2:00PM Water Cooler 4/28/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

House Sparrow, Loulé, Faro, Portugal. “Chamamento de alarme.” Lots going on, including a rooster and, I think, a sheep! So perhaps the sparrow has a lot to be alarmed about!

* * *


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

Capitol Seizure

“Mike Pence ‘gives evidence to grand jury for seven hours’ about Donald Trump and the 2021 US Capitol riots” [Sky News]. “Mr Pence was inside the US District Court in Washington for more than seven hours on Thursday, NBC News reported…. Mr Pence’s testimony on Thursday is a significant development in the Justice Department’s investigation and is likely to give prosecutors a key first-person account of certain conversations and events in the weeks preceding the deadly attack on the US Capitol.” “Deadly attack” because a cop whacked Ashli Babbitt? More: “[Pence] has previously defended his actions on that day, after Mr Trump had claimed that a vice president had the authority to overturn the election results. ‘President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election,’ Mr Pence, who has often shied away from confronting his former boss, said in March. ‘And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.'” • Strong stuff, actually. Plus Pence didn’t get in the car.


“Abortion Bans Fail in South Carolina and Nebraska” [New York Times]. “South Carolina and Nebraska, two conservative states that have been pushing to ban abortion, on Thursday both failed to pass new bills prohibiting the procedure, preserving wide access to abortion in those states and handing surprise victories to abortion rights advocates.” • Too bad the Democrats never codified Roe v. Wade. Ah well, nevertheless.

The Supremes

“All 9 Supreme Court justices push back on oversight: ‘Raises more questions,’ Senate chair says” [NBC]. “There’s no conservative-liberal divide on the U.S. Supreme Court when it comes to calls for a new, enforceable ethics code. All nine justices, in a rare step, on Tuesday released a joint statement reaffirming their voluntary adherence to a general code of conduct but rebutting proposals for independent oversight, mandatory compliance with ethics rules and greater transparency in cases of recusal. The implication, though not expressly stated, is that the court unanimously rejects legislation proposed by Democrats seeking to impose on the justices the same ethics obligations applied to all other federal judges.”


“Biden and Democrats Betting Again on Anti-Trump Coalition” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “There’s a reason that President Joe Biden’s video announcing his re-election campaign begins with the chaotic scene outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021: the best tool Democrats have to mobilize their voters isn’t the sitting president, but the former president. The anti-Trump coalition has beaten the pro-Trump coalition in key swing states and districts in 2018, 2020 and 2022. Team Biden is convinced it will work again in 2024…. If you give Biden all the blue-leaning states, he starts the contest with 241 Electoral Votes. If we give the Republican nominee all the red-leaning states, they start with 235 electoral votes. Under this scenario, there are five different paths for a Republican to win the Electoral College. Four of them go through Pennsylvania. For Biden and Democrats, there are six different paths to 270, with four going through Georgia and three via Pennsylvania. Or, another way to say it: as Pennsylvania and Georgia go, so goes the Electoral College.” And as for Biden: “Biden’s appeal remains similar today to what it was in 2020: it’s less about who he is than who he isn’t. In 2020, Trump won voters who said they voted ‘mainly for their candidate’ by seven points, while Biden carried the 24% of voters who said their vote was mainly a vote against Trump by 38 points. The 2022 midterms gave us another proof point, as voters who said they ‘somewhat disapproved’ of Biden voting overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates. A recent Wall Street poll found Biden leading Trump 54% to 15% among voters who disapprove of how both men have handled the office of the presidency. Biden’s also older than he was in 2020. The risks involved with being in your 80s, where even a minor fall or illness can have devastating consequences, are significant. ”

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.

* * *

Realignment and Legitimacy

“What’s Our Problem?” [Andrew Yang]. “Why do our politics feel so backwards? For a compelling perspective, I sat with Tim Urban, who runs the very popular blog Wait But Why and came out with a new e-book on the topic, ‘What’s Our Problem? A self-help book for societies.’ Tim proposes that our usual left-right politics misses an important dimension – whether we are using our higher mind or primitive mind. He cites 4 levels of thinking: Scientist (seeking facts), Sports Fan (values the contest), Attorney (arguing a side), and Zealot (defeat the enemy). The two higher levels are rational and constructive. The lower two levels are more concerned with being proven right and arguing for their tribe than having any positive outcome…. The problem in Tim’s view is that our politics have been overcome by the lower levels, where polarization has turned things into a good vs. evil struggle as opposed to the higher levels that are genuinely interested in policies and solutions. ‘Polarizing people is a good way to win an election, and also a good way to wreck a country.’ Tim catalogs how low-rung politics have become more pronounced on both sides, where every day is an ideological battle instead of a conversation, and details how social media supercharges this dynamic. If this sounds familiar, the Forward Party is doing all we can to reward higher-rung politics via Ranked Choice Voting and other reforms while discouraging lower-rung extremism.”• Handy chart:

“What does Tim think is our way out? Tim recommends that we stop saying things we don’t believe, start saying what we really think with people we know well, and eventually work ourselves up to saying what we really think in public. These acts would help break up the enforced tribalism that degrades many of our conversations.” • Hmm.

“There Is No A.I.” [Jaron Lanier, The New Yorker]. I read all the way to the end: “Consider what might happen if A.I.-driven tree-trimming robots are introduced. Human tree trimmers might find themselves devalued or even out of work. But the robots could eventually allow for a new type of indirect landscaping artistry. Some former workers, or others, might create inventive approaches—holographic topiary, say, that looks different from different angles—that find their way into the tree-trimming models. With data dignity, the models might create new sources of income, distributed through collective organizations. Tree trimming would become more multifunctional and interesting over time; there would be a community motivated to remain valuable. Each new successful introduction of an A.I. or robotic application could involve the inauguration of a new kind of creative work…. Whenever possible, the goal should be to at least establish a new creative class instead of a new dependent class.” • I don’t think the math works. And I also remember when “creative class” (hat tip, RIchard Florida) was a thing, back in 2008, when that class was said, by Matt Yglesias among others, to be the driver behind the putative Obama coalition. That didn’t work out well, the “creative class” being a tranche of what we know recognize as the PMC. So I don’t think the Lanier’s class analysis works either. Why are A.I.-driven tree-trimming robots important? Or robot roaches dogs, for that matter?


“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).

* * *


“Biological rhythms in COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness in an observational cohort study of 1.5 million patients” [Journal of Clinical Investigation]. “Breakthrough infections differed based on vaccination time, with lowest rates associated with late morning to early afternoon, and highest rates with evening vaccination. Vaccination timing remained significant after adjustment for patient age, sex, and co-morbidities. Results were consistent in patients who received the basic two-dose series and who received booster doses. The relationship between COVID-19 immunization time and breakthrough infections was sinusoidal, consistent with a biological rhythm that modifies vaccine effectiveness by 8.6-25%. The benefits of daytime vaccination were concentrated in younger (<20 years old) and older patients (>50 years old). COVID-19 related hospitalizations varied significantly with the timing of the second booster dose, an intervention reserved for older and immunosuppressed patients (HR=0.64 morning vs. evening, 0.43-0.97 95% CI, p=0.038). We report a significant association between the time of COVID-19 vaccination and its effectiveness. This has implications for mass vaccination programs.” • Yves has speculated that the method of vaccine administration has downstream effects. This study would appear to support that. Not sure I buy “circadian rhythms” as a cause, rather than an effect.


“Brits urged to wear face masks again as new Arcturus Covid strain spreads across UK” [Mirror]. • If you make masking a cultural norm, you don’t have to twiddle the mask knobs all the time. Of course, professional knob twiddlers are well-ensconced in the public health establishment…


“EXCLUSIVE: Scientists launch manhunt for ‘longest ever’ Covid patient in Ohio who has been infected for two YEARS — as they warn patient’s virus is so mutated it could spark ‘concerning’ outbreak” [Daily Mail]. An example of the Mail actually doing good science reporting, remarkably enough. “Scientists are trying to track down an Ohio resident who they believe is the longest-standing Covid patient ever, DailyMail.com can reveal. The patient – thought to live in the Columbus area – is carrying a highly mutated version of the virus that is ‘unlike anything’ experts have seen. The virus has been detected through wastewater sampling and traced back to early 2021. It is being repeatedly picked up along a 40-mile area, signaling that one person is carrying and shedding it through their stool…. [Dr Marc Johnson, a microbiologist at the University of Missouri] believes the strain is being shed by the same person who regularly commutes between Columbus and Washington Court House. The scientist is unsure whether the person is contagious or how they have managed to stay infected so long. Patients who harbor viruses for exceptionally long periods of time often have weakened immune systems, which means their body struggles to clear the virus. Many scientists believe the Alpha, Delta and Omicron variants all emerged this way. Dr Johnson is, however, convinced the patient is healthy and may travel for work or school, but he could not rule out a chronically ill person who commutes for hospital care. His team cannot say for certain that it is just one patient, either…. [T]he virus has likely mutated within this person to the extent that it is not fit to spread. Instead, the virus has managed to adjust itself in a way that it can live within its host for a long period of time while going relatively undetected.” • Fascinating. Worth reading in full.

“Resurgence of Omicron BA.2 in SARS-CoV-2 infection-naive Hong Kong” [Nature]. “Hong Kong experienced a surge of Omicron BA.2 infections in early 2022, resulting in one of the highest per-capita death rates of COVID-19. The outbreak occurred in a dense population with low immunity towards natural SARS-CoV-2 infection, high vaccine hesitancy in vulnerable populations, comprehensive disease surveillance and the capacity for stringent public health and social measures (PHSMs). By analyzing genome sequences and epidemiological data, we reconstructed the epidemic trajectory of BA.2 wave and found that the initial BA.2 community transmission emerged from cross-infection within hotel quarantine. The rapid implementation of PHSMs suppressed early epidemic growth but the effective reproduction number (Re) increased again during the Spring festival in early February and remained around 1 until early April. Independent estimates of point prevalence and incidence using phylodynamics also showed extensive superspreading at this time, which likely contributed to the rapid expansion of the epidemic.” • We don’t talk about superspreading any more, I suppose because if we don’t talk about superspreading, we don’t have to talk about airborne transmission.


“Serological response to vaccination in post-acute sequelae of COVID” [BMC Infectious Diseases]. “We found evidence of aberrant immune response distinguishing PASC [“Long Covid”] from recovered COVID. This aberrancy is marked by excess IgG-S activation and ACE2 binding along with findings consistent with a delayed or dysfunctional immunoglobulin class switching, all of which is unmasked by vaccine provocation. These results suggest that measures of aberrant immune response may offer promise as tools for diagnosing and distinguishing PASC from non-PASC phenotypes, in addition to serving as potential targets for intervention.” • Commentary:

Elite Maleficence

Portrait of A Man So Missing It By That Much:

Tucker is, of course, the head of the Brownnose Institute….

Read all the way to the end:

Why on earth would you end hospital reporting requirements?

* * *

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!

Lambert here: I’m getting the feeling that the “something awful” might be a sawtooth pattern — variant after variant — that averages out to a permanently high plateau (with, of course, deeper knowledge of the sequelae “we” have already decided to accept or, rather, to profit from). That will be the operational definition of “living with Covid.” More as I think on this. In addition, I recurated my Twitter feed for my new account, and it may be I’m creating a echo chamber. That said, it seems to me that the knobs on Covid had gone up to 13, partly because science is popping, which demands more gaslighting, and partly because that “Covid is over” bubble maintenance is, I believe, more pundit-intensive than our betters believed it would be.

Case Data

BioBot wastewater data from April 27:

Lambert here: Unless the United States is completely, er, exceptional, we should be seeing an increase here soon.

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.


From CDC, April 29, 2023. Here we go again:

Lambert here: Looks like XBB.1.16 is rolling right along. Though XBB 1.9.1 is in the race as well.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from April 22:

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.


A kind reader discovered that Walgreens had reduced its frequency to once a week. No updates, however, since April 11.


NOT UPDATED Death rate (Our World in Data):

Lambert here: WHO turned off the feed? Odd that Walgreen’s positivity shut down on April 11, and the WHO death count on April 12. Was there a memo I didn’t get?

Total: 1,159,697 – 1,159,662 = 35 (35 * 365 = 12,775 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

Excess Deaths

NOT UPDATED Excess deaths (The Economist), published April 23:

Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model. (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

Personal Income: “United States Personal Income” [Trading Economics]. “Personal income in the United States rose by 0.3 percent from a month earlier in March 2023, maintaining the same growth pace as in February and slightly exceeding market expectations of a 0.2 percent rise. The growth was driven by a 0.3 percent increase in compensation, led by private wages and salaries.”

Manufacturing: “United States Chicago PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago Business Barometer, also known as the Chicago PMI, increased further to 48.6 points in April 2023 from 43.8 in the prior month and well above market forecasts of 43.5. The reading pointed to the eighth consecutive contraction in business activity in the Chicago region but the softest one in the sequence.” • Above 50 is expansion, below, contraction.

* * *

Finance: “Review of the Federal Reserve’s Supervision and Regulation of Silicon Valley Bank” (PDF) [Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System]:

The four key takeaways of the report are:

1. Silicon Valley Bank’s board of directors and management failed to manage their risks.

2. Supervisors did not fully appreciate the extent of the vulnerabilities as Silicon Valley Bank grew in size and complexity.

3. When supervisors did identify vulnerabilities, they did not take sufficient steps to ensure that Silicon Valley Bank fixed those problems quickly enough.

4. The Board’s tailoring approach in response to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (EGRRCPA) and a shift in the stance of supervisory policy impeded effective supervision by reducing standards, increasing complexity, and promoting a less assertive supervisory approach.

The Bezzle: “Chinese EV giant BYD says self-driving tech is more valuable for factories than cars” [CNBC]. “Fully autonomous driving is ‘basically impossible’ and the technology would be better applied to manufacturing, according to Chinese battery and electric car company BYD. ‘There may be many industries and businesses that invest a lot of money on this [tech], and after investing for many years it will prove it leads nowhere,’ Li Yunfei, a spokesperson for BYD, said in Mandarin, translated by CNBC.” • Atrios, who has a side hustle as a transportation maven and got the autonomous vehicle scam right from the start, comments: “BYD is probably the actual tech leader on this stuff and they’re throwing in the towel…. Lots of issues, but the basic one is that the gap between ‘works well 99% of the time’ and ‘works well 100% of the time’ is the gap between ‘really annoying’ and ‘useful’ and there’s no way to bridge that gap…. Congrats to all the very smart people (the world’s easiest marks) for not seeing this 10 years ago.”

Tech: “A research team airs the messy truth about AI in medicine — and gives hospitals a guide to fix it” [STAT]. “In public, hospitals [that is, hospital executives and administrators] rave about artificial intelligence. They trumpet the technology in press releases, plaster its use on billboards, and sprinkle AI into speeches touting its ability to detect diseases earlier and make health care faster, better, and cheaper. But on the front lines, the hype is smashing into a starkly different reality. Caregivers complain AI models are unreliable and of limited value. Tools designed to warn of impending illnesses are inconsistent and sometimes difficult to interpret. Even evaluating them for accuracy, and susceptibility to bias, is still an unsettled science.” • Worth reading in full. Maybe the AI profiteers should stick to denying people care, instead of trying to deliver it. That’s a far more well-understood process.

Tech: “Mark Zuckerberg says AI boosts monetization by 30% on Instagram, 40% on Facebook” [Yahoo Finance]. “‘[Generative AI] is going to also help create more engaging experiences, which should create more engagement,’ Meta Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on the company’s earnings call Wednesday evening. ‘And that by itself creates more opportunities for advertisers.'” • Great.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 60 Greed (previous close: 59 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 28 at 1:17 PM ET.

The Gallery

I hate this tactic. I just hate it:

Why not a bank lobby, or a major corporation? Or an absurdly expensive restaurant frequented by criminals and arms dealers?

Zeitgeist Watch

“Chaos Ensues After The ‘LeBron James Of Incels’ Gets Laid” [Kotaku]. “In case you feel a twinge of sympathy for Komesarj, it bears repeating that incels are, at their core, misogynists who want the world to revolve around their false belief that women are only sexual objects, not people. This fact isn’t lost on the r/IncelTear subreddit, a community of 125,000 Redditors who spend their time sharing screenshots of the hateful, racist, violent, and often just bizarre shit incels say. As you’d guess, they were having a field day with the incel community’s ‘nuclear meltdown’ over Komesarj getting laid. ‘Nothing like admitting that their celibacy is voluntary,’ Petite_Bait wrote…. Incel civil war and the subsequent relinquishment of his moderator title aside, Komesarj appears to be taking his new life in stride. Komesarj even shared the surprising revelation that his new partner is aware that he was a former leader in the incel community and is chill with it(?).” • Apparently, Komesarj’s board had only 20,000 members. Not many.

News of the Wired

“The best brain foods have the ‘6 tastes of life,’ says Deepak Chopra—from sweet and sour to bitter and ‘astringent'” [CNBC]. “To get the most health benefits for your brain from what you eat, you should focus on diversifying the foods on your plate, which includes the ‘six tastes of life,’ [Deepak] Chopra says. This guidance is based in Ayurvedic medicine… The six tastes of life include: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. While you’re probably most familiar with sweet, sour and bitter tastes, astringent is harder to identify. Foods with an astringent taste ‘have drying and cooling qualities,’ according to Healthline. Some of these include parsley, beans, turmeric and vanilla.” • Hmm.

“The economics and politics of Thomas the Tank Engine” [Duncan Weldon, Bull Market]. “Before proceeding, I should be clear that the Thomas I am considering is the modern, CGI edition — in particular seasons 13 and 14 (currently on Netflix in the UK). Not the Ringo Starr voiced Thomas of my own youth. … The place to start is with the railway company itself. For many days I couldn’t fathom its ownership structure…. The only explanation that really works for me is as follows. Sir Topham, or perhaps his ancestors, were once rich but minor members of Sodor’s gentry. They build the railway and have been expanding it ever since. The Duke may rule in name but not in deed. The Mayor is but a democratic fig leaf that camouflages the real Sodor. Sir Topham’s industrial and political powers are closely linked. The railway survives by virtue of its monopoly. Any profits are continually reinvested in expanding the track network of what is frankly an already ludicrously over-serviced island. Real competition would kill the railway. There is of course Bertie the Bus providing one competing service, but some evidence suggests this is but a charade. Whether there is formal collusion or not, Bertie and the railway avoid direct competition… The fact that labour and capital (in the form of anthropomorphised engines) are one on Sodor complicates any analysis.” • Hmm.

* * *

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 with dunes in the distance, St Andrews, Scotland.” Now that’s what I call a rough!

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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. The Rev Kev

      I guess that the Mexicans do not want Texas back again from that map. Too many Texans.

    2. Acacia

      > “Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov …”

      > “White House propagandists Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, et alia…”

  1. Jason Boxman

    The supreme court is a joke; Every decision for the past twenty years is now questionable, given at a minimum Thomas’ recreational activities and financial proclivities. The entire institution has suffered from rot since the nonsensical Bush v Gore decision, which will forever taint the court, to say nothing of Citizens United, which ensures that big money as an election influencer is unstoppable. Oh, and the decision that no official can engage in corruption short providing a receipt for a physical bag of cash and then delivering on a specific, written and signed promise. What a joke. Banana Republic.

    1. Janeway

      Thomas is but 1 of 9. Unless you are implying that he was able to change votes based on what the billionaire wanted from him in a quid pro quo situation. The reality is that Thomas is going to run in conservative circles and hang out with rich conservatives just like AOC is going to run in DSA circles and hang out with rich progressives.

      That is, nothing to date indicates Thomas changed his thinking or voting because he was going on cruises that were paid for.

      1. nippersdad

        Pretty sure that the DSA has repudiated AOC by now, and Thomas has always been a rich mans tool. Why else would the Senator from MBNA have moved heaven and Earth to get him into such a vital position for his donors? So, in that sense, you are right. Nothing has changed because they found the right guy for the job the first time. That is one thing the Federalist Society, from which both parties pull their nominees, is good at; vetting for talent at protecting their assets.

        And I am not so sure that he and Alito have not affected the other seven. Saint Ginsburg was one of their best friends on the court, or so she said before she bought the farm, and that would explain a lot of her votes.

        Their most recent decision on how they are above the petty regulation every one else must endure sounds like an admission that they have something they need to hide from public scrutiny.

      2. bdy

        “A judicial officer or employee is not permitted to accept a gift from anyone who is seeking official action from or doing business with the court or other entity served by the judicial officer or employee, or from any other person whose interests may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the judicial officer’s or employee’s official duties.” Emphasis mine.


        Whether a judge changes his thinking or ruling is irrelevant. They can’t take gifts from anyone who may be affected by their decisions. The only real questions here are 1) “Does Crowe have interests that may be affected by Thomas’ decision(s)? and 2) Are SCOTUS justices subject to the same ethical rules as all federal judges?

        The bogus smoking-gun-in-writing precedents that Thomas has helped establish for bribery and fraud don’t apply here. Hanging out with him doesn’t make gifts okay.

        1. Jason Boxman

          The bogus smoking-gun-in-writing precedents that Thomas has helped establish for bribery and fraud don’t apply here.

          True, it is but merely another example of lunacy that emanated from a thoroughly discredited body.

      3. phoenix

        This is an insane argument. I suppose we do live in the normalized corruption phase of empire collapse

      4. ashley

        you want your mind blown? three of the justices installed since bush were part of the bush v gore legal battle on the bush side.

        John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett

        lambert – can we (you? NC?) do an investigation into the brooks brothers riot? i always found it interesting that so many people involved in bush v gore particularly on the bush side have high ranking positions now in the conservative movement. and also, one of the rioters became head of public policy at facebook – Joel Kaplan. and of course roger stone was also involved.

    2. Onward to Dystopia

      They should quit wasting our time and stop the farce and just ask which side in the case has the most money.
      They could be abolished and replaced with a calculator.

      1. ambrit

        Or do as the science fiction writers Pohl and Korngold suggested and reinstitute trial by combat. This time, make it like Mack Reynolds designed it. Brigade sized combat, with weapons limited to pre-1900s types.
        Then we could say with straight face that war is but litigation by other means.

  2. ChrisFromGA

    I can’t reveal my source for this, as it is confidential. I have a connection with a person who works for an international aid organization. According to my connection, a recent internal call discussed that the State dept essentially abandoned American aid workers in Sudan.

    They had to be evacuated to Saudi Arabia, all organized by the Saudis. From there, presumably, they are on their own to get flights out to whatever final destination they wish.

    File under: Imperial Collapse watch

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      If the Russians ever get around to taking Kiev, that will make for an interesting evacuation. Sy Hersh, interviewed by Aaron Mate filling in for Jimmy Dore, describes Kiev like it’s Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive. Lots of very upscale restaurants and shopping. Lots of word-class grifters, Hersh says. That would make for quite an evacuation scene.

    2. johnherbiehancock

      Hmmm… first hit is this USA Today article.

      It notes that “thousands of Americans remaining in Sudan are aid workers or Sudanese Americans,” and they get this:

      Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner said most of the thousands of Americans remaining in Sudan are aid workers or Sudanese Americans. He said they need to “shelter in place” while the U.S. works with international partners to arrange a “safe way to get them out,” likely via a land corridor.

      Remainder of article serves to sugar coat this by giving accolades to Seal Team 6 for evacuating a few dozen embassy personnel, and then buries it by providing the background (or at least our “official” background) to why Sudanese civil society just completely collapsed.

    3. The Rev Kev

      I was reading that the Egyptians have been sterling work getting people out of that country as well and not only their own. Lots of Brits said that they were abandoned and it was the French that got them out.

    1. caucus99percenter

      Gee, just like the rail system in Atlas Shrugged, after all the competent people get fed up and “go Galt.”

      1. nippersdad

        The irony being that all of the “competent people” who went Galt this time were in the rank and file that Dagny Taggart spent a few hundred pages denigrating.

        1. caucus99percenter

          Yep. Turns out that in real life, there is no magic entrepreneur-industrialist management genius, no “Rearden metal” style magic technological fix — just adequately-staffed crews of loyal, conscientious workers with good healthcare, sick leave, and wages high enough that a family can live comfortably on one parent’s income. All the things that the Biden administration blocked when it deprived railway workers of their right to strike.

    2. some guy

      Is Buffet-Hathaway a major shareholder in BNSF Railroad? If so, how many trains have to derail before Buffet-Hathaway decides the number has become too high for the good of the share-value? Or the extracted revenue-streams?

      1. tevhatch

        I’m guessing Buffet-Hathaway insurance companies are not selling to this sister corporation, unless they are able to pass off the paper to some sort of Federal creature of the likes of Fanny-Mae/Freddie-Mac.

  3. griffen

    Road rage and completely uncivil behavior behind the wheel. Best to avoid I-85 like the plague that it is between Charlotte to Atlanta !! Anecdotal as I was only a passenger, but a road trip the past week from SC to the sandy shores near Mobile but holy cow drivers are real aggressive at pressing your bumper. Atlanta has always sucked at traffic, so it’s hardly a revealing data point.

    Drive 80, 85 and those lanes just magically clear in front of you!

  4. giantsquid

    Re: Circadian rhythm and vaccines or infections

    “Our circadian rhythms are driven by an endogenous central clock in the brain that synchronizes with clocks in peripheral tissues, thereby regulating our immune system and the severity of infections. These rhythms affect the pharmacokinetics and efficacy of therapeutic agents and vaccines.”


    1. giantsquid

      Disrupted circadian rhythm may also be a factor contributing to the severity of Covid-19:

      ” Results showed that shift/night work was not associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 compared to day work. Still, shift/night workers reported higher odds for moderate to life-threatening COVID-19 (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 2.71, 95%-confidence interval = 1.23–5.95) and need for hospital care (aOR = 5.66, 1.89–16.95). Face-to-face work was associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 (aOR = 1.55, 1.12–2.14) but not with higher disease severity. In conclusion, shift/night work was not associated with an increased risk of COVID-19, but when infected, shift/night workers reported more severe disease. Impaired sleep and circadian disruption commonly seen among shift/night workers may be mediating factors.”


  5. Carla

    Re: Tim Urban’s advice: “Tim recommends that we stop saying things we don’t believe, start saying what we really think with people we know well, and eventually work ourselves up to saying what we really think in public.”

    Okay, I have mostly achieved the first level and have started to embark upon the second, with the result that people I know well seldom want to hear what I have to say because it doesn’t agree with conventional opinions and news sources.

    This is much harder than Urban makes it sound.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      i can confirm the existence of this phenomenon…over..well, since Obama’s second week, really.
      everyone else in the relevant cohort changed suddenly,lol.
      i was still doing what ive always done: question assumptions and apply my mind as best i can.
      all of a sudden, this was seen as proof that i was a secret tea partier(the pre-trump/putin lover)

      1. ashley

        same i voted for ron paul in 2008 only to be told i was racist. im sorry but who’s the one who said hed hold the banks responsible and then lined his cabinet with goldman sachs? who said hed close guantanamo and its still open? who said hed end the wars only for that fucking guy to end them (finally, then six months later lets have a war with russia because we need to feed the MIC beast)? whos the drone commander in chief? who bombs innocent people as collateral damage and then goes after those who whistleblew our war crimes?

        fuck obama. i hated obama back in 2007 and it had nothing to do with his race. id love to see more minorities of all kinds in positions of power, but ultimately, the only people who make it into power are those who want to maintain the status quo regardless of whatever snakeoil nonsense they sell the voters along the way to power.

    2. nippersdad

      “Eighty percent of the world cannot be wrong” goes a long way when you are telling them that “maybe it is you?”

    3. pretzelattack

      “Tim recommends that we stop saying things we don’t believe, start saying what we really think with people we know well, and eventually work ourselves up to saying what we really think in public.”

      it’s a good way to disrupt friendships, on contentious topics where the propaganda narrative has become set in stone (Russiagate for example). i bet it doesn’t work well in family gatherings, either.

    4. bdy

      If you want to change the world you have to self-alienate first? I won’t say what I really think until I figure out a way to say it nicely. Tall order, that.

    5. Henry Moon Pie

      I think Mr. Yang and Mr. Urban are wasting their breath. I’m reminded of 20 years ago when Lakoff was telling everybody about framing and Daddy parties and Mommy parties. At least Lakoff was addressing a politic that still divided along what could be called Left and Right lines. That is all but gone now.

      All this Carlson stuff has drawn me into the Rumble world of Dan Bongino and Russell Brand and Kim Iversen and the Redacted couple. Rogues and thieves you might say, and you might be right, but whatever their level of integrity, they’re pitching to an audience that does not really see itself as Left/Right but Inside/Outside. In times when the citizenry is thinking that way, the Outsides have been known to put aside their differences with each other and unite to take down the Insides and settle things among themselves later. Russia in 1917 is an example where the temporary union succeeded in bringing down the monarchy. Then the scores were settled.

      As much the American Empire is teetering at present, it’s still nothing as weak as the Czar after the slaughter of WW I and a band of Rumble dissidents isn’t Lenin and his merry band of Bolsheviks. But I think a change in our political structure beyond even the rather extraordinary event of a realignment like 1932 is what is taking place. It will be temporary by definition, but that doesn’t mean that something very important with long lasting implications is not happening. The sub-groups that make up the Outsides are in the process of defining themselves, and how this process develops will help shape whatever politics we’re able to have after this dispensation ends.

      One thing I see that concerns me a great deal is that the Outsides, among whom I count myself, increasingly define themselves as a mirror image of the Insiders. If the Insiders (read WEF) have plans for addressing climate change, then not only do Outsides now assume that such plans are unlikely to have a friendly impact on them and their fellow Outsides, they go on to deny the reality the problem itself. With Covid, the Outsides have had no problem seeing the elites’ lies and incompetence, but many Outsides then reject the real threat posed by Covid to our society and our own health. Outsides are sick of Insider social engineers wagging their finger at us and telling us what to believe. But many Outsides have their anger shifted far too easily toward people different from them.

      I believe the Insides in our society are fools flirting with insanity. Why would you ever define yourself as the opposite of them? Outsides are going to have to draw on more than anger and skepticism. We have to hold onto our common sense and our empathy. We need to define ourselves not in relation to the Insides but with reference to the reality that we face and what that reality’s challenges will require of us.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        thats an interesting revelation.
        ive meant to play around with things like rumble in the hopes of just such a discovery.
        but im too covered up with my doins out here(Collapse First!), and really dont know if i have any more political wrangling left n me.
        i’m glad you are there, however.
        be Gandalf.

      2. LifelongLib

        When Stalin decided the Soviet Union needed rockets, he selected an engineer who’d done time in a gulag to run the program. After the revolution we’ll still need professionals and managers. Presumably they’ll have a different relationship to the rest of society than today’s “PMC” (as far as that actually describes anyone) but much of the knowledge and skill will be the same.

      3. Jeff H

        I very much agree with your perspective of inside/outside split in society and the degradation of competency of those with power on the inside. It seems to pervade every aspect of human activity. But it seems to affect mostly those influenced by the generally western colonialist perspective.
        I don’t know if you’re familiar with Dimity Orlov ,he was a resident alien from Russia who experienced the collapse of the Soviet government from the inside. He made the observation almost a decade ago that the delusion and decline of competence of our elite mirrored that of the Soviet government.
        If I recall correctly, he returned to Russia a few years ago. Perhaps Mr Putin is providing a more substantial governance than anything on offer here?

  6. Michael

    Re THE FED!

    The four key takeaways of the report are:

    1. Silicon Valley Bank’s board of directors and management failed to manage their risks. (Couldn’t say NO?
    Didn’t know what risks were? Born after 2008?)

    2. Supervisors did not fully appreciate the extent of the vulnerabilities as Silicon Valley Bank grew in size and complexity. (Fully…appreciate? So just kinda? or like a fine wine, who cares if it’s $500 a bottle if it’s a big bottle?)

    3. When supervisors did identify vulnerabilities, they did not take sufficient steps to ensure that Silicon Valley Bank fixed those problems quickly enough. (When? Sufficient…ensure…fix…quickly? Enema? Did they compare to JPM’s balance sheet and say WTF?)

    4. The Board’s tailoring approach in response to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (EGRRCPA) and a shift in the stance of supervisory policy impeded effective supervision by reducing standards, increasing complexity, and promoting a less assertive supervisory approach. (Tailoring?
    as in let out the waist a little? Do I look fat (out of compliance) now? shift…impede…promote…CRASH!)

    Weasle words from a pack of weasles! We will be Japan in 3-2-1.

  7. Mikel

    “And I also remember when “creative class” (hat tip, RIchard Florida) was a thing, back in 2008, when that class was said, by Matt Yglesias among others, to be the driver behind the putative Obama coalition. That didn’t work out well, the “creative class” being a tranche of what we know recognize as the PMC. So I don’t think the Lanier’s class analysis works either….”

    Some others may have a different pinpoint, but the “creative class” started becoming a thing as more corporations started buying up things like record companies and movie studios.
    The execs started having titles like “creative execs”. Before, the suits new they were suits.

    1. ashley

      creative class also refers to all the people working with new technology as the internet and social media came into maturity – people whos main job was to create in some form of newer media (websites, videos, photos, writing, design, movies, tv, streaming, etc).

  8. Watt4Bob

    WRT road rage.

    I drove taxi from 1977 to 1993, over that time driving behavior became increasingly belligerent.

    By the time I moved on my current employment, I was daily asking myself ;

    “Why is everyone so angry?” and “What are these people so angry about?”

    From my perspective, it was the more well-to-do who got angry first, now everyone is mad as hell.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am, the poor, probably out of necessity, have more highly developed coping mechanisms, while Ken and Karen believe they are ‘entitled‘ to a clear lane in front of them.

    It’s gotten much worse since I stopped driving for a living, to the point where I avoid the freeways because it’s necessary to keep looking over your shoulder for the next crazy bas*ard weaving at 90 mph.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love to drive fast, but in order to keep my blood pressure, and mood, on the good end of the scale, I no longer care how long it takes to get somewhere.

    1. Appleseed

      As a decades-long frequent bicycle commuter in a Midwestern metropolis, I can also affirm I’ve seen a marked increase in road rage by motorists who insist bicyclists get in the way of ICE machines. Mind you, I don’t ride on arterial streets, preferring our city’s extensive greenway network (on street bike lanes are OK if separated from the travel lane by a median, but lanes with sharrows are scary) or quiet residential roads. Apparently, people are in a major hurry since they frequently scream past me at high speed coming within inches of my handlebars as they pass. (So much for the 3 foot passing recommendation.) Since dark tinted windows now seem to be standard equipment, it’s no longer possible to “make eye contact” as we did in days gone by when we all “shared the road.” Given the appalling number of bike/ped mortalities during the past several years [PDF], it appears the need to accelerate is a drive that cannot be denied.

      1. Angie Neer

        Only a few-years-long bike commuter here, so I can’t really comment on the long-term trend. But I feel your pain. I do ride a lot in road-side bike lanes (with no median), and they are really kind of a joke. Drivers on my route are generally courteous, or at least not malicious, but even so the clearance is not nearly 3 feet unless the car swings out into the opposite lane (some do). As well, the bike lane is where everything that falls off a truck ends up. Besides trash of various kinds, it’s kind of interesting how many lug nuts, screws, nails, wood scraps, etc. I see. I’ve encountered smashed boxes of tacks, and boards with nails sticking out of them. I don’t think any of that is malicious, it’s just the detritus of a lot of construction, destruction, and maintenance activity around here.

      2. JBird4049

        In San Francisco, it is a contest between pedestrians, drivers, and bicyclists on who can be the most obnoxious, suicidal, or just crazy.

        Crossing the street or intersection without looking, running red lights or stop signs, changing between lanes, streets, and sidewalks without looking, speeding, abruptly weaving, stopping, or going really slowly without any obvious reasons for it. And making sure that there is no air between my rear bumper and their front, no matter the speed or traffic.

        It’s San Francisco Demolition Derby, and everyone is playing.

        Whether they want to or not. With the hills and some of the narrow, twistier roads, it is interesting.

        Truthfully, I have also noticed the increasing fun wherever I go. It is just that closer you are to a city the more the road-ragers appear. Maybe, this explains the increasing size of American vehicles. I lucked out with a full size five person sedan and I still feel a frisson of fear when some land-ship looms over me with the driver having rage face.

  9. LarryB

    “I hate this tactic. I just hate it:”

    I would just about bet that these jacka*es are funded by the oil companies. It’s such a counter-productive tactic I can’t believe anybody would adopt it in good faith.

  10. some guy

    ” Why on earth would you end hospital reporting requirements? ”

    Well, I can think of two reasons.

    1: The Trumpian PR-Brain Massage reason . . . . If we do less testing, we will have less cases.

    2: The WHO/CDC stealth mass-democide reason . . . . if we have no hospital testing, we can keep the spread of new variants or the resurgence of old ones a secret for longer, maybe long enough to raise the numbers of people getting covid high enough to achieve a higher body count over the next few decades.

  11. JTMcPhee

    The Ukrainian States of America:

    “💰 The Ministry of Health of Ukraine intends to revise the list of free services included in the programme of medical guarantees [PMG]. Health Minister Viktor Lyashko admitted as much

    According to him, “if you look at the law on financial guarantees and the statute, the PMG seems to include everything. But if we open our eyes and go to medical institutions, we will see that this is not true”. The minister therefore concludes that the PMG should be reduced and “a proactive list of so-called paid services in the state should be drawn up, on the basis of which we can develop the next phase”.

    The tariffs for the free medical services provided under the PMG, on the other hand, are unlikely to be financed by private investors, who could cover some of their costs in the near future. And now the Ministry of Health is looking for a co-payment mechanism for medical services.

    The number of poor people in the country is growing, and the news from the front about the number of wounded is obviously distressing, but Lyashko does not care. Soon it will turn out that free medicine exists only in the constitution of Ukraine. And paid-for medicine will kill large numbers of Ukrainians.”


    Good to know that despite getting billions, maybe a good part of a trillion already, from us American mopes, the Ukrainian rulers are as grifty and mean-spirited as the best of our own liberal PMC.

  12. Wukchumni

    Supreme pizzas are kind of akin to Supreme Justices, you get 9 toppings-some of which you’d probably never order on their own, and if you’re at a party or get together with multiple pies, its the pizza that has the most uneaten slices left in the box, oddly similar to their 5-4 decisions where almost half of the Justices wanted pepperoni instead.

    1. The Rev Kev

      And if you ask for a better Supreme pizza, they tell you that if you try that it will be all anchovy for you.

    2. Hepativore

      Really? The classic six-topping supreme of sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, onion, black olive, and green pepper always seems to be very popular with a lot of people whenever they order pizza even for just themselves…although it might be a different story if it also included anchovies, but a lot of pizza places do not even have them anymore because of how few people ask for them.

      I am one of the few people who actually likes anchovies on pizza, because almost any topping goes well on pizza…however, anchovies by themselves are horribly salty.

      I would compare Supreme Court justices to that of playing a dice game with 9 loaded dice that are chosen by the people that brought the dice to the game (The presidents) that are weighted to roll a certain way. The game itself is officially “fair” and “neutral, but everybody knows that it is being played with crooked dice, including the “players” who are presenting their cases.

  13. Jeff W

    “Why not a bank lobby, or a major corporation? Or an absurdly expensive restaurant frequented by criminals and arms dealers?”

    Well, I think, generalizing from the statements of another group (Just Stop Oil) regarding their Campbell’s-Soup-on-the-glass-covering-Van-Gogh’s-Sunflowers action back in October, these activists are not interested in targeting a particular organization or business and their actions seem to be calculated to avoid being taken for that.

    Instead, they want to bring about awareness of the current climate emergency (DeclareEmergency’s Twitter account has the quote: “We are deeply within a climate emergency state but people are not aware of it”) and, again, generalizing from the statements of Just Stop Oil, to make the point that, if we’re horrified at acts involving artwork—and these activists smeared paint on the display case, not the actual sculpture, so it’s kind of a second-order symbolic act—then how much more should we be horrified by ongoing and predicted catastrophes involving the planet?

    My guess is that, the group is making a strategic choice based on some calculation that targeting a piece of artwork, rather than some arguably more “deserving” organization, will gain them more attention (say, being featured in NC’s “Water Cooler”), thereby raising awareness, and, even if some people “hate” (or simply don’t agree with) their tactics, it’s still a win for them.

    1. Acacia

      Agree with the last paragraph.

      They are targeting art because they believe this the best way to trigger people, alert them to the cause of climate activism, and make people “think” about why society values art but doesn’t seem to value the environment. Another reason they target artworks is because they’re trying to channel a very very long tradition of épater la bourgeoisie that goes back to XIXth century art, though their point of reference is more contemporary performance art.

      Some may remember The Moderns, a rather mediocre 1988 film about USian expats in Paris during the 1920s. Keith Carradine plays an art forger who at some point paints a fake Modigliani, and there’s a scene towards the end of the film in which the fake is destroyed while those who believe it to be a real Modigliani panic and gasp in horror. That’s somewhat the goal in these actions: “OMG, you are destroying a priceless [insert artist’s name]!” and then the activists (i.e., we spectators watching the film) get to say “Hah!! Fooled ya!! No ‘real’ art was harmed. Boy you’re dumb!!”.

      Although many of them profess to be interested in art, the activists’ logic is that “art doesn’t matter” if everybody is dead, i.e., there are no humans left to appreciate art, their assumption being that climate change = certain and total extinction of the human race. A further assumption is that media coverage = minds have been changed.

      Whether these actions actually “awaken” anybody seems, to me at least, highly doubtful.

  14. The Rev Kev

    “The economics and politics of Thomas the Tank Engine”

    ‘And yet despite stagnant living standards the people/engines of Sodor appear content. Indeed it is unclear if they get paid at all — instead they seek meaning and joy in a Stakhanovite desire to be “really useful engines” ‘

    Yeah, not so fast. Saw one episode with my kids growing up where an engine that was deemed lazy was bricked up in a disused tunnel. That sounds like atrocity level stuff that. Did that engine become an object lesson for the other engines? Work hard or else they will brick you up in a tunnel as well? Suddenly Sodor sounds like a dystopia.

  15. The Rev Kev

    ‘Two climate activists from the US Climate group Declare Emergency smeared red and black paint over a sculpture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington’

    If you are impressed with that effort, then you’ll love this one. So there was a live British Snooker Tournament a coupla days ago when climate activists did their thing. They stopped one before he could get onto a table but this other guy climbed up and spread orange powder all over the table. I am sure that this really helped their cause and convinced a lot of people to follow their ideals-

    https://junkee.com/climate-protestors-snooker-uk/350250 (with video)

    1. c_heale

      I think this is cowardly behavior by these “activists”. Instead of taking on difficult targets (which for all their flaws, the old environmental organizations used to do), they are taking on easy ones. Art galleries, museums, and sporting events are designed for public access, and people normally have some respect for the art or artefacts therein. The fines or punishments are normally low.

      They are people for which the environment is an excuse to show off. They are not serious about environmental issues. They have no skin in the game.

      1. JBird4049

        Hit a bank or the office of some governmental or financial bigwigs with paint, then see your in thirty years after time off for good behavior because that’s the terrorism don’t you know?

        Which is why some museum is what gets painted.

    2. Verifyfirst

      Well I don’t know–if the point is to get attention, it seems they are succeeding. I don’t think it will change anything, but what will?

      1. The Rev Kev

        As Lambert said, ‘why not a bank lobby, or a major corporation? Or an absurdly expensive restaurant frequented by criminals and arms dealers?’ So how about hitting the people that actually have power rather than people that have virtually no power at all. Embarrass the people that are making the decisions that hurt us all.

  16. Jason Boxman

    Speaking of lack of judicial legitimacy: North Carolina Court, With New Partisan Mix, Reverses Itself on a Key Voting Case

    The decision has major implications not just for the state legislature, where the G.O.P. is barely clinging to the supermajority status that makes its decisions veto-proof, but for the U.S. House, where a new North Carolina map could add at least three Republican seats in 2024 to what is now a razor-thin Republican majority. Overturning such a recent ruling by the court was a highly unusual move, particularly on a pivotal constitutional issue in which none of the facts had changed.

  17. outside observer

    I was perusing a linked-in article on China-US relations by Ray Dalio of Bridgewater. I did a double take at this paragraph. I must be missing something because this sounds like wishful thinking about the nature of war.

    “What Would a War Look Like?
    Now that there is a greater possibility of some form of war, there is more focus on what that war might look like and trying to reach some agreements about how to contain the possible types of war. For example, if there is going to be an economic/sanctions war, it would be good to have an agreement about what items are essential and what countries will be exempted from it, and if there is a military war it would be good to have agreements such as 1) no side’s military will directly kill the other side’s military, 2) no fighting will take place on the other side’s lands, and 3) neither side will use nuclear, cyber, and space weapons, etc.”

  18. Tommy S

    And the group responsible? My god their stated goal on the site is this: “What does Declare Emergency want?We demand that President Biden hold a press conference, declare a formal state of climate emergency and begin make full use of his executive authority to save this country from collapse. ” Really? A politician is going to save us? No drastic change in economics, food production, militarization, and on and on………. I declare emergency exit on THAT thinking……a press conference. Indeed.

  19. Wukchumni

    Battle Hymn of First Republic…

    Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the FDIC;
    Bailing out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
    Online hath loosed the fateful lightening of deposits by swift word:
    The fear is marching on

    Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
    Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
    Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
    The fear is marching on

    I have seen this in circling the drain of other bank camps;
    They have withdrawn deposits in the evening or any other chance;
    I can read the righteous sentence by another house of finance;
    The fear is marching on

Comments are closed.