2:00PM Water Cooler 8/22/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Large Wren-Babbler, Kuala Lompat; Krau Reserve, Pahang, Malaysia. “Breeding Status: territorial; General Climate: wet; Cover Density: thick). Other Behaviors: Advertise. Habitat: Rainforest, Evergreen Forest, River.” I like the name “Wren-Babbler.” It reminds me of a character in a P.G. Wodehouse novel; “Bertie Wren-Babbler”; “Madeleine Wren-Babbler”; and so forth.

* * *

Look for the Helpers

“Obituary for a Quiet Life” [The Bitter Southerner (LL)]. “‘Would you write your papaw’s obituary?’ she asked, ever practical even amid the loss of the love of her life. … When I sat down to write, I found myself dropping details into a template — son of, survived by. The obituary form puts a particular pressure on what matters, on what should be remembered and praised, but what does one say about a life that aimed to carry on in the background, that had no interest in a name in newsprint or an award on the mantel? Ray Harrell, son of Jim and Cora, was content to sit still and watch the breeze scatter the leaves? Ray Harrell, sergeant first class, arranged the bills in his wallet in descending order? Ray Harrell, survived by Grace, whistled the same invented tune year after year while searching for the right nail in the shed? I filled in the expected details and sent the obituary to the newspaper, but I knew it wasn’t right. It captured nothing of the life he lived. What I returned to in the days after he passed, as the ladies from church covered the table in casseroles and Grandma slept in a bed alone for the first time since she was 19, was the sheer audacity of a quiet life.” • LL writes: “This may a bit of a stretch but it’s a lovely piece of writing and a celebration of a non-greedy way of life.” I agree (and I like The Bitter Southerner, not least because of its title; I thought I had subscribed,  but apparently not.) I have written the obituaries for both my parents; it is indeed helpful, both to one’s self, the familu, and the community, so -called. The writing doesn’t resolve anything, but the small word count brings its own form of clarity, and the submission to the local paper is a well-defined step forward in the ritual-based transfer of property that is, in America, the consequence of death, in a process where virtually nothing else (feelings, say) is well-defined at all, or indeed assisted. “It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this,” as Lincoln put it. It would be interesting to find out of the obituaries for the million souls lost to Covid differed from past obituaries in any way; a good project for a rainy day, or a reporter, if funded. And so it will never happen.


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

The Constitutional Order

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
–William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare says the two households are “alike” in dignity, but he doesn’t say how much dignity they actually have. If Verona’s households are like our parties, the answer is “not much.”

* * *

“The Sweep and Force of Section Three” [William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, University of Pennsylvania Law Review]. I highly recommend this piece (and the ensuing discussion at NC, starting here). As a former English major and a fan of close reading, I’m not averse to “originalism,” of which Baude and Paulsen provide a magisterial example, in the sense that understanding the law as a text must begin with understanding the plain, public meaning of the words used when the text was written. That’s how I read Shakespeare, or Joyce, so why not the Constitution? Just as long as understanding doesn’t end there! In any case, I’m working through it. One thing I notice is that there do seem to have been rather a lot of rebellions and insurrections, not just the Civil War. To me, this is parallel to one lesson I drew from Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast (episode 1): There are rather a lot of revolutions, too. Alert reader Pensions Guy summarizes Baude and Paulsen as follows:]

The authors go through an exhaustive textual and originalism analysis of Section Three, and their Federalist Society leanings do not deter them from reaching their conclusion that officials in every State who are charged with determining candidate qualifications should conclude that Donald Trump is disqualified from being on ballots because of the oath he took on Inauguration Day 2017 and subsequently violated through his role in the insurrection that took place on January 6, 2021.

Taking “insurrection” as read (I need to do more reading), more on my continuing coverage of Section Three.

* * *

“This issue could knock Trump off ballots nationwide. Get ready for it to dominate primary season” [Los Angeles Times]. “Even as the criminal cases against Donald Trump dominate headlines, a different, less publicized wave of litigation is building that could endanger his presidential ambitions: efforts to exclude him from the ballot under a constitutional provision adopted after the Civil War…. Even before that, however, liberal legal groups had begun researching state laws and working with voters who could challenge Trump’s access to the ballot…. ‘The American public should expect to see a series of challenges filed in state after state,’ says Ron Fein, legal director of one such group, Free Speech for People.” From the About Page, Director Ben Binswanger: “Mr. Binswanger began his career as a political consultant for numerous Democratic candidates, and worked for more than five years as Senator Edward Kennedy’s senior political advisor in Washington… Mr. Binswanger has also served on the boards of Demos.” More: “Whether the efforts succeed is anyone’s guess; the legal issues are complex and without clear precedents and could lead to a Supreme Court showdown early in the new year. Win or lose, however, the issue could severely disrupt a primary season that is already fraught with potential for strife and violence — another example of how Trump’s flouting of the law is stressing the country’s legal and political systems.” • Totes, only one party does that. The party of The Others.

“Georgia indictment and post-Civil War history make it clear: Trump’s actions have already disqualified him from the presidency” [The Conversation]. “We believe the Georgia indictment provides even more detail than the earlier federal one about how Trump’s actions have already disqualified him from office, and shows a way to keep him off the ballot in 2024.” • An indictment? Really? Ask any ham sandwich about that! (Obviously, election officials need cover for these judgments on disqualification. They need a non-partisan, branded MR SUBLIMINAL And totally not spook-infested! NGO. How about the Atlantic Council?

“Will Donald Trump Be Disqualified from Running Under the 14th Amendment?” [Newsweek]. “The case that Donald Trump is ineligible to run for president in 2024 due to the 14th Amendment is ‘compelling,’ but ‘unlikely to gain broad acceptance,’ according to [former federal prosecutor Adam Kamenstein, a partner with the Los Angeles-based law firm Adams, Duerk & Kamenstein]: ‘[L]ike all legal arguments, its practical application rests on the common acceptance of certain facts. We don’t have that here, today, where facts and truth vary depending on one’s political point of view. Even if everyone agreed on the underlying Constitutional scholarship, we would never see agreement on the facts to which it must be applied. So, no matter how compelling the legal scholarship, it is unlikely to gain broad acceptance.'” • 

Lambert here: Hat tip to reader yesterday who dug into Baude and Paulsen. Primary sources rule! 

Biden Administration


Time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“Five Key Things to Watch for in Republican Primary Debate” [Newsweek]. “[I]n a race for second place, there is a lot for the prospective candidates to gain, particularly given a front-runner whose campaign war chest is committed to fighting off 91 criminal charges in four different jurisdictions.” • “DeSantis vs. Ramaswamy,” ‘Pile on Ron’, “Splintering on Ukraine,” “Nuance on Abortion,” “Who takes on Trump?” • That’s odd. Nothing about a Republican turn to the working class (no matter how cynical and fumbling).

* * *

“New Trump poll proves Obama and Clinton were right: The GOP base are deplorable, bitter clingers” [Amanda Marcotte, Salon]. Amanda Marcotte and Henry Kissinger: Both still in there punching! “New polling out this week from CBS News proves, as many feared, Trump’s fourth set of indictments — he now faces 91 [fancy!] felony charges across four jurisdictions — has only caused the GOP to rally around their seething orange leader…. And, in a poll finding that really is astonishing, Trump voters claimed they trust the notorious fraudster more than anyone. A whopping 71% of Trump voters claim “what he says is true.” Only 63% of them say that about family and friends, 56% about conservative media figures and 42% about religious leaders. The word that comes to mind is ‘cult.’ ‘Cult leaders must be dynamic, charismatic, and convincing because their goal is to control their members to acquire money or power-related advantages,’ said Joe Scarborough on MSNBC in response to the poll Monday. Political scientist Brian Klaas tweeted, ‘you need to understand what an authoritarian cult of personality is, because that’s what it has become.'” • Speakling of “cults,” but to beMR SUBLIMINAL As always! fair, I can’t find a story where anybody named their puppy after Jack Smith. Or, for that matter, Fani Willis. So perhaps — as [genuflects] Obama once put it — the fever is breaking. We can but hope.

* * *

“Mass shootings spur divergent laws as states split between gun rights and control” [Associated Press]. “[F]ellow Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law making Illinois the eighth state to roll back legal protections for firearms manufacturers and distributors. The new law bans firearms advertising that officials determine produces a public safety threat or appeals to children, militants or others who might later use the weapons illegally. Pritzker signed the bill alongside attendees of an annual conference hosted by the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety. The group said 2023 has been ‘a historic year for gun safety in the states.’ In addition to Illinois, Democratic-led legislatures in Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, Vermont and Washington all passed multiple gun control provisions this year.” • Pritzker checking those boxes in very disciplined fashion.

* * *

“Virginia Democrats raise alarms that Gov. Glenn Youngkin could be building toward a national bid” [EMEA Tribune]. Pakistani, fascinatingly, though originally published at NBC. “Virginia Democrats are worried the national party isn’t doing enough to stop Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, raising alarm bells that he could try to use wins on the state level to pull Virginia to the right and, potentially, mount a presidential bid. Chief among their worries is this fall’s legislative elections. Every single seat in the commonwealth’s General Assembly, which is currently split between the two parties, is up for re-election in November. Republicans now hold a five-seat edge in the House of Delegates with three vacancies, while Democrats control the Senate by the same margin. Youngkin’s statewide operation is aiming at a GOP sweep, which would open the door to a conservative governing package Democrats have largely been able to stymie during his first two years in office. GOP strategist Karl Rove, who previously worked for the Virginia GOP, agrees. Rove believes Youngkin and his political team have made all the right moves to take full advantage of his popularity and channel it properly. ‘Money isn’t everything in politics, but it’s important and he began raising it early and spending it wisely, which happens far less often than you might think in politics,’ Rove said… Rove believes that while Youngkin’s national profile is on the rise, a race for president might still be a difficult proposition this late in the calendar. ‘It’s a long shot if he decides to pursue it,’ Rove said. ‘The irony is it’s a better shot if he stays focused on November and makes a decision afterwards than if he decides today.'”

“Gov. Youngkin fires back at school district defying policy on gender identity: ‘Parents are in charge'” [NBC News]. “Gov. Glenn Youngkin, R-Va., responded to a school district announcing it wouldn’t use the new model policies set by Virginia’s Education Department (VDOE), saying it is the law and the district ‘doesn’t have a choice’ in the matter.  Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) released a statement last week stating that it would stick with an older policy that addresses the ‘rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students’ because it is ‘consistent with both federal and state anti-discrimination laws.’ The VDOE’s 2021 model policies for school districts allowed transgender students to use bathrooms and school facilities that matched their gender identity as well as required teachers to use students’ preferred gender pronouns, according to the Washington Post.” • Not mentioned in the article above, oddly. Notice that if dark horse Pritzker runs, gender identity will move front and center as an election “issue.” Always something to look forward to in 2024.

“Virginia school district not surprised by ‘controversy’ over accepting anti-‘woke’ books in school libraries” [Washington Examiner]. “Taylor added that the question of ‘where are the positive books?’ inspired a greater push to encourage the acceptance of Brave Books in their school libraries. The Brave Books CEO said Monday that he doesn’t understand why some adults are advocating pornographic and inappropriate materials in school libraries and is thrilled Spotsylvania is adding his values-based books in their libraries. ‘Everybody gets grossed out by it, and kids get grossed out by it by nature,’ Talbott said of graphic books in schools. Taylor hopes other school districts follow their lead in an emphasis on providing students a ‘moral education’ and ‘appropriate reading selections.'” • Can’t we just leave what’s in the library to librarians? Or, heaven forfend, has the successor ideology corrupted them too?

Democrats en Déshabillé

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

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

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

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

* * *

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Does Voting By Mail Really Help Candidates Win?” [Washington Monthly]. “Academics and political professionals have long debated the effects of mail-in voting, and recent studies have come to two conclusions. First, sending voters a ballot by mail—which they can fill out at home and mail back or deliver in person to a drop box or polling location—boosts overall turnout. Second, on balance, mail-in voting—sometimes called voting at home—doesn’t advantage one party over another. The latter conclusion seemed true even in 2020, when Donald Trump specifically dissuaded his base from voting by mail, spreading false conspiracy theories that absentee voting causes fraud and unfairly benefits Democrats. Even though Trump lost and a far higher portion of Democrats than Republicans voted by mail that year (58 percent versus 32 percent according to a Pew survey), a comprehensive study failed to show a partisan advantage for Democrats in the nation as a whole. The study also found, however, a small advantage for Democrats in states that allowed voters to obtain mail ballots without an excuse (like, say, a note from a doctor). As it happens, nearly all of the battleground states in 2020, where the presidential campaigns focused their energy and resources, were also “”no excuse”” states. As a result, the finding suggests—although it doesn’t definitely prove—that the Democrats’ greater focus on vote by mail in those states may have made a difference.   The results from the 2022 midterms point in the same direction. Democratic candidates everywhere endorsed mail-in voting and performed better than expected, while Republicans shied away—largely for fear of antagonizing Trump and his hardcore supporters—and did worse.” • I don’t care, I hate it all, and I don’t care what goo-goos from Oregon say. Any system other than the entire country voting at the same time rewards partisan affiliation, which is the very last thing we want to do (and why Democrats like it so much.


“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!

* * *


An intelligence test! Which Mandy fails, dramatically:

I’m impressed by CDC staffers’ collective (and exceptional) silent rebuke to “Maskless Mandy”‘s recklessness (and I hope the auditorium was well-ventilated). These staffers give me hope. The parallel between Mandy’s modeling of masking practice during a pandemic driven by an airborne Level 3 biohazard and the management pablum on Mandy’s PowerPoint is pretty stark. You want “trust”? Then act in a trustworthy fashion!

Elite Maleficence

“CDC Weighs Lower Infection Safety Precautions For Healthcare Workers” [Judy Stone, Forbes]. “The Healthcare Infection Control Advisory Committee advises the CDC on guidelines for infection control in healthcare settings. HICPAC met in June and published slides summarizing its draft guidelines [finally]. This is where the controversy began. It is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, Aug 22, and, per its published draft agenda [finally], to vote on finalizing its plan for the CDC. However, I was told by a CDC representative that there will not be a vote until at least November. The planned HICPAC revisions would water down infection control protections, particularly for aerosol transmission and multidrug-resistant organisms.” Importantly:

More than 900 experts in infectious disease, public health, industrial hygiene, aerosol science and ventilation engineering signed a letter to Mandy Cohen, M.D., the new CDC director, explaining how the new draft guidelines weaken protections for healthcare workers. They state, ‘Surgical masks cannot be recommended to protect health care personnel against inhalation of infectious aerosols.’ The experts’ letter was coauthored by Lisa Brosseau, Jane Thomason and Peg Seminario, among others. Seminario was the director of occupational safety and health for the AFL-CIO from 1990 to 2019.

The CDC responded to Seminario and the experts’ letter only now, a month later, and just before the scheduled Aug 22 meeting. The agency offered no substantive or specific rebuttal, but spoke of its dedication to ‘improving healthcare quality’ and commitment to ‘to transparency, communication, and stakeholder engagement.’ It also claimed that the CDC is meeting the guidelines for transparency required by the Federal Advisory Committees Act. The letter is not yet publicly available [dry, very very].

I hardly dare hope that my yammering about FACA (here; here) had some effect. But a man can dream! Today is August 22; HICPAC will finish meeting one half hour after Water Cooler posts in an ideal world; and we will see what the results are.

* * *

Case Data

From BioBot wastewater data, August 22:

Lambert here: Happy memories of tape-watching days! Closing in on a Trump-era surge level; Biden’s, of course, are higher. It will be interesting to see what happens when schools open up. I would like to congratulate the Biden administration and the public health establishment, the CDC especially, for this enormous and unprecedented achievement. And a tip of the ol’ Water Cooler hat to the Great Barrington goons, whose policies have been followed so assiduously! A curious fact: All of Biden’s peaks are higher than Trump’s peaks. Shows you what public health can do when it’s firing on all eight cylinders! Musical interlude. NOTE I’m not happy that Biobot can’t update this data more frequently. 

Regional data:

Backward revisions. The national flattening is due to the Midwest downward swoop. I’d wait for the backward revisions on that. Interestingly, the upswing begins before July 4, which neither accelerates nor retards it.

Regional variant data, August 19:

EG.5 (the orange pie slice) still seems evenly distributed. Sadly, the Midwest data is not available, so we can’t infer anything about the Midwest surge and any variant(s), one way or the other. 


NOT UPDATED From CDC, August 19:

Lambert here: Top of the leaderboard: EG.5 (“Eris“). I’m not highlighting the BA.2’s because the interactive version shows that these BA.2’s been hanging around at a low level for months.

From CDC, August 5:

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, August 12:

Lambert here: Increase is even more distinct. (The black line is “combined”, but it is easy to see that Covid, the red line, is driving everything.)

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.


I hate this metric because the lag makes it deceptive. Nevertheless, here’s bellwether New York City, data as of August 21:

Could be worse, and doubtless will be. But how much worse?


Walgreens, August 21:

So, Walgreens is back in the game (and how the heck did that debacle happen? We breathlessly await the news coverage). The percentage of positives is the highest ever, though absolute numbers are still small relative to past surges.

NOT UPDATED From CDC, July 31:

Lambert here: This is the CDC’s “Traveler-Based Genomic Surveillance” data.


NOT UPDATED Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, August 9:

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: 1,172,801 – 1,172,458 = 343 (343 * 365 = 125,195 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease). 

Excess Deaths

The Economist, August 21:

Lambert here:  Back to almost dailiy. Odd when it is, odd when it stops. Based on a machine-learning model. (The CDC has an excess estimate too, but since it ran forever with a massive typo in the Legend, I figured nobody was really looking at it, so I got rid it. )

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “United States Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Manufacturing Activity Index in the Richmond area edged up to -7 in August 2023 from -9 in July, as expected.”

* * *

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 50 Fear (previous close: 46 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 54 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 21 at 12:31 PM ET. Mr. Market is still chewing his hands.

Class Warfare

From the mouths of menswear mavens:

So it’s not possible to be a capitalist and a gentleman?

News of the Wired

I am not yet wired today.

* * *

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SR writes: “Balcony, northern Virginia: The mystery of balloon flowers.”

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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. Joe Well

      This may be in technical violation of the rules but it just occurred to me that I wish sites like NC had obituary sections.

      Also that with the decline of newspapers, this is one more example of the fragmentation of society especially along age lines. The younger you are the more likely you are to find out on social media than from the one older relative who scrupulously reads the death notices.

      1. semper loquitur

        In one sense NC is an obituary for Western civilization, so I don’t think you’ve crossed any lines.

        1. ambrit

          Alas, we here in the NC commenteriat have now entered the realm of the “epistolary presagement.”
          Cassandra now also does Washington.
          As The Bard has Darth Cheney ask the Foggy Bottom Conspirators in the play “The Concise Tragedy of Empire;” “What is Raytheon to him, or he to Raytheon?”
          Exeunt Omnes.

    2. herman_sampson

      I daresay most obituaries will be found on funeral home web sites (legacy.com is one central location for them); even obits in newspapers w/o a photo are expensive. Some people’s deaths may only be published in the legal notices section (if the newspaper still has one).

      1. ambrit

        Every County must have a ‘Newspaper of Record.’ That is where Tax Sales and other interesting legal notices are published. I can see Obits being a secondary revenue stream for them.

      2. Carla

        Our paper used to distinguish between obituaries and “death notices.” The latter were essentially paid advertisements placed in the paper by friends or family to inform about survivors and funeral arrangements. Obituaries were customarily of people of some note — or notoriety — in the community, and were published with a reporter’s byline. Now that the paper limps along employing a skeletal editorial staff and a few stringers paid by the hour (or the word, I’m not sure), obituaries of local people are rare. What we used to call death notices are published online by legacy.com and individual funeral home sites.

        1. Stephen V

          Good grief Lambert…as I today work on an obit for my partner of 31 years
          –who did not want one. Requested by Funeral Home…

    3. griffen

      I dare to say the article was well written and a worthy supplement to anyone who has passed on, commending without being overly tedious on a life well lived, and a life well loved as it were. Damn it but LS has a prescient method for pushing on the right button(s). I haven’t written any single one, per se, but contributed to my mother’s in 2015; the inside “sorta” joke was running that Obama might be requested along with Billy Graham; for the record neither was actually going to speak. Mom, an arch conservative Republican and with a fiery perseverance to match nearly anyone, would not have entertained an Obama provided epilogue at her ending. Obits are best prepared in advance, perhaps, but who really takes their time at concocting such a statement. Behold, it is thusly my life in review!

      Apologies to one and all if an above tone lends itself to sarcasm, just not intended. Lives growing up in eastern North Carolina have tended to guide my family into laughter first, then into grief. As the quotable (yes fictional) Mama Gump had said, dying is just a part of life. Many here come along who have also shared their mental and emotional grief, something I actually find encouraging.

      1. David B Harrison

        This is the world I grew up in. When my father died I said to my sisters that when a person dies a world dies with them. My father and grandfather built their world with their hands (loggers, barn builders, tobacco farmers, gardeners, livestock raisers, etc.). They had an incredible history of lived experiences (as my mom did as a nurse). Both were avid newspaper readers. They weren’t perfect by any means. We were surrounded by people like this (one of my neighbors just laid to rest his wife of 70 years). This way of life was destroyed by the post WWII prosperity and the status seeking and money grubbing that followed. Commenters on this web site are always asking for the solution to our problems. We could start by following the example of these people and removing status seeking and money grubbing from our lives.

  1. petal

    I dunno, maybe ZZ Top was right?

    Need to give an update on the political campaign mailers. Will do that in a bit. I didn’t check my box for a while and there were a few, including from DeSantis for the first time. Will anyone ask Vivek Truth about the TPP and white collar immigration tonight? I doubt it.

  2. semper loquitur

    re: Attend to your own cult before condemning another’s

    Strange days when professional face Joe Scarborough can be turned to as an “expert” instead of the marionette of “experts”. Attend, Morning Blow hath spoken! The whole article exudes the overripe stench of the PMC $hit-lib TDS cult formation.

    1. ambrit

      I’m wondering if the present day Elites are the ‘happy descendants’ of Thelema. Their purported “Group Activities” do match well with Thelema and the OTO.
      Crowley would fit right in to modern day Washington.

      1. semper loquitur

        Ah, that generalizing I mentioned. The OTO is is a crumbling ruin lead by old farts but Thelema is much broader than that. You’ll find plenty of critics of The Beast as well as the OTO amongst Thelemites. Many see the OTO as an abrogation of Crowley’s intentions. Not that that is my school. I make my own way.

        *vanishes in a puff of smoke

  3. mrsyk

    World Health Network is soliciting public comments on HICPAC guidelines for infection control in healthcare settings.
    “Did you attend or want to attend HICPAC’s August 22 meeting? Were you unable to provide comment due to time or space limitations? Join WHN this Thursday at 1 pm ET on Zoom to share your comments about infection control in healthcare with us. We will be recording these comments and offering HICPAC members the opportunity to access them should they desire. Your comments may also be shared publicly. By providing this space, we hope to ensure that more voices are heard on this critical topic.”
    Here’s the link.

    1. Verifyfirst

      Doctors (and other medical facility personnel) should not infect patients. That’s all.

      Also from World Health Network, very well done–simple and straightforward. Probably been on NC before…


      I wonder what response an unmasked doctor would give? (might be worth trying in the wild if I ever meet one……)

    2. Carla

      At the HICPAC meeting, which was livestreamed and may be viewed on YouTube, they allotted about 40 minutes to public comment and also said people could submit written comments to HICPAC@CDC.gov up to, I think, August 25. The public comment period started at 1:40 p.m., which was about an hour and 40 minutes into the meeting.

  4. WobblyTelomeres

    Re: Glenn Youngkin.

    Just finished “These are the Plunderers” by Morgenson and Rosner. Excellent book. Carlyle’s Youngkin pops up, often in the same sentence/paragraph as Leon Black. Such good company.

    1. John

      There is not one person among the republican aspirants who, in my view, has the brains, the experience, and the “chops” to dare to announce a run for president. Youngkin would fit right in. Trump shared those lacks in 2016. He now has his experience to fall back on. Whether that is a good thing is open to question.

      I find the prospect of a repeat of 2020 appalling and dangerous.

      1. griffen

        Well the Biden / Harris ticket is in the cards for 2024 so the country has a “sorta” voting option to consider. The doddering old man against the doddering slightly less old man. This is where the second in line becomes incredibly vital, or shall I say it, crucial to consider. As for Youngkin, I have question about his ulterior motives same as I held for Romney in 2012.

        I would contend that Sununu of NH and perhaps Kemp of GA offer alternatives to the current slate of Republican contenders to the crown that Trump wears (ill suited to wear it or not). I am not a fan of either POTUS 45 or of POTUS 46. However, letting Joe “finish the job” means something quite different to many individuals and families.

  5. Rob Urie

    regarding Amanda Marcotte / Salon, couldn’t Donald Trump’s name be replaced with Joe Biden’s in the Salon piece without anyone noticing?

    Here is Biden lying about his four decades spent trying to cut Social Security and Medicare as Bernie Sanders corrects the record.


    Try finding two of his supporters who know this. They aren’t being tactical. They have no knowledge of Biden’s policies even though they claim to support them.

    That is the definition of a cult.

      1. tegnost

        TDS is a cult, complete with places of worship and preachers, and based on assumptions and nebulous claims of certain armageddon…

    1. Screwball

      Marcotte was a family hero. She was at my ex girlfriends daughters wedding. She used to write a blog with the daughters groom. He used to work for Ted Strickland, the ex Ohio governor. I thankfully didn’t go to the wedding, but her daughter said she was one of America’s great writers.

      My ex, her daughter, and her new husband are poster children of the blueMAGA cult. That is the world they live in. Hillary was suppose to win – she deserved it – if for nothing else because she was a woman. Obama is a saint who can do no wrong. When the Dems won the house their Facebook pages were filled with pictures of Biden, Pelosi, Schumer captioned “this is real leadership.”

      Trump, the GOP, and their voters are the scum of the earth squared. Their life revolves around hating them. They live to see Maddow, and the girls of The View. Everything wrong with the world is because of the GOP and especially Trump. The democrats are as clean as fresh snow – and how dare they be picking on Biden or Hunter – those deplorable swine.

      I started reading Marcotte after I was told how great she was. IMO, just another huckster preying on the hate she helps disseminates in each and every one of her columns. I consider her a Sean Hannity of the left. I followed her on Twitter and was blocked after her second Tweet, and all I did was call her out on a lie. Disgusting human being. Maybe when and if Trump ever goes away, she will have nothing to write about and she will too. Here’s hoping.

    2. pjay

      I’ll say this for Amanda, she calls the “deplorable bitter clingers” like she sees ’em. And this is from the article bio:

      “Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of “Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself.”

      I don’t “trust” Trump any farther than I could throw him, and I’ve been *way* to the left of Amanda Marcotte politically my entire life. But I’m just about ready to give a big “FU” to the Amanda Marcottes of the world by voting for Trump in 2024. If he’s in jail by then, all the better! The very idea would have been unthinkable for me just a few years ago. But I despise these people that much now. Nice job libs. You’ve got a winning formula. Hope I’m not rat-f*cking any “Truth” for you.

      1. semper loquitur

        Given that no matter who wins in ‘24 we all lose, it would be satisfying to hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth that a Trump victory would instigate around these parts.

      2. Feral Finster

        So, when does The Two Minutes Hate run today?

        Life would be so peachy, if only Emmanuel Goldstein were gone….

      3. Martin Oline

        I had a sticker promoting Frank Underwood for president in 2020. It read FU 2020. Checking the Internet they aren’t making them for 2024 (yet). You might want to wear your feelings on your bumper.

      4. Mo's Bike Shop

        The establishment just keeps reinforcing the meme that a vote for Trump is a vote for ‘none of the above.’ Are these indictments already on the sanctions escalator?

        Still no indictments about the Russia thing, tho.

    3. Carolinian

      I was just opining to my brother that the Dems hate Trump so much that they gave all the power in the world to someone just like him if a bit dumber. And at least Trump doesn’t pretend to be a nice guy which is a refreshing lack of hypocrisy. He’s a proud egomaniac.

      This was provoked by Biden’s visit to Hawaii where he made fire jokes. He’s a jokey egomaniac.

    4. The Rev Kev

      I saw this guy on YouTube asking people on the streets the author of some quotes that were pretty racist but were asked first how racist they were. Most agreed they were pretty bad but nearly all were very much surprised to learn that the author of these quotes was none other than Joe Biden. Over the years I have seen a few video clips of old Joe talking about things like cutting social security and medicare and other stuff as well which shows that he is one of the worst of human beings.

  6. Jason Boxman

    So I begin to wonder when COVID costs will make an appearance in health insurance costs; Have they already?

    Because health insurance is such a complicated beast in the United States, I can’t find anything particularly handy. There is 2022 Employer Health Benefits Survey from KFF.

    In 2022, the average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance are $7,911 for single coverage and $22,463 for family coverage. These amounts are each similar to the average premiums in 2021. In contrast to the lack of premium growth in 2022, workers’ wages increased 6.7% and inflation increased 8%.2 This difference may be due to the fact that many of the premiums for 2022 were finalized in the fall of 2021, before the extent of rising prices became clear. As inflation continues to grow at relatively high levels, we could potentially observe a higher increase in average premiums for 2023 than we have seen in recent years.

    The average premium for family coverage has increased 20% over the last five years and 43% over the last ten years [Figure A].

    Health insurance increases have been out of control for years prior to COVID-19, so I don’t know if we’ll get any useful signal here or not. Maybe an increase in small businesses foregoing offering any group insurance to employees?

  7. Tim

    “So it’s not possible to be a capitalist and a gentleman?”

    I was thinking the same dang thing.

    Nobody in a suit is a gentlemen per this definition, except a pro-bono lawyer perhaps.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Remember the quote from the film “The Kingman” on the definition of a gentleman?

      ‘There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.’

      That’s not a bad definition that and like any simple saying, requires a lot of thought.

  8. antidlc

    Press release:


    Project NextGen Awards Over $1.4 Billion to Develop the Future of COVID-19 Vaccines and Therapeutics

    Funding includes $1 billion for vaccine clinical trials, $326 million for a new monoclonal antibody, and $100 million to explore novel vaccine and therapeutic technologies

    Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR), awarded more than $1.4 billion for Project NextGen to support the development of a new generation of tools and technologies to protect against COVID-19 for years to come.

    The awards announced today include the following actions:

    $1 billion to four BARDA Clinical Trial partners to support vaccine Phase IIb clinical trial studies: ICON Government and Public Health Solutions, Inc of Hinckley, Ohio; Pharm-Olam, LLC, of Houston, Texas; Technical Resources Intl (TRI), Inc, of Bethesda, Maryland; and Rho Federal Systems, Inc., Durham, North Carolina.
    $326 million to Regeneron to support the development of a next-generation monoclonal antibody for COVID-19 prevention.
    $100 million to Global Health Investment Corp. (GHIC), the non-profit organization managing the BARDA Ventures investment portfolio to expand investments in new technologies that will accelerate responses in the future.
    $10 million to Johnson & Johnson Innovation (JLABS) for a competition through Blue Knight, a BARDA-JLABS partnership.

    Maybe they can blow through the $1.4 billion as quickly as they blew through the $1.1 billion!

  9. Roger Blakely

    From BioBot wastewater data, August 22

    Lambert has been using arrows to point out the fact that today’s peak is equivalent to earlier peaks. Another way to say it is that August of 2023, the fourth August of the pandemic, is not any different from the other three Augusts of the pandemic.

    The pandemic continues. SARS-CoV-2 is as prevalent as it has ever been. What is different is that immunity generated from vaccination and previous infection has reduced deaths and COVID-related hospitalizations to a level that society seems to find acceptable.

    1. digi_owl

      Or dig up the original 110 episode epic. Blew my mind that the whole thing was released direct to VHS back in the day.

      And i would not say there is much Russia in there. The imperial faction is very much patterned on Nazi Germany.

  10. kareninca

    I was very excited a couple of months ago when I learned that the Red Cross is now accepting blood donations from people who traveled in Britain during the mad cow crisis. I studied in London for a semester then, and so I haven’t been able to donate since. Since I’m blood type O- I have felt that it was a shame I couldn’t donate.

    Today I stopped by the big blood donation center (which is affiliated with a major hospital) here in Silicon Valley. Signing in went fine; I had no issues to report. Despite being in my late 50s, far as I can tell, I am healthy (knock on wood). A major reason I am healthy is that I have never caught covid. One of the main reasons I have not caught covid is that I always wear an N95 mask indoors, other than when I am at home. Nearly everyone I know who has caught covid has ended up with some chronic problem afterwards.

    After I signed in, the nurse took my blood pressure. It was 115/78. Then she asked me to take off my mask in order to take my temperature. I asked her if she could take it in some other way. She said no. She offered to leave the room while I took it; I didn’t bother to explain to her why that made no sense; I simply said that that wouldn’t work. I told her that the center needed to provide a way to take a donor’s temperature without requiring them to remove their mask, and I left.

    I did not quip that it seemed they wanted to sicken more people so that there would be more need for their product. I did not point out that the donor center, which was crowded and full of unmasked people, was an ongoing superspreader opportunity. I did not say that I felt that I really didn’t want to risk my health for no reason at all. Or a bunch of other things that came to mind.

    1. The Rev Kev

      ‘I did not point out that the donor center, which was crowded and full of unmasked people, was an ongoing superspreader opportunity.’

      Nearly three years running and they haven’t learnt a damn thing. They don’t seem to do it anymore but once they used to have vans go around here in Oz – large ones – where people used to be able to donate blood at. That would be the go as people could step outside to have their temperature taken. But the way that they were doing it at the place you visited seemed designed to reduce the number of blood donors. You did the right thing in bailing.

      1. kareninca

        Many, many years ago I walked out of a dentist’s office because I could see it was unsanitary. This felt like the same thing. I am not a germaphobe; I am also not an idiot. What is really annoying is the pointlessness of the risk. If the pandemic has taught us anything – though clearly it hasn’t – it has taught us that there are forehead thermometers. It really seems like they want to make people sick. Oddly, the nurse who was demanding that I take off my mask, was almost the only person in the place wearing a mask, and it was even an N95. But she didn’t look well. My paranoid thought is that she was sick with covid and the virus was whispering in her ear that I looked tasty.

  11. southern appalachian

    Goodness, my friends work in hospice. Thank you for the link to the article, I’ve sent it around. Hard to articulate sometimes.

  12. J.

    Haven’t posted about Cop City in a bit, but now it’s getting interesting again.

    Around 104,000 voters have signed the petition to revoke the site lease for Cop City, which is about 20% of Atlanta voters. The city has announced that they plan to do signature verification on every signature, which used to be considered voter suppression when Republicans were trying to use it on absentee ballots (City of Atlanta government is mostly Democratic).

    In fact the mayor was against signature verification before he was for it:


    Here’s a couple of articles describing the situation:


    Georgia voting rights organizations spoke out against the city’s plan today:


    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a city government resist so many voters so hard.

  13. griffen

    Sports desk entry, gambling and the dirty stuff stuck on a champion golfer’s shoes. Apparently it has been previously known, Phil Mickelson had a tendency to make big time wagers. A soon to be released book from a former betting partner proposes it was much bigger than that.

    In the below excerpt, it is suggested Phil desired to place a bet on the Ryder Cup with a minor quibble. Phil was a participant on the team event that year in 2012. This veers into he said, she said territory about this point on the timeline. If true, this is an obnoxious display by the major champion. Added note, golf attracts hustlers of all sorts and there are numerous anecdotes.


    Additional detail, a more recent column from ESPN. I just find this a fascinating turn of events.


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