Links 3/27/2023

5 planets will align on March 27 and you won’t want to miss it. Here’s where to look.

Where Financial Risk Lies, in 12 Charts WSJ


Satellite images show breadth of massive seaweed belt stretching across the Atlantic Ocean FOX

How and where we build needs to change in the face of more extreme weather – the insurance industry can help The Conversation

Years of climate scepticism have done untold damage FT


‘We’ve lost the aqueduct’: How severe flooding threatens a Los Angeles water lifeline Los Angeles Times

Philly residents now advised tap water is safe through Monday night following chemical spill, officials say Inquirer

B-a-a-a-a-d Banks

U.S. Bank Failures Pose Risk to Global Growth WSJ

A New Chapter of Capitalism Emerges From the Banking Crisis Bloomberg


Illinois’ Bold Move: 60,000 HEPA Air Purifiers To Be Distributed In Schools To Battle Respiratory Viruses Country Herald

* * *

The effects of COVID-19 on cognitive performance in a community-based cohort: A COVID Symptom Study Biobank observational study (preprint) medRxiv. n = 3335. “This study adds to existing evidence of cognitive deficits following SARS-CoV-2 infection, but finds important exceptions. At initial testing in mid-2021, cognitive deficits are not found for individuals who self-report as feeling recovered from COVID-19, even for those with longest symptom duration. In follow-up testing in mid-2022, we find that deficits appear persistent for those with earlier infections and ongoing symptoms, consistent with previous smaller studies.” Seems tailor-made for survivorship bias.

Functional Neurological Disorder Emerges After COVID Infection, Vaccines MedPage Today

* * *

Organ transplant patient dies after receiving Covid-infected lungs NBC. I was asking about Covid-infected transplants just the other day….

* * *

Robust T cell responses to Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine compared to infection and evidence of attenuated peripheral CD8+ T cell responses due to COVID-19 Immunity. From the Abstract: “[P]rior SARS-CoV-2 infection resulted in decreased CD8+ T cell activation and expansion, suggesting that prior infection can influence the T cell response to vaccination.”

* * *

Stories from the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic from Ethnographic Collections Library of Congress. From 2020, still germane. AFAIK, the 1918-1919 was erased from the collective memory, most importantly becauase a second pandemic did not follow. Of course, a century ago America was a rising imperial power; more importantly, climate change was not a thing. Those happy circumstances do not apply today.

Polio and Vaccination: A Memoir of What We’ve Forgotten The Tyee. From 2018, again germane.


Hong Kong still has its edge as legal hub, says deputy justice minister Horace Cheung after visit to Europe, Thailand South China Morning Post

Taiwan ex-president Ma heads to China ‘to improve cross-strait atmosphere’ RFI

An Anxious Asia Arms for a War It Hopes to Prevent NYT. Crocodile tears.


Q&A: NUG’s Lashi La says military leaders ‘don’t want peace’ Frontier Myanmar

Myanmar junta chief vows continued crackdown, then elections Channel News Asia


The angry divide in Israel over the rule of law and religion FT. Impressive:

Bibi’s residence (1)

Bibi’s residence (2):

Facing Israeli Army Mutiny, Defense Minister Calls to Halt Regime Change Agenda Tikkun Olam

Netanyahu not even close to breaking down, Gallant’s firing proves that – analysis Jerusalem Post

* * *

Israeli jets bomb Syria’s main hub for earthquake aid deliveries The Cradle

Iranian, Saudi foreign ministers discuss meeting in Ramadan after normalization Andallu Agency

In Ethiopia, China and the US map rival roads to lasting peace South China Morning Post

European Disunion

Use of force signals ‘crisis of authority’ as France’s pension battle turns to unrest France24

Germany hit by biggest transport strike in decades Andalu Agency

New Not-So-Cold War

A long thread on geopolitics worth reading in full. The bottom line:

Ian Welsh has a similar view:

* * *

European ammunition maker says plant expansion hit by energy-guzzling TikTok site FT. The deck: “Norwegian group Nammo blames ‘storage of cat videos’ for threatening its growth as data centre corners spare electricity.” So cat videos are a force for peace? Have at it, say I. Fern:


* * *

How Zelensky was Prevented From Making Peace in the Donbas Covert Action Magazine

Zelenskyy: It is wrong when soldiers feel that civilians act like the war is over Ukrainska Pravda

Biden Administration

Lina Khan’s FTC has challenged health system mergers — but not disruptors Becker’s Hospital Review

DIA CEO Phil Washington withdraws nomination to lead FAA AP. “Republicans attacked his resume and seized on disclosures that his name appeared in search warrants related to a corruption investigation in Los Angeles.” Most of the other headlines frame the outstanding warrant thing as “GOP criticism.”


Fmr. President Trump Holds Rally in Waco, TX (transcript) C-SPAN (marym), Marym: “It’s in several parts. Keep scrolling down and “show full text.”

What It Means For Trump’s Campaign to Start in Waco The Intercept

The Trump Campaign’s Collusion With Israel The Nation. The deck: “While US media fixated on Russian interference in the 2016 election, an Israeli secret agent’s campaign to influence the outcome went unreported.” Odd!


There’s one sure winner in the AI explosion, say analysts: Dutch outfit ASML The Register

Read this thread all the way to the end:

Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidinin ampulla pendere….”

* * *

Elon Musk puts $20 billion value on Twitter – The Information Reuters. Valuation ignores the possibility that (a) Musk wants to make Twitter profitable, which it has not been, and that in any case (b) Musk has “taken one for the team” by proving you can fire a horde of labor aristocrats and retain a working site (at which point the owners of other tech firms happily followed his lead).

Opinion: How Big Tech’s predatory culture fuels failures like Silicon Valley Bank Los Angeles Times

Don’t panic about social media harming your child’s mental health – the evidence is weak iNews


‘They All Laughed When I Spoke of Greedy Doctors’ MedScape


MMT — Krugman still does not get it! Lars P. Syll

Zeitgeist Watch

Agatha Christie classics latest to be rewritten for modern sensitivities Telegraph. Whatever these sensitivities are, they’re not modern. Somebody should take a new book that does conform to “modern” “sensitivities” and rewrite it, so that it…. doesn’t.

2 escape jail and go to IHOP, where patrons report them AP

Class Warfare

Mixed Feelings Among UAW Union Democracy Activists about Fain’s Victory Payday Report

Air Pollution and Mortality at the Intersection of Race and Social Class NEJM

Matthew Desmond: ‘America does so much more to subsidise affluence than alleviate poverty’ FT

Credit ratings are a torment nexus:

Need a consultant? This book argues hiring one might actually damage your institution NPR

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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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. KLG

    Ronald Reagan began his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Donald Trump begins his 2024 campaign in Waco. Each knew what he was doing, and what he was doing worked.

    1. Not Again

      In 2020, Joe Biden started his in the dining room of the mansion owned by Brian Roberts, the CEO of Comcast. Bernie began his inside Biden’s hip pocket. There are few accidents in politics.

      1. Bsn

        I’m beginning my election campaign while on the couch reading the comments in Naked Capitalism. Fire in the wood stove, no lawn to mow, put in purple potatoes last night, bell pepper and eggplant starts are 2″ high. Life is good.

      2. some guy

        In what sense did Bernie begin his inside Biden’s hip pocket?

        What specific actions support that statement?

    2. Tom Stone

      The slaughter in WACO happened because BATFE was facing budget cuts and needed some serious PR to justify more $.
      26 Children burned to death, but it was a necessary sacrifice in order to keep America safe.

      1. ambrit

        People I have spoken with who worked in the various departments of the Justice Penal Complex have voiced the opinion that the then head of the Justice Department, Janet Reno, was a seriously “ethically compromised” individual. She was the one who called the shots.
        Technical note. The tear gas canisters used in the final assault on the wooden set of buildings ignites and burns at a temperature hot enough to set wood on fire, quickly. Whoever approved the use of those devices intended to burn the place down.
        I think that the proper term to describe the endgame at Waco is “Judicial Murder.”

  2. Jeff Stantz

    RE: Illinois’ Bold Move: 60,000 HEPA Air Purifiers To Be Distributed In Schools To Battle Respiratory Viruses

    Wonderful! And not just because of respiratory viruses. The cleaner air alone will help these children and teachers. PM2.5 is so bad for our mental and physical health and areas of Illinois have such poor air quality.

    It is a win win win in my book.

    1. Carla

      Agreed, Jeff. I just sent the following email (with the article title as the subject headline), to a list of people concerned about public schools and children in our community:

      “This needs to be done on a massive scale*, including in day care centers, preschools and public libraries. Of course, it would also bump up electricity use, thus exacerbating climate change.

      Illinois’ Bold Move: 60,000 HEPA Air Purifiers To Be Distributed In Schools To Battle Respiratory Viruses

      * Also, please, please, please: institutions that still have plastic barriers supposedly “protecting” their workers: get rid of them! Air has to FLOW. Good ventilation and air purification absolutely rely on AIR FLOW.”

    2. Louis Fyne

      No good if there isn’t follow-up money for filters and regular swapping. Not holding my breath.

      In this aspect the Corsi box is vastly superior—-you see the filters darken as time progresses and both know it’s working and get a reminder when it’s time to change the filters.

  3. The Rev Kev

    “Washington, who was President Joe Biden’s pick for FAA Administrator, withdrew his name from consideration amid shaky senate support.”

    Yeah, about this article. There is a bit more to the story that this article wants to let on. Phillip Washington has more than a few problems to deal with and Ted Cruz said-

    ‘Unfortunately, the problems with Mr. Washington’s nomination don’t end with his lack of aviation experience. There are also serious concerns regarding outstanding allegations that Mr. Washington engaged in misconduct during his time as the head of the Los Angeles Metro. He has been named in multiple search warrants in an ongoing criminal public corruption investigation, and he’s been the subject of multiple whistleblower complaints.

    One search warrant was executed just last September, not very long ago. It contained allegations that Mr. Washington pushed forward lucrative no-bid contracts to a politically-connected nonprofit to run a sexual harassment hotline that was hardly ever used, and that he did so in order to stay in the good graces of a powerful politician on LA Metro’s board. The allegations are the kind of local corruption sadly we see far too often across this country, in both parties.’

    Biden could have headed off this latest debacle by listening to his advisors saying that he should put Phillip Washington’s name into a Google Search but Biden did not know what Google was much less how to search it.

    1. lambert strether

      There are very few politicians I would quote on a claim like that without any links. Ted Cruz is not one of them.

  4. Ignacio

    RE: Robust T cell responses to Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine compared to infection and evidence of attenuated peripheral CD8+ T cell responses due to COVID-19 Immunity. From the Abstract: “[P]rior SARS-CoV-2 infection resulted in decreased CD8+ T cell activation and expansion, suggesting that prior infection can influence the T cell response to vaccination.”

    Not forgetting that humoral responses are behind the curve, mostly useless against current variants, and relatively transient. Whether after-vac Covid infection has an effect on those robust responses to be studied some day in the future.

    1. kareninca

      It is really strange that they did not include people who had not had covid, then been twice (or thrice) vaccinated and then caught covid once or twice (or thrice). How hard would it have been to include them? That would be most people I know!!!! Why would they leave out the largest subset of people? Just so that people like me will become more paranoid?

  5. The Rev Kev

    “Israeli jets bomb Syria’s main hub for earthquake aid deliveries”

    I’m saying still that this is being done on behalf of the Biden regime in reaction to how they were forced to let in earthquake aid to that country. They really hated that as their first reactions was to use the earthquakes to crush the Syrians even more and let more of them starve. And today I saw an article which – kinda – confirms this. There are a ton of protests in Israel right now and it has spread to not only Israeli army soldiers but also elite pilots of the Israeli Air Force. And yet they are still finding the pilots to fly these unnecessary missions-

    And I see that Netanyahu is still digging in his heels just like Macron is in France and is refusing to back down.

      1. ambrit

        “Real” Israel, (the 1967 borders,) as opposed to “Ersatz” Israel, (Judaea and Samaria,) is just about all borders. Your “kinetic distraction” idea is thus a natural.
        We’ll see how well the Israeli reservists react. At this point, I would credit the Hizbollah and allied groups with enough intelligence to stay out of the way and let Netanyahu dig his own grave. It looks like Netanyahu is reduced to conjuring up an internal threat to hang his hopes of a Super Autocracy on. That or a big false flag attack. I think that even Assad will sit back with a bucket of popcorn and enjoy the show.

    1. ChrisFromGA

      Anyone know if there are any western aid agencies able to get relief into Syria?

      Or have the sanctions mob hemmed them in?

      Not taking about the compromised ones.

      1. Polar Socialist

        In principle, humanitarian aid is always outside of sanctions. It’s just than in the rules based world nobody really knows what is allowed and what is not until they get punished.

        I know Unicef is working in Syria. United Nations Children’s Fund is too big and too good for even the evilest to sanction.

        1. vao

          It’s just than in the rules based world nobody really knows what is allowed and what is not until they get punished.

          This results in a phenomenon that is so widespread and entrenched that it has an official name: overcompliance — with sanctions, that is.

        2. NotTimothyGeithner

          “Rules based” just means they can’t say “white man’s burden” anymore. Borrell certainly tries.

          1. JBird4049

            “White Man’s Burden”

            Rudyard Kipling was an advocate of empire.

            He was not just that. Despite my poor memory for poems, this bit of his I can almost always remember.

            Common Form

            If any question
            why we died,
            Tell them,
            because our fathers lied.

    2. Wukchumni

      Watch the value of the Israeli New Shekel, they hyperinflated in the mid 70’s through to the mid 80’s, and i’ve found that countries that experienced it are likely to go through another bout, and now their poodle is rapidly being as shunned worldwide as they are for their actions.

      By 1984 inflation was reaching an annual rate close to 450% and projected to reach over 1000% by the end of the following year.

    3. spud

      someday it will dawn on the average citizen that they do not sign the paychecks of their politicians, some local oligarchs to some extent do. but the majority of those paychecks and marching orders come from foreign oligarchs freed up by free trade agreements, flush with billions from the exploitation of the many, and their environments.

      its why we have the war in the ukraine, the clintons are still fuming putin put a stop to their looting of russia, and trying to break it up.

    4. Karl

      …this is being done on behalf of the Biden regime…

      Yes. And because this is so, Biden will give N lots of leeway in his handling of “internal” affairs like riots and treatment of Palestinians.

      Can anyone help me understand how any of this is in the US national interest; or how N’s actions are in Israel’s interest.

    1. irrational

      Ironically she does a fair bit of consulting herself and is only willing to speak for top$.

  6. Alice X

    >James Bamford piece in the Nation

    Another thing Israel got, IIRC, is recognition from Morocco which got US recognition of its suzerainty of West Sahara. Shameful.

    1. pjay

      I finally got a chance to actually read the Nation article by Bamford. I have to say it bothers me. It bothers me a lot. Not that I doubt that Netanyahu or Israeli intelligence (whether official or “private” contractors) would try to manipulate elections, or that Netanyahu would prefer Trump for the reasons stated. Trump’s worst policies were those kowtowing to Israel: moving the capital, canceling the Iran agreement, bombing Syria, assassinating Soleimani. Between his largest funder (Adelson) and his Zionist son-in-law, he was promising these things during the campaign. So that part is certainly believable.

      But notice what this article does. First, it accepts the “Russian hacking” story as fact. I would like to remind James that there was *no evidence presented* for this conclusion. This was finally revealed when the records of Schiff’s Intelligence Committee were disclosed – after two years of delay. There was considerable evidence for an insider “leak,” as Bill Binney and the VIPS have shown in many ways. Along those lines, Bamford simply reproduces the mainstream narrative that links “Guccifer 2.0” to both the GRU and to the Wikileaks data. To read Bamford one would think that Guccifer was the proven Russian source of the Wikileaks data. This is *not the case,* as Wikileaks has said and several technical analyses have shown. Bamford is a well-respected and very experienced intelligence journalist. So why do *I* know this and he doesn’t?

      Second, this story resurrects the whole f**king Russiagate narrative; it just does so by introducing some new pieces. Hilliary is still the “victim” of election manipulation. The evil Rooskies still “hacked” the e-mails. Even the central role of Roger Stone – again, Roger Stone! – is preserved. It’s just that now we’ve added a middle man – Netanyahu and his rogue intelligence agents (note: not *official* Israeli intelligence, but a “rogue” contractor working with Trump’s fellow right-winger Netanyahu) – with which Trump is colluding. Although if you read carefully, it is not completely clear how much Trump is actually in on this. It sounds like it is mainly the ubiquitous Stone, along with the ridiculous Jerome Corsi, that is doing the “colluding.” And I am still not *quite* clear on what they did to help Trump get elected beyond what damage release of the e-mails might have already done. Am I missing something?

      In short: Russiagate lives! Hillary was robbed by Trump’s “collusion” with a foreign power.

      Bamford’s too smart not to know what he is doing. I don’t doubt his facts about Netanyahu and Israeli intelligence are correct, but the way he twists them into an anti-Trump narrative that has the added bonus of preserving the anti-Russia narrative (and given what’s happening in Israel today, perhaps the anti-Netanyahu narrative is useful as well) is obvious – and disheartening.

  7. digi_owl

    Ah yes, Nammo. Apparently at some point they ended up being the word wide producer of the venerable M72 LAW.

    And that data center is at the center (heh) of a growing storm about power production and pricing in Norway.

    For decades everyone was told the nation had an excess of clean hydroelectric power.

    And with the rise of AWS etc, came the idea of attracting those companies to Norway.

    But at the same time another group was busy laying cables to the likes of UK and Germany for exporting the same power.

    Never mind that someone came up with the harebrained scheme of laying power cables to the oil rigs so that they could stop running gas turbines (and maybe later use the same cables for offshore windmills).

    All this, and the Ukraine debacle, has managed to flip the nation’s power glut to a power crunch.

    1. Polar Socialist

      Isn’t there a law in Norway banning Nammo from selling ammunition to conflict areas?

      Something to do with those European Values we used to have until the Ukrainians started to fight for them, too.

      1. digi_owl

        I don’t think it is an outright law, but more of a long standing policy related to the cold war straddling of being both “neutral” and a NATO member. But i think all that flew out the window with ISAF.

      2. The Rev Kev

        I used to be stupid enough to think that “European values” were actually a thing once. Not these days. Look at some of these excerpts from the “How Zelensky was Prevented From Making Peace in the Donbas” article-

        ‘After German journalist Patrik Baab dared to report from the Donbas, German universities and media accused him of ”legitimizing Putin’s war of aggression with his mere presence.” As a result, he lost his job as a lecturer at the University for Media, Communication and Economics in Berlin.

        The French journalist and filmmaker Anne-Laure Bonnel had made two documentaries showing the situation of the Russian-born population in the regions attacked by Kyiv. As a result, she lost her job in Europe.

        “I saw the war, yet we cannot speak the truth,” says Sonja van den Ende, a Dutch investigative journalist who has covered the Donbass, adding, “We’re being censored in Europe.”

        Italian photojournalist Giorgio Bianchi became the target of a defamation campaign waged by major Italian newspapers over his reporting from Ukraine. He was accused of being a pro-Russian propaganda stooge.

        Germany wanted to punish (Alina Lipp) for this with three years in prison. Lipp saw her bank account frozen losing 1,600 euros without explanation. The German authorities also said that she would not be allowed to defend herself in court, as this could hinder the investigation.’

        Turns out that European values was a bit of a movable feast.

        1. digi_owl

          I’m really not sure how or why it has happened. But much of European politics etc seem to have made itself into an offshoot of the Democrats.

          I’m tempted to say that phone delivered social media has Americanized Europe to a degree that Hollywood could only dream about during the cold war.

          And that is perhaps why “everyone” is so up in arms about Tiktok, as they fear it will do the same in China’s favor.

          1. Ignacio

            They somehow turned into “globalist PMC”. IMO little to do with social media. Rather with the absence of any idea/project/objective/end other than service/advance their own personhood and ambitions. That is, “free markets”. There are the new values Polar Socialist was asking for. Social contract disappeared or dissappearing.

            1. Colonel Smithers

              Thank you, all.

              @ DO and Ignacio, when working as a bank lobbyist from 2008 – 16 and with EU and G20 government and EU institutions, I noticed how Americanised the UK bureaucracy and and UK MP and EU MEP support were. Officials and heads of representative teams had American titles. Officials and political staff dressed like preppies. It felt like episodes of the West Wing. Needless to say, the Clintons and Obamas were lionised. One wonders if they felt they were in a US film or series.

              1. digi_owl

                Now that you mention it, there has been a rise in Americanized titles. The introduction of HR is particularly noticeable.

                And also renaming of public offices etc so that their names were more suited for snappy abbreviations.

            2. digi_owl

              I wish. But in recent years there have been odd events like how after the George Floyd shooting there were protests all over Europe that were straight up “cargo cult” like copies of those happening in USA.

              And there has also been attempts at having statues removed of historical figures that has the flimsiest of connections to the American slave trade.

              Never mind that teachers are observing that kids are using more English than say Norwegian while out playing.

            3. hunkerdown

              But there had to be some vector of contagion for their unusual growth as an institution, and institutions are a good place to start looking for it. Social media comes into play at about the right time to support the increased growth and collective consciousness of the movement. (Incidentally, so does the Smith-Mundt “reform”…) Even though the PMC is in essence a religious movement, I don’t think divine inspiration adequately explains their sudden ascent.

        2. Cetra Ess

          I would not be surprised if an intelligence agency was methodically orchestrating each and every instance of journalist suppression here. I can just see the meetings, what are the pressure points we’ll apply for so and so, what are their weaknesses. Patrick Baab was probably sensitive to his standing with the universities, Lipp was probably sensitive to financial restraints, Giorgio Bianchi was probably sensitive to his rep.

          So how much of this is shifting European values and how much is the hidden hand?

        3. hk

          “Russian-born population in the regions attacked by Kyiv”? What a strange phrasing. Even articles critical of the war still subtly carry the water for the Kiev regime!

    1. spud

      bravo, i have used that many times over the years. the incredible mental gymnastics of the democrat apologists make for some amazing feats over the years when i show that to them.

    2. rowlf

      One of my favorite activities is to climb to the top of Stone Mountain and take a leak.

      I’d like to see organized group whizzes to get the point across to the losers. NFAC could have used better visuals in their protest.

  8. David

    The France24 article is useful in underlining the fact that the battle in France has moved on from being just about raising the retiring age (however acrimonious that may still be) and is now primarily about what’s seen as high-handed and even dictatorial behaviour by Macron. Many people who were not directly affected by the changes have been angered by Macron’s behaviour, and even more by his clumsy attempts to stigmatise protesters and opponents generally. The CFDT trades union, which is strong among white-collar workers, is emerging as the most credible force opposing Macron, and there’s a lot of militancy brewing among young people, especially students, and the educated middle-class with vaguely progressive views. As a result, we are seeing scenes of protest and even violence unthinkable even a few years ago. The difficulty is that, after the forcing through of the pensions law, there is no obvious target for the protesters to aim at. We’re a very long way from a situation where pressure could be brought on Macron to resign, and, even if it were, he’d probably ignore it.

    The difficulty for Macron is that he made use of article 49,3 of the Constitution, which was intended to avoid crises, to provoke one, whether he intended to or not. In theory the article was supposed to be used to prevent frivolous attempts to bring down governments for political advantage, not to ram through unpopular legislation without a majority. Moreover, it appears (depending on who you believe) that Macron agreed to its use mainly to spare embarrassment to the Republicans (the main right-wing party) whose divisions would have been acutely obvious if there had been a vote. But people are beginning to realise that article 49,3 could be a dictatorial weapon in Macron’s hands, the more so since the Republicans are frightened of an election now, and would probably vote with his party to defeat a censure motion.

    A final point on the Police. They are exhausted after years of Gilets jaunes, Islamic Terrorism and Covid, and they are not going to be enthusiastic for getting their people injured or even killed to save Macron. Preserving public order is one thing, but preserving a leader with dictatorial overtones in power is quite another. He’d be very wrong to suppose that he can rely on their support indefinitely.

    1. Ignacio

      It is nearly unbelievable to watch what Macron is doing. The dictatorial turn, only for his own political interests. If he goes on like this it can expected the dusting off, cleaning and sharpening of guillotines some day. Metaphorically of course.

      1. Michaelmas

        If he goes on like this it can expected the dusting off, cleaning and sharpening of guillotines some day. Metaphorically of course.

        It’s 2023. Simpler for folks to strap IEDs on a few DJI drones. Not metaphorically.

        Because unfortunately it’s hard to see what else will refocus neoliberal elites’ minds.

      2. some guy

        What if the Macronists decide to start using LRAD eardrum-melters and Raytheon field-mobile narrow beam Oven Rays first?

  9. Wukchumni

    Are we really happy with this Ukraine game we play
    Looking for the right words to say
    Searching but not finding understanding anyway
    We’re lost in this masquerade

    NATO afraid to say we’re just too far away
    From being closer to winning from the start
    We tried to talk it over but the words got in the way
    We’re lost inside this Ukraine game we play

    Thoughts of leaving disappear each time I read the lies
    And no matter how hard I try
    To understand the reason why we carry on this way
    We’re lost in this masquerade

    We tried to talk it over but the words got in the way
    We’re lost inside this Ukraine game we play

    Thoughts of leaving disappear each time I read the lies
    And no matter how hard I try
    To understand the reason why we carry on this way
    We’re lost in a masquerade
    We’re lost in a masquerade

    And we’re lost in a masquerade

    This Masquerade, performed by the Carpenters

  10. FlyoverBoy

    Could someone here step up with a translation of the story about T cells, prior infection and vaccination in very, very simple English for those like me who are a little slower?

    1. Ignacio

      You have better T-Cell response with vaccines than with Covid infection(almost certainly because during infection other viral encoded factors interfere with the cellular responses sometimes to the extreme of T-Cell exhaustion in the worst cases). Interestingly the effect of Covid infection on cellular responses is long lasting and interferes with vaccine cellular responses.

      Significance of the findings: unknown. (Regarding potential outcomes)

    2. Val

      The publication is one component of a self-justifying NIAID and Gates Foundation-funded patent application.
      Best to avoid the breezy advice and authoritative interpretations from legions of abstract-scanning scientism hand wavers.

    3. kareninca

      The big problem with the study is that it did not include the subset of people that you are most likely to know. That is, people who avoided covid, and then rushed to get the shots, and then caught covid sometime afterwards (maybe more than once). They could have included such people, and it is very strange that they didn’t, given that they are so common.

  11. vao

    A small complement to “Germany hit by biggest transport strike in decades”: the strike movement does not just affect the air and rail transport sectors, but also highways (Autobahnen), waterways and harbours. Last week, employees of the Hamburg harbour striked, and today those responsible for managing waterways (sluices, gates, swivel-, draw-, bascule-bridges, etc) are striking as well all over the country — which will seriously hobble not just river navigation, but also entering and leaving ports (such as Hamburg).

    Meanwhile, Portugal continues to be beset by repeated waves of strikes nurses, rubbish collectors, consulate employees — the current ones being organized by teachers.

    1. Ignacio

      Thank you vao. A quick search in El Pais (our organic CIA disinformation centre here in Spain) yielded zero on strikes in Germany and Portugal. Some stuff on France (even an editorial) but that looks like too much to be hidden. Besides it can be easily narrated as Macron only faults.
      It is obvious they don’t want us to notice how is it that certain conflict is inflicting more pain of us than in the enemy.

      1. vao

        Remember when strikes in the UK were front-page material — what, a few weeks ago? You no longer hear or read about them — but they are going strong, and some are planned throughout April!

  12. Carla

    Re: “They All Laughed When I Spoke of Greedy Doctors” —

    Great op-ed, until you finally get to this:

    “Let’s get real. Money is power. Huge money is huge power. If anything like this ideologic transition happens, it will have to be political and incremental.”

    Dream on, Dr. Lundberg. I’ve been told that only incremental change in the U.S. medical-industrial complex can improve outcomes since at least the days of Richard Nixon. It has always been a lie. All that incremental change has been for the worse, and the pace of it continues to increase.

    Capitalism will never permit the change we have to have.

    1. Wukchumni

      Oh yes indeed capitalism will permit it, all you gotta do is make the object of their desire worthless, and the chase stops.

      The power is then derived from those with the most commonly held weaponry, distributed vicariously via the index finger index.

      Rupert beats a path out of Bel-Air, back to the Lucky Country where his worldwide reach dutifully shares pictures and videos online of Americans fighting one another, and it couldn’t have happened without him providing the rancor vile to the rank & file.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I read yesterday that Rupert – at the young age of of 92 – is going to be marrying for a fifth time. But no jokes about getting him a defibrillator or certain blue pills as wedding gifts, please. Some people serve humanity best when they leave this life and Rupert will definitely be one of them.

        1. Carolinian

          We promise not to blame you Australians for Rupert–much. After all you did give us Margot Robbie.

          However feel free to blame America for Biden and all the rest. We deserve it.

            1. hunkerdown

              Oh no, that could lead to an unfortunate accident of self-defense. She’ll pull through, though.

    2. tegnost

      What’s an individual to do with an incremental change when corps get so much excremental change?
      it’s like a kid goes into the candy store and there’s a sign “one per kid” then richie rich comes in and commands the counter help to load the whole store into the lamborghini suv
      (no really, there is one……bentley has one too, it looks like a hearse…hmmmm…)
      and the one piece” kid is considered impolite if they (gender neutral!, but a bit confusing as “they” in this case is only one person) don’t help with loading.And does our rules based child get and extra piece for helping, you ask? No! Only one increment at a time, plebe!

      1. JBird4049

        The Lamborghini Urus is a mid-size luxury crossover SUV.

        This whole sentence is just so, so wrong.

  13. pjay

    On the Policy Tensor thread:

    There are some very relevant observations on the disaster of our Cold War 2 policies here. But what the hell is this reference to “Trumpism,” “Trumpian Mercantilism,” etc.?? Trump certainly didn’t start this process. He has no consistent foreign policy principles, and he is way too clueless and inconsistent to have an “ism” named after him. As the author of this thread points out, this started back in the 90s after the fall of the Soviet Union. Who was President then? In places the thread depicts Biden’s aggression as simply a domestic political strategy to not look wimpy compared to those war-mongering Republicans. But this is *not* simply political posturing. Our disastrous policies are part of a *long-term, bipartisan strategy* that has unfolded ever since 1991.

    And then there is this:

    “While our self-inflicted catastrophes of the mid-2000s undermined our reputation for competence and the legitimacy of our world position, the Obama antidote seems to tempered the blowback for a few years — the world really thought the US was returning to sanity…”

    “Of course, our global partners were in for a rude shock in 2016 …”

    2016?? How about Libya? Syria? Ukraine? Obama may have been slightly more cautious about the speed with which our train was hurtling toward the cliff, but he did nothing to stop it.

    This is not a course determined by parties or Presidents or even domestic electoral politics. Unless we address its deeper causes we will never understand it. And unless we, somehow, remove these deeper causes that drive this process, we are doomed. That part of the thread is certainly correct.

    1. The Rev Kev

      ‘the world really thought the US was returning to sanity’

      Say, does anybody remember when Biden won the Presidential election and people at the time said that finally the adults were back in charge again? Good times.

      1. hk

        I remember the foreign policy gang around GWB saying “adults are back” in 2001. Just sayin’.

    2. Carolinian

      Trump went after China in order to “make America great again.” Perhaps they are talking about that. If his foreign policy seemed erratic the trend continues.

    3. spud

      the real campaign started in 1993.


      “the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues an arrest warrant for Russia President Vladimir Putin while Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Barack Obama, responsible for horrific crimes against humanity and literally millions of deaths combined in Serbia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria, walk around as free individuals.”

      “How did we get here?

      It is not a mere historical coincidence that the world became a much more dangerous place with the escalation of conflicts that threatened international peace in the 1990s. Without the countervailing force of the Soviet Union, the delusional white supremacists making U.S. policy believed that the next century was going to be a century of unrestrained U.S. domination.

      And who would be dominated? Largely the nations of the global South but also Europe with an accelerated integration plan in 1993 that the U.S. supported because it was seen as a more efficient mechanism for deploying U.S. capital and further solidifying trade relations with the huge and lucrative European Market.”

  14. The Rev Kev

    “Stories from the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic from Ethnographic Collections”

    The 1918-1919 pandemic was much worse than the present one and in the US it killed about 675,000 people out of a population of some 104,514,000 people. That is a helluva butcher’s bill that. There was one Army camp that was really hit hard in the early days and the bodies were being stacked outside the tents. But because of what that virus was doing to those young soldiers, nobody could tell which of the bodies were white and which were black. The Andromeda Strain had nothing on this one. And yet, it got memory-holed. Autobiographies of top medical doctors who visited that camp hardly mentioned it and this experience was barely mentioned in medical history books according to one researcher. Will the same happen to the present pandemic? I think that it is already is. Pandemic? What Pandemic?

    ‘I had a little bird,
    Its name was Enza,
    Opened up the door
    And In-Flew-Enza.’

    Children’s jump-rope rhyme, 1918

    1. bwilli123

      I read somewhere that 40 to 50 years later Doctors could accurately deduce what trimester their mothers were in when they caught that virus. A deduction made from whatever particular system of the body was only now being affected in their older patients.
      Partially confirmed by the below.

      “…But beyond the high death toll, the full impact of the 1918–1919 pandemic wouldn’t be realized until more than 60 years later. In 2009, Finch and Crimmins published a study examining epidemiological data on individuals born in 1919, who were newborns or second- or third-trimester fetuses during the height of the pandemic. The data revealed that these individuals had approximately 25% more heart disease after age 60, as well as increased diabetes risk, compared to a similar cohort of individuals not born in 1919, including those who were older infants during the pandemic…”

      I guess we’ll have to wait another 50 years to see the full effects of Covid.

      1. ambrit

        Sorry. The Covid isn’t the flu. It’s a lot worse. The after effects of the 1918-1919 Influenza epidemic took decades to materialize. Long Covid, the general name for the suite of after effects of the Coronavirus, have shown up right away. Coronavirus isn’t the Flu. It is the Super Flu.

    2. Wukchumni

      I was in a library somewhere in NZ reading about their bout with the Spanish Flu and what made it so very different from Covid (name one name brand person under 50 in the public eye who has died from it?) was that it killed 25-40 year old Kiwis predominantly.

    3. Travellerhiker

      I believe that without our current level of medicinal knowledge, ability to put people on oxygen for extended periods of time and other interventions, the death toll from covid in the early waves could have been as high as 10-15 percent of the patients taken to the hospital ( not total infection). But of course I could be wrong on this.

    4. LifelongLib

      My grandfather’s brother died in the U.S. flu epidemic at about age 20. He wasn’t in the military though. IIRC from family stories, he’d had rheumatic fever as a child which damaged his heart.

    5. Don

      A book recommendation: The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue, Set in the UK during the Spanish Flu Epidemic, it is a wonderful novel on all counts. Donoghue began writing it prior to the Covid epidemic; it was published during it. The title is derived from the Italian influenza — from the 15th century belief that seasonal viral epidemics were due to the influenza delle stelle, the influence of the the stars.

  15. Verifyfirst

    Covid transmission via transplant article–I wonder how one surgeon caught it, and no one else on the operating team. Sloppy masking? A negative pressure room, super ventilated I would assume?

    Following Lambert’s question, I have also been wondering about the blood supply. I don’t believe they are screening for Covid and blocking donations from positive people (or maybe they are?) but given viral persistence and iffy rapid testing accuracy, it seems likely a person currently testing negative could still transmit viable virus via their blood? And then what happens in the recipient’s body?

    Compare this to how they screen for HIV, and……

    1. bwilli123

      Ah well, these people are only a burden on a neo-liberal health system. As the Liberal Party, and former Australian Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey would have described them. “Leaners, not lifters.”

  16. Carolinian

    Re LAT on the eastern Sierra flooding and the aqueduct–one wonders how all this is going to affect Yosemite which has a not distant history of flooding. I visited it after one of those in the 1990s.

    The same scenario took place in Jan. 1997, where warm rain accelerated snow melt. The runoff caused the Merced River and creeks to overflow, taking out bridges and roads, destroying half of the accommodations in Yosemite National Park and half of the campgrounds. 2,100 visitors were stranded, and the park was closed for two months.

    Of course loss of the aqueduct would be a much bigger deal although the Links article says the city was already down to only 13 percent of their water from the aqueduct during the recent drought.

    Yosemite on the other hand will still be beautiful–maybe more so–without the tourists.

    1. Wukchumni

      We had reservations for the Yosemite Lodge hotel for xmas of 1996, and I always wanted to stay @ the Ahwahnee, as i’ve eaten meals there a number of times and as far as i’m concerned, the grande dame of National Park lodges, oh me oh my.

      So when we made reservations in the summer I inquired about the Ahwahnee, and the voice on the other end laughed and said there was nothing available for the next 6 months out or something like that, but told me that I could check in person and if they had a room, I could stay there instead and pay the difference.

      It had only really started to rain when we arrived in Yosemite NP and drove to the Ahwahnee and strided up the front desk and asked if they had any accommodation, and the desk clerk said:

      ‘Yes sir, we have one room’

      We spent a few days in Yosemite Valley and as we were beating a path out it really began-the rain in earnest, and then it was wrecked a week later.

      The difference being that there wasn’t really very much snowpack on the ground, how could there have been that early in the winter.

      Our situation is a little different.

      Went to a public meeting a couple days ago in regards to Sequoia-Kings Canyon NP’s and the optimistic time frame to get the Generals Highway back in a little bit of working order is June 16th, but what wasn’t mentioned is the probable damage yet to be incurred from the veritable shitlode of snow here still to melt out.

      Its bound to be a forgettable summer around these parts, and if it wasn’t for the hair’m i’d bug out and go to another National Park that wasn’t wrecked, but having creatures of habit i’ll probably stick around.

      1. Wukchumni


        At the meeting they showed a photo taken from a helicopter above of a cabin in Mineral King that is next to Cold Springs campground @ 7,500 feet, and I know the cabin and it’s about 20 feet tall, and aside from a small bit of the chimney visible, it is completely encased in snow.

      2. Carolinian

        This year there are some new NPS rules to control congestion. At Arches you will need a “timed entry ticket” that you get online to enter the park. If you don’t show up at the designated hour then too bad. I’ve mentioned how awhile back I couldn’t find a place to park at Zion and had to park outside the gates and now they will require parking reservations in addition to use of the shuttle during the busy season. At the Smokies you will now need a parking pass anywhere in the park (which is on a public highway and has no gates).

        So perhaps nature is stepping in somewhat to reclaim itself from the theme park mentality of Bruce Babbit (Clinton’s interior sec who compared Yellowstone to Disney). The number one directive for the national lands is after preservation. Could be happening although not, sadly, for some of your trees.

        1. Wukchumni

          When I was a kid, the average stay in Sequoia NP was around 3 days, but now its closer to 3 hours, as thats about how long it takes to see the Sherman Tree and possibly Moro Rock for the more intrepid, and then its off to Yosemite to spend 3 hours gawking at waterfalls before going somewhere else for a 3 hour tour-a 3 hour tour.

          We do have a shuttle that starts from Visalia and goes up to the park, but who wants to stay in a hell whole where its 104 and you’re baking while on vacay?

          Three Rivers is refreshingly different from other National Park entrance towns, we never tried that hard, there isn’t any fast food here, nor really anything to draw you in, forget an Imax theater or really trying for the tourist buck, it just wasn’t us…

          …and then came AirBnB

          The most vociferous at the meeting were the would-be Hilton types who are going to suffer mightily, and the guess is there are 350 homes being rented on a short term basis, which will be empty likely during the 99 days of making bank from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

          Those disdainful of garage mahal short term rentals were silently giggling at one another giving each other knowing looks not a lot different than the ones Jack Webb flashed @ Harry Morgan in Dragnet.

  17. Lex

    The Policy Tensor thread and his self-referential link within it are just bad but they do serve as a good example of what’s actually wrong. He bemoans our destruction of the “foundations of US hegemony”. The problem isn’t that global hegemony is a disastrous policy but that people messed it up. In his linked piece he goes to great length to suggest that Biden should fire the hawks like Nuland, as if Joe Biden were a kind-hearted old man being led astray by his evil advisors. Everything wrong in foreign policy, according to the thread, is the fault of GOP admins. He even says that there was an Obama antidote and the real problem now is that Biden didn’t divorce from Trumpist “mercantalism”. The only mild criticism of Dem foreign policy is the 1998 Asian financial crisis.

    But nowhere in the thread or the linked piece is there any serious acknowledgment of any other nation having a valid opinion. Nor is there any serious discussion of why the policy failures are failures other than that they eroded US power. It’s all naval gazing. That’s the problem with the foreign policy hawks too. And it’s the problem with the political elite as well.

    1. hunkerdown

      In other words, PT is talking real capitalist values, in which property is real and feelings can go cry about it, instead of the casuistic Smithian patty-cake we are disinformed is “real capitalism”.

    2. Michaelmas

      In another piece on Policy Tensor’s site, he goes through elaborate evasions with lots of convolutedly worked-up statistics to prove that US working-class deaths of despair could have had nothing — absolutely nothing, honestly! — to do with US deindustrialization and the so-called China shock.

      I think he’s sincere. Sometimes people are so full of it that they have no idea of how full of it they are.

      1. jsn

        Yes well intentioned, and trapped in the toxic milieu of “success” Adam Tooze inhabits.

        One really has to work at avoiding the fact Capitalism is actually, physically burning the world these days. And where it’s not burning, it’s bombing or poisoning.

        It’s really over the top at the moment but the core issue isn’t available to Capitalisms winners who would have to accept that they themselves are the problem were they to open themselves to reality.

      2. Lex

        The linked piece on foreign policy has him saying that he doesn’t think there’s a strong connection between industrial capacity and war fighting capability. So yeah. Who needs factories and machinists; it’s just artillery shells and tanks!

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > That’s the problem with the foreign policy hawks too. And it’s the problem with the political elite as well.

      Reasoning from false premises is not unknown in geopolitics. What interests me is that Policy Tensor reasons from false premises to what I regard as a correct result. A useful skill to have!

  18. Wukchumni

    ‘We’ve lost the aqueduct’: How severe flooding threatens a Los Angeles water lifeline Los Angeles Times
    This winter has been the Big Bonanza, the southern Sierra in particular where I reside. The amount of snow above me is simply staggering with a couple more feet coming the next few days, and then another storm rolls in next week, and so on.

    The ground is simply said, saturated.

    The Owens Valley where the aqueduct runs is about 45 miles away from my QWERTY as the condor flies on a straight shot, and the eastern Sierra range is one hellova snow catcher with the crest running 13k to 14k.

    It wouldn’t surprise me that on the western side of the crest, there are 100 foot tall snowpacks everywhere, and that doesn’t run out to the Owens Valley-it all goes to the Kern River*, but everything on the eastern flank does, and there’s an awful lot of aqueduct to bust if we have one of them there heat waves.

    The claim is that April is the cruelest month, and if this event of 1880 happened again, why sure!

    In the Sierra Nevada snow accumulations were off the charts. An amazing 194” (over 16 feet!) of snow fell at the railway depot Norden on April 20-23 at an elevation of about 7500’.,standing%20records%20for%20the%20city.

    * Bakersfield will be in deep doo-doo, it’s a given

  19. Carolinian

    The Intercept article on Waco is going pretty well–with a fair minded account of how Bill Clinton and his attorney general created the crisis with their heavy military response–until we get this.

    The contradiction, of course, is that there is no overreach greater than overturning an election, which is what Trump tried to do

    So much for fair minded.

    One could look at both Waco and now and conclude that the real underlying narrative is that our ruling class desperately needs a rightwing rebellion in order to justify themselves and defend the status quo. Of course there are such militant movements but the goal is to exaggerate their importance. The Intercept is part of this and why Greenwald said he quit.

    As for Trump, he is going nowhere unless Biden and his Clintonistas persist as his foil. Let’s have some articles on that.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      The sacred promise of amerika: “The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and the “peaceful transition of power.” Yeah, I don’t think so.

      As for Trump’s “coded message to those on the extreme,” maybe “we” should first “decode” the government’s Waco message in which 70 people were shelled by a tank and then burned alive to “get” a guy who regularly rode his frickin’ bike, alone and unarmed, on a deserted country road.

      Of course it’s entirely possible that neither of these “messages” are in any particular need of “decoding” at all.

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      The line today on the liberal networks is that the Branch Davidians were white supremacists. It wasn’t enough to burn them alive. We have to label them as something awful on top of it.

      1. JBird4049

        And the children were white supremacists as well?

        I don’t get it. A lot of men, women, and children died with the likely first man shot, David Koresh himself, standing in an open doorway unarmed trying to defuse the situation. The ATF, FBI, and the DOJ turned a simple search warrant into mass murder.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > A lot of men, women, and children died

          WikiPedia: Only nine people left the building during the fire.[39][82] The remaining Branch Davidians, including the children, were either buried alive by rubble, suffocated, or shot.

          I don’t see anything about Koresh standing in a doorway. It’s interesting to read the timeline through the lens of what we know now about our organs of state security; at a minimum, the entire affair was a complete [cluster].

          1. JBird4049

            The standing in the door bit is from interviews from surviving participants of the raid that I both read and heard. The door itself survived the entire raid, but it was “lost” after the ATF took it away. Again from my memory of news stories and documentaries from back when.

            Waco was thirty years ago? This means that I am going by memories from over two decades ago. I am getting old and time really does fly.

          2. Daniil Adamov

            >I don’t see anything about Koresh standing in a doorway.

            Quick search led me here:

            Third, the defendants rely on a statement that defendant Castillo gave to the Texas Rangers after he exited the compound on April 19. In that statement, Castillo described the scene at the front door of the compound on February 28 as the ATF agents unloaded from the cattle trailers and approached the residence. According to Castillo, Koresh held the front door ajar and said, “Wait a minute, there’s women and children in here.” Castillo claimed that gunfire immediately erupted through the door from the outside, injuring Koresh.

            Elsewhere in the same source:

            ATF Special Agent Roland Ballesteros, who was one of the first agents to approach the front of the compound after the raid began, testified that as he ran toward the front door of the compound, he saw David Koresh standing in the open front doorway. Ballesteros yelled loudly “Police! Lay down!” and “Search Warrant!” to Koresh several times. Koresh responded by asking “What’s going on?” and Ballesteros again yelled “Search Warrant! Lay Down!” As Ballesteros approached the doorway, Koresh “made some kind of smirk” and then closed the door. Ballesteros testified that “there was no doubt in my mind that [Koresh] knew who we were and what we were there for.”

            No time to dig into it right now but it seems very murky. Koresh was shot at some point, but it is apparently unclear when and by who. The idea that the agents can’t have opened fire first is supported by the agents themselves and the press. I am not sure that I would call that ironclad.

    1. Lee

      That is only the case with the oral polio vaccination, which we stopped using in the U.S. in favor the the injected version some years ago. Other countries are still using the oral vaccination for greater ease of administration.

      For attempts to rectify the problem with the oral version of the polio vaccine see:
      Engineering the Live-Attenuated Polio Vaccine to Prevent Reversion to Virulence PubMed, and a discussion of this paper on This Week in Virology at minute 26:25.

  20. Gregg

    Inflation in services. We went to L.A. to visit our mother. Hotel cost almost $500 a night AND they expected us to pay $25 a night to park. Felt abused then heard California is going to raise the state income tax to 14%, which includes capital gains as well on anything sold.

    Then we saw this and realized that we’re being played:

    Newsom Family Vacation: $29K per Night at Cabo San Lucas Villa

  21. Geo

    “Ten reasons why we should turn off ChatGPT”

    It’s going to be hard to turn it off when it’s a required part of our jobs:

    “A major TV production company approached me to help them develop prompts & workflows for story development using GPT4”

    Full thread is worth a read. Going to be an ugly decade ahead for anyone whose income is based on ideas and/or data. I’d like to think unique human perspective and insight will win out but doubt it when cost cutting potential is this big and standards for quality are so low.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      This a.m. on cnbc, the ceo of Pinterest was asked what his company’s AI “strategy” would be “going forward.” The interviewer noted that everyone now “needed an AI strategy.”

      Calls to mind 15 or 20 years ago when, in order to be an attractive “investment,” every company was required to have a “China strategy,” whether one was actually needed or could be profitable…or not.

      It appears that AI has become the outsourcing to China of the 2020’s. Probably can expect similarly “successful” results. Unwinding the China outsourcing craze is now called “reshoring.” I wonder what the eventual dumping of AI will be called.

      1. hunkerdown

        Re-thinking? Or, as with China and rightshoring, they will find both AI and human cognition have a place in the intellectual production process and they’ll call it “right-thinking”.

      2. ChrisFromGA

        Right, and don’t forget about the obligatory “Bezzle^H^H^H^H^H^HMetaverse” strategy.

        Re: dumping of AI – Operation Rehumanize yourself

        1. Geo

          Much like we have a skills deficit for manufacturing after decades of offshoring I wonder what a decade of AI-centric art will do to our ability to rehumanize down the road?

          A few years back I went to a gallery exhibit for emerging artists in Los Angeles and was struck by how nearly every artists pulled from pop culture in their themes. I checked to see if Disney IP was the show’s theme but it was not. It was just that these artist’s view of society seemed to have been shaped more my Disney/Marvel/HarryPotter/etc than by real life. Or, maybe they just found that incorporating popular iconography lead to more attention for their own art? Either way, it was depressing.

          Similarly, most of the successful NFT launches in the past few months have been all about the web3/blockchain community such as one titled “M0n3y Pr1nt3r G0 BRRRR” that made over $2M in the first hour and it’s just a photo of a slot machine with names of notable people in finance and web3 made to look sort of like a movie poster.

          Hard for me to imagine art being dumbed down any more than it already has been. Maybe AI will elevate it? Will audiences even care either way since it seems they only respond to art that features figures and narratives they are already familiar and comfortable with?

          1. Wukchumni

            Unbeknownst to most, i’ve been using Chat GPT for years now on here, and it’s kind of like those weird signs you see in bad english in Asia, you have to proofread everything before running a post pattern.

            My world is 100% devoid of AI i’d guess, and doesn’t it boil down to the Big Easy, in terms of arty types doing their thing in the Big Smokes?

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              > arty types doing their thing

              No doubt AI platforms under capitalism will be subject to Doctorow’s cycle of enshittification, like any other platform:

              In the enshittification cycle, a platform lures in users by giving them a good deal at first, then it lures in business customers (advertisers, sellers, performers) by shifting the surplus from users to them; finally, it takes all the surplus for itself, turning the whole thing into a pile of shit:

              With Ai, we are in the first, “good deal” stage.

      3. Geo

        Interesting and smart analogy. It really does feel like a form of offshoring but for non-physical labor jobs.

        And, much as we’ve all witnessed the crapification of so much in our society, I doubt there will be much pushback on this either. Can’t speak for other industries but in entertainment over the past few decades we’ve seen stuff intended for kids (comic books, YA novels, toys) become the dominant stories in our culture so it’s already more than evident that there is little appetite for smart storytelling. It’s doubtful any of us would be able to tell the difference between an AI novel from any of the thousands of YA novels out there, or a Marvel movie written by people or AI. And Netflix has been bragging about using algorithms to craft stories since they first started doing original productions with House of Cards.

        Hopefully there will always be a niche for real art and thoughtful storytelling. But, it’s going to be an even smaller slice of the pie and put a lot of creatives out of work overnight.

        On the flip side, Ireland is incentivizing creativity.

        Nice to see there is still some support for art in the world.

        1. JBird4049

          AI and Chat GPT in art is like with the ingredients in our “food.” Yes, you can sell it, and someone will eat it, but can anyone live on it? Perhaps, the better analogy would be of having a canvas tent behind a façade of a house and being told it will protect from a Great Plains blizzard just like a real house. All this pseudo thinking, feeling, and analysis done by the machine is profitable for corporations, but is just empty calories at best and artificial sweetener at worst, and starves both mind and soul.

      4. LY

        This trend has been around for at least half a decade. AI, machine learning, and Big Data have been touted as the next big thing in computing and business. Now it’s easier to fundraise off an AI “strategy”, not unlike blockchain/crypto or virtual reality (but at greater scale).

        When my masters adviser casually discussed going for my PhD in electrical/computer engineering in the mid 2010’s, the hot fields were already AI, machine learning, and Big Data. As far as I can tell, there hasn’t been any major fundamental breakthroughs, more computing power and data sets are larger and cheaper. The tools have been refined to the point now that technology tool demonstrations are accessible to non-technical people.

        And speaking of China, by some measurements China is ahead in these technologies.

    2. LY

      Going to have to add the skill “AI whisperer” to the resume.

      Not to be confused with the job “AI trainer”.

    3. Angie Neer

      This morning I heard an NPR story that turned out to be a teaser for a podcast (grrrr), but it contained a statement I found very clarifying. Passing the “Turing Test” has long been considered an important benchmark for AI, but what it really boils down to is whether the machine can convincingly lie. Call me slow, but I had never looked at it that way.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Going to be an ugly decade ahead for anyone whose income is based on ideas and/or data. I’d like to think unique human perspective and insight will win out but doubt it when cost cutting potential is this big and standards for quality are so low.

      Hollywood has already crapified the narrative; we’ve destroyed the humanities; now we’re destroying creatives generally. Where will novelty come from?

      Soon we’ll all be trapped in a closed, self-recycling, autocoprophagous autonomous process. At least 1984 had Winston Smith in the loop

      As someone who makes a living through writing, and whose avocation is photography, I don’t look on these developments with equanimity.

      1. JBird4049

        Maybe that is one of the goals. The dumbing down of the artistic and intellectual classes or the group of people who are the most trouble to the people in charge. If you can’t make a living being creative, you can’t afford to be a creative troublemaker. It is hard to create music, write, sculp, paint, or even just sit down and think, if you are too busy being hungry.

        I do have to ask with all of this crapification, falsifying, and general BS will even the powers that be will be able to keep track of the real from the nonsense? It would be hard to have a functioning society, never mind an entire civilization, if nobody can find what is reality.

        Fake news. Fake food. Fake art. Fake money. Fake government. Fake businesses. It all looks fake. Fake people with fake lives? Looks like actual Hell or at least place in Purgatory to me.

        Maybe this is one of the causes of the violence in our society. How does one keep their connections to reality, to sanity? It must drive some to madness in both senses of the word.

        1. Daniil Adamov

          >It would be hard to have a functioning society, never mind an entire civilization, if nobody can find what is reality.

          Disconnection from reality is a pretty common phenomenon in civilisations. I’ve been reading Ray Huang’s 1587, A Year of No Significance, about the late Ming dynasty. There, reality was obfuscated from the central powers partly by the tyranny of distance (how do you tell what things are really like in the provinces? They’re far and the local officials all have their own self-interest) and partly by a thick wall of stereotyped writing reducing all complex real world problems to simple exercises in Confucian morality. Sure enough, this disconnection did make the empire largely ungovernable, especially once the bureaucratic apparatus (or the moral-bureaucratic complex?) reached a sufficiently rarified state of perfection, but it lasted in that state for decades until someone strong and motivated enough came by to knock it over (i.e. the Manchus; though if not for them I suspect a peasant rebellion could’ve done it too).

  22. .Tom

    Ten reasons why we should turn off ChatGPT “Misinformation: ChatGPT can inadvertently spread false or misleading information due to its data training limitations or biases present in the data.”

    I asked ChatGPT a simple but specific question about a company I own and thoroughly understand. It’s short answer included two complete falsehoods. It just made them up. I’m not sure why the author calls this inadvertent. The gaps in understanding and filling them with statistical estimation (i.e. guesses) at query time is part of the design of these systems. That they are wrong part of the time is baked in. So I’d call that lying rather than inadvertent misinformation.

    1. Mildred Montana

      Ask ChatGPT how one can cure the pain of an abscessed tooth. I’d be curious. I’m not going to do it myself, but having had one I know there is only one cure: Antibiotics (quickly effective) followed by extraction a few weeks later.

      But look up “abscessed tooth pain” on the internet and there are all sorts of “treatments”, all of them bogus internet BS. So I wonder, would ChatGPT just regurgitate this misinformation or would it have the honesty to say, “Sorry, I’ve never had an abscess myself. I can’t answer your question.” Or, would it actually get it right and tell the sufferer to see a dentist ASAP, the only solution?

    2. Vandemonian

      It’s just possible, Tom, that ChatGPT is simply a glib purveyor of bullshit. Here’s Harry Frankfurt’s original description:

      “It is in this sense that [Fania] Pascal’s statement is unconnected to a concern with truth: she is not concerned with the truth-value of what she says. That is why she cannot be regarded as lying; for she does not presume that she knows the truth, and therefore she cannot be deliberately promulgating a proposition that she presumes to be false: Her statement is grounded neither in a belief that it is true nor, as a lie must be, in a belief that it is not true. It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth — this indifference to how things really are — that I regard as of the essence of bullshit.”
      – Wittgenstein, quoted in Frankfurt’s classic ‘On Bullshit’, (page 34)

      The AI chatbots have accumulated enough reasonable-sounding words, strung together in a plausible way, to convince the uncautious (aka ‘suckers’) that they’re providing valuable advice. The chatbots never lie, but they never tell the truth, either. To do that they would have to have a thread in their programming that could identify facts and truth, but they dont.

        1. Daniil Adamov

          I imagine that’s part of the core appeal – automate thoughtless gibbering to spend more time on anything else. Easier than just doing without it, apparently.

          1. Polar Socialist

            Maybe this transformation of English from lingua franca to lingua stercus tauri will allow some less spoiled language to occupy the position. After all, the Age of Anglos seems to be on it’s way towards the sunset.

        2. Vandemonian

          Sorry, Lambert, churlish of me not to give you the credit. I’d saved the quote (and the line of thought), but lost track of where I’d read it. Humble apologies.

  23. spud

    i will never forget a economics professor on NPR stating with complete confidence that under free trade we will keep our high standards. it was said in the mid 1990’s as bill clinton took a meat axe to americas civil society.

    if said professor is still alive, chances are he is retired on a fat pension.

    Suddenly the U.S. is facing a problem we thought we’d solved: Rampant child labor

    Opinion: Suddenly the U.S. is facing a problem we thought we’d solved: Rampant child labor
    Steven Greenhouse
    Mon, March 27, 2023, 5:03 AM CDT

    “The push to ease child labor regulations comes at a terrible time because U.S. schoolchildren moved backward academically during the pandemic. Many studies have found that students who work 20 or more hours a week are more likely to drop out of school and have their grades decline, not to mention that they’re often too exhausted to do schoolwork or stay awake in class.

    Dropping out can lead to worse economic prospects. High school dropouts had median weekly earnings of just $626 in 2021, 23% below the $809 earned by high school graduates (without college). Workers with a bachelor’s degree earn $1,334 a week, more than double what high school dropouts earn.

    All this speaks to the need to maintain child labor laws and step up enforcement. Unfortunately the move to ease such laws — an effort long backed by the libertarian Koch brothers and their network — sends a strong message to employers that hiring young teens is just fine. These legislative moves could further embolden employers to flout child labor regulations.”

  24. Jason Boxman

    Polio and Vaccination: A Memoir of What We’ve Forgotten

    Failure to vaccinate is the chief cause of measles outbreaks, often starting with communities with religious objections to vaccination. But while outbreaks may start there, they can spread into the larger community if it has a vaccination rate below 95 per cent. This creates “herd immunity”: the virus can’t spread to susceptible people because so many immunized people are in its way. The same is true for other diseases like seasonal influenza — the more vaccinations, the smaller the chance of infecting those most vulnerable to it, like the elderly and the immunocompromised.

    But to what degree is that true for the flu shot? We know the COVID shot doesn’t prevent transmission. Why would the flu shot, which was never even a 90% match for a given year, prevent transmission? This conflates the flu and polio in a way that I don’t think is correct.

    It matters because our current catastrophe is animated in part by the fiction that there’s sterilizing immunity for COVID from shots. Whether it is possible to derive a sterilizing vaccine for a pathogen, and that people understand what is actually possible, is crucial to prevent future lies about what is and is not possible in terms of curtailing or eliminating transmission, and thus, concluding the horror.

  25. ChrisPacific

    Re: Agatha Christie and ‘modern sensitivities’

    I think if you polled most people who cared about literature (including teachers) they’d vote for leaving them as is and adding some context/discussion around the historical factors that led to them being written that way. Airbrushing racism and other negative elements out of history serves nobody.

    So ‘modern sensitivities’ is definitely not the reason. I suspect it’s more about avoidance of trouble and not triggering a cancel culture lynch mob. You’d like to think that publishers would stand up for literary principles even if it involved some risk, but I guess they’re businesses and behave accordingly.

    1. hunkerdown

      It serves the hegemonic PMC who believe that nothing isn’t subordinate to human will, including human will itself.

        1. hunkerdown

          Bernays and family could be said to have discovered effective and broad principles for dominating, if not the mind itself, then the conditions in which mind is formed and reformed, ultimately spawning a retail book genre and at least one entire field of profession. Around the same time we have Dion Fortune defining magic as “the art of changing consciousness according to will” and elaborating a philosophy thereof at length. Augustine’s observation is still a true word, but not the final word.

        2. The Rev Kev

          ‘The mind commands the body and is instantly obeyed.’

          The bladder begs to differ.

          1. Polar Socialist

            Not just the bladder. Probably anyone who has done combat sports for a long time can attest that after 50 or so your body just doesn’t follow the instructions coming from the motor cortex.

            Or at least it takes it’s sweet time to comply.

    2. c_heale

      In my opinion the racism and anti-semitism in many British novels from the 1930s and before is completely disgusting. I personally think on this issue that replacing some of the offensive language is justified. Just substitute the offensive words with other less offensive words. The novel now known as And Then There Were None has already been retitled back in the day.

      I’m not sure Agatha Christie can be classed as literature. I’ve never thought of it as part of the canon.

      There are a lot of problems with the more important authors, Poe and Twain.

  26. Willow

    If US was hoping China would invade Taiwan by pushing independence it ain’t going to happen. Taiwanese have seen what has happened in Ukraine and are unwilling to commit to a US backed fight. China has won and Taiwan has flipped. Pentagon going to be even more pissed with State Dept that Ukraine conflict has scuttled their plan to bring the ‘inevitable’ China conflict forward using Taiwan as a shield.

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