2:00PM Water Cooler 5/22/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I have my head down over the lengthy and horrid Durham Report. Please talk amongst yourselves! –lambert

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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. Tom Stone

    A Month or so ago Chris asked about cancers, particularly blood cancers.
    I was diagnosed with Waldstrom’s disease earlier this year, my Sister was diagnsed with the same a week ago and a friend in her early 40’s was also diagnosed with cancer last week.

    1. Roger Blakely

      I am sorry to hear that. Do you think that Waldstrom’s Disease runs in your family?

    2. LawnDart

      I’m sorry– any cancer diagnosis is scary as hell, and isn’t Waldstrom’s disease supposed to be rare?

      1. John

        Cancer diagnosis November 2002, then Chemo,then surgery April 2003. Still standing. Keep the faith.

    3. IM Doc

      I view the regular commenters here as friends. I will share this with you as if I had an “in person” friend call me. They do all the time. 5-10 times a week.

      I feel compelled to make sure you know a few things that could really impact your health going forward in the period between diagnosis and when you start treatment. Unfortunately, in our world today, the physicians often neglect to discuss these things until too late.

      Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia is a very rare type of hyperproliferation of certain types of immune cells. It is similar to myeloma, but the particular immunoglobulins this one produces clot together in groups of 5 into gigantic globulin molecules, way larger than the body is made to handle. As a consequence, blood clotting is possible because the blood gets way more viscous. This clotting is particularly acute in the eyes ( retinae) and in the cerebrovascular space. Clotting off a retinal artery or vein is possible and will cause blindness. The clots in the brain can cause a stroke. This all goes away relatively quickly once the underlying problem is treated.

      Until you get treatment, this viscosity will be an issue. You can do your part to keep it in check.

      Until you see an oncologist and get started on therapy – it is very important to keep yourself hydrated. Avoid diuretics in food and drink like caffeine and alcohol. Get as much exercise as you can – just walking around the block is great.

      Once you get started on treatment, this “viscosity” problem goes away fairly quickly.

      Good luck and God Bless. It sounds scary, but it is one of the more manageable of the blood cell problems.

    4. MaryLand

      My husband has a related cancer. He has been “under observation“ for several years after his initial monoclonal antibody treatments (no side effects) and feels close to his previous normal now. They mainly do a yearly scan to keep an eye on it. Hopefully your medical staff will keep your symptoms to a very low level also. Wishing you all the best!

    5. chris

      Oh goodness. I’m so sorry to hear that!

      I have unfortunately continued to add to the tally of friends and colleagues who are dying too young from strange cancers.

    6. The Rev Kev

      Sorry to hear about this, Tom. At least IM Doc is able to give you some sound advice to help stabilize your situation. You certainly have your round of hard luck from time to time.

    7. Janie

      Tom, my husband had Walden’s trom’s macroglobulinemia and lived a full life with it under control for many years. He was past 80 when he died from an unrelated cause. Yes, it required occasional treatments, but they went well. This was twenty to thirty years ago, and I imagine treatment is better now.

    8. Jeffrey Spaulding

      Fasting, in particular a water only fast for more than 3 days (3-5 days) per quarter is critical to keep cancers at bay. There are many peer reviewed studies on the subject. After 72 hours into a water fast your body starts rebuilding the immune system, tossing out the old system and making a new one.

      Intermittent fasting 5 days a week slows cancer growth also. There are papers on this as well.

      1. Yves Smith

        You need to provide links, and you haven’t. That’s a rule violation.

        And if you had, it would have shown you are way overhyping the evidence. The research makes vastly more modest claims, that it may reduce cancer risk and slow progression. And a recent survey of studies also makes clear that the mechanism is NOT understood, again contrary to your claims.


        I take umbrage at having to correct comments, since it takes time from what ought to be my top priority, drafting new posts.

        I’m not having you oversell a treatment approach, particularly to someone who has cancer. You are already in moderation for past comments violations. One more and you will be blacklisted.

    9. petal

      Sending good thoughts to you, Tom! Will send a prayer for you out into the universe.

    10. kareninca

      I’m very sorry about this. I do know several people who have lived for a very long time with cancer, and two of them with very threatening cancers who are still around and okay; admittedly they have had to have a lot of treatments but they feel it has all been very much worth it.

    11. c_heale

      I have a 4th stage cancer. Just keep doing what’s important to you, as much as possible.

  2. doug

    I just saw this headline:

    ‘Home buyers will now be able to put down as little as 1% on their house purchase, Rocket Mortgage says’

    What could go wrong?

    1. Wukchumni

      Oh Larry Yun
      What will you tell us this time
      You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while
      And though American Dreams may toss and turn you now
      They will vanish away like a 30 year fixed
      Mortgage fading up to the sky
      And though you want the bubble to last forever
      You know it never will, you know it never will

      And the interest rate hike make the good buys harder still

      Oh Larry Yun
      What will you have us believe this time

      There’ll never be a better chance to change your mind
      And if you want this world to see a better day

      Will you carry the words of low interest loan with you
      Will you ride great housing bubble into mandate of heaven
      And though you want it to last forever
      You know it never will

      And lack of affordability makes the journey harder still

      Oh Larry Yun
      What will you tell us this time
      You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while
      Oh Larry Yun
      What will you have us believe this time

      Oh Very Young, by Cat Stevens


      1. Stephen V

        Thanks for this Wuk. When I lived in SoCal in the early 90’s I was consistently told Real Estate values will never come down…

        1. Carla

          In SoCal — as elsewhere in “hot markets” — housing values only plummet for enough time to catch those who desperately can’t afford it — and then, having damaged those who never deserved it, they start their inexorable climb again — enriching those who never deserved it, either.

          Of course, the same happens in “chilly markets” like where I live — just starting from a much lower base, and on a lower scale. People with money make money on real estate. People without money, almost never.

    2. digi_owl

      Sadly a IBM Z-series do not burn as well as paper ledgers of old, so bring thermite.

  3. red plaid

    My child’s school district sent the e-mail below (edited to anonymize school district). Does anyone else’s workplace have these lax requirements? My workplace still requires 5 days of quarantine.

    At the direction of the Oregon Department of Education and XXXX County Public Health Department, XXXX school district is no longer requiring a five-day isolation period for those infected with COVID-19. Oregon public health officials believe widespread population immunity, due to vaccinations and repeated infections, means most COVID-19 infections likely are now asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, and the five-day isolation period is doing little to reduce transmission.

    Students who are infected with COVID-19 may return to school after being fever-free for 24 hours and when symptoms are improving. Masking continues to be optional.

    1. some guy

      I doubt the people you write about are high enough up any totem polls to where they are being consciously advised of the developing deliberate covid spreading policy or their role in spreading covid. People down at their level believe the propaganda about how safe it all is and are acting accordingly.

      How to keep your kids’s masks on in the teeth of a Typhoid Mary Zombie school district and County Public Health Department? I don’t know. Perhaps claim that masks have kept your kids from getting colds and flus and you are having your kids stay masked for your and their zero-colds-and-flu convenience. No point sharing any truth with people who can’t handle the truth.

      1. some guy

        I read a tinfoil theory somewhere that hidden among the people making public covid-containment policy for schools in particular were/are people with a vested interest in private schools and an ideological desire to see the public school sector eliminated from existence. Covid handed them a way to eliminate public schools from existence.

        Just make sure that policy and propaganda and mass-management turn schools into perma-covid superspreader tar-pits. So many parents will homeschool their children so as to lower their risk of infection that the public schools will collapse into permanent one-way liquidation.

        Perhaps Senator Feinstein’s husband can take charge of selling off or otherwise privatising all the abandoned school buildings and facilities thereby created.

        Its just a theory I read. But how can I be sure its wrong?

    2. ArcadiaMommy

      I don’t know much about what is going on at public school, but my sons private high school does not require masks. A few adults are wearing them, but I don’t see any kids wearing them.

      No outbreaks of Covid, flu or RSV. This school has 1300 ish kids. Lots of socials, clubs, school travel, sports and retreats for all of the above. But we made it to summer without widespread illness. The kids spend most of the year in classrooms and event rooms with open doors and windows and have time and spaceto study and gather for clubs outside. But we made it through the heat and humidity of August and September with closed classrooms without any kids that I know of being sick.

      The kids did get sent home the last semester of the first year of Covid but went back with masks in august.

      So good so far.

      FWIW at the chemotherapy and radiation center where my father received treatment, most likely of the patients did not were masks. Go figure.

  4. LawnDart

    (Almost) Daily Derailment(s):

    A fairly-busy weekend…

    Train partially derailed in Sapulpa

    SAPULPA, Okla — A sudden partial train derailment put a pause on several main roads throughout the day in Sapulpa Saturday.

    What was a simple pause at railroad crossings stopped the train literally dead in its tracks, all because of a single rail car that became dislodged from its axle, damaging parts of the track around 8:45 a.m. under the Line Avenue bridge, according to the railroad servicer Burlington North Santa Fe (BNSF).

    (posting this next one because I think I had missed it before the weekend)


    BNSF company train (Reuters / file)
    And freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed in the west of Arizonanear the state border with California and Nevada, Wednesday night, an official said.



    Railroad reopened, U.S. Route 24 remains closed at Monroe County derailment site

    MONROE COUNTY, Mo. (WGEM) -The railroad has reopened in Monroe County, Missouri, where a train derailed on Sunday.

    A spokesman for Norfolk Southern told WGEM News they were able to reopen the railroad Monday morning.


        1. notabanker

          Interesting. Fatalities up 32% over 2020, 15% over 2022. 159 dead in Jan-Feb of 2023.

          Equipment causes down 28.6%, Human factors down 13.6 but Track causes up 8% and Misc Causes up 35.7%. Imagine that, over a third of all incidents are caused by miscellaneous.

          But don’t worry, Pete’s gonna make sure you have access to your mileage points for this summers travel.

          1. ThirtyOne

            Miscellaneous Causes Not Otherwise Listed

            – Environment Conditions
            – Loading Procedures
            – Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Accidents
            – Unusual Operational Situations
            – Other Miscellaneous

            I’m thinking there is Other Other Miscellaneous under Other Miscellaneous

      1. LawnDart

        I see the derailments as a more visible (and sometimes spectacular) example of the overall neglect and decrepitude of USA’s infrastructure.

        As a free-range kid, I sometimes played in the railyard just down the hill from the capitol building in Des Moines, and this is where a number of wrecked frieghtcars were kept: how something so solid, massive, could be turned into a twisted wreck greatly impressed me.

        I didn’t spend much time in storm sewers (rats, other critters, and filth), nor did I mess around near powerlines and transformers (a kid from our boy scout troop did this– the funeral was closed-casket), but the neglect to the rest of our infrastructure can be difficult to visualize or catch with a camera: not so with a train-wreck.

        And yes, I believe that they will increase in frequency, not just from neglect and negligence, but also with this example from last week:

        Eight train cars derailed due to heat expansion of tracks

        A Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad train carrying soymeal experienced a derailment on Sunday afternoon in Central Park.

        Eight cars came off the tracks around 5:20 p.m., said Tom Ciuba, vice president of communications for PSAP’s parent company, Genesee & Wyoming Railroad Services, Inc.

        No injuries were reported as a result of the derailment. The initial investigation indicates the cause of the derailment was thermal misalignment of the tracks, Ciuba said in an email —high heat, which can cause the tracks to buckle.


        I don’t think that our rail-system was built with global warming in mind.

        1. Jason Boxman

          I first read about this years ago and I never considered the heat effect upon infrastructure. Sort of like when it’s too hot for planes to lift off. Scary stuff. And we’re gonna see a lot more of it.

        2. Martin Oline

          “As a free-range kid, I sometimes played in the railyard just down the hill from the capitol building in Des Moines”
          Jeez Louise! Did ya play baseball at the field on the SE corner of E.18th & Dean? Just wondering. That was a big sledding hill before the DOT scraped it down for the north end of the E14th viaduct embankment. That field was excavated for truck parking a couple decades ago. You are probably too young to remember the Redhead mansion which was torn down about 1957.

          1. LawnDart

            Yeah, that was before my time. I had a grandmother that lived on Grand, and a set of grandparents on the east side, so I was out there visiting quite often.

        3. Bart Hansen

          I don’t know exactly what causes track expansion, but have been throughout Scandinavia and in Russia, and their RR ties are made of concrete, not wood.

          Fascinating videos of Chinese track laying also show concrete. And an unbelievable ability to lay track with speed.

        4. chris

          As I recall from analyzing similar problems over the years, train rails, just like piping systems, are designed to move and expand when needed. There are compensators and gaps used in various ways in both kinds of systems to accommodate thermal expansion.

          It would be strange for thermal expansion to cause buckling this early in the season at that location. I would imagine the joints and other attachments which assist the track in moving as needed haven’t been maintained regularly. If so, then that would result in the tracks binding and having issues moving with response to thermal expansion. Which is a problem in metals or any other materials over the continuous lengths used in rail. Thermal expansion is reported in American units as in/in/degree F, usually with a coefficient multiplied by 10^-6. Piping and rails also have values for expansion reported in lengths of 100 ft.

          Now, if the track in question was “gapless”, there are other concerns which might explain why this happened in addition to any maintenance issues. Gapless sections of rail are usually ganged up over quarter mile or so lengths, with welding and tension treatments based on an average assumed temperature. If you’re above the average then all kinds of things can happen.

          I haven’t had to do rail problems in a while though. So any comments from engineers with more recent experience would be helpful.

        5. Screwball

          I was a free range kid too. Remember putting pennies on the tracks so the train would smash them. Young stupid kids playing around railroad tracks to get a trinket to show off at school. The days…

          I’m not sure about the narrative on this one though. The article didn’t have much data, and “buckling” tracks have been an issue since we’ve had railroads.

          I don’t remember the poster, but someone here has done a fantastic job of documenting these train problems. A train derailment should be an anomaly, because anything less can be prevented. They are not new and the technology is much better today.

          As Lambert has so very well documented, the PSR business model has been a epic boondoggle, to be nice.

  5. LawnDart

    To be filed under, “no sh..”

    Inflation has eroded US households’ financial security, Fed survey shows

    May 22 (Reuters) – The inflation wave that crested at a 40-year high last year and remains elevated has eroded U.S. households’ sense of financial security, the Federal Reserve reported Monday, with many saying they had reduced their savings to make ends meet, felt less secure about retirement, and had delayed purchases or swapped into cheaper products as they shopped.

    In an annual survey showing the corrosive effects of inflation on Americans’ economic confidence, the Fed said the percentage of respondents who said they were doing “at least okay financially” in 2022 tumbled by 5 percentage points – the most since the survey was launched a decade ago – to 73%. It had stood at a record high the year before.


    1. Brunches with Cats

      Add to that the loss of emergency SNAP supplements due to Biden declaration of the end of COVID, loss of Medicaid, end of free COVID tests, rise in interest rates on the credit cards many (including myself) are using to pay for food, (add your etcetera here), and it’s no wonder there’s an increase in traffic accidents and road rage.

      1. LawnDart

        Just wait until the annual horse-trading over the debt-ceiling is done: many medicare recipients will be hit by impossible to meet work-requirements and student loan debtors get kneecapped by means-testing and other denials of relief.

    1. pjay

      True enough. Unfortunately, here’s the third paragraph:

      “For four decades, the dominant view in both U.S. parties was a neoliberal approach to economics at home and abroad. But April 27, 2023, marked the day that the global justice movement’s memo finally landed in Washington. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan gave the most significant foreign policy speech thus far by any Biden administration official. It effectively announced that the era of neoliberal foreign policy is over.”

      The article goes on to praise Sullivan’s speech, and the *policies of the Biden administration*, for their “new, post-neoliberal foreign policy.” Sullivan. And the Biden administration.

      Here are the authors:

      Matthew Duss is a visiting scholar in the American Statecraft program at the Carnegie Endowment and served as foreign policy advisor to Senator Bernie Sanders from 2017-2022.

      Ganesh Sitaraman is the director of the Vanderbilt Policy Accelerator for Political Economy and Regulation and a former senior advisor to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

      I am tempted to comment further, but I’ll leave that to others.

    2. some guy

      Really? What’s “over” about it? The era of neoliberal policy’s effectiveness against the rest of the world may be waning, but that doesn’t mean the era of doubling down on the neoliberal policy effort from DC, Wall Street and Silicon Valley is over by any means.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Doesn’t matter if they want to try different lipstick, the same neoliberal pig is still there. Besides, who would trust the words of Jake “the snake” Sullivan? He is one of the prime movers for Project Ukraine which has led the west into the hurt locker. And I cannot see Biden going along with any changes to the Washington Consensus as it is part of his identity – both at home and abroad.

  6. britzklieg

    From Matt Duss, nonetheless… Bernie’s FP advisor in the last campaign, when Sanders supported faux-Guaido, pom-pomed the “red scare” of Russiagate, advanced a racist hatred for everything “Russia” while offering, as public sacrifice, the very idea of “socialism” to Biden’s screeching pathology. I think Duss is hoping the reader might forget all that, if they ever knew it to begin with… he did a good job of hiding from public scrutiny through it all.

    1. Yves Smith

      If you think Sanders could have opposed Russiagate, you are smoking something VERY VERY strong. Among other things, he lacked independent sources of information. All you had was people who knew something of his NYC development history, and that he had such crappy contacts in Russia that he had to go through the Kremlin press to try to pitch Putin on buying a condo in a project that never got off the ground….and of course that contact was blown off.

  7. Hepativore

    So, is Biden going to use this debt-ceiling crisis to dust off previous administrations’ plans to cut Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid? Both parties have been gunning for excuses to hack these programs to bits for decades, and the go-to answer to any funding issue in Washington is austerity no matter if it is a Republican or Democrat in the Oval office. We might see Obama’s Grand Bargain rise again like some sort of neoliberal zombie.

    In fact, it seems like the Republicans count on Democratic politicians to enact Republican-proposed fiscal policies.

    1. LawnDart

      Repubs want the Limit, Save, Grow Act passed, and this outlines the more specific cuts that they’d like to see.

      You can find a summary here (and note which parts of the budget aren’t being mentioned by “either party” as being due for a trim):

      CBO Scores the Limit, Save, Grow Act

      The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) just released its official score of House Republicans’ Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 – a bill to address the debt ceiling and reduce federal spending. The bill would suspend the debt ceiling through either March 31, 2024 or a $1.5 trillion increase from the current $31.4 trillion ceiling – whichever comes first. CBO finds the bill would save $4.8 trillion through FY 2033, with about $4.2 trillion of policy savings and $543 billion of interest savings.


      1. nippersdad

        I saw Matt Breunig on the Bad Faith podcast say that Republicans are also asking for tax cuts that would dwarf the savings of the Republican budget plan.

        The more things change….

    2. Jason Boxman

      Biden needs to save face, and really seems to want to balance the budget or whatever. So I expect some kind of horrific agreement is coming. Bidens been very clear his administration can’t do anything, so without any leverage, whether he could find some or not, guarantees some nasty agreement. Both sides need to get some kind of win. It’s possible extremists in the house do blow it up though, the real wild card.

      1. Dida

        So I expect some kind of horrific agreement is coming.

        I wonder if it is realistically possible for Democrats to make a horrific agreement that involves cuts to
        Social Security or Medicare and still hope to win, when the electoral margin between parties is so small. I don’t doubt that Biden would sell his voters in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for the proximity of the 2024 elections.

        1. Hepativore

          Winning is not the point of the party, the Democratic Party in its current incarnation has fundraising and personal enrichment of its leadership as its primary goal. In fact, the Democrats often hate being in office, as it means that they do not have Republican obstructionism to blame for their ineffectuality.

          The Democrats are more than happy to lose elections as long as the money from their donors keep rolling in. While I do not think that they are clever enough to actually orchestrate elaborate self-sabotage plans to make sure that they lose races, they are not exactly heartbroken if their Republican opponents win.

          1. John k

            Imo dems don’t mind losing with Biden/Harris, and reps won’t mind losing with trump. Granted, the said worthies do want to win.

        2. some guy

          If the particular Democratic Senators and Representatives pass Catfood Cuts to Social Security and get it to Biden’s desk for signing ( and Biden will sign it), they will not be concerned with winning any more elections. Those particular individuals will be voting for Catfood in order to retire from office and recieve hundreds of millions of dollars apiece from the recievers of all the privatised and catfood cutted Social Security money out of gratitude for having made the Grand Clintobama Bargain.

          Clinton showed the way and Obama is walking it well and with lucrative skill.

          It all depends on what the individual motivations of the individual officeholders who will be making these votes happen to be. If they are going for the personal after-office money, then “winning” the next election will not concern them.

          The Republicans of course will be motivated by pure hate and spite and social sadism with some ideology frosting on it.

  8. The Rev Kev

    Zelensky continues to make friends and influence people. So in Hiroshima he was scheduled to meet with Brazilian President Lula. Probably to try to influence him away from Russia and maybe get a few billion. Did not matter as first it was announced that he was late and then he was a no show. More and more I am reading how leaders in the Global majority really despise Zelensky and the only “friends” that he are the leaders of the Collective West. He certainly fouled the waters at the Arab Summit a few days ago when he insulted his hosts and the other leaders there. And now Biden will no longer give him tens of billions of dollars but only a few measly hundreds of millions in “aid’-


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