2:00PM Water Cooler 8/30/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, this Water Cooler is gappy because I had to do some actual research, several times [lambert sighs in martyred fashion]. More to come as I try to catch up. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Eastern Whip-poor-will, 10 Miles South Of Meadow Portage, Manitoba, Canada. From 1960, so extremely old-school. “Recordist’s Notes: evening. Also: cattle, Wilson’s snipe, another whip-poor-will, horned owl. Four-hundred and seventeen examples of the ‘Whip-poor-will’ Call of BNA* or, more appropriately, the song of C. v. vociferus.” NOTE * BNA = “Birds of North America.”

* * *


“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.

* * *

“Fox News’ Jonathan Turley: Federal courts may intervene if Trump wins the presidency while serving time in state prison” [Media Matters]. “President Trump could indeed pardon himself for federal crimes. For the state crimes, it could create some serious complications. The court would first have to sentence him into jail. But then federal courts may get involved to the extent that that would interfere with presidential functions. We obviously have not been down that road but we have to look towards it and it’s going to be a messy situation. The courts are going to have to deal with it.” • Democrats had no problem “interfering” with “presidential functions” when they launched RussiaGate. So there’s precedent. Which is that “interfering with presidential functions” is jake with the angels, even, or perhaps especially, when spooks do it!

Our Famously Free Press


Don’t know the author, haven’t read the book. But since when do the organs of state security get to censor books about domestic affairs?


Time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“Trump Could Clinch the Nomination Before the G.O.P. Knows if He’s a Felon” [New York Times]. “The former president’s trial is scheduled to start March 4, by which point five states are expected to have held nominating contests. The next day, March 5, is Super Tuesday, when 15 states, including delegate-rich California and Texas, plan to hold votes that will determine if any Trump challenger has enough political oxygen to remain a viable alternative. Primaries in Florida, Ohio and Illinois come two weeks later. Florida and Ohio will be the first winner-take-all contests, in which the top vote-getter statewide seizes all of the delegates rather than splitting them proportionally. Winner-take-all primaries have historically turbocharged the front-runner’s path to the presidential nomination. Mr. Trump’s federal trial, if it proceeds on its current timeline, won’t be close to finished by then. The collision course between the Republican Party’s calendar and Mr. Trump’s trial schedule is emblematic of one of the most unusual nominating contests in American history. It is a Trump-dominated clash that will define not only the course of the 2024 presidential primary but potentially the future direction of the party in an eventual post-Trump era.” • Dunno if it’s “Trump-dominated.” Who brought the charges, and who set the calendar?

“Trump’s Free Speech Runs Up Against Courtroom Decorum” [The Wall Street Journal]. “The only restriction Chutkan placed on Trump in the Washington case is a bar on discussing the case with possible witnesses. And earlier this year, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, presiding over Trump’s state case related to hush-money payments to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, said he wouldn’t impose a gag order on Trump even if prosecutors requested one. ‘Such restraints are the most serious’ and the least tolerable under the First Amendment, the judge said, adding: ‘That does apply doubly to Mr. Trump, because he is a candidate for the presidency of the United States.'” • So far, then, all sides are jockeying for the conflict to come. IMNSHO, conflict would benefit Trump, so he’ll do what it takes (no “guardrails”). I don’t think Trump would prefer witness intimidation*, but if that’s what it takes…. NOTE * Can a “swamp creature” really be intimidated? I doubt it. Now, if Trump intimidates any of the “contingent electors” who are to testify, that would be a different matter for me, since they’re as innocent as anybody in this mess can be.

* * *

Wait. What about my freedom? Why can’t I live my life?

Yes, a hurricane is hazardous. But apparently a pandemic caused by an airborne Level 3 biohazard is not. Make it make sense. Honestly, I’m waiting for the CDC to recommend handwashing to Floridians.

* * *

“Marianne Williamson Can’t Promote Prez Campaign on TV … But Tiktok Saving the Day” [TMZ]. “Williamson has raked in over half a million followers — the most on the app compared to other candidates — and since making the switch, she’s been polling above 20% with voters under 30. If ya can’t beat ’em, go viral.” • Need a link on that polling, but given Carlson’s success on Twitter — not that I trust the actual numbers, why would I? — it makes sense that Williamson would have some success.

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Republican Funhouse

“Wisconsin Supreme Court chief justice accuses liberal majority of staging a ‘coup'” [Associated Press]. “The conservative chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday told the new liberal majority in a scathing email that they had staged a ‘coup’ and conducted an ‘illegal experiment’ when they voted to weaken her powers and fire the director of state courts. Chief Justice Annette Ziegler, in two emails obtained by The Associated Press, said that firing and hiring a new state court director was illegal and ordered interim state court director Audrey Skwierawski to stop signing orders without her knowledge or approval. ‘You are making a mess of the judiciary, the court and the institution for years to come,’ Ziegler wrote to her fellow justices and Skwierawski. ‘This must stop. … I have no confidence in the recent hostile takeover and the chaotic effect it has had on the court, staff, and the overall stable functioning of the courts.’ Liberals gained a 4-3 majority on Aug. 1 when Justice Janet Protasiewicz began her 10-year term after winning election in April. Conservatives had held the majority for 15 years prior to that. The emails are the latest sign of broiling tensions on the court since liberals took control.” • Temper, temper! (And what the heck does “making a mess of” mean? Did I not get the memo on this new lawyerly term of art?

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.

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“In New Hampshire Address, Sanders Demands Democrats Take on Corporate Greed” [Bernie Sanders]. Musical interlude:

But, if Democrats are serious about winning elections and addressing the major crises that we face, they must go further. They must embrace the working class of this country in a way which hasn’t been done in almost 60 years. It is absolutely absurd that, given the anti-worker ideology and policies of the Republican Party, that party now has more working class support than Democrats.

It should be deeply worrying that, according to recent polls, Democrats are losing more and more support within the Latino community and even among Black men. That has got to change – not just for the well-being of the Democratic Party but for the future of our country.

The Democrats, once and for all, must reject the corporate wing of the party and empower those who are prepared to create a grassroots, multi-racial, multi-generational working class party in every state in this country. Democrats, through words and action, must make it clear that they stand with a struggling working class, a disappearing middle class, and millions of low income Americans who are barely surviving.

Sanders needs to read Thomas Frank’s Listen, Liberal!. They would rather die as a party then take Sanders’ advice. As I wrote at the time, a small but real opening for Sanders to make this pivot personally was in 2020, right after Biden showed he was willing to infect his supporters at superspreading polling locations to make his numbers. At that time, Sanders was not only a candidate, but a movement leader, with his mailing list still active, and with some momentum (if only he had won Texas on Super Tuesday, and not just California). More to the point, the upsurge in labor activity and organizing that we still see today was already happening then. Pivoting away from electoral politics to supporting all forms of labor organizing, backed by a movement, on a national level would certainly have been greeted with opt in-level enthusiasm by a significant portion of Sanders’ mailing list; probably the only people who would have resisted seriously would have been Sanders’ idpol-addled staff, already looking for jobs with the next campaign. Instead Sanders — as indeed he warned us he would — shrank himself down to a “progressive” Democrat. Ask yourself whether the working class would have been better off during our ongoing Covid pandemic under my alternative history, or under Biden. Too bad. That opportunithy will never come again; Democrats will make sure of it.

“Covid Denialism” [Eschaton]. Quoting in full because Atrios is so terse: “Timelines get a bit jumbled in my head sometimes, but thinking through I realized if the Covid vaccine had appeared 3 months earlier, Trump could’ve taken credit for it (he still could, just too late!) and probably coasted to re-election. Would’ve wiped much of the covid denialism (and certainly the vaccine resistance) away. Instead we’re still stuck with it.” • It is indeed one of life’s little ironies that electing Trump in 2020 would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But ya know, as far as the timeline, I posted this in Water Cooler on November 9, 2020* (the election was November 3):

The third discordant note.

The Biden team was informed before the press release went out:

(The Pfizer press release was time-stamped “Monday, November 09, 2020 – 06:45am”; in other words, after “last night”.) The fourth discordant note. And the fifth:

“BioNTech, Pfizer stocks soar after COVID-19 vaccine candidate achieves ‘success’ in first analysis” [MarketWatch] and “Stock futures surge, with Dow futures up 1100 points, after Pfizer vaccine news” [MarketWatch].

Lambert here: Somebody with a paranoid and suspicions disposition would be strongly reminded of remdesivir. Remdesivir was hyped in a press release, and immediately endorsed by an expert ([genuflects] Anthony Fauci), which had the effect of “ramping” (Yves’s word) Gilead’s stock, in a manner that would have permitted insiders to profit who might have been aware of Fauci’s plans before they were executed. We see the exact same pattern with Pfizer’s vaccine — only this time, anybody on or associated with Biden’s team could have profited. Why not, after all, inform the Biden team with the press release, and not before? Surely there are norms about that? Of course, remdesivir was also a damp squib, sadly albeit profitably for Gilead. One only hopes the same is not true of Pfizer, a company for which fraud is not unknown.

Oh, and either Yglesias is inhumanly wide-eyed and innocent, or he thinks this is sketchy too:


NOTE * Oddly, I couldn’t find this on Google, but I did find it on Bing.

“Pfizer CEO says he would’ve released vaccine data before election if possible” [Axios]. From November 9, 2020, still germane. • So that’s alright then. Never believe anything until it’s been officially denied. Turn Atrios’ post around. Knowing what we know now about election 2020, and also knowing what we know about how Big Pharma manipulates its trials, are we really to believe that Pfizer couldn’t have manipulated its own internal timeline, such that the data to evaluate its vaccines was only available after the election? 

“Pfizer CEO: Our vaccine timing had nothing to do with politics” [CNN]. From November 9, 2020. Still germane.


“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!

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Censorship and Propaganda

For some definition of “mission” and “accomplished”:

On the bright side, Social Security payouts will be going down!


“1st Canadian case of highly mutated COVID-19 virus variant BA.2.86 detected in B.C.” [CBC]. The headline is the shot. The deck is the chaser: “‘We’re not seeing more severe illness, but it is something for us to … continue to watch’: Dr. Bonnie Henry.”


“Scientists Sound the Alarm: COVID-19 Virus Is Rapidly Evolving in White-Tailed Deer” [SciTech Daily]. “New research has found that white-tailed deer across Ohio have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Alarmingly, the results also show that viral variants evolve about three times faster in deer than in humans. Scientists collected 1,522 nasal swabs from free-ranging deer in 83 of the state’s 88 counties between November 2021 and March 2022. More than 10% of the samples were positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and at least one positive case was found in 59% of the counties in which testing took place. Genomic analysis showed that at least 30 infections in deer had been introduced by humans – a figure that surprised the research team. ‘We generally talk about interspecies transmission as a rare event, but this wasn’t a huge sampling, and we’re able to document 30 spillovers. It seems to be moving between people and animals quite easily,’ said Andrew Bowman, associate professor of veterinary preventive medicine at The Ohio State University and co-senior author of the study.” • Not good for the burbs, where deer are pests.


“COVID mitigation make sense whether or not it’s a pandemic” [New York Daily News]. “one of the unfortunate upshots of the extreme politicization of public health has been the description of mitigation as all-or-nothing. Either we have shutdowns or everyone breathes directly on each other in a crowded room. In reality, we should get comfortable living somewhere in between…. That might mean pushing to reinstate government funding keeping COVID tests and boosters free after it’s largely fallen by the wayside, not because it’s a crisis, but because it’s a good investment and a way of actually preventing a crisis. It might also mean choosing as an individual to wear a mask during upticks in infections, skipping out on social events if you’re feeling sick, and pushing for employers to be more flexible about workers staying home when sick. Grabbing a mask on your way out the door if you’re not feeling 100% or are headed somewhere packed can become as second nature as grabbing an umbrella if it’s looking rainy.” Or — follow me closely here — putting on your clothes if you’re going out in public. More: “Let’s not forget that contending with COVID hasn’t produced a definitive victory but an arms race, one in which a particularly nasty emerging variant could crash through the protections we think we’ve established…. On that front, it’s good that the city continues to offer testing and vaccination for free, making it now an outlier nationally. Yet these tools are only as good as their utilization, so it’s on everyone to do their part. No one likes getting sick, after all.” • Cigarette smoking is not a matter of “choosing as an individual.” So why are “individuals” “choosing” to exhale hazardous bio-effluent into our shared air given any form of deference at all?

Elite Maleficence

As readers know, CDC director Mandy Cohen recommends handwashing, but not masking, against Covid. Perhaps she’s projecting? Because her own hands are so dirty?

Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 1: “Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” It seems that Lady MacBeth has a Covid symptom: parosmia. I wonder how Rochelle Walensky and Mandy Cohen sleep at night. Do the words “She has light by her continually” apply to them?

* * *

Case Data

From BioBot wastewater data, August 29:

Lambert here: Happy memories of tape-watching days! A flattening curve? 

Regional data. As we can see, the national flattening is due to the Midwest downward swoop:

I’m a little mistrustful of that Midwestern data. I don’t know why the Midwest would be flattening, and the rest of the country not. (At this point, let us remember that depressives are the only personality type that accurately assesses risk, and that introverts make good actuaries.) So I expanded the regional chart to a year:

So the discrepancy we see in the six-month chart is not unknown. (I also noticed what I should have noticed before, that all the peaks, whether under Donald, the First of His Name, or Biden, are in the Northeast. This is case counts, not deaths, but it does tend to throw cold water on the idea that Covid’s continued prevalence is due to those darned Red States and their vaccine refusal. 

Anyhow, it did occur to me that Illinois held in fief by J.D. Pritzker, a man who’d grab the Presidency like a fistful of donuts if offered, but who for that very reason needs to look more loyal than loyal, so I looked at Illinois wastewater in the last fifteen days:

No gaming here that I can see. Not enough lower-case b blue. And the national map:

Plenty of blue in Michigan, but is Michigan really enough to turn the national tide? Midwest readers, what do you see?


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

From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, August 26:

Lambert here: I changed this ER chart to a Covid-only chart broken down by age. Note the highlighting.

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 Bellwether New York City, data as of August 29:

Still getting worse. But how much worse? I hate this metric because the lag makes it deceptive.

NOT UPDATED Here is CDC’s map…. “In Past Week,” because there’s no [family blogging date]:

Orange = “substantial increase” (more than 20%). The cadence: “Maps, charts, and data provided by CDC, updates Mondays and Thursdays by 8 p.m. ET.” So apparently, on Friday, I have to compare the map here with the one on the CDC site to see if the update has, in fact, been performed. Why are they making me think?


NOT UPDATED Walgreens, August 28:

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.

NEW Cleveland Clinic, August 26:

Lambert here: I know this is just Ohio, but the Cleveland Clinic is good, and we’re starved for data, so…. 

NOT UPDATED From CDC, August 7:

Lambert here: This is the CDC’s “Traveler-Based Genomic Surveillance” data, confirming the current surge, only two weeks late. Sure would be useful to know if there were any BA.2.86 in those samples, though!


NOT UPDATED Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, August 23:

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: 1,173,448 – 1,173,422 – 1,173,081 =  26. 26 * 365 = 9,490 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 29:

Lambert here:  Back to almost daily. 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

Employment Situation: “United States ADP Employment Change” [Trading Economics]. “Private businesses in the US hired 177 thousand workers in August 2023, the least in five months, missing market expectations of a 195 thousand rise and following an upwardly revised 371 thousand increase in July.}

* * *

Travel: “How The Steep Decline In Chinese Tourists Will Cost The U.S. More Than $20 Billion” [Forbes]. “‘Before Covid,’ Raimondo said, ‘as many as three million Chinese travelers visited the United States annually, contributing more than $30 billion to the U.S. economy.’ In 2019, 2.8 million Chinese visitors accounted for only 4% of all inbound foreign travelers to the U.S., yet they accounted for 13% of spending. This year, fewer than 850,000 Chinese will travel here, according to the National Travel & Tourism Office (NTTO), the agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that tracks tourism statistics. That 68% drop in traveler volume translates to more than $20 billion that Chinese visitors will not spend in the U.S. this year. Three months after the official end of the pandemic, the U.S. tourism industry is still in recovery mode. Before Covid, 79.4 million international visitors to the U.S. injected roughly $239 billion into the national economy, accounting for nearly 10% of America’s total exports and services. In 2023, the U.S. expects to welcome 62.8 million foreign visitors–a 21% year-over-year jump but still 21% below pre-Covid numbers. Inbound travel volume to the U.S. is not expected to hit pre-pandemic levels until 2025.” • Just in time for the next airborne pathogen.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 52 Neutral (previous close: 50 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 50 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 30 at 2:02 PM ET. C’mon, Mr. Market! One way or the other!

The Gallery

Material reality (1):

Material reality (2):

Lowry looks like a detective at the scene of a crime:

As indeed he is: The crime is social murder.

Class Warfare

“Amazon CEO reportedly tells remote workers ‘it’s probably not going to work out for you'” [MarketWatch]. “Earlier this year, Amazon asked all of its workers to return to the office at least three days a week by May 1. That sparked a vocal backlash from employees, including a walkout in May. The situation was exacerbated in July, when Amazon warned that some employees may be forced to relocate to the company’s main offices in big cities. ‘It’s past the time to disagree and commit,’ [Chief Executive Andy Jassy] said in a recent staff meeting, according to Insider, which cited a recording it obtained.  ‘And if you can’t disagree and commit, I also understand that, but it’s probably not going to work out for you at Amazon because we are going back to the office at least three days a week, and it’s not right for all of our teammates to be in three days a week and for people to refuse to do so.'” • He seems nice. How’s the ventilation, Andy? Sure, Amazon offices are hellholes, but are they also death traps?

News of the Wired

“A DIY ‘bionic pancreas’ is changing diabetes care — what’s next?” [Nature]. “What they wanted was automation — an algorithm that would analyse glucose data and program the pump itself. Coalescing around this aim in 2013, the community debuted a hashtag: #WeAreNotWaiting. Then, in February 2015, group member Dana Lewis shared the code for an algorithm that she and two collaborators had developed and tested. ‘We didn’t set out do to anything big,’ says Lewis, now an independent researcher in Seattle, Washington. But soon, people who had downloaded and used the algorithm shared their personal experiences and gave feedback. When users suggested tweaks and potential improvements, others tried them and reported back. Katarina Braune, an endocrinologist at Charité – Berlin University Medicine, estimates that around 30,000 people now use open-source technology for automated insulin delivery (AID). Some use Lewis and colleagues’ original OpenAPS system, which requires a minicomputer to control it, whereas others use either AndroidAPS (which evolved from Lewis’ system) or Loop, which are smartphone applications.” • Wow!

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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 TH:

TH writes: “It looked fine when I took it… but now I’m seeing how taking this photo at the angle I did has made for some keystoning that has me wondering if I could have straightened any of those lines in editing, or if to straighten one would send others careening. I’m seeing how taking this photo at the angle I did has made for some keystoning that has me wondering if I could have straightened any of those lines in editing, or if to straighten one would send others careening. I like that this nursery (Sherman Library & Gardens in Corona Del Mar, California) has uniquely employed this cabinet as both shelf (drawer), and shade (cupboard)… and then, I always love a splash of multi-hued hydrangea flowers.” Well, my angle on everything is pretty skewed, so perhaps I’m not the best judge. Readers?

* * *

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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. ambrit

        Sometimes I get tired of “…twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.”
        (This Pandemic may have been “officially” ended, but someone forgot to tell the coronavirus.)

      1. ambrit

        Very interesting publication there.
        I like how it says in one place, “..to safely and fully reopen the economy.”
        When ‘they’ tell you what they are, believe them.

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          You must be a heretic if you don’t believe humans were made for The Economy? And aside from being a heretic, you’re ignoring certain clear signs of Intelligent Design (and we know The Economy is very intelligent):

          1) Opposable thumbs for pulling credit cards from wallet;

          2) Bipedal, once this was one foot for the gas and the other for the clutch and brake. Now the second foot is a bit like the appendix.

          3) Eyes, when young, that are capable of extraordinary focus able to see minuscule text on tiny screens.

          We are also designed between our ears to lust for a “normal” of never-ending baby back ribs, economy flights to Aruba and taking our giant pick-up trucks off-road to see if we can run over some animals. Whoopee!

  1. Anon

    I’m with Atrios on this one, my timeline of the days and weeks before Election 2020 are pretty blurred. If I remember right and I’ll have to look it up when I get home, but didn’t Eric Topol basically brag about delaying the vaccine results that if he didn’t, would have meant that the vaccine comes out in mid-October as opposed to the week after the Election?

      1. Anon

        Okay, back home now and as it turns out, I did remember correctly! Here’s Eric Topol talking about how he got to Pfizer to delay the rollout – funny enough, I think this may have been run in a past Water Cooler, perhaps, or I got it from Twitter:

        One doctor’s campaign to stop a covid-19 vaccine being rushed through before Election Day

        From the article:

        Across the country, in California, a doctor named Eric Topol was responding in real time on social media. He questioned the president’s health, his doctors’ actions, and even his mental status.

        By that point Topol, a heart expert and researcher with a huge Twitter following of his own, was already weeks into a personal campaign to make sure the administration could not rush a covid-19 vaccine through regulatory authorization before Election Day on November 3.

        An editorial in the New York Times had raised the possibility of an “October surprise” vaccine back in June, and warned that a vaccine approval could turn into a “campaign stunt.” Topol, who works at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and is one of the country’s most prominent doctors, aimed to prevent Trump from greenlighting a vaccine before scientists could prove it to be safe and effective. To Topol, developing an effective vaccine against covid-19 is “the biggest event in our generation” and one that should be evaluated on the basis of scientific data, not political implications.

        To prevent such a scenario, Topol led online calls for FDA commissioner Steve Hahn to resign after his agency was criticized for cowing to political pressure—and then phoned Hahn a number of times to urge him to resist Trump’s influence. Topol also targeted Pfizer, the only pharmaceutical company likely to seek approval of its vaccine before Election Day, which eventually set up a meeting for him with its vaccine team.

        On October 16, Topol and his allies were able to claim success: Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company would not be able to seek emergency approval for its vaccine before the third week in November, owing to safety standards that had been put in place by the FDA. Those standards had been issued against Trump’s wishes, but at the urging of Topol and other advocates.

        1. Sam

          As to whether vaccine hesitancy would have gone down if Trump had been re-elected I think people have forgotten that Biden and Kamala said that they would not be taking the ‘Trump’ vaccine because they didn’t think that it would be safe because it was rushed and there were no long term studies. So instead of right leaning people being hesitant we would have had Biden supporters being hesitant. I was reading daily kos at the time and the echo chamber said that they wouldn’t take it either.

          Imagine if neither party made vaccines political. But they did and the rest is history.

    1. Jen

      It’s interesting to speculate what might have happened had Trump won. Would team blue rally around the vaccines, or because Trump is evil, run in the opposite direction, calling them the “Trump” vaccines, and declaring them untested, unproven and unsafe? Would they have embraced them as a way out of the pandemic, or, unwilling to the bitter end to give Trump anything resembling a victory, denounced them?

      What if masking had continued as a symbol of liberal “resistance?”

      Alas, we shall never know.

      1. Acacia

        I would say we can perhaps make a call on this one.

        IIRC, Team Blue was already running in the opposite direction, calling them the “Trump” vaccines, questioning, flagging, etc.

        E.g., in her public debate with Pence, Kamala Harris was asked about the vaccines and said: “if Donald Trump tells us to take it, I’m not taking it.” The Trump campaign responded with: “Harris continues to peddle anti-vax conspiracy theories and undermine the public’s confidence in the coming coronavirus vaccine.”

      2. Sam

        Oops. I put my comment on this in the wrong spot. It might be just above your comment. But team blue’s leaders were absolutely against taking the Trump vaccine because they didn’t think it was safe.

    1. Randy

      He is giving Feinstein and Biden a run for their money for the “most disabled” title.

      What is going on with the bruised bloody looking bags under his eyes?

      He looks horrible, not that I am very sympathetic.

    2. Samuel Conner

      One would think that at some point, McConnell’s neurological health will become openly discussable by D partisans. I wonder to what extent that may be delayed by discomfort among Ds at the prospect of open the question up as it may pertain to people on their side of the aisle.

      1. IM Doc

        If I had to guess, I would say he is having petit mal or absence seizures. In someone his age, this may not be better than a TIA.

        Note the upper right gaze with the head straight ahead. That gaze is much more likely in a seizure. Most people with TIAs do not do that and will often have sudden obvious facial drooping. They also garble speech, not quit altogether for this long.

        I do not know for sure, but that is my guess, and nothing like this is good in this age group. This type of seizure in this age group would most likely represent a discrete space occupying lesion in the brain. The eyes gaze toward the side of the lesion. Brain tumors could do this but not likely. I have mostly seen this in people who have had a concussive trauma and have a subdural hematoma – a bruise or blood clot between the brain and the skull. If small, it may resolve on its own. In his age where there is likely some degree of brain shrinkage no matter how healthy you are, the veins on the surface of the brain are fragile. You do not have to hit your head, just a sudden fall and head jerk can do it.

        The only issue is I do not know of him falling or any trauma.

        It also jives with my past experience in such patients. If the subdural hematoma is small and they decide to watch it and let it resolve on its own, it is common for the patients to continue having spells like this until gone. This may be why the handlers are not totally freaking out but seem rather subdued.

    3. The Rev Kev

      People like Mitch and Feinstein will never step down and make way for people still in good health but will demand that they be wheeled into the Capital Building to do their wheeling or dealing rather than go off into obscurity. Power is an addictive drug.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Those states are safe, but the establishments are at risk in a vibrant primary. It’s not them but their flunkies.

        What if the winner of a Cali primary was from up near Humboldt County or Sacramento? In a place like Virginia, everyone on both sides is needed to win, so you can’t cut them out.

        Did anyone in SF replace Pelosi? Her flunkies are nothings now.

  2. Raymond Sim

    @UseBy2022 says on his ‘Future’ Twitter feed that August 2023 BA.2.86 tracks nicely with September 2021 BA.1 as a percentage of sequenced samples.

    I didn’t check the math myself, but I toss it out as a reminder that big changes in scale often throw off our sense of proportion: I’ve seen a lot of “Doesn’t look to be taking off like Omicron.” takes which seem to be strictly intuitive and, if Future did his addition and division right, appear to be incorrect.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Is this the tweet you mean?

      1. ambrit

        Look at the reduction of the sample size!
        Nov. 2021- 746,487 samples.
        Aug 2023- 8,475 samples.
        Almost a 100 fold reduction in just two years.
        This is criminal negligence on the part of the purported “Public Health Authorities.”
        Stay safe. Source your own data.

    2. Raymond Sim

      @shay_fleishon, who first detected BA.2.86 has weighed in, concluding that the low numbers don’t indicate low fitness.

  3. petal

    Republican presidential candidate files lawsuit to keep Trump off New Hampshire ballot

    “ONCORD, N.H. —As challengers for the 2024 Republican nomination struggle to dethrone Donald Trump as the clear frontrunner, a virtually unknown candidate is trying to get the former president disqualified.

    John Anthony Castro, a Texas-based attorney running a longshot bid for the GOP nomination, filed a lawsuit in Merrimack Superior Court this week seeking an injunction that would force New Hampshire’s Secretary of State to keep Trump’s name off the ballot. In the court filing, Castro argues Trump violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which bars anyone who engaged in or provided aid or comfort to an insurrection from holding office.

    In an interview with News 9, Castro pointed to then-President Trump telling members of the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during a 2020 debate ahead of the November election, and his messages posted to social media during the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as instances of “providing comfort” to an insurrection.
    “We had someone who was watching TV giddy as a school kid, seeing the U.S. Capitol getting attacked,” Castro said. “He can’t hold any office, local, state or Federal. He can’t even get elected in the Palm Beach city council. That’s how serious it is.”
    The lawsuit comes as other members of Trump’s party, including some in New Hampshire, have raised the argument of Trump’s potential ineligibility because of the 14th Amendment.
    On Tuesday, New Hampshire’s Secretary of State’s office clarified that no action has been taken to bar Trump from the ballot. The attorney general’s office said it is “carefully reviewing the legal issues involved” and is consulting with the secretary of state.
    A spokesperson for the attorney general told News 9 they are aware of the lawsuit filed by Castro and are reviewing it.
    Castro said he is filing similar lawsuits in important swing states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio and Georgia.
    Requests for comment from the Trump campaign were not immediately returned.”

    1. ChrisRUEcon


      “Baby Attack-RINO”

      Wouldn’t be surprised if a follow-the-money effort on Mr. Castro turned up Dem sources.

        1. ChrisRUEcon

          > or Bush sources, not that there’s a difference

          Does the Bush clan (still) have it in for Trump that badly because Trump absolutely demolished Jeb(!)?? ;-)

          That’s a topic I’ve not seen discussed much at all, but one that is intriguing.

          1. britzklieg

            Hard to imagine the Bush’s don’t hate him more than most, and true to Papa Bush’s CIA leadership (many forget that fact) it would make sense they’d do so without publicly admitting it.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              No, but I suspect 2020 promising a steady hand against the nut Hillary was the goal.

              Delusion runs strong. Jeb! joined Ollie North as rare GOP state wide losers in 1994.

            2. ChrisRUEcon

              > Was it Jeb’s turn in 2016?

              I think it was supposed to be … there’s an Economist cartoon I can’t seem to find at the moment, but the article it’s from was warning about (IIRC) the “dangers of giving in to populism” on both sides of the US political duopoly. So, effectively … Trump on the GOP side, and Sanders on the Dem side. The “proper” choices were Jeb and Hillary, but we all know now what happened with the “Pied Piper” strategy – it worked great up until the general … LOL. The cartoon showed HRC, Sanders, Jeb and Trump marching four abreast with Sanders and Trump keeping straight ahead while HRC and Jeb peeled off to the side.

              I’ve always wondered if the Bush family took it personally to some degree, but they’re all rich and powerful nevertheless … so … ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (<— ASCII “Shruggie”)

  4. ChrisRUEcon

    #COVID19 #BioBot #Midwest #Northeast

    I put forward the summer transit-hub thesis few days ago … ;-) (via NC)

    I think you can extend it to the northeast with its trans-Atlantic hubs. I think travel destinations/transit-hubs contribute to spikes like the ones seen in the midwest and northeast.

  5. Joe Well

    >>Pivoting away from electoral politics to supporting all forms of labor organizing, backed by a movement, on a national level would certainly have been greeted with opt in-level enthusiasm by a significant portion of Sanders’ mailing list; probably the only people who would have resisted seriously would have been Sanders’ idpol-addled staff, already looking for jobs with the next campaign. Instead Sanders — as indeed he warned us he would — shrank himself down to a “progressive” Democrat.

    I. Will. Never. Forgive. Or. Forget. This.

    When I think of the many hours I took away from paid work and personal pursuits to spend on this campaign with the idea that we were also building a movement…only to see it shut down much like Obama’s first campaign. And the (barely) paid staff who were let go with barely a warning despite full campaign coffers. I was robbed. We were all robbed. Or scammed.

    1. Mark Gisleson

      Robbed? Scammed? How so? No campaign I ever worked for owes me anything. Time put into a campaign is a donation, just like money into Salvation Army kettle.

      Losing sucks. There really is nothing more to it than that. You lose, you move on. That’s politics.

      Fwiw, when you lose it’s traditional to get drunk and to stay that way for a month or so. It helps.

      Gratuitously annoying pro tip: never become emotionally invested in the candidate, talent is replaceable — the movement is what counts and the talent is just the horse you rode in on. Sometimes the horse breaks its leg and you have to shoot it but it’s nothing personal : )

        1. The Rev Kev

          More likely ‘put not your faith in Princes.’ But a lot of people like Joe Well thought that they were taking part in a national movement back in 2016 that transcended ordinary politics and made lots of sacrifices to help it. That was actually the message – ‘Not me – us.’ And almost overnight that message became ‘Not me – but my old friend Joe.’ If Sanders announces that he wants to stand for President next year, I would hate to think of the repercussions of that.

  6. thump

    Lambert, not clear that electing Trump in 2020 would have saved lives. Greater excess deaths might just have been in blue states instead of red. :P

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      It most certainly would have saved about 400,000 ukrainian lives in case anyone cares.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Yeah, Trump would have never signed up for Project Ukraine on his watch as an actual war. Come to think of it, Saudi Arabia would have been still a good friend and would probably not reconciled with Iran nor gone into BRICS. When Biden is gone, somebody is going to have to do a ‘damage assessment’ of his Presidency and the list will be long and consequential.

      2. Acacia

        Interesting how Team Blue members just wave this away.

        Almost like “no more mean tweets in my timeline!” matters far more than, oh, hundreds of thousands of lives in some far-off country?

  7. Mark Gisleson

    “But since when do the organs of state security get to censor books about domestic affairs?”

    My wild guess would be that as a former cop he worked for a PD that had signed multiple NDAs regarding the nifty technology law enforcement now uses.

    To work in an American Girl warehouse I had to sign an NDA and it clearly claimed the right to review any intellectual content I created while I was a warehouse grunt employed by American Girl. I cannot imagine what the paranoia levels are like at places that make stuff that’s actually important.

    The blue collar NDA thing is a backdoor to pre-publication review and censorship. Making the censorship stick might be an interesting court case but this reeks of bullying and threats of expensive litigation to assure compliance.

    1. Neutrino

      Right to repair, right to write both supplanted by right to wrong, reserved to those who need to know.
      And people thought that work couldn’t get much more degrading!

  8. dave -- just dave

    The paintings of L.S. Lowry were the source of the song title “Pictures of Matchstick Men” – 1968 hit for British band Status Quo, 1989 hit for American band Camper Van Beethoven.

    1. Mark Gisleson

      Thanks much for that. I used to sing Pictures of Matchstick Men while doing farmwork (I thought the tractor covered up my singing but learned years later that neighbors a quarter mile away had no trouble picking my voice out from the tractor’s ; )

    2. Peerke

      Or was it “Matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs” by Brian and Michael – sung with a somewhat authentic Salford accent (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kmopSVOMSsU)? There’s a bit of what sounds like the CWS brassband at the start. Also notice the barrage ballon in the sky above Mather and Platt. The painting is set in the Newton Heath area of Manchester. You can see parts of that works in Peaky Blinders…….

  9. kareninca

    Since reddit posts are copied here sometimes, here is one from four days ago; the heading is “I’m not liking what I’m seeing in the ER.”


    Here is part of it:
    “We’ve changed because the patients are sick again. I went from admitting older patient or those with comorbidities, to admitting Covid pneumonia patients. I can’t remember the last time I pulled a hypoxic 40 year old patient out of the passenger seat of a car frantically blaring its horn. 2 years ago? 3? But there me and the nurses were, and we ended up getting back to back hypoxic patients. It’s probably a logically fallacy on my part, because of the frenzied resuscitations but this was giving me hard “Delta Wave” vibes. And I didn’t feel alone in that. Staff were side-eyeing each other, over our masks, which are definitely back. When it’s busy, and the nurses are in the Resuscitation Bay reacquainting themselves with the manual on BiPAP and the vent, it’s a little unnerving.”

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      Bartenders are also a good leading indicator … but I haven’t see many piping up on X/Twitter recently … I’m not on Reddit … but since you are, that’s probably another r/ hole worth going down.

    2. notabanker

      Sorry, [checks list], yeah, um, only Google, Youtube and Facebook are authorized to provide public medical information. The US Government has determined the pandemic is over. Thanks for playing.

      1. Sardonia

        Well, the US Government is still playing a role in this – namely, making sure that Google, YouTube, and Facebook all delete any content that says that Covid is still a problem.

    3. petal

      The farmer in western NY I used to work for, who is now in his early 90s, just tested positive. He has had prostate cancer for a while. Figuring this might not end well. More people at work have it, more are masking. Not many, but a few more make the increase noticeable. The box of free RATs at the stockroom has been refilled. The students(almost all from out of state) are coming in, too. The freshmen just had orientation this afternoon, along with all of their parents. The wastewater stats take 2 weeks to come out from sample date so this should be interesting. Wish there was a cave for me to hide in.

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      I said this years ago … the world’s best capitalists are the communist Chinese … where’s that tweet?!! LOL

  10. Geo

    Interesting article on grocery prices and efforts to enforce regulations:

    ““Walmart’s consolidation of the grocery market has led to people paying higher prices across the board,” says Stacy Mitchell, co-executive director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), an advocacy group challenging consolidation of corporations. At Walmart, for instance, an NPR investigation found that Walmart prices went up around 23% between August 2019 and December 2022; some of the steepest hikes included Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats, which climbed 73% between August 2019 and December 2022; and Bounty paper towels, which increased 67%, says Mitchell. Consolidation in the economy has increased prices across many industries, according to a recent paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.”


    (My apologies if this has already been posted/linked but hadn’t seen it so figured I’d share.)

    1. Carolinian

      This may be more to the point of your linked story.

      However, there’s a big question for consumers here: whether the FTC’s enforcement actions could drive prices up. I like the idea of shopping at Key Foods, after all, but my pocketbook vastly prefers the cheap prices at Walmart. I should, I suppose, be willing to pay a little more so that Americans living far from a big box store can also get fresh groceries, but few people are going to volunteer to pay higher prices on behalf of an unknown fellow citizen.

      Economists are still divided on whether Robinson-Patman enforcement truly raises prices; there are studies that show it does, and studies that show it doesn’t. If the FTC can somehow prove that enforcement won’t raise prices, that it will instead create a country with big chain stores and small independents with similar prices, it may have a fighting chance at restarting enforcement after more than 30 years. But it’s going to be an uphill battle.

      My small Southern city has 7 different grocery chains of various sizes only one of which is Walmart. There is a food desert problem in a largely African American section of town and the city has offered subsidies and incentives to keep a grocery store there. Piggly Wiggly (yes, famous, from Driving Miss Daisy) has now taken it over. Personally I do believe there is a “Walmart effect” in keeping prices down, not up, and while they may undercut the prices of that Piggly Wiggly they price the same as Aldi or Lidl on house brands and an Asheville headquarted chain on things like milk and meat. All of the just mentioned are thriving. Publix–patronized by those who refuse to go to the discount groceries–may be a little more expensive.

      The point being that Walmart does have plenty of competition to keep them from dominating and raising their prices. The huge grocery inflation of Covid times no doubt tracks back to the suppliers like Cargill etc where consolidation is a thing.

      We used to have other chains–regional or smaller–and with one exception they are all gone. Can’t say I miss them much because a grocery store is a grocery store. But I would say making this all about Walmart is not the true picture.

  11. Carla

    “Lambert here: I know this is just Ohio, but the Cleveland Clinic is good, and we’re starved for data, so…”

    Hah — joke’s on me. Lambert, I had not finished reading Water Cooler before sending you that Cleveland Clinic chart just a few minutes ago. The chart is a good local resource. However, I do quibble with you calling the Cleveland Clinic itself “good.”

    The Cleveland Clinic monopoly is NOT requiring masking in any of their facilities. The husband of a CC employee told me “Oh, well, staff has been told not to get too comfortable, because they’ll all be returning to masking in October.” (He and his wife have had Covid more than once each… though whether acquired from grandchildren or the wife’s workplace or general socializing or a combination, I don’t know.) But I am so reassured to know that Covid-19 will follow the Cleveland Clinic’s schedule and not get REALLY BAD until October — be advised, everyone!

  12. SG

    But since when do the organs of state security get to censor books about domestic affairs?

    When the author is a former employee of that “organ of state security” and agreed to it as a condition of employment. The author was an FBI agent for over a decade. Not saying it’s right, mind you, just pointing out that the author agreed to it beforehand.

  13. Will

    re public officials modelling safe behaviour

    Quebec’s Minister of Transportation has apologized for not wearing seatbelt. Variety of photos posted to her social media feeds over the past 3 years show her without a seatbelt while a passenger or driver. She promptly apologized when this was pointed out to her.

    I’m not old enough to know a world when people didn’t wear seatbelts, but I assume when introduced many would have doubted we’d see the day something like this happens. A better world is possible…


  14. Antifaxer

    The press needs to cover the Amazon story for what it is – they are conducting a layoff.

    Forcing employees that were hired as fully remote to move across the country for their job seems like a way to cull the heard and avoid paying severance.

    From what I’m reading – they are not even providing relocation assistance – which to me, has layoff written all over it.

    If they were genuine in wanting their people back and in those offices, they would at least offer to pay for the move.

  15. Pat

    Covid celebrity anecdata.

    Both Josh Groban and Anna Leigh Ashford have been out of Sweeney Todd in the last week and a half for Covid. first Groban then Ashford. Shucked announced that they are suspending audience stage door meet and greets due to Covid.

    John McEnroe is not covering the US Open because of Covid.

    While McEnroe never made it out there. I figure we’ll have a few more reports from the Open starting next week. It has been in qualifying rounds for most of this week. NYC is heating up.

  16. Anon

    Wouldn’t interference with presidential functions be akin to insurrection, thus leading to all those Democrats from being barred from public office?

  17. Jason Boxman

    From: Escaping Attrition: Ukraine Rolls the Dice

    The Lancet in particular has been a star performer – there are claims that the trusty little loitering munition is responsible for nearly half of Russia’s artillery kills – and has filled a crucial capability gap that troubled the Russian army episodically throughout the first year of the war. Contrary to some western assessments that Russia simply could not manufacture drones in sufficient quantities, production of the Lancet has been successfully ramped up in a short period of time, and mass production of other systems like the Geran are coming online as well.

    Another failure of the West, as Russia has an opportunity to develop and test better weapons platforms, while the United States can’t even bother getting a war footing to build more of the existing weapons platforms. Russia armaments are going to level up during this conflict, with no equivalent development and testing taking place on the NATO side.


    1. The Rev Kev

      Reports are saying that the present Russian army is a completely different beast to what they started this war with. And that is applying to doctrine, equipment, organization, personnel, etc. Professional NATO officers are looking at it and do not want a part in fighting it no matter what politicians are saying.

    2. Carolinian

      Larry Johnson takes down that New Yorker story in Links this morning.


      One thing the Rand guy from the magazine article says is that NATO is never ever going away. Really? If Russia seriously wanted to invade Europe then what would stop them other than nuclear weapons? NATO would run out of ammo in a few weeks.

      What this war has really shown is that NATO is a paper tiger (with nukes) so why does anyone need NATO? How about no NATO and no nukes either? Russia would probably be willing.

  18. JB

    Good article on panopticon bossware.



    Putting my own future of work at risk, as I’m noticing it is becoming a standard contract requirement in software remote work (for various reasons I’m unable to do this type of work in person) – and I would sooner consent to an electronic zapper device attached to my groin area, for promoting ‘productivity’, than accept this.

Comments are closed.