2:00PM Water Cooler 8/14/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I am finishing up another post on the horrid CDC HICPAC anti-mask teleconference coming up on August 22, so I am afraid you must make-do with a bird and a plant. Talk amongst yourselves! –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Here at reader request:

Bobolink, Touch the Sky Prairie, Rock County, Minnesota, United States. “Male Bobolink that was countersinging with the male Bobolink in LNS 527282.” Over four minutes, so grab a cup of coffee, bobolink stans!

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From John Zelnicker:

John Zelnicker writes: This was taken last October in my front yard taken while standing in the middle of my front porch. These tall wildflowers are the last to bloom and they put on a great show. This year’s bloom, in general, is taking more time to get going than last year, but I’m hopeful it will turn out good.” Masses of color. My garden aesthetic!

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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. antidlc


    Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH
    Largely agree with Tulio. At this point, not super worried about EG.5

    We will get new variants. They will cause increases in infections

    The answer is the same

    Keep up w vaccines

    Get treated if infected

    Use masks and tests if you wish

    And don’t worry about every new variant

    Just get vaccinated and if you get infected, just get treated.

    1. Robert Hahl

      “Use masks if you wish” means, I assume, that clinical trials have shown that masks don’t work. I wonder if the explanation for such results could be that the trials were done in high-risk environments, like hospital covid wards, where even a 99% effective mask would probably fail to protect the subject eventually. On the other hand a 90% effective mask would protect the subject 9 out of 10 times during occasional challenges, and about 60% of the time after 5 challenges. Seems to me this mask would be much better than nothing. Is there any way to determine the effectiveness of a mask in these terms?

      1. BlakeFelix

        I think that the truth is that kn95s or better protect pretty well, especially with 2 way masking, if worn consistently. Most of the studies either had masks that didn’t work or the people didn’t wear them, and so the studies correctly showed them not doing that much.

  2. Diana George

    Hi, there.
    My husband, Chuck Harris, keeps telling me I should send you some of my bird pictures. Happy to, but I do have a couple of lovely butterflies right now. Would you like one of those, and how do I do that?
    Diana George

    1. Synoia

      Just above your post I extracted:

      “lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com” I neline

      I suggest an interlocutory email message, with your return address.

  3. Roger Blakely

    Yesterday I took in Barbie for a Sunday matinee. It cost me $5. I haven’t been in a movie theater for five years. I wore my chipmunk respirator and ear plugs, the required ensemble for a trip to the cinema these days. Some of the employees were wearing cloth face coverings. Other than that, no one else was wearing a mask of any kind.

    For the past week I have been feeling a new variant come in. I assume that it is EG-5. My back is sore; my joints are sore from general inflammation; my rash is worse. Going to the movie theater didn’t help, but I was feeling badly before that anyway.

      1. ambrit

        Well, it was “Barbie.” Sort of like taking Typhoid Mary to see “Hamilton.” All in a “good cause.”

    1. Roger Blakely

      Like a scratched vinyl record, I keep saying that SARS-CoV-2 is present in all indoor public spaces. Everybody is inhaling SARS-CoV-2 all of the time. It doesn’t bother some people. I am very vulnerable to the virus. SARS-CoV-2 makes me miserable every day.

      Barbie is the cultural event of the decade. Every man needs to see Barbie on the big screen. The director, Greta Gerwig, set out to reveal what women really think about gender relations. As men we need to understand that this is what women really think of us.

      I had read that performances by Kate McKinnon as Weird Barbie, America Ferrera as the mother, and Ariana Greenblatt as the daughter were annoying. I found them less annoying that I thought that they would be.

      To say what the movie is about all I have to say is that the Indigo Girls’ song Closer to Fine was played three times. Closer to Fine was a rite of passage for college women around 1990. That was the moment in their lives when they considered two ideas, 1) that men were trash, and 2) homosexuality might be worth a try. The idea is for Greta Gerwig to transmit Generation X feminism to the younger generations of women.

      1. Yves Smith

        Do not Make Shit Up. This is a fast track to being banned.

        As the fast-moving Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to sweep across the United States, scientists are learning more about the virus and how it spreads.

        A new study from the University of Bristol in England determined that the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, loses most of its ability to transmit from one person to another 20 minutes after becoming airborne.

        At this point, the virus was found to lose 90 percent of its potency.

        “A decrease in infectivity to approximately 10 percent of the starting value was observable for SARS-CoV-2 over 20 minutes, with a large proportion of the loss occurring within the first 5 minutes after aerosolisation,” scientists wrote in the paper, which has not yet been published or peer-reviewed.

        The research suggests the coronavirus does not survive for long outside of the human host’s body and loses its infectiousness rather quickly.


        They did not test longer than for 20 minutes, but based on that decay speed, I would assume it’s pretty close to 100% kaput in 40 mins.

  4. LY

    Speaking of bird songs, heard a whip-poor-will while camping last weekend. It’s loud, loud enough to wake me up at three or four in the morning.

    1. doug

      They are loud. A country friend was disturbed by the sound while trying to sleep when young. His wise Mom told him if the bird was calling that meant no one was lurking about and to go back to sleep.

    2. dougie

      During the Civil War, to hear a whippoorwill at night was considered a bad omen, that you would die in battle the next day.

  5. Judith

    A good place to see bobolinks in Maine: Salt Bay Farm & Nature Center
    110 Belvedere Road, Damariscotta.

    They leave a meadow un-mowed – great bobolink habitat.

    Lots of reports in ebird of bobolinks in the Connecticut River Valley in MA as well.

  6. Randall Flagg

    Some afternoon nonsense contributing nothing to intelligent discourse.
    Have you noticed that even on a calendar, after Tuesday, it says WTF?
    LGBTQ, short for
    Wish I could offer attribution to the proper people.

          1. ambrit

            Phil Dick was a Prophet. The “Bad Guys” really did win WW-2.
            I kind of wish that the original Genesis band had done a soundtrack to the film “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.” Instead they did “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.”
            Or, to truncate your ‘stream’ of metaconsciousness: IIHMWWSATOATERYHFS. It is not an Kabalistic ‘message’ for it has vowels couched within. It is not a Sub-department of the Illuminati Instrumentality, I checked the Compendium Infernalis.
            All I can think is that it is some form of ‘squeeze play.’ One for the Acordion Files.
            Stay safe up there in the High Castle.

            1. Wukchumni

              Thor and company have been rather relentless in the higher climes in the late afternoon amid 10 second thunderboomers reverberating off ridgelines with stanzas lasting an hour worth of downpour and then we return you to your regularly scheduled blue skies with a not very good Perseid meteor shower overhead, the stars seemed to be in alignment with SAG and were on strike.

              As for as the unusual suspects go, everything and everyone is corrupted, but not in my world where the growth national product went crazy this year with so much water and everything is as it appears.

  7. Wukchumni

    Its all good until Robo-Taxes are allowed all over the place in lieu of overburdened human IRS agents.

    1. ambrit

      Yikes stripes! So, a new field of study in Sociology; Robo Tax Anomie. Course features a granular study of population stratification. With an emphasis on ‘in-group’ ‘out-group’ interactions.
      Tentative course name: “From Squire-archy to Hire-archy and Back Again.”

        1. digi_owl

          Current gen “AI” seem to already surpass human art critics in the hallucinatory part, with no chemicals needed.

  8. Wukchumni

    Georgia, Georgia
    The whole day through (the whole day through)
    Just an old sweet witch hunt song
    Keeps Georgia on my mind (Georgia on my mind)

    I said Georgia
    A song of you (a song of you)
    Comes as sweet and clear
    As impeachment through the pines

    Old recordings with Brad reach out to me
    I can get off, if I smile tenderly
    Still in peaceful dreams I see
    The road leads back to the White House

    I said Georgia
    Oh Georgia, no peace I find (no peace I find)
    Just an old sweet witch hunt song
    Keeps Georgia on my mind (Georgia on my mind)

    Old recordings with Brad reach out to me
    I can get off, if I smile tenderly
    Still in peaceful dreams I see
    The road leads back to the White House

    Whoa-whoa, Georgia
    No peace, no peace I find
    Just an old, sweet witch hunt song
    Keeps Georgia on my mind (Georgia on my mind)

    I said just an old sweet witch hunt song
    Keeps Georgia on my mind

    Georgia On My Mind, performed by Willie Nelson


    1. ambrit

      There is supposedly another version of that song attributed the Wm. T. Sherman, with different lyrics.

        1. ambrit

          More like a Punk version of “The Trump of Doom.” Also known as “Moshing Through Georgia.”
          This brings up the subject, distasteful though it might be, of the GOP Gangsta song; ‘Run DNC!’
          Oh for the simpler times of the old hippy folk protest songs. I’m thinking of a version of a Joni Mitchell tune. The verse goes, “They paved Paradise and put up a Presidential Library.” A little later, it says, “Don’t it always to seem to go, you don’t know you’ve got a Republic, till it’s gone.”
          Music hath charms…..

            1. ambrit

              Ah, you are correct. Doom is the ultimate anti-capitalist attitude. Some sort of Nihil-liberalism. It should give plain old Neo-liberalism a run for it’s shareholder equity.
              Many “ordinary” persons, feeling completely powerless in the face of the ruling orthodoxy, will embrace some form of nihilism as a ‘comfort.’ In it, the top of the hierarchy will suffer just the same as the lower rungs of the ‘Ladder of Status.’ Misery loves company, Global Division.
              The Ruling Elites are making the same mistake their forebears have made innumerable times in the past. By embracing Exceptionalism as their ruling philosophy, they ignore the iron clad and inexorable demands of objective reality. When there is no hope left for the people, Gotterdammerung.
              Be safe.

  9. Utah

    Back to school today in a k-8 charter. I got told today (first day students are back) that students aren’t allowed to wear a mask without a doctor’s note. I’m the only person in the building in a mask. Even if I complained nobody would listen to me. I’m so mad. If I had known this was going to be the policy I would have quit last year. I get paid well, which is why I’m still there.

    If they ask me for a doctor’s note I’ll send them to the CDC website, which still says I can wear a mask if I want to. I can’t even believe the world we live in.

  10. Wukchumni

    You hate to be that player who shouts to the pitcher as he departs the mound in the bottom of the 6th

    ‘Hey!, you have a no hitter going!’

    So far-so good on the fledgling wildfire season in Cali, its still pretty wet so should a conflagration get going, no way-no how is is going to cross over the Sierra as it has in past years for the first time.

    I’d be content to have firefighters get paid waiting for go dough…

  11. Acacia

    Latest SARS-Cov-2 variant analysis from Tokyo:


    EG.5 was creeping up slowly but now surging: doubling from 11 to 22% in a week. XBB.1.16 still holding the dominant position, though.

    Anecdotally, very very few people are now wearing masks on the street, in shops and cafes. Interesting to see that some staff in shops are masked up, seemingly as a gesture of respect to customers, while in other shops, nobody is masked, like either way it’s a house rule. Twice recently, I was sitting in an establishment when an unmasked mother entered, carrying an unmasked child, both coughing loudly and repeatedly, clearly quite ill. Staff were unmasked, and seemed unfazed by this. Of course I kept my mask on.

    First time this happened, I asked my Japanese friend if it was usual, i.e., “I thought the general protocol in East Asia is that when people feel sick, they mask up to protect others — did this recently change?” Friend shrugs, adding: “yeah, good question”.

    Relatedly, I finally picked up an Aranet4 and started measuring CO2 levels in the house and in trains. The results have been surprising. Just entering a room and sitting, breathing, the CO2 level begins to climb noticeably. In a bedroom, CO2 can easily climb to 1000~1200 ppm during the night (usually just before morning), unless there is some ventilation by fan. Similarly, CO2 levels on a few trains easily exceed 1000 ppm, often going over 1400 (carriages mostly full, with only a few people standing). Of course, this is only a small sample (and anecdata is not data), but perhaps indicative.

    I expected 1000+ ppm CO2 at least on express trains, but 1400+ even happens on some local trains which open their doors at every stop. The trains have AC and you can feel it blowing air, but it’s just a recirculating system, I guess. Opening a nearby window in the carriage (which is possible but nobody ever does) helps. Earlier in the epidemic, some train companies did this themselves — something like 10 cm IIRC —, informing passengers that it was a policy.

    Most houses in Japan have what USians call “mini-split” type AC in most every room, and often there is no air vent to the exterior. There’s always an exhaust fan in the kitchen, in bathrooms, shower rooms, and some houses have a secondary blower in some rooms that can either blow air in or out.

    After a few weeks of informal testing with the Aranet4, the main takeaway for me has been that to keep CO2 levels below 800 ppm in the house, a ventilation fan needs to be turned on, at which point CO2 drops to ~480-600 ppm. Am also wondering if getting more houseplants would make a difference. My work room at home doesn’t have an extra fan, so I’m now aiming to cobble together some DIY window ventilation using two Arctic P12 PC fans (h/t to AQ expert Joey Fox):


    I am deeply grateful to Lambert and the NC commentariat for generously providing all the info needed to navigate these difficult times.

    1. ChrisPacific

      Unless houseplants can absorb COVID-19 along with CO2, I suspect you’d simply be gaming the metric without meaningfully reducing your infection risk.

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