2:00PM Water Cooler 7/18/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Eastern Whip-poor-will, Corner of Turney Ranch Road and Odessa Roads, Michigan, United States. “Antrostomus vociferus” Not kidding!

* * *


“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

“Biden’s next student debt relief plan will target ‘borrowers who need it the most,’ Kvaal says” [Politico]. • [slaps forehead] Why didn’t I think of that?

Public health cuts:

“Mend it, don’t end it….”


Time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“Trump says he’s received a target letter from special counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 investigators” [Politico]. “While the specific crimes that Trump may be charged with are not clear, Smith’s team has been eyeing potential obstruction charges related to Trump’s actions in the days leading up to Jan. 6 and on that day itself — including pressuring his vice president, Mike Pence, to unilaterally block the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Investigators have also examined Trump’s consideration of a plan to seize voting machines from the states, his campaign of false claims that the election was stolen and his role in advancing a plan to assemble bogus slates of presidential electors to stoke a conflict ahead of Jan. 6.” • Commentary:

The thing is, if you look at the lawfare case-by-case, Trump — adding the usual Trumpian puffery discount — isn’t wrong. These guys have form: They’re losers. O f course, Jack Smith could be different, and if so, well, the door to higher office lie open to him, as well as the book deals, etc., as grateful Blue MAGA types shower him with honors….

“Trump says 2024 running mate could be one of his primary opponents” [Miami Herald]. “Trump on Fox News’s ‘Sunday Morning Futures’ singled out entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) for praise, though he did not specify whom he would consider as a running mate. ‘I think Vivek has done a very good job, frankly. I think some others have done a good job,’ Trump said. Asked by host Maria Bartiromo if his running mate could be among those in the 2024 field, Trump replied, ‘possibly.’ ‘You have some good people on the stage actually. I think you have some very talented people,’ Trump said. ‘I’ve been impressed by some of them. Some of them I’m very friendly with, actually.’ ‘I think you have good potential Cabinet members, too,’ Trump added.”

“Wall Street execs make first bets against Donald Trump in 2024” [NBC]. “A wave of executives in the finance sector made early donations to Donald Trump’s primary opponents in the second quarter, as many on Wall Street look for an alternative to the former president to lead the Republican Party in 2024. New Federal Election Commission filings show that dozens of Wall Street executives donated the legal maximum of either $3,300 for the primary or $6,600 for the entire election cycle to many of the Republican candidates polling below Trump in the primary, according to a joint analysis of the latest disclosures by NBC News and CNBC. Trump’s chief rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and other candidates regularly registering in the national polling averages — business owner Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina — all saw contributions from leaders in finance starting April 1 through June 30.” • Say no more! Say no more!

* * *

“Playbook: DeSantis in disarray?” [Politico]. “When you’re running for office, there are a few words and phrases you never want to see up top in news articles about your campaign … 1. ‘SOLVENCY’… 2. ‘SHEDDING STAFF’ and ‘CASH CRUNCH’… 3. ‘SKEPTICISM’ and ‘PRIVATE CONCERNS’ and ‘INSULARITY’…. At the start of the year, the average national GOP primary poll had Trump at 43% and DeSantis close behind at 37%, according to FiveThirtyEight. Compare that to today: Trump averages just under 50%, while DeSantis has sunk to 21%. Since DeSantis announced his campaign on May 24, he has gained just 0.4 percentage points in the national polling average.” • The short-bodied, elevator-shoed DeSantis has the warmth of a lizard and the charm of a chiseling small-town auto dealer. That doesn’t play well on the national stage.

“Ron DeSantis fires roughly a dozen staffers in a campaign shake-up” [NBC News]. “Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign has fired roughly a dozen staffers — and more dismissals are expected in the coming weeks as he shakes up his big-money political operations after less than two months on the campaign trail. A source familiar with the firings described those who were let go as mid-level staffers across several departments whose departures were related to cutting costs. The exits come after the departures of David Abrams and Tucker Obenshain, veterans of DeSantis’ political orbit, which were first reported by Politico. Sources involved with the DeSantis campaign say there is an internal assessment among some that it hired too many staffers too early and that despite having brought in $20 million during its first six weeks, it was becoming clear that costs needed to be brought down. Some in DeSantis’ political orbit lay the early blame at the feet of campaign manager Generra Peck, who also led DeSantis’ 2022 midterm re-election bid and is in the hot seat right now. ‘She should be,’ a DeSantis donor said.” • Now the donors want to run the campaign. Never a good sign.

“Door-knocker complaints show risks of DeSantis super PAC strategy” [WaPo]. “Unlike traditional presidential field organizing — which is run by an official campaign and driven largely by volunteers — the Never Back Down effort is staffed with an army of paid workers, many of whom have responded to advertisements that offer positions for $20 to $22 an hour. Trained in Iowa during an eight-day class, some come out of the system with polished pitches, as true believers. Others are just there for a job.” • Some amusing incidents…

* * *

“Biden announces his 2024 campaign headquarters” [Politico]. “President Joe Biden will make his longtime residence of Wilmington, Del., the headquarters of his 2024 campaign, he announced Tuesday. ‘My family’s values, my eternal optimism and my unwavering belief in the American middle class as our nation’s backbone comes from my home — from Delaware,’ Biden said in a statement. ‘That’s why there is no better place for our reelection campaign to have its headquarters.’ It’s a departure from Biden’s choice of Philadelphia for his 2020 campaign headquarters. But because of the pandemic, Biden helmed a significant portion of that run from Wilmington as well.” • They’re already wrapping Biden in tissue paper. Not a good sign.

“The Bidens’ Influence Peddling Timeline” [House Committee on Oversight]. • Without commenting on “10 held by H for the big guy?” the substance, this timeline is a tremendous technical advance on so many previous Republican yarn diagrams. A sample:

The timeline is, however, missing two critical features. The first is search: I would like to be able to find all the places were “Burisma,” say, occurs. The second is authentication. All the text boxes should have links to where the information comes from. The timeline also has an “Important Date” rubric. There should be a list of them. Still, an advance (and in great contrast to the incredibly sloppy Democrat assault on TrumpMR SUBLIMINAL They think it’s great, of course. So much homework!).

“Meet the 2024 presidential candidates” [Axios]. • Handy chart:

I think you’ve got to put Newsome and Pritzker in there as potentials.

“Winners and losers from the second fundraising quarter” [The Hill]. “President Biden’s fundraising numbers are more than double that of former President Trump and any other candidate, giving him a majorly successful second quarter and first few months of his reelection bid. Biden’s reelection campaign raised $72 million in the second quarter, an impressive total for a candidate whose polls have shown voters do not want him to run for reelection. The campaign said Biden also has $77 million in cash on hand, which it said was the most ‘amassed by a Democrat at any comparable point in history.’ ‘Doubts have swirled around Biden’s candidacy since before he jumped into race, with his favorability rating mostly staying in the low 40s and concerns about his age and mental acuity. But his fundraising numbers might be telling a different story among voters. The campaign said nearly 400,000 donors made 670,000 donations across all entities, including the Democratic National Committee and joint fundraising committees. It said 30 percent of all donors did donate to Biden’s campaign in 2020.”

* * *

“Could a third-party candidate actually derail Biden?” [Vox]. “Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin didn’t rule out the possibility of running as a third-party presidential candidate in 2024 at an event hosted by the centrist group No Labels in New Hampshire Monday. He said he was there ‘to make sure the American people have an option,’ but also that chatter about a possible ‘unity’ ticket with him and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican, was premature. And he promised he would not run as a ‘spoiler’: ‘If I get in a race, I’m going to win,’ he said. But it’s hard to see how any possible run with No Labels — a bipartisan group that once dubbed former President Donald Trump a “problem solver” and that criticized the committee investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection — would amount to a serious candidacy.”

And speaking of Delaware:

Democrats en Déshabillé

Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

* * *

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The new secession” [The New Criterion]. “[L]evels of trust in government today are still broadly low by historical standards. These attitudes are mirrored in various ways in the day-to-day decisions made by American citizens: 1. The number of Americans leaving the country to live elsewhere has more than doubled over the past few decades, from four million in 1999 to nine million in 2023…. 2. Millions of American families have abandoned the public schools in recent decades, owing to a perceived decline in standards or the politicization of the school curricula…. 3. Americans are abandoning the workforce in unprecedented numbers. The labor force participation rate in the United States has declined from 67.2 percent in the year 2000 to around 62 percent today, a decline of eight to nine million workers in a workforce of 165 million. … 4. Gun ownership has surged… 5. The most alarming trend: Young Americans are no longer volunteering to serve in the military to the extent they did just a few years ago.” • Most alarming? No cannon fodder for losing wars fought for profit! Nevertheless….


“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; Wastewater Scan, includes drilldown by zip); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data). “Infection Control, Emergency Management, Safety, and General Thoughts” (especially on hospitalization by city).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort. To update any entry, do feel free to contact me at the address given with the plants. Please put “COVID” in the subject line. Thank you!

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin, dashboard; Stanford, wastewater; Oakland, wastewater); 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: anon (2), Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (10), JustAnotherVolunteer, JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, MT_Wild, otisyves, Petal (6), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

* * *

Look for the Helpers

From a delivery worker:

David Leonhard and all his ilk need to work on their selection bias. And:


“That’s how air works”:

As I wrote: “Breathing is a social relation.”

Covid is Airborne

New standards for toilet flushing:

Censorship and Propaganda

“A Positive Covid Milestone” [David Leonhardt, New York Times]. “The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal…. But the excess-deaths milestone suggests that it’s true now: The pandemic is finally over.” • Well, a few responses. I’m not an excess deaths maven, so please weigh in:

1) ” Increase in infected people before summer vacation Rapid increase in Kyushu and Okinawa, Mr. Omi “Possibility to spread to Honshu”: Tokyo Shimbun TOKYO Web” [Japan Posts]. “The number of people infected with the new coronavirus continues to rise nationwide. Even in Tokyo, the number of cases has been increasing little by little since May, when the classification under the Infectious Diseases Law was shifted to Category 5. It is believed that the background is lax infection control measures and a weakened immune system. The number of infected people is increasing rapidly in Okinawa and Kyushu, and it has been pointed out that the sudden spread of infection may spread to Honshu before summer vacation.” • Given ubiquitous air travel, if Covid isn’t over in Japan, it’s not over in the United States.

2) Leonhardt assumes the CDC excess deaths baseline is legit. But — and I know this will surprise you — it’s not:

3) Excess death numbers are not behaving as they should if Leonhardt’s thesis is true:

4) Death is not the only metric, given neurological and vascular damage, plus Long Covid (q.v.) On the bright side, Leonhardt has already begun to mimize Long Covid!

5) Wastewater is ticking up.

Testing and Tracking

Note the Aranet 4’s new design (at left):

The percentage of rebreathed air is the key metric, and now it is visible.

“Real-time environmental surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 aerosols” [Nature]. “Real-time surveillance of airborne SARS-CoV-2 virus is a technological gap that has eluded the scientific community since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Offline air sampling techniques for SARS-CoV-2 detection suffer from longer turnaround times and require skilled labor. Here, we present a proof-of-concept pathogen Air Quality (pAQ) monitor for real-time (5 min time resolution) direct detection of SARS-CoV-2 aerosols. The system synergistically integrates a high flow (~1000 lpm) wet cyclone air sampler and a nanobody-based ultrasensitive micro-immunoelectrode biosensor. The wet cyclone showed comparable or better virus sampling performance than commercially available samplers. Laboratory experiments demonstrate a device sensitivity of 77–83% and a limit of detection of 7-35 viral RNA copies/m3 of air. Our pAQ monitor is suited for point-of-need surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 variants in indoor environments and can be adapted for multiplexed detection of other respiratory pathogens of interest. Widespread adoption of such technology could assist public health officials with implementing rapid disease control measures.” • Lol. Who wants to do that? (In a serious country, developing this technology would have been part of the Biden Administration’s Operation Warp Speed II.

“Opteev’s ViraWarn Shows Near 100% Efficacy at Instantly Detecting COVID-19 in the Air” (press release) [Opteev Technologies, Inc.] “Baltimore-based Opteev Technologies, Inc. on Thursday in a joint release with a National Institutes of Health (NIH) supported laboratory said the final analysis of its COVID-19 detection device, ViraWarn, showed near 100% efficacy at instantly detecting COVID-19 in the air. Lab data provided by the NIH-supported laboratory supports Opteev’s ViraWarn device can instantly detect COVID-19 as well as Omicron and all COVID-19 variants. Opteev’s CTO and Co-Founder, Dr. Biplab Pal, said, “The data from the NIH lab supports all of our own internal findings. ViraWarn will be a game-changer in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.” • Big if true. However, this press release is from Dec. 30, 2021. Now we get these tweets:

Allee is an account I follow. But what’s been going on in the interim? More:

“Something Awful”

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). To which we might add brain damage, including personality changes therefrom.

* * *

Origins Debate

“Everything is like Wuhan”:

* * *

Case Data

From BioBot wastewater data, July 17:

Lambert here: A distinct upward trend. Not seeing the upward slope of doubling behavior, but we are now — just scan the chart backward — at a level above every previous valley.

Regional data:

Interestingly, the upswing begins before July 4, which neither accelerates nor retards it.

Regional variant data:

Whatever the cause of the uptick in the Northeast, it’s not EG.5 (the orange pie slice), which seems evenly distributed.



Lambert here: EG.5 moving like a bat out of hell, showing unactionable nature (uselessness) of these CDC two-week-lag charts (here, and in positivity, too). They’re not even performative!

From CDC, June 24:

Lambert here: Not sure what to make of this. I’m used to seeing a new variant take down the previously dominant variant. Here it looks like we have a “tag team,” all working together to cut XBB.1.5 down to size. I sure hope the volunteers doing Pangolin, on which this chart depends, don’t all move on the green fields and pastures new (or have their access to facilities cut by administrators of ill intent).

CDC: “As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, July 8:

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. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections.


From Walgreens, July 17:

1.1%. Going up, though the absolute numbers are still very small relative to June 2022, say. Interestingly, these do not correlate with the regional figures for wastewater. (It would be interesting to survey this population generally; these are people who, despite a tsunami of official propaganda and enormous peer pressure, went and got tested anyhow.)

NOT UPDATED From CDC, June 26:

Lambert here: This is the CDC’s “Traveler-Based Genomic Surveillance” data. They say “maps,” but I don’t see one….


NOT UPDATED Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, July 12:

Lambert here: The WHO data is worthless, so I replaced it with the Iowa Covid Data Tracker. Their method: “These data have been sourced, via the API from the CDC: https://data.cdc.gov/NCHS/Conditions-Contributing-to-COVID-19-Deaths-by-Stat/hk9y-quqm. This visualization updates on Wednesday evenings. Data are provisional and are adjusted weekly by the CDC.” I can’t seem to get a pop-up that shows a total of the three causes (top right). Readers?

Total: 1,168,914 – 1,168,6101,168,414 = 304 (304 * 365 = 110,960 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).

• “COVID-19: Catch up quick” [Your Local Epidemiologist]. “The COVID-19 Modeling Hub— eight academic teams across the U.S.— just released projections for the next two years: hospitalizations and deaths will likely stay within last year’s range. Unfortunately, this means we should expect to lose 55,000 (optimistic model)- 450,000 Americans (pessimistic model) due to COVID-19.” And: “COVID-19 is increasing; don’t be surprised to hear more people getting infected around you. I already am. This isn’t enough reason to change my personal behaviors, but that time may come this fall.” • This is that nutty PMC paradigm about “changing behavior” (doing homework). That sociopathic goofball Bob Wachter — the dude who chivvied his wife into attending the superspreading conference from which she developed Long Covid — does the same thing with his 25-step algorithm. Just develop a strong protocol and stick to it, my advice. Why? Because the PMC morons, while simultaneously pushing a practice and ethic of personal responsibility, also destroyed all our data flow. The fastest data has a week’s lag, and most have two. If Covid is taking off, you will change your behavior too late.

Excess Deaths

The Economist, July 18:

Lambert here: This is now being updated daily. Odd. Based on a machine-learning model. (The CDC has an excess estimate too, but since it ran forever with a massive typo in the Legend, I figured nobody was really looking at it, so I got rid it. )

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Manufacturing Production” [Trading Economics]. “Manufacturing Production in the United States decreased 0.3% year-on-year in June of 2023, marking a fourth consecutive month of falls in factory output.”

Manufacturing: “United States Industrial Production” [Trading Economics]. “Industrial Production in the United States decreased 0.4% year-on-year in June of 2023, the first annual decline since February of 2021, and following a flat reading in May.”

Retail: “United States Retail Sales YoY” [Trading Economics]. “Retail Sales in the United States increased 1.5% year-on-year in June of 2023.”

Capacity: “United States Capacity Utilization” [Trading Economics]. “Capacity utilization in the US fell for a second month to 78.9% in June of 2023, the lowest so far this year, compared to 79.4% in May and below forecasts of 79.5%. The rate now stands 0.8 percentage point below its long-run average.”

* * *

Tech: “The ‘Threads’ App Is Filled with Deceptive Dark Design Patterns – We Spotted More than Ten” [Yanko Design]. “The Threads app almost immediately displayed a whole bunch of dark patterns with its user interface. We spotted at least 11 of them, and we’re sure there are a lot more to come. Here are some highly evident dark tricks the Threads app is using to ensure you stay on the platform as long as you possibly can… and supply Meta with even more data than before.” Zuck doesn’t know any other way to do business. Here’s one: “10. The above is reinforced by the fact that Threads doesn’t have a desktop website either. Even though its competitor Twitter does, and even though Instagram does too, Threads can ONLY be accessed by installing an app, and logging in. That’s how Meta coerces you into installing an app that you then can’t remove… and an app that then constantly gathers data on you.” • Ick. Avoid.

Tech: “Robots.txt is not the answer: Proposing a new meta tag for LLM/AI” [Search Engine Land]. “While Google is opening up the discussion on giving credit and adhering to copyright [mighty big of ’em] when training large language models (LLMs) for generative AI products, their focus is on the robots.txt file.” This is an idiotic idea for many reasons, the most obvious one being: “Blocking Googlebot or Bingbot for their generative AI products also blocks any potential visibility in their respective search results. This is an unacceptable situation where the publisher is forced to make a choice between ‘all or nothing.'” • Their idea: Use Creative Commons licensing.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 82 Extreme Greed (previous close: 78 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 79 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 18 at 1:37 PM ET.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Date Settings. “There is a growing interest in the rapture occurring on one of the Jewish fall feasts” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 183. (Remember that bringing on the Rapture is good.) NOTE on #42 Plagues: “The coronavirus pandemic has maxed out this category.” More honest than most!


“Medicine is plagued by untrustworthy clinical trials. How many studies are faked or flawed?” [Nature]. “But faked or unreliable RCTs are a particularly dangerous threat. They not only are about medical interventions, but also can be laundered into respectability by being included in meta-analyses and systematic reviews, which thoroughly comb the literature to assess evidence for clinical treatments. Medical guidelines often cite such assessments, and physicians look to them when deciding how to treat patients.” • Dr. John Conly, is that you?

The Gallery



Guillotine Watch

David Sedaris is the PMC exemplar:

“I still browse the dailies, skipping over the stories about Covid, since I am done with that as well.” From August 2021, with Biden’s Omicron surge yet to come.

Class Warfare


News of the Wired

“Encountering the Infuriating, Overwhelming and Unwanted Smart Tech in My Hotel Room” [New York Times]. “Sonifi Solutions, Inc., which works with global brands such as Hyatt and Marriott, generates unique QR codes for guests on their in-room television — to activate, you scan with your phone camera, as you would a web-based restaurant menu, which takes you to an app or website. Then with their phones, guests control their TVs and lighting, connect with the concierge (by chat), order in-room dining or make a spa appointment. The ‘personalization’ piece of the platform extends to the television, which based on guest behavior and information gleaned from a loyalty program, can be set to a yoga class for a fitness enthusiast or ESPN for a football fan.” • All data that will totally be sold, probably in time for your next stay, or even your next night in the room. What the heck is the point of a personalized hotel room? The whole point of a hotel room is to be depersonalized!

* * *

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 NM:

NM writes: “Opuntia stenopetala in Queretaro, Mexico.”

* * *

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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. Terry Flynn

    Big shout-out to Lambert’s continuing efforts to draw atention to key articles relevant to COVID-19 (most notably, though not restricted to, the airborne nature and associated issues). His “four Nature articles post” is invaluable and I’m going to use it, asking people to come here to read it in full, rather than the “summary, aide de memoire set of 4 links” I have posted myself, which deliberately doesn’t copy the NC post and its nuances.

    I myself have had 3 years of constant fighting with physicians. It’s gone from “COVID doesn’t do that” to “I want detailed info with dates and symptoms” as the autoimmune-type conditions that have driven me mad have arisen, particularly after each COVID infection. So, progress…….in a way……

    Having worked in health services research for 25 odd years there’s lots I could say. The most recent annoyance, tying in with themes of “excessive specialisation” in the workforce – in this case, the sensible policy of getting nurses to do bloods, but which in extremis, just led to me getting a pointed result from microbiology saying “unusuable sample” – a critical set of bloods taken from a GP, who I could see had difficulty. If GPs (family physicians) don’t take bloods once every (say) 3 months, it is VERY worrying about whether they are retaining basic skills. Adam Smith, after all, raised thoughts about whether “excessive specialisation” could have its downside.

      1. flora

        Indeed! I would be glad to read an insider’s account of their experiences. Anecdota is important input, imo.

      2. Terry Flynn

        Thanks Lambert. My main reticence has been that I’ve been subject to some “key mental health issues” that NC (amongst others) have shone a light on, and I have made *ahem* animated comments that whilst not untrue, are unduly undiplomatic. I “yellow-carded” Pregabalin+certain antidepressants – UK people in health will recognise the expression. Anyway Pregabalin is now Class C drug in UK. It’s no longer the “anxiety wonder drug”. I like to think I played a small part in this reclassification, though I went through a year or two being mildly hypomanic (which ironically was BRILLIANT for weight loss, productivity etc) but which couldn’t last and required 2 painful years of coming off it.

        I also saw health eonomists who MON-WED *SET* the rules on cost-effectiveness for NICE in the UK to fund a new drug, but who THU-FRI worked for pharma companies who had to “fulfill these rules” via the right cost-effectiveness studies to get NHS funding. Sheesh.

        I’m pretty open about mental health, following being a whistle blower. I’m now learning how my experiences can be useful in helping (for instance, potentially) medical docs who have been pushed too far – who unlike IMDOC or others, who have written here and “let off steam”, have had no outlet and exploded, needing help. I’m hoping I can go from a “data guy” to a “empathy guy” – I’ve certainly seen enough dirty dealings to make me cognisant of the profound mental stress physicians face. We’ll see if I can bring anything to the table to help. I’ve seen GPs “not exactly hold up their end of the bargain on a pro bono £20k project I’ve done” up to nonsense said at committee meetings in Whitehall. I just hope my Google Scholar profile shows those who really want to see “genuine influence in a good way” that I’ve done that. However, I’m also “restarting” in life and reading NC accounts of people living with COVID/health-care nonsense always makes me think, and, I hope, ground me.

        1. Sardonia

          “Pregabalin is now Class C drug in UK. It’s no longer the “anxiety wonder drug”. I like to think I played a small part in this reclassification”

          Thank you for your service. :)

    1. Revenant

      Never gave your blood taken by anybody other than practice nurse or junior doctor on surgical or ER rotation. Certainly never a GP or a consultant, even in haematology!

      Any doctor will tell you thus privately. :-)

      1. Terry Flynn

        Thanks Petal! I’ve been pre-occupied to an annoying degree with chasing up specialists regarding my own health issues that are directly covid sequelae (though getting – of all people – an orthopaedic consultant with good people skills and ability to look holistically rather than just check individual blood counts, has been an unexpected bonus). Also caring duties for mum have ramped up somewhat with her health issues.

        It’s been a tough time but I’m now re-establishing routine and getting things done that had been slipping. My naturally nihilistic side is, of course, thinking “hmmm, probably time for the newest nastiest variant to sweep across the Midlands and wreck plans” ;-)

  2. Roger Blakely

    The number of people infected with the new coronavirus continues to rise nationwide.

    Dr. Osterholm mentioned that today SARS-CoV-2 is surging in only three countries, Japan, Bangladesh, and Malta. They don’t know why. It may be due to waning immunity. They are not saying, however, that it is due to a new variant.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > They are not saying, however, that it is due to a new variant.

      All I can find on new variants in Okinawa is confusion; perhaps a reader who knows the Japanese sources can help.

      The new variant seems to be EG.5, an Omicron “subvariant” (and I don’t know when that word became a thing). But that’s not a recipe for another spike,

      As for Osterholm, the “why” is in my quote today. “It is believed that the background is lax infection control measures and a weakened immune system.” Japan reclassified Covid along Leonhardtian lines, and the result was as could have been expected.

  3. Screwball

    From Reuters about 4 hours ago;

    U.S. to announce $1.3 bln in military aid for Ukraine -sources


    WASHINGTON, July 18 (Reuters) – The United States will announce a new pledge to buy $1.3 billion worth of military aid for Kyiv in its conflict with Russia in the coming days, two U.S. officials said.

    The previously unreported weapons package includes air defenses, counter-drone systems, exploding drones and ammunition, one of the U.S. officials said.

    The United States is using funds in its Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) program, which allow President Joe Biden’s administration to buy weapons from industry rather than pull from U.S. weapons stocks.

    Among the systems and ammunition the U.S. plans to buy for Kyiv are counter-air defenses made by L3Harris Technologies (LHX.N) called the Vehicle-Agnostic Modular Palletized ISR Rocket Equipment or VAMPIRE, one of the officials said.

    Also included are two different types of loitering munitions, the Phoenix Ghost drone made by AVEVEX, a private company in California, and the Switchblade, made by AeroVironment Inc (AVAV.O).

    Additionally, a person briefed on the matter said Ukraine will get a significant number of counter-drone systems made by Australia’s DroneShield Ltd (DRO.AX) alongside radars, sensors and analysis systems.

    The U.S. Department of Defense’s impending announcement of the security assistance to Ukraine comes alongside a virtual meeting on Tuesday of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a gathering of allies assisting Kyiv as Ukraine presses its counteroffensive against Russian invasion forces.

    Delivery of the weapons and systems depends on their availability and production timeline. The contents and value of the package may also change up until the announcement.

    The Pentagon has provided more than $10.8 billion in security assistance for Ukraine under the USAI in fiscal 2023, in seven separate tranches. The planned package would be the eighth. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2022, Washington put $6.3 billion worth of USAI funds to work buying for Ukraine’s defense.

    Of course we are. The insanity has no bounds, limits, or ending it appears. I just watched a clip of Biden having a meeting with Israeli President Herzog. He is mumbling his way through some words while it looks like he’s half asleep. Who, exactly, is running this place?

    I forgot, they are going to charge Trump with more things so it’s all good.

    1. The Rev Kev

      $1.3 billion worth of military aid? That’s pocket change that. No, that is what you find behind the Pentagon’s lounge cushions. Pretty soon the next tranche will only be about several hundred million worth. Nice to see the govt of Oz being deluded enough to keep on throwing our money away on Project Ukraine. Unlike the US who can merely ‘print’ those dollars, our dollars have to be earned so that money will come from another part of our budget. Maybe social services?

    2. griffen

      Our insanity is searching for new limits and seem to find an outer boundary each year. Looking through the candidate listing above for 2024 is a depressing start to the morning.

      Doddering old geezer against a slightly younger geezer. 80 years vs 77 years is hardly a gaping chasm of time I don’t think. I foresee a Biden Basement campaign strategy once again.

  4. Lambert Strether Post author

    I added a great many orts and scraps. As usual with a Water Cooler following an open thread following a weekend, I collected far more than I could possibly use!

  5. griffen

    Filing this one under bezzle and crypto I think. Worthwhile for a few minutes interview with actor Ben McKenzie, who is a skeptic of crypto and bitcoin. Pretty interesting. I’m not highly familiar with his acting roles, other than seeing a few episodes here / there of the Gotham series. He has co-authored an upcoming book discussing his views on the cryptocurrency markets.


  6. flora

    re: Medicine is plagued by untrustworthy clinical trials. How many studies are faked or flawed?” – [Nature].

    Thanks for this. Confirms me in my skepticism in this regard, which I learned from reading NC early on.

    re: the Gallery. Two great artists. Thanks.

    1. flora

      adding: I particularly like this second definition of Skepticism from Wordnik.

      2. The ancient school of Pyrrho of Elis that stressed the uncertainty of our beliefs in order to oppose dogmatism.

  7. Henry Moon Pie

    Excess deaths–

    I’ve been wondering about this for a while, and the CDC explanation of how their chart was derived seemed like somebody was obfuscating. (Ya think?) Our World in Data has a clear explanation of this change in methodology:

    The baseline of expected deaths can be estimated in several different ways.

    We use an estimate produced by Ariel Karlinsky and Dmitry Kobak as part of their World Mortality Dataset (WMD).4 To produce this estimate, they first fit a regression model for each region using historical deaths data from 2015–2019.5 They then use the model to project the number of deaths we might normally have expected in 2020–2023.6 Their model can capture both seasonal variation and year-to-year trends in mortality.

    For more details on this method, see the article Karlinsky and Kobak (2021) Tracking excess mortality across countries during the COVID-19 pandemic with the World Mortality Dataset.7

    Previously we used a different expected deaths baseline: the average number of deaths over the years 2015–2019.8 We made this change because using the five-year average has an important limitation — it does not account for year-to-year trends in mortality and thus can misestimate excess mortality.9 The WMD projection, on the other hand, does not suffer from this limitation because it accounts for these year-to-year trends. Our charts using the five-year average are still accessible in links in the sections below.

    So we switch from a simple 5-year average to a black box regression analysis for reasons. But thank you, Our World in Data, you still ran the comparison with the 5-year average. And guess what? Check out this link. There’s excess deaths bumping along not around 0% but just below 10% excess deaths still.

    That new regression analysis must be like the cool way they converted actual votes to Butti-units in Iowa in 2020. Basically, we’ll fiddle with it until we get the result we want. And what we want is NORMAL!

    I guess you need to be a full-fledged fraud to work for the CDC or NYT.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        I thought this was pretty shocking. We’ve been watching an Excess Deaths graph for weeks that has dropped to zero. What has happened is that they have changed the baseline from the average of 5 years before the pandemic began to some black box calculation that varies hugely from the 5-year average.

        If we were still seeing the same graph based on a baseline of the 5-year average, it would show excess deaths running at nearly a 10% excess. Leonhardt pipes in with an article claiming it’s dropped to zero without including the little tidbit that the baseline had to be “recalculated” to get there.

        The linked graph is what the excess graphs should look like if they were being honest.

        This seems like a whole new level of deception to me since it goes beyond lying about Covid to lying about excess deaths overall. This new “adjustable” baseline can be used to cover for excess deaths from now on.

        Maybe I’m missing something, but as RFKjr says, “Show me where I’m wrong.”

  8. Kyle

    Thank you for bringing to light the cuts proposed to HIV care.

    I work at my states largest ASO (AIDs service org) and that funding cut would literally kill people. It would take life saving medication away from those who need it and turn HIV back into a death sentence.

    Don’t even get me started on the Hep C cuts…..it’s curable and cutting funding to testing and linkage to care resources would also kill a ton of people.

    America, the greatest country on earth!

  9. Will

    re Okinawa

    A friend of mine is a senior muckety muck at a private equity firm in Tokyo, but prefers beaches and tropical islands. As well, his fiance is originally from Okinawa. Which is all to say, he spends a lot of time there, plans to spend even more, and has good connections with the expat community in Okinawa. He told me a while ago that among the many Americans who live there, mostly US military personnel who live off base and the other army of private contractors, the joke is that Okinawa is like Hawaii except with fewer Japanese.

    Make of that what you will, but I think fair to say anything spreading north to the main islands from Okinawa isn’t entirely domestic.

    1. flora

      re: “Okinawa is like Hawaii except with fewer Japanese.”

      That’s very funny in the “it only hurts when I laugh” sort of way. Thanks for the comment.

  10. Milton

    Re: pruning shade trees.
    In Socal at least, the best time to prune these types of trees is the dormant season which is around Jan/Feb. The pruning was most likely a malicious act to fry picketers.

    1. Pat

      Normally I wouldn’t hope that an act of stupidity (and in this case a malicious one) wouldn’t damage the trees but not so much this time. I have to wonder if pruning them so much now when there was no reason to do so will not weaken and cause them distress especially in this weather.
      Mind you I would probably want more damage to the gardens of the top dogs of the studio who thought this was a great idea, but unfortunately outside of an act of god, that would probably mean criminal charges for someone.

  11. Louis Fyne

    If one wants to make every brain in DC explode, along with social media: Trump & RFK2 2024.

    If one views political ideology not as a 2-D line but as a 3-D sphere, they (and their voters) are more alike than different….(RFK would draw more marginal voters tha any GOPer)

    If Trump had any imagination, he should go for this “donut alliance”

    I want it to happen because I want to see every DC pundit’s brai explode

    1. tegnost

      they (and their voters) are more alike than different

      I like to refer to it as “the belly of the beast”

    2. repiet

      saw a comment that sy hearsh said a person with ‘excellent party credentials’ said Trump/RFK would be the 2024 ticket

    3. The Rev Kev

      Looking at that “Meet the 2024 presidential candidates” article, I see that the Republicans have a baker’s dozen of candidates to choose from which means that Trump, if he wins, has plenty of candidates to choose from the Republican bench alone. Trump & RFK2 2024/ That could work. The Democrat’s bench, however, seems awful thin. Williamson stands no chance and Kennedy jnr. is unacceptable to Democrats who will try to cancel him while the media will refuse to cover him. So I guess that for the Democrats, that leaves Biden. How about that.

      1. John D.

        I’m surprised Pete Buttigieg’s name isn’t included on the Democratic side here. Doesn’t the little creep have ambitions towards occupying the White House himself someday? Or does he have enough self-awareness to realize his disastrous tenure as Transportation Secretary will hand any GOP opponent all kinds of ammunition on a silver platter?

        1. Dr. John Carpenter

          I’d say it’s option three: he realizes Biden is going to be rammed through again so why bother? He can spend the 2024 cycle being a team player and working behind the scenes for his 2028 run. That seems to me the smart move for anyone really expecting a shot. Unless Biden expires in the next year and change (and the Dems can’t Weekend at Bernie’s the body), I think the Dem side is locked up.

  12. Randy

    Yes, prune when dormant. Select straight, strong branches while pruning the weak deformed ones around them.

    Those trees were butchered and they will never recover. I’d be surprised if they have enough leafy green material to provide for their needs photosynthesis-wise.

    Those trees are next to the curb. Around here that would be called boulevard. That boulevard would belong to the city along with the trees. Those trees look somewhat young so if the trees belong to the city, the city paid for them and the labor to plant them. Would the city appreciate some corporate suit destroying their trees?

  13. marym

    [Michigan] Attorney General Dana Nessel is leveling felony charges against 16 Republicans who signed a certificate falsely stating that Donald Trump won Michigan’s 2020 presidential election, launching criminal cases against top political figures inside the state GOP.

    Press release and link to transcript of AG’s statement

    1. britzklieg

      Who cares? Will stopping Trump and/or the GOP change anything, at all, about our broken polity?

      No, it won’t.

      Partisanship is a mug’s game.

      We are in hell and there’s no escape from the triangulation which the Dem vs. GOP Hunger games depend on.

  14. Henry Moon Pie

    It’s a heartbreaking story about the Bucks County,PA flood that swept away a Charleston, SC family on their way to visit relatives. These were not people taking a chance to drive through axle-deep water. They were just driving down a clear highway next to a stream along with other cars. The rain came down so fast that the river rose and swept all those cars away.

    It brought to mind a red-letter quote from Matthew 24, not because what happened in Bucks County is some kind of judgment on anybody, but because the old flood myth is found all over the place culturally, and its use in this context where Jesus is talking about the arrival of The End emphasizes how aware we are of signs that things are changing. I’m certainly not implying anything about those poor people drowned in that insta-flood, but I am making a comment about how our society is trying very hard to not notice just how different things are getting.

    For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.

    1. Raymond Sim

      I grew up in Chester County. People new to the area were often suprised by the way the creeks came up during rainstorms. The country roads tend to follow creeks (cricks) and when the water’s up it can be all too easy to drive into the creek by mistake.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        And when you get 6 inches of rain in an hour, those creeks in those narrow valleys rise like no one could anticipate. It’s like being struck by lightning. Those two parents undoing their kids strapped into car seats, then exiting the car into a raging flood. And it was just as tragic for the other people on that road.

        What next?

  15. Carolinian

    Re family values Delaware–would that be the DuPont family, makers of Civil War gunpowder and, eventually, forever chemicals? There’s even a movie about a DuPont, played by Steve Carell, who is obsessed with Olympic wrestling (Foxcatcher). Biden lived in a DuPont mansion for awhile but has now sold it and is down to only two houses. DuPont gets renewed relevance with the upcoming Oppenheimer since they made the Hanford Plutonium that blew up Nagasaki. Surely when one thinks of Delaware it will be of warm and fuzzy families like the DuPonts and the Bidens.

    1. The Rev Kev

      You think that for Biden, that he chose Delaware as his campaign headquarters as he considers it to be the American heartland? Maybe in his world it even is.

      1. ambrit

        Considering Delaware’s reputation as the prime haven for corporate shenanigans, I wonder, where are the Democrat and Republican Parties registered? They are private corporations after all.
        Also, being corporations, is it any wonder that the Parties eschew the needs of their voters and hew to the interests of their “shareholders?”
        It is not that we have developed into a race of cynics and suddenly developed the corporate form of politics, but that we have uncovered a rot that has always been there, hidden from view by design.

          1. ambrit

            Hmmm…. Echoing Eben. Cooke, Esq., I wonder if Delaware has a sinecure of State Poet Laureate?
            And, “Foist State???” With all due respect my good sir, the goombahs of Joisey have a far piece to go before they overtake the “Made Men” of Delaware in the crafty arts of deception and peculation.
            Being a Senator originally, “Creepy” Joe Biden could be a modern version of Crassus, with all that that implies. (Especially his end.)

  16. upstater

    Another day, another derailment, cars of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (which can go boom!):

    LPG cars involved, but no leaks reported, in CN derailment in Minnesota

    Two carloads of liquefied petroleum gas were among those involved in a derailment of nine cars of a Canadian National train in rural northern Minnesota on Monday, July 17, according to a press release from the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office.

    And then there is this example of union leadership complicit with Union Pacific to eliminate jobs and facilitate single person crews:

    Union Pacific to begin industry-first pilot program comparing conductors to ground-based positions

    Although the SMART-TD union remains opposed to redeploying conductors to roving utility jobs, a new labor agreement permits testing the railroad’s expediter concept

    The union officials signing this agreement are either stupid or being bribed. There is no other explanation. They should rename their company union STUPID-TD to reflect reality.

    Of course the Rail Safety Act of 2023 stripped out minimum of 2 man crews…

  17. Carolinian

    Threads number 8

    8. Perhaps one of the most malicious dark patterns lies in how much data the app collects on you. Even though Threads is essentially just a microblogging platform, the app has access to your health data, financial data, and even your location. In fact, ex-CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey shared a snippet of the amount of data the app collects on you and it’s shocking. If you’re in the EU, you probably don’t have access to Threads for this exact reason, because the European Union has some incredibly strict laws on data gathering.

    Sounds like a Faustian bargain. You give us all your personal information (your “soul”) and we’ll give you the pleasing vanity of followers and maybe even fame. But who plays Beezlebub?

    Goethe talked about this.

    1. Acacia

      Heh, yeah, the Zuck seems too dim and ordinary for the role of Mephistopheles.

      But perhaps that’s the age that we live in. Even Hell is being privatized, downsized, rightsized, etc.

      1. chris

        Zuckerberg isn’t Mephistopheles. He’s Faust’s boring son. Too lacking in imagination to commit anything debaucherous with the gifts from his demon patron. Too empty to not need the world to fill the hole in his soul. Too stupid to see what his bargain will cost him and others.

    2. ambrit

      You missed a good pun. The arch fiend is now to be known as Bezzlebub Lord of the Spies.
      Nowhere do I see any mention of a Gretchen to plead for our Neo-Fausts redemption. This version of the story will, no doubt, follow the ending of the earliest known versions of the story. Simply put, the Devil triumphs and carries Faust off to the Underworld. I know not whether or not the Underworld here is terrestrial or spiritual. One can argue that the term Underworld perfectly describes the Earthly Alphabet Agencies’ Realm of Deceit and Lies.
      To further carry the esoteric conceit, we can also argue that the Alphabet Agencies are modern day, indeed, Neo-Alchemists. Their prime pursuit however is the opposite of that which ensorcelled the Ancient Alchemists. Todays Mages and Wizards strive mightily to turn gold into lead. Just ask the Elders of Kiev how well that works out.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        And the original was a pun intended as an insult. Ba’al Zebub= Lord (of) the Flies. “Ba’al” is “lord” or “husband” in ancient Semitic languages, including Ugaritic where Ba’al is the god pictured riding on the clouds that brings the much-needed rain to the Levant. Ba’al is also one of the chief villains of the Hebrew bible, a pagan god who seems to constantly tempt the Israelites away from their assigned god in the henotheistic system: YHWH. So in the Greek bible reprise of the story, Ba’al is the sort of substance that draws flies.

        Ironically, careful analysis of many texts in the Hebrew bible reveals that YHWH is modeled in part on the Ugaritic god, Ba’al. See Psalm 104:

        The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
        he stretches out the heavens like a tent
        and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
        He makes the clouds his chariot
        and rides on the wings of the wind.
        He makes winds his messengers,
        flames of fire his servants.

        And Psalm 68:

        Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
        extol him who rides on the clouds;
        rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.

        And for a Ugaritic text, here’s an excerpt from KTU 1.3 in which Ba’al’s sister Anat extols her brother whom she resurrected after Ba’al’s brother Mot (“death” in Ugarit and Hebrew) has killed him.

        What enemy rises up against Baal? What rival faces the Cloud-Rider? Didn’t I crush El’s beloved, Yam (Ocean)? Didn’t I annihilate Nahar (River), the great god? Didn’t I leash Dragon and bind him in a saddle? I crushed the Sinuous Serpent, Encircler, the seven-headed monster.

  18. petal

    Glad to see the Manchin/No Labels thing today. I had been going to post it for a few days now but wasn’t sure if people wanted to hear about what is going on up here in NH. Hard to gauge interest and I don’t want to litter. Things are beginning to crank up with a few campaign signs appearing on sides of roads, campaign flyers in the mail, interviews, and visits. Nikki Boeing was down the street the other week.

    1. flora

      Petal, always glad to read your observations and data sightings.
      What’s the saying? Something like “Data isn’t litter”, or something. / ;)

      1. ambrit

        Oh my. Manchin is giving it the Old College Try to become the present day “Prince of Darkness.”

  19. notabanker

    I recommend the “making shit up” rule at NC be officially revised as follows:

    One cannot use a combination of social expediency and political influence to push them to assert a position with more confidence than available data warrants.

    Yeah, well, OK. Making shit up stays.

    1. flora

      er…”available data” as approved of as correct and reliable data by the society of reliable data fact checkers of reliable data by the pre-approved of data fact checker college consortium of…(is that Monty Pythonesque enough ?) yeah, you’re right. Making sh*t up stays. / ;)

  20. The Rev Kev

    ‘Just a fyi: COVID is definitely going around. Shopping delivery tonight of spaghetti sauce fixings…and 5 oz bottle of tabasco. Sure enough, we received a message from the customer–she has COVID, telling us to leave it at her door as she doesn’t want us to get sick.’

    I salute that person but I see something that needs setting up. So you have all those people sheltering in place because they are sick with Covid and do not want to infect others like that young single mother and her toddler. What happens if the mother has a stroke or something? She may not be able to call emergency services and that toddler can’t. So perhaps what is needed is a place that you can sign on when sick, perhaps a week at a time. They will ring you once a day to see that you are able to answer the phone. If after no answers three times, perhaps a volunteer can go around in person to check. Lots of details would have to be worked out but not everybody has friends and families to check up on people and maybe that is why these sick people are having a delivery person drop in food for them.

    1. ambrit

      Sorry Rev, but this is America. [It used to be called Chinatown.] What you suggest would require a functioning society.
      Secondly, applying the neo-liberal rules, {the ultimate “Rules Based Order,”} the death of said ‘low value’ people fits perfectly into the Jackpot Plot. It is about time the the fictional “Jackpot” be given added status and be elevated into the empyrean realms of Conspiracy Theory. Remember that history has shown that it is a very short step from Conspiracy Theory to Fell Plot. I am tempted to assert that what we define as a Conspiracy Theory is a nebulous coalescence of subconscious observations and outre connexions based on “real” hints and clues.
      Stay safe and do not, under any circumstances, look under the bed tonight.

        1. ambrit

          Oh indeed. A “Fell Plot” invokes the ‘real’ and the ‘actual’ in the spheres of Terran human endeavour. Just a little bit more theatrical.

      1. The Rev Kev

        A long time ago we had an election here in Oz and the party in power was trying to mount a scare campaign. They said that if the other party got into power, then you had better take your money out of the bank and put it under your bed. The opposition leader, nonplussed, said naw, you don’t wanna do that. That’s where the reds were hiding.

        1. ambrit

          Out of the mouths of Politicos.
          I was thinking of the “Calvin and Hobbes” trope of the monsters hiding under the child’s bed and always trying to trick him into looking. When I was little, I had a real fear of “things” under my bed.

  21. Wukchumni

    There’s the Hades & the Hades not, and while currently ensconced in the City of Angels, its a mere 90 which they claim to be muy caliente, and i’m good with the delusion having departed the outskirts of Hell a few days ago.

    I was born in East LA and Hollywood while nominally only 26 miles across the way, might as well have been hundreds of miles away from what was then as Mayberry as it got in SoCal, once upon a time.

    In regards to using foliage or lack of as an aerie bulwark against scorned strikers. I feel almost certain Tinsel Town has a prune-up agreement with the underworld.

    Drove by an old favorite theater in uptown Whittier an hour ago and the marque featured action hero movies starring 61 & 81 year olds.

    You get the feeling Hollywood is so done…

    1. ambrit

      Remember when Hollywood made very good inaction films? O tempura, o smores! It is no longer a ‘moveable feast.’
      Coming soon, a “real life” ‘reality show’ based on that wonderful ‘B’ movie, “Death Race 2000.” This time, the race course will be the streets of the Los Angeles basin.
      See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Race_2000

      1. The Rev Kev

        If Hollywood has forgotten how to make films that people actually want to see, then there are plenty of other countries that may finally have a chance to step up and show their own cinema work. Look at some of the films coming out of South Korea for example. At the moment, Hollywood seems to be the place where creativity goes to die. And people like Bob Iger and Kathleen Kennedy just need to go away as they are killing their own industry.

    2. Carolinian

      Mayberry was in Hollywood. I believe Andie and Opie’s credit sequence fishing spot is at some famous LA park–forget which one.

      However Mt. Pilot was a real place and Griffith from near there.

      Bottom line: if you’re from (near) Hollywood you’re from everywhere if only the Disney Version.

  22. Carolinian

    Another great Alastair Crooke

    The EU Political Class have made so many disastrous decisions in deference to U.S. strategy – decisions that go directly against Europeans’ own economic and security interests – that they are very afraid.

    If the reaction of some of these leaders seems disproportionate and unrealistic (“There is no other way than a total win – and to get rid of Putin”) – it is because this ‘war’ touches on a deeper motivations. It reflects existential fears of an unravelling of the western meta-narrative that will take down both its hegemony, and the western financial structure with it.

    The western meta-narrative “from Plato to NATO, is one of superior ideas and practices whose origins lie in ancient Greece, and have since been refined, extended, and transmitted down the ages (through the Renaissance, the scientific revolution and other supposedly uniquely western developments), so that we in the west today are the lucky inheritors of a superior cultural DNA”.[…]

    Of course, outside of general understanding, it is accepted that notions of ‘a coherent West’ has been invented, repurposed and put to use in different times and places. In her new book, The West, classical archaeologist Naoíse Mac Sweeney takes issue with the ‘master myth’ by pointing out that it was only “with the expansion of European overseas imperialism over the seventeenth century, that a more coherent idea of the West began to emerge – one being deployed as a conceptual tool to draw the distinction between the type of people who could legitimately be colonised, and those who could legitimately be colonizers”.

    With the invention of the West came the invention of Western history – an elevated and exclusive lineage that provided an historical justification for the Western domination. According to the English jurist and philosopher Francis Bacon, there were only three periods of learning and civilization in human history: “one among the Greeks, the second among the Romans, and the last among us, that is to say, the nations of Western Europe”.

    The Greeks did have some lasting insights about hubris. Perhaps classically educated Western elites conveniently forgot that lesson.

    1. Carolinian

      Can’t link through but his column to be found every Monday in Strategic Culture and on Al Mayadeen a few days after that.

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      Francis Bacon goes it one better and says that Nature should be “tortured” and “put on the rack.” The Conquistidor worldview lies behind our drive to dominate and subdue both non-Western cultures and even Nature itself. More on Bacon:

      The consequential ramification of Bacon’s outlook is well known to modernity. Industry, technology, and wealth are utilized to conquer nature, to study nature, and to torment nature (deforestation and animal experimentation, etc.). Through this conquest and torment of nature our wealth and comfort is found. As such man creates a more artificial environment and becomes, himself, an instrument of artificiality.

      Artificiality is the ultimate reduction of Bacon’s outlook. Nature is nothing but a clump of mindless and unintelligible matter that is to be instrumentally utilized for man’s benefit. This is a complete 180 from the Platonic and Augustinian (Catholic) disposition of an intelligible nature that is able to, in the words described in the Book of Genesis, “bring forth life after its own kind.” So the world is an artificial clump of matter meant for man’s instrumental use, so too does this reduce man to an artificial clump of matter for instrumental use.

      And transhumanism is not far behind. “We shall be as gods!!!”

      Some Thomas Berry is a good way to cleanse yourself from this sick, alienated mindset.

      The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.

  23. Dida

    Most people would identify the excerpt from humorist David Sedaris as a text intended to be humorous, where Sedaris lampoons the I-don’t-care-anymore mentality. Sedaris claims that after Biden was elected he stopped following the political news, and as soon as he got vaccinated he stopped reading about Covid. However Zatara the Magician takes this absolutely literally: This is what privilege looks like. Perfectly manifested here. As long as I feel I’m okay, to hell with everyone else.

    Zatara also assured Twitter that: This doesn’t seem remotely satirical, it seems like he’s expressing his personal views.

    Actually the paragraph where newspapers try to scare Sedaris into being afraid of Covid would have cued anybody that it was a satirical piece: ‘Yes, the papers would say, but what if there is a powerful surge this summer? This Christmas? A year from now? What if our next pandemic is worse than this one? What if it kills all the fish and cattle and poultry and affects our skin’s reaction to sunlight? What if it forces everyone to live underground and subsist on earthworms?’

    But Zatara the Magician belongs to the humorless crowd of woke moral crusaders who is in the business of building the Inquisitorial States of America. His Twitter self-description suggests that this person is a committed identitarian: Intersex/trans identified. Feminist! Leftist. Mainer. I support Yemen. Independent. Former organizer. Activist. Disabled. Fed up! I would hazard to guess that he’s a shrewd identitarian too, because he supports Yemen but not Syria or Palestine. An identitarian with a healthy sense of self-preservation who has no intention of risking cancellation.

    1. lambert strether

      I really like(d) Sedaris; I thought his essays on moving to France and about his odd family were very funny and, in their way, moving.

      So I am very familiar with Sedaris’s tone and his approach to subject matter, and this text is a fine example of Sedaris writing like he really means it.

      If you want to refute this, you can’t do so by shooting the messenger who called out the (perceived) problem. However, a counter-example should be very easy to find, even with search the way it is. Do consider it!

  24. Lunker Walleye

    Rouen Cathedral: While enlarging the luminous image to see all the brush strokes, the cathedral took on the appearance of a needle-punched rug. The patience required for completing such a canvas is mind-blowing. Looking at the Hassam, one sees another type of focus and persistence in the rendering of the people and buildings. Such vision and talent!

  25. Pat

    And he promised he would not run as a ‘spoiler’: ‘If I get in a race, I’m going to win,’ he said.

    My first thought was I hope the interviewer burst out laughing. Or at the very least followed up with: “that means test would keep you out of the Senate race for re-election, much less the Presidential race, so why are you here again?”

    But the goddess doesn’t love me that much.

    1. lambert strether

      It’s been in the first para, “Resources,” under “#COVID19” for awhile

  26. The Rev Kev

    “The new secession”

    Not hard to work out why and it is not limited to just the US. When the political parties of a country ignore the bulk of their population but continue to sell them out to a wealthy elite, there comes a point where people will stop owing loyalty to that country. No, change that. They will stop owing loyalty to the State. Big difference. They may be still loyal and patriotic about their country but not the institutions and leaders that make up the State of that country. So using the US as an example, people may feel loyal to where they grew up and to their friends and family, they may no longer feel loyalty to institutions like Congress or the Supreme Court and the numbers show this to be happening. That does not make for a strong country that and when put to the test, may prove brittle indeed.

    1. SocalJimObjects

      I am not very optimistic. Oscar Wilde said that patriotism is the virtue of the vicious. Sure people don’t trust Congress in America, but the important point is that they trust the CCP or whoever happens to be the enemy of the day even less, so their “patriotism” or what have you in the end will become just another avenue of exploitation by the elites, so the later then gets to kill two birds with one stone in the best case as in they get to defeat the “enemy” while at the same time expending the lives of the very people who might challenge their rule at home.

      What’s always been lacking in this world is the courage to do the right thing. There’s the one percent or even the 0.01% but people who dare to do the right thing might only make up 0.000001% of the population.

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