2:00PM Water Cooler 3/21/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Wood Thrush, Lander, MD. C&O canal at Lander, Frederick, Maryland, United States. “Bird singing away from the parabola.” Seems to be a duet?

* * *


“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

“Two Americas Index: Hands off Social Security and Medicare” [Axios]. “Nearly 9 in 10 Americans say they oppose reducing spending on Social Security or Medicare, according to new polling from our Axios-Ipsos Two Americas Index. The overwhelming consensus (96% of Democrats, 84% of Republicans) explains why any talk of cutting these programs has become a political lightning rod, even as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize potential concerns regarding long-term solvency.” • Solvency, feh.


Trump not arrested! As of this writing…

“How an Old Affidavit Could Undercut Trump’s Future Defense in the Stormy Daniels Case” [DNYUZ]. “Among the challenges, some of these defenders say, is proving Trump’s intent—a surreal dilemma that has flummoxed legal analysts for years. ‘Bragg would have to prove that Trump not only understood the complex and convoluted campaign laws that few people comprehend, but that he intended to violate them,’ Fox News commentator Greg Jarrett wrote on Monday. But when it comes to charging Trump, that perennial fear might actually be the least of Bragg’s concerns. That’s because, back in 2000, Trump submitted a sworn affidavit to the Federal Election Commission demonstrating a complex understanding of some of the same campaign finance laws that now appear central to Bragg’s case. ‘I neither reimbursed, nor caused any other person to reimburse, any employee of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. or its subsidiaries for his or her contribution to Gormley for Senate,’ Trump[‘s attorneys] wrote at the time. The affidavit, submitted as part of an FEC investigation into a Trump-hosted fundraising event for a Senate candidate, also contained sworn statements that Trump had acted ‘solely in my individual capacity’—not as a corporate official—and ‘took no action, of any nature, kind or description, to compel or pressure any employee’ to make a donation. That case was fairly complex for a layperson, and it forced Trump[‘s attorneys] to develop and express a sophisticated understanding of specific federal campaign finance laws. By the end of the ordeal, Trump would have been [hmm] intimately familiar with why corporations and third parties (‘straw donors’) could not make contributions—including in-kind contributions—to candidates for federal office.” • Despite my bracketed comments, hmm. Most of the coverage focuses on “hush money.” But in order to “make a Federal case out of it,” Bragg needs to find a violation of a Federal law (hopefully a felony). This he may be able to do, if he can show that Trump knowingly violated Federal campaign finance law. Perhaps Bragg — and remember, the New York Democrat Party establishment has a lot to prove, not just in court — can make that showing. I’m dubious. I’m also very dubious that anybody would or should go to jail over such a violation, beneficial though that would be for Trump, electorally.

“Make No Mistake, the Investigation of Donald Trump and the Stormy Daniels Scheme Is Serious” [Lawrence Tribe, New York Times]. “[Is] the Manhattan criminal case is an example of selective prosecution — in other words, going after a political enemy for a crime that no one else would be charged with? Not by a long shot. To begin with, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who was instrumental in the scheme, has already pleaded guilty to a federal crime emanating from this conduct and served time for it and other crimes. Federal prosecutors told the court that Mr. Cohen ‘acted in coordination with and at the direction of” Mr. Trump (identified as ‘Individual 1’). It would be anathema to the rule of law not to prosecute the principal for the crime when a lower-level conspirator has been prosecuted. Mr. Bragg, however, has had to pick up the slack, since federal prosecutors have not pursued such charges, for reasons that were clear under the corrupt influence of William Barr. As a state prosecutor, Mr. Bragg cannot bring the same federal campaign finance charge to which Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty.” So “anethema” applies across jurisdictions? More: “As a state prosecutor, Mr. Bragg cannot bring the same federal campaign finance charge to which Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty. He has various options nonetheless. New York district attorney offices have often charged a crime of filing a false business record, both as a felony and as a misdemeanor. The crime is a clear felony if it is done with intent to aid or cover up another crime and otherwise is a misdemeanor.” But: “While the analogy to Mr. Trump is imperfect, since paying hush money is not itself illegal, in his case the false ‘legal fee’ records appear to have furthered and covered up New York state tax fraud (the false Cohen tax filings) and the failure to report Trump campaign contributions.” • That’s it? That’s really it? It’s funny how each of Tribe’s arguments comes out strong… and then Tribe undercuts himself.

“Manhattan DA issues scathing response to GOP letter on possible Trump indictment: ‘We will not be intimidated'” [FOX]. “‘We will not be intimidated by attempts to undermine the justice process, nor will we let baseless accusations deter us from fairly applying the law,’ a spokesperson for Bragg’s office told Fox News Digital. ‘In every prosecution, we follow the law without fear or favor to uncover the truth. Our skilled, honest and [Oxford comma-less] dedicated lawyers remain hard at work,’ the spokesperson added. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and the other top Republicans on the Administration and Oversight committees on Monday sent a letter to Bragg demanding that he turn over documents related to his Trump investigation and testify before Congress after reports said Trump could face an indictment this week.”

“Trump in panic mode as he braces for likely charges in Stormy Daniels case” [Guardian]. The walls are closing in! “Trump’s post was nothing more than guesswork about when Alvin Bragg might bring charges, sources close to Trump said, after he saw media reporting that the district attorney’s office had contacted the US Secret Service about security in the event of an indictment…. But the frenzied posts from Trump reflected his deep panic and anxiety over the imminence and likelihood of criminal charges, the sources said, not least because he is powerless to stop the district attorney’s office from moving forward with a case that will take the US into new legal territory as Trump revs up his 2024 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination…. Trump has expressed interest in appearing in person at the Manhattan criminal court, where he believes he can turn proceedings into a spectacle before a gaggle of reporters, sources said, and raised the prospect on Saturday afternoon as he travelled to Oklahoma for an NCAA wrestling championship.” • That doesn’t sound very panicked to me.

“Trump Sweats an Arrest. We Should Sweat a Second Term.” [Timothy L. O’Brien, Bloomberg]. “He clearly fears being handcuffed, fingerprinted and perp-walked before TV cameras and the media, as anyone would. It’s a criminal case, so the threat of winding up behind bars looms.” • I don’t think that’s clear at all. Filed under “Opinion.”

* * *

“DeSantis says Florida is ‘blueprint for America’s revival'” [WWJ]. “”The Florida Blueprint is a simple formula: be willing to lead, have the courage of your convictions, deliver for your constituents, and reap the political rewards. This is a blueprint for America’s revival. We’ve shown it can be done,” DeSantis wrote in his book…. “The battles we have fought in Florida — from defeating the biomedical security state to stifling woke corporations to fighting indoctrination in schools — strike at the heart of what it means to be a Floridian and an American,” DeSantis wrote…. DeSantis even took time to take a shot at Trump, who maintains he will be arrested this week, during a news conference in Panama City, Florida. ;I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair,’ DeSantis said. ‘I just, I can’t speak to that.’ Too short? More: “Continuing his remarks, DeSantis again highlighted his focus on his current position, saying, ‘I’ve got real issues to deal with here in the state of Florida.'”

* * *

“Biden zeroing in on candidates to be his 2024 campaign manager” [The Hill]. “Jenn Ridder, who served as national states director for Biden’s 2020 bid, is said to be a leading contender for the campaign manager job, sources tell The Hill. Sam Cornale, the executive director of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), has also been discussed as a leading candidate, the sources say, adding that it’s an ongoing, exhaustive process and there are other candidates in the mix for that position and other top roles. One source familiar with the selection process said both Ridder and Cornale are among candidates being considered for senior staff. Other candidates for senior staff include: Emma Brown who served as Sen. Mark Kelly’s campaign manager last year, Addisu Demissie who ran Sen. Cory Booker’s 2020 presidential campaign, Quentin Fulks who was Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign manager, and Julie Chavez Rodriguez, a White House senior adviser who was deputy campaign manager for Biden’s 2020 campaign. The president’s team is hoping to get their senior positions filled by April, when they’re expecting to officially launch the campaign.” • How about Michelle Obama?

* * *

“The President We Need for a Post-Ukraine-War World” [David Frum, The Atlantic]. • “Leader.” A toad hops out of Frum’s mouth, and not for the first time. Also, “leader” sounds better in the original German.

* * *

2020 Post Mortem

There’s the Night of the Long Knives, right there:

And all the Democrat Party authoritarian followers fall in line behind the, er, Leader.

Democrats en Déshabillé

Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

“‘The Democratic Party in New York Is a Disaster'” [Ross Barkan, New York Times]. “These days, New York is known as the deep-blue state where Democrats lost four seats on the way to losing the House of Representatives and effectively halting President Biden’s domestic agenda for the next two years…. These disappointments have cast into sharp relief both the divisions within the party and the peculiar void of the state’s Democratic organization itself. Few New Yorkers cared, until late 2022, that the statewide Democratic apparatus operated, for the most part, as a hollowed-out appendage of the governor, a second campaign account that did little, if any, work in terms of messaging and turnout. New Hampshire, a state with roughly half the population of Queens, has a Democratic Party with 16 full-time paid staff members. New York’s has four, according to the state chairman, Jay Jacobs. One helps maintain social media accounts that update only sparingly. Most state committee members have no idea where the party keeps its headquarters, or if it even has one. (It does, at 50 Broadway in Manhattan.) National parties function as enormous umbrella organizations, determining the presidential primary calendar and the process for allocating delegates at the national conventions. The drudgery of running elections is left to the local and state parties, as well as individual campaigns and independent political action committees…. Jacobs described the party as a “housekeeping organization” and a “coordinating entity” that works among labor unions, campaigns and other interest groups. He cited the maintenance of a voter file that campaigns use to target the electorate as among its most important work, as well as establishing campaign offices at election time. Fund-raising, too, is a big part of the work, and it’s there where Jacobs has been especially useful.” • Lots of interesting nuts and bolts about party structure.

For example:

Gag me with a spoon.

* * *

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Revisiting America’s War of Choice in Iraq” [Richard Haas, Project Syndicate]. Haass is President of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Still, common critiques of the war get it wrong when they conclude that the US government cannot ever be trusted to tell the truth. Yes, the US government maintained that Iraq possessed WMDs, and my boss at the time, Secretary of State Colin Powell, made that case before the United Nations. It turned out not to be true. But governments can and do get things wrong without lying.” • That may well be true, but it’s not true in this case. My first summer of blogging — I keep retelling this story, I apologize, but for those who came in late — was devoted to playing whack-a-mole as the Bush administration, aided by a complaisant press[1], emitted one WMD story after another, only to have them debunked, at least in the then blogosphere, within days, often within hours. The yellowcake uranium! The aluminum tubes! The mobile weapons labs! And imagine my surprise when [genuflects] Colin Powell held up an already debunked vial of white powder at the UN as proof of WMDs, to justify the war [slaps forehead]. Of course, we later discovered that the reason we felt we were playing whack-a-mole is that we were; the leaks and stories were concocted by a thing called the White House Iraq Group, full of luminaries like Condi Rice, (Over 50 such stories were planted, according a now-forgotten exposé of this operation, Truth from These Podia; PDF.) They were all lying then, and Haas is lying now.

All the pro-Iraq War liberal Democrats did very well for themselves, during the war and after. Here is a roll of dishonor:

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Based Trump:

Trump is absolutely right. Pelosi should have impeached Bush when the Democrats took back the House in 2006. If she had, no Trump.

* * *

“The Real-Life Consequences of Silicon Valley’s AI Obsession” [Bloomberg]. More cudde puddles?

In Silicon Valley, the overlap between rationalists, EAs, and AI safety researchers forms a deeply influential subculture. While its borders are blurry, its hundreds or thousands of members are united by a belief that they need to work their butts off, or at least invest lots of money, to stop AI from going Terminator on us. The movement’s leaders have received support from some of the richest and most powerful people in tech, including Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin. And its ideas have attracted the usual Valley mix of true believers and brazen opportunists. Until recently, its most generous supporter was Bankman-Fried, who invested close to $600 million in related causes before dismissing effective altruism as a dodge once his business fell apart.

Bankman-Fried’s collapse has cast a harsh light on the community’s flaws, but he’s far from the only alleged bad actor. The combination of insularity and shared purpose that makes the subculture so attractive to smart outsiders also makes it a hunting ground for con artists, sexual predators and megalomaniacs. Filtering the legitimate desire to make AI better and safer through the familiar lens of Valley messiah complexes risks tainting the whole project by association.

The underlying ideology valorizes extremes: seeking rational truth above all else, donating the most money and doing the utmost good for the most important reason. This way of thinking can lend an attractive clarity, but it can also provide cover for destructive or despicable behavior. Eight women in these spaces allege pervasive sexual misconduct, including abuse and harassment, that they say has frequently been downplayed. Even among people with pure intentions, adherents say, EA and rationalist ideologies can amplify the suffering of people prone to doomsday thinking—leading, for a few, to psychotic breaks.

These fissures have global consequences. The community’s connections and resources give its members outsize influence on the development of AI, the No. 1 object of fascination for today’s tech industry and an incredibly powerful tool worth untold billions. The believers are trying to make AI a force for good, but disillusioned members say their community of kindred spirits is being exploited and abused by people who don’t seem to know how to be humane.

“Insularity and shared purpose” means “bubble” but using seventy five-cent words. So does “Valley messiah complexes.” So does “the No. 1 object of fascination.” Didn’t a bunch of these people just foment a bank run?


“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison

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

• Readers, thanks for the push. We are now up to 47/50 states (94%). I have helpfully added “______” to the states still missing data. We should list states that do not have Covid resources, or have stopped updating their sites, so others do not look fruitlessly. Could those of you in states not listed help out by either with dashboard/wastewater links, or ruling your state out definitively? Thank you!

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin); CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); FL (wastewater); GA (wastewater); HI (dashboard); IA (wastewater reports); ID (dashboard, Boise; dashboard, wastewater, Central Idaho; wastewater, Coeur d’Alene; dashboard, Spokane County); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); KS (dashboard; wastewater, Lawrence); KY (dashboard, Louisville); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MO (wastewater); MS (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); ND (______); NE (______); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (______); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (wastewater); WY (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, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (1), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (6), JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, otisyves, Petal (5), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3). (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 28 38 39 43 47/50 (94% of US states).

* * *

Look for the Helpers

Small victories are still victories. More like this, please:

* * *

“Introducing: The Covid Underground” [Covid Underground]. The deck: “Welcome to The Covid Underground, a newsletter for the Covid-free movement and all of those who continue to avoid infection.” More: “True health is the ability to change. About 10-30% of the U.S. population has changed their lives in the light of the freeing revelations of 2020, and we keep changing. We are dynamically, creatively faithful to what was— briefly— plain to all: normal is a dangerous illusion.” • Worth a read.

“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.

Finding like-minded people on (sorry) Facebook:

Covid Is Airborne

How the First World does it:


As long as masks look like medical devices, they will never be a cultural norm:

Another Aura fan:

People have the urge to decorate their Corsi-Rosenthal boxes too. This tendency should be encouraged.

Australian hospital reverses anti-mask directive within hours. Of course, in the US, they would have dug in their heels:

This is a miniature example of what CDC is trying to do — assuming good faith, difficult to do at this point — with “Community Levels.” They want to turn the mask knob up when spread is high, then turn it back down when its low. Leaving aside the issue of lags when a virus is in doubling behavior mode, this is just wildly inefficient and, worse, discredits the idea of public health by making it too difficult for people to adhere to. Imagine if we handled cigarettes or seatbelts this way. Mask-wearing needs to become a social norm, as it is, sensibly and to good effect, in Asia. As I say above, one step toward that goal is to reclassify masks as fashion-forward outwear, not as medical devices (not “normal” by definition).


“A first-in-human clinical study of an intranasal spray of a cocktail containing two synergetic antibodies neutralizes Omicron BA.4/5” [medRxiv]. Hamsters. ” Here, we developed an intranasal spray containing two synergetic human NAbs that could broadly neutralize the emerging Omicron variants in vitro. A unique synergetic neutralizing mechanism was identified that the two NAbs bound to exclusive epitopes on the RBD and structurally compensate each other in blocking the Spike-ACE2 interaction. Importantly, when given at low dosages for three consecutive days through the intranasal mucosal route, this cocktail showed significant improvement in the emergency preventive and therapeutic effects in hamsters challenged with authentic Omicron BA.1.” • Seems to duplicate, and therefore validate, the general approach of Thailand’s nasal spray with human antibodies, CoviTRAPP, already on the market, though not, naturally, in injection-centric First World countries..


“Public health ethics: critiques of the ‘new normal” [Monash Bioethics Review]. “The ethical justification of public health intervention requires more than just the expectation that an intervention will produce a (net) improvement public health (over and above the harms of the intervention). In addition to health, two other (sets of) values are key to the justification of public health policy: fairness, e.g., regarding the distribution of benefits and harms of an intervention in a population, and freedom, e.g., to move and interact with others without unjustified externally-imposed restrictions (Selgelid 2009).” • Sounds good, until you realize that “freedom” is how a libertarian says “[family blog] you.”

Elite Malfeasance

Evolution vs. man-made:

“Why ‘lab leak’ proponents are unconvinced by raccoon dog evidence for coronavirus origins” [Yahoo News]. “For supporters of the market [as opposed to lab] origin theory, however, the research described in the Atlantic is the most persuasive to date of a zoonotic, or animal, model to describe how the coronavirus entered the human population. Nearly 7 million people have died from COVID-19 since late 2019, when the first cases were reported. According to the researchers, swabs taken at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan—long suspected as the pandemic’s epicenter— show evidence of genetic material from raccoon dogs (animals that look like raccoons but are actually genetically closer to foxes) mixed with markers of SARS-CoV-2, as the coronavirus was initially known. ‘Now we have definite proof that animals were there that could carry coronaviruses at the time of the outbreak,’ said Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based nonprofit that supported controversial virus research in Wuhan before the 2019 outbreak.” • Just eesh. Nobody should be quoting Daszak, not because of his Wuhan Lab conflict per se, but because his EcoHealth NGO was an absolute cesspit dysfunction long before Wuhan. Also, “lab origin” vs. “market origin” is wretched framing; it’s not geography that’s at issue; the question is whether evolution, acting through natural selection, could have produced SARS-CoV-2 in the wild, or whether SARS-CoV-2’s aesthetic qualities (functionality; beauty) mean the virus could only have been engineered by a human (the watchmaker hypothesis. Note that there is also a[n], er, variant of evolutionary origin, namely that “wild” SARS-CoV-2 somehow got loose in the market — and nowhere else? — due to bad handling in the lab). We also note, as the article does not and should, that the racoon dog “story” was released to the Atlantic first, before being published anywhere else, not even as a preprint (which indicates that the scientists behind it, whether their science be sound or not, are now behaving like a faction engaged in hand-to-hand combat with an enemy, a regression not unknown in academia generally).

“Lab Leak or Not? How Politics Shaped the Battle Over Covid’s Origin” [New York Times]. “Some Republicans grew fixated on idea of a lab leak after former President Donald J. Trump raised it in the early months of the pandemic despite scant evidence supporting it. That turned the theory toxic for many Democrats, who viewed it as an effort by Mr. Trump to distract from his administration’s failings in containing the spread of the virus. The intense political debate, now in its fourth year, has at times turned scientists into lobbyists, competing for policymakers’ time and favor. Dr. Relman is just one of several researchers and like-minded thinkers who has successfully worked the corridors of power in Washington to force journalists, policymakers and skeptical Democrats to take the lab leak idea seriously. But the political momentum has not always aligned with the evidence. Even as the idea of an accidental lab leak has now gained standing in Washington, findings reported last week bolstered the market theory. Mining a trove of genetic data taken from swabs at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan in early 2020, virus experts said they found samples containing genetic material from both the coronavirus and illegally traded raccoon dogs. The finding, while hardly conclusive, pointed to an infected animal. The new data from the market suggests that China is holding onto clues that could reshape the debate. But for now, at least, the idea of a lab leak seems to have prevailed in the court of public opinion: Two recent polls show that roughly two-thirds of Americans believe that Covid probably started in a lab.”

“Genetic evidence of susceptible wildlife in SARS-CoV-2 positive samples at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, Wuhan: Analysis and interpretation of data released by the Chinese Center for Disease Control” [Zenodo]. FINALLY, here is the paper. There is a long introduction, which will doubtless be controversial, about how they got the data on which the paper is based. From the Abstract: “Using metagenomic sequencing data publicly available on GISAID, we provide evidence for the co-occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 and the genetic material of susceptible wildlife in environmental samples from the Huanan market during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This finding corroborates reports of putative intermediate animal hosts for SARS-CoV-2 being sold live in the market in late 2019 and adds to the body of evidence identifying the Huanan market as the spillover location of SARS-CoV-2 and the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.” • I see how the report “adds to the body of evidence,” but I don’t see how one can “corroborate” anything “putative.” Anyhow, worth a read to keep abreast of the controversy.

* * *

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!

Case Data

BioBot wastewater data from March 20:

Lambert: Note that if we look at “the area under the curve,” more people have died after Biden declared that “Covid is over” than before.

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.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from March 11:

NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Anyhow, I added a grey “Fauci line” just to show that Covid wasn’t “over” when they started saying it was, and it’s not over now.


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

-1.9%. Still high, but at last a distinct downturn.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,151,778 – 1,151,642 = 136 (136 * 365 = 49,640 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).

Excess Deaths

NOT UPDATED (but updating). Excess deaths (The Economist), published March 7:

Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model. Again, we see a high plateau. I”m not sure how often this updates, and if it doesn’t, I’ll remove it. (The CDC has an excess estimate too, but since it ran forever with a massive typo in the Legend, I figured nobody was really looking at it, so I got rid it.

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

* * *


This account is still up. That makes me happy.

Mr. Market:

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 37 Fear (previous close: 29 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 19 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 21 at 1:36 PM ET.

The Conservatory

“A24 Acquires Talking Heads 1984 Concert Film ‘Stop Making Sense’, Will Restore In 4K For Theatrical Release” [Deadline]. “Stop Making Sense stars core band members Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz and Jerry Harrison along with P-Funk Bernie Worrell, Alex Weir, Steve Scales, Lynn Mabry and Edna Holt. The live performance was shot over three nights at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre in December 1983 and features such memorable Talking Heads songs as ‘Burning Down the House,’ ‘Life During Wartime,’ ‘Take Me to the River,’ ‘Psycho Killer’ and ‘Once in a Lifetime.’ The band, whose style was a blend of art-punk-funk rock, was propelled by legendary producer Brian Eno.” • Great band, great concert, great movie, and especially great on the big screen:

Some good calls in the lyrics. “Anybody have any questions?”

Zeitgeist Watch

“…Burn People Tomorrow” [Mister Slang]. “This is a (somewhat broadbrush) taxonomy of slang’s leading obsessions according to my own researches (the numbers indicate relevant headwords, all counts gradually increase with additional research): Crime and Criminals 5012; Drink, Drinks, Drinking and Drunks 4589; Drugs 3976; Money 3342; Women (almost invariably considered negatively or at best sexually) 2968; Fools and Foolish 2403; Men (of various descriptions, not invariably, but often self-aggrandizing) 2183; Commercial Sex & Sellers 2007; Sexual Intercourse 1818; Terms of Racial or National abuse (including ‘white’): 1783; Homosexuals (male and female)/-ity 1700; Penis: 1441; Policeman / Policing 1246; Vagina 1180; Beat or Hit 1079; Varieties of Vocalizing 958; Masturbate/-ion 945; Mad 926; Die, Death, Dead 831; Anus or Buttocks 728; Defecate/-ion & Urinate/-ion 557; Kill or Murder 521; Promiscuous / Promiscuity 448; Unattractive 392; Oral Sex 334; Fat 282; Anal Sex 267; STDs 255; Swearing and Oaths 253; Vomiting 227. As I have suggested on many occasions: humanity at its most human. The lexis of the unfettered id rather than the self-restrained superego.” • I’m not sure this post really has a thesis, but if this is the resource you need, here it is.

“New Data Shows FTC Received 2.8 Million Fraud Reports from Consumers in 2021” [FTC (LawnDart)]. “Reported fraud losses increase more than 70 percent over 2020 to more than $5.8 billion. The FTC received fraud reports from more than 2.8 million consumers last year, with the most commonly reported category once again being imposter scams, followed by online shopping scams.” • Imposters! How Wodehousian (though, actually, not). No doubt the breakdown gives the increase in the number of people defrauded, rather than the total dollar amount, which I would assume is a better indicator of a decline in social cohesion.

Class Warfare

“‘The most chilling metric of all’: Mike Rowe warns that 7 million American men are ‘done’ looking for work and have ‘punched out’ — why that’s a serious problem” [MoneyWise]. “While the U.S. labor market remains incredibly tight — with the economy adding another 517,000 jobs in December — around 7 million “prime age” men between the ages of 25 and 54 are reportedly sitting it out…. ‘They are affirmatively not looking for work. They’ve punched out. They’re done,’ TV host Mike Rowe said on The Brian Kilmeade Show, citing research from economist Nick Eberstadt… ‘The U.S. labor shortage will probably have to be solved by some combination of immigration, automation and recession,’ writes Eberstadt in an op-ed for The Washington Post, but adds this is ‘far from likely to reduce popular angst and discontent.’ ‘So what’s really happening in the country now that scares me right to my core fundamentally is that we’ve never had so much unrealized opportunity and so little enthusiasm for it.'” • What on earth does “unrealized opportunity” mean? And is there such a thing as a “realized unopportunity”? That seems more likely. Commentary:

Holy moley, look at the whiteboard:

News of the Wired

“DPReview.com to close” [DPPreview]. A comment: “Amazon will carry a huge black mark for this as long as we all live. DPReview is hands down the most important reference site for photographic product information on the planet and it’s hard to imagine how it can be replaced by the efforts scattered across many other sites. Indeed it’s reminiscent of what it would be like to lose Wikipedia. Intolerable corporate malfeasance. Information vandalism!” • It is.

* * *

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: “A wintry scene in Somesville, on Mount Desert Island, ME, with frosted white pines and spruce trees in the morning.”

This is Re Silc’s driveway:

Winter’s not over, folks!

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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. Wukchumni

    I lucked into a great deal on Jake Shimabukuru concert tickets, and got you all great seats, the ones you’re presently sitting in.

    He’s a Ukulele God, and worth the price of admission.

    Jake Shimabukuro – 3 Camera Mix – 04.19.18 – Sellersville Theater

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJFa9L86eg8 (1 hour 50 minutes)

  2. cgregory

    Didn’t Eugene Debs run for president from jail? Trump could do that and have bumper stickers of himself hanging on a cross.

    1. Carolinian

      Turley says it’s not impossible that a NY jury might convict but then the more likely to be successful appeal would probably drag out past the next election. So if Trump won that they’d have to come jail the president.

      I find it vastly depressing that the MSM are so eager to jump on this. If Trump is a clown–there’s a case to be made–they are far more ridiculous in their self important pronouncements on trivial controversies. Meanwhile the joke is on all the rest of us who have to endure this.

      1. Carolinian

        New Patrick Lawrence on Trump, the good and the bad and why the establishment hates him.

        It is yet more urgent for the Democrats and the national security apparatus to keep Trump out of the 2024 presidential race given Joey Biden’s shocking mental deterioration even since he assumed office two years ago. Did you see the video of Biden during his meeting with Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, in the Oval Office last Thursday? Note his demeanor. Listen to him. Cue cards to remember it is St. Patrick’s day? No wonder White House operatives with wired ears frantically shooed reporters out of the room when it came time for questions. Biden’s clinically out of it at this point.


  3. ambrit

    Biden should be very careful about picking any “high profile” person for campaign director. I seem to recall a campaign director a few years ago tasked with picking a Vice Presidential candidate. He chose himself and ended up running the White House from behind the scenes. I would not put something similar past Michelle.
    In another four years, if “Creepy” Joe manages to steal the election, instead of intoning “It’s her turn,” Michelle will softly utter; “It’s my turn.”
    It would also help Michelle out a lot if she could manage to drop a Kansas farmhouse on Hillary.

      1. ambrit

        Sorry! Twenty lashes with a wet organic brown rice pasta noodle for ‘badthinker’ ambrit!
        (It would be ironic if Michelle inherited a White House staffed with Munchkins.)

  4. ambrit

    Re. Re Silc’s driveway “herd.” Those ‘sheep’ are now transitioning into deer! (Per the aminal on the left.) Comrade Apparatchik Ret. Silc had better get the drinking water tested.

  5. Mikel

    “Insularity and shared purpose” means “bubble” but using seventy five-cent words. So does “Valley messiah complexes.” So does “the No. 1 object of fascination.” Didn’t a bunch of these people just foment a bank run?”

    Yes. Next time they’re going to blame it on AI (a refuge for those that don’t want to be held accountable for economic predation on steriods – they figure automate it and hope people’s brains continue to rot), but the money will still be in their pockets.

    “This scam is different” – NOT.

  6. flora

    re: “Trump not arrested! As of this writing… ”

    The optics of arresting T on charges no one else would touch for years would look so, so banana republic political. If ya wanted to practically guarantee T’s election in 2024 this is how ya’d do it. (Then T could pardon Assange because he’d have something in common with Assange. (Never thought I’d write that.) )

      1. Pat

        Unfortunate, but true. This is a group who still believes HRC was the most capable candidate ever, and have six years later still not grasped the incompetent idiot decided to blow off almost every not in the bag for Democrats state for the last four months of a campaign for an office where the electoral college are the votes that count. So reality is not their long suite.

    1. semper loquitur

      If he is arrested, and if he beats the charges, he will become a political kaiju. I remember reading some journalist somewhere who noted that when the Democrats mocked Trump for having gone bankrupt at one point, they missed the fact that significant numbers of Americans have faced bankruptcy. The fact that he overcame bankruptcy made him a hero in the eyes of many of his supporters. Now imagine when he walks out of the courtroom a free man…

      1. Wukchumni

        I know NC is a classy joint and to have a mugshot countdown ticker up in the right hand corner would be so CNN, but not if it was in Roman Numerals, just saying.

    2. John

      Remember the Saturday Night Live announcement: Francisco Franco is still dead? Update: Donald Trump is still a free man.

    3. Acacia

      Indeed. When this latest episode of “The Walls are Closing In!” started, I figured it must have been about 1/6.

      But no… it’s Stormy.

      Seriously, is this all they’ve got on him?

    4. ashley

      i wish they would ignore this case and go after pressuring georgia to change the votes and inciting 1/6. those are serious crimes to me, this is just a sex scandal a la clinton/lewinsky and trying to get clinton on perjury charges. nobody thats not blue-MAGA is gonna buy it, and as a result it threatens making a mockery of the other cases against him. the public is gonna see it as a witch hunt and then the serious crimes wont be taken seriously.

      i bet he wants to be indicted for that reason alone.

  7. pjay

    “They were all lying then, and Haas is lying now.”

    Thanks for reposting ‘Truth from These Podia.’ I’ve been reading a number of good critical retrospectives on Iraq in the alt media (Consortium News has a good collection up). But in the mainstream media it’s mainly the “mistakes were made”/”who could have known”/”best of intentions but … unintended consequences” bulls**t. They LIED, and they KNEW they were lying, and the destruction and Balkanization of Iraq was, at least by some in charge, an INTENDED consequence. For his role in swaying liberal fence-setters, if not the Security Council, Colin Powell deserves a special Oscar for lifetime achievement. And that vial symbolizing anthrax – I seem to remember that there *was* an anthrax attack that mirrored Judith Miller’s warnings, helped implicate Saddam in 9/11, fast-tracked the Patriot Act… and then disappeared from public discourse with nary a trace (oh yeah, we “solved” that mystery. I forgot). A very prescient choice of stage prop for sure.

    They lied then, and many of the same liars are lying now about Ukraine, with the same impunity.

    1. Lex

      Powell was the lead internal investigator for the Mai Lai massacre. He didn’t change, we did.

      It’s depressingly true about the same people calling the same bad shots and telling the same bad lies. The only job I ever wanted was to be in the foreign service. Got the offer in 2002. Couldn’t accept it because what was coming was too obvious. Looking back, I made the best decision of my life. I cannot imagine having to answer to the likes of Victoria Nuland. (Meaning I’d either be an alcoholic or a Russian agent, probably.)

  8. mrsyk

    Military Recruitment Events are a thing. We had them at my high school back in the 70s. The first and only one I went to was mandatory attendance in the auditorium. Memorable it was as one of the guys in uniform let rip from the stage with an AK (replica maybe?) loaded with blanks. The following years events were held outdoors and had optional participation. This was rural western Maine.
    What’s the unemployment rate for young men of color in AOC’s district? Supply meet demand. Why we don’t have and will never need a draft. I need a drink.

      1. mrsyk

        I’ll argue that AOC is providing a service for her district. I’m framing that (twice) in the reality of her/their surroundings.

        1. pjay

          Yes. By all means “thank you for your service” AOC. Let’s get those enlistment numbers up. We need to start beefing up our forces in Poland. I can’t think of a better use of a legislator’s time.

          1. mrsyk

            I’m not here to defend the lady’s character. I’ve never met her. My original comment(read it!) is an opinion on economic realities twice over and the crap it/they produce. If you want to paint AOC as an agent of the MIC (maybe she is) you’ll have to provide more evidence then her participation/organization(maybe?) in a recruitment event in her district to convince me. Otherwise your comment appears more like an in vogue hypocrisy alert kind of a thing which you really haven’t backed up.

            1. lambert strether

              It’s not a matter of character. It’s a matter of policy and constituent service.

              If AOC can’t do better by her young constituents than funneling them into a potential meatgrinder — and the Army is having trouble recruiting — she needs to rethink her legislative priorities. (At this point we might recall that Trump did disproportionately well in precincts with military casualties in 2016, so AOC’s transformation into a common or garden liberal Democrat may yield another New York Democrat debacle in the coming years.)

              1. mrsyk

                I’d argue that constituent service is what AOC is all about. I’ll link to an example at the end. How exactly does a congress critter secure millions for these decidedly progressive causes? I’d wager it’s bending the knee. If it was I, congress critter syk, and I had to choose between securing federal funding to improve social services for my constituents, or toe the moral high ground with no chance of changing anything, well, it’s an easy choice.
                It ain’t a perfect world. 30,00 foot views are useful academically, but it’s just wind up there.
                A first hit googling “what has AOC done for her district”.

              2. IowanX

                Just an oddball reference point, but I have been getting ads for Retired People! Want a Military Job?— on Twitter—and I have never seen that before in my life.

            2. pjay

              I know little about her character and nothing about her motives here. My comment refers exclusively to the objective facts of this situation as described. If described correctly (admittedly never a certainty), then she *is* serving as “an agent of the MIC” here, is she not? My snarky “service” comment refers to what that invitation means in the big picture. Lambert makes the rest of my point better than I probably would. I wasn’t criticizing your original comment (which I did read) but the optics of her “service” in this case.

              1. mrsyk

                That’s fair, but I will submit that amongst her constituency there was demand. And no, I don’t support sending are youth to the meat grinder. Yes it would be great if she could provide other paths out the economic destitution for (all of) them. That’s a heavy lift, lip service promises of a better tomorrow. I urge you to hold the reality of these young peoples existence dear as you consider this, because that’s today and tomorrow and next year for them.
                As an aside, I coached high school age boys basketball for 14 (I think) years, kids drawn from neighborhoods in sw Harlem and the northern edge of the upper west side. I saw a few kids join up. I counseled against it, but they all were convinced it was a path out that they could negotiate.
                Anyway, apologies if I came off rude. I treasure the people here.

                1. anahuna

                  For whatever it’s worth, I agree that in a number of situations and given the available prospects, there are very few absolutes. I have certainly met “minorities,” (awful word) who were proud to serve and to advance in rank, even though they had few illusions about the various wars and the motives behind them. In other words, though her cheerleading for the Ukraine war disappoints and disgusts me, in this case I don’t see AOC as leading sheep to slaughter.

                2. Michael Fiorillo

                  SeeMy guess is that if challenged, she’ll make a Meritocratic/Identitarian argument that it was for the military academies, not general enlistment. After all, the Woke Imperium cares about disparities!

                  As for constituent service, I have acquaintanceswho live in Parkchester, a working class community in the Bronx (and in her district) where the management company is running it into the ground, with many of its wonderful terra cotta sculptures being destroyed. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is nowhere to be found, and totally unresponsive to appeals for assistance.

          1. mrsyk

            True that. I’m just the kind of guy that eats half the apple even if the other side’s gone soft. She’s doing good things in her district. See the link in my reply to Lambert. There’s no doubt she’s made a deal with the devil. That fiddle of gold might yet be made to play sweet music if it can be pried away from its original owner.

      2. ambrit

        Perhaps an Amazon Wh—house? (White House? Could be. A lot depends on how accurate the Kansas farmhouse warhead is in the Hillary “extreme squashing event.”)
        Time to rehab Nan’s Closet?

          1. The Rev Kev

            Saw “Caligula” in Amsterdam and it was not, ahem, the historical film that I thought it would be. Maybe the best line in that film was when this guy asked Malcolm McDowell/Caligula if he was not afraid of pushing the Senators too far such as having their wives and daughters act as prostitutes at an orgy and he replied that he did not know what else he could do to push and outrage them.

          2. ambrit

            I did indeed. Even as a callow youth I recognized the difference in picture quality between the, ahem, inserts, and the ‘original’ film. I really would like one day to see the Gore Vidal version of that film.
            Trailer for the remake of Gore Vidal’s “Caligula.” Definitely NSFW (18 and up.):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpUzCyLiMmM
            IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0796207/
            What is truly humbling is that there really is nothing new under the sun.
            The Roman Empire had Caligula and the other ‘perverse’ leaders. We have Clinton and the Epstein Frequent F-er Club.
            I take note of the fact that Gore Vidal grew up in the governing circles of Washington D of C. He was an aide to his uncle, the blind Senator Gore. (There is a fairly close connexion between Vidal and Al Gore.) His father was an early proponent of aviation, a New Deal aviation director, and evidently a lover of Emelia Earhart. So, take what Vidal writes about the distant past as an oblique telling of events and personalities much closer to our day.
            Stay safe, if you can.

    1. Verifyfirst

      I found this AOC recruitment thing confusing, given her past opposition to military recruiting of poor young kids, so I turned to Teen Vogue. Apparently what she had at this fair was military service academies, so that constituents who were interested in these elite institutions could easily obtain congressional member nominations. So maybe she was standing there all day, next to the academy representatives, hand-writing nominations for kids she had never met before? Doesn’t quite pass the smell test.


  9. Tim

    I went to Palm Springs this weekend from San Diego. It really stood out that EVERY service worker (restaurants, entertainment, stores, etc.) in the city seemed to be wearing a mask.

    I don’t know if there is a local law requiring it or if every business has come to the conclusion they don’t want to repel or kill off their clients which are nearly all in at-risk elderly age groups.

  10. Val

    “common critiques of the war get it wrong when they conclude that the US government cannot ever be trusted to tell the truth”– CFR Haas, sublimating…

    That ain’t a critique, its a heuristic. A critique would, of necessity, be much more expansive.

    Though if anybody can recall an example of (non-Trumpian) US government telling the truth in real time, please nudge my heuristic.

  11. fresno dan

    Revisiting America’s War of Choice in Iraq” [Richard Haas, Project Syndicate]. Haass is President of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Still, common critiques of the war get it wrong when they conclude that the US government cannot ever be trusted to tell the truth. Yes, the US government maintained that Iraq possessed WMDs, and my boss at the time, Secretary of State Colin Powell, made that case before the United Nations. It turned out not to be true. But governments can and do get things wrong without lying.” • That may well be true, but it’s not true in this case. My first summer of blogging — I keep retelling this story, I apologize, but for those who came in late — was devoted to playing whack-a-mole as the Bush administration, aided by a complaisant press[1], emitted one WMD story after another, only to have them debunked, at least in the then blogosphere, within days, often within hours. The yellowcake uranium! The aluminum tubes! The mobile weapons labs! And imagine my surprise when [genuflects] Colin Powell held up an already debunked vial of white powder at the UN as proof of WMDs, to justify the war [slaps forehead].
    You know what that reminds me of? Russiagate. You know what else it reminds me of? Ukraine.
    Which just goes to show that people who are determined to lie – actually, I will be nuanced. It is not lying, or at least simple lying, as much as not telling the truth. Subtle, but important in using legal and journalist criteria to continuously make charges that are continously found to be baseless. Plausible deniability The obstinate refusal to NOT ask certain questions, not apply logic, believe people who have been wrong time and time and time again. And the great, well, actually bad thing about America, is that afterwards there is absolutely no consequences. NO memory. In America, being wrong is often the path to career advancement.

    1. lambert strether

      [1] Knight-Ridder, later McClatchy, was the only news organization that didn’t buy into WMDs. Last I checked, they were on the market for pennies on the dollar, with the newsrooms gutted. Meanwhile, the dominant papers in the Acela Corridor, WaPo and the Times, both of whom assiduously assisted Bush in “catapulting the propaganda,” went on from strength to strength. Look on my works, ye mighty…

      * * *

      I forgot to add that note in the post, so here it is.

    2. The Rev Kev

      And when it was all over, all those war pundits looked around and realized that they had gotten away with it. Nobody that mattered called them out on their bs. People who opposed them were either sidelined or fired while they themselves were rewarded and promoted. And then that made them wonder what else they could get away with.
      And then came Russiagate.

  12. Class Traitors?

    This article is circulated on LinkedIn now. It really got to me in the context of class warfare.

    So the guy is a freelancer and he feels we must hear him out when he betrays a full class of employees that have managed to get a job where you don‘t have to do very much because 1) non-tech don‘t understand what they do and can’t measure and 2) a well developed guild-feeling, maybe even class-feeling, working together to protect the secret.

    I love upper class traitors that help society become better by attacking the elites but class traitors kicking down-wards are not particularly heroic.

    To some extent I can symphatize with the frustration of having bullshit jobs because I would rather do nothing at home than having to go to the office to do nothing but that doesn‘t mean I need to rat out every colleague, does it?

    „ I’ve been employed in tech for years, but I’ve almost never worked“


  13. JBird4049

    Okay. It would merely look like a Banana Republic to the remaining eighty percent or so. Personally, even if I was still a faithful Democrat, I would have to wonder about the optics of using such thin gruel against a former president especially. Previous presidents could have been charged with more fraudulent acts.

    Anyways, there are good reasons why no such charges have been pressed against any other president in the past 236 years. But obviously this time since it’s Trump, who is an uncouth baboon, which somehow makes it justified.

    I wonder how our elites would have handled Abraham Lincoln seeing that he was born in a log cabin, never went to college, and got his license to practice law by reading the law. I would have to check to see if he actually was apprenticed to anyone.

    But back to my main point of rage. It is like they want Trump to become president again and/or stir up the population. Is that the goal? To gain money and fire up the fanatics instead of actually winning elections?

    That would make it a grift like so much else in this country.

    1. OwlishSprite

      Thanks, I love Cory Doctorow so much. I read through his links, and something about my problems lately with reading articles online became clear. I am sensitive to syntax and struggle a lot with comprehension when the syntax is not something I am used to. I have been struggling a lot more lately and being up there on the dark side of my 60s worry about the condition of my marbles. I saw this:

      [Emily] Bender’s most famous contribution is the “stochastic parrot,” a construct that “just probabilistically spits out words.” AI bros like Altman love the stochastic parrot, and are hellbent on reducing human beings to stochastic parrots, which will allow them to declare that their chatbots have feature-parity with human beings.

      At the same time, Altman and Co are strangely afraid of their creations. It’s possible that this is just a shuck: “I have made something so powerful that it could destroy humanity! Luckily, I am a wise steward of this thing, so it’s fine. But boy, it sure is powerful!”

      I am wondering just how much AI generated text is being used all the time now. Can’t teach an old crone like me new tricks.

      1. JBird4049

        >>>I am wondering just how much AI generated text is being used all the time now. Can’t teach an old crone like me new tricks.

        About that, I am trying to switch over from Firefox to Brave as it seems better especially with privacy, but Brave has put a new summarizer feature, which would be fine except for the AI summaries that are garbage. I only noticed after reading summaries I saw some that were nonsensical, or I knew were wrong, and they had the same flavor of other quotes from Chat GPT

        I forgot what my queries were about, but it was like asking a question about the Moon and reading “NASA discovered that the Moon was made of sandstone after the Eagle landed in 1972. We likely have AI created content being scooped up by another AI and being presented as factual in the first line of search results after some queries.

        I can’t prove it and I could just be wrong myself, but I assume that Brave’s AI copies the other AI created summaries of the kind written by a program or AI like Chat GPT (or stuff written by human pranksters or ignoramuses) as the text looks fine, if you just skim it. But if you do not really read it, or just do not know enough, you are likely to be really misinformed. IIRC, none of the problem answers were quoted from Wikipedia; it might have been better if they had been, despite its many problems, as it is written and checked by humans. At least it was when I last check.

      2. Greg

        The answer is “lots and lots is being used already”, even before the very powerful models like GPT, there have been sufficient generators of pablum for decades.
        Sadly, doesn’t answer why you’re struggling – these machines just spew out poor copies of existing text, so the decline in the quality of written word lies at the feet of the humans who did it first.

  14. Watt4Bob

    If you ask me, and I know you were thinking of doing so, it’s obvious that them what’s in charge have no interest in actually indicting Trump.

    They want to do only the very minimum necessary to stop him from running for election, and so far, that’s proving difficult.

    The problem seems to be that Trump is the least criminal of the choices being offered.

    My guess is that it is feared that should Trump be indicted, it would break the log-jam holding back indicting the Clinton and Biden crime families at the very least, which might in turn might lead to investigating BushCo, and where will it all end?

    1. jsn

      Sort of like a “phishing equilibrium”, a “phuckhead equilibrium” is established when all the power player are so rotten, any exposure to sunlight, however peripheral, would be fatal to all: for one to decisively act against another is to risk its own sudden death while putting at risk allies and enemies alike.

  15. Louiedog14

    This whole Great Iraqi War Reunion and Rehab Tour is really overcookin my grits.

    If the government isn’t busy lying to you then it’s only because they’re too busy dissimulating, prevaricating, equivocating or downright fibbing. These people were positively HORNY for war, like barnyard animals in rut. It was really disgusting.

    And the backlash against the anti-war people was a bit more heinous back then too, although at least there WAS an anti-war movement.

    I don’t know, maybe time has distorted my memory, but I do distinctly remember feeling for the first time like I was living in a country that had gone feral. And now the Frums and Haases want absolution. Piss off.

      1. John Zelnicker

        I wouldn’t be as good without you, Wuk. Many thanks.

        Stay safe, stay dry, as hard as that might be.

  16. nippersmom

    Of course Pelosi couldn’t follow through on her promise to impeach Bush. The testimony at his trial would have revealed her own complicity, and that of many of her fellow Democrats.

    1. lambert strether

      It was 2023 – 2006 = 17 years ago, but I don’t recall Pelosi promising to impeach Bush; do you have a link?

      A cursory search turns up Pelosi blathering about impeaching Bush over WMDs; I argued at the time that he should have been impeached over warrantless surveillance, which involved — I know this seems quaint now — the commission of multiple felonies. Possibly torture at Abu Ghraib, too.

      1. Jason Boxman

        This is when I started to realize liberal Democrats smelled funny. I didn’t finally quit the orange satan until 2010, though, having started reading NC by then. It was linked to by a post I think on OpenLeft before Bowers defected to orange satan. He seemed to be an early call on Obama’s crap cabinet nominations, and I realized Obama was crap before he was even sworn in. It’s all been further downhill since then!

  17. JM

    Seems like PBS is going to have a 2 hour episode of American Masters about our own Tony Fauci tonight. I’ve never really watched that show, but was under the impression is was about Artists, so not sure how they’re arguing this one; not that I’d watch it anyway.

    1. RA

      I recorded it. It’s a 2 hour documentary where they followed Fauci around starting in early 2021. So they skipped the — we don’t need no stinkin’ masks — part. I don’t expect it to cover his great work in the AIDS battle either.

      In the early part he seemed pretty happy for the new administration (Trump gone) and now he could freely share the “scientific truth”.

      I made it about 20 minutes into the 2 hrs and then I had to stop watching for health reasons. Maybe I’ll try again in small doses while monitoring my blood pressure.

      1. ambrit

        Be very careful. Like repeated bouts with the Coronavirus, (New! Improved! Just like the 1918 Flu!) the damage from watching this PBS entry in particular is cumulative.
        PBS has discovered a new type of “medical” damage: Cognitive Sequelae. It’s completely reenergizing the Mind/Body debate.

  18. Jason Boxman

    All these Twitter posts about masks over the years, and people are still excited about N95s. Why not elastomeric? Replaceable filters. Better filters. With or without exhaust vent options. Straps for a tight fit. Been doing it for 9 months without any complaints.

  19. Jason Boxman

    The NY Times tries to rehabilitate the crap CDC. And it blames Trump!!

    As the months wore on, E.I.S. officers worked 16-hour days, seven days a week, at nursing homes, meatpacking plants, airports and cruise ships, doing shoe-leather epidemiology — recording patients’ symptoms, tracing their contacts and charting the spread of the virus.

    But many of their reports — including ones on when the virus arrived in the United States, guidance for meatpacking plants and religious services and on the risks to children — were suppressed or altered beyond recognition by the Trump administration, several said. (The House select subcommittee on the pandemic concluded that the Trump administration had meddled in or blocked at least 19 reports.)

    Morale plunged after a May 2020 report estimated that imposing social distancing measures one week earlier in March 2020 would have saved 36,000 lives.

    At a family gathering, her brother, who wanted to organize a rally against vaccine mandates, told her he did not trust “government scientists.”

    “I told him government scientists are people exactly like me, your sister — a person you hopefully trust,” she recalled. It made no difference.

    No accounting for the murderous decisions post-Trump, because vaccines!! I guess.

  20. Onward to Dystopia

    The media has largely whistled past the (1,000,000+ dead) Iraq War 20th anniversary graveyard. Most of what I heard was the usual something-something good intentions, something-something blunders, mistakes were made, something-something who coulda thunk it???
    Well, there were plenty of voices back then raising concerns and if I could find them on dialup internet ’02, I’m sure the media coulda done so. But these are people who will never, ever forgive you for being right about the Iraq War. It was a mistake, and saying otherwise is just gauche and not for polite company. Like something Trump might do, for goodness sake! Don’t harsh my mellow.
    One thing though — never in my life did I think I’d see the neo-cons taken seriously again, much less back in power. But even Trump brought Bolton in, and here we are with ’em in total control of this administration. The Dems love war, they love cops, they love DHS, NSA, CIA and the FBI. My only naïve misconception is thinking for a little while that they had some problem with any of this.

    1. ambrit

      Donna sold her soul to the Hierophant Hillary for a mess of pottage. As anyone paying attention knows, the Devil, or Official Devil’s Representative is like the Supreme Court. To them, Contracts are sacred.

    1. ambrit

      Re. the Greek interview show with Yanis Varoufakis.
      Put on the subtitles and read through the interview. This is what American ‘talk shows’ lack, candour and disagreements that do not degenerate into screaming matches.

  21. Raymond Sim

    I’m late to this, and only cursorily checked to see if anyone else addressed it, so apologies if I’m redundant, but yes Lambert your horizontal vs vertical rectangle explanation of the area under the curve is meritorious heuristics. It’s literally the first approximation to the area under the curve, which whether we’re dealing with official case numbers, complaints to that candle company, or wastewater detection, is the value which, provided we know enough about the correlations, will tell us how many covid infections there have been.

    There is one difference between the high peak and high plateau scenarios that strikes me as likely significant: A high peak may represent more individuals infected versus more reinfections under a high plateau. I have an unpleasant hunch that high peaks represent a recruitment phase and high plateaus a grinding phase, preparing the way for the next variant capable of high-peaking.

    And that may be at hand – there’ve been some very sharp peaks in wastewater levels around the Bay Area. I didn’t do any numbers but they look skewed towards wealthier areas. I believe this is the pattern to be expected from a newly imported variant with high immunoevasion.

    Oh, and since I was just looking at the wastewater stuff, a word to the wise: Monkeypox is still with us, it keeps popping up here and there all over California. I haven’t noticed it in the news, so I suspect it’s being misdiagnosed. I wonder how many understudies Something Awful has?

    1. lambert strether

      Thanks. I will try to think of a quick way to add this information to the cases chart.

      I think I could add shading using InDesign, but what I think I really need is a way to calculate (a) the numbers under Biden’s Omicron peak and (b) the numbers under the “high plateau” starting more or less in May 22.

      I think (a) < (b) but (b) is a dynamic quantity and I wish I knew a quick and easy way to calculate it.

      1. Raymond Sim

        I’m afraid I know next to nothing about that sort of thing, my experience mostly being limited to explaining to engineering students, 40 years ago, why the new software didn’t mean they no longer needed to understand the definition of the Riemannian integral.

        However, surely there’s somebody reading this who could help? I’d be amazed if what you want to do can’t be very easily done.

  22. The Rev Kev

    “‘The most chilling metric of all’: Mike Rowe warns that 7 million American men are ‘done’ looking for work and have ‘punched out’ — why that’s a serious problem”

    ‘So what’s really happening in the country now that scares me right to my core fundamentally is that we’ve never had so much unrealized opportunity and so little enthusiasm for it.’

    Who knew that consonantly reducing wages and removing conditions to the point that it could cost workers to have a job when they include things like accommodation and transport would result in blowback? If this was a problem, then raise wages and conditions. The fact that the Feds raised interest rates to deliberately shut down wages shows that this will not happen. Include the fact that several States are bringing back child labour shows you what businesses want to do. As Lambert says though, the dogs are not eating the dog food.

  23. fresno dan


    Zach Despart Mar 20, 2023 New: Previously unreleased investigative interviews w/ police officers who responded to the Uvalde school shooting revealed they abandoned their plan to quickly confront the gunman after learning a crucial piece of information: He was armed with an AR-15.
    The first responding officers told investigators that entering the classroom would get them killed, repeatedly referencing the fact that the rifle’s bullets could penetrate their body armor, our investigation found.
    Almost a year after Texas’ deadliest school shooting killed 19 children and two teachers, there is still confusion among investigators, law enforcement leaders and politicians over how nearly 400 law enforcement officers could have performed so poorly. People have blamed cowardice or poor leadership or a lack of sufficient training for why police waited more than an hour to breach the classroom and subdue an amateur 18-year-old adversary.
    But in their own words, during and after their botched response, the officers pointed to another reason: They were unwilling to confront the rifle on the other side of the door.
    Saying the police were cowards or saying they were afraid of an AR-15 strikes me as one and the same thing. But I feel this from the article says it perfectly:
    We are taught to respect law enforcement officers because they do a dangerous job, and we should. But you can’t have it both ways: I deserve respect because I risk my life every day for you, but…not if it is scary. We don’t give cops guns to shoot unarmed* people, you know. It is for those scary situations when lives are in danger.

    AND how many cops have been fired for cowardice? If it is not a real criteria of the job, and no cop can be fired for coardice, than maybe we need to dial back how brave we think cops are…
    * actually, we do.

    1. The Rev Kev

      You know how cops can pull over people and just take their money and keep it? And the way they do that is through a dodgy legal idea where they sue that money as it being made from illegal activists? (so would you have a case of the United States vs, $9,873.40?) Maybe those Uvalde cops can break new legal ground by suing that AR-15 for those crimes. So you would have the legal case of The City of Uvalde Police Department vs AR-15 Serial Number 121451. I’m sure that they could get a legal conviction. And so long as all bullets had been removed from that AR-15, that they would feel free to challenge it.

      Still think that people should have sent the Uvalde police a white feather.

  24. lyman alpha blob

    Laurence Tribe’s belief that long time pro-establishment DC fixer Bill Barr was brought in to protect Trump displays his complete misunderstanding of the political situation. He is likely being deliberately obtuse though, partisan hack that he is and not wanting to admit Bill Barr was there to protect Blobbies like Laurence Tribe.

  25. upstater

    Norfolk Southern East Palestine wreck:

    NTSB: Some East Palestine tank car pressure relief devices were compromised

    WASHINGTON — The pressure release valves on some of the tank cars carrying vinyl chloride in the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment of a Norfolk Southern train may have been compromised, the National Transportation Safety Board said today.

    The valves maintain internal pressure at safe levels by venting material to reduce the potential for a catastrophic tank car failure, the NTSB said following an initial round of tests on the pressure release devices on the five derailed tank cars.

    The NTSB had previously indicated concern that aluminum covers for the valves had melted and may have interfered with their ability to function

    The pressure relief valves would have allowed much less venting of vinyl chloride than the “controlled” demolition that vented the entire contents which then burned or flowed on to the ground and water.

  26. Lex

    Guilty or innocent, the arrest of a former president over something exactly zero rich white men would normally get arrested for is a lot like the last two elections being “contested” by the losing side and both sides already talking about how the next will be stolen. I believe the bad orange man would say this is the sort of thing one sees in “shithole countries”. He wouldn’t be wrong.

    So in the spirit of “are we the baddies?” One probably has to ask “are we the shit hole country?” The answer is yes. Yes we are.

  27. Jason Boxman

    What makes the prosecution of Trump a farce is that W Bush is still free. Full stop.

  28. Carolinian

    Consortium also has a new Diana Johnstone on how Germany is now openly doing the things that Taibbi is exposing in The Twitter Files

    What is remarkable is that in Germany, the establishment, the media, the BfV and notably the police have taken up the term “cross-front” (Querfront) with the same opprobrium as the Antifa movement where it is used ostensibly to enforce the ideological purity of the left. Initially it meant a rightwing appropriation of leftwing themes intended to seduce and mislead leftists into fascist combinations. The historical basis of the term lies in unsuccessful coalition attempts of rightwingers in the late Weimar Republic in a context of intense rivalry between strong Nazi and Communist movements vying for working class support, totally unlike the political atmosphere of today.

    In the absence of either a strong Nazi or Communist movement, the term is currently used to denounce any cooperation, or even contact, between leftists and movements or individuals described as “extreme right.” This label is frequently based on not much more than opposition to unlimited immigration, denounced as racism.

    By this standard, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) opposition party (with 78 out of 736 seats in the current Bundestag) is “extreme right.” Since most Bundestag members critical of arming Ukraine come either from Die Linke (Left) party or the AfD, the anti-crossfront vigilance condemns in advance a broad, open antiwar opposition.

    In other words the establishment in Germany like the one here is using the excuse of “protecting” us while really protecting themselves and their hateful designs. It’s ethical upsidedown-ism being used to befog the public and if not befogged in Germany, at least, you can simply put then in jail. When fascism comes it will be called antifascism.

    It’s not that bad here yet. Will it be? One would like to think that the paranoia of the governments of both countries reflect a weakness that cannot last.


  29. some guy

    In the woodthrush recording, I only hear the one woodthrush singing. Somewhere around timepoint 3:20 it stops and then I hear an extremely far off woodthrush start singing. And keep singing. But the near one stopped before the far one started. Unless the near one flew away very fast, stopped far away, and started singing again.

    That’s how it sounded to me.

  30. Pat

    When I was a naive forty something in the run up to and aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, I remember desperately contacting my elected representatives begging them to recognize that this was an act of war being done on false premises. I literally wrote them and sent them links debunking most of the lies up to that time. And I nearly sobbed when all of them voted yea on AUMF. Clinton’s bait and switch speech trying to have it both ways, political ambitions you know, was the end for me.
    So here we are a little while later and the majority of Democrats have turned against the invasion. And there is much hoopla on electing a Democratic majority and one of the big selling points to change representatives is impeachment of GWB. Sure Pelosi wasn’t yet majority leader, but she sure as hell wasn’t telling her voters or any other voters that impeachment was off the table before the election. It was one of the first times I recognized the SOP which is Democratic elected officials playing bait and switch, or Lucy with the football. The format may change, the impediment certainly changes, but old hands can almost count down to prize being snatched away.
    I have multiple theories as to why we were never allowed that impeachment especially after the two frivolous impeachments of Donald Trump. (sorry but Iraq and the destruction of Constitutional rights by Bush and his administration are true high crimes which could and should have been utterly exposed to the public even if conviction was unlikely.) Besides the always present genuflecting toward MIC/Intelligence support because of the largesse to their projects it enabled, and the many powerful donors that approved of course. My favorite is that it would have exposed that except for the less than twenty Congresspersons and Senators who just didn’t vote, everyone knew the justification was false and approved an action that guaranteed the deaths of hundreds of thousands, including a goodly portion of Americans, and would cost trillions that did nothing except make things worse. And soon it was going to be one of those politician’s turn. They couldn’t allow Bush’s lawyers the opportunity to point out every self serving cowardly Democratic vote to approve this bunkum. Or to approve the thugs that sold it. And too many of them had wanted and pushed for unconstitutional surveillance to be given the false patina of legality. Nope, there could never be an impeachment of GWB without laying bare how they were for it before they were against it. So Pelosi played the Sinema/Manchin role that time.

    Ever since there has been betrayal and criminality on such a level it almost numbing.

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