2:00PM Water Cooler 5/4/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I had a ProtonMail outage right in the middle of production. So there will be more orts and scraps than usual, some actually important! So please check back –lambert UPDATE Finished!

Bird Song of the Day

European Starling, Famosa Slough, San Diego, California, United States. “Flock on wire.”

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

Biden Administration

“Harris meets with CEOs about artificial intelligence risks” [Associated Press]. • For purely ceremonial purposes, obviously, even if you believe Harris would be trusted with anything serious; the material below has obviously been in the works for awhile–

“FACT SHEET: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Announces New Actions to Promote Responsible AI Innovation that Protects Americans’ Rights and Safety” [White House]. “The Administration is announcing an independent [lol] commitment from leading AI developers, including Anthropic, Google, Hugging Face, Microsoft, NVIDIA, OpenAI, and Stability AI, to participate in a public evaluation of AI systems, consistent with responsible disclosure principles—on an evaluation platform developed by Scale AI—at the AI Village at DEFCON 31.” Good to see the Screen Writers Guild involved in this so-called “evaluation,” since their livelihoods are directly affected. Oh, wait… More: “This will allow these models to be evaluated thoroughly by thousands of community partners and AI experts to explore how the models align with the principles and practices outlined in the Biden-Harris Administration’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights and AI Risk Management Framework.” • Let’s ask the foxes about henhouse design! (Clearly, I have to put on my yellow waders for this one. Dear Lord.)

The Supremes

“Clarence Thomas Had a Child in Private School. Harlan Crow Paid the Tuition” [Pro Publica]. “In 2008, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas decided to send his teenage grandnephew to Hidden Lake Academy, a private boarding school in the foothills of northern Georgia. The boy, Mark Martin, was far from home. For the previous decade, he had lived with the justice and his wife in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Thomas had taken legal custody of Martin when he was 6 years old and had recently told an interviewer he was ‘raising him as a son.’ Tuition at the boarding school ran more than $6,000 a month. But Thomas did not cover the bill. A bank statement for the school from July 2009, buried in unrelated court filings, shows the source of Martin’s tuition payment for that month: the company of billionaire real estate magnate Harlan Crow. The payments extended beyond that month, according to Christopher Grimwood, a former administrator at the school. Crow paid Martin’s tuition the entire time he was a student there, which was about a year, Grimwood told ProPublica. ‘Harlan picked up the tab,’ said Grimwood, who got to know Crow and the Thomases and had access to school financial information through his work as an administrator. Before and after his time at Hidden Lake, Martin attended a second boarding school, Randolph-Macon Academy in Virginia. ‘Harlan said he was paying for the tuition at Randolph-Macon Academy as well,’ Grimwood said, recalling a conversation he had with Crow during a visit to the billionaire’s Adirondacks estate. ProPublica interviewed Martin, his former classmates and former staff at both schools. The exact total Crow paid for Martin’s education over the years remains unclear. If he paid for all four years at the two schools, the price tag could have exceeded $150,000, according to public records of tuition rates at the schools.” • I wouldn’t call $150,000 a lot of money, but it’s certainly more than Thomas would find under the couch cushions. I wonder if he ever expressed his gratitude to fascist weirdo Nazi memorabilia collector Crow in any material way?


“Trump has an electability problem. The GOP doesn’t seem to know — or care” [WaPo]. “Republicans as a party have been conditioned for this moment by Trump and the acquiescence of party leaders. By building a pronounced persecution complex and failing to engage in difficult but necessary conversations about their electoral defeats, they’ve created a permission structure for people to both doubt Trump’s electability problem and disregard its importance.” • “Created a permission structure” is the most PMC phrasing and concept ever. Whatever Republican “people” are about — and I didn’t come up in the Republican Party, so I’m learning a lot of new things, entertaining! — “nudge theory” is not one of them. (That weird term “guardrails” I keep flagging is, I suppose, a permission structure. (Bourdieu would point out, I’m thinking, that with permission structures the key aspect is not the nature of the permissions, but which (self-appointed?) class of people gets to establish them.

“Blinken’s Immaculate Conception Defense: Why Things Are Likely to Get Worse for the Secretary of State” [Jonathan Turley, The Hill]. “In a Fox interview, Blinken suggests that he is free of blame in the creation of the 2020 letter from former intelligence officials claiming that the Hunter Biden laptop story was likely Russian disinformation. Despite the primary organizer of the letter naming him as the Biden campaign adviser who first raised the claim, Blinken insists that he remains without sin. All of the letter signatories are taking the same position…. With an enabling media, Joe Biden was able to use [the letter] to dismiss the evidence of possible influence peddling and criminal conduct on the laptop. During the presidential debate, an irate Biden cited the letter as proving that the laptop story was ‘garbage’ and part of a ‘Russian plan.’ He added that ‘nobody believes’ that the laptop was real. Media and social media companies then buried the story, including some like Twitter banning its discussion before the election. In the close election, the false story worked to negate a damaging scandal of corruption involving millions of dollars from foreign sources, including some involving figures associated with foreign intelligence.” Too bad Trump went with voting machines instead of Hunter’s laptop. Such a strategy would have had the merit of attacking his real enemies. Ah well, nevertheless…. More: “After the Republican takeover of the House, former acting CIA Director Michael Morell was called before Congress to give a statement. When pressed on how this letter came about, Morell reportedly did not hesitate: Blinken. He said Blinken was ‘the impetus’ of the false claim. Morell then organized dozens of ex-national security officials to sign the letter claiming that the Hunter laptop story had ‘all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.'” Shouldn’t that have been “hallmarks,” not “earmarks”? More: “On Monday, Blinken told Fox News State Department correspondent Benjamin Hall that ‘with regard to that letter, I didn’t — it wasn’t my idea, didn’t ask for it, didn’t solicit it. And I think the testimony that the former deputy director of the CIA, Mike Morell, put forward confirms that.’ Morell said that it was Blinken who ‘striggered’ his interest in crafting the letter. So perhaps Blinken is trying to dance on the semantic pinhead of being the impetus as opposed to the ‘solicitor’ of the claim.” • I hope Blinken isn’t too stressed by this. He’s got a war to lose!

Republican Funhouse

“The (Republican) Party’s Over” [Michael Tomasky, The New Republic]. “New Republic editor Michael Tomasky gathered four close observers of the party’s decline and fall via Zoom in early March to discuss the current and future state of the Republican Party: Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2009 to 2011; Juleanna Glover, who worked for Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General John Ashcroft; Max Boot, a Washington Post columnist and author of The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right; and Nicolle Wallace, who was President George W. Bush’s communications director and senior adviser to John McCain’s 2008 campaign and now hosts MSNBC’s Deadline: White House.” More:

MICHAEL TOMASKY: My first question is a really simple one. Is the Republican Party as currently constituted salvageable?


(general laughter)

There’s probably a joke to be made about Ionesco and RINOs, but I must hustle along…

“Kevin & The 20: A Love-ish Story” [Puck]. “Perhaps most terrifying for Democrats, as Biden prepares to confront Republican leaders at the White House next week, is the prospect that the House G.O.P. comity holds. Indeed, when I recently spoke with sources connected to the so-called Taliban 20—the group of far-right representatives who took McCarthy’s speakership hostage in exchange for a power-sharing agreement earlier this year—they expressed something I have frankly never heard from any of them: admiration for McCarthy and trust that the man they once considered the ultimate RINO can deliver for them. “McCarthy’s coalition government is more stable than either the media or the Biden administration would like to believe,” a source close to The Twenty told me.” • Let’s wait and see.

Our Famously Free Press

“Carlson’s Text That Alarmed Fox Leaders: ‘It’s Not How White Men Fight'” [New York Times]. The deck, just a wee bit hazy on causality: “The discovery of the text message contributed to a chain of events that ultimately led to Tucker Carlson’s firing.” Here’s the whole message:

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching video of people fighting on the street in Washington. A group of Trump guys surrounded an Antifa kid and started pounding the living shit out of him. It was three against one, at least. Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously. It’s not how white men fight. Yet suddenly I found myself rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they’d hit him harder, kill him. I really wanted them to hurt the kid. I could taste it. Then somewhere deep in my brain, an alarm went off: this isn’t good for me. I’m becoming something I don’t want to be. The Antifa creep is a human being. Much as I despise what he says and does, much as I’m sure I’d hate him personally if I knew him, I shouldn’t gloat over his suffering. I should be bothered by it. I should remember that somewhere somebody probably loves this kid, and would be crushed if he was killed. If I don’t care about those things, if I reduce people to their politics, how am I better than he is?

Naturally, the liberal Democrat dogpile is skipping everything after “Yet suddenly” which shows a degree of self-awareness on Carlson’s part. We’re none of us as pretty on the inside as we think. Remember this tweet from a couple days ago?

I would say Carlson is perhaps more in touch with his shadow side than most liberal Democrats.

That said, Carlson should clearly recognize that “It’s not how white men fight” is also part of his dark side (as “That’s not who we are“, generally applied to episodes, like torture, or massacres, or the taking of trophies, that are a direct consequence of how we run out empire, and are very much “who we are”). Begin with the fact that Carlson’s claim is categorically false (if we accept Carlson’s racial categories): There’s a group of people who identify as white and identify as men, ganging up one other person. But people, no matter how categorized, do that all the time! I would also put forward the idea that the wealthy, being as the ruling class class conscious, “gang up” on the rest of us much more often than most, an idea that Carlson might also wish to give consideration.

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.

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“Records Reveal Extent of CIA’s Mishandling of Sexual Misconduct” [The Intercept]. “A CIA OFFICER lied to a female employee about opening an investigation into a male co-worker she said was sexually harassing her — and then rejected her complaint for being untimely. Another agency employee was retaliated and discriminated against after reporting an instance of sexual assault. A third woman resigned from her contract position with the intelligence agency because she felt she had no recourse against a male colleague who was harassing her. These are just some of the allegations made in dozens of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission appeals filed by CIA employees and contractors over the last decade. The previously unreported legal documents lend credence to recent reports of a widespread breakdown in the CIA office charged with responding to allegations of misconduct, describing often invisible aspects of the CIA’s process for dealing with such reports and detailing the barriers people face when appealing to internal agency mechanisms for protection and adjudication.” • One can only wonder what the Democrats will do about this, given that the Democrats, the intelligence community, and the Beltway press have merged into a gelatinous mass of Flexians, as the Twitter Files show. Probably nothing. Even though several of the CIA Democrats are women….

Complete and utter collapse, failure, debacle of liberals, progressives, the left, the NGOs, whatever (very much including Sanders, the Squad, Jayapal, all of ’em):

Collectively and institutionally, they threw the working class under the bus, along with Biden. When you’re talking deaths on the scale of hundreds of thousands, the purity of their motives doesn’t really matter, does it? I mean, the least they could do is something performative, and we don’t even see that.

Realignment and Legitimacy


“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).

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I should probably file this under Zeitgeist watch:

I thought deru kui wa utareru was only for that famously group-oriented and conformist culture, Japan. Guess not.


“Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance for Early Detection of New SARS-CoV-2 Variants” [CDC]. “Travelers are an important population to consider when tracking new and emerging infectious diseases. Travelers move from place to place quickly and can get and spread infectious diseases. U.S. airports are visited by more than 1 billion travelers each year and can serve as the front line for public health officials to detect variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in arriving international travelers…. The Traveler Genomic Surveillance program (TGS), run by the Travelers’ Health Branch at CDC in partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks and XpresCheck, plays an important role in U.S. national surveillance by testing travelers to detect new variants entering the country and fill gaps in global surveillance… As part of the TGS program, arriving international travelers volunteer to participate and provide nasal swabs that get batched into pools (5–25 swabs per pool) at the airport. These pooled samples are sent to Gingko’s lab network for PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing. All positives undergo genomic sequencing. Pooled sampling is a unique and valuable approach that allows the detection of multiple variants while conserving resources. Select samples from TGS are shared with CDC’s lab for viral characterization which can help provide information on a variant’s transmissibility, virulence, and response to current treatments or vaccines.” • Oh, it’s voluntary. So does CDC think that travelers who know or even suspect they’re infected are going to self-select into their testing program? What a farce!


“Impact of supplementary air filtration on aerosols and particulate matter in a UK hospital ward: a case study” [Journal of Hospital Infection]. “Aerosol spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a major problem in hospitals, leading to an increase in supplementary high-efficiency particulate air filtration aimed at reducing nosocomial transmission. This article reports a natural experiment that occurred when an air cleaning unit (ACU) on a medicine for older people ward was switched off accidentally while being commissioned….The ACU reduced the PM counts considerably (e.g. PM1 65.5-78.2%) throughout the ward (P<0.001 all sizes), with positive correlation found for all PM fractions and CO2 (r=0.343-0.817; all P<0.001). PM counts rose/fell simultaneously when the ACU was off, with correlation of PM signals from multiple locations (e.g. r=0.343-0.868; all P<0.001) for particulates <1 μm).... Aerosols migrated rapidly between the various ward subcompartments, suggesting that social distancing alone cannot prevent nosocomial transmission of SARS-CoV-2 as this fails to mitigate longer-range (>2 m) transmission. The ACU reduced PM levels considerably throughout the ward space, indicating its potential as an effective intervention to reduce the risk posed by infectious airborne particles.” • This study is a smoking gun. In my varied albeit I grant unsystematic perusal of Hospital Infection Control publications, I’ve noticed a mental tendency for IPC people to focus on material, visible objects like hands, clothing, bowls, etc. (i.e. on fomite tranmission) and controlling transmission in spaces (e.g., separate wards for people with respiratory illnesses). The focus on fomite transmission leads to the promotion of handwashing as a universal solution. The focus on spaces leads to concepts like “Aerosol Generating Procedures,” which occur only in operating rooms. We might even raise this mental tendency to the level of a paradigm; readers will correct me. Obviously, what this study shows is that the IPC paradigm is not only obsolete, but actively harmful to those whom airborne transmission infects. Aerosols are not “objects”; they are not visible and seem immaterial. And aerosols do not respect spaces; as this study shows, they “migrate rapidly between… subcompartments” (i.e., out of the operating room down the hall — or vice versa). Current IPC paradigms cannot cope with any of this; and so you can see why any use of “airborne” was at once censored, both at WHO and at CDC. Of course, calling out this paradigm also gives an account to IPCs fanatic resistance to functional masking (at this point we recall that Dr John Conly, of Cochrane “fool’s gold” study ill-fame, is from the Infection Control world); it’s more than a matter of masks as a budget line item (though that does play a part). Once you admit masking, you admit that control of objects and spaces is the wrong paradigm entirely. Note that the Journal of Hospital Infection is a peer-reviewed journal; any Hospital Infection Control administrator should be aware of its findings as a professional obligation. I certainly hope some clever lawyer works all this out and sues them for a packet of the money that means so much to them.


“Assessment of COVID-19 as the Underlying Cause of Death Among Children and Young People Aged 0 to 19 Years in the US” [JAMA]. “The findings of this study suggest that COVID-19 was a leading cause of death in [children and young people (CYP)]. It caused substantially more deaths in CYP annually than any vaccine-preventable disease historically in the recent period before vaccines became available. Various factors, including underreporting and not accounting for COVID-19’s role as a contributing cause of death from other diseases, mean that these estimates may understate the true mortality burden of COVID-19.” • Remember when children weren’t supposed to get Covid at all? Good times.


“What the Fight Against HIV Can Teach Us About Surviving the COVID Era” [Vice]. “[S]urvivors of the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s have been noticing unsettling patterns of human disconnection and disposability through both pandemics. They warn that society will continue repeating these deadly systemic cycles if we ignore past failures. But, they say, if we choose to learn from them, we can create a fairer and more caring society…. Since [AIDS] seemed to only impact groups that society already deemed undesirable—mostly racialized, queer, sex worker, incarcerated and substance-using communities—there was no urgency to develop effective testing, treatments or vaccines. [Jade Elektra, known as Alphonso King Jr. out of drag] says she’s seeing the same thing being done with COVID using misinformation. Current public messaging emphasizes that only the sick, disabled, and elderly face serious risks if they contract COVID—disproportionately so for racialized and other marginalized groups—but that the healthy, able-bodied, and young should be prioritizing the health of the economy.” Importantly: “From Elektra’s perspective, many are also reckless choices during COVID that remind her of what she witnessed at the height of the HIV epidemic…. Elektra says while she understands why people want to gather and enjoy themselves after months or even years of isolation, many friends she lost to HIV also ‘just wanted to have a good time.’…. But she doesn’t blame the individual alone. Institutions are shifting the burden of cost of COVID prevention away from themselves by cutting corners on costly systemic solutions like contact tracing and air quality control. This is exacerbated when government funding is set-up ‘like the Hunger Games,’ explains Elektra, who has worked in HIV advocacy and witnessed organizations being pitted against each other, with the smaller grassroots groups that do the groundwork often receiving the least money.” • Yep. History doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes with a rhyme scheme, and sometimes the rhyme schemes are very, very similar….

Elite Maleficence

“Meet Mary Wakefield, the Nurse Administrator Tasked With Revamping the CDC” [KFF Health News]. From September 6, 2022. Whatever Wakefield has been doing, she’s been keeping awfully quiet about it.

I’m not the only one after scalps from Infection Control:

Prather’s no lightweight, and did great work on aerosols.

The missing element in Ionesco’s Rhinoceros is, of course, elite gaslighting and misinformation. There’s nothing spontaneous about the transformation:

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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. Lots of exceptionally nasty sequelae, most likely deriving from immune dysregulation (says this layperson).

Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data from May 1:

Lambert here: Unless the United States is completely, er, exceptional, we should be seeing an increase here soon. UPDATE Indeed, a slight uptick. Let’s wait and see. A chart of past peaks:

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.

• Another way to think about “waves”:


NOT UPDATED 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

From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from April 29:

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.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Lambert here: So this data feed, er, came alive again.

Total: 1,161,935 – 1,161,387 = 548 (548 * 365 = 200,020 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. )

• “COVID-19 Mortality Working Group – Excess mortality continues in January 2023, but with less non-COVID excess mortality than in 2022” [Actuaries Digital]. “Total excess mortality for the month of January 2023 is 8% (+1,100 deaths) i.e. there were 1,100 more deaths than would have been expected if the pandemic had not happened. Two-thirds of the excess mortality is due to deaths from COVID-19 (+760 deaths), with another +230 COVID-19 related deaths, and the remaining excess of +150 had no mention of COVID-19 on the death certificate. The proportion of excess deaths that are not from or related to COVID-19 was lower in January 2023 (13%) than we saw across 2022 (33%).” • Hmm. I’m not an excess deaths maven. Can readers comment?

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose by 13 thousand to 242 thousand on the week ending April 29th, surpassing market expectations of 240 thousand. The result compounded recent data that points to a marked softening of the US job market, caving to a prolonged series of aggressive interest rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve.”

Employment Situation: “United States Challenger Job Cuts” [Trading Economics]. “US-based employers announced 66.995K job cuts in April of 2023, the least so far this year, and 25% less than in March.”

Labor Market: “United States Nonfarm Unit Labour Cost” [Trading Economics]. “Unit labor costs in the US nonfarm business sector rose an annualized 6.3 percent in the first quarter of 2023, accelerating from an upwardly revised 3.3 percent increase in the previous period and above market expectations of a 5.5 percent gain, preliminary data showed. It reflects a 3.4 percent increase in hourly compensation and a 2.7 percent decrease in productivity.” • Hmm. Can’t have that.

* * *

Banks: “Europeans drain billions from banks, fed up with shrinking savings” [Reuters]. “European savers are pulling more of their money from banks, looking for a better deal as lenders resist paying up to hold on to deposits some feel they can currently live without. The trend emerged as some of the region’s biggest lenders outlined a profitable start to the year in results that also offered a glimpse of a phenomenon dubbed a “bank walk” – a slow but notable outflow of customer cash. Lenders wasted little time in charging more for loans when interest rates rapidly rose from an almost 15-year slumber around zero last year, but most have dragged their feet on boosting deposit rates paid to millions of their customers. That has boosted profits at many major banks beyond many analysts’ expectations but left savers disgruntled, raising fresh questions over the longer-term stability of the sector.” • The article doesn’t say, but I wonder if the numbers differ for France, especially. Those protests don’t look likely to stop, and perhaps people want to hang onto their cash?

Tech: “How aspiring influencers are forced to fight the algorithm” [MIT Technology Review]. “How often are creators thinking about the possibility of being censored or having their content not reach their audience because of algorithmic suppression or moderation practices?I think it fundamentally structures their content creation process and also their content promotion process. These algorithms change at whim; there’s no insight. There’s no direct communication from the platforms, in many cases. And this completely, fundamentally impacts not just your experience, but your income. They would invest so much time and labor in these grassroots experiments and would talk about ‘I would do the same kind of content, but I would vary this thing one day. I would wear this kind of outfit one day, and another kind the next.’ Or they’d try different sets of hashtags. People would say they have both online and offline interactions with their creator community, and they would talk about how to game the algorithm, what’s okay to say, what can potentially be flagged. There are some important forms of collective organization that may not look like what we would traditionally think of as organized workers but are still powerful ways for creators to band together and kind of challenge the top-down systems of power.” • “Creators.” “Influencers.” Platform talk.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 52 Neutral (previous close: 51 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 58 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 4 at 1:17 PM ET.

Class Warfare

“AI is Just Someone Else’s Intelligence” [Zdziarski]. “It’s been a long time since I’ve worked in the field of ML (or what some call AI), and we’ve come a long way from simple language classification with Bayes and neural nets to what’s being casually called generative AI today. While technology has made a lot of advances, the concepts of machine learning have remained much the same over time: a training set is provided as input into a system, which identifies patterns to create models (traditionally using weighted methods and statistics).” And: “The danger of this type of ML is not that it will take jobs (it definitely will, and already is), but why it will take jobs. It will take jobs not because the computer is replacing the thinking of one worker. It will take jobs because the computer is using the thinking of a million other workers – how can any one worker compete with that? Training material is, at a deconstructed level, the critical patterns of other people’s thoughts, ideas, writings, music, theology, facts, opinions, poetry, and so on. ML has proven wildly successful at identifying these critical patterns and gluing them back together in some different way that delivers the desired result, but at the end of the day all of its intelligence indeed belongs to the other people whose content was used to train it, almost always without their permission. In the end, generative AI takes from the world’s best artists, musicians, philosophers, and other thinkers – erasing their identities, and reassigns credit to its output. Without the proper restraints, it will produce the master forgeries of our generation, and blur the lines between what we view as human ideas and synthesized ones.” • In other words, AI is theft on a previously unheard of scale. The author seems to believe that “proper restraints” are possible. Under capitalism? Really? In any case, the whole piece is worth a read.

“As inflation chews up worker pay, top CEOs got 7.7% raise last year” [CBS News]. “For nearly two years, worker pay in the U.S. has fallen short of crushing increases in the cost of living. But a handful of the highest-paid CEOs have comfortably stayed ahead of inflation. Average pay for top chief executives last year rose 7.7%, according to a report from Equilar, an executive compensation research firm. That raise comfortably beat out inflation, which was 6.4% in December.”

“This Is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense” [HuffPo]. “Rest is a luxury for the rich. I get up at 6AM, go to school (I have a full course load, but I only have to go to two in-person classes) then work, then I get the kids, then I pick up my husband, then I have half an hour to change and go to Job 2. I get home from that at around 12:30AM, then I have the rest of my classes and work to tend to. I’m in bed by 3. This isn’t every day, I have two days off a week from each of my obligations. I use that time to clean the house and soothe Mr. Martini and see the kids for longer than an hour and catch up on schoolwork. Those nights I’m in bed by midnight, but if I go to bed too early I won’t be able to stay up the other nights because I’ll fuck my pattern up, and I drive an hour home from Job 2 so I can’t afford to be sleepy. I never get a day off from work unless I am fairly sick. It doesn’t leave you much room to think about what you are doing, only to attend to the next thing and the next. Planning isn’t in the mix.”

“Institutional Courage: An Antidote to Institutional Betrayal and Broken Trust” (abstract only) [Nurse Leader]. “An emerging area of interest is how institutional betrayal among nurses might lead to issues of nurse well-being, such as burnout and turnover. In this phenomenon, the organization, whether by explicit actions or the abstract ethos of the work environment, can become a contributing factor to psychological well-being. Within health care, the systemization and corporatization of medical services has contributed to a more institutional identity. Institutional actions that defy the expectation for safety and violate relationships between individual and institution are termed institutional betrayal. In any case or among any population of nurses, the key element of institutional betrayal is a violation of trust. If trust is lacking and the relationship with the organization is broken, then the person would feel a psychological weight or some sort of strain on their ethos that wears on their resilience. For nurses, this fractured relationship then makes patient care feel more like work than caring, which then cascades to burnout. In a system depleted of institutional trust, nurses might feel useless and wasted in the churn of the “system,” so they become depersonalized and bitter. Building back institutional trust becomes a pivotal way to counteract the trauma of betrayal. Rebuilding trust takes acts of courage. It is not easy for an organization or institution to admit it harmed people, and likely even more difficult as public relations and brand image become critical factors in health care business practices. But to admit these faults and take bold action is an act of institutional courage, one that can help heal the wounds experienced by nurses and larger society.” • All true. But “institutional courage” seems sorely lacking, especially in the upper reaches of the public health establishment and hospital administration. Perhaps the profit motive is not conducive to it.

News of the Wired

“4 reasons why you should read old, classic books” [Big Think]. “[D]on’t approach older books the way we did in school. These aren’t burdens you need to bear to become educated or cultured or pass some hidden life exam. There is no grade to be had. Instead, wait until a particular classic calls to you. If you’re not ready for the philosophies of Plato, try the plays of William Shakespeare or the Romantic poetry of John Keats. If neither of those speaks to you, the Victorian era has some fantastic mysteries and ghost stories to get lost in (both favorites of mine). Humanity’s collective library is vast, more than anyone can read in a lifetime. You’ll find something if you look…. These works have waited a long time, in some cases centuries, to reach your bookshelf. What’s a few more years of waiting? Just as long as we give them the chance and are receptive when that time finally arrives to take them off the shelf.” •

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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: “6:57 pm on Pier 26 along the Hudson River in TriBeCa , NYC. Nice to have daylight on my evening walk and the beginnings of leaves on the birch trees. The white flowers on the bushes are not something I have seen before.”

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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. Harold

    Those bushes are Fothergilla, a native shrub that has also been planted as an understory in the new Elizabeth Scholz woodland garden in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which I just visited on Tuesday. Horticulturalists rave about Fothergilla’s brilliant ornamental foliage in autumn, while the creamy, bottle-brush flowers in spring are fragrant, I dimly recall the fragrance from the past as medicinal, but google says, “honey-scented”. Unfortunately I couldn’t check, because my sense of smell is still very impaired from Covid a year ago.
    We are looking after our daughter’s little dog, so we went to the botanic garden in shifts. Yesterday my partner reported back that the whole garden was fragrant, the lilacs most of all. That’s how I recall it last year at this time, just before Covid struck — in the latter part of May. I did still faintly smell the lilacs, close up and once or twice got a transient whiff of the general sweetness in the air. So something yet remains ….

  2. Hana M

    That’s a lovely picture of a fothergilla gardinii or dwarf witch alder. The scent varies but the best varieties have a delicate honey fragrance. So go back and have a sniff if it is still in bloom. It is one of the few flowering shrubs that doesn’t mind wet feet. I had some in a swampy back section of my garden that never drained properly. They loved it. Nice autumn foliage color, too. It’s native to the southeast US.

  3. flora

    re: 4 reasons why you should read old, classic books” [Big Think]

    Thanks for the link.

    1. The Rev Kev

      They should add the Sherlock Holmes stories as something to read. Great stuff in there.

      1. flora

        Yes indeed. Those were late 1800’s to early 1900s. They were classics in their own right.

        One thing about reading English language works from earlier than say 1850 is the use of language and the pacing. It is just enough different and ‘slower paced’ than modern prose that you’re suddenly in a new world; you’re in a world before the speed of trains and automobiles was common.

        1. ambrit

          Yes. I’m about half way through Cooper’s “The Pioneers” now. The pacing is sort of soothing. Cooper also shows a rather penetrating grasp of human nature. His early work can be considered as Pre Victorian. The attitudes are “interesting” and perhaps a cautionary lesson about assuming that today is the “Measure of All Things.”

  4. Glen

    Stock trading on two more banks has been suspended.

    One would think that with America giving up on “industrial capitalism” and financializing our economy that we would have some basic competence in banking, but maybe we’re just good at the FED loaning free money and economists yelling “look at our ecomony GROW!”

    1. Geo

      Being a banker in America is like a the “coddled kids these days” narrative so often whined about in our national discourse. No matter how badly the banks perform the Fed gives them a participation trophy and tells them they’re winners.

  5. Lambert Strether Post author

    I have added the orts and scraps. The study under #CovidIsAirborne is especially important; if we don’t want our hospitals to continue to be Covid death traps, we need to address the issue raised.

  6. Randy

    That Fothergilla is a really cool plant. My wife wants some of them in our yard. Maybe in a few years she will have some here in Wisconsin. That would be really cool, er, I mean, warm.

  7. Return of the Bride of Joe Biden

    “I wouldn’t call $150,000 a lot of money”


    Wow, Lambert – now I am impressed.

    1. jhallc

      That amount would seem to exceed any allowable annual “gift” giving amount and require “someone” to report it as income. Was the kid ever listed as a dependent by Thomas on his taxes? Even if Thomas can technically avoid a tax reporting requirement it’s pretty slimy.

      1. jonhoops

        How can Thomas avoid the tax reporting requirement? Financial gifts are taxable for us plebes. If the dems were serious they would be pushing the tax angle on all of these “gifts”.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Maybe Harlan Crow could have claimed that kid as a dependent on his taxes.

    2. chris

      Around DC 150k$ per year doesn’t go very far unless you have zero debt and own your own residence. A situation few people are in. Comfortable living is 500k$ – 1 mill $. Lambert’s irony aside, he was right to say it that way. In a world where people like Hunter Biden can get 60k$ or more in a month for doing nothing, 150k$ in bribes over a year is not much.

  8. flora

    C.J.Hopkins latest:

    The Great Divide

    “Robert Kennedy, Jr. is running for president. I could not possibly be more excited. So, I’m going to give Bobby some unsolicited advice, which, if he knows what’s good for him, he will not take.

    I feel OK about doing this because, even if Bobby, in the wee hours of the night, when the mind is vulnerable to dangerous ideas, were to seriously consider taking my advice, I am sure he has people — i.e., PR people, campaign strategists, pollsters, and so on — that would not hesitate to take him aside and disabuse him of any inclination to do that. ”


    1. Henry Moon Pie

      So It’s nice that Hopkins is all Inside/Outside rather than Left/Right, but he’s a tool of the GloboCap that he decries. Can anyone with this mindset explain to me the logic of the “Covid conspiracy” that still seems at the center of his politics? What was it that GloboCap was trying to do? Teach us to stay home? Unlikely in a capitalist country whose economy, as Cramer put it as Covid arrived, “depends a lot on crowds.” Demonstrate the power of the WEF? Dry run for the Great Reset? It all seems pretty vague to me.

      Meanwhile, back in reality, a disease arrived that has killed over a million Americans, has disabled, at least for a significant length of time, millions of others, and may well be undermining the health of Americans every time they get this disease. Why did Trump leave the borders with China open for so long and never shut them with Italy? Why did Trump cut the Swiss cheese lockdown short? Why have Democrats mutated from being advocates of testing, tracing, quarantine when Trump was President into “let ‘er rip” when they’re in power?

      There’s one underlying answer to all that: the single-minded focus on profit or in Trump’s mind, the stock market. Money has prevailed over public health and safety at every turn.

      Seeing oneself as an opponent of incompetent power is great. Being skeptical of government and expert pronouncements is necessary with our lying elites. But who does Hopkins thinks funded the Great Barrington Declaration? Marxist trannies? What is Hopkins’s explanation for the great care and concern that elites like the WEF-ers take to protect themselves from Covid while demanding “back to normal” with no adaptations to ventilation or behavior for us?

      I don’t think Hopkins on Covid is much better than a guy I ran across today who was talking about all the rail disasters we’ve been experiencing. He said not a word about Precision Railroading or huge reductions in the railroad work force. No. It was people coming across the southern border who headed north and derailed trains. Maybe the railroads are sending him a little stipend. Otherwise, he’s just a fool.

      And Hopkins is really worse than that. He’s become a pitchman for the billionaires’ message. “Covid wasn’t real. Get back to your job. Enjoy the baby back ribs at Applebees. Fly somewhere.”

      That’s been the real WEF message throughout this pandemic, but Hopkins is so lost in his overgrown skepticism that he can’t see the forest for the kudzu.

      1. Carolinian

        What was it that GloboCap was trying to do? Teach us to stay home?

        No, teaching us to obey. I’m not a big fan of Hopkins and have no idea how Covid started but I do believe the response has been deeply cynical and greedy and not the result of mere “incompetence.” Hopkins is saying that global capitalism wants us to be afraid so they can both manipulate us and stave off popular resistance to neoliberalism. It may not be a smoke filled room conspiracy but rather a cast of mind which the super rich all agree. You are straw manning his would be satirical columns I think.

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          So the economy took a huge hit requiring massive fiscal stimulus and Fed easing in order to “teach us to obey?” That strikes me as ridiculous, especially when lockdowns have been a curve flattening last resort for centuries. including during the Spanish Flu. The WEF didn’t have to invent it to “teach us to obey.”

          It’s not as if our system of wage slavery doesn’t already provide lots of practice in obeying.

          I agree that plenty of our fine capitalists did the Naomi Klein thing and tried to profit and take advantage of a crisis, foremost among them Big Pharma. But that kind of ad hoc maneuvering for a buck is not some WEF-led conspiracy to “teach us to obey.” LOL. Meanwhile, there was a conspiracy right in front of our noses to normalize Covid so that the usual churn could resume and the billionaires’ return on capital would get back to normal.

        2. Henry Moon Pie

          I remember early in the pandemic that the CNBC talking heads mentioned on more than one occasion that Trump was speaking with “five hedge fund guys” every morning during the early days of the pandemic as the market crashed. So you think those hedge fund guys were telling Trump, “Lock ’em down, Mr. President. We must teach them to obey!”? Or were the concerns on restoring the market and returning to profit-as-usual? This July, 2020 article gives us some insight into what Big Money was demanding from Trump:

          President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak early this year was “an incredible gift” for investors because it kept markets stable long enough for some to protect their portfolios, Axon Capital co-founder Dinakar Singh told investors this month.

          Trump has justified his public assurances that the virus will quickly go away by arguing he needs to be “a cheerleader” for the United States to avoid creating “havoc and shock.” The United States has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections and deaths in the world.

          The push by the oligarchs, the people who make up the WEF, was never for lockdowns. Lockdowns were the long-used tool advocated by public health officials like the Dr. Amy Acton here in Ohio who was run out of the state by threats of violence. The oligarchs were consistent from the beginning on. Keep it open. Keep the money flowing. Back to normal!

          I’ll stand by my point that those who push this narrative about Covid are doing the work of Big Money who always prioritize profit over human welfare.

          1. Henry Moon Pie

            Here’s a news report of one of those March, 2020 phone calls between Trump and these hedge fund managers: Citadel’s Ken Griffin, Third Point’s Dan Loeb, Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman, Vista Equity’s Robert Smith, Intercontinental Exchange’s Jeffrey Sprecher and Paul Tudor Jones, hedge fund manager and co-founder of Just Capital. They weren’t talking about teaching people to obey:

            Sources described the call to CNBC’s Scott Wapner as “constructive” and that the general idea was that the U.S. economy cannot be allowed to crash. Those people also said that the call reiterated that the virus won’t be permanent and that the U.S. needs a thoughtful tack when dealing with the virus and even a date-certain approach to getting back to business.

            No long-in-the-planning WEF plot, but ad hoc response demanding Business As Usual despite no vaccines, no treatments other than ventilators, swamped hospitals before lockdowns were employed in NYC and many known unknowns and unknown unknowns about the effects of the virus. And this was all in the context of government incompetence when it came to provision of masks, PPE and tests.

          2. Carolinian

            Ya know I’ve given up arguing about Covid both because I lack any personal qualifications for doing so and because those disputes seem to devolve into “you’re trying to kill us all” responses. Related to that please read


            But it’s just possible that the signers of Great Barrington did so out of sincere belief and that goes for all the dissidents on vaccines, lockdowns etc. And some of those dissidents do have qualifications–very much so.

            So I’m not sure why you are going after Hopkins who is just a playwright who pens a very occasional satirical column that I find rather repetitive. If the real target is RFK jr then, yes, he does lean toward the “paranoid style” a bit much but on the other hand he is right that we are in a power struggle with the ruling class that wants us to obey them on speech and everything else. And that’s because they are weak and vulnerable just like our president who shouldn’t be president.

            I sincerely believe that human reason will ultimately prevail over alpha instincts but it may take too long.

    2. Lexx

      Hmmm, I’ve only recently gotten a sniff of this, another Kennedy running for president on the Democratic ticket… I don’t like his odds, he won’t get the nomination but it may be interesting. I’m with Hopkins… Kennedy should go for broke. He has nothing to lose.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Robert Kennedy, Jr could get elected President for merely promising NOT to start World War III. It’s more that what Biden is doing at the moment.

  9. flora

    re: ” Yep. History doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes with a rhyme scheme, and sometimes the rhyme schemes are very, very similar…. ”

    Sometimes from the very same poet. / ;)

  10. AndrewJ

    On the topic of a higher percentage of liberals wishing harm on conservatives than the reverse: Just spitballin’ here, but, what do conservatives have to rage against liberals for, versus the opposite? For the liberal, the right is an advocate of unchecked carbon emissions (gonna hurt us all, badly), moar guns (same), against public health, against abortions, and against the social safety net – and, given the liberal truly believes that our government’s failures to deliver on any of the above are the fault of Team Red and Team Red alone, they’d have reason to want their ideological opponents to share in the pain. What does the right have? Abortions are the only issue that comes to mind that’s an arguable threat to something that they believe is living. Trans issues don’t rise to the same level as the above.
    Perhaps there’s some thinking to be done along these lines.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      out here, the hatred of “the Left”/”The Far Left!”/democrat/ and Librul…is by now simply baked into peoples’ natures.it’s entirely knee-jerk, and very little thought goes into it…if any.
      for the Goptea Truebelievers…all of whom(all 600 or so) have some kind of higher ed and/or experience out there in the world…that education/experience does nothing to disabuse them of the notion that Hillary is a Communist, as is Biden, out to turn us all gay(force it down our throats,lol) and take away whatever privilege they have managed to keep from their forebears who tamed(sic) this far place.
      i hear regularly while eavesdropping at the beer store about Biden’s dastardly commie plot to keep groceries and gasoline artificially expensive…and how hordes of wokenazis are literally behind every bush, to sinisterly “Groom” our children for their drag queen gay agenda….and also how hordes of chicoms are following along with the Brown People attacking and infiltrating our southern holy border, in order to , not only take ar jawbs…but to weaken our blood, infect us with covid/aids/TB and …steal our precious bodily fluids.
      as ive said, Team Blue(around 300 souls) out here hides in their hillforts(literally…hilltop mansions sprouting like fairy rings), firing off the very rare letter to the editor…but mostly just whinging on balloon juice or Kos or the various faceborg communities(i still have a few duckblinds).
      Both of these groups are eliminationist towards the other…”should be taken out and shot”, all around…except one side is more likely to actually act on such fantasies when the balloon goes up and the trucks stop running.

      as for me, i am shameless in my new dealism and radical autarky….which actually sells pretty well at the lower levels.
      and i have cultivated, over many years, the legend that i am somewhat crazy, well armed, willing to take up the cross when wronged, and generally to be left alone.

      1. Lexx

        That last part… if you can pack it into an aerosol and sell it, you’ll be rich.

      2. flora

        Old 1934, New Deal era, King Vidor movie titled “Our Daily Bread ” is free on utube. It’s pretty good. Country life needs people with real physical world skills like carpentry and masonry, etc. People who can build “in the wilderness”, so to say.

      3. marym

        The survey should have a companion question: How often do you openly wish bad things upon political opponents?

        Conservatives seem more comfortable advocating (and legislating) harm explicitly, while liberals use convoluted means testing, inclusiveness rhetoric, and rotating villains to hide or deny the harm they do.

        1. JBird4049

          Both want the same results, but just want to do it using different means. Means that often are eugenical.

      4. Offtrail

        “willing to take up the cross”.

        Wow, that’s a phrase I haven’t heard in a long, long, long, time. A reference to becoming like a Crusader, I believe. That is to say, liable to go berserk. Or you could say, medieval.

  11. Mikel

    “…The Texas border city of El Paso has declared a state of emergency ahead of the Biden administration’s ending of Title 42 pandemic-related rules next week that, since 2020, have barred many migrants from crossing into the US to exercise their right to request asylum….”

    How’s it going with all of that money China is supposed to be spending on “development” south of the border?
    Not making much difference…like the “development” money going there from the West.

  12. Jeff W

    “AI is Just Someone Else’s Intelligence” [Zdziarski]

    [Machine learning] will take jobs because the computer is using the thinking of a million other workers – how can any one worker compete with that?

    It’s a strange argument. Machine learning isn’t taking jobs because “the computer is using the thinking of a million other workers”—it’s taking jobs because it’s serving the interests of the companies that are replacing those workers, i.e., it’s cheaper to do so. It’s not like the words of those million other workers come together to form the perfectly optimal, say, customer service response, that no individual worker could come up with. The text allows these large language models to produce some kind of plausible, human-sounding output that probably, on any given day, the response of any average worker could easily outperform—but that difference is not worth paying for, rightly or wrongly, for the companies adopting the machine learning technology.

    That machine learning needs “the thinking of a million other workers” is an unfortunate consequence of how it works—in fact, it shows how actually artificial, how unhuman, machine learning is. People don’t need zillions of examples to learn to speak perfectly grammatical sentences—large language models do. And, in fact, it’s a drawback of these machines. If a company could train a machine to do a given specific task by exposing it to the work of a few other humans or even just one (as it can in training people), it would do that instead.

    1. Geo

      “People don’t need zillions of examples to learn to speak perfectly grammatical sentences—large language models do.”

      Pretty sure most people go through a decade-plus of schooling and learn “See Spot Run” through at least basic English Lit before they’re hired in a call center.

      I fully expect much of the work I do to be AI in the near future, (wrote a long comment below about this), but also find this sort of semantic debate over human vs machine intelligence to be misguided. Everything I know comes from observation, teaching, and the input of others who have documented their knowledge for me to learn. By that metric a machine that can one day do my job is as intelligent in that area. But, does it have the same worries and responsibilities as I do? A family or pets, bills and taxes, hunger and thirst, self-esteem (or lack of)? These will be the consequences of my replacement by an AI. Maybe the output will be slightly lesser quality but there’s no shortage of successful mediocrity in the world.

      If we only argue this from a “what is intelligence” perspective we’ve lost. As George Carlin said, “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

      If an AI ran third party against Biden and Trump in ‘24 would any of us think that AI is less intelligent than those two? I’d vote for it.

      If the push to preserve our humanity from a corporate AI takeover isn’t focused on the value of life it’s a losing argument. The monetary value of AI is far to powerful for us to have any shot of winning by being intangibly better than it because of vague philosophical metrics. Of course, we live in a nation where healthcare for sick children is politically divisive so it’s doubtful a mature conversation about the value of a fulfilled life for the citizenry will gain much traction.

      1. Jeff W

        “I…find this sort of semantic debate over human vs machine intelligence to be misguided.”

        I agree, actually, and I apologize for not qualifying my comment to make clear that, while I disagree with that quote about “a million other workers” on its terms, I don’t agree with its terms, either.

        I think you’re perfectly right. It doesn’t matter to the companies that transition to them—or to us—if some chatbot is as smart as “a million other workers” or even just slightly below average worker that it replaces. We lose if we argue in terms of intelligence. People have to, as you say, pay bills, buy food, try to maintain some semblance of well-being, just be human—it’s not that artificial intelligence or machine learning or, well, automated anything (obviously) doesn’t have to do any of that, it’s that it disallows some ever-growing portion of the populace from doing that, something that is widely acknowledged, paid lip service to, but treated as if it’s some unavoidable, unmitigable consequence of an ineluctable law of nature.

      2. JBird4049

        Warning: much of this is the incomplete ranting and rambling of a disturbed mind. I have some ideas on what I am saying, but I haven’t gotten to where I am able to clearly say my conclusions. Maybe this is because with the latest advances it is too soon to see what is likely to happen. Rather like smoke inside a raging house fire.

        It is a powerful tool for the oligarchs because it is ultimately not as good as humans are whose knowledge and skills were taken without any compensation, but good enough to muddle through and far cheaper than the humans it will replace.

        Let us not forget that this is still not fully tested by reality, yet it will be used to steal, degrade, and block the creation and maintenance of human capital or the training and support of actual people in the things that the machine will be used to take over.

        Let us also not forget that words written and spoken, poetry, song, music, painting, sculpture, are all the internal dialogue and external dialogue as well as connections with-in and between people and communities. Everything from the creation of family, friends, communities, government, science, thinking, dreams, emotions, everything ultimately comes from the auditory and visual connections and communication that comes from what AI will be used on. Aside from scent and touch of course, but they will find a way to commodify those things as well.

        What terrifies me is not that the oligarchs have found new ways to steal and oppress. What might give me actual screaming nightmares is the realization that the internal mind and external, let’s call it society’s own mind, dialogue with-in and between them will be fatally disrupted. It is corny, but all those social rituals like Thanksgiving, baseball, church, bar fights, clubs, concerts, work, and local politics, even the annual Christmas “debates” between Uncle Bob and Cousin Mel over that thing in 1972, are, or rather were, the way people connect and learn.

        We are already degraded as in our society in social connections and skills, let’s have people using AI to muck around in our thoughts often without knowing what they are doing. Sounds wonderful. /s

    2. spud

      the capitalists will use AL with a vengeance as they feverishly want ever more. they will use it to undercut themselves, just as they have used free trade to under cut themselves. but in the end, watch youtube on mousetraps.

      lots of mouse traps over the centuries, but the mice just keep on learning to evade. same with humans, just when you think you will know every responce to a situation, someone comes up with something completely different.

      if the dim wits don’t kill off the human race in their feverish attempts to own it all, they will lock themselves into AL, and never deviate. and some really clever humans will use that against the capitalist idiots.

  13. John k

    ‘He’s got a war to lose!’.
    Looks like he’s just about got that wrapped up. Luckily there’s still taiwan to lose, otherwise how would he get thru the days? Critical to plan the next one so it’s not obviously lost before the election and Biden can still do the ‘mission accomplished’ thing on the carrier.

  14. Jason Boxman

    So the political left, such as it is in America, is _also_ engaged in casual murder. The circle is now complete. In the beginning, the left but hungered for political power; now it is part of the old guard, disciplining workers so that we know our place. And with each passing year, as Pandemic death and disability is normalized by the elite, we find ourselves in ever greater danger. This year is more dangerous than last. I can’t wait for next year, when all the data is basically dark, and we have merely Twitter anecdotes about unexplained illnesses, to inform the state of the Pandemic.

    And it will be an election year! Behind both doors? More death! Yay!

    Stay safe out there!

  15. notabanker


    Latest piece by Tiabbi. Must read. He’s unloading both barrels on NYT and WaPo. Another Stanford tabletop exercise just before the real thing, a Bursima Leaks run through. There just can be no doubt that the US media and big tech has been captured. Here’s the proof and naming names: WaPo, NYT, NBC, CNN, NPR, AP, Faceborg and twitwits.

    Who needs a time machine? Just find out what tabletop exercises Stanford has been running the last couple of months.

  16. The Rev Kev

    ‘Kimberly Prather, Ph.D.
    This was a statement when people were in denial that SARS-1 was airborne…same words now with SARS-2. Sickening that the same IPC people are still involved….how can they can remain so entrenched as people continue to get sick, disabled, and die?’

    Well there is science..and then there is The Science-

    ‘Jay Bhattacharya
    In science, if someone writes something you think is wrong, you write to correct the error with data and logical reasoning.
    In The Science(tm), if someone writes something you think is wrong, you scream ‘misinformation’, spew ad hominem, and deplatform the person.’


    1. flora

      “The Science” is the reification of actual science into a non-science, material, concrete and unchangeable thing. That is not science; science is a process, not a “thing”. OK, I know you know that. I just had to say it.

  17. ambrit

    Interesting factiod, Noerth Ameericaan Deepe South edition.
    I walk to two nearby grocery stores for provisions. One is a bit over a mile away, the other, two miles away. The first and smaller emporium is at the edge of the local Zoo and Park. Getting there is all side streets and alleyways, a good place to walk. Imagine my surprise at stumbling across a series of industrial orange circles scattered across one of the residential intersections, adjacent to the Zoo. I spotted a local who lives at that corner and asked her about the mystery circles.
    “Oh yeah,” she replied. “It was a shoot out of some sort. The police were here and painted circles around the shell casings.” There were twelve orange circles.
    I went online to the usual suspects and found nothing. Not a single mention of a shooting in our ‘Half-horse town'(TM).It looks like the “official” response to the Covid pandemic data reporting is bleeding over into the rest of the news flow. If a crime happens in the City and no one reports it, has it really happened?
    Oh well. Stay safe.

    1. flora

      Good gawd. What’s going on? On a probably completely unrelated note, a long time friend who’s lived for decades in da big city of San Francisco environs told me some years ago the city wouldn’t send police to investigate or take reports on small burglaries or even large burglaries and non-violent crimes because it would make the city’s ratings on city insurance premiums, real estate values, and other financial considerations problematic. Meaning, the city would pay more for its various insurance rates and real estate values might drop (even slightly). This was a couple of decades ago for non-violent crime. Has not reporting for a city’s financial reasons grown to include violent crime?

      I hope that’s not what’s happening in your area. / oy

      1. albrt

        Phoenix PD pretty openly prioritizes violent crime over property crime. A cop told me they have one of the highest closure rates for violent crimes, and one of the lowest rates for property crimes. (Closure means a suspect gets referred for prosecution, does not mean the suspect was convicted).

        This is annoying when your bike gets stolen or whatever, but I can’t say I completely disagree with the priorities. Especially since we have hundreds of thousands of economic refugees living in our streets.

      1. ambrit

        I think that John Brunner wrote a science fiction book, “The Squares of the City.” A similar ethos.
        See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Squares_of_the_City
        I joked to the woman, who is an over the road truck driver, that I’ll be expecting to see human outlines in orange next. Her response was: “I’d bet on it. It’ll happen sooner or later. A lot of hungry people out there.”
        This later made me muse on the increase in road rage and random outbursts by individuals that I have witnessed lately. Two or three weeks ago, we had two homeless fellows go at each other in broad daylight with knives down on the Main Drag next to the smaller grocery store I walk to. One went to jail, the other went to the ER and some stitches. Neither could or would give a reason for the fight.
        Welcome to our new and improved Traditional Society.

  18. anon in so cal

    >Increased risk of retinal occlusion after mRNA Covid vaccine:

    “We aimed to investigate the risk of retinal vascular occlusion after COVID-19 vaccination….The cumulative incidence of retinal vascular occlusion was significantly higher in the vaccinated cohort compared to the unvaccinated cohort, 2 years and 12 weeks after vaccination.

    The risk of retinal vascular occlusion significantly increased during the first 2 weeks after vaccination and persisted for 12 weeks. Additionally, individuals with first and second dose of BNT162b2 and mRNA-1273 had significantly increased risk of retinal vascular occlusion 2 years following vaccination, while no disparity was detected between brand and dose of vaccines. This large multicenter study strengthens the findings of previous cases. Retinal vascular occlusion may not be a coincidental finding after COVID-19 vaccination.”


  19. Geo

    Re: AI Is Just Someone Else’s Intelligence”
    “In the end, generative AI takes from the world’s best artists, musicians, philosophers, and other thinkers – erasing their identities, and reassigns credit to its output.”

    I’m definitely not one to defend AI and its colossally destructive capabilities, but this description of it in many ways merely describes a more automated form of so much of our media industry. I’ve long joked that ad agency creative directors entire job is to find art they like and tell cheaper artists to “make this but with our products”.

    I feel this AI shift is very much like being a veteran employee training a new (cheaper) hire to do your job before getting the boot. But, this time it is a machine we are training to take our jobs. The corporatization of art has been headed this direction for a long time and both corporations and audiences have supported it since it meant more content for less money.

    Netflix started their “original content” with House of Cards by letting data tell them what would be most popular. That was itself a tech-modified version of the old focus group type of content creation (I won’t call it art since they only make product thinly disguised as movie-like content). https://www.technologyreview.com/2013/02/26/16555/house-of-cards-and-our-future-of-algorithmic-programming/amp/

    Spotify has been using “fake musicians” for years to fill up mood playlists with cheap music for its users. https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/remember-spotify-fake-artist-theyre-still-going-strong-and-still-attracting-scandal/

    Audiences ate this stuff up so I don’t think enough of our society will even notice a difference in AI generated content, and may even prefer it since it will better conform to their specific desires. Multiple generations have grown up being told YA novels and picture books (graphic novels) are profound literature, toy commercials are peak cinema, and Disney kids are brilliant musicians. I highly doubt they’ll even notice when their favorite “artists” are replaced with AI.

    Actual artists will be relegated to the old ways of needing a rich benefactor (or being a nepo-baby whose fame-by-proximity gives them some cultural value).

    Which leads to my last point: The biggest issue artists and these industries face is that art no longer has much value. It used to be relatively rare to make a movie or a song or whatever. With digital tech, online training, and other factors, there is a ton of this stuff being made. This is a good thing in many ways but also lessens the value of any one work of art. And it’s all competing with podcasts, YouTube, TikTok, etc where content floods our society. How much value does a movie have when there are thousands of hours of passive content available online for free? It has to be a spectacle to bring in an audience (Top Gun, Marvel, etc) but those cost a lot and in my opinion are entertainment, not art. Filmmaker Magazine recently had an article that showed how microbudget and low budget films have a near-zero percent chance of making a profit.

    Audience’s literally will not watch them (unless they’re horror films but that’s a whole other conversation!). But that’s where the actual art is happening. It’s where experimentation and innovation happens. The big names either started out there (recent examples: The Daniels “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once”, James Gunn), or rip it off in their big budget studio projects – just like ad agency creatives do. It’s all corporate art-like content and audiences love it. Might as well be AI.

    As a society we’ve been fooled into thinking “value” means cheap. This has been the trajectory since Netflix was taking over home video, Amazon was killing bookstores and Walmart was decimating local business. We let them win because we got a lot of stuff for cheap. And we’ve been enjoying this corporate stuff for so long we lost our ability to recognize real value. So, yeah, I don’t have much hope we’ll be any better about fending off an AI takeover. And just as little hope that most will even care as long as they can enjoy their passive entertainment and cheap stuff.

      1. Geo

        Ha! It pretty much is. Was joking with a musician friend that he should have a song in his next album where each verse cycles through a different pop star’s voice using the AI vocal generator tools in a weird glitch-morphing descent into lunacy.

        It’s gonna make the old debates about sampling we saw in the early 90’s or pirating in the early ‘00’s look like child’s play for IP law.

  20. chris

    I think this analysis covers what Yves and others have been saying. I didn’t even consider the point that there was no way of knowing which building in the Kremlin Putin would be in. Of course this was a silly attack then.

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