2:00PM Water Cooler 8/31/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

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.”

Patient readers, I left out the embed code. Sorry! Here, then, is 7:30 of whip-poor-will, cattle, snipes, etc.

* * *


“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.

* * *

“Liberal groups seek to use the Constitution’s insurrection clause to block Trump from 2024 ballots” [Associated Press]. “Two liberal nonprofits pledge court challenges should states’ election officers place Trump on the ballot despite those objections. The effort is likely to trigger a chain of lawsuits and appeals across several states that ultimately would lead to the U.S. Supreme Court, possibly in the midst of the 2024 primary season. The matter adds even more potential legal chaos to a nomination process already roiled by the front-runner facing four criminal trials…. ‘There’s a very real prospect these cases will be active during the primaries,’ said Gerard Magliocca, a law professor at Indiana University, warning that there could be different outcomes in different states before the Supreme Court makes a final decision. ‘Imagine you have an opinion that says he’s not eligible and then there’s another primary where he’s on the ballot.’ Though most litigation is unlikely to begin until October, when states begin to set their ballots for the upcoming primary.” And: “In 2021, the nonprofit Free Speech For People sent letters to the top election official in all 50 states requesting Trump’s removal if he were to run again for the presidency. The group’s legal director, Ron Fein, noted that after years of silence, officials are beginning to discuss the matter.” So Democrats have been working this for awhile; in fact, since the events of January 6, ariot immediately framed by them as “insurrection.” More: “It’s critical that the high court settle the issue before the general election, said Edward Foley, a law professor at The Ohio State University. His fear is that if Trump’s qualifications are not resolved and he wins, Democrats could try to block his ascension to the White House on Jan. 6, 2025, triggering another democratic crisis.” • Many examples of election officials considering this issue. 

“Donald Trump ineligible for presidency because of role in insurrection, new lawsuit claims” [Chicago Tribune]. “The lawsuit, citing Trump’s involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, wants the federal courts to enforce the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, added after the Civil War to prevent people who engaged in rebellion against the United States from holding office again…. ‘Realistically, it’s not a Hail Mary, but it’s just tossing the ball up and hoping it lands in the right place,’ said Charles Zelden, a professor of history and legal studies who specializes in politics and voting at Nova Southeastern University. ‘It’s hopefulness that we can make the problem that is Trump simply go away. And I’m sorry, Trump is too big a problem to simply go away. He’s too much of a challenge to the system.’ ‘It’s kind of one of those ideas that only a law professor could love,’ Zelden said.” • Here is the case:


Time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“Trump Decries ‘Violent’ Fulton County Jail: ‘It’s Worse Than You Could Even Imagine'” [The Messenger]. “In a fundraising email to supporters over the weekend, Trump described his time being booked in Fulton County, Georgia on Thursday. … ‘It’s violent. The building is falling apart. Inmates have dug their fingers into the crumbling walls and ripped out chunks to fashion over 1,000 shanks,’ Trump wrote. ‘It’s worse than you could even imagine. Just this year alone, 7 inmates have died in that jail.’… The former president said the “third world state” of the jail further motivated him to run in 2024.” • See Atlanta Magazine’s “The real behind the wall: A look inside the infamous, deadly Fulton County Jail” for lots of ugly detail: “Last year alone, the facility endured 11 fires, 534 fights, 114 stabbings, and at least two murders.” “Third World” is exactly corrent. (Scanning the list of Atlanta prisons — there are twelve — all the jails besides Fulton County are city jails; but he’s not being charged by the city.)

“Trump: They Want To Restart Covid Hysteria Ahead Of 2024 Election, “We Will Not Comply'” (transcript) [RealClearPolitics]. From a video by Trump on Truth Social, quoted in full:

DONALD TRUMP: The left-wing lunatics are trying to bring back Covid lockdowns and mandates with all of their sudden fearmongering about the new variants that are coming.

Gee, whiz, you know what else is coming? An election.

hey want to restart the Covid hysteria so they can justify more lockdowns, more censorship, more illegal dropboxes, more mail-in ballots, and trillions of dollars in payoffs to their political allies heading into the 2024 election. Does that sound familiar?

These are bad people we’re dealing with.

But to every Covid tyrant who wants to take away our freedom, hear these words: We will not comply.

So don’t even think about it, we will not shut down our schools, we will not accept your lockdowns, we will not abide by your mask mandates, and we will not tolerate your vaccine mandates.

They rigged the 2020 election and now they’re trying to do the same thing all over again by rigging the most important election in the history of our country, the 2024 election. Even if it means trying to bring back Covid.

But they will fail because we will not let it happen. When I’m back in the White House I will use every available authority to cut federal funding to any school, college, airline, or public transportation system that imposes a mask mandate or a vaccine mandate. Thank you very much.

The destruction of public health, and especially non-pharmaceutical interventions, in favor of libertarian sociopathy is one of the more appalling trends in American political life. What’s just as appalling, perhaps moreso, is that if you strip away Trump’s red meat rhetoric (“we will not comply”) Trump has described Biden’s policy of mass infection without mitigation to a T. The PMC hated masks, and got rid of them. And the lockdowns the PMC orchestrated, by world standards, were the most pissant and half-assed lockdowns imaginable; the conservative frothing and stamping about the age-old and proven public health measure of quarantine reminds me of an elephant’s panicked bellowing at the sight of a mouse. Meanwhile, the “left wing lunatics” are themselves trying to do away with N95s in favor of “Baggy Blues,” and lower infection controls generally, in hospitals ffs, as we have seen in our HICPAC coverage, and the effort is led by hospital infection control apparatchiks from Mass General, the Bluest city in a Blue state. So they’re coming up with a kindler, gentler version of the eugenicist policies that Trump, sadly, also supports [pounds head on desk].

* * *

“Why Biden is now routinely taking the short stairs up to Air Force One” [NPR]. “It’s one of the iconic images of the American presidency: the commander in chief, standing and waving to the cameras from the top of the stairs leading into Air Force One. But recently, President Biden has been avoiding climbing up the sometimes-wobbly 18-foot staircase that is trucked over to the plane’s upper door. More often than not, he is using a much shorter and sturdier set of stairs that fold out from the belly of the plane. Biden, 80, has stumbled on the tall stairs more than once. The short stairs have the distinct advantage of moving most of Biden’s ascent into Air Force One out of public view. But for those who have noticed the shift, it also draws attention to one of Biden’s greatest political liabilities as he seeks reelection: his age. Biden had been using the short stairs now and then since taking office, but an NPR review of two databases of news photographs show that there’s been a dramatic change since June. That’s when Biden tripped over a sandbag and fell on stage at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation.”

“Biden’s Secret Emails: President robinware456” [Wall Street Journal]. “The Southeastern Legal Foundation on Monday sued the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) under the Freedom of Information Act, demanding access to some 5,100 email messages in which then-Vice President Biden used a pseudonym for government business. NARA has admitted having Joe Biden’s emails from robinware456@gmail.com, JRBWare@gmail.com, and Robert.L.Peters@pci.gov…. Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson first demanded access to Joe Biden’s pseudonym emails in mid-2021, after Hunter Biden’s famous laptop showed the veep’s office used private or alias accounts to send government information to Hunter. One email alerted Hunter to a call the Vice President made to then-Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko—at the same time Hunter was on the board of Ukrainian gas giant Burisma. Another laptop entry shows Hunter using his business email in 2014 to write to his father’s ‘robinware’ account, asking the veep to call him before making a specific government staffing decision. Joe replied: ‘Re Johnny call me right away Dad.’ Why use email addresses designed to skirt searches of government records? Without the public exposure of Hunter’s laptop by the New York Post, nobody would know an extra set of vice presidential communications existed under obscure addresses. The clandestine emails fit a pattern that GOP investigators are piecing together of a behind-the-scenes effort by Hunter to sell his father’s power in Washington—in which Joe played along. Mr. Comer on Wednesday also requested that NARA provide all documents, communications and manifests related to Vice President Biden’s use of Air Force Two and Marine Two, following a Fox News report that Hunter traveled to at least 15 foreign countries with his father on official trips. Government employees are discouraged from using private email to conduct government business, and when they do they are required to forward all relevant documents to federal record-keepers. There’s no reason for the White House to refuse disclosing these official, vice-presidential records—unless it has something it wants to hide.” • Idea: Have Biden’s lawyers go over all Biden’s emails and remove whatever they like. Then turn them over. That’s what Hillary Clinton did, after all.

“White House warns GOP Biden impeachment will backfire” [The Hill]. • So why don’t the Republicans organize to have Biden “disqualified” from the ballot under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment? (I have to say I’m dubious about impeachment, even though the House Operations committee has acquitted itself well, unlike the Benghazi hairball.)

* * *

“‘Desperate’ Democrats are urging Michelle Obama to run for president: Report” [WION]. “RadarOnline[dot]com has reported that secret back-channel talks have started within the Democratic Party to convince former first lady Michelle Obama to run for president. The news report has said that numbers suggest Michelle Obama would have greater approval ratings (48 per cent) than Biden (36 per cent) if she declared right now that she would be running for president. ‘If Michelle announced, the election would go immediately from a hotly contested footrace to a landslide,’ a Democrat source reportedly said… Obama reportedly held a low-key meeting with bigwigs in the Democratic Party at his Washington DC office recently. ‘Barack recognizes the gravity of the situation with Joe’s disappointing poll numbers,’ said a source as quoted by RadarOnline. ‘He had hoped that the president would have rallied and come into his own at this point, but that clearly hasn’t happened.’ ‘With 2024 growing closer and closer, he had to act since he apparently fears Joe is getting too old and frail to win.’ ‘While Barack has already endorsed Biden, he’s reneged in private and will publicly throw Joe overboard in a heartbeat if he thinks that the election is on the line,”” said another source as quoted by RadarOnline.” • “… at his Washington DC office.” Ah yes, the shadow government gives consideration to another President from Chicago, city of broad shoulders, and all that.

* * *

“Section Guy Runs For President” [Josh Barro, Very Serious]. “When Vivek Ramaswamy and I were undergraduates at Harvard,1 students would sometimes talk about the scourge of ‘section guy.’ ‘Section guy’ wasn’t a specific person, but an archetype — that guy in your discussion section who adores the sound of his own voice, who thinks he’s the smartest person on the planet with the most interesting and valuable interpretations of the course material, and who will not ever, ever, ever shut up. ‘Be nice to that overeager Gov 20 section guy, for like many on Congress’ current roster, he may someday take the well-traveled road from Harvard to the Hill,’ The Harvard Crimson warned in 2010, just a few years after we both graduated. Well, now section guy is running for president… I think the main difference is that Trump has charisma that Vivek lacks — Trump is a showman, he seems like he’s fun at parties, and when he lies to you it can even sometimes feel like you’re in on the joke. Vivek, meanwhile, has Ted Cruz’s overcaffeinated-ex-college-debater affect, and seems like someone you’d desperately find an excuse to sneak away from at a cocktail party. And that is why I simply cannot buy Vivek as a successful mini-Trump. Yes, unlike other Republican candidates, he’s figured out what it even means to copy Trump — appealing to the Trump base is not about getting as far to the right as possible, as Ron DeSantis appears to believe. As Vivek knows, it’s about giving voice to all their grievances without any regard for how your resulting statements relate to truth, ideology, or the practicalities of American government. He is the first candidate to become full of sh*t in the same manner as the former president, and I give him credit for that. But I have always thought the other essential element of the Trump mystique was likability. Trump’s fans don’t just agree with him — they think he is cool and badass. And just as Ron DeSantis is too awkward to succeed him, Vivek is too annoying to do so. Section guy can never win a presidential nomination.”

“Vivek Ramaswamy, Political Performance Artist” [Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal]. Weird to see the man George Bush nicknamed “Turdblossom” mutate into a stuffy, huffy Colonel Blimp. Anyhow, this: ” During a New Hampshire Q&A in June, a voter claimed the Federal Reserve ‘is illegally taking money out the back door, not through the proper channels, or adding zeroes to bank accounts to the media or maybe your political opponents.’ He asked Mr. Ramaswamy, ‘How are you going to stop that illegal under-the-table spending of money from the Federal Reserve?’ With a sign behind him emblazoned with the word ‘Truth,’ Mr. Ramaswamy indulged the crank rather than set him straight. ‘You’re correct to point out what very few people are aware of. Absolutely, that happens.'” • Big if true!

Republican Funhouse

“Why Is Nobody Doing Anything About Mitch McConnell?” [Politico]. “For the second time in about a month, the heavy gears and winches that drive Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s brain seized up in front of news cameras. While taking questions from reporters on Wednesday in Covington, Ky., and asked about running for reelection in 2026, the top Republican powered down for 30 seconds as if an unseen hand had removed the lithium ion battery from his chassis. Attempts by an aide to reboot him seemed to succeed as he muttered, “”OK,”” and gave brief answers before retiring from the scene… If McConnell were a bus driver or broadcaster or teacher engaged in any other occupation that, like serving as a legislative leader, demands real-time responses, he would have been benched pending a medical examination. Instead, Mitch’s verbal stoppage has been met with paralysis by the political order, which seems incapacitated by his condition. …  Things aren’t fine in the U.S. Senate. Nobody should be considered irreplaceable, even if it causes a political mess. And the preferred means of departing the Senate shouldn’t be feet first. To insist otherwise is yet another symptom of lightheadedness.” • Or post-Covid neurological damage?

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.

* * *

If this is true — and there’s no reason to think that it is — then the Democrats are in terrible trouble:

(First yellow highlight theirs; second, mine.) I have, to my knowledge, never answered a single one of their horrid surveys.

“One win, 17,000 defeats – life as a Washington General” [BBC]. Long-time political bloggers will recall the trope that the Republicans are the Harlem Globetrotters, and the Democrats the Washington Generals (though I’m not sure that’s true any more). Here is the origin of the trope: “Over more than 50 years since, the Globetrotters have been ruthless in meting out their revenge. To the unmistakable melody of Sweet Georgia Brown, they’ve showboated their way to victory at the expense of hapless Generals who’ve never again beaten their illustrious opponents. In contrast to the universal adulation enjoyed by the Globetrotters, those wearing the Generals’ infamously unsuccessful green jerseys are booed, ridiculed, and dunked on during defeat, after defeat, after defeat. They are the rarest of sporting commodities: the underdogs you’re not supposed to root for. So why would anyone want to play for the Washington Generals?”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“American megachurches are thriving by poaching flocks” [The Economist]. “Welcome to Life.Church, one of America’s largest megachurches, headquartered near Oklahoma City. Really it is a chain of churches, with 44 sites across 12 states. Every weekend around 80,000 people attend one of 170 services in person. Most watch a pre-recorded sermon by a senior pastor, Craig Groeschel; a junior pastor acts as an in-person mc and a worship band plays live. The whole thing blends seamlessly, and it is streamed online, too.” And the nice thing is that the “senior pastor” is kept well away from potential superspreading events! “Churches have closed as the proportion of Americans who call themselves Christian has fallen from 76% in 2010 to 64% in 2020. But most of America’s 1,750 megachurches—all Protestant and mostly evangelical churches with at least 2,000 worshippers—are thriving. Between 2015 and 2020 their congregations grew by a third on average, turning younger and more multi-racial, according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, a think-tank in Connecticut… Concentration among churches accelerated as costs rose in the 1970s, notes Mark Chaves of Duke University. Smaller ones lost members… With more money and more hands, megachurches can innovate. Though they account for just 0.5% of all churches and 7% of churchgoers, their influence is felt in the music played elsewhere and the popularity of their ted-talk-style sermons, says Scott Thumma of the Hartford Institute. Nearly all the top contemporary worship songs between 2010 and 2020 came from just four megachurches.” • Holy Lord, one for Stoller:  “The truth is that the body of Christ is consolidating.”


“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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Covid is Airborne

“We Need a Revolution in Clean Indoor Air” [The Tyee]. “Thousands of engineers and physicists who understand air chemistry now support better indoor air filtration and ventilation as our way out of relentless viral waves and chronic hospitalizations. One environmental engineer, Richard Corsi, who has spent his life trying to improve indoor air quality, even designed a $60 box fan that draws circulating air through filters as a pandemic fighter. Thousands of citizens have built them. And yes they work.” They do. More: “Unfortunately, the prescription to cleaner air has been overshadowed by too much faith in drugs and the rapid development of vaccines (a historical first) as the true way out of the pandemic. There is no doubt that vaccines, particularly boosters, have dramatically lowered the death toll, but they have not stopped viral transmission, viral evolution, waning immunity or vaccine hesitancy. But when it comes to pandemics, history shows that they largely perform as a backup squad. Dramatically lowering transmissions remains a key goal because of the certainty that some who contract and survive the virus will have debilitating long COVID, and allowing the virus to circulate freely speeds its mutation. Beyond cholera, more historical examples aren’t hard to find.” And: “Physical changes in how we eat, dress, house and interact with the world can dramatically alter disease patterns and even end pandemics. Examples given are yellow fever, typhus, and the Black Plague. Speculative, but interesting: “The Black Death started reshaping Europe in the 1300s and showed up every decade or so after over the next 300 years. So why did deadly outbreaks caused by a bacterium carried by fleas, lice and black rats roll on for three centuries? Historians are still debating the plague’s demise but engineering may have made a key contribution. Quarantines and isolation probably played an important role as well as changes in climate, clothing and human nutrition. But society also changed the nature of home construction. A 14th century dwelling was typically covered by a thatched roof which provided ideal living conditions for black rats and fleas. Eventually, after a wave of monstrous fires visited many European cities in the 17th century, homes of that sort were replaced by brick structures and slate roofs. At the same time an invasion of brown rats, which prefer sewer living, displaced Europe’s black rats. So actual changes in the conditions of living probably brought an end to the Black Death by eradicating its most fertile conditions.” • Vax-only has been such a debacle (unless you believe, as I would speculate a large proportion of capital does, that society is a teardown and there’s no point investing in it. Rents from vax > health from engineering). Anyhow, the article is well worth a read. The Tyee cites to this article–

“Public Health is a Job for Engineers” (abstract) [Mechanical Engineering]. The deck: “Physicians Can Cure Diseases, but Mechanical Engineers Build Defenses To Ward Off Pathogens Defore They Infect.” The Abstract: “Instead of waiting to fight diseases inside the human body, engineering can establish lines of defense further out by either intercepting and neutralizing the pathogens before they reach humans or diluting them so much that they can’t build up an infective load. Good engineering can create robust public health.” • This is the journal of The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the article is paywalled. Could some kind soul in the readership send me a PDF? Thank you!


“CDC Assesses Risk From BA.2.86, Highly Mutated COVID-19 Variant” [JAMA]. “The agency’s assessment noted that compared with other recent circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, the new variant may be more capable of causing breakthrough infections in people who were previously infected or vaccinated. So far, it has not been found to cause more severe illness. But the limited number of cases means it’s too soon to know whether it causes more severe COVID-19 or is more transmissible than other variants, the CDC said. ‘Detection across multiple continents suggests some degree of transmissibility,’ the agency said. ‘This is notable since scientists have not detected transmission of most other highly diverged lineages, which can arise in immunocompromised persons with prolonged infections.'” • Here is a map showing BA.2.86 spread (remember, the absolute numbers are low):

Sure looks like air travel to me!

This tweet is a classic example of why “racing” is a tell. The story is always about the race, and never about the causes of the race:

So now, with no testing and tracing — not even at airports — we “race” to figure out what’s going on. (I hate that “what to know” formulation, too; I don’t know if it’s new, or I only just noticed it. I’ll decide what I need to know, thank you very much.)

Elite Maleficence

“Dear Public Officials: Stop falling for the myth of an irrational incompetent panicked public” [Chloe Humbert] “Officials often fail to warn the public properly, and actually impede citizens from actually responding in an emergency when the officials become more concerned with controlling people’s potential reactions than actually helping people and providing clear communication. Some people in charge have ridiculously patronizing and wrong ideas about how other people will react in an emergency. They believe in pseudoscience and outdated paranoid notions of ‘mobs’ panicking on a hair-trigger, seemingly based on ridiculous tropes in monster movies they watched as kids, but that are fiction and unrepresentative of reality. It’s time for people in charge to educate themselves about the true problem: Elite Panic! This is the phenomenon described by James B. Meigs in an article from May 2020: ‘When authorities believe their own citizens will become dangerous, they begin to focus on controlling the public, rather than on addressing the disaster itself.’ Or as described in the 2002 documentary Toxic Sludge is Good for You, the corporate culture is such that PR firms promote crisis management where the ‘first move is not to deal with the actual problem, but to manage the negative perception caused by that problem.’ Lee Clarke points out in the article ‘panic: myth or reality?’ that blaming panic is a way of blaming the victim when things go wrong because of structural or management failures, and that people recognize this and learn to mistrust those who deflect this way. The article ends with the statement: ‘Our leaders would do well to see us as partners in recovery rather than as a “”constituency”” to be handled.'” • Lots of linky goodness here, and at the accompanying podcast page.

* * *

Case Data

From BioBot wastewater data, August 31:

Lambert here: Happy memories of tape-watching days! Resuming our upward climb, at a slower pace.

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

Yesterday’s Water Cooler was full of charts that showed why I was dubious about the Midwest downward swoop, which now seems to be reversing itself, I don’t know whether due to the data, backward revisions, or what.


NOT UPDATED From CDC, August 19:

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

From CDC, August 5:

Lambert here: Not sure what to make of this. I’m used to seeing a new variant take down the previously dominant variant. Here it looks like we have a “tag team,” all working together to cut XBB.1.5 down to size. I sure hope the volunteers doing Pangolin, on which this chart depends, don’t all move on the green fields and pastures new (or have their access to facilities cut by administrators of ill intent).

CDC: “As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, August 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.


Bellwether New York City, data as of August 31:

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.

NOT UPDATED 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: 1,173,593  – 1,173,448 – 1,173,422 – 1,173,081 =  145. 145 * 365 = 52,925 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 31:

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 Challenger Job Cuts” [Trading Economics]. “US-based employers announced that 75,151 jobs were cut in August of 2023, the most in three months, and rebounding 217% from the 11-month low of 23,697 cuts in the previous month, according to a report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. The result pointed to another period of softening in the US labor market, suggesting that the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes are being transmitted at a greater extent in the middle of the third quarter.” • But see below–

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits edged down by 4,000 from the prior week’s upwardly revised value to 228,000 on the week ending August 26th, defying market expectations of 235,000 and underlying the still tight US labour market.” • But see above!

Manufacturing: “United States Chicago PMI” [Trading Economics]. “The Chicago Business Barometer, also known as the Chicago PMI, rose to 48.7 in August of 2023 from 42.8 in July, and well above market forecasts of 44.1. The reading marked the 12th consecutive month of contraction in business activity in the Chicago region but the smallest in the current sequence that began in September 2022.”

* * *

The Bezzle: “Crypto Scores Landmark US Legal Win With Grayscale ETF Ruling” [Bloomberg]. “Grayscale Investments LLC won a key legal fight in its push to launch a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund, bringing the crypto industry to the precipice of tapping billions of dollars from everyday investors. The firm’s court victory over the US Securities and Exchange Commission in a three-judge appeals panel in Washington represents a watershed moment for the largest cryptocurrency. Advocates say an ETF based on spot Bitcoin prices would result in a gush of retail cash. The SEC, which has thus far only allowed crypto ETFs based on futures because it says they are safer, is reviewing the decision. The agency could still fight the ruling, either by asking a full slate of judges on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, or the US Supreme Court to review the decision. Meanwhile, the decision injects significant momentum into Grayscale’s yearslong push. It’s also a stinging rebuke of Chair Gary Gensler’s bid to clamp down on the industry. Investors welcomed the news. The Grayscale Bitcoin Trust rallied as much as 21% and Bitcoin surged by as much as 8.3%. Grayscale has said converting to an ETF would help it unlock billions of dollars in value for investors in its $16.2 billion trust by making it easier to create and redeem shares. The trust’s closed-end structure doesn’t allow for investors to redeem shares when prices fall, causing it to trade at steep discounts to its underlying Bitcoin. As an ETF, it could create and redeem shares to keep up with changing demand. Tuesday’s ruling is the second recent high-profile court defeat for the SEC over its stance on crypto. The agency is fighting a federal judge’s ruling that offerings of Ripple Labs’ XRP token were not securities when sold to the general public. Grayscale’s win may have the most sweeping impact yet. Some of the biggest and most established names in finance have recently filed applications with the SEC to launch Bitcoin ETFs.” • Uh oh.

* * *

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!

Police State Watch

“Why Cash Seizures Backfire on Oklahoma Police” [RealClearPolicy]. “Police recruits join the force to help others and fight crime. Research confirms it. But priorities changed when sheriff’s deputies detained Eh Wah in Muskogee County, Oklahoma, and found more than $53,000 in his car. Law enforcement training kicked in, and the purpose of the traffic stop switched from public safety to raising revenue. The deputies seized the cash and spent the next six hours interrogating Eh Wah, looking for any excuse to justify civil forfeiture, a process that allows the government to take and keep cash, cars and other assets without a criminal conviction…. What happened to Eh Wah undercuts this narrative. He was not a drug lord or even a low-level dealer. He was a volunteer manager for a Christian rock band, raising money for Thai orphans and Burmese refugees. Some of the cash belonged to Eh Wah and the band members, following a monthslong tour across several states. The rest came from concert donations and belonged to the orphans and refugees. Carrying cash is legal. The money in the car was legitimate. And none of it related to a broken taillight — the reason for the 2016 traffic stop on U.S. Route 69. Eh Wah, who neither smokes nor drinks, had nothing illegal in his vehicle. Other than driving with a burned out bulb, he did nothing wrong. The deputies pounced anyway, putting civil forfeiture in motion.” • Like Medicaid estate recovery, civil asset forfeiture is a cash-grabbing abomination that has gone unchecked for years.

Class Warfare

“Studio CEOs Set To Meet Today Amid Internal Tensions; No End In Sight To Strikes” [Deadline]. “Amid growing speculation of internal divisions within the C-suites and a lack of any apparent path forward to end the writers and actors strikes, the chiefs of Hollywood’s biggest studios are set to gather today…. ‘Almost everyone is looking for someone to blame,’ another insider says of the backbiting among the core CEOs. ‘They’re paralyzed, even as the clock is ticking, and it’s Ted’s fault, Iger’s fault, even Tony Vinciquerra’s fault, depending on who you ask,’ the source added, name-checking the Netflix co-CEO, the Disney CEO and the Sony Pictures chair and CEO. ‘It’s not helping the situation, or anyone.'”

News of the Wired

“What Can Historical Clothing Reveal That Other Sources Cannot?” [History Today]. “In late 2022, two pairs of extremely old jeans sold for record-breaking prices. A wax-covered and patched pair of Levi’s, dating from the 1880s and discovered in an old mineshaft, were sold in New Mexico for $76,000 in October. Two months later, that fee would be smashed by an even older pair of trousers. Pulled from a sunken trunk of an 1857 shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina, these jeans were auctioned for $114,000. Those work trousers were on an ill-fated voyage from San Francisco and are an early precursor to modern-day blue jeans…. The heavy-duty work trousers sold in December 2022 were salvaged from the wreck of the SS Central America, which sank with the loss of 425 lives and from which tens of millions of dollars of gold have been recovered. These miner’s work trousers are inextricably linked to the mid-19th-century Californian Gold Rush. The other patched-up and cut-off pair from the 1880s have been worn threadbare by hard labour, with the wax splatters giving a clue to their owner toiling by candlelight. These trousers are clearly labelled Levi Strauss, along with an imprint that claims: ‘Made by White Labour’ – a bigoted boast to appeal to consumers after Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Both pairs bore witness to important moments in American history.”

* * *

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 CC:

CC writes: “Water lilies at Giverny, in Normandy, France.”

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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. Henry Moon Pie

    Police seizures–

    Even though he was apparently blameless, Mr. Wah should have known better than drive though Muskogee.

    We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee;
    We don’t take our trips on LSD
    We don’t burn no draft cards down on Main Street;
    We like livin’ right, and bein’ free…

    And I’m proud to be an Okie from Muskogee,
    A place where even squares can have a ball.
    And we still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse,
    And white lightning’s still the biggest thrill of all.

    Merle ‘splained it all long ago. Time and friendship with Willie Nelson softened Merle’s view later on.

    1. barefoot charley

      Merle was always a freak. He said he wrote the song as a satire–but we all know how well that works.

  2. Carolinian

    I have been in the Fulton County Courthouse. Didn’t seem too grim.

    Atlanta is confusing because the Tootsie Roll center of the city itself is small compared to that metro thing that sprawls across North Georgia and is comprised of several of Georgia’s small counties. Trump would probably love to get a change of venue to Cobb or Gwinnett–Dekalb not so much.

    It was panic over Buckhead leaving and incorporating that had much to do with the contested Police Training Center since crime in Atlanta’s version of Beverly Hills had supposedly much increased. I haven’t lived there in a long time and maybe none of the above is still true but time was the city was very politically, not to mention racially, divided.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I have been in the Fulton County Courthouse. Didn’t seem too grim.

      Just grim enough? The Atlanta Magazine article is pretty horrific, and from the numbers alone overcrowding is bad.

      1. Mark Gisleson

        And Trump chose to turn himself in at that jail.

        Clever politics. A+ for making the absolute best out of a worst case situation.

        1. ambrit

          Waiting now for the podcast: “Letter from Fulton County Jail.”
          Better yet, have Rogan or Carlson interview him in the jail.
          This is the “gift that keeps on giving.”

      2. Carolinian

        Aren’t the courthouse and the jail two separate things? At any rate I was nowhere near the jail and had to do jury duty and then, another time, go as a witness to an incident.

          1. J.

            The Fulton County jail is about four miles from the courthouse. The courthouse is fine, the jail is truly horrid. This article has some pictures:


            The jail is overcrowded, understaffed, and many of the people in it have been held for years without bond or because they cannot make bond. Several people have died there this year and lately it’s accelerated to one a week.


            “Smith had been in jail awaiting trial without bond for nearly four years…”

            This poor guy wrote a letter asking for help a few days before he died:


  3. Jason Boxman

    But for those who have noticed the shift, it also draws attention to one of Biden’s greatest political liabilities as he seeks reelection: his age

    It’s not his age, it’s his mental and physical frailty, of which age is a proxy.

    I at least respect Trump, for he’s saying the quiet part out loud yet again: public health measures of any kind in the midst of the largest Pandemic in a hundred years can go pound sand. Liberal Democrats, too, believe and practice this, but they try to wrap themselves in virtue signaling. That’s dishonest and degenerate. Liberal Democrats are casual murders, eugenicists. At least Trump is calling the ball honestly.

    An election where one candidate is honest that you can go die and that that is going to be the policy of this nation, and the other is a doddering moron, that is actually carrying out the other candidate’s policy in fact, if not in rhetoric.

    What a f**king great country this is, eh?

    Ha. And Sanders stands proudly with D-eugenicist instead of R-eugenicist, because fascism, or something. Okay. Yeah. I need a t-shirt that says eugenicist for president, it’s bi-partisanship in the most cuddly way.

      1. SG

        Perhaps it’s just a case of confirmation bias, but I found Trump’s post-Covid behavior to be noticeably more, umm, atypical than before. Given the number of people who’ve had Covid and the odds of neurological issues, I think we’d be hard-pressed to find any candidates for office in the US who weren’t cognitively impaired to some degree.

    1. in_still_water

      And what was happening from December 19th, 2019 to February 5th 2020? An impeachment based on a guy’s with ribbons on his chest (who was offered to be Ukraine’s defense minister two times) interpretation of a phone call questioning the integrity of a laundry mat.
      After reading some translated articles from newspapers in Thailand and Vietnam who were reporting that Covid-19 seemed quite similar to their experiences with SARS in December, I found (and still find) myself aghast at the actions of Pelosi (and whomever else) during that time-frame.
      I have no doubt that in a couple of years, Biden’s disastrous economic/military actions will be blamed on Covid by the Democrats.

    1. Michael King

      “…I’m a little under the weather…”. Oh no! I hope you don’t have the “C” word. Whatever it is, I hope you feel better soon.
      By the way, John McEnroe said a similar thing when he announced his positive Covid test. I’m sorry that he is ill but won’t miss his US Open broadcasts. In related news, the tournament is being hammered by a Covid outbreak with an ever growing number of players dropping out or turning in listless performances. Not that the tournament officials and announcers will say so. It’s a mysterious illness don’t you know. No testing of course! Barbaric.

  4. Dr. Nod

    I assume asylum seekers would not be considered illegal by the DHS until they were turned down for asylum. Most of the people discussed in the article would not be considered illegal. If the quoted statement is at all reliable, I suspect that many of the Indians and Chinese are illegal because they overstayed their visas.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      By u.s. immigration “law,” economic hardship is not a valid reason for seeking “asylum.” In addition, all valid asylum claims must, by “law,” be made at official ports of entry.

      So crossing the Rio Grande at any old shallow point and trekking across the desert to a 7-11 parking lot so that you can get a construction or domestic day job for cash that you can send back to your country of origin or pay back to your coyote is, in fact, “illegal.”

      Not that it actually matters.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        as a poor jeffersonian yeoman farmer, i miss a ready and hardworking labor pool that i could actually afford to pay to do the myriad things i need help with.
        once had a man show up…i saw him walking across the field to the south, no less…and we hired him for a week…turned out, he had an economics phd from a mexico city universidad, but nafta had killed everything, and he was headed to minnesota to pick beets.
        we had many great conversations around the fire, if a lil wonky because my kitchen spanish was not that great at that time.
        most of the Mojados i have known were decent, hardworking people…who wouldn’t have been here at all, if not for our gooberment and the corps(e) they work for.
        we treated them right, paid them above the goin rate, and fed them.
        the phd economist stayed on my couch, and i worked right beside him the whole week.
        sent me a post card from Minnesota of all things.
        like james mcmurtry says:” i dont hate the man doin my job, today…i hate the man who sent the jobs away”.
        works with just a little modification for domestic labor arbitrage, too.

  5. nippersdad

    I have never had any idea why Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey would be considered to be relevant contestants for the presidency. Their only rationale would be that everyone has heard of them, but then everyone has also heard of the Kardashians and they have never been floated as contenders. But, OK.

    My idea for the celebrity presidential race would be to air drop them all onto the Northern coast of Svalbard, and the first to make it past the polar bears to Longyearben would win. If they don’t make much sense at least they can continue to provide some entertainment value.

    1. Carolinian

      Ellen? Barbra? She could be our first singing president although Truman did play the piano.

      Expect a killer version of Happy Days are Here Again.

      In fairness Obama got the job based on a celebrated convention speech and Michelle has done that too so they might figure why not? Probably the only reason they haven’t is that she has said she won’t do it and if so good for her.

      1. nippersdad

        Yes. Hopefully she will have more self respect than to be used that way.

        I am still enamored of my idea about the run for the presidency on Svalbard. An AI pair of Attenboroughs and Cosells commentating on how Rachel Maddow should not have stepped on the leopard seal, the dangers of America Ferrera and Lena Dunham wading through a pod of walrus or why Lady Gaga should not have worn that meat suit would be much more satisfying than what we are ultimately going to have to watch.

        1. John Beech

          Your mention of Howard Cosell fired off the mental tape recorder and I *heard* his voice in my head once again. I was one of the few (only) kids at school who liked the guy. The fights, Ali, Fraser, Foreman, MNF, the whole deal. His use of vocabulary shaped my life as a wordsmith (too wordy). His downfall, especially the way it happened (cancelled) was instructive as well and to this day I remain cautious of resembling a nail when surrounded by hammers.

          Anyway, nearly 9AM the morning after this appeared, which means I am writing for my own satisfaction, as usual. Whatever.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > have never had any idea why Michelle Obama

      Because she would be a straw; Obama’s third term. Of course, there would be an avalanche of propaganda about how she’s her own woman, “Listen to Black women!”, etc. But in essence a Michelle administration would be handing the country over the the “shadow government” in Kalorama.

      1. nippersdad

        I get why the Democratic establishment might think that, but why anyone else would view it as anything but a stunt is beyond me. I sincerely doubt that the Kalorama soap bubble would be tough enough to survive having a straw woman stuck into it, especially when there is a well respected person like West ready and waiting to remind people about the effects of Obama’s actual policies.

        1. earthling

          The great sea of middle-of-the-road US women who vote would dearly love to have a well-dressed and articulate person in office, one with a bit of ‘class’, that they would not be ashamed of. They would choose her. or any first lady who knows how to arrange napkin rings, over the vulgar rantings and senseless chaos of Trump.

          1. The Rev Kev

            That had that back in 2008 with a glamorous couple elected and people were talking about the New Camelot at the time. How did that work out?

            1. nippersdad

              Funny how you would ask that. A blast from the past:

              “The Clinton and Obama administrations presided over the worst losses in congressional and state races in modern history in 1994, 2010 and 2012. And voter preferences were clear. Under Obama, it was the Blue Dog, Third Way Democrats who were turfed out,…..”


              I am looking forward to Yves update next year.

    3. Glen

      It’s getting hard to predict who can win the Presidency while campaigning to essentially do nothing. And any Presidential candidate that says the country is a bit messed up and needs serious change has to be completely suppressed.

      So running popular billionaires that will do nothing has the approval of the other billionaires that want nothing done.

  6. LawnDart

    Re; Excess Deaths

    I should have tagged when posting in “Links” or emailed Lambert this morning, but I didn’t, so reposting due to relevance:

    United States ‘experiencing a crisis of early death’

    A recent study is revealing the dire state of public health in the United States. In comparison to other wealthy nations, the U.S. death rate far outpaces America’s peers — leading researchers to say that the country is actually “experiencing a crisis of early death.”

    Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) found that more than one million U.S. deaths a year — including many young and working-age adults — could be avoided if the country had mortality rates similar to other high-income nations.

    The study refers to these excess deaths as “Missing Americans…”


  7. Katniss Everdeen

    Apropos of “Section Guy Runs for President” and “Vivek Ramaswamy, Political Performance Artist,” Breaking Points had a segment this morning entitled “Internet Wonders If Vivek & Mayor Pete In Same CIA Op.”

    It seems that, in the run-up to the 2004 election, both found themselves with the opportunity to ask a question of democrat presidential candidates during separate msnbc Hardball college town halls. Vivek questioned a fatter-than-now al sharpton, and mayo pete drew dick gephardt.

    The Breaking Points video and a written Mediaite version:



    I wonder which came first, wef “Young Global Leaders” selection or these serendipitous performances. I’m goin’ with the wef.

  8. curlydan

    Has anyone put a MERV 13+ air filter in their home AC and noticed any problems? I was doing “my own internet research” on this, and some said that it might not be good for the AC (limiting intake, overwhelming motor, etc) since the airflow would not be as good as with other filters.

    Not sure if that’s possibly true or just fearmongering. I have plug in air filters, so I don’t have to have MERV 13+ filters, but I’d kind of like the extra layer of protection if possible.

    1. steve

      Higher efficiency filters have higher resistance to air flow for a given size, measured as a pressure drop across the filter. It will substantially reduce air flow compared to less efficient filters of the same size. Typical HVAC systems will experience a performance hit through reduced air flow.

    2. marcyincny

      Our HVAC maintenance guy who’s taken good care of us for many years recommended a maximum MERV 12 for our 20-year-old system. Just sayin’…

    3. Raymond Sim

      My wife bought MERV 13’S in error once, and I do think they hastened the demise of our a/c fan. Helped my allergies though.

      I don’t know what the conversion factors might be, or where to find them, but I would think a sufficiently deep (i.e. high surface area) MERV 13 ought to be okay if you could contrive to fit it to your system. Duct tape can work wonders.

    4. Late Introvert

      My daughter has an allergy to dust (mites) so I have run MERV 13 and equivalent for the last 10+ years, but not above that, and have experienced zero furnace or air flow problems.

      I have a 950 sq. foot house though, and that is generous given part of it is an attic bedroom with no air return, so YMMV. I also think I have a bigger furnace/AC unit than my house needs, and we keep it at 79/81 unlike most people. I think it all depends on the details of your situation.

    5. some guy

      If a MERV 13+ air filter semi-chokes-off airflow, would there be a way to install two air intakes where one used to exist and put MERV 13+ air filters in each of the two intakes? Would providing more area for air to go through reverse the effect of making it harder for the air to go through each unit of area?

  9. johnherbiehancock

    Here’s a bizarre one for the Police State Watch beat (link)

    Coffee City, TX, pop. 293 (according to wikipedia) or 249 (according to the article) is located approx. 160 miles north of Houston, and has a bizarrely large police force (over 50 officers), some of whom live nowhere near Coffee City, and more than half of whom had been fired from or suspended from other police departments for misconduct.

    It’s Like they’re stashing all the bad apples in one place.

    But the article hints by being on the force (or any force) these cops can earn more moonlighting, and in exchange for doing them a solid, the chief hiring them might be earning a cut. He denies it, of course.

  10. ChrisRUEcon


    Foisting this from yesterday’s #2PMWC, where Rev Kev asked:

    > Was 2016 Jeb’s turn?

    In my response, I alluded to a cartoon I thought came from The Economist magazine, but it did not – my mistake.

    Here is the cartoon as it appeared in Politico (via Reddit).

    So the cartoon was really exposing how the two “anointed” ones – HRC and Jeb! – failed to capture the “adulation of the masses”.

  11. Divadab

    “Liberal groups seek to use the Constitution’s insurrection clause to block Trump from 2024 ballots”

    What a moronic abuse of the word “insurrection”. These people are not only stupid, they are morally defective.

  12. Old Sarum

    Grayscale ruling:

    I cannot help but link it with the Mitch McConnell situation.



    ps I had to look up ETF

  13. Divadab

    “Why Is Nobody Doing Anything About Mitch McConnell?”

    Or Diane Feinstein- who has been judged incompetent to handle her own affairs but apparently this is no impediment to her senatorial duties?!?

    FFS the whole sham is an insult to the intelligence. They don’t even try to hide their contempt for the citizenry and for any semblance of actual accountable government. No wonder they were so terrified by the Jan 6 fakery – they know what contemptible scum they are and they fear retribution.

  14. Jason Boxman

    I never thought in my short years I’d live to see complete societal collapse, but these are the leaders that we have: McConnell Releases Letter Declaring Him ‘Medically Clear’ to Work After Episode

    This guy won’t be satisfied until he dies in front of the cameras, I guess.

    The brief statement came from the attending physician of Congress, who said he had reached the conclusion after consulting with the top Republican’s doctors and didn’t say he had examined the senator.

    (bold mine)

    I feel better already!

    Meanwhile, corrupt as it gets, yet still on the court.

    Justice Clarence Thomas, in his annual financial disclosure form released Thursday, responded in detail to reports that he had failed to disclose luxury trips, flights on a private jet and a real estate transaction with a Texas billionaire.

    In an unusual move, the justice included a statement defending his travel with the billionaire, Harlan Crow, who has donated to conservative causes, and amended earlier forms that had “inadvertently omitted” information. Although Justice Thomas reported three trips taken over the past year on Mr. Crow’s private jet, the first time in nearly two decades that he has disclosed such gifts and travel, the form did not appear to be comprehensive.

    Justice Thomas Reports Private Trips With Harlan Crow

    This is not a serious country.

  15. The Rev Kev

    “Water lilies at Giverny, in Normandy, France.”

    Monet always did love that place and painted that scene many times. It was a favourite of his

    1. John Beech

      If ever there were proof of a monopoly . . . they work in tandem. Anyway, I don’t care, we’ll raise prices to account for it.

  16. jp

    Regarding the Cleveland Clinic chart, and the location marked ‘why’:

    If the curiosity is about why the ‘Percent of Tests Positive’ line trends above the ‘Number of Positive Tests’ starting at the place marked with the red line, consider what would happen if the scale at the right side was changed. If the scale is changed the point where the lines will cross will move around, so there may be nothing special about that point.

    Not to say there isn’t some sort of change happening between the two measurements, just that April isn’t necessarily a significant point.

  17. John

    Biden takes the short stairs. McConnell has fallen more than once, suffered a concussion, and now freezes for the second time. Feinstein has appeared, at minimum, confused on more than one occasion. Age in the absence of signs of declining powers is not a bar to continued service. What have we here? I am close to Senator Feinstein’s age and so far so good, but were I any of these three, I would not choose to continue in office.

    1. Feral Finster

      In the case of Feinstein, Team D is desperate to promote Adam Schiff to the Senate, but if Feinstein resigns, Newsom as Governor of California has indicated that he will nominate a black woman to Feinstein’s job, in line with Newsom’s national ambitions.

      1. some guy

        Here is an opportunity for the Black Community spokesfolk to accuse the Team D leadership of racism and misogyny. They would at the very least hoist the Team D leadership upon its own WokeNozzle petard, and might even be able to extort the Tead D leadership into forcing Feinstein out of office soon enough for Newsom to install a Black Woman Senator in Feinstein’s place.

        ( If any Black political operatives are reading this . . . might it be worth a try?)

  18. Glen

    American elites fire the economic sanctions cannon and miss AGAIN:

    China Chipmaker Says it Is Replacing Sanctioned Tools Rapidly


    Those poor American elites. They are so good at wrecking their own middle class, their own education system, their own infrastructure, their own country. They just naturally assumed they could do the same to the rest of the world.

  19. hk

    I wonder what people think of this post by Korybko.


    I guess Korybko thinks it is pragmatic, not realistic by 100 miles. But the idea of some kind if “negotiated” outcome has been in the air a lot lately and I’m curious what people think, about whether it is at all feasible in near to medium term (ie within next year or so) and if so, what the key features might be.

    I’ll take a bite by noting that Russia faces a fundamental strategic problem: its ultimate foe is United States, the prize it seeks are Germany and France, but it is fighting Ukraine whose welfare does not interest US, Germany, or France one bit. Even if Russia completely crushes Ukraine, it will not be closer to winning over Germany and France or defeating United States. I used to write, somewhat unseriously, that Russia will have to march to the Atlantic to “win” this war and even that is problematic since that still wouldn’t defeat US and fails to assure a friendly and at least neutral Western Europe that would help isolate the Poles and the Balts in the long term, replacing them with restive states unhappily occupied even assuming that succeeds wildly.

    This, ironically, means that “peace” (or war) in Ukraine does not matter to Russia. It may engage in negotiations, but the goal would have to involve inducing France and Germany to seek reconciliation with Russia, hopefully more genuinely this time, not anything to do with Ukraine. Whatever happens, I’d imagine it will depend on the severity of the coming winter and general economic and social situation in Europe and some form of “rebuilding” Nordstream will be a part of the bargain.

    1. digi_owl

      I think by now Putin et al has given up on winning the hearts and minds of Europe, and all they want is to de-fang Ukraine so that there is no chance of USA placing missiles etc there aimed as Moscow.

      1. hk

        Thanks (to both you and Acacia).

        Your observations do underscore what I was thinking when I was writing this: that, in an odd way, Russia has sort of lost the war (or, as Yves put it long ago, Russia has lost the peace, regardless of what happens in Ukraine.) At least in the foreseeable future, even if Europe does fall apart economically and, possibly, socially, reconciling with Russia seems, eh, difficult. I don’t really see an obvious “negotiated peace” in Ukraine–definitely not a “frozen” conflict: I am now inclined to think it will end with Ukrainian capitulation and establishment of a puppet regime in Western Ukraine–one that, ironically, might be waging a guerilla war against Polish (and probably, other Western) “invaders” with Russian and Belarussian aid (such that Ukrainians will still be suffering a catastrophic demographic collapse yet). Certainly, the path towards that is being set now–the brewing “stab in the back” story, existing animus between Poland and Ukraine coupled with ongoing attempt at land grab by Poland, bellicose rhetoric out of Lukashenko, Wagnerites in Belarus, and millions of potential recruits by the next “Ukrainian resistance” in the West, especially Poland. But a lot of Ukrainians will remain anti-Russian…so possibly, much internecine struggle among different Ukrainian factions, too. Some “Afghanistan” Ukraine will have turned out to be.

      2. some guy

        That would require keeping the war going along defined front-lines long enough to kill every last Ukrainian strong enough physically to pick up a gun or throw a grenade or lay a mine or plant a bomb.
        And to keep Ukraine fighting that long would require the occasional recreational war-criminal-type missile strike against Ukrainian strictly-civilian targets. Not enough to kill meaningful numbers of Ukrainians. Just enough to renew Ukrainian rage and hatred enough to keep the Ukrainians fighting until there are precisely zero Ukrainians left in actual ethno-demographic terms to do any fighting anymore.

        Under this scenario, the final numbers of dead Ukrainians would reach genocide levels but if the goal is not to exterminate Ukrainians, then it would not be genocide. If the goal is merely to keep Ukraine fighting along a defined front till Ukraine stops fighting, and Ukraine chooses to keep fighting till enough millions of Ukrainians have been literally physically actually killed that precisely zero Ukrainians are left in existence to fight any more, the RussiaGov side could say . . . . ” we feel bad about killing that many Ukrainians, really we do. We just wanted to make them stop fighting.
        How were we to know they would keep fighting till there was not one physical Ukrainian physically left in physical existence?” Such statements would be a little bit disingenous of the RussiaGov to make, given that the RussiaGov will keep launching just enough ” war-crime atrocity attacks” against Ukrainian civilians just often enough to keep Ukrainians enraged, hateful and willing to keep fighting. Until there are none left to do any fighting any more at any level at all.

        After which the RussiaGov would try turning most of the physical space currently known as “Ukraine” into the sort of no-people-allowed “exclusion zone” which currently covers the Chernobyl radiation footprint zone. That way, Russia could then kill every single person it catches within the ” Ukraine Memorial Exclusion Zone” for decades to come, to make sure that not one threatening missile or artillery piece or commando team or anything else can come within 500 miles of Russia.

        The only way off that road to demographic extinction for Ukraine is if the currently surviving Ukranormals all turn their guns all at once against the various flavors of Ukranazi and Ukranazi-adjacent Ukrainians and kill every single one of them in detail, letting not even one of them survive alive. Then the Ukranormals would be able to sue for some kind of pathetic endstate peace.

        1. lambert strether

          Prussia no longer exists, but Prussians were not made extinct demographically. By the same token, Ukraine could no longer exist — I don’t regard the demands of Ukrainian irredentists as a moral imperative — but plenty of Ukrainians would survive, perhaps in “the free city of Kiev,” about the size of Kosovo. It would be nice if the Poles took care of the Azovs, but maybe that’s too much to hope for.

    2. Acacia

      Germany and France are, at the end of the day, vassal states in the USian Empire. And remember, Empires have no peers — only vassals and enemies. Ergo, Germany and France can never be “won over” by Russia. That ship has sailed, and the Russians know it.

      Accordingly, Russia has evidently given up on winning any hearts and minds in Western Europe, seeking only security within her borders. If Ukraine slash NATO insists on fighting to the bitter end, and the country has to be chopped in half, to serve as wasteland buffer zone and an object lesson to any other vassals that think they can poke the bear, perhaps that will be the endpoint.

      1. some guy

        If I had seen your comment, I might have written my long-winded comment just above anyway. But your comment seems entirely correct to me. I just offered some speculations on what Russia would do to keep Ukraine fighting until there is no Ukraine left to fight anymore, at which point the ex-Ukraine Memorial Total Exclusion Zone would then be instituted and maintained by killing every single person of any identity whatsoever which is spotted inside or entering the Exclusion Zone.

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