2:00PM Water Cooler 3/22/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Wood Thrush, Sapsucker Woods–Severinghaus Trail, Tompkins, New York, United States. “Song.” Quite the virtuoso!

* * *


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

“UPDATED: Senate committee punts vote on Biden’s pick to head up FAA” [Politico]. “The nomination for Phil Washington, who is currently CEO of Denver International Airport, has been in question since he was first nominated last year, with some Republicans arguing that he lacks relevant aviation experience. Soon after his nomination, reports emerged that Washington had been caught up in a politically tinged corruption probe out of Los Angeles County related to his time at Los Angeles’ transit agency. The California attorney general eventually halted that investigation, but questions have lingered since. Moments before the committee was set to vote on the nomination, Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said from the dais that his nomination will be considered ‘at a later date.’ She gave no further explanation. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said the vote was postponed due to ‘one person,’ but would not say who.” • I’d expect Buttigieg to be front and center on this. Personnel is policy, after all.

Biden Administration


Trump not arrested! As of this writing…

“Trump news – live updates: Indictment decision on hold as grand jury cancels Wednesday hearing” [Independent]. “The Manhattan grand jury investigating Donald Trump’s role in hush money payments to Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election will not be meeting today. This delays any decision as to whether Mr Trump will become the first-ever president to be indicted on criminal charges. It was believed that the panel was expected to hear from at least one more witness before it votes on whether to indict the former president. Should he be indicted, the former president would be expected to appear for an arraignment sometime next week. In a sign that his looming indictment could be giving him sleepless nights, Mr Trump was posting on Truth Social late into the night on Tuesday.” • But the walls are closing in! (I’ve helpfully underlined the worst example of Kremlinology that I have seen in some time.)

“The Legal Intricacies That Could Make or Break the Case Against Trump” [New York Times]. “And the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, may have to pull off a difficult maneuver, connecting the hush-money cover-up — a potential violation of state law — to a federal election.” There’s no “may have to” about it; the statute of limitations on the hush money violation has passed. More: “[T]here is a possibility that the case will rely on a legal theory that has never been evaluated by a judge. A New York Times review and interviews with election law experts strongly suggest that New York state prosecutors have never before filed an election law case involving a federal campaign. Bringing an untested case against anyone, let alone a former president of the United States, carries the risk that a court could throw out or narrow the case.” Why on earth wasn’t this story written weeks ago? More: “But for falsifying business records to be a felony, not a misdemeanor, Mr. Bragg’s prosecutors must show that Mr. Trump’s “intent to defraud” included an intent to commit or conceal a second crime. That crime could be a violation of election law, under the theory that the payout served as a donation to Mr. Trump’s campaign, because it silenced Ms. Daniels and shut down a potential sex scandal in the final stretch of the campaign…. Mr. Trump’s lawyers have said that the theory that the money amounted to a campaign donation is fatally flawed. One of the lawyers recently argued in television interviews that Mr. Trump approved the payment to protect his family from false accusations, noting that Mr. Trump has long denied a sexual encounter with Ms. Daniels.” • Well, since Bragg didn’t arrest Trump on Tuesday, I guess he’s going to straighten all this out today, and then arrest Trump on Thursday? Of course, I suppose he could arrest Trump at 5:00PM on Friday. What fun that would be!

“Trump fundraises off possible indictment” [The Hill]. “Former President Trump is taking advantage of his possible indictment coming this week by sending out numerous fundraising emails asking his supporters to donate to his third presidential campaign…. The email added that Trump knows ‘true vindication’ will come on Election Day in 2024, when he says he will take back the White House. The email asks for donations, urging the supporters to send a contribution to the Trump campaign “at the critical moment.'”

“Fake AI images of ‘Trump arrest’ hit internet” [The Hill]. “The images, created using artificial intelligence software (AI), show what appears to be the a large group of New York City Police Department officers arresting the former president as he resists be detained. Some of the images that were posted on Twitter even depict Trump being forced to the ground, while another image shows him running away from the police officers. The text in the images, like on the police officers’ uniform, is garbled — an indicator that they were fake. Eliot Higgins, founder and creative director of investigative collective Bellingcat, first shared these images Monday on Twitter, and they have gained traction over the last several days. He explained in a tweet that he used MidJourney V5 — an AI software that creates images from a written prompt — to form the images. That prompt that he used read ‘Donald Trump falling over while getting arrested. Fibonacci Spiral. News footage,’ and it produced many of the images that were posted on Twitter. Some users retweeted the photos without context, which could lead to misinformation spreading about Trump’s potential indictment.” • You don’t say. Good to know Higgens isn’t just a spook and a hack, but a Democrat spook and hack. What were the odds?

* * *

“DeSantis Privately Called for Google to Be ‘Broken Up'” [ProPublica]. Quite possibly popular among small businesses; see “The People Powering Amazon’s Trickle Down Monopoly” below. More: “Florida governor Ron DeSantis has frequently railed against ‘Big Tech.’ He has accused Google, Facebook and Twitter of silencing conservative voices. But in private, DeSantis has gone even further. In previously unreported comments made in 2021, DeSantis said technology companies like Google ‘should be broken up’ by the U.S. government. DeSantis, widely considered a presidential hopeful, made the remarks at an invite-only retreat for the Teneo Network, a ‘private and confidential’ group for elite conservatives. ProPublica and Documented obtained video of the event. ‘They’re just too big, they have too much power,’ DeSantis said. ‘I think they’re exercising a more negative influence on our society than the trusts that got broken up at the early 20th century.’ He added that large tech companies ‘are ruining our country. They’re a very negative influence. And so I think you need to be strong about it.'” • A bell that’s hard to unring — once rung in public.

“DeSantis opens Pandora’s box” [Axios]. “Hours after igniting outrage in Trumpworld with a shot at Trump over the former president’s alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, DeSantis told [British journalist Piers Morgan] that the ‘underlying conduct’ in the Manhattan DA’s investigation is ‘outside my wheelhouse.’ ‘At the end of the day as a leader, you really want to look to people like our Founding Fathers,’ [not Lincoln?] DeSantis said when Morgan asked if personal conduct in a leader matters. ‘[I]t’s not saying that you don’t ever make a mistake in your personal life, but I think, what type of character are you bringing?'” And: “‘I don’t know how to spell the sanctimonious one. I don’t really know what it means, but I kinda like it, it’s long, it’s got a lot of vowels,’ DeSantis joked, referring to Trump’s ‘Ron DeSanctimonious’ moniker.” ‘• Dude, you’re from Yale. If there’s anything a Yalie knows how to do — George W. Bush, after all, was a Yalie — it’s how to spell “sanctimonious.”

2020 Post Mortem

Sanders on Obama’s Night of the Long Knives:

Warren really is a snake. I think she still looks in the mirror and sees a President, heaven help us all.

Democrats en Déshabillé

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

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

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

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

* * *

Federal taxes don’t fund Federal spending:

So Sanders is proffering a fine example of auto-kinbaku-ji.

“The Progressive Takeover of Nevada’s Democratic Party Is Falling Apart” [The Nation]. “Over the past two years, the Democratic Party of Nevada—once, under Harry Reid’s tutelage, one of the most formidable political machines in the country—has been riven by divisions. In 2021, a pro–Bernie Sanders group managed to take over the state party and to capture key positions. Afterward, Reid’s allies walked, taking with them key voter data, hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations, and senior personnel, who regrouped under the auspices of the Washoe County Democratic Party (Washoe is home to Reno, the state’s second-largest city). They proceeded to establish National Democratic Victory, which Sanders’s supporters promptly denounced as a shadow party. The new leadership then embarked on what can only be described as a two-year flounder, failing in most of its efforts to activate a large, energized, progressive base, and ceding organizing ground and the image of political competence to the Washoe-centered grouping. Now nearly two years on, and one messy midterm election cycle later—a midterm in which the incumbent Democratic senator eked out a win, but the governor was defeated by his GOP opponent—that intraparty upheaval has reached its zenith.” And: “There are lessons in these elections: There is plenty of room for radical politics out West, and plenty of room for candidates looking to shake up the status quo. In many ways, it remains a petri dish in which new, and experimental, political ideas and alliances are cultivated. But at the end of the day, voters also want tangible results. Whitmer’s mediocre tenure, and her election defeat last week, is a wake-up call: If Democrats want to continue to hold power in places like Nevada, they need a party political machinery led by leaders who aren’t just idealistic but are also competent.” • Of course, competence is less easy to achieve than it should be; the Washoe County Democratic Party sounds a lot like Parliamentary Labor, sabotaging Corbyn at ever turn. What I wonder — not being from Nevada and having discovered, to my horror, that I subscribed to Jon Ralston’s newsletter — is how solid Whitmer’s faction was rooted in the working class (and unions in particular). Were they simply “idealists”?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Fascism Drove Ukraine to Civil War. It Could Soon Do the Same to America” [Internationalist 360°]. “This process of defeat for Banderism that we’re now witnessing is the inevitable product of Banderism’s foundational ideas. This is an ideology that, upon its formation during the country’s Nazi collaborationist era, was created with the implicit acceptance that a civil war would be entailed in its rise to power. This is because its goal is to murder, terrorize, or forcibly relocate the entire Russian-speaking segment of Ukrainian society. Such a project was of course going to be met with resistance…. Within our generation, the equivalent type of conflict could happen in America. Such is the conclusion that can be taken away from the analysis by University of Alberta terrorism and criminology researcher Temitope Oriola, who’s said that ‘To avoid violence, the country needs urgent reforms [in the] criminal justice system.’ Oriola observes how a domestic insurgency could come from a black community that’s been driven to desperation by intensifying poverty and state violence, and such a civil conflict could indeed initially arise from these particularly subjugated parts of society. But this insurgency, and its adjacent popular struggles that utilize different tools than arms, has the potential to gain a broader base than black people. Because with work by the communist movement, it could act as the catalyst for a proletarian revolution, an uprising that’s participated in by workers of all colors. Should this breakdown of the country’s peace come—and I feel anyone paying attention on some level knows it’s coming, since neither party will make the concessions needed for keeping the peace—it will be America’s Ukraine moment.” • Hmm. It seems to me that if there is “revolutionary” energy, it comes from reactance among conservatives. It’s also worth remembering Mike Duncan’s thesis that revolutionary splits go all the way to the top of society, and include every class. Does anyone see that?


“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

“Six instances when Mr Rogers made the world a better place by being his wholesome self” [Upworthy]. “Model Chrissy Teigen also once tweeted one of her favorite stories. ‘Mister Rogers would narrate himself feeding the fish in each episode with ‘I’m feeding the fish’ because of a letter he received from a young blind girl who was worried the fish were hungry. Love you, Mister Rogers,’ read Teigen’s tweet.” • Indeed! Not Covid-related, except implicitly.

* * *

“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

Readers, any anecdotes on ventilation in boardrooms?


A long thread from an (Australian) mask designer. This caught my eye:


So people campaiging about “psycho-physiology effects” of mask-wearing have a point, though not the one I would have thought.

• I don’t suppose some kind reader has PDFs of the ISO 16976 series lying about? Perhaps in draft form?

Oakland votes for masks:

Scientific Communication

The concept of layered protection (“Swiss Cheese Model”) seems very difficult for people to get their heads around:

“Masks don’t work.” “They work as part of a protocol, which also includes avoiding 3Cs spaces, watching ventilation, opening windows….” Others add vitamins, diet, etc. I don’t get why people don’t get it. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been accustomed to the cold. You add layers until you’re warm enough. I’m no risk analyst, and I stumble trying to follow Taleb, but it also seems to me that betting your survival on the one perfect thing “that works” is a risk-of-ruin scenario. The same approach is needed for climate, too; tranches of improvement, not just one thing (like shooting magic chemicals into the sky).


“COVID-19 and Traffic Accidents: Is a COVID-19 Personality Disorder Caused by Viral Damage to the Prefrontal Cortex?” [Infection Control]. Should have added this yesterday; my bad. From 2022, still germane: “However, we must consider the possibility that the observed behavior aberrations may directly result from the infection and the central nervous system damage it has caused. This theory centers around damage to the frontal lobe in the area of the prefrontal cortex…. The prefrontal cortex acquires and implements the ‘rules of the game’ needed to participate in our society. A particular area of the prefrontal cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex, is the essential area of the brain. It is also important in the modulation of antisocial behavior and in the modulation of reactive aggression. In other words, the prefrontal cortex is involved in determining when aggression is and is not appropriate. An autopsy study recently published in Nature also found extensive distribution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus throughout the body, including the brain…. There have been multiple studies that have documented damage to the frontal cortex with COVID-19. One of the first studies was a UK Biobank which described a ‘deleterious impact’ of SARS-CoV-2 on the olfactory cortical system, along with a reduction in grey matter thickness in the orbitofrontal cortex and damage to tissues connected to the primary olfactory cortex. This damage was associated with a reduction in brain size…. For those treated at home with uncomplicated respiratory symptoms, the decline approximated an average of a little over 1 IQ point (calculated from Figure 2 in the paper). Unfortunately, repeated infections can cause additive damage in those with long COVID-19; thus, even small decreases in IQ may become substantial. Thus, we must avoid reinfections.” • Hmm.

* * *

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

NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from March 20:

Lambert here: 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.

The Ides of March. OK, that was last week, but you know what I mean:

Lambert here: This chart again debunks the talking point that Covid is seasonal. More importantly, despite the prevasive conviction that “Covid is Over,” we’re entering this March with cases at a higher level than any previous March. Of course, we may be just plateau-ing along. But still, I wouldn’t have expected this.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from March 18:

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. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections.


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published March 22:

-1.4%. Still high, but we’ve now reached a point lower than the low point of the last valley.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,151,882 – 1,151,778 = 104 (104 * 365 = 37,960 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.

* * *

The Fed: “Stocks Edge Down Ahead of Fed Rate Decision” [Wall Street Journal]. • At 2:00!! This is so exciting.

UPDATE The Fed: “Fed Raises Rates but Nods to Greater Uncertainty After Banking Stress” [Wall Street Journal]. “Officials sent a hint that they might be done raising interest rates soon in their postmeeting policy statement. “The committee anticipates that some additional policy firming may be appropriate,” the statement said. Officials dropped a phrase used in their previous eight statements that said the committee anticipated ‘ongoing increases’ in rates would be appropriate.” • Because this is the stupidest timeline, I was betting on half a point. That’s why I don’t play the ponies!

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 42 Fear (previous close: 38 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 18 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 22 at 1:46 PM ET

The Screening Room

Diminishing returns for the Tolkien franchise, if there’s any justice in the world:

Must we strip mine every existing narrative?

The Gallery

“Ai Weiwei’s Lego Version of Monet’s Water Lilies” [Kottke.org]. “Lego bricks and Impressionism are a natural pairing, and so Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has recreated Claude Monet’s massive Water Lilies triptych with 650,000 Lego bricks. Spanning nearly 50 feet across, the Lego sculpture is part of Ai’s upcoming show at the Design Museum in London. Here is a tantalizing behind-the-scenes view.” • A close-up pof Weiwei’s brushwork:

Zeitgeist Watch

“Torment Nexus” [Know Your Meme]. “Torment Nexus is a trope of creating a product that was originally described in fiction as something that for the benefit of humanity should never be created. Spawned by a viral tweet, the catchphrase “Don’t Create the Torment Nexus” has been used to describe such occurrences. Examples include MoviePass’ eye-tracking technology, similar to a Black Mirror episode, and Netflix’s Squid Game reality show, based on a show of the same name that was intended as a commentary on capitalism and human exploitation.” • At some point in the not-too-dim past, we had a discussion about finding a word for all the little impediments put in our way by gatekeepers trying to screw is out of the delivery of services, especially services that ought to be universal concrete material benefits. Phone trees, “missing” data, logins that don’t work, losing people put on hold, asking you things only they know, and so forth. My word was caltrop, which didn’t take (nor should it have). It strikes me that “torment nexus” might be the right word. One might conceive, for example, of ObamaCare registration as a series of torment nexuses. Or any rancid customer service experience, many of which have been described by Yves as part of her project of altruistic punishment for evil-doers. Creating a chain of torment nexuses would be one implementation strategy for crapification. See also Dark Patterns.

“Six Recent Studies Show an Unexpected Increase in Classical Music Listening” [The Honest Broker]. “Over the last 12 months, I’ve started to see surprising signs of a larger audience turning to classical music… [T]he impact is clear. Starting about 12-18 months ago, something shifted in music consumption patterns…. In the past, elitist institutions gave classical music support because the grassroots audience was so small. Now the resurgence is happening on the ground level, and the petrified institutions that dominate our culture aren’t even paying attention. I could lament this gap between perception and reality. But instead I prefer to celebrate it. What’s happening among the audience is what really counts. That’s always been true and always will be true. If powerful decision-makers at the BBC and elsewhere don’t recognize this, that’s their loss. This shift started with little or no support from the top. And it may even become more vibrant if out-of-touch mangers and administrators aren’t involved.” • I’ve seen a lot of classical music, back in the day, both in Montreal under Dutoit and in the legendary Philadelphia Orchestra. I say go for it! The enormous mass and precision of a top classical orchestra can be exhilirating. It’s not for Q-Tips at all! This whole piece is well worth a read.

Class Warfare

“Down East wreath business cited for record-keeping and workplace safety violations” [Maine Public Radio]. “This past Christmas season, as it has for many years, the nonprofit Wreaths Across America coordinated the placement of wreaths at thousands of graves at Arlington National Cemetery and other military burial grounds, generating glowing headlines for honoring those who sacrificed for the country… But behind the scenes is another story. It’s a story of federal labor department fines against Worcester Resources for failing to submit required reports on illnesses and injuries involving the mostly migrant workforce of wreath makers. The company has also been penalized for violating rules on workplace safety and housing conditions. The company and its affiliates have been fined more than $21,000 by the federal Department of Labor and its agencies for 10 violations since 2017, records show…. The latest Worcester violations were settled in May, less than two months after Worcester Resources announced plans to build the 2,500-acre Flagpole of Freedom development in Columbia Falls. The Worcesters say it would attract 6 million visitors and 5,000 employees, most of them year-round. At Worcester’s request, the Legislature passed a bill last year that would allow the project to avoid review by a state planning commission by allowing Columbia Falls to annex some 10,000 acres of Worcester’s property. But town officials have since grown concerned about the impact of the development on the small town, and Worcester has said it “paused” the project while assessing funding options. Town voters will consider a moratorium on new development on March 21.” • That’s yesterday–

“Columbia Falls votes to pause Flagpole of Freedom project” [News Center Maine]. “olumbia Falls residents voted to establish a moratorium temporarily pausing all large-scale developments, including the Flagpole of Freedom Park. A total of 63 voted in favor of the moratorium, while 17 voted against the measure. The ordinance takes effect immediately, putting a 180-day delay on all large-scale developments to give the town time to create regulations like zoning or a building permit ordinance. In 2022, the state passed legislation to annex about 10,000 acres owned by the Worcester family, which made the piece of land part of Columbia Falls. That takes the burden of planning approval off of the state and puts it entirely on the small town. Prior to Tuesday’s vote, Columbia Falls didn’t have any land use ordinances. A Columbia Falls selectman, Jeffrey Greene, said the town has seen multiple proposals for big developments it might not be ready for. ‘It’s [Flagpole of Freedom Park] really the largest, one of the largest proposed projects in Maine state history in this tiny, little town,’ [Columbia Falls selectman, Jeffrey Greene] said. ‘Then it was just really more incentive to get on top of our ordinances that we have in place.'” • 63-17. Once again, there are not very many of the Shing. How come whenever we hear the word “freedom,” it’s always a cover for some kinda scam, in this case screwing the workers?

* * *

Prolix, but worth a read:

“The People Powering Amazon’s Trickle Down Monopoly” (interview) [Moira Weigel, Tech Policy Press]. The “people” are not workers, but sellers, mostly small business. WEIGEL: “I started interviewing people. After you speak to a dozen, a couple dozen people, you start to realize or I started to realize that I was hearing certain stories or versions of certain stories again and again, what a social scientist might call saturation, what we call saturation…. there were a few … narratives that recurred and even specific phrases that recurred… But among the English speakers, I repeatedly heard these three phrases of the Old Times, the Wild West, and the Jungle.” The Old Times: ” In that era, when Amazon offered sellers was basically just an online catalog, and subjects described to me faxing Amazon to apply to sell to it, giving Amazon their cut, and then every day, or couple of days or week, whatever it was, Amazon would send them orders with the names and addresses of the customers, and they would mail them off. So, in that era, people who got into it were mostly people with pre-existing small business experience.” The Wild West: “Shortly after introducing the Prime program or subscription for customers in 2006, 2007, Amazon undertook this renovation of the third-party marketplace and importantly, opened their warehousing and fulfillment or logistics services to third-party sellers…. [B]y 2010, they launched this program called Fulfillment by Amazon that sellers could use, paying Amazon to do those things for them as a service, and that also became obligatory in most cases to be eligible for Prime, for Prime shipping. So sellers were strongly incentivized, if not practically required to use that.” The Jungle started around 2015-2016: “[T]his metaphor of the Jungle was really talking about two things. It was talking about the marketplace getting denser and more complicated, less the open terrain where you could scale in a very rapid way relatively easily as some people did in the Wild West period. Much more competitive, much trickier in terms of all sorts of policies, and regulations, and programs. … [T]he main causal factor, the main thing that had changed was that Amazon opened their global, opened their marketplace in the US globally…. [China has] 50% of all sales to the US marketplace. So all third-party sales through Amazon.com come directly from China. Amazon has tried to recruit merchants, particularly in South Asia and increasingly in Latin America, especially in Mexico, to sell through the platform, especially in light of growing geopolitical tensions and instability between the US and China. But in practice, for better and worse, what opening the platform globally meant was a flood of Chinese manufacturers and small capitalists coming onto the marketplace, and that changed the dynamics dramatically in ways that everyone I spoke to pretty much recognized and saw as impacting their daily life. On the Chinese side too, of course.” INTERVIEWER: “[I]n the jungle, there’s a ‘killer be killed’ mentality.” • Hmm. I wonder if this could be mapped to Doctorow’s cycle of enshittification.” And also: “WEIGEL: The average Amazon seller pays upwards of 50% of every sale to Amazon, which to me at least was a shockingly high number. The most recent robust number I’d heard for that was from a few years ago and was more like 34%, 35%. But to the extent that small businesses or state project, public resources go towards supporting small businesses. I think it’s important to recognize that if Amazon is increasingly taking 50%, 55% of a piece of every sale a small business makes, that’s a matter of public interest and not just, not just to the sellers.” • Paging Stoller on that one, though he probably knows it.

News of the Wired

“The ‘Everything Shower’ Goes Way Beyond Shampoo and Conditioner” [Wall Street Journal]. “Sales of hair products grew 22% in 2022 compared with the previous year, according to market-research firm Circana, formerly IRI and the NPD Group. Hair masks and scalp products have jumped the fastest: 30% and 47%, respectively…. On TikTok, the everything shower trend is showing how consumers use a parade of hair, body and skin products during showers. The process can often last closer to an hour. There were nearly 123 million views by Monday for the #everythingshower hashtag on TikTok.” • A jump in automobile accidents, classical music on the rise, and now people spending an hour in the shower…. My head is spinning!

* * *

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 JL:

JL writes: “The flower of an epiphyte on the side of a tree fern.”

* * *

Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated:

If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Water Cooler on by .

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. digi_owl

    Here is one for the wired: Apparently Reddit was down for 5 hours the other day because Kubernetes, the system used for managing their servers, stopped using the term “master”.

    1. hunkerdown

      I was wondering when Newspeak would finally break something important.

      The neighbors did not appreciate the howl of laughter that issued forth in response to that bit of information, btw.

    2. Glen

      We saw something similar at work. Master branches used to be the default name for the primary branch in Git, GitLab, and GitHub. The name has been switched to main:

      Why GitHub renamed its master branch to main

      I assume it’s some sort of PC move. I don’t know, I’m an old fart nerd which means pretty out of touch with this stuff.

      But what’s equally crazy is that this implies Reddit has completely automated deploying the software to the “world”. We don’t do that where I work becasue a mistake would be very expensive.

  2. Jason Boxman

    Remember when some hack writer at Jacobin argued that Warren and Sanders were really the same lane, the same policies. Yep. LOLz on that. And now I’m getting unsolicited text messages from liberal Democrat campaigns. it is gonna be a long 18 whatever months. Trump running from jail might at least be amusing.

  3. griffen

    Tolkien. I recall seeing Return of the King in the movie theater, possibly opening night. Nearly four hours long, for any movie, doesn’t immediately make said film an epic. Bladders get full, Peter Jackson !!

    I can’t sit through the Hobbit films myself. One day, maybe, I will do so. I don’t feel as if I missed out not seeing them yet and I think it’s about 10 years since the first of those Hobbit films was first released.

    1. digi_owl

      As i recall, most movies are kept just sky of the 2 hour mark specifically so that the theaters do not need to include bathroom breaks.

        1. digi_owl

          Likely back when you could buy a single ticket and stay the whole day, as i seem to recall reading that families packed lunches and did just that.

          Basically it was a precursor to broadcast TV, as the content would be a mix of episodic movies and newsreels.

          1. Carolinian

            My bro watched Parent Trap three times in a row. That Haley Mills–what an icon.

            For awhile our mom worked downtown and the nearby theater made a good babysitter.

          2. Joe Renter

            The good old days. I remember that double features were the norm too. A candy bar cost 5 cents back then. Dating myself. Fast forward to high school, and the drive-in theater was a social event, where one would sneak a buddy in the trunk of the car to get away from paying. And we would bring a couple beers too. Was life simpler then?

          3. ron paul rEVOLution

            >Likely back when you could buy a single ticket and stay the whole day

            Can you not still do that? ;)

          4. Michael Fiorillo

            Loew’s Sheridan theater, an old movie palace on Seventh and Greenwich Avenues in Manhattan: thirty-five cents for a Saturday afternoon of Dean Martin/Matt Helm, ancient b&w Batman serials from the ’40’s and assorted cartoons. Moms would drop the kids off, and Irish “matrons” in white uniforms and flashlights would keep order. As coincidence would have it, I saw a wall from it collapse as I was crossing Seventh Avenue on the last day of school in 1969., and it was demolished shortly thereafter.

      1. JustAnotherVolunteer

        TCM has screened several “big” films lately that all included: an overture or entrance music, an intermission, and exit music. Films included Ben Hur, Around the World in 80 Days, and How the West Was Won. Very different times.

        1. Slaine

          Intermissions disappeared in the US after the 1970 release of “Tora, Tora, Tora”, which was one of the last of the roadshow type releases. “The Godfather”, released in 1972 at nearly 3 hours long did not get one, even though I think patrons would have preferred one. I’d like to see the intermission return, especially if filmmakers today want to make films over 2:15 in length. It’s nice to get up and stretch after 2 hours of sitting!

      2. griffen

        Now I got to thinking, which is dangerous to borrow a quote from Bull Durham. Favorite movie running times, personal favorites which can run the gamut I suppose. Below are plus or minus accurate on the quoted run times.

        Alien released in 1979. 1 hr 55 minutes.
        Unforgiven released in 1992. 2 hr 10 minutes.
        Shawshank Redemption released in 1994. 2 hr 20 minutes.
        Ex Machina released in 2014. 1hr 50 minutes.

        Two and half hours seems like an approximately reasonable time allotment to present a plot and build it and conclude it. Added comment, I enjoyed the LOTR films by Peter Jackson and the Two Towers is the one film I enjoy above the others.

  4. Wukchumni

    Should this breakdown of the country’s peace come—and I feel anyone paying attention on some level knows it’s coming, since neither party will make the concessions needed for keeping the peace—it will be America’s Ukraine moment.” • Hmm. It seems to me that if there is “revolutionary” energy, it comes from reactance among conservatives.

    Breakdown of the peace would also involve saying bye bye to our salad days of being the world’s reserve currency, probably wouldn’t be worth a tinker’s damn-the formerly almighty buck, but the 400 million blows possible from guns that won’t lose their value, means you ought to think more in the way of Chinese Warlords, initially all small arms stuff as that’s what the populace has oodles of, and then expect other nations to keep us supplied with enough to kill lots of us, kind of what we’ve been doing since WW2 to oh so many other countries peoples.

    Payback is indeed, a bitch.

    1. pretzelattack

      if things devolve here to that point, somebody might use tactical nukes. . just another path to doomsday i guess.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > ‘976 has been revised thrice in the last two years.

      Do tell. How did you find that? Ideally, I would have all the parts, including the drafts…. I’d also like very much to know who is on that ISO Committee. Like, Dr. John M Conly? Because that would be bad.

      1. hunkerdown

        I misread the standard section number as a version number for some reason. Sorry! China doesn’t have much respect for standards as IP, so a web search for something like “16976 pdf” hits pay dirt surprisingly often. Emailed you a few more, with full text (rather not burn my too-simple, too-effective techniques so casually just now).

        Technical Committee 94, Subcommittee 15: Respiratory protective devices is apparently administered by DIN, for what that’s worth. I don’t have any more information on that.

  5. nathe

    i can’t find it now but i remember that just before the debate where warren attacked bernie as anti-woman, supposedly off-camera (but not really) after the debate was over, giving personal force to the bernie bros story, a few days before, warren had a private meeting with obama. i always suspected that he, who was behind all the dropping out and supporting biden stuff, told her that if she could knock bernie off, she’d become the standard bearer, that he could go with her in a way he couldn’t with sanders. i wonder if notice of that meeting is available somewhere, obviously not the meeting itself.
    on the other hand bernie didn’t speak up when they tried to screw him in iowa, and he didn’t get jesse jackson to speak up for him till after south carolina. he ran a weak campaign. but still, she shafted him on national television.

    1. digi_owl

      I think i read somewhere that Bernie’s pick for campaign manager back then was in the woke camp somehow.

      1. Arizona Slim

        That would have been Faiz Shakir.

        ISTR Lambert doing a post about Shakir, Chuck Rocha, and Jeff Weaver, and how they didn’t help Bernie’s 2020 campaign, even though they were running it.

        1. Mark Gisleson

          Tbf, Shakir, Rocha and Weaver didn’t invent Russiagate to excuse their loss to Clinton.

          Then again, losing to Clinton in a rigged nomination process was significantly less professionally embarrassing than losing to a talk show buffoon you handpicked to be your opponent.

      2. some guy

        How many people ” in ” or “on” the Sanders campaign effort were really secret Clinton embeds and infiltrators, tasked with destroying the Sanders campaign from within?

        If seekers of Social Democracy ever start a Social Democrat Party with the plain vanilla name of Social Democrat Party, they will need a very powerful counter intelligence division from the very first day to keep Clinton infiltrators ( and Obama infiltrators) out of their party.

      3. petal

        I was so disappointed when at his rally here, he filled it with the latest woke lines instead of an economic message. It was like someone had flipped a switch from 2016. Couldn’t believe it.

        1. semper loquitur

          Was that the event where two women of color “stormed” the podium? Bernie performatively stepped off to the side to finally Let the People Speak! It’s their turn, d@mnit! Not even remotely staged, not at all, not even a tiny bit.


    2. Wukchumni

      Bernie got run over by the Donkey Show bus and then requested they put it in reverse and run him over again, just to be sure.

      It sadly reflects badly for the whole motley blue crew.

    3. some guy

      Does he write about that particular enshaftment in his book? I read at the time that CNN pre-co-conspired with Warren to set that up.

  6. LadyXoc

    Apparently, “master-slave” relationships are no longer a thing in electronic engineering or elsewhere.

    1. flora

      Ha. Are there still “motherboards” and “daughterboards”, not to mention “piggyback boards” ?

          1. hunkerdown

            I’d bet my 401(k) that the Stanford Newspeak Institute will rebrand those as “double-action” flip-flops within 20 years.

      1. Bart Hansen

        There are definitely motherboards. We ordered one for our ancient treadmill. Never heard of daughterboards. They may be called simply ‘chips’

  7. Jason Boxman

    It happen!


    Federal Reserve officials raised interest rates by a quarter-point on Wednesday, as officials tried to balance two conflicting problems: the risk of runaway inflation and the threat of turmoil in the banking system.

    The Fed move matched last month’s increase in size, lifting rates to a range of 4.75 to 5 percent, in one of the most closely watched decisions in years as conflicting forces left investors and economists guessing at what central bankers would do.

    1. Objective Ace

      I’ve got to hand it to them, I never thought monetary policy would be an area where the rich and poors could be treated differently. Expansionary policy for the rich, connected, finance and tech mavens, contractionary policy for everyone else

      At least previously some of the easy money policy would trickle down to the masses and Joe the Plumber could get a low mortgage on his house. No more!

      1. John Wright

        Low interest rates are not an unalloyed benefit to “Joe Plumber”.

        Joe Plumber who re-financed an existing high rate mortgage should benefit, but Joe Plumber who bought a home at a stepped-up price because low interest rates encouraged price appreciation might not.

        And someone who buys a house at a lower price in a higher interest rate environment conceivably may refinance later at a lower rate.

        But someone who pays a stepped up price may struggle to find a way to negotiate the original mortgage principal amount lower in the future if the price of their house falls.

        1. Objective Ace

          Given that rich funds like Blackstone have access to super cheap money and are intent on buying up the nation’s housing to rent out, those prices are going up regardless.

          The situation you describe only works if money is expensive for everyone

  8. KD

    Fascism Drove Ukraine to Civil War. It Could Soon Do the Same to America

    Fascist Ukraine has always been a CIA-funded operation since the end of WWII, and the Banderites wouldn’t be where they are without the Victoria Nulands of this world. There is that old rule about not $#!++ing in your own bed, be pretty unlikely that the CIA is going to bankroll Neo-Nazi’s in the US to conduct regime change. If anything, maybe the FBI would run a fascist operation to gain intel and entrap some extremists so they can scare the public into more repressive legislation. The Soviets had real resources and intel, and were running operations domestically during the Cold War and got nowhere on the revolution issue, and there were plenty of angry Black men prior to 1964.

    I don’t see an American revolution, it would be more like a revolutionary shrug akin to Eastern Europe after the Cold War.

    1. digi_owl

      Perhaps because it is hard for CIA funded group over there to sneak men and material into USA proper, thanks to a couple of oceanic sized moats.

      Because in the middle east USMC has found itself fighting CIA trained and equipped groups again and again, thanks to how easy it is to slip across borders.

    2. some guy

      You don’t think Trump, Boebert, Greene, etc. etc. have millions of admiring and devoted supporters who would like to establish a Gilead Republic here?

      1. Daniil Adamov

        How many supporters you have and what they would like to do does not actually matter that much in a revolutionary/civil war situation. If it mattered, Russia post-1917 would’ve been taken over by the Socialist Revolutionaries – by far and away the most popular party with a widely-liked if somewhat incoherent program focused on agrarian reform. Instead, a completely marginal party with frankly pathetic electoral performance (badly losing an election even after carrying out a coup and a crackdown on rival electoral campaigns) managed to take over most of the Russian Empire. What matters in those situations is having enough armed, organised people willing and able to kill; not supporters and sympathisers as such.

        There are surely some who meet this description among those millions you mention, but probably not more than in the US armed forces (even if one counts supproters within said armed forces). As such, I don’t think they have a revolution in them, at least for now. Some local insurgencies, maybe, but those would be very limited and soon crushed.

        1. lambert strether

          IIRC, one thing I learned from Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast is that the Bolsheviks in St. Petersburg organized a battalion (?) of machine gunners in the Tsarist army. Came in handy!

          1. Daniil Adamov

            Exactly. Except for a few months after the takeover, the Bolsheviks never enjoyed the support of most peasants, and their grip on workers throughout the Empire was tenuous at best. Not a lot of workers here in the (comparatively rustic and affluent) Urals were particularly keen on them as I recall. Petrograd was better. But the mainstay of their support was among disgruntled soldiers and sailors, who were, of course, the exact best group to have on your side under such circumstances.

        2. KD

          Yes, and if you look at the Spanish Civil War, between the Clerical people, the Carlists, the Conservatives, the Capitalists, the actual Fascists, the Moroccans, the Army, it was something of a miracle that Franco was able to pull everyone under his roof. If that hadn’t happened, and the Republicans had unified behind the Bolsheviks, it could have easily been Red Spain (just as if the White Russians could have unified, they might have defeated the Reds). . . but nothing to do with popular support, just unity of command and access to committed soldiers, weapons and munitions.

          1. But What Do I Know?

            Read Homage to Catalonia–might put a dent in your talk about unifying behind the Bolsheviks

            1. Daniil Adamov

              I imagine it would have went the same way it worked in Russia. I wouldn’t recommend it. (Certainly not to any leftist politicians hoping to stay alive and out of prison at least.) But: it would almost certainly have altered the outcome of the civil war, which is the point in question.

    3. Daniil Adamov

      If by Eastern Europe you mean the smaller Warsaw Pact countries and not the Soviet Union proper, I don’t see that being the model for America. The most important fact there was that communist governments were reliant on foreign backing; once it was withdrawn, they fell with barely a fight. The US government is not in the same boat. (It might still manage to self-destruct the way its Soviet counterpart did, though. Maybe that’s the way of it with “proposition nations”.)

      1. KD

        My mental image for the American “revolution” is a bunch of guys with night sticks will come out and tell people to desist, and the crowd will just say “Whatever” and then someone in the goon squad will note “what the F do we care anymore anyways, they just froze our pension benefits” and they will walk off, leaving the investment bankers and the politicians to defend the American Order single-handedly.

        1. JBird4049

          I would be more focused on the military, militias, and even the very few armed leftist groups as American police tend to be be unwilling to risk their lives or even serious injuries. That can change of course, but if they start doing mass shootings on protesters expect people to start firing back.

          While money and weapons are important, if you don’t have people willing to risk dying, you are almost sure to lose. If you do have willing sacrifices* who are organized, you have a contest.

          Being a soldier means being willing to be killed, not being willing to kill.

          1. JBird4049

            Americans might still be willing to die for their country, certainly for their families and friends, perhaps even for an idea or an ideology.

            How many people are willing to die for the extremely corrupt corporations, Wall Street, and parties; this whole bunch has destroyed this country and holds the bottom 80% in contempt, and I believe the majority of the people knows this regardless of their personal beliefs.

            1. Daniil Adamov

              “Who will fight for Abramovich’s yacht?”

              (Though for that matter, quite a lot of people are willing to “fight for Putin’s palace”, if they think, rightly or not, that they are also fighting for their country. That would surely work in the US as well.)

            2. tevhatch

              I know Southern Baptist who are ready to kill anyone who isn’t, and are waiting for the signal. The purpose of the police is to protect property, they only protect people in so much as they are someone else’s property.

  9. mrsyk

    “Federal taxes don’t fund Federal spending”. But they do in the mind of the voter. Optically “We pay the government. They provide stuff.”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yes, and one thing one would expect a politician with a national platform to do — especially one who is putatively an advocated of universal concrete material benefits — would be to straighten that sh*t out. Yes, it’s not easy. Politics is a hard job. So somebody should get cracking on how taxation really works. The “mind of the voter” is not immutable!

      1. mrsyk

        Agreed. If the masses ever find out that they could have had nice things they will not be happy. It’s this quote from the tweet that troubles me. “You and your darned “taxpayer money” malarkey ad infinitum and ad nauseam.” It’s turned the debate from why drugs should cost less into a MMT discussion.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > It’s turned the debate from why drugs should cost less into a MMT discussion.

          One reason drugs cost more is that fiscal policy is not an MMT discussion. Sanders has self-sabotaged his own advocacy; a case of auto-kinbaku-ji, as I point out.

          1. mrsyk

            True that. I guess I have a hard time knocking around an old guy who’s trying to make the cost of drugs less, even if he’s going about it wrong.

            1. lambert strether

              Really? I don’t see what age has to do with knocking Sanders, except that being Joe Biden’s lackey is a rotten way to finish a political career. The disproportion between hopes raised and minor fixes is a little bit much for me. Sanders would benefit greatly if more people around him pointed that out.

            2. ChiGal

              I agree. Like all of us humans and less so than most, Bernie has his weaknesses. But because no one else even came close to getting our hopes up, we feel most keenly our disappointment in him.

  10. LaRuse

    An hour in the shower? Really?

    I am laughing here, because clearly this means you don’t have a 15 year old daughter.
    An hour in the shower is my daughter’s normal routine, but she starts with a bath, and rinses with the shower. But her strict Tik-Tok-inspired regimen means it must be a at least every other day; preferrably every 3-4 days, althought she still does do a quick daily shower after every school day.
    And the array of products, masques, oils, and balms in our one bathroom is jarring.
    I’ll give her this: my daughter has better hair and skin than I ever did.

    1. mrsyk

      Last Wednesday, here in the southern greens, I had the pleasure of shoveling two feet and change of the heavy white off the roof to avoid being the subject of that tweet. I hope nobody got hurt.

    1. Acacia


      Re: “Torment Nexus”: that was my impression of cyberspace as William Gibson first described it — what would be called a “critical dystopia” in academic language — but then millions of people somehow got the idea that it was cool and that’s what the Internet should become in the future. The Metaverse is probably the most recent, albeit piss-poor, rendering.

    1. ChrisFromGA

      Thanks a million for doing this. Maybe time to add some soundtracks.

      So many good ones, I hope that there is a volume 2!

      1. ChiGal

        yes, I already downloaded the first one–thanks so much JZ for this. there are several I plan to share with carefully selected peeps–they need to both know the tune and at least be somewhat open to the point of view ;-)

      2. John Zelnicker

        There is Chris. I’m working on it now and your contributions will be an important part of it.

        Including the one you posted earlier this afternoon.

        Thank you and stay safe.

    2. ChrisFromGA

      With that inspirational post and today being Fed day, I thought I’d throw one on the fire:

      The pivot monger

      Sung to the tune of “The Wanderer,” by Dion

      Oh I’m the type of gambler who smells greed like a bloodhound
      When interest rates are low, well you know I’ll be around
      I pick up bankrupt retailers, cause to me they’re all the same
      I pump ’em and I dump ’em, the Feds don’t even know my name

      They call me the pivot monger
      Yeah, a pivot monger
      I monger for moar QE, for free, for free!

      Oh well, there’s a REIT-wreck on my left and there’s some crypto on my right
      And Bed, Bath and Beyond is who I’ll be with tonight
      And when they finally file for bankruptcy I’ll say “who cares?”
      I made my fast money, so just stuff it, bears!

      Cause I’m a monger
      Yeah, a pivot monger
      I monger for moar QE, for free, for free!

      Oh well, I monger for loose policy
      I contribute nothing to society
      And I’m as happy as a bee
      With my two fists full of dollars I’m on an unprosecutable crime spree

      Oh I’m the type of gambler who likes to roam around
      I’m never in one trade, I’m a simian Reddit clown
      I pick up bankrupt retailers, cause to me they’re all the same
      I pump ’em and I dump ’em, the Feds don’t even know my name

      Yeah I’m a pivot monger
      Yeah, a pivot monger
      I monger for moar QE, for free, for free!

      Oh I’m the type of trader who likes to roam around
      I’m never in one trade, I follow twitter clowns
      Then when I find myself underwater on my bets
      I beg for moar QE and scream “muh pivot” like I’ve got Tourettes

      Yeah I’m a pivot monger
      Yeah, a pivot monger
      I monger for moar QE, for free, for free!

    3. griffen

      Thank you for the compilation and all the work involved! I look forward to shuffling through them, as there appears to be a lot of material to work with (of course there is a lot of material).

  11. some guy

    Black people insurging? I remember a Black person once telling me that Black people are in-general deeply conservative. He said they have been mis-called “radical” because civil rights and human rights were mis-called “radical goals and desires.”

    Of course that was just one person’s expressed view . . . .

    1. Daniil Adamov

      From an outside perspective and going by global standards, the overall track record of African-American politics seems extremely moderate and restrained. I don’t believe in any large-scale insurgency among that demographic either. It’s the predominantly non-black far right that has (some) revolutionary potential in America.

  12. DJG, Reality Czar

    Torment nexus. Going to the posting at Know Your Meme, I find that the invention of the term ‘torment nexus’ smacks of an in-joke. So I’m leery.

    I happen to have discovered caltrops years ago, almost by chance. They are a handy invention.

    Also: What you are talking about in many instances is what goes by the name of Tax on Time here at Naked Capitalism. One is forced to do meaningless work “after listening closely because the menus have changed.”

    Wikipedia offers a good reason to know caltrops better:
    “Labour disputes[edit]
    Caltrops have been used at times during labour strikes and other disputes. Such devices were used by some to destroy the tires of management and replacement workers.

    Caltrops…were used during the Caterpillar strike in 1995, puncturing tires on vehicles crossing the picket line in Peoria, Illinois. Because of their small size and the difficulty proving their source, both the company and the United Auto Workers blamed each other. In Illinois, the state legislature passed a law making the possession of such devices a misdemeanor.[23][24]

    Hmmm. I’ve never heard the term ‘jack rocks.” Doesn’t make as much sense as caltrops.

    And nobody will ever try to make a torment nexus into a misdemeanor (which means the term is inherently harmless).

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      For whatever reason, “caltrop” never took, worthy candidate though it was. So, “try another” as FDR said. If it is an in-joke, it is so for a very large group of people. That’s a good thing, not a bad one.

      I think “tax on time” is one aspect of crapification. I’m pleased with conceptualizing crapification as a chain of torment nexuses. That is how it would appear to a professional crapfication designer, billing for their time. To the end user, if I may so call the one tormented, a tax on time would be one of the crappy aspects (other being a diffuse sense of anger and injustice, others not getting what is owed, etc.).

  13. Lex

    “At the end of the day as a leader, you really want to look to people like our Founding Fathers,” I like that people really believe that because most of them have a conception of those men from their HS history textbook or at best the hagiographic (propaganda) popular histories of them.

    Because it’s clear that our leaders do channel the reality of our Founding Fathers. I’m thinking more of Washington’s real estate dealings, Hamilton’s crushing small business with the Whiskey Tax, maybe Jefferson’s raping slaves and enslaving his own children, Washington engineering a war to get a permanent military etc. etc.

    But I’m in the burn the Constitution and start over camp. We can continue to look to the founders the way Russians look to Lenin: an important part of history but do we really want to do that again?

  14. XXYY

    Must we strip mine every existing narrative?

    I have heard from people in the film industry that in the present era, it’s impossible to get a film green-lighted if it isn’t attached to some other previous work, whether it be a book, earlier movie, TV show, video game, board game, or whatever. The marketing people who now run the industry are terrified to risk money on anything original.

    It’s a pretty horrific state of affairs. Future Hollywood historians, if there are any, we’ll look back on this as a very dark period in film.

    1. The Rev Kev

      The Critical Drinker was talking about this strip-mining of franchises in reference to the Star Wars franchise. And he said that he does not care any more as there is nothing there and compares the latest Mandolorian to watching a screen-saver-

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MidRtk8clp8 (10:04 mins)

      Very much worth listening to on how corporations and incompetent people killed off a monster franchise.

  15. Wukchumni

    Must we strip mine every existing narrative?
    You don’t want to go with untried creativity, what if it didn’t work, not that you’d know under current auspices.

  16. Samuel Conner

    re: the incomprehensibility of “Swiss cheese”

    I know people who give evidence of being incapable of distinguishing between “1% safer” and “completely protected” (no — that’s not an exaggeration; they also seem to be unable to distinguish “rates” from “levels”, so that “nearly empty and rapidly declining” is not distinguished from “full”). They wear, improperly, a poorly fitting procedure mask and imagine that they are protected enough to not worry; no need to “distance”, no need to shop at inconvenient hours, etc., etc.

    I suspect that there will in coming years be some “cognitive phenotype sorting” accomplished through differential survival. I wonder if that will affect the civil war.

  17. mrsyk

    I began to listen to classical music at the beginning of the pandemic. I’d played a record now and then before that, but the listening started with the permanent move back to my beloved Vermont on March 18, 2020. I’d been hawking vinyl via an online platform and found myself with accumulation of fascinating classical LPs. My criteria for purchasing these relics from the battered bins of thrift stores was random. Pristine condition of the vinyl was the only box that had to be checked. Interesting graphics, detailed performance information, and related ephemera all was a plus. Mind you, I didn’t know anything at all about the music, it’s creator, or who might be performing. So, I’d hauled a bunch of records up the Taconic with the intent of continued sporadic packaging, printing, and visiting the interesting woman, 30ish, tattoos and a motorcycle, at the P.O. Well, even her mystique couldn’t stem my plummeting interest in the exchange mercantile. This left me with a problem which, of course. was how to rationalize the boxes of LPs taking up prime real estate in the now de-humidified basement. I could cart them off to the goodwill or the exchange shack at the dump, but, instead, in what was really an act to burnish the reputation of a failed state executive, I decided that I would listen to each one and decide. So, it’s green tea and the Budapest Quartet after lunch. I have a very nice stereo, all components purchased at thrift stores or salvaged from the endless menagerie of stuff getting thrown out on the sidewalks of the upper west side. I’m getting through them. I’ve learned that I prefer small arrangements or solo performances. I don’t care for symphonies, but operas are fun and they generally have symphonies. The cats prefer jazz. (True).

  18. LaRuse

    Question for the Commentariat or Lambert – and I apologize because I am asking for help for my own ineptitude.
    But odd timing or not given the Sanders tweet included in the WC today, I spent an hour or so last night searching the NC archives because I thought I remembered Lambert writing a stand alone post that summarized the events of the 2020 “Night of Long Knives”. However, that all happened in the nexus of Super Tuesday and the initial COVID close-down and everything was chaotic and my memories of the time are very choppy. I swear up and down I recall an entire post dedicated to the topic but I couldn’t find any such post, not with Google (sorry), not within the search function, and not by combing through, post by post, the first several months of the 2020 archives.
    Did Lambert write a post summarizing the “Night of Long Knives” or did I just pick up the details spread out over the March-April months of 2020 and meld it into one disucssion in my COVID-stressed brain at the time?
    I would really love to read a summary of those days because my memories of the time have been overwhelmed by the other big events going on then.
    Appreciate any clarity anyone might have.

    1. Acacia

      I have wanted to read the same and expressed a similar interest in the past. Tricky, because assignments are a no-no.

      My recollection is that there hasn’t been a single, comprehensive article devoted to this subject here at NC, but rather a lot of scattered commentary.

      Of course, only Lambert can say for sure, and I do hope I’m mistaken about the article.

      A search in my personal archive turns up one especially good article (linked from NC, now archived):

      How Warren, and the Professional Class Left Undermined Sanders 2020


      1. Acacia

        Also on this subject, Lambert posted an interesting chart in yesterday’s WC:


        The tweet’s author, Bill Scher, comments “Biden led in spring 2019 & most of the rest of the way”, but the chart shows something quite different: Biden was hovering just below 30% for months, and then from 01/25/2020 started to rapidly decline, hitting a low of 16.5% on 02/18/2020.

        From 02/09/2020 to 03/03/2020, Sanders was leading Biden by as much as 12 points.

        Then, suddenly, on 03/02/2020, Biden took off like a rocket. reaching over 50% in just a week, as Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropped out, and Obama made his move.

        Was it that pesky laptop that tanked Biden’s numbers before the spooks and Obama rode in to the rescue?

        To try the chart yourself:


  19. Kurtismayfield

    Re: Warren is a snake

    Wasn’t she waiting for a payout that never came? I mean Mayor Pete got a crappy Cabinet job and Klobuchar got absolutely nothing.. so surely there was something in it for Warren to hold on and wait for Biden to deal. Right guys??


  20. Art_DogCT

    JL’s beautiful Plantidote is one of the 600+ species of Tillandsia, the bromeliads often called ‘air plants’. I know I’ve seen this or a very similar species, but can’t conjure its specific epithet. The pictured plant might be a volunteer, or perhaps was mounted there on purpose. If this plant was found growing in a tended garden or landscape the odds are high that it was there intentionally.

  21. Tim

    Regarding: “Six Recent Studies Show an Unexpected Increase in Classical Music Listening”

    I’m willing to bet it’s got something to do with Classical music being nearly impossible to crapify as has happened to most other genres.

    You can’t just tik tok your way into being good enough at any classical instrument to be in an orchestra.
    No composer ever wrote a piece that was somehow monotone, lacking all manner of melody, or movement (aka. changeups in the beat) either.

    Some people want to immerse themselves in music, to pay attention to its beauty, and classical is one genre that is still welcoming to do so.

    1. OwlishSprite

      You can’t just tik tok your way into being good enough at any classical instrument to be in an orchestra.

      As a former professional violist, I agree. As for composers, though…

    2. JE McKellar

      “or movement (aka. changeups in the beat)”

      There’s so much repetitive pop background music piped into every public space that it all becomes a swollen earworm wallowing in the back of your mind. Proper movement, tempo changes, and evolution of melody (as opposed to catchy ring-tone jingle choruses) clears outs the earworms and restores a bit of peace and sanity.

  22. Carla

    Re: Covid. So depressed. Went a funeral today. The funeral was not depressing because the guy was 75 and had been very sick for many years. But we were masked, along with 2 others I saw out of about 150 people. *The pandemic is over, dammit. What about “over” don’t we understand???*

  23. Matthew

    Speaking from my personal life I think most people are just not willing to avoid the 3 Cs for the rest of our lives. Closed crowded indoor spaces are just too basic a part of human life for many people for them to take giving them up seriously. It does seem to me like it will be the rest of our lives, at least. Suppress as long as you want it will always come back. If there is some error in my thinking there I am happy to be corrected but I never hear it being addressed.

    1. ChiGal

      the key is in architecture and engineering. spaces with better ventilation that still provide some protection from inclement weather. walls that slide open to let in outdoor air. the old-fashioned double hung windows and transoms that allow for improved circulation; also ventilation shafts at the center of a building.

      we used to make buildings like this but since the 70s they have been designed to be airtight for energy efficiency but it is known that this indoor air is not healthy, and not only because of Covid. being trapped indoors where every surface is some form of manufactured plastic bombards people with volatile organic compounds.

      it is a matter of political will to create the infrastructure, just like it is a matter of political will to stop building in floodplains.

      we were smarter than this once.

      1. Matthew

        Right. I do see that. But given that that is extremely unlikely to happen, do you really expect people to avoid crowded indoor spaces for the rest of their lives? To many of us, to most people I suspect, the idea just sounds absurd. Do you know how much a new HVAC system costs? Much less revamping the entire architectural design of a building? I don’t think “political will” quite captures the scope of what would be required.

        It’s all very well to dismiss people who want to crowd into a nightclub, for example, as idiots, or just young idiots, but folks are right to assess that none of this stuff is happening this decade, and I think plenty of us understand perfectly well that a new disease burden is being added to us and that we likely will die a few years before we would otherwise, and nevertheless judge that it’s worth it to do these things.

        1. ambrit

          That’s a degree of fatalism that we older geezers and geezettes generally did not endorse. It may be an artifact of the Cult of Technology, but we oldsters expected the Terran human race to show some intestinal fortitude and do the work to solve problems, not just ‘accept’ the maladaptive outcomes.
          The short version is that those who cite “reasons” not to take extra care now will die off sooner, allowing the more personally ‘responsible’ populations to supplant them.
          There is also the phenomenon of luck to take into account.
          Still, the attitude of; “Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” is appropriate to the end stage in any organizational entity’s life span.
          To a degree not appreciated by the religious who espouse the meme, we are in the End Times, of a sort.

          1. Jason Boxman

            I certainly subscribe to that fatalism. If I avoid COVID and don’t drink myself to death, I’ll likely see the earliest true ravages of climate change over the next 20 or 30 years. I can’t wait! And that’s if I successfully dodge COVID enough to not die from it directly or as a result of damage from previous infection(s). If none of that were true, this is America and I still need enough money to retire with dignity and not get murdered by our health care “system”. LOL. I’m not impulsive enough to blow my savings on a great year and kill myself, but I might wish I was in the coming decades frankly. The “opt out” episode of the Walking Dead season 1 comes to mind.

            Stay safe out there!

            1. ambrit

              Back atcha Mr. Boxman! I do have those mornings when I contemplate “early retirement” with wistfulness. Bearing burdens is our lot.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > we were smarter than this once.

        I’m really baffled by the “can’t do” mentality. I suppose I shouldn’t be, after (to pick one example) the Sanders debacle. I don’t know where this started, or how it became so firmly rooted:

        “Good subjects must feel guilty. The guilt begins as a feeling of failure. The good autocrat provides many opportunities for failure in the populace.” –Frank Herbert, Children of Dune

        Every opportunity a torment nexus!

    2. megrim

      I just know that I’m avoiding not just the 3Cs but travel, sharing air with anyone outside my household, going to a restaurant, movies etc. for the rest of my life. Precisely because I don’t expect anyone to do anything about covid. None of those things is worth even a few years off of my life (or long covid), personally. I’m definitely trying to never get covid, even if it means becoming a hermit.

      1. Jason Boxman

        Every day blends into the other. It’s work, work, and work. Or a nap. Or eating too much. Used to be exercise but I’ve failed at that so far this year.

        I hope you find in joy in whatever you can.

        For me personally this is kind of a hollow of what life once was, and I’m not even an extrovert. I don’t really even like people. It’s mutual as far as I’ve learned. And the isolation is still not particularly awesome. And it’ll get worse over time, as people I know die. There will be nothing left.

        … for all else is dust and air.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > I hope you find in joy in whatever you can.

          I find photography very, very fulfilling, and I don’t have to go into 3C’s spaces to do it — it’s outdoors! The same would apply to any other en plein air activity like painting or sketching. If your interests tend toward the visual….

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Closed crowded indoor spaces are just too basic a part of human life for many people for them to take giving them up seriously.

      The question-begging part comes with “giving them up” (another example of binary thinking: There must be one single solution that works, otherwise there is no solution).

      We have had examples of gyms and cafes throughout the pandemic where a combination of HEPA filters, CO2 metering, and masking for staff reduced the risk of infection to manageable levels; the CO2 meters allow people to make their “personal risk assessments” on some sort of rational basis. As I understand it, CO2 meters are pervasive in civilized countries like Japan, being installed in public spaces like movie theatres, and in closed spaces like taxis).

      None of this is hard. It’s no harder than clean water systems built in the Victorian era.

      What is hard… I don’t even know how to frame the ideological/cultural issues, and I know I’m not framing this in a way that’s in any way persuasive, but if a large portion of the country chooses to join a death cult, what can one do?

      My answer is that over time, the death cult is (obviously) self-limiting. We holdouts may wish to consider ourselves as the pioneers working out the protocols for the next airborne pandemic — IIRC, they come along about every seven years, though I forget where I picked up that fiture.

  24. OwlishSprite

    The Wood Thrushes where I live make the evenings enchanted. Thanks for these recordings, I am looking forward to their return here.

    1. mrsyk

      “The Wood Thrushes where I live make the evenings enchanted.” Well said, enchanted. (The song)Makes me feel like I’m deep in the forest.

  25. ForFawkesSakes

    That Bombadil: The Musical tweet is total satire, thank heavens.

    That they didn’t say with music and lyrics by Lin Manuel Miranda was the tell.

  26. upstater

    Senators again grill Norfolk Southern over East Palestine derailment

    Homendy [NTSB Chair] noted that some of the board’s rail safety recommendations have not been acted upon by either the Federal Railroad Administration or the railroads themselves…

    The NTSB also wants to expand regulations around what constitutes a high-hazard flammable train, or HHFT, which is currently defined as a train with a block of 20 or more than 35 total loaded tank cars of a Class 3 flammable liquid.

    “We believe the definition of an HHFT should include a broad range of hazardous materials, including flammable gasses and combustible liquids,” she said. “We also believe that even one railcar of any hazardous material justifies notifying emergency responders, not 20 or more than 35 loaded tank cars, which could contain 1 million gallons of hazardous materials.”

    The NS train 32N that derailed in East Palestine was not considered a high-hazard flammable train.

    Why to democrats cede the issue of rail safety to JD Vance and Republicans?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      1. Team Blue is not a serious operation.

      2. New Democrats’ death throes. Buttigieg is their great white hope, and addressing the current situation means addressing Pete’s tenure and Obama entrusting transportation to LaHood, a message transit was unimportant. If they lose Pete, anyone who aspires to be applauded for watching a Broadway play can be lost.

  27. Mikel

    Switzerland’s emergency rescue of Credit Suisse could cost $13,500 for each and every Swiss person

    “…The renewed rescue for well-paid bankers sparked protests. About 200 people gathered outside Credit Suisse’s headquarters in Zurich on Monday, chanting “eat the rich” and throwing eggs at the building at the heart of the city’s financial district.

    “We are fed up with the idea that if you are big enough, you get everything,” said Christoph Rechsteiner, a partner at the Zurich-based tax consultancy MME. “The law is changed for you over a weekend.”

    1. mrsyk

      There’s a lot to see in that photo. Working class people dressed in wool and coarse cotton twill. Missing button. Collar up with cravat. Long broken in leather shoes and boots, save one. Solidarity. Different times. I must admit I’ve begun to covet different times.

  28. The Rev Kev

    Something for the quiet hours, So a local TV channel in Russia’s southern Stavropol Region introduced a new girl to present the weather. Only thing is, she’s not real but is an AI-


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOJVP_9YVrM (1:45 mins)

    It’s not quite there yet and there is a tinge of uncanny valley but damn, it’s good. And frankly if AIs replaced all those hairdo TV news presenters, it might be an improvement.

  29. griffen

    Wreaths across America, chalk another organization that I just may have to lose a good deal of respect for. Why am I not too surprised to see a close dealing relationship between a foundation and a family owned enterprise. And that “proposed park” just looks like a boondoggle if that’s the appropriate term for a Maine kind of thing.

    It’s highly unfortunate too. I have grandparents buried in a national cemetery, where they host these annual events for laying a wreath on veteran grave markers.

Comments are closed.