2:00PM Water Cooler 9/19/2023

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Manchurian Reed Warbler, 南堡滩涂 (Nanpu Mudflat), Hebei, China. “Two singing birds – one seen carrying food. Sound recorded. Follows on from a bird seen at this site on the 28 July 2016 & marks a significant range extension for this VULNERABLE species.”

“Showcasing the spectacle of bird migration” [BirdCast]. • I’m not a stone birder, so I don’t already know about this. Cornell Lab of Ornithology involved, which is nice. Includes maps and many charts.

* * *


“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

“The Honorable Shenna Bellows Maine Secretary of State” (letter) [Free Speech for the People]. “Your oath to support the Constitution, and the weighty responsibility entrusted to you by Maine voters as Secretary of State, impel you to exclude Mr. Trump’s name from the list of ‘qualified candidates’ in the presidential primary. But rather than wait until after he submits his declaration of candidacy, with the urgency of an approaching primary election, we urge you to address this critical issue now. Mr. Trump’s conduct encouraging the ‘Big Lie’ of a stolen election, encouraging and inciting an insurrection, and facilitating that insurrection by refusing to intervene to stop it despite urgent requests that he do so and by supervising subordinates who actively blocked the National Guard from assisting the besieged Capitol Police, renders him ineligible for any federal office, including that of president.” 

* * *

“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.


Time for the Countdown Clock!

* * *

“The Republican Paradox: Conservative Voters Who Nominate Moderates” [Mark Penn (!), The Messenger]. “[M]odern history of GOP nominees shows something surprising: The moderate candidate has consistently won the party’s nomination. These primary voters also have a habit of shredding frontrunners and bringing in outsiders. So, just maybe, it’s not over. Republican voters chose Sen. John McCain of Arizona over former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008, and now-Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah over Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) in 2012. In 2016 they picked Donald Trump for his brash outsider status, but not for his conservative bona fides — because the hard-right candidate that year would have been Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas….  A review of the recent Wall Street Journal poll of Republican primary voters shows they are a majority of suburban voters and, while more working-class voters have joined them, they still are a more highly educated group than the electorate as a whole, with 54% who are college graduates or more. They are definitely an older party, with 68% of the GOP voters over 50, but 49% are women and 75% of them are married. How plausible is it that this group of older, highly educated suburban family voters are going to return Trump to office if presented with a more compelling alternative?” • Hence, perhaps, Trump outflanking DeSantis on abortion from the left. Hence also Trump’s position on Ukraine (where I think he’s ahead of the curve, and the Beltway behind it).

* * *

“DeSantis megadonor still not sold on presidential bid, saying his ‘ongoing battle with Disney’ is ‘pointless'” [Business Insider]. “Ron DeSantis still hasn’t secured the support of Ken Griffin, the Republican billionaire who was the biggest donor to the Florida governor’s 2022 re-election campaign. ‘I don’t know his strategy,’ Griffin said in an interview with CNBC. ‘It’s not clear to me what voter base he is intending to appeal to.’ Griffin, the CEO of the multinational hedge fund Citadel, gave $5 million to DeSantis’ re-election effort. And he told POLITICO in an interview last November that he was ready to support the governor’s presidential campaign, saying that ‘our country would be well-served by him as president.’ But Griffin has been apparently dissatisfied with the way DeSantis’ campaign has been run, and his comments in the CNBC interview are his most definitive to date. ‘First-term governor — just a phenomenal job,’ said Griffin. ‘But that hasn’t been how this last few months has played out.’ ‘The ongoing battle with Disney I think is pointless,’ Griffin continued. ‘In fact, it doesn’t reflect well on the ethos of Florida.'” • Squillionaire yanks DeSantis’s choke chain. Poor little guy, down on all fours like that.

* * *

“Internal emails show Biden admin officials coordinating on shielding Pete Buttigieg’s govt jet use’ [FOX]. “In December, Fox News Digital reported that, based on flight tracking data, Buttigieg had taken 18 trips on an FAA-managed fleet of executive aircraft, reserved for government officials for occasions when flying commercial isn’t feasible. The flight records aligned with Buttigieg’s internal calendar obtained at the time by Americans for Public Trust. Following that report, Fox News Digital filed an FOIA request for detailed information and costs of all flights logged by FAA planes since early 2021. For months, the DOT FOIA office repeatedly delayed providing the requested information. Then, on Feb. 27, the FAA finally shared the flight log for its private jets almost immediately after the Transportation Department’s inspector general announced an investigation into Buttigieg’s use of the planes. The FOIA office, though, opted to leave costs associated with all the flights carrying Buttigieg and his advisers blank and ignored multiple attempts for clarification.” • And so on. Worth a read for the sheer grim pettiness of it all. The NY Post adds a detail, kinda. “Buttigieg, 41, has taken trips on planes managed by the FAA to Nevada, Florida, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio and New Hampshire for departmental duties, are key election swing states.” • Only Nevada? Maybe NH, according to FOX. But see below.

* * *

“Newsom says Biden’s age is no problem: ‘I want a seasoned pro'” [FOX]. • In the Middle Ages, they seasoned their rotting meat too! (Actually, that’s an urban legend, but for the sake of the joke….)

“California Gov. Gavin Newsom mocks Republican impeachment effort as ‘student government’ and says ‘of course’ Harris should be on 2024 ticket” [CNN]. “The California governor, who has been the subject of 2024 speculation as he has traveled to Republican-led states in recent months and agreed to a Fox News debate with Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, insisted he will not run for the White House himself. ‘The answer is no,’ Newsom said. ‘No ambiguity.’ He also said he has not thought about whether he would make a good president. ‘I’m not that guy. I’m just not,’ he said…. ‘Biden-Harris administration — a masterclass in terms of performance, bipartisan deals on infrastructure, bipartisan deals on guns and debt ceiling, on the CHIPS and Science Act,’ he said. ‘I mean, by definition, if I think this administration last two, two and a half years, has been one of the most outstanding administrations the last few decades, and she’s a member of that administration, she gets to lay and claim credit to a lot of that success….’ he said. Newsom said Democrats need to get ‘out of this sort of navel-gazing about Joe Biden, and let’s get going.’ ‘Let’s get on the train. This train has left the proverbial station,’ he said.” • Hmmm. “No ambiguity” is pretty close to a Sherman statement.

* * *

“Did RFK Jr. hint the ‘rigged’ DNC may force him to run third party?” [The Hill]. “Said RFK Jr., in part: ‘If the DNC is going to rig it so that it is simply impossible for anybody to challenge President Biden, you know I need to look at other alternatives. Because I can’t go back to the people who support me and to my donors and say you know I’m in this to make a point. I need to show them a road to victory …’ ‘Other alternatives.’ Boom goes the political dynamite…. As the DNC, in conjunction with the Biden White House, continues to try to silence and ostracize Kennedy while punishing states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and Georgia — along with millions of potential primary voters — it certainly seems as if they don’t trust the people to speak for themselves. The DNC and the Biden White House may quickly learn that it’s one thing to try to silence RFK Jr. It’s quite another to try and disenfranchise the votes of millions of Americans. Lines are being drawn in the sand. Can the DNC and Biden see them?” • And the author’s bio: “Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.” The genre where a Republican helpfully explains to the Democrats how to win by offering them a poisoned chalice is a hardy perennial, and the world is so upside down that the advice seems sensible (at least to me).

* * *

OH: “The Democrats Must Keep the Senate at All Costs—and the Coal Mine Canary Is Ohio” [The Nation]. “Democrats need to maintain their razor-thin Senate majority if they hope to enact President Biden’s second-term agenda—or, God forbid, fend off Trump’s. That prospect hinges on a few incumbents facing tough reelection fights. The most critical, must-win seat belongs to Sherrod Brown, a senator from Ohio… Democrats have 23 Senate seats up for reelection, and—assuming the vice president, Kamala Harris, is still there to break the tie—they can only lose one to keep their majority. Though Republican operatives in the state admit defeating Brown will be a ‘dogfight,’ current polls have him up by just 0.4 percentage points over one possible opponent, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Both The Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball call this race a toss-up….. Joe Manchin’s slide to the dark side and Kyrsten Sinema’s wildcard ways leave Democrats no room for error. If Brown loses, and takes the Democratic Senate with him, democracy hangs in the balance.”

* * *

“What Are The Swing States Of The Future?” [FiveThirtyEight]. First question — admittedly it’s still early (come with your 🔥 takes, I give you permission to change your mind later), but what do you think are the most underrated potential swing states for the 2024 cycle? nrakich (Nathaniel Rakich, senior elections analyst): I think an underrated swing state is Florida. People have written it off after it swung unexpectedly to Republicans in 2020 and after Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis won reelection by almost 20 percentage points in 2022. But people forget that former President Donald Trump won it in 2020 by only 3 points. For a similar reason, I think people are too quick to count out blue-ish states like New Hampshire and Minnesota as swing states. The partisan lean of both states is only around 3 points toward Democrats.” • Hmm. Volatility, then (I’m used to having a reasonably fixed list, early.) Worth a read to see the conventional wisdom in formation.

Republican Funhouse

“The Religious Right’s Grip on the GOP Is Weakening. That’s Working to Trump’s Advantage.” [Politico]. “Former President Donald Trump has made a number of statements in recent months that might have driven a wedge between his campaign and religious voters. In April, Trump stated that he believed abortion should be regulated at the state level, with little interference from the federal government. At a town hall in June, Trump spoke of abortion in crass, deal-making terms: ‘What I’ll do is negotiate so people are happy.’ These statements have been met with strong backlash from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, the anti-abortion group that described Trump’s comments on a federal ban as a ‘morally indefensible position for a self-proclaimed pro-life presidential candidate.’ The dustups suggest Trump’s strong support among white evangelicals might be at risk. But it may not matter. [Trump] can afford some erosion of his support from evangelicals. That’s because Trump’s real base of support in the 2016 primary contest came from a rising group in the GOP whose impact has been largely unnoticed: Republicans who hardly ever darken the door of a church, synagogue or mosque. I am a quantitative scholar of American religion and politics and have been making thousands of graphs about both subjects over the last several years. The data show that the former president’s support among this low-attender group is growing, which means that in the short term, even if Trump does alienate some religiously devout members of the religious right, he remains well positioned to secure the nomination.” • I wonder if this change also strengthens the “National Conservatives”?

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.

* * *

“Voter Registration Charities: A Massive, Overlooked Scandal” [RealClearInvestigations]. “Nonprofit voter registration, and the get-out-the-vote (GOTV) activities that usually accompany it, have become the heart of a billion-dollar industry in America. According to Candid’s Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy database [Candid], since 2011 nearly 60,000 grants have been made for ‘Voter Education, Registration, and Turnout’ and ‘Civic Participation,’ benefitting 15,000 different organizations to the tune of $5.9 billion dollars…. My recent special report, How Charities Secretly Help Win Elections, ripped away that fig-leaf. The report reveals the untold story of a nondescript charity named the ‘Voter Registration Project’ that was used to funnel over $100 million into a five-year voter registration scheme hatched by Clinton campaign operatives to help Democrats win elections in 2020. Using tax forms, leaked documents, and leaked emails, the report shows how the scheme aimed to register over 5 million ‘non-white’ voters in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and Nevada; how it was developed through multiple drafts and edits into a highly sophisticated plan dubbed the Everybody Votes Campaign; and how that plan was eventually adopted by a super PAC tied to Sam Bankman-Fried that instructed billionaire donors to keep it completely secret since it was the most ‘cost-effective’ method for ‘netting additional Democratic votes.” • Blech. Everybody involved posing as extremely high-minded, of course!

“If You’re A Star They Let You Do It” [Eschaton]. 

Apparently, squillionaires can be squillionaires, and squillionaire globalists be squillionaire globalists, only when they are not members of a protected identity, identities being controlling in all classification struggles. I remember the same nonsense in the UK when the press, the spooks, the the PLP, assisted by the Israeli embassy, were gutting Corbyn by playing the anti-semitism card (laughably untrue in Corbyn’s case, except to a gaggle of hyperventilating aghastitudinacs). Atrios is normally very level-headed, so I can only conclude that internal pressure among Democrats to conform is great (given that Soros lavishly funds their NGOs, and AIPAC is what it is).

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Republicans’ ‘Excess Seat’ Edge in State Legislatures” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “We analyzed 48 states to see which have the most lopsided state Senate and state House chambers compared to how the state voted for president….  For Democrats, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have the most “”excess seats”” above the presidential vote threshold. For Republicans, the list is both longer and more varied, with Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin standing out as at least somewhat competitive states where the Republicans have large excess seat advantages….  The GOP has achieved significant levels of excess seats in about three times as many states as the Democrats have…. So, while unusually large Democratic legislative majorities in a few states might be tempted to outrun their voters’ tolerance for progressive policies, the Republicans could pursue more conservative policies than the presidential vote would suggest in three times as many states. It’s no surprise, then, that the list above is chock-full of states that have passed the most stringent abortion laws in the country. And in three of these states — Kansas, Kentucky, and Ohio — voters have rebelled by backing ballot measures aligned against further curbs on abortion access. This suggests that the GOP’s excess legislative majorities might be underestimating their constituents’ desire for more moderate policies.” Handy map:

Further: “My guess, though, is that gerrymandering, and even geography, matters less than one might think. I suspect that it has more to do with the minority party turning headlong into a spiral of irrelevance Particularly given the recent decline of voter willingness to split tickets, there comes a point at which a party’s weakness in presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial contests becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once a party’s prospects seem grim in a particular state, it becomes hard to get credible candidates to run for office, and it becomes hard to raise money to fund a decent party infrastructure.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe out there!

* * *

Look for the Helpers

Good news:

More good news:


Vaccines don’t prevent transmission, but that news has apparently not reached everyone:

This is the Red Line in Chicago, not Boston. Otherwise, I would have thought the MGH had sponsored the ad.


I am not a vaccine maven, and the story of how Novavax came not to be approved is not one I have followed:

Perhaps readers who know more about Novavax than I do can explain.

Elite Maleficence

Maskless Mandy infects another death trap:

“Stay safe” is the same “You are protected” message propagated by the Biden administration in 2021. It was a lie then, since vaccination does not prevent transmission, and it is a lie now. Poor window discipline, too.

Science advances:

At least the infamous “FACT CHECK: ‘COVID-19 is NOT airborne'” tweet is no longer up. But:

Van Kerkhove’s remarks were themselves misinformation, though never classified as such.

* * *

Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data, September 18:

Lambert here: The national drop is due exclusively to the South. 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:

The same regional variation also appears in the Walgreen’s positivity data. Interestingly, the upswing begins before July 4, which neither accelerates nor retards it.


NOT UPDATED From CDC, September 16:

Lambert here: Top of the leaderboard: EG.5 (“Eris“). Still BA.2.86 here, not even in the note, but see below at Positivity.

From CDC, September 2:

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, 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 19:

Drop continues. 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 9:

Note the slight drop, consistent with Walgreens. At least now we now that hospitalization tracks positivity, which is nice. Even if we don’t know how many cases there are.


NOT UPDATED From Walgreens, September 18:

-8.3%. An enormous drop (so not Labor Day data). However, I cannot recall seeing the map so polarized; so much deep green, so much deep red. 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 16:

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 26:

A drop! And here are the variants:

No BA.2.86 for two of the long-delayed collection weeks. I have highlighted the two leaders: EG.5 and FL.1.5.1. Interestingly, those are the two leaders within the United States also, suggesting the national and international bouillabaisse is similar. Or we’re infecting the world.


NOT UPDATED 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: 1,175,354 – 1,175,172 = 182 (182 * 365 = 66,430 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, September 17:

Lambert here: This is now being updated daily again. Odd. Based on a machine-learning model.

Stats Watch

Housing: “United States Housing Starts MoM” [Trading Economics]. “Housing starts in the US sank 11.3% month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 1.283 million in August 2023. It is the biggest decrease since July 2022.”

* * *

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 48 Neutral (previous close: 48 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 52 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 19 at 1:53:42 PM ET.

Class Warfare

“SARS-CoV-2 infection and long COVID among California farmworkers” [The Journal of Rural Health]. “The prevalence of long COVID (defined as self-reported SARS-CoV-2 infection with symptoms >28 days) among farmworkers with a suspected or test-confirmed infection was 61.8%. ” • Holy [family blog]. 

News of the Wired

“How Babies Unravel the Origin of Conscious Awareness and Purpose” [Neuroscience News]. “For the study, infants began the experiment as disconnected observers. However, when researchers tethered one of the infants’ feet to a crib-mounted baby mobile, infants discovered they could make the mobile move. To catch this moment of realization like lightning in a bottle, researchers measured infant and mobile movement in 3D space using cutting-edge motion capture technology to uncover dynamic and coordinative features marking the ‘birth of agency. When an infant’s foot is tethered to the mobile, each foot movement causes the mobile to move. It was thought that the more the mobile moves, the more the infant is stimulated to move, producing yet more mobile motion…. Aliza Sloan, Ph.D., lead author and a postdoctoral research scientist in [Florida Atlantic University’s] Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences, developed a quantitative ‘aha!”” detector to search for abrupt increases in infant movement rate related to sudden infant discovery. Sloan’s technique demonstrated that the ‘birth’ of agency can be quantified as a ‘eureka-like,’ pattern-changing phase transition within a dynamical system that spans the baby, the brain, and the environment. The system switches from a less correlated state to a state where both movements of the mobile and the tethered limb are highly coordinated as the infant discovers its functional connection to the mobile. The new approach used in this study frames agency as an emergent property from the functional coupling of organism and environment.” • So consciousness doesn’t exist “in the brain”?

* * *

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 Late Introvert:

Late Introvert writes: “2023 Garlic crop, the best ever, grown in the front yard. We took down the dead Green Ash last fall, so way more sun this growing season.”

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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. caucus99percenter

      Betting the headline writer had to resist the temptation to write “Germany’s dire rheas”…

    2. Amfortas the Hippie

      ive dealt with those things,lol.
      feeding for people for beer money.
      (and an ostrich, once, which was worse)

      llamas aren’t so nice, either.(they spit at you, and its gross)

      (caveat: i was a toal stranger to every one of these…so that likely blurs this anecdata,lol..horses, in my experience, also like to know who’s feeding them)

      1. Jeotsu

        My experience after having had llamas, alpacas (and now also guanaco) for 20 years…

        When people ask ‘do they spit?’ I reply ‘do dogs bite?’

        Yes, they spit. They spit on each other all the time to express dominance, irritation, etc. They shouldn’t spit on a human, much like a dog shouldn’t bite a person. If they do spit on you they were possible mis-socialised, or they have a reason to be angry with you. Llamas in petting zoos often have many reasons to be angry.

        Fun fact, camelids have an escalation ladder for spits. At the lowest level they just blow air. They do this frequently to one another to maintain personal boundaries and squabble over food. Tier two is when they spit whatever they are chewing that moment, so you’ll see another llamas with flecks of grass on its face or neck. Tier three is war…. total war. They regurgitate their rumen in a green stinky firehose of doom. They hate the smell and taste of this, so after such a spit fight your see drooping lips leaking green goo and expressions of regret. I’ve seen post-big-spit-fight camelids seeks out eucalypt leaves to get a minty-fresh taste back in their mouths.

        Another pro tip. Camelids usually warn before spitting by tipping their nose upwards. Backwards ears mean nothing with regards to aggression/annoyance (different body language than horses, cats, etc). Because most people can’t read camelid body language, they miss that the llama spent the last few minutes explicitly warning ‘stop what you’re doing or I’m going to spit.’

        99% of the time I’ve been spat upon is when I’ve crammed the critters into the yards for some handling or veterinary purposes. They are smart enough to have friends and enemies, and sometimes in the crowding not-friends are pushed to close, and a fracas ensues. Once the spit fight it on, they care nothing about collateral damage. Animals that would never, ever, spit on me in the paddock have got me good while firing on their opponent.

        You also might get a spit if you shove thermometer up their bum. But good enough, that’s some pretty personal non-consensual touching!

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          yup…i admit my ignorance.
          i was given a crash course….all of 15 minutes…for taking care of all that woman’s “pets”…not near enough for me to know them, or them to know me.
          and i’d never been up close to any of them…llamas, alpacas…a guernica?…a couple of 3 rheas and one large bossy ostrich.
          i reckon they could sense my intimidation, etc.

          i grew up with donkeys(avoided the Jacks if at all possible), goats, sheep, chickens(and numerous other fowl), a few pigs and cows.
          fed other peoples’ horses a lot when i was a teenager.

          but that managerie?
          no experience at all.
          ostriches, especially, are not just big chickens.
          more like an elk with an attitude and a walnut sized brain.

          for that whole week that woman was gone, i tried,lol…i’d hang out with them, sing to them…carry on(one sided) conversations with them…
          “look, folks…i’m here all week…”

          one of the alpacas let me scratch between her ears…and that seemed to send a signal, and the spitting stopped…but the hostility was still evident.

          and yes, like you alluded…this woman didn’t get out much…and didn’t seem like she had many visitors…i grokked that she was a weirdo, much like me, but different…in this place.
          and kept to herself.(ie: she didn’t have my wife to introduce me to the polity like a slow drip vaccine)
          so these critters were likely not acclimated to people, at all.
          just her.

          her ducks took to me pretty famously, though.

          1. Amfortas the Hippie

            in my limited experience, it is a very apt description,lol.
            i caught the first gut loogie in the face.
            first ten minutes on the job,lol.
            learned real quick to avert my eyes, and otherwise try not to provoke(which was, as it is with animals, sometimes, a provocation in their eyes)
            as well as to be ready for all that nonsense.

            i dunked my head in a water trough, right then…and before i left.
            wife was like…whats that smell?

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Feral large critter

      This paragraph amuses me, at least:

      On a cool morning last November, I brought my rental car to a sudden halt along a rural German road. My passenger, photographer Jacobia Dahm, had spotted a large bird in an adjacent field. Excited, and a little nervous, we left the car. Our boots sank into the muddy ground as we walked cautiously through the low morning mist toward the creature. The suspense built with each squelching step. Finally, at 10 feet away, the narrow silhouette came into focus. Only then did we realize: We hadn’t been stalking a bird at all. It wasn’t even an animal. It was a chest-high wooden post.

      I am amused because I run the “they don’t find the bird!” trope every so often:

      Sometimes when frustrated, I recall the famous New Yorker article by an author who thought he had a story about a bird in the woods, said to be extinct. But maybe not! So he found the local who thought they’d heard the bird’s distinctive, booming call, bought some yellow waders, hired guides and a boat, and set out through the swamps and the Spanish moss and the dripping and the stinging insects in search of the bird. Long-form story short, they never found the bird. So what’s the point of a story where you don’t find the bird?

      Here it is in real life, condensed to a single paragraph, instead of 15,000 words in the New Yorker (I grant they find the bird later. But you see what I mean).

    1. Tom Stone

      I’m surprised Newsome didn’t mention how much the Biden Administration has done for Childhood Poverty.

  1. caucus99percenter

    It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day.

    But unlike in years past, the present grim and divisive partisan atmosphere on many fronts seems to have left literati at large in society in no mood for silly joshing.

    1. Mark Gisleson

      I asked ChatGPT:

      Arrr, me hearties! Grab yer grog and polish yer peg legs, for today be Talk Like a Pirate Day! ‘Tis a day to don a tricorn hat, brandish a cutlass, and speak with the swagger and bravado of a true buccaneer.

      So, me mateys, let’s get started! Instead of “hello,” ye must say “ahoy!” And instead of “goodbye,” it be “farewell, me hearties!” Throw in a hearty “matey” or “avast” here and there to truly immerse yerself in the pirate lingo.

      If ye be wantin’ to express joy, ye can shout “yo ho ho!” When somethin’ pleases yer eye, ye might exclaim “shiver me timbers!” And if ye be in dire need of somethin’, ye can declare “I be needin’ it, or I’ll be makin’ ye walk the plank!”

      Remember, me hearties, a pirate’s speech be filled with colorful phrases and words. Be sure to sprinkle in phrases like “scurvy dog,” “blimey,” and “landlubber” to truly embrace the pirate spirit!

      Now go forth, me mateys, and spread the pirate talk like a true buccaneer on this Talk Like a Pirate Day. May yer sail always be full and yer treasure be plentiful! Arrr!

      Now I don’t care if I ever talk like a pirate ever again. And apologies to whoever actually wrote this, I’m sure it was much better before it was scraped and AI’ed.

    2. Wukchumni

      The unanimous declaration o’ the thirteen Tortuga o’ the New World, when in the course o’ ‘uman events, it becomes necessary fer one people to dissolve the political bands which ‘ave connected them with another, an’ to assume among the powers o’ the earth, the separate an’ equal station to which the laws o’ nature an’ o’ nature’s god entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions o’ mankind requires that there they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

      we ‘old these truths to be self-evident, that there all men be created equal, that there they be endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that there among these be life, liberty an’ the pursuit o’ ‘appiness.–that to secure these rights, governments be instituted among men, derivin’ their just powers from the consent o’ the governed, –that whenever any form o’ government becomes destructive o’ these ends, it be starboard o’ the people to alter or to abolish it, an’ to institute new government, layin’ its foundation on such principles an’ organizin’ its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety an’ ‘appiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that there governments long established should not be changed fer light an’ transient causes; an’ accordingly all experience ‘ath shewn, that there mankind be more disposed to suffer, while evils be sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishin’ the forms to which they be accustomed. But when a long train o’ abuses an’ usurpations, pursuin’ invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it be their right, it be their duty, to throw off such government, an’ to provide new guards fer their future security.-

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Read neither, but the Sabato blurb is how I see it. I have no expectation of Democrats winning a statewide office in Florida. And President is a statewide vote. Dem Gubernatorial campaigns here look like they’re preparing for student council elections.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I have no expectation of Democrats winning a statewide office in Florida.

        Florida residents may correct me, but I have “Florida Democrat Party” filed in the “Famously Bad” bucket. Thoughts?

  2. Wukchumni

    When My Kevin (since ’07) leaves with tales between his legs (he got to meet the Pope @ the Vatican, who can out a price on that?) i’ll have nobody to kick around anymore, or will I?

    The other Pachyderm Speakers most recently this century all vamoosed out of office after they were ousted or otherwise departed, but Kev’s into humiliation so this might not be the end of him politically, and I can only hope so.

      1. flora

        If only he’d get the trains right. Any help for East Palestine, Ohio yet? I hear Ohio is a swing state. / ;)

  3. some guy

    What if we were to also start calling “Maskless Mandy” by the name ” Typhoid Mandy”? Or ” Typhoid Mary Mandy, the Covid Superspreader wannabe”?

    1. curlydan

      Now, now, I did notice the window on the left was slightly opened. That might reduce R0 from 1.5 to 1.3.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I notice that she is wearing gloves but no masks.

        Maybe it’s because she has to shake hands with Mandy? (Just on general principle, since fomite transmission in the United States* seems not to be a thing).

        NOTE * IIRC, there may be an issue with public bathrooms in China.

  4. lyman alpha blob

    “Biden-Harris administration — a masterclass in terms of performance, bipartisan deals on infrastructure…”

    Really, Gavin? I’m not all that familiar with the relatively new PMC concept of the “masterclass” in general, but I’m somewhat knowledgeable about wine appreciation masterclasses through work. In those, they don’t as a rule invite teetotalers to attend, and then have them water down all the wine to the point it’s unpalatable.

    Really sick of these [family blog]ers speaking to the public as if we’re a bunch of idiots who can’t remember anything that happened more than 5 minutes ago. Especially when it’s a person like Newsom who was born on 3rd base and thinks he hit a triple, to borrow a phrase from Ann Richards who was surely a better Democrat than any we have today, and much more quotable.

  5. ambrit

    Is it just me, or does “Maskless Mandy” have a curiously apt similarity to SNLs Rachael Dratch?
    If SNL were still even concerned with being funny, this would be a “killer” comedy sketch combination.

  6. .human

    Closed windows, too.

    However, the woman she is talking to/at is gloved, so no cooties transmitted by hand(shake?).

  7. lyman alpha blob

    “Democrats need to maintain their razor-thin Senate majority if they hope to enact President Biden’s second-term agenda—or, God forbid, fend off Trump’s.”

    OK, I realize that people often use the name of the executive as shorthand for the whole administration, but still it’s hilarious that vanden Heuvel presumes that Mr. Braindead and Mr. Attention-Span-of-a-Gnat actually have an agenda.

    The best thing about Trump’s presidency was that he had no specific agenda other than a generic ‘draining the swamp’, and therefore didn’t personally do nearly as much damage as your average POTUS.

    1. Carolinian

      So Katrina is still around? I haven’t read the mag in years–really since the late Cockburn left so that was a long time ago. True they were always pro Democrats but Democrats have changed

      Isn’t the pearl clutching about democracy beat rather crowded these days? How many of those do we need?

      1. Yves Smith

        Novavax is now approved in the US but weirdly HAD BEEN restricted only to the unvaxxed.


        It isn’t clear how fast the pharmacies will get the memo.

        However, as IM Doc pointed out, the records are so bad that many who are vaxed and 1x boosted are classified as unvaxxed, and his efforts to correct the public health records for his patients were rebuffed (!!!). So unless you are recently boosted, you could first try carrying the press release and then saying you are unvaxed anyhow…let them try to find out.

        I had been interested in Novavax because it is based on more traditional vaccine technology (which also meant longer development time) and so seems less likely to produce side effects.


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Novavax

      That’s a really good unroll, thanks. This caught my eye:

      Novavax is a protein-based vaccine (similar designs have also been used for many years for tetanus, diphtheria and hepatitis B)

      Qualified people — Yo, IM Doc! — may have actual knowledge here, but I think it’s safe to say that the mRNA vaccines can, at the very highest, layperson level, be characterized as having really weird and dangerous side effects (not RCT-level analysis, here, I admit, and saying nothing of net social benefits, especially during the time of wild type). However, “protein-based vaccines” for “tetanus, diphtheria and hepatitis B)” cannot be characterized as having “really weird and dangerous side effects.” Correct?

      In other words, Novavax is not “innovative” (except, perhaps, in the adjuvant). It’s really hard to understand why Novavax is not already in “shots in arms” phase, as we used to say, and the obvious answer is regulatory capture by the mRNA manufacturers (with, perhaps, backup from the PMC, who are dug in not only on vax, but the vax they picked — remember the days when everybody was ranking vax by brand? If there were any prospect that they had “backed the wrong” horse, they might fear reputational damage (though I don’t know why, since nobody is ever held accountable for anything).

  8. pjay

    Sophisticated “leftist” analysis from the Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel:

    “If Brown loses, and takes the Democratic Senate with him, democracy hangs in the balance.”

    *Democracy hangs in the balance*! Oh, and another thing: “And that’s if Biden wins a second term. If he loses, the parade of horrors will be far, far worse.”

    The Democrats must win! Once again, Civilization depends on it!

    I’m waiting for Chomsky to chime in here as well.

    1. Carolinian

      She was married to Stephen Cohen who like Cockburn is now gone. You’d think she would have a few reservations about Biden’s Russia policies. Maybe civilization depends on not having WW3.

  9. Wukchumni

    Was hiking yesterday in Mineral King when the trail got hacked and held ransom for $30 million.

    It was something to see, one minute the trail was there and then poof! gone. Luckily I knew where the trail would’ve been and was able to make my way down the mountain without much difficulty, but unless the hackers demands are met, everything will revert to nature.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > more trees? I can think of worse things.

        Depends. Trees as forests are good. Trees as plantations, not so much. (Of course, plantations have metrics, you can plug the numbers into a spreadsheet, and from there execute your carbon credit scam. Best of all, if the plantation burns down, you can replant and run the same scam again!)

  10. Matthew G. Saroff

    That “Investigation” of voting charity fraud is a nothing burger.

    Poor and minorities have historically been less likely to vote, they have also, particularly minorities, been more likely to vote Democratic.

    If you want to get out the vote, look for people do not vote, and get them to vote. Here’s a hint, the most target rich environment ain’t Scarsdale.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > That “Investigation” of voting charity fraud is a nothing burger.

      I disagree. The voter registration system should not be used to the advantage of one party. That is exactly what’s happening here. They’re targeting swing states, ffs!

      I’ve told this history before — showing my codgerhood, too — but when Jebbie was in the process of stealing Florida 2000 for his brother, there were a number of lawsuits against various Florida counties over ballot counting (these cases were, IIRC, consolidated and reached the Florida Supreme Court, and from there went to the Supreme Court, where Bush v. Gore halted the count, again IIRC, in the name of closure, i.e., the American people couldn’t take the stress of a protracted count). The Democrats only sued for recounts in counties they thought they would win, i.e., not for the sake of “our democracy,” where every vote would count, but for their party, where only the voters wearing a blue jersey count. Faced with the prospect of seizing the moral high ground, the Democrats promptly headed for the lower depths.

      Exactly the same thing is happening with so-called voting “charities”: Democrats preening themselves over “our democracy” and simultaneously acting only for party advantage.

      There’s also a separate question of why on earth voter registration is handled by squillionaire funding in any case. Surely such a basic function should be funded by public monies only?

  11. Ghost in the Machine

    Regarding the high incidence of long Covid among farmworkers, I wonder if those doing manual labor notice symptoms that degrade physical performance more?

    1. playon

      Early on in the pandemic there was a huge spike among migrant workers in Yakima WA, mostly Mexican people. I think this was partly because of the close quarters they have to live in – bunch of guys in one trailer etc.

      “Reduction in labor availability from COVID-19 is estimated to reduce U.S. agricultural output by about $309 million.”


  12. Pat

    Sounds to me like Gavin, despite his ambitions, has looked around and figured out that the Biden/Harris administration has been an utter disaster. Not that most of them haven’t been for my lifetime, they have all been awful, but the current one is running on fumes and stinky ones at that.
    Nope Gavin has just said to the world he isn’t going to replace Joe on the ballot (or if Joe cracks or is impeached – Harris), he’ll wait until after the next terrible Republican administration has had their chance to be stupid and destructive. That way he can blame the other team for those bipartisan problems we have.

    Although I do think that masterclass line is going to come back to haunt him eventually.

  13. JBird4049

    “I wonder if this change also strengthens the “National Conservatives”?”

    I have not done any recent reading on the National Conservatives and Christian Nationalist so please take my prognostications with some care. Whatever else you made do, do not forget that American politics has a number of strong factions with some actually acting for the long term. The National Conservatives are somewhat different than the War Uniparty Democratic-Republican faction, which is majority Neoliberal Democratic, and is different from the Christian Nationalists. We also have the Republican faction of American style Libertarianism.

    Even though all these parties and their factions are extremely corrupt, some do have goals other than destroy, pillage, and loot with a side of permanent war. Unlike the combined Neoliberal Conservative Democratic and pragmatic Republicans, these factions actually long term goals and planning.

    1) The Neoliberals just want to keep the profitable looting, pillaging, and destroying going and are allied with the FIRE section, particularly Big Finance, Tech, and War. They are the fairly conventional Military (and Security)-Industrial-Congressional Complex.

    2) The American Libertarians, who are very different from the rest of the world’s libertarians, want to burn the government down with possible exception of the military and security agencies.

    3) The National Conservatives are like the old 1950s-70s conservative nationalists.

    4) The Christian Nationalists want a Christian theocracy combined with a doctrine of American Exceptionalism. It is the idea of Jesus is an American. It ain’t your father’s or grandfather’s American exceptionalism.

    5) The MAGA or Make America Great Again, have become Trumpists and lean conservative. The conservatism of decades ago. Mostly. It is a desperate group.

    6) We also have the Alt-Right, but really American Fascist Racists, trying, often successfully to infiltrate the many military, security, and police organizations. The Christian Nationalists are also infiltrating these organizations.

    7) There is also a nascent, heavily suppressed actual Left that is fractured. Unlike the old “New Left” of the 1960s, some of them believe in the Second Amendment although there were a number of groups like the Weathermen and the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army) using bombs and guns back when.

    I would say that the Neoliberals are in control right now and just might suppress, and not necessarily using democratic or legal means, everyone else. They do have the old mainstream media, an increasingly heavy and effective censorship regime, and they have weaponized Identity Politics(IdPol), Transgenderism, Anti-bigotry, and LGBTIQ+. As unlikely as it might seem, they might be forced to ally with the American Nationalists and possibly the Christian Nationalists for their tendency to support neoliberalism and security organizations such as the FBI and CIA, and the local police. There is also a possibility of the American Nationalist, Christian Nationalist, and Libertarians forming alliances. Wealth, power, and naked survival are powerful incentives.

    Who knows where MAGA will go. It depends on Trump, on weather he is not assassinated and what he says. They might, just maybe ally with the Left, if they, especially Trump, are smart as their economic goals overlap the most of anyone’s Of course, this also depends on just how effective the ongoing and increasing suppression of this nascent Left is. I think that even the currently co-opted DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) might be deemed too dangerous and destroyed especially if they actually start being a real leftist party. Just think of the Black Panthers, MLK, Fred Hampton, and Malcom X, JFK, and RFK. They were merely the most high profile victims. But who knows? The Left might actually become an actual, function, and effective faction as in the late 1800s and the 1930-50s.

    Going far, far over my skis, I would predict Gavin Newsom-Kamala Harris in 2024-25. Maybe they will put President Biden on permanent vacation and have the staff do the governing. 2028 will likely be the inflection point, but it could happen before or later. It depends on outside factors like the climate and the ongoing hot and cold wars being “managed” by the current regime followed by the action of the leaders of the various factions. I have a feeling that someone, maybe several, is going to the next Ernst Thälmann.

    1. The Rev Kev

      ‘I would predict Gavin Newsom-Kamala Harris in 2024-25’

      Wouldn’t there be too much objection as both are from California? That there would be a demand to balance it with a member from another State, even if it was from Democrat stronghold like New York.

      1. SocalJimObjects

        That’s my thought as well. I think a more potent combination would be Michelle Obama – Kamala Harris. 2 Minority Women, if you reject that combination, you’ll look at the mirror and hate yourself 4 times as much, a lot of Democrats would think like that.

        1. JBird4049

          A good point that both Newsom and Harris are Californians. I think that Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris would probably be too much, but what do I know? We have Trump in the running.

          There is the very real issue of a backbench filled by mediocrities at best on the national level, which means that the political parties are suffering from lack of good candidates; Newsom and Harris are California’s political notables at the national level in a state of thirty-nine million people. Our oligarchy of the wealthy don’t want any competition, and their backers don’t want anyone competent, or even thoughtful, but they do want them venal, stupid, and obedient. It is a process of forty years of dumbing down the political class by the wealthy.

          Newsom and Harris are some of the results. And now, we are stuck with what the American regime has wrought, and they really do not know what they are doing. I am interested in seeing what they come up with. Joy.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      This is a good outline. In a perfect world, we’d link the factions to geographic areas and to Ferguson et al’s “industrial model,” since factions are (by definition) based on property interests (especially if we throw social and symbolic capital into the “property”* bucket, as Madison did not have the analytical tools to do). The relation between faction and party is also not clear to me (nor, I think, to anyone).

      NOTE * As clear as it is unspoken, in the Federalist papers, “property” included “property in man” (slaves) and hence the two great factions where slaveholders and not-slaveholders, though it took 1865 – 1788 = 77 years to settle the matter.

      1. JBird4049

        If we are talking about my comment, I just do not have the information, and so, I cannot say anything. At that level, the Bay Area and California is what I know.

        However, I think that since finance is today’s industry, unlike something real such making hammers, masks, and planes that can’t fly, the regional elites with their industries and links to community are not there anymore. Or at least not much.

        Moreover, like I have said in the past, everything local including social elites, politics and government, schools, industry, the whole social fabric only appears to be real. By that, I mean much of it is performative, rather like a friend of mine complaining about the never ending five plans to fix the local schools that were replace every five years by another series of well compensated consultants. Meanwhile, everything that cannot be used to enrich the leadership and their cronies get budget and staff cuts or is privatized. I am afraid for what will happen after the next earthquake. It will come, but the last serious one happened in the 1980s, and the budget for emergency services is always a tempting thing to cut, and the very real corruption in the real estate and construction means corners get cut.

        Using the entire San Francisco Bay Area, it is mostly tourism, tech, and finance, that keeps the place going financial with the businesses focused towards servicing the local elites, who are often not around anyways. It is more like the the very steep pyramid one uses in political or social anthropology to describe population and economics. Actually, I could use two triangles with one inverted to quickly describe the inverse correlation of wealth to population size. A small extremely wealthy, elite families, a larger servant class such as doctors, carpenters, and mechanics, who are the middle class, and then the mass of the poor just doing whatever scut work they can. Almost everything is imported because nothing is made. The government, the courts, and the police all serve these elites and everything is incredibly corrupt and brutally repressive. Much like how the police are again becoming in the Bay Area and even more in metropolitan Los Angeles.

        This sound increasing like the Bay Area and like the typical banana republic, everything is owned by a few families who might focus on the sectors, not areas, where their wealth comes from. Look at Newsom and Harris. They are not really San Franciscans or Bay Areans, not really. They the upper elites of the Professional Managerial Class. Well, Harris is. Newsom is more a member of the localish ruling elite families. Feinstein and Pelosi are still more San Franciscan than the other two ever were, but sixty, maybe even fifty years ago, there was a local economy and elites that depended on local industry, shipping, and agriculture.

        I might be overstating this, but I think all the wealth and power is being extracted from most of the country and then concentrated into fewer areas and families leaving the rest of the country as hollowed out façades.

        I really should do a detailed study, as in driving around and talking, investigating like a reporter or a writer for my curiosity, if nothing else. But, I know it is bad just from over fifty years of living in it, and I just do not want to find out just how bad it is. I’m a fish that doesn’t want to find out how polluted the water is.

  14. albrt

    Covid anecdatum: Boxes of Covid rapid tests have reappeared at the Safeway checkout counter in central Phoenix, in the spot usually reserved for maximum impulse purchases.

  15. Andouille

    “If You’re A Star They Let You Do It”

    Not sure I’m really seeing the comparison between Musk and Corbyn. Corbyn is an enemy of the squillionaire class; Musk is a member of it. If he’s attacking Soros or anyone else, it’s not coming from a principled anti-squillionaire position. The dude shoots luxury cars into space for fun.

    It doesn’t show up in the linked post, but the tweet he’s responding to is a video of some refugees from Tunisia arriving in Italy which calls it a “Soros-led invasion”. And like, look. Whatever criticisms you wanna have of Soros’ role in European politics, and whatever limits you believe there are on European nations’ capacity to help these people, if you look at a video of some people fleeing a bad situation and your reaction is “this is an invasion masterminded by Soros to destroy Western Civilization(tm)”, I’d contend that you’ve descended from any reasonable version of those critiques into some Nazi-type [family blog]. You’re not treating those people as people any more.

    I don’t like seeing NC’s usual lack of patience for the inanities of the chattering class morph into something that compels people to defend this kind of stuff, particularly from someone who embodies so much of what this site is against.

    1. Carolinian

      Isn’t Soros an open border advocate, US as well as Europe? Just asking.

      Although reports says Soros has stepped aside to let his son run his various advocacy arms.

      Our library had a feature about the Mediterranean boat people although I’ve forgotten the title. And yes only compassion should be extended to the refugees who are exploited by their transport enablers as well as the Western meddlers wrecking their countries.

      But I don’t think Soros is a good guy–not at all.

    2. Daniil Adamov

      That’s rather different from the question of anti-Semitism, however. It is perfectly possible to 1) criticise Soros and 2) promote the idea that Soros is out to destroy Western Civilisation through immigration (a highly questionable idea, to me, but that’s another thing) without expressing any meaningful anti-Semitism, which the blogger cited does not seem to grasp. Probably because accusing someone of anti-Semitism for speaking ill of one specific Jew is even easier than poking holes in the invasion concept. That is a lazy and counterproductive habit, though.

        1. Andouille

          If what he means is the OSF, though, why not say “the OSF”?

          There might not be enough here to prove some kind of anti-Semitic motivation to the standard of a court of law or anything like that. But at the end of the day you have someone trying to paint people seeking refuge from a crisis as avatars of a plot to “destroy Western civilization” (a motivation I don’t think really exists outside the minds of right-wing fantasists; the framing implies a worldview inconsistent with the goal) by a third party and tying it back by name to a guy who does happen to be Jewish.

          One can think the Jewishness is a salient factor in Musk’s thought process or not, but I think it’d be incredibly difficult to argue that he’s making some kind of cogent critique of the OSF here; to me it looks like an attempt to stir up fear and hate against perceived outsiders, plain and simple. That’s worthy of condemnation on its own. If, from there, people don’t feel especially inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt about the particular historical resonances of the way he’s doing it, I don’t think it’s reasonable to focus on faulting them for it.

          1. Yves Smith

            Do not straw man me. I never said Open Society.

            There are many other ways Soros wields political and policy influence, particularly in the US. He founded INET (where the top people are WASPs and Catholics) which advocates all sorts of positions Musk would hate, particularly taxing the rich aggressively and ending stock buybacks. INET is more influential than you might think due to how much economic research it funds and the way it is explicitly setting out to corrupt youth through its Young Scholars initiative.

            Open Society and the very influential yet stealthy Swiss billionaire philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss back in many of the some causes, some together like the rescue of some Maine newspapers. The air is very thin at that level, they almost certainly know each other personally, although I haven no idea how well.

            Wyss is Swiss. Wyss means “white”. Only 0.2% of the Swiss population is Jewish (versus 2.4% of the US) and their biggest communities are in Geneva and Zurich, while Wyss is from Bern. I cannot prove he is not Jewish but I have yet to find anything in his bio that points to that.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Not sure I’m really seeing the comparison between Musk and Corbyn. Corbyn is an enemy of the squillionaire class; Musk is a member of it.

      I should have thought the similaties were obvious. In each case the dominant faction in the PMC is using charges of anti-semitism tendentiously, against individuals they consider class enemies. (In the UK because Corbyn was an actual socialist, in the US because Musk extracted a platform from the clutches of their Censorship Industrial Complex).

      1. Andouille

        Those are perceived similarities in how a very particular segment of the population is reacting to them, rather than similarities between the people themselves. Which, to some extent, is fair – that’s what you were talking about originally. But the point I’m trying to make is that, even if you do wanna focus in on those people and their reactions to things, it should be with some reference to the things themselves. When you say that this is, in both cases, “the same nonsense”, it does carry the implication that Corbyn and Musk are comparable, and in particular that the things they’re being castigated for doing and saying are comparable. (This especially when you frame things in a way that suggests Musk is criticizing Soros as a squillionaire in particular.)

        I don’t think such an assertion really holds up, and I worry that you’re letting (justifiable!) resentments against the most visible (or audible, maybe) agents of bourgeois domination of the socio-political sphere push you into carrying water for a member of the actual bourgeoisie who in no way deserves it.

        (As maybe a bit of a case in point: Whether or not one accepts the framing of Musk “extract[ing] a platform from the clutches of their Censorship Industrial Complex”, I think it’s important to note that Musk’s attempts to paint himself as a principled defender of free speech are misaligned with reality – see here, for instance, or his chest-thumping about banning the term “cisgender”. At best he’s replaced a censorship regime with another censorship regime that has different priorities on certain issues.)

  16. GC54

    Can someone explain why Novavax should not be taken if one has had the two-shot original Moderna/Pfizer regime and a booster?

    “A booster dose in limited situations to people ages 18 years and older who previously completed primary vaccination using any FDA-approved or FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine; have not received any previous booster dose(s); and are unable (i.e., mRNA vaccine contraindicated or vaccine not available) or unwilling to receive an mRNA vaccine and would otherwise not receive a booster dose. The Novavax booster dose is administered at least 6 months after completion of any primary series.”

    I’ve decided that I’m done with mRNA, but need ammo to get past the mindless alignment with the CDC of my PCP. (I assume that the retuned version of Novavax will be forthcoming soon.)

    1. albrt

      This is not medical advice, but I have also decided I am not getting any more mRNA shots until the technology is much better tested and understood.

      My first and only booster was the flawed J&J vax. I will consider additional boosters when non-mRNA versions are available. I doubt Novavax will be available any time soon, but for now “OK, do you have Novavax?” seems like a good excuse for avoiding the mRNA shots if somebody asks.

  17. Samuel Conner

    Re: COVID policies,

    at a recent visit to some elderly friends living in a long-term assisted living/care facility, I noticed a change in the CV precautions policy. Previously, the visitor log-in process involved a battery of questions about individual symptoms and possible exposures to people with COVID. My responses were always negative, but I assume that a “yes” answer to one of these precautionary questions would have triggered some kind of intervention. At the latest visit, there were no questions about symptoms or exposures, merely a displayed request to mask if experiencing symptoms , along with an offer of a mask.

    I was in my customary N95; not a single person among the residents, staff or other visitors was masked.

    I offered my friends a box of N95s; they declined.

    The equivocal guidance from the public health authorities is, IMO, having discernible bad consequences at the clinical level.

    In yesterday’s W/C, under “Elite Maleficence” there was a link to an article discussing CDC efforts to regain public trust. I don’t see how they will regain the trust of people who are skeptical of NPIs, and I don’t see how they will regain the trust of people who think NPIs are important. Are there many persuadables left?

    I hope that at some point, Long COVID, immune dysregulation, airborne CV, etc. become sufficiently newsworthy that there will be sustained media attention, and perhaps the “you do you” mentality will swing in the direction of avoiding infection altogether, which means widespread NPIs. I imagine that there will be a lot of anger at the public health authorities for being “behind the curve.”

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas

        Do not go gentle into that good night,
        Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
        Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

        Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
        Because their words had forked no lightning they
        Do not go gentle into that good night.

        Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
        Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
        Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

        Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
        And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
        Do not go gentle into that good night.

        Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
        Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
        Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

        And you, my father, there on the sad height,
        Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
        Do not go gentle into that good night.
        Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

  18. IM Doc

    FYI –
    The COVID boosters have arrived.

    It seems that most private insurance through employers is paying for them. The pharmacies in my area are charging anywhere from 150-225 dollars a dose.

    However, if you are uninsured – there is no coverage and you will be asked to pay the full freight. So, I have now had two reports from my patients of just getting up and walking out.

    Medicaid appears to be non-paying as well. Or at least not without tons of hassle. The patients were both handed reams of forms to fill out. So they too declined the privilege.

    I am now also getting reports from my Obamacare patients that the entire cost is going right on their deductibles, so for the most part, they too are declining the privilege.

    This is going just about as well as I expected now that we have the “adults back in charge”. I swear if I hear that one more time, I am going to vomit. I am really trying to think of one thing that this administration has not completely bungled.

    To be honest, I am not really that upset. There is very little if any evidence these boosters at this point are going to do a damn thing. It is just profoundly discordant that we have the CDC and people like Jha blowing their trumpets on these things to a populace in the middle of a recession who cannot even begin to afford them, much less groceries. It is very clear that they are running their mouths but are not even taking their own selves seriously.

    God only knows what is going to happen next.

    1. Jason Boxman

      None of this makes any sense to me. I don’t understand it.

      The germ theory of disease is probably about as close to a real miracle as there is. We have a validated theory of how disease spreads. Over decades, we ostensibly built up a public health system that recognized the scourge of population disease burden, and sought to reduce this. We succeeded in vastly reducing the spread of all manner of infectious diseases, through mosquito control, plumbing and sanitation, sterilizing vaccines. Small pox. Gone. Polio. Almost wiped out. AIDS. No longer a death sentence.

      Throughout the course of this Pandemic, all of public health is systematically being dismantled. The core basis of this is trust, and there’s frankly no trust left in anything. This is likely an outgrowth of our degenerate politics and lack of executive function among the elite.

      And we have a dangerous virus, for which we know the route of transmission. We’re starting to understand the mechanism of how it infects cells in the respirator tract, and propagates throughout the body. We know it is airborne, and we have access to a mass of technologies we can deploy to mitigate transmission, from personal respirators, to improved ventilation in buildings. We have access to unimaginable scientific research instruments, the likes of which were unimaginable even a decade ago, to conduct deep research into prophylactics and sterilizing vaccines and novel treatments.

      And so we’re doing none of this, no, our political elite are actively discouraging and disparaging the use of defense in depth, of the precautionary principle, of simple honestly and forthrightness of the situation and the cost of inaction.

      This can’t possibly be for real?

      Every day I wonder if I’m insane, and there is no Pandemic. It doesn’t seem possible so many people can be so completely wrong at once about such a devastating and preventable situation.

      1. digi_owl

        Because in order for this to be properly managed, Wall Street has to take a big big hit. And they are leaning heavily on their pet politicians to not make that happen.

        1. Jason Boxman

          That’s gonna happen anyway if what’s known about mass disability is really true. We get the worst of all worlds. They’re cutting of their nose to spite their face. Hence the lack of executive function. They’re certainty not maximizing their intermediate and long term gains. America is all short termism. But then China is also self immolating. Every country has a different story behind abject failure.

        2. Late Introvert

          I think that’s right. Look at the back to the office push, and now it’s the back to the subways push.

          I don’t wonder if I’m insane, I wonder if everyone else is. But I guess that’s what an insane person would say!

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > None of this makes any sense to me. I don’t understand it.

        I really, really hate the phrase “I hate to say this” because I always detect a whiff of schadenfreude and self-satisfaction in it, so instead I will say that I regret even giving consideration to the proposition that “democidal elites are a parsimonious explanation,” but it’s forced on me by events and actions/inactions. If you believe that depopulation is an agenda item for global capital — or rather, the agenda of a dominating faction* among global capital — then everything falls into place, starting, basically, with the famous note that Mike Ryan passed to Tedros, and Tedros’s knuckling under.** This is a bleak conclusion, I grant. I would really like to be wrong.

        NOTE * “There are not very many of the Shing.” It is not clear “factions” are the right tool to look at the tippy-top of global capital; there are so few of them. Need to brush up on my sociology!

        NOTE ** WHO presser transcript, February 11, 2020:

        [TEDROS] Okay. Sorry, I used the military word, airborne. It meant to spread via droplets or
        respiratory transmission. Please take it that way; not the military language. Thank you.

        And here we are!

    2. antidlc

      but, but, but…

      Maskless Mandy says free vaccines are available for everyone 6 months and up.

      Mandy K. Cohen, MD, MPH
      Sep 19
      Free, updated COVID vaccines are available for everyone 6 months and up! Learn more 👇

      video at the link.

  19. Tom Stone

    It’s not “The adults are in charge”, It’s “The old dolts are in charge”, it’s easy to mishear…

  20. Juneau

    “I would have thought the MGH had sponsored the ad.” Yes, they like blue backgrounds just like a very famous pharma manufacturer. Of course my money is on the latter, those powder blue backgrounds are a giveaway.

  21. The Rev Kev

    “The Honorable Shenna Bellows Maine Secretary of State”

    Of course if Shenna Bellows doesn’t want to bite on this particular turd, there are still 49 other Secretaries of State that they can try it out on. Maybe they should make this idea a Constitution Amendment. That no person can stand for the Presidency without getting the agreement of all 50 Secretary of States first. Hey, I just realized the potential here. Before the nominations for the Candidates, they could have a whole other one but where all the candidates from both parties have to have debates in front of the 50 Secretary of States first. There would be televised debates and everything. It would be great. Of course that would mean that three out of every four years of a Presidential term would be devoted to political campaigning but think of the ratings, man.

    1. some guy

      This could work if the League of Women Voters had sole and total authority over every last technical detail of how to arrange and conduct the debates. No Party personnel and no Media personnel would be allowed the slightest input.

      Otherwise, it would never work.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > they could have a whole other one but where all the candidates from both parties have to have debates in front of the 50 Secretary of States first.

      Yes. Nothing in the Constitution prevents this (according to any interpretation I know, including originalist ones). That’s why I say that Baude and Paulsen propose a change to our Constitutional order, albeit to an unwritten part of that that order.

      We might even call that assemblage of Secretaries of State a parliament, if only one candidate ended up appearing on the ballot. (The Republicans might even be in favor of this; see the “Excess Seat’” article under “Realignment and Legitimacy.” The same “excess” phenomenon also occurs in the executive branches at state level.)

  22. Daryl

    Report from the ground or air as it were. Very very little mask usage on a flight to San Francisco, which is the only place I still see mask usage in any significant amount. Oddly, a few people put on masks once they got on the plane… guess they don’t believe the marketing about enclosed tubes being super safe w.r.t airborne pathogens.

  23. Screwball

    Here’s a slippery one. Today, but I don’t know when. This is from Homeland Security, so I have to think it’s legit.

    Secretary Mayorkas Announces Establishment of Homeland Intelligence Experts Group

    The first three names;

    John Bellinger, Partner, Arnold & Porter (Former Legal Advisor, Department of State and National Security Council)
    John Brennan, Distinguished Fellow, Fordham University School of Law and University of Texas at Austin (Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency)
    James Clapper, CNN National Security Analyst (Former Director of National Intelligence)

    How about that? I’m sure this is all about saving democracy, and all that.

    I probably have DHS cookies just for the link. At this point it probably doesn’t matter. If you are online you are a digit or two.

    1. Acacia

      FWIW, your browser may provide a way to selectively nuke those cookies. Typically, you open a dialog box to delete cookies, and enter the domain name or site address whose cookies you want to nuke.

  24. JBird4049

    Further: “My guess, though, is that gerrymandering, and even geography, matters less than one might think. I suspect that it has more to do with the minority party turning headlong into a spiral of irrelevance Particularly given the recent decline of voter willingness to split tickets, there comes a point at which a party’s weakness in presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial contests becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once a party’s prospects seem grim in a particular state, it becomes hard to get credible candidates to run for office, and it becomes hard to raise money to fund a decent party infrastructure.”

    If the parties were not shells of what they used to be, embalmed skeletons mimicking life, this would be less of a problem. This goes with the geriatric kleptocracy and the paucity of upcoming leaders or even just good politicians.

    The entire system is dependent on the bribery from the wealthy and the donations of the true believers instead of the permanent, well staffed, and funded party machinery at the neighborhood, city, county, state, and national levels of even forty years ago. Although that machinery was fading even then, which was followed by Congress destroying its own supporting agencies and staff meaning that like the rest of the country, its ability to govern effectively is decades gone. Much of the legislation is written by lobbyists and not by the members of Congress. Meaning there is not much staff at any level doing the necessary routine work and when the money goes away or there is an emergency, it all falls apart.

    Even the Republican Party had an effective national party bureaucracy although it was not as extensive as the Democrats’. Just as how a growing areas of economic sacrifice zones, wastelands that cover entire cities and counties, so too are the parties and the various levels of government. It is all about not performing their functions because that costs money, but putting on a performance as in Kabuki theater, which is cheaper.

    1. scott s.

      Historically parties were state entities. That broke down post-civil war as national issues came to predominate politics. State parties agreed to the XVIIth to decouple US Senate races from state races. But increasingly in the last century national politicians drove the parties, most recently they have generated their own massive campaign funds / super-pacs independent of any party control. The rise of gov’t run primaries to control party access to the ballot further marginalizes any party organization.

      1. JBird4049

        >>>The rise of gov’t run primaries to control party access to the ballot further marginalizes any party organization.

        There is also the diversion of local funding meant for the local organizations to the national organizations. Theft really. This also deprives the local organizations the money needed to pay all the things needed in an organization including staff. I could call it the monopolization of the political process.

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