2:00PM Water Cooler 9/14/2023

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

American Robin, Burton Drive Hideaway
King, Washington, United States. “American Robins upset by 2 Barred Owls in a tree, called for at least 15 minutes. Owl calls at 0:33 and 1:38. Occasional other birds include Pacific-slope Flycatcher.”

* * *


“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

“Sweeping and Forcing the President into Section 3: A Response to William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen” (PDF) [Josh Blackman and Seth Barrett Tillman]. Only 126 pages! From the Abstract: “Part II provides a careful study of Griffin’s Case, a federal circuit court case decided by Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase in 1869. Chase stated expressly that Section 3 can only be enforced by Congress through federal legislation. Yet, Baude and Paulsen tar-and-feather Griffin’s Case, and their article reads like an effort to discredit Chase. But their criticisms miss the mark. They fault Chase for not adhering to doctrines developed decades later, and they condemn Chase for breaching invented ethical standards. All things considered, Griffin’s Case lies in the heartland of judicial thinking and scholarship. Baude and Paulsen misread Griffin’s Case, misunderstood Chase, and misconstrued the holding. Chase’s opinion was, and remains, reasonably probative evidence of the original public meaning of Section 3, and whether it is or is not self-executing.” • Worth digging into. I wouldn’t say the authors are from top schools, but then neither was anybody from MMT, say.

“Opinion  It’s not up to secretaries of state like me to keep Trump off the ballot” [Jocelyn Benson, WaPo]. Benson, a Democrat, is Michigan’s secretary of state. “the precise legal definition of the wording in the 14th Amendment — ‘engaged in insurrection or rebellion’ or ‘given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof’ — has yet to be determined. There are also serious and unresolved evidentiary and factual questions: How much did Trump influence the events surrounding the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021? What was the extent of his involvement in and possible criminal liability for the efforts to undo the 2020 election results? The House Jan. 6 select committee tried to get to the bottom of the first; the rest will be examined and decided in court proceedings as state and federal criminal cases unfold…. [F]inally, there’s the very real value of ensuring that, in our democracy, voters and political parties have the choice and freedom to vote for or nominate their preferred candidate — and that ballot access does not become, in the words of political commentator David Frum, a ‘dangerously convenient tool of partisan politics.'” • 

* * *

“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), this has been more of my continuing coverage of Section Three.

Capitol Seizure


Time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“Court blocks Jack Smith’s access to many of Rep. Scott Perry’s contacts about 2020 election” [Politico]. “A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that prosecutors’ effort to access the cellphone communications of Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) with colleagues and executive branch officials violated his immunity under the Constitution’s Speech or Debate clause, which shields members of Congress from legal proceedings connected to their official duties. ‘While elections are political events, a Member’s deliberation about whether to certify a presidential election or how to assess information relevant to legislation about federal election procedures are textbook legislative acts,’ Judge Neomi Rao wrote in the opinion issued last week. The decision breaks new ground in a decadeslong tug-of-war between Congress and the executive branch. For the first time, an appeals court has held that lawmakers’ cellphones are subject to the same protections as their physical offices. And it is the first significant legal setback for Smith in his bid to obtain evidence about involvement by allies of then-President Donald Trump in his effort to subvert the 2020 election. It’s unclear whether Smith will appeal the decision to the full bench of the D.C. Circuit or to the Supreme Court. His office declined to comment, as it did last week when the court released an order broadly outlining the outcome of the fight.”

“Judge severs Trump’s Georgia election interference case, and 16 others, from trial starting in October” [ABC]. “The judge overseeing the Georgia election interference case has severed the case, ordering that 17 defendants — including former President Donald Trump — will not be tried alongside speedy trial defendants Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell on Oct. 23. In a blow to prosecutors, Judge Scott McAfee said severing the remaining 17 defendants was “a procedural and logistical inevitability,” and did not rule out the possibility that “additional divisions” may be required later. The judge, however, said that any defendant who does not waive their right to speedy trial before Oct. 23 will “immediately” join the trial. Trump has already waived his speedy trial rights.”

* * *

“Hunter Biden indicted by special counsel on felony gun charges” [ABC]. “The younger Biden has been charged with one count of False Statement in Purchase of a Firearm, one count of False Statement Related to Information Required to be Kept By Federal Firearms Licensed Dealer, and one count of Possession of a Firearm by a Person who is an Unlawful User of or Addicted to a Controlled Substance…. Thursday’s charge is unlikely to be the last. Weiss also withdrew the two misdemeanor tax charges in Delaware with the intention of bringing them in California and Washington, D.C. — the venues where the alleged misconduct occurred. Prosecutors have not offered a timeline for those charges.” • Slow-waking, taps on the wrist, et cetera et cetera et cetera.

“The Case for Biden to Step Aside” (excerpt) [Cook Political Reprt]. September 14. “There is no reason to believe that President Biden will reverse his decision to seek a second term. He personally has sent no signals, nor have his remarkably disciplined White House staff, his kitchen Cabinet, or anyone on the reelection campaign. But it is hard to look at recent survey data and not question whether his reelection bid really is such a good idea. The most recent surveys from CNN and The Wall Street Journal are brutal and corroborate similar findings by Fox News, The New York Times/Siena College, Marist College/NPR/PBS NewsHour, and Quinnipiac University, among others. The numbers show a very difficult road ahead for Biden and are tough to spin in any way that would soften the impact.”

“Biden campaign fundraising off GOP impeachment inquiry” [Axios]. Because of course. “President Biden’s presidential campaign sent a fundraising email on Wednesday slamming the impeachment inquiry and urging supporters to ‘show that you’re standing with the president.'” • “Standing with” has always seemed to me the most vacuous form of political commitment possible — except perhaps in a caucus — so it’s odd that Democrats keep using the phrase. Or not.

“Voters ask: Is anything working in America?” [Roll Call]. By Betteridge’s Law…. “In the movie “”Apollo 13,”” everybody remembers the moment an oxygen tank explodes putting the spacecraft and the lives of the astronauts at great risk. The NASA team, faced with a catastrophic failure, is in turmoil when Gene Kranz, NASA flight director, takes charge and focuses the group on what he sees as their core dilemma — the status of the problem — and asks, ‘What’ve we got on the spacecraft that’s good?’ … This story encapsulates the mood of America today, just slightly more than a year before the next presidential election. When it comes to the state of the country, especially the economy, recent survey data shows that the American public, more and more, is asking virtually the same question posed by Kranz: ‘What, if anything, is working these days in America?’ The data shows, voters are waiting for an answer and they aren’t happy with rising inflation, higher gas prices, more crime, more illegal immigration and a growing feeling that no one is in charge. The defeat of President Joe Biden is a real possibility; but public opinion data is showing a much tighter presidential race than one would expect, given Biden’s job approval and favorability numbers…. In analyzing survey data over the years, these are some of the worst numbers I’ve seen for a president on what are the voters’ top issues. All of which explains why people are asking if anything is going right in the country these days? So, if people are this down on Biden and his policies, the fact that he is still viable in presidential ballot tests is a bit of a conundrum that ought to concern GOP leaders. Given his standing with the electorate, most of the Republican candidates should be doing better. Looking at the CNN data from a Democratic point of view, they can claim Biden significantly trailed only one out of the seven Republican candidates. Of course, all it takes to defeat an incumbent, especially one with numbers like Biden’s, is one effective challenger whose vision and ideas appeal to voters.” • It’s terrible to say, but the only two canidates with any kind of stature are Biden and Trump (and, in his way, Cornel West).

* * *

“Column: Don’t listen to the chatter about Newsom running for president” [Los Angeles Times]. “[I]t’s past time for us — especially in the news media — to accept what Gov. Gavin Newsom says about his presidential aspiration. Stop fantasizing about a potential Newsom race for the White House…. If Biden did drop out unexpectedly, Newsom would defer to his old San Francisco ally, Vice President Kamala Harris, as the next Democratic standard-bearer. He’d never run against her.” Perhaps Kamala could have, rumors being what they are, a conveniently timed himbo eruption? More: “I’m highly skeptical Newsom is even attracted to a 2028 race. Why? Mainly because of Newsom’s struggles his entire life with dyslexia. It’s my guess — based on observing him and talking with Newsom insiders — that he views the presidency with some trepidation…. Dyslexia limits reading ability and affects areas of the brain that process language, according to the Mayo Clinic…. Newsom has difficulty reading, especially speeches off teleprompters… For Newsom, a five-minute speech may require six hours of preparation and research, which is why he appears so good at talking off the cuff. There’s nothing off the cuff about it.” And: “What Newsom really wants is to be seen as a national political leader. And that goal he is achieving.” • Doing fine up until that point. What does “national political leader” even mean? The Democrats have only one “national political leader,” and he lives in Kalorama. And has no trouble reading. NOTE Newsom must have a pretty good staff, to compensate. I wonder if there are any former staffers out there who have views?

* * *

Wise censors protecting us from harm:

* * *

“Campaign cash floods 2024 swing states” [Axios]. “Presidential general election spending is expected to swell to $2.1 billion, with seven battlegrounds driving three-fourths of that spending.” • Handy chart:

Republican Funhouse

“Romney Announces He Will Not Seek a Second Senate Term” [Bloomberg]. “GOP Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said he won’t seek a second term, sidestepping a 2024 primary that would have tested his popularity with voters in a year that political foe Donald Trump vies to be the Republican standard bearer. Romney, 76, cited his age as a reason behind the decision. ‘At the end of another term, I’d be in my mid-eighties,’ he said in a statement. ‘Frankly, it’s time for a new generation of leaders. They’re the ones that need to make the decisions that will shape the world they will be living in.'”

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.

* * *

“Who’s Behind “”Indivisible””?” [The Kennedy Beacon]. “The ‘Indivisible movement’ is actually a network of interrelated organizations that appeared following Donald Trump’s surprise election in 2016. On December 11, 2016, a Google Document titled, ‘Indivisible: A Practical Guide to Resisting the Trump Agenda,’ was distributed among liberal activists, authored by a group of former Congressional staffers. According to POLITICO, the goal was ‘to channel their post-election heartbreak into a manual for quashing President Donald Trump’s agenda.’…. Despite relying heavily on a perceived “”grassroots”” approach to activism, Indivisible’s founders and leadership are firmly rooted in the permanent political class that occupy and direct the Democratic National Committee (DNC). As mentioned, several of the authors of the original guide were Congressional staffers, while others had achieved their own variety of political success by the time of the 2016 election…. As both Kennedy and his campaign manager, Dennis Kucinich, highlighted this past week, the DNC is actively changing the rules of the primary process in order to block any potential challengers to incumbent President Joe Biden, “”effectively disenfranchising Democratic voters from having any choice in who becomes the Democratic nominee.'” • In my quick reading, I didn’t see that the Indivivisible goons were dogpiling RFK Jr. the way they did Trump. Did I miss that part?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“How the Other Half Votes: The United States, Part One” [Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “Just about 150 of the nation’s more than 3,100 counties cast half of the nation’s presidential vote in 2020.  As we typically see at the state level, the more vote-rich counties are more Democratic, while the thousands of smaller counties that make up the bottom half are more Republican. This political gulf has widened. Despite similar overall national presidential margins in 2012 and 2020, the difference between the top and bottom halves expanded about 10 points from 2012 to 2020. Joe Biden won 126 of the 151 top half counties, while Donald Trump won 2,548 of the remaining 2,960 counties in the bottom half. Trump’s wins among the top half counties were concentrated among the smaller pieces of that group — Biden won all but one of the nearly 50 counties that cast 500,000 votes or more.” • Makes you wonder about confounders in Covid death statistics, too. Perhaps the “anti-vax winger loons” explanation is too simplistic, satisfying to some though it may be?

“How the Other Half Votes: The United States, Part Two” [Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. Interesting fact: “Because Bush’s victory was overshadowed by the post-election legal battle over Florida, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Bush’s 2000 election represented a stark widening of the divide between the nation’s most populous counties and the rest of the nation — almost as stark as the Trump effect a decade and a half later.” • Handy chart:

“Broadly speaking, this method of analyzing the electorate is another way to show the wider chasm between the nation’s largest counties and the rest of the country. In 1996, there was only a 14-point gap between them; now, the gap is nearly 40 points. An important aspect of Biden’s victory was arresting the widening of this gap — given how close the margins were in the decisive Electoral College states, it’s possible that Biden would have lost the Electoral College in 2020 had this gap continued to expand. As it was, Trump ran behind his 2016 margin in many bottom half counties in places like eastern Pennsylvania, northern Michigan, and northern Georgia.” • If Newsom ends up running, expect even more demonization of San Francisco. Not that San Francisco hasn’t thoroughly earned it, but this frame helps explain the trope’s power.


“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!

* * *


“Zornio: School is back in session and so is COVID-19. Should kids be masking up again?” [Colorado Sun]. This is pretty good. “First and foremost, admit it: You clicked on this column with your mind already made up. Pro-mask or anti-mask doesn’t matter. What matters is that you likely have a preconceived notion of what the right answer is.” Yep. More: “Another change since early in the pandemic is that the population is no longer naive to the virus…. Yet it’s critical to note that having antibodies does not guarantee the prevention of infection, and in addition to the severity of infection correlating with organ damage, even mild cases of COVID-19 have correlated with persistently reduced lung function. This further illustrates the importance of employing an array of infection prevention strategies, particularly as the impact of repeated mild infections and the subsequent potential for compounding lung, heart and brain damage remains unknown.” • It’s interesting to see layered protection (“Swiss Cheese Strategy”) used as a rhetorical, tactical bridge between the warring camps (and it’s also the correct strategy, in my view).


For once, too much homework for the PMC:

IIRC, most of the discussion in the run-up to CDC’s decision adopted the frame of protecting “the most vulnerable.” You know, like Ratface Andy Cuomo did, and HICPAC is doing. As it turns out, most everybody is vulnerable (as NC readers know). Love or hate vax, or vax mandates, I think a public health establishment should think in universal terms. 

* * *

Case Data

From BioBot wastewater data, September 14:

Lambert here: Other signals — scattered and partial though they be — also converge on a drop: ER visits, positivity. We shall see. (I would include CDC’s wastewater map for comparison, but it’s eleven days old.)

Regional data:

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


From CDC, September 2:

Lambert here: Top of the leaderboard: EG.5 (“Eris“). No BA.2.86 here, not even in the note, but see below at Positivity.

From CDC, August 19:

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, September 9:

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 September 12:

Still climbing. I hate this metric because the lag makes it deceptive.

NOT UPDATED Here’s a different CDC visualization on hospitalization, nationwide, not by state, but with a date, at least. September 2:

At least now we now that hospitalization tracks positivity, which is nice. Even if we don’t know how many cases there are. And positivity as high as it’s been at any time, except for Omicron.


NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, September 11:

0.4% Still thinking the dip is Labor Day data. Or perhaps people were actually testing for Labor Day, and stopped. The absolute numbers are still very small relative to June 2022, say. Interestingly, these do not correlate with the regional figures for wastewater. (It would be interesting to survey this population generally; these are people who, despite a tsunami of official propaganda and enormous peer pressure, went and got tested anyhow.)

Cleveland Clinic, September 9:

Lambert here: I know this is just Ohio, but the Cleveland Clinic is good*, and we’re starved for data, so…. NOTE * Even if hospital infection control is trying to kill patients by eliminating universal masking with N95s.

NOT UPDATED From CDC, traveler’s data, August 21:

A drop!

No BA.2.86 for two of the long-delayed collection weeks.


Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, September 13:

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: 1,174,691 – 1,174,631 = 60 (60 * 365 = 21,900 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

NOT UPDATED The Economist, September 13:

Lambert here: This is now being updated daily again. Odd. Based on a machine-learning model. (The CDC has an excess estimate too, but since it ran forever with a massive typo in the Legend, I figured nobody was really looking at it, so I got rid it. )

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose by 3,000 to 220,000 on the week ending September 9th, below market expectations of 225,000 and holding close to the near-seven-month-low from the previous week. Meanwhile, continuing claims edged higher by 4,000 to 1,688,000 in the prior week, remaining near the one-month low from late August. The data added to evidence that the labor market remains at historically tight levels, pointing to added resilience to the Federal Reserve’s aggressive tightening cycle. ”

Inflation: “United States Producer Price Inflation MoM” [Trading Economics]. “Producer prices in the US increased by 0.7% in August 2023, the highest level since June 2022, and exceeded market expectations of a 0.4% rise. Prices for goods advanced by 2%, driven by a 10.5% surge in energy costs.”

* * *

Retail: “Calif. passes strongest right-to-repair bill yet, requiring 7 years of parts” [Ars Technica]. “California’s bill goes further than right-to-repair laws in other states. Rather than limiting its demand that companies provide parts, tools, repair manuals, and necessary software for devices that are still actively sold, California requires that vendors provide those items for products sold after July 1, 2021, starting in July 2024. Products costing $50 to $99.99 must be accompanied by those items for three years, and items $100 and more necessitate seven years. The bill also provides for stronger enforcement mechanisms, allowing for municipalities to bring superior court cases rather than contact the state attorney general. There are some concessions and potential pitfalls, however. Pricing of parts and tools is left at ‘fair and reasonable terms.’ The bill requires repair vendors that are ‘not an authorized repair provider’ to ‘provide a written notice of that fact’ to customers and to ‘disclose if it uses replacement parts that are used’ or third-party. Apple specifically advocated for consumer notice of third-party parts and unauthorized repair in its letter supporting the bill. Along with repair laws going into effect in 2024 in California, New York, and Minnesota (along with bills focused on agriculture and powered wheel chairs in Colorado), there are repair laws underway in Europe involving repair services, removable batteries, USB-C standardization, and other aspects of repair and sustainability. With three large states and Europe as a whole moving to enforce repairable design and after-purchase care, manufacturers may choose to offer compliant products everywhere, rather than divide their offerings.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 55 Neutral (previous close: 50 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 51 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 14 at 12:32:38 PM ET.

News of the Wired

“The Tyranny of the Marginal User” [Nothing Human]. “How is it possible that software gets worse, not better, over time, despite billions of dollars of R&D and rapid progress in tooling and AI? What evil force, more powerful than Innovation and Progress, is at work here? In my six years at Google, I got to observe this force up close, relentlessly killing features users loved and eroding the last vestiges of creativity and agency from our products. I know this force well, and I hate it, but I do not yet know how to fight it. I call this force the Tyranny of the Marginal User. Simply put, companies building apps have strong incentives to gain more users, even users that derive very little value from the app. Sometimes this is because you can monetize low value users by selling them ads. Often, it’s because your business relies on network effects and even low value users can help you build a moat. So the north star metric for designers and engineers is typically something like Daily Active Users, or DAUs for short: the number of users who log into your app in a 24 hour period. What’s wrong with such a metric? A product that many users want to use is a good product, right? Sort of. Since most software products charge a flat per-user fee (often zero, because ads), and economic incentives operate on the margin, a company with a billion-user product doesn’t actually care about its billion existing users. It cares about the marginal user – the billion-plus-first user – and it focuses all its energy on making sure that marginal user doesn’t stop using the app… [I]n practice, the design of popular apps caters almost entirely to the marginal user. But who is this marginal user, anyway? Why does he have such bad taste in apps? Here’s what I’ve been able to piece together about the marginal user. Let’s call him Marl. The first thing you need to know about Marl is that he has the attention span of a goldfish on acid. Once Marl opens your app, you have about 1.3 seconds to catch his attention with a shiny image or triggering headline, otherwise he’ll swipe back to TikTok and never open your app again. Marl’s tolerance for user interface complexity is zero. As far as you can tell he only has one working thumb, and the only thing that thumb can do is flick upwards in a repetitive, zombielike scrolling motion…. By contrast, consumer software tools that enhance human agency, that serve us when we are most creative and intentional, are often built by hobbyists and used by a handful of nerds. If such a tool ever gets too successful one of the Marl-serving companies, flush with cash from advertising or growth-hungry venture capital, will acquire it and kill it. So it goes.” • The enshittification cycle seen from the inside?

“How I stay reasonably anonymous online” [Mellow Root]. • Lots of reasonable tips here, but from 2022, so perhaps things have changed. Readers?

* * *

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: “Prissy gardeners, we are not. Dead leaves? Dead tall straggly weeds? Let them stay—the birds and bees appreciate them, if not the poor neighbors. No. But really. What’s exciting about this image is all of the baby agave growing at the base of this elderly parent that has accomplished its one grand arching stalk of blooms and is on its way out.”

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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. Mark Gisleson

    “Standing with” is weak because you noticed it but it’s more than just language. Photographs have been around for over 3/4s(?) of US history and you cannot undo a photo of you standing next to someone who’s out of favor, especially not if you stand next to them and embrace in any way. How close you stand to others is a big part of the show; Kremlin watching has been around much longer than the Kremlin.

    But as language “stand with” is as weak as “fighting for.” A strong response is one that leaves no doubt you support Joe. Unless, of course, you read the transcript and notice that none of the dots connect to Joe and the speaker at the same time. Leaving a strong impression while saying nothing at all is the consummate political skill and when done well almost always goes unnoticed. The quotable parts are about principles, the Joe parts invariably personal and irrelevant.

  2. Carolinian

    Fine. Shoot down our Newsom bubble. Will no other politician rid us of this troublesome Biden?

    And re the trouble with software

    the number of users who log into your app in a 24 hour period

    There’s your trouble right there. Any software I have to log into is software I don’t want to use. True I do have to log into my Chromebook–and don’t like it–but from there out it’s open source.

    1. lambert strether

      Penny Pritzker was Obama’s Secretary of Commerce. The Pritzker clan, besides being spook-adjacent billionaires, were big Obama contributors.

      I won’t say “payoff” but feel free to think it.

      1. caucus99percenter

        Hey, that’s like Francis Urquhart’s line in House of Cards (the British original version). “You might well think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.”

  3. Camelotkidd

    As a Utahan, I’m pretty sure Mittens isn’t seeking another term because he knows he’ll get beat like a gong, rather than his age. Primary voters in the Beehive State remember his treachery and in general are Trump supporters.
    And me, I’m glad he’s retiring because I remember his looting of US business’s during his years at Bain, which I believe directly led to Trump’s election, by the way. Also, he’s a war-hawk who’s doing everything he can to foment conflict with Russia

    1. Cassandra

      Remember back in 2012, when Team Blue mocked Romney for saying Russia was the greatest existential threat the US faced? As I recall, the jibe was that the 1980s had called and wanted their foreign policy back.

      Good times.

  4. bob

    Romney, ‘Frankly, it’s time for a new generation of leaders. They’re the ones that need to make the decisions that will shape the world they will be living in.’”

    No, I prefer to hide behind the curtain and use my purse strings to control the new generation.

    1. Lee

      And he added: “We’re probably going to have either Trump or Biden as our next president. And Biden is unable to lead on important matters and Trump is unwilling to lead on important matters,” Romney told the Washington Post in an interview.

      So, like many of us here, he’ll be voting for “none of the above” in the next election?

    1. nippersdad

      He is a little behind the times. They have already litigated the DNC’s attention to the bylaws, and discovered that those just didn’t matter.

      It is also interesting how he now makes billionaire carpet bombing of the airwaves a regular part of his stump speech. I had assumed he was the beneficiary of the Adelson’s, so that always comes as a surprise admission against interest.

      1. notabanker

        Yeah, it was a pretty squishy reply that got re-directed into how important NH is, which is pro-level politics. The question was anything but accidental as well.

        Running as a Dem has always been the mystery to me. It’s a doomed strategy and I don’t get it. Sounds like he’s going to do a Bernie and try and cut a deal with Lucy. Or maybe he’s the next Lucy and we’re all Charlie Brown’s. Either way his is not a serious campaign on the Dem ticket.

        And billionaire carpet bombing sounds like winning platform to me? Oh, you meant them buying ads….my bad. :)

  5. Feral Finster

    “The Case for Biden to Step Aside” (excerpt) [Cook Political Reprt]. September 14. “There is no reason to believe that President Biden will reverse his decision to seek a second term. He personally has sent no signals, nor have his remarkably disciplined White House staff, his kitchen Cabinet, or anyone on the reelection campaign.”

    From the point of view of the White House staff, having a boss who is basically a meat puppet is a feature, not a bug.

    “Voters ask: Is anything working in America?” [Roll Call].

    To answer the question: yes. Moar weapons for Ukrainian Nazis moar Empire.

    1. notabanker

      “Voters ask: Is anything working in America?” [Roll Call].

      Seems like we have loads of money to spend on Campaign ads too. But hey, we’re still fighting for East Palestine and Maui.

    2. Daniil Adamov

      Late Inca Empire politics were driven in no small part by mummies of dead rulers… and their staff.

      Not sure why your comment made me think of that…

  6. TimH

    Products costing $50 to $99.99 must be accompanied by those items for three years, and items $100 and more necessitate seven years.

    It’s actually the wholesale price, not retail… a big difference.


    42488.2. (a) Notwithstanding any other law, every manufacturer of an electronic or appliance product with a wholesale price to the retailer, or to others outside of direct retail sale, of not less than fifty dollars ($50) and not more than ninety-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents ($99.99), shall make available to owners of the product, service and repair facilities, and service dealers, sufficient documentation and functional parts and tools, inclusive of any updates, on fair and reasonable terms, to effect the diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of a product for at least three years after the last date a product model or type was manufactured, regardless of whether the three-year period exceeds the warranty period for the product.
    (b) Notwithstanding any other law, every manufacturer of an electronic or appliance product with a wholesale price to the retailer, or to others outside of direct retail sale, of one hundred dollars ($100) or more, shall make available to owners of the product, service and repair facilities, and service dealers sufficient documentation and functional parts and tools, inclusive of any updates, on fair and reasonable terms, to effect the diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of a product for at least seven years after the last date a product model or type was manufactured, regardless of whether the seven-year period exceeds the warranty period for the product.

    Be some interesting games with high margin products…

  7. Fastball

    Ballot access is already a “dangerous tool of partisan politics”. The two far right corporate parties conspire to keep the people off the ballot, and third parties, as well.

  8. The Rev Kev

    “Court blocks Jack Smith’s access to many of Rep. Scott Perry’s contacts about 2020 election”

    ‘For the first time, an appeals court has held that lawmakers’ cellphones are subject to the same protections as their physical offices.’

    Now that is significant. Given time it could work its way through the courts that authorities just cannot grab a person’s mobile to do who knows what with but need an actual warrant as if they were going to access a home or an office. And trying to say that it only relates to lawmakers would look what it is – special pleading.

  9. Carla

    Re: Sabato’s Crystal Ball and:
    “Because Bush’s victory was overshadowed by the post-election legal battle over Florida, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Bush’s 2000 election represented a stark widening of the divide between the nation’s most populous counties and the rest of the nation — almost as stark as the Trump effect a decade and a half later.”

    Thanks, Clinton! Great job, Obama!

  10. Tim

    The most important quality of a presidential candidate is to get street cred that they don’t actually want to be president before they are “persuaded” to run “for the good of the country.”

    If Joe doesn’t/can’t run, it’s going to be Newsom no matter how much posturing about him not wanting to run.

  11. The Rev Kev

    “Opinion It’s not up to secretaries of state like me to keep Trump off the ballot”

    If so, the logical conclusion would be that each of the 50 secretaries of state get a say so on who could be allowed to become President. Good luck with that idea.

  12. Old Sarum

    “..no one is in charge”. (Roll Call link)

    Given the separation of powers in the US system and States’ rights how can anyone actually be “in charge” (total war aside)?

    Seemingly “The Blob” was inevitable and perhaps one should (to an extent) ignore the froth of two-party politics and focus on the actions and factions of The Blob instead.


  13. some guy

    . . . . ” So, if people are this down on Biden and his policies, the fact that he is still viable in presidential ballot tests is a bit of a conundrum that ought to concern GOP leaders. Given his standing with the electorate, most of the Republican candidates should be doing better.” . . . .

    If more people thought the Republicans offered anything more or better, then most of the Republican candidates would be doing better.

    This election will be a three way race between fear, hatred and apathetic despair. Fear-based voters will vote for the candidate they are less afraid of in order to lessen their chances of getting the President they would be more afraid of. Hate-based voters will vote for the candidate they hate less in order to spare themselves 4 or 8 years of burning ulcerogenic rage over having to live with a President they would hate more. The despair-based apatheticals will not vote for a President. They may not vote at all.

    A few Americans may still vote based on hopes and dreams. They would mostly vote 3rd, 4th, 5th party, etc.

    If the West campaign could move millions of despairing apatheticals toward hopes and dreams vested in West, then West might do better than anyone predicts.

    West won’t get any fear-based votes. Any fear-based voter might think that if he/she votes for West, the candidate he-she fears the most might get elected for want of herm’s single crucial fear-based vote.

    West could get some hate-based votes if he can get hate-based voters to transfer their hate towards the entire political system and convince those people that a vote for West is a vote to burn the system down.
    ” If you just want to watch the world burn, vote for West”. That sounds sour, but that would get more votes for West than the paltry few hopes and dreams votes that still exist. But West would have to convince the hate-based voter that his visible containment dome of luhhhv contains a radioactive core of burning hate.

    If the Green Party could force its way onto the ballot in every state where the Democrats can force Trump’s name off the ballot, and then run West on the explicit goal of denying either brand name party an electoral college victory, that might get enough voters based on ” shut the system down. make the system scream” that a West campaign might indeed win an Electoral Denial election against the two brand name candidates.

    1. Acacia

      This election will be a three way race between fear, hatred and apathetic despair.

      This is a pretty good short take on what’s driving voters — thanks.

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