2:00PM Water Cooler 7/7/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Dear patient readers,

We’ve noticed a drop-off in comments during our unheard-of-ly weird spell of moderation issues. Please comment as normal. Be assured that we have thrown extra capacity at the problem (i.e., Yves and myself) in addition to our moderation team, and that although your comment may not immediately appear, it will not languish. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, Cherokee Creek at the Little Snake River, Moffat, Colorado, United States. “Two cuts of calls from a pair of birds in sparse juniper forest, the single calls mostly given while perched, and the series of calls mostly given in flight.” I chose this variant to honor P.G. Wodehouse, who I have begun to reread, as a palate cleanser. (Jeeves and Bertie are great, but I think the Blandings Castle series is peak Wodehouse.)

* * *


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

Biden Administration

“White House cocaine was found near the Situation Room and NOT in the West Wing visitor entrance: Drug story changes for the SECOND time as Secret Service now says dime bag was found in a more ‘secure’ location” [Daily Mail]. Well, I should hope so! “Originally, dispatchers sent to the White House on Sunday to investigate the substance said it was found in the library. Then it was reported to be in the West Wing lobby. Now it’s reported to be a floor below the lobby, in an area used by staff, officials, visitors and VIPs.” • Hmm.

“Experts baffled by White House invoking Hatch Act to dodge Hunter cocaine question: ‘ridiculous'” [FOX]. “The culprit behind the White House’s July snowstorm has yet to be found.” lol. More: “[White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates] invoked the Hatch Act — legislation that prohibits federal employees from talking about or using federal resources for campaign purposes — to dodge the question on former President Trump’s claim that the Colombian bam-bam belonged to the president or his son…. Former Bush administration ethics chief Richard Painter, who ran for Congress as a Democrat last cycle, told Fox News Digital that he has ‘given lectures at the White House’ and published articles on the Hatch Act, but the bill ‘does not cover snorting cocaine.'”


Time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“May Trump Soon Reach His Waterloo” [Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal]. “If you frequently have a screen on, your impression this summer is that all the hungry things are coming closer in. The sharks are coming closer to shore, the beaches suddenly closed. Bears have been coming in closer for years, deer too. Alligators are advancing onto the golf course and creeping out of the pond.” That’s the lead, which I could really file under Zeitgeist Watch. Leads like that are why I am a Nooners fan. More.: “This weekend at a party, one of Mr. Trump’s New York supporters, a former officeholder, quickly made his way to me to speak of his hero. He referred to the Abraham Accords and the economy and said: ‘Surely you can admit he was a good president.’ He was all wound up, so I spoke slowly. ‘I will tell you what he is: He is a bad man. I know it, and if I were a less courteous person I would say that you know it, too.’ He was startled, didn’t reply, and literally took a step back. Because, I think, he does know it. But doesn’t ever expect it to be said. A journalist in our cluster said, musingly, ‘That was an excellent example of apophasis,’ the rhetorical device of saying something by saying you’re not going to say it. We all moved on, but that was the authentic sound of a certain political dialogue. ‘Surely you can admit he made France great again.’ ‘He is a bad man.’ Its antecedents stretch back in history. Political cults are never good, often rise, always pass. May it this time come sooner rather than later.” • Hmm. Must a President be “a good man”? If Men were angels….

“Trump nearly doubles fundraising in second quarter amid mounting legal challenges” [ABC]. “Former President Donald Trump’s joint fundraising team raked in more than $35 million between March and June of this year, a campaign spokesperson told ABC News. The second quarter haul is nearly double Team Trump’s first quarter total of $18.8 million from earlier this year, a sign that the former president’s fundraising operation is ramping up amid his mounting legal challenges… The Bedminster fundraiser brought him more than $2 million in donations, and in less than a week, the Trump campaign raised $7 million from the federal indictment. Similarly, Trump’s team raised $7 million within three days of the news of his Manhattan indictment dropping.”

“DeSantis raises $20M in second quarter” [The Hill]. “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) presidential campaign raised $20 million during the second quarter of 2023. The campaign said in a release that the total, brought in during the first six weeks that DeSantis has been in the race, is the largest first-quarter filing from a non-incumbent Republican candidate in more than a decade.”

* * *

“Chris Christie knows how to work with Democrats. It might be a liability.” [Politico]. “In both of his presidential campaign launches — this year and in 2016 — Christie has emphasized his bipartisan bona fides as an asset compared to Donald Trump and a field of candidates crowded with governors accustomed to dealing with compliant GOP legislatures. There’s just one problem: there’s little evidence GOP primary voters care that the former New Jersey governor can work across the aisle with Democrats.” And: “In his eight years as the Republican governor of New Jersey, Christie often worked closely with the Democratic-led Legislature to pass some of the most consequential policies of recent memory. He capped property tax increases; eliminated the estate tax; scaled back public employee health and pension benefits; realigned the higher education system; overhauled the troubled police department in one of the most dangerous cities in America; and renewed New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund to support long-term infrastructure projects.” • Hey, maybe Christie’s the guy to bring the Grand Bargain over the finish line!

“Most of $60M in Youngkin’s learning recovery grants went to to higher income households” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]. “Originally announced as a $30 million initiative, the fund was doubled to $60 million to meet demand, Youngkin announced Thursday. Less than a quarter of the families who received a grant were eligible for the larger grant that was given to students whose family income does not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level. For a family of three, that threshold is $74,580. Of those, 8,247 students qualified for the $3,000 grant that was available to families whose income does not exceed 300% of the federal poverty limit. But more than three quarters of the students — 26,403 — received the $1,500 grant, which was available to families whose income exceeds the threshold.”

* * *

“Biden’s bargain-basement campaign strategy” [Politico]. “Joe Biden is running his reelection bid on the cheap. The president has hired fewer than 20 campaign aides. His team hasn’t yet announced a 2024 headquarters. His first political rally this year was paid for by other organizations. … ‘Right now, we have a fine-tuned race car here. At some point, we will build out a big, substantial, competitive organization and enterprise,’ [Biden campaign co-chair Jeffrey Katzenberg said’ said. ‘We don’t need to do that today. It literally would be a waste of money.’ Biden’s approach, while designed to save money, carries the risk of keeping his approval ratings at the low level where they are today. It also could limit his ability to better define the contours of the campaign at a time when the Republican field is bludgeoning each other in their own primary…. Biden’s campaign and pro-Biden super PACs have spent $7.5 million on broadcast, cable and digital ads since he launched his reelection bid, according to an analysis by the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. GOP frontrunner and former President Donald Trump’s campaign and an outside group backing him have spent $16.4 million in the same time period, with the vast majority of that outlay coming from his super PAC. There are lots of potential reasons for Biden’s thriftiness. As the incumbent president, he doesn’t need to chase headlines. Because he doesn’t have a serious primary opponent, he’s not under pressure to hit the gas yet in early-voting states, either. And like previous presidents who have run for reelection, he can travel to critical battlegrounds on the taxpayer dime.”

“Why Americans aren’t giving Biden credit on improving economy, according to experts” [ABC]. “‘There’s been this unprecedented gap between what the data shows us is going on in the economy and what people think is going on in the economy,’ Heidi Shierholz, president of the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, told ABC News…. One major reason why voters may not be giving Biden credit, economists said, is that inflation is still uncomfortably high and wages have only just started to keep up with price hikes. Powell said last week the target inflation rate of 2% is not expected to be reached until 2025, and more interest rate hikes could be in store to bring that data point down.”

* * *

“Electoral College Ratings: Expect Another Highly Competitive Election” [Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “For the purposes of these ratings, we are considering a rematch of the 2020 election — Joe Biden versus Donald Trump — as the likeliest matchup, but not one that is set in stone. Despite a multitude of weaknesses, such as an approval rating in just the low 40s and widespread concern about his age and ability to do the job, Biden does not have credible opposition within his own party, drawing only fringe challengers Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson [and Cornel West (!)]. It may be that Biden could or should have drawn a stronger challenger, and maybe something happens that entices that kind of challenger into the race. But as of now, Biden appears to be on course to renomination. Trump faces legitimate legal problems, specifically following his recent indictment over serious allegations that he improperly retained highly sensitive government documents. However, we would never presume an actual guilty verdict in this or another case until it actually happens — nor are we even sure a guilty verdict would prevent Trump’s renomination. It may be that the weight of Trump’s problems gradually reduces his level of support over the course of this calendar year leading into next year’s primaries, allowing a rival to consolidate the non-Trump portion of the party and really push him in the primaries. Or maybe Trump is compelled to take some sort of plea deal that involves him leaving the race. Those caveats aside, we see a party that is still broadly comfortable with Trump as its nominee. Until that changes, he’s the favorite.” • Let the maps begin!

Republican Funhouse

“The new power couple taking on Wall Street: J.D. Vance and Elizabeth Warren” [Politico]. “Sen. J.D. Vance — the Trump-backing former venture capitalist — is trying to lead Republicans in a new cause: cracking down on big banks. Following a Senate campaign in which he pledged to prioritize rural America over titans of industry, the Ohio lawmaker is using a seat on the Banking Committee to flex his populist bona fides, teaming up with Democrats including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Dick Durbin of Illinois on bills that the industry’s biggest players despise — while championing legislation that protects smaller banks. He’s taking a lead role in advancing bipartisan proposals that would penalize bank executives when their companies fail, make it harder for giant lenders to get bigger by acquiring other banks and rein in credit card fees. Along the way, he’s had some success in recruiting fellow Republicans to the cause — creating fresh headaches for big bank lobbyists, who are gearing up to fight the Vance-backed policies. Warren, who enlisted Vance to build GOP support for a bill to claw back compensation from executives of failed banks, said he’s been “terrific to work with.”

“Freedom Caucus members voted to oust Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. It’s unclear if it worked.” [NBC]. “Nearly two weeks ago, members of the House Freedom Caucus took a vote to oust Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., from the ultraconservative group. It’s still unclear whether that vote was successful. Since the June 23 Freedom Caucus meeting, Chairman Scott Perry, R-Pa., and Greene have had multiple conversations. But a Republican source familiar with the conversations said Perry has not directly notified Greene that she has been kicked out of the caucus…. The caucus voted on Greene, who goes by the nickname MTG, after some of her conservative colleagues had grown furious over her support for the successful bid by Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for speaker and his debt ceiling deal with President Joe Biden. But the final straw may have been her clash last month with Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., whom she called a ‘little b—-‘ on the House floor.”

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.

* * *

DiFi blazing the trail for the younger generation:

“How Mayor Adams Took a U-Turn on McGuinness Boulevard Redesign” [The City]. Leaving aside the details, here is the key paragraph: “Most of the staffers were told to leave the call, while the mayor and a handful of top officials remained. After that meeting was over, staffers were told the city had to work to come up with a ‘compromise proposal.'” • As we saw yesterday, Adams’ staff really doesn’t like him.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Nonreligious Americans Are The New Abortion Voters” [FiveThirtyEight]. • Handy chart:

Nonreligious Americans Are The New Abortion Voters


“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!

* * *


Honestly, I’m starting to think that our only solution will be some sort of enormous spiritual awakening:

No teachings of any major religion or any moral philosophy I know of would approve of that nurse’s question, or the logic that led them to ask it. It’s shocking.

At last, we can see people’s hands again:

Covid is Airborne

“Effects of Corsi-Rosenthal boxes on indoor air contaminants: non-targeted analysis using high resolution mass spectrometry” [Nature]. From the Abstract: “Using a natural experiment, we sampled indoor air before and during installation of CR boxes in 17 rooms inside an occupied office building. We measured VOCs and SVOCs using gas chromatography (GC) high resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) with electron ionization (EI) and liquid chromatography (LC) HRMS in negative and positive electrospray ionization (ESI). We examined area count changes during vs. before operation of the CR boxes using linear mixed models… We used [non-targeted and suspect screening analysis (NTA and SSA] to demonstrate that do-it-yourself Corsi-Rosenthal boxes are an effective means for improving indoor air quality by reducing a wide range of volatile and semi-volatile organic contaminants.”

Testing and Tracking

“Evolution of the Pulse Ox” (PDF) [Chest]. “We are also excited to announce that the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has recently released a Small Business Innovation Research proposal (PHS2023-1 NIH/NHLBI Topic 114). The Small Business Innovation Research offers two phases of funding to develop a novel pulse oximeter for patients at risk of desaturation, including those recovered from COVID19. It must be wireless and motion insensitive, and must interface with mobile devices to make userfriendly data available during exercise, activities of daily living, or sleep. This will help decrease barriers of access to pulse oximeter information by allowing continuous, at-home, and unsupervised monitoring. The proposal also stresses the importance of subject diversity in measurements to avoid systematic error in individuals with darker skin tones.” • This is great. I could also file this under “Look for the Helpers!”


Just to hammer on airline travel once more, requoting Taleb from Links last week:

Systemic Risk of Pandemic via Novel Pathogens – Coronavirus: A Note (PDF) Joseph Norman, Yaneer Bar-Yam, Nassim Nicholas Taleb. From 2020, explicated here at NC, still highly germane. “It will cost something to reduce mobility in the short term, but to fail do so will eventually cost everything—if not from this event, then one in the future.”

Truer words–

“Dispersal patterns and influence of air travel during the global expansion of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern” [Cell]. The Highlights:

  • Global phylogenetic analysis reveals dispersal of VOCs along worldwide flight network
  • Omicron spread to five times more countries within 100 days of emergence than other VOCs
  • Delta and Omicron dispersed from secondary hubs during times of accelerating air travel
  • Highly connected countries were major global and regional exporters of VOCs

Handy maps:

See also “COVID-19 and Class in the United States” [Naked Capitalism] and “How the Virus Won” [New York Times]. The following is not about Covid per se, but is relevant to airline handling of biohazards generally–

“Airline passenger finds plane floor soaked in blood” [CNN]. “But what [Habib Battah] did notice beneath the cat carriers was a wet stain on the floor – about 20 inches long and wide, he says. He flagged down a passing flight attendant. ‘I said it smells like merde – s**t. She handed me wet wipes. I started wiping and it was red – blood red. And it kept coming up red. I was like, ‘What the hell is this?’ I just wanted to see what it was. After a while, one of the flight attendants said, ‘You’d better go wash your hands, and here are some gloves.” As Battah was cleaning, the flight attendant had passed the message on to her coworkers, and the captain was radioing Paris, asking what on earth was the blood red stain under seats 30A and 30B. The news came back from Air France HQ: it was human blood. The day before, on a Paris -Boston flight, a male passenger had suffered what Battah says the crew called a ‘hemorrhage.’ [Why? ‘Tis a mystery!] The passenger had survived, and the captain of that flight had requested that the area be cleaned for the aircraft’s next flight back to Paris – but seemingly the cleaners had forgotten about the floor.” Oh. Also: “In fact, the diarrhea may have been more hazardous than the blood. [Dr Richard Dawood, specialist in travel medicine at London’s Fleet Street Clinic] says that cleaning diarrhea without disinfecting it – as Battah ended up doing in the galley, near the food preparation area – can ‘aerosolize’ its particles.” • Oh, swell. (There’s a homily on hand-washing in the piece, but nothing on aerosols.) Good thing it wasn’t ebola….


Superspreading events at outdoor concerts:

For example:

“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.

* * *

Anecdotal data, but lots of it:

Minimizers always point to something you can see, that’s immediate, like school closing. They never point to anything you cannot see, and is long-term; like brain damage in children.

Elite Maleficence

“Got COVID from a loved one who was at work? Their employer owes you nothing, California court rules” [CalMatters (cinta)]. “A Bay Area woodworking employee caught COVID on the job and brought it home during the height of the pandemic. His wife contracted the illness and her symptoms were severe – at one point, she needed a respirator to breathe. But she cannot claim workers’ compensation injuries from the infection, the California Supreme Court ruled today in answer to questions from a federal appellate court, because while doing so would be a moral good, that good is outweighed by the potential flood of litigation that would force businesses to close, tie up courts and send commercial insurance rates skyrocketing. ‘Recognizing a duty of care to nonemployees in this context would impose an intolerable burden on employers and society in contravention of public policy,’ associate justice Carol Corrigan wrote in the ruling. ‘These and other policy considerations lead us to conclude that employers do not owe a tort-based duty to nonemployees to prevent the spread of COVID-19.’ It was the second major loss for California employees seeking compensation for COVID infections passed to family members. Last year, a longtime employee of See’s Candies lost a workers’ comp claim after she contracted COVID and passed it to her husband, who died. Workers’ comp is inherently a bargain, Corrigan wrote in a unanimous opinion: Employees get some guarantee that they’ll be paid in the event of an injury suffered on the job, no matter whether they were at fault, and employers get to limit the amount and extent of that compensation.” • tl;dr: Bad for business.

* * *

Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, June 29:

Lambert here: Slight uptrend, confirmed by airport wastewater (and local wastewater samples in California). Absent a new variant to race though the dry tinder, I don’t see an oncoming debacle even with July 4 travel. But plenty of people will still get sick (again).=


From CDC, July 8:

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 1:

NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. 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.


NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, July 5:

5.7%. Big jump, though the absolute numbers are still very small relative to June 2022, say.

From CDC, June 19:

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, June 28:

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: 1,168,485 – 1,168,414 = 71 (71 * 365 = 25,915 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).

• “The pandemic’s true death toll” [The Economist]. “These data make clear that covid-19 has led to the deaths of far more people than official statistics suggest (see our briefing). Measured by excess deaths as a share of population, many of the world’s hardest-hit countries are in Latin America. Although Russia’s official death tally suggests that it has protected its citizens tolerably well, its numbers on total mortality imply that it has in fact been hit quite hard by covid-19. Similarly, we estimate that India’s death toll is actually in the millions, rather than the hundreds of thousands. At the other end of the table, a handful of countries have actually had fewer people die during the pandemic than in previous years. Although excess-deaths statistics are the most comprehensive measure of the human cost of covid-19, they are only loosely tied to the number of people who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2. Because the virus is so much deadlier for older people than it is among the young, death tolls are heavily influenced by the age structure of a country’s population. ” • Yikes:

Excess Deaths

Excess deaths (The Economist), July 7:

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

Employment Situation: “United States Unemployment Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The unemployment rate in the US decreased slightly to 3.6 percent in June 2023, which is lower than May’s seven-month high of 3.7 percent and in line with market expectations. The jobless rate has fluctuated between 3.4 percent and 3.7 percent since March 2022, indicating a consistently tight labor market and allowing the Federal Reserve the flexibility to continue raising interest rates as a means to combat inflation.”

* * *

Tech: “Twitter Star Journos ‘Cautiously’ Move Over to Threads” [Daily Beast]. “It’s an aspect of social media that other journalists have to adopt and expand upon in order to survive in a competitive field, said Taylor Lorenz, a tech columnist for The Washington Post. In her coverage of the content creation space, Lorenz (roughly 349,000 Twitter followers, 46,300 Threads followers) has been an early adopter of various Twitter alternatives since Musk’s acquisition of the platform last November. She said the death of Vine (ironically, a Twitter-owned app) in 2017 forced her subjects, including YouTube superstars MrBeast and Logan Paul, to learn to diversify their audiences—a lesson reporters could benefit from. ‘Journalists have been so overly dependent on Twitter,’ Lorenz said. ‘That’s been a nuke liability for them for a long time. The death of Twitter is teaching journalists that you have to diversify your audience. You have to have a way to reach your readers directly, just being a little more out there on social platforms and not putting your eggs in one basket.’ Lorenz, as have other journalists who spoke to The Daily Beast, said she does not regret the amount of time and energy she’s devoted to Twitter. The platform allowed her to engage directly with her audience, helping shape story angles and identify new sources she otherwise wouldn’t have found. But even before and during Musk’s ownership, Twitter’s standing as an online watering hole has since been diminished, she said. ‘I really do feel like Twitter has sort of abdicated its role as the town square of the internet,’ Lorenz said. ‘It’s just not that anymore, and I think we’re sort of figuring out where the next place is.'” • Wholesale censorship by the organs of state security isn’t the first thing I think of when I hear the word “town square.”

Tech: “You can’t post a**, Threads is doomed” [TechCrunch]. “In the 24 hours since it launched, Threads has doomed itself to being a vanilla platform where brands can thrive, but shitposting flounders. It’ll never be a true Twitter rival with such uptight moderation and no guarantee of anonymity. Threads, like Facebook, is for users who probably wouldn’t have used Twitter anyway.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 81 Extreme Greed (previous close: 78 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 83 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 7 at 1:35 PM ET.

Book Nook

“Where be your jibes now?” [London Review of Books]. “As I read, I thought Wallace must have been taken by something very simple, the smallest sensual fact: that as an IRS worker you are issued a new social security number, in essence a new identity, a chance to start over. The old number, the old life, ‘simply disappeared, from an identification standpoint’. A whole novel could take flesh from that fact, one about the idea of bureaucratic identity as opposed to individual identity: memories, mothers, sideburn phases, the way we see ourselves. That we are, at our core, a person; in the bed of our family, a name; and out in the world, a number. Of course, as so often with Wallace, on actual investigation this turns out not to be true. The fact withdraws itself, and only the epiphany remains. Why did he turn to it? Because it was impossible, probably – just as Infinite Jest had been to him fifteen years earlier. And when he took on the impossible book, something sometimes happened to him: a run, a state of flow, a pure streak. As those who are prone to them know, these simulate real living, which we are somehow barred from otherwise. ‘I’m deep into something long,’ he wrote to Pietsch in 2006, ‘and it’s hard for me to get back into it when I’m pulled away.’ He developed a habit of not leaving the house, in case he might write that day. ‘Once when I pressed him,’ Pietsch said, ‘he described working on the new novel as like wrestling sheets of balsa wood in a high wind.’ As he writes in one of his most typically tall-tale essays, ‘Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley’, he was, as a ‘near-great’ junior tennis player, at his very best in bad conditions. In fiction, he creates them; he serves himself sleet, hail, sun in the eye, all for the chance to play through them.” • I did read Infinite Jest; terriffic portrait of Boston AA. But….

Zeitgeist Watch

“The Strange, Contagious History of Bulimia” [New York Magazine]. From 2017, still germane. “Riding the train home later that afternoon, I mull over the mechanisms that allow unique people to share universal expressions and similar empathetic responses to one another. Automatic attunement guides us to unintentional mirroring of thoughts, behaviors, and feelings, phenomana that share a language perceptible on a level of the invisible, unknowable unconscious. I consider the findings of Brenner-Liss, who like others, trusts that awareness is a vessel for treatment and cure. Yet, as Russell and Baker discovered, awareness will exacerbate a social contagion event, the same way that spreading knowledge about bulimia helped to triple the frequency of new cases in 10-to-39-year-old women between the late eighties and early nineties. The rate dipped a bit as treatment caught up with the illness, but the number rose steeply again in 1992, shortly after Princess Diana publicly disclosed her battle with bulimia. Her revelation brought tremendous awareness to the condition. It corresponded both with an uptick in people seeking treatment for the first time, as well as an explosion of new cases as the strange contagion spread farther than ever. There’s no easy answer here, unfortunately. Stopping a social contagion sometimes means using tools of remission and transmission, exploiting a cure that also spreads the disease. Ultimately, it’s a numbers game: save some, lose others, and hope against hope that in the end we come out ahead.” • “Social contagion” is real. Worth reading in full.

Class Warfare

“The MTV generation’s unemployment problem” [Politico]. “Workers born between 1964 and 1980 — those currently aged 44 to 59 — represent ‘effectively all of the increase’ in America’s unemployed population over the last half year, according to research by Glassdoor’s Chief Economist Aaron Terrazas. As of May, those workers represented roughly a quarter of those unemployed, compared to less than 20 percent in late 2022. And it’s taking those workers much longer to find new jobs. ‘I worry about Gen Xers who were laid off and have either voluntarily or involuntarily taken a long time to find new jobs,’ Terrazas, a former Treasury official, said in an interview. ‘Maybe that’s because they have cushions where they can afford the luxury of finding a good match. Maybe it’s because they’re just not finding good matches.'”

News of the Wired

“Protesters are disabling robotaxis with traffic cones” [Metro UK]. “A group of activists in San Francisco have been disabling driverless taxis by placing traffic cones on their hoods. The group, which calls itself the ‘Week of Cone’, is protesting the spread of robotaxi services in the city. What started with a now-viral prank on Twitter and TikTok has gained support among residents who are sick of the vehicles malfunctioning and blocking traffic. The group’s method of turning off the robotaxis is simple. They place a traffic cone on the vehicle’s hood, which triggers the car’s sensors to think there is an obstacle. The car then stops and refuses to move until the cone is removed.”

* * *

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 MG:

MG writes: “Staying at my sister’s place in the foothills of the Sierras outside Sacramento. Rainy and sunny by turns.”

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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. Carolinian

    Re Noonan–this is the person who made a name for herself working for Ronald Reagan. Moral compass a bit unreliable?

    However the quote does succinctly summarize the media case against Trump. He’s bad. ‘Nuff said.

    1. pjay

      So much about Noonan and the world she represents packed into this one passage quoted by Lambert! Yes, Reagan and the Bushes were ok. They may have killed and tortured some folks (well, a lot of folks), but there’s “bad” and then there’s *bad*, after all. For Nooners, the Republicans started going South when, if I remember correctly, they started openly courting the deplorables by choosing Palin as VP candidate. Then with Trump, all hell broke loose. Her defense of civilization won her the praise of the Establishment – and a Pulitzer Prize, which I’m sure was just coincidental.

      It’s funny. When I started reading “This weekend at a party, one of Mr. Trump’s New York supporters…” I thought: “Trump still has New York supporters?” But then I read on. A “former office holder” who praised Trump for the Abraham Accords and the economy. Of course, a rich Jewish Zionist – the constituency responsible for Trump’s *worst* policy decisions. At least that’s the only type of constituent I could think of that would be at a party with Peggy Noonan.

      I’m sorry Lambert. I understand what you admire about her. I like her writing too when she’s cutting someone I hate. But I’m definitely not a Noonan fan. “All the hungry things” that are “coming closer in” are the ignorant and hateful masses that support the likes of a Palin or a Trump, The fear of elites everywhere, Republican or Democrat. For me, she’s part of the problem.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I’m sorry Lambert. I understand what you admire about her. I like her writing too when she’s cutting someone I hate. But I’m definitely not a Noonan fan.

        I admire Noonan’s writing (that’s why people here keep quoting it :-). She personally I regard as a sort of sacred monster. A if I had a very old, slow moving crocodile in my backyard, smiling, and mostly sunning itself these days. Excellent in its crocodile-dom but still, as people point out, a crocodile.

      1. nippersdad

        If there was ever anyone that exulted in being in the Reagan cult, it was Noonan, herself.

        Maybe now that Elliott Abrams is going to be in town for a while they can have an old home week.

          1. Pat

            I often tell people a good portion of my antipathy towards Obama stems from the fact that his administration made me nostalgic for the Nixon years. As in I would have traded them for that in a heartbeat, and I hated the Nixon years.
            That Biden could make the Reaganites appear sensible, realistic and well intentioned by comparison is almost to be expected. Without a massive shake up at this rate the next Democrat could easily polish the turd of the Bush/Cheney years to a fine and lustrous shine.
            But corrupt, incompetent fantasists are bipartisan in our now one party system so it might not have to wait for a Democratic administration.

      2. Carolinian

        Relative to an “actions speak louder than (Noonan’s) words” compass. What about all the dead Iranians if one thinks he had collaborators on domestic policy..

        True I’m being moralistic myself but commenters get a pass?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > What about all the dead Iranians if one thinks he had collaborators on domestic policy..

          Well, what about the million dead from Covid under the previous two administrations?

    2. nippersdad


      “I first saw President Reagan as a foot, highly polished brown cordovan wagging merrily on a hassock. I spied it through the door. It was a beautiful foot, sleek. Such casual elegance and clean lines! But not a big foot, not formidable, maybe a little …frail. I imagined cradling it in my arms, protecting it from unsmooth roads….”

      Peggy Noonan, speechwriter for the Reagan administration


      1. LifelongLib

        Well, I saw his arm waving out the window of his limo when he was going down the freeway from his hotel to the Honolulu airport. IIRC a bunch of us gathered on an overpass when we heard his entourage was coming. Thinking back I’m surprised security didn’t keep us out of there.

    3. Henry Moon Pie

      Noonan is a fine writer, but her understanding of humans’ place in the universe sucks. It’s actually the people who have been moving closer to the bears and alligators, not vice versa. As for the sharks, maybe overfishing along with the heating and acidification of the oceans have already reduced the shark’s food supply to the extent that we foul-tasting humans are looking palatable.

    4. skippy

      Every time I see or hear her name, her phrase, about it being – irresponsible not to speculate – resonates in my head, especially since the tone she used was authoritative. Basically anyone dissatisfied with their plight after neoliberalism became dominate, wages, increased out flows due to pay to play et al, forced to accept lower quality everything – health/education etc, was self inflicted for not joining the smart[tm] people investing in the stock markets and absentee RE.

      Even after the GFC FFS ….

      She is not the only one, tis a long list, yet, none have ever presented a mea culpa …

    5. Acacia

      Defining Trump as the locus of all USian problems is the mark of a small, tired, feeble mind.

      I won’t miss Noonan. Not at all.

  2. Darthbobber

    Christie certainly knew well how to work with the bosses of the NJ Democratic party. Unsurprisingly, purely transactional deals worked quite well.

  3. LawnDart

    (Almost) Daily Derailment(s):

    No new news but this:

    Railroad industry sues to block limit on crew sizes that Ohio imposed after East Palestine derailment

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — The railroad industry has sued to block a new minimum crew-size requirement that Ohio imposed after a fiery train derailment in East Palestine in February.

    The new rule was part of a $13.5 billion state transportation budget that Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed in March. It mandated a two-person crew for freight trains and required that the wayside detectors used to help spot problems be installed in shorter intervals of 10 to 15 miles (16 to 24 kilometers) apart, with oversight from the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, among other provisions.


    1. The Rev Kev

      I’m willing to bet that people would be willing this sleazy self-enrichment, so long as stuff got done. Look at those old Ward bosses of the 19th century. Corrupt as hell but in doing so for votes, they helped new immigrant newcomers, got jobs for people, had the pavements built of concrete, etc. Stuff got done that was of material benefit to people. But the present lot are corrupt and will never not only do nothing for the little people but will actively seek to degrade their lives even further.

  4. griffen

    Shall we update the drinking games from instead of a shot (and chaser, if desired) to instead be a purported bump of something powerful, substances typically conveyed from foreign countries and weighed in kilos? I am asking for a friend, of course !

    The 2023 drinking game has been more or less, predicated on key phrasings from the leading lights of this current Administration. One’s list may expand further, but it is a starter kit.
    “our Democracy”
    “Access to abc or xyz or 1234”
    “We must save Ukraine and send billions”
    “our great economy”
    “America is back”

    1. LawnDart

      We’d drain Columbia dry in a fortnight, but for the fact there ain’t enough Mexicans to carry that amount of sh… stuff.

      Can we add “no comment” and “I’ve already answered the question, let’s move on” to the list?

    2. chris

      I would add…

      “I’m proud of my son”
      “Do you want Putin to win?”
      “Why do you want Trump to win?”
      “We need to fight disinformation”
      “What is a (insert: woman/man/penguin)?”
      “Complicated history…(insert: with National iconography, the truth, raising interest rates, bailouts, etc.)”
      “Why do you support hatespeech?”
      “When did (insert: Joe Rogan, Matt Taibbi, RFK Jr., Cornell West) become right-wing?”

      And who could forget, “dog faced pony soldier”?

  5. Michael Fiorillo

    Regarding Chris Christie’s “reaching across the aisle” to work with Democrats, worthy of mention is his privatization crusade against the public schools and the expansion of charters. In that he was most notably aided by then-Mayor of Newark, Cory Booker.

    Two complementary specimens of political rot …

    1. Pat

      Hey, let’s not forget the Bridgegate group were working for Christie. Nor that he jettisoned a federal expansion of the Lincoln Tunnel but not until after he grabbed the initial monies and used it to fix bridges that should have been NJ’s responsibility. That tunnel work now being done and costing more.

    2. cnchal

      Christie’s role is biting Trump’s ass.

      I have heard Christie say Biden was not fit to run because ‘endurance and couldn’t handle the pace’ and my first thought was, well that rules you out too.

  6. Louiedog14

    Must a President be “a good man”

    Well, clearly not. In my lifetime, there’s only Jimmy Carter who could even hope to qualify.

    Elsewhere, I love the traffic cones on the robo taxis ideas and wonder if we could use this tactic. on our current crop of Prez candidates. Put the cone in front of :

    Biden- he’d trip over it
    Trump- would spend months suing it and insulting it
    DeSantis – would spend months trying to ban it because it’s one of the Pride flag colors
    Pence-would drop out of the race once he realized the cone had more charisma than he does
    RFK – would go on a debating tour with it
    Williamson- wouldn’t be satisfied until she knew how the cone felt about being a cone
    West- endlessly confused re: Brother Cone/Sister Cone
    Kamala – would have….er…relations with it

    1. Carolinian

      Jimmy wasn’t a good man either–at least not as president. Perhaps one case for Trump is that he’s more open about his flamboyant bad boy image while, ironically, being attacked constantly as some kind of secret agent. He is after all the naked id. My case for Trump (or anyone) would be that he’s not Biden.

      1. John

        In 2020 the not Trump vote won. Where would a repeat leave us? My solution none of the above or reverting to a 1956 fringe candidate, Pogo. I once had an “I Go Pogo” button. Would that I had it still? Who’s Pogo you ask? The Internet will reveal all.

      2. Henry Moon Pie

        “Who said life is fair?”

        Jimmy Carter in 1977 in response to a press conference question about the unfairness of the Hyde Amendment to poor women.

        1. Alex Cox

          When Jimmy Carter was Governor he urged citizens to drive with their headlights on, to show support of Lieutenant Calley. As President he started the terrorist Contra war against Nicaraguan peasants, and – at the behest of his BF, Brezinski – financed the creation of the mujehedeen in Afghanistan. His subsequent “good works” and apologias do not excuse this horrid man in any way.

  7. Michael Hudson

    I think that there’s a very plausible explanation for why the white powder was found in the situation room. How else are the planners to understand the mood in which Zelinsky is thinking? I hope it gave them some understanding of the mental and psychological dynamics at play. Otherwise, how could they even imagine, much less explain …?

    1. chris

      I am here for the biblical levels of shade being cast by you sir!

      Might I enquire what drugs are necessary for us mere mortals to understand the state of mind governing the captured economists you regularly discuss? I’m afraid as an engineer I missed out on all those parties. I don’t know how to get high enough to grasp why they think everything is going so well lately…

    2. britzklieg

      Absolutely… to understand a cokehead one needs be a cokehead oneself… it’s homeopathic!

      And sadly I know this from experience.

      It wasn’t a good one…

      1. tegnost

        no such a thing as microdosing cocaine…
        It’s like that potato chip slogan about eating just one.

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      I guess there was a meeting between Biden Jr. and representatives from the CIA to test how the latest delivery was cut before it goes out to the streets. A little too much sampling of product and someone forgot to grab the sample bag before they left the meeting. Later they were probably frantically calling around trying to locate the rest of the sample bag. Word to the wise — never use the stuff you sell. /s

      Alas! Does no one have a reasonable theory? even inside baseball to report?

      1. Paradan

        Since the Taliban shut down their heroin trade they were probably checking out new suppliers. Actually I’m kinda glad they’re going back to cocaine, should be less overdoses, and to be honest, I think Hollywood just makes better movies during the cocaine half of the CIA drug cycle.

    4. Michael Fiorillo

      Getting high on your own supply, literally and figuratively.

      I guess you gotta be really jacked on high-quality coke and your own meritocratic awesomeness, or something, to take on Russia.

    5. The Rev Kev

      A former Secret Service agent from Obama’s detail was explaining that everybody that goes into the White House gets searched because you never know if some staffer will go nuts. He then said that the only people that gets a waiver on these procedures are the President and his family. Hmmmm. And everybody in DC, especially the media pool. I use to think that they were giving old Joe all sorts of meds to keep him going in meetings and press conferences but perhaps it was just some white powder after all (sniff, sniff).

    6. ambrit

      I worked for a cokehead once in the long ago. It was a very frustrating experience. After a while, cokeheads become seriously paranoid. They then begin to make (more) stupid decisions. Eventually they collapse into aberrant behavior.
      It ends up like living by rules based upon the “Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz.”
      However, our leaders are not true Alchemists. They deny the truth of the aphorism: “As above, so below.” They forget true philosophy and focus on the hunt for mere gold.

    7. skippy

      Need I remind that it is “The White House” …

      Never the less since Cocaine was refined Elites have been enamored by the substance, Surgeon General extolled its properties early on only to find out the dark side down the road. Been that way ever since aka a Elite drug, per se Vote for Bob Roberts flick where Bob dictates a response to a young girls X-Mass card. Dear Sissy, don’t do crack … its a ghetto drug … next thing you know young Miss young thing sitting on couch in screen shot pops a leak in the nose … oops …

      Anywho – what I really want too know – is the quality of the blow, stomped on how many times gear or supremo purple and pink vein crystal ground only once. This will say a lot about who had it.

      1. Acacia

        Re: quality

        Saw some local drug dealers once… helping themselves to a pile of waste fluorescent tubes… and immediately connected the dots on their interest.

        Maybe it’s not just corona that’s rotted Joe’s brain.

        1. skippy

          Like everything I can only imagine its gotten worse with stuff used to cut psychotropics, made manifold by the number of hands it goes through before being consumed.

  8. LaRuse

    Thanks for featuring that story about the learning loss grants rolled out by Youngkin in Virginia. I actually meant to send in this link earlier this week – another local story about these “grants.”
    First catch. You only get reimbursed – you aren’t handed the cash grant you were “awarded”. That immediately limits these to people that have cash on hand to pay out and later get reimbursed for. Or people who can go into a few grand in credit card debt to “access” these benefits.
    Second catch – only certain tutoring programs or learning tools are accessible and you will be shocked to learn that due to “overwhelming demand” most people aren’t able to connect with these approved tutors before the deadline of August 5.
    It’s such a shambles, you’d almost think it was a Democrat’s plan…

  9. Jeremy Grimm

    As beautiful as today’s plantidote is — the trees do not look like they are especially healthy. That image is frightening. I hope I am wrong about the trees. Around where I live most of the trees other than the pines appear to be doing reasonably well. I suppose the colors here in Fall will tell more.

    1. ambrit

      The plantidote reminds me of the California School of painters from the early Twentieth Century.
      I would provide a link but google is now fully into excremental mode.

  10. chris

    With respect to a drop off in comments, it might be because so much is happening that many are choosing to read and listen and think rather than post. I know that’s where I am. Despite having been around some interesting events lately I’m always glad to listen to others here before I open my mouth.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I second that! Not only is so much happening, but what is happening is growing more and more difficult to make any sense of. Many recent events remain unfathomable. I grow truly puzzled attempting to assess the short and long term consequences of many recent events. It is as if there were a curtain call ordering “send in the clowns” and the clowns have taken full control over the Imperial government. Dark comedy tonight and promised for the future.

      1. mrsyk

        Excellent comment Grimm. The ever increasing amount of crazy in our reality troubles me. I’m no pattern recognition savant, but it sure seems like a sign of terminal stage society or worse.

        1. ambrit

          My fear too. Today, the Elites have unfortunately acquired the means to stage a real ‘Gotterdammerung.’ I wish not to journey to Valhalla after the searing light translates me to the afterlife. Not if it holds the likes of Zelensky, Neuland, Blinken, Sullivan et. al.

    2. britzklieg

      Not to mention that there’s not much left to say. Our perdition is abundant and accelerating. When facts are flagrantly denied and war is Madison Avenue writ large, language itself loses its function and becomes a background noise most try to ignore. But something wicked this way comes…

  11. Bugs

    Covid anecdotal: saw Wisconsin go pink yesterday on the Walgreens map and heard from a friend today that she and four others in Milwaukee are positive and sick. She got Paxlovid quickly and I urged her to get Metformin stat to avoid long Covid.

  12. Lee

    “Why Americans aren’t giving Biden credit on improving economy, according to experts” [ABC].

    Perhaps peoples’ inability to see how wonderful things are is the result of the mood and cognitive disorders resulting from Covid-19 infections. Not only is a wide swathe of the American populace deplorable, we are now more grumpy and stupid than before.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      It is indeed a mystery. The Corona flu is over. Wages are up and our dollars go further than ever. American Industry is booming. Russia will soon be defeated and the EVIL Putin will soon be replaced by a kinder, gentler friend to the u.s. The future is so bright I need sunglasses to just look ahead. I can hardly enumerate all of Biden’s accomplishments on behalf of the Populace. /s

      There is so much Biden and his regime deserves credit for. I hope there might be some way to hang it all around his neck and give him and his coterie the warm and feathery ride out of Washington they all so richly deserve.

  13. chris

    Some fun stuff to share now that I’m dealing with jet lag and withdrawal symptoms from all the Parisienne cuisine we had last week.

    It appears the big difference in cheeses in the US is that we’re not allowed to have raw milk cheeses that have been aged for less than 60 days. They will confiscate them if you try to bring them in from duty free shopping in an airport. They may search your bag if you declare them. This means that most US citizens have never had what the French consider real Brie, or real goat cheese, or real sheep’s milk cheeses, and whole categories of French cheeses are entirely alien to US consumers unless they’ve been to Europe.

    With respect to wines and beers, the difference appears to be that French and German products have much less of the stuff that affects people. They’re typically lower in alcohol content, lower in sulfites, lower in tyrosine, less processed, etc. So that the effect of drinking them compared to the vin sold at your average US store is much different. Hence why my wife had no problem drinking wine everyday, several times a day in France, and can’t drink one glass in the US without crushing headaches the next day. But now that we know how to buy and what to look for, we’re optimistic we can continue to enjoy things at our home.

    With respect to bread, there are quite a few differences. The main thing for pastries like croissants being the use of real butter, not margarine. Apparently the way to tell if you have a good baked croissant is whether it’s curved or not. The curved ones mean they used lower quality butter or margarine. Similarly, when it comes to baguettes, the traditional ones, the best IMO, have 5 ingredients: good organic flour, good yeast, clean mineral water, good salt, and TIME. The best bakers let the dough for the baguettes proof and rise for hours and hours. The last baker to win the national competition allegedly let his dough rise for 18 hours!

    With respect to pastry and chocolate, the secret is apparently really high quality inputs, with unique flavor profiles, and using about 1/3 the sugar of a typical US confection. I think my favorite chocolates were from Patrick Roger and they were dark chocolate with basil and lime filling. Completely scrumptious!

    With respect to pairings, like, wine with food, chocolate with cheese, meat with vegetables, the French have just fooled around with food more and have more options then we do. Part of that is because of their proximity to other countries with much different food cultures. Like, I had never drank white port until I went to France. But that’s because it doesn’t tend to be too common outside of Portugal. I’ve only been able to find one wine shop in my area that carries it. So the effect overall if you’re coming from America and eating in Paris for the first time is like learning the dictionary you’ve used all your life only had half the words. There are so many more flavors and so many different levels of flavor that just eating simple meals is an adventure. We only splurged on one Michelin star bistro while we were there. Because we the non ranked places we ate at were all fantastic and cost 1/3 the price.

    We’re having a lot of fun incorporating what we learned in Paris back into our daily routine for meals. We’re taking longer to eat. We’re eating smaller portions. We’re spending less money overall but buying higher quality stuff. We’re cooking vegetables differently and using them to really make the meal. I made up some tomato jam to go with roasted squash last night as a complement to roasted chicken and it was delicious.

    I think there’s a lot of ways we could incorporate these concepts into the American diet and make everyone healthier and happier.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I have never visited France, other than a brief flight lay-over in Paris. I have been to Montreal once and French Switzerland for brief visits. Unfortunately most of my travel has either been on business or while back-packing through Europe using a Eurail Pass in 1970. I have eaten less than Michelin rated European food that shames u.s. fare. The Christmas Goose I enjoyed in Heidelberg was incomparable to anything I had eaten domestically. The airplane meal I enjoyed on Air France a few years ago tasted so good to me that I sent Air France a snail mail letter telling them how much I enjoyed the meal, compared to u.s airline food of the times — 1980s — and compared to food I had had at the best tier of u.s. restaurants I could readily afford at the time [without going into debt].

      Like so many other things in our lives, u.s. commercially provided cuisine is abyssal. I have no idea about the quality of u.s. home cooking … if it is not yet extinct. Anything that requires the use of spices or herbs had best not lay their hopes on u.s. supermarkets — those which there are stand like anachronistic monuments.

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      i’d love to go and eat my way through europe.
      but i’ll settle for doin my best here.
      when i had my cafe, 2000-2001, had a big sign that said “Real Food”…because nothing came out of a box except the preproofed bread, that we’d then rise and bake for the sandwiches.
      everything was from scratch, and i always had a pot of stock rumbling away on a back burner, with all the stuff everybody else throws away.
      cheese was an issue, like you say…but i could get stilton by the wheel(instead of “blue cheese product”) and wheels of parmesan and swiss.
      only the “young” cheeses from europe were restricted and unavailable.
      and i obtained as much local produce as possible.
      even got marked off by the health inspector for getting regular backdoor boxes of tomatoes from a grandmother down the street…”not an approved source”, he said,lol…so i washed and handed him one, “on the house”.
      olive oil, real butter, lard…and bacon grease, of course.
      peatnut oil was the only processed oil i’d use, when i had to deep fry something, or season the grills and skillets.
      (only eatery for a thousand miles that didnt have a deep fryer)
      people still talk about my place, 22 years later.
      and thats how we cook at home…as best we can , at least…what with everybody scattered tyo the winds on any given day.
      it can be done, here in america….but it takes time and forethought and a real kitchen(most of the apartments ive been in in my life had those electric coil stoves….and no room)
      …and ideally at least a patio garden in pots.
      to really do it right, kill cargill and dowpont, et alia…and turn the entire USDA subsidy apparatus towards farmers like me, instead…then we’d be swimming in decent fruits and veg, instead of canola, corn and soy products.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > turn the entire USDA subsidy apparatus towards farmers like me, instead…then we’d be swimming in decent fruits and veg, instead of canola, corn and soy products.

        This correlates neatly with my idea, Utopian, I suppose, of rewilding the entire Great Plains and paying the people who live there to manage it; they could feed themselves and many others with small gardens, as did Russia after the USSR collapsed.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I think there’s a lot of ways we could incorporate these concepts into the American diet and make everyone healthier and happier.

      100%. I only learned to eat relatively late in live when I lived in Montreal. I agree on the smaller portions; American portions are grotesquely large. Also, the whole notion of side dishes is really wrong: Every dish is a dish, there are no sides. Vegetables and meat are of equal importance and treated so (as opposed to the American notion of an enormous slab of meat surrounded by dabs of non-meat stuff.

  14. Tom Doak

    Regarding the California worker’s comp cases, the first litigant worked for See’s candies, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. Clearly, Mr. Buffet’s company does not have the sort of cash resources necessary to compensate a worker for the death of her husband. /s

  15. Jason Boxman

    Rare good news: A woman in her 50s congratulated me for wearing my P100 respirator outside a store today; She had an Obama sticker and a women are the Democratic party sticker on her car, fwiw.

  16. The Rev Kev

    “You can’t post ass, Threads is doomed”

    ‘Instagram’s puritanical guidelines will keep Threads from truly replacing Twitter.’

    So Threads is like the Disney version of Twitter then. Funny how so many big corporations resort to Puritanism in their values. If somebody posted an image of The David on Threads, will they end up deleting that Thread because of the nudity? I have read of people saying that they will vote Republican because the Democrats act like Republican Lite so they may as well vote for the real thing. As Threads is a knock-off copy of Twitter – with a lot of former Twitter staff recruited – people will get bored and go back to the real thing no matter how flawed it is.

  17. herman_sampson

    “Political cults are never good, often rise, always pass. ” Would this apply to Obama’s fans?

  18. JBird4049

    >>>No teachings of any major religion or any moral philosophy I know of would approve of that nurse’s question, or the logic that led them to ask it. It’s shocking.

    There is of course. It’s Mammon. Caring about your fellow human being is non profitable, which means it is eveeell.

    But we are about due for another great awakening as we get one every fifty or seventy-five years.

    Do not know how it will go this time as the last one seemed to have been eaten alive by flat out con artists and prosperity gospel creeps while the then the leadership seemed to be massively and happily co-opted by the Republican Party and its side of the Duopoly’s Janusian social façade, which was their stripped down anti-religious and anti-human version of social conservatism, which in turn is the equivalent of the Democratic wokeism and identity politics.

    Maybe the left side of the American church will stop being a shill, doormat, and footstool for the neoliberal Democrats, but with its usual focus on both the duty demanded by humane god and for humanity. I am very annoyed at the continuing thread of the idea of the select meaning that the wealthy are fabulous and everyone else is unworthy of anything; being financially successful means god loooves you.

  19. Camelotkidd

    Yves said it best in regard to the cocaine stashed at the WHITE HOUSE (apparently named)
    Don’t get high on your own supply

    1. tegnost

      seems to me like one of those things warplanes throw out to confuse missile targeting.
      On the other hand, as with j6 everybody should know that somebody knows, and somebody knew
      One country, under surveillance…

  20. Anthony K Wikrent

    Must a President be “a good man”?


    But to be a great President, he or she must be a good person.

    They must be able to appeal to “the better angels of our nature.”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > But to be a great President, he or she must be a good person.

      Good by the standards of the day? George Washington was, after all, both a slaveholder and a land speculator, and self-dealing one at that. However, when it came time for Washington to give up power, he did so, to the next elected President. Certainly a good act, perhaps the most important act of his life.

  21. spud

    great take down. but he was really a bridge to bill clinton.


    “but I felt his essential political philosophy was founded in the belief that the private sector could solve many problems of inequality and racism. In other words, capitalism could solve the very problems it had created and its adherents depended on to continue gaining wealth and power. Ultimately, it would be a line from his 1978 State of the Union address which stated this quite clearly: “Government cannot solve our problems, it can’t set our goals, it cannot define our vision. Government cannot eliminate poverty, provide a bountiful economy, reduce inflation, save our cities, cure illiteracy, or provide energy.”

    This is the essence of what would end up being called neoliberalism when the Reagan and Thatcher governments took this philosophy down its logical path. By the time Bill Clinton was in the White House, US corporations would be ramming the NOrth American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) down our collective throat and Clinton would be celebrating the destruction of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, calling it welfare reform.

    Both phenomena would intensify the economic inequality of the Reagan years; an inequality most obvious in the growing numbers of unhoused residents across the nation. Furthermore, Carter opposed a national health insurance system, despite growing support for it in the Democratic Party.”

  22. spud


    “Call me a cynic, but Biden looking to the courts instead of his pen worked the way it was intended to work, and Democrats are fine with having yet another issue they’ll eventually refuse to articulate. Anyone who thinks otherwise probably believes Marjorie Taylor Greene found a pet-sitting job on Indeed to pay back her PPP loan.

    With BIDEN v. NEBRASKA the quo has been statused. Bankruptcy remains a source of terror for the many and moral bankruptcy a source of coin for campaign consultants. And let’s not fail to acknowledge all those wise economists of the Clinton/Obama era who were in the GOP room voicing opposition from day one. Jason “Won’t Someone Think Of The Userers” Furman and Larry “If It Weren’t For A Conflict Of Interest I’d Have No Interest At All” Summers were terrified that a globule of liquidity might splash the undeserving. It won’t.

    But at least all the real Democrats who shivved Bernie Sanders with anguished cries of “Why should Barron Trump have free college?!?!” can now rest easy. Barron will have to find a way to make bank. Much as Malia must’ve been up all hours of the night around the kitchen table with Michelle and the Great Sayer of Words scheming a way to scrape by at Harvard.”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Much as Malia must’ve been up all hours of the night around the kitchen table with Michelle and the Great Sayer of Words scheming a way to scrape by at Harvard.”

      Do zoning laws in The Vineyard permit lemonade stands?

  23. spud

    why not try again?


    Biden Says Assad Must Go

    by Connor Freeman | Jul 6, 2023

    “As Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the commander of CENTCOM, has conceded, the American troops’ unwanted presence is becoming increasingly dangerous as there have been numerous close calls with Russian forces as well as aircraft and dozens of attacks by ostensibly Iranian backed groups. Nevertheless, Biden is not reducing troop levels, instead another base is being built in the northern province of Raqqa.”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > another base is being built in the northern province of Raqqa

      Yeah, only lunatics like Trump want us out of Syria. I wonder if there’ll be blowback from Raqqa in time for 2024….

    1. The Rev Kev

      You think that those thousands of farmers, their families, their friends, their neighbours and their sympathizers might have an effect on the election?

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Here’s hoping 3000 small Dutch farms are saved for now.

      Here’s hoping that “the small farmer” isn’t a pernicious myth in the Netherlands as it is here. Also, I wonder i f the Netherlands has an equivalent to our horrid ethanol grift?

      1. flora

        Netherlands landmass is so tiny – roughly 13,000 square miles, one-third the size of Pennsylvania – that 3000 farmholds must necessarily be small compared to the vast midwestern big-ag farmed areas.

        1. flora

          adding: the average size of KS, NE, ND, and SD is 77,000 square miles. KS is 82K, NE and SD are 77k, and ND is 70k square miles. That’s big-ag territory.

          an aside: the size of Ukr, the breadbasket of Europe, is roughly 233,000 square miles, almost the size of Texas. Big-ag moved in to buy up lots of Ukr land earlier. Now NATO is considering deploying cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions to Ukr. Would you drive farm machinery where cluster bombs had been used? Would you buy wheat grown in soil where depleted uranium had been used. Will big-ag purchases become worth almost nothing long term? Idiots.

          “They make a desert and call it peace.” – Tacitus

          1. Acacia

            Now NATO is considering deploying cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions to Ukr. Would you drive farm machinery where cluster bombs had been used?

            Sounds rather like NATO are conceding the loss of a very large part of the Ukraine, and “if we can’t have that land, then we’ll wreck it for anybody else”.

  24. tegnost

    ‘Journalists have been so overly dependent on Twitter,’ Lorenz said. ‘That’s been a nuke liability for them for a long time. The death of Twitter is teaching journalists that you have to diversify your audience. You have to have a way to reach your readers directly, just being a little more out there on social platforms and not putting your eggs in one basket.’

    This quote when corresponded to twitter files is a damning admission.
    The death of twitter means you have to do legwork.
    Diversify your audience ftw

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > You have to have a way to reach your readers directly

      So the more intelligent* journalists are now figuring out what the blogosphere knew c. 2003… Too bad, because I think the newsroom is or was an important institution, but as social media and greedy squillionaires destroyed the press, the newsrooms became more and more hollowed out.

      NOTE * I put Lorenz in that category; she’s sound on Covid.

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