2:00PM Water Cooler 3/1/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I’ve been wrong-footed by a household emergency. More on Politics shortly (though the Covid section, though I say it, is especially rich today). –lambert UPDATE Finished!

Bird Song of the Day

Common Potoo, Mata ciliar do Rio Jacaré-Guaçu, São Paulo, Brazil. This is great. It sounds like summer nights will soon sound again.

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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

“Little-known scientific team behind new assessment on covid-19 origins” [WaPo]. “But the agencies are united, the official said, in the view that the virus was not developed as a bioweapon. ‘‘Lab’ does not equal ‘man-made,’ the official said, noting that lab workers could have collected the virus in nature and stored it at the lab from which it escaped. ‘Even if it was a leak from a lab,’ the person added, intelligence analysts ‘still think it would be a naturally occurring virus.’… ‘The bottom line remains the same: Basically no one really knows,’ one of the officials said.” Oh. And: “U.S. officials confirmed that an updated assessment of covid-19’s origins was completed this year, and said the document was based on fresh data as well as new analysis by experts from eight intelligence agencies and the National Intelligence Council.” • Sounds to me like a fresh batch of experts was the key factor, not data. (And we’re really putting what The Blob will use as a justification for war with China in the hands of the nuclear weapons complex? Really?)

“The Washington Post Is Coming for Your Retirement Benefits” [FAIR]. Quoting WaPo: “Mr. Biden was among 88 senators who voted in 1983 for a bipartisan grand bargain, negotiated by a commission led by Alan Greenspan and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, that rescued Social Security. Forty years later, if he and Republican leaders are willing to work in good faith, Mr. Biden could safeguard the greatest legacies of both the New Deal and the Great Society.” And: “To translate: In 1983, Congress ‘rescued’ Social Security by cutting it. The 1983 law did not change the actual age at which you can retire and draw Social Security benefits. It left that at 62. Instead, it simply said you’d get less money for retiring at any point before the new full retirement age, which reached 67 last year. For instance, those retiring at 62 today face a 50% larger cut in benefits for early retirement compared to before 2000. The Post apparently remembers these reforms fondly. And it wants more.”


“Williamson becomes Democratic primary’s 1st Biden challenger” [Associated Press]. “Bestselling self-help author Marianne Williamson, who brought quirky spiritualism to the 2020 presidential race, has announced she’s running for president again, becoming the first major Democrat to challenge President Joe Biden for his party’s nomination in 2024. Williamson, 70 [i.e., a spring chicken], is formally kicking off her campaign with an event in Washington on Saturday. Without mentioning former President Donald Trump, she noted in a weekend Facebook post that his unconventional White House win makes it ‘odd for anyone to think they can know who can win the presidency.’ ‘I’m not putting myself through this again just to add to the conversation,’ Williamson wrote. ‘I’m running for president to help bring an aberrational chapter of our history to a close, and to help bring forth a new beginning.’Williamson running against a sitting president from her own party would be the longest of long shots under any circumstances. But that’s especially true this cycle, as the Democratic establishment — and even potential presidential hopefuls who could have competed with Biden from the left or middle — has closed ranks with remarkable uniformity behind the president.” • I don’t see what’s “remarkable” about it; Democrat electeds are authoritarian followers. The DNC should never have booted Williamson out of the 2020 debates, and would not have, if they were small-d Democrat. I’m not much on woo woo stuff (e.g., mainstream macro), but Williamson was an interesting and perceptive figure. Perhaps that was their problem with her.

“Trump’s February bump” [Axios]. “Four new polls show former President Trump has received a boost in Republican support — with one survey showing him hitting 50% support in a crowded GOP field. After a shaky start to his presidential campaign, Trump has quietly found his footing over the last month. His visit to the derailment site in East Palestine, Ohio — ahead of President Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg — showed off a touch of empathy, at least by Trump standards. The former president got out of his mega-rally comfort zone in favor of several small campaign stops for ice cream in South Carolina and McDonald’s in Ohio, where his impromptu visits were well-received by the restaurant staff.” • I kept saying Trump looked good. Great visuals! But I don’t know what Axios means by “ahead of.” Biden hasn’t visited East Palestine, and says he won’t. You can’t beat something with nothing!

“Poll finds Trump beating Biden but DeSantis, Haley losing” [The Hill]. “Trump holds a 4-point lead over Biden, with 46 percent saying they would support the former president in a rematch in 2024 and 42 percent saying they would back the current president, the Emerson College poll found. However, Biden leads DeSantis by 4 points, 44 percent to 40 percent, and Haley by 3 points, 40 percent to 37 percent, in separate match-ups, according to the poll.” • Margin of error yadda yadda yadda but numbers like that should chill the RINOs blood.

“Gov. Youngkin fires back at Biden’s criticism of ‘MAGA Republicans’ in Virginia: ‘Go to Ohio'” [FOX]. “‘He should go to Ohio,’ Youngkin told Dana Perino and Bill Hemmer Wednesday. ‘When there is Americans in need, and they’re in need of leadership, our president should show up, and what he’s demonstrating is he’s going to choose politics over people.'” What does that even mean? Here’s the important part: “‘The challenge we’ve got is Joe Biden would rather try to divide us as a nation and try to put people in this box or that box as opposed to right now, bring us together and recognize that we have to have unity against China,’ Youngkin said.” • OK, the war with China part got worked in, good, but these are really not very good quotes. Youngkin needs to improve his form, or Trump will eat him for breakfast in debate.

MI: “Democrat Elissa Slotkin to seek Michigan’s open Senate seat” [Associated Press]. “Slotkin, a 46-year-old former CIA intelligence officer and third-term representative, is coming off an impressive victory in last year’s midterms, winning reelection despite having been considered vulnerable. Her contest against Republican state Sen. Tom Barrett was the third-most expensive House race in 2022.”


IL: “Chicago mayor loses re-election bid after race dominated by crime” [Financial Times]. “Chicago voters ousted Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday night, making her the first mayor in the city to lose re-election in 40 years…. Tuesday’s top vote-getter was Paul Vallas, who was appointed chief executive of Chicago Public Schools in 1995, later holding similar posts in New Orleans and Philadelphia. The only white candidate in the race, Vallas hammered on the theme of public safety and won the backing of the city’s police union. He won 159,000 votes, or 35 per cent of the total. Vallas’s campaign strategist Joe Trippi noted ‘if you’re not safe to walk the streets, nothing really matters . . . I didn’t think we’d break 30 [per cent], but we have.’ Joe Trippi, still in the game after all these years. More: “Brandon Johnson, a commissioner in county government, placed second in the race, with 92,000 votes, or 20 per cent of the total. Johnson, a political progressive backed by the powerful Chicago Teachers Union, surged late in the race.” • I would imagibe most of Lightfoot’s 16% would go to Johnson, so the race could be closer than it looks (although I’m sure Vallas will open a gusher of cash).

WI: “The biggest election of 2023 reaches final sprint” [Politico]. “Millions of dollars are flowing into the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, as the state rockets toward an election that could decide the future of abortion rights, redistricting and more in the key battleground state. The court has a 4-3 conservative majority, with one swing conservative justice who has broken with the rest of the ideological bloc on some major cases. The April 4 election could flip that dynamic to a liberal-leaning majority. The contest is poised to be the most expensive state Supreme Court race ever, with major outside groups — particularly those focused on abortion — rushing in funds. The previous record was over $15 million for a 2004 Illinois contest, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. In Wisconsin, $10.4 million was spent on advertising alone in the runup to the primary, according to data from the ad tracking firm AdImpact. ‘This election is off the charts,’ said Ben Wikler, chair of the state Democratic Party. ‘It’s off the charts in terms of the stakes, it’s off the charts in terms of how much money is likely to be invested on both sides, it’s off the charts in terms of the number of people who are voting.’ The election, he added, ‘is the hinge on which Wisconsin’s political future will swing. And Wisconsin is the hinge on which national politics swings.'” • I’m so old I can remember when the national Democrats and Obama didn’t give the Wisconsin state Democrats a dime when they were first fighting Scott Walker. Perhaps the Norms Fairy didn’t like the Wisconsin State Capitol occupation, which happened prior (and prior to Occupy proper, interestingly).

Republican Funhouse

Live tweeting the House Republican Covid Hearing. Marty Makary, Martin Kulldorff, Jay Bhattacharya:

“We’ll Have Herd Immunity by April” [Marty Makary, Wall Street Journal]. • From February 18, 2021. Dude:

Often wrong, but never in doubt, now testifying to the House.

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

“‘Greater Idaho’ movement to absorb conservative rural counties from liberal Oregon gains momentum” [FOX]. “Moving the Idaho-Oregon border would require the approval of both state legislatures as well as the U.S. Congress. Despite the support of Idaho lawmakers, the idea may face greater resistance in the Democrat-controlled Oregon legislature. Oregon state Sen. Dennis Linthicum, a Republican, has filed a similar proposal to begin talks with Idaho, but the proposal is unlikely to make it out of committee. Still, proponents of Greater Idaho note that 11 counties in eastern Oregon have voted for ballot measures to explore the move and that, according to some polling, Idahoans would welcome expanding the state boundary. In Oregon, meanwhile, polling has shown a roughly equal number of voters support and oppose the idea, with about one-fifth of the population undecided. Some critics have warned against ‘self-segregating by ideology,’ saying the creation of a Greater Idaho would fuel division and disgruntled residents can move if they’re unhappy with how their state is governing. Others say Idaho legislators should be focusing on their own state rather than helping Oregon residents. Another concern is that sparsely populated areas have high rates of Medicaid enrollment and could be an added expense to Idaho taxpayers.” •


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), Marin; CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NM (dashboard); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OR (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater).

Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).

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

Hat tips to helpful readers: Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Festoonic, FM, Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JF, Joe, John, JM (2), JW, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, otisyves, Petal (5), RK, RL, RM, Rod, tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White. (Readers, if you leave your link in comments, I credit you by your handle. If you send it to me via email, I use your initials (in the absence of a handle. 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 for readers to scan.)

• More like this, please! Total: 1 6 11 18 20 22 26 27/50 (54% of US states). 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

I’m filing this here, as opposed to masking, because this looks like citizen science for mask testing, and the method seems very ingenious. Perhaps readers can comment. Click through for the complete results:

And the ingenious method:

See Maskstravaganza for my comments on fit-testing. What strikes me about this Tweet is that it’s something that could probably be organized as a group, for the maximum variation of facial shapes, and the maximum number of masks tested. Could not the masking trade assocation publicize such efforts?

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Finding like-minded people on (sorry) Facebook:

“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

“Airborne transmission: a new paradigm with major implications for infection control and public health” [The New Zealand Medical Journal]. The Abstract: “Recognition of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses is a paradigm shift in the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) field, contributed to by New Zealand’s experience in Managed Isolation Quarantine Facilities (MIQF). Slowness to embrace this shift by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international bodies highlights the importance of applying the precautionary principle and subjecting established theories to the same level of critical scrutiny as those challenging the status quo. Improving indoor air quality to reduce infection risk and provide other health benefits is a new frontier, requiring much additional work at both grassroots and policy levels. Existing technologies such as masks, air cleaners and opening windows can improve air quality of many environments now. To achieve sustained, comprehensive improvements in air quality that provide meaningful protection, we also need additional actions that do not rely on individual human’s behaviour.” • The authors are interesting: a Public Health Physician, a Clinical Director Infection Prevention and Control (!!), and two Mechanical Engineers (!!!).

“Standing 3 steps apart on escalator lowers COVID risk: Japan research” [The Mainichi]. Droplet dogma — or a translation issue — but I think one can extrapolate to aerosols: “Standing three steps apart on an escalator significantly reduces the risk of COVID-19 infection while it is safer to descend than ascend one, recent research by a team involving the Kyoto Institute of Technology showed. The team lined up 10 maskless men, each 175 centimeters tall, on an escalator and computed the dispersion of droplets assuming that the man at the front coughed. The traced droplets measured less than 1.5 millimeters. The research showed that on a descending escalator, the droplets were quickly blown upward and traveled over the heads of the others. But on an ascending one, the droplets fell to a level around the waist of the coughing man and remained in the air for a long time. ‘It is important to keep a distance as human movements make (surrounding) airflow unsteady and cause the dispersion of droplets,” said Masashi Yamakawa, a professor at the Kyoto institute who led the team. The research was published in the scientific magazine Indoor Air in November.'”


The fitting process is far more arduous than it should be:

Here again, could not the masking trade assocation set some standards here? Sizing and fitting standards for masks should be at least as good as they are for shoes and clothes (imperfect, I grant). People shouldn’t have to guess or order starter packs. This would certainly help the market!

“Community-based N95 Distribution During the COVID-19 Omicron BA.1 Surge: 1-month Utilization and Price Implications” (preprint) [psyArxiv]. “Masks and other non-pharmaceutical interventions can complement vaccines and treatments as a part of multilayered mitigation toreduce the burden of COVID-19 surges. Accordingly, the investigators distributed 2,500 N95s in 5-packs with informational handouts during the BA.1surge in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA(12/13/21-1/17/22). Recipients completeda voluntary 1-month follow-up utilization survey (N=153).At 1-month follow-up, participants had usedanaverage of 3.42 (68.4%) of the five N95s, felt safer wearing N95s (Ps<.0001), and discussed N95s with others (80.4%).Acumulative 87.9% would wear N95sagainif free. Purchase intentions were price sensitive. After our distribution program, the U.S. federal government distributed free N95s, but stockpiles are depleting, and N95s are not included in ongoing policy plans. Federal governments can prepare for winter surges and new variants by developing policy plans for the ongoing distribution of free N95s." • And we could also do serious work on how to move masks away from the look and feel of a medical device, and into the realm of fashion; something that somebody might wear normally. Like athletic shoes. Or a hat. Wearing a mask in a pandemic should be as unremarkable as bringing an umbrella in case of rain. FFS. "Police want NYC businesses to require customers show their faces" [Pix11]. “Customers should be required to show their faces before being allowed into businesses, NYPD officials urged on Tuesday. Removing a mask and allowing identification can be a “condition of entry,” NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said. Businesses can then allow people to put masks back on after they’ve shown their face.” • Masks don’t cover the face, since the eyes are visible (though perhaps that messes up whatever facial recognition system the NYPD has, in which case NYPD tech is inferior to China’s). And of course, you knew that as soon as the anti-maskers got the whip hand, all this “individual choice” foo-fra would go out the window. Commentary:

Struggle sessions are never pleasant:

But sometimes they’re necessary!

“It’s still OK to think masks were a good idea” [Star-Tribune]. A discussion of the Cochane study that gives it a lot more credit for scholarly integrity than it deserves. Concluding: “For a brief while in the early stages of the pandemic, there was unity in the public response. Would society be as proactive again?” Depends on who’s the hegemon. More: “COVID mutations are unpredictable. Vaccine uptake is dwindling. Meanwhile, a broad outbreak of bird flu has been spreading uncharacteristically among mammals. It’s not reaching people but could have a high fatality rate if it did. Meanwhile, COVID still kills hundreds of Americans each day. You know, in case you lost track.” • As to the headline, were and are.

Elite Malfeasance

Great metaphor:

ID/IC at it again:

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Case Data

NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from February 27:

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.

• “Study shows COVID-19 rates were likely forty-times higher than CDC estimates during BA.4/BA.5 dominant period in the U.S.” [News Medical Life Sciences (NorD94)]. Original. n = 3042. “About 17% of study participants reported being infected with SARS-CoV-2 during the Omicron BA.4/BA.5 dominant period. This equates to 44 million cases, which is much higher than the 1.8 million cases estimated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during that period.” • Holy moley. Readers will remember I estimated six to eight times. This is very bad news, if you buy that Covid causes immune dysregulatoin (as I do. No wonder everybody is coughing). NOTE: I should give a hat tip


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published March 1:

-0.9%. Still high, but at last a distinct downturn.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,145,661 – 1,145,415 = 246 (246 * 365 = 89,790 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). Big jump because I missed yesterday.

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

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Commodities: “Australia blocks Chinese investor from raising stake in rare earths miner” [Mining.com]. “Australian rare earths producer Northern Minerals (ASX: NTU) said on Tuesday that the federal government had prevented its largest shareholder, China’s Yuxiao Fund, from raising its stake in the company on grounds of national interest. Yuxiao Fund needed the Foreign Investment Review Board’s (FIRB) approval to increase its holding in Northern Minerals to 19.9% from 9.92%.”

Energy: “Chesapeake Energy to reduce drilling amid natgas price slump” [BIC Magazine]. “U.S. natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy Corp said it would pull back on drilling and completing wells this year as natural gas prices have crashed to a quarter of what they were last summer… Chesapeake said it will drop two rigs in the Haynesville region that covers parts of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana this year, and one rig in Marcellus shale of Pennsylvania and West Virginia…. Other operators, primarily private firms, were also pulling back activity in that region, he said. Earlier this month, Comstock Resources Inc said it would cut drilling rigs to seven from nine this year.”

Healthcare: “Novavax raises doubts about ability to remain in business, shares fall” [Reuters]. “COVID-19 vaccine maker Novavax Inc (NVAX.O) on Tuesday raised doubts about its ability to remain in business and announced plans to slash spending as it works to prepare for a fall vaccination campaign, and its shares plunged more than 25%. The company said there is significant uncertainty around its 2023 revenue, funding from the U.S. government, and pending arbitration with global vaccine alliance Gavi. But its cash flow forecast indicates it has sufficient capital to fund operations over the next year. Novavax also said that depending on the outcome of its arbitration with Gavi, it could be required to refund all or a portion of the roughly $700 million it received from the group, meant to pay for doses of the company’s COVID vaccine for low- and middle-income countries.” • Pfizer, good job.

Manufacturing: “Hyundai was poised to become Tesla’s top contender. Then the U.S. government blindsided it” [Los Angeles Times]. “When the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the Kia EV6, compact electric SUVs with base prices around $48,000, debuted a year ago, U.S. sales totaled 37,000 vehicles in the first three quarters of 2022. The Ioniq 5 and the EV6, built on the same basic platform, together overtook the Ford Mustang Mach-E as second-place contender, according to Edmunds. The Korean brands were poised to take the mantle as Tesla’s top challenger, and because of their lower price, perhaps move the needle forward on mass adoption of EVs. Then the Inflation Reduction Act, the Biden administration’s $369-billion climate bill, put on the brakes. Under the act, only electric vehicles assembled in the U.S. would qualify for a $7,500 customer tax reblate, bad news not just for Hyundai and Kia but also for all electric car makers in Japan and Europe. That part of the IRA kicked in immediately when President Biden signed the bill in August.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 Greed (previous close: 58 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 60 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 1 at 12:59 PM ET.

The Gallery

Not big fan of religious paintings, at least modern ones, as a rule:

I wish there were more like this (though perhaps there’s a whole school and I just don’t know about it).

“The Practice of Attention” [Andy Adams, FlakPhoto]. “Digital media is the default mode for viewing photography for many of us. I’ve been a longtime champion of web-based photo experiences for obvious reasons. Digital images are beautiful, brightly backlit, and undoubtedly meaningful. Still, with so much of our contemporary photoland experience happening on Instagram, they scroll by far too quickly, which means we give them short shrift too much of the time. Printed photography doesn’t just last longer; it affords a different kind of attentional experience that changes our relationship with the pictures and the people who make them. That kind of sustained attention is continually under assault on social media, and it’s essential to comprehend someone’s photography fully.” • 100% agreed.

Our Famously Free Press

“Axios Details Mike Wilbon’s Morning “Anti-Routine” So You Too Can Be A Productive Tool Like Mike Wilbon” [Defector]. This is a sports controversy I don’t follow. That said: “It was only a matter of time before Axios and Michael Wilbon joined forces. If you’re unfamiliar with the bulletpoint fetishists at Axios, they’re one of those those digital money pits like Puck and Semafor that’s designed to make you, the peasant, feel like you’re rubbing elbows with some of the most connected and vacuous people in what’s left of the news media. If you’re unfamiliar with Wilbon, he’s the co-host of Pardon The Interruption, a preening starfucker of the highest order, and a man who regards everyday sports fans with outright disdain. I’ve hated this man’s guts for decades, and I’m ready to hate Axios for just as long. So you understand how these two entities might have something in common. And thank god for that, because on Monday Cuneyt Dil of Axios detailed Wilbon’s morning schedule, so that you can behold it with great awe and then feel much worse about your own station in life.” • It’s good that the spirit of Hunter Thompson is alive. (Also, Defector is a co-operative supported by subscriptions, and Axios is very much neither of those things. So there’s that.) Also, I had to quote Semafor the other day. Sorry.

Class Warfare

East Palestine Toxic Train Bomb:

“East Palestine’s record of devastating derailments” [Axios Columbus]. “Long before the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern derailment exposed East Palestine to hazardous chemicals, residents suffered from a series of devastating rail car derailments that destroyed businesses, ruined local infrastructure and often left the city stuck paying for the damage… An Axios review of hundreds of old newspaper clippings across the state and into Pennsylvania identified at least nine freight derailments in East Palestine between 1946 and 1976. All nine happened on the same line now owned by Norfolk Southern.”

“New U of M Graduate Labor Union Could Unionize 4,000 Jobs” [Racket]. “This campaign to unionize the U of M’s grad workers began in 2020, catalyzed, in part, by the university’s reaction to the pandemic. There have been past attempts to unionize those 4,000-ish jobs, though [third-year PhD candidate Anya] Auerbach says the current UMN Graduate Labor Union is by far the best organized push. (Similar union efforts have been defeated five times at the U since 1974, Minnesota Reformer reports.) This time the union is backed by United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE), which has helped graduate workers win unions in recent years at MIT, Johns Hopkins, and Northwestern. Grad assistant unions exist around the Big 10 at Iowa, Michigan, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Wisconsin, Rutgers, and Michigan State. The recent national surge of unionizing grad students “may become a wave,” Forbes reports. If successful, the UMN Graduate Labor Union would represent a vast swath of jobs across the U.”

“Association between precarious employment and BMI in the United States” [Obesity]. n=7280. From the Abstract: “There is growing recognition that precarious employment is an important determinant of health, which may increase BMI through multiple mechanisms, including stress. It was investigated whether increases in precarious employment were associated with changes in BMI in the United States…. Given that even small changes in weight affect chronic disease risk, policies to improve employment quality warrant consideration.”

“Not Getting Vaccinated? It Is a Matter of Problem-Solving Abilities and Socio-Cognitive Polarization” [International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health]. “The process that led individuals to accept COVID-19 vaccines required the ability to gather, synthesize, and weigh-up information within a novel, dynamically changing, complex, and ambiguous context. To deal with such complexity, we hypothesized that both the ability of reflection and flexible adaptation played a fundamental role. Based on previous research on cognitive predictors of vaccine refusal, we decided to investigate the combined role of two constructs, namely, problem-solving skills and socio-cognitive polarization (SCP), on vaccine acceptance and uptake. Two-hundred-seventy-seven US participants completed an online survey aimed to measure problem-solving ability, through a rebus puzzles task, and SCP, through a composite measure of absolutist thinking, political conservatism, and xenophobia. Mediation analyses indicated that SCP mediated the association between problem-solving ability and vaccine acceptance, so lower problem-solving abilities associated with higher polarization predicted vaccine rejection. Thus, our findings suggested that low problem-solving skills may represent a risk factor for COVID-19 vaccine refusal, with cognitive and social rigidity playing a crucial role in undermining the anti-COVID-19 vaccine uptake.” • One important function of the PMC is to use their technical and managerial skills to address society-wide irruptions like pandemics. They failed. Miserably, and lethally. So who are the stupid ones? Naturally, they blame others. This article is Blue State v. Red State hatred wrapped in verbiage, using the standard trope of “against their own interests.”

“America Is Trying to Electrify. There Aren’t Enough Electricians.” [Wall Street Journals]. “Electricians, the essential workers in the transition to renewable energy, are in increasingly short supply. They are needed to install the electric-car chargers, heat pumps and other gear deemed essential to address climate change. Electricians say they are booked several months out and struggling to find enough workers to keep up with demand. Many are raising wages and prices and worried that they won’t be able to keep up as government climate incentives kick in…. The median age of electricians is over 40 years old, in line with the broader workforce. But nearly 30% of union electricians are between ages 50 and 70 and close to retirement, up from 22% in 2005, according to the National Electrical Contractors Association. The average annual electrician salary rose from roughly $50,000 to about $60,000 from 2018 to 2022, an increase roughly in line with the national average, according to the BLS.” • If your children are making college decisions….

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Brooklyn hates masks too?

News of the Wired

Science is popping:

As it turns out, Darwin’s sample was inadequate!

Medical ethics:

“May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain.”

“Life Need Not Ever End” [Noema]. “Perhaps the most depressing scientific idea that has ever been put forth is the infamous “heat death hypothesis.” It is a theory about the future of the universe based on the second law of thermodynamics, which in its most well-known form states that entropy, a complicated and confusing term commonly understood to simply mean “disorder,” tends to increase over time in a closed system. Therefore, if we consider that the universe is itself a closed system, the law seems to suggest that the cosmos is becoming increasingly disorganized…. In fact, some leading scientists are beginning to think that the cosmos is becoming increasingly complex and organized over time as a result of the laws of physics and the evolutionary dynamics that emerge from them. Seth Lloyd, Eric Chaisson and Freeman Dyson are among the well-known names who have questioned whether ‘disorder’ is increasing in the cosmos. Outside of physics, complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman, neuroscientist Christof Koch and Google’s director of engineering Ray Kurzweil all believe that the universe is not destined to grow more disorganized forever, but more complex and rich with information. … David Deutsch, the father of quantum computation… argues that there are no fundamental limits to knowledge creation. [This is a very strong claim] because it specifically suggests that life in the universe need not come to an end.” • Fascinatingly, Maimonides has the same idea as Noema’s writer: “Knowledge is immense and the spirit of man can extend infinitely to enrich itself daily with new requirements.”

* * *

Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From AM:

AM writes: “This is what I got in the Big Apple!” I got to this a bit late, but it’s still lovely!

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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. ChrisFromGA

    Outside of physics, complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman, neuroscientist Christof Koch and Google’s director of engineering Ray Kurzweil all believe that the universe is not destined to grow more disorganized forever, but more complex and rich with information. … David Deutsch, the father of quantum computation… argues that there are no fundamental limits to knowledge creation. [This is a very strong claim] because it specifically suggests that life in the universe need not come to an end.” • Fascinatingly, Maimonides has the same idea: “Knowledge is immense and the spirit of man can extend infinitely to enrich itself daily with new requirements.”

    Sounds like religion, not science …

    “Knowledge” is not a physical thing, it is a mental construct. When the humans go extinct, it dies with them.

    1. Stephen V

      Give me some of that Old Time Idealism: “In order to contemplate, with Coleridge, ‘the mind of the world as a single mind’…[W]e must, in particular, have raised in our own minds the iron curtain of presupposition and fancy that sunders mind from nature, since it is the same iron curtain that sunders mind from mind.”
      –Owen Barfield, What Coleridge Thought

  2. ChrisFromGA

    Grateful Dead version of Chuck Berry’s classic “You never can tell (C’est la vie)” featuring Bruce Hornsby.

    Back when the Dead used to play at Hampton Roads arena near Norfolk. Wish I had gone to that show!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Loose and and funky. Very nice! (Garcia band, though, yes?) Here is something a little more up-tempo:

      Also, the Garcia solo is wild and very funny.

      I am of the opinion that heroin damaged Garcia in many ways, so I really prefer the stuff from the 70s. But the damage doesn’t show in Hampton Roads above.

      1. Realist

        I was just reading a book about Laurel Canyon and in the chapter i just finished, it said that The Grateful Dead and their traveling “Alchemist”, Augustus Owsley Stanley III, moved to Watts just six months before the notorious riots of 1965.

        And i thought, i dont think ive ever deliberately listened to a grateful dead track… Then i log on and saw this!

      2. ChrisFromGA

        Yeah, my mistake, JGB not the dead

        Love the Hornsby bluesy and ragtime piano riffs.

        1. Nordberg

          The Hampton Coliseum; aka The Mother Ship. As a Hampton native, I experienced three or for Dead shows and a couple JGB shows there as well. Great venue.

          Also for all those not from the area, here is a great way to remember how to pronounce Norfolk. “We don’t drink, We don’t smoke. Norfolk! Norfolk!”

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Clearly the environment out of which Firesign Theatre evolved; the voicing, the background noises.

          I have to say, though, that Firesign Theatre is much, much better, much as the Marx Brothers are better than most vaudeville.

      3. Randy

        IIRC Garcia got off the hard stuff in the ’77-’78 time frame temporarily. The Dead and Garcia then was as good as the early ’70s, just different tunes.

        By ’73 the economics (for the Dead) required big venues to make it work. Big venues are good for the band’s economics but bad for an enjoyable music experience.

        I’d rather watch sports at home than in a sports stadium. Concert in a sports stadium/facility, forgetaboutit.

  3. semper loquitur

    re: size matters

    That’s an interesting thread on sexual dimorphism in mammals but I wonder how long before we see it being used to argue for more men in women’s wrestling competitions.

    1. ambrit

      What? They haven’t seen “Women In Love?” That’s about as good an advert for Greco Roman wrestling as any I can think of. However, sexual dimorphism is classically evolutionary in “purpose.” The survival of the races is involved. Thus, one could argue that the present Terran human trend in anti-sexual dimorphism is a part of the Death Cult.
      As many are wont to say: “They really are trying to kill us.”

      1. jo6pac

        Thanks for the info and once again demodogs show why we can’t have nice thing on Main Street or the Tubes

      2. ambrit

        Yet the City and State of New York can bore tunnels through bedrock to create aqueducts for the City of New York Water System. That same technology can be used under the Hudson River. It all depends on just how low you wish to go.

    1. scott s.

      I think the money is going in to replace the tunnel across Baltimore. Which, if your main concern is DC – Wilmington, makes sense.

  4. antidlc

    New Discoveries on Long COVID (with Dr. Eric Topol)

    Three years into the pandemic, roughly 65 million people suffering from Long COVID worldwide are still looking for answers to the mix of symptoms that has baffled doctors and experts. Dr. Eric Topal and three researchers suffering from the condition themselves published a new study laying out the newest major findings and preventative measures. Andy asks Eric about the likelihood of getting chronic symptoms from an infection, what those symptoms typically are, and how the data influences his own precautions.

    Transcript at the link.

    Right. So unfortunately, ever since Omicron came along, late in 2021, well over a year ago, and all of its lineages since we lost a lot of our ability to inhibit infections, with vaccines. And that’s why these vaccines aren’t working well, they are working for severe COVID. But they lost a lot of their ability to inhibit infections. And we could get that back if we worked on it. And you know, there’s certainly 100 different nasal vaccine candidates, some are pretty far along. I mean, India has already rolled out their nasal vaccine. But at any rate, I’m confident that there will be effective nasal vaccines for blocking infections better than shots, because that’s how the darn virus gets into our body. So it’ll work. The question is, is it just for a few months, you know, what, I don’t mind I’ll take a spray every few months, I rather have that than a shot, you know, I get sicker than hell from each of these shots. I mean, really don’t want to go near those if I could avoid it. For a couple of days. I’m just you know, knocked out. So yeah, take a spray. And so I’m very enthusiastic about what that can do. mechanistically and changing the fear of infections where you could even be more confident about resuming totally everything you do. And so the fact that we’re so limp and weak about pursuing nasal vaccines is highly frustrating to me, because this is a minimal investment. And Ashish Jha is really fighting hard to get the funding for this, as I think, you know.

    Andy Slavitt 26:47

    The White House coordinator.

    Eric Topol 26:49

    I mean, he’s just come up to roadblocks, you know, in Congress, and the pandemic is over stuff. And, you know, he can’t he can’t even get the Secretary of HHS to find some money in his drawers there, you know, desk drawers. I mean, there’s got to be a way to pursue this. So it isn’t being done in all these other countries outside the US. And I don’t really want to go to Tijuana to get my nasal vaccine. You know?

    Ashish Jha is “really fighting hard” to get funding for nasal vaccines.

    1. jhallc

      The wastes removed from the site, which I’m sure include soils from surrounding the burned tank cars, I believe would be tested for a full suite of toxic chemicals, including dioxins, at the receiving Hazardous Waste disposal facility. Most of these have permits that require them to know what is in the materials coming in the gate. The problem with doing it at that the disposal end is that by then things are homogenized and only a limited number of samples are taken over a large volume (truck load) of material where it is easier to miss something.

      The excuse of using a lack of background data to avoid testing on the site or in nearby residential areas is just awful. A well done sampling program would determine if a hot spot centered in the immediate ground zero existed. Mucking and trucking away the immediate contaminated material, if they are doing that, does have the advantage of removing any evidence of the worst of the contamination.

  5. Carla

    “The average annual electrician salary rose from roughly $50,000 to about $60,000 from 2018 to 2022, an increase roughly in line with the national average, according to the BLS.” How is that salary level going to attract people into the field? I would have thought the average would be at least $100,000.

    1. earthling

      That does sound pathetic. Perhaps it was an average figure for all who work in the field, including apprentices, helpers, unlicensed? Gotta be a higher number for actual licensed electicians. Still. Oughta be a good wage, even for junior people.

    2. Bazarov

      When I hear calls for more “X” laborers, I think: “The owners want to pay less for X.”

      It’s simple supply and demand. That $60,000 terrifies them, low as it is! I’m sure they’d like to get that back down into the 50s. It probably galls them all the more that they have to pay double or triple that in some markets for the best electricians.

    3. GC54

      The real $ are in plumbing. In a compact city, a skilled plumber can make $250/hr after accounting for transit time.

      1. The Rev Kev

        And you can’t outsource jobs like plumbers to China. And if you try to lower their wages, they will just let your basement flood, even if you a rich dude.

        1. ambrit

          The sad truth here is that there are always people willing to work for less. They might know less and be less efficient, but they will get something done. Then, if the “repair” breaks, that’s a new service call. (Often, the original repair company will not respond to the calls for a ‘re-fix’ and hand it off to another shop.)
          Ethics are quickly weeded out of any “financialized” system.

      2. ambrit

        Sorry, but the actual plumber, unless he owns the shop, is paid a lot less than that $250 per hour figure. The real beneficiaries of this price inflation are the “investors.” Like everything else, the “investors” are almost guaranteed a base line return on their investment. If there is a shortfall, the on the ground workers are cut first. (I have seen plumbing shops bought up by syndicates of investors and the first thing that happens is any retirement scheme is axed. Next, the benefits are whittled away. Eventually, the working plumbers are put on fixed payments per job, and “incentivized” to “upsell” the customers, with bonuses included for extra ‘incentive.’ At this point, anyone with any ethics has exited the organization, and nothing but crooks and liars are left.
        Then there is the phenomenon of the financialization of the actual job. Gresham’s Law kicks in here big time.
        The “real” money for the workers is in the Union shops. Any State that enacts a “Right To Work (For Less)” law is just pandering to the ‘ownership class,’ at the expense of the working class.

        1. GC54

          The superb one we’ve used is indeed making $200+/hr solo, office his big van with generator and machine tools. Gets speeding tickets in this SW city because transit time is money lost to support his large family in Sonora. He brings an apprentice who is presumably paid from that and explains to him everything going on. He’s worth the thousands of $ I’ve spent because his fixes are complex but elegant and have been problem free for almost a decade so far. I certainly wouldn’t hire him if i was flipping, there are plenty of incompetents for that as you and he note. But there are self-employed plumbers who know it all and I appreciate the on the fly engineering this one does to eradicate or bypass galvanized pipes in slabs etc.

          Exchange in Get Smart “Is that your telephone number? No, that’s your bill.”

  6. Samuel Conner

    I’ve been thinking about getting Bitrex and using it to test how my re-used N95s perform as they are reused again and again. That’s assuming that fresh ones are not leaking. They feel tight and I have no sense of air motion around the contact surface, but perhaps I would fail a fit test.

  7. flora

    energy, electricity generating capacity.

    PJM Details Resource Retirements, Replacements and Risks

    Third Phase of Energy Transition Study Looks at Changes in Generation and Load Through 2030

    Overall, the amount of generation retirements appears to be more certain than the timely arrival of replacement generation resources and demand response, given that the quantity of retirements is codified in various policy objectives, while the impacts to the pace of new entry of the Inflation Reduction Act, post-pandemic supply chain issues, and other externalities are still not fully understood. Should these trends continue, PJM could face decreasing reserve margins for the first time in its history.


  8. some guy

    You know what seems strangest to me? The same Blob which wants war with China is also the very same Blob which wants Free Trade with China. Keeping “war with China” and “Free Trade with China” in the very same brain seems like keeping matter and anti-matter in the very same vessel. How do the Blobsters keep these two things separated from eachother inside their brain? What happens if the membrane of separation disappears and “war with China” and “Free Trade with China” come into contact inside the reaction skullvessels?

    1. flora

      Yeah, that seems like a contradiction. Except, one leg of China’s Silk Road railway route is mapped to end in Ukraine as one destination, into the heart of central Europe. So maybe, maybe, the “war” is over keeping Europe trading primarily with the US and keeping China from moving in on US trade territory? Who knows. I mean, put this way it sounds like some sort of gang war, so probably not what’s happening. / ;)

      1. digi_owl

        Never mind that it would move said trade beyond the reach of US carrier groups.

        One supposed reason for WW1 that was aired on there recently was a Berlin to Baghdad railroad that would open up German industry to middle eastern resources. And the then hegemon of the seas, UK, would have nothing of it.

    2. Anthony Noel

      Not really, the US will not be a peer nation to China within the next decade or so. The US is looking at the fact that if they do not beat down China now, they will not be able to do so at all. And once they’ve been humbled well we can dictate terms to them. Now the reality is, they already can’t beat China, nor can they do it to Russia, which is why there is a disconnect between the Pentagon and the politicians over going to war with either of these two powers. The US has sold it’s citizens on the idea that they are an unchallengeable hegemonic military power, while the Pentagon are very aware that they’d get their ass kicked in any major conflict with either Russia or China that doesn’t involve slinging Nukes.

  9. FreeMarketApologist

    Re: “Sizing and fitting standards for masks should be at least as good as they are for shoes and clothes

    That’s a low bar these days. Both designs and wearing trends are at the point where much clothing is particularly ill fitting. While there’s a fair amount of trim fit clothing (a particular urban style for the young professional just now), many goods don’t reflect traditional tailoring and fit: pant legs pooling around the ankles, sleeve/shoulder seams at odd locations, etc. ‘Trim’ is not ‘tailored’ or ‘well fitted’. The use of stretch fabrics lets manufacturers get away with poor construction (it still ‘fits’), but doesn’t excuse the poor underlying design.

  10. some guy

    If Williamson is the only ” other” Democrat daring to run in the Primaries, I will vote for her. And she may well be the only other Democrat willing to run, or at least the youngest other Democrat willing to run.

    Why? Because at age 70, she has lived out most of her active career and it would be hard for the Democrat Liberal mafia to destroy her active career-years remaining. Whereas someone younger, like Nina Turner, with decades of career-time left to hope for, is very vulnerable to Liberal Democrat mafia blackmail and extortion. ” Nice little career you got started there. Shame if something was to happen to it.”

    If Biden definitely wants to run again, I think every young or youngish DemParty nominee-wannabe will be quietly blackmailed, threatened, extorted, etc. by the DemParty mafia into waiting out the primary season.

    1. Jason Boxman

      I’m sure everyone well remembers the Night of the Long Knives. Ultimately you have you wait you’re turn. If not you’ll be taught. Authoritarian followers indeed. Definitely not a free thinking party.

    2. YetAnotherChris

      Honest question: I was politically naive in 1992 but how in the actual hell did Ross Perot get on the ballot? Fast forward to Michael Bloomberg and recall that he chased the Dem nomination (mordant laughter) instead of going third party. What changed in the interim? SCAD-type legislation to hamstring future Perots? Or something less transparent?

      1. some guy

        Perot already had years of fame and name-recognition by millions of people, and also had several billion personal dollars of his very own.

        Not everyone has that.

  11. Henry Moon Pie

    UE and grad students–

    It’s great to see that one of the old “red” unions has survived to remain a thorn in the side of the bosses. UE was the certified bargaining agent for the workers at Republic Windows in Chicago in 2008. When the company began moving equipment out the plant, the workers realized what was up. At closing time one Friday, the workers didn’t leave, and they occupied the factory until they received all pay that was due them.

    The Battle of Flint which was a crucial victory for the fledgling UAW and CIO, began with a sit-down strike. That was pre-Wagner Act, and before that law was interpreted by the Supreme Court as not protecting sit-down strikes as collective action.

    Hey, direct action gets satisfaction.

    1. some guy

      It does if you can show the relevant people that you have the power to destroy a thing if they won’t let you co-benefit fairly from that thing. Or if they try to get you out of that thing by force.

  12. Jason Boxman

    So Big Serge has a piece up on the Ukraine adventure, which isn’t paywalled:

    Russo-Ukrainian War: Schrodinger’s Offensive

    Where is the big Russian offensive? This is, at the moment, the million dollar question that inevitably intrudes on any discussion of the war’s current course. It is probably not surprising (to those of us that are familiar with human nature, at least) that this question becomes a Rorschach test in which everybody sees their own prior assumptions about the Russian military.

    As always, it’s a book in length, but looks interesting.

      1. Yves Smith

        I used to be a fan but he’s uneven. Good insights mixed with stuff that is simply not so and the good stuff gives way too much credence to his too frequent “WTF” episodes. At least when Dima at Military Summary does that (in visibly wilder form) it’s usually speculation about the future.

    1. Late Introvert

      Myself, I’m tired of speculation about what the Russians have done, are thinking of doing, are currently doing, or might do in the future. It seems fruitless to me.

      Rather, I’m much looking forward to a book length careful history with eyewitness and material evidence to support it. It may never come to be, but currently the lying is thick like bricks in the West and the Russians are saying nothing.

  13. Wukchumni

    In 1983, Congress ‘rescued’ Social Security by cutting it. The 1983 law did not change the actual age at which you can retire and draw Social Security benefits. It left that at 62. Instead, it simply said you’d get less money for retiring at any point before the new full retirement age, which reached 67 last year. For instance, those retiring at 62 today face a 50% larger cut in benefits for early retirement compared to before 2000. The Post apparently remembers these reforms fondly. And it wants more.”

    I was the youngest of 4 dartful codgers all born in 1961 in Vail, and I inquired as to when each of them were going to take their SS money, and every one of us want the government to show us the money asap, so as to be grandfathered in under the old aegis if they decide to raise the minimum age.

    1. curlydan

      A huge problem left unmentioned in the FAIR article is that the 1983 ‘rescue’ assumed a certain steady % of income would be wage income and thus go towards SS. Unfortunately, the % of income from wages has steadily fallen these many years, leaving SS with a shortfall.

      There are some simple solutions that WaPo in its nudging towards a “solution” refuses to consider.
      Raise the cap on SS wage income at a level exceeding inflation (e.g. inflation times 2)
      Start to push some non-wage income into the SS trust fund

      But the evil desk jockeys just want everyone to work a few more years I guess and be really broken down by the time they qualify for SS and Medicare.

      1. ambrit

        Add the rise in the retirement age with the drop in the average life expectancy and we have a “Bingo!” moment. The cynic in me sees the underlying strategy as insuring that a sufficient number of workers die before they can collect from any social safety net program.
        See, “Eugenics for Fun and Profit!” University of Chicago Press.

        1. Late Introvert

          I will seriously consider taking my reduced benefit in 3 years, and my brother is doing so this year. On the other hand my dad just turned 95, and my mom is 88 and both still kicking.

          1. ambrit

            I guess that the main determinant here will be the degree to which you still enjoy your work. Is it still a challenge? Do you feel good about yourself at the end of the day? Does the balance between costs and benefits still work out for you? I understand that the Pandemic has upset a lot of the calculus here, but it is still not the defining feature in many jobs.

            1. earthling

              Pfft. Your golden years should be spent doing what you want to do, and being who you are, outside the realm of paid employment. It is a rare person for whom it’s still thrilling to work full time because they love their work so much.

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            > On the other hand my dad just turned 95, and my mom is 88 and both still kicking.

            Covid solved that little problem, didn’t it? At the population level. The Social Security Administration actuaries must be relieved.

  14. pjay

    “Axios Details Mike Wilbon’s Morning “Anti-Routine” So You Too Can Be A Productive Tool Like Mike Wilbon” [Defector].

    I don’t follow sports much anymore, and lord knows there are much more important issues to discuss. But for some reason this rant really got under my skin. This Drew Magary, whoever he is, tells us he has hated Wilbon’s guts “for decades.” He doesn’t really tell us why. Apparently this story about Wilbon’s schedule (or lack thereof) really irritates him. But again – why? It seems vacuous, but then so does almost everything else in the media. And personally I can think of a lot of sports commentators more obnoxious than Mike Wilbon – frankly, almost all of them are. And don’t even get me started on *news* commentators. Perhaps there is some personal reason in Drew Magary’s past for why he hates Mike Wilbon. But as it is, this guy strikes me as a poseur trying to be edgy by raving about… well, nothing, really. He may *think* he’s Hunter Thompson, but Hunter Thompson he ain’t.

    There are much more deserving targets on Axios than Mike Wilbon. But I take it this guy is a hip sports “satirist,” so…

      1. pjay

        It’s not the tone so much that bugs me, but the target. If this would have been directed at, say, Hillary Clinton, or even Stephen A. Smith, that would have been fine with me. But Mike Wilbon?

  15. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit

    Re: Greater Idaho

    Nagonna happen. Salem would never let go of the chance to torture the Red half of the state into submission.

    Or just the pleasure of torturing it.

    Some critics have warned against ‘self-segregating by ideology,’” because mixed ideologies – tribal identities – work so much better? Let’s ask the Iroquois and Algonquian, or the Hutu and Tutsis, or the Athenians and Spartans, about how good an idea that is to mix tribes.

    1. RoadDoggie

      I agree, never gonna happen.

      There is some support for it on both sides of the border, until Idahoans realize they will be asked to pay the state of Oregon for their existing infrastructure. Once confronted with that possible reality the response becomes a bit more tepid.
      Ronny Chieng investiagates! Timestamped it for you: https://youtu.be/IyyxeqMithk?t=291
      And yeah I know its an anecdota but I did find the video entertaining.

      As a Seattle Resident I’d support selling Pend Oreille County infrastructure to Idaho and changing the border, if a majority of residents in the county voted for it. Heck, I’d be in favor of selling it as a discount. It’s my personal opinion that borders should be allowed to change in that way though, and I have no knowledge of law. I am sure all the lawyers would be happy to litigate it into oblivion.

      1. LifelongLib

        I’d be surprised if there wasn’t similar support in eastern Washington. I lived there several decades ago and have family living there now. Its politics seem more like what’s said about eastern Oregon and Idaho than they do like Seattle’s.

        1. RoadDoggie

          In this hypothetical I presented I don’t think we’d have to give up energy or farm produce.

          City Light is a municipal power company and not State run. I don’t see a barrier to them operating their assets no matter what state the assets are in. I could see the Idaho legislature interfering out of spite however, so that would be a concern.

          I can’t imagine the farmers would want to stop selling produce just because state lines changed. Free Market Forces and all that.

          So yeah, if a majority of residents voted for something like that I’d support it. Maybe it would be more fair to put it to a statewide vote since we all live in the state and we’d be changing state lines and not county lines?

  16. Jason Boxman

    From earlier today:


    That drew a reaction from Gallagher, who told the protester, “Your sign is upside down,” as well as a remark from the committee’s expert witness, who said that such dissent would not be tolerated in Beijing.

    “They’d have no such right in China. It wouldn’t be broadcast, their voices would be silenced perhaps permanently,” said Scott Paul, President for Alliance for American Manufacturing, ahead of his opening remarks.

    And LOL. No one remembers free speech zones, or Max Barcus having M4A protestors arrested? No undertones of authoritarian China there at all! Or Obama’s coordinated paramilitary crackdown on Occupy?

    1. wendigo

      It must be her intelligence and clear judgment that had her working for Cheney, Bush,Obama and Biden.

      Can’t be too many others with that record.

  17. blowncue

    Mom in the ER
    Take the port out and let’s go!
    Skinny man’s cell phone playing
    Earth Wind & Fire
    In the waiting room.

    1. ambrit

      Good luck to Mom.
      The singer, not the song.
      Turn your phone into a taser.
      Reach out and touch someone.
      Be Zen Connected.
      Call our God reps now!

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Tanka: 5-7-5-7-7

        5 Mom in the ER
        7 Take the port out and let’s go!
        7 Skinny man’s cell phone playing
        4 Earth Wind & Fire
        4 In the waiting room.

        4 Good luck to Mom.
        6 The singer, not the song.
        7 Turn your phone into a taser.
        6 Reach out and touch someone.
        4 Be Zen Connected.
        5 Call our God reps now!

        These are not tanka. What are they?

        I like them. There could be more of them.

  18. Matthew G. Saroff

    Just for those who don’t know, Maimonides was both a preeminent rabbis of his time and a preeminent doctors of his time. (His mother would be so proud [As a Jew, I can make this joke])

    So his statement, “May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain,” is likely about his obligations as a doctor, and not as a rabbi.

  19. lyman alpha blob

    RE: lab leak theory as excuse for neocon belligerence

    They can try it out I suppose, but it’s pretty well known the Wuhan lab benefited from US cooperation and funding – https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/04/29/847948272/why-the-u-s-government-stopped-funding-a-research-project-on-bats-and-coronaviru

    And then there are the links to Fauci, who is not particularly well liked outside the liberal goodthinker faction – https://www.yahoo.com/now/fauci-defends-u-funded-research-170334246.html

    Uncle Sam ought to know better than anybody that when you point a finger at someone else, there are three pointing back at you!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the Wuhan lab

      It’s clear that EcoHealth Alliance was a veritable cesspit, even by NGO standards, and by extension its relationships with Wuhan Lab and any one-degree of separation associates are justly spattered, for example Fauci.

      However, “The wicked flee when no one pursues” (Pro 28:1). I can well believe that EcoHealth, Fauci, and their FlexNet would leverage their connections to slam the lid on any investigation purely to avoid reputational damage and consequent loss of funding, rather than for anything more nefarious. If guilty behavior were evidence of guilt, who amongst us would escape whipping? (Quoted above: “So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” Words to ponder!)

      It’s worth noting that even the lunatics in our intelligence establishment don’t believe that the lab “leak,” if leak it was, was an engineered bioweapon, but that is the framing that will be used by the warmongers among our electeds. In good bipartisan fashion.

      Finally, I strongly resist the idea that the origin of SAR-CoV-2 can be reverse engineered from the formal characteristics of the virus alone (i.e., the furin cleavage site). This amounts to a claim that “something so functional and beautiful could only have been created by the hand of Man” (and not evolved in Nature). That is, exactly and precisely, the Watchmaker Hypothesis beloved of Creationists, and I’m surprised to see scientists hopping on board that train.

      Absent a chain of custody, which China is unlikely to supply*, I don’t think we’ll ever know. Of course, some will be anxious to settle the issue on the battlefield**. We’ll have to see how that goes.

      NOTES * Here again guilty behavior is not proof of guilt. In any case, could anybody seriously believe that we would handle any material China gave us in good faith?

      NOTE ** This is richly ironic, because even if you grant the virus was engineered by China, the policy of mass infection without mitigation, which turned the West into a reservoir of infection for the entire world, was imposed by the US, in its role as imperial hegemon.

      1. ambrit

        My Cynicophrenia Demon sits on my left shoulder and whispers in my ear; “It does not have to be a State level actor responsible for the release, whether accidental or by design.”
        Groups like the ‘Club of Rome’ or the ‘Acolytes of Powell’ can do their malign work as “private” citizens. The results would be as effective as anything done by a State.
        We need a new definition of ‘State Level Actor.’
        Could the theory of the dominant status of the State be a smoke screen for something a lot more diffuse and “transactional?”
        Stay safe.

  20. ChrisRUEcon

    Been a minute … besides a few drive-by comments … miss the #2PMWC!!! ::making heart with hands::


    Lambert, been meaning to tell you for a while: the “CDC” hyperlink after “Variants” on the “Resources, United States (National)” line is actually pointing to the Biobot page.

    Happily masking still and using HOCL w/nebulizer to disinfect. May have to try that 3M VFlex!

    Thanks again for staying up on all this!

  21. ambrit

    North American Deep South Zeitgeist Report.
    Did the trip to the Clinic out by the airport. The closer places are serious money grubbers now, so, out to the cheap seats establishment yet again.
    Took the bus. Waited an hour for the bus up and down the main drag. Changed busses at the train station, (the Hub.) Waited another half of an hour for that bus. Several of the regular drivers are out with reinfections of Covid. (Information gleaned from other, present drivers.) About a quarter of the passengers still masking. Waited another half of an hour for the return bus. Friendly driver called ahead and got the driver of the main drag bus to hold up a few minutes at the Hub for me, (this being the last run of the day.) Decent crowd of workers going home on the last main drag bus.
    At the clinic, almost no one masking. None of the nurses or physicians wore masks, none. From what I can glean from this group, they all think that the Pandemic is over. When I raised several issues with subvariants and infection rates, I generally got indulgent grins. “There the old geezer goes again. From what he’s saying you would think that the sky is falling!”
    Had my eternal argument with the Medica about the efficacy of statins. (She wants me to keep taking them at a mid level dosage because I have stents. I admit to “cutting” the dose. My cholesterol levels are not too bad. Blood Panels scheduled for the next visit.)
    The Medica still tries to make me come in every three months. I suggest six months and we “compromise” on four months. What is this, a Pill Mill?
    This being the best of all neo-liberal worlds, I have to submit the annual wages and resources forms to qualify for the cut rate clinic price structure. Even though I am on Medicare. Go figure. [And Medicare has been rejecting more and more submitted procedures lately. The latest rejection was for a stool blood test instead of a colonoscopy.]
    Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Stay safe all.

      1. ambrit

        Agreed. This looks to me to be an argument in favour of the idea of “The Wisdom of Crowds.” I have met a lot of people in my life who reject that idea in favour of the “Superiority of The Wise.” (For some definition of ‘wise.’)
        “Beam me up Scotty….”

  22. Jason Boxman

    COVID-19 Variant Dashboard – USA

    XBB1.5.13 now at 3.33% (at least 1 sample in 14 states now, no single region, coast to coast, Kansas seems epicenter). XBB1.9.1 at 1.7%. Ominous? We’ll see.

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