 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 8 at 1:30 PM EST.

Under the Influence

“Kim Kardashian earned $1 million dollars for speaking at a hedge fund conference” [Unusual Whales]. • That;s better than Clinton ever did. Maybe Kardashian should run for President?


“Why Gamers Are More Valuable Than Companies Think” [Morning Consult]. “Almost two-thirds of U.S. adults (63%) say they play video games in an average week, much higher than the share who consider themselves gamers. Morning Consult data also shows that consumers with five or more video streaming subscriptions are more than twice as likely to spend time gaming than those with no subscriptions. Media companies should prioritize adapting console-based titles with international fan bases into TV, film and mobile games given the greater streaming growth opportunities abroad.”

“”I’m Very Self-Deprecating, But I Know What I Can Do”: An Interview with Eric Powell” [The Comics Journal]. Very long interview: “I have a lot of ideas for graphic novels that I want to do. I really loved working on the Gein book because there wasn’t a limitation to the page count. If I wanted to do some atmospheric thing that went over three or four pages, it was fine to do that. I think more and more, especially as I’m getting older and slowing down, I want to focus more on graphic novels and that format of being able to tell bigger stories and not chop them up into 22 pages. I still love having a comic book in my hand. I’ve always been a fan of short stories, and that’s what I always see comic books as. The majority of my comics are self-contained. If you pick up an issue, there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end, even if it builds up to a larger story. I think I’ll always want to do individual comics, but I think a lot of my focus will be on graphic novels. There’s a lot of stuff I haven’t done. I’ve never done a big run on superhero titles for either of the big two publishers.” • If you are a comic books fan, you’ve probably read this already….

Our Famously Free Press

“Take a Bow, Columbia Journalism Review” (excerpt) [Matt Taibbi, Racket]. Jeff Gerth’s four-part series, highly recommended here. “In retirement at the start of the Trump years, Gerth watched with growing alarm as venerable institutions like the Times and the Washington Post continually made high-stakes assertions in headlines that appeared based on thin or uncheckable sourcing. The pile of such stories was already stacked to skyscraper height, and commemorated by awards like a joint Times-Post Pulitzer, when Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrapped up an investigation of the matter without indicting Trump or anyone else for the supposed conspiracy. There was no way for Mueller’s probe to have ended the way it did and for years of ‘worse than Watergate’ news reports about Trump-Russian collusion to be true, so Gerth went back to the beginning in search of the real story of what, if anything, went wrong on the coverage side. The result is a long, almost book-length compendium of errors and editorial overreach. It could have been longer.” • If ypu haven’t read Gerth’s piece, do consider it.

Class Warfare

The pink paper:

“Rent Regulation Is Constitutional (For Now)” [Hell Gate]. “On Monday, a federal appeals court upheld New York’s rent stabilization laws, striking down the argument that rent regulations represent a seizure of private property. But lest you think this is all good news—the decision now possibly paves the way for landlord groups to take their various complaints to the Supreme Court. The decision is the latest development in a series of legal battles launched just months after the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, a sweeping set of rent protections, was signed into law in 2019, protections that represented a sort of apocalypse for landlords and their allies. Since the passage of HSTPA, five lawsuits have been filed challenging its provisions that, among other things, make the conversion of rent-stabilized units to market-rate housing more difficult and make it harder for property owners to evict tenants. The laws also set caps on how much of a building landlords are permitted to use personally and set further limits on how much rent for a stabilized unit can be raised. Since the moment HSTPA passed, landlord-activists and lobbying groups including the Rent Stabilization Association and the Community Housing Improvement Program have hoped to eventually bring one of their cases against the state to a conservative Supreme Court.”

News of the Wired

“Restaurant Review: Le Bernardin Holds On to Its Craft (and Its Four Stars)” [New York Times]. “Take the sauces, probably the defining feature of French restaurant cooking. [Owner Maguy Le Coze] insists that they be applied to the plates generously, so there is enough to eat with a spoon. Six full-time cooks prepare something like three dozen sauces on any given day. [Chef Eric] Ripert told me in a phone interview that sauces are the reason Le Bernardin has never gone in for arranging food on boards, stones, logs and other objects. He prefers china because china excels at holding sauce in one small area so you can spoon it up and love it…. The china, the sauce spoons, the tablecloths, the servers in dark jackets presenting plates in synchrony, the sommeliers (there are at least four on the floor at almost all times) wearing silver tastevins on chains around their necks — it can sound oppressive. When it’s all in motion, though, it’s the opposite of oppressive. Even people who are used to eating in restaurants that are less formal and less French figure out pretty quickly that almost everything about Le Bernardin is meant to make them feel good.” • This “comfort” — not at all like American “comfort food” — is what I encountered when I finally learned to eat in Montreal. Of course, I believe that all restaurant workers should be well paid, and there should be two, three, many Le Bernardin’s for workers everywhere. It’s a simple matter of distribution…..

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IM writes: “In case you need a white snow, blue sky, plant front and center photo.” This tree reminds me of an Ent.

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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. Sutter Cane

    Another possibility is ‘viral interference,’ which is a theory that sometimes when a person gets infected with one virus, their immune response may protect them from getting infected with another virus.

    I believe that the Simpsons already covered this theory:


    1. Lee

      Also, Hickam’s Dictum:

      “Hickam’s dictum is usually stated as “patients can have as many diseases as they damn (or darn) well please”. This aphorism has been attributed to John Hickam (1914-1970) an American physician, who was Chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of Indiana 1.

      The importance of this dictum lies in it acting as a counterweight to Occam’s razor, declaring that a patient’s clinical presentation may be secondary to two or more pathologies, rather than the parsimony of a single condition explaining all the symptoms and signs as put forward in the eponymous razor. Indeed in many cases it is more probable that an individual has multiple morbidities underlying the presentation, instead of one unifying diagnosis.”

  2. Louis Fyne

    “You can’t be an intelligent social scientist unless you label yourself and everyone else with an -ism” /sarcasm.

    Nothing personal against Marxism, just my observation that anyone who proudly labels themselves “marxist” is just as absolutist, dogmatic, and annoying as someone who labels themselves as a “libertarian”

    1. hemeantwell

      Your encounters have been skewed, unfortunately. Back before he drifted away from his own definition, Habermas believed that calling himself a marxist meant to insist upon the importance of class relations in shaping societies and determining their development. That’s pretty low bar, one has to poke around to find an implied politics, but I think it passes muster. Just how much it obliges you to be annoying, well, that’s up to the marxist.

    2. agent ranger smith

      ” You can’t be an intelligent social scientist unless you’re a Marxist” is a religious claim. In fact, it is a religious exclusivity claim, just like the exclusivity claims of Militant Christianity and Militant Islam. Marx”ism” should be renamed Marxistianity. And its believers should be called Marxistians.

      The Marxistian Conquest and Occupation of the Czarist Empire should be viewed as a Marxistian Crusade. And the USSR was a Marxistian Crusader State. Complete with an Office of the Holy Marxistian Inquisition.

      Take that, Martin Wolf.

  3. Samuel Conner

    > It almost looks like, with respect to variants at least, there several pandemics, not one.

    When I think about it (and I prefer not to, beyond bucking up my resolve to maintain NPIs into the foreseeable future), it occurs to me to be anxious about the idea that variants might diverge to the point that they do not elicit significant cross-immunity. I wonder whether the nasally-administered mucosal immunity-eliciting vaccines would be rendered less effective by such a development.

    Surprisingly, my frequent bad dreams have not yet featured COVID, which I suppose says something about the quality of my memories. But there’s time and, doubtless, opportunity for that in the future.

  4. griffen

    Of the many signs of an increasing hellscape in America circa 2023, I add this tidbit. We are on an express elevator to hell. And she will surely sell us all the accessories we’re gonna need.

    Kim Kardashian has begun a private equity firm, launched in September 2022. FFS. Why not after all.

    1. Ranger Rick

      Family offices, as they are known, are pretty common among the wealthy as they chase better-than-inflation returns on their piles of black-hole money.

  5. Realist

    Re: Twitter Blue.

    I prefer the app called “Fritter” which doesn’t let you post but let’s you follow users and read tweets without an account. It also has no ads.

  6. Acacia

    COVID mRNA vaccine stats aggregated from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare:


    Out of 6,141 cases received, there have been 1,538 certified cases of vaccine injury, including 20 confirmed deaths. 176 denied medical expenses, and 4,427 cases still under review (72% unfinished). Over 50% of the cases are ages 20 to 50, and 74% of the cases are women. 41 men in their 20s and younger certified with acute myocarditis and pericarditis.

    Comparison with the number of people certified for health damage by previous vaccines (as of February 6, 2023):

    ◯ MMR : 1,041 people (cumulative total from 1977 to 2021), including 3 deaths.
    ◯ BCG: 755 people (same as above, cumulative value), including 2 deaths
    ◯ Pomples: 287 people (same as above, cumulative value), of which 42 people are confirmed to have died
    ◯ DPT: 240 people (same as above, cumulative value), including 20 certified deaths
    ◯ Japanese encephalitis: 239 people (same as above, cumulative value), including 11 certified deaths
    ◯ Influenza: 191 people (same as above, cumulative value), including 25 certified deaths
    ◯ Influenza: 14 people (2020-2021), including 3 deaths
    ◯ COVID-19: 1,538 people (as of August 2021 to February 23), including 20 certified deaths

  7. agent ranger smith

    Beau of the Fifth Column offered a good little video-talk about Biden and the Republicans on Social Security in that SOTU speech. It is titled ” Let’s talk about Biden’s State of the Union Fiddle Playing . . . ”
    Meaning, that the Republicans were the fiddle that Biden the fiddler played. If there were a transcript of it, I would offer a link to the transcript, because I, too, know that reading is many times faster than listening.
    But there is no transcript.

    Beau describes how Biden baited the Republicans into calling him a liar when he mentioned the truth of their own Senator Skullface’s proposal to sunset SS and Medicare every 5 years. By calling him a liar when he mentioned the basic fact about that, they have made it more difficult to pursue a Grand Catfood Bargain against Social Security and Medicare. Of course, Biden just made it more difficult for himself to pursue that same Grand Catfood Bargain. Maybe he won’t even try.

    Can you imagine a President Mayobama or Kamalabama performing that well in a SOTU speech? Me neither. Certainly a President Trump or Trumpeo or DeTrumpis would perform that well or better, but their performance would be in support of the Grand Catfood Bargain or even Straight Up Sunset.

    So where does that leave those of us who have spent decades working for our Social Security and Medicare? It would appear that a President Biden Term Two is less of a danger to my SS and Medicare than President Trumpublican would be. But more of a danger to Peace On Earth?

    Here is the link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYeB7fPCK5I

      1. Carolinian

        Was it ever going to happen? There’s no personal grift these days that would lead Biden to join such an effort. Both he and Trump are on thin political ice–their main concern

        But if he wants to thrust the Repubs against the third rail then good.

      2. agent ranger smith

        That was a very important statement on Trump’s part. It would be more important if he meant it. But if he were reelected, he would be a Trojan Horse full of Republicans for the most part, including the Catfood Republicans against Social Security. Still, it is important that he recognized the good politics of the moment in saying it.

        Maybe if we can restore Social Security’s Third-Rail status in fact as well as in nostalgiac theory, then no President will get away with Catfooding it any time soon.

    1. The Rev Kev

      People forget that the Democrats were one blue dress away from privatizing Social Security and Medicare themselves. They too are all on board with Wall Street gaining control over your SS and setting up catfood commissions. Thing is, they gush over Biden socking it to the Repubs (they could have added Batman-style ‘Bam!’s and ‘Pow!’s on top of his speech) in the SOTU but he has just given them a reason not to cooperate with his second half of his Presidency for the remaining two years. What if they go hard core over Biden’s laptop for example? Seth Rich anyone? Or does he want the Repubs to shut down Project Ukraine for him as it is going down in flames so that after he can blame them for losing the Ukraine. So much for his calls to work together.

      1. agent ranger smith

        Democrats want a DemParty President to be the great historic president to degrade or destroy Social Security. They don’t want to let a Republican President do it. ” Only Nixon could go to China” and only a Democrat can destroy Social Security.

        It is good to be reminded that Clinton and then Obama each wanted to be the great historic Democrat who ” went to China” on Social Security.

        It is too bad that we can’t have the kind of President and Congress who would get together to invite Monica Lewinski to the Halls of Power and award her the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom for saving Social Security.

        Still, Biden and the Republicans have joined in giving the appearance of not wanting to catfood Social Security for the time being. This gives us a little time to make the Third Rail deadly again.

  8. Acacia

    Re: “Why Gamers Are More Valuable Than Companies Think”

    Reminds me of a line from Lawrence Lek’s video essay Sinofuturism 中华未来主义 (1839 – 2046 AD) on contemporary China:

    Games are a training ground for a future reality. One in which the individual will most likely perform repetitive tasks, individually and in groups. Why not start young? Gaming is training.

    Lek’s Sinofuturism also considers computing, copying, studying, addiction, labour and gambling. Lots of interconnections.

  9. Pat

    Kardashian, primarily Kim but feel free to insert any one else from the clan, is as much a grifter/con artist as Trump ever thought he was. They have been doing and using marketplace cons almost from the start. Between the television show and social media the entire family are old hands at both marketing and setting up entities that leave them wealthier and their investors poorer. (Although they have never been as wealthy as they claim.) Matriarch Kim looked at Hilton’s reality show where Kim had a bit part and recognized that the leak of a sex tape with Kim was the basis of a platform that would allow her entire family to sell whatever the zeitgeist would allow. This shift to Private equity only means they no longer even have to come up with own product or business to rip people off.

    1. agent ranger smith

      But she is much better looking than Trump, and if she does road shows for her Private Equity brand, some “investors” and “handlers” will come just to look at her pretty self.

  10. Mikel

    I didn’t watch the Biden speech.
    But I suspect all that showboating about Social Security and Medicare is the administration signaling they are putting it on the table for bargaining.

      1. agent ranger smith

        If that is the case, is there any single Senator who would put a Senatorial Hold on any Bill from the House which had any effect whatever on Social Security?

        Would Sanders do it? If he would, would any other Senator do it? And Sanders and the other Senator keep trading Holds on such a Bill?

        Wouldn’t it be ironic if Manchin became the Senator who traded Holds with Sanders in order to kill such a bill? Would Manchin think such a visible pro-Social Security action in the Senate would increase his chances of getting the DemPrezNom in 2024?

  11. Roger Blakely

    “This winter’s U.S. COVID surge is fading fast, likely thanks to a ‘wall’ of immunity”

    One of the things that is so frustrating about this pandemic is, in my opinion, the variability in vulnerability to SARS-CoV-2 based on genetics. I get the sense that a minority of population is highly vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2. I would be in that category. But the majority of Americans seem to be able to handle it.

    There is no way that I could attend a public event (like the SOTU) without getting sick. I would not survive for one week working in a grocery store. If I were a TSA employee doing airport security, I’d be dead.

    The problem, obviously, stems from the lust that one of my distant female ancestors had for Neanderthal men. She got herself pregnant by one of those knuckle-draggers, and that’s how I ended up with this bad gene set.

  12. nippersdad

    Garland Nixon is up with a video about Seymour Hersh hurling a bombshell (pun intended) over the transom on who cut off the NordStream pipeline:


    No spoilers (LOL), but I’m in hopes that someone here has a subscription to his substack and can give us further details.

  13. Ranger Rick

    Finally had some time to sit down and read the entire Gerth CJR series. The first impression I had was how unusual it was to be reading media metacommentary that wasn’t trying to score points for some imaginary team, and in a much more reserved fashion than Taibbi’s often more emphatic reporting.

    The second was how apt it is that we describe the mess in Washington DC—the complete lack of distinction between organizations, institutions of government, elected politicians and purportedly unaffiliated academics and businessmen—as suggested by “flexian” often referred to here or, alternately, The Party. Since this is basically journalism’s equivalent to “inside baseball”, leaks, counterleaks, and personnel moves, are all extremely dryly and sometimes even obliquely referred to but are basically the thumbtacks of the red-yarn-string-conspiracy-web that any discussion of this debacle will become. The greatest arc in here is Comey’s, first as insider, then outsider, then insider. Gerth’s afterword about how nobody wanted to own up to or even discuss their failures, along with the statistic that nearly nine in ten people think the media is not trustworthy these days is the sad footnote to the entire saga.

    1. Ranger Rick

      I almost forgot to mention my favorite phrase in the whole piece. “Before Mifsud disappeared in November . . .”

      While the series features some pretty incredible events, the fact that one of the most important sources for the overall story vanished off the face of the Earth takes the cake. And it’s just mentioned as an aside.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The second was how apt it is that we describe the mess in Washington DC—the complete lack of distinction between organizations, institutions of government, elected politicians and purportedly unaffiliated academics and businessmen—as suggested by “flexian” often referred to here or, alternately, The Party. Since this is basically journalism’s equivalent to “inside baseball”, leaks, counterleaks, and personnel moves, are all extremely dryly and sometimes even obliquely referred to but are basically the thumbtacks of the red-yarn-string-conspiracy-web that any discussion of this debacle will become.

      No, they are not!!!!! I am generalizing about yarn diagrams, but in general, the yarn between the thumbtacks represents relationships (social relations) and those relations are never named or given types. Instead, one points at the two thumbtacks, with the yarn running between them, and exclaims: “Look! Isn’t it obvious?!” Well, no it’s not. (It’s a bit like saying two people were in the same city at the same time, and inferring a nefarious shared purpose for both of them.) That is the attraction, for me, of Wedel’s framework: The relations can be typed and named.

  14. Not Again

    That New York Times article on Le Bernardin should have been under “Guillotine Watch”. Are the PMC really this detached from the rest us? Do they place a basket of cake on the tables instead of bread?

    1. FreeMarketApologist

      I have been to Le Bernardin, and no, they don’t, and yes, it could have been under Guillotine Watch, but, as an exemplar of the high end of cooking and customer comfort, they are far above all other options in NY (indeed, perhaps the country). If you hate luxury, then yes, off to the guillotine with them. They exist by the grace and favor of the 1% (maybe the 5%), who are by mathematical definition, pretty detached from the concerns of the hoi polloi.

      That the NYTimes runs such an article is no surprise, as they are long time purveyors of food porn, typically high-end, but more recently condescending to see what kinks they can try in the outer boroughs.

      That said, Eric Ripert is vice-chair of the board of City Harvest. Make of that what you will.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > If you hate luxury, then yes, off to the guillotine with them.

        I don’t hate luxury. I think it should be widely distributed. As I wrote:

        I believe that all restaurant workers should be well paid, and there should be two, three, many Le Bernardin’s for workers everywhere. It’s a simple matter of distribution…..

        Good food is good!

  15. The Rev Kev

    ‘Bernie Sanders is the only person wearing a KN95 mask at the #StateOfTheUnionAddress. Respect that man – @SenSanders
    thank you. 🙏’

    But does he wear one every time there is a session in Congress? Serious question here. Have they gone back and checked the videos?

    1. JBird4049

      Be sure to check on how crowded the chamber is. Too often the politicians are working and making speeches in an almost empty room. The State of the Union speech is done in a crowded room, which means masking is a very good idea even with good ventilation.

      Many congressmen and congresswomen do not attend sessions unless there is a vote as often they are calling or making speeches for donations. This one of the reasons Congress can’t do its function. All its members are spending most of their time doing what they considered their most important or real job of getting donations, not doing legislation or overseeing the running of the government.

      Maybe, most of the time Senator Sanders does not need that mask?

  16. Wukchumni

    Shush little babies, don’t say a word,
    Kev’s gonna buy you an elephant herd.

    And if that elephant herd has no sting,
    Kev’s gonna buy you the next best thing.

    And if that next best thing turns to brass,
    Kev’s gonna buy you a brand new cast.

    And if that brand new cast gets woke,
    Kev’s gonna buy you a new jamoke.

    And if that new jamoke won’t poll,
    Kec’s gonna buy you a right wing troll

    And if that right wing troll turns loopy,
    Kev’s gonna buy you a dog named Snoopy.

    And if that dog named Snoopy won’t bark,
    Kev’s gonna buy Charlie Brown a football on a lark

    And Lucy pulls the football, Charlie Brown falls down,
    You’ll still be My Kevin (since ’07) in Humordor town!

  17. swangeese

    One thing about people with dementia is that they are very good at hiding and masking it until suddenly they can’t. My grandmother had dementia and yet managed to convince a lawyer that she was competent. Her neurologist and the disarray of her personal life that led to the neurologist said otherwise.

    I may not be an M.D. or Biden’s doctor, but he has cognitive deficits and it’s nothing to do with a stutter. A lot of his behavior reminds me of my grandmother. Barring that there is a lot of older video, some from just the Obama years, showing a significantly sharper, on the ball Biden.

    This is nothing more than a repeat of what happened with Reagan. I’m tired of all damn lies.

    Speaking of lies, never confuse one-liners and theater for actual policy. Democrats excel at backstabbing the people they tout as their base (not to be confused with their actual moneyed base).

  18. The Rev Kev

    “The good and the bad of Iowa’s bill that would bring big changes to child labor laws”

    That is a strong feature of neoliberalism. The push to go back to how people were treated in the 19th century – or earlier. They are literally talking about repealing the child labour laws that came out of the 19th century to protect children. Children are cheap, easily molded and the ones that have to work will not have the resources to protect themselves or to seek recourse in the laws to protect them. So our overlords are viewing them as an untapped resource to use up. Make no mistake. This is evil stuff brewing in Iowa.

  19. JBird4049

    >>>“Billionaire Funded Judges Who Could Decide His Speech-Crushing Beto Case”

    In the recent past, only amendment in the Bill of Rights that has consistently and strongly enforced by the courts both conservative and liberal is the First Amendment, aka, free speech even to supporting any strong, offensive, even vulgar, words said to the police and government officials as well recording of both police and during government meetings.

    It has been very nice to see this, but I have noticed increasing efforts to find legal ways of limiting, or preferably crushing, free speech; strangely, it is not only being sought to maintain control, it looks like many people with power, either those like the police and town officials who want to be grovel to, or those who want to censor speech to gain or maintain control.

    Honestly, I think much of it is an ego thing; it is to make sure that people have to be obsequious and obedient.

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