2:00PM Water Cooler 8/3/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, if once again I must ask you to be patient. Our backend has a case of the slows, and I may not be able to post in time. –lambert UPDATE Success!

Bird Song of the Day

Western Meadowlark, On Sharp-tailed Grouse Dance G[r]ound, Community Pasture, Delta, Manitoba, Canada. “No. songs: IIIII IIII / IIIIIIIIII / IIII / dancing changes theme after song 5 and 15 Also: sharp-tailed grouse recorded with open mike.” From 1959! Old school!

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


Time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“Read annotated Trump indictment from Jack Smith’s 2020 election probe” [MSNBC]. • The hand-annotated look is actually much better than the NYT’s swipe-friendly version. The also translate the obfuscatory “Conspirator N verbiage to real names, consistently. This sticks in my craw:

Beltway swamp creatures can take care of themselves, and I suppose everybody who volunteered to be an elector knew what they were getting into, but nevertheless could we leave the small-timers out of it?

“How the Trump fake electors scheme became a ‘corrupt plan,’ according to the indictment” [Associated Press]. “The 45-page indictment states that when Trump could not persuade state officials to illegally swing the election in his favor, he and his Republican allies began recruiting a slate of fake electors in seven battleground states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — to sign certificates falsely stating that he, not Democrat Joe Biden, had won their states. While those certificates were ultimately ignored by lawmakers, federal prosecutors say it was all part of ‘a corrupt plan to subvert the federal government function by stopping Biden electors’ votes from being counted and certified.'” • “Contingent” is a more neutral term than “fake” (especially if the electors believed, as some seem to have been told, that their votes would be used depending on the outcome of court cases). “Contingent electors” differ from the “faithless electors” contemplated by the Clinton campaign in 2016.

“The biggest misconception about Trump’s third criminal indictment” [Popular Information]. “If Trump is convicted, it will be based on his actions…. The indictment alleges that Trump participated in three conspiracies that violate three federal statutes: obstructing the process by which ‘the results of the presidential election are collected, counted, and certified by the federal government,’ obstructing ‘the January 6 congressional proceeding,’ and interfering with ‘the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted.’ Each of the conspiracies is based on the same overall narrative…. Much of the evidence to establish that Trump violated each statute does not depend at all on whether Trump believed his lies. For example, the efforts of Trump and his co-conspirators to cling to power by creating a fake slate of pro-Trump electors is a key piece of the case against Trump…. This scheme alone, if proven in court, would likely be enough to substantiate all four felony charges. And it has nothing to do with whether Trump believed (or still believes) he won the 2020 election. Even if Trump believed with all his heart he actually won Arizona despite the vote count, that does not make it legal for him to conspire to create a fake set of electors to disrupt the certification process and the January 6 congressional proceeding. That is illegal regardless of what he believes.” 

“Indicting Trump for ‘knowingly false statements’ about election sets US on dangerous path” [Jonathan Turley, USA Today]. “In the 2012 United States v. Alvarez decision, the Supreme Court held 6-3 that it is unconstitutional to criminalize lies in a case involving a politician who lied about military decorations. The court warned such criminalization ‘would give government a broad censorial power unprecedented in this Court’s cases or in our constitutional tradition. The mere potential for the exercise of that power casts a chill, a chill the First Amendment cannot permit if free speech, thought, and discourse are to remain a foundation of our freedom.” More: ‘On the election claims, Smith declares that Trump ‘knew that they were false’ because he was “notified repeatedly that his claims were untrue.'” The word the indictment uses again and again is “explained.” But: “The problem is that Trump had lawyers and others telling him that the claims were true. Smith is indicting Trump for believing his lawyers over his other advisers.” And: “Smith also noted that Trump made false claims against the accuracy of voting machines in challenging the outcome of the election. In 2021, Democratic lawyers alleged that thousands of votes may have been switched or changed by voting machines in New York elections. Was that also a crime of disinformation? Smith indicted Trump because the now former president ‘spread lies that there had been outcome-determinative fraud in the election and that he had actually won.'” “Outcome-determinative fraud” — not just “fraud” — is another phrase constantly used. More: “The special counsel also says Trump ‘repeated and widely disseminated (the lies) anyway – to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, create an intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and erode public faith in the administration of the election.'” • I don’t know enough about causality in conspiracy cases. On my reading, an “intense national atmosphere” is, at it were, a “material cause” for a lot of the events described in the indictment; January 6, for example. Presumably, creating an “intense national atmosphere” is not a crime?

“Supreme Court Could Throw Wrench Into Trump’s Jan. 6 Indictment” [Newsweek]. “The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday announced four felony charges against Trump, accusing him of three conspiracies plus a fourth charge of obstructing or attempting to obstruct an official proceeding. The fourth charge is not new to at least 310 January 6 defendants who were also charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, and it’s this charge that could be upended by a different case, should the U.S. Supreme Court decide to take it up.”  Those defendants having been charged and convicted in the same court trying Trump. More: “Title 18, Section 1512 of the U.S. Code is titled “Tampering with a Witness, Victim, or Informant” and provides that an individual who ‘corruptly alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document’ or ‘otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so’ can be imprisoned for up to 20 years.” “Influences” seems broad. More: “The petition sent to the Supreme Court last month said that there was reason to suspect that the DOJ’s use of 1512 will ‘serve to chill political speech and expression on the eve of one of the most consequential events in American life – the election of the next President of the United States.'”

“The Indictments Are Trump’s Rocket Fuel” [Newsweek]. “Trump’s enemies are so consumed with hatred for him that they cannot think or act strategically. They believe they are being strategic by orchestrating flimsy if dangerous indictments in New York, Florida, Washington D.C., and Georgia soon as well. They think they’re burying him under a blizzard of charges, draining his resources, and distracting him from campaigning effectively for re-election. And they may be right that their despicable lawfare will hobble him until November 2024 and beyond. But they’re missing the central point about Trump and his powerful, unprecedented appeal to voters: As an America First outsider, he established an organic emotional bond with the people, who view him—rightly—as their champion, a man who sacrificed everything to improve their lives and restore the America they love back to greatness. That’s an incredibly potent draw, and it’s one that cannot be overcome by conventional political means. Hence the ruling class’s increasingly desperate and relentless attempts to destroy him, from the Russia collusion hoax to two bogus impeachments to encouraging the violence of radical groups in an election year and more.” • The proof of the pudding is in the eating….

* * *

“Gaggle of crackpot lawyers.” Ouch!

Ouch (2):

* * *

“Ron DeSantis agrees to debate Gavin Newsom on Fox News” [Politico]. “A showdown between the two seemed unlikely as DeSantis ramped up his presidential campaign. But Newsom still has spent months trying to entice his counterpart into joining him on a stage. On Wednesday, DeSantis agreed, telling Fox News’ Sean Hannity: ‘Absolutely I’m game. Just tell me when and where.'” • Hmm. 

* * *

“Comer Releases Devon Archer’s Transcribed Interview Transcript” (press release) [House Committee on Oversight and Accountability]. The full transcript is here. The release includes key portions. Here’s one:

Mr. Goldman: Well, I don’t understand.  How does [the Biden brand] have an impact?

Mr. Archer: Well, the capabilities to navigate D.C. that they were able to, you know, basically be in the news cycle.  And I think that preserved them from a, you know, from a longevity standpoint.  That’s like my honest ‑‑ that’s like really what I ‑‑ that’s like how I think holistically.

Mr. Goldman: But how would that work?

Mr. Archer: Because people would be intimidated to mess with them.

Mr. Goldman: In what way?

Mr. Archer:  Legally.

The “Biden brand” is the theory of the case. It’s not a bad theory (albeit not a quid pro quo). More:

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.

* * *

This “polluting the jury pool” talking point is new. I’ve seen it around a couple of times:

Apparently, the First Amendment doesn’t apply to opinions expressed on a case before a court (modulo a gag order for participants in the trail, of course). Good to know.

“Wisconsin lawsuit asks new liberal-controlled Supreme Court to toss Republican-drawn maps” [Associated Press]. “A lawsuit filed Wednesday asks Wisconsin’s newly liberal-controlled state Supreme Court to throw out Republican-drawn legislative maps as unconstitutional, the latest legal challenge of many nationwide that could upset political boundary lines before the 2024 election. The long-promised action is backed by Democrats and was filed by a coalition of law firms and voting rights advocacy groups. It comes the day after the Wisconsin Supreme Court flipped from a conservative to liberal majority, with the start of the term of a justice who said that the Republican maps were ‘rigged’ and should be reviewed.”


“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison

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

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

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin, dashboard; Stanford, wastewater; Oakland, wastewater); CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); FL (wastewater); GA (wastewater); HI (dashboard); IA (wastewater reports); ID (dashboard, Boise; dashboard, wastewater, Central Idaho; wastewater, Coeur d’Alene; dashboard, Spokane County); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); KS (dashboard; wastewater, Lawrence); KY (dashboard, Louisville); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MO (wastewater); MS (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); ND (dashboard; wastewater); NE (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (dashboard; wastewater, Southern NV); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (wastewater); WY (wastewater).

Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).

Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: anon (2), Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (10), JustAnotherVolunteer, JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, MT_Wild, otisyves, Petal (6), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3). 

Stay safe out there!

* * *

Look for the Helpers


Covid is Airborne

Regulation needed, as for masks, with air cleaning devices:

You’d think that could have been part of Project NextGen.

Censorship and Propaganda

“Amid Signs of a Covid Uptick, Researchers Brace for the ‘New Normal'” [New York Times]. And we have to “brace” for a “new normal” why? The deck: “Infections remain very low, despite signs of a slight increase. Now, experts are looking for clues to what living with the coronavirus will be like this winter and beyond.” tl;dr: Cope. “Nearly all Americans have built up multiple layers of immunity following repeated infections, immunizations or both, so the virus is unlikely to cause the harm this winter that was seen in previous seasons.” But: “Researchers have been trying to assess how updated Covid vaccines and emerging variants might change the course of the pandemic. By the most pessimistic estimates, if no vaccine were available and the circulating variant dodged most immune defenses, Covid might lead to about 839,000 hospitalizations and around 87,000 deaths nationwide between September and April.” • So that’s alright, then. I’m totally braced!


“Nose-picking healthcare workers more likely to catch Covid, data suggests” [Guardian]. • Hard to do with a mask!


“Epigenetic liquid biopsies reveal elevated vascular endothelial cell turnover and erythropoiesis in asymptomatic COVID-19 patients” (preprint) [medRxiv]. From the Abstract: ” Asymptomatic patients had elevated levels of immune-derived [cell-free DNA (cfDNA)] but did not show evidence of pulmonary or cardiac damage. Surprisingly, these patients showed elevated levels of vascular endothelial cell and erythroblast cfDNA, suggesting that sub-clinical vascular and erythrocyte turnover are universal features of COVID-19, independent of disease severity.” • Erythrocyte = red blood cell.


Interesting thread on ground truth. Walk around and look!

This is Belfast, Ireland. Readers, what do you see?

“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.

* * *

Filing this here. Family values (1):

Family values (2):

Very sad. What to do?


Elite Maleficence

Meet up with Mandy“:

On HICPAC, see NC here and here. Reactionary mossbacks from Hospital Infection Control wiring up an anti-mask outcome:

NPPTL = CDC’s own “National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory.” In other words, HICPAC didn’t consult CDC’s own in-house engineering experts. MD’s exclusively, who should stay in their lane (because ventilation and masking are engineering problems, not medical problems).

Also, HICPAC’s next meeting:

* * *

Three years in, and droplet dogma reigns in Hospital Infection Control, at least in British Columbia:

Granted, at least they reacted. Too late, I assume. 

* * *

Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, July 31:

Lambert here: Still rising. People have now noticed this chart, I assume because CDC gave them permission to do so. Doubling in about a week. One thing is sure: If it doubles again (blue line), the levels of cope and denial will be off the charts.

Regional data:

Lambert here: Again, backward revision. Now all regions are reporting increases but at different rates.

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

Regional variant data:

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


NOT UPDATED From CDC, July 22:

Lambert here:  EG.5 still on the leaderboard, but getting crowded out (?) by all those XBB’s.

From CDC, July 8:

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 29:

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.


NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, July 31:

3.2%. Interestingly, people are citing to this, too, as well as Biobot. Vertical, though the absolute numbers are still very small relative to June 2022, say. Interestingly, these do not correlate with the regional figures for wastewater. (It would be interesting to survey this population generally; these are people who, despite a tsunami of official propaganda and enormous peer pressure, went and got tested anyhow.)

NOT UPDATED From CDC, July 10:

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


Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, August 2:

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: 1,169,985 – 1,169,841 = 144 (144 * 365 = 52,560 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 2:

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 Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits edged higher by 6,000 from the prior week to 227,000 on the week ending July 29th, in line with market expectations and holding close to the five-month low from the previous period.”

Manufacturing: “United States Factory Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for manufactured goods in the US increased by 2.3% from the previous month to $592 million in June of 2023, the most since January 2021, and extending the upwardly revised 0.4% advance from the previous month.”

* * *

Tech: “IBM and NASA Open Source Largest Geospatial AI Foundation Model on Hugging Face” (press release) [IBM]. “IBM and open-source AI platform Hugging Face today announced that IBM’s watsonx.ai geospatial foundation model – built from NASA’s satellite data – will now be openly available on Hugging Face. It will be the largest geospatial foundation model on Hugging Face and the first-ever open-source AI foundation model built in collaboration with NASA. Access to the latest data remains a significant challenge in climate science where environmental conditions change almost daily. And, despite growing amounts of data — estimates from NASA suggest that by 2024, scientists will have 250,000 terabytes of data from new missions — scientists and researchers still face obstacles in analyzing these large datasets.” • Oh, great. A bullshit generator proffering climate solutions. We have the Koch Brothers already. Why do we need this?

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 75 Extreme Greed (previous close: 66 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 76 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 2 at 1:47 PM ET. Big swing to mere greed. Fitch? The latest Trump indictment?

Our Famously Free Press

What Happened to Reddit (1):

Class Warfare

“What if We’re the Bad Guys Here?” [David Brooks, New York Times]. “We built an entire social order that sorts and excludes people on the basis of the quality that we possess most: academic achievement. Highly educated parents go to elite schools, marry each other, work at high-paying professional jobs and pour enormous resources into our children, who get into the same elite schools, marry each other and pass their exclusive class privileges down from generation to generation…. Does this mean that I think the people in my class are vicious and evil? No, most of us are earnest, kind and public spirited. But we take for granted and benefit from systems that have become oppressive. Elite institutions have become so politically progressive in part because the people in them want to feel good about themselves as they take part in systems that exclude and reject. It’s easy to understand why people in less-educated classes would conclude that they are under economic, political, cultural and moral assault — and why they’ve rallied around Trump as their best warrior against the educated class. Trump understood that it’s not the entrepreneurs who seem most threatening to workers; it’s the professional class. Trump understood that there was great demand for a leader who would stick his thumb in our eyes on a daily basis and reject the whole epistemic regime that we road in on.” That’s “rode in.” The Times firing the copy editors is a fine example of the process Brooks describes. More: “As the sociologist E. Digby Baltzell wrote decades ago, “”History is a graveyard of classes which have preferred caste privileges to leadership.”” That is the destiny our class is now flirting with. We can condemn the Trumpian populists all day until the cows come home, but the real question is when will we stop behaving in ways that make Trumpism inevitable.” • Commentary:

If so, there are some chimps who can do that. And other chimps that don’t look in the mirror at all. How come it takes —  ffs! — David Brooks to write this piece?

“Affirmative action for rich kids: It’s more than just legacy admissions” [NPR]. “Among a number of other discoveries, [Raj Chetty and David J. Deming] find that kids from the richest 1% of American families are more than twice as likely to attend the nation’s most elite private colleges as kids from middle-class families with similar SAT scores. The silver spoon these wealthy kids are born with can, apparently, be used to catapult them past other equally bright, but less privileged kids into some of America’s best colleges. Chetty and his colleagues provide compelling evidence that fancy schools are promoting a kind of neo-aristocracy, with admission programs that help to perpetuate a family’s class privilege from one generation to the next. The advantages they grant to rich kids are about more than just legacy admissions, a practice in which elite colleges give preferential treatment to kids of alumni and donors. The economists find that other types of evaluation and recruitment play important roles in giving rich kids a leg up, as well. Going further, the economists find evidence suggesting that reforms to the admissions policies at these prestigious schools could really make a big difference in the life trajectories of less affluent kids, and make America’s elite less of an exclusive club for people born into privilege.”

News of the Wired

“The Elusive, Maddening Mystery of the Bell Witch” [Atlas Obscura]. “‘Hauntings’ and the stories they spawn require some kind of supernatural explanation, and over the years, many of them end up getting real-world explanations, too: mental illness, a desire for attention, natural phenomena misinterpreted. The case of the Bell Witch stands out for its lack of explanation on either count: There’s a marked lack of a consistent narrative for why the Bell family was so plagued and no simple moral for audiences a century later. The Bell Witch herself offered up any number of explanations, while dismissing them all. At one point she told the family, ‘I am the spirit of a person who was buried in the woods nearby, and the grave has been disturbed, my bones disinterred and scattered, and one of my teeth was lost under this house, and I am here looking for that tooth.’ But when John [Bell] pried up the floorboards in search of the lost tooth, the witch laughed at him, claiming the whole thing was a joke. The Bell Witch kept changing her story.” • Inspired the Blair Witch Project.

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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 B Flat:

B Flat writes: “Second is the brightest full moon I’ve ever seen, taken through some loblolly pines in Hilton Head SC a couple of weeks ago.”

* * *

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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. nippersdad

      Sorry, this was just supposed to be a place marker until the rest showed up. Anyway, that Brooks article looks like he must have picked up a copy of Listen Liberal a few years too late.

    1. Bugs

      Another one of the Ginni Rometty acquisitions that made sense in a very convoluted way that had nothing to do with any current quick turnaround quarterly results IBM could possibly have reported, which is what the firm is based on since around Y2K. G-d bless the folks who used to work for WeatherUnderground, which was the best weather site on the internet, with a fairly open API. Then there was BlackSky…which Apple ruined.

      We just want to know what to wear tomorrow, ffs.

      1. some guy

        There is still a very narrow-focus weathersite called snowbrains. It is about snow conditions, weather related to possible snow, hope of snow, etc. But it could lead to insights especially if combined with something else.

        I used to like watching The Weather Channel. Every local source of broadcasting or cablecasting or whatever gave a Local On The Eights still-screen caption-cast of conditions, predictions, the weather map in motion, etc. Then the Weather Channel got rid of that feature to put on hipper , newer, cooler, groovier stuff to get a younger audience. And weather porn. Lots of weather porn.

        NOAA ( ” Noah Weather Radio”) may still give its radio casts for which you can buy a special little radio to hear them with.

      1. digi_owl

        Different type of clouds.

        Never mind that IBM has been involved with cloud services before, back when big iron was used to offer time share terminal access to computing.

        Mark Twain’s old quip keep echoing through time…

  1. Henry Moon Pie

    Yet another David Brooks repentance:

    “Highly educated parents go to elite schools, marry each other, work at high-paying professional jobs and pour enormous resources into our children, who get into the same elite schools, marry each other and pass their exclusive class privileges down from generation to generation.”

    Let’s make it rhyme and put it to music:

    Little boxes on the hillside
    Little boxes made of ticky tacky
    Little boxes on the hillside
    Little boxes all the same…

    And there’s doctors and lawyers
    And business executives
    And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same

    And they all play on the golf course
    And drink their martinis dry
    And they all have pretty children
    And the children go to school

    And the children go to summer camp
    And then to the university
    Where they are put in boxes
    And they come out all the same

    Little Boxes” Malvina Reynolds (1962)

    A Red-diaper baby could see class reproduction going on way back in ’62. And she was apparently quite unimpressed with these meritocrats.

    1. Harold

      The “little boxes” were were developments, like Levittown on Long Island, designed for the lower middle class who aspired to a middle class life, not for the prep school / Ivy league elite with refined standards of taste. They were “little” houses, not 1980s and 90s McMansions.
      In the song, the newly built suburban developments were supposed to symbolize 1950s cookie-cutter conformism. But I thought, and still think, that Malvina Reynold came across as rather disdainful toward the “deplorables”, since a lot people, including myself at the time, wouldn’t have minded at all if someone had handed them a little house like that. I can’t imagine why Pete Seeger sang it, but then he was a preppie and an Ivy league dropout.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        The song was written in 1962 in a California context, so I don’t think “deplorables” or McMansions apply. I find the class bias you perceive to be unlikely considering Malvina’s Red credentials. You may also be missing life stage issues. I’ve known plenty of professionals who started married and family life in split-levels. Maybe they might move up to a Tudor by the time the kids are in high school, but that’s not where they began.

        I think it’s pretty hard to find Malvina’s target to the working class given her very explicit reference to doctors, lawyers and businessmen. What she is very definitely targeting, however, is American conformism, the American “dream” (must be asleep, etc.) fulfilled by mass-produced junk and the pretensions of the professional class.

          1. JBird4049

            Endless rows of row houses and they have some in San Francisco as well. Baronial mansions they are not. All clones in different paint colors.

            Don’t forget that what was aspirational in the 50s, 60s, even into the early 70s was far more modest than what is imposed on the imagination today.

  2. Carolinian

    Going by the Turley USA Today column it sounds like this latest indictment is no better than any of the others. It just makes the murk even murkier.

    How do we the public get off this thing? Some of us long for Biden to go but four more years of Trump will be no great prize either. We need new parties.

  3. Mildred Montana

    Re: Brooks opinion piece and the unedited misspelling “road in” (instead of “rode in”) pointed out by Lambert

    I think there are a couple of other oversights. For instance this passage: “But we take for granted and benefit from systems that have become oppressive. Elite institutions have become so politically 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘨𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘷𝘦…” Unless I misunderstand Brooks’ intended meaning, I think he meant to repeat the word “oppressive”.

    And: “…all day until the cows come home…”. Needless repetition here. Cut either “all day” or “until the cows come home. As any non-PMC farmer knows, cows only come home at night. Nobody at the Times (including Brooks) seems to know this.

    And by the way, why can’t Brooks edit his own stuff? Considered unskilled work?

      1. nippersdad

        You will probably remember this one:

        “How he burns with resentment. The hot millennials do not want a New York Times columnist from whom to receive stimulating discourse about the moral and attitudinal deficiencies of the poor. No, they want a “not-repulsive person” who “does not look like a waxed talpid,”……….”Like David Brooks, the ancient Israelites were haunted by fear. Bedeviled and bound by it. It enfolded their lives, not unlike David Brooks is enfolded by the filthy shower curtain he wears around the house like a toga while he sobs and eats ice-cream sandwiches and leaves anonymous nasty comments on Paul Krugman’s blog.”


        An oldie but a goodie. If Albert Burneko is still around, I wonder what he thinks of this new iteration of David Brooks?

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      im very forgiving of typos and mispellings and malapropisms.
      what i am not forgiving of is not being able to read the so called Paper of Record, without shelling out jack,lol.
      i read it on archive, as linked…but man! …I’d really love to see the 4k comments,lol.
      given who generally comments at NYT.
      before NYT and wapo were so ridiculously paywalled, the comments were often my favorite parts of the publication…affording much more insight into the PMC Hivemind than the articles, themselves.

      1. Bsn

        Me too, and it’s not a movement. If you’re lucky, and fast, have your cursor right above the little comments icon. As the page loads, you have about a fat second to click it before the paywall comes up. If you get it in time, you can read the comments. Kind of a fun game.
        I always enjoyed the comments and letters to the editor. As a young girl doing paper routes at 5:00 a.m. I’d fold the paper and read as I went. Of course Steve Allan’s readings of the editorials was also an inspiration. I have a book or 2 of ones I cut out over the years that are amazing, funny, sardonic, etc. But, sadly, very little of hard copy papers are worth reading anymore. Read On!

      2. lambert strether

        > im very forgiving of typos and mispellings

        As a former typesetter and editor, I am not (even in my own work).

        And in the putative newspaper of record? Never!

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          i’m forgiving, only so that i may be forgiven.
          from wonky keyboards, to bad eyes and sh&tty glasses, to my kerouacian…er…habits…

          in real life, i mispronounce a whole lot of the fifty cent words i use all the time at NC…because ive never heard them spoken.
          and therefore know no better.
          forbearance, my son….”there, but for the grace of god….”

          i also have compassion for everybody bein on their fondleslabs….with those tiny “keyboards”.
          one can usually tell,lol.
          when i’m texting, i tend to put a v or a c where the space should be, and dont notice til later.
          so it goes.

          get the “But Its the Times”, retort…and a likely indicator of farming out copy editing to some AI thing…but, conversely, i like to think about Brooks reading the print version(for his ego…i do that when i have a letter to the editor in the local rag) with that foul-up…what went through his mind?!…was he as if naked?!
          a delicious thought-experiment…and bringing him down a bit, towards his long lost humanity….which, i might add, he was already messing around with in that article.

        2. Angie Neer

          Lambert, I was introduced to typesetting in shop class at my public high school, if you can believe it. Yes, drawers of lead type! Since then I’ve been snobby about typefaces being called “fonts”. But time marches on.

          1. Lunker Walleye

            >Since then I’ve been snobby about typefaces being called “fonts”.
            A commentator after my own heart.
            I miss talk about California Job Cases and hot type.

        3. albrt

          Hoocoodanode that laying off the people who did the little things to make the Times appear super credible would affect credibility?

          Now the nattering old corpses featured on the editorial page appear no more intelligent than Joe Biden.

        4. Mildred Montana

          I am forgiving of minor slips that don’t interrupt the flow, but when I have to stop reading, scratch my head, and go “Huh?”, then no.

          The first rule of good writing? Clarity. Any mistakes that interfere with the reader’s immediate and easy comprehension are an inexcusable discourtesy to him/her.

          1. Big River Bandido

            This is why I detest the use of the “they” as a singular pronoun, and I thank you for using the old-fashioned him/her.

    2. Carolinian

      It was the AI Brooks that they recently brought online thinking people wouldn’t notice the difference. Class analysis was always his thing so simply recyle old material and save on salary and bennies.

      Although he may still be on the News Hour which I haven’t watched in some time.

    3. PelhamKS

      I worked for a number of years as a copy at a major newspaper before moving up (in a rare promotion from a copy desk) to a more exalted position. What eventually struck me from that elevated vantage was a certain degree of actual respect for the copy desk from senior editors. They knew that if they were going to monkey with a story to skew it in a direction it shouldn’t go or obscure inconvenient facts, they’d have to do it in such a way as to mask the dirty business from the copy editors, who were regarded as unsophisticated but unsullied straight arrows with intact consciences. The higher-ups’ temptation to mess with copy was thus limited. And, to credit these senior editors, they valued that.

      In my estimation, this was the main value of a copy desk. Keeping watch over the English language was vital, too, but secondary. And, though, I’ve never worked at the Times, I’m guessing that the current absence of copy editors goes a long way toward explaining the rampant editorialization of its news columns.

    4. elissa3

      Lack of editing goes back a long way for Brooks. I tuned out after reading a column where, in trying to buttress a point, he referred to something like ‘the sprawling megalopolis between Albuquerque and Santa Fe’. It doesn’t exist. Pinons, junipers, arroyos, a couple of Pueblo gas stations for about 50 miles. The amusing follow-up was a year or two later, a time when one was granted access to the NYT content for free except for the Opinion section, for which The Times charged a fee. Had a good laugh at that one.

  4. Mark Gisleson

    Is there anything sweeter than losing track of the time and showing up late for The Water Cooler only to find out it’s just been updated and finalized?

    Now assuming that all the news is good news, this is shaping up to be a great day : )

  5. Mikerw0

    Please don’t go putting down David Brooks. In response to one of his psycho-babble pieces years back my letter in response was published in the paper. Bucket list item complete.

  6. PelhamKS

    Re the Biden Syndicate: I wish someone would at least acknowledge the tissue-thin distinction between peddling a quid pro quo setup and peddling influence. I’m not seeing it. In one instance, a client is paying to get something done, and in the other he’s paying to facilitate getting something done. Is that it?

    1. The Rev Kev

      He should have taken a page from the Clintons who set up a Foundation which was thus a cut-of from their sordid dealings. You want a meeting with Hillary when she was SecState? No can do. What? You dropped some big money into the Clinton Foundation? Would next Tuesday at 2 suit you?

      But with old Joe, he has to get into the dealings to get his 10% and will appear in meetings and get into phone conferences. Why? Because he has never been stopped or challenged and I guess that he likes the thrill of being part of the action. To show what a smart wheeler and dealer he is.

  7. Jason Boxman

    If the stories are to be believed about what SARS-COV-2 does to infected individuals, America is literally self-immolating before our very eyes. It’s difficult to really comprehend what this could possibly mean. It’s like being told there are trillions of trillions of stars or something. It isn’t comprehendible. What does a nearly entire country of people suffering from varying degrees of probably permanent physiological damage even look like? Nothing like this has ever happened before at scale. Sure, the black death killed scores of people; but they were dead. This is more like a zombie civilization or something, that’s putrid below the surface.

    This can’t be for real.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      we were a zombie civilisation in spirit long before covid made it manifest in the physical realm.
      barring that it was, at root, intentional…this is what Nemesis looks like.
      if it was intentionally made and set loose(where i’m at, btw), then its fodder for great tragedy around campfires, going forward….in the original sense,lol(Gr: tragedoia=Goat Song…a ritual for when theyd let Dionysius’ goats into the vineyards to trim the plants…per Rbt Graves)

      1. ambrit

        Love Robert Graves. His Mythology makes poor Miz Hamilton look a bit, er, bowlderly.
        Ever read Graves’ “King Jesus?” Scandalized my New Orleans Catholic wife with it one year.
        Even the books he wrote for income are very good.
        “Sir. A properly brought up Gentleman does not discuss such matters in front of Ladies. For shame!”

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          i read his greek mythology early on.
          gelled with joseph campbell.
          didnt get around to his white goddess until maybe 12 years ago.
          …maybe 20,lol….
          that one had a big effect.
          and justified my intuited spinozan All Is One ism.
          …that theres a Thing behind Things…and all these folks…mystics and drunks…, down through millennia…had found some aspect of it, couldnt comprehend it, but did their level best…often at great cost.

          we’re on the cusp of a black sea inundation level event, here.
          a fall of rome….but global.
          itll make mythology, goin forward.
          so pay attention,lol.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Not just America either going by that tweet from Belfast, Ireland linked above in Water Cooler. Every country that ignored the evidence and went with ‘herd immunity’, ‘droplet theory’ and ‘learning to live with Covid’ is now slowly getting pummeled as the average health of the individual citizen is taking hit after hit. But at least the economy did not have to be changed. /sarc

      Maybe this is one of the background reasons why they are adopting things like AI and are going into robots and the like. That the workforce in a decade or two is going to be worth crap. Yes, they could do a moon-shot development of a vaccine that will sterilize Covid but if they do that, it will put at risk all the other nice vaccines that they are making bank on right now. In the next five years I expect there to be demonization of people that wear masks in public.

      1. ambrit

        Not only a ” demonization of people that wear masks in public.” Also look for a formal Social Credit Score, tied into one’s finances, including things like vaccine avoidance, high ‘vice expenditures’ (beer, wine, booze, pot, et al.) internet browsing habits, etc. When everything can be tracked, it will be, and that data put to “useful ends.”
        “Thank you, loyal citizen, for voting the Party Line. Your extra ration of Victory Gin will be waiting for you at the State Fulfilment Centre.”

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          why do you think ive been striving for 30 years to get to the point where i , and mine, never hafta leave the farm…merely defend it?
          and why ive hunkered down online…whittling my presence down to NC
          Im frelling Noah!
          or Paul Atriedes….”sand will cover this place…”

      2. kareninca

        People around me are looking so sick that I don’t think we have a decade or two. Three years at best. I go to church on zoom and everyone in-person in the pews looks really pale. They used to be pink old people but not anymore. Only one wears a mask. They’re all vaccinated; you’re required to be to enter the place.

        1. JBird4049

          I think that an intelligent quarantine, decent food, shelter, and medical care over months to even a few years would get many, probably most people back to nearly full health. This would also include more research and free distribution of medicines that would fight Covid. Getting a person’s body the rest and resources to fight off an infection is often the single most important thing to do.

          Really, it is not that expensive or time consuming, but somehow I don’t think our munificence Overlords and their PMC minions are going to push this. One would think that after blowing all that money on several failed wars we could blow some cash here at home. Maybe saving lives and therefore possibly a country and perhaps a civilization is not profitable enough? Because markets, go die?

    3. cnchal

      > This can’t be for real.

      It’s real. Covid seems to impair the logic function.

      We mask everywhere in public indoor spaces, even if there seems to be no reason to and we are never going to stop doing it even when ventilation standards are implemented. Crowds are the enemy.

      My opinion is that we are coming up to year four of a ten year grind

    4. some guy

      And if this is stealth-happening in other countries too? Whose governments and elites have also successfully made SARS-COV-2 into a permanent endemic disease?

      That can’ter be for realer.

      Ah well . . . . there is an old saying — ” In the kingdom of the witless, the half-wit man is king.”
      Is it true? I guess some of us will live long enough to find out.

  8. LawnDart

    (Almost) Daily Derailment(s)

    In the media:

    At least 13 people hurt in LIRR train derailment in NYC: officials

    At least 13 people were hurt when an LIRR train with about 100 passengers on board derailed in Queens Thursday morning, officials and sources said.

    All eight cars of the passenger train derailed just east of the Jamaica Station complex at 175th Street and 95th Avenue around 11:12 a.m., according to sources and the FDNY.


    6 months after East Palestine train derailment, Congress is deadlocked on safety rules

    Congress responded to the fiery train derailment in eastern Ohio earlier this year with bipartisan alarm, holding a flurry of hearings about the potential for railroad crashes to trigger even larger disasters. Both parties agreed that a legislative response was needed.

    Yet six months after life was upended in East Palestine, little has changed.


  9. petal

    Thank you for the “chimp recognising himself in a mirror”. Got a chuckle out of it.

    In local news, Blob member and presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson will be on campus Tuesday for a coffee and donuts meet and greet and informal policy discussion. And Alan Kahan will be on campus giving a talk: Liberalism as freedom from fear.
    I also saw somewhere that Vivek Truth thought the TPP was a good thing and is in favor of more white-collar immigration.

  10. The Rev Kev

    ‘Our first ‘Meet Up With Mandy’’

    They look like crazy eyes but I could be mistaken. I hope that she is not one of those ‘The Future is Female’ types as I note that accidentally or not, the two males in that picture have been cut out or obscured. Lambert had his suspicions of that blank space to the rear so perhaps he is right and it was some guy that was edited out. It takes only seconds to do these days.

    1. cnchal

      I think Lambert’s suspicion is that if there was a person edited out, they were masking, similar to the man on the left where one can just see the corner of a mask.

      These selfie schticks are all the rage in the age of narcissism.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        i thought that was a bit of mask!
        that its come to this….must maintain bizzarroworld!
        but to these extremes?
        that sends a signal, right there…thats a cry of desperation…if not yet help.

  11. The Rev Kev

    The Russians have been doing a bit of stirring with a one-minute ad that they put out on social media targeted at Germany-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FnS-RLDx_s (1:07 mins)

    The funny thing? Going by the comments people loved it, especially the Germans. This was not the reaction that The Telegraph was hoping for.

    1. communistmole

      The official German TV station ZDF felt obliged to point out that “only a part of the money went directly ‘to Ukraine’, as claimed in the video. The largest part, a good 14 billion euros, on the other hand, was raised for ‘services in Germany for Ukraine’:
      That is, for example, financial support for states and municipalities in the accommodation of refugees. Language courses and psychological assistance are also included, as are scholarships for Ukrainian scientists in Germany. So of the 22 billion spent on aid to Ukraine, the lion’s share stays in Germany.”


  12. Samuel Conner

    Musing about the thread on “ground truth” evidence of population morbidity, and thoughts wandering to what I have read about the Black Death resulting in labor shortages and improvement in the wages of the surviving workers …

    which leads to …

    But they didn’t have a Central Bank determined to restrain wage inflation.

    Wondering what this might look like long-term, it seems to me that it kind of has to become economic contraction, unless somehow “productivity” can dramatically increase.

  13. kareninca

    I posted a few days ago about how unwell AOC looks. That is typical now, for people her age. When I shop at Trader Joe’s, the very young look okay. People in their 30s-60s look terrible. Their faces are puffy, and they have bags under their eyes that you get from the way your tendons change with age. Their faces are sagging, and they are pale. People who are older than that don’t necessarily look so bad, or maybe one has different expectation.

    I have also seen people standing or walking in an oddly stiff way. Just a few, but I have never seen that before.

  14. skippy

    Hope this is OK w/you Lambert but thought it needed a reply and not relegated to the memory hole of late replies.

    August 3, 2023 at 3:45 am

    Hey Skip

    ‘Sorry, but, soft pudgy guys dressed like they do bongs for breakfast and spew ideological stuff don’t fair well when it gets serious.’

    This is about the most Australian (sorry Rev Kev) comment I’ve read on this blog ever! Priceless!

    NB for the non-Antipodeans, ‘Skippy’ was the name of a long running childrens show. Featuring a kangaroo that didn’t talk but, in cahoots with a couple of aussie kids, had amazing capacity for, I dunno, defusing IED’s and breaking international smuggling rings. – snip

    So Savita …. I’m a septic expat at 95 ingress to OZ and lived that time till now, have seen the broad sweeping changes, about here, mostly imported media driven IMO. Have heaps of Bush People and Cosmopolitan sorts filling out the family dynamic here. I really do have a weak spot for the Bush People mentality as they have a better fix on both the natural world and business cycles without all the fixation about strutting around to empress other strangers – small world thingy. This is made manifold by my life in the U.S. of A. and international experiences that are off the beaten path.

    Per the Skippy handle – [FAST FORWARD] Skippy – Skippy and the White Slave-Traders – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zxo7wQkCIE8

    On the Lira dramas … what part of his mind does not acknowledge the risk of his activities, in such a country, with its track record and expect to to live or not be seriously mistreated. Is his actions to better mankind or just another influencer looking to make packet and his local is just the titillating draw card to his audience.

    The salient point of all this is the recklessness of his actions and how that might translate to others that watch his offerings and in a world where more and more are just going pop or postal I have grave concerns.

    1. some guy

      I don’t remember where or when, but I remember watching Skippy on TV in the US. I remember his boy had dark hair and no glasses.

      1. The Rev Kev

        That kid that was Skippy’s friend in the TV series? When he grew up in real life, one of his jobs was the export of kangaroo meat overseas.

  15. some guy

    If David Brooks still supports Free Trade, then David Brooks is still part of the Trumpogenic problem.

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