2:00PM Water Cooler 4/11/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, my IT is back to normal, fortunately. It’s a rare thing, I think, to have four layers of a redundant system fail, but fail they did! –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

California Towhee, Sand Creek Rd., Colusa, California, United States.

* * *


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

Biden Administration

“White House launching $5 billion program to speed coronavirus vaccines” [WaPo]. “‘Project Next Gen’ — the long-anticipated follow-up to ‘Operation Warp Speed,’ the Trump-era program that sped coronavirus vaccines to patients in 2020 — would take a similar approach to partnering with private sector companies to expedite development of vaccines and therapies. An array of scientists, public heath experts and politicians have called for the initiative, warning that existing therapies have steadily lost their effectiveness and new ones are needed. ‘It’s been very clear to us that the market on this is moving very slowly,’ Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus coordinator, said in an interview Monday. ‘There’s a lot that government can do, the administration can do, to speed up those tools … for the American people.'” And: “Jha and others said the new effort will focus on three goals: creating long-lasting monoclonal antibodies, after an evolving virus rendered current treatments ineffective; accelerating development of vaccines that produce what is known as mucosal immunity, which is thought to reduce transmission and infection risks; and speeding efforts to develop pan-coronavirus vaccines to guard against new variants of SARS-CoV-2, as well as other coronaviruses, from Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) to still-unidentified viruses in that family. And: “But Jha declined to set timetables for when the products might come to market….” And so: “Key parts of the new initiative have yet to be finalized. The White House is still considering candidates to lead the program, officials said. The vetting process has been complicated by Democrats’ desire to avoid questions of conflicts of interest that dogged Operation Warp Speed, after Trump officials selected Moncef Slaoui, a pharmaceutical industry executive with significant stock holdings, to lead that program.” • I’m not impressed. Biden has put together a small pot of $5 billion, while blaming Republicans for not appropriating anything. The project should have been set up in January 2021, but it took the molasses-brained Biden administration two years to move, and in the interim, 700,000+ people died. There’s no timeline — very much unlike “Warp Speed” — and so no urgency. And we don’t know who’s running it, so we don’t know how much of a priority it will be. I’d love it to succeed, but I dunno….

“Project Next Gen: The United States Gets Serious for New Covid Vaccines” [Eric Topol, Ground Truths]. “This is a substantial allocation that should make a difference for accelerating development of nasal and pan-coronavirus vaccines that can be more protective, and durable (both with respect to time and against new variants), along with therapies such as monoclonal antibodies and oral anti-viral pills beyond Paxlovid. Public-industry partnerships (OWS) that have accounted for our early and extraordinary success vs Covid, but until now not replicated. We really need this support…. The new Project NextGen didn’t happen by accident. It took many months for the White House Response Team, with efforts led by Dr. Ashish Jha, to first attempt Congressional authorization of funds, and later to successfully get HHS allocation. It also took President Biden to get behind the need and the prioritization [what prioritization?]. I’m thrilled to see this getting done. Of course it would have been better to have been initiated a year or two ago, but a foundation of science for the next generation vaccines and therapies has been building. This program and funding can, if properly executed, be a huge catalyst to get up better protected and prepared for the future.” • A three-quarters-empty but slowly filling glass? I’ll be “thrilled” when I see the leadership and a timeline. There is no reason whatever to trust the Biden Administration on any aspect of Covid policy. They have form. I would also like to know how Biden was brought to agree on the relatively trivial $5 billion amount.

The Supremes

“Democrats ask chief justice to investigate Clarence Thomas trips: ‘It is your duty'” [The Hill]. • That dull thud you just heard is called “punting.” AOC is right. Impeach the dude. It’s ridiculous.


“Key lawmakers granted access to Biden, Trump and Pence classified documents” [CNN]. “Top lawmakers on Capitol Hill who oversee the intelligence community finally have been granted the ability to look over the classified documents found improperly in the homes of President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence, three sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, ending a months-long standoff between Congress and the administration. The members of the “Gang of Eight”, which includes the House and Senate leaders from each party as well as the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, are privy to the most sensitive classified information. They began to get the documents last week. A source familiar with the process tells CNN the Gang of Eight began getting access to Biden, Pence and Trump’s classified documents ‘in a rolling production’ last week. The Biden administration is giving the group access to the documents ‘in tranches’ and not all at once, according to the source. For several months, leaders of the intelligence committees have been pushing for more information about the kinds of documents found, offering harsh criticism for the lack of information they received early on.”

* * *

OH: “Waning support for Ukraine in Ohio points to US election flashpoint” [Financial Times]. “Ahead of the 2024 elections, the faultlines in Republican foreign policy are starting to appear. Former US president Donald Trump and his expected main rival for the nomination Ron DeSantis have questioned American assistance to Ukraine, although the Florida governor later moderated his stance. Others such as Nikki Haley and Mike Pence have argued that the US needs to continue its support. Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo travelled to Kyiv this month and advocated for American aid, which he said was not about abstract ideals but ‘strengthening our national and economic security.’ The same splits can be found in Ohio, where isolationist senator JD Vance took over this year from the more moderate senator Rob Portman, who was one of Congress’s strongest voices on Ukraine. Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine, who was also elected in 2022, has advocated for continued assistance to Kyiv. The Biden administration is expected to request more aid for Ukraine in the summer when some $45bn passed last year runs out. And it is people like Snyder, or Judith Vanderhorst, a self-described ‘down-the-middle’ Republican, who lawmakers will have in mind heading into competitive 2024 congressional and presidential primaries and elections. The US ‘probably shouldn’t’ keep sending aid to Ukraine, said Vanderhorst, of Centreville, Ohio. ‘I don’t think America should have to police the world, we have enough issues and problems here.'”

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.

* * *

“AOC: The Biden Administration’s Rightward Turn Is ‘a Profound Miscalculation'” (interview) [AOC, Jacobin]. Interviewed by Sirota. Worth a read. AOC: “What this is about is building a very sophisticated infrastructure in the progressive movement that focuses on field operations and professionalizing how we can share that across the movement, because far too many campaigns start from scratch. That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot and working on. I have a PAC, Courage to Change, that focuses on down-ballot elections and supporting progressives who are in that boat where they aren’t able to tap into these high-net-worth fundraising circles to build a super-well-funded campaign. We are starting to see more people win while being outspentIt needs to be down to blocks. You need to know your path to victory. This can’t just be a “post and pray” approach. We need to know what we are doing, and thankfully, I think that there’s been a lot of progress in that in that respect. But it is something that must be an ongoing commitment and project.” • “It needs to be down to blocks” is something I like, technically. That’s why I liked the Fetterman campaign: “Every county, every vote.” But on policy, what a disappointment AOC was; all that intelligence and verve, wasted in kowtowing to Pelosi. Since Democrats can’t go block to block on delivering anything but crumbs, that leaves the empty calories of tribalism. No thanks.

“New rest areas weren’t supposed to cost taxpayers, but contractors want $260M bailout” [Buffalo News]. “It went like this: A private company would pay to knock down 23 aging rest stop plazas along the Thruway and rebuild them as sparkling, stylish spaces for weary travelers, with amenities appropriate for the 21st century and a host of new restaurants. On top of that, taxpayers would not have to pay a dime for the project, because in exchange for funding the construction, a company would gain a 33-year lease at the stops and a cut from goods sold in the facilities.” Who dreamed this up? Rahm Emanuel? Anyhow, the contractors blame it on Covid, which could even be right, but is also a reason not to go the public-private partnership route in the first place.

Love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal:

But why can’t both be right?


“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).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort. We are now up to 50/50 states (100%). This is really great! (It occurs to me that there are uses to which this data might be put, beyond helping people with “personal risk assessments” appropriate to their state. For example, thinking pessimistically, we might maintain the list and see which states go dark and when. We might also tabulate the properties of each site and look for differences and commonalities, for example the use of GIS (an exercise in Federalism). I do not that CA remains a little sketchy; it feels a little odd that there’s no statewide site, but I’ve never been able to find one. Also, my working assumption was that each state would have one site. That’s turned out not to be true; see e.g. ID. Trivially, it means I need to punctuate this list properly. Less trivially, there may be more local sites that should be added. NY city in NY state springs to mind, but I’m sure there are others. FL also springs to mind as a special case, because DeSantis will most probably be a Presidental candidate, and IIRC there was some foofra about their state dashboard. Thanks again!

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 (dashboard; wastewater); NE (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (dashboard; wastewater, Southern 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 (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (9), 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).

* * *

Look for the Helpers

Alert reader Bob White writes:

Attached is an image of a Corsi box we made, working great. Only out-of-pocket cost was the filters from Costco $39.99 for a 4 pack. The old fan was picked off the curb, already had the duct tape.

I do wish we had a better method of being certain what “working great” means. Perhaps readers have run across this, but I have not. A colored aerosol would show up on the filters, but that seems to imply spray paint, perhaps not such a good idea.

Very encouraging:

Covid Is Airborne

This is a terrific thread, worth reading in full:

A really neat trick:

A reactionary view (“fixating”):

Put the handle back on the pump!

“Airborne disease transmission during indoor gatherings over multiple time scales: Modeling framework and policy implications’ [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]. “. Our modeling framework captures the feedback dynamics between individuals’ viral shedding, the environment’s viral dynamics, the group behavioral characteristics, and the impact of control measures. We identify and quantify tradeoffs between environmental variables and diverse control variables acting at multiple scales, for instance, mask wearing and ventilation (acting at the room’s level), and testing and isolation (acting at the population scale). Indoor settings pose multiple intrinsic constraints (e.g., characteristics of the venue), social and economic conditions (e.g., the population’s age structure and compliance with social norms) would also restrict the intensity of the response, for instance, poor organization reflected in low compliance would require centralized policy choices, instead of relying on decentralized responses like mask wearing and social distancing, which require individuals to adopt new behaviors. We focus on the epidemiological importance of policies such as mask compliance, meeting breaks, and air filtration for containing disease propagation in indoor events. We do not attempt to identify optimal policies.” • They use the word “droplets,” but since the so-called droplets linger, I assume they mean aerosols.


“Americans hold mixed views on getting back to ‘normal’ after Covid-19, new polling shows” [CNN]. “Only 24% of Americans personally feel that the pandemic is over, a recent Monmouth University poll found, with 20% saying it will end eventually and 53% saying that it’ll never be over. Those numbers were very similar to Monmouth’s polling last fall, suggesting that a sense of some lingering abnormalcy may well be the new normal…. About half of Americans, 48%, are continuing to mask up in public on at least some occasions, the Monmouth poll found, though only about 21% said they do so most or all of the time.” • Commentary:

“Your Mask is Sexy” [Covid Underground]. This seems to be an advice column: ” Lately I keep hearing versions of this question. When will you let up? When will you stop masking? What is the metric for returning to normal?…. Before you even get into the nitty gritty of negotiating mitigations, try this: ask about their values. Studies show that the best way to defuse a disagreement is to ask the other person about their values. Allowing somone to reflect on their core principles boosts their intellectual humility and openness to other perspectives. So when your ex hounds you for answers, gently turn the tables. Ask what’s most important to him, and listen. He’ll be more receptive to your point of view afterward. This response is practical, emotionally sensitive, and still brings your ex back around to your terms. The pandemic isn’t going away, but we have agency in how we adapt to it. That’s where I see you coming from, and that’s a good place to be.”

When you hear “masks don’t work,” here’s one reason why:

(@FitTestMyPlanet is a good account; they test masks all the time, they’re fanatics.) One wonders why the store’s buyer made these choices. Ignorance? Cynicism? Malevolence? Incentives?

Hospital Infection Control is infecting people again (“Yeah, we only said we would control it….”)

Readers may wish to evaluate this mask; this is not an endorsement:

What I will say is that I recoil from the Darth Vader masks. I know they’re effective, but I couldn’t stand to be that much of an oddball. And I feel most people feel the same, which is why I keep saying masks need to be reperceived as a fashion item, and not as a medical device; that would be an excellent way to normalize their use. That said, this is the first Darth Vader mask I’d consider wearing. It’s ugly, but not that ugly (though I still hate the plastic colors. Can’t we get some primary colors?)

Scientific Communication

Read all the way to the end, like Berger did:

This this poor woman still thinks handwashing protects you from Covid is at best an enormous failure in scientific communication by the public health establishment (in this case, Australia’s) and at worst eugenicist (“Bringing down the life expectancy curve, one case at a time”).


Where are the lawsuits (1):

Hospital Infection Control infecting people again…

Where are the lawsuits (2):

I’m amazed there’s nothing from HCWs:

Elite Malfeasance

The Solomon Asch social conformity experiment:

And you’ll never guess what happened next:

I would bet most of the NC commentariat would be insisting on the right answer to the bitter end (q.v. Twelve Angry Men). Now, I’m not happy how Iannattone’s “group” shifts insensity to “tribe”; the two words are not synonyms. And I feel that the psychology of the individual (as Jeeves calls it) needs to be set within a framework of social relations (as indeed Jeeves does do). One obvious application of social conformity is masking. However, there are clearly power relations that go beyond psychology. Oh, and for a list of “bad actors” in Covid, you could so worse than starting with Appendix A here (pundits).

* * *

Looks like “leveling off to a high plateau” across the board. (I still think “Something Awful” is coming, however. I mean, besides what we already know about.) Stay safe out there!

Case Data

BioBot wastewater data from April 10:

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.

• “Rise in Hong Kong coronavirus reproduction number blamed on axing of Covid-19 restrictions and waning immunity, but increase ‘expected'” [South China Morning Post]. “The interactive web-based Covid-19 case tracker run by the University of Hong Kong revealed the real-time effective reproductive number (Rt) for city cases jumped to 2.07 on March 30, up from 1.09 on March 29. It was the highest reproductive number since early March last year and could signal another outbreak. Professor David Hui Shu-cheong, a Hong Kong government pandemic adviser, said the resurgence was down to the dropping of mask-wearing and waning immunity. ‘This is expected That is why we encourage people, especially high-risk groups, to receive a booster six months after the last dose or infection,’ Hui, also of Chinese University’s department of medicine and therapeutics, said. ‘As long as there are few severe cases and deaths daily, there is no need to reintroduce social-distancing measures. Hui was speaking a month after the city lifted the mask mandate and other pandemic-related health precautions But medical experts insisted there was no need to panic as long as the number of fatalities and serious cases stayed low. They added there was no need to reinstate compulsory mask-wearing or other precautions.” • Shu-Cheong’s resume: ”

Education MBBS (UNSW), MD (UNSW), MRCP (UK), FRACP, FRCP (Lond, Edin, Glasg), FHKCP, FHKAM (Medicine).” PMC gotta PMC, all over the world.

• Not seeing it here (yet?):

India and the UK, at least, are having their troubles. The new variants should show up at international airports (unless we’ve bred our own). But last holiday season I watched the airports like a cat at a mousehole, and no dice. What to do? And speaking of airports–

• “Global surveillance of novel SARS-CoV-2 variants” (preprint) [medRxiv]. “We developed simulations of the emergence and importation of novel variants with a range of infection hospitalisation rates (IHR) to the UK. We compared time taken to detect the variant though testing arrivals at UK borders, hospital admissions, and the general community. We found that sampling 10 to 50% of arrivals at UK borders could confer a speed advantage of 3.5 to 6 weeks over existing community surveillance, and 1.5 to 5 weeks (depending on IHR) over hospital testing. We conclude that directing limited global capacity for surveillance to highly connected ports could speed up global detection of novel SARS-CoV-2 variants.”

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from April 1:

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 April 11:

-1.8%. Below the low point of the previous valley.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 1,157,022 – 1,156,850 = 172 (172 * 365 = 62,780 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

Excess deaths (The Economist), published April 2:

Lambert here: Big jump from the last reading in the “Central Estimate.”

Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model. Looks like a data issue, to me. 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

Small Business Optimism: “United States NFIB Business Optimism Index” [Trading Economics]. “The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index in the United States edged lower to a three-month low of 90.1 in March of 2023 from 90.9 in February. It marks the 15th straight month the index is below its 49-year average of 98, as small business owners are cynical about future economic conditions. 24% of owners reported inflation as their single most important business problem, down four points from last month. Also, 43% reported job openings that were hard to fill, down four points from February and remaining historically very high.”

* * *


I have strong priors here, as readers know. But I have never seen an AI-generated “artwork” that I’ve wanted to look at again. Not once. Including these two.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 61 Greed (previous close: 60 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 52 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 11 at 2:01 PM ET.

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 185. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.) NOTE on #42 Plagues: “The coronavirus pandemic has maxed out this category.” More honest than most!

Zeitgeist Watch

“Finding the Words That Get Results” [Wall Street Journal]. “Sometimes it’s just one word that makes a difference. Research that my colleague and I published in 2017, for example, found that saying you “recommend” rather than “like” something makes people 32% more likely to take your suggestion. Other words operate more like gateways: A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that adding the word “because” to a request, followed by the reason for it, increased compliance by 50%…. When asking people to do things we often try to motivate them using verbs, as in “Can you help me revise this Power Point deck,” or “please turn out and vote.” But try this simple shift: Rather than asking people to ‘help,’ ask them to be a ‘helper.'” • !!!!!

Class Warfare

“Government Posing Greater Risk to Corporate Profits, Chamber Study Finds” [Wall Street Journal]. “Tax changes, regulatory enforcement and government policy shifts are posing a greater threat to corporate profits than they did a decade ago, according to a new study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The chamber study was based on an analysis of annual reports filed by publicly traded companies in the S&P 500 index. It found that companies used terms associated with potential risks from government action about 325,000 times in their 2021 annual reports, a 27% increase from 2011. In contrast, the chamber found that risks to corporate profits from nongovernmental forces, such as lawsuits or cost increases, remained relatively flat during the 10-year period.”

“Southern California ports reopen. Shutdown highlights high-stakes contract talks” [Los Angeles Times]. “Southern California dockworkers returned to the job Friday night, ending an approximately 24-hour shutdown at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports — a crucial entry point for imports arriving from Asia. The temporary closure has exacerbated fears about a logistics infrastructure that has never fully recalibrated since the COVID-19 pandemic delays and has shone a stark, national spotlight on the high-stakes labor negotiations playing out at the ports.”

News of the Wired

Sadly, I am not wired today.

* * *

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

AM writes: “Gorse, St Andrews Scotland 3/6/23. Hard to frame due to wind and my shadow but lots of it with brilliant color.”

* * *

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. Tom Stone

    Does anyone know how much bank has been made on the dead Kids at Covenant School?
    If A. Hole had paid for the coverage it got, what would be the cost?
    $10MM, $20MM?, $100MM?
    It’s gotta be about the publicity, if it were about the jot of murdering children they would have joined the State Department.

    1. JBird4049

      I don’t understand the question. If it is about the various actors like the political parties, the activists, and NGOs, CNN, FOX, CBS, XYZ, celebrity whoever, all making an uproar over the pain and death of the massacre because they can make bank doing, who knows? Plenty of these people are ghouls feasting on the suffering of others because it is a living and not because they actually care about issue X, Y, and Z.

  2. Some Guy

    This line cracked me up. ” isolationist senator JD Vance took over this year from the more moderate senator Rob Portman, who was one of Congress’s strongest voices on Ukraine”

    I guess being ‘one of the strongest voices’ (for war) is what made him ‘more moderate

    It’s like they can’t even hear themselves any more.

    1. Carolinian

      Thanks. You beat me to it. Doubtless if the Financial Times was America Nikki Haley would be our next president and Lindsey Graham Sec of State, an SC twofer.

      Not that Biden/Blinken much of a difference. And re Covid this is interesting.


      Hawley: Doctor Ebright, let me ask you about the merits of gain-of-function research because I was struck by something you said in your written testimony. You said, ‘gain-of-function research has no civilian practical applications.’ From a research perspective, then what, why do it? I mean, what’s the, what’s the value, the real value of gain-of-function research?

      Ebright: Not a matter of value but incentives, particularly incentives within the academic research ecosystem. Gain-of-function research of concern is fast and easy, much faster and much easier than vaccine or drug development. And gain-of-function research is publishable, and gain-of-function research is fundable. With those four incentives in place: fast, easy, fundable, and publishable, the research will be performed. Eliminate any one of those incentives and it will not be.[…]

      Hawley: So let me ask you this. Gain-of-function research and bioweapons, what is the connection there? I mean, what role does gain-of-function research play?

      Ebright: As I mentioned, there are no civilian practical applications. There are immense bioweapons practical applications. As you’ve heard from Dr. Esvelt, the potential pandemic pathogens that can emerge from such studies are potential weapons of mass destruction: inexpensive, accessible, easily distributed weapons of mass destruction.

    1. Tom Doak

      Check, and check.

      Gorse is one of the most aggressive and invasive plants I’ve seen. They imported a little in the late 1800’s to control the shifting sand dunes in Oregon, and it has taken over large swaths of the coastline there.

      Also worth noting that the oil in the gorse can produce a bit of a stinging reaction if you get poked by the plant, so you should stay just as far away from a gorse fire as you do from poison ivy on fire. I know a worker in Oregon who developed severe lung damage from this.

    2. Greg

      Also, I’ve been told by informed researchers, a fairly good nurse plant for re-establishment of native bush here in NZ.
      Which is funny, because we’ve spent decades trying to eradicate it, and if we’d just let the natives grow up under then it would have started to die off where they’d become established.

  3. Jason Boxman

    I wears the Vader mask. I prefer not living out the rest of my life moderately or severely incapacitated in America. For me, the trade-off was an easy choice. I never chatted people up at the grocery store anyway.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I also wear a Vader mask. It is more comfortable to wear and fits better than other masks I have tried especially the over-the-ear masks. I am old and generally ignored and chat up people even in my Vader mask, although they have to actually listen in order to understand what I am saying. [I hated to shave off my beard though, in order to assure a good fit.]

    2. Verifyfirst

      I’ve been wearing the GVS mask Lambert posted up above for about 6 weeks–I like it because P100 and long lasting filter, plus it fits my face well. I tried the Envo Mask, the Flo Mask, the new Breathe99 elastomeric mask from Armbrust, the SoftSeal masks, Gerson duckbill, 3M Auras, and a bunch more.

      Good seal is my main problem. I like the Omnimask, which shows your smile (lol, it really does!). But these are all half face masks–no eye protection, and I do believe Covid can get in through the eyeballs, though much less likely than the nose

      I used a full face Narwaal for 2 plus years, and it seals well and is super easy to doff on and off. Unfortunately it looks like a snorkel mask, and the hostile reactions have been increasing to the point I wondered if someone was going to actually attack me. I don’t care about pointing and laughing and yelled comments, which happen, but actual attacks concern me.

      Since I rarely go indoors other than my house, I’m using the GVS outdoors. If I go indoors I add goggles (I can see ok without my glasses). All purchases are curbside pickup or delivery outside the front door. At the dentist I use goggles and a swimmers nose clip on the nose. My new dentist uses extensive air evacuating equipment, but the oral surgeon does not, so I’ve put that off.

      Luckily I’m retired and live alone. Can’t imagine being able to stay safe if I had kids or a spouse. So far not had Covid, though my younger sister has been totally disabled (wheelchair level) from long Covid 2 and 1/2 years now. So if genes are involved in susceptibility, I’m high risk (in addition to age and having had mono in college). I require masks from all tradespeople coming in the house, and also run HEPA filters and fans with windows open when they come. Twice vacc’d and twice boosted, all Pfizer. Thinking about Novavax (outside my home state) for my next shot. Hoping very much for near sterilizing nasal vaccine or other nasal protection in the next year or two.

    3. nippersdad

      I spent many years flirting with women at the grocery store. Now that I am old and ugly I am only approached by men who want to know if I have ever beaten anyone with my cane. As a result I have ultimately come to the same strategy of social relations at the grocery store that you have.

      I am already severely incapacitated, hence the cane, but the masks have come as kind of a relief. Those guys are creepy, and they evidently fear those of us with both canes and masks. I second your motion, but as for the Darth Vader masks that would have to be dependent upon how aggressive the guys trying to chat me up turn out to be.

      I may have to beat them with my cane before the Vader option, though. Vanity is a terrible thing.

    4. Yves Smith

      I wear the Vader mask!!! I have been recommending that very model for a while.

      On airplanes. But I can go to grocery stores when they are very sparsely populated (and my CO2 monitor confirms, readings in the 600s) and then sport an N95.

      I don’t get stares, maybe because I learned how to send a “Don’t fuck with me” vibe from my father. And at least Delta has an announcement which says in a coded manner not to bother those who wear masks.

      Very comfortable to breathe through, better than an N95. But the point is the assured fit to the face, and it does pinch a bit.

  4. Jeff Stantz

    Apologies to those who disagree with me but I am fully on the side of Paul D. Valenti. We need to find out why some people are more vulnerable to sars2. And “Old Age“ is not a descriptive answer.

    I have been hearing more about zinc deficiency lately. Anyone have any thoughts on that? I have been taking 50mg for a while now and noticed several changes in my health. I do not eat a mask and I last had Covid in 2021.

    1. CanCyn

      It wouldn’t be obsessing if common sense had been used from the start with regard to ventilation and we all could take beeps ventilation for granted by now. And I do not believe that it is obsessing to try to get people to see sense. And by the way, I always wear a mask indoors when out in public and I’ve never had COVID. It is not inevitable and we should not ‘get over it’.

      1. Jeff Stantz

        But ventilation will not prevent anyone who catches SARS2 from becoming sick and dying if they are vulnerable. SARS2 is not going away. I am not saying we should not ventilate properly but maybe we should rather be obsessing on zinc or nutrition.

        I do not see many people here talking about nutrition, and that concerns me.

        1. CanCyn

          Good ventilation will save the sick and vulnerable if fewer people get sick and pass the virus on. I think around here there is still a notion that avoidance is best. Maybe that’s what you’re sensing. There has been lots of talk about zinc, etc. in comments. Perhaps not much recently. Water Cooler info is was got me supplementing with zinc, quercitin and vit D. It is also why I have Benadryl nasal spray and povidone/iodine gargle to use after I have been out in public. There are many who know nothing about any of these things and consider me kinda nutty when I try to discuss such practices. Perhaps we need to spread our obsessing around?

        2. Basil Pesto

          It’s come up repeatedly over the years. It’s more or less cope, and on the more sinister side of things it’s a naturalist fallacy being used to rationalise the further degradation of public health. To wit: Valenti’s inane comment about natural systems of the body keeping us alive for thousands of years or whatever. It’s not hard to compare historical pre- and post- pharmaceutical life expectancies, so it breaks my brain that people find this argument so persuasive, but oh well.

          It’s better to be healthy than not is a truism, but it’s not really a meaningful public health strategy in the face of a threat like this (moreso in America, it seems to me, where health standards are more dire in the first place due to lack of universal healthcare). Plenty of healthy people have been killed and damaged by this disease, as has always been the case with dangerous contagious diseases. Take the zinc by all means (I do) but the idea it’s some kind of huge missing link here is fanciful hopium similar to Peak Ivermectin.

        3. Lambert Strether Post author

          > But ventilation will not prevent anyone who catches SARS2 from becoming sick and dying if they are vulnerable.

          There’s no logic to this claim at all.

          1) With good ventilation, the odds of anybody catching SARS2 decrease (“the dose makes the poison)

          2) Your comment assumes a context-free binary of “vulnerable” and “not vulnerable.” There’s no support of that OK (and I won’t deploy “sociopathic individualism” though I certainly did consider it carefullly)

          3) Theres no reason nutrition can’t be a layer in a model of layered protection.

          If you don’t see many people here talking about nutrition, perhaps that’s because — hear me out — you’re not doing the work? (I’d love to see some good studies, which is not easy, so I am told, in the field, and not personal anecdotes. My Covid protocol is personal, but backed by data I developed every step of the way, and changed when the data changed.)

    2. Yves Smith

      You don’t know if you got an asymptomatic or mild case unless you get a blood test for that, so don’t be so confident about not being vulnerable. Lotta evidence that even asymptomatic cases exact a long-term health cost.

      1. CanCyn

        Understood and I do not for a moment think that I am invulnerable, that is why I’m still masking and not eating indoors in restaurants or attending crowded events. And, I usually say I’ve never had COVID as far as I know.

  5. CanCyn

    With regard to conformity… Lambert I thank you for your belief in the courage of the NC commentariat to be willing to be the odd man out and stand up for the right answer in the face of widespread disagreement. I am not so sure I wouldn’t cave though. I think the fact that I am a retired introvert has had as much to do with my COVID free existence as my mask wearing habit when I am out. I have former colleagues who say they feel more than awkward to be the only mask wearer in the room and I wonder if I would have caved by now in the daily onslaught of workplace peer and administrative pressure. Also as a young teenager I moved from a city in which white socks were very uncool and where I was already wearing makeup and carrying a purse to a small town where no makeup, no purses and everyone wore white socks. Guess what I was doing after a month or so? Purse and makeup gone, white socks on. Sigh.

    1. outside observer

      Imagine the peer pressure in schools, if adults can’t manage it. What is apparent over the past few years is a complete abdication of any sense of responsibility or duty from those in power. There are no adults in the room, anywhere. Death cult if I ever saw one, and a greedy one at that.

      1. LaRuse

        My daughter gave up wearing her mask in the first few weeks of high school earlier this year when one of her teachers said “I just don’t know what to make of you! You’re smart, you get good grades, you are making friends, but you just keep hiding behind that mask. Are your parents pressuring you?”
        She hasn’t worn a mask again. Mercifully, she’s never been symptomatically ill, either, but I still have a grudge against her World History teacher.

        1. Angie Neer

          That’s horrific. That teacher needs more of a response than a silent grudge. Easier said than done, I know.

        2. ambrit

          That teacher sounds like a conformist trying to extend and pretend the PMC Narrative. I wouldn’t even categorize the teacher’s bullying as “peer pressure.” That teacher is not there to be the “peer” of the students. He, she, or it is there to teach the subject, not act as a social norms enforcer. The schools have “counsellors” for that job.
          If your daughter ever gets Coronavirus while at school, get her to go on up and speak closely with that teacher and return the favour. Since the teacher already shows signs of mental deficiency, a little Long Covid cerebral sequelae is in order to ‘finish’ the job.
          Stay safe, and Deities protect us from fools, idiots, and other PMCs.

          1. some guy

            Yes. I was going to say that what that teacher needs is covid which hopefully becomes long covid. And if that teacher’s moral extortion to de-mask causes that student to get covid, then that student should absolutely give it to the teacher.

          2. some guy

            It reads to me like the teacher is trying to do two things, extort drop-the-mask compliance with teacher’s wishes, and damage or destroy the relations between that girl and her parents. The mechanism for that would be to provoke the parents into trying to force the girl to keep wearing the mask ” because we say so”. The teacher would then organize class-wide shaming and bullying against the girl to extort the mask back off.

            If the parents could lead the girl to this blog, or equivalent blogs, and say it contains good reading material about the risks and downsides of covid, the daughter might read it. And if she did, she might decide on her own that her health was more important than the teachers’ and class’s opinion or approval. If she percieved it to be her own decision based on her own research, she would feel able to reject teacher’s demands to take it off.

            1. ambrit

              Absolutely right. By High School the “average” teen should be capable of sifting information and forming logically based opinions. To get the young woman to come to a rational decision based upon her own reading and thinking is the optimal outcome.

        3. nippersdad

          The obvious answer to that teacher would have been for your daughter to tell her that she wears a mask because she doesn’t know where the teacher has been. Of course, I spent a lot of time in the office while in school, but still.

          What amazes me about that interaction is that your kid told you about it. You clearly have a very good relationship with your child that would not benefit from making her sleep out in the shed until she masks up to prevent her from giving you her teachers diseases.

          The more we change the more we stay the same.

        4. CanCyn

          Once I was sure that my daughter wouldn’t be taught by that teacher again (never doubt that teachers can’t be petty and vengeful, have been on the receiving end of such stuff), I’d be paying her a visit. The topic of which would be minding her own business.

        5. Lambert Strether Post author

          > “I just don’t know what to make of you! You’re smart, you get good grades, you are making friends, but you just keep hiding behind that mask. Are your parents pressuring you?”

          In other words, the mask doesn’t interfere with your daughter’s well-being at all.

          Where’s the lawsuit?

          Adding, “Are your parents pressuring you” is the teacher taking a parental role, as with “gender affirming care.” Interestingly.

    2. Daryl

      I had a less than enjoyable interaction with someone on a plane on Friday. Don’t know if it was because I was wearing a mask, but I sure do seem to run into more rude and hostile people now when I’m out and about.

      I have definitely become more lax but as a result, also got sick twice in the last few months (seemingly colds based on testing and symptoms). Back to it.

      > When you do anything from a clear judgment that it ought to be done, never shun the being seen to do it, even though the world should make a wrong supposition about it; for, if you don’t act right, shun the action itself; but, if you do, why are you afraid of those who censure you wrongly?

      – Epictetus, Enchiridion #35

      1. Angie Neer

        “…run into more rude and hostile people now…”
        I’m sure there are mask-hostile people in particular, but I think anti-social behavior is up generally. Reckless/hostile driving, littering, graffiti, verbal point-scoring, etc. I see it as “social” media incarnate.

        1. JBird4049

          Being rude, arrogant, ignorant, and actively harmful to both people and things is considered showing your FREEDOM to others. I have never understood such as it seems to be the actions of spoiled toddlers.

          It is different from being tired, sick, frustrated, even angry enough to forget being considerate. It is the deliberate decision or belief that being a jerk is a good thing especially as others do not matter as much as you.

          However, since this describes our collective ruling class, maybe people are just copying them?

      2. CanCyn

        When I get a funny look from someone unmasked, I make a point of giving them a big smile. Partially to disarm them and partially to prove that masks don’t hide a smile – majority smile back, some turn away.

    3. LaRuse

      The pressure of conformity is starting to beat on me now. I am the ONLY person in the office of 125 wearing a mask still. Tomorrow, the new Exec. VP comes for her first leadership review and visit (I am not in leadership in the company, just a humble paralegal, but that moves me in the leadership circles) and it is going to be intensely hard to be the only masked soul in the introduction line. It is a good thing I am not on the corporate climber track because I think my N95 would derail me tomorrow.
      Even my husband, who has every reason to fear getting it again for all of his comorbidities, recently called me “a weirdo” as I donned my mask to enter a restaurant for a celebratory bowl of pho with friends. Yes, I ate in public and took my mask off to do so, but I wear it if food or drink isn’t going in my mouth. And then I begin to wonder “Maybe I am weird. What is even the point if I am eating in public?”
      It is getting harder but I am masked right now as I type this in my cubicle. NC helps me keep going.

      1. nippersdad

        Another way to look at it: If she asks any questions about your mask, hand that VP your card and tell her you will be happy to represent her when she gets sick. She is a lawyer, they like go-getters and it might put you on the corporate climber track.

        Always be selling.

      2. petal

        There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s them. Keep doing what you are doing. Be a role model for doing the right thing. I am one of the few in a mask let alone an N95 in a scientific research building and cancer center. Why risk getting sick and possibly major and long-term health problems that can’t be fixed? Once the window is shattered, it can’t be put together again.

      3. antidlc

        “pressure of conformity”


        During an Aug. 24 interview on healthcare advisor Andy Slavitt’s In the Bubble podcast, Fauci said he knows “exactly when” he got infected with COVID. According to the virus expert, it all came down to a choice he made while he was attending his 60th college reunion for the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

        “I went into the reception and all of my classmates from the Class of 1962 were unmasked. They saw me, they got very enthusiastic, they came to give hugs. So I felt I looked so out of place with a mask on,” Fauci admitted. “I literally took my mask off for about 45 minutes, mingling with them and their family. Went back, put my mask on. Five days later, bingo, I was infected. It’s all it took.”

      4. Lambert Strether Post author

        > It is getting harder but I am masked right now as I type this in my cubicle.

        I dunno if you’re any sort of believer, but the Bible says — and I know this verse has been corrupted — “choose life.” It does not say “choose death.” That you live in a society where the ruling (billionaire) and governing (PMC) classes have encouraged the populace to do precisely that is not your problem.

        In ten years, non-pharmaceutical interventions like masking and 3C’s consciousness will be seen to have been adaptive (assuming Biden’s policy of mass infection without mitigation continues, as I think it will do, unless shown otherwise by outcomes from that miserably inadequate $5 billion).

        Hang in there.

        1. Verifyfirst

          I don’t know if see-thru masks (where your mouth is fully visible behind the plastic), would be any more acceptable, socially? There are several on the market, often developed with the hearing impaired in mind, who need to lip read. At the beginning of the pandemic, some were aimed at teachers and child care personnel. Less threatening but still protected?

  6. fresno dan

    OH: “Waning support for Ukraine in Ohio points to US election flashpoint” [Financial Times]. “Ahead of the 2024 elections, the faultlines in Republican foreign policy are starting to appear. Former US president Donald Trump and his expected main rival for the nomination Ron DeSantis have questioned American assistance to Ukraine, although the Florida governor later moderated his stance.
    A Google search reveals the list of House republicans who have voted against Ukraine which is 57
    There are 11 republican senators who have voted against aid to Ukraine.
    When I ask the exact same question of Google, except substituting “democratic” for “republican” I get the same answer as before, that is, Google tells me the republicans who have voted against Ukraine aid.
    So as best as I can figure, the democrats are a monolith on Ukraine, and something unbelievable to me – the republicans are the party that have a few members on the side of peace. I never thought I would have seen that in my life…but things change.

    1. ChrisFromGA

      I love the way the media frame this:

      … Ron DeSantis have questioned American assistance to Ukraine, although the Florida governor later moderated his stance.

      So refusing to send billions in weapons including himars that are used to deliberately target civilians in Donetsk is somehow the “immoderate” position?


  7. Geo

    “I have never seen an AI-generated “artwork” that I’ve wanted to look at again. Not once. Including these two.”

    As a filmmaker I’ve been watching this with both fascination and existential horror. Been making art since my first memories scribbling on the walls with crayons and still pick my projects primarily for artistic value over financial gains. One of my favorites is making music videos for lesser known musicians. Often budgets are a mere $100 but sometimes up to $1000. I usually lose money on these projects but still do them because I enjoy making interesting art.

    I said all that because I’m the past few weeks artists I would normally be in consideration for their music videos have decided to do AI videos. The first one was released today and it’s godawful looking (to me) but the comments seem to be loving it.

    I posted in Links today about the surge in AI generated books on Amazon, a fully AI screenplay financed by a major studio, and more.

    I’d like to think real artistry will win out but even if so it will take years as the newness and hype around AI is absorbing so much attention. Reddit threads on freelance writing are littered with stories of writers losing jobs to AI. Mostly tech writers but it’s just the beginning.

    Take one look at the promo videos for Adobe’s new Firefly platform and you can see graphic designers, photographers, animators, 3D designers, and more are soon to be obsolete.

    Reading on this the refrain from pro-AI is creatives need to find work as prompt writers and in management positions. First, that’s telling artists to stop being artists. Second, do we really want our arts dominated by the “vision” of managerial minds any more than it already is? Third, management without need for employees obviously means the vast majority will be out of work. Lastly, those managerial roles will be AI in no time.

    All I can do at this point is keep doing what I’m doing as long as I can until I’m obsolete. And find some dark humor in it. My favorite so far was a thread on Reddit where a writer went seeking for the “best answer” to the question of why someone should hire a human instead of an AI. The answer they posted, in all sincerity as a sign of positive hope for writers, was from ChatGPT.


    1. notabanker

      “Artificial general intelligence,” or AGI, is a term for an as-yet hypothetical AI that is conscious, self-improving and theoretically capable of outsripping human control (a prospect that has concerned some, like Elon Musk, an initial donor to OpenAI who has since cut ties with the company). Sam Altman believes we likely won’t recognize an AGI when it arrives. This endgame is why OpenAI has two unusual setups for a startup unicorn: a capped-profit mechanism by which, after returning a certain amount of profits to shareholders, it would return to nonprofit control; and a merge condition by which, should a competitor get close to reaching an AGI, OpenAI would shut down its own work and fold into the more successful project. Altman also thinks that when an AGI comes—for there could be several—it might break capitalism for the better.

      Never has “might” done such heavy lifting.

      1. Acacia

        This sounds like hype to get more investment money.

        The question of AGI has been studied in depth, and is the subject of countless films and works of speculative fiction. Meanwhile, the field of AI itself has made remarkably little progress in over 50+ years — this is the verdict from the former head of the MIT AI lab, btw.

        This is like self-driving cars. It’ll calm down somewhat when people realize that generative AI is 10 pounds of manure in a 5 pound bag.

        But Geo’s concerns, above, are something to take seriously. This is going to do a lot of damage as people get fired because some pointy-haired managers think the singularity is coming and it’s time to profit off of that. They are one slice of a larger group of people who see the coming Jackpot as a profit opportunity. Sigh.

    2. The Rev Kev

      For what it is worth, remember when bitcoin was the in thing a coupla years ago and people were flocking to it? Now bitcoin is seen to be more, ahem, problematic. My prediction is that Hollywood will go with ChatGPT written scripts with actors and green-screens (still) or maybe AI generated realistic characters but it won’t help as people will get bored with it. But Indi projects will still be there and will attract more and more audiences with good script-writing, solid acting and a coherent narrative. Look at the original “Twelve Angry Men.” A dozen actors in a one-room set and look at what they did with it. You should listen to what the Critical Drinker has to say about modern productions. Lots of interesting analysis there-


  8. tevhatch

    GVS mask with source control
    The source control means the mask has plug in place of the check valve, so all instead of some of the breath exits via the filter media. This means more protection for people interfacing with a wearer who is infected, so it’s target audience is healthcare. We already can get the same mask with a check valve exhaust, which means the filter medium will last longer, and will feel easier to breath through in hot humid environments as the filter media will not carry as much moisture load which partially blocks pathways.

    The following is not prescriptive, it’s just my way to handle this point, everyone can model what they think is appropriate in this wild west of poor information and even poorer regulation. Per above, Downside to any check valve equipped mask is the protection to others is reduced. I’ve self-medicated my conscious for using a valve equipped Northfield by noting (1) I’m much less likely to be infected anyone because of my self-protection,(2) the public isn’t wearing any masking so they have decided infecting me isn’t a concern, and they certainly are not concerned about being infected, (3) and where I am around people properly masking I either (a) put a surgical mask inside in front of the valve or (b) take it off and wear a disposable N-95 without a check valve, depending on how closed in the spacing and the degree of risk the other party could be facing (such as a clinic where someone with immunity issues may be seeking treatment). That is, unless I’m in Hong Kong, where elastomeric masks (and N-95s with check valves) are illegal in public venues in part because of the difficulty in managing the check valve issue, so do your diligence.

    1. Jason Boxman

      I bought one without source control. It’s unlikely I’ll ever get infected and if I do, I have N95s for that. I can’t worry about it otherwise. Given that I only see someone wearing a garbage mask once in a blue moon here, whatever. Everyone else is living their lives, good luck with that. Whatever evils I’ve committed pale in comparison to our elite.

  9. Hana M

    This is an excellent analysis of why ocular protection is an essential part of protection against Sars Cov 2 and other respiratory viruses. I know Lambert seems to hate Brownstone but they publish a wide array of authors and this one is from Megan Mansell who has a background in hazardous environs PPE applications. including protocol implementation for immunocompromised public sector access under full ADA/OSHA/IDEA compliance. https://brownstone.org/articles/eye-protection-wasnt-misdirection/

    1. Basil Pesto

      Well, the reason Lambert might “seem to hate” Brownstone is because they publish stuff like that not in the spirit of humanistic scientific inquiry, but as some kind of tortured rationalisation for their moronic anti-mask position

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I don’t “hate” Brownnose. I fear and loathe them because they are billionaire-funded Covid minimizers and disinformers, “bad actors” in precisely the sense of “actors” used in the Solomon Asch social conformity experiment.

      Taking Brownnose seriously on Covid is like taking the Council of Foreign Relations seriously on Ukraine, or the Hoover Institute seriously on charters, or banking, or anything. Except worse because Brownstone is more directly implicated in policies that slaughter poor shlubs whose managers and gatekeepers and service providers are sucked in by Brownnose’s bullshit. The CFR and Hoover operate at a higher, more ideological, less eugenicist level.

  10. ambrit

    Mini-geopolitical zeitgeist report.
    As mentioned yesterday, I rambled on over to the close-by WalMart to do some shopping and check out the Easter Candy Sale prices.
    First, the candy was marked down 50% by the time I got there just after noon. You could see the original 25% off stickers under the 50% off stickers. All of the “good” candy was already gone. (For some definition of ‘good.’) I lucked out earlier when I checked the local Whole Food Market clone. They had marked their Easter candy down by 75% to begin with. Their “retail” prices for candy were not much higher than WalMart’s “retail” prices for similar stuff. I got some of the “good” stuff there.
    While at the WalMart, I encountered a group of about ten or twelve “foreign” looking men wandering around the store; gawking and checking prices like mad on their phones. They were in civilian clothes, but one of them wore a vest with “Tajikistan National Guard” professionally stenciled on the back. I believe that I recognized some Russian spoken in the group. Ethnically, the group ran the gamut from Mongolian looking to European looking. I know from “reports” by locals that Ukrainians have been trained at the nearby Camp Shelby. Now, Tajiks? What’s going on here?
    Stay safe and keep the potassium iodide handy.

      1. ambrit

        No, no distinctive markings on any of the men, and they were all men, that I looked at, surreptituosly.
        All wore similar, ‘outdoor’ style clothing. Long ‘cargo’ pants and long sleeve shirts with lots of pockets. No bright colours. Almost ‘uniforms’ without being obviously uniforms. The generic term “uniform” would fit this situation perfectly. The men themselves were all mid-twenties to mid-thirties in apparent age. All were in excellent physical condition. No flab on any of them. Short back and sides haircuts, (as my Dad used to style it.) Well trimmed beards on some of the men. One of the group looked, as I mentioned above, positively Mongolian. Epicanthic eye folds and round face, straight jet black hair, the lot. Others could be viewed as Central Asian, with a mix or European and Asiatic features. One was outright European Russian looking. Curiously enough, no blonds.
        The group was cohesive, the men wandering about in groups of three or four, coalescing occasionally at traffic nodes spontaneously to speak and share items on their iPhones. They were purchasing items. All checked out through the human run checkout lines. I noticed that all used ‘manned’ lines. None used an automated line.
        This group of men reminded me strongly of the American National Guard troops who shop at the store from time to time. The same general mannerisms were in evidence. (This store is the closest Bigg Boxx store to Camp Shelby, the military training base to the south of town.) The Camp has some old school busses with which they will transport Camp “visitors” to town, like a shuttle service. I have seen it stop and disgorge and later reload said “visitors” at this exact store in the past.
        What makes me wonder here is the fact that members of a former Soviet territory are present in the location of one of the primary military training sites dedicated to “educating” foreign vassal troops in the ways of the Imperium. How close is the relationship between Tajikistan and America? The nation is centrally located in one of the “hot spots” of our benighted world.
        Anyway, be safe.
        Camp Shelby: https://www.ng.ms.gov/installations/cs

    1. R.S.

      …but one of them wore a vest with “Tajikistan National Guard” professionally stenciled on the back.

      Might be a surplus/leftover from some joint exercises? Like “Regional Cooperation”, “Southern Strike”, whatnot. Say, “Southern Strike 2021” involved U.S., Uzbek, Czech and some other troops.

      1. ambrit

        I did wonder at that possibility. However, the preponderance of the evidence pointed to this being a cohesive group of military age men from a common “foreign” place. As I mentioned just above, the similarity between this group and groups of uniformed American National Guard troops from Camp Shelby was too close to ignore. This did not fit the description of a travelling tour group, for some definition of “tour.”
        That being said, I would not discount the possibility that the stenciled vest could not have been a hold over from the earlier exercise. Backwaters like Camp Shelby hold all sorts of curious relics of the Old Empire.
        Stay safe!

  11. Tim

    With regards to masking, I would no advise people to use masks that have a large air pocket volume, because that volume will end up with a really high CO2 mixture under resting (light) breathing.

    I get panic attacks that are kicked off by CO2 levels in my blood, so I found this out the hard way. Even people that don’t have panic attacks can experience some of the unpleasant sensations of high CO2 re-breathing, such as nausea, and I’d hate to have someone deduce that they can’t ever wear masks because of how that particular kind makes them feel.

  12. John Zelnicker

    Lambert – It’s only anecdata, but I have the following to offer on “works great”.

    I’m a heavy smoker and since I set up my Corsi-Rosenthal box I have had at least a couple of clients, who are very sensitive to cigarette smoke, tell me that the air in my office is very clear and clean.

    In addition the filters on my box have turned a medium shade of brown. Yes, I should replace them. It seems to me that if the smoke is being caught, so is the virus. QED?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I’m a heavy smoker and since I set up my Corsi-Rosenthal box I have had at least a couple of clients, who are very sensitive to cigarette smoke, tell me that the air in my office is very clear and clean.

      Thanks! I assume the clients told you this spontaneously!

      1. John Zelnicker

        Actually, I asked for their opinion, but I don’t think they were trying to please me.

        One client who had previously refused to come inside because she is so sensitive to smoke was obviously much more comfortable this time. The other client said something before I asked.

  13. nippersdad

    Rhetorical question for the Google ads people:

    How come all of the ads over >>> for T-shirts saying “I am not old, I am a classic” appear to be worn by twenty five year old models who look like they live in a Gym? I am not sold, I already have T-shirts that are older than they are. What they really need is a picture of this decrepit old man wearing a shirt with a ’68 Mustang that has been bent in half by a drunk driver on it.

    I could relate to that one.

    1. Mark Gisleson

      My understanding has always been that it’s very hard to sell to old people which is why they’re mostly only targeted for suspect healthcare remedies/devices and bad insurance.

      Your cynical tone says it all: it would be next to impossible to sell t-shirts to you (or me). So instead they target our demographic for products you would only use if your health wasn’t quite right in a new (old person) way that you haven’t figured out yet. And you can make that payment in three installments because we don’t discriminate against people who didn’t finish high school and have low paying jobs : )

      With ads never assume any motivation other than a desire to make money by any product possible. And I should confess that at some point in time I will probably buy some new t-shirts but not until I finish using up all the ones I bought in the ’90s that still seem perfectly OK to me.

    2. Martin Oline

      I made myself a T shirt a few months ago with the caption OLD AND IN THE WAY accompanied by this edited Holbein woodcut which has everything but the old man erased. When people comment I say it was a Christmas present from the grandkids.

      1. Once a hitchhiker

        > I made myself a T shirt a few months ago with the caption OLD AND IN THE WAY

        Heh heh. In early1973 I was passing through Berkeley. On a sidestreet off of Telegraph was an old cinema that looked like it was then (also?) hosting live gigs, as the marquee had a date and the names of Jerry Garcia and a couple of other guys, playing as Old & in the Way. I chuckled at the insouciance of the name, since Jerry at that time was certainly neither.

        1. Martin Oline

          I saw his album with a similar name, or maybe it was the backing band, David Grisman maybe? Wiki informs me it was the name of Garcia’s bluegrass band. At any rate, I’ve always wondered if he got that line from a younger musician who was pissed off that the Dead got all the attention/money/crowds in the Bay area.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > “I am not old, I am a classic”

      I think on the market for models, 25 years of age is old. Think of the field of discourse being warped by a thousand Jeffrey Epsteins…..

  14. Lee

    “What I will say is that I recoil from the Darth Vader masks. I know they’re effective, but I couldn’t stand to be that much of an oddball.”

    I’ve been using the Ellipse 100 for years now. I guess I’ve gotten to the age when A) I’m in death’s cross hairs when it comes to respiratory infections, and B) I don’t give a flying F if others think me odd.

    1. JM

      I’m torn on the “Darth Vader” masks – I really like post-apocalyptic imagery like (generic) cyberpunk or Mad Max; so the more gas mask or industrial looking the more I’m drawn to it. On that count the one Lambert has pegged as a more attractive version is significantly less to in my eyes…

      BUT, I wonder if the peer pressure might be enough to still keep me from wearing them out and about, it’s already rare enough to see someone in a surgical or cloth (!!!) mask nowadays…much less a K/N95.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > rare enough to see someone

        I think that this tweeter makes a good point:

        Reminder, the people you see out at indoor restaurants, parties, concerts, etc are a biased sample. There’s a lot of us that are avoiding crowded indoor public space

        1. JM

          Absolutely, I’ve always been more of a homebody, but I’ve cut down my going out quite a bit and expect that there are many others in the same boat. Still it’s hard to not imagine you’re the nail that’s sticking up (which I don’t mind, in this case at least) when you do go out.

          It’s hard to build solidarity with people you never or very rarely see, which is where I take some moral support from the poll results on how many people don’t view the pandemic as “over.”

  15. djrichard

    Development of a customized mask retainer for improving the fit performance of surgical masks

    The results … indicate significant increases in FF [Fit Factor] for the MR {Mask Retainer] group in each exercise and a more than 25-fold increase in the overall FF (M:6; MR:154), which satisfied the requirement for the KN95 respirator as detailed in the Chinese Standard.

    I use a different bellus3d mask retainer than what’s covered in this article (just look up bellus3d mask and you’ll see what I’m talking about). But I think it would be same results. Makes mask wearing much less of a burden compared to using an N95.

    1. tevhatch

      Any barrier mask helps, but the degree of help to the wearer and the public will vary immensely. Surgical Masks / Procedure Masks were designed to be used by healthcare staff to protect patients from Respiratory Droplets during surgical procedures, wound care, etc; primarily for bacterial load, and 2ndarily to provide a degree of splash protection to the medical staff.

      The filter medium on surgical masks are not standard, so don’t expect effective aerosol protection in either direction as that’s not a requirement. If it’s present on a particular brand, that’s just a side benefit which is minimal due to fit issues. Will a surgical mask reduces aerosols? yes, particularly on exhalation, but unfortunately not to an effective level in a poorly ventilated high background environment. At best surgical masks will provide some additional protection against aerosol in a low pathogen or well ventilated environment, but that’s about it. Again, they are not designed to manage aerosol contamination.

  16. Art_DogCT

    “A colored aerosol would show up on the filters, but that seems to imply spray paint, perhaps not such a good idea.”

    A reasonably safe way to gauge filter performance might be using powdered turmeric or paprika. Such vividly-colored more or less dust-like materials should show up well on filters. I’d probably use a small amount of whichever spice on hand is the most vivid in a cloth – flour sack towel, handkerchief, piece of muslin – twist it closed to make a small ball, which then is patted or shaken to create a diffuse cloud. The advantage of dry materials is less concern with staining from liquids or inhaling volatile organic compounds.

  17. none

    I do wish we had a better method of being certain what “working great” means. Perhaps readers have run across this, but I have not. A colored aerosol would show up on the filters, but that seems to imply spray paint, perhaps not such a good idea.

    Mask fit (everyone should do this) is tested by spraying a bitter (Bitrex) or sweet (saccharin) mist into the air, then having the person wearing the mask inhale through their mouth. If they can taste the substance, they need to keep working on the mask fit. I guess there could be a corresponding test for CR boxes, where you put the mist sprayer inside the box and see whether the taste is detectable in the filtered air coming out of the box. See here for how to do the fit testing on masks, at home:


    For cheap nebulizers, buy in quantity and share with your friends: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09MSWKMG6

    For saccharin, search for “sodium saccharin” on ebay. A 4 oz bottle is about $8 and is enough for plenty of tests.

    “Twist tie” nose wires work ok until they don’t. Gerson masks use them and IME they don’t last as long as other styles of masks.

    The idea of the GVS Elipse is to not have an exhaust valve, but nobody really cares about that any more. So I have been using valved Bielcor N99 masks that are now ridiculously cheap at safety-emporium.com.

    I have not tried the GVS Elipse. It got a not-so-good user review here, because of exhalation difficulty: https://old.reddit.com/r/Masks4All/comments/sudju5/recs_for_p100_valveless_ehmr_respirators/hxa3rfn/

    What I really want is a powered mask (PAPR), but those are way expensive and I’m too broke right now.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > you put the mist sprayer inside the box and see whether the taste is detectable in the filtered air coming out of the box

      Good idea. Do we have an extremely kind reader who can test this idea out? Maybe with photos? Or is it not a good idea?

      On the respirator, I’m sticking with my trusty Aura for now. My point is that this was the first Darth Vader mask I would consider wearing because it didn’t look to weird. That’s important to avoid bullying and shaming, especially for children. And weird looks.

  18. Lost in OR

    From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published April 11:

    In the span of a couple of weeks (or less, I didn’t check) Oregon has gone from dark green to green to dark red. I went fro yeah to oh well to wtf?

    I don’t know anybody who has contributed to these stats and know many who have not. Both with and without the virus. I’m sorry, it’s like political polls. I just have NO faith. The best we have ain’t worth much.

  19. Jason Boxman

    So Thomas’ corruption puts into question every supreme court ruling for the past thirty years. This country is a joke.

    1. JBird4049

      Only Supreme Court Justice Thomas puts every Supreme Court ruling into question for the past three decades?

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I would roll back every decision since the first justice who ascended to the bench after Scalia selected Bush for President in Bush v. Gore. “Fruit of the poisonous tree” or some such metaphor.

    2. Daryl

      It’s sort of interesting that we still sorta hold this one branch to some kind of standards (though probably only because the justice in question isn’t on the right side). But this sort of stuff wouldn’t even be news if a congresscritter did it. Heck, lavish paid vacations are pretty tame as far as corruption goes.

  20. semper loquitur

    AUTHORITARIAN: AOC Urges Biden to Ignore Abortion Pill Court Ruling | SYSTEM UPDATE


    Greenwald discusses recent claims by AOC on CNN that Biden can simply ignore the federal court ruling on abortion pills because the president has the authority to enforce such rulings at his discretion. He can, according to her, choose to ignore the ruling. He has, in her words, “enforcement discretion”. Greenwald points out that this is pretty astounding stuff, banana republic stuff. He also points out that AOC has zero grasp of Constitutional law.

    He explains the sense of entitlement that Trump had inadvertantly bequeathed to the Democrats. They will do and say anything because they are, as always, in the right. Justified. In this instance, to ignore the authority of a federal judge.

    AOC is a wily liar, she makes this spurious claim but when confronted by the host she declares that she certainly isn’t making that claim. Her claims become “important questions”. Then she goes back and makes the claim again. Trump is invoked here and there.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > He explains the sense of entitlement that Trump had inadvertantly bequeathed to the Democrats. They will do and say anything because they are, as always, in the right. Justified. In this instance, to ignore the authority of a federal judge.

      As I keep saying, this is a classic case of Schmitt’s “State of Exception,” which the PMC collectively declared in 2016, having been galvanized into class consciousness by Trump’s victory, acting through the Democrat Party and the various state and civil society organs they control or are “allies” of.

      The PMC’s problem is that they’re trying to act like a Schmittian sovereign, with an insufficiently small “mass” base, and without allies in the military or the police. I mean, at some point, if you’re really a sovereign, you have a monopoly of violence, which the Democrats shrink from, in my speculation because violence is too simple and direct, and Democrat love indirection and complexity. Torment nexuses and gatekeepers, yes. Armed militiamen, no.

  21. Jason Boxman

    We’re all screwed.

    Companies, they say, are simply in denial of the new reality. Many in-person activities have returned to prepandemic norms. OpenTable found that in-person dining late last summer exceeded its 2019 numbers. Air travel over Labor Day surpassed prepandemic levels, too. Only offices have remained far below their baseline — meaning workers have voted with their feet to demand that the workplace’s future will not resemble its past.

    Prepandemic levels.


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > workers have voted with their feet to demand that the workplace’s future will not resemble its pas

      If you think that the workplace is important as a contested site, we may not be screwed at all.

      In any case, the pandemic will decide what is “pre” or “post” pandemic. Although we’re in a karma-in-this-life situation, in that our own collective reactions affect the course of the pandemic we are, actually, still in, along with whatever is to come.

  22. Acacia

    Re: “White House launching $5 billion program to speed coronavirus vaccines”

    So, instead of “Operation Warp Speed” we’ll get: “Cap’n, the Dilithium crytals are fused solid ! Best I can give ‘ya is sub-light, impulse power!”

  23. ALM

    Speaking of rightward turns, AOC has done quite a bit of that herself. It’s nice to see almost zero interest in the Comments in her blatherings which always amount to empty promises and even outright betrayals. It sure didn’t take long for her corruption to set in. It’s a mystery why any serious person still bothers to interview her.

Comments are closed.